Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire
A Week Later…
A video-camera is turned on, showing the image of a pair of feet walking slowly across a white tiled floor, the view slowly lifting upwards, showing a heart-rate, the slow *beep… beep… beep…* being the only sound in the room. The view turned to a chair as the camera was sat on the edge of a bed, a figure sitting down, head hanging low.
"I didn't want this." they said quietly, being the voice of a girl, trying to sound strong. "I lived a luxurious life, with parents who cared… only problem was, I thought they cared too much. They wanted me to have so much, wanting to give it to me- but I wanted to achieve it for myself, because I wanted to prove to them I could make it on my own. So I ran away, keeping in contact with only my brother, who always had to do things on his own because my parents were too busy tending to me… I think that's why he ran away, too. He moved out when he was 16, graduated college a couple years later, and is currently living a good life traveling… something I always admired him for.
I lied to him, saying our parents finally decided to let me go. Our parents never kept in contact with him after he left… I don't know why, but it still upset me, so I didn't keep in contact with them. I wanted to stay with him… but I didn't think he would want his sister intruding on his life and spoil everything, so I just told him I'd keep in contact. Afterwards, I went to find a teacher to help me learn self-defense, so I could learn how to take care of myself. That's when I met Vincent…"
She sighed. "I trained with him for a year or so, learning moves that other self-defense classes never taught- it wasn't just step-by-step, he showed us a move, and taught us how to do it, making sure we got it perfect. A few students moved away, some quit, and only Keith and I stayed, until he moved away next with his father, keeping in contact with Vincent. I kept in contact too, once Vincent told me my training was complete… and how he would someday call on me to assist him on a job. I didn't think he was that serious, until he called me a couple months ago, saying he was going after some dangerous people and needed his best students to assist him, that no one else was willing to help. …I took the job, thinking it would be cool, like a secret-spy mission or something, and that maybe- if my parents saw on the news that I took out some dangerous criminals- they wouldn't look down on me anymore."
She began to wince, biting her bottom lip. "Turns out I was wrong…" she sniffled, taking a breath before continuing. "I was so wrapped up in… in getting the chance to prove myself, to be out on my own, to be living in independence, that I didn't see what kind of man Vincent truly was. I suppose it would have helped if I paid attention to the news… but I only focused on the news about myself, about my parents looking for me, and trying to make sure no one found me. So, I went with Vincent and Keith to find his targets… but, once I met your friend, heard his stories of your travels, how you guys always had each other's backs… and meeting you all, I just… I realized I was fooled… unfortunately, I couldn't get rid of him… and now… thanks to me… this happened."
She turned the camera onto a teen, hooked up to tubes, his entire chest bandaged, his breathing slow.
"The doctors said he had to be pretty strong to survive a bullet shot… but it went straight to his heart, and they don't think he'll recover. He was in surgery for three days straight…" she turned the camera on herself, showing the bandages on her neck. "I was only in surgery for twelve hours… I should have been the one to get shot, and struggling for my life… I deserve it. He doesn't. …He's like this because of me."
She began to sob. "I didn't want anyone to get hurt… I just wanted to live my life..."
She began to cry into her hands. A few minutes passed before she continued.
"I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused… and swear, I'm going to make it up to you. I'll find Vincent and God willing I will make him pay for this… even if it costs my own life. If you guys are still watching this… contact Kiff and Tanya Shereba- my parents- and tell them that I'm going to make things right and… if something happens… tell them that their daughter, Brielle, loves them very much."
Off-screen, a door opened. "Brielle… are you ready?"
"Yes…" she squeezed Puggsy's hand, then stood up, looking into the camera. "Goodbye."
She turned off the camera.
14 Hours Later…
Biff lost count on how many times the gang had visited the hospital, asking when they could see Puggsy though each time a nurse or doctor would inform them he was still in recovery, and wasn't allowed to wake up yet. During the week, they had contacted his family, and before they knew it his parents, Barbara and Richard, his brother, Chance, and his cousin, Toni, came rushing to San Francisco, worried sick at the condition he was in. When his mother wasn't threatening to kill Vincent herself, she was bawling her eyes out, worried she would lose her oldest son.
Toni, despite her tough-attitude, couldn't hold back her tears either. It wasn't the first time Puggsy had been shot, but he was lucky the first time… this time, there was a slim chance he would make it again, and when she couldn't stay in the hospital too long she would step outside, crying on Luca's shoulder. Chance, meanwhile, would only pace, wondering why it had to happen to his older brother- while ignoring a few sexy nurses who stood by him, their hearts going wild at seeing a hot guy on the verge of tears (until Kim snapped at them for being so insensitive and told them to beat it).
If anyone could match the despair the family was feeling, it was Fangface…
The werewolf had refused to leave the waiting room, even staying over-night, unable to sleep. Hunter stayed at his side, trying to comfort him as best she could, her heart aching at knowing one of her friends was fighting to stay alive, and her lover was in a deep depression over it. It was no wonder- he had been closest to Puggsy the moment he fell limp, still hearing his last words…
"I just didn't want to be alone."
He didn't understand it at first, until he thought about all that had happened that day: Fangs and Kasandra being close, Puggsy being aggravated and harassing them about it, Kim telling them about her argument with him the other night… It didn't take long for him to figure out that his friend wasn't feeling left out, but because he was worried that the gang would probably split up- him and Hunter going off to live their own lives together, Biff and Kim possibly doing the same, as well as Sam and Martin… while Puggsy, who had been turned down by or cheated on so many girls, didn't have anyone at his side. Of course they had friends all over the world he could visit… but what was the point of traveling alone if there was no one to enjoy the trip with?
He thought back to when they first met Puggsy- back when he was part of Snake's gang, keeping everyone shut out, not even socializing around the gang members except when they held their underground boxing matches, until he met Fangface and their lives changed forever. Maybe he was afraid that he would become that person again- but the werewolf knew that was ridiculous, knowing Puggsy was stronger than that.
Though now, Fangface wondered just how strong his friend could be. He had dealt with all sorts of injuries- from being run over by boulders to getting roughed up by Fangface… but a bullet to the heart? That was different, and thinking about it reminded him of the first time he was shot- how he stepped in front of the werewolf in order to shield him from it.
It was no wonder he couldn't stop crying. I should have been there for him! I could have protected him… he thought as he sobbed.
"Fangface, hon, don't cry anymore," Hunter told him, her voice choked up. "I hate to see you sad…"
"I-I don't mean to be, Hunter… but… I just don't want Puggsy to… to…" Fangface said, burying his face in his paws, and all Hunter could do was hold him tight.
Biff looked at all his friends. Kim was sitting by Barbara, trying to comfort her while Chance kept a hand on Richard's shoulders; Toni had fallen asleep on Luca's lap, Stutz patting him on the shoulder; Fangface sobbing uncontrollably while Hunter held him… and all he could do was stand there and quietly let tears roll down his face. Being the leader of the gang, he always had to come up with ways to make sure everyone in the gang stayed safe, coming up with plans to guide them to safety… but last night, he realized his flaw- he shouldn't have had everyone split up. If they had stayed together, they could have stopped Vincent... but the villain had gotten away, and their friend was on the edge of death.
"Excuse me, are you friends with the boy named Puggsy, in Room 303?" a nurse asked him.
Biff turned, facing her. "Yes... why? Has something happened?" he asked, anxious.
"Nothing has changed. He's still breathing, his heart-rate is still at a slow pace, and he isn't allowed to wake up yet," she held up a camera. "But… we found this in his room. There was a note taped to it, asking to give it to one of you."
Biff looked at the note, seeing that it did indeed ask for the camera to be handed over to either him, Kim, Fangs/Fangface, or Hunter/Kasandra, with a message reading: "my explanation".
"Thank you," he told the nurse, taking the camera and sitting down.
"I'm going to go find something for us all to eat," Richard sighed. "It'll be good to get out of here for a few minutes, and there's no point in starving."
"You should go too, Mrs. Murphy." Kim coaxed. "You should get out of here for a few minutes, it will help calm your nerves,"
"My nerves won't be calm until I find out what's going to happen to my baby," Barbara said, harshly… but caught her tone. "I'm sorry, Kimberly, you're right. I'll be back," And she walked out with her husband.
Biff arched an eyebrow, watching the video on the camera. "Guys, look at this…" he said.
"What is it?" Hunter asked.
"It's Astrid… listen."
They crowded around, watching the video-message she had left behind for them.
Brielle, meanwhile, was driving down the road with her brother, Matthew 'Twiggy' Thorn… at least, that was the name he went by.
Matthew, she learned, had joined an elite group of special agents- known as the Thorns, having a goal to hunt down a group called the Veni-Con-Yei, who hunted down innocent people in order to kill anything supernatural… most notably, werewolves. She contacted him two days ago, asking him to look up Vincent Fondane… when she learned that he was the vice-president of the group, second-hand man to Marlow, she knew how she could track him down. The Thorns had taken out many of their agents already, being lead by their top agent, Lucy Silver, and her son, Kite.
Right now, Matthew was driving Brielle to meet with Kite, who had agreed to assist her in her search for Vincent. "Kite said he'll meet you on the bridge in two weeks," he told her. "…I still don't want you getting yourself involved…"
"I'm already involved, Matt… I'm sorry, but I have to do this," she told him, sternly. "It's my fault I got those kids in trouble and let Vincent get away… and I'm taking it as my responsibility to track him down."
He only sighed. He wanted to talk her out of it- but she was so stubborn, yet determined, that it would be pointless to argue. "I'll be sticking nearby if you need help. You may have made it your business, sis, but it's still part of my job to make sure these psychos are stopped- especially since you've already been injured."
She nodded. "…thanks for not telling mom or dad."
"They wouldn't know who was telling them, anyway."
"Why did they never try to contact you?"
He sighed. "I'll tell you someday… here's your stop. Remember: Call me if you need backup."
All he could see was white, feeling his body in suspended animation, all that went through his mind were voices from the past…
The only face he could see was hers, as her hand reached out for him…
*beep, beep, beep, beep,*
Puggsy awoke slowly, opening his eyes, seeing a doctor and a nurse at the end of the bed, looking over his charts. "It's quite amazing… we'll have to keep an eye on him," the doctor was saying.
"He's awake, doctor… should I give him another drug?" the nurse asked.
"No, no, let him wake up this time. Go inform his friends,"
Puggsy blinked, trying to clear his vision, wanting to talk but couldn't find the strength. What happened? Where is everyone… what happened to Brielle? he wondered, trying to remember everything that had happened that night.
The doctor sat down next to him, and he noticed there was something odd about him- his skin was too pale, he seemed to be between 18-21, and his eyes seemed to have a sharp gaze to them. He read the nametag: 'Doctor Edwin M. Smith'. "You gave everyone quite a scare, little boy. You had quite a brush with death,"
I knew that already… and who are you calling 'little boy'?
"It's quite amazing. A bullet to the heart… yet you still manage to survive. Either you've got a strong heart, or you're a stubborn one. Though, I suppose all the surgery helped as well- managed to get that bullet out, and as soon as we did, your heart practically healed by itself while they were trying to patch it up. Still at the length of your recovery, no one thought you would survive… That's the trouble with doctors these days, they only rely on science and medications, and don't use enough faith. Lucky one of your friends contacted me to come here quick- I was already on my way to New York to meet with an associate of mine. Good timing, eh?"
Who is this guy…?
"I happen to be an expert when it comes to hearts, as well, so consider yourself lucky. Yes, I think you're going to be fine… though you won't be allowed to leave, just so we can make sure your heart isn't suffering any more wounds… but from the way I've analyzed it, you should be okay." he stood up, walking out. "I'll be on my way now. I've got another appointment to keep."
Puggsy blinked… and the doctor was gone. Edwin M. Smith… where have I heard that name? he wondered.
"I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused… and swear, I'm going to make it up to you. I'll find Vincent and God willing I will make him pay for this… even if it costs my own life. If you guys are still watching this… contact Kiff and Tanya Shereba- my parents- and tell them that I'm going to make things right and… if something happens… tell them that their daughter, Brielle, loves them very much."
"I… I don't believe it," Kim said, stunned. "Why didn't she tell us before?"
"Because of Vincent, doy." Toni scoffed. "The bitch didn't want you guys to know that she was a runaway and working with a psycho when she figured it out, and now she's taken off while we've been worried about Puggsy- I say good riddance."
"Take it easy, Toni…" Luca coaxed.
"She let my cousin get shot! I am NOT going to calm down! If Puggsy goes down, then she oughtta go down with him! I don't see one reason why we should let her live if we see her again!"
"She's my cousin." Hunter said quietly.
"She's your cousin has nothing to do with-"
Biff clapped his hand over her mouth. "Wait, what did you say?" he asked Hunter.
"That couple she mentioned, Kiff and Tanya Shereba… they're my aunt and uncle," Hunter told them. "They used to live close to my parents when I was seven, and Martin and I would always hang out with Brielle and Matthew… until, one day, they moved. We never found out a reason, just knew that our parents were angry and never contacted them."
"Then I think it's time WE did," Kim said firmly.
"We'll go look them up," Chance offered.
"To the internet!" Luca declared, and he, Toni, Stutz, and Chance walked off.
"Call us if anything changes," Toni told them, as they went to retrieve a laptop from Stutz' apartment.
"So… outside of Toni's remark… why do you think she kept secrets from us?" Kim asked once more.
"Well, to be fair, she had only met us in one day. She probably would have told us, possibly to warn us, once she eased down," Biff answered. "I mean, you have to admit, the first time she saw us in the lobby, she did seem a little tense…"
"I noticed that… right when she looked at me- er, Kasandra." Hunter added. "She probably recognized me… maybe that's the real reason why she didn't say anything, just so I wouldn't get worked up about it and call her parents," she clenched her fists. "Which I'll be doing right now…" she then took out her cell-phone.
"What are you doing?"
"Calling my parents, and I'm telling them everything. I don't know what my aunt and uncle did to make them angry, but after hearing that their own niece was a cohort for Vincent, they'd better put aside their differences and help us figure out what's going on!"
"But, they moved away and your parents lost contact with them, remember?" Kim pointed out. "What if they don't know-"
"We're going to find out!"
Kim stepped back, a bit shocked at Hunter snapping like that, yet the she-wolf had a point. Their friend was in the hospital. Vincent was still out there. And the only girl who was a link to all this had disappeared. She couldn't blame Hunter for being so tense and bitter… In fact, she was surprised she wasn't trying to get a trace on Brielle now, to hunt her down and make her regret her mistake- Lord knows what she'd put Vincent through, and the teenage girl didn't think she could stomach such a graphic thought.
She looked over at Fangface, who had been quiet this whole time. "Fangface… do you have anything to say?" she asked, quietly.
The werewolf only hung his head low. "I don't care about that girl… I just want Pugs to be okay," he whispered back.
Biff bit his lip, preparing to say something- anything- to assure everything would be okay… though, luckily, he didn't have to when a nurse came in. "You can see your friend now," she told him. "Doctor Smith said he'll be alright now,"
The leader smiled, wincing as he did, and turned to the others. "Guys, did you hear that? Puggsy's alright! Lets go see him!" he exclaimed.
In a blur, Fangface shot by, leaving clouds of dust in his wake. "PUGGSY!" he exclaimed as he ran.
"And there he goes," Hunter said, smiling a bit, putting away her cell phone and deciding to contact her parents later.
"Fangface, wait up!" Kim called, as she, Hunter and Biff raced after him, just to make sure he didn't crash into anyone… let alone found the right room.
Another doctor approached the nurse. "Hey, Stephanie, did you check on that patient in room 303 yet?" she asked.
"Yes, I was in there with Doctor Smith, he's doing fine now." she replied.
The doctor arched an eyebrow. "Doctor who?"
"Doctor Edwin M. Smith- he said he had been called in a few nights ago to help with the surgery."
The doctor walked over to the information desk, and looked over a few papers. "Stephanie… no one by the name of Doctor Edwin M. Smith checked in- actually, no one even heard anything about him in the surgery room."
The nurse blinked, a bit stunned.
The doctor picked up the phone. "Go check on that patient again," she then dialed. "Security…"
Puggsy lied in bed, staring at the television… which was off. They didn't even have the decency to hand me the remote, did they? he thought. He didn't really want to watch television- he just needed something to help get his mind off things. Where were his friends? Were they alright? Did Vincent get away? How long had he been unconscious? Why did that doctor's name sound familiar? And what happened to Brielle?
In a way, he couldn't believe why she never said a word, yet also understood everything. She was hanging around him, acting nice and getting acquainted all to lure him and the gang into a trap… yet she also tried to get rid of Vincent herself, trying to get him and the werewolves to stay hidden while she lured him away. But why didn't she just warn us, instead? he wondered, bitterly. Then we could have set a trap for him instead, or at least been prepared when he showed his ugly mug.
Just thinking about that girl gave him the urge to punch something. She seemed nice- even took his side when it came to the werewolves and their romance, tried to help him ease down after their argument, and despite they had only met each other, treated him like a friend she had known since childhood and trusted him with so much information… yet now, it turns out it was all just part of the plan to earn his trust. Face it, Pugs, you let yourself get played by another girl. he told himself, sighing. But… then again… if she was really on Vincent's side, why did he bring up her betraying him? She did say she wanted nothing more to do with it after meeting us…
His head began to ache, unable to figure out when Brielle was lying or not, if the day he shared with her was really an act or not, and why- if she realized who was the real villain- she didn't warn them of anything. He didn't know why he didn't notice it sooner, the way she cringed when Vincent's name was brought up, or how tense she acted around the gang, or how she was acting too friendly for someone on an acquaintance level. Every time he thought about these signs, he kicked himself for missing them.
His mind was cleared of all his puzzling thoughts when Fangface burst into the room. "PUGGSY! You're alive!" the werewolf exclaimed, screeching to a halt, sliding across the floor-
…ending up crashing into the wall, and Puggsy rolled his eyes, yet was happy to see that his best friend was [also] still alive. The werewolf backed up, shaking off his daze and stumbling over to his friend- he would have hugged him on sight if it wasn't for all the tubes he was hooked up to- and sat down next to him. "Hey, Pugs… how you doing?" he asked.
For a guy who had just been shot, not that bad… Puggsy wanted to reply critically, but was still trying to find strength to speak. Instead, he just wavered his hand a bit as a way of saying 'could be worse'.
Biff, Kim, and Hunter entered just then. "Oh, thank God," Kim said, practically in tears at seeing the condition their friend was in, yet so happy to see that he was alright, as she rushed over and took hold of his hand. "We're so glad you're okay…"
He smiled, gripping her hand as gently as he could, though wished she wouldn't cry- after their argument nights ago, that's the last thing he wanted to see her do, especially since after Brielle showed up, he never got the chance to apologize to her- to everyone, until after he was shot, and saw the whole day flash before his eyes. In fact, that was the last thing he could recall: him apologizing to Fangface… as well as admitting how he didn't want to be alone while everyone moved on with their lives and lovers.
He looked over at Hunter, who stood by Fangface, wondering if the werewolf told the gang everything (which he had no doubt he had) and if they all understood what he meant. He was expecting any moment for Hunter to bring it up, possibly explaining that she never intended to 'steal his best friend' as she had brought up that morning, or maybe claiming that if she had known she and Fangface would have kept their romance to a minimum around him while mentioning that she mostly just did it to annoy him, and promising that she would let him and Fangface hang out more often and give them some 'guy time', and keep their relationship on a friendship basis just to not upset him. …Or, maybe she would go on a rant about killing Vincent for all this.
"I swear, Puggsy, next time Vincent shows his face, I'm going to kill him for all this," Hunter promised him, a bit choked up, while Fangface held her paw, patting it and giving her a look that calmly said 'save it for later'.
Puggsy grinned a bit. He figured it would be the latter.
He then looked over at Biff, still remembering the sharp glare he had given him that day, when he mentioned how upset Kim at been. Kim had said they were nothing more than friends… yet the way the leader stood by her now, resting his hand on her shoulder, he wondered if Biff saw her as just a friend. Perhaps she didn't know, or maybe she did but wanted to keep it hidden so not to jeopardize the gang's friendship- like the opposite of Fangface and Hunter's romance, where she and Biff were in love but didn't want to show it (even though everyone else could notice). From the glare he had received, he knew he cared a great deal about Kim, friend or more, and he had made a mistake in getting her upset, and knew that sooner or later Biff would want to have a talk with him about his attitude.
"Puggsy, do you remember everything that happened that night?" Biff asked. He nodded. "Can you tell us?"
If I could, I'd be spilling my guts by now. he thought, and pointed to his mouth, then shook his hand in a 'no' fashion.
"Can you write?"
I can try, I guess. He nodded.
They handed him a notebook and a pencil, and he realized that he only had a little strength to write so much and had to keep it in simplified terms: 'Astrid was with Vincent. Her real name is Brielle. He called her a traitor. Keith shot me.'
"We… already know about Brielle," Kim said, as Biff held up a camera.
"She recorded a message for us… before she left." Biff added.
She's gone?! he wanted to shout… though the rapid 'beep beep beep'-ing from the heart-monitor pretty much saved him the trouble.
"Calm down, Pugs, we're going to find her." Hunter told him, and from the look in her eye, he could tell she felt rage. He didn't blame her.
"Is there anything else you can tell us?" Kim asked.
'That's it.' he wrote, figuring that- if Brielle left a confession behind- there wasn't more to tell. His mind was too full of anger to write anything more, anyway. So she just got up and left, not bothering to stick around the others and face the consequences, huh? he thought. Wait until I get my hands on that-
*beep beep beep beep beep*
"Easy, Puggsy… don't get too tense, or your heart-monitor will blow sky high," Hunter told him. "Right now, I'm going to call up my folks, and tell them you're okay."
"Your family is here, too. I'll go tell your parents," Kim added.
"And I'll call Stutz," Biff added. "Fangface, you can stay here,"
"(grr) I planned to," Fangface replied.
Once everyone exited the room, everything in the room fell silent, the only sound being the 'beeping' of the heart monitor. Puggsy watched the werewolf, who just sat there, awkwardly holding his hands together, his eyes shifting to him every few seconds, jaw shifting as if pondering what to say- it was weird seeing him sit so quietly, and the teen wished he'd just say something to kill the silent tenseness.
Why does he look so upset? Its not like he's the one who shot me. Puggsy thought, keeping his gaze on him.
"I kept praying for you every minute," he finally said, quietly. "Starting the moment Hunter and I ran out into the alley after hearing the gunshot, and we found you. I even rode in the ambulance with you, just to make sure you would be alright, and stayed at your side until they rushed you into the emergency room, then I stayed in the waiting room with the others, all of us waiting to find out what happened. The doctors said Brielle would be okay, but weren't sure if you'd be too, and kept you in surgery for three days, and then told us that, due to your condition, you couldn't be allowed to wake up yet just so your heart could heal. During that whole week… I was scared. I know it's something you never hear a werewolf say but, well I was. I was petrified, and Fangs was just as afraid- probably more. I haven't changed back into him all week, and he's been quiet in my head, too worried to speak."
There were dozens of comments Puggsy could make about Fangs being quiet, yet picturing him and/or the werewolf in such a distraught state rendered him incapable of thinking up a single remark. All he did was lie there, waiting for the werewolf to continue.
"I figured out what you meant the other night, too… about being alone." Fangface looked at him, his eyes filled with sadness. "Puggsy, I swear, I didn't know I was spending that much time with Hunter, or that our romance bothered you so much that you thought we'd all split up… We won't split up, Puggsy, not now- especially now." he began to wince. "Fangs is really sorry, too, about all he said. We were all just mad, we didn't know that we were hurting you!"
Who's hurt? I just can't stand a bunch of my friends running off for the sake of romance. Puggsy wished he could reply.
"I just… I just wish you didn't have to get shot for me to figure it out," tears began to roll down the werewolf's face now, and the teen couldn't stand it. "I should have been there with you, like I always had been, then maybe… maybe I could have taken the bullet for you this time. I promise, from now on, I'll be a better friend- I'll make sure nothing like this ever happens to you again! I-I just can't stand the fact that I nearly lost you!" he broke down in a sob again, folding his arms on the edge of the bed as he buried his face in them. "I'm sorry…"
The werewolf sobbed for almost a minute, until he felt the teen's hand resting on his shoulder, gripping it gently, and he looked up, seeing his friend smiling. "It's… okay…" he whispered, gathering all the strength he could to speak. "I'm… still… here."
Fangface smiled, tears still rolling down his face, as he held his friend's hand, chuckling with relief.
Seconds later, Toni burst through the doors. "YES! YOU'RE ALIVE!" she exclaimed as loudly as she could, and turned to Luca and Stutz. "See guys? I TOLD you he would pull through!"
Luca and Stutz only rolled their eyes.
Toni sat down beside Puggsy. "So, what happened? Who shot you? Did your life flash before your eyes? Did they save the bullet?"
"Okay, Toni, that's enough." Chance said, walking up beside her.
"Oh, thank God!" Barbara cried as she and Richard ran into the room next, gripping her son's other hand. "I was so afraid we lost you…! Damn it, Puggsy, stop getting shot! You nearly scared me to death again! Oh, I'm just so glad you're okay!"
Fangface leaned back, letting the family have their moment of celebration, when he noticed the camera sitting on the table next to him, figuring Biff must have forgotten it. Remembering the heart-rate going berserk at the mention of that girls' name and remembering that his friend's heart was still healing, he took the camera and hid it in the drawer, figuring his friend could watch the video once he got his strength back.
After a couple hours, Barbara and Richard decided they were going to go back to the hotel, the father planning on contacting the police about Brielle's whereabouts after Toni told him how the girl took off; Chance and Stutz persuaded Luca and Toni to come along too, telling them they could ask Puggsy if he caught a glimpse of heaven later. Hunter had finished calling her parents and telling them everything, and was sitting in the room with Fangface, while Biff and Kim were looking up the Sherebas, until it was getting late and a nurse told them their visiting hours were up.
"But… I suppose a couple of you can stay," she said, sympathetically. "Just so your friend will have company when he wakes up in the morning,"
They looked over at Puggsy, who had drifted to sleep an hour ago.
"We'll stay," Hunter replied, knowing her beau dared not leave their friend's side for even a second.
"We'll be back early in the morning," Kim assured them, as she and Biff walked out.
"I'll go get you both some pillows and blankets," the nurse told the werewolves, and walked out.
Hunter walked over to Fangface, resting a paw on his shoulder. "Boy… Puggsy's one lucky son of a gun," she said. "Managing to give death the slip,"
"I'll say," Fangface agreed… though his expression turned serious. "Hunter. Why didn't your cousin come to us, rather than just leaving a recording behind? How come she decided to go after Vincent herself?"
The shewolf scowled a bit. "Either she wants to give that bastard what-for without anyone else getting hurt, or…"
Or it was all just another act. she thought, but didn't say, hoping it was just another negative thought.
"I don't know. I just… I just hope we can catch her- and put Fondane in an early grave for all this."
"(grr) Get in line, I'm going after him first," Fangface sneered.
"I ain't stopping ya, as long as you save some for me… (ahem) But, right now darling, lets keep our minds focused on the matter at hand, and be thankful Puggsy's alright."
Fangface smiled, nodding. "Yeah, yeah… I'm glad God heard my prayers and didn't take him so soon."
Hunter wanted to make a smart remark on how Puggsy could get into Heaven… but held her tongue. Knowing how much the two friends cared for each other, all they'd been through, and how strong a heart their friend had, she knew she would end up slapping herself in the face for such a comment.
The nurse returned with some pillows and blankets, and the shewolf made herself comfortable, drifting to sleep. Fangface smiled at her, then turned to Puggsy, stroking his head. "'Night, Pugs, I'll see you in the morning," he whispered, then brushed his bangs back and planted a peck on his forehead, before lying down next to Hunter.
When he shut his eyes, he saw an image of Fangs on his knees, head bowed. "Thank you, God, for keeping our best friend alive," he was praying.
The werewolf couldn't help but smile in his sleep.
Five Days Later…
Brielle sat in her hotel room, having checked in under the alias 'Martha Rose'. Over the past few days, she had bought new clothes at a thrift shop, discarding her long-sleeved jacket and buying a black short-sleeved one with five green claw-marks on the back, a blue scarf to cover her scar with, baggy torn jeans, a few plain T-shirts, and black sneakers. She also cut her hair short, hoping that it would help hide her identity, so that the police wouldn't catch her.
She knew the others would be looking for her… and possibly out for blood, she figured, after what she had let happen to Puggsy. She winced every time she thought about it- waking up after her surgery, getting a visit from Matthew in the middle of the night, sneaking into Puggsy's room and seeing him fighting for his life, tears welling up as she made her confession and said her goodbyes, walking out and noticing the werewolf, Fangface, asleep in the waiting room with her cousin at his side, obviously refusing to leave she figured.
He's a real dedicated friend… why could Vincent, or anyone, see him as a vicious beast? she wondered. She had seen how the werewolf would harass Puggsy and even heard stories from the teen about it… but it all seemed to be just playful gags, and when 'eating' the teen he didn't really maul or bite or even swallow, but kept him trapped in his jaws- proving that he did have some control over his animal instincts, and would never dare cause great harm to his friend.
Thinking about it only made the memory of seeing the werewolf rush to his friend's aid after he was shot more heart-breaking, and Brielle knew that she would never forgive herself for making such a dire mistake. I've learned my lesson, though. she thought, bitterly. I'm going to make it up to them, and make sure Vincent, and no one else in his gang, ever comes near them again… even if it means I'll lose my life.
She looked over at the phone. She thought about calling her parents, telling them everything, and telling them that she was sorry for everything and how much she loved them… but she had no doubt the others had possibly found a way to contact them by now, telling them everything. She didn't want to hear them shouting at her again, anyway, calling her a fool and telling her to come home, keeping her trapped in their mansion and away from the world once more, especially when she had just begun to experience the excitement of it all…
…and, almost, made a friend.
Every time Brielle shut her eyes, she pictured that day she spent with Puggsy- how he told her all about his life and, just to keep it fair, she told him about her life and troubles, both of them showing support and not pressuring the other to face the past so soon and enjoy life a bit. When they weren't talking, they were just walking around the city, enjoying the solitude- at first she thought she would have to think of something to say just so he wouldn't think she was anti-social, but the look on his face assured her that he didn't mind the quiet, possibly glad to hang around someone without having to hear them talk or harass him.
The more time she spent with him, the more she wanted to confess about Vincent… but kept holding back, worried that he'd turn his back on her, feeling as if she had just been using him to help get Vincent close to the werewolves- it started out that way, she admitted, until she found out what his friends were really like…
And learned that Vincent had been trying to kill a member of her family.
That's when she had called Keith, telling him the mission was over... yet she knew that he wouldn't be fooled, and had tried to stay on her guard around the teens. But, after hanging out with them, hearing their stories, and becoming comfortable in their company, she practically forgot about the hunter and just wanted to have fun like she always wanted.
Then the bastard showed up and ruined everything. Of course, she had to share the blame- she should have told the gang sooner, she didn't, and now everything was a mess.
But she was going to fix it.
No matter the cost.
"C'mon, guys, can't I get up yet?" Puggsy asked, in a griping tone, as he sat up in bed.
"No, now lay back down, or I'll strap you to the bed," Kasandra scoffed.
Puggsy sighed, crossing his arms. It had been three days since he had woken up when the doctors decided he no longer needed to be hooked up to tubes, and after two extra days of lying around, he was restless. And it didn't help that the others were working hard trying to contact Brielle's parents, his dad even contacting the police about keeping an eye out for the girl, while his mother came and visited at least every hour to tend to him. Kasandra had contacted various relatives of hers, to see if any of them still had contact with the Shereba family, yet so far none had, and Fangs- though Puggsy appreciated it- kept by his side every minute, holding up to his (Fangface's) promise of making sure nothing bad happened him… though he thought he was taking it too far when the coward tried to karate-chop a fly when it buzzed to close, bruising his hand on the table.
The nights were the worse, though. What Puggsy never told anyone was how he dreaded being in hospitals- the sight of bizarre tools, scent of various medicines, and sounds of doctors rushing about with patients made him nervous, so having to sleep in such an environment wasn't exactly his way of spending a vacation… let alone the food tasted awful. And it was even more unnerving at how many hospitals were full of doctors who didn't have much compassion for their patients, sometimes over-exaggerating or underestimating an issue, pumping patients full of meds and relying on chemicals and machines to get the job done. He was thankful he had a doctor who treated him like a patient, not a lab experiment.
Though it unnerved him when another doctor told him that the doctor, Edwin Smith, wasn't really associated with the hospital, and no one had really called him in, which was why they had taken a blood sample from him and did a few scans the day after he woke up to make sure the stranger didn't inject him with anything. After a few tests, the results showed Puggsy was fine… though it became a new case for the gang, which Biff and Kim had been looking into.
"I still don't understand… Who could have called him in?" Kim wondered aloud as she and Biff stood across the room. "No one in the hospital ever heard of him,"
"And we've contacted the hospital in New York, no one said they knew his name either," Biff added, referring to the information Puggsy had given them, about Edwin visiting him when he woke up.
"But I swear, I've heard the name before," Puggsy said. "Edwin M. Smith…"
"I remember it," Fangs spoke up.
"You do? From where?" Puggsy questioned.
"From…" he cringed a bit. "…that dinner we had with Brielle. She mentioned going to London and meeting someone with the same name, remember?"
Everyone looked at each other. "How come he could figure it out, and we couldn't?"
"Well… that's all I've thought about the past two weeks- all that happened in that day. Since Fangface never changed back into me until a few days ago, I've spent a lot of time in the back of our mind, remembering that day and looking into every detail that happened, figuring there had to be more answers as to why Brielle never told us anything or how we could have missed some clues."
Kasandra looked at Puggsy, smirking. "And you always thought he was the stupid one," she scoffed, and he only rolled his eyes.
"So, does this mean Brielle was the one who contacted him?" Kim figured.
"He did mention saying one of my 'friends' called him up," Puggsy replied. "Question is, if he isn't a doctor, why did Brielle think he could help- and how could he have gotten here so quick?"
"Ooh, ooh, I wish we could find more answers than questions- I'm getting dizzy…" Fangs replied.
"Maybe if we find Edwin, he can lead us to Brielle…" Biff suggested.
"And by finding Brielle, we may also find Vincent," Kasandra said, cracking her knuckles.
"Go tell my dad, he might be able to help get a trace," Puggsy added.
"Right, lets go Kim." Biff said, and he and Kim walked out.
Kasandra held up her cell phone. "I'm going to call my Grandma Sue… hopefully SHE has some sort of contact with my aunt and uncle," she said, walking out. "…as soon as I find better reception…"
Puggsy turned to Fangs. "So… why didn't you bring up Brielle knowing Edwin, when his name was brought up a few days ago?" he asked.
"Because these past few days, all I thought about was you. When his name was brought up and everyone said he wasn't really a doctor and might have done something to you, I was more worried that… something bad was going to happen to you again." Fangs said, solemnly. "I thought that, if he knew Brielle, he might be another accomplice of Vincent's, sent out to make sure neither of you would recover. …You said he spoke with you when you woke up. What all did he say?"
"Only that Brielle had called him in, he was specialized when it came to hearts, and that mine was pretty strong to survive a bullet shot (or I was too stubborn to die)." he paused, rubbing his chin. "There was something odd about him though. He looked too young to even pass as a doctor, his skin was really pale, and he had this weird gaze that almost made me feel cold all over."
"Ooh, ooh, you think he's in cahoots with Vincent?"
"No… otherwise, why would he have helped Brielle and I? Plus, he would have tried to go after you guys too, or lead you into a trap. He looked like a weirdo, but didn't seem like a bad guy."
Neither did Brielle… he told himself.
"So you think he'll help us track them down?" Fangs asked.
He shrugged. "Maybe…"
Barbara, Richard, Chance, and Toni walked in just then. "Well, hon, we have to get back home." Barbara said, apologetically. "Your father has to get back to the Police Department, but he's going to keep in touch with the officers here in case they find anything, and Toni can't miss any more school days,"
"Oh, come on… I think it's more important to make sure Puggsy recovers than learn algebra." Toni scoffed.
"I have to get back to the university, too." Chance added. "I was only allowed two weeks off,"
"We'll stay in touch. Let us know if anything else happens," Richard told him, then turned to Fangs. "Sherman, keep an eye on my boy."
Fangs gave a salute. "Will do, sir." he said. Puggsy rolled his eyes.
The family walked out, passing by Luca and Stutz. "Keep me updated, guys… and Luca, see if one of the doctors will let you take home the bullet they took out of Puggsy's heart- I'll need a visual aid when I tell everyone my cousin survived getting shot twice," Toni said. Chance grabbed her and pulled her along.
"See ya, Toni. I'll be online later!" Luca called as they walked out.
"C-C'mon, Luca, your mom s-s-said w-w-we could stop by the h-hospital f-for a few m-minutes, then I h-had to t-take you to s-school." Stutz told him.
Luca slouched. "Man, school gets in the way of everything…"
Outside, Chance waved goodbye to his parents and Toni as they drove off, then climbed into his own vehicle- a red convertible. He looked at something he had pulled up earlier on his laptop, when Luca, Toni, and Stutz gave up trying to find a social-site the Sherebas could be on. It took a lot of research, he thought. But I may know where to look…
And he took off down the road, deciding to skip a few more days of college.
"Thank you SO much, Grandma! Yes, I will. Love you too," Kasandra said eagerly, writing something down, and ran up to Biff and Kim. "Guys! My Grandma Sue knows where we can find my aunt and uncle!"
"That's great! Where?" Kim exclaimed.
"They're living in Omaha, Nebraska, out in the country on my grandfather's old plantation- she said my mom and uncle used to live there before they decided to move to Texas. She added that, when she and grandpa decided to move to Arizona, my aunt and uncle happened to be moving, and they sold them their house since they couldn't find many buyers. …She's been in contact with them over the years, and they're still living there!"
"Then it looks like we'll be heading to Omaha… as soon as Puggsy is allowed to leave," Biff said. "In the meantime, we'll keep on looking for Brielle. She couldn't have gotten too far,"
"But someone was with her, remember? There was a voice in the background of her video," Kim pointed out. "Question is, who was it?"
"Who else could she know?"
Kasandra thought about it, then snapped her fingers. "I've got it! She told us she had a brother who was coming by to see her… that must have been Matthew!" she suggested, then became curious. "But, why is he on the run, too?"
"She didn't really tell us much about him, except that he travels a lot," Kim replied.
"Lets ask Puggsy. He and Brielle spent a whole day together- she might have told him a few things that could clue us in," Biff suggested, and they headed into their friend's room. "Puggsy, did Brielle tell you anything about her brother, Matthew?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. She said that he moved out when he was 16, graduated college a few years later, and is traveling." Puggsy replied. "Why?"
"In that message she gave us on the camera, we heard someone come into the room and she left with them. We think it may have been Matthew," Kim said.
Puggsy arched an eyebrow. "Speaking of which, where's this camera you guys have been talking about?"
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Fangs gasped, reaching into the drawer and pulling out the camera. "I put it in here the night you woke up… I- well, Fangface to be more specific- didn't think you should see it, in case it made your heart rush too much and caused any damage-"
Puggsy swiped the camera from him. "My heart is fine, thank you very much. Now let me see everything she had to say,"
"While you're doing that, we're going to grab something for lunch," Biff told him.
"Grab me something too- if I have to eat any more hospital food, I'll have to get my stomach pumped."
His friends chuckled and walked out. Fangs stood up then. "Kassy, can you stay with Pugs? I have some urgent business to attend to," he said.
Puggsy scoffed. "Like what?"
Kasandra looked at Fangs, seeing how he was crossing his legs. "Well, I'd say nature's calling, and it doesn't want to be put on hold," she quipped. "Go on, Fangs. I'll take over babysitting,"
"Thank you!" With that, Fangs shot out of the room.
Puggsy sneered at Kasandra, crossing his arms. "Honestly, guys, I think I can handle myself… and one more 'babysitting' crack like that, and you'll be in the ICU next," he muttered.
"Nice to see you're back to your old self… oh, wait, no it's not." Kasandra sneered. "Honestly, are you going to always be like this towards your friends, or do you just show your friendly side when you've gone through a near-death experience?"
"When people are friendly to me, I'm friendly to them- except when they annoy me nonstop."
"Like how our romance annoyed you?"
He paused, giving her a slight glare. "Are you going to keep bringing that up every time we're alone?"
Kasandra crossed her arms. "Fangface told me everything you said that night, Pugs… about not wanting to be alone. Do you think I'm some sort of competition for his attention? That I'm hogging your best friend?"
Puggsy sighed. "Fangface managed to figure it out, I don't know how you can't. …Did he ever tell you about the day we met?" she shook her head. "Before I met the gang, I didn't have many friends. I hung around a bunch of gangsters, joining their underground boxing matches, but spent more time on my own outside of the ring. I got into trouble when I blew a rigged match, and that's when I met Fangface, Biff and Kim, who were in trouble with this kidnapper-tycoon creepo. Once we solved our problems, we hung around each other more- we never thought about romance or what our future would hold, just going on trips and enjoying every minute of it, no matter the dangers we faced."
She arched an eyebrow. "And… how does my relationship with Fangs affect that?"
"Lets just say, the moment I saw a spark erupt between you too, I knew those days were going to change…" the door opened, and Fangs walked in, and he lowered his voice. "Figure the rest out. I'm going to watch this video."
Kasandra furrowed her brows, thinking about it. They never thought about romance, and he thinks me and Fangs being in love will change everything. But we're still facing danger, we're still traveling, we're still enjoying our trips… our relationship didn't change a thing! she thought.
Fangs sat down, reaching into his cap. "I brought a deck of cards. Anyone up for a game?" he asked.
"Sure," Kasandra replied.
"No thanks," Puggsy muttered, eyes focused on the video.
…Did it? she couldn't help but wonder, while Fangs shuffled the cards.
Biff and Kim walked out of a fast-food café, with bags of food. "Oh, hold on! I forgot the drinks!" Biff said, handing Kim his bag. "You hop in the Wolf Buggy. I'll be right out."
"Alright," Kim said, carrying the bags in her arms-
A teenage boy with brown hair, hazel eyes, wearing an orange shirt, black jacket, black pants, and a black-and-orange cap with an orange crescent moon on it walked into her just then, causing her to drop the bags. "Oh! Sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going!" he said, rubbing an odd-looking bracelet on his wrist.
"It's alright," she said, picking up the bags… then noticed the boy was tapping his bracelet, his eyes shut as if concentrating. "Um, are you alright?"
"Huh? Oh! Yeah, sorry I just… I was just trying to remember the address I was heading to." he then hurried off. "Gotta go, see ya!"
With that, he shot off.
Kim blinked, a bit taken back, then set the bags in the car and checked her purse to make sure the stranger hadn't taken anything during their collision. He didn't.
Biff was walking out when he noticed the boy run off. "Who was that?" he asked.
Kim shook her head. "I don't know… he acted pretty strange, though." she said. "C'mon, lets get back to the hospital, before we come across another weirdo."
Kasandra had managed to convince Fangs to step outside for some fresh air, Puggsy assuring him he'd be alright long enough for Fangs to take a break- let alone made a remark that he didn't need a bodyguard at his side every minute.
Plus, he wanted to be alone after watching Brielle's video.
Seeing the look of grief on her face, how she felt guilty for what happened to him, and the sincerity in her voice when she said she'd hunt down Vincent herself at the cost of her own life… it all made him ache inside. Sure, he would admit it was her fault for not telling them anything until the very last minute, but that didn't mean she should be going after the maniac alone, especially if he held a grudge against her for her 'betrayal'.
If she really wanted to make it up to us, she'd have just told us where we could find Vincent and give us the pleasure of kicking his ass… and stick around and face the gang rather than take off like a coward. he thought, gripping his covers while looking out the window. If she's not thinking clearly, she's going to end up dead!
A nurse walked in just then. "How are you feeling?" she asked him, checking his chart.
"Fine. When can I get out of here?" he muttered in reply.
The nurse gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry, the doctor said that you'll have to stay another week. They want to run a couple more tests on your heart,"
"WHAT?! I've been in this place for two weeks now, and they've ran several tests on me that proved I was fine!"
Beside him, his heart-monitor was going berserk.
"Sir, please, you're going to have to calm down. The doctors said that if you let your heart rate get too high, I'd have to sedate you."
What kind of hospital IS this?! Puggsy thought, appalled, and sat back. "Send the doctor in. I'd like to share a few choice-words with him,"
"He's busy with another patient right now. I'll see what I can do." The nurse walked out, while Fangs and Kasandra walked in, Biff and Kim right behind them.
"Pugs, is everything alright? You look like you're about to blow your top!" Fangs asked, concerned.
"They're keeping me here for another week, and running more tests," Puggsy grumbled.
"What?! How many tests are they going to have you take?!" Kim demanded.
"I hope one of them is multiple choice," Fangs added, and Puggsy didn't know whether he was making a joke or if it was just his basic stupidity- either way, he gave him a glare.
"I'm going to have a word with the doctor about this. That's outrageous," Biff said, sternly.
"You do that, I'm going to find a doctor who can give a second opinion," Kasandra added, and she and Biff walked out.
Puggsy shook his head, still furious. "Can you believe this? They've done, what a hundred tests on me already, and they're still not satisfied?" he scoffed. "At least YOU guys know I'm alright enough to help search for Brielle,"
"Well… sort of." Fangs said, cringing.
He gave him a sharp look. "What do you mean 'sort of'? You're not agreeing with that quack, are you?"
"No, it's not that, Pugs, I swear! You don't need any more tests, but… um…"
"I think what Fangs is trying to say is, you shouldn't… really come with us this time." Kim said, nervously.
He gave her a shocked yet furious look, yet spoke calmly, which sounded more darker than him shouting. "Say that again, Kim?"
She sighed. "Puggsy, try to understand. You've been shot, and the doctors said it was a miracle you managed to survive, but aren't sure just how stable your heart is, and don't want you going through any excitement or shocks that may cause it to… well, stop, to put it simply."
"You've GOT to be kiddifying me! Kim, if my heart were that weak, I would have died the last time Fangface attacked me! What these doctors don't understand that I've gone through every kind of life-or-death saturation, and I can handle anything life throws at me!"
"Well we can't take that chance!" Fangs snapped, and Puggsy looked, to see that his friend was close to tears. "We nearly lost you once, and until we catch Vincent and his accomplices, I don't want you running off into danger like you always do!"
"I'M the one running off into danger?! As soon as you see the moon, you're running after every kind of creep AFTER pummeling me!"
"That's because I want to stop them before they hurt my friends! (grr)" Fangface seemed to argue through Fangs. "And I've always got you, Biff, Kim, Hunter or anyone else to help back me up! What you did nights ago… (grr) You didn't call for Hunter or me, you were facing Vincent alone, and look what happened- you got shot!"
"He wasn't the one who shot me, Keith was! He was some other accomplice! I told you that! He came out of nowhere, Brielle didn't even see him!"
"If you had called for us before it happened, we could have done something!"
"What, get shot too? You're not exactly good at dodging bullets yourself!"
"Guys, that's enough!" Kim snapped.
"If I did get shot, it would be because I was taking it for you!" Fangs retorted, not listening to Kim, tears coming out of his eyes. "You took a shot for me a long time ago- and you've always been watching my back before then, and still now! I've been trying to find a way to make it up to you… and after nearly losing you… I'm going to make sure it never happens again!"
"Oh, come ON, Fangs! Just because I took a bullet twice, doesn't mean I need looking after! I'm a tough guy!"
"You act like a tough guy… but really… you're just stubborn! You think you can handle everything, but you can't!"
"Can't I? Which one of us always had to come up with ideas to get us out of trouble?!"
"Which one of us had the capability of getting us out of trouble! (grr)" came Fangface again. "Think about it, Pugs- if it weren't for me, you'd never be out of trouble! You'd probably be dead!"
"If it weren't for me, you wouldn't know HOW to get anyone out of trouble-"
"HEY!" Kim shouted, grabbing them both by the shoulders. "That. Is. ENOUGH. Puggsy, you're going home- if you can't deal with the fact that someone has to look after you after a near-death experience, then maybe you're NOT capable of coming with us! We're going to tell the doctors you don't need any more tests, but that's it! I don't want to hear any argument!" She stood up straight. "C'mon, Fangs…"
Fangs stood up, giving Puggsy a cold look, then followed Kim out the door.
Puggsy crossed his arms, his heart-monitor racing wildly, though he tried to keep it under control, since his friends thought 'it couldn't take it'. Treating me like this, claiming I won't make it and ain't capable of all this… he thought, and his eyes fell back on the camera. Now I know how Brielle felt…
One Week Later…
Brielle looked at her watch, it was an hour to noon. She let out a sigh, pulled on her short-sleeved jacket and scarf, then walked out.
She was nervous about meeting Kite- though after the previous company she got involved in, she doubted it could be any worse. Plus, if Matthew was right, and he could help her bring down Vincent and the rest of his hunting group, then she had to trust him.
Yet despite she was growing close to capturing Vincent and paying her dues, she still couldn't shake the depression she developed. A couple times in the past few nights, she even fell asleep crying, yet reminded herself to stay strong.
If you're brave enough to tick off a werewolf and still have a grin on your face after they've attacked, you can handle this. Brielle told herself as she checked out of the hotel, walking out with her hood up, heading to the bridge. However, she still felt that going after Vincent- a man who had taught her how to defend herself and thereby could predict her every move- sounded more dangerous than pushing a werewolf into a pond… especially since the werewolf never killed anyone in his life and was incredibly tame, while the hunter was the one out for blood.
I don't care how dangerous he is, she continued. He's already caused enough pain… as long as I'm standing, he's not going to cause any more.
"Well… I finally managed to reach my aunt and uncle," Kasandra said, sighing a bit. "They've been on a trip to California, and they finally received my messages. They're flying out here to meet with us and discuss our plans on finding Brielle. …Boy, did they sound distraught- at first they thought it was some sick joke, that someone was trying to fool them in order to claim the reward they set up, but once they learned it was their niece calling… well, they were shocked, but relieved."
"So you told them everything?" Biff asked.
"Yeah- and they are FURIOUS. Hearing that their own daughter hasn't contacted them for two years, has been running around the world on her own, working with a maniac, and ended up landing someone in the hospital. From what I can guess, if she's not going to be locked up in jail, she's going to be locked up in her room,"
"Speaking of 'locked up'… is he doing any better today?" Kim asked, referring to Puggsy.
Over the past week, each of them had been taking turns visiting him, and managed to tell the doctors to delay the tests as their friend was doing fine so far and they weren't required, and after asking for a couple more opinions that helped their argument, the tests were called off, though the doctors still advised they keep an eye on him after he's checked out.
During those days, however, their friend remained bitter. "He still won't speak to us," Kasandra sighed.
"I'm scared to take him home…" Fangs admitted.
"Because you think he'll strain himself while we're gone?"
"Worse- he might strangle me while I'm driving him to the airport."
"Well, his flight leaves in two hours… might as well tell him it's time to pack up," Biff said, then turned to Kim. "You go ahead, Kim."
Kim sneered, but walked to the room.
"Guys… you think Brielle is really that bad?" Fangs asked. "I mean… she did sound like she was going through a guilt trip in that video, and she does want to find Vincent and make sure he…"
"She was working with the madman, Fangs, and she took off on her own, and never told us about him ahead of time." Kasandra cut in. "She may be my cousin, but… well, I hate to admit I don't know her that well. She might have been pulling an act, or she may have been serious, but either way we're finding her, and punishment IS going to be waiting for her. SEVERE punishment."
Fangs cringed. "Okay, just asking…"
"I still want to get a lead on this Edwin character," Biff spoke up. "If he has ties with Vincent, why did he help Puggsy?"
"Guys!" came a cry, and Kim came running to them. "Puggsy's room is empty! A nurse said he checked out last night!"
"What?! How could he have gotten out? I was in the waiting room!" Fangs demanded.
"I asked that. She said that you were asleep, but Puggsy gave an alibi that you were taking him home as soon as you woke up,"
"But Fangs would've woken up if he heard Puggsy, right?" Kasandra questioned.
Fangs cringed. "A-Actually… I'm a really heavy sleeper… he probably snuck out-" he admitted, wincing as he slapped his forehead. "I KNEW I should have turned into Fangface!"
"But wouldn't the nurse have spotted him leaving?"
"He probably left when she was out of sight," Biff guessed.
"Well, lets not just stand around yapping! Lets go find the little loudmouthed pipsqueak!" Kasandra said, whipping out a picture of the moon, and soon Hunter and Fangface were back on the scene, howling. "C'mon, guys… we've got a ton of tracking to do and little time to do it!"
With that, they ran out.
It was a quarter till noon, as Brielle stood on the bridge, feeling anxious. A bad feeling had stirred in her gut the moment she left, and she was bracing herself for a sneak-attack from Vincent or Keith, yet had doubts that they would stick around the city, with every cop on the look for them, or perhaps they were laying low somewhere, planning their next move carefully enough to not get spotted. Plus, Kite picked a good place to meet up- the bridge was crowded with traffic, so there would be witnesses in case the hunter or his accomplice could pull anything.
Feeling secure enough, she stared out at the water below, shutting her eyes and slipping into a fantasy.
She imagined being back in Texas, whatever feud her parents had with her aunt and uncle never having occurred, and she was with Kasandra, Martin, and Matthew, all of them driving around down, listening to the tune, "Somewhere Only We Know" by Yellowcard, as they turned down a dirt road, driving up to a lake where they made a campfire, sitting around and cracking jokes, then Martin would find an old tree-rope and swing out into the lake, while Matthew would do a bolder move and dive off one of the branches, daring their sisters to jump in next- provoking Brielle to push Kasandra in, and then jump in after her, all of them splashing and dunking each other until deciding to warm up by the fire. Then they would decide to drive home once it was getting dark out…
…not noticing a truck driving right towards them, blaring its horn-
Brielle snapped out of her fantasy, hearing the truck horn blare as it drove by, passing a car that happened to be driving a couple miles too slow, and she shook her head. Why should I bother thinking about what life could have been like? It's not like it'll ever happen. Matthew is too busy; Kasandra and Martin have their own worries; and I made the mistake of teaming up with a psycho. she told herself. I need to stay focused, otherwise someone might just walk up and-
"Found ya," came a voice. "Huh. That was easy."
She gasped, turning and her heart nearly stopped at who she saw. "K-Keith?! I thought you and Vincent…" she stammered.
"What? Went into hiding? Skipped town? Please. We weren't going anywhere until we were sure you were dead," Keith scoffed, pulling his jacket back far enough to show he was carrying a gun. "We can't have you telling anyone of our whereabouts, or leading anyone to us, can we?"
"Don't even think about it, the streets are crowded, there'll be witnesses!"
Keith laughed. "You think I care about what people see? Vincent is already all over the news, yet he's still out and about… and you know why? People get killed every day. And in big cities like this, murder is just part of the routine. What did you expect? I mean, after all…" he raised his gun, aiming it at her. "I am your 'stalker'."
Before Brielle could make a move, someone already did. "You know, if this is going to be a regular thing with you, I'd find someone who didn't talk so much," Puggsy scoffed, rubbing his fist after knocking Keith's lights out, picking up his gun and throwing it over the edge. "You should've called the cops on this creepo like you said you would."
Her eyes widened. "P-Puggsy? Y-You're alive!" she exclaimed, yet cringed when she saw the bandages wrapped around his abdomen, barely covered by a jacket he was wearing, and noticed he looked a little pale. "…what are you doing here? How did you find me?"
"I was actually trailing Keith, here. I was looking for you this morning when I saw him heading this way, and naturally I followed him in the crowd. Once we got to the bridge, I had to stay back a ways so he wouldn't notice me… but seeing that he was more focused on getting to you, I didn't think it would hurt to hurry up and save your neck- this time for real." he crossed his arms. "Now then… care to explain what gave you the 'brilliant' idea to go after Vincent alone, rather than have my friends and I help?"
"I'm not going after him alone, dumbass- I'm not that stupid."
"What, is your brother going to help? Or maybe that phony doctor, Edwin, you contacted?"
"Sort of… look, I can't tell you much about them. If I did, I would risk my brother's life. …Plus, the reason I didn't want to include you or your friends was because I knew that Vincent would be targeting me if he knew I was alive, and I could draw him away from you and your friends and…" she clenched her fists, trying to force tears back. "I figured they wouldn't want me around… I thought you died."
"Well, since your pal, Edwin, failed to inform you, I'm alive. …And right now, you're coming back with me."
"I can't… I'm meeting someone here- someone who can help us take down Vincent."
"Fine, then I'll meet him too."
Brielle sneered. "Oh, yeah, get yourself involved in MORE danger- you've already been shot twice, maybe the third time's a charm."
"Hey, we've been involved with that psycho before he even called you up. Either way, we're in this together, and despite neither of us like it, we're going to have to deal with it."
"Fine. Whatever. But don't say I didn't warn you,"
Puggsy rolled his eyes. "Like I need a warning,"
Keith had regained consciousness, and slammed into Puggsy, knocking him to the ground. He then lunged at Brielle, gripping her by the throat. "Yeah. I talk too much," he said, sarcastically, then kicked his leg around hers, tripping her and throwing her over the edge! "Have a nice swim!"
"Son of a-" Puggsy grunted, standing up and grabbing him by the shirt collar.
Keith proved to be stronger than he looked, grabbing Puggsy by the jacket and kicking him in the stomach once- twice- three times, before throwing him over the edge next. "Why don't you join her?!"
There were sounds of police sirens just then, and Keith climbed over the edge, maneuvering himself onto the rafters and, seeing an oncoming boat, leaped down and landed on it, hiding underneath tarp to avoid being caught. He then took out a walkie-talkie. "Alright, I've done my part. Stay in position," he said.
What Keith failed to notice was that his two victims didn't hit the water.
Up above the waters, Brielle managed to grab onto the rafters, pulling herself up. Hearing the struggle up above, she managed to move in and catch Puggsy- toppling over as she made the grab, but managed to catch the edge, keeping a hold on Puggsy's jacket, both of them dangling above the water, watching Keith make a getaway.
"Well, this sucks." Puggsy sneered.
"Thanks for the update, Captain Obvious," Brielle scoffed, straining to keep a good grip on him. "(mmf) Listen, not to sound like a jerk, but if you don't get up to one of these beams, my arm's going to fall off,"
"Yeah, yeah, just keep hanging on." Puggsy reached up with his hands, grabbing her arm and swinging his foot onto hers.
"Ow! Hey! Watch it!"
"Stop squirming, will ya?! I'd like to NOT fall five-hundred feet into a freezing river!" he pulled himself up, grabbing onto her shoulders and digging the side of his heel into her side.
"Oof! Well, I'd like to NOT end up back in the hospital, so take it easy- ow, ow, ow, OW! Watch the neck! I said take it easy!"
Puggsy was hanging onto her arm, stepping on her shoulder now, reaching and grabbing the beam. "Relax, I've got it." he pulled himself up, then helped her up.
Brielle rubbed her arm. "Yeesh… I knew I should've taken up heavy-lifting,"
"Ah, shut up. We gotta find a way to get down from here," he looked over, seeing they were not too far from the bank. "Listen, if we're real careful, we can make our way across these beams and over to the end of the bridge, then climb up the hill and make our way to the gang,"
She looked up. "Why don't we just climb up the beams and back onto the walking path?"
"These things are slick, we could fall. Plus, it's basically like a second bridge down here, it would be no different."
"Oh, yeah, walking on slick beams is less hazardous than climbing on them- no difference at all."
"Shut up and get moving," They made their way across the beams. "Maybe if we're lucky, someone will spot us and send a helichopper to get us down,"
"I did hear police sirens on the bridge, you may be right. You sure you don't want to try climbing up?"
"Trust me, I think it would be safer to wal-WHOA!" he slipped, nearly falling over the edge if he didn't catch hold of a beam, holding it tightly and breathing rapidly as he looked down, feeling pain form in his chest as he gripped it.
Brielle arched an eyebrow. "You having a heart-attack or something?"
He gave her a glare. "No… like I said, these things are slick,"
"Yeah, you proved that already. Lets just try climbing up- it's a shorter distance upward than across, and there's a lower chance one of us will lose our footing,"
He sighed. This girl sticks to her opinions, doesn't she? he thought. "Fine… but be careful,"
She scoffed. "Trust me, I've had more challenges- some that required tools to climb. I went hiking in some mountains back in Arizona,"
"Yeah? Well, the gang and I survived a fall from the top of the Grand Canyon,"
"Ever have to outrun a mountain goat?"
"Ever have to outrun a 30-foot tyranosaurasus?"
Brielle rolled her eyes, beginning the climb. "We'll compete in who did the most thrilling things later. Lets just get up there,"
"Right… though I'm ahead in points,"
"Ah, shut up and get climbing!"
They began their trek up the beams, a cold fall wind blowing, making Brielle wish she brought a longer jacket with her, yet didn't let the cold distract her. I really need to start checking the weather advisory, she thought. Ah well… Just a few more feet, we can make it.
"While we're climbing, I want to ask you a few questions," Puggsy spoke up.
"You're honestly going to start interrogating me now?" she questioned.
"Trust me, if I was going to interrogate you, I'd have you strapped to a chair with the werewolves standing by to maul you if you resisted. Just answer my questions," he reached up until he was right next to her. "First (mmf) why didn't you tell us you were working with Vincent when we brought him up, or at least have given us a warning?"
"First of all, I had just met you all that day. What did you want me to say? 'Hey, by the way guys'—(urk)—'I've been secretly working with that maniac who's out to kill you. Want to kill me before or after we find him?' I planned on telling you guys sooner, but I got caught up with hanging out with you guys and it slipped my mind."
"Don't give me that sentimental stuff. You could have said something when Hunter brought it up!"
"Hey, keep in mind, I don't get to hang out with many people! And if you found out some maniac was hunting your cousin, I doubt it would be news to share during a reunion!"
"That still doesn't change the fact that-" he paused. "…Hunter's your cousin?"
Brielle nodded. "That's when I knew for sure that Vincent was the bad guy- I never got to see Hunter since we were kids, but I knew for a fact that her parents wouldn't raise her to fall into the wrong crowd (like I did)."
"Okay, so… why didn't you mention THAT?!"
"Calm down, loudmouth, you're scaring the pigeons. If you were in my position, would you want to tell a family member you got wrapped up in some villain's scheme?"
"I'd tell them everything if I knew someone's life were at stake. Really, you should have thought more about the consequences brought onto others, rather than yourself."
She sneered. "What, you think I only care about myself? Keep in mind, I tried to lead Vincent off to help you guys out, and I'm trying to hunt him down and get rid of him for ya!"
"What about back in the hospital? You left us a video-message, then took off- that wasn't helpful. You could have given us information, or stuck around to face your mistakes maturely, but instead you decided to give us the- SLIP!"
Brielle's foot slipped and she fell, Puggsy catching her scarf. "Urk!" she gagged, quickly grabbing her scarf and unwrapping it from her neck. "(gasp pant) What are you trying to do, hang me?!"
"Just get back on the beams!" Puggsy grunted, trying to pull up the scarf as he felt another pain in his chest.
She began to climb up. "Geez, why is it that every time you're confronting me about our situation, something bad always-"
She gasped, seeing that the scarf had stretched out to its limit and began to tear. "Brielle, hurry!" Puggsy cried.
Quickly as she could, she tried pulling herself up before-
Brielle screamed as she fell down and went crashing into the waves. "Shit! Where's the coast-guard when you need them?!" Puggsy cried, looking around. "Better yet, where are those frickin' cops?!"
He looked down, hoping that she'd resurface… but after a fall that great and the angle she was in when she hit the waves, he knew it was doubtable. He dropped her scarf, turning his body outward so he faced the river, looking down, knowing he had to do something…
I can't believe I'm doing this… he griped in his head, then leaped, diving downward, wind rushing against his face, making his eyes water with the stinging coldness it brought, until he made contact with the water.
Cold, cold, cold, cold, freezifying! were his next thoughts once he was under water, and the pain in his chest intensified as he curled his body, letting out a grunt but resumed holding his breath, getting his mind off the coldness and the pain as he searched the murky water for any signs of Brielle. I knew it was a bad idea to climb… he thought as he looked around, finally seeing a shape of a body floating upwards by one of the supporting beams, and he quickly swam over-
He heard an underwater *thunk!*, seeing that she hit her head on the underside of an old cement outcrop, and with the propulsion of the current, and the way bubbles poured out of her mouth as her body fell limp, he know it was hard enough to knock her out. That girl keeps getting herself hurt left and right! What happened to the independent chick who took on two brutes in an arcade? he wondered as he quickly swam over, grabbing her around the waist and breaking surface, breathing in the cold air.
"Y-You… s-so… o-owe… m-me…" he stammered from the cold, draping her arms around his neck as he swam towards the shore, 30 feet away. "…B-big t-time!"
After what seemed like an hour, but took twenty minutes, they made it to a muddy bank, and he lied her on the ground. She didn't appear to be breathing, and looked pale. Why me? Puggsy thought, knowing what he had to do. He folded her arms over her head, pressed on her abdomen, then- taking a deep breath- leaned in to give her CPR…
"Bring those lips any closer, and you'll be meeting Jesus Christ in person," she muttered, her hand suddenly on his face and holding him back.
"Gah!" he cried, jumping back. "You're conscious?!" he gave her a glare. "How long have you've been awake?"
"Oh, I'd say for the last… 29 feet or so."
He gawked at her. "WHY didn't you SAY ANYTHING?!"
She rubbed her finger in her ear. "Sheesh, pipe down, you're making me go deaf. I'm not that good a swimmer and figured you wouldn't want to be slowed down… plus, I probably kept you warm via body-heat in the water."
He clenched his fists. "Why I oughtta- That's it. We're going straight to the police, and as soon as we find my friends, you're going to… agh!" he clutched his chest, falling on his hands and knees, taking in a deep breath.
Brielle kneeled beside him. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine! Just… urgh…"
She gave him a concerned look, suddenly feeling sick. "It's your heart, isn't it? You weren't allowed to leave, were you?"
He gave her a sharp look. "My heart… is fine."
She shook her head. "Don't give me that crap. We're getting you back to the hospital, something's wrong with you-"
"NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ME! Will you and everyone else just stay off my case already?! I don't need looking af— urk!" he doubled over just then, holding his chest, breathing hard, wincing as the pain increased enough that he could barely move.
"Calm down, you're going to kill yourself!" Brielle lied a hand on his shoulder. "Just lie still and relax…"
"Leave me alo- ergh…"
"Shut it. The more stubborn you act, the worse it'll get."
He took deep breaths, glaring at her, then shut her eyes, figuring if he didn't look at her, it would help him calm down a little more. Why do I always get myself mixed up in these sort of things? he griped.
Brielle stayed next to him, looking back up at the bridge, seeing police cards parked by the edge, a few witnesses of Keith's display telling them what happened she saw, and wondered if Kite were up there, let alone wondered when someone would send a frickin' helicopter or boat to search for them, as it had already been up to an hour… the most she saw was a simple fishing boat, coming their way, and figured she could wave down the fishermen and get a lift.
She also wondered if the rest of Puggsy's friends would show up, possibly searching for him- after remembering how he once told her Fangs/Fangface went everywhere with him, and figured, with the condition he was in, they wouldn't let him wonder off alone.
He must have taken off on his own, too. She thought, glancing at him as he steadied his breathing. And he criticized my intentions. What a hypocrite.
She couldn't really bring herself to criticize him, however, after seeing the pain he was in, and knew that a large percent of it was caused by her. "I won't run off again," she sighed after fifteen, maybe twenty minutes of silence. "I'll stick around with you, and help you guys out…"
"So, you want to stay together? I believe we can allow that,"
Brielle turned, seeing a group of strange men coming towards them, throwing a sack over her head as she gasped. "Brielle!" Puggsy cried, being grabbed the moment he sat up, a sack being thrown over his head next, as he and Brielle were shoved down the shore and onto the fishing boat Brielle had noticed, and both of them were thrown into a crate. He tore the bag off his head. "Let us-"
*Slam!* The lid was slammed shut, cutting him off, his shouts muffled.
One of the men, a dark-skinned man with a crow-tattoo on his arm, pulled out a walkie-talkie. "Dark Crow to Keith. We've managed to catch two of those meddling kids," the man, Dark Crow, said.
"Good. Ship them out to a pier 150 miles north of your position. They'll be handled from there, while we take care of the rest of their friends," Keith replied.
"You want us to kill them now?"
"Nah… keep them locked up in that crate for a few days, and they'll be dead soon enough. In the meantime, keep an eye out for this 'Edwin' fellow- my father said he's been a nuisance in our operations, and has reasons to believe he has connections to Kite."
"Yes, sir." Dark Crow put away the walkie-talkie, then turned to his lackeys. "Alright, men, we're heading north! Haul the crate below deck! …and don't handle it with care, ha ha."
"Aye, captain!" one of the men shouted.
Inside the crate, Puggsy and Brielle were pounding on the lid. "It's no use, they've sealed it shut," Brielle began to gasp, holding her chest. "I can't stand tight spaces… I'm getting claustrophobia!"
"Calm down, this is no time to catch closet-phobia!" Puggsy snapped. "We'll just have to think of a way out of here, find a weak point and slam against it as hard as we-"
*Ka-clunk! Thunk! Thud!*
"Ow!/Oof!/Ugh!/Agh!" they both cried as the crate was 'rolled' across the deck.
Their heads slammed together, and they both blacked out.
Biff, Kim, Fangface and Hunter drove across the bridge, still on their search for Puggsy. "Alright, Stutz, thanks…" Kim sighed, hanging up her cell phone. "Stutz didn't see him anywhere."
"Luca said he's been looking all over after school, but didn't spot him either." Biff said. "He probably went to the other side of the bay. …I'm really worried,"
"You're worried? Imagine what his mom is going to be like when we tell her!" Hunter exclaimed. "She'll be no different than Brie's parents, that's for sure."
"Ooh, ooh, you think they're worried?! I'm a wreck too! (grr)" Fangface said, close to a nervous breakdown. "I make a promise to watch after my best buddy, and I blow it! I'll never forgive myself if something bad happens to him! I can't stand picturing him out there, wounded, lost, alone… what if he's been mugged?! Or worse, what if Vincent caught him?! Or-"
Hunter grabbed him by the shoulders. "Fangface! Get a grip! I'm sure that he's alright. We'll find him,"
"Okay… you're right… I hope we find him soon. As soon as I see him, I'm going to hug him tight… (grr) then throw him in the bay for running off! Then I'll fish him out and hug him again, then chew him out for going out looking for trouble! (grr)"
Hunter leaned over towards Biff. "Better step on it, Biff… he's starting to get bipolar."
"I don't think I'll be able to. Look!" Biff replied, pointing ahead seeing some squad cars by the bridge, along with the coast-guard. They pulled up to the side, stepping out. "Officer, what's going on?"
"Some lunatic teenager attacked a young girl. Some other boy knocked him out and started talking to the girl, when suddenly the maniac regained consciousness and threw them over the bridge. Our research team has been scouring the water for signs of them for the past six hours,"
Biff gulped, thinking the worse. "What did they look like?"
"The girl was about five-feet with blonde hair, the boy was the same height with black hair and stocky, and the lunatic had brown hair and wore all-black." he held up a back of evidence. "The most we've found was this torn scarf the girl was seen with, this gun, and this gray fedora."
"No…" Kim gasped, covering her mouth as tears formed in her eyes.
The officer gave them concerned looks. "Did you know one of them?"
"The girl was my cousin… and the boy with the fedora was our friend," Hunter replied, tears running down her face.
"Do you know who the culprit was?"
"No… but, we may have an idea," Biff said, darkly.
"I see. Would you come with me for questioning? It may help our case,"
Biff and Kim walked with the officer first, while Hunter stayed with Fangface, who was looking over the edge, in complete despair. "Fangface…?" the she-wolf asked, quietly.
"I'm going to kill him." Fangface growled, gripping the edge so tightly that, with his super-strength, he bent the metal. "The moment we see Vincent, the moment I see the white of his eyes… I'm going to kill him! (snarl)"
Hunter took a step back, noticing Fangface's eyes were practically glowing red with anger… yet she didn't blame him. Because of the werewolf hunter and his accomplices, her beau had lost his best friend, and was now on the verge of killing the maniac and whoever helped him…
Including Brielle, she figured.
Brielle, if you managed to stay alive, you'd better try to steer clear from us. Hunter thought, bitterness welling up inside her. Because if you're dumb enough to come near us after what you've caused, you'll be dead on the spot.
"Excuse me, are you two Fangface Fangsworth and Hunter Bickerson?" came a voice, and the werewolves turned to see a boy with brown, messy hair, hazel eyes, wearing a black jacket and black-and-orange cap- the same boy who had bumped into Kim earlier!
"Yes… who are you?" Hunter replied, arching an eyebrow.
"I'm a friend of your cousin, Matthew. I was supposed to meet with Brielle at noon here on this bridge, fifteen minutes before that lunatic attacked her and your friend. When I came by and learned about it, I've been doing my own investigation, and felt I should inform you of what I found out,"
Hunter and Fangface looked at each other, then gave suspicious glances at the stranger. "Why should we trust you?"
"Yeah, how do we know you're not another accomplice to Vincent?" Fangface sneered.
The boy looked out the corner of his eye, seeing the moon beginning to peek out through the clouds. "Well, there's one way I can prove it to you…"
Biff and Kim had just finished telling the officer everything they knew, when they heard an unexpected sound.
They thought it was Fangface at first, howling in despair, but when they looked over, they knew that their case had taken an interesting turn.
"Hello. I'm Kitefang," The new werewolf said in introduction.