The terror in Benjamin’s eyes confused Braxton enough to forget where he stood. Ben laughed at the offered card last time, claiming he planned to leave Eos. I guess it’s just as easy for him as it is for me. Braxton planned to transfer to another precinct a year ago, but once COVID hit, the excuses became too easy. At that moment, he appreciated that it never happened. I can try to help Ben one more time. Braxton felt his awareness slip back to reality.
Braxton couldn’t see his face, but he could see the blood caked on his arm. Ben sprinted toward Braxton and jumped onto the stage. Braxton tried to speak, tried to explain, but he couldn’t produce more than distorted sounds.
Ben’s shirt collar tightened around his neck. The anger and blood lust drained from the kids’ eyes, refilled with shock and terror. Lionel held Ben by his shirt and then pulled back. Ben’s legs lifted in the air and he fell back against Lionel’s body. The spotlight no longer shone on Ben, but now on Braxton. But even in the shadows veins bulged from Ben’s neck, and his chest heaved.
“You may think of us as monsters, but we respect people.”
Braxton collected himself and nodded in acknowledgment of Lionel’s favor.
“Benjamin, you need to learn patience. Your friend arrived a few moments before you. The blood you see comes from wounds I administered. I think I knocked out a few teeth when I broke Officer Lyle’s jaw.”
A stark wonder overcast Ben’s eyes, and Lionel removed his arm from around Ben’s torso. A black stage with red lights stank of concentrated bleach. The scent stung Braxton’s blood clogged nostrils. Lionel produced a knife and held it hilt first to Braxton.
“Are you ready to make someone beautiful?”
Braxton turned to the girl, and even though he knew she wasn’t Jessie, wasn’t his sister, he could never make someone beautiful. Braxton shook his head. Lionel dropped his head for a moment and then held the knife to Ben.
“The Artist sees promise in you. Maybe we can forget your outburst of emotions if you can make this girl beautiful.”
A silver blade shimmered red like blood on a slide. The girl’s head lulled in place, and she coughed a few times. The sound made everyone but Lionel jump. Ben took the knife.
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