The Devil’s Pact
She clambered over the rooftops, jumping the gaps between buildings with relative ease, since they were so close together. She spotted a large canvas-covered cart in the street pulled by four ragged horses. It was one of those old covered wagons like they used back when settlers were still making their way across the country, and it looked out of place in the city. Hettie climbed down a fire escape, but as she wove through traffic, the time bubble popped--
Suddenly, she was smack-dab in the middle of oncoming traffic. A man shouted and hauled on his reins. His hansom cab buckled violently, and the horse reared. Hettie scampered out of the way of its hooves and directly into the path of another cart. The man’s horses faltered and tried to skirt around her, but then the cart they were pulling plowed into them, and they whinnied in panic, veering to the side and crashing into another rider.
Hettie ran toward the covered wagon, summoning Diablo and trying to re-establish the time bubble. No good. The same thing had happened during the train robbery.
A man peeked out of the covered wagon. He shouted and drew his sidearm. Hettie zigzagged to avoid the gunshots and pulled Diablo’s trigger, unleashing a blast of green power that incinerated the man’s arm up to his shoulder.
Two more men appeared with rifles. Hettie ducked left and rolled behind a cart as the bullets bit into the cab, showering her with splinters. The passengers within screamed.
Traffic ground to a halt and people dove out of their vehicles while the drivers tried to get their horses under control. The covered wagon surged forward and plowed through the street while the men in the back continued an assault on the cab Hettie hid behind.
She had to stop that wagon.
She whipped around the corner and fired. Diablo let out a wide beam of power that took out the right two wheels. The wagon collapsed with a loud crash, sending up a wake of splinters. The whole right side of the wagon tore off, and the canopy ripped away from the U-shaped frame as it snapped up like angry fish spines.
People screamed as carts, drivers and pedestrians tried to escape the gunfire and chaos. Horses thrashed and reared, whinnying as the vehicles piled up. Hettie ran toward the wagon.
It was empty. Unless Dr. Fielding had somehow escaped…
One of the men with the rifles who’d tumbled from the wagon pushed up off the ground. He spotted Hettie and, in a panic, reached for his pistol.
Hettie pointed Diablo at him. “Don’t.”
He blinked at her. “I-I-I’m sorry, Mizzay, I didn’t realize—” He stuttered to a stop. “Wait, you’re not—”
Hettie cocked Diablo for show. “Where’s Dr. Fielding?”
He gaped. “I—I don’t know—”
Hettie blew a molten hole in the ground next to his feet, and he stumbled back. “Where is he?”
“I was just supposed to stay in the cart! I don’t know anything!” His eyes canted left. Hettie reacted a second too late.
Someone cinched an arm around her neck and dragged her backward. Hettie struggled, dropping Diablo as she tried to pry her fingers under the man’s elbow to get a breath.
She sank her teeth into the man’s thick muscle, then slammed her heel into his shin, twisting to throw him off balance. He yelped and let go. She dove for Diablo and before she could stop herself, fired.
The man’s shriek was cut off almost instantly as he evaporated, flaring like a hellish green grease fire.
The agony of the revolver’s blood price was instant, shredding through skin, flesh and bone as it extracted one year of Hettie’s life for the life she’d taken. The pain went on and on, as if she were the one being consumed by flame. It’d been months since she’d killed a man; months since she’d slaked Diablo’s bloodthirst. And the mage gun’s appetite was insatiable. For a flash, she thought she was back in hell, being swallowed and forced down into Satan’s gullet—and then it was over.
Through the haze of relief, Hettie barely registered the person standing over her, pistol drawn, its blank, black eye winking at her.