The Warning Shot was Heard too Late
"C'mon boys, it's time for bed," Thatch whispered softly as he led Sabo and Ace to their bedroom. Behind him, Law was walking slowly with Luffy in his arms, the baby on the verge of sleeping but still gurgling contentedly, his fingers gripping Law's pajamas tightly.
"But Thatch, I dun' wanna go to bed!" Sabo whined, tugging on the adult's arm.
"Sabo, it's getting late for you. It's already an hour past your bedtime. I let you stay up because it's Friday, but now it's bedtime," Thatch strictly, yet gently, told the child. Sabo made a sound of protest from the back of his throat and looked like he was about to throw a tantrum. Thatch sighed and kneeled down, pushing Ace to the bedroom and motioning for Law to follow the ten year old. He then faced the blond child completely, holding both of his small hands gently in his own larger, calloused pair. "I guess you're not a big boy then."
Sabo's eyes widened, a frown forming on his face as he gasped softly. "No! I'm a big boy! I can already count to twenty!"
"Maybe you can do that," Thatch replied, purposefully not looking at Sabo and acting very disappointed. "But big boys know when it's time to go to bed. They know that to become even bigger, they need lots of sleep. I guess you'll be a little boy forever," As Thatch made to stand, he was stopped by Sabo's hands gripping his own tightly.
"No! I'll go to bed, I'll go to bed, I wanna be the biggest boy ever!"
Thatch laughed. "I'm sure you'll be one of the biggest boys around!" He picked up the boy in a striped pajama onesie and spun him in a circle quickly before heading down to the bedroom the three youngest shared.
Luffy had already been placed in his crib and was already fast asleep. Ace was in his bed, back to the other people in the room and curled up in the corner of his bed. Thatch's face relaxed into a neutral expression. Law, who had been standing by Luffy's crib, looked at his eyes. His eyes contained a sorrow that Law couldn't understand, but he had seen it several times before. The look in his eyes was one that spoke of terror, grief, heartbreak, and protectiveness.
Silently, Sabo crawled underneath the covers of his bed. He yawned and rubbed at his eyes before snuggling further into his pillow. Thatch smoothed the child's hair down before he whispered a soft "Good night" to the child. He turned around and followed Law out of the room, turning the light off before closing the door with barely a sound.
Law began to walk the short distance to his room. He was stopped abruptly by a hand grasping his arm. He turned around, eyes meeting Thatch's. The man was looking at him with the same emotions he had been looking at Ace with not even two minutes ago, but now they held a determination in them that was previously nonexistent.
Thatch led the boy down the hall and into the kitchen. Law, already understanding what was happening to some extent, stepped forward to sit down. Thatch walked over to the fridge and opened it, its light illuminating the dimly light room with a sharp glow. He pulled out something – from the sound of it, it was probably a beer – and went to sit at the table, sitting across from Law. He took a swig out of the container and set it down on the table before leaning his chin on his hand.
"Should you really be drinking at a time like this?" Law inquired the older man. Thatch let out a bitter chuckle.
"Don't worry. Marco will be home in two minutes and besides, I've fought plenty of times drunk." He took another drink, his Adam’s apple bobbing with the movement. When he was done, he slammed the now half full container on the wooden surface of the kitchen table. "Besides, I don't think I can be sober and sane right now."
Law said nothing, staring at the grainy wooden surface of the table. It was yet another object he had helped Smoker buy. It had a few stains of the bottoms of cups on it. Maybe Law should've cleaned the table when asked…
"What happened to Ace, Law?"
There was a pencil on the table, along with several other papers. Homework that Law had been working on. He grabbed the pencil and stood it up vertically on the table, eraser against the wood. He began to twirl it against the surface.
"Law, I know something happened two days ago. You and Ace have been acting different ever since Marco came back from getting groceries…did someone threaten you two?"
Law wondered if it was possible to erase the ring marks on the table. He lazily began trying to do so, ignoring the fact that he was getting eraser shavings all over the table.
"Law, please, we need to know if-"
"We haven't been threatened, but you don't need to know what happened."
"Then," Thatch began, lifting the can of beer and slurping down some more before removing the can from his lips and leaning it against his forehead. "Can you tell me why every time you look at Ace, you look at him like he's going to break?"
Law's movements stopped without him noticing. Thatch immediately noticed and remained silent, eyes boring into the young teen, hoping to get some answers out of him –
And of course then the door opened.
Marco walked into the kitchen and Law took that as his opportunity to stand and walk out of the room. Thatch quickly stood and reached his hand out. "Law, wait," He half protested, half pleaded, but the teenager left the room quickly. A door was heard creaking as it closed not even three seconds later. Thatch lowered his hand and inhaled deeply.
"Did I walk in at the wrong time?" Marco asked, a guilty look in his eyes as he looked down the hall where Law had disappeared into his room.
"No, you didn't. He just ran too quickly."
[You are Logged on as: Sinner]
[Scales has Logged On]
[Flic has Logged On]
Sinner: Have you been able to get any information out of the cop?
Scales: he isnt sayin nothing
Sinner: How long can you keep the cops at bay?
Flic: You have a while to go still.
Scales: whyre they snooping around then?
Flic: They won't be going near you again, I promise!
Sinner: You better hope they don't, otherwise I'll rip out your tongue and force it down your own throat.
Sinner: Leave us be or you won't get your share.
[Flic has Logged Off]
Scales: We know where Ace is
Sinner: Then why don't you have him yet?
Scales: Scaring him first. He needs punishment
Sinner: As long as I get him again. He has vital information.
Scales: It seems he hasn't told anyone any of that information.
Sinner: It doesn't matter! He still knows!
Scales: I'd be more concerned if I knew what he actually knows
Sinner: Are you defying me?
Scales: I'm not your underling, you pig, we're partners in this
Sinner: I've set up this whole operation, not you. I took you in because you were weak but determined. Do not forget that.
Scales: Don't forget that I've saved you plenty of times
Sinner: Do you want to lose your sanity? I can make it happen with the snap of my fingers, or would you like the firing squad to come after you?
Sinner: Then NO MORE QUESTIONS! Just make sure you get that child, and get him ALIVE!
Three men were standing around in a supermarket, in one of the aisles devoid of people that night at ten. There were a few stragglers in the store, mostly looking at frozen pizzas, sodas, and desserts. The cashiers and clerks were few in number, maybe four or six in total, it was difficult to tell, but most people were home for the night.
The three men were talking in the vegetable aisle. Only one of them had any sort of food in their hand, and he was only holding a pack of burgers.
One of the men's phones began to ring. It was the man holding the burgers. His two companions said some quick words and then they began to walk off in the direction of the snack aisle. The man holding burgers waved them off and walked to the cash register.
The cashier seemed bored at first. The man was still talking on the phone when he took out his card. He didn't notice the cashier stare at it a little too long, he didn't notice the look in the cashier's eyes when he was handed his bag of burgers.
He walked nonchalantly outside and halfway to his car, the conversation with the person on the other end of the phone ended. He hung up, whistling as he approached his vehicle.
And then he was grabbed.
A hand covered his mouth as he was pulled back, into some sort of automotive – a truck he believed, a pick up – and yanked onto the back seat of it. A bag was placed over his head by one set of hands and then another took over, pinning him to the seat. The door slammed shut and even though they were muffled, he screamed his protests through the bag and the hands over his mouth still.
He struggled, but quickly realized the man on top of him was heavier and stronger than him. He gave up, breathing in and out quickly.
His boss was going to fucking kill him.
He only knew it was the next day because someone said the day was Thursday and it was around three in the afternoon. He wondered where he was and why it took so long to get him to wherever he was.
"Here he is."
The man was tossed to the ground harshly. He landed with a thud, his head hitting the ground quite hard. It elicited a pained groan from him.
A new pair of hands – smaller yet just as strong, less calloused yet just as firm – yanked the bag off of his head. He realized now that someone had tied his hands behind his back because even though he tried to move them, it wasn't working. It just made moving painful.
He finally opened his eyes – since when had he opened them – and his mouth instantly gaped. He was probably in the worst position a subordinate to his boss could ever be in.
"I see you know who I am," The gruff voice of the giant in front of him observed. "Now tell me," here he paused for a smaller person, dressed in green, white, and black and wielding a knife, to step out and approach the bound man. "What do your men want with Ace?"
Well, he was officially screwed.
Smoker was heaving heavily. He was sitting in the center of his cell, his arms resting on his legs and his head hanging between the four appendages like a dead weight on his neck.
His back was a mess, full of marred skin, pulsing wounds, and drying blood. His whole body was covered in sweat, his hair was a matted mess and filled with dirt, blood, dust, and sweat. His palms were heavily bruised and they bled slightly from when he clenched his fists so hard they made crescent shaped cuts in the tough skin.
The door opened, slamming against the door. Smoker didn't bother to lift his head. He didn't have the energy to do so. At this point he was trying to conserve as much of his energy as possible since they weren't giving him much to sustain himself, maybe a glass of water a day with three pieces of bread.
The footsteps, which had stomped over with rage, stopped in front of his door. The person was huffing, as if they had run here as fast as their legs could take them. The large man's shadow covered Smoker's body. He still didn't move.
"All of your efforts are going to go to waste."
Smoker didn't speak, instead licking some of his own dried blood from his lips. He forgot about that. He lost one of his teeth a few days ago. When he got out he'd have to get a fake one.
Fists slammed on the bars. Smoker decided to spare the man a glance.
"You know, you were really good at keeping information, and your friends were quite good at keeping us at bay, but it was all futile. We know exactly how to get little Acey to come with us."
Smoker's lip twitched. The man grinned.
"Ah, that's got your attention, doesn't it? Well, you shouldn't worry too much. You'll see him in here tomorrow. Just thought I should tell you you're going to be in the front row for his execution."
The man left, cackling, not noticing Smoker's head was turning to follow him out the door, his eyes glowering with the fury of an elephant mother watching it's babies. His fists clenched and his teeth gritted against one another.
Smoker brought his fist down to the ground beneath his legs, the sound of the chains hitting cement floor loud.
The room was lit by only the screen of a computer and a desk lamp sitting next to it on an old, worn out desk in the corner of the room. The lampshade was purple and thus the light of the bulb that spread throughout the room had a purple tinge to it.
There was a sound pattern in the room.
Taptaptaptaptaptaptap, click, click, taptaptap, click, taptaptaptaptaptap, clickclick, click, click, click.
Next to the keyboard was a mug. The mug was purple save for the words painted in calligraphy next to the handle: Robin Nico. Dark blue eyes read quickly over the screen. Long black locks were pulled up into a bun on top of Robin's head. A headband kept her bangs out of the way, though it didn't stop a few stray bangs from falling over her forehead.
"This isn't making any sense," The woman murmured to herself. The sound of her typing and clicking stopped. She paused for a second and then quickly grabbed her notebook from next to her computer. She took the pen she had set at the top of the keyboard and quickly brought it to the surface of the paper. She scribbled down notes without looking at the paper as she stared at the words of the article on the screen.
She brought up a hand and quickly switched to another tab, writing down some more notes. Her eyes scrutinized the words and pictures, trying to understand something she knew was obvious yet still eluded her.
"I'm missing something. Something vital," She berated herself quickly. She sat still for a second before she stood quite loudly, the chair on wheels she was sitting on being pushed away by the force and speed at which she moved. She swiftly turned, walking to the wall on the wall opposite that which the desk was leaning against.
The wall was covered in clippings: newspaper articles, photos, interview transcriptions, headlines, screenshots of security footage –
"What am I missing?" She brought her fist up to her mouth and bit lightly at her knuckles, her nerves on fire. She was on the brink of a discovery, one that could save the rest of the city from a whole bunch of pain, but she was missing a key element.
"Why do they want Ace dead?"
She stared long and hard, the only sound in the room coming from outside the window, when suddenly it hit her. Her eyes widened and Robin spun back to the computer, barely managing to sit on her chair as she typed frantically. Her fingers moved at the speed of light, typing and clicking through various search engines and websites and "return" buttons, until finally she found it.
And it was exactly as she dreaded.
"Ace," Her voice came out raspy and silent as she stared in horror at the article before her. Her eyes scanned over the headlines and the pictures. And then they widened in terror.
Today was Thursday. Robin had stayed home to help the police figure this out.
She turned around and looked at the date on the board.
It was the exact date that she had found hacking through websites, the date that supposedly they would get back their information.
Robin ran out the door in her pajamas and slippers, sprinting to her car, but she couldn't care less about her appearance if it meant that she could save an innocent child's life.