Chapter 54: Run
Unravel Him Playlist on Spotify.
Song; (The Rigs- Devil’s Playground) & (Evolving Sound- Face Off) & (Evolving Sound- High Wire)
The building by all means, did not look suspicious.
It wasn’t old neither was it new and the good thing was, it’s located in downtown Manhattan, away from crowded neighborhoods.
The apartment complex in itself looked innocent enough, family friendly even.
No one would have thought the place was being used as a safe house.
Then again that was the trick; to blend in plain sight.
“15th floor,” Marlen pointed at a window, just by a pile of laundry left out to dry. “My guy says they’re holed up in there.”
I squinted and spotted a light emitting from the crack in the black out curtains.
Someone was obviously home.
“How tall is this building?” I inquire, silently counting the floors under my breath whilst scanning the other complexes surrounding it.
There was a mini mart around the corner and a gas station just down the road.
We’d have to be wary of cameras.
“16 floors, its not that high... but I see people living in the building Red.”
“I know,” Tucking my hair up my ear, I release a sigh, understanding his concerns. “This may get a bit difficult.”
The building looked damn near empty but was still housed by several occupants, which can be seen by the lights radiating from the line of windows.
I scratch the back of my neck, thinking hard.
Civilians were innocent, I didn’t want to involve them.
The plan was to go in, pull the fire alarm, get the people out and block Aitenev’s men inside, but I hadn’t known the place was an apartment complex housing civilians, which leaves things complicated.
Hopefully Omega and Zanthus can handle things if it gets rowdy. Charlie should be hacking the CCTV footage around the block as we discussed.
I’m in the process of thinking when Marlen nudges my side with his knuckle, procuring armory he’s brought with him.
Several different sized combat knives.
I take one with a molted handle, the sharp edge filled with teeth.
“Right on time, Matthew.”
Holstering the weapon, I spot Mason mumbling out loud to himself as he looks at his phone, fingers swiping the screen with the light reflecting on his face.
“What is it?” I stand, gazing at him questioningly.
“I got it,” He holds out the device, showing what looked to be a map. “Blueprints.”
“Blueprints?” Frowning indecorously, I approach Mason, boots swiveling against the dirt from my earlier position. “How on earth did you managed that?”
“Wasn’t that hard,” He shakes his head, sheepish. “Matthew helped me do a little digging, apparently this place was put up for sale but no one wanted to buy it.”
Mason must have seen my passive expression because he is suddenly backing up, hands in the air, eyes wide with alarm. “Ah, don’t look at me like that, Nessa-”
“You didn’t.” I said, cutting him off.
“Didn’t what?” He tries to evade my approach but I don’t care, I go as close as I can, remembering to stay in the cover of the trees while doing so.
“Fell, you better not have bought this building.”
“You done messed up now, boy.” Marlen says smugly as he watches us nearby. He doesn’t make a move to help Mason who suddenly finds himself against a tree.
The heir of BourneFell opened his mouth to respond but closed it shut when he realized he’d only be losing a fight.
“Matthew helped, it wasn’t a big deal.”
He bought it.
He bought the goddamn building.
“Why?” My nostrils flared. “That wasn’t part of the plan, we could’ve done something else.”
Mason reaches for the buckles on his waist and tugged it, loosening his shirt from its crevices as he tries to explain.
“You said it yourself, come tomorrow those guys might disappear or worse, Aitenev may kill them. They’re our only lead after months of hunting,”
I know that, but did he have to spend that money? Money that could go somewhere else?
The thought makes in inwardly cringe.
“Plus,” He scratches the back of his neck. “I’ve already auctioned it off-”
“You jerk.” I shoot out my arm and nail him in the stomach.
Mason wheezes a laugh and places a hand on my shoulder. “You know if you were any more protective of my money, I’d think you were my wife or something.”
“Its money! You don’t spend money like that!” Brushing his hand away, I folded my arms and looked at the other direction, insulted by how he tricked me.
“I can’t believe you risked your inheritance, Mase.”
“I wasn’t risking anything,” He shrugs. “By auctioning the building, I’ve gained twice as much as I’ve lost.”
Right, I’ve forgotten who I was speaking to.
He’s an heir to a billion dollar company and practically knows the ins and outs in the world of business.
Such vast differences compare to my broke ass.
“Hey,” He says, still amused. “At least I got the blueprints. We can do this properly without mistake. No one will get hurt.”
Even though he finds laughter in my sulking, I know he’s right.
The blueprints will come in handy.
We didn’t have time to regroup and come back tomorrow as our window of opportunity is today.
I don’t see any other way.
“Alright,” I nodded, irritated but otherwise quiet. “Thank you... Mase.”
I instantly regret it.
“You know what, I take it back, you ass-”
“You can try, its sealed in my heart now.”
“Marlen where the hell’s my knife?”
“Enough, the both of you.” Marlen interrupted, somehow procuring a toothpick from the inside of his jacket. “Got a headache from ya’ll arguing.”
I shoot him a glare to which he threw the toothpick in my direction. I dodge it, watching the nimble thing fall to the ground. “That’s littering you know-”
“Get your head in the game, Red.”
Cue the basketballs.
“I think you’ve been watching too much High School Musical.” My grin is evident.
“Shut it, it ain’t my fault that Evans boy downloaded the whole pack.”
“Mmhm, but you watched it didn’t you?”
Before my Sponsor can strangle me, Mason is in between us, acting as a referee. “Ah, put away the claws, ladies, old men,”
“You best not be talkin bout me, Fell.” Marlen harrumph and tucked his hands into his coat.
Grumpy as ever.
“Right then,” I rolled my eyes and shifted my arms so they laid at my sides. “We’ll look through the blueprints first, figure out where the exits are.”
“Oh, that’s all then?” My Sponsor shakes his head and kicks a pebble with his shoe. “Hope you know what you’re doin’ Red.”
The street is quiet.
The area is quiet.
Mason and I carefully make our way into the side alley, careful not to be seen in the process.
Its dark and the area is dimly lit.
The smell is nauseating.
Trash and piss.
We quickly clambered up the building, making sure our footsteps are quiet. The buzzing of the neon sign from the mini mart downstairs emits a high pitch, one that annoys me.
I quickly shake it off.
I can’t get distracted now.
Lifting my body along the wedge of two handle bars, I slide down the grating and shimmy off a balcony.
Since my body is smaller, I’m quicker but Mason is obviously larger. It takes time for him to do all that quietly, I don’t stop to wait for him because I know he’ll catch up.
He wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t.
Lifting my arm, I peered at the digital watch ticking away and blew out a huff of air.
“3 minutes.” I hold out three fingers, indicating to Mason that we have to get in position soon.
He nods and swipes the sweat beading on his eyebrow.
We’re nearly to the fire escape when I see it, the emergency EXIT.
Exactly where the blueprints said it be.
Feeling triumphant, I quicken my pace, practically skipping across the grating and hoisting up ladders.
I’m out of my breath when I finally reach the door and nearly hit a pile of empty cans situated in the corner.
My arm shoots up, stopping Mason as his foot just about touches the cans behind me.
I bend down, slowly removing it from under him and tucked it into a wilted potted plant.
“Thanks,” He mutters quietly, crouching beside me as we squatted in position. We’re practically pressed up against one another, not an inch separating our bodies in fear of being seen.
I’m startled when my digital watch beeps from my wrist, informing me of the time.
The fire alarm should go off soon.
We’d have at least 15 minutes to get in and get out before the building’s occupants realize there isn’t a fire.
Since we can’t see anything from here, we’ll have to rely on sound.
It must have been only a minute in when I feel Mason shift behind me, his figure solid and strong, a comfort to the chaos that will ensue.
“Your heart is beating so fast,” He whispers, his breath tickling my cheek, blowing strands of my red hair.
“Its the running.” I tell him, feeling a chill run down my spine as I realize his fingers are resting on my waist.
I hadn’t felt it earlier having been distracted.
But his grip isn’t harsh, its gentle, just barely there.
He chuckles and raises a hand to trace the ribbon tying my mask. “You sure its not me?” His fingers run all the way to the back of my head.
The corner of my lips, lift. “You’re a cocky prick you know that right?”
He tightens the ribbon, securing it, making sure it wouldn’t come off if there be any altercations.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Mason feigns indifference and because we still have time, I shift slightly in my position, pressing my spine to his chest so I can see the side of his face.
“You sure, Mr-drop-the-dramatics?”
He looks away, embarrass, and I laugh, remembering the memory of when he’d first saw me up on that BourneFell hotel’s helipad.
“Would you believe me if I told you I was already star-struck by you?” He sighs as though the very fact made him tired.
If I hadn’t know him like the back of my hand I would’ve been offended but I know what those dark eyes shine with, what that tone indicated.
He was teasing.
I pull the edge of my jacket and took out the combat dagger, feeling the handle’s pressure rest loosely on my palm.
“Look at me,” Twirling it around, I pointed the sharp edge to my throat and wink. “Who wouldn’t be star-struck?”
“Ah,” He grabs my hand and pushes the dagger away, leaving it in between us. “Who’s cocky now?”
We’re close, perhaps too close.
The heat from the night air is suddenly a bit hot.
I raise a hand and ran the back of my knuckles down the side of his face, feeling the leather gloves hint a feeling of warmth as my knuckles catch the edge of his mask.
He doesn’t stop me when I pull the sleeve down, allowing his mouth free.
I see his face as though its the first time I’ve met him.
Just a hint of slyness.
A man that knew exactly when and where to use his talents.
I couldn’t imagine Mason as anyone else.
He was a good looking guy and I would be an idiot not to notice.
I’ve always noticed.
The corner of his lips lift, air passing through them, mixing in the atmosphere between us.
Words should be spoken between us but I am not sure what to say.
I think he feels the same way.
It feels like I’m so close to something but a glass wall is separating me from it. I see it, but I can’t reach for it, I’m still so far away.
What are we?
I don’t know.
I’m always unsure with him.
A whiff of smoke enters my nose and I cringe at the sharp acidic taste, remembering what happened at the Rink when Karen ignited the Rink.
I smell fire.
Instincts kick in.
I release my hold on Mason and stand up, bracing my hands against the walls and bars so I can peer around the corner for any signs of it.
“What the hell?” It must be nearby, how else am I able to smell the intensity of it?
“What happened to the fire alarm? Did you hear anything Mase?”
“Something’s not right,” He’s standing beside me when I spot it.
Emitting from the inside of the building, escaping through window sills.
No one has noticed anything but us.
Why wasn’t the fire alarm going off? Instead, why did an actual fire break out?
Where was Zanthus and Marlen? Omega and Charlie?
“Call them, now.” Either way, the scene will change into something bad if we didn’t get to the bottom of it. “If the fire spreads, it’ll burn the whole block-”
Glass shattering, concrete rumbling.
A gush of orange flames flurried alive like molten liquid, exploding out of the lower windows, spreading outwards and inwards, burning everything instantly in a mass of black and red.
The heat is so sudden I duck, crying out, shielding my eyes.
“What the hell was that?” Mason straightens himself and pulls his mask up to shield his face, eyes heated with confusion and frustration.
That’s what it was.
Something is terribly wrong here.
“We’re not staying here, come on-” He tries the EXIT door and jerks it open but the door doesn’t budge. “Its locked.”
“What?” Running over, I tried the door handle and pushed hard, hoping he may be wrong, but the door remains closed.
What type of EXIT door stays locked?
What the hell is happening?
“Give me the knife,” Mason gestures for me to hand the dagger over and I do, looking over my shoulder after to see if the flames have gotten worse.
Glimmer of flames turned gigantic, clawing and eating their way up the sides of the building.
Heat and smoke sears my skin.
“Did Omega and Charlie double cross us?” I hiss in offence, fuming silently.
“We’ll worry about that later,” The door gives way beneath Mason’s assault, the knife breaking the weak door hinges.
He pushes it open and I went inside, feeling the dark hallway close in as he shuts the door behind us, bathing the entirety of the area in nothing but black.
“What floor was this again?”
“We’re on the 13th floor.” He brushes past me, reaching for my fingers so I can follow his lead.
We amble our way down the dark corridor and feel our way for another door possible leading to stairs.
The smoke is evident now and as I reach for door, another boom shook the building.
I feel the ground tremble, the walls shake and understand we may have just gotten ourselves in trouble.
This couldn’t have been our guys, this was something else.
Something I hadn’t anticipate.
Panic makes my heart race.
I push the second EXIT door open, not caring that it slammed against the bricks. Smoke filled my vision, blurring my sight before I cough out loud, out of air.
Thick black fumes is spewing across every inch of the building, the flames are relentless and when another explosion shatters a window, I realize with dawning horror what’s happening.
The building was a safe house.
So what happens if its compromised?
What happens... if someone found out?
Wouldn’t they try to bury it? Get rid of any loose ends?
I’ve started a fucking bomb.
“We need to start moving up, we’ll be trapped.” Mason gasp out behind me, his features evident with determination. “Come on, we can still get the guys-”
When he pulls my arm and tries to tug me upwards, I don’t move.
Civilians lived in the complex.
My voice shakes. “There’s people a few floors down.”
He moves in front of me and cups my cheeks. “The others would have gotten them out, that was their objective remember?”
“The explosions are a whole different ball game Mase!”
Another explosion rattled the area and I have to grab hold of the bars when my knees buckled.
A shrill ringing pierce the air.
The fire alarm going off.
Too late now.
“Vanessa, we can’t do anything!” Mason shouts, his grip turned pressing and tight. “If we stay here any longer, we’re dead!”
I can’t take not knowing if innocents are trapped downstairs.
So without warning, I push Mason aside and descended down the stairs, bleakly trying to remember earlier where I saw which lights were on in the building.
But the area is different, the stairs and different corridors are foreign to me.
The blueprints can’t be right.
There’s a door here where there shouldn’t be and a corridor that should.
Mason is yelling behind me but eventually silences himself when he realizes what I did, that the flooring is wrong, the area is different and the blueprints he got must have been faked.
We don’t have time to think, we can only move, following the stairs, going through different doors and corridors.
I hear another boom, cracks of concrete fell into my hair, colluding the polluted air.
I’m on the 10th floor when I hear something.
Loud banging and screaming.
Hoping down the last few flights of stairs, I slam into the closed door and hear people on the other side, begging to be let in.
They’re still here.
Zanthus didn’t get them out.
“My knife, Mason!” I don’t wait for him to give it to me, I took it from his fingers and jab it in between the hinges, pushing the balls of my palm inwards.
The door squeaks under my force but I don’t stop because the screaming behind the door has intensified.
I jam the knife in between the hinges and rear back, preparing to run forward.
Gaining momentum, I release a shrill cry and slam myself against the door, hearing the knife crack the wood as it gives way, revealing dirty faced civilians, covered in smoke and dust.
Two girls, an old man and a little boy.
The girls rush over to me, clutching my arms in relief as they cry.
“Thank you, thank you!” They chanted with gratefulness and maybe its because they’re in shock that they don’t find it weird Mason and I are masked, but the concrete behind them suddenly falls, thudding against the floor.
We can’t get them down.
We’ll have to move up.
“Get them up!” Pulling them in, I am careful to move the old man in Mason’s direction as his arm looks injured and bleeding heavily.
“Vane-” He stops himself from saying my name, momentarily forgetting where we are.
One look in his eyes and I know he understands the situation we’re in.
“Get them to the roof, we can’t stay here.” My lungs hurt, my eyes burn. There’s too much smoke. “If we can-”
Someone is sobbing loudly behind me.
I turn around, spotting the little boy earlier who refuses to move from his position.
He’s covered in soot and his pajamas are ripped in places.
“Hey,” Bending down, I try to speak to him calmly, hoping he’d listen. “We have to keep moving, can you do that for me?”
Behind me, Mason hesitates in leaving but I flick my fingers at him, urging him to go.
There’s no time.
I don’t see if Mason has done what I’ve asked, my whole attention is focused on the boy.
“What’s your name huh?”
“A-Aiden.” The little boy is crying into his blanket when I smooth his brown hair from his eyes and wipe the tears.
“Its going to be fine Aiden, where’s your parents?”
“T-They went to check on what’s happening downstairs.” He hiccups, his small fingers curling along mine. “They never came back.”
I hoped they managed to get out.
“Right then,” Turning on my back, I knelt on the floor and held my hands out backwards. “Want a piggy back? I swear it’ll be fun.”
Another crackle of fire exploded behind us, the heat singeing the floor and making black marks.
Aiden slowly grasp the sides of my shoulders and pulls himself up, his legs dangling along my waist.
I stand up and held onto him but hiss when a sharp pain flowered up my right palm.
A bead of blood is slowly trickling downwards to the floor. I’ve cut myself when I threw my body against the door, possibly slicing my palm with the knife.
“Hang on tight, okay?” I instructed, smiling at him as his hands curl by my neck. “We’re going to be fine.”
Bracing myself, I climb up the stairs, focusing on my steps and quickening the pace when the floors dangerously starts to tremble and break.
The different corridors and doors I’ve passed makes anxiety grow in the pit of my stomach.
I hoped I was going the right way.
I make it up the 13th floor, the original floor Mason and I once was and opened the doorway, quickly realizing that a piece of the grating is now missing.
There’s a giant hole blocking my way to the fire escape.
Mason and the others are no where to be seen.
Think. Think, I can get through this.
I feel Aiden tighten his grip on me when he spots why I’ve stopped. Tears are still trickling down his face, wetting my back.
“I want... Mommy, where’s Mommy?”
He must be 9 or 10, I don’t know.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you back to your Mom.” Backing up against the bars, I see a foot hold on the fire escape and know I can reach it, despite the giant hole blocking our way, giving clear view of the drop that would surely kill us.
“I’m going to need to jump so you have to promise to hold on really tightly, can you do that for me?” I ask him, my breathing turning rapid.
He shakily nods and sniffles some more. “O-Okay.”
“Alright,” Lifting the edges of my mask up, I allow him to see my features and smile at him. There was no need to hide, not when it came to this. “This will be fun I promise, just like hopscotch.”
Except missing the jump, means certain death.
Readying my body, I poise my muscles and brace my limbs. When I feel Aiden stiffen, I know he’s held himself down and is prepared just like me.
“Here goes nothing,” I run forward, focusing my will in reaching the other side, carefully planning where my foot will land and my hands will reach.
We’re suddenly flying mid air, limbs out, hands reaching, foot bracing.
I see the ground beneath us, several floors down.
I see the foot hold, the fire escape, the red bar sticking out the side of it.
Then my hand is on it, but my wound makes me flinch and I slip, my foot getting caught against the grating.
We slam into the grating, my elbows on the edge of the step, my legs dangling freely.
“Hey, I-I need you to climb up, can you do that?” My breath strains, pain makes itself known, bruising the entirety of my body.
“B-But I’m scared-” He cries, holding my neck so tight it feels like I may choke.
“You’re going to be fine,” I soothe him, struggling hard to clamber up but our combined weight makes it too difficult. “Come on, now we don’t have a lot of time.”
I think I may be doom when he doesn’t move.
But by some miracle, his tiny hand grasp onto the step and his body begins to climb over me, foot on my shoulder, then on my arm.
I hold on until he makes it and when he does, I quickly hoist myself the rest of the way up, grunting from the exertion and pain.
My vision blinks once and twice, smoke filling my lungs, heat burning my skin.
“Come on,” I reach for Aiden’s fingers and together we make our way up the last few flights of stairs, my mask now back on my face.
We’re nearing an EXIT door leading into the building when I hear shots.
“Stay behind me,” Pushing Aiden behind my figure, I slowly open the door and spot Mason and the civilians huddled in the corner just by a corridor on the 15th floor.
They made it.
They were safe.
“Mase?” I call out and he turns at the sound of my voice, relief breaking through his eyes.
“They’re not letting us through,” He mumbles, gesturing me to get behind him, so we’re blocked. "Aitenev’s men are shooting. My guess is, they want to get rid of us, leave nothing behind.”
“The civilians aren’t loose ends.” I hiss, clutching my fists tightly as I stare at the two girls huddled in the corner, the old man holding his injured arm and Aiden who’s holding onto my leg.
“The whole building’s a loose end,” He growls out loud, spitting a curse when a gunshot hits the wall above us. “They’ve rigged the place to explode, made it look like a fire broke out. I think they knew we were coming.”
I’ve anticipated that they did but this was extreme.
They didn’t care if they’d buried the innocents down with us, they just wanted to win.
At the back of my mind, worry for Zanthus and Marlen only grew.
“You’re not getting through!” Someone shouts from around the corner followed by another round of gunshots.
Christ, we were going to die if we don’t get to the roof.
“Mase, we need to move.”
“I know,” He agrees huffing with effort. “You got any ideas?”
“Only bad ones.” I honestly say, spotting the smoke spilling in. If we moved behind the cover of it, we just might make it.
Plus, they were shooting at random. They don’t know where we are so I’m counting on that.
“Get behind me Mason, wait for my signal.”
“You’re going to get hurt.” He grasp my shoulder, halting me, forcing me to wait. He lowers his voice so only I can hear. “Think about this, Vanessa.”
“There’s no time,” Pulling my hand away, I gave him the most serious look I’ve ever given anyone. “Just wait for my signal okay?”
Mason wanted to argue, I knew he did.
But he can’t do anything, he can’t fight back.
I’m in charge here, I am the one that has to follow through.
I need to be the front.
If not I didn’t deserve the title to lead.
Crouching on the floor, I amble my way around the corner and press my back against the wall.
I hear talking just behind me, two voices, both males.
“You gonna shoot civilians?” I yell, hoping to hear where they are positioned.
The wall above me cracks with several gunshots in response, the bullets falling to the floor.
“That’s comforting.” Huffing in annoyance, I get on my knees and peer through the haze of smoke, only managing to see dark shadows crouching by the EXIT door blocking the stairwell to the roof.
“You’re not getting out of this alive! The whole place will blow!”
Shaking my head in exasperation, I wipe the soot from my mouth. “You do realize, you’re still in it, right?”
There’s a stunned silence to which I took advantage off, quickly rushing towards the other side of the corridor, slipping by a closed door.
More gunshots, all missed.
Right, so they were quite dumb.
“No loose ends, that’s what they said!”
“Shut up, man!”
“Jonas got us in this mess, we’re dead because of him!”
My ears prickle at the tone of their argument, understanding that despite their orders of killing the civilians, they must be scared out of their mind.
“What are you so afraid off huh?” Came my throaty response. “Is someone coming after you, is that why you’re so scared?”
More mumbling on the other end, followed by someone furiously snapping.
“Shut up man, I’m telling you shut the fuck up.”
“We should’ve killed Marvin! Now we got both Red Devil and Aitenev on our backs!”
I roll across the floor and made it to the other side, now closer to where the other two are.
They were still distracted.
I’m so close, I can hear their voices, loud and clear.
“Red Devil’s one girl, and Aitenev is not going to hurt us. We’re protected.”
“Then why the hell are we in a burning building?”
Exactly my question.
Grabbing onto a piece of concrete on the floor, I threw it at the other direction, hearing the thing crack against the wall.
The two males whip out their guns to shoot, distracted by the noise.
I’m sliding through the dust filled floor, kicking my leg out and nailing one of the men in the crotch.
He howls, dropping the gun, a shot rang out, hitting the ceiling.
The other man is so startle by my move then when he points the gun in my direction, I shove his partner in front of me, blocking him off.
“Shit,” He hisses, his features turning enraged.
I kick his partner in his direction and let the two fall on each other.
The guns are haphazardly thrown around the floor.
I kick one further down the corridor and pick the other up, quickly raising it in their direction.
They freeze at my glare, hands raised.
“Please, don’t shoot.” The man has a tied back bun, his features ragged and dirty from the fire.
“Tell me where Jonas is.” I’m in no mood for games. I just need information. “If you’re lucky, you may get out of this alive.”
“What the f-fuck? How did you-”
I cocked the gun, hearing it click in place. I step forward, closer, each step domineering and threatening.
“Tell me where he is or I’ll shoot you, right here, right now.”
The building is burning, they are civilians waiting around the corner to escape, yet I don’t move from this moment.
I have to know.
The only reason this whole mess started in the first place is because I tried to find Aitenev’s men.
If anyone died it would be on me.
I have to make it worth it.
“Its you...” The man who was shouting at his partner to shut up is suddenly wide eyed. He’s looking at me like I’m a ghost, blond hair curling along his temple. “You’re Red Devil.”
Its like the whole world slowed down.
I feel the heat.
I smell the smoke.
I see the men.
And I smile.
“Did you enjoy the show?” I tilt my head, mockingly. “Any one of you could have pulled the trigger on Marvin but you didn’t.”
A piece of the roof beam fell behind me, destroying another part of the floor.
“You watched him die, slowly, terribly, horribly...” The gun is so close between their faces, my finger is touching the trigger. “Who’s the monster here? Me... or you?”
Blondie threw a punch but I duck, neatly rolling on my feet.
When I raise myself up, intending to shoot, they’ve already escaped up to the roof, the door banging close.
I smooth out my features, feeling my teeth ache from how hard I’ve gritted them.
The blood lust is still so clear.
“All clear,” My voice rang out, gruff. “Come on, we gotta go,”
Mason bounds around the corner with the civilians in tow. He shakes his head at me, telling me everything I need to know from his expression even without him speaking out loud.
He heard everything.
Yet he doesn’t question it. Instead he pulls me into a side hug, murmuring a warning. “Don’t do that again.”
“We got them trap,” I say, unraveling myself from him so we can move up the stair well, the civilians right behind us. “They got no where to go.”
“We have to get the civilians out first,” He’s piggy backed Aiden doing the same thing I did earlier on.
When he spots the gun on the floor, he picks it up and tucks it into the waist band of his jeans.
I’m still holding onto my weapon, not bothering to hide it.
“Maybe there’s a way through to the other building. We can jump across and escape.” Mason presses himself against the door and strains his ears to hear anything behind it.
“They’re scared, they know they’re doomed.” I can’t help but laugh, unable to tear myself away from the feeling of Red Devil breaking through the surface.
“We’ll be doomed if we don’t move now.” He digs his nails into my wrist, forcing me to focus. “Hey, are you with me?”
I shake my head, trying hard to breath through my nose.
Its funny because the only thing I see is the look on the men’s faces.
The look of fear and panic.
The look that knows death is coming.
Mason doesn’t wait for me to gather myself. He gestures to the civilians to get behind him as he braces the door.
“Ready? 3... 2... 1!” He throws the door open and runs across the roof with the others right on his tail.
Our foot steps are loud and thundering. We don’t stop.
I take the rear, holding the gun to my side as we reach the edge of the roof on our right.
Mason sets Aiden down on the ground and peer at the connecting buildings.
Its too far to jump.
We’re still trapped on the roof.
“Shit!” He curses, running his hands up and down his temple.
I tuck the gun on my waistband and move towards the air conditioning fans, lifting random piles of wood and stray ropes all frayed from the environment in hopes of seeing anything that could help us.
Just further down from us, I see Aitenev’s men struggling to pull something together.
A rope to a ladder.
Leading to the other side.
I’m running towards them, kicking stray cans and PVC pipes, my breathing tearing out of my chest and my heart leaping in my lungs.
They don’t see me when I skid in front of them, taking Blondie down, making him release the rope of the connecting ladder.
It falls back to the other building, leaving them with no where to go.
I hear Mason coming up to assist me when man-bun-guy backs up away from us.
The fire is so close its too hot to even talk.
“L-Look, we can all leave together alright? I just don’t want to die!” Upon closer inspection, man-bun has a mark just beneath his left eye.
Small but discreet.
Swirls and a cross.
“Mason, get the rope.” I instruct him, taking the gun out of my waist band so I can point it at Blondie beneath me. “Get the civilians across first.”
Man bun is clearly getting a bit antsy. He’s shifting on his feet, debating if he should save his partner, the one I’ve got trapped.
While Mason manages to grab the rope and pulls the connecting ladder to attach against the side of the building, I refocus in front of me.
He manages to get one of the girls across before I start talking.
“Where is Jonas?”
“I ain’t telling you shit!” Blondie spat out saliva, nearly hitting me in the face.
Piece... Of. Shit.
I grit my teeth and bent down, lowering my head so I can look into his eyes, the gun pointing at his throat. “Look at your options,”
His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, his chest rose and fall.
“I’m on top here, you’re at the bottom. Do that again... and I’ll feed you a goddamn bullet.”
I get the reaction I need.
He stops moving entirely, understanding my threat is something I will not hesitate to deliver.
Footsteps appear by my rear, its Mason, he’s out of breath.
“Vi’s on the other side,” He informs me. “He’s got the girls and the little boy.”
“Is he alright?” I ask, concern for Zanthus.
“It was Charlie.” There’s a knowing look in his gaze, one that tells me something bad did indeed happen. Just as we thought. “He started the fire.”
Rage slither through my veins, adding fuel to the fire growing in the pit of my stomach.
I feel the anger so swiftly that for a second I’m blinded by it.
The rage too sudden for comprehension.
If word spreads about this, we’ll be blamed.
I held in a breath and raise a finger at the injured old man struggling to steady himself against the ladder. “Get him to the other side, I’ll be right behind you.”
He halts at my orders and the look that crosses his expression makes me glare. “Don’t fight back, just do as I say.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“What we came here for,” I spread my hand onto Blondie’s cheek, tipping the gun into his mouth. “Once I have that, I’ll go.”
“I can’t leave you-”
“The building is going to blow!” My voice raises, high and shrill. “Get the innocents out now!”
“Damn you!” Mason snapped, reaching for the old man so he can help the elderly across without possibly injuring himself further.
Now I’m alone.
One against two.
Yet I know, I’m in control here.
Exhaling slowly, I take the gun out of the Blondie’s mouth and slowly stand up, keeping my boot on his chest.
Man-bun is still in the same position. There’s a wild look in his gaze and he keeps on looking at the ladder.
I shake my head. “You’re not leaving until you tell me where Jonas is.”
“I don’t know where he is!” He yells, furiously. “When Aitenev found out Jonas hadn’t gotten rid of Marvin, he got in trouble. We got dumped here, because of him!”
So he’s slowly, being careless.
It’ll make it easier to catch him off guard.
“That doesn’t answer the question, where, is Jonas?”
“I don’t know!”
“Then who gave you the order to kill the civilians?!”
The only sounds that can be heard is the crackling of fire, the booms rattling the building and my breaths as is teared out of me.
“I can’t...” Man-bun shakes his head, tears spilling from his eyes. Its the first time I’ve seen someone look so desperate. “I can’t tell you, they’ll kill-”
“You’re already a dead man.” I stated without remorse. “Jonas put you here because he knows he’ll have to get rid of the both of you.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Oh really?” Leaning forward, I rested my elbow on my propped leg, using the man beneath me as support. ”Aitenev may be a coward in admitting who they’ll kill, but I’m not... I’m Red Devil.”
I wasn’t afraid of showing the monster.
I wasn’t afraid of hiding it.
I wasn’t afraid of killing someone to get what I want.
Especially after they took, everything and everyone from me.
“Where... is, Jonas? Last chance.”
The tension between us is palpable. A string pulled two taut, a line stretched too thin.
Something in his expression changed.
Small but subtle.
His figure slouched, his limbs went still, his head falling down.
Then his shoulders shake. “Yes... you’re Red Devil... yes, I’m scared of you.”
His voice is surprisingly hushed and when he raises his head revealing the dripping tears, I am startled because I recognize that look.
Its not fear for death.
Its fear of nothing.
Because he’s given up.
“But I’m more scared of what she’ll do to my family then I am scared of what you’ll do to me.”
He moves backwards towards the edge and without warning, throws himself off.
I can only stand still at the motion and watch his body disappear from the edge.
It stuns me, makes flashes of memories appear in my vision, hindering my ability to concentrate.
It engulfs me, makes my head spin and my teeth ache.
Dead, he’s dead.
He killed himself.
Not because of me, because he was afraid of something else.
Who is she?
My foot is thrown off from under me when Blondie manages to escape.
I fall to my rear, the gun slipping from my grasp. He quickly hoist himself up and stands, the gun now in his shaking hands.
I am not afraid of it.
We stare at each other, both of us not saying anything despite the silence growing.
He’s in shock at what his partner did but is trying to hide it.
I can tell by how his body trembles.
“He may be dead, but you’re not.” My voice is cold, choosing to delve into the emotionless part of me so I’m not affected now. “Where is Jonas?”
“Do you really think I’ll tell you anything?” He hisses, baring his teeth. “Marvin should have been killed a long time ago, but Jonas just had to see what you’d do!”
“What can I say?” The gun is getting dangerously close to being used on me. I still don’t care. “I’ve been told I star-struck, people.”
“You cunt.” He barks out a laugh, manic almost. “You fucking cunt-”
“Keep talking,” I sigh, sitting up and resting my elbows on my knees. “It’ll make it so much easier to kill you.”
“You think I’m afraid of you? So what if you’re Red Devil, you don’t have the resources, the connections, nothing! Aitenev will get to you just like they got everybody!”
“Well...” A giggle escapes my lips, so unlike me that I’m stunned by my action but instead of feeling wary, I feel... exhilarated. “Because I have no resources, because I have no connections, because I have nothing... I may just be the only one, that can take Aitenev down.”
He didn’t like that.
“You psycho bitch!” The gun moves, his fingers find the trigger. “Fucking cunt! I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!”
I hear the shot.
It doesn’t reach me.
A figure has pushed the gun away, the bullet ricocheting on the floor just inches where I sat.
He punches Blondie clean across the face and swipes the gun away, clocking the hilt against his ear. “You bastard.”
Blondie grunts and falls to his hands and knees.
“Try that again,” My Sponsor stands in front of me, the gun pointed at Blondie, his body positioned in a way as though urging me to move backwards to the edge. “-it be the last thing you ever do,”
Blondie grasps his ear, wincing at the pain.
“Start moving Red, cops are on their way.” Marlen instructed, nodding at me. “We need to leave before they get here.”
I won’t leave without knowing where Jonas is.
My Sponsor seems to understand this even without hearing me say it out loud.
He blocks my way, glaring now. “We’re leavin, this place will blow us sky high-”
“You think you can escape?” Blondie stands up, alerting us to his actions. He stumbles forward, daze, Marlen shakes his head, finger on the trigger.
“Not another step boy, I’ll blow your head clean off.”
“We know... all about you.” He chuckles, a malicious grin spreading through his features. “Where you live... your faces... right down to your goddamn names.”
I force myself to stay calm.
But the more he approach us, with no fear, the more I feel something strange crawl up my back.
“You’re lying.” I say, calling out on his bullshit, the edges of my mask beginning to itch.
“Oh really?” He tilts his head at me and swipes the blood from his ear. “I’m a dead man you said it yourself, why would I be lying?”
He must be lying.
There’s no way.
We were careful.
But at the back of my mind, I am reminded of the discussion we had whilst in the motel at NorthVille.
“We shouldn’t look at coincidences, not when it comes to things like this.”
“You’re right, we shouldn’t.” Thomas agrees, now in thought.
“But they know who you are. Hell, I’ve always thought they knew you because of us, but that can’t be it, can it?”
No, it couldn’t.
When I’ve said nothing and the silence only grows, its clear there’s something here that all of us aren’t seeing.
Aitenev had already been involved with the Moore and Fell group, I wasn’t included in their fight thus, had nothing to do with it.
But they’ve targeted me before then and I’ve been fighting my own private battle against them.
Things only got more complicated when everything mashed together and I joined their circle.
So how did it begin?
Being confined in this motel room for several days, has made me settle and thought of all sorts of different things that my mind needed to wrap its head around.
All the dots were connecting, all the pieces were falling.
“Maybe... we shouldn’t look at when it happen...” Mason’s green blue eyes flash towards me, worried.
“We should look at how,”
We couldn’t understand how it all fit into place.
We couldn’t understand why they came after me, why it only got worse when I was accepted into the group with the others.
“Come on now, Red Devil.” Blondie spat my name out with grim vehemence, enjoying my uncertainty. “Surely you’re not afraid of Aitenev knowing who you are...?”
He had to be lying.
He smiles, a grim satisfactory, wicked, smile. “Isn’t that right, Vanessa...?”
Despite the fire and the heat and the smoke, I feel the unknown bubbling in my chest.
“Red...” Marlen warns, sensing I’ve begun to approach the male. “He’s baiting you,”
“I don’t care.”
“You should!” Blondie rubs the side of his face with the back of his hand, smearing blood across his soot filled skin.
There’s a mad look in his gaze, the beginnings of mania, the beginnings of an implosion.
“We know everything about you! We know who you are, we know your names!”
And I implode too.
“I’ll fucking kill you!”
Marlen barely has a chance to wrench my arm before I’m lunging forward, screaming at the male, yelling to the high heavens.
“Do you hear me?! I’ll kill you!”
Blondie laughs hysterically and clutch at his chest, shuddering deeply before he starts spitting a string of familiar names and nouns.
The whole world just might break in half.
“Mason Fell! Zanthus Bridgeson, Matthew Nelle, Victor Brown, Jared Velmos, the Vinyls, but most importantly-”
“You’re dead-” Tearing my arm away from my Sponsor, I force my hands in front of me and try to reach for Blondie, nails ripping at nothing even as Marlen held on tighter.
“This is between you and me, you leave them the fuck alone!”
“Get, back!” Marlen brace his hands on my shoulders, forcing me towards the ladder waiting for us.
I hear police sirens, the firemen, ambulances.
We’re running out of time.
Blondie smiles his pearly teeth and tips an imaginary hat at Marlen, intending on driving the proverbial knife deep. “Better keep them close, or you’ll lose them Venetia.”
My Sponsor stopped moving.
His whole body goes rigid, solid, un-moving.
My struggle against his figure suddenly feels like a brick wall.
He grasp my hand, twining the rope around my arm and ignores the ladder before pushing me off the building, forcing me to swing across.
I turn, mid air.
Gunshots spring in the air.
My Sponsor has emptied the whole clip into Blondie’s body, not allowing him a second to breath.
I see the blood splatter, the bullet shells, the body as it fell to its knees, then Marlen as he shoves it over the edge.
I am torn out of it when I reach the other side, right into Zanthus’s arms.
The side of his face is bleeding, his hair is in shambles, I spot his dark eyes through the mask and Mason who is waiting at the fire escape.
“Come on,” He tells me, out of breath, unwrapping the rope, throwing it back to the other side. “We need to go.”
We need to run.