Hunting Shadows

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Chapter 4

They were shadows, watching in the foliage surrounding their targets house. Mansion was more like it; the 25,000-square foot property was well kept with shrubbery and lawns manicured to perfection.

But then again, nothing less would suffice for a top military commander. Dobermans wandered off leash sniffing at trees and lounging in the sun. She counted three, but there could have been more in the house.

“I’ll take care of the dogs.”

Thom moved from their hiding place in the trees towards the front door. One of his specialties was canine control.

She had always wondered about that… between the three of them, Thom had always seemed a little off, as he purposely distanced himself from people.

A few minutes later they could hear the doorbell ring; that was their cue as the Dobermans ran barking into the house to greet the visitor.

She dropped down into the yard with a muffled thump, a second thump beside her let her know Ryan had joined her. The retired commander was up now, leery and alert to changes on his property.

“You can come out now, I know you’re here.”

They froze in the bushes along the back wall of his lawn. There was a good fifty yards of sun and a pool standing between them and their target.

He began moving toward their direction, a hand gun held with the ease of practise and years in his hands and level with his sightline.

Wary now that their target was armed, they pressed back into the wall. General Wilson stopped a few feet from them, his gun leveled in their direction.

“Tell me, does the military want me dead because of the secrets I’ve sold? The experiments I’ve done? Or because they just couldn’t man up and do it themselves?”

They knew he was talking to them, but they didn’t dare move or speak or even breathe.

“Kill me now, or the first bullet to leave this gun will end up in your head. And I’m sorry my dear, but that’s yours and you know it.”

Eryn’s eyes widened a fraction of a degree but still she didn’t move, didn’t speak and was afraid she would give them away by passing out for she couldn’t hold her breath much longer. It was then that they heard a click from a different weapon.

Thom stood calmly behind the ex-commander holding his own hand gun to the commander’s head.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Put the gun down slowly and this won’t get messy. It would be a shame for the lady of the house and your daughters to see their fathers head blown to bits in their backyard.”

“Thomas… I knew it would be you, and if you’re here that means Eryn and Ryan are as well. In fact, my guns pointed at Eryn’s head right now. Rethink your actions, how fast are you three?”

“One way or another, you won’t make it through today alive.”

Still the commander was unyielding.

“Sir, you don’t want to do this. Don’t let your girls see you as a murderer.”

“So, they can watch me die instead?”

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“For a lifetime of sins committed, I realize that this was inevitable. But that doesn’t mean I will go quietly or without a fight.”

The ex-commander turned suddenly and shot Thom in the chest. His aim dead on; Thom dropped to the ground instantly a large red stain blossoming on his chest rapidly. Their disguises forgotten Eryn and Ryan burst out of the shrubs and tackled the commander to the ground, knocking the gun out of his hand. While Ryan wrestled with the commander, Eryn was checking out Thom.

“He’s gone…”

She said at the same time Ryan snapped the generals neck with a viciousness that surprised her.

He looked back at her with a manic excited gleam in his eyes. At that moment, she knew his sanity was so far gone that he wasn’t the least bit stable.

“Ryan…”

“Yes, Eryn?”

“We have to go now; the missions been completed. Grab Thom, will you?”

He watched her a moment longer, debating what his best course of action would be. The sanity still had not returned to his eyes. Picking up Thom’s body he slung it over his shoulder and brought it to the truck waiting a block down the road. Eryn went inside and made sure all the other occupants were alright.

She knew Thom would never hurt innocent people if he could help it. One of his specialties was making sure that the other people’s memories were altered. Thom had put them all to sleep with a mild sedative. A natural bluffer, he was great at poker but ultimately that was what had gotten him shot. She checked pulses and in the morning, all they would remember is a fuzzy memory of something but it would forever remain unclear; like looking at a picture through muddy water.

Once she joined Ryan in the van, she noticed his eyes still held that murderous off-kilter glint that set her on edge. Her animal instincts were screaming at her to run, to get as far away from this madman as was possible. But she knew that logically the only way to survive was to keep playing this sick game; waiting for an opportunity to end to it. They were in the van now with Thom in the body bag in the back; she could hear sirens in the distance and as they pulled away from the curb she saw a shadow scowling at her.

“You’re being unusually quiet.”

“I’m always quiet…”

“You didn’t use to be that way.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I remember how you used to be.”

She remained quiet. The synchronization between them had faltered when Thom died, now it was sporadic coming in bits and flashes.

Ryan’s emotions churned in a black writhing chaos, and though he didn’t show it now; she had a sneaking suspicion he wasn’t as stable as everyone thought he was. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled a warning and she closed her eyes feigning sleep.

JB appeared immediately, startling her. In this realm, he was more Reaper than human and though he was trying hard to conceal it, she could see his Reapers form clearly.

“You need to get out of there. Now… Hurry, I’ll explain everything later but right now you’re in terrible danger.”

She nodded quickly, and understood why JB had been so insistent that she get out of the van. They were hurtling at top speed towards a massive building that was looming in the approaching distance.

She unclipped her belt, opened her door and launched herself out of the speeding van. She grunted as her body connected with the pavement rolling to minimize the impact.

She looked up just in time to see the van crash through the side of the building. Its driver was thrown head first through the windshield and into the glass of the reception desk. There were people screaming and running in and out of the building; but oddly enough she couldn’t hear or feel anything. She was watching the world go by in slow motion; suddenly there was someone in front of her.

He was saying her name, and shaking her shoulders. Sound came back on and motion resumed to normal.

“Eryn, we have to go now.”

“I’m right behind you… come on.”

He led them away from the chaos of the scene happening around them. He had made sure there was no evid ence to link Eryn to the other two.

As the middle realm king, there was a lot he could do; most of it would terrify humans.

They raced down an alley, turned a corner and ran down another jumping garbage bags, cans and dodging around fire escapes. Eryn was hard on his heels as they ran further from the sound of screams and sirens; blood and death and destruction.

When they finally stopped running she was panting hard, and she had this awful haunted look in her eyes; he feared for her mental health whenever she got that look in her eyes.

“It wasn’t your fault you know… He was crazy long before he died.”

“It was though; I was the commander, and I got my team killed. Oh, God JB; what have I done?”

“You couldn’t have known it would turn out like that.”

“But I didn’t do anything to change it either.”

“This was meant to be, if you had stayed in the van you would have died too.”

“Maybe I should have…”

“No; no, it wasn’t your fault.”

“Wasn’t it though? I led the mission, I let it get out of control, and I lost my teammates. Why do the people I come across always die?”

“Because they had to… if they hadn’t… you would be dead a hundred times over.”

“I want to go back to the missions; back when it was just me and you and the artifacts. Back when I wasn’t surrounded by death and blood and loss and grief.”

She started to cry, her outburst and overwhelming emotions coming out like a waterfall. Startled JB took her into his arms, cradling her against his chest.

“Sleep…”

He whispered kissing her forehead and feeling her body relax as it slipped into unconsciousness. He brought her back to his penthouse suite, tucking her into bed. With any luck, she would remain asleep until he was finished and could return to her.

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