Bili was being held prisoner by Black Shirt, though it appeared he was not hurting her at the moment. I knew that at any time they could kill us both, especially me, because apparently I was the only human in the room. I was trying to deal with the pain and mentally process the situation I was in. I was not having much luck on either front.
The feeling of total helplessness is like no other. It has to be one of the worst kinds of fear. Being at the whim of a psychopath, who undoubtedly could care less if you lived or died, makes for a fairly shitty situation.
“You idiots better think about what are doing. If you think you can do something like this and just waltz outta here you are dumber than you look, and trust me, you look du-” Bili couldn’t finish before black shirt punched her square in the mouth.
“Sorry sweetheart, you were saying?″ Black shirt said as Bili dropped to the ground. He helped her up slowly by grabbing a handful of hair as Bili wiped the blood away from a quickly healing cut on her cheek.
I didn’t know what was more amazing. The fact that Bili could take shots from a guy this huge or the fact that I had just saw a large cut on Bili’s face heal in seconds. If I wasn’t in so much pain I would assume this was all a dream.
As soon as Bili was upright her defiance continued.
“I was saying that you two rocks are -”
Another boxer style punch to Bili’s face, then another to her stomach. She fell to her knees coughing and spitting blood onto the floor. He was not taking into account that she was female and half his size at all. The punches landed with a sickening thud that made me wince with sympathy pain. Though she was showing a tough exterior, he had to be hurting her.
“I was told you might be a handful. Linda is it?”
“Leave her alone! I will tell you anything you want to know, please stop hurting her.” I yelled.
Franklin shut me up, and quick. A solid back hand to my face caused my head to whip back. I think I felt the orbital bone around my left eye shatter. Another cut opened and blood trailed into me eye and down my cheek.
Other than the beating, they acted as though I wasn’t even there. All conversation was directed to Bili. Franklin held me as casual as a normal person would hold a broom stick and it was obvious I was hardly worth acknowledging.
I was scared beyond reason, but seeing the abuse Bili was taking at the hands of this predator was making me angry. Though I was truly scared out of my wits, the anger was building somewhere inside me.
I felt a fever begin to take over my entire body. I was having a hard time focusing with my shattered arm and the lack of blood to my brain. It felt like the muscle was the only thing keeping my splintered arm remotely straight. Luckily Franklin would adjust his grip every so often and allow some blood flow or I would have passed out long before.
“They are looking for Theo.” Bili said looking at me briefly, and then she turned to black shirt. “Isn’t that right genius?” Bili said.
Bili she regained her footing again and stared right into the eyes of Black Shirt, showing no signs that she was scared. It was amazing.
“See Franklin? Not all leeches are complete idiots. Tell us where he is, as well as his friend from Ireland, and we’ll be on our way.”
“So, after I tell you what you want to know, you leave us alone? Just like that?” Bili could not have sounded more sarcastic or condescending if she tried. That’s saying a lot.
“Yes. Well, one-arm here is coming with us of course. But you can go back to your normal pathetic life and go on doing whatever it is your kind do.”
What did these guys want with me? I’m nobody.
Then something struck me. I don’t know why, but something Viki had said to me on our first date popped in my head.
You are far from normal Jack
Did Viki know something about all of this?
“And I suppose you just want to talk to Theo, right?” The question came out completely rhetorical and with an added look that Bili had perfected.
“Our business with Theo is none of your concern. Consider yourself lucky you are not part of our business.”
“I feel pretty lucky, but none the less I am going to have to call bullshit on everything you just said. I have a fairly decent lie detector, or didn’t your trainer teach you that? And you’re not taking Jack anywhere dipshit.”
The way Bili said that almost made me believe her.
“We are done with this conversation.” The Black Shirt said softly, but with an irritated tone, as he looked over at his friend.
Within a fraction of a second Franklin grabbed me by the shoulder and squeezed. My collar bone collapsed under his grasp and it sounded like a large celery stalk being crushed.
There was no delayed reaction to the pain this time. It was powerful and severe. I was shaking from the pain and agony. Saliva was dripping from my mouth as I tried to stifle my scream.
“Stop this! I know you assholes were sent here by someone else and obviously have no idea who he is. You are making a grave mistake. Let him go and I will talk.” Bili said.
She had lost all of her sarcasm and she pleaded with them. He eyes were still furious, but she was attempting to regain herself for my sake.
Bili remained silent as she looked at me with worry. She knew what was coming.
Franklin grabbed my other arm, above the elbow this time.
I was now as helpless as a newborn baby. It was as if I had been in a head on collision going 80 mph with no seat belt. It was at this point that I knew I was going to die. I could no longer even cry out. Franklin was the only thing keeping me from crumbling to the ground in a pile of immobile flesh and crushed bones. Tears streamed down my face as I looked up at Bili. I wanted to see a friendly face before I died.
Franklin didn’t waste much time before he smashed my knee, which buckled instantly in a grotesque position. I could no longer stand on my own and I literally hung from his grip. The overwhelming pain was sensory overload and my body went numb. I had reached my limit and began to wish for the end. There was nothing left in me. I was crushed emotionally and physically. Death was by far the best option.
Then I heard it.
A sound came out of Bili that I had never heard before, anywhere, by anything.
It was a sound I would have never thought possible from a full grown tiger, let alone a young pretty female. It shocked me enough to regain a short burst of clarity.
Bili went for the throat of Black Shirt quick as lightning and caught him by surprise. She was able to take a bite out of his neck and draw blood, but the creature was just too big and powerful for her. He pulled her off before she was able to do any real damage. The wound didn’t heal as fast as Bili’s, but it wasn’t far behind.
He grabbed her by the neck and hit her in the face with a punch that appeared to be with all of his power. I knew Bili was not going to be able to handle much more of this. We were both going to die and there was nothing either of us could do about it.
The last punch sent Bili to the ground at my feet with a thud. Black shirt quickly grabbed her by the throat and picked her off the ground with one hand. Bili’s feet were a good 30 inches from the floor as black shirt looked directly into her eyes with unbridled anger.
“Last chance whore. That’s right, I know all about you. Where…is...Theodorus?” He growled slowly and deliberately.
Bili moved her head ever so slightly in the tight grasp of black shirt’s hand trying desperately to look at me. The defeated look in Bili’s eyes said it all. I could see the sadness as she could only silently mouth the words I’m sorry while in the grip of this madman. She had done everything she could to save my life, but ultimately to no avail.
I stared at Bili with tears in my eyes and blood running down my face. I knew what was coming. I wanted it to come.
As I hung my head, silently begging for it to end quickly, I felt something.
The burning sensation that started inside my gut earlier was back and it began to spread. It was intensifying at a steady rate. It doubled then it doubled again. It became so acute that the pain in my arms, shoulder, and leg had disappeared in an instant. I had, for some unknown reason, regained a clear mind. The burning was now racing through my veins and into all of my extremities. No pain, no fear, just a silent controlled rage spread throughout my entire body. I was seconds from death, I knew I was, but now I felt…different, very different.
My eyes opened wide and began to dart from the ground, to our attackers, then to Bili.
She looked at me and her once somber face turned into a devilish grin. She slowly averted her gaze from me back to black shirt I couldn’t believe what I saw. Bili was now smiling at him, and just like that, the Bili I knew was back and defiant as ever.
Though my entire body was surging with this unknown rejuvenation, I felt specific and strange sensation on my left foot, as if warm water had slowly leaked into my sock and shoe. I looked down the best I could while still being held by Franklin’s iron arms and a realization washed over me like a tsunami wave.
The sadness in Bili’s eyes wasn’t because she was hurt and possibly facing death, though we both very much were. It was something else entirely. Something I think I was just starting to actually believe and understand. Though impossible, there was no other possible explanation.
Bili had bitten me on the ankle, just above my shoe. The dark color of my sock had disguised the wound and blood, just enough that our attackers did not appear to notice. Not to mention she accomplished this with lightning speed when she was knocked to the ground at my feet. I never saw or felt a thing.
A change was underway, and a rapid one.
Within seconds I could feel the bones in my arms set and heal. The collar bone popped back into place with perfect precision, then my knee. I could actually feel my teeth harden and maybe even grow a fraction. I had that feeling in my jaw like I had just blown up a thousand tiny balloons. Every muscle fiber in my once skinny frame began to swell and tighten like stretched piano strings. The simultaneous feeling of euphoria and fury flushed over me as Franklin still held me by the neck. The once immovable force of his hand on me suddenly felt like a playful grabbing of a high school friend.
The smile on Bili’s face enraged Black Shirt and he was about to unload on Bili when she spoke.
“Okay. You guys win”. Bili Said. “I will tell you where they are. It’s not far from here.”
“Where?” Black Shirt said. He was obviously at the end of his patience and about to ends this conversation soon.
“It’s an Antique warehouse in Detroit, near the Amtrack station, but getting there is a complicated. That being said I need to ask you a question.”
“What?” Black shirt growled.
“If you were to get on a train in Ann Arbor and its traveling at 60 miles per hour.” Then she looked at Franklin. “And you were to get on another train in Gross Point traveling at 80 miles per hour, and the distance between the two is 71 miles, tell me this? Which one of you two fucking morons is dumbest?”
Bili looked black shirt straight in the eyes with all the hatred and contempt she could muster and spit in his face.
Black shirt was so enraged his face went almost purple.
He slammed her body against the hard floor with all his might, causing Bili to lose consciousness for a split second before coming to.
I knew exactly what Bili was doing.
Bili, who I thought was the coldest and most uncaring individual in the world, was now risking her life to save mine. I had no time to ponder any questions at the moment, as every thought and sense was now focused on this ongoing change.
I don’t know how I knew this, but I did. I was seconds away from becoming just like Bili. This was not a dream. I was now something else. It was the only logical explanation. What I knew as impossible only moments ago, was now an absolute certainty. My new senses and clarity were providing all kinds of answers and options.
After Bili hit the floor black shirt began to kick her over and over. She was trying to protect herself as best she could, but the blows were connecting with horrific regularity. Then I saw the look in black shirt’s eyes.
“I’ve had it with you bitch! Say goodnight!” Black shirt said as he slowly raised his large black boot into the air, about to stomp on Bili’s head as she lay helplessly on the ground.
Seeing the grin on Franklin’s face, along with the beating Bili was taking, ignited my already burning fury like a powder keg.
The change was complete.
Franklin sniffed, as if he just realized a change in my scent. He looked into my eyes and saw something he did not like. His smile left, abruptly.
“What the hell...” Franklin started to say.
Before Franklin could finish or make a move I broke his grip and charged black shirt before he could kill Bili. I had no plan other than to hit this son of a bitch as hard and fast as I could. I lowered my shoulder and with a speed I didn’t have time to appreciate or comprehend, I hit him square in the chest. I sent him flying into the air and his body crashed into a cast iron coat rack before hitting the wall. One of the hooks pierced the back of his shoulder and came out the front part of his upper chest.
Bili stood up, shook off her beating, and didn’t hesitate a second before attacking Franklin. Franklin must have been stunned by what had just happened that he failed to react until it was too late. Bili kicked Franklin between the legs so hard he came off his feet. No matter what powers he possessed it was not enough to keep him from doubling over in agony. Bili followed up with a knee to the face that knocked him on his back and semi unconscious.
Black shirt was awkwardly trying to pull the rack from his body, while Franklin was trying to put his nose back in the correct position.
Even with Franklin and Black shirt stalled temporarily, a fight with them was too risky. We both knew it.
“Let’s go!” She said.
I followed Bili to the back and we headed for the rear door I didn’t use earlier. As Bili got closer to the door she didn’t slow to open it. She did the exact opposite. She sped up, lowered her shoulder, and shattered it off the hinges in an explosion of splintered wood and metal fittings.
Seeing what Bili was truly capable of was truly amazing.
We entered the alley at a full sprint, but Franklin and black shirt were now giving chase. The speed we were traveling was incredible and I marveled at my own abilities.
We rounded the first corner, temporarily out of sight from our friends, when I heard Bili say, “Keep going, I’ll catch up.”
Bili slowed to a stop, grabbed a barrel of something that was behind one of the restaurants, and threw it behind us in the path of our pursuers. When it hit the pavement the dark black liquid burst from the barrel and covered the alley from end to end. They made the turn and didn’t see the greasy substance until it was too late. Black shirt hit the cement, back first, and slid into series of large full garbage containers, which brought him to an abrupt stop. Franklin was able to keep upright only moments longer before falling face first and sliding into the same garbage stock pile.
If black shirt wasn’t happy before, he was furious now. Bili had not only out-smarted him, but made him look foolish.
Bili caught up, just as she said she would.
My goodness the speed.
It didn’t take long for the two to recover, but we still had a fair lead. The alley came to an end and the only way out was a smaller alley that opened only to the right. We had to take it.
“If we can get some distance on them after the turn we might be able to lose them in a vacant building two blocks up.” Bili said.
“Right behind you.” I said, surprised I was able to talk while running so fast.
Bili was in front of me and as soon as we came to the nearing alley she jumped to the left and sprung off the brick wall like a cat and was able to maintain a good speed down the alley way. I followed suit.
The less agile bulky monsters were not as graceful and lost more distance in the turn.
I felt like we might actually get away. That was until I looked ahead and saw a lone figure standing directly in front of us. A very large figure.
My new sense of smell and instincts told me instantly that he was the same as Franklin and black shirt, whatever that may be.
This was bad.
We were lucky to get away the first time, but three of them would put a quick end to this fight, especially from the looks of this one. We were at huge disadvantage now.
“It’s Him.” I heard Franklin say from about fifty yards behind us. My old ears wouldn’t have heard a thing. Now it was as if he was whispering in my ear while in a quiet library.
Both Franklin and Black Shirt gained quite a bit of ground as Bili and I slowed down before this towering man.
Though I was not sure of it, I sensed hesitation and fear in Franklin’s voice. It didn’t make sense. Why would he be afraid of his own kind?
Bili slowed down to a walk and approached the roadblock of a man without any hesitation. I was a few steps back, and if this was it, I guess we would go down fighting. Escape was not an option any longer. It was a smaller alley, and we would never get around this mountain before the other two were upon us.
We came to a stop directly in front of him and my mind raced to come up with a plan to either fight, or escape. That was until he spoke.
“Bili.” The man said.
“Hey Jacques. You don’t know how glad I am to see you.” Bili said.
Our attackers were now only about twenty yards from us and my apparent new best friend. Bili and I took a spot on each side of Jacques and turned to face Franklin and black shirt. They had slowed to a crawl before stopping a good ten yards away.
“Kristov. I see you’ve met Bili and Jack.” Jacques said. His speech was deliberate and menacing.
How the hell does everyone know my name?
“Kristov?” I heard Bili say under her breath as she looked at Jacques then to black shirt.
The name obviously meant something to her. If this person is famous enough to be known by name, rather than sight, it was not good for us.
“I see you have chosen the other side. Again.” Kristov said, emphasizing the last word. “The lack of loyalty to your own kind really has no limits.”
If he was afraid of Jacques you would never have known it. He exhibited the same mixture of calmness and anger as he did in the POH.
“Still working for the highest bidder, or an actual cause? You never were one to read the histories.”
“That’s because they don’t have them in Audio Book.” Bili said chiming in.
She also accompanied her little jibe with an unladylike hand gesture.
With my new senses I could hear a low grade growl from the gut of this Kristov. He seemed to be sensitive about anyone questioning his intellect.
“You’re not invincible Jacques. In fact I believe Franklin and I could end this bullshit right now. Just you with these two pathetic newby leaches? I like those odds.” Kristov said.
The look Franklin gave Kristov was that of utter disbelief. It was obvious that he did not want any part of a fight with Jacques and Kristov had just outright challenged him.
Jacques turned to look at me and stared for a few seconds. Then he looked at Bili.
“They were killing him.” Bili said, as if reading his mind.
Jacques turned his attention back to Kristov.
“You fools have no idea what you’ve done.” Jacques said.
“What we are doing is taking this asshole human, or used to be human, with us. You can take your little bitch girlfriend and leave, elder sir.” Kristov said sarcastically.
Jacques, who appeared to be extremely calm given the situation, continued, nice and slow.
“It’s choice time. You are either going to turn and walk, or we are going to see if you are as powerful as you seem to think you are.”
Jacques moved up one step, lowered his chin and raised his eyes in a manner that would have scared my former self into unconsciousness.
“Choose.” Jacques growled.
Kristov tensed and began to move forward. Franklin was preparing himself also. Though attacking Jacques didn’t appear to be Franklin’s first choice, he was not a coward. Kristov left him with no choice and he was going to fight.
I had lost all of my fear back in the store and I was ready for battle. I knew nothing of this Jacques, but it was plain that he was someone I wanted on my side.
I could see the slightest change in Kristov’s eyes, his posture, and a few other subtle differences that I would never have noticed before. I was gathering information from the slightest moves and gestures as if someone was talking to me. Everything about Kristov screamed a fight was imminent, and it was.
Just like that Kristov and Franklin exploded into motion, heading directly for us.
There wasn’t time for any kind of plan, so I bent my knees and waited for the impact. I hoped to use this new found speed to my advantage and make them miss the first charge, then counter attack.
I was about to make my move when I caught a blur in my peripheral vision. I thought we were being attacked from behind until I heard and saw the collision of bodies in front of me.
Even with my new abilities I now possessed, I knew the speed I had just witnessed had to be without equal.
The sound of Theo colliding with both Kristov and Franklin was more like that of large Heavy Bags falling from a tall building and hitting pavement. He caught them at just the right angle as to have them collide with each other, sending both of them into another large steal garbage dumpster.
Theo quickly regained his footing and made his way next to the three of us. Kristov and Franklin stumbled awkwardly trying to untangle themselves from each other as they stood.
“Sorry about that Kristov, but I really have done you favor. You too Franklin, but don’t worry, you can owe me.” Theo said in his usual pleasant tone as if he was talking to an old friend.
Kristov was furious. When he stood up he kicked the gondola he crashed into and sent it skidding across the pavement and into the brick wall. Shards of brick and sparks went flying in all directions. It was an impressive feat of strength.
“You think I’m scared of you Theodorus?! You have no idea what I am capable of!” Kristov said with saliva spewing from his mouth as he spoke.
Kristov’s teeth appeared to be more prominent and ominous as he yelled at Theo. I had never seen anyone or anything so irate in my life.
This time Franklin jumped on Kristov and stopped any more forward movement. Less emotionally involved in the situation he was making better decisions.
“Kris! It’s not the time.” Franklin said.
Kristov stopped, regained his rational self and stared at all four of us.
“Next time.” Kristov said, pointing his finger.
They backed away slowly before they turned and quickly disappeared. They were out of sight in seconds.
Theo took a second to check his surroundings then focused his attention on me, then to Bili.
“Sorry I’m late. From the looks of things I missed some excitement.” Theo said, breaking the tension.
There was no one in the world at that moment I was happier to see than Theo, and if you asked me to put it into words at that particular time I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.
“Bili, you and Jack go back to the store. I will be there presently.” Theo said.
Bili and I did as we were told without question. Even though my mind was full of infinite questions, I was also filled with what I can only describe as a renewed sense of patience. I figured after the day’s events I would get answers sooner rather than later. At least one cat was out of the proverbial bag, which cleared up the one nagging question my human self had pondered for some time.
Bili and I made our way back to the POH in a silent march. My head was swirling with mixed emotions, but surprisingly I didn’t feel like talking. After the excitement of potential death waned, I began to feel the physical differences and changes that had occurred over the last half hour or so. Most of them felt rather subtle, like the way I walked, the thickness and texture of my skin, as well as the tint of the pigment. I also felt some differences internally as well, which would be very hard to explain, but they were there. Some changes I wouldn’t notice till later.
When we got there I did the best I could to reattach the rear door until it could be properly fixed, while Bili started on the broken everything in the front. We tended to our menial tasks without saying a word to each other.