“You really think they’re all here?” Mason Matthews, FBI agent, asked his partner. They were camped outside of an old mansion. According to witness testimonies and the police’s records, this was a sketchy neighborhood. It had many twisting alleys and was perfect for a mass kidnapper if they knew the area.
“Everything lines up.” Derek responded as he tapped a beat on their car’s steering wheel. “12 kids go missing in three months, all the same way: they claim they’re going to meet up with a friend, and they don’t come back. Neighbors have described a similar looking dude each time. We even had a sketch artist come in and ask around. This neighborhood said they recognize the drawing to be the owner of this house.” He nodded to the mansion.
“Yeah.” Mason muttered.
“I know that look. What is it?”
“Something just seems off. None of the witnesses described a mode of transportation and if this kidnapper is good at what he does, then why go back to the same area to steal another kid? And why are all of them adopted? I don’t know, it just seems funky.”
Derek shrugged. He ran a hand through his brown hair. “Everyone messes up at some point.”
Mason leaned back in his leather seat. He scratched his incoming beard. He still didn’t like it. His gut was always right.
He handed Derek a coffee they recently picked up from Starbucks. His partner took it gratefully and gulped it down.
Mason sipped on his own and read through the testimonies of the families whose kids were taken. They were all very similar. He grumbled under his breath and took another sip.
Derek patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry. If we’re right, you’ll never have to look at this case ever again.” When he saw Mason simply shrug, he pulled out an old receipt and flipped it to its back. He took out a pen and create at tic tac toe board.
“You go first.” He jabbed his partner with the end of the pen.
Mason gave him a funny look. “We haven’t played that game since we were kids.”
“Do you want to pass time or not? Or are you just afraid I’ll whoop your ass?”
Mason chuckled and snatched the pen from him. He scrawled an X in the middle. “Your move.”
They filled out the entire receipt. Most were cat scrawls, but a few were won by Mason. Around one in the morning, Derek slid out of his car and walked to the gas station they were parked next to to get another coffee.
Mason adjusted the rear view mirror and used a tiny light to reread the Fisherman’s case file. There was a picture of a 10 year old boy with a red shirt, and a wide toothy grin. He had blond hair and freckles.
Mason shook his head. What kind of person would take innocent kids?
He glanced up when he saw a movement from the house. Jamie Fisherman, one of the first kids to be taken, casually walked out of the house and turned into the alley.
“Shit!” Mason hissed as he quietly hopped out of the car. His legs were numb but he ignored it. He pulled out his phone and texted Derek:
You: Jamie F just exited the house
Derek: crap on my way
He raced into the alley next to the mansion. His eyes instantly laid on the little kid, who kept walking without looking back.
“Hey! Jamie!” Mason caught up to him and spun him around.
Jamie’s arm was covered in tattoos. It started at his wrist, and made its way up to his elbow. They were crows.
“Jesus, what did they do to you?” Mason looked into the boy’s eyes. “I’m going to take you home.”
“I’m already home.” Jamie whispered.
Mason shook his head and held onto his arm. “Come on—,” he cut short when a familiar voice shouted his name. He glanced behind his shoulder and felt his heart drop in dread before he turned back to the child.
Jamie smirked. His body suddenly disappeared into a swarm of crows, and flew into the night.
Mason stumbled back in fear and confusion. “W-what the hell—.” He remembered his partner and turned back the way he came from.
He skidded to a stop in front of the house and searched around for Derek. Sweat trickled down his neck from the horror he witnessed and the urgency to find his partner.
His eyes flicked toward the open door of the gothic house. Gun in hand, and heart pounding against his chest, he stepped through the entrance and allowed the shadows to swallow him whole.
Each step seemed louder and squeakier than the last; he felt his stomach drop with the noise he made.
As a kid, he and Derek would often play hide n seek, and Derek would always pop out of his hiding place when Mason least expected it, which nearly gave him a heart attack. Derek would fall down in a fit of laughter and watch as tears brimmed in his brother’s eyes. “Mase,” he would say, “you make the funniest face when you’re scared!”
To which Mason would choke out, “jerk,” before placing on a smile and daring him to a match of cops n robbers.
Those days were simpler and countless. Like any children, they held heated arguments all day but the night swept their minds clean of any anger they felt for each other. They always had a chance to start over with one another. The sun would rise again to start the new day. Their link was stronger than any normal friendship.
Mason had the sense to pull out his iPhone and switch on the flashlight.
The first thing the light revealed to him was the dusty floorboards and the sets of footprints on them.
As he swept his light around to get a better sense of the mansion, he glimpsed old paintings on the walls, a long dinner table, cobwebs on the ceiling, and an elegant staircase.
Mason’s thumb rubbed the bumpy grip on his handgun as he often did before he listened to his gut. He squeaked across to the stairs and, thankful they were carpet and made his steps silent, bounded up to the second floor.
Distantly, he heard the low rumble of thunder and raindrops against the old fashioned windows.
The hallway’s carpet was torn at the edges and stained in what looked like dark ink. He passed an oval mirror when he turned a corner.
A buzzing feeling, like an alarm, started at the base of his skull, as if he were being watched. He had the feeling ever since he stepped foot into the building. The feeling was familiar, but more intense. It was as if a thousand tiny eyes were trying to burn holes into his head.
He felt his muscles tense. Should he try and open one of the identical doors lining the walls? a part of him asked.
No. He didn’t want to run into another one of those freaks. He was still having a hard time making sense of the boy exploding into a mob of crows.
He felt a lump in his throat form and forced himself to swallow his fear down. He didn’t like this place. He didn’t like what he thought he saw. But he could complain to his boss when he got Derek out of here.
“You’re going to have to try harder than—that, cowboy.”
He perked up at the oddly strained voice of his partner. He recognized the line from Derek’s favorite movie: Back in Boots, an old black and white cowboy film about two brothers just trying to make a name for themselves. A simple plot, but a hell of a good movie.
Mason snuck toward the door he had heard Derek’s voice drift through. He pressed his face against it and shut off his flashlight.
“Aftó eínai to spíti ton korákon.” An unfamiliar, strikingly intimidating voice said lowly.
Mason lightly felt for the cold handle. He quietly pressed down, with the invisible eyes judging his every move. Once he felt it was unlocked, he slowly slid it open a crack.
The entire back wall was glass in this room, and bookshelves lined the walls. Gray moonlight shone through a slit in the heavy rain clouds. Raindrops splattered the giant window and traveled down to the ground.
It was just light enough for Mason to see two figures. One held the other above the ground with one hand.
“I—don’t know—,” Derek tried gasping for air.
“Asshole!” Mason snarled when he was close enough to aim his gun at the attacker’s back. “Put him down or I’ll shoot your goddamn brains out, you hear?” Hot anger boiled over his freezing fear and he lightly trembled.
The moment of silence that followed only lasted a few seconds. But it felt like hours.
Then, it shattered. Suddenly, pain shot through Mason just as he heard the crack of his gun. He was somehow sprawled out on the ground with a nose and mouth full of blood. Confusion and panic fogged his vision. He jolted when he heard a bookcase clatter to the ground with a grunt.
He reached out for a shelf to pull himself up. Books tumbled out and landed heavily onto him.
That got the rage back in him. He stumbled to his feet and dizzily spun to find Derek.
There was struggling in a pile of broken shelves and opened books.
Mason started over, and felt his toe hit something familiar. He bent down, his ears still ringing from the last shot, and picked up his weapon.
The moon shined a little bit brighter, bright enough for Mason to see clearly. The tall, hooded figure grabbed onto Derek and put pressure down on his windpipe with the crook of his elbow.
The figure whispered something to a struggling Derek before pulling something shiny out of its cloak.
“Mase, get out of here!”
Mason flinched but didn’t say a word. His mouth and nostrils dribbled with blood, and he felt as if his head was on fire. That didn’t matter. Only one thought was in his head:
Partner. Out. Safely.
Mason stood his ground, even though he felt the beginnings of a nervous breakdown. “What is it you want?” His voice was surprisingly strong for what he felt.
“Ma—urk!” Derek struggled for air as the hold on him grew stronger.
“Dammit, what do you want?” Mason nearly yelled. When he didn’t get an answer, he lifted his gun. “Screw this.”
He wasn’t sure if he was seeing right, but in a flash, the attacker stood only inches apart from Mason, and Derek dropped on the floor behind them.
Mason only hesitated for one moment, listening as his breath quickened. His gun was flicked out of his hand the next. He threw himself at his attacker, furious, but the figure simply swerved to the side and kicked him down to the floor.
Mason was closer to his partner now. “Derek, it’s the old Harris Klein.” He hissed. That was their code for, ‘I’ll distract, you find a way to take this sucker down.’ They used this multiple times in other cases, and it always worked. They always laughed about it later, no matter how tough or scary it had been in the moment; that was Mason’s favorite part of the week.
Derek didn’t respond. His back faced him and he was lying on his side. His breathing was rather shallow and a pool of sticky ink started to form around him.
Mason’s heart stopped as, for a moment, he gave in to complete and utter panic.
His hair was grabbed and he was dragged to some unknown destination. The hooded figure didn’t make a noise, but it seemed like he was enjoying every bit of this.
Mason grabbed the cold wrist that held him, and tried to pry it off him. When that didn’t work, he tried to dig his heels into the ground or even stand, but to no avail. His already burning head exploded in even more pain and he couldn’t help but shout out loud curses and twist to escape his grasp.
Suddenly, he was yanked to his feet and his face was pushed against the glass wall.
He heard the man behind him growl something in a different language. He went to turn into a kick or a strike, but he was simply slammed against the glass again, this time causing it to crack. He was held in place and felt the tip of something sharp dig into his back.
The pressure on him was released and he instantly turned to see what happened. Shattered bits of a wooden chair were scattered around Mason’s feet.
The only thing left of the figure were a few crows dispersed throughout the room.
Derek gripped onto two arms of a chair, wide-eyed and trembling. Mason leaped toward him and caught him before he fell to the floor again.
“Did you see—th-that?” Derek wheezed.
“I know.” Mason grumbled before nodding to the exit.
Before they made it a few feet forward, hundreds of night black crows whirled into the room, squawking and hissing.
Wings fluttered around him, and he felt Derek’s grip loosen on him. Mason tried to hold on for dear life, but he was knocked onto his knees as some pecked at him and rammed into his chest.
As soon as his knees touched the dusty floorboards, the crows stopped. He looked up to see a ring of children, all with the same tattoos as—
Jamie Fisherman stood next to the hooded figure. He listened to the cloaked man’s whispers before he spoke up, “you have trespassed onto the House of Crows.” His voice was high pitched like a child, but his expression was as grim and cold as any adult.
Mason’s hands curled into fists. “Where. Is. Derek?”
“You do not interrupt—!” Jamie was hushed by the figure.
Mason stood to his feet. As soon as he straightened up, the taller figure was standing inches away from his face. Mason spat on him, but once he did, he heard a crashing noise and realized it was the window behind him—and he had been thrown out of it.
His vision was drowned in complete darkness as his back hit the concrete.
Mason’s eyes flickered open. He squinted at the white light. His first thought was: shit, I’m actually dead. For real this time. But as his vision adjusted, he realized it was the ceiling light he was staring at.
He winced as he turned his head to look around the room he was in. There was a vase of wilting daisies and a few cards on the desk to his left. He listened to the beeping from the IV for a few moments before he tried to sit up. He inhaled sharply as a stabbing pain shot up his back. “Shit…” he laid back down, out of breath.
“Oh my God.”
He looked to his right to see a woman with wavy blonde hair put up in a messy bun, large blue eyes, and rosy lips stare at him from the doorway. She had dropped her coffee and spilt it on the floor as she rushed over to his side.
“Liz,” he sighed in relief. “What happened?” He asked when she finished giving him kisses.
She held onto his hand, “you don’t remember?” She bit her lip and rubbed his knuckle with her thumb, as she usually did when she was nervous. “You went on a stakeout.”
He waited for her to continue, but she just kept staring at the IVs in his arm. He tried to remember the stakeout, but it was fuzzy. “Then what?”
“You got hurt. Badly.” She said without looking at him.
“What do you mean? I feel fine.” He muttered. Sure, it hurt to move a bit, but he wasn’t in too much pain. “Just a little sore, is all.”
She shook her head and her eyes were watery. “Mase…”
“Hey, I’m okay, really.” He promised.
She kissed his hand shakily. She pulled up a chair next to him. “You…um…” she brushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face. “You’ve been in a coma for...uh...a month. The doctors said it’s a miracle you were still breathing when the ambulance brought you in.”
He frowned and vaguely remembered falling from a building. He turned his gaze to the window, where a black bird sat, watching him. Suddenly, a wave of memories washed over him—Jamie, the crows, the house, Derek—oh, God—Derek.
“I need to leave.” His voice wavered as he stared at the bird. “We need to leave. Now.”
As he struggled to get up, Liz held him back down, “we can’t! You can’t leave.”
“I am too! When you fell, you hurt your back. Badly. It’ll heal, but the doctor says it will take time. Until then, you can’t…” she breathed heavily as he waited for her to finish, “you can’t walk.”
From there, things only got worse. Mason wasn’t allowed back on the FBI team until further notice, Derek was still considered “missing”, although he told them otherwise, and on top of this, he was confined to a wheelchair.
While his wife was at work, he clicked away on his laptop. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept, or ate an entire meal. His hand hovered over the keyboard as he read through the article on vampires. There was a few old legends that they would turn into black birds and live forever, which was nearly enough to convince him that’s what he saw.
He sighed, shut his laptop, and wheeled over to the front door. As he opened the door, his eyes traveled up to a familiar face. “Solomon.” The thin beard, sharp cheekbones, black hair, and beady eyes was enough for him to recognize his boss.
“Mason. Mind if I step in for a moment?”
He shrugged and wheeled out of the way.
As Solomon entered, he clicked on the lights. “It’s as dark as the damn Bat-Cave in here.” His eyes lowered down to the table that was covered in papers and files. “The hell’s this about?”
Mason began to gather them into a pile, “nothing of concern, sir.”
Solomon swooped over and snatched one. He ignored Mason as his eyes skimmed over the article about vampire weaknesses. He raised an eyebrow, “I was worried this would happen.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“You’re becoming restless and anxious about not being back at work, and your brother’s disappearance.”
“My brother is dead.” Mason growled.
There was a small moment of silence. Then Solomon shook his head and placed down the paper, “you took a nasty fall.”
“I know what I saw.”
“You were dreaming.”
“My brother was killed by something.”
“A vampire. That’s your idea?”
“I—I don’t—,” he grit his teeth, “that house. It was filled with children. They turned into a-a bunch of crows.”
“We already searched the house. We didn’t find anything.”
“I know. They must’ve moved.”
“Or you and Derek checked the place out, got surprise-attacked by a gang, and you were thrown out the window. While the guy that worked across the street called 911, you hallucinated about black birds and the missing kids. Your brother was most likely taken by them for leverage—”
“I know what I saw!” Mason slammed his fist down onto the table with a murderous, misty glare. “It sounds crazy, Sol, but I—I am not crazy.” He was breathless and trembling from rage.
A deep sigh shook his boss. He cleaned his spectacles and slowly slid them up the bridge of his nose. His eyes studied his agent for a few moments before he shook his head. “Badge.”
“Give me your badge. You’re done.”
“No, sir, don’t do this.”
“That’s not a suggestion.” He held out his rough hand. After a few, painstakingly long heartbeats, the badge was given to him. He made his way toward the exit, but paused. “I was hoping you would keep a steady mind throughout your recovery. But you’ve finally reached your limit. I’m sorry. But just know that I’m doing this for you.” He quietly opened and shut the door behind him.
-2 years later-
“Can I get anything for you, mister?”
Mason glanced up at the waitress, “just a water.” As she nodded and walked off, his gaze returned to the street. The cool breeze felt good in the dying sunlight. Although there was plenty to admire—the tall palm trees, crystal-clear ocean, and jungle surrounding the town—he couldn’t care less. He wasn’t here for a vacation. In fact, he was in the middle of his investigation. His own investigation. The one that caused him to lose his brother, his job, and even his wife.
His hand drifted to his ring finger out of habit, but remembered that he was no longer married. He blew out a long breath and nodded in thanks to the waitress when she set down his cup. As he sipped on the cold water, his eyes glanced down to the watch on his wrist.
No sooner had he looked away, a man exited a shop across the dirt street with the small ding of a bell.
Mason stood once the man disappeared into the thick of the jungle, and followed his footsteps silently. His boots sunk into the soft dirt and left imprints. His sharp gaze remained pinpointed on the tiny outline of his target as he picked up the pace.
It wasn’t long before the man lead him to the base of a sandstone mountain—a dead end. But suddenly, he stopped. The man had heard a twig snap. He whirled around into a fighting stance, but he found nothing. His face burned a little as he loosened his stance and turned back to the wall.
Mason had dropped down from the nearest tree and tackled the man. With one good strike to the jaw, he was out cold. He stood and hefted the man up so that the hidden eye-scanner could scan him. An entrance slid open in the mountainside to reveal a rocky staircase.
Pistol and flashlight in hand, he started down the flight of stairs, once again allowing the darkness to swallow him.
He swung his light across the walls and caught a glimpse of paintings of a man engulfed in fire while soldiers kneeled before him. The next image was made out of charcoal. A central figure wore a cloak made out of shadows that transitioned into black birds the farther down the canvas it got. It looked to be in midair, leaping toward the flaming-man, who was falling from the sky.
Mason paused when he saw light coming from the end of the tunnel. He shut off his flashlight and stuck to the walls. He gripped his pistol with both hands and took careful steps as he descended.
He cautiously made his way into the room the tunnel parted into. There was one man sitting with his back to Mason, staring intently at a series of screens. They each focused in on different sections of the jungle and mountain.
With a quick pistol-whip, the security guard dropped. Mason shoved him out of the chair and took his place. He shut off the cameras and examined the rest of the room.
There was another staircase that lead upwards this time. Seeing as it was his only option, he continued forward.
When he reached the surface, he was hit with a gust of cold wind. The trees and grass weren’t any less dense up here than it was below. His eyes traveled around his surroundings until he spotted a largish cabin at the top of an overhang.
He dove into the safety of the undergrowth before he made his way, slowly—cautiously—forward.
“Rumor has it that he’s trying to find someone to hunt down the Holder.”
“It’s not a rumor. It’s true. Heard him myself.”
He peered through the ferns to see two soldiers wearing black and red sauntering his way. Before he could move, he heard the click of a gun behind him.
Mason did as he asked.
As he did, he gripped onto the man’s rifle and pointed it away in the same motion, right as he pulled the trigger. He stomp-kicked him in the stomach and shoved the butt of the gun into his face with a crack. Once the rifle was released, he spun it around and pointed it at his head. He glared at the guard, “tell your men you fired it by mistake.” When he didn’t comply, he pressed the muzzle into the man’s forehead harshly, “do it.”
“False alarm. Thought I saw something.”
“Damn newbie.” The radio crackled back to him.
“Good.” Mason growled before he stomped on his face and knocked him out.
He pulled off the bullet-proof vest and placed it on before slinging the rifle over his shoulder. The trek up the mountain was more of him sneaking around and hiding from more guards. Once he reached the top, he paused to take in the surroundings. There was a green open field that dipped down into the overhang, where the cabin was.
He swished through the tall grass like a snake. The air was cooler, and thinner. The breeze carried the scent of fruit and ash. He took it all in before he reached forward and creaked open the door.
The first room looked to be a laundry-room. He slid into the hallway and took a right, where he made his way through the kitchen, and then took a left, into a dining room. He held the rifle steady at a man’s back, who was sitting at the table.
“Nice to meet you, Mason Mathews.”
Mason made his way around the table to see the man clearly. He was a Chinese man with a gray streak in his gelled hair, and red clothing. In front of him were open scrolls and books with similar depictions of the paintings he saw in the tunnels.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on you.”
“I know who you are.” Mason growled. “You work with the black birds.”
He shook his head. “My name is Ji Wong—.”
“I don’t care.”
He frowned and folded his hands. “You should. I allowed you to come here so I could speak with you.” He cleared his throat. “You must be wondering why I know who you are.”
“You’re not a bit curious?” When Ji Wong saw the look on Mason’s face, he felt his muscles tense. “You’re going to kill me without knowing the full story. I don’t work with the Crows.”
“Then what is this?”
“We are the people who fight against them. We have been for centuries. It’s what we are.”
“Yes, recently I have been thinking the same.” He glanced at the mess on the table. “But I am not lying to you. Take a look at these.”
Mason hesitated for a moment before he spun the scrolls around. “It’s in Chinese.”
“Cantonese, actually.” Ji Wong watched him frown at the scripts for a few more moments before he said, “If you allow me to, I’d like to show you something.”
Mason allowed him to slowly stand. Ji Wong lead him to the living room where he slid open the patio door. He stepped out of the way to allow Mason to see near the edge of the overhang.
“Look harder.” Ji Wong murmured.
Mason kept an eye on his captive for a moment longer before he did as he was asked.
Beyond the cliff and below was the extensive jungle that bled into the crystal ocean. Birds flew over the evergreens, rivers carved paths into the green land, and waterfalls overlapped the noise of the wind. But as he looked closer, to see the bigger picture, he realized the land vaguely reminded him of the shape of a dragon. The mountain belt thinned and curved around the island like a tail, and the waterfall that pooled into a lake directly below the overhang poured out of the mountain’s chest. He’d bet that from afar, the cliff he stood on resembled the mouth of a creature.
Ji Wong grinned, “you see it, don’t you?” He took a step toward Mason. “We are the Dragon Flame. We have devoted ourselves to fighting the very thing that killed your brother.”
“Why have you been keeping tabs on me?”
“Because I know you’re itching to kill some of those birds. And you’re the only outsider worthy of our training.”
“I’m not here to be a student.”
“No, of course not, but there’s more to this than you think. If you accept my offer, I can give you what you desire most: sweet, sweet revenge. I only ask one thing in return.”
“Of course you do.” Mason growled. “What do you want?”
“I need you to find a boy by the name of Jian Long. I assume, because of your past profession, you’re good at finding people.”
Mason swung the rifle over his shoulder and extended his rough hand, which was eagerly shook. “You have yourself a deal.”
The sky rumbled and shook as it started to lightly rain. The approaching fog and deep shadows the clouds cast reminded Mason of the night, many years ago, when he was on a stakeout. He couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of incoming doom. He had often dreamed of the day he could avenge his brother. He just hadn’t realized how close he was.
One more mission. He told himself. Once he retrieved Jian Long and handed him over to the Dragon Flame, he’d be free to hunt down the Crows freely.
The implanted magnifying vision in his helmet zoomed in on the streets below him. He felt his muscles tighten under his robotic black suit. Raindrops bounced off of the metal with a tiny clink. He skimmed the bustling streets and grumbled under his breath, as he did out of habit.
His eyes locked onto a young man who pushed rudely past citizens before he hastily made his way into a shop. Mason stood and leaped off the rooftop, twisting in the air, and rolled onto another. He flipped onto another. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he was running again, until he flung himself toward the next.
He stopped a few buildings away from the tea shop and waited for Jian to come out. He crossed his legs and swung his black rifle off his shoulder to examine it. He had completed many missions throughout the years with this weapon. It was smooth, efficient, and silent. Absolutely perfect. It was the only thing that stayed by his side through his hard time.
Sighing, he popped a few bullets in and placed it down. He then took out his hand guns and cleaned them out. The ‘twins’—as he liked to call them—were an excellent team as well. They were undoubtedly the most reliable friends in his toolbelt. He loaded them and placed them back in their holsters right as Jian burst out of the tea shop in a fit and dashed into the alleyway.
He smoothly stood and swung his rifle over his shoulder—waited for the little click in the back of his suit that held it in place—and dropped down into the alley as well. He quietly circled around the back of the shop, sticking close to the walls.
CLANG—thump, thump, thump…
He rounded the corner to catch a glimpse of Jian jumping on top of a dumpster and running across the roofs of the buildings. Damn, did he see me? Mason stayed in the alley adjacent and followed, sticking low to the ground. The wind and rain pushed against him. White flashes of memories flitted through his vision—Derek’s dull, bleeding face, Jamie Fisherman exploding into a swarm of crows, and the moment he crashed out of the window. He shook his head and came to an abruptive stop.
Panting, he stared at the figure who appeared in front of him. He blinked hard to clear his vision—hoping it was just a hallucination of some sort and not some cruel joke.
He lifted his helmet off his head and stared up at the pale man’s face. He could feel raindrops fall upon his face and travel down his neck now. But he realized, as he stared into dark irises—that whoever stood in front of him wasn’t real. “You’re not Derek.”
But Derek looked back at him, cloaked in black and dull-faced.
“So who are you?”
Derek didn’t move. Not even a flinch. Not even the slightest movement of breath.
Mason placed his helmet back on and pulled out one of the ‘twins’. He cocked the gun and took a step forward. “Name. Now.”
“You already know it.”
It was as if he dumped a bucket of snow under his shirt and down his back. He grit his teeth and his hand visibly shook. “Don’t move.” But Derek turned away from him. “I—said don’t move!”
Derek disappeared down the alley.
It took a few, heart-racing, painful, moments before he pulled himself together and followed.
But when he turned the corner, he didn’t find his brother. He frowned and hopped up onto a rooftop to get a better look. His head turned in the direction of a struggle and he found a group of hooded people—similar to the ones in the mansion—attacking someone. When he looked closer it was his someone. His target, Jian.
He leaped down and kicked one off him as more started to stream in through the shadows. He grit his teeth as his guns were knocked out of his hands, so he resorted to old fashioned tactics.
He brought a nasty hook on one as he spun and elbowed another. A side-kick here, a stomp-kick there… but whatever he did, they got right back up.
Another dropped from the roof, but he was different. He had a deep black cloak, but when the light hit it just right, there was a shimmer of silver feathers designed in it. He spoke in Italian and grinned, “that’s Italian for: I’m back, bitches.” And he jumped right into the heat of the battle.
He’s on my side for now.
Suddenly, fire erupted from the end of the alley, blinding the attackers of the night. They spun their gazes toward Jian—wings made of crackling flames unfolded from his back and stretched out behind him. His white eyes gleamed in triumph and he smirked.
In an instant, he leaped into the fight alongside Mason and the unknown man. It was a mystery how Jian’s skin didn’t burn underneath the hellfire he wore like a suit.
This is why they wanted him. Mason growled and slammed an uppercut into the person next to him.
Gradually, they were pushed backwards into the street. Jian chucked a hooded man into the side of the tea shop and watched in satisfaction as the bricks crumbled under him.
They were unknowingly lead into the middle of a ring of enemies. Mason glanced at the two beside him. The cloaked man had two curved, bronze swords, and a silver crow necklace dangled from his neck. He narrowed his eyes and swung his rifle out.
A green light beamed down from the storm clouds and landed in the circle. Another ally?
All Mason could make the green outline of a glowing person, who suddenly tackled Jian into the sky.
“Shit!” Mason cursed and shot an unbeknowning enemy in the forehead. The enemy dropped to the ground for a moment, before it stood right back up, dazed and stumbling.
“Those won’t work!” Mason’s feathery ally called as he sliced the head off of another with his gleaming blade. He had a thick Italian accent.
Mason swung his rifle around his shoulder and pulled out a long knife. He dove forward and drove it into the side of one’s neck. He felt a small flicker of satisfaction as it collapsed onto the ground in a fit.
There was a crack of what sounded like lightning. Mason glanced up to see green and red light struggling in the air as they flew downwards like a jet at an alarming speed.
He kicked one across the face and raced in the same direction as his ally right as Jian and his opponent hit the street with a loud BOOM that sent everyone flying. Mason crashed through a nearby pawn shop, setting off the alarms. He was dazed for a few moments, but his suit took most of the impact.
He listened to the car alarms go off and the noise of feet racing away for awhile before he sat up in a pile of fake jewelry and shattered glass. The hooded men had left, except, of course, the one that fought beside them. He stood with a small groan and stumbled out of the shop.
His helmet’s now broken screen flickered in an out of focus. A long crack stretched across his view like a vein.
He reached for the rifle what wasn’t there as he made his way toward the two glowing people in the center of the crater they created in the street. He stood under a flickering lamp post to regain his breath before he made his way closer.
Jian powered down. He lay unconscious with a scratch above his head. His breathing was a bit slow, and his pants and jacket were torn.
The other glowing man flickered off and on like a flashlight as he struggled to stand.
“Stay still.” Mason ordered. He glanced at the hooded man next to him who had spoken at the same time and with the same authority. The man let down his hood to reveal a handsomely chiseled chin, scruff, and dark wavy hair. His eyes, a striking light blue, were covered with thick black eyelashes. He could be model. Probably was.
Mason narrowed his eyes and turned his attention to Jian, who was stirring awake.
“Ow…” Jian winced and rubbed his forehead. He stared at the three with widened eyes.
Mason sighed. This just got much more complicated…
About the Creator
I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. Every chance I could get I was either writing, drawing, or telling anyone who’d listen my stories. Throughout high school I self published three books on Amazon. Enjoy my short stories!