Demitris looked up from the cash register to see Jordan bouncing toward him, eyes bright. He grinned at her.
“I talked to her,” Jordan gushed, “I really talked to her. Imagine, a Librarian 1st Class actually came to our store and actually spoke to me!” Her hands refused to stay still as she poured out her excitement to her friend.
Demitris laughed, “Lucky! I should have gone back there to see what she was doing.” He leaned close and whispered, “Do you think she suspects what that old man does? Do you think she knows about the books he brings in?”
“Maybe,” Jordan shrugged, “but I doubt it. She seemed more interested in what happened yesterday with those kids. That scared me.”
“Yeah, I bet. I sure wish I had been here. I would have stopped them,” Demitris boasted.
Jordan started to laugh, but they both froze as a loud bang sounded from the back. Demitris turned pale and Jordan sprinted toward the store room. Demitris pushed himself into motion and reached the alley door a few steps behind his friend. Jordan was twenty feet down the alley standing over a body on the ground, smoking gun in her hand. Another figure, dressed all in black was sprinting toward the street. Demitris gaped as he watched Jordan raise the gun and fire.
I jogged down the sidewalk toward a white two story building that occupied most of a block. The teens, led by Brin, dashed down the opposite side. For some reason they did not think it wise to be seen with me in the group. Probably right. It would look weird. I thought hard. If this was the place the missing teens had been taken, how would we get in? If we did get in, could we find them? Was this a holding place for Enforcement Division? I had no answers. All I knew was that these kids had some friends taken and were determined to rescue them. Not wise, but perfectly understandable.
Brin held up a hand and the group skidded to a halt across the street from the building. She conferred with Logan then waved me over, “Smith, I think we should go around and see if we spot a good way in. Maybe we will get lucky.” She didn’t wait for agreement before she pointed to Audrey and Justin. “Go with Smith. The rest of you follow me.” She took off around the corner.
I shrugged and went the other way.
After a slow hike, we arrived at the back of the building. Brin and her group were hunkered down behind a row of hedges, watching a metal door that was flanked on each side by parking spaces. One space was occupied by an official ED vehicle. I eased in beside Brin and activated my Zone of Silence. “That’s the only entrance I saw,” I murmured. Brin nodded and I went on, “I think we should hide and watch for a while.”
We kept the same groups. I led Justin and Audrey to the right while Brin went the other way. My side had a dumpster and a stack of boxes to hide behind, so we settled in. I checked my phone and saw one message. Kenz. “Following a lead. Headed to The Second Story. Contact you soon. Love.” Short and sweet. I frowned. The Second Story. Had Kenz found the same doctored surveillance tape that I had? I hope that she took someone with her, I didn’t like the idea of her going alone. My stomach began to churn, but I forced down my nerves. She was a big girl and knew the risks. Besides, she was on duty as a Librarian and her uniform afforded her a lot of respect. I inhaled deeply and wiped my hands on my jacket. She was fine. She had to be.
I saw a young man about Logan’s age turn the corner and slip into hiding near Brin’s group. He was followed by four more, and then I heard footsteps behind me. I turned and found six more teens on my side, including Kortney. A short, solid young man slipped up beside me and motioned for the others with him to take cover. “I’m Blade,” he whispered and held out his hand. “Logan messaged us to meet you all here.”
“Good. Right now we are waiting to see what happens,” I answered softly. I nodded a greeting to the rest and settled back to watch the door.
A few minutes later, I tensed as three long, black cars wheeled down the street and parked. Two people got out of each one, a middle aged woman with long black hair and five men. The men were husky and appeared to have spent many hours in the gym. I hoped silently that I would not have to tangle with any of them.
The men from the cars formed up in a loose group behind the woman who reached for the handle. All hell erupted.
Colt backed away from the door a few paces and whispered, “On my signal. Stay close and move fast.” He tried to take a deep breath, but his ribs were aching mightily from the beating at the hands of the ED thugs the night before. The girls looked like they felt just as bad. He held up five fingers and began a countdown. He reached one and threw his shoulder against the door.
Kate crowded after Jack with Juli beside her, her bloodied club in one fist. The door began to swing, then stopped as if it were blocked. Jack shoved harder and it suddenly flew open wide. Kate heard a thump as a body hit the ground and swarmed out behind her friend. Figures converged on the three of them and she lashed out with her club. Juli shrieked and struck to the right as Kate swung at figures to her left. She howled with satisfaction as she felt her weapon connect and heard a man grunt in pain. She could not swing again. One of the men grabbed her club and two more seized her and threw her to the asphalt. Her ribs exploded in agony as she hit. Someone flipped her over and jumped on her back. Rough hands pulled her arms painfully up behind her and she yelled in torment. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Jack fall twitching from the effect of a Taser. Kate could not hear or see Juli at all. Her friend was silent. She blacked out from pain.
Brin screamed bloody murder as she saw Kate fall. The sudden appearance of her friends surprised her, but she recovered in seconds. She broke from cover and sprinted toward the scene as Logan and Irene followed close behind. The teens on my side of the door took off as well, Blade leading the charge, so I followed as fast as I could. After her initial yell, Brin was silent. Silent and deadly. I shuddered, glad that she was not attacking me. Somewhere in the trash pile she had found a length of metal pipe and brandished it menacingly as she ran.
Her first swing dropped one ED man, then Logan tackled another as Justin did the same. In seconds, all the teens were attacking the thugs with sticks, clubs, and rocks. All of the ED goons were armed with wooden truncheons, Tasers, and guns, but none had time to draw a weapon. I marveled at the ferocity of the teens as I kicked an ED man in the knee. I was no fighter, but my Shadow Web training had included hand to hand combat. The hours of practice paid off. He howled and fell.
Soon everyone who wore an Enforcement Division uniform was lying still and silent in the street. Many were bleeding as the teens stood over them. Brin raised her pipe to strike a downed enemy, but Logan stayed her hand. “No. Brin, no. It’s over. Brin struggled for a moment, but finally stepped back and nodded. Logan looked around at the faces of his friends. They all stood wide-eyed and pale as if shocked at what they had done.
Kortney dropped to her knees and cradled Kate’s head in her arms. Irene joined her and began washing her friend’s face with a cloth dampened from a water bottle she found on the ground. Jack and Juli were surrounded by the others, all trying to talk at once.
I brushed the dirt off my coat and looked around. “I hate to break up the reunion, but we should get out of here before those goons wake up or someone else comes to help.”
“They don’t have to wake up,” Brin growled as she brandished her pipe.
“No, he’s right, Brin,” Logan answered as he gently laid a hand on her arm. He started herding the group down the street. She glared back at the unconscious ED people, but kept walking. Jack was moving more easily, shaking off the Taser effects, but Blade and Kortney were having to support Kate, who was barely conscious.
We started moving faster as the three slowly recovered. The element of surprise had helped the rest of the teens avoid injury. We hiked past the park and toward the alley. I checked my phone of the way, but there were no new messages from Kenz. I quickly typed in a report on finding the missing kids and sent it to her. Was she okay? Had she learned anything?
We were nearing Logan’s house. The group had decided to hide out there for a few hours and let the heat did down. We were also traveling in small groups of two and three so as to not attract attention. Irene walked with me, keeping up a running chatter about her life, her friends, and books. She wasn’t too excited about science fiction, but if they were forbidden, she would read them just because. I smiled and nodded a lot. I understood the adrenaline rush, but it always made me quieter.
We reached the corner of the park. The Second Story was across the street and down on the next block on the left. The lead group turned right toward Logan’s house. I paused and glanced around. Something itched in the back of my mind, some thought I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Irene walked on with a wave as I stopped. Once the kids got out of sight they should be safe enough. A whim turned my footsteps toward the alley.