Day Four [Part IV]
I was dragged back by a fistful of my hair. Danny reached out to grab me almost immediately. His fingers locked around my right wrist then slipped off, taking my blood-slick glove with him.
I felt the blade of a knife settle at the skin of my neck and in the next moment I saw one of us dying.
Danny was too focused on me to notice the person stalking towards him and I couldn’t warn him without getting us killed.
In less than ten seconds I needed to make a choice: save Daniel or save myself.
The gun felt incredibly heavy in my hand, the knife felt impossible sharp against my throat, but they both were capable of killing.
Slowly—and out VI’s line of sight—my right hand inched towards the knife.
My fingers clamped around their wrist, nails digging deep into their skin. With all the strength I could muster, I pulled the arm away from my neck and in that second, raised my other hand and pulled the trigger.
The hitman went down.
Hot blood splashed on my face. I felt it drip down my jacket, trickle down my jaw and fingers. . .
My vision blurred for a second, maybe more. I stared at the ceiling, counting my slowing breaths—none deep enough to help my battered rips. I felt fire spread from the tips of my fingers all the way up my arms before burrowing into my chest and setting my lungs ablaze. My thoughts exploded into nothingness, my awareness consumed by a ball of pain. I tasted blood on my tongue where I had bit down to silence a scream; the death in the winter air was back.
The lights above me disappeared, brightened, vanished, lulled. Sometimes I saw everything and sometimes nothing. Gunshots echoed all around me, too loud and here to be another convoluted memory.
Someone stood over me.
I stared into his eyes.
He was crying.
“Hey, hey. Mr Bodyguard, you have to get up.”
Wish I could, kid.
“Leave.” I managed to lift my hand, but instead of pushing him away like I intended, my fingers did nothing but leave streaks of red across his wet cheek before everything went dark again.
Maybe it was a second later, maybe it was an hour, but when I opened my eyes again I was still on the floor.
I struggled to get to my feet, my hand reaching up to brace my left shoulder. I wasn’t on enough painkillers not to feel the burn of my new wound. I could barely feel anything other than the pain. It was strange, the stabbing ache in my arm versus the numbness of everything else.
As I staggered forward, shell casings rolled noisily between my feet, bouncing against broken glass and themselves when my shoes collided with them.
Silently, I took in the carnage around me. The parking garage had transformed into a battlefield, with bullet holes in concrete and massive dents in metal panelling of a handful of the cars.
The wall directly in front of me took the most damage, decorated with deep gouges dripping with blood. And positioned in front of it all was the hitman I had shot before passing out
Instead of checking whether or not he was still alive, I turned around and started searching the rest of the parking spaces while trying my best to be quiet.
I had no idea what had happened between now and then, but the fact that I wasn’t dead meant that the mission wasn’t over. I had to deliver Daniel to his family in one piece before the day’s end or Ron would have my head.
“Danny?” I found him at the other end of the parking garage, a bloody knife clutched in his hand. I watched the red fluid roll down the tip of the blade, adding to the growing pool of blood at his feet. The fluorescent bulbs cast a pale glow around him that made the pink streaks in his hair shimmer silver in the light.
Blinking back the image, I called out him again.
This time, he turned to look at me, two burning rings of viridian around his otherwise turquoise irises.
I ignored VI who was pinned to the concrete wall by the throat, the lower half of their mask broken off and nowhere to be seen, revealing blueing lips and a sharp jaw covered in bruises.
Ron had made it clear that that was the last thing she wanted was the Council getting involved, and that was probably why she assigned this mission to me in the first place and not Alex. It was for a time like this when I had to stop Daniel from losing control and killing someone in a no-phase zone.
VI was already unconscious. I couldn’t even see how many wounds they had under all the layers of blood slathered on their skin. I took a step forward, ignoring the way my head started to spin when I got closer. “Danny, let them go.”
“They killed you,” he said, his voice deep and sober.
Now, I noticed a gun lying by his feet. It made me look down at my empty hands as though that could confirm that it was VI’s gun.
“Danny, don’t kill them,” I started again, just as a pang of pain hit me and nearly made me trip on my feet. I gritted my teeth and worked through it, making my way towards him. “You can’t.”
“Then you should just kill me too,” I continued, now just behind him. “If the Council finds out about this, they won’t let me off.”
“You didn’t do anything.”
“Yes,” I admitted, “I didn’t protect you well and I’m sorry, but after today, you’ll be one of the most powerful people in the Underworld. You can get revenge however you want then and no one would be able to stop you. Until then, you can’t. Do you understand, Danny? I can’t let you kill them.”
He didn’t take his eyes off me, and I didn’t dare to move. The last thing I wanted was him being impulsive. Sure, right now I wasn’t at my most persuasive, and any moment now I was going to keel over, but I had to try, for Daniel’s sake more than mine. He needed to get out of the city unscathed, and it was my job to make that happen. Even if the person I was saving him from was himself.
I heard, more than saw, the knife drop to floor. A second later, VI followed with a quiet thud and two arms wrapped themselves around me.
“I thought you died.”
“I’m too lucky to die.” We both took a step back, and I felt relief flood my aching body. The knife had missed the blood vessels in my neck but my shoulder had taken the brunt of the damage. Adding to the poison I had inhaled and the fact that the antidote had barely started working by the time I was dragged away, it made sense that I had passed out.
Daniel tighter his hold on me and I tried not to wince. Not caring that I was just about soaked in blood, he pressed his face into my shoulder. Slowly, the terrifying aura that surrounded him began to dissipate.
“I really thought you died. There was so much blood and you weren’t breathing.”
“I didn’t mean to… to,” he whispered, sounding a little more like his regular self. “The Council?”
“I’ll handle it.” I pulled back a bit to stare at him. His face was smeared with tears and blood, all of which was caused by me. My chest ached at the sight. I was a really terrible bodyguard.
“Kayden,” he mumbled quietly, as though he had read my mind, “thanks for being my bodyguard.”
“Thank you. . .for worrying about me.” It was a severe understatement, seeing that he would have killed two people to avenge me.
Daniel stared at me for a moment, no emotions visible in his eyes, then shook his head and looked away—at VI’s slumped form. “You really shouldn’t,” he said, his voice hollow, “a person like me doesn’t deserve it.”
I didn’t know what to say to that so I let the silence grow large enough to engulf the dozens of apologies that would have meant nothing if they were spoken.
I just kept holding him, hoping that the gesture would be enough to let him know that if he ever wanted to talk, I’d listen.