Chapter 2- Laura
Maximus hung out at a friend’s place, where he spent most of the day. A few other people were there too, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. They just played video games, talked about girls, and about the party he happened to miss the day before. Although it was a good time, Maximus couldn’t enjoy himself as much as he usually would. The idea of that strange figure he saw at the park that night still out there didn’t sit well with him. So, he did what he would often do when he had things on his mind, skate. He took a long way home on his skateboard. As he did, he closed his eyes, and the feeling of sprinting like a wild animal took over his mind. The wind hitting against him as his senses increased was always a welcoming feeling. After some time, he could smell it in the air that he was getting close to home. A Lycan thing for sure. When he opened his eyes, he saw a U-haul truck next door to his place. It was then where he spotted a woman leaning down to pick up a box. Her shirt went low as she bent over, revealing some cleavage. His eyes widen while looking at it until slamming against Socrates van. The woman quickly looks up when hearing a loud thud.
“Oh, god!” she shouted with a concerned tone. She quickly made her way to Maximus to see if he was ok, but Maximus pops up with a smile as if nothing happened before she could say anything. His attempt to not feel embarrassed for sure.
“I’m fine, no worries. I’m good,” said Maximus hastily. She seemed a bit confused at first but then laughed it off when seeing he wasn’t seriously hurt. Maximus kept his smile, but his gaze was the same as when someone saw a celebrity. The woman had a natural beauty to her. There was nothing too special, brown eyes, brown hair, but her smile made him melt like how her cleavage made him distracted anyway.
“Are you sure? That did sound pretty brutal. What happened?” she said while trying not to laugh.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I fall all the time. I uh, seen a squirrel run right across me so, I tried to avoid it then, well. I was on the ground.”
They both share a laugh just as he picks up his skateboard.
“So, you’re my new neighbor. Welcome to the neighborhood. My name is Maximus. Well, most call me Max or Maxwell. Whatever works.”
The woman lent out her hand with a welcoming smile.
He shook her hand while returning the smile. He then glances over her to the small U-haul truck.
“Looks like you still have things to unload. Need any help?”
Laura looked over her shoulder at the truck before returning her attention to him.
“Oh no, I just moved in. I don’t want to start already by asking for favors now. Besides, I already got the important stuff inside.”
“Don’t be silly. I don’t have anything else better to do at the moment. Just let me run inside real quick and put my board away. I’ll only be five minutes.”
Before Laura got the chance to respond, he already made his way into the house. After placing his skateboard near the door, he started looking around for Socrates.
“In here!” Socrates shouted from the living room.
Just as he made his way there, he saw Socrates watching Laura from the window.
“Making friends with the new neighbor, are we?” Socrates said in a displeased tone.
“Figure why not? I’m going to help her move the rest of the stuff in.”
“Why?” Socrates asked.
“Well, for one, I got nothing else better to do. Secondly, I don’t feel like sitting here doing nothing for the rest of the day. Think she’ll feel better with at least one friend.”
Socrates turned his attention back to him, a small grin now on his face. Maximus kept his stare on him since it creeped him out.
“What?” Maximus cautiously asked.
Socrates looked down to keep himself from laughing till making his way in front of Maximus.
“Maximus, since today’s your day off, I’ll be straight with you. In return, you’ll be straight with me. Ok?”
“The gal has a nice rack. I’m sure that’s why you ran into my van. I’m not one to deny such urges you may feel, your young. I get it, but not the neighbor. She’s far too close. It will make things difficult.”
Maximus took a moment. Although Socrates wasn’t a hundred percent wrong, he still had the wrong idea about his motives.
“I’m not going to go into her house and bang her.”
“Hmph, I would have done it.”
“Ok, but I’m not. I only want to help out.”
“Sure, sure.” Socrates said while keeping his grin.
Maximus shrugs it off then heads to the front door. He then turns the knob but doesn’t open the door just yet. Instead, he looks back at Socrates with a grin of his own.
“But if she just so happens to want it, I wouldn’t mind giving it to her. Ha, ha!” Maximus shouts before taking his leave. Socrates stood there, a smile almost showing just before going about his day. A few hours pass when eventually, Maximus and Laura got all the boxes inside. It would have taken less time if they weren’t talking to each other nonstop during the move. After Maximus brought in the last box, he sits down on the sofa. Laura comes from the kitchen with two glasses of water then hands one to him. He thanks her right before they both gulp down the water while enjoying the moment to admire all the work they did. Laura glances around the room, then casually opened one of the boxes and pulled out a combat knife, which made her smile. Maximus looked a bit shocked since he wasn’t expecting her to have such a thing. After seeing his reaction, she laughs.
“Don’t go wetting your pants, Maxwell. It’s just a little gift my father gave me before going off to the army. It’s his way of protecting me since he isn’t around. Thankfully I haven’t had a reason to use it. That doesn’t mean I don’t know how to.” Laura said before giving a playful wink. She then gets up and makes her way upstairs.
“Just going to wash my face! I’ll be back!” Laura shouted. Maximus nods and tries to laugh off what she meant about the knife comment but then decides not to think about it any further. But Maximus was still curious about one thing so he leans forward and picks up the knife she left on the table. He gives it a quick sniff. A Lycan’s sense of smell was always a useful trait.
“Hasn’t been used recently. Guess that helps.”
He hears Laura making her way back downstairs, so he puts the knife back quickly and sits back in place before she gets the chance to notice. Laura let out a small yawn, then excused herself. Maximus yawned soon after.
“Guess they are contagious.” He jokingly said.
She made a brief chuckle then looked at her watch. It was almost Eleven at night.
“Wow, I didn’t realize how late it was. I have to get some sleep. Sorry I kept you so long.”
“Don’t be. We got a lot done.”
Maximus fixed himself then stood up. His eyes now locked on hers. It was almost awkward since he just stood there but Laura decided to break the ice by playfully giving a light punch to his shoulder.
“You ok?” Laura jokingly asked.
“Oh. Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’m just tired. I’ll see you tomorrow, have a good night.”
“You to Max.”
His heart wouldn’t stop racing, so much so that he almost stumbles when heading to the door but managed to leave without tripping. Even though he felt that maybe he embarrassed himself, Maximus held his smile long after he left. Once home, he casually makes his way upstairs while Laura’s smile remained in his mind. Her scent, her laugh, how they shared the same humor. Throughout the night, he tossed and turned. His mind wouldn’t stop racing. He did end up getting a couple of hours of sleep, but it did little good since he got up late for school.
The next morning
After rushing to wash up and get dressed, Maximus grabs his things and heads off. When he finally got to school, he saw all the students outside with police cars everywhere. Some students were hugging each other while crying. Some teachers were doing the same while scattered around the school grounds. He got off his skateboard and looked around while wondering what was going on. When he spotted one of his teachers getting into a car, he quickly makes his way to her before she was able to close the door.
“Mrs. Jetson!” Maximus shouts. Even though the red around her eyes gave away that she was crying, the teacher managed to force a smile.
“Hello Maxwell, you might as well go back home. The police have the school closed down for today. The principal was...”
She covers her mouth with her hand while becoming emotional. “Oh.” Maximus said as the vibe changed. He then placed his hand on her shoulder in an attempt to confront her.
“Sorry to hear. I know you were friends with Principle Ford. He was a good guy.”
She shakes her head while holding back her tears.
“Yes, he was, thank you. I hope the bastard gets caught and punished for his crimes. You go home, ok, Maxwell.”
He nods then takes a step back so that she could close the door. After she drove off, he gets back on his skateboard and makes his way to the back of the school. Once there, Maximus places his book bag and skateboard behind some bushes. He then looks up and notices a window open. It was about twenty feet up from the first window. He glances around to make sure the coast was clear before leaping into the air, just barely reaching the second window. Maximus pulls himself up from the ledge and enters inside an empty classroom. The door was halfway open, so he goes to it quickly then peaks outside to the hallway. Once seeing that it was clear, Maximus makes his way to the principal’s office. The hallways were quiet, definitely wasn’t use to it, not at this time of day. Once there, he saw a cop standing in front of the office door.
After a moment, the cop’s walkie-talkie started to have loud static coming from it.
“What the hell is wrong with this thing now?” the cop said in a frustrated tone.
The cop fought with his walkie-talkie for a moment, slapping it a few times. Finally, the cop had enough and walked off. Any malfunction with equipment needed to get reported then replace immediately. Though leaving your post wasn’t part of the rules. Maximus took this opportunity to head into the principal’s office. Once inside, he quickly but quietly closes the door behind him. It was then when he spotted the principal laying on his back on the desk with his throat slashed open. Dry blood was everywhere, suggesting that it happened late at night. Maximus’s pupils turn a dark yellow color at the sight of all the blood for a moment before fading away. A small sign of his Lycan side. He takes a quick sniff around the room for a moment to catch someone’s scent but gets grossed out. As he continued to look for any clues, he froze. His hairs on the back of his neck lifted. When he turned around, he saw Hazard standing by the door. Maximus took this moment to get a good look at him since he was close. He took note of Hazard’s leather coat that hugged his body. Some belts tied around it. It all looked out of place. Hazard kept still with that same stare that was enough to make anyone uneasy. Once Maximus gathered himself, he took a deep breath.
“You did this? Didn’t you?” Maximus said in a firm tone. There was no response, which caused Maximus to narrow his eyes at him. He wanted to attack but also didn’t want to jump into something so blind.
“What are you?” Maximus asked curiously. His tone was still strong. Hazard tilted his head slightly to the left. His movements were as careful as someone holding too many cups of water.
“Maximus Schofield, the new active hunter for The Angel Carriers. Well, TAC Inc. Oh wait, that’s you, not me. Silly me.” Hazard sarcastically said.
Maximus went blank. How did he know his full name? About The Angel Carriers? About his job? Hazard saw the concern in his eyes, which made him smile. However, his smile was anything but friendly. After a moment, a small growl came from Maximus since his Lycan blood was boiling.
“How do you know my name?” Maximus asked, now in a demanding tone. It was clear that his patience was running out.
“I’m a Reaper. How can I not?”
“What the hell is that suppose to mean?”
Hazard lifts his hand slowly, then turns his wrist and holds up his index and middle finger as if he was making the peace hand gesture. He then turned his fingers towards his own eyes.
“I can read souls, like an open book. I can see all your dirty secrets, desires, hopes, and dreams, and most important of them all.”
Hazard wraps his arms around himself while his eyes close as if a loved one was giving him a big hug. Maximus began to wonder about what the hell he got himself into with this Reaper. Hazard kept his hold on himself when returning his gaze on Maximus before answering in the same pleasure tone he used when taking souls.
“Corruption. Oh, how the soul taste so good once corrupted.”
Maximus was always a patient guy, but this was pushing it to his limit. His fist clinches right before he took a step closer.
“So is that the excuse you’re giving yourself for killing the principal?”
When Hazard lets his arms drop off his body, they swing almost like a puppet would when cutting the strings off.
“Tsk-tsk, little boy hunter, you should know that Reapers can’t go around slashing just anyone. Unlike your kind, I’m no killer. Just a collector that has a preference.”
“No. You’re a monster. One that I’m going to put down.” Maximus said with the same strong tone.
“I’m no monster, but I sure know a few. Soon, you’ll become one too. After all, there’s a monster in everyone. I naturally bring it out.” Hazard said before back kicking the door behind him open, only to disappear seconds after. It was loud enough for anyone to hear.
“Hey!” a cop shouts from the hallway. Maximus could hear the cop running towards the room, but before the cop could get there, Maximus opens the window and jumps out. Lucky for him, everyone who was outside was gathered in the front of the school, clear from where he jumped. After landing on his feet with ease, he heads to where he left his book bag and skateboard and takes off. Usually, when heading home, he would take his time. This time, not so much. He knew he had to tell Socrates what happened right away. Once he got back, he placed his skateboard near the door then tossed his bookbag on the couch. While Maximus was looking for Socrates, he spots the basement door cracked open.
“Maybe he’s downstairs.”
Just as he was about to grab the knob, the door got pushed wide open from the other side. Elf Dude stood at the doorway with nothing on besides baggy tan pants. His large pointy ears wiggled for a second before shouting “Woo!” randomly. Maximus backed away since the smell of weed coming off him was strong.
“Dammit, Elf Dude, it’s too early for this, don’t tell me Socrates is down there with you.”
“No, Socrates is not one with the fun anymore. Young Maxwell, aren’t you supposed to be in school learning how to be like older and more successful teachers than the teachers teaching you to be? Like the ones, they are not, yet, but, uh..”
It was clear that he was in no shape to have a decent conversation.
“What? What the hell are you talking about?” Maximus says in a semi aggravated tone. Elf Dude stares at him while trying to remain on his feet, then said “Fuck off” in his now broken Irish accent before closing the door behind him. Shortly after, Socrates came downstairs.
“Aren’t you suppose to be in school?” Socrates asked while holding a large envelope in his hand.
“Yeah, about that, I saw that thing I seen at the park in my school today. He said that he’s a Reaper. The principal’s throat got slashed open, which caused the school to close. I thought Reapers only take souls. Not go around lashing people. Right?”
A look of concern came over Socrates’s face for a moment before shaking it off. He then goes over and takes a seat on his sofa chair before pointing to the other sofa chair for Maximus to sit. After Maximus takes a seat, he repeats.” Right?” Socrates taps the envelope on the armrest of the chair while staring at him.
“We’ll get to that when the time comes. As for now, we have to talk about something important. This envelope contains the details about your very first mission.”
“Yeah, shouldn’t it be about this Reaper guy I just mentioned?”
“I already read through it. It has nothing to do with this Reaper fellow. It’s about the Spencer Mansion. They use to own this damn town some years back till things went downhill when they lost their head supporter. However, they have their little wannabe shot callers thinking they can bring that place back into power.”
“Whoa whoa, wait for a second, why is my first mission about stopping some money-hungry shareholders from getting their stock back up? This Reaper issue is more important than that.”
“Don’t cut me off. It’s not some shareholder thing. These are Vampires. Minions to a fallen king. They have been trying to make moves for their little empire. Now far as I know, they still have the Double D Dice club in their pocket, along with most of the police department here. Anyways, back to this club. The owner is one of the only people still alive who delt them on a business level before the Spencer Empire fell. So if anything, he will have the info you’ll need on why this crew is trying to restore power. Your job will be to roughen him up and find out whatever information you can.”
“So roughen up this guy and get the info. Seems easy enough.”
“It shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not going to be easy since he’s a Dark Elf. "
The sound of the basement door getting kicked open echoed the house. Elf Dude walks into the living room, still very much high. He held a bottle of whiskey in his hand while speaking loud as if he were in a play.
“The Dark Elves! Or rather, Dark Drows. They possess a magic that is fucking forbidding and wicked. Everything is a lie with them. They would make a blowup doll come to life and rape you. I’ve seen it.”
“Holy shit, dude,” Maximus said. Socrates gave Elf Dude a stare till looking back at Maximus.
“This Dark Drow doesn’t have any magic to that degree. He can only create portals, hence why he settles at the Double D Dice club.”
“The strip club?” Elf Dude asked.
“Strip club?” Maximus repeats.
“Yes,” Socrates replies.
“Woo!” Elf Dude shouts.
“Shut up! And put a goddamn shirt on!” Socrates shouts before speaking with Maximus again.
“Listen, Maximus, the lights at this club shine in a way where everyone’s skin seems gray. It’s how he blends because his skin is naturally gray. But his eyes stand out. It’s a bright blue type of color.”
“Yeah, but since he’s a Dark Drow, how would he hide his ears? I assume they’re large and pointy like Elf Dudes.”
“Rumor has it he ripped them off and got someone to make them pass for human. Anyway, we need to-”
The doorbell rings before he could continue. Elf Dude panics and runs back to the basement, slamming the door behind him. A small growl came from Socrates just as Maximus went to open the door. When he did, Maximus was pleasantly surprised to see Laura. Soon as they lock eyes, his smile returned, the same one from last night when he kept her company.
“Hey, Maxwell, sorry to bother, but I saw you rush in and figured something was wrong. Wait, I’m making myself sound like some stalker.”
She chuckled then shook her hair with her fingers before giving it another try.
“Let me rephrase. I heard on the news about what happened with the principal. With that said, when I saw you rush in, I figured maybe there was more to the story and, and, and now I look more like a stalker.”
They both share a chuckle.
“No, it’s fine. I get what you mean. I’m fine, just wanted to rush back to let my pops know I was fine.”
Socrates stood behind Maximus, his stare now on Laura. She looked back at him and waved, but he didn’t return one. Maximus looks over his shoulder at Socrates then looks back at Laura. He mouthed the word “Sorry.” Laura kept her smile when returning her gaze to Socrates.
“I’m Laura. I met Maxwell yesterday. I guess you’re his father?”
Socrates nods then looked back to Maximus.
“We need to get back to work so, finish this,” Socrates said before walking off.
Maximus squeezed his eyes shut then peaks them open to Laura. He could tell that she was insulted but before he got a chance to explain Socrates’s actions, she spoke up first.
“Well, that was a bit rude.”
“Yeah, he isn’t a morning person, sorry about that. Maybe we can talk later?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll give you my number since your the first friend I made in this town so, why not, right?”
“Uhm, I don’t have a cell.”
“You don’t have a cell? How is that even possible?” she jokingly said even though she found it odd.
“He’s just very overprotective.”
“More like controlling if you ask me.”
He didn’t know how else to respond but with a shrug. After an awkward goodbye, Maximus returns to the living room where Socrates was already waiting.
“You didn’t have to be so rude to her,” Maximus said.
“Did I tell her to fuck off? No. So I wasn’t rude.”
“Whatever. What time should I head out to the strip club?”
Socrates narrowed his eyes at him. Maximus stared back, unsure as to why he was giving him such a look. Socrates places the folder on the table then goes over to him till they were face to face. Socrates held his gaze all while Maximus didn’t blink.
“I still have the training we talked about for tonight set up for you. Once that’s done and over with, you’ll start the mission. Understand?”
“Yeah,” Maximus said while trying not to crack his voice. Although he never felt unsafe with Socrates, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t sometimes intimidating.
“Good, be ready at midnight,” Socrates said before walking off.
Later on that night, hours before the scheduled training. Maximus and Elf Dude were once again in the basement in a session of Swordsman training. Maximus wanted to redeem himself from the last time. Socrates took this time to go over to Laura’s house to investigate. Socrates kept the lights of his back porch off so that the cover of darkness could conceal him when leaping over to Laura’s backyard. Luckily for him, she kept her porch lights off. A light from one of the back windows gave some vision out back, but it was nothing that would affect his goal. The light that just turned on from the second-floor window drew his attention. Socrates glanced around the backyards and noticed that the only other light on was from a porch about four houses down. Which meant it was dark enough to do what he had to do. He jumps fifteen feet into the air with a single leap. It was enough to grab hold of the ledge on the second floor. Slowly he pulls himself up just enough to see inside since the shade was halfway open. Laura sat on the floor, her back facing the window. There was no furniture in the room yet, only some black crates near her. She was messing with something. He couldn’t tell what it was. All he knew is that it sounded like tools or parts of something that were of metal. A few moments later, the sound of a gun clock confirmed his suspicions. She placed an M249 handgun next to her. She then reached inside the crate closest to her and pulled out another. He couldn’t see what she was doing, but when he heard the familiar sounds again, he knew. She was disassembling and assembling her guns. A trait weapon experts tend to have. Or assassins. Judging by the fact that she took the gun out of the crate, then adding the fact that there were a few crates in the room, he knew that she couldn’t have been some soldier. It convinced him that she must be some spy or assassin. He took in her scent but didn’t catch anything supernatural. She was, in fact, only human. Only a few years older than Maximus. He drops back down, landing as quiet as a mouse before heading back. Just when he grabbed the doorknob from his back porch, he heard someone whisper.
“She’s going to kill you, strike before being stricken.”
Socrates slowly looks over his shoulder but saw nothing. After a moment, he turns himself around and looks out. Even though it was dark, Lycan’s could still see relatively well. However, he didn’t catch a thing. Socrates remained there, concerned but not impressed with whatever spoke to him. The only thing he could hear was the wind in the air, along with the grunts and sounds of metal hitting against one another from Maximus and Elf Dude’s training in the basement. He smirks then headed inside. A moment after, Hazard vades into view. He was sitting Indian style on Socrates’s yard while keeping his gaze at the door. His eyes were locked on the door just as he slowly lets his hand slide against the grass beside him. He carefully pats it a few times.
“Down girl, you still have the best view in the house,” Hazard whispered before giving a low uneasy, chuckling sound.
When Socrates enters the basement, he saw that Maximus and Elf Dude were out of breath. It seemed like he was training harder than last time. Elf Dude turned to Socrates with his arms out to his sides then shouts, “Behold! None of us have cuts or bruises! Maxwell is indeed ready for his first mission if you ask me.”
“Good. Maximus, go upstairs and wash up. We leave in a few hours. I want you focused before then.”
“Gotcha,” Maximus said before handing Elf Dude his sword and taking his leave. Elf Dude put the swords on the large circle table, then grabbed a towel and wiped his face.
“Maxwell sure is a fast learner. It’s day and night compared to the last training session to now. Think he’s starting to catch on almost as fast as Frank did.”
Socrates took a seat while ignoring what Elf Dude said then asked “Did Maximus mention anything about a Reaper?”
"Reaper? Dammit, Socrates, don’t tell me that emo Reaper bastard is back.”
“No, not that one. Frank took care of that fucker. He said he met one at school this morning.”
“Oh. Well, there was bound to be a replacement. Reapers have to exist, hence why The Angel Carriers never send out missions to kill one.”
“I know. What I don’t know is why this current Reaper is following Maximus.”
They both wonder about it for a moment till a concerned look comes across Socrates’s face.
“What if it’s revenge? Since Frank killed the last one, maybe this one want’s Maximus soul. They do obsess over the” Balance" of life.”
Elf Dude took a moment to think about Socrates’s question. But none of them could come up with an answer. After Maximus washed up, he sat out front on his porch with a bottle of water. Although it wasn’t too late in the night, his block was a quiet one. The lights coming from the lamp post on the sidewalk bounces off the autumn night leaves just right. He saw Laura from the corner of his eye coming out with a trash bag over her shoulder. She didn’t even notice him. The expression on her face made it seem like she had a lot on her mind. After she tossed her bag on the sidewalk, she made her way back but stopped short when seeing Maximus, a smile now returning to her face. Maximus quickly did the same then gave a wave. She waved back, then headed inside. Although she was gone, his smile still didn’t fade, that is, till he spotted Hazard across the street. He could only see the top half of his body since he was behind a parked car on the sidewalk. Maximus squeezed the bottle, the rest of the water inside now dripping down his hand. Hazard started to wave in the same motion as Laura. Maximus tossed the bottle aside, then stood up. He then began walking towards where he was. Hazard continued to wave as he got closer. Once Maximus was in the middle of the street, a car pulls on its breaks. The screech of the tires was loud enough for the entire block to hear. The car managed to stop inches away from him. Maximus froze. The driver stuck his head out, then shouted,” Hey kid, watch it!” He looks back to where Hazard was but saw nothing.