Chapter 5 - Hazard
It was a slow Wednesday morning for Maximus. After the Double D Dice Club’s mission and briefing with Socrates, he only had an hour to head to school. Even though he took Socrates’s advice the night before about getting enough sleep, he’s was still tired and went straight to bed after school. He wanted to take advantage of getting sleep before Friday Night. Meanwhile, at a small apartment complex, a couple was in the middle of an intense breakup. “Why are you doing this!?” A man shouts to his girlfriend as she places her fourteen-month baby in the stroller.
“Please, Maria. Don’t leave me, not for your ex. I treat this kid better than he ever could. I treat you better than anyone ever could! Please, will you at least look at me, dammit!” the man said while trying to fight back anymore tears. Maria sighed while fighting back the tears of her own before eventually responding.
“James, please, this is hard for me too. I don’t think we’re right for each other anymore. Yes, you’re a good father to my son, and I will always make sure he knows you, but it was a mistake getting with you. I love you, but my ex and I share a child. He and I have changed, so have you. Please don’t make this more difficult.”
“Maria, we were supposed to get married. Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten what your ex did to you! Have you forgotten that I was the shoulder you cried on when he hurt you over and over again! Please, don’t do it, don’t go back to him.” James once again pleaded. She sighed then walked off to the bathroom and closed the door behind her. James knew she was crying, but could do nothing about it besides look back at the baby and quietly cried to himself.
“There he is,” Hazard whispered to James. He looks around in a panic then goes over to the window. James then looked down from the five-story window and saw Maria’s ex-boyfriend pull upfront in his truck.
“Why should he win?” Hazard whispered again. James didn’t bother trying to figure out why he heard the voice. All he did was nod, then said “Right,” just as a nine-inch blade appeared on the table.
“He took your girl, take his life,” Hazard continued. James became more enraged after picking up the blade. As he held it, his eyes changed into Hazard’s eye color before heading out the door. Hazard then appeared in the room and looked down at the baby in the stroller.
“Hello there, little guy, your daddy is going to be pretty much dead soon by your step daddy. Oh, but don’t worry, mamma is in the bathroom crying like a little girl since she can’t deal with the fact that she ruined a good man’s heart.”
Hazard snickers to himself then looked towards the bathroom door, where Maria was. While Maria was in the bathroom, she stared into the mirror with tears running down her face. She was hurt because she had to leave James. It was the only way to ensure that the baby got everything he needed since they struggled with money. In her moment of thought, Hazard appeared behind her while leaning against the door, smiling. Maria spots him through the mirror and quickly turns around. Maria’s mouth opens slightly just as her fear made her lose her voice since she was both shocked and afraid of his sudden appearance.
“Maria Von Kelly, you’re a good actress. Looking at me as a monster when it’s you that just destroyed a man’s soul. You little devil you, quite jealous.” Hazard’s tone was calm with a hint of teasing. “What?” was the only thing Maria managed to let out since her voice cracked up. Hazard continued.
“You must tell me, was it always the plan to use James as a pillow for the sorrows about your ex? You know, Bobby. Your baby’s dada. Or did you need a little break? So you went along and picked the only other man that would handle all your bullshit enough till you felt better to go back with Bobby.”
Maria covered her mouth with both her hands after hearing what Hazard said. More tears were now running down her cheek. Hazard then placed his hands behind himself then took a step closer.
“Hey, hey, don’t worry. It’s s more common than you think. Many people, men, and women use others to ease some inner pain before returning to their ex. James was just the tool you needed. It’s okay. We all need tools to build our foundation.”
Hazard let out a small chuckle while keeping his stare locked on her eyes. His gaze was always like staring into insanity itself. But then a sudden thought popped into Maria’s head, the idea of her baby alone. The thought gave her the strength to push Hazard aside and run out. Once she got to her baby, she takes him out of the stroller and holds him in her arms, thanking God he was safe. Seconds later, she heard a woman scream outside. It was enough to make her run to the window. Maria’s eyes widen in horror when seeing James on top of Bobby, stabbing him over and over with the blade. “No!” Maria shouts before running out the door. While still holding her son, she stares at James in horror. Some people were scattered around but too afraid to stop him. At this point, James had Bobbie’s blood all over him. She could already tell he was dead by his lifeless expression on his bloody face.
“James! How could you! He was my son’s father!”
When James turned around, his Hazard-like eyes were in view, a sign that he was already under Hazard’s influence. He then stands up with the blade at hand. It was enough to send chills down Maria’s spine and tighten her hold on her son.
“Who was I, Maria!? Who was I ever to you!? What about me!? The one there for you through it all! I loved you. I loved your son! But it wasn’t enough!” James shouts.
“It was never enough,” Hazard whispered to him. His voice echoed inside James’s mind.
"It was never enough!” James repeats. Hazard’s words were affecting him as he continued.
“Why did we even move in together if you were still thinking about Bobby! Why even tell me we were getting married and having kids if you still had feelings for Bobby!” James once again shouted.
Maria cried while still holding her, who also began to cry from all the shouting. Maria tried calming her son down while also trying to figure out how to respond to James. Suddenly, another man who lived next door rushed to them. The man looked over at James, who, at this point, looked like a maniac. Especially with the blood dripping off the blade. “Hey man, calm down,” The neighbor said in a calm tone in an attempt to defuse the situation. James stared at the man with so many thoughts running through his head.
“Guess he wants her too,” Hazard whispers.
James narrows his eyes at the man, pure rage coming off him.
” You want my girl too!” James shouts while changing into a fighting stance.
“No man, just calm down,” said the neighbor as he kept his hands out to ensure he wasn’t a threat.
” Finish it,” Hazard whispers in a demanding tone.
James tightens his grip on the blade then looks back to Maria.
“Everyone feels so bad for you even when you’re the one that broke my heart! My trust! My soul! You were my light, and now you shut the fucking power off!” James shouts as tears roll down his face. A police car pulls up before an officer jumps out and points his gun at James. “Drop the knife!” the cop shouts. James didn’t turn around. He kept his eyes on Maria, who, at this point, was frozen in fear.
“Kill her,” Hazard repeats in the same tone.
James took a step closer. The officer once again yells out,” Don’t move!” James stopped, but only cause he stared at the baby. More tears roll down his face while his hand that held the blade shakes slightly.
“You’re a good mother, but I can’t live with this pain,” James whispered before cutting his throat completely. The blood sprays out right before he falls dead onto the ground. “No!” Maria shouts in horror.
Maximus ended up waking up a quarter past nine. Even though it was dark out, he was now wide awake.
“This sleep pattern is going to throw me so off.”
He puts on his TV from some light source before going into his draw to find a fresh shirt to wear. Just as he puts it on a new shirt, something he heard on the TV catches his attention, a report about a sharp weapon used in a murder-suicide that went missing. After sitting back down, he stares at the TV as the story continues.
~ The horrifying murder-suicide was apparently started when Maria Kelly, the unstable man’s girlfriend, broke it off with him after three years of being together. What’s bizarre about the case is that both the officer on the scene and a witness claim that the madman’s eyes were a reddish-yellow color. Police suspect that drugs played a role in this tragedy. More at eleven ~
“Reddish- yellow eyes, Hazard.”
As the news report continued playing, Mximus could see the apartment complexes in the background. He knew where it was since there was only one section in Novatown that had them. Any other living spaces were just houses and the Spencer Mansion. After Maximus got dressed he went downstairs to the living room where Socrates was watching TV.
“Hey, pops. I’m guessing there’s no training tonight since I have to wait till Friday to handle Bison. So, can I go over to Adam’s house?”
“It’s almost ten, and it’s a school night, regardless of you not having training.” Socrates said while keeping his eyes on the TV.
“I know, but after Friday, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a busy weekend dealing with the other Vampires. Besides, I won’t be out all night, Adam’s got this new war game, and it’s look dope.”
“Dope?” Socrates repeats in a displeasing tone.
Maximus nods while keeping a small smile on his face. He never liked lying to Socrates and felt terrible about it, but he knew he couldn’t tell him the truth. Socrates let out a frustrated sigh when looking back at Maximus.
“Midnight, on the dot. Got it?”
“Got it,” Maximus said in an excited tone before heading out. Elf Dude walks in just as Maximus closed the door behind him.
“Where did he go?” Elf Dude asked with a confused expression on his face.
“Good question. With all the years of Maximus being here, when has he ever asked to go over to a friend’s house at this time?”
Elf Dude just stood there, with an expression on his face that made his confusion evident.
“Uhm, is this a trick question?”
Socrates narrows his eyes at him.
“No shit brain. In other words, he’s lying. I’m pretty sure he went off to look for that Reaper.”
“Oh. Well, then why did you let him go?”
“He has to learn the hard way that rules are rules. Besides, I’m not worrying about that Reaper killing him. He can’t.”
“Great parenting,” Elf Dude said sarcastically while sticking out both his thumbs. Meanwhile, Maximus was skateboarding to the part of town with the complex buildings. He was going relatively fast, but with his natural Lycan instincts, it was a breeze. It was a quiet clear night, so there wasn’t much traffic. After about twenty minutes, he finally gets there. He glances around the buildings until seeing the police tape surrounding the area where James committed horrible acts. The dry pool of blood was also still visible.
“Okay, how in the hell am I going to find out which apartment she lives in?”
Maximus sighs then took a moment to think. Shortly after, a man comes out from the apartment next door with garbage bags, clearly heading to the property’s garbage pale just across. Maximus recognized the man from the news report as the neighbor who witnesses what happened. After the man tossed the trash away, Maximus caught up to him right before he headed back into the apartment building.
“Hey, excuse me, sir,” Maximus said while pretending to be out of breath. The man stepped back since the apartment complex didn’t have many street lights, which meant large gaps of darkness where light should have been. Because of that, it tended to have shady guests pass by.
“Yes?” he said in a semi defensive tone.
“Hi. Can you help me out? I just came from Jersey to see my cousin Maria, but my phone died.”
“Maria? Yeah, I figured she’d have a family visit after what happened.”
“Right. I live the closest, so here I am.” Maximus said right before letting out a fake laugh before continuing.
“Anyway, I haven’t been here since I was a kid and I completely forgot which apartment she lives in. Can you point me in the right direction?”
“Sure, bud, it’s the next apartment over, section 217. Her name should be on the buzzer in the front lobby.”
“Thanks a lot, man, have a great night,” Maximus said before making his way to the apartment. The first two glass double doors were opened, but the second set was locked. Maximus looked at the list of buttons with each resident’s name next to it till finding the one that read” M.Kelly, 518.“
“Maria Kelly, that’s gotta be her.”
Just as he was going to press it, he stops short.
“Wait, what the hell am I going to say? Hey Maria, I know what ruined your life. I’m a hunter and need information from you?”
Maximus facepalmed then let out a long sigh. After another moment, he heard a car pull up by the front then looks over his shoulder to see Maria coming out of a police car. After she waves the cop off, she began making her way to the building.
“That’s her. Shit shit shit, what the hell am I going to say? Dammit, I need to be better at planning.”
Maximus tried to think of something fast, but before he could put a plan together, she had already opened the door and entered. Maria raised her eyebrow at Maximus since she didn’t recognize him. He just stood there with his deer caught in the headlight’s look, which made for an uncomfortable moment.
“Excuse me, are you lost?” Maria asked.
“Uhm, yes? Well, no, but yes.”
Maria kept her confused stare till making her way around him. After she opened the door, she took a single step in before turning back to him.
“Are you visiting someone here?” Maria asked.
“Me? I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, Uhm, I need your help.”
“My help? Right,” Maria said just as she goes to close the door. It was clear that she didn’t believe him. Maximus stops the door from closing with his foot.
“No, please, listen. My name is Max. I heard what happened on the news, and I-”
“Leave me alone,” Maria said as she cut him off and walked away. Maximus made his way in and followed her just as she waited for the elevator.
“Please listen. I-”
“Do you think what happened was a joke? I don’t know you, nor do I care to, because I have a lot on my plate right now. So whatever hustle you got planned, save it and leave before I call the cops. Now back up!”
Maximus takes a step back just as Maria crossed her arms while keeping him in her view. He understood her defensive reaction since the place did look somewhat shady. The walls were dirty, and it had smelled as bad as some dirty alley, so he could only imagine the types of people that would walk through these halls. Once the elevator door opens, she heads inside while keeping him in her view. When the door was about to close, Maximus stops it with his hand. Maria took out her pepper spray from her purse then points it at him.
“Let go of the door or-”
“It happened to me too,” Maximus said as he cut her off.
Maria tilts her head, uncertain about what he meant. Maximus takes a deep breath as he begins to improvise. His tone was now sympathetic as he continued.
“The Reddish-yellow eyes, the pale man with the black leather clothing. How he appears and disappears, he visited me too.”
Maria’s eyes instantly water up just as she drops her pepper spray.
“I-I didn’t tell anyone about the pale man.” Maria said while trying to contain herself from panicking. Maximus picked up her pepper spray then hands it to her.
“Can we talk more inside?”
Once they go inside Maria’s apartment, she goes to the bathroom to wash her face just as he took a seat on the couch. The place was roomy with some Halloween decorations along with some frame pictures of her baby. It was just two rooms and a living which he was waiting in. As well as the bathroom she was in. Maria finally made her way back and sat on the other end of the couch, her body facing him. Maximus gave a warm smile before starting his investigation.
“Before we start, where’s your baby?”
“Oh, I left him at his grandparents. I just needed time for myself after what happened. I hate being away from my little man, but I needed my time to clear my head.”
“I get it. How did the pale man make James do what he did? Did he chant something?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that he appeared next to me in my bathroom. Mocking my choices, making me feel even worse for what I needed to do. Almost like a bully in a schoolyard, only creepy. Is he a ghost?”
“Not exactly. Did he try to hurt your baby?”
“No, Kenneth was okay. He disappeared when I held him in my arms. It was right before, I, before it all turned into a bloody mess.”
Maria looks away in an attempt not to let herself cry again. Just as Maximus was going to say something, he froze. Seconds later, he stands up and looks around. Maria looked back at him, curious about the sudden change. “What’s wrong?” Maria asked. Hazard appears by the front door with his arms crossed, a grin on his face while looking at Maximus.
“A bloody mess it most certainly was, bet the affair was even bloodier. It’s why James had to go. He couldn’t compete with Bobbies equipment.” Hazard said in a dark yet, humorous tone. Maria froze. Maximus stood his ground firmly between them while keeping his eyes on Hazard.
“What do you want with her ?” Maximus said in a demanding tone.
“Oh, Maxi-Lion, I’ll deal with you another time. Right now, I’m working. So, ta ta.”
In a blink of an eye, an unseen force strikes Maximus with such force that it sends him flying back out the window. The glass shatters just as he falls from the five-story building until smashing on top of a car. All the car windows shatter upon impact. Maximus laid there trying to catch his breath before falling over onto the ground, blood coming from out his mouth. Upstairs, Maria didn’t react to what happened since she was still in shock with her stare pierced on Hazard.
“Not even a scream. You most certainly are a tough one, Maria.” Hazard said while he casually walked over to the sofa to sit where Maximus had previously sat. He then folds his hands together on his lap.
“You went from loving two men to having nothing but your son. Who might just get taken away since, you know, your crazy. But never fear, I’ll cheer you up my dear. What if I said there’s a way to make the one you truly love happy? Maybe even get some redemption?”
Maria kept her stare but didn’t respond. Hazard smirked before the nine-inch blade appeared between them on the couch. He then slides it slowly to her and continued.
“Take it, end yourself now, and I’ll lead your soul to the one you love most. You being alive, like this. Will only corrupt your sweet little boy into the same monster you became. Spare him, give him a chance to live life, rather than become some heart breaker like his mommy.”
Maria looked down at the blade for a moment then took it. She held it up to her face while looking at Hazard, but only for a moment before launching forward in an attempt to stab Hazard. Inches before the blade could reach him, Hazard, he disappears just as Maria bounces off the sofa and onto the ground. His laughter was heard all over the room just as she got back up with the blade in hand. “I’ll kill you!” Maria shouts just as she stands back up with the blade still in her hand. Hazard reappears across the room with the same grin.
“You seem to have a somewhat strong will. Too bad it couldn’t save James. But no one’s perfect. All your going to do is get me to change tactics. You see, if you don’t budge, then I will haunt your son. I will make sure he chooses the wrong paths in life. I will make you watch him suffer from every mistake I influence him to make. Eventually, he will die from my guidance. All because mommy wouldn’t budge.”
Maximus jumps back in from the window, some cuts and bruises visible. Hazard smirked, then vanished again. When Maria turned around to Maximus, he could see the nine-inch blade in her hand.
“Where did that come from?” Maximus asked while looking at the blade.
“How did you get back up here?” was Maria’s only response.
They both look to each other while being uncertain of the other’s question.
“If you don’t end this now, your son is my toy for life.” Hazard’s voice filled Maria’s head like a song that wouldn’t go away. Her eyes instantly tear up. Maximus knew something was wrong from her reaction and because he could still feel Hazard in the room.
“What is it, Maria? Is he speaking to you?”
She slowly nods as the tears slide down her cheek. Maximus then goes over to her.
“Maria, fight it. He will say whatever he needs to to get what he wants.”
“You have ten seconds,” Hazard’s voice echoes in Maria’s head. Maria shakes her head, then holds the sharp end of the blade to the side of her neck. When Maximus attempts to grab it from her, the same unseen force sends him flying till he hit the wall, where he was now pinned. Hazard appears in front of Maximus with his arms folded behind and an uneasy smile across his face. While keeping his gaze on him, Hazard spoke out loud to Maria.
“Less than five seconds now, better hurry before I change my mind and haunt the kid just for the hell of it.”
“Maria, don’t!” Maximus shouts while trying to fight whatever force Hazard was using against him. Maria pressed the blade against her neck. “Keep my son safe,” Maria said just before ramming the blade into her throat and sliding it across. Her body falls to the ground while blood spilled everywhere till finally dying. Maximus’s eyes turn into his Lycan color as he tries to break free. Hazard just smiles while walking backward.
“Look at the killer getting all angry and Grr-like. It’s quite a sight.”
Hazard holds out his hand just as Maria’s soul flies out from her chest. It circles over his hand then lands on his palm. Hazard’s eyes widen at the sight of it before closing his fist just as the soul was now retracting into his body. Maximus had no clue since he couldn’t see the soul. It was something only Hazard could see.
“I’m going to rip your heart out, you soulless bastard!” Maximus shouted in pure anger. Hazard raises his other hand and lifts his index finger, then casually said: “Shh, I’m trying to enjoy this.” Hazard closed his eyes and then hugged himself, the same way he would often do when taken souls, in ecstasy. Maximus started growling, which only made Hazard curious when he opened his eyes. Hazard, then he let his arms drop to his sides and dangled like a puppet with its string cut off.
“Maxine, your so angry with me. Something in your eyes tells me so.” Hazard said right before chuckling as Maximus growl became louder. The blade vanishes from beside Maria only to appear in Hazard’s hand. He then holds it up near Maximus’s face, the edge pointing straight at Maximus’s eyes.
“Are you sorry for getting Maria killed? Want to tell her how very sorry you are for not saving her?” Hazard said
“I didn’t get her killed, asshole! You did it! So get that blade out of my face!”
“Oh, Maximus!” Hazard shouts before grabbing his shirt and tearing it open with one pull. Hazard’s eyes widen before leaning his ear against Maximus’s chest. Maximus had no idea what to think at this point.
“Your soul Maximus, your pure, clean white soul. It’s beautiful.”
Hazard snaps back his gaze to Maximus’s eyes, his nose inches away from his. Maximus felt like he was looking directly into madness at it’s purest. “Can’t wait to have it.” Hazard whispers before vanishing. Soon as he disappeared, Maximus fell onto the floor. He was breathing heavily while looking at Maria’s dead body. Seconds later, he heard police sirens getting close, so Maximus gets to his feet and looks out the broken window, where he saw a small crowd gathering around the smashed car he crashed into. Some people looked up at the broken window, which caused him to back up before anyone could see him.
“This doesn’t look right.”
Maximus stares at Maria with a small pout on his face, then grabs his skateboard and takes his leave. Even though it only took twenty minutes to get home, it felt longer. Maximus felt defeated, weak, helpless. Everything he knew a hunter wasn’t supposed to feel. Soon as he got in the house, Socrates was already sitting on the steps. Maximus closed the door behind him and just stared at Socrates.
“Where’s your shirt ?” Socrates asked. Maximus just gave a small shrug. Socrates narrowed his eyes then made his way towards him. He notices how there was dry blood around Maximus lips, the tiny glass shards in his hair along with some minor cuts around his body.
“I assume you ran into that Reaper?” Socrates said.
Maximus nodded, then kept his head down.
“From the looks of it, he whipped your ass too.”
Maximus took a few seconds before responding.
“He made a woman kill herself, right in front of me. I tried to save her. I tried to stop it. But it didn’t work. I failed, and now a woman is dead because of me.”
Socrates kept his stare then, in a firm tone, said,” Look at me.” Maximus slowly raised his head, his watery eyes now looking into Socrates.
"Reapers aren’t in the job description. Whatever it’s doing is none of our business. Death is a part of life. It’s our job to stop the deaths that physically happen when we’re giving orders to do so.”
“But nothing. I know you have a big heart. Use it when it counts because if you run around thinking you can save everyone, you’ll always be disappointed. Trust me, I know.”
“You mean like, with, mom?”
“No, I never had to save your mother, nor was I ever put in a position to. But that’s not the point.”
Socrates places his hands on Maximus’s face to keep his gaze on his, then continued.
“I let you get this hero act out of your system. Next time you pull something like this, I’ll have to report you. I don’t want that because then we’ll both be failures. Tomorrow you’ll go to school, then come back home. We’ll go over some stuff. Then you’ll be able to relax. But that’s it. Friday night, you have to continue the mission. Let that be what you focus on. Got it?”
Maximus kept his gaze on him while so much ran through his head. What did he mean by “Report you”? Or by both of them being failures? After a moment, he finally decides to shake off his thoughts.
“Yeah, I got it.”
“Good, now wash up and get to bed.”
Maximus nods, then head upstairs. Socrates kept his eyes on him the whole time till he was out of view. He then sighs.
“I can’t lose another hunter to a goddamn Reaper. I won’t.”