Andrea wrenched herself free of her sister’s embrace and attempted to lunge at Marko. He slapped her across the face and the sting stopped her cold. Janet turned on him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Andrea held up a restraining hand, “I’m okay Janet. I…guess I kinda lost it. Going blind is one of my biggest fears. Not being able to see makes me feel…helpless. I could feel myself panicking and just couldn’t seem to calm down.”
Irritation returned to prod at Marko, “Why didn’t you listen when I told you not to look? Why take such a foolish risk and ignore a warning like that just to show me up?”
Janet spoke up from the back seat, “She probably wasn’t trying to prove a point. My sister is hard-headed. She has always done the opposite of what anyone tells her to do.”
Marko shook his head disapprovingly, “Well that has got to stop. If we’re going to work together as a team then you have got to start trusting your teammates. A trinity is a powerful force of magic but we can’t invoke its power unless we trust one another. I realize you don’t really know me yet, but Ethan trusted me enough to bring the two of you to me. That should count for something. I’m not saying that I have all the answers but I will never intentionally do anything to put you at risk. You have my word that I will do everything within my power to keep you safe.”
Andrea began weeping, “I…owe you an apology Marko. I guess I don’t handle change very well. Things are moving so fast, I feel like I can’t catch my breath. Ethan is like family to me and when he started…changing…it freaked me out. Then when he got sick, it scared me. It’s not so much that I don’t trust you. I just didn’t want to believe anything you said because that meant that I would have to accept the fact that Ethan is becoming a stranger to me. We have always looked out for one another. Now, I feel all alone.”
Janet felt a pang and swallowed against a rising lump in her throat. She couldn’t stay quiet any longer, “So now Ethan is your family and I’m not? It’s my childhood all over again. You always choose other people over your own sister! Now that Ethan is out of the picture you want to have a nervous breakdown?”
“I didn’t mean it that way Janet.”
“Well how the hell did you mean it? You know what? Never mind, we both know what you meant.”
Marko studied Andrea’s face, “So are you saying you do trust me?”
“I…yes, I do.”
“Just like that?”
“Well, I trust Ethan’s judgement and he says you’re alright. That’s good enough for me.”
Wordlessly, Marko rubbed his hands together with increasing speed until they were a blur. All at once, he placed his hands over Andrea’s eyes. She felt a searing heat and when he removed his hands she could see clearly. She squealed and threw her arms around his neck.
“I can see again! It worked that time. What did you do different?”
“I didn’t do anything. You finally let your guard down and trusted me.”
“But the thing with your hands…you mean you pulled a Mr. Miyagi?
“You know, in the original Karate Kid movie when….never mind. The important thing is that I can see again.”
“You watched Ethan’s back. Are you willing to watch mine?”
“Yes, of course.”
“To what extent? Would you be willing to kill a man to save me?”
Janet interjected, “where are you going with this Marko? Is this some kind of a joke?”
“I would never joke about something like that. We are going head to head with some ruthless people. Don’t think for one second that they won’t hesitate to kill us. If we’re going to survive then you must be willing to respond in kind. I just wanted to put that out there so you have time to process it because you won’t have time to when you’re fighting for your life.”
Their conversation was cut short by the arrival of an enormous crow which landed on the hood of the car and walked up to the windshield. Under his breath, Marko instructed them to be still and silent. True to form, Andrea balked.
“I’m not afraid of a stupid crow, even if it is freakishly big.”
“Shut up you fool! If he can’t see us clearly he might not summon the murder.”
“Murder? What are you talking about?”
“The rest of the flock.”
“Who cares if more crows come?”
Janet hissed at her sister, “Look at the eyes dumbass.”
Belatedly, Andrea noticed the silver gleam in the crow’s eyes and turned to gape at her sister. The sudden movement startled the crow. It let out an ear-splitting squawk. Marko scrambled to start the car and exit the parking lot. Seconds later a roiling flock of crows descended upon the moving vehicle, plunging it into the shifting shadow of a thousand flapping wings. The sound of shrieking crows was deafening. He stopped the car.
“What are you doing? Get us out of here,” yelled Andrea over the din.
Marko firmly shook his head, “It’s too risky. We can’t see where we’re going.”
“He’s right. We should just wait until the crows clear out,” agreed Janet.
Marko shook his head again, “I don’t think we should do that either. It seems like Charles is trying to keep us pinned here for some reason, like he wants us to wait for someone or something to get here. With all these birds and racket, we’d never see or hear it coming.”
“Well, use some of that magic of yours and make them leave,” suggested Andrea.
“I really don’t want to do that. I’m trying to conserve my energy. We’ve got a long night ahead of us and he’s just warming up.”
A loud thump drew their attention to the driver’s side rear window. Crows had begun hurling themselves at the window, hammering at it with their beaks. The trio sat staring in gape-mouthed silence as the birds attacked. The sound of glass cracking made Janet jump. She scooted away from the window and screamed at Marko, “Do something before they get in here! I don’t want my eyes pecked out!”
Marko instructed the sisters to kneel with their heads between their knees on the floor of the car and pull the rubber floor mats over their backs. In the darkness, he could see glowing eyes of the first crow still perched on the hood of the car peering in at them through the swarming mass of chaotic movement around it. That level of focus spoke of a higher level of intelligence than that of a curious crow. That sonovabitch watching us through the crow’s eyes!
Marko retrieved his backpack from the back seat and fished out a pair of leather gloves. He donned them, pulled on a hoodie and leather jacket. Marko quickly rolled down his window. A mass of black feathered bodies hurtled into the car and began attacking the trio. Marko knew he would have only seconds before his vision would be obscured. Without hesitation, he whipped a pistol from the waistband of his pants swung his arm around the front of the windshield, thumbed off the safety and blew the head off of the big crow. All at once, the spell was broken. They were relieved to see the crows scatter and take to the air, startled by the report of the gun. Marko allowed himself a brief sigh of relief as silence was restored.
“Ladies, I would suggest that you get back in your seats and buckle up. It’s about to be a very bumpy ride.”
Andrea sat up and saw the crow’s headless carcass roll off the hood of the car. “Why did you shoot that bird?”
“I saw the way that thing was watching us and knew it was the linchpin for the spell.”
“What do you mean?”
“Charles was exerting his presence through the damn thing, looking out at us through the crow’s beady eyes and controlling the other birds. We’ve only got a few minutes to get out of here before he sends another emissary.”