As the hours turned into days, which turned into weeks, Ash gave Angel more and more shots. She grew more and more bitter with every dose she received in her system. It broke Angela’s heart to watch it happen before her eyes. “…Angel?” she called concerned. “…Sweetie?” she was answered by a depressed look as her daughter’s golden brown gaze shined in the shadows of the corner she sat in. “…You haven’t talked about your father in a while, not since Ash started giving you that medicine.” More like poison by the looks of it. the mother thought.
The teen averted her eyes as she nestled her head in her knees covered in the white slacks, letting her hair fall over her face as it draped her white tail coat, her purple shirt peeking out the suits sleeves and out from under the white tie she had around her neck with the same purple clip as before. “…What ‘dad’?” she asked. “My name is simply Angel Blanc Landers. I’m no Faustus. Ash is my dad.”
The mother placed a gentle hand on her back. “Your father…REAL father…might be a demon, but throughout the years, he has proven to be the best father I could’ve ever wished for you.”
The dog demon snapped her head around to look at her before she huffed. “After he lied to me? Beat me? Called me mean things? Made fun of me every chance he had?”
“He never did any of that!” Angela stated before raising her brows and choosing her words more carefully. “…Okay, he did lie to you…but only because he had to. He couldn’t ever raise a hand to you, never even thought a mean thing about you, and only cared the most for you.”
“Why don’t you just cleanse me already?” the teen barked. “I don’t want to be a demon!”
Angela sighed before she hugged the teen tightly. “…If that’s truly what you want, I’ll let Ash know. We’ll get started tomorrow evening.”
. . .
After weeks of hunting down the angels, Justine still kept Claude under her complete, undivided attention as they all five camped in the woods, hot on Angel’s trail. She didn’t want to run the risk that it was all an act. Glancing over, the demon reaper saw that Rachel, Jeremy, and Paul all already fell asleep in Pluto’s long, soft fur. Though Claude was voted to keep watch so nothing bad happens, since he doesn’t sleep much, Justine insisted on staying up with him. She could always catch a cat nap on the road when someone else could keep their eye on Claude.
“I’m not sure what else I can do to earn your trust.” the spider sighed. “I already apologized for what I did to you, and I even did what I could to make up for it and return things to how they were. What more do you want from me?”
Justine was silent for a moment, nearly forgetting that she even had a voice from how long she went without speaking. After taking in a deep breath, she glanced up at the man. “…I don’t get it.” she sighed. “Why can’t you tell us where you were? That could be where my parents, Bardroy, Uncle Undertaker, and Uncle William are.” She was silent for a little longer as she fed the campfire that danced in the black night. “We don’t know if they’re being tortured, or even killed, while you do know, and you’re keeping your mouth shut under lock and key.”
“I would tell you,” he stated honestly, his tone showing genuine concern and empathy. “but I can’t.”
“You know, Claude,” Justine stated, standing straight. “Trust works both ways. You trust us to get Angel back, we can trust what you say. The first step is honesty.”
Just before she could leave to gather more firewood, he jumped up. “Wait!” The teen froze at the sudden command as the spider took in several deep breaths, huffing them out in uncertainty. “…I wanted to tell you exactly where the other adults are, but when Ash released me, he said that if I did help you, or try to find Angel, he’d replace all her good memories of me with bad ones.” She listened to him speak as he took several nervous gulps. “Your parents aren’t being tortured, none of them are. In fact, the largest torture was afflicted by you and your friends when you came in the shop, held the dolls in your hands, and turned your backs. Unintentional, yes, but still torturous.”
The reaper’s eyes widened. “…You had no control of yourself…couldn’t move…couldn’t speak…you shrank…we walked right up to you, and didn’t see you, or at least know we saw you…” the wheels in her head continued to turn as she thought before a little light switched on, illuminating her head. “The dolls!” she exclaimed. “You and everyone else were the plush dolls in that shop!” Hurriedly, she transformed into a cat and leptin the night.
Claude watched her in curiosity. “Where are you going?!” he asked.
“If I’m not back before dawn, follow Pluto’s sent! Find Angel!” she called before she disappeared in the cold midnight howling wind.
As the sun illuminated the sky with pink, orange, and indigo, Justine returned to the campsite with five plush dolls in her arms much to the other teens confusion. “I know cats have no brains, but this is a new low.” Jeremy huffed.
“Shut up!” she scolded. “These aren’t plush toys, they’re our parents!” They all looked at her as though her marbles were rolling wild on the ground beneath her. As a result, she turned to Paul. “You said so yourself!” she smiled. “In your story, remember? There were dolls that looked just like the missing people!”
“Yeah, made in their likeness.” he repeated. “Not transforming them into dolls!”
To this, Justine groaned. “Seriously! What do you reapers learn in your classes? Obviously, not what I learn in mine!” With that said, she explained. “A little over two years ago, my dad, master, and I met this guy who can turn people into dolls by singing London Bridge is Falling Down, but changing the words to ‘Build it up with…blah blah blah’, and the ‘blah blah blah’ is whatever he wants his target to be made up of.” she stated. When she was met with blank stares, she growled and turned to the only adult in the group. “Claude,” The spider turned to the teen at the sound of his name. “what were the words to the last version of London Bridge you’ve heard?”
“Before I was taken by the angels, it was simply, ‘Build it up with cotton and cloth’, then, when I was released, it was, ‘Build it up with flesh and blood’.” he answered truthfully with a smile. Ash can’t say I helped. the spider smirked. She figured it out on her own. Take that, egotistic angel!
“So, here’s the plan.” Justine stated, handing the dolls to the teen they best fit (the gray and black doll to Paul, the dirty blond doll in white to Rachel, the red and black ones to Jeremy, and kept the one in black with red eyes for herself). “You guys go and find a way to get them back to normal. Claude and I will stick with Pluto and find Angel.”
“Hell no!” Jeremy exclaimed, holding one doll in each hand as the other teens held their dolls close. “Just like my dad always says, never send a demon to do a reaper’s job. This isn’t over just yet.”
“You got both mom and Uncle Will. That was what you set out to do.” she stated. “You guys don’t have any kind of ties to Angel like Claude and I do. He and I will do this alone.”
“But I thought you didn’t trust him.” Paul stated.
Justine glanced at the spider with a smirk. “He trusts me to help him get Angel back. He has something to lose if he betrays me. He knows I can, and will, easily turn my back. I think I can handle myself.”
“If the three of us get our parents back,” Rachel stated. “…what about Sebastian?”
With that said, she took her plush doll and tucked it away in her sweater. “I’m giving you all responsibility for your family members, and I’m Sebastian’s only daughter. The responsibility is mine alone.”
“Well then,” Jeremy sighed, approaching his sister and wrapping his arm around her shoulders with the red doll now on Justine’s arm. “following your logic, mom and dad will have to wait. You’re still my half sister, meaning mom is still your responsibility too.”
“No!” Justine stated sternly. “You get mom and Uncle Will back. They are both essential for the facility to be up and running properly. That’s the only way you can ever be of any help.” The reaper gazed at his sister in slight disbelief. “It’s your responsibility, not only to bring back mom and Uncle Will, but as William Spears’ son, you have to get the reaper facility back on track. I doubt that Ronald can hold out for too much longer as the one in charge. You have to go. No ‘if’s, ‘and’s, or ‘but’s about it.”
With that, she climbed up on Pluto’s back, taking the collar in her hand as Claude climbed up behind her. She looked over the three other teens with a smile. “The city is down that way.” she instructed. “It was a pleasure to meet all of you.” and just like that, the spider, cat, and hound were bounding off in the woods.