“Mail room, Gong!” Dex snapped, shouldering his way into the elevator with me right behind him. “Now!”
“Never mind, I’ll do it!”
Reaching around the gigantic operator, he mashed his hand against the button that would take us where we needed to go, and the elevator lurched into motion.
“Heeeeeey!” Gong protested. “Thaaaaat…Gonnnnnng…jooooob!”
Dex ignored him and turned to face me. There was nervous sweat pouring down his face, and I knew I couldn’t have looked much better. Hendricks’ sudden appearance had left us both more than a little rattled. Up till now, I’d assumed that we had all the time in the world to do this. Now I realized how stupid that had been. I don’t know why I was even surprised that Hendricks knew I was alive. After spending three years with the creep, you’d think I’d just expect things like this by now.
“We make this quick,” Dex said. “Get in, get Benny, and get out.”
“Got it,” I whispered with a nod. “But how—”
“Leave that to me. I’ve got more pull in places like this than the owners like to admit.”
I waited for my stomach to turn over nervously, but it never came. Weird. Usually when people told me to let them take control, it gives me the heebie jeebies. Things hardly ever work out for me in the first place, but they never work out when other people get involved. And it usually ends up with that person getting hurt. But for some reason those words didn’t have that effect on me this time. The elevator doors dinged open, and Dex led the way out. I followed, looking at him with my head cocked. Could it be…
You already admitted that you love him, that annoyingly logical voice in my head pointed out. Is it that much harder to admit that you trust him?
The answer was obvious: yes. Yes, it was harder to admit that. I’ve loved plenty of people over my life. Mom, Dad, Kimberly. That didn’t mean I would have sent them on a suicide mission like this, though—much less expected them to actually pull it off.
But Dex was different. I loved him, sure enough, but I was coming to realize more and more that love wasn’t just warm, fuzzy feelings. It meant trusting your partner to do what was right for you, and then trusting them to do it right. It wasn’t always easy. For me, it was one of the hardest things I could imagine. But I did. I trusted Dex. I trusted him with my life.
Which was unfortunate, since his life was the one at risk here.
Today, so early in the morning that the sun hadn’t even risen, Dex looked like he was ready to take on the world if it so much as coughed in a way he didn’t like. Stopping at the entrance, he scanned the mail room until he spotted the snail-snake-dude from before signing for a delivery. Without a word, he marched straight for him.
“Oh, it’s you two again!” Snail-Snake-Dude exclaimed when he saw us. “You’re not going to cause more trouble, are—”
Dex reached into his jacket and whipped out his scepter, which I was starting to see was like an FBI agent flashing his badge. Snail-Snake-Dude immediately went silent.
“We need Benny,” Dex said in a brisk, no nonsense tone. “Member of the Urban Predators pack. Where is he?”
Snail-Snake-Dude panted a few times before saying, “I- I don’t…Why do you need him?”
“Confidential. We’re bringing him to Majestic for interrogation. Is he here?”
“Yes! I th- think so! But I can’t just let you—”
By now, a crowd was beginning to gather to see what was going on. Monsters and Mythics of every shape and size. Lots of claws, teeth, and even worse things. I swallowed hard. If Dex’s plan didn’t work, we’d have a hell of a time fighting our way out of here.
“I can’t tell you!” Snail-Snake-Dude said. “These Mythics are under the protection of Mr. Heisen! If I just let you walk out of here with them, I’d lose my job!”
I scanned the crowd, sizing up everybody I saw, trying to work out a path we could take if we had to…
“You’ll lose a lot more than that if you impede a Majestic investigation,” Dex growled, looking more bloodthirsty than I’d ever seen him. “Answer me now, or I’ll have to—”
“Dex, there!” I said, pointing.
Dex spun around, and immediately saw what I was talking about. In the middle of the crowd of Mythics was Benny. I don’t know if he didn’t recognize me, if he’d thought he could blend in with the crowd, or if he really was just that stupid, but he’d handed himself right to us.
“You!” Dex yelled, already running toward him. “Stop right there!”
Too late. Benny turned tail, shoved his way through the crowd, and took off in the direction of the elevator. Dex cursed, and a spike of panic stabbed my heart when I saw him making a break for it.
Then why are you just standing there? that annoying voice screamed. Get him!
I burst into motion without a second thought. The crowd parted in front of me, but Benny was already halfway to the elevator. Baring my teeth, I pushed as much power out of my legs as I could, practically flying across the mail room in pursuit. It wouldn’t be enough, I realized after three steps. I was faster than him, but he’d gotten too much of a headstart. I’d never—
A bright yellow bolt of light flashed across the room, shooting Benny right in the heel. He cried out in pain and fell to the floor. I looked back and saw Dex standing with the crowd of horrified Mythics right behind him, scepter held out and the gem still glowing.
I pounced on Benny before he could get back to his feet. The little runt squealed, kicking and punching at me in a desperate attempt to get free, but I had the strength of a Silverblood inside me. I barely felt a thing.
“Benjamin, you’re under arrest by the order of the Majestic board of directors,” Dex said, the lie coming out as smooth as a milkshake. “If you struggle, we have authorization to incapacitate you according to our own judgement.”
“She don’t work for Majestic!” the little man cried from underneath me. “This is a setup!”
Dex reached down, grabbed him by the collar of his filthy tank top, and hauled him to his feet. “That’s what they all say. Now are you going to come quietly, or—”
The elevator dinged again before he could finish, and we both spun to look. This would be hard enough to explain even if we didn’t…
That thought died in my head when I saw who had just stepped out.
Dark skinned, like Kaylie. Taller than me and Dex both. No shirt, baring muscles that were covered in an intricate pattern of tattoos.
“Hello,” said the second member of Kaylie’s pack, the one with the skulls tattooed on his eyelids. “I don’t believe we were introduced last time.”
Dex and I didn’t move. I would have been happy to attack the inked up creep and get it over with, but the way Dex was eyeing him told me there was more going on than I could see.
He took another step forward. “My name is Amnubar.”
I couldn’t place his accent. It sounded familiar, yet completely alien at the same time. Exotic. Mystical, somehow.
“Nice to meet you, Amnubar,” said Dex. “Care to step aside?”
Amnubar was as still as a statue for almost half a minute. Thirty seconds where every breath in the mail room was held in anxious anticipation of…what? I had no idea.
But then he reached up and touched one of the tattoos on his shoulder. It began to glow a bright, acidic green. There was a loud THUD from behind him. Then another. And then another.
Gong stepped out of the elevator and came to stand just behind him. An exact copy of Amnubar’s tattoo was glowing on his forehead. He clenched his fists, popping his knuckles.
“No,” said Amnubar. “I would not.”