Awareness came back to me in an instant as a gun fired off somewhere nearby. I jolted upright and looked around despite the drug in my system.
Beyond baffled as I saw that I was surrounded by scrap metal cars and a junkyard, I just cursed. Bound to a lamp pole in the darkness with my wrists tied together around it, there wasn’t much else I could do other than that either.
Night had fallen, the damp grounds illuminated by high beams shooting up into the sky. There was a dock a few hundred yards away, so we must’ve been down by the river. That meant I was in the far end of town past Infierno. The hospital was on the complete other end of the city.
The question was what the hell had they brought me here for.
Hearing movement, I looked to my left. Haynesworth was perched on the edge of a crunched in, wrecked car watching me. Behind him stood five other men. They stood on red alert, guarding the perimeter with heavy semiautomatic weapons.
“You’re awake,” he said conversationally, acting as if there was still one ounce of friendship between us.
“What are we doing out here?” I asked, now seeing twenty other men staged in a scattered circle around the yard. All were armed to the hilt, looking more like soldiers than police.
“Yaron believes that if we threaten you, the Lynx will come to ‘rescue’ you,” he replied with a shrug. And considering the late hour, they’d likely been here all night, watching me as I remained unconscious. Not to mention for a stupid reason.
“How the hell is that supposed to work? I don’t know the Lynx,” I admitted, noting that it was shortly before dawn. Orange light was spreading over the lower sky. We’d left the hospital hours ago. “He’s not going to come for me. Even if he gave a damn, he wouldn’t be that dumb. Not to mention he could still be buried in the rubble from the bomb!”
He shrugged, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it for himself. “Better to obey at this point than to question. Personally, I think it’s stupid hinging everything on catching a vigilante, but orders are orders.”
Another habit he’d hidden from me. He knew I hated cigarettes. “And Teagan?”
“I’d worry less of him and a lot more about yourself,” he chided, taking a puff as he read a newspaper. “Yaron is supposed to be arriving to oversee this op. You may yet escape your parents’ fate, so sit tight.”
I wrinkled my nose at the smell, trying not to inhale the smoke wafting in my direction. Flavored menthol tobacco by the smell of it. “They dead?”
“Assumedly. Your father sunk his own ship,” he added, still acting as if we were friends. As if I wasn’t bound and bruised; my face swollen from being slammed to the ground. “He dropped an insane amount of money into the Tourney as a last-ditch effort to placate the public, as well as his new ‘manifesto’. All it did was rile the public.”
Any idiot could’ve seen that coming, but I held my tongue. He sighed. “But you were unfortunately the final straw, causing an unforeseeable effect.”
He held up a newspaper headline for me to see, leaving me stunned to see myself in multiple photos with Kit from the past few days. The caption over it read ‘Doomed Romance’.
“You’ve made the public go mad, thinking you were sympathetic to their side,” he muttered, throwing the paper on the trunk of the car before letting out an amused snort. “You’ve got to appreciate the irony. Then again if you survive, I suppose you’ll get to see if Kit wants you without your affluence. You’ll have nothing.”
“An instantaneous turnoff to you, I’m sure,” I muttered, testing the ties on my wrists. “Now that you’ll busy yourself with kissing Yaron’s ass, hoping he’ll promote you, I’m useless to you. The only thing I want to know is why.” As I stared at him, he blew out a slow puff of smoke. I held eye contact. “If you knew my father was on thin ice, then why try to acquire me as a wife? You knew there’d be nothing to gain from it.”
Silence fell for a second, the only sound coming from the dock down the way as the water ebbed and flowed. Ryan stared at me without blinking, almost as if personally disappointed by the question. “Be careful what you say, Anna,” he said softly, tossing his cigarette away. “If you comply, you may yet still find sanctuary with me.”
The statement surprised me. Perhaps he did harbor some genuine affection for me after all. Looking at him, I detected a tinge of fear. What was happening frightened him. Then again, his family was very close with mine. They weren’t the top of the food chain when it came to elites, so to speak. His sudden switch in priorities might have more to do with keeping the new rulers placated and his family out of the line of fire.
The suspicion in my mind only strengthened as an armored car rolled up and Yaron stepped out. Ryan immediately straightened, turning his back to me.
Deciding not to leave myself at a disadvantageous level, I got to my feet, using the pole to bolster myself up. For someone who had just set himself up as leader of the city (and an arms dealer no less), Yaron wasn’t very bright. The yard was an open location that any enemy could penetrate. He had to know he’d made himself into a sitting duck by being here. Yet here he was.
Then again, so was I.
“No sign of him?” Yaron demanded, a team of battered security personnel following behind him. By the look of them, they’d all been under fire at some point during the night.
“None. We’ve signaled across all the police radios, as per orders,” Ryan replied, standing straight and saluting him. “Not even a nibble.”
So they assumed the Lynx was listening to the police radios? What was with Yaron’s obsession with killing this guy? Considering everything that was happening, what could he possibly have to gain from focusing on this?
As Yaron strode straight past him and up to me, I squared my chin. He just sneered. “Got anything to say to me?”
Staring at him without flinching, I refused to back down. Even if I stared my death straight in the face, I wouldn’t beg. “Like what? Hasn’t it occurred to you that if I was truly with the Forge I wouldn’t have hung around in a building rigged to blow?”
A grunt escaped me as he struck me across the cheek, the blow hard enough to tear my lower lip. I spat out the blood with a smile, undaunted. “You can hit me all you want, but it won’t change anything. You’ve spent your first official night as Presidente running around in the dark after a man in a cape. Don’t you have anything better to do?”
He struck me for a second time, then clamping down on my throat with his hands. “Then tell us why a figure was seen by security, going in your window?”
“It was Kit, you moron,” I snarled, losing my patience. As he glared into my eyes, I sneered, “He was on the floor above mine and smuggled me food. I’m not the Lynx’s Mata Hari and never was!”
Blank shock crossed his face, not expecting the simple answer. I spat another wad of blood out, the glob landing on his shoes. Turning his attention from me, he barked at the police around us, “Spread out. Whether she knows the Lynx or not, he’ll come. He’s been listening to the police lines. He shows up at crime scenes too coincidentally not to be.”
Looking back at me with a nasty, vindictive grin, he added, “And shoot to kill. I want that menace dead.”
If he expected me to react, he was left cold as I rolled my eyes. For the Lynx’s sake, I hoped the man had the sense to stay away. As for Yaron’s vendetta, I didn’t doubt now that it was personal.
“Why do you want him so much?” I asked, unable to stifle my own morbid curiosity. Yaron turned to me, surprised by the question.
“Hand the people the body of their personal savior and they’ll see the fight is futile,” he replied, likely having noticed the curious stares of the other men as well. Everyone thought this move was lame. They just didn’t dare voice the sentiment for fear they’d wind up like me.
Yaron sneered, “It’ll secure the city and my leadership. Tell the populations the Lynx bombed his own people and they’ll back down.”
So he thought this was the key to defeating the Forge? “Fat chance,” I said, shaking my head. “The citizens have gotten so desperate that they’ll leap at any change at all, even if it’s a wild card. They’ll hold out hope and refuse to trust you. You’ve already lost.”
If he disagreed, he didn’t deign me a reply as he turned away. All the same, I could see the agreement in the eyes of the policemen around me. They knew the loyalty of the people was shifting and nothing would bring it back to them. Not in the near future anyway.
Shifting so that my back bore my weight against the pole, I felt the ropes on my wrists slip slightly. They weren’t tied correctly. While the others were distracted, I ever so slowly began working them as Mortimer had taught me to.
Over the next half hour, the ties gradually slackened. Oblivious of me, the policemen were keeping an eye on all the perimeters of the yard. Other than a feral ginger cat knocking over a soda can and startling them all, nothing otherwise remotely feline had showed his face. At that, Yaron shot the poor cat in the head.
All I had to do was wait for the opportune moment to escape. If Yaron could kill an innocent cat, I didn’t want to stick around and see what he’d do to me. Otherwise, all the move did was alienate him from the other police officers. All of them shot Yaron openly hateful looks; feeling sorry for the poor creature.
While I was sure the others hadn’t noticed, Ryan was otherwise visibly bored. He knew the Lynx wasn’t coming as well as I did. He just didn’t want to upset his new boss. My suspicion was confirmed as he muttered with a suppressed yawn, “It’s almost dawn. The nuisance never comes out in broad daylight.”
I flat out gulped as Yaron turned heel and strode back toward me with a downright vicious look about him, flicking open a switchblade. Shit was about to get real whether or not the Lynx showed up.
“Giving him incentive,” Yaron snarled back to Ryan, jabbing it up at my throat. The point dug into my neck over the jugular as I looked into his fiendish eyes, seeing an anticipatory glint in them. Oh, yes. He definitely got off on blood and torture. The cat was his first kill for the night. In his eyes, I’d be the second and likely, not the last.
“She’s worth more alive, Yaron,” Ryan warned, the police around us turning to watch with dismay. Now that it was clear I wasn’t a traitor, none of them were as eager to see me die. “Especially since her father broke the deal with the Fatans. You might be able to leverage her to-“
“I don’t give a damn about Fatan. Losing a few fingers won’t kill her,” he sneered, waiting for my terror to show, likely expecting to get a high off of it.
Needless to say, he didn’t get one.
In a move so fast that he barely even reacted, I slipped the ropes from my wrists and snatched the blade from him, whipping it up to his throat. In the same stroke, I grabbed the gun from the holster at his waist and aimed it at his heart.
The policemen barely even reacted, too stunned to stop me. Either that or they were hoping I’d off him for them. While all weapons turned in my direction, their move was entirely too slow.
“Stand down,” I snarled, my voice rasping out with an ugly, hoarse quality. Yaron just stared at me as I dug the muzzle into his chest as well as the edge of the blade into his skin. Much like the big bully that he was, once outmaneuvered, Yaron gestured for them all to step back.
“What do you expect of this, Anna?” he asked, eyeing both weapons. “It’s twenty against one-“
“I beat ten men single handed the other night. What’s twenty more?” I roared out. “Now let me walk or else…”
Seeing Haynesworth out of the corner of my eye, I saw him gesture subtly for his men to back off. If no one else, he knew exactly what I was capable of. And I’d managed this after being beaten up and my ankle cracked. Though I was limping, it wasn’t going to stop me.
Outside all of our control, however, it seemed that there was yet another enemy that had outsmarted us all.
Diving to the ground as machinegun fire sounded from all sides, I scrambled automatically for the nearest refuge. Seeing people hitting the ground all around me, shot point blank with no mercy, I leopard crawled for the protective cover of Yaron’s armored vehicle. I screeched out as a body abruptly landed on top of me.
Looking to my side as it landed across my back and coming face to face with Yaron’s vacant eyes, I shoved him off. Blood dribbled from a hole in the side of his head and leaked all over me, telling me exactly what’d felled him.
Pressing myself against the side of the vehicle, I stowed the blade in my pocket and kept my gun at the ready. The car was locked and I wasn’t willing to risk going back to Yaron’s body for the keys. With my heart pounding in terror, all I could do was watch as the carnage unfolded.
Men were running for cover on all sides and very few made it. Blood splattered over the ground, men keeling over under the deadly hail of bullet fire. They yelled out and were silenced like pigs sent for butchery, trying and failing to coordinate against the onslaught. The attack had been too swift to fight back.
Ryan was down, shot multiple times and curled on his side. Everyone else was either dead or dying, the smell of blood so pervasive in the air that it sickened me. Like metallic copper it rose over me, the scent not unlike a slaughterhouse near where I used to live. A few men continued to scream, not quite dead yet. One radioed for help before being shot again, his warning cut off.
There was nothing I could do for them, either. Not knowing where the attack was coming from, I couldn’t fire back. The muzzle flashes were obscured from me. Not to mention I had nowhere near enough rounds. The cartridge in Yaron’s weapon wasn’t full. For now, I was stranded between the four corners of the yard with nowhere to go.
As the junkyard fell quiet, a grim sort of dread set over my mind. God only knew how many there were against me. It could’ve been anywhere from a few to a small battalion. Now that they’d stopped shooting, whoever was out there, they’d would come looking for survivors.
The next round had only begun.
I was dead center in the line of fire.
Stay tuned for next week’s chapter! God bless and make sure to comment what you think is going to happen next!
– Copyright 2020 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel