A Hard Way to Heaven

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Chapter 19

Syn cradled her head in her hands, rubbing her face, wiping away tears. Her anger was steadily boiling over, “What the fuck is going on?” She looked up at Akir, expectantly.

Akir looked at the board, found a particular file, and tapped it open. The file opened in preview. “This is Élan Louvella, the man we are looking for.” He opened another image, and a man with copper hair, streaked with white appeared. Cold, hard sea-green eyes stared back. “This is his father, Anton. Third on the rung of the hierarchy of his family. Élan…Élan killed my adopted father, and younger bràthair. This man has been responsible for the death of more than a dozen family members, including your mother. These deaths, these unfortunate girls…they are innocent bystanders. He loves to kill, and is one sick puppy. The Louvella family wants us all dead, and they hae been trying to accomplish that for the past eleven hundred years. Probably more.”

Syn’s head hurt. This feud put the Hatfields and Macoys to shame. She got up, and started looking at different files. “Why did my father…? What did my father do?”

“He left the family’s protection after the night my grandparents were killed."

Syn's voice was soft, recalling the events after walking in on the crime scene. "We huddled in the garage together. I remember Dad dragging us away. A few weeks later we moved to New York, then here. I was so confused, and then...simply forgot or," she thought hard, "There was this lady that I talked to, but I thought she...never mind." She waved her hand, "Continue."

"Your father thought he could steal away with ye, your sister, and your Mum, leave this all behind him. Unfortunately, he couldn't." Akir looked at the board, at the genealogy chart, his eyes darting from one face to another. "They always know..."

Syn heard something in those words, and frowned. Akir continued before she could put voice to her question. "In some form or other he kept in touch. When your mother died, he came back fully to the family, and has been helping us. Several of the original Nine, including the Màthair of our family, have hated him for what he had done. I canna blame him. We all want a normal life, want things to change, but…”

“And my mother knew about all of this?”

Akir nodded, “She wanted out, wanted away badly. Her family has been allied with ours for two hundred years. She knew, aye.”

“My life as a cop is over.” Syn said turning away from the boards, “I have to tell Peter.”

“Nae, it isna. That man ye put away he was corrupt. We just fished around, and found out that the Louvella’s were paying him off to cover Élan’s tracks. We just gave ye a little push.”

She keened, “Oh, thanks for that. You planted evidence?”

“I am nae arguing with ye on this. Ye do not fully understand, and your father didna want ye to ken what was happening. Not yet.”

Syn laughed, “My credibility is shot. No one will ever hire me again or my tech. Thank you very much.” She got up, and stormed from the room, slamming the door. Akir sighed, followed.

He opened the door, and dogged her heels, “We were only following orders.” He reached out and grabbed her arm, “Syn stop.”

“Why?” She yanked her arm out of his, walked through to the living room again, and grabbed her tumbler, the bottle of Macallan. She filled it with a good amount of whisky.

Akir followed her, braced himself for what was coming, “Because Élan is out there, and we think his directive involves your family. We need to stop him before something happens to ye or your father and sister. My real father was one of the Nine, and was killed just a little over a week ago.”

"What?" Syn sat down on the couch, and took a shaking sip of her drink. She had had a hard time with losing her Mother, but to lose two parents in the span of several months to nefarious means, would have been devastating.

Akir crouched down in front of her, rubbed her knees, surprised she didn’t pull away. “I made a promise to your father, and the only way I can bring Élan to our justice is with your help.”

She looked up into those unique eyes, “You want my help in this?” She laughed hysterically.

“Aye, tis time ye come back to the family and use those special talents of yours. Help me stop these murders, and bring Élan to justice.”

“If we arrest him, he is going to jail...”

Akir shook his head, “He canna e’er see the inside of a prison. He will find our family’s justice.”

She glared at him, saw something fatalistic in his eyes. Their justice involved permanent disappearance, “So I’m just to give up on all that I stand for, say goodbye to my honor, my code of ethics. Well done.” She pushed his hands off, and walked away, walked down the hall towards her bedroom carrying her drink, the bottle. She heard him behind her.

“Nae, I’m nae saying that. I’m saying use your talents another way.” God she was stubborn. He followed, praying for patience.

She downed her drink, and set the tumbler, the bottle on a windowsill, turning at him. She curled her hand into a fist, cocked it back, and delivered a hard right hook. “FUCK!” She gritted loudly through clenched teeth. He had a hard jaw, and the pain of her hit climbed up her arm. She shook out her hand irritated. The hit turned his face, knocked him off balance briefly.

Akir growled, rubbing his cheek, “Dammit woman what the hell was that for?”

“For your lack of respect for me, my job, and for keeping all this from me.” She shouted at him.

He inched closer, towering over her, “I respect your position. But if we dinna keep this within the family, more innocents will die. Frankly, I dinna like it at all. Ye hae nae idea about what is truly going on. And I dinna like an all out war, or the bloodbath that could happen.”

“So you have enlightened me.” She rubbed her temples, a deep throb starting behind her eyes, announcing a good headache. She reached for the bottle of Scotch, and forgot the tumbler. She took a healthy swig, suddenly having the deep want to get truly drunk.

Akir started to pace, stopped, trying another tactic. “Syn, listen to me. Your arrest record is in tact. Think about it. Ye kent it wasn’t an accident. Her file…there was always a possibility of two. I read that in it, in your assumptions. Ye havena found that other one, and now ye can. Ye can see that mon receive the justice he deserves. Your father knows it is time for ye to come back to the family. He wants this feud to end, as do I. We need your help. This family has strayed from its true course, and a host of us want that back. Your father and I, others, know we canna do that unless we bring e’eryone hame.”

She slid down the wall, “Do you know how this feels?”

He joined her, sitting opposite, “Numb, lost, without direction.”

She sputtered, laughing, “Not even close, but yeah.”

“Do what you need to do.” He had to tell her, “Just so ye ken, Élan will do anything to stir up trouble. E’en plant evidence, that might lead to me or one of my men.”

Her eyes popped, then narrowed angrily, “Oh great.”

“Aye, as I told ye Élan is after me, because I am one of the nine, and my father was…”

She took a swig of the scotch, waved him off, “So you told me. What is a brother?”

He shook his head, “The Gaelic form of the word, bràthair. We are the family’s warriors. Some of us are sons of the Nine, whereas others, sons of the Elders, or close family members. We are all trained for searching and catching those that will do harm to ours. To keep them safe…”

Syn heard the disappointment in his voice, scoffed, “And you fail…”

That hurt, cutting him to the quick. His jaw clenched, angrily, “I deserved that. But more times we succeed in keeping the family safe. We keep the enemies at bay, keep some resemblance of peace.”

“And yet your adopted father, real father and younger bràthair,” She stressed that last word, “are dead. My mother is dead.”

He pushed up, snatched the bottle from her, “You’re a terrible drunk.”

She reached for the bottle, tried to yank it back, “Oh, I’m just getting started. You have no idea.”

He crouched down, and kept the bottle away from her, “And ye lass hae no idea about my life.”

“Please this is the night for revelations. Continue.” She struggled up, and made a grab for the bottle, and won it back. She took another healthy swig, downing a good portion.

Akir shook his head, continued, “My whole family is gone lass.” He wasn’t about to tell her about Roric, not yet. “I hae seen most of them die, and willna see any more killed needlessly.”

Her speech started to slur, the effects of the alcohol kicking in, “Why are you here?” She stumbled to the bedroom, whirled on him, “Why are YOU here?”

He caught her as she lost her balance, “Because I am expendable. My sole purpose in life is to take the bullet for our family, instead of ye or your father. We were too late for your Mother, my own family. I willna let that happen again.” She lifted her eyes to his, and he watched the emotions run the gambit from anger, to confusion, to surprise. And then something else. He saw reality took their prerequisite chomp out of her ass. Her face paled, and then greened. She shoved at his arms, and he let her go, catching the bottle as it dropped from her hands. She whirled around, almost lost her footing, and staggered to the bathroom. He followed as she made for the toilet, fell to her knees, struggled with the seat, pushing it up, and retched hard. He knelt behind her, and held back her hair, wrapped an arm about her waist as she emptied her stomach.

Syn dry heaved again, and then moaned, “Tasted good going down, but that sucked.”

Akir reached and flushed the toilet, “Waste of good Scotch.

Her curse was a fraction from dropping from her lips. Another bout of dry heaves cut it off. She cast him a hard sideways look, hoping it conveyed the exact words she wanted to speak.

Akir ran a hand through his hair, seeing her disgruntlement, “Aye it probably did.” He stood, took the hand towel, dampened it under the faucet. He crouched down as Syn eased back on her haunches, and lifted aside her hair. He pressed the cool, damp cloth against her neck.

She looked up at him, “How can you say such things? And you yelled at me for…”

“Like I told ye before, ye hae a lot to learn about our family.”

She staggered up, to the sink, and turned on the cold water. She took several mouthfuls, reaching for the mouthwash. She rinsed out her mouth, then brushed her teeth. She lifted her eyes, looked at his reflection in the mirror. God, he was gorgeous, and not just handsome. There was something predatory about him. His thick raven hair fell to his shoulders, framed an angular face. She frowned seeing a whisper of something on his face, turned, and stepped closer. She lifted aside his hair and saw the subtle lines of ink. A Celtic wolf kissed the upper corner of the apple of his cheek. This close his eyes were a piercing iron-green, and shivers curled down her spine. Her core started to throb as her finger found a tiny braid of hair that snaked up to his temple. War braids, she had read about them, knew their history. She brushed a finger down his cheek, following the outline of the tat. She could feel his heat this close, bathing her body. She wanted to step closer, and be totally enveloped by it. She frowned when he pulled away. The chill wasn’t just from the removal of his body, but something else entirely. Cold hard dismal. “So explain...” She turned crossed her arms, irritated.

Akir sighed, dropped the wet hand towel on the sink, leaned against the edge, and looked at her reflection in the mirror, “Two hundred years or so ago, our family was almost wiped out. Only the oldest families still alive. Louvella almost got the upper hand. At that time, the Nine, and the Elders drastically changed our existence. They recognized that most of those men descended from Lucian still carried that warrior instinct. First born sons were given the right to marry, have families and continue the line. Second and third sons, would be placed in a warrior class. Any others would work behind the scenes or with the family. The leuchd-crois as we were called, would be trained to flesh out our enemy, to capture…and to take the proverbial bullet. We are not allowed to marry or have children, because our life expectancy is not that long. At least not until we are too old to do what we do or are too maim to carry on. If we survive, we can marry, have children. But a lot of us by that time…hardly any do…”

Syn saw something in his eyes. Some forlorn sense of sadness, a deep ache for something more. She knew that look and understood the deep emptiness. Her father’s comment was proving right. She was feeling sick again, swallowed, took a shuddering breath, “How many survive?”

“Doesna matter.”

She glared at him angrily, “That is not true. How many?”

“I hae only ken a half a dozen men to reach that age. Those that are maim, they arena…they are too far gone to be able to do anything.”

Her mouth dropped opened. Her stomach clenched, realizing just how cold and uncaring his existence was. Her’s was a self imposed exile from life, burned one too many times by people she thought cared about her. His was forced upon him. A flicker of hope still remained in her heart, hoping that her own life would turn around. That the world would shift one day, and everything would be bright again. She heard and spied the losing fight in his words, his eyes. She laughed, “That is really a stupid policy. What happens if you defy these Nine, these Elders?” She frowned, narrowed her eyes at him, “And why haven’t you taken your father’s place as one of the Nine?” The anger that darkened his features, frightened her.

Akir’s jaw clenched hard, “I was deemed unworthy by certain members of our family, given my past. I am more important in my current position to them. I am an elite fighter, the Captain, their battle chief, their Ceann-Cinnidh.” He walked away, out into the bedroom. “I am tired of fighting on two fronts, theirs, and ours. I am just too tired.”

Syn staggered out, feeling the complete effects of the Scotch that was in her blood. She’d forgotten how tired she was. She stood there for a few seconds, looking at her pillow, then crawled in under the covers, and snuggled around its length, mumbling, “Aye tired. Then sleep…tomorrow…decide.”

Akir crouched down, drinking in her beautiful face. He reached out, and tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear, “I wish it were that easy lass.” She grabbed his hand and tucked it under her chin. His eyebrow cocked, feeling the warmth coursing up his arm. He sighed, and stood, shed his boots, and crawled up on the bed beside her, slipping an arm around her waist, tucking her into his body. “Aye, tomorrow.”

Across town, Reiser Macleod’s eyes darted one way and then another, looking up and down the deserted street across from Port Lewis’s Torpedo Factory. Nothing moved in the shadows. He flipped down his IVG’s and spoke softly, calling up night vision, looking for any heat signatures. Nothing but black. The old factory had been abandoned for five years now, and a steal on the commercial market. He took out the keys the real estate agent had given him, and worked the lock. It opened after several tries, and pushed up the metal door. He spoke into his small mic at his lip, and called the all clear. Two minutes later a large truck rolled around the corner, and pulled into the dock, and down into the underground garage. Several Rovers, and motorcycles followed. Reiser’s eyes took one last look around, and pulled the metal doors down.

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