Sandy shoved Jack through the hole in the ceiling while the denizens of Pitch’s horrible menagerie howled and roared below them. Let them howl! Sandy and Jack weren’t going to fall now, they were going to escape from this island and get reinforcements—or at least escape from this lair and regroup, depending on whether or not Sandy wanted to call Pitch on his megalodon bluff. But then again, didn’t Pitch have a plane somewhere? Would he have so cavalierly destroyed the one Sandy had flown in on if he didn’t?
Jack swore and Sandy rushed after him. When he emerged, he wasn’t entirely surprised to see Pitch standing on the roof before him, Jack held between a pair of Neanderthal henchmen. The whites of Pitch’s eyes were slicked black as ever with whatever he was using to control them—necromancy or…well, fine. It was necromancy. If Sandy wasn’t going to believe his own eyes, then he might as well be back in Chicago holding office hours.
Speaking of believing his own eyes, though…the getup that Pitch was wearing now almost put more strain on that resolution than all the reanimated megafauna. He had to have stuck the edges of the top of the robe to his chest with spirit gum or something; he’d never seen something expose so much chest and yet not reveal quite all of it. But then again, he’d never had the desire to go to the kind of clubs where he might have learned more about that kind of thing. If only Pitch had been a showgirl instead of a paleontologist-turned-dark-wizard, Sandy would be in such different trouble right now—
“You’re right on time!” Pitch clasped his hands together and beamed at Sandy.
“Not this again,” Jack muttered in dismay.
“I see that you weren’t impressed with my little collection downstairs,” Pitch said. “Are you at least impressed that I remembered enough about you from our past acquaintance to leave you an escape route perfectly suited to you?
Come to think of it, Jack had been forced to crouch a lot as they were getting out.
“If you wanted to meet up with us, you could have just let us out of our cells,” Sandy said coolly. The best way to get some time to plan would be to get Pitch talking, and time was something Sandy needed a great deal of at this point. He still wasn’t sure what Pitch’s angle was, other than to cause a lot of chaos and spit in the face of science while dressed like some sort of demonic debauchee. True, it was a good look on his old friend, but, well, the whole dire wolves and saber-toothed cats stalking around modern cities thing had to be stopped.
“But you would have been gone by the time I arrived and that would have simply frustrated me, and I am, so very much, trying to stay”—Pitch rolled his neck and Sandy heard it crack—“calm, right now.”
When he met Sandy’s eyes again, his own were still just as strange, but now Sandy had to wonder… “What happens when you’re not calm?”
“Oh, you know…” Pitch laughed. “I make bad decisions, do things I don’t really want to, I’m just not myself at all, you see. It makes it very difficult to carry on with my research.”
Hope flared in Sandy’s chest. Perhaps Pitch really had started off with the goal of researching the behavior of extinct animals, and his corruption had been a negative outcome from the beginning. Perhaps Pitch, his old friend, was still there, fighting for his own motives.
How to go about un-corrupting Pitch was another problem, but, hey. Sandy still hadn’t been grabbed by security Neanderthals yet. If Pitch would talk just a little more, Sandy could come up with a true escape plan, and Sandy already knew just the person to ask about magic. “Is that why we’ve been such a thorn in your side?” Sandy asked. “I can’t imagine we’ve done much to settle things down around here.”
Pitch chuckled, and Sandy thought to himself that Pitch hadn’t ever laughed so freely when they had known each other before. And it was a really good laugh, too. That is, an evil laugh. A good, evil laugh.
“Oh, Sandy,” Pitch said, stepping towards him. “You’ve certainly been a nuisance. My animals don’t behave naturally when they’re dodging a human with a whip. But I could deal with that, save for the fact that…well…” he leaned closer, and lightly brushed his fingers around the outside curve of Sandy’s ear. “Your presence alone is highly unsettling to me, what with the new…liberties…my, ah, allies, allow my thoughts. But you wouldn’t like to hear about that,” he said with a smirk.
Was Pitch going to mistake his blush for a sign of anger at being touched in such a way by an old friend/an enemy/another man? Maybe if he’d been more open in school Pitch would have found something else to do other than necromancy—
Jack made a noise of both embarrassment and exasperation. Obviously he wasn’t fooled.
“Try me,” Sandy said.
He heard Jack swear again. The kid needed to calm down, really. So this wasn’t an escape plan, not exactly. But it would probably lead to a change in scenery, at least. An opportunity to learn more about the layout of the lair. A chance to—
“I intend to.” Pitch gently pinched Sandy’s earlobe.
Maybe getting Pitch talking wasn’t that great for giving Sandy time to form logical plans, after all.
He’d decide whether that was good or bad later.