“The horses are gone,” said Lulu.
“All of them?” asked Shrike.
“The ones that aren’t dead.”
“Goddam,” said Spyder as Count Non wrapped his injured shoulder in gauze he pulled from the saddlebags. He pressed a poultice to Spyder’s wound and wrapped that, too.
“Herbs with Saint Cosmas’ dust,” said the Count. “The shoulder and your hand should be healed by morning.”
“You didn’t even get scratched.”
“Unlike some people, I try to avoid being stabbed.”
“You got something against bleeding?”
“Blood belongs on the inside, little brother.”
“Duck and cover. Got it.”
“This one’s eyes are gone,” said Primo. “And this one.”
“This one, too,” said Lulu. “Shit they’re all cut up. Oh my god…”
Spyder looked at Lulu. She was kneeling by the body of a dead tribesman, her hands over her mouth. The dead man’s robe lay open, revealing his chest and belly. They were scarred and stitched in the same haphazard manner that was becoming very familiar.
“Are they cut, Spyder?” asked Shrike.
“Sliced and diced, just the way the Black Clerks do it.”
Lulu touched the face of the dead man in the sand. “Is that how I look?” She spoke in a child’s voice, like she was in shock. She pulled her jacket closed and crossed her arms, tucking her hands underneath. “They all that way?”
“Yes,” said Primo. He was walking from body to body, moving their clothing with his foot, checking them for scars. Spyder could tell that he didn’t want to touch them. Going to where Lulu knelt, Spyder got her to her feet.
“Come away from there,” Spyder said, and sat her by the fire.
“Why would they come after us like that?” Lulu asked.
“In our clans, there’s a saying about the Black Clerks,” said Primo. “’They watch over us through silent eyes.’”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that taking a part of someone’s body gives the Clerks some power over the remaining body,” said Shrike.
“It’s still just static to me.”
“I believe it means that the Black Clerks might not take eyes simply because they are foul and need to replenish their organs,” said Count Non. “Perhaps they are able to see where those eyes should be, watching through the empty sockets they once inhabited.”
“The Clerks are in my head? They’re looking through my fucking eyes?” Lulu shouted. There was hysteria in her voice.
“Is that right, Shrike?” asked Spyder.
“It’s possible,” she said.
“I saw the Clerks in Berenice. I thought it was just a coincidence,” Spyder said. “They must want the book, too. Or to spook us from it.”
“I led those slugs right to us,” Lulu said. “The Black Clerks have seen everything we’re doing and know right where we are.” She stood and snatched up the shotgun. “Fuck that.”
“What are you doing, Lulu?” Spyder said. He started over, but Lulu pointed the four-ten at him.
“Stay put, Spyder. I’m ending this right now.” Lulu was walking backwards into the dark, keeping the gun pointed at the group. “Those bloodless motherfuckers think they can watch TV out of my head? I’m going off the air, like I should have done a long time ago.”
“Don’t do anything stupid,” said Spyder.
“Look at me!” Lulu yelled. “Look at what’s left of me! I’ve pretty much used up all my stupid for this lifetime. I’m done.” She ran into the dark.
Spyder ran after her, pausing at the dune line in case she was waiting. He didn’t think that Lulu would want to shoot him, but she still might out of fear or surprise. He moved slowly down the base of the dunes, letting his eyes adjust to the dark. Finally, she saw a woman running. Spyder lit out after her.
“Lulu!” Spyder yelled. “Lulu!”
When he reached her, Lulu was on her knees in the sand, the four-ten wedged under her chin.
“Stay the hell back, Spyder.”
“Give me the gun.”
“I didn’t want you to get hurt. And I didn’t mean for you to get involved in my shit. The Clerks are coming for you now, too. For all of us.”
“They’re not coming for anyone. We’re going to get that magic book and get clean.”
“Look at us, Spyder. Those people back there have a clue. We get loaded and hunt for girls. We can’t help them.”
“Not dead, we can’t.”
“We’ll mess everything up.”
“That’s a possibility.”
Lulu looked at Spyder. “I really love you, you know. You’re the best person I know. But I can’t have those things crawling around inside my skull.” Spyder heard Lulu pull back the hammer on the four-ten.
“Before you do anything, I want you to listen to me, Lulu,” Spyder said in a calm and even voice. “You listening?”
“I’m not putting the gun down.”
“Fair enough. You hold on to it, if it makes you feel better.”
“The Clerks took your eyes. We know that and are agreed on it, right?”
“Did they take your ears?”
“No. I’ve still got them.”
“Right. So all they can do is watch TV with the sound off. You following me?”
“If the Clerks are spying on us through you eyes it’s because that’s all they can do. They can’t listen to us. They don’t have your ears. That means, all we have to do is keep you from seeing where we are and they’re blind as a bat.”
“You think that’d work?” Lulu asked. She moved the gun from under her chin and scratched the side of her head with the barrel.
“We just cover up your little eyeholes and the Clerks get to play Three Blind Mice ’til we’re home, drinking tequila and winking at college girls.”
“Maybe,” she said.
“If you’re nice, I’ll get Shrike to slip the blindfold on for you. You like a little bondage with your morning coffee, right?”
Lulu seemed to think about it for a moment. “I’m not giving back the gun,” she said. “I’ve been useless and naked up ’til now. But I know how to use this.”
“I’m sure the Count won’t mind. Come on over here.”
Lulu got up and went to Spyder. He kissed her cheek and hugged her tight. “Don’t scare me like that again.”
“I won’t,” she said and hugged Spyder back. “So, can Shrike really put my blindfold on? That sounds kind of hot.”
Spyder slid his around across her shoulders and led Lulu back to camp.
“Christ, you got a cigarette?” Lulu asked.
“Nope. Don’t worry. We’re almost to Hell. Bet they have plenty of smokes down there.”