In Which Meet Mrs Dark
“We have to make a run for it,” I hissed under my breath.
“We can’t,” he hissed back. “We’re backed in.”
“Just charge him. It’s not much of a chance, but it’s better than being backed in.”
Tyrone was standing at the top of the stairs, leaning against the wall and smirking like some kind of heartthrob, casually hefting a gun in one hand -- the gun Dark had abandoned on the floor downstairs. He had another in the holster on his belt. “Well, look at you two conspirators,” he said. “I must admit, I’m a little disappointed. I really thought you’d pull through for me, Adam. I thought this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or whatever. A beautiful alliance, at the least. But you had to go and ruin it by being spineless. Being weak.”
“Yes,” Dark said, raising his head, “I was weak. But not because I lost. Losing to her was the strongest thing I’ve done in this whole affair. I was weak for listening to you, and letting you turn me into a liar and a coward like you. I was weak for thinking I could save my family by betraying them. You are the weak one, Tyrone.”
“Wonderful speech, yes, wonderful speech. I am made wholly aware of these flaws of mine.”
“How did you find us?” I asked, the only thing I planned to say to him. The only remotely civil thing, anyhow.
“Find you? Um, I’ve been watching this thing since it started. Started at the Red Crescent and made my way over. Had to cut through two dozen rubberneckers to get in, but you know, that’s the world we live in. Rubberneckers everywhere with their be-damned cameras. Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long for them to learn about y’all, what with the information age and all.”
I looked to Adam, and an unspoken agreement passed between us: we were going to attack. We were torn up, bleeding, tired almost to the point of fainting, but there was no way we were going down without a serious, serious fight. And there was absolutely no way we were going to be taken alive...not that I think that was on Tyrone’s mind.
“That gun only has one bullet,” Adam said, warningly.
“I gave you the gun, dimwit, I know exactly how many bullets are in it. Don’t worry, I’m not fretting over the choice.” He patted his holster. “There’s ammunition to go around.”
“You’re still giving one of us a chance.”
“A chance, you say? Oh, this ought to be fun. I haven’t had a proper hunt in years.”
My stomach churned at his words, something it was wont to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to scream what I was thinking at him. There were those in the Paranormal Defenders of America whose hearts (I admitted begrudgingly) were in the right place -- they genuinely believed they were helping humankind, even helping lycans in a twisted way. But Tyrone wasn’t just a Defender, he was a hunter, through and through. He chased us down and killed us for no other reason than he wanted to. He believed every single one of us had it coming.
“This isn’t a hunt, Tyrone,” Adam snarled. “I’m leaving this room, and so is Jackson, and whether now or another time soon, I am going to end you with my bare hands.”
“Yeah?” I cut in. “Get in line.”
“Maybe if we’re gonna kill each other, we should stop blathering about it and just get the hell on with it?” Tyrone suggested.
“Fire away,” I growled, and charged.
He didn’t fire off the bullet right away. I came right at him and he did nothing, nothing except wave the gun wildly, tracking me. It’s his aim, I realized. He hasn’t gotten used to having only one eye yet, and it’s messed up his aim. And with his aim askew, he was afraid to lose his one precious shot.
I kicked him in the shin and elbowed him in the chest in the same moment, knocking him off-balance. “Run, Dark, run!”
I felt him rush past me, past Tyrone, running down the stairs. Tyrone spun, finally firing and missing by a wide margin. I slammed into him, knocking us both onto the stairs. He huffed loudly, the wind knocked out him, and groaned in pain. The knock to his head kept him down; I fumblingly grabbed for the gun on his belt. He slapped at my hand, trying to keep me away from the gun, but not succeeding. I managed to get it away from him, and it clattered down the stairs. “Grab it!”
I didn’t have to shout. Dark took the initiative, grabbing the gun and getting it far away from Tyrone’s reach. I rolled, pulling myself up by the stair-rail, and ran as best I could down to the first floor. Tyrone was still groaning, one hand clasped over a bloody nose.
We ran outside, thankful to find no crowd of “rubberneckers,” as he’d called them. “Where do we go?” I panted. “Back to the house? To a hospital, or something?” I didn’t like the idea of going to a hospital, especially since I didn’t have Thalia around to create an alias.
Neither of us stopped moving as we spoke. “No, no,” Adam said, shaking his head at both ideas. “We can....” He paused briefly. “Sam.”
“Sam? Somebody you know?”
“One would hope so, seeing as she’s my wife.”
His wife, of course. Samantha, the human woman in the bright pink lipstick.
“She’s a nurse,” he continued. “I’m sure she’ll take one look at us and tell us both to go to the emergency room, but we’ll see what she can do on her own first.”
“Does she know?” I didn’t have to specify what she might or might not know.
“No,” he said. “But, well, I think it’s time for her to know. An inconvenient situation, yeah, but it’s time.”
We were in a part of the city I didn’t recognize now. Adam suddenly keeled over, clutching his sides. “Oh God...oh, man. I don’t know how much farther I can walk.”
“Oh no,” I muttered.
“It’s not the pain so much,” he said, “but I’m just beat. I think my legs might give out if I try to walk for too much longer.”
I threaded my arm around his shoulder, bearing as much of his weight as I could in my own weakened state. “Just stay up until we get there,” I said. “I can’t find my way around the city without you.”
So, we practically dragged ourselves to the stoop of Dark’s front door, a bottom-floor apartment. He knocked on the door, and I dreaded what Sam would say when she opened it.
“Oh my God!”
“Adam, what the hell happened to you? And her, what happened to both of you? And who is she?”
“My name is --” Jac was my instinctive response; I gave Adam a look, silently asking him what to say, and he nodded. “Hailee Jackson, ma’am. Your husband’s been badly hurt, and he needs help.”
“You’ve both been badly hurt,” Sam said, corralling us inside. “Go into the bathroom and wash off, quick.”
Washing the blood off my knuckles and face didn’t do much for the pain, but it helped in a way that went beyond that -- it made me feel like I was putting the fight behind me. I awkwardly met Adam’s eyes in the mirror a couple of times, trying to prompt communication from him, but he was having none of it. Fine, we’d have to work through it later.
Most of the wounds could be cleaned and bandaged, and they would heal in time. The slash in my jaw, however, was worse. Adam was the same way, except his worst injury was internal (a sprained ankle).
Sam directed us both to sit down, giving me a bag of ice to hold against my chin. “Oh, you’ve injured your ankle again, Adam. You’re going to have to wear a brace.”
“It’s not that bad,” he protested.
“You shut your mouth, it’s definitely that bad. You’re going to explain exactly what the hell happened, as soon as I’m finished with this.”
“I’ll explain, Sam. I promise, I’ll explain.”
She examined my slashed chin, making me flinch at her touch. “This is going to need stitches,” she said.
“Stitches?” I groaned. That sounded worse to me than the wound itself. “Alright. Let’s get that over with.” She could do it herself, Sam said -- the amount of first-aid materials she had on hand in their small house was ridiculous to me -- so I gritted my teeth and accepted.
It hurt. I tried not to cringe away too much, but it really, really hurt. My claws shot out, digging into the seat of the chair. I shut my eyes, pursed my lips, trying to hide my Changing reaction from her. Finally, it was done, and I relaxed, going back to full human.
When correct medical attention had been given, we sat in the living room, trying to rest. Sam was giving us both looks: Adam an intense, ugly look and me a quizzical look. “First off,” she said, “who are you, Hailee?”
“I don’t think that’s the right place to start, actually.” I gave Adam a pointed stare. “I think your husband has a few things to clear up first.”
“Right, right.” He took a deep breath, and then he told her. He told her everything, trying to soften the blow, the shock, in any way that he could, to not much avail. She was most definitely shocked, and angry too. I’m not sure what it is about finding out this secret that made people angry, but nonetheless it happened. They got angry.
“And you,” she said to me, once her anger had subsided partly, “are you one of those people, too?”
“Are you one of his, er, followers or whatever?”
“No, I’m not.” She raised her eyebrows at me, and I waved a hand. “That’s a story all in itself. We can get to that in a moment.”
“We can get to it now,” Dark said. “That’s a perfect segue. Hailee is…well, I’ll let her explain.”
I could feel his eyes on me as I spoke — he wanted to know who I really was just as much as Sam did. “I’m an Alpha myself, from a small town in Arkansas celled Three Brothers. I came here wanting to recruit your husband to help me fight against the Paranormal Defenders of America, and yes, I admit I lied about who I was. We had an altercation over it, Adam and I.”
“The altercation wasn’t her fault.” I was surprised — was Dark really standing up for me? “We were set against each other by the Defenders, by Dante Tyrone. He tried to recruit me, Samantha.”
“Recruit you?” she snapped. “To…to kill a child! How could you listen to him, Adam?”
“I did it for you, Sam! For you, and for our child! Tyrone told me he could protect you. I’m sorry, Sam. I’m sorry.”
“Please don’t hold it against him, Mrs Dark,” I said. “There’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m at fault too. I lied to him, I goaded him to fight me, and I was jealous of his power. We’ve all sinned here, and I think we’ll all have to answer for it.”
“Yes,” Adam said gravely. “We will.”