Shadow

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No Church in the Wild

New York was irradiated as it was every single night in the metropolis. The energy never wavered between the soaring towers and the multitudes of inhabitants. There was never a lackluster evening in New York City, and this excitement was something Mack had yearned for.

The cab pulled up to the front of Red Rooster, and he tended his eyes to its exterior through the glass window of the vehicle.

"Hey, man. You going to pay or not?" The cab driver demanded, eyeing Mack through the rear view mirror. The relentless smacking of the driver's bubblegum was exasperating, but Mack paid the fare with a tip, nevertheless.

Out in the open, he observed the atmosphere of Harlem. It hadn't transformed since his previous visit with his wife a few years ago. It had the same entertaining, vibrant, and busy feel that he reminisced.

For such an engaging and happy-go-lucky restaurant like Red Rooster, it was unexpected for it to be hidden on the grid as Jade mentioned.

Mack ironed the blazer of his jet black traditional suit with his palms. He then peered through the windows from where he stood, he witnessed Jade conversing with the man he assumed was the manager she had referred to.

The man appeared tall and sophisticated as he donned a pleasantly-tailored suit with a vest. On the man's head was a fedora, an item that Mack presumed was a signature accessory just from the way the man conducted himself.

With that, Mack made his way into the restaurant. From the instant he stepped foot indoors, he perceived an exceptionally nonchalant but elegant vibe.

There was delight coming from every single table as the customers indulged in the comfort food Red Rooster had to offer. Mack wasn't concerned about every little aspect as he usually was. He was only concentrated on the reason why he appeared there in the first place.

"Glad you could make it." Jade called out from the front counter. She displayed that beam that Mack knew her best with. She was dressed for the occasion just like he was, sporting a cream blouse with ebony-colored trousers and high heels.

She and the manager made their way towards Mack, as Jade swooped her hair to one side of her face, taming the curls with her fingers. "Mack, this is Xander Brown. He runs this place."

Xander extended his hand out in Mack's direction for a handshake, to which Mack conformed. Something about Xander seemed familiar, but Mack could not put his finger on it in that instant.

"Technically, I own this place. The guy who runs it is currently in the Bahamas, so I thought I'd look after for a while," Xander began, presenting a grin. "But hey, any friend of Emilia's is a friend of mine."

Already, Mack was starting to appreciate Xander's easygoing attitude. It had only been moments since the initial greeting, but Mack already felt at ease in his presence. It had been infrequent for solely anyone to have such an effect.

"Don't worry, he's one of us now," Jade notified, giving a small smirk as if she had taken a leap of faith. Of course Xander knew of Jade's situation. Otherwise, the restaurant would not be the safe refuge she claimed it to be.

"Alright, then." Xander marched to the counter and gathered two menus before striding back towards Mack and Jade. "If you guys will follow me, we'll get things started."


"You know, it's hard out there," Xander commenced, as he sucked in the smoke from his cigarette like it was a straw. He then leisurely inhaled and exhaled.

The three of them were settled in a booth located at the back end of Ginny's Supper Club, the eatery that was positioned a level below Red Rooster. The entire lower floor was crowded, allowing hardly any space for additional guests.

"I remember the night I found Jade in a dumpster after she escaped from whatever fucked up incentive Donnie had." Xander propped forward to reposition himself in his seat, still looking at Mack who was seated across from him. "You wouldn't have recognized her if you saw her then."

To Mack's right, Jade kept her concentration on Xander who communicated in a way that sounded incredibly prosaic for someone who was just a restaurant owner. Mack was always one to make internal observations about minor characteristics like that.

Jade tilted ahead, resting her forearms on the table as she prepared to speak. "Shortly after my parents passed away, I was selected by the government to work in foreign intelligence. They believed I was good at what I did, and I really felt like I had found my place."

There was a minor pause as Jade took a deep breath. There was no reluctance to the fact that her past was a sensitive subject, so Mack remained attentive when she conversed.

"I met Donnie in Abu Dhabi while I was on the job. It was there that he recruited me for his own little program within the government using that charm you're probably aware of. He trained me for years about so many things from reconnaissance to martial arts to sharpshooting, and I was ultimately granted top-level clearance to the CIA."

"What made you take the job?" Mack questioned, curious about her past motives. What impulse did she have to place herself in such a precarious profession?

"I felt powerful. I had done missions that caused me to lose sleep, and I'd have these emotional breakdowns repetitively. But the thing was, I didn't want to stop. There was always a part of me that felt like I had to pay for my parents' death; As if it was my fault they passed away."

"You made the wrong choice back then didn't you?" Mack could only envision having an entire group of individuals, who were basically family, turn against him. That was something he never desired to know the feeling of.

"I was hunted for some time. Sooner or later, I escaped and successfully faked my own death. Xander helped me get off and stay off of the grid. Until you showed up at my workplace."

"What does Donnie want out of all of this?"

"I was going to ask you if there was anything tragic that had ever happened to him. Something that could've caused him to go all out."

Mack contemplated long and hard about Donnie's past, but he acknowledged soon enough that Donnie had never talked about his earlier days. He had never even gone into detail about his current life to Mack. At least not in the way that most people would to their friends. Every tale was brief enough that it permitted no questions to be asked.

"No," Mack uttered, delivering the inopportune information. "Not that I know of."

Xander disposed of his cigarette and lounged back to cross his arms as Jade pressed her lips together slightly at the sound of no new material to sink her teeth into. To get to the end of what Donnie had been scheming, they had to discover what lied at his core.

"I have to get to him," Mack professed, causing the eyes of Jade and Xander to draw up to him and astonishing expressions to fill their faces.

"How do plan to do that?" Xander posed, making a very decent argument.

"I'll find a way." Mack had to learn what actually happened to Brie and what Donnie had further up his sleeve. He hadn't devised a strategy as of yet, but he was determined to do so once he had the chance. There had to be a way.

"Man, you really have to think this through. Donnie Tesla is a dangerous man. You do not want to be on the wrong side of him," Xander cautioned. It was palpable that discovering Jade all bruised up and beaten that night was an image still embedded within his mind.

"What if I already am?"

"Guys," Jade interjected, keeping her eyes glued to the front of the restaurant. "We have company."

"That's impossible. I secured the entire border of this neighborhood." Xander was now fixated on the two men who stood with durable stances and detached facades by the entrance of Ginny's.

"How do you know?" Mack enquired. Jade must have had some type of prior knowledge of these men if she was able to pick them out immediately in a crowd of people.

"Because I used to work with them." Her heart stopped once it struck her that she was now back in the chaos she had worked so diligently to evade years ago.

"Don't worry. I'll take care of it," Xander assured, rising up from his seat and straightening his suit.

"Be careful." Jade's eyes stayed pasted on the scene as her friend sauntered over to the individuals. She was willing to back him up even if it jeopardized her own safety.

"Hello, fellas. How may I help you two tonight?" Xander revealed a wide beam, welcoming the two unexpected visitors as a method to avoid any trouble. He was composed under pressure, a quality that was observed back at the table.

The two individuals who stood before him did not return heartening smiles as one retorted with, "We're still waiting for someone else to show up."

"Maybe I can get you two seated in advance. In case it might be awhile."

Back at the table, Jade attempted to eavesdrop. If she made eye contact with any one of the men, she was done for.

"Hey, we're going to be fine," Mack comforted. For somebody he had just met, he put a great deal of faith into Xander and whatever approach he was taking.

Even now, Xander was struggling to persuade the two men to get situated at a table. This was not merely an unpremeditated evening for them.

"Please, guys. I would never let guests of mine stand and wait." Xander tried his best, but they weren't dislodging from their positions.

One of the men elevated his hand up to his left ear, causing Xander's attention to shift upwards. It then became apparent that his ear contained a listening device.

"It seems that the person we were waiting for is already here." Before anyone could distinguish the next action, guns were extracted and pointed in Xander's direction. "Where is Jade Bennett?"

There were no means as to how they could've known that Jade was in the restaurant. There had to be something Jade, Mack, and Xander were unsuspecting of.

"You really don't want to mess with me." Xander kept his hands up, trying not to stir up a disaster, but the circumstances were already too threatening to the people in the eatery and to everyone neighboring the area. "Just walk out that door, and we won't have a problem."

Jade compressed her fists back at the table, preparing to take action if she was obliged to. That was when a notion occurred to her.

"Give me your phone." She snatched the cellular device from Mack and opened it up to reveal the battery. When she realized it was scorching hot, her eyes expanded. "You've been bugged."

"Bugged?" Mack was confounded. "I've never let anyone touch my phone."

"You didn't need to." With that, Jade submerged the battery into her drink and chucked the phone under the table where she was able to smash it with the heel of her shoe.

"We've heard about your undertakings in the past, Mr. Brown. Let's not let history get into the way of this matter," The man asserted, indicating that he knew something about Xander's former life.

Mack was reluctant to turn around, but the anticipation killed him. When he rotated about to eye the occurrence, he locked eyes with one of the men.

"She's in the back," one of the men disclosed, making an ineffective attempt to pass Xander.

Before either of them could take another step towards the far end of the restaurant, Xander was already one step ahead.

"Drop your weapons." Xander had his exclusive Desert Eagle pistol up and out from his back pocket, aiming at the intruders as the bartenders and the servers did the same with their own exceptional weapons.

"We just want the girl. No one else needs to get involved."

"If you want her, you're going to have to go through me." Xander refined his posture and cocked his gun, readying for the next episode.

The whole restaurant was motionless with gasps escaping customers' mouths here and there. All eyes were on the happening.

Before anyone could bat an eyelid, the gunshots initiated mayhem as people scrambled to the ground to take cover.

Xander was able to redirect the shot by pointing the opposing weapon in the air before the man had the chance pulled the trigger. The sound was earsplitting, but both of them remained outwardly unaffected.

Something underneath the men's suits protected them from the bullets that propelled towards them.

With a fist oncoming towards Xander's face, he obstructed it successfully with his forearm before bringing his own knuckle to the man's face with maximum force, then subduing him with a simple chokehold.

"Backup, backup, do you copy?!" The other man bellowed out for his earpiece to receive. He was still planted with a rifle in his hand as he placed a digit on his earpiece to emphasize the sound.

With an unperturbed expression, Xander progressed towards the man, and that is when he threw himself into panic. With an impulsive jerk of his arm, his gun was pointed and the trigger was pulled without a second thought, but it all too predictable for Xander.

To get it through with, Xander executed the same moves as he previously did, but this time for the duration of the chokehold, he pivoted around to project his voice to the back of the restaurant. "Jade, get out of here! Take Lola!"

Every customer contained within the eatery took Xander's order as if he were regarding them also. Flocks of people began actively darting, heading for the emergency exit.

Jade and Mack both slid out from the booth. She turned to Xander and nodded before rotating towards Mack, perceiving that he wasn't departing along with the others. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Go get someplace safe. I'll help him out."

"You're going to get yourself killed."

"I'll be fine. Go!"

Jade understood the circumstances then finally fled from the scene as Mack made his way towards the battle. It was the sense of urgency that prompted him to take a stand against his challengers.

"Need a weapon?" Xander shouted whilst in combat, tossing Mack a butterfly knife from his ankle band.

With the weapon in his possession, Mack clenched the hilt of blade with a saber grip, giving him an immense amount of control.

There were considerable amounts of men inward bound, either stampeding towards Mack or Xander. Xander had to now make use of his Desert Eagle as he became aware that they were unmatched.

As luck would have it, only bodies on the other side of the playing field were hitting the ground. Xander's employees utilized their skills as best as they could, taking the damage if they needed to, but no one was critically wounded at that point in time.

With a subtle swipe of the butterfly knife, Mack stimulated a lot of discomfort to whoever crossed his path. He recognized the adrenaline rush that he grew too familiar with some time ago. This was what he felt during all the years he spent with the military.

Sooner or later, a wooden dinner table had to be turned on its side so that Mack and Xander could utilize it as a momentary shelter area. Xander displayed a bullet wound on his left shoulder, applying pressure on it to sojourn the bleeding.

"You okay?" Mack queried, identifying the wound as blood saturated a section of Xander's blazer.

"We have to take most of them out as we can." It was evident that Xander was a warrior and that this wound was insignificant to him. "Finish this, and we're out."

Xander held his fire as he waited for the barrage of bullets to settle before peering out from the side of the barrier and shooting a few rounds. The recoil was more powerful as his dominant hand was preoccupied with coercing his wound.

Mack kept his eyes opened for anything he could do to possibly contribute. Because he retained a melee weapon and was restrained to a cover area, his odds of eliminating any of the reinforcements were reduced.


Jade barged through the back doors once she finally reached ground level. She possessed the keys to Xander's car, keeping her eyes peeled for within the backlot.

It was apparent once she came across the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse that it was undeniably Xander's vehicle. "Hello, Lola."

With the click of a button, the tip of the key launched out from its base, and she obtained access to the interior. She positioned herself into the car before starting it up and zipping down the boulevard, efficaciously sidestepping traffic.

"Driver: Jade Bennett. What is your destination?" A voice articulated. Jade failed to recall that within Xander's car was an intelligence system that he had personally installed.

"Home."

"Setting your destination to 151 East 58th Street, New York, NY, 10022."

Everything around her was sound as she pulled up to a stoplight. That was when three black Dodge Chargers pulled up on the left, right, and rear of the Bugatti.

Once the light interchanged to green, Jade stomped on the gas pedal. She steered, forthcoming a narrow alleyway and made the sharp turn onto it. The hostile vehicles were constrained to linger within a uniformed parameter as the street permitted.

The parked cars crowded the streets and the strolling citizens swarmed the sidewalks. The alley did not last for long as Jade had to make another turn to get back onto the main road, blending into the stream of traffic.

Cutting in front of civilian vehicles and veering past a few others, she made an effort to elude her pursuers within the horde. After a few more turns and tries to fade in with the scene, Jade effectively evaded the three automobiles at the expense of no weapons having been unsheathed.

She inhaled then exhaled as she reflected on how privileged she was to not experience an encounter implicating weapons while she was preoccupied with operating the vehicle.

After a long three miles of silence on Lexington Ave, she finally turned left onto 58th Street where Xander's home was located. His residence was the securest and nearest to travel to, and as far as Jade knew, her own apartment could've been infested with Donnie's men.

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