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Bad Blood

The next morning ultimately arrived as the sun peeped through the blinds in Mack's room, awakening him from his slumber. His desire was to fall back asleep, but it was useless as so much had been on his brain for him to rest further.

He sat up and relaxed his back against the headboard of the bed. He observed around his room, pondering about what was to come next. He had not seen Donnie since he departed from San Francisco, but he wasn't concerned in doing so, moreover. Even now, it didn't make sense to him: Why would Donnie go through so much trouble to get to Jade? What did she do to cause him to run amok?

There was a knock on his door that prompted his gaze to draw up towards it, already identifying who was on the other side. "Come in."

The door opened gradually as Jade slipped through and shut it behind her. "Hey, how'd you sleep?"

She made her way near the end of the bed and took a seat, locking eyes with Mack. She was dressed and set for the day, wearing a plain white top tucked into a pair of somewhat torn skinny jeans. Her ensemble was completed with a navy blue blazer and white-colored pumps.

"Fine," Mack fibbed, attempting to work out why she elected to pay him a visit first thing in the morning. He did not break eye contact since he was candidly interested in her motivation.

"I know this is random," Jade commenced, compressing her lips together as she prepared to make her next statement. Mack understood that she was being a bit careful about whatever she intended to say next. "But I thought we could pay a visit to someplace."

"Someplace where?" He was confounded by her unexpected suggestion. This was going to be no vacation, but was it going to be their first task?

"Southampton," Jade answered, budging in her seated position and pulling out a key from her back pocket. "I was digging through some old stuff I left here, and I found this."

She handed the item to Mack, and he distinguished it straightaway. The lone key had an extended chain looped through it, allowing someone to wear it around their neck if they wanted to. That was a manner his niece did.

"She gave this to you?" He questioned before pausing a moment to seize a deep breath and swallow. "Brie gave this to you?"

"Yeah. She told me that if anything happened, I would get this to a family member of hers. That family member just happens to be you," Jade articulated, folding her hands and relaxing them on her lap.

Mack inspected the key, observing it from every angle as meticulously as he could. He twirled the chain about his finger, grasping the pink and white polka dot customization that Brie had put on it way back when. It was only a matter of time until Jade presented Mack with the one little piece of his niece he could hold onto forever.

"You know, she and her mother would always take one another's keys by accident. The both of them constantly ended up being locked out of their own homes, leaving me and her father to return the keys back to the correct owner." Mack unveiled a slight smirk as he recollected the incident. "That's why she put this design on it."

Jade's face brightened at the happening because she could visualize Brie choosing to do something artsy with her keys as the result of a mix-up. The cheerful memories of the deceased were the ones that kept them alive in the living's hearts for times to come, and Jade was thrilled that Mack shared one with her.

"Oh, I almost forgot." Jade now reached into her coat pocket and withdrew a brand new iPhone 6. She passed the device to Mack, and he took a hold of it after recalling that he didn't possess one of his own after the night before. "I know it's not an Android, but I snagged it for you since I crushed your previous one."

Mack chuckled at the fact that she remembered that his preceding phone was an Android and not an iPhone; not that it mattered to him which one he had. He was simply pleased that she recollected something that seemed so inconsequential.

There was still a question that he left unanswered. He knew that he had to drop by Brie's abode in Southampton. He had never gone there, but he could picture how sumptuous it must have been, being that it was placed in the affluent part of the state.

"Did Brie ever tell you she had a son?" Mack questioned, bringing up how much Brie cherished her child. Even though he had no desire to take a trip to the village, he had to at least try to obtain a slight sense of closure.

"Yeah. She even showed me some pictures back in Abu Dhabi." Jade remembered the photos as though Brie had presented them to her the day before. She considered how Brie's son would feel when the news of his mother's death would eventually get to him. "He lives with his dad, right?"

"Yeah," Mack replied, pondering about Brie's ex-husband. "She was always too good for that guy."

Mack was the closest thing that Brie had to a father after his brother-in-law passed away, and Jade understood how heartbreaking it must've been to speak about the topic. To advance the exchange on a brighter note, she posed another question out of pure curiosity. "How old is he now?"

"Eight." Mack hadn't met with his great-nephew since he was born, but he never stopped thinking about him. How was he ever going to tell him about his mother's untimely death? "His name is Ace, but I think she would've already mentioned that to you."

"She did." Jade scanned around the room as she thought about what to say next, trying not to trigger any unpleasant responses. "I'm sure Brie would want you to be happy. She would be proud of you."

Mack smirked a little, bearing in mind what Brie would've done if she was sitting in the room at that very moment with him and Jade. He pictured her smiling face; the same one he reminisced so vividly.

"Should I pack?" He asked, indirectly saying yes to the outing. Perhaps adventuring to Brie's home would expose so much more about her involvement and bring up some matters about Donnie that Mack was uninformed about.

"An extra pair of clothes will be good enough. Just in case." Jade gave one last beam before opening the door, preparing to exit. Before she could take a step out, Mack had one last thing to say.

"I think we both need this trip."

"Take your pick," Xander insisted, guiding the way into the garage where his automobiles were all parked.

"Do you really think this is necessary?" Mack enquired, approaching closer to the vehicles as his eyes filled with wonder. It was past his reach to own even one of Xander's cars, let alone five of the ones displayed.

"Hey, take this as a friendly offering," Xander grinned, twirling five sets of keys he retained around his index finger. "Plus, Lola only seats one passenger."

Mack advanced close enough to the silver 2015 Pagani Huayra and looked over its exterior. As much as he longed to operate an extremely exotic car, he had to select one that preserved whatever low profile he had.

After bearing in mind his own preference and studying each and every vehicle, he settled on the ebony Porsche 918 Spyder that was parked at the end of the row of cars.

Xander walked over towards Mack and tossed him the keys to which Mack hardly caught as his attention was all on the sports car.

"Apollo here was a gift from my father." Xander specified, uttering some trivia at Mack to emphasize the automobile's significance. "Fantastic choice."

"I'll take good care of him." With that, Mack took one last glance at the Spyder before settling himself inside and starting up the vehicle.

"Did you listen to the voicemail from last night?" Jade asked, looking out from the passenger side window as the car made a turn, preparing to head onto the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

All three of them were on the highway, heading for Southampton. It was noon by the time they left Xander's condominium building, but given that their destination wasn't too far-off from the city, their departure time was no concern.

"I did," Xander replied as he focused his eyes onward from his seat behind the wheel. For somebody who loathed silence, he was willing to indulge in it for the time being.

"And…?" Jade was not accustomed to Xander conveying brief statements and not cracking a joke. Now it was apparent that the tension between the two was more severe than ever.

"Donnie's hosting a gala in three days. You know, the annual one to celebrate his shitty company and whatnot? This year, he's throwing it at 30 Rock."

There was a momentary pause as Jade determined what to say next. "We should go."

Xander elevated his eyebrow, but he did not turn his head to look toward his friend.

"It would give us a good opportunity to stay one step ahead of him," Jade pointed out, although still keeping in mind the potential risks of going face-to-face with Donnie. They had to take a chance if they ever wanted to end the whole situation.

"You're right, but we need a strategy. Right now, let's concentrate on the task at hand." Xander took a quick look up at the rear view mirror to make sure Mack was still following behind them.

His phone brusquely began buzzing as the Bluetooth system within the car brought the caller ID up onto the small monitor. To both their lucks in fleeing the awkward tension, it was Mack phoning from his vehicle.

Xander tapped the answer button on his phone, as the system picked up the receiving line, preparing to resonate the caller's voice throughout the car. "How's everything going back there, Mack?"

"Good," Mack communicated, tending both of his hands on the wheel and surveying the Bugatti in front of him. "Just wanted to check up on you guys and make sure we're right on schedule."

"Yeah, we're okay," Jade began, answering his initial question before proceeding to her next notion. "Hey, Donnie's hosting a business party this Sunday at the GE Building. I think it'll give us a good idea of what he's up to if we go."

Mack completely failed to recall that Donnie held a yearly gala to applaud his corporation's success. The only invitees were other successful businessmen, and Mack was now getting his chance even if the circumstances were not as pleasant as he would've pictured. "There's no better occasion than that. I guess we could take on the opportunity."

Jade smirked, relieved that Mack agreed with attending. "Alright, we'll talk to you in a few. Keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious."

"Will do."

With that, the call concluded as the three reverted back to concentrating on the road.

Xander was inquisitive as to how serious the situation would turn out to be, so he had to ask. "What do you think we're going to find at his niece's house?"

"Something that can help us understand everything."

"How can you be so sure?"

"She worked for him for seven years. I'm positive there'll be something there that can help us. And Mack needs this trip."

There was a minor break in conversation as the two of them sat in reticence, keeping their stares forward. Rarely had the two been hushed around one another without anything to say.

Sooner or later, Xander grew sick of the silence. He had been dying to express something since the night before. "I hope you know that whether you decide to pursue this all the way or not, I'll always have your back."

Jade looked over to Xander, revealing a smile with her lips, and she ended up exhibiting her teeth. He gazed back at her, acknowledging that he couldn't stay mad at her forever.

"I know," Jade responded, looking off to Xander's side of the vehicle where she caught sight of Roosevelt Island in the distance, sitting peacefully on the East River. Immediately, a stream of memories hit her. "Remember when we used to take the tram over there?"

Xander made sure it was safe before he rotated his head to observe the isle. His face instantly lit up at the sight of it. "For New Yorkers, we did such touristy things."

"It was your idea. I hope you remember you made me call out of work to go with you." She chuckled as she recollected how ludicrous Xander sounded when he suggested the trip in the middle of that hot summer's day.

"Good times," he finished as he joined in on the laugh. There were endless reminiscences that the two shared, and it was so much simpler to chat about happier times.

It was now Jade's phone that went off at that instant, causing the awareness of both her and Xander to direct towards the sound.

"It's work," she notified her friend, causing his face to express a sense of relief. She clutched the cellular device in her hand, awaiting to take the call.

"I thought you called in earlier." Xander could've sworn that Jade called out of work in advance being as he was right beside her when she phoned into the hospital earlier that day.

"I did. It must be urgent." She slid the button on her screen to answer the call, holding the device to her ear. "This is Doctor Paul."

"Emilia, where are you?" The quality of the voice on the other line came across as critical as she distinguished it as her co-worker's.

"Zoe, I called in this morning before my shift. I told boss I was taking a short holiday," Jade informed, still theorizing why she was receiving that call.

"Well, some guys came into the medical center an hour ago saying they were looking for you."

Jade's heart stopped as her eyes broadened. It was palpable that Donnie's men were barging into her workplace and terrorizing every innocent person she came into contact with. "Zoe, what happened?"

"They started shooting up the place out of nowhere, forcing us to tell them where you were. Some security guards took care the situation, but there's two dead and fifteen injured."

The whole account came as a shock to Jade as her mouth dropped and devastation became the only emotion she was capable of articulating.

Xander detected Jade's change in expression, so he alternated his head between keeping his eyes on the road and peeking over at her to ensure that everything was fine.

"I'll call you back. I'll take care of it, okay? Make sure everyone's safe and sound, and get them all home in one piece."

"Be careful, Emilia. It seemed like there was some bad blood between those men and you. It has to be a misunderstanding."

Jade discontinued the call without saying goodbye. How was she supposed to expose her co-worker to the world that she was now thrust back into? There was no way to do so without placing her associates at the hospital in even more jeopardy.

"Is everything okay?" Xander pressed, continuing to fluctuate his focus between the highway and Jade. He assumed that it was an additional situation that would only make everything worse.

Jade did not respond to the question. She could not comprehend the phone call and the approaches Donnie implemented to get to her. If he was going to begin harming the individuals around her, she had to put an end to it no matter what it took.

"Jade!" Xander shouted, snapping her out of her state of bemusement. He was genuinely concerned with her well-being as her face completely drained of color. He hadn't seen her freeze up so considerably since he found her in that dumpster five years ago.

"He's sending men to my workplace. He's hurting everyone I come into contact with, Xander." She uttered the words as if she had been restraining them inside of her since she set down the phone.

Xander removed one hand off of the wheel and reached towards the instrument panel screen. With a few taps onto the display, he brought up the local news.

I am here at the New York General Medical Center where there is unmistakable aftermath after an unforeseen shooting took place. As of now, there are four dead and eighteen injured as an assembly of men dress in dark suits stormed into the main lobby and opened fire. Authorities do not know the origin of this attack, but they are urging extreme precaution as it appears that violence has found its place in New York City as of recent.

Jade was on edge, hauling her knees up to her chest and crossing her arms around them. When she established that the motion didn't help her relax the least bit, she had to turn to her last resort. "Stop the car."

"We're on the middle of the highway. I can't just-"

With a harsh rotation of the steering wheel, Jade was able to take control of the vehicle for a brief second and jerk it into the breakdown lane. She completely confided in Xander to hit the brakes, to which he followed through with.

From the rear, Mack spotted the Bugatti pulling off to the side of the road. Due to his rapid speed, he followed suit a bit up ahead and ended up having to reverse to shift closer to them.

Jade unfastened her seat belt and heaved the lock up from her side door, marching out of the car.

Xander kept an eye on her with his hands still remaining on the wheel, concerned about her anxiety in that moment. He ultimately put the car in park and tailed her out, not demonstrating any rage for the sudden takeover of the wheel.

Mack departed his vehicle after witnessing Xander's exit through his side mirror, questioning what had just transpired. He edged towards Xander, ready to ask questions with a troubled look pervading his face. "What happened?"

Xander rolled up the sleeves of his shirt before resting his hands on his hips. He watched out for Jade who remained standing near the railing of the Long Island Expressway, facing outwards into the horizon.

"He thinks this is a game," Jade disclosed, not turning to face Mack as she communicated. Her hand went up to her face as her two friends assumed she wiped a tear. "As far as I know, he's hurt almost thirty people now, and it's all because he wants to get to me."

She choked back tears, struggling to continue. "How can someone be so radical? He's sent men to my work to intentionally injure and threaten harmless people. How long is it until he starts going to my friends' to slaughter them too?"

"Jade, I know that this is difficult for you, but you can't throw away all of the effort you've put into establishing a new life after all the adversities you've endured. You have to stay resilient," Mack solaced, approaching closer to where she was standing so that he could guarantee that his words where getting through to her.

"I'm sorry," Jade scoffed after pausing for a split second, embarrassed by her hasty emotional breakdown. "I just need a moment."

Mack revolved his body back to glance at Xander who now had his arms overlapped, staying faced in Jade's direction.

"I'll take care of it," Xander promised, pacing nearer to Jade's location.

Mack surveyed Xander treading past him before moving back to his vehicle. Once he was situated in the car, he corrected his rear view mirror so that he could keep an eye on his two colleagues.

Xander advanced closer to Jade and put an arm on her shoulder, readying to draw her into a full embrace, to which she complied.

The hug was finished within seconds as she sauntered back into the Bugatti, securing her seatbelt and leaning off to one side of the vehicle with her arm propped up to rest her head. Xander followed, maintaining his attentiveness to the ground as he travelled to the opposing side of the vehicle.

It wasn't long before they were back on the road, proceeding towards Southampton once again.

Mack recognized that Jade was restless as everything she feared unfolded right in front of her eyes without warning. What if Donnie began conducting men to strike the people she cared about?

He could empathize why she felt as though it all would be her fault if something were to occur to her loved ones. She just required support at a time when all odds were stacked against her.

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