After the fire things had become eerily quiet in regards to the enemy. There had been no murders, attacks, or unfriendly encounters of any kind for months. Theo figured this lull might happen after many of our friends were killed. They would want our guard to drop before attempting another attack of any kind. Even knowing this did not making the situation much better. It’s a tricky balance to go about your life as normally as you can, but stay focused and ready for the unexpected at the same time. Our adversary had patience, which made things much harder to predict and plan for.
We did go about our lives as best we could. Theo added some security precautions to the store and we went back to business. It didn’t take long before we were moving art just as we had before, and the market was the best it had been in years. Theo worked with us at the POH almost every day, forgoing some other aspect of his business for the time being.
Bili and I were still sharing the flat in the storage room, which wasn’t too bad, as we made every attempt to give each other some space and privacy. That being said there were the few awkward moments when Bili was changing clothes or coming from the shower. She didn’t walk around naked, but she didn’t exactly have self image problems either, as I noticed she seemed perfectly comfortable in her underwear with me in the room. I tried not to stare, because I didn’t want to be that guy, but I couldn’t help but notice that she was well put together. One particular time when she was changing her shirt while I was in the room I noticed something else. Scars. Bili’s back was covered with faint red lines that could only have been done by whip when she was human. I thought about was Theo had told me and it made me sad and furious in equal measures. It made me happy in small way that she didn’t feel the least bit self conscious about them. She was a strong woman in every sense of the word.
After more time had passed things were almost back to where they were before I was turned. Theo was leaving the office more and Bili had even moved back to her apartment. Theo had made certain that it was upgraded with the best security measures possible for a home, including a panic room. Bili hated the thought of it, but she didn’t fight Theo on it. I think she was so glad that he had agreed to her to moving back that she would have agreed to almost anything. Like I said, we got along fine, but everyone needs their space.
Theo told us that Jacques had left Michigan, but had planned to return before too long.
I was working on my computer in the back, when Theo and Bili made their way to my desk from the front.
“I just got off the phone with Mr. Hendricks and he purchased a very expensive piece, but he needs it delivered. Do you two want to take a ride?” Theo said.
“His Highland house?” She asked.
“Yes.” Theo said.
“Is that the older guy that gets your name wrong every time?” I asked looking at Bili.
“Yeah. He’s different. That reminds me.” Bili said looking at Theo with a sly grin. “Your favorite designer called. She may be stopping in later to see you.”
“She’s nice. Just a little lonely.” Theo said.
“I’m sure she is.” I said.
I looked at Bili and we both snickered like little kids.
“Go deliver you two.” Theo said in mock anger
I think it was the only time I saw Theo remotely close to being embarrassed. I don’t know why but it made the whole situation funnier and no one laughed harder than Bili
We got in the van and I was driving.
“Wait till you see this place. It looks like Graceland dipped in puke-green paint?” Bili said.
It was only about a thirty minute drive and when we got there I pulled into the long horseshoe driveway and parked next to the four car garage. Though it was ugly, it was obviously expensive. The front door was so ornate it was probably worth as much as a descent car. I had never been to this house before, but I had met Mr. Hendricks a few times at the store when I was still human. I wondered if he would notice the difference.
We cautiously checked our surroundings before exiting the van and making our way to the front door. Even though things had relaxed quite a bit, Theo always reminded us to not let our guard down.
I carried the large piece of art, which was still crated for protection, up to the front door. It was an original James Whistler, and to say it was rather valuable would be a huge understatement. I know he had bought a few nice pieces in the past, but this had to be the most valuable by far.
I carried the painting up to the front door Bili walked next to me. I started to get a funny tingling feeling in my hands as we made our way to the door. I think Bili noticed me stretching and wiggling my fingers.
“You alright?” She asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I just feel a little different. Not bad, it’s...I don’t know what it is. I’m fine. Must be in my head.”
Bili gave me another speculative look, before turning her attention to the door we were now standing in front of.
“Wait till you see the inside.” Bili said, knowing I hadn’t been here before. “It looks like Liberace decorated it on acid.”
I started to laugh, but checked myself up. I didn’t want to seem unprofessional if Mr. Hendricks was close to the door.
Then Bili stared at me with a sly grin as she pushed the door bell with an exaggerated point and push of her index finger.
The doorbell rang, but instead of a standard ring sound it was a short excerpt of Hound Dog.
That caused me to burst into laughter. All professionalism straight out the window. I was thankful that Mr. Hendricks didn’t answer the door right away, giving me time to compose.
After the second encore of Elvis, Mr. Hendricks answered the door. He was about sixty five or seventy, with solid white hair and a slender build. He looked like a retired CEO of something. Though he was older he still carried a very authoritative way about him.
“Hello Mr. Hendricks?” Bili said. “We have something for you.”
“Hello Betty? Please come in. Who’s your friend?” He said.
“This is Jack.” Bili said.
“Oh, yes of course.” He said
The micro wince on Bili’s face at the error in her name didn’t go unnoticed. She hated the name Betty, which only made it more humorous. I also noticed something else unusual about Mr. Hendricks, but didn’t give it too much thought. He was elderly.
“Bring it to my study. It’s in the back?”
There it was again. He looked as though he was ill or something, and trying to hide it. To the average person he had the perfect poker face, but I was not average anymore.
Bili and I looked at each other thinking the same thing.
“Are you okay Mr. Hendricks?” Bili asked
“Fine, fine. This way.”
The first thing I saw when I walked in was a chandelier over head. It was gold in color, but what made it odd was that the light bulbs were in the shape of doll heads.
I looked at Bili, who without speaking out loud she mouthed the words you haven’t seen anything yet.
Fighting the ensuing laugh took all the strength I possessed.
We followed Mr. Hendricks down the hallway which led into an open living area. Bili was right. There were colors I had never seen before. It was far from the normal earth tones you would expect from an older gentleman.
“You have a very nice home sir.” I said, doing my best not to sound sarcastic.
Mr. Hendricks didn’t respond and kept walking.
I could see the study off to the right of the large living room, but Mr. Hendricks didn’t walk that way. He walked straight toward the large door-wall that led out to a huge backyard.
“It’s very warm. I’m just going to let some air in.” He said as he opened the large sliding door.
“I see the study Mr. Hendricks. Do you need help hanging this piece? Bili and I aren’t very good at it, but we wouldn’t mind practicing with your Whistler?” I said, attempting to make a Joke.
Mr. Hendricks had a blank look about him and said absolutely nothing. I thought that was one of my better jokes too.
Bili looked at me again and then back to Mr. Hendricks.
“Are you sure you’re all right sir?” Bili said in an above normal voice trying to get his attention.
His face was white as a ghost and I thought he might be having a stroke or heart attack right in front of us.
Before he could utter another word an arrow flew into the house and struck Mr. Henderson in the back of the head, and protruding out of his eye. He dropped to the ground like a stone and blood began to drain from both ends of his head.
In the split second that this happened I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to what happened to Viki. Knowing who was responsible for that murder I knew we were in trouble. So did Bili.
“Shit!” Bili said.
I dropped the million dollar painting as if it was a worthless paper print and bolted to the front door with Bili close behind. I pulled it open, and was brought up short.
He was standing in front of us with another wolf even bigger than him. We backed up and turned to assess our options. Just then two more wolves appeared from behind and began walking toward us. I didn’t recognize the first one. He looked like a professional bodybuilder and made zero attempt to hide his size. He had a shaved head, a long pointed goatee beard, and wore a skin tight black t-shirt you could see his veins through. He apparently killed Mr. Hendricks as he had a modern version of a cross bow slung over his shoulder. As he walked I could barely see the other wolf behind him due to his size. I say barely, because I only needed a glimpse to recognize that son-of-bitch.
The sight of him made my blood run hot. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical way either. I actually felt like my entire core temp go up several degrees.
Franklin was carrying an odd looking, but very large, short barrel rifle. I had ever seen anything like it.
I bore holes in him with my eyes and I wanted nothing more than to charge him and try to kill him with my bare hands, but I had Bili to think about.
“Hey Jack. Did you miss me?” Franklin said with his usual frat boy smile. The obvious double meaning only added to my burning fury.
“I did. Never figured you for a coward.” I shrugged my shoulders as nonchalant as I could. “Guess you’re just a sack of yellow piss when Kristov isn’t around to protect you.”
Kristov chuckled at this as he made a show of his entrance into the house, his back-up close behind him. Franklin’s smile faded as quickly as it came and though he kept quiet, the anger in him was plain. I was baiting him hoping to get him to make a mistake we could capitalize on, but he didn’t fall for it.
“Thanks for coming all this way to meet us. Saved us another trip to that stupid city.” Kristov said.
“Not to mention you got your ass kicked the last time you came to Ann Arbor.” Bili said looking at Kristov.
We were in a terrible situation, but Bili wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of letting them think we were scared. I should have been scared witless, but anger is a powerful tool when used right.
“What do you want this time Kristov? The usual?” I said.
“I’m afraid things have changed since our last meeting. My employer...wait...let me rephrase that, my new employer, has a much more pragmatic solution to this problem. One I happen to agree with.” Kristov said.
“Which is?” I said.
I knew damn well where he was going with it, but every second I could stall him the better. I knew from our first meeting that Kristov loved the sound of his own voice and I was going to exploit it as much as I could.
“Now that your merry little clan has, let’s say, burned the candle at both ends, it’s pretty simple really.”
It was him
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Bili said squinting her eyes and shaking her head. “Though I appreciate you confessing to murdering our friends, I still have to tell you something. You are still one big dumb sack of shit.”
Surprisingly Kristov shook off the insult with nothing but a mild grunt of a laugh. This concerned me.
“I would tell you to give Theodorus a message for me, but since I’m going to kill you, don’t bother.” Kristov said.
“Franklin.” Kristov said giving him the look I was all too familiar with.
As soon as he said this I knew what was coming, and it wasn’t broken bones or punches.
This was not how this was supposed to play out. My mind was racing trying to figure out what to do next. Bili gave me a quick glance and I could tell she was doing the same. It was not supposed to end like this. We were no match for the four of them and we had no escape route. Time was up.
Franklin raised his gun and leveled it at Bili’s head with that shit-eating grin on his face. That was more than I could take and my body flushed with heat. I no longer cared about myself and if I was going to die I was going to do anything I could to give Bili a small chance to live. I owed her that much.
I set my stance firmly, about to sprint forward, when I felt a gust of wind followed by a blur of motion.
Just as Franklin was about to pull the trigger he disappeared. Not in the magic trick sort of way, but rather by shear speed and force.
The open rear door-wall and long hallway provided the perfect runway for gathering speed and Theo used to perfection. Franklin was standing in the perfect spot for Theo to hit him from behind at a dead sprint that was nothing short of incredible. When he hit Franklin the two of them shot forward and through the small front plate glass window like a bullet, taking a large portion of drywall and brick with them. A normal human being may not have even seen them move, it was so fast.
Kristov and the other two wolves stood stunned for a second trying to comprehend what had just happened.
On the contrary, Bili and I were far from surprised by this, other than we were expecting him a little sooner. Nothing like cutting it micro-close.
Bili and I were already moving, running straight for muscle head. We tackled him backward and out the rear door-wall where Theo had just came from. This left Kristov and his partner alone inside the house. Well, not exactly alone.
Kristov was about to help Franklin when he heard the heavy footsteps coming down the stairs, which stopped him in his tracks. He motioned for his back-up, the large wolf he came in with, to step to the side next to him.
The other wolf, who had short red hair, and an even darker red beard, appeared confused. When he saw Jacques step into full view after reaching the bottom step, confusion turned to fear. This wolf knew who Jacques was.
“This is between me and him.” Jacques said, referring to Kristov, but looking at Red-beard.
After assessing the entirety of the situation I’m guessing Red-beard thought that he must not have been paid enough for this kind of fight. He took off through the hole in the house created by Theo and Franklin and probably didn’t stop until he hit one of the great lakes.
Kristov just stood and watched his former companion run with a look of disgust. He turned back and faced Jacques with utter defiance.
“Fuck you.” Kristov said.