Trevor inhaled deeply through his nose to fully absorb the minute skin fragments in his palm fallen from the ring he wrested from the inn keeper’s finger upon shaking her hand. An elementary trick he’d learned on the streets of London as a boy. ‘She won’t be needing it anymore soon’ danced at the back of his mind as pangs of guilt for the crime surfaced in his crowded head. He struggled to eliminate the acrid smell of the fireplace and the American chap’s--Jarrett, that was it--cheap cologne from the mix. He gripped the ring, relying more on his kinesthetic senses now.
“Well…?” Eoghan said.
“Still alive… Nothing distressing yet…” he said.
Laughter broke his concentration so abruptly his stare shot to Jarrett involuntarily. “What the hell is he doing? Really?” said Jarrett’s partner. Larry was it? Yes, Larry.
“We don’t expect people like yourselves to understand mate. You’ll be thankful enough when the time comes.” Said Eoghan.
“As impressive as the parlor tricks are, I’ll take old fashioned surveillance video, thank you very much,” said Jarrett, shooting a look over at Larry.
“You’re just going to invade the office and blow our cover,” said Eoghan.
“Yeah, it’s Michigan ‘mate’ we have the authority to do that,” said Jarrett.
At that Larry shot off for the door.
Trevor looked around the Upper Peninsula lodge as if seeing it for the first time, absorbing the riot of colors in the cheap, dated decor, over-sized central fireplace crackling in the center of the spacious great room. A blizzard raged beyond a pair of kiltered, isosceles triangular windows, vertical bases separated by a woefully thin pane. His heart lept out of his chest as he caught a glimpse of a shadow moving outside against the pine trees beyond it.
The door opposite of Larry’s egress flung open, the cold chilling them all before it closed. In stepped the black American, Dante, “Perimeter checked, nothing,” he said to Jarrett.
“Your sure they followed? Eoghan said to Trevor, “Do you still have the cache, I gave you?”
Trevor nodded, digging his pockets for the deer fawn jawbone necklace they rested from another encounter with The Brood, Liberty’s Brood. The richness of its history flooded his mind as he gripped it. His head swam. He mentally checked the eight blades hidden on his person and .357 Magnum in a shoulder holster while swimming in the rich depths of experience it always offered. “They’re here,” he said to Eoghan in no uncertain terms, “Liberty and Rense are here, Eoghan.”
Jarrett produced his phone from his sport jacket pocket, looking down, thumbing it. “Nothing in the office,” he said. “The inn keeper, Julie is making coffee for Larry. Frankly, I could go for some too.” He looked around, finding a coffee maker on the counter beside the door Larry exited, preparing some. Dante relaxed, finding a seat in a spacious recliner, looking around for a remote to the TV hanging from the ceiling corner. Eoghan and Trevor glanced at each other.
Eoghan addressed Dante and Jarrett as the former clicked on the TV with a remote found on the table beside the recliner. The local news appeared, describing the blizzard in detail. “I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation Mister…”
“Jarrett, just Jarrett, my dad was a mister... Eoghan is it…? Look, I know international terrorists are nasty; it’s my job to know them. But, I am telling you, there is a 20 mile blizzard around one of the most remote places in the U.S., and despite your intelligence telling you they’re here, it’s just an impossibility. If they are, they’re buttoned down just like we are.”
A laugh escaped Trevor earning him an admonishing stare from Eoghan.
“Look, I checked the whole perimeter twenty yards out into the pines and there’s nothing out there,” said Dante from the recliner, without glancing away from the TV.
“Oh yeah,” said Trevor, “How often did you look up?”
A quizzical look between Dante and Jarrett answered the question.
“You two are M-I-6, right?” Said Jarrett.
“Not exactly,” said Trevor.
“Yes,” said Eoghan shooting Trevor another glare.
“We’re here to observe the apprehension of some terrorists the U-S wants to keep on the down-low for reasons, I don’t care about. I just think your intel is wrong. I don’t see any towel heads hiding out up here for no good reason when Florida is just as easy a place to hide.”
“So you think all terrorists are ‘towel heads’ with easily found bombs,” said Trevor.
“Trevor,” said Eoghan.
“There are forces older and greater than any of the sovernties, you find so comforting.” said Trevor. “You really think--you’d rather think--your little existence is orchestrated by politicians you hate but elected anyway. Not so mate. There are forces far greater at work than those offered up on the tele and those same politicians, whom you hate for their inaction, shudder in their beds like children scared of the spook under it because a few, a select few, know it, and tremble in fear, contemplating what it is we face tonight because they’re here alright.”
“And they have an agenda you are unfortunate enough to become a part of now.”
“Have you ever seen a child raped of everything they are mentally and physically and forced to fight for their own existence? Unbelievable abilities arise under such duress.”
The look exchanged by Dante and Jarrett said it all for Trevor. Though he did feel a little comforted by Jarrett’s hypervigilance. Trevor noticed him checking the the walls, others, and windows for movement, immediately deducing Jarrett’s obvious combat experience. Jarrett shot Dante a glance as if reading Trevor’s mind. Dante rolled his eyes, shutting the television off, rising, and strolling to one of the windows behind Eoghan, glancing out into the darkness blanketed by a curtain of huge, white snowflakes.
“Are you familiar with the origin of assassins Mister Jarrett,” said Trevor, looking to Eoghan for approval. Eoghan shot him a sidelong glance, removing his sport coat, revealing two .44 magnums in shoulder holsters, two .357 magnums in holsters in the small of his back, and a host of several knifes beneath them and in forearm sheaths. He draped the sport coat over a chair beside him.
“Damn…” said Dante, glancing at him before raising an eyebrow at Jarrett.
“Of course,” said Jarrett, “I don’t need a history lesson right now, I need actionable intel.”
“Okay then, perhaps you’re familiar with the history of the Berserkers of Norse legend also?”
“I’ve been to war college and have familiarized myself with military history Mister Trevor.”
“Good. Then you have an idea of what we are facing this evening. These terrorists prefer a brand of theatre more like the Rwandan machete genocide than something like quiet assassination of pursuers. They love sending a message and usually like leaving one barely alive to relate their warning.”
Just then the door Larry exited burst open with laughter. All four agents quickly gripping their hand weapons without pulling them upon the realization of what occurred. Two couples half clad in full body snowsuits trapsed in, talking among themselves amid raucous laughter, obviously buzzed. Eoghan quickly slipped his sport coat back on.
“Hey!” Said the first lady, clad in pink snow pants and loud sweater, cheeks reddened by the cold. “We were wondering if we were the only ones who made it before the blizzard,” she said dragging an Andean toboggan with side tails from her head, revealing short, dark hair, matted by sweat. “I guess not,” she said. Her alfresco beauty struck pangs upon Trevor’s heart, knowing what was to come. Only one of them would survive after The Brood arrived. He doubted it would be her.
“Hey bro! Glad you made it. Looks like we’re going to be here awhile,” said one young man, extending a bottle of Jack Daniels in his grip toward Jarrett, “Might as well have fun!”
Jarrett flashed a condescending smile, raising both hands, “No thanks” he said.
“Suit yourself,” he said, drawing a long pull from the bottle. He passed it to the young man beside him who took it with a quizzical look at the others, seemingly more aware than his friends. The other young lady approached Dante, pulling her fur lined hood back, revealing dirty blond hair and exquisitely European features Trevor thought. No more than twenty years-old rounded his estimation of her.
“Kit,” she said extending her hand to Dante, piercing him with dark blue eyes. “Just got back from sledding.” Dante looked confused. Kit laughed, “Snowmobiling the countryside silly.”
“See anything interesting?” said Dante, smiling.
“Yeah, medium-sized zodiac hovercraft on the beach. You know like the inflated lifeboats, only with big fans on the back… They yours?” She said looking around, smiling at them.
“Okay, back to your rooms everyone,” said Dante, rotating his forefinger in the air.
“But the power is out in our rooms,” said Kit.
“Go now.” Said Eoghan to the couples, who grew nervous.
Trevor traded a glance between Dante and Jarrett. “When it happens hide first, then attack.It’s your only chance.”
“What?” Said Dante clearly irritated.
Jarrett checked his phone. “Larry’s not answering,” said Jarrett to Dante. He began speaking into his sport coat sleeve. “Go! Go! We have a situation.”
Eoghan shot him a confused stare. “You really think D-H-S would leave the apprehension of a dangerous terrorist to five field agents without a strike team?” Said Jarrett. The origin of the room checks Jarrett was doing dawned on Trevor, making him wonder if he was checking for the red dots of laser sights trained on he and Eoghan.
Darkness fell save the dim, dying, crackling firelight from the center of the room. Trevor heard one of the young men mumble to himself, “Great…”
A loud roar and growl split the darkness. “Inside! Inside!” Yelled Jarrett, calling the red dots of the sights to sweep the room as if by magic as--
Dante screamed before it became a wet gurgle with a discharge of his weapon. The others screamed with him save Eoghan and Trevor. Trevor caught Rense’s surgically elongated teeth filed to points sinking into Dante’s neck from behind in the flash of the weapon. His huge shoulders towering over them in a dull steel armor. Rounds from the strike team exploded around them to the rising screams of the young couples. Trevor caught Dante raised from the ground in the grip of Rense’s jaws in the flash of Jarrett’s hand weapon, Rense blocking himself with Dante’s, jerking, flailing body, Jarrett’s .9 MM round finishing Rense’s job on Dante.
“Dante!” Screamed Jarrett, the guilt stricken grief unmistakable.
“Oh God!” Screamed the young lady who wasn’t Kit, rushing for the door. A flare ignited, arcing away from Eoghan as she did, the matching triangular picture windows shattering. Eoghan was nowhere to be found. Trevor thanked God Rense was missing too undoubtedly blinded by the flare.
The door opened before the young lady reached it. The pale sinewy, bare arms and chests of the ghoulish Brood lower class dragging her helplessly through it as she turned to change her momentum, reaching back to the two young men. “Jessica!” They screamed after her. Trevor caught blood jetting from the doorway as they drug her through before slamming it, hearing a growling, and “She’s mine!” and “Fresh!”
The strike teams rounds shattered everything fragile in the semi darkness around him until subsiding with their screams of terror as The Brood outside overpowered them despite their fire power. “Down!” Yelled Trevor to the others as he sensed the masses of The Brood lower class leaping frenzied and bestial through the open windows in the crimson light. All heeded save Kit who stood paralyzed and dumbfounded by fear. Jarrett tackled her to the floor just as Trevor pulled the Urumi, whip-like, flexible blade swords from his thick, leather wrist band sheaths, snapping them into firmness like the child bracelets of carnivals that stiffen and curl back around one’s wrist when slapped across it. He swung them from the thongs fixed to the wrist bands in an overlapping figure eight arc, lopping off the limbs of The Brood lower class as they flooded the room, opening their throats too as they closed in, their blood spraying everything.
Eoghan rose from beside the window his back against the wall, unleashing deafening rounds of the two .44 magnums in a crossfire against them as the last trailed in. Ammunition exhausted, he tossed them aside, calmly drawing the two .357 magnums from his lower back, slinking back into the darkness of the corner.
“Jesus Christ!” Whispered Jarrett in the now frigid semi-darkness of the room. The flare and fire dying in the howling blizzard invading the room. “They didn’t even have weapons. ...I mean, Goddamn, what are they?” Trevor heard the other young men whimpering, crying, wondering about the depth of shock Kit was experiencing to be so silent.
“They’re human Mister Jarrett, just like us, just made to think they’re something else.” Poised, crouched, he began to circle the fireplace. “They identify with animals, monsters like vampires, and werewolves, werecats…The next, stronger wave will be next. Get ready.” Just then he felt a sting no greater than a bees upon his neck. “Fuck!” He thought, “Why didn’t I get down,” as he became dull, and sluggish. He let the Yank distract him. “Eoghan…” was all he could manage to verbalize before collapsing.
What followed was a blazing, deafening hail of gunfire and screams, blurred monsters streaking across his vision from the floor. Mister Jarrett wasn’t far from him as the back of his neck was stepped upon, head lifted by the hair, and throat cut. The warmth of his blood jetting across Trevor’s face was oddly comforting in the cold as adrenalin drained from him. He saw (or imagined?) Kit and and one of the young men stripped naked and drug out into the frigid night by a howling mob cackling at their vulnerability. Eoghan’s disembodied head was tossed to the floor beside him, his dull eyes seemingly conveying regret. Just then the bottom of the full length Victorian era coat Liberty favored glided across the carpeted floor toward him. Her huge, black eyes, pale skin, and sly, seductive grin filled his vision, long, shining, onyx ringlets flowing back over her shoulders.
“Welcome to our new home Surul Val,” she said, calling him by his Brood name. “You really hoped to take me here?” He still marveled at her countenance not appearing a day past 40 when he well knew she had to be older than 70, perhaps much older since no one was sure. She was a true witch. A master of the human psyche, anatomy, and alchemy. “Congratulations Surul, once again the bravest and most brutal is spared to tell the tale. But, as you know ...not without punishment for defiance first.” She said smiling lustfully as she drug a long, razor tipped nail lovingly across his lower lip, splitting it. He tasted his blood. “Oh we are going to have so much fun improving you for the message, I need delivered. ...Like old times,” she said with a genuine smile.