Death's Catalyst (Part 3)
Silent as the ghost I hoped the become I entered the room. It was small and only lit by one lamp but I saw him in an instant, tied to a large wooden table he sat hunched over. I knew very well he would have heard me enter, but was probably expecting his questioner again and therefore didn't look up from his pitiful position.
As much as I'd hoped for my feelings for him to have faded at least a little over the years they certainly hadn't, my heart lurched in my chest as I took in the details. Blood covered his tattered shirt that was torn in several places, the tanned flesh beneath wasn't the toned perfection I remembered but instead a blanket of bruises and cuts. His dark chocolate brown hair was matted, sticking to his face with sweat as sat there eyes closed in exhaustion, arms tied behind his back at an awkward angle, rope burns round his wrists and blood beneath his nails. A scraggly beard was on his chin and his chapped lips were burst in several places - I didn't want to think what he'd been through. Even though I knew he'd have been tortured so some reason my naive mind had expected to find him raging against his chains, fury searing in his eyes as he laughed at them all. I'd hoped for the old strength I'd known and loved, that I'd clung onto - yet now it looked like he was the one clinging on and by mere fingertips. This wasn't who I'd dreamt of. This was their shadow.
Still he lay there not responding the whomever had entered, I gave a soft cough to attract his attention - wishing I had some kind of smart comment to make, but could think of nothing. With dull eyes he looked up in a daze, for a few moments I wondered if he'd also gone blind as he stared nonchalantly at me - didn't he realise who I was or at least what I was here to do? Then it hit me; he didn't know me any more. What was I to do then? Should I pretend I didn't know him either? This inner dilemma led to a good minute of solidly still silence in which I slid back into my past, hearing all our old promises to each other, the declarations of so many things - of love, spending forever together, that everything and anything we were was to be what we would be together. That was all gone now. Simply old whispers in the wind. Again I scolded myself for this emotional thinking, as far as I was to be concerned he was an assignment. That was all.
However he solved the dilemma for me as his eyes squinted, recognition waved a frantic hand in front of his face and shook him down with a cold slap. Barely able to breath I walked forward ad knelt down in front of him, a weak smile on my face as I fought my inner chaos.
"J- Jade?" he croaked titling his head, "Or no... it's Clio now isn't it?" the sarcasm came like a cold bucket of water, I woke up and cleared my throat,
"Hi Maxim," I whispered beginning to untie him, not able to hold eye contact for much longer without a lump forming in my throat. I heard a harsh chuckle shudder out of him, I bit my lip, he was still angry for me leaving. I could tell from that laugh, it was the laugh he gave before giving someone a right bollucking - I'd often felt sorry for those at the receiving end of that humourless chuckle and now I was that person. It was a cold feeling.
"Come to my rescue I suppose?"
"Well I've not come to rent the room have I?" I murmured, hoping he'd take the humour as an apologetic tone. Apparently not as he gave a shrug and another snigger.
"I wouldn't know, maybe you work for those animals now. After all I haven't seen you in how many years?"
"Well a shit load of crap can happen in that kind of time can't it? But from your answer am I to assume you're back with us now?" I walked back in front of him and gave a anxious nod, this was the run up, he was warming up for a rant, I saw it in the way he gritted his teeth, "For how long? Why do you need us this time? How long you gonna use us this time round?"
"I never used you. I'm back becau-"
"You used us all and don't pretend it was anything else." he snapped hoarsely. I swallowed my retorts, this wasn't the place to have that argument, plus I had no how long it had been since he'd slept, eaten or washed, he was exhausted and angry with all kinds of things - I just happened to be there to take the brunt of it. "You waltzed in and straight back out again without a fucking look back. So what's it now? Why grace us with your presence this time round?The nasty police picking on you again? Need us for protection because you got in too deep? What's it this time Clio? What's your real name this time Clio? Well? Go on, tell me!" he was beginning to shout and I looked him firmly in the eye, not willing to risk his tantrum landing us in further trouble,
"Will you please stop shouting?"
"Why? So your bosses don't hear me?" he hissed and although I'd reasoned with myself why he was being like this my argumentative side was unable to take it any further.
"Look you prick, if I was working for them surely I'd have just wandered in? Don't pretend you didn't hear me pick the lock, I'm here to help you, but if you'd rather stay here and die like a dog at dawn then fine. I'm not back to save my own skin but that conversation can wait till I've got you out of here safe and sound-"
"Since when did you give a fuck?"
"You know the answer to that Maxim, so don't pretend you don't." I muttered not looking at him as my eyes grew warm with tears, "Now come on, get up, or can you?"
"Don't patronise me." he huffed, I saw the pain in his face but didn't comment,
"So you have a plan?"
"All we need to do is get back through to the library and the exit's easy from there, just follow me."
"Never thought I'd hear those words again,"
"How shut the hell up or I'll just leave you here to die you grumpy bastard?"
"Well she's charming isn't she?" it was a voice I didn't recognise, I looked at Maxim who looked at me with fear shinning in his eyes. Fear? That wasn't the Maxim I knew. I heard the crack of a gun, saw Maxim go pale and my own instinct took over; I shoved him to the floor and crouched whilst turning to face the smarmy voice. Before the pain came a scorching heat flared against my flesh, but the pain came soon after. Like an open flame it seared my arm, I refused to wail as blood ran down my brandished flesh but couldn't help but grimace against the anguish. I hadn't been shot for years, my body wasn't used to it and panic threatened to take over. I was trembling as I sat crouched, my good arm shielding Maxim whilst the other hung limply by my side. "She's quick too, very nice. I say, didn't that hurt a bit?"
A tall stranger stood at the door, smirk in place and eyes scanning me in a hungry manner, he walked in alone and closed the door behind himself. He looked important but then anyone would wearing that kind of suit with black tie. I tried to focus through the throbbing pain which was like a drum in my head as it ran up and down.
"Maxim, Maxim, Maxim," he sighed tiredly playing with his gun, "What did I tell you would happen if someone came to help you? And still you send for someone? Just insulting frankly."
"I didn't.." he coughed, "I didn't send for her."
"Well I kind of got that feeling from the conversation you were having. Hmm, but she's clearly here to help, so I'm afraid the same rule applies-"
"No!" he screamed trying to get up, "Kill me, not her. Let her go, she's not done anything wrong has she?"
"Not now that she's been caught, but for all I know she's another filthy Witch, are you my dear?" I shook my head, "Well no one would admit to it willingly would they?"
"Actually many would," I spat, "If not for the ridiculous laws in place,"
"I thought you'd like them feisty Maxim, but not this feisty. You don't have a gun though do you sweetheart?"
"How would you know that? I could easily have one hidden behind my back like you did,"
"No. If you did then it'd already have been aimed at my heart by now,"
"I'd have to have good aim I'm sure."
"Oh she's good. Pity I won't know her better." the gun was raised again and the cock pulled back, meanwhile my knife was grasped in my good hand and flung with perfect aim, it slid right into the barrel and forced the gun out of his well lotioned hands. He stood perplexed for a moment before I lunged over, slapped a bloodied hand over his mouth to prevent screaming, flipped over his shoulder and wrenched him down my his neck to the ground where he lay whimpering beneath my hold, blood trickling over his face as it ran down my arm.
"You're right mate," I laughed, "I am good. Maxim?" he was watching me with amazement, "Who is this?"
"Head of.. of the police in... New York." he coughed again and wheezed, I looked down at the man and hissed,
"So the bastard responsible for countless deaths? Oh you picked the wrong girl to dance with. I'll be seeing you again." I took the gun from where it had fallen and smacked the handle against his head, his eyes rolled back into slumber and I fell back in a panting heap. Still holding the now useless gun I tugged my knife from the barrel and replaced it in my boot. Maxim got up and walked over to me wearing anexpression dangerously close to concern,
"Clio? You all-"
"I'm good. We need to move, someone must have heard that.. though they may think the pampered prick here shot you... that may buy us some time. Either way we need to go, like now."
He tried to look unimpressed but I noticed a little smile creep in, maybe he didn't really hate me. Not right to his core anyway. That was something to hope for. I looked up and down the corridor, it was quiet and still, just as on my way down. Hopefully we'd get out without me having to kill anyone, but in those kind of situations that usually ended up happening one way or another. I signalled him to follow and began to scuttle along, eyes darting from one shadow to the next, waiting for something to move, to shoot, to attack. Nothing was innocent. Without any disturbances we got all the way down to the library, I let Maxim go in first and was closing the door when three men went past. They were walking away from us but if they went to check on where Maxim should be they would start searching the rest of the building within about two minutes, it'd take them that long to get to the room, get inside after I'd relocked it, and also search it in case he was simply hiding within the room. Then they would come. How long it would take them to try the library I didn't know but was already ushering Maxim towards the window by the time I heard them putting the key into the lock of Maxim's previous cell. I was suddenly very thankful I still had my talents,
"This is the plan? Shove me down a rubbish chute?"
"It's not a rubbish chute, it goes down to a skip that I put a mattress in because I knew you'd be hurt in one way or the other." I sighed impatiently at him as I followed him through the window, the dank air cold as we breathed in white clouds, it twinged at my wound. He looked at it and then back to me with reservations beaming from his warm eyes, "Look once you're down there Maria and a few others are sat waiting for you and me in a car all right? Now there's three blokes who'll be here in mere moments probably so get going or I'll have to fight them, and frankly I can't be arsed with this fucking arm, so move it!"
"So much for safe and sound then?"
"What would you prefer a chute or getting shot?" a look of guilt entered those eyes,
"You're really back then? For good?"
"Yes now sod off down there or I'll only be back for the one night got it?" he didn't move but my patience had run out, I kicked the back of his knee so it gave way and pushed him down the chute. He didn't yell thankfully but I couldn't deny the pleasure I'd felt at throwing him down there. When there was a final grunt as he made impact with the mattress I heard thundering footsteps coming towards the library, Maxim hadn't got to the car yet. I needed to stall. I heard the library door open, carefully I hid below the window and listened to them march around noisily, it wouldn't be long till they noticed the open window, in fact I could hear them approaching. With instinct taking over I pulled my collar closer and pulled my beanie hat down - the balaclava look would help in this improvisation. I then stood up, put my hands on the sill and put one leg back inside, but gave a dramatic gasp and wore an expression of shock when faced with the three men. A fat one, a tall one and a short one. The fat one looked straight at me with a puzzled look.