Liam shuffled through papers on Asanti’s desk while Asanti frowned at his computer. This role reversal threw Sal, and she stopped at the door, startled. The door swung and hit her in the back. She grunted.
“You—you guys haven’t changed bodies, have you?” she asked them, stumbling out of the door’s way. Liam made a face at her, while Asanti merely glanced up and then back at Liam’s computer.
Sal put her hands on her hips. “What’s going on?”
Liam rolled his eyes. “Relax, Asanti wanted fresh eyes on these notes. I didn’t want her looking over my shoulder so I found her some videos to watch online.”
“Videos?” Sal asked, glancing at Asanti. The archivist nodded, smiling at a romping bunny. Sal sighed and peeked over Liam’s shoulder at the papers. “And eyes on what?”
“The usual, Orb activity. It seems to be implying that something’s going to happen right on top of us, but it’s not clear when,” Liam said.
“How can it not be clear? Isn’t it ‘right now’ when the Orb goes off?” Sal asked.
“That’s just it,” Asanti said, not looking up from a video of an affectionate cat being pinned by a Saint Bernard. “It glows, and then dies, and then glows again.”
“Almost as if something is just fucking with us,” Liam said grimly.
“Lies of omission are still lies, Father,” the voice on the other side of the confessional grille said.
Menchú knew this, of course. But one couldn’t confess to oneself. “I do it to keep them safe. I also want to be completely sure of what we are up against.”
“In your past, how many times have bad things happened because of too much information, and how many times from not enough information?”
Menchú thought for a moment, realizing the question wasn’t rhetorical. “I’ve never thought of my experiences in those terms. I can think of times when both of those choices were the wrong way to go.”
“They are your team. They have been able to deal with the secrets of the Vatican, and magic, and demons from the Adversary thus far. Why not trust them with this?”
“Because this is my burden,” Menchú whispered.
“Look within yourself,” the voice said. “Consider your team, and ask the Lord for guidance. You will know the right thing to do.”
“Thank you, Father.”
They finished the sacrament quietly, and Menchú exited the confessional quickly. He knew he had spoken with Father Omelas, but didn’t feel up to talking to him face to face.
He had to tell them, but he didn’t quite know how. The guilt of what the monster did to his village still bruised his soul, and he didn’t want to dredge that up. Asanti would want to know everything about the beast and what its abilities were. Sal would be skeptical. Liam would be terrified, but capable of violence. Grace would be too kind and ready to punch Hannah—but Grace wasn’t with the team anymore.
He sighed. He did them a disservice. He knew that they would want to help him carry this burden, even if it wasn’t their cross. They did that for each other, time and again. It sometimes backfired, badly—he thought of his attempts to help Asanti during the trial a few months back—but overall no one on the team let any of the others suffer alone.
And if they knew he was keeping it from them . . .
He hurried to the Archives, hoping for something to take his mind off things.
Menchú greeted them as he walked into the Archives. He looked tired. No, that wasn’t right, Sal thought. She had to reassess how she thought of him. “Tired” was how he always looked now. He looked normal. It would have been remarkable if he’d looked happy and well rested.
“What’s happening?” he asked, looking from Asanti to Liam.
“There are baby polar bears at the Oregon Zoo,” Asanti offered.
He stared at her.
Liam waved his hand, dismissing her. “Don’t mind her. The Orb is flaring up at odd intervals, telling us that something strange is maybe just starting to happen right on top of us . . . and then it goes away.”
“It’s like heat lightning. No storm, but alarming,” Sal said.
“We don’t know if there’s a storm,” Menchú said, and held out his hand for the papers. Liam handed them over.
Sal studied the bags under his eyes. “When was the last time you slept?” she asked.
He didn’t glance up at her. “I dozed for about two hours last night. It was enough.”
“Enough for med school, maybe,” Sal said. “Not enough for demon hunting.”
He handed the papers back. “Doesn’t look like this is a demon. So nothing to hunt. I need to see to something,” he said, and walked out of the Archives.
Sal looked at Liam, who stared after him. “That was odd. It’s not just me, right? That was odd.”
“Not just you,” Liam agreed.
“I think I should follow him,” Sal said.
“Of course you shouldn’t, that is a breach of trust,” Asanti said. She was still glued to the laptop. Sal looked at her and frowned. Asanti’s eyes rose from the screen and met hers. She no longer looked completely enthralled by baby animals. She gave Sal a small nod.
Sal followed Menchú at a distance until...