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Chapter Twenty

If it had been me, I probably would have frozen and stared at the glowy-eyed dude in surprise for a few seconds.  Instead, the three black coated men reacted with the efficiency that only training can give you, each moving to attack in a coordinated team.  Not that it mattered, because as soon as the one holding the axe stepped forward, the man with the glowing eyes thrust a hand out towards him.  A jet of blue fire erupted from his palm, completely incinerating the guy in the coat before his weapon even had time to fall to the floor.


The second man, the one with the short sword, skidded to a stop on the rusty tile floor when he saw what happened to his comrade, and that was enough of an opening for the hooded guy to reach out and grab his face.  More blue fire shot out of his palm, directly into the man's skin, turning him to ash in a flash of light.  Then, with inhuman fluid grace, he spun on the last of the coated men, Beardie, and hurled a fireball at him.  I felt a quick burst of satisfaction at the thought of seeing that creep get turned into a scorch mark, but when he somehow deflected the fireball with a flick of his sword that hope evaporated as quickly as his partners had.


"I had hoped to complete this mission without any undue complications," he grunted, taking a fighting stance. "I might have let you go if you had stayed out of the way, but now that you've killed my comrades..."


The other man's glowing eyes faded, and he lowered his hood and gave Beardie a hate filled snarl.


"As if I would really leave scum like you alone," he spat.  Two small jets of fire erupted from his palms, and then solidified into a pair of curved knives.


I blinked, forgetting my pain for a minute.  I wasn't sure anymore whether the guys in black worked for Hendricks, but if the glowy-eyed guy wasn't, then what was he doing here?  Judging by the way he'd straight up murdered the first two men after I hadn't even been able to push one of them, he was obviously a really powerful... thing.


Glowyman growled like an animal and charged at Beardie.  The moment they came within reach of each other, Glowyman swung both of his knives, one at Beardie's head and the other at his knees.  His speed was inhuman, but Beardie still somehow managed to deflect both attacks with one fluid movement, and then follow it up with another strike at Glowman's neck.  Glowyman jumped up and cartwheeled away from Beardie's sword, skirting it in midair by less than an inch.  When he flipped upright again, he fell back to the floor and swung both his knives over his head.  There were blue flames dancing on the blades, like the metal had been set on fire.  Beardie spun out of the way and aimed another attack at Glowyman's neck, which Glowyman blocked with an angry flick of one of his knives.


It was like I was watching a fight scene in a movie.  I almost thought I was hallucinating as the two men danced, but I knew it was real because I could still feel the pain in my mouth and the heat coming from Glowyman's knives.  I scooted backwards until I was pressed up against the wall.  Glowyman's knives lit up the dark gas station in bright blue bursts of light, creating a strobe-light effect as he fought against Beardie.  Beardie was focusing all his attacks at his enemy's neck, like he was determined to cut his head off, while Glowyman swung his blades anywhere it looked like he might have an opening.  I didn't know who, or what, either of them were, but it didn't look like either of them had a clear advantage over the other.


"Psst, Amber!"


My head shot up.  If I hadn't been a werewolf, I would never have heard the whisper over the cacophony of clanging metal, but when I turned toward the door I saw a familiar face frantically gesturing at me to follow him.


"Edgar?" I blurted out.


Ed's eyes went wide, and he looked from the two maniacs duking it out in the center of the room and made a cutting motion at his neck.  I got the picture and snapped my mouth shut.  My mouth was still bleeding, and the pain was so bad that I could hardly think, but deep down inside me my survival instincts were still going strong.  They told me that if I didn't move, and move fast, one of those blades was going to be coming my way soon, pointy end first, so I got up on wobbly legs and hugged the wall, trying to make my way back to the door without either of them noticing me.


With a howl of rage, Glowyman slapped away another of Beardie's attacks, and kicked him in the chest.  This one connected, and the old man was thrown backwards into the wall— right in front of me!  I'm not ashamed to admit that I screamed a little when it happened... just a little.  He turned to look at me, as if he were thinking about killing me while he still had the chance, but then Glowyman came running at him with flaming knives held high.


"Move!" he yelled, and I realized that he was talking to me at the last second— literally, because I had to jump back, mostly out of instinct, or else be cut in half when he swung.  The hot air blew my hair back, and he cut two deep, glowing gouges into the wall.  Beardie drove his own sword into the wall up to the hilt, and used that as a step to put his foot on and vault into the air, safely out of the reach of Glowyman's knives.  When he came down he planted one foot on Glowyman's face and kicked him backwards before pulling his sword from the wall and attacking again.


It took me another minute before I was able to work up the courage to run again.  Beardie and Glowyman were at the other end of the building now, but I didn't doubt for a second that if one of them decided they didn't want me to leave, my limbs would probably be decapitated before I could blink.  Edgar was still couched outside, waving for me to get out of there, though, so I took a deep breath and forced my legs to move.  I made a beeline for the exit, not bothering to sneak around this time, and my heart was pounding in my ears with each step.  Every time I put my foot down, I expected to feel cold steel sliding through my body, or a fireball turning me to a pile of ash, and when I felt the cold winter wind instead it was enough to send me into shock all over again.  My breath was ripped from my lungs, my legs gave out underneath me, and I collapsed face first into the snow.


"Come on, come on!" Ed urged me, grabbing me by my shoulder and trying to haul me to my feet. "We've got to move before he sees you're gone!"


With a groan, I lifted my head and realized through slow thoughts that the snow where my face had been had turned scarlet.


"Okay," I said, shrugging his hand off, "I'm fine.  Let's go."


I stumbled to my feet.  My head was spinning again, though I couldn't tell you if it was because of my fever, blood loss, or just because I was really freaking scared.  My thoughts were still clear enough, so when Edgar took off down the street, I was able to keep my balance and follow after him.  We ran until we were a few blocks away before he made an abrupt turn into an alleyway and ducked behind a dumpster.  I went after him, and just in time too because the moment I was behind the trash can my legs gave out on me again.


For a few minutes, we just sat there catching our breath.  My clothes were getting soaked by the snow, but I didn't feel cold.  That worried me more than anything else.  Well, anything besides one of those psychopaths finding me and finishing what they'd started, I guess.


Speaking of which...


"Who were those people?" I demanded, having to spit another mouthful of blood on the ground.  Edgar watched it soak into the snow, and turned away like he was going to hurl.  I growled, my voice momentarily deepening into an animalistic snarl.  "Yeah, a fat lot of good you did back there.  Aren't you supposed to be protecting me, Ed?"


"I'm not suicidal, okay?" Ed shot back with more anger in his voice than I'd ever heard before.  "I know better than to go up against one of them."




I sat bolt upright when Dex's last words to me rang through my head like a gong.


"Those guys," I said, pointing back towards where we'd come from. "They're the ones Dex was warning me about?  The ones who are worse than Hendricks?"


"The one in the black coat," he clarified, still sounding strangely miffed.


"Who are they?"


Ed narrowed his eyes. "You've been a werewolf for eight months, and you still don't know?"


I scowled at him. "Kinda hard to find things out when everyone insists on being cryptic and mysterious."


Ed hesitated for a second, and then looked around like he was expecting Beardie to pounce on us out of the shadows.  I shivered and looked around too.  Maybe he wasn't just being paranoid.


"Dex was right," he said, turning to face me again. "Those guys really are worse than Hendricks."


"Who are they?"


Ed swallowed nervously. "They're called the—"


Suddenly there was a yellow flash behind us, but before either of us could so much as flinch a black clad man was right there on top of us.  He picked Edgar up by his collar and slammed him into the wall.


"Where are they?" he demanded, spitting into Ed's face. "Tell me where they are!"


"Don't hurt me!" Ed squealed, covering his face with his forearms. "Don't hurt me, don't hurt me, don't hurt... Victor?"


Don't hurt Victor?  Even in my panicked, fevered state of mind, that struck me as odd.  Why would Ed care whether he...


I blinked.  It was Victor.  Ed was talking to Victor.


Another wave of dizziness threatened to make me fall over, even though I was sitting down.  Whatever was wonkifying my insides this time, it was getting worse.


"Guys?" I said, spitting another mouthful of blood on the ground. "I think I need to get to the doctor."


But neither of them were listening to me.  Victor still had hold of Ed's jacket, and he was shaking him like a doll.


"Where are they?" he yelled again.  His face was red, and a purple vein stood out on his forehead.  "Answer me, you little—"


I scooted away from them.  Victor had never been a nice guy, but he had at least been coolheaded.  Even the time when he'd chased Hendricks' limo down the highway on a shopping cart, and subsequently been thrown under a semi-truck, he’d only seemed mildly annoyed by the whole thing.  The fact that he looked like he was ready to murder Edgar... that was perhaps the scariest thing I'd seen all night.


To my disbelief, though, Edgar looked Victor directly in the eye and said, "I'm not telling you."


I swear, if Victor's eyes got any bigger, they would have popped right out of his head.  With a snarl, he pulled Edgar back and slammed him so hard into the brick wall that a little bit of snow fell from the roof onto their heads.


He leaned in close to Edgar, baring his teeth like an animal. "You tell me where they are right now, Edgar, or I swear I'm going to kill you slowly and painfully!"


"Mr. Wrogan said…"




"Victor!" A new voice boomed out from the shadows. "Drop him."


Victor froze, and his face turned an even darker shade of red.  He obeyed, though, and dropped Ed none too gently into the snow.  He turned around just as another man stepped out of the darkness to join us.


"Mr. Wrogan," he greeted, his voice strained.


I don't know if it was true or not, but I've always thought of Mr. Wrogan as the biggest man in the world.  He stood easily over ten feet tall, and even with his hands by his sides his elbows brushed the walls on both sides of the alley.  If I had stretched my arms as far as they could go, I might be able to touch both walls with my fingertips.


"I gave you a direct order not to come here tonight, Victor," he said sternly.


"I understand that, sir." Victor was speaking slowly, like he was choosing his words carefully so as not to offend somebody. "But I don't think you understand—"


Wrogan silenced him with a wave of his hand. "I understand perfectly."


Victor looked like he wanted to argue, but he shut his mouth.


"I didn't give you that order to anger you," Wrogan went on. "It was for your protection."


Victor huffed in his throat, and a wry smirk rose to his lips. "They couldn't kill me if they threw everything they had at me."


Wrogan's face darkened. "They have their ways.  You of all people should know that."


Victor's fist tightened on itself, but he didn't argue again.


"Now," Wrogan said, finally turning to me, "we need to get Amber to the doctor and back home before anything else can happen to her."


"Any time now would be great," I agreed, spitting more blood into the snow.


"I volunteer!" Victor immediately stepped forward.


Edgar stood up. "Hey!  She's my—"


"I told you no, Victor!" Wrogan snapped. "You will go back to headquarters and await further orders."


"But consider this," Victor argued. "Edgar has already admitted that he stands no chance against them in a fight..."


Edgar's looked down at his feet.


"... and you are too conspicuous to escort her through town." A wicked gleam lit up Victor's eyes. "That means I am the only one able to offer her adequate protection."


Not a chance, I thought, scowling at the oily haired sociopath.  I didn't trust that guy as far as I could blow him out my nose.


Wrogan, however, looked like he was having second thoughts. "I could call Dexter," he said after a moment's hesitation.


Victor snorted. "He's more useless than Edgar.  Besides, every minute we wait for him here is one more minute that I could be taking her to the doctor and then getting her home."


Wrogan hesitated again, and then drew a breath in through his teeth, and I realized what he was thinking before he even said it.


"Very well," he consented.


"No!" I protested, but of course nobody bothered to listen to me.


Wrogan pointed a finger directly in Victor's face. "But you will not go looking for them, understand?  You will engage them only if they attack first.  Your mission is to get Amber to Dr. Munse's office and then home safely."


Victor gave him a sly grin. "Of course, sir.  As you command."


"Very well, then," Wrogan reluctantly agreed. "Be careful."


I sat up and raised my hand. "Excuse me, do I not get a say in this?"


Wrogan turned to me. "I'm sorry, Amber, but he really is the only one who can protect you tonight.  Just do as he says and you'll be home safe before you know it."


Before I could protest again, he headed back into the shadows, which seemed to swallow him up like he had walked behind a curtain.  Edgar hurried after him, but hesitated just before he was lost to sight.


"I'm sorry," he said, turning to face me.  Then, not giving me a chance to reply, he scuttled after his boss.


"Let's get moving," Victor said.  I turned around to see that he was already out on the sidewalk, directly under a street lamp. "If we're lucky, maybe someone will spot us.




NEXT TIME: I told you it was going to be epic, and did I lie?  That was pretty freaking epic.  Beardie and Glowyman are both still out there, though.  Victor seems to have some connection to the guys in the black coats.  I mean, they seem like people he’d get along with, right?  Can Amber trust him to take her safely to Dr. Munse’s office?

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