“You never truly appreciate someone until they are missing. That is when the true tears of regret are shed”- I. Winifredd
The hooded bounty hunter paused in front of the crying teenager and raised his foil one more time over his head. “You will die!”
“Sky!” Chelsea bawled and ran forward, tears sparkling in her eyes. “Get away from him!”
The gleam was back on the blade as the hunter brought it down on him.
Mrs. Joshua climbed to her feet and scowled fiercely. Sky’s eyes widened like cyan marbles, mouth dropped open in shock. I’m really going to die, he realized and his heart seemed to stop in his heaving chest. His shoulders sagged forward in defeat as his hung his head and waited for the final blow that would finally kill him. Goodbye mom. I’m sorry I had to be your son. He gritted his teeth and balled his hands into fists—
And the explosive blast of a pistol went off moments later.
The Hunter spun around on the balls of his heels and let out an outraged roar.
Chelsea froze in place and gaped unblinkingly. Mrs. Kedzior shoved the dead animal to the side and aimed the gun at the scowling assassin. “You have till the count of five to get away from that boy,” she warned menacingly. Her dark black skin glistened with sweat in the moon light. “Right now or I promise you that the next bullet I shoot will be aimed for your head.”
Sky locked his eyes with him mother. She nodded and jerked her head sharply to the side. Move away from him. Soundlessly, Sky pulled himself to his feet and stumbled toward Chelsea. She caught him and wrapped her arms protectively around his small shoulders. He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. It’s over now. Over Chelsea’s shoulder, he watched Mrs. Kedzior cautiously move closer to the glaring hitman, both of her slender hands trembling around the tiny pistol. Mrs. Joshua followed behind her, a newly acquired dagger gripped tightly in her hands.
“Kill him mom!” Chelsea exclaimed with a proud fist in the air. “Kill him now!”
A small smile played on Mrs. Kedzior’s thick lips. “Loud and clear, sugar.”
Sky’s smile faltered. Was she actually going to kill him? Then she would be taken away by the police, stuffed in a cramped cell in an ugly orange jumpsuit for the rest of her life. So why did he feel so relieved to see the determination in the woman’s eyes, the firm grip of her hands on the pistol? She looked so sure of herself. No sign of doubt within her sable eyes. He frowned at the nervous fluttering in his stomach. But then…if she really did kill him, what gave her the right to brand him a murderer like that man they all saw as his father? Who was she to still look down on him if she was going to do the same thing Ian Joshua was now paying with his miserable life for?
He could feel the flames of loathing ignite within him again.
If Ian Joshua never did what he decided to do then none of this would be happening. His mother would have never been harassed at her old job by spiteful coworkers believing that she had been in on the bloodbath. He never would have been bullied at school by those he had once called friends and held dear to his heart. The stupid fight never would have happened and he never would have felt so alone and misunderstood. A tear escaped his eye and dripped off his chin. He never would have been close enough for this psychotic man to try to kill him or anybody around him. Once again, he was paying for something that was never his fault to begin with. The curse of the Joshuas would always hover over his head like a black cloud. He would always be the scapegoat for Ian Joshua.
“You want my dad?” the words were out of his mouth before he knew it.
His tone was harsh and sharp like the crackling of a whip. Chelsea shared a quizzical glance with her mother. Mrs. Joshua paused midway to turn and stare at him.
“Then you can have him. Find him and kill him. I don’t care anymore.”
A chorus of baffled cries and disbelieving gasps escaped into the air. Chelsea gawked at him. “Are you insane?” she snapped and shot him a glare. “You’re just going to hand your dad over to this crazy stalker? You can’t just turn your back on him, Sky. That’s not right!”
The flickers of heat were now stirring into restless flames.
“Yes I can!” he barked and Chelsea broke their embrace and backed away from him, shaking her head in disagreement. “He didn’t care when he what he did. I’m paying for his mistakes. No, his evil actions. I never aimed a gun and killed anybody. I’m not the one who just carelessly walked past the families of those victims without even having the decency to look regretful during his sentencing. That was not me, Chelsea. So why, why, should I have to die in his place?”
He took a step forward and fixed a deadly glare at his glowering neighbor. “Why should I have to carry a burden that I didn’t ask for in the first place?”
She didn’t answer him. Instead, her face twisted into a vicious grimace of uncontained disgust.
Mrs. Kedzior chuckled humorlessly. “You see what I told you, Chelsea? He’s a serial killer just waiting to happen. This…kid would even give up his own father just to save himself.” She scoffed and shook her head disapprovingly. “I told you to stay away from him, didn’t I?”
Her eyes shimmered with intense hatred. Sky took an involuntary step back. “He is just like Ian Joshua.”
“You stupid bitch!” Mrs. Joshua snarled and pointed her dagger at Mrs. Kedzior. “You better not talk another word about my son. You are no one to talk—have you forgotten what your husband has done?”
Mrs. Kedzior scowled. “Watch your mouth, Serena. If you know what’s good for you and your son.”
Mrs. Joshua laughed humorlessly. “Your empty threats will not scare me into silence, Ann.” Her grin turned sinister. “If you know what’s good for you, then you will keep quiet and stop condemning my son. Or….” Her eyes slid suggestively towards Chelsea.
Sky felt the shivers run up his spine. She would kill an innocent girl to get back at Mrs. Kedzior? There was no denying it then. She must have had something to do with the bank heist killings. Chelsea visibly stiffened at his side. Her grip on him returned.
The Hunter grinned maliciously. “Your father has caused me a great deal of pain,” he said and kept his penetrating stare on the teenager. He raised a finger and pointed at the lifeless from of his wolf companion. “There are many out there who end up just like K’ya when Elian and his supporters are involved. The bastard needs to be brought to justice—no matter the cost.” He turned his head slowly and glared at Mrs. Joshua. “But perhaps he is not the mastermind behind these horrendous acts of evil.”
With a burst of speed, The Hunter was in the air, sword held high over his head.
“Damn!” Mrs. Kedzior snarled and fired a round at the assassin.
But he seemed to suddenly blur and fade into the night. Sky’s heart leaped into his chest. Where did he go? He watched his mother tense into a fighting position and Mrs. Kedzior reach into her back pocket for ammunition. “Let’s get out of here Sky!” Chelsea hissed under her breath. “We need to find the police!” Sky shook his head defiantly. They can’t help us. Not when I’m a Joshua. They’ll look for any excuse to pin the blame on me. His eyes frenetically searched through the eerily quiet woods.
With a startling battle cry, The Hunter materialized behind Mrs. Kedzior.
“Mom!” Chelsea screamed and ran towards her mother. “Behind you!”
There was an audible crunch as The Hunter brought connected his fist with the back of her head.
The light faded from her eyes as Mrs. Kedzior dropped to the ground.
“Run you two!” Mrs. Joshua screeched and jumped forward towards the advancing assassin.
“Mom!” Chelsea ran forward, but Sky grabbed her wrist and pulled her back. “Mom, wake up! Mom, please! Wake up!”
“We need to leave!” Sky insisted. He could feel the panic resurfacing inside him. “We can’t help her right now!”
“I’m not going!” She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and ran forward.
“Stop it!” Mrs. Joshua cried. But it was too late.
The Hunter moved swiftly with a grunt, linking the back of his large hand with the side of her face in an agonizing backhand. She flew across the clearing and crashed against the thick truck of a nearby tree. She slumped to the ground with a pained moan, but did not lose consciousness. Chelsea froze in his place and clamped her hands over her mouth. The Hunter smiled with faux apology. “Oops,” he said mockingly and shrugged a shoulder. “I guess I don’t know my own strength.”
Before either teenager could respond, The Hunter reached within the folds of his cloak and fished out a golden medallion encrusted with colorful jewelry Sky had never seen before. Thump-thump. He took a small step back, Chelsea backing up with him. Mrs. Joshua’s eyes widened in horror. Thump-thump. The Hunter raised the medallion and aimed it towards them. “Oh no,” he breathed and turned to run away.
“Don’t do it!” Mrs. Joshua begged. “Please don’t do it!”
“Say hello to the afterlife!” The Hunter cried and both Sky and Chelsea were suddenly hit with a thin beam of blue-white light.
What is happening? Sky wondered. A blinding implosion of bright light went off before them. The teenagers let out terrified cries of protests before they were hurled into a heavy darkness.