Chapter 26

“The Shadow Man isn’t his real name, you know. Fact is, I don’t even know his real name. In his world, with his language … well, it’s just easier to call him the Shadow Man. And let me tell you, he is one mean motherfucker. I’d put him right up there with Genghis Khan or Joseph Stalin. This guy, he pretty much took over his world. Those who refused to worship him, he killed. The ones who agreed to worship him are now his slaves.”

Cashman lit himself another cigarette, took a drag, puffed out three small smoke rings.

“So why are you helping him then?” I asked.

“Me and Mom, we’re kind of … outcasts from our world. The Shadow Man promised us if we delivered the silver ring we could go back. Not only that, we’d be wealthy and powerful. Like royalty.”

“You don’t think he’s going to double cross you? Like use the silver ring to destroy your world?”

Cashman grinned as he kept staring out at the rippling water. “Kid, the Shadow Man only wants to destroy one world, and it’s this one.”

“Why?”

“Beats me. But the truth is nobody likes you humans. You’re all too arrogant. Self-centered. Nobody here wants to believe in the existence of other life in the universe because none of you want to share, even though it’s not like you’ll ever be able to visit other galaxies. Selfish bastards, that’s what humans are. You ask me, the Shadow Man would be doing the rest of the universe a favor.”

I glanced back at Emma, my little sister sitting with her head down, her hands in her lap. Nancy kept the gun trained on her head, the barrel steady.

“Let my sister go,” I whispered to Cashman.

He shook his head. “No can do, kid.”

“She doesn’t have to be here.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.”

“I can’t even take this stupid ring off even if I wanted to. So how the hell is the Shadow Man going to get his hands on it?”

Right then the streetlamp flickered. It was just small thing, nothing more than an unsteady flash, and Cashman clapped his hands.

“Showtime,” he said, stamping the cigarette out in the ashtray.

“What are you talking about?”

He jerked his head toward the warehouse. “The Shadow Man’s here.”

“But … how do you know? The only thing that happened was the light flickered.”

“That’s right. How else do you think we travel between the planes of existence? We don’t use flying saucers. All we do is just burst through the fabric of your reality, and by doing so it creates an electrical shortage. Just a flicker, like you said, so nobody ever really thinks twice about it.”

He took a deep breath, smiled, and opened his door.

“Shall we?”

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