you grabbed my hand and twisted it
so you had your way
-- anouk, together alone
Once, when they were very young, the ball they'd been playing with in the schoolground had bounced beneath some bushes. Isabel had knelt beside them, ready to fetch it out, but Angela had stopped her, pointing at the thorns.
She went to the teacher. Made her eyes very big. Held Isabel's hand. She knew just how irrestistably adorable they were.
The teacher used a stick, and did it very systematically, but still ended up with red scratches up her arm by the time she handed the ball back.
Angela did thank her. Manners were manners, after all.
The shrill of the telephone jolted her out of sleep - a dream she'd already forgotten by the time she lifted the handset to her ear. This was her speciality; coherence at four in the morning.
"Ange?" It was Weiss's voice, and she was already sweeping the covers back, clambering out of bed.
"Hit me," she said, flicking on the light and squinting as she found yesterday's trousers.
"Ange," he repeated, and she fumbled her belt. She could hear deep weariness in his voice and her own breath against the plastic handset. "It's Isabel," he said.
Her mouth was numb. Her tongue someone else's. Somehow, she said, "What's happened?"
In her head, their last conversation went like this:
Isabel, in the absence of anything else to throw around, had hurled her body onto the bed. "So how long am I stowed in here this time?"
Angela had been drained by administration. You'd think it would get easier, but no, every time - I'm her sister; no, I'm not her guardian; no, our mother can't be here (won't be here). "Maybe," she said, trying to keep her tone calm, "until you can be a little more reasonable."
"Oh, that's a fucking laugh."
Angela looked up from the floor, eyes narrowing. "What?"
Cadaver-pose on the bed, Isabel glared back at her. "It's not about reason with you. It's about your way. You always have to have things your goddamn way."
No one could make Angela feel like Isabel. It was like she ripped the reactions out of her, cold and hot flashes, flabberghasted shock to anger in half a second, pointing a finger. "I don't fucking believe you. My entire life has been dictated by coming to your rescue, bailing you out, talking you down. It's getting really old, Issy. Why can't you just give it up?"
A sneer from the bed. "What, because you want me to, Angie?"
If she'd stayed in that room another minute, she'd have done something she couldn't afford to be responsible for. She had to get back to work, anyway. Headed for the door, the wood reassuringly inanimate in her grip.
Behind her, she heard Isabel bounce off the bed. "Don't you walk away from me, don't you fucking dare!"
But Angela just slammed the door behind her, and Isabel's wasn't the only voice shrieking anger in those halls.
It was not simple, the death of a sister. The death of a twin. Of half herself. It was not simple, and no one else would understand it, Angela knew, this tangle of things inside her as she marched into Ravenscar hospital. Or rather, somebody would have, but not any more.
Grief, yes. Of course it was there, looming high and wide and all-encompassing, like the night sky in the desert, horizon to horizon of emptiness.
There was panic, caught up in the back of her throat, and its twin, denial, running rings inside her head and tripping over her tongue.
There was the faintest, sharp-edged shard of relief, that it was over, that she would never again have to look into Isabel's eyes and have that challenge go through her, jagged-edged and catching.
There was a high-pitched wail of biting loss, and she knew that that would only become stronger now that she was alone in this world.
There was anger, growling, rampaging, rattling the bars, demanding to know how dare she, how fucking dare she do this.
There was something like defiance. It was not enough. It would not break her.
But mostly, there was grief. Falling down and smothering her as she saw her, cold flesh on cold tiles and nothing more. Just that.
There had never been anywhere Isabel could go that Angela could not find her. And vice versa. When they were little, there had never been much point in hide and seek. Sometimes they had to play it at parties, like the time when other children (Isabel didn't like other children, and Angela thought they were boring) had told them that Isabel was "it", and Angela found her in under ten seconds, over and over again, until the birthday girl threw a screaming fit about the fact that they were cheating, and the grown-ups let them sit down somewhere else and colour in.
That was fine with them. They'd preferred I Spy, anyway. They were good at that.
The ringing phones had been the first hint that something was wrong.
This had happened before, though she'd deny it. The night before her second year history exam, and the phone had rung, and rung, and rung, and she'd picked it up each time to nothing but dial tone until eventually she'd screamed, "Talk to me!" into the receiver, and a voice in the beeping had whispered, "Help me."
Angela had unplugged the phone and, when it still rang, had thrown it out the window of her dorm room. Immersed herself in wars and treaties and successions and drank coffee until her fingers shook on her notes and the sun came up and it was time to go to her exam.
When she came back, the RA was looking for her desperately, with a message from their mother.
Isabel had had a breakdown, her worst yet. She was in the hospital. (How long this time?) It had been a very long drive, on no sleep the night before, but Angela had gone. She'd made her point.
Now, Angela sat in her apartment, listening to the phones ringing, and looking at the name she'd scrawled on her notepad.
She lifted the phone to her ear again, and said, "Don't think that just because you're dead, I'll let you win."
The ringing stopped. Angela hung up, and went to get her coat.
John Constantine was prickly, unpleasant, selfish, rude, condescending and unrepentant. He was the sort of man Isabel had always fancied and Angela had always hated, the wild, jaded, scarred visionaries, the broken replicas of strong and beautiful men.
But he hadn't known Isabel, and he had no reason to come after Angela, to do what he had done. He didn't know what he was stalking into the middle of. Just another poor bastard falling for the irresistible act.
Around the time that he was choking and stinking of sulphur in her apartment, feet in a pan of water boiled dry, it occurred to Angela that perhaps they didn't have the right to drag him into this.
Not her fault, she told herself. Isabel started it.
Anyway, he seemed like he could look after himself.
Their favourite game had been Monopoly, though they'd only played it once. Only ever once. Whenever they asked if they could play again, their mother had said, "No. Remember last time?" And they just looked at her, because of course they did.
The game had lasted seven hours - they'd stopped for dinner, barely, running back upstairs the moment their plates were clean. By that stage it was just the two of them playing, their father bankrupt after an hour and a half, their mother only lasting an hour longer.
Two of them, circling each other around the board. Careful moves, serious consideration, taking and building and guarding territory like warfare. Trading money and property and luck and triple mortgages and speculations in intricate counterpoint, until Angela landed on Boardwalk and defaulted on a loan that granted her Pacific Avenue through a cunning surety clause, and Isabel threw a hotel at her, and Angela kicked over the board, and by the time their mother got upstairs, Angela had ripped out a hank of Isabel's hair and Issy had blood under her fingernails.
Monopoly was banned after that. So they found other ways to play.
After they found Beeman - after she called the emergency services and they flooded the scene and John was busy being rude to them - Angela found the nearest church.
It wasn't even Catholic, but she didn't care. Wasn't even sure why she was there, since Isabel was in hell - in hell and gone there just to spite her sister - but it seemed appropriate. She looked for the font, realised, crossed herself anyway. Sat in the nearest pew.
She clenched her eyes and her fists and her will, and in the resonating space inside her head, said, You fucking vicious bitch.
It echoed, that space inside her head.
Angela opened her eyes.
Only one thing she'd ever let Isabel have all to herself. That had, it seemed, been a mistake.
She could rectify that.
She'd looked down at her sister's dead body, and thought, You're going to have to do better than that.
The bar was quiet, discreet and filled with a low hubbub of voices. Angela felt it ripple around her as she passed through the tables, on her way to the bar proper. Eyes on her. Power did that. Her own, and that still clinging to her. You couldn't carry a thing like that, even that briefly, even that bound up with shielding and restraint, and not have a little rub off.
John only looked up when she sat down next to him. Didn't smile. Didn't even relax until she said, "It's done."
Then he ordered drinks - scotch on the rocks, vodka tonic. She asked what she'd missed, and they talked shop, half joking. He didn't ask her any questions, and she didn't volunteer anything.
Then John said, around halfway through the second drink, "Angela, there's something..."
"Something?" she repeated, lifting an eyebrow.
"About Isabel," he said, looking at her, and she wondered if he knew the power he had in that direct gaze; knew it and used it. "She's not..." He paused, rethought. "I made arrangements."
Angela looked down at her glass - ice, bubbles, the viscous swirl of vodka. She realised, of course, that he thought she'd be happy.
"You didn't know my sister very well," she said.
Getting the Butcher Back by dee