Friday, May 27, 2011

Chapter 14

Oct. 18 – 10:00pm

            For the rest of the day, Erik passed the time calling in favors to obtain the blueprints of the warehouse, information on the last known owners, and police reports on any arrests made there in the past month. He also talked to the detective and arranged to meet him at midnight a block away from the building. During his planning, he could see that his lovely house guest was growing restless, resentful of being kept out of the loop. He knew Alex was going to want to go but he couldn’t risk it. They were planning a silent entry under the cover of darkness and she would be a liability. He had no information on what, if any, security measures were in place or if anyone was watching or guarding the building. There were simply too many unknown variables; he refused to add another.
            As night fell, he cleaned and dressed his shoulder and then donned an outfit he thought never to wear again. The body hugging material was matte black and moved with him like a second skin. There was nothing hanging off to get caught on barbs or other protrusions that could make noise and alert those within. Carefully, Erik removed the flesh colored latex from his face, grimacing at the red, raw patches on the mangled flesh beneath the mask. Even if it did rub his skin raw in places, the latex mask was ingenious; few even noticed it existed so completely it blended with his skin tone. However, the material was porous and would absorb the body paint he’d use to camouflage his face and never come clean. As he rubbed a soothing cream onto the abrasions, his eyes remained glued to his reflection in the mirror. His lip curled in a sneer as he traced the many scars from the surgeries that he’d hoped would make him look like everyone else. While he reluctantly admitted that they were successful to a degree, enabling him to use a smaller mask than in his younger days, he’d given up on ever looking normal. Turning away from the monster in the mirror, Erik slid the matte black half mask over his deformity and left his room in a foul mood.
            Alex had been pacing the hallway at the bottom of the stairs waiting for him. She wanted so desperately to go with him but logic stated that she’d be more hindrance than help. When Erik appeared at the top of the stairs, it was like seeing a dark angel fallen to earth. He had a weapon in a holster strapped under his left arm, a knife in a boot sheath, and what looked to be a thin rope hanging from his right hip. His was a deadly, terrible beauty and she shivered with both dread and excitement as she watched him stalk down the stairs. He was the Angel of Death and she was eternally grateful that, for now, he was on her side. She felt her cheeks burn when her eyes met his golden ones and realized she’d been staring at him in open admiration.
            “Do I meet with your approval, Alexandra?” His low murmur full of amusement and unholy beauty wrapped around her and stole her breath. She took an involuntary step back and clasped her hands tightly in front of her to keep them from reaching for him.
            “Um…” Her brain had gone on holiday and appeared to have taken her tongue with it. “Oh. Yes, of course, Mr. Devereaux.” He just chuckled, a soft rumble of musical notes.
            “Erik, please.” He rested a hip against the baluster, arms crossed; the relaxed pose betrayed none of his impatience to leave for the warehouse. “Now, did you wish to speak to me?”
            “Yes,” Alex tore her eyes from his and forced her brain cells to resume proper function, “I want to go with you…” When he made to interrupt, she raised a hand to stop him. “Please, hear me out. I want to go but I understand that I can’t enter the warehouse with you. I’d only be a liability. But can I at least ride with you? I’ll stay in the car to provide look out, a quick get away, moral support, something, anything? I hate feeling so useless and dependent on others to do everything for me.”
            Erik tilted his head slightly in thought. He was both surprised, and yet not, that her common sense and logic had overruled her natural inclination to want to be a part of the operation. Though she could prove an asset if she stayed in the car on radio, he was hesitant to allow her anywhere near those who wanted her captured or dead. No, she needed to stay here.
            “I need you to stay here, Alexandra,” he noted the disappointment in her eyes as well as stubborn determination. “I need you somewhere safe and alone in a car in the middle of the industrial block definitely does not meet that criteria. However, you won’t be idle.” He led her to the Library and wrote down the login and password for his laptop, brought the police band scanner to the desk, as well as handing her a small 2-way radio earpiece. “What I need you to do is monitor the police frequency and notify me if there are any calls in the block around the warehouse. Also, pull up the blueprints of the building in case we have to make a hard exit.” Catching the expression on her face, he trailed a gloved finger along her jaw line then nudged her chin so he could look into her eyes. “This isn’t just busy work, Alexandra, but I can’t deny I want you to remain here. I can’t concentrate on the operation if I’m worrying about your safety.”
At her nod, Erik stepped away and brought from a locked drawer a duplicate of the Beretta she’d seen in his car. He laid it on the desk as well as a spare magazine then left for the garage. Alex moved to the window to watch as he sped away on an eerily quiet motorcycle. With a sigh, she sat at the desk, placed the small device over her ear, and turned on the police band radio. It was going to be a long, slow night.

Oct. 19 – 12:10am

            Erik pulled alongside al-Zahir’s unmarked Monte Carlo. Quietly he explained Alex’s role for the night and the detective was glad she’d been convinced to remain in the safety of the Estate. The two men easily slid back into the roles they’d both given up five years ago; checking the radios, synchronizing their watches, and double checking their weapons. While they hoped to avoid contact that night, they weren’t crazy enough to enter the lion’s den unprepared. Signaling their readiness, the two men blended expertly into the shadows and stealthily made their way to the warehouse.
            Silently skirting the perimeter of the building, the former agents noted the lack of visible guards or patrols. Surely it hadn’t been left unattended? Suspecting a trap, Erik motioned for al-Zahir to find cover. For several minutes they watched the rear door facing a small alley until a brief flare of a match rewarded their patience. The guards were inside and not professionally trained. With a nod to his partner, the masked man glided to the door and unwrapped the cording at his hip. They needed answers and he planned on convincing one of the guards to be cooperative. Once he was in place, al-Zahir grabbed a bottle from the trash littering the alley and, staggering past the door, began singing a bawdy pub song. He was off key, off tempo, slurred the words, and generally mangling the song in so many ways as to make Erik cringe and swear never to allow his friend to sing again. However, it did accomplish its goal for the door opened and the smoking guard exited the building. The moment the door clicked shut, the thin cording tied into the intricate Punjab lasso flew across the distance to catch the man around his throat. With a tug, the guard was on his knees struggling for his every breath. Al-Zahir searched him quickly and removed the pistol and knife the man was carrying. Erik handed the lasso to the detective, allowing it to loosen a fraction, and moved in front of the helpless guard. At the sudden stench of ammonia from the dark patch growing on the guard’s trousers, Erik’s yellow eyes glowed with malicious glee while he explained in vivid detail the consequences of silence and loyalty.

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