The next morning came too early for me. Mom had still not come out of her room, and I was beginning to worry about her. She'd just had a nervous breakdown the night before. There was no telling what she could have done last night in the state she was in. I was comforted, somewhat, by the fact that there was no scent of blood coming from her room, which told me she hadn't done anything as drastic as cutting herself. A strange thing for a daughter to think about her mother, isn't it?
I was tempted to knock on her door and go straight in, forcing to her sit down and speak to me, but I decided that that would only worsen the matter further. Better to go in with some sort of peace offering to ease the tension. I made my way to the kitchen and got out eggs, bacon, and bread. Before this had all begun, Mom had told me several times that her favorite way to wake up was for Dad to bring her breakfast in bed. I may not be her husband, but surely it would count as something if I were to do it.
Soon, the smell of sizzling bacon filled the room, making my mouth water with desire. I held myself back, though. I needed to bring it to my mom, not eat it all myself. I did, however, make sure to fry enough for three people- one serving for her, and two for me. I methodically cracked the eggs and set them to fry in another pan, and then put some bread in the toaster. A good, wholesome breakfast, I thought to myself as I worked, sounded so much more appetizing to me than the endless barrage of sugary sweets Mom insisted we bake the day before. Not too much longer, I loaded two plates full of food and made my way back to Mom's bedroom.
“Mom?" I called through the door. My hands were full, so I kicked the door gently to get her attention. “Are you awake? I made breakfast!"
I waited for a few seconds, but got no response. I knocked with my foot again and asked, “Mom? Can I come in?"
A faint voice came from the other side, “That sounds lovely, dear. Please come in. The door is unlocked."
There was a click as the door unlocked, but I made no move to open it. Something was wrong here. Had my mother just said that something sounded lovely? And called me dear? Besides that, I hadn't heard any footsteps before or after the door had unlocked, which meant she had to have been standing right behind the door the whole time, and still be standing there now. Chills of apprehension ran down my spine, and I found that I no longer had any desire to go into her room. But what else could I do? I had to check on my mom…
I went back into the living room and set the plates down on the coffee table, and then returned to the door. With palms slick with nervous sweat, I reached out and turned the knob. The door opened with the usual creak of its hinges. It was a sound I'd heard a thousand times before, but today it raised goosebumps on my arms. Inside, the morning sun shone in brightly through the picture window, highlighting my mother's bed. There was a lump in the sheets, but the covers were pulled all the way up over its head. By the size and shape, it could have been my mother, but the sickening feeling of dread in my gut told me it wasn't.
I walked as silently as I could across the room, going around to the side of the bed my mom always laid on. I moved slowly, afraid that whatever was in the bed would suddenly spring up and lunge at me, but it remained still. I hadn't detected it earlier, it being drowned out by the frantic beating of my heart, but I realized I could hear breathing under the sheets. Not long and slow breaths like somebody makes when they're asleep, but short and quick breaths, almost as if whoever was under there was… giggling.
My breath caught in my throat, and my hand shot out to yank the sheets away. Before I could grab them, though, my hand was halted as another hand suddenly grew out of the headboard and grabbed my wrist! The grip was as strong and as cold as iron, and I could not break free. With a howl of excitement, the Octopus flung the covers off of himself and sat up in the bed.
“Gotcha again, girly!" he cackled, nearly falling over backwards. "Gotcha good"
I struggled to get away, but the hand was too strong. As I stood there, I felt another hand grab me by the hair and yank my head backwards so I was staring at the ceiling.
“Not getting away this time, no, no, no!" The Octopus stood up on my mom's bed so that his face was right above mine. He was so close to me that I could see the sickly coating of yellow that was over his crooked teeth. His eye, I noted absently, was still ringed with bruised skin.
“Where's my mom?" I screamed, trying to recoil from him.
This caused the Octopus to break out in a fit of giggles, “Not telling, no I am not!"
“What did you do to her?" I swung my other arm up, determined to at least give him a second black eye to match his first, but yet another hand latched onto my arm and held it in place.
“Ooh," the Octopus cackled, wagging a finger in my face. “I don't think the girly wants to know that! No, no, no, she doesn't!"
I froze, staring straight into his maniacally wide eyes. Had he… had he killed her? There was not a shred of sanity to be found in his gaze. He could have easily murdered her in some horribly gruesome way. He probably would have enjoyed it, even.
“Gonna take you to the boss, yes, yes, yes!" he went on. “But not just yet. Girly hurt me last time, didn't she? Hurt my pretty little face!" The smile faded from his face, and he stuck his lip out, pouting. His hand reached up to caress his black eye. “Girly hurt my pretty little face, she did, she did. Got to make her pay. Got to make her sorry!"
“That's quite enough, Octopus," a new voice said.
The Octopus' eyes went wide with fright, and he stood up straight to look back towards the door. I struggled to look and see who the newcomer was, but the hands did not allow me to move.
“Boss!" the Octopus squealed, obviously not pleased at haven been caught. “Boss isn't supposed to be here, no, no, no!"
“Not another word," the other voice ordered slowly, as if speaking to a particularly stupid child. The voice was deep, the kind that demanded respect even with its gentlest whisper. The scent of cologne reached my nose, almost making me sneeze. It reeked of regality and elegance.
The Octopus whimpered, but kept his mouth shut. At the moment, he looked like nothing so much as a dog afraid it was about to be whipped.
“Release her head," the other man ordered at last. “Allow her to look at me."
Immediately, the hand that had grabbed my hair released me, and I snapped my head forward. Standing there at the door of my mom's bedroom, looking for all the world as if he owned the place as well as the neighborhood it was built in, was a man who looked like a picture straight out of the 1800s. A long black coat draped his body as elegantly as a king's robes, and his hand grasped a silver-tipped dueling cane. His face was firm and square, with jet black hair slicked back against his scalp. What struck me the most, though, were his eyes. They were like shark eyes, completely black and without irises.
“That's it," he crooned, a grin rising onto his face, revealing two rows of needle-like teeth. “Marvel at me. Take it all in."
“Who are you?" I asked. I tried to keep the tremor out of my voice, but failed.
“I am called many things," the man went on, his voice thick with self-appreciation. “But you may know me as Hendricks."
“What did you do to my mom?" I asked.
Hendricks waved his hand dismissively, “She's gone. She's safe, though, for the time being."
For the time being.
“What do you want from me?" I asked at last.
“Why," Hendricks answered, raising his eyebrows as if it should have been completely obvious, “we want you, Amber."
“Why?" I asked. “Because I'm a werewolf?"
“Oh no," Hendricks chuckled, “nothing so trivial as that. There are hundreds of other werewolves we could have chosen if that were the case. No need to seek you out specifically, and risk a confrontation with Majestic."
“You know about Majestic?" I asked, dumbly.
Hendricks smiled his creepy smile again, “Of course I know about Majestic. They've been the proverbial thorn in my side for centuries now. The question is, how much do you know about them?"
I didn't answer, because I didn't have an answer to give him.
“The reason we want you," he answered at last, “is because you are a very rare breed of werewolf. So rare, in fact, that one cannot be born naturally. They have to be created and bred in laboratories, such as the ones Majestic has."
“I wasn't bred in any lab," I said, hoping against hope that this was all just a mistake and I wasn't their special type of werewolf, and they'd just go away and leave me alone.
“No, of course you weren't. But the one that bit you was."
Immediately, the images I'd seen when Victor had confronted me flashed through my mind again. In a cage, being tested on. Pain. So much pain.
“You, my dear," Hendricks announced, as if awarding me a prize, “are what is known as a Silverblood."
There it was again. That word that everyone suddenly seemed to be using around me. Silverblood. Despite my current situation, I couldn't help but be curious.
“What does that mean, though?" I asked.
Instead of answering, Hendricks turned his head to look at the wall. He raised his hand to his ear, as if listening for something.
“I would tell you," he said at last, “but it seems that Majestic has arrived just in time to prevent me from doing so."
With that, I heard an explosion ring out in the hallway, and the house shook a little bit. I could hear voices coming our way.
“We've run out of time for explanations, Amber," Hendricks said. “So I'll make this quick. If you want your mother to remain unharmed, come with me. I will have her placed back here as if nothing had ever happened."
“And if I don't?" I dared to ask, knowing that such a question could be dangerous.
Hendricks motioned towards the lunatic wizard who was still standing on my mom's bed, “Then I'll let the Octopus have his way with her."
The Octopus' face lit up with a sadistic grin.
That was it, then, wasn't it? What choice did I have? Mom's safety was on the line- maybe even her life. And there was no doubt in my mind that Hendricks would take me even if I refused, so going peacefully was obviously the better choice. I opened my mouth to agree, but realized I was too late when a beam of green light sped through the bedroom door. It struck the Octopus in the chest, knocking him off of the bed and onto the floor. He gave a cry of pain, and his arms immediately released me.
“Edgar, you fool!" I heard Victor's voice yell from in the hallway.
“Amber, are you all right?" the boy called, ignoring the older man.
With an amused smirk, Hendricks casually turned towards the doorway and waved his cane. A loud rumbling came from the hallway, and the walls around the doorway cracked.
“He's going to bring the house down on top of us!" Edgar yelled.
Two beams of red energy flew through the door now, but Hendricks moved with inhuman speed, swinging his cane and knocking both bolts aside as if they were nothing. They slammed into the walls, cracking them even more.
As I watched, I felt a hand alight on my shoulder. I spun around, and another hand covered my mouth, stifling my gasp of shock. It was Dex, I realized. He took his hand away from my mouth and raised a finger to his lips, signaling me to remain quiet. He then reached over his shoulder, where his scepter was strapped to his back, and drew it. I stole a glance back towards Hendricks, and saw that he was still preoccupied deflecting bolts of red and green light. Dex raised his scepter, and the yellow gem began to glow.
“Boss, they're getting away!" the Octopus' shrill voice screeched as he picked himself up off the floor. He lunged at Dex, but the sandy haired man lashed out, striking him with his scepter. The warlock stumbled backwards a few steps, whimpering, and then came at us again. This time, it was an unseen fore that pushed the Octopus back, slamming him into the far wall with a sickening crunch.
“You fool!" Hendricks screamed, his face turning red with anger. “What are you thinking? Do you have any idea what you could have done?"
“Good call, Hendricks," Dex agreed, turning his scepter on the black eyed man now, his voice much colder than it had sounded the previous night. “Now, you're going to back away and let us go."
Hendricks leered at him, “What? No threats to arrest me and take me to face justice?"
Dex shook his head, “Not this time. This time, we're here just to get Amber away from you."
It looked like Hendricks wanted to say something, but Dex cut him off again, “Or, of course, you could fight me, but you know what that will do."
Hendricks paled visibly at this, but kept his composure.
“Yes, I suppose you're right. We wouldn't want you to kill all the innocent people in this neighborhood, would we?"
Hendricks stepped to the side, graciously motioning for Victor and Edgar to come inside. The two of them joined us, Victor with his stone cold face, and Edgar looking as lost as always.
“This isn't over, you know," Hendricks said, pointing his cane at us. “I will have that girl. She is worth far more to me than she ever will to you."
“Fortunately for her," Dex shot back, “we see more value in her being alive."
Before Hendricks could say another word, I suddenly found myself surrounded by bright yellow light. My mom's bedroom was gone. Hendricks was gone. Dex and the others were still there, but it was so bright that I could hardly see them. Then it felt like the floor had been pulled out from under me, and I was falling.
As I fell, my frazzled nerves finally caught up to me. The morning's events, my worries for my mother, and the sudden unexpected light show proved just enough to cause my brain to shut down, leaving me in the comforting darkness of sleep…
NEXT TIME: Hendricks, ladies and gentlemen! He’ll be our big baddie for the story. Good thing the terrible trio was there to save Amber.