Cornered (invite only)
Rowan walked into work as if absolutely nothing was wrong. A great deal of what they were about to do depended on their quarry not knowing he was being chased until the last second.
Thanks to the help of Aidan Xephier, a man Rowan had been surprised to learn was not only a werewolf but the head honcho of his particular Clan or Pack or whatever, they had narrowed their list of suspects down to two. Cris had told him about the meeting he and Kem had had with Xephier. Rowan wasn't sure how he felt about his colleague being 'one of them.' Probably the same way Dr. Xephier felt about it. Hell, they had worked together in the ER on occasion. The Aussie was a great doctor, and had an easygoing laid back manner Rowan empathized with. maybe it was because they both had to work a little harder to promote a professional, friendly image - Rowan because of his unique fashion choices, Xephier because of his intimidating height.
Whatever the reason, maybe they'd end up discussing it over beers next week. Or, maybe Rowan would be dead.
No no. Totally not the right thought. But it wasn't far from his mind. Truth be told, instead of feeling nervous about any of this he was relieved. Rowan didn't enjoy the stress of knowing children were dying because of him. Being hunted, he could almost take. Piracy wasn't exactly a peaceful life. But being associated with the deaths of patients he'd worked hard to save, that was different.
Either way, they would have some kind of answer tonight. For better or for worse, Rowan would know why he'd been singled out, he hoped. Cris and Sullivan were with him, as well as a veritable slew of security members and covert bats and birds.
Henri had gone with Xephier, to his displeasure. He'd wanted to stay near Rowan but even he couldn't argue that if it came down to it, he could probably take both Xephier and an unnamed assassin down fairly easily. Rowan's job was simple. Confront Brand, if he could get a moment with him, and ascertain his motives with empathy. Cris was there; between the two of them it would be difficult to misunderstand.
His thoughts were interrupted by a small blond-haired boy of about nine. Rowan bent to him and hugged him. "Hey Jamie."
"Mom said I could come with her tonight. The babysitter is sick."
"Cool," Rowan said, standing and looking down at Jamie, who was Becky's son. He hid the fact that he was disappointed to see Jamie. Of all nights... why did Becky have to bring Jamie to work on this one? "You going to go down to the daycare center?"
"Probably. I wanted to say hi first."
Rowan smiled at the boy. "I'm glad you did. We can get breakfast later if you're hungry, okay?"
Jamie smiled and nodded, then ran back toward his mother who was waiting near the elevator. Employee day care (and night care) was only one of the perks of working here. Being Nachton and being a busy hospital, they had staff all through the night for emergencies just like this.
[Maybe I'm just jumping at shadows now,] Rowan sent to Cris, with whom he'd been chatting steadily since they'd left the Towers, [but I swear I see a fire in every corner.]
He quickly forgot about Jamie, who was safely tucked away with whatever other poor kids had to come hang out at their parents' workplace tonight, and headed toward his office, where they could pow-wow in peace for a little while before heading out to face the music.
He frowned faintly as he watched the boy turn and leave for the daycare area.
Walking into the office ahead of Rowan, he waited until his partner shut the door before speaking. "Alright everyone we need to take care of this as quickly and quietly as we possibly can.â€ They had teams who could deal with humans who saw things (Not as well as Anantya but they had spent hundreds of years now perfecting their own methods) but suggestion and other aids to memory loss only went so far. "We know that he has no value for human life so we need to be alert to the possibility of hostages once he's cornered. Unfortunately, we cannot keep everyone out.â€ Even a fire alarm would likely not get everyone out. There were surgeons in the middle of operations, patients on life support, people who couldn't walk. It was a security nightmare in here.
[Me too.] Cris answered Rowan sadly. [But that is what we have MARI for.] The little disc was circling the room, expertly moving around everyone's feet, blended or not, she could see them. She was tapped into the hospital's mainframe and would let them know if any of the smoke alarms went off with orders to call the fire department and their own people immediately. It wouldn't stop a fire but it might save some lives.
Reaching out, he wrapped his arm around Rowan and held him close. "Alfarinn and his friends are watching the outside of the building. If he tries to leave then the crows or the cameras will likely spot him.â€ He did not believe the werewolf would last long if Alfarinn got a hold of him. The Elder had brought along Skodde as well, saying that the wolf might be able to help them track the killer's scent if it became necessary. Cris hoped that it wouldn't be necessary.
[Are you ready to do this? We could still change our plans, simply grab the guy and interrogate him back at The Towers.] They promised not to harm an innocent werewolf but a jail cell was inconvenient, perhaps slightly uncomfortable, but hardly life threatening. If Rowan preferred the safer method then that was fine with Cris. In fact, it was more than fine; it would make him ecstatic.
[I wish we could do that, love,] he sent to Cris. [You made a deal with Dr. Xephier though, didn't you? I couldn't bear it if this caused a war. There's been too much death already.]
Besides, if they knew who this killer was for sure there was practically no way he'd get away with it anymore. They could find him, track him, hunt him down even if he escaped. They just needed to know who it was. With one hundred percent certainty. Tonight would prove it.
If something went wrong, they could probably grab both suspects and run. Probably. But the whole war thing - that was bad. Rowan had been through his fair share of them and he didn't want to see more people injured and hurt.
Maybe they should just call this whole thing off. This was a public place, with people who were completely innocent and already sick. But if they didn't move fast, another child would die.
Rowan was tired of seeing children die.
"I imagine he might try to bolt when I confront him," Rowan said softly, aware that many people would hear what he said. There was communication happening on all levels. Technologically and mentally. In addition to Cris, Kem was present although Rowan wasn't sure where the pale-haired Elder was. He could be back at the Towers for all Rowan knew, but the man was a Sender like Cris and between the two of them they could relay information even faster than earpieces and microphones.
"He's working in the Children's ward tonight," he continued, glancing at the schedule on the screen of his laptop, which was now sitting open on his office desk.
He could hardly believe it when Brand's name had popped onto the list of suspects. Brand was a nice guy. Everyone thought so. Kind of quiet and reserved but that was nothing big. Apparently, though, according to Dr. Xephier, Brand was a Kadzait werewolf and something of a reclusive one. Rowan would never have believed him capable of setting children on fire, but then, who walked around wearing a neon sign that said, "I kill kids?"
Pushing away from his desk Rowan grabbed his long white coat, the one he wore under protest and didn't close to cover his scrubs. Tugging it across his broad shoulders he gave a soft sigh.
"Now is as good a time as any."
He looked around, waiting for last-minute orders. part of him wanted to rush out now and leave everyone behind, confront Brand alone and try to keep everyone here safe. But he had told Cris he wouldn't do anything rash like that. He had promised to work with his partner. There was something about Cris's manner on that topic that made Rowan realize it was a Big Deal. Fear, maybe, anxiety, uneasiness, sorrow - something radiated from his lover that told him he must follow instructions to the letter.
Rowan trusted Cris with his life, and tonight he would prove it. Cris wouldn't fail him and he wouldn't fail Cris.
The point was moot if Rowan was determined to continue and he really shouldn't be trying to decide whether or not they should do something that could start a war. Normally his word would mean much more to him but Rowan's life meant more than just about anything.
Rowan mentioned that the man might try to run once he was confronted. "He might, especially knowing that there are more around you than he knows.â€ And knowing that they were dealing with a werewolf, not a vampire, who could blend, they were all carrying silver, both up close weapons and ranged. He fully expected the ranged weapons might prove useless but if they get the jump on him right after a confession then it might never come to another blended fist fight.
"Sullivan will be joining you after you have spoken to Brand.â€ They didn't want two visible people to be standing there for the questioning because that might make even an innocent person more reticent to speak, but she was poised and ready to move in.
[Thomas, where is Brand?] Thomas was the blender who had been quietly following this suspect for them. They did not want either of the two disappearing and more children being kidnapped and killed before they could locate the correct killer. [Thomas? Thomas!]
"MARI locate Thomas Middleton."
He turned to look at Rowan. "I think we need to find Brand now."
It would all be over soon for better or for worse.
He listened quietly, nodding when Cris said Sullivan would join him after he found Brand. Then, An expression of concern crossed Cris's features and he told MARI they needed to locate Thomas, the vampire assigned to follow Brand. Rowan immediately understood what was wrong; if Cris could not send to Thomas he was unconscious, or dead. Sending knew no boundaries. With concentration, Cris could send to anyone on the planet. Thomas was hardly half a planet away.
"Let's do it," Rowan said. He gave himself a shake, as if to loosen his limbs for a role yet to be played.
Before turning to the door he bent to kiss Cris swiftly, firmly, on the lips. "For luck," he said, tossing Cris his most devil-may-care smile.
He headed out his office door, toward the children's ward where Brand was supposed to be working at the desk. He didn't really expect to see him there, not after what Cris had discovered. Robyn, the other receptionist, was there. She greeted him with a smile.
"Hi Robyn. Have you seen Brand tonight?"
She smiled at him from across the desk. "Yeah, he came in a little while ago but he got paged down to the ER. He hasn't been back yet. Fortunately it's been pretty quiet. Why, what's up? Something I can do for you?"
Rowan affected an air of distraction as she handed him a clipboard. "Oh no. Nothing, I just had a DVD he wanted to borrow."
He looked down at the chart. Flipped a page. And froze.
He found himself staring down at a picture of himself. His heart stopped. Next to it, a picture of Cris. And below them, a picture of Jamie.
"Mom said I could come with her tonight. The babysitter is sick."
He looked at the poem he knew would be just below the pictures, hoping for clues like the last couple. The handwriting was exactly as he remembered it. He had memorized it by now. Every loop, every crossed t and dotted i.
Tonight we dance, to a delightful tune.
A waltz of lives, a melody of souls.
Your prize is hidden, tucked safely away
Within walls of blue and cans of gray.
Come hither, children, and let us play.
How long the game lasts is in your hands alone.
The child will cry, the healer in flames.
The guardian cut off, cut apart, cut to pieces.
Find us - we are all among friends here.
"Dr Murphy? Is everything all right?"
Rowan looked up at Robyn. "Yeah, it's fine," he said, forcing a smile. "Look, I just remembered I have a meeting to get to. I'll be back in a few minutes. Let Dr. Stanley know, okay?"
He tugged the note and the pictures off the clipboard and handed it back, then turned away. Walking briskly down the hall he waited until they were alone before stopping. He held the papers down for Cris to see them.
"He has Jamie, Cris," Rowan said, his voice soft. He was sure Cris had figured that out already. "We have to find him."
The crew outside said that Thomas's locator signal was still on and in the building. They would be sending someone in to find him. Cris had to leave it up to their team and focus on the part he, Rowan, Gary, Heather and Emma would play.
Heather was an expert at close combat fighting and she could blend. The only problem was that she could not send but Cris hoped that her other talents made up for that loss. She was agile, vicious with a dagger and had a mean streak when it came to fighting. Playing fair, according to Heather, was for playing, not for fighting. He approved of that opinion.
They moved out and Rowan asked for Brand at the desk. Robyn informed him that Brand had been paged down to the ER and had not come back yet.
Rowan had been looking at a clipboard while talking to the receptionist when he stopped and stared at something. Cris drew closer and tried to take a look around his partner's shoulder. He could make out some pictures, the first covered by the fold of the previous paper but the second he clearly recognized and the third. Below that was the familiar format of another poem though he could not easily read the words.
His partner muttered an oath out loud and Robyn asked him if he was okay. Rowan covered well enough, seeming simply distracted. He made an excuse and then turned to leave. They walked until they found a stretch of hallway that was momentarily clear of people.
[I know, Love.] He read the poem that Rowan held up for him. This time seeing the first picture as well. His heart ceased to beat and then it moved too quickly. Cris clenched his jaw and strengthened his resolve. They would stop this werewolf, tonight. [We will find him.]
[How many storage closets between here and the ER? Count the cafeteria if it is between those as well. He has a child, Jamie, and he has written another poem.] Cris briefly detailed to the poem for the team in the van. Who, in turn, gave him the information he was looking for.
[We need to start looking in the stock rooms, Love. Do you think one is more likely than any of the others?] Rowan knew this hospital far better than he did and better even than those outside who had access to the hospital layout.
"If he took Jamie from daycare he's got to be between the ER and there," Rowan muttered softly, echoing Cris's sending. "Unless Brand was never actually paged to the ER. He could be anywhere, in that case."
He looked down at the poem again, knowing the clock was ticking, feeling a cold sweat break out on his brow. Enough children had already died. Children that Rowan had tried to help. Not Jamie too.
"He's got to be near the children's ward."
Rowan pointed to the last line of the poem. "That's like the line on the dedication plaque."
There was a little plate at the entrance to the children's hospital that mentioned being among friends. Rowan couldn't imagine it was a coincidence that Brand made reference to it in his poem. The werewolf wanted to be found. He meant to lure them to where Jamie was, the better to kill all three of them.
"He must know we have backup," Rowan said.
Pushing himself away from the wall he headed toward the wing of the hospital used to care for sick and injured children. Regardless of what plans they made on the way there, they had to go. Sending someone in their place wasn't a question. Not only did Brand know who to look for, but Rowan didn't want t take them chance that someone else might get harmed - or that Brand would simply kill Jamie anyway.
It was difficult to travel quickly. Rowan, at least, had to give off he impression that it was business as usual at the hospital, nothing wrong, nothing to worry about. He got stopped many times with nurses and patients asking questions and tried to address them even though they were in a hurry.
As he rounded the corner to the children's ward he literally ran into Becky, who bounced off his chest and then looked up at him, blinking as he steadied her.
"Dr. Murphy," she said, anxiety and dismay in her voice. "Have you seen Jamie? Ellen just called to ask me where he was. I dropped him off at the entrance and he went inside, but she said she never saw him! I was hoping he was with you."
Rowan shook his head, careful not to appear too worried. "I haven't seen him since the lobby," he said. Then he rested his hand on Becky's shoulder. "I'll look around here for him. Why don't you go back to the lobby and retrace his steps down to daycare? Check the cafeteria too."
The nurse nodded, thanked him, and left. Rowan sighed; at least Becky should be away from any danger. He'd sent her as far away as he reasonably could while keeping her searching for her son, although he knew she wouldn't find him. Jamie was here somewhere, he was positive.
[There are two storage rooms on each floor,] Rowan sent to Cris as soon as he had the opportunity. [If Brand came up the stairwell with Jamie, the far ones would be the easiest to get into.]
He rushed toward the rooms in question. They were currently on the ground floor, the first level that had any children in it. The lower levels had no patients. It made sense that they look here first.
Rowan mentioned the plaque on the children's ward which was part of the poem. [That narrows it down then.] He relayed the information to the others and they continued on their way.
He had an uneasy feeling about the entire scene. This had gone from them confronting Brand on their own terms to him drawing them into an ambush. A child's life was at stake; they couldn't afford to ignore the poem but he still didn't like being led into a trap.
They were stopped multiple times along the way and then they ran into Becky. She had already been alerted by the daycare center that Jamie was missing. He listened as Rowan told her to search back toward the lobby and the cafeteria. Cris then sent to one of his team to intercept her at the lobby and detain her. The last thing they needed was for Becky to become involved in the fray. The security team could tell her mostly the truth, there was a serial killer on the loose in the hospital, they were tracking him down. They could claim to be a branch of the government, they had the badges for it, and they could tell her that people were working to get her son out safely. So long as she was out of harm's way that was what mattered. Tranquilize her if necessary.
As they got close to the first storage area, he sent to the others cautioning them to stay back. [He knows that Rowan has people around him, probably close. Watch for trip wires and other traps, especially homemade ignition switches. We don't know how long he has been setting this up.] It could have been Brand's plan all along or he could have put it together after their encounter. Whichever was the case, the killer still had plenty of time to prepare. [Expect fire] Cris reached out and squeezed Rowan's shoulder reassuringly; he hated that his partner had to go through this again. This time Rowan wouldn't be alone and this time they were more prepared. They all had on fire retardant clothing, even Rowan beneath his scrubs and slender emergency smoke masks. Those blended had lightweight armor, goggles and larger masks. It would be foolish not to prepare for fire when the murderer had used it in every encounter, save the one he had not planned.
[I am behind you, off to your right, Love.] He didn't want to be exactly behind Rowan when they reached the store room. If Brand wanted to take them down in numbers then his best chance would be when they first entered his area before they had an idea where he was or what he had planned.
He was the first to the storage room, although he knew Cris wasn't far behind at all. They all knew they were feeding into Brand's trap, but what else could they do? He had Jamie, he had the power he needed to make them move as he wanted. It galled Rowan, yet he went anyway. He had to trust Cris. He knew he was heading toward his potential death but there wasn't much else he could do. He had faith in his partner's determination to end this. Rowan didn't like not knowing what was going to happen but he kept the image of his lover close in his memory.
[Don't stay too close,] he sent wryly back. They had discussed this; after the encounter in the alley it did seem prudent not to all be stuck together. [I'll go in and see if Jamie's there,] he sent as he ran through the doorway.
He wasn't exactly surprised when the door to the supply room slammed shut behind him. Rowan whirled and turned toward it. There was a muffled thump and a wisp of smoke began to rise from the handle. He tested it anyway; it seemed stuck. He squeezed and pulled, but the heavy metal door didn't budge. There was one small square glass window in it; he looked out but didn't see anything. He cursed softly.
The voice was small and faint, coming from the corner. Rowan hit the light switch on the wall and peered around a shelf. Sure enough Jamie was there, hands and feet tied but otherwise unharmed. He looked pale and frightened, although relief crossed his little face as he saw it was, indeed, Rowan.
"Hang on Jamie, we're going to get out of here."
Rowan went to the corner and knelt down, giving Jamie a quick hug before starting to work at the ropes that bound him. The little boy looked over his shoulder as Rowan worked.
"Are we stuck in here?" he asked, blue eyes big.
"For the moment," Rowan said with grim honesty. "Christian is outside though. He'll get the door open."
Fortunately it didn't occur to the ten-year-old to ask why Cris was there. He just knew that Rowan and Christian were to be trusted. Oh, for the simplicity of childhood. Rowan tried to think if things had ever been so black and white for him and failed. Waking up with amnesia and only Henri to tell him where they were and what was what had not fostered a deep sense of trust in Rowan. That had come over time. Jamie, though, seemed to have always known Rowan and Cris were 'good guys.'
He got the ropes undone and wrapped his arms around Jamie. "I'm sorry he scared you," Rowan said.
"He told me mom needed me," Jamie answered, his face muffled in Rowan's lab coat. Rowan nodded; that would do it. Jamie was the 'man of the house' for single mom Becky. He did his ten-year-old best to care for his mother as well as she did for him.
"Your mom is fine. I saw her right before I got here," Rowan said.
Just then there was a clicking sound, almost like a ticking clock. Rowan lifted his head and looked around. What the hell?
Cris's warning echoed back to him. There was no fire... yet.
"Shit," he swore. He pushed Jamie down and wrapped his arms around him, covering him with his body just as there was an enormous crashing sound and the room lit up.
There had been a moment or two of lucidity when Brand the man had peeked through the curtain and thought he should leave town, run, hide, and find a new target. This one had become so much bigger than he had intended. But it was just a moment, and then the curtain was drawn again and the hunter he had become was in control. And the hunter didn't back down from a fight. Not against one vampire, not against two, not against a whole army.
The redhead dashed into the storage room and Brand whirled, slamming the door behind him and activating the chemical compound that fused the metal door and handle almost immediately. He saw Rowan's face peer out briefly, and then it disappeared as he must have realized the boy was in there with him. Brand did not see Christian inside, however. The smaller vampire could have remained unseen but Brand couldn't see the point.
He sat against the metal storage room door, affected a casual air, and flickered into sight.
"Come out, come out, little friends," he said. Lest they do something rash he held up the remote in his hand for all to see. "This is a fun game. You'll see. Let me give you a taste."
He pressed the first button and grinned as there was a satisfying thunder inside the storage room. A rush of flame followed, and the door heated up against his back.
"That was nice," Brand said. "There are plenty more of them."
He backed away quickly lest his proximity to the door lead the killer into being able to find him. It took almost more willpower than he had to not immediately try to get Rowan out of that room. [We are going to need a torch. He has sealed Rowan and Jamie in the storage room and fused the lock.]
While someone was finding that tool and hurrying to the scene they needed to deal with Brand before he could do something worse.
Then the man flickered into view. He was wearing his hospital scrubs but he also had various remotes strapped to his body. The gods only knew what those all went to and none of them were going to be good. Cris could see the outline of the knife that he intimately remembered strapped beneath Brand's clothing.
A knife flashed into view just as Brand held up a button. The noise from inside the storage room wrenched his heart; Cris felt it beating faster than a human's, fear for Rowan pushing unseemly amounts of adrenaline through his vampiric veins.
He wrenched his gaze from the door, realizing that Heather's reaction was the right one. Cris raised his pistol and fired. It was a hasty messy shot but he wanted to take it while he could. Sure enough the man disappeared again from view. Cris cursed himself for not being quicker. He had let his worry for Rowan divide his focus and keep him from ending this whole situation quickly and cleanly. If more people died today then it would be partly his fault.
[Xephier. The killer is Brand. He has Rowan and a child in a storage room near the daycare. He has other explosives set.] Cris didn't know if the Alpha could do anything but if this fight lasted long enough then maybe the man's pack leader could talk him into not blowing up innocent people.
"Why harm innocent people?â€ He spoke and then quickly moved to left and ducked, expecting some sort of strike to come toward his direction.
Not again. Not again. In his panic, he sent the words as well. [Oh God, not again. Please.] Then he looked around, fighting for any way to control the situation. Jamie was huddled in a ball beneath him, cringing away from the heat. Rowan started there. He pulled the smoke mask from his pocket, opened it, and tapped Jamie on the shoulder.
"Put this on, it'll help with the smoke," he said. Then he pulled his coat off, his scrubs over his head, and revealed the flame retardant shirt beneath. He tugged that off too. "Arms," he said to Jamie. When the little boy complied, Rowan put the shirt on him instead. It was huge, almost covering his legs, which was the intention.
Rowan pulled his own clothing back on for what little protection it could offer. Then, gathering Jamie close, he tried to figure out which part of the room would be the safest for when Cris got through that door. Because he would, Rowan had no doubt. He couldn't doubt.
"Stay low, the air will be better," he said to Jamie. "Crawl over there, to the corner."
He noticed he oxygen tanks lined up against the wall and shuddered. While oxygen itself wasn't flammable there were many things in here that were, and the addition of oxygen into the room would only make them burn hotter and faster. He was terrified of the prospect. He moved them as far away as he could but he knew it wasn't far enough; the room was bigger than a closet but it wasn't that big.
[What's happening out there?]
He needed to hear Cris's voice. To know he was all right, to know he was still trying to get them out of there. Rowan settled in the corner, wrapped protectively around Jamie, feeling his skin sting where something had hit it when the explosive went off and the uncomfortable pain of new burns.
"How unsportsmanlike," he taunted, still moving quietly. He heard the question Christian asked and laughed softly.
"None of them can be innocent while you hide among them," he said. "Half of them are filthy anyhow. Every one of those children your Rowan touched wasn't fit to live. They were desperate to be clean and I gave that to them. They were dead already, dead to parents who never should have had them. Helping them has been an unexpected pleasure."
Up until now, the children he had taken from the doctor's dead, caring hands had been victims of abuse. The only pleasure they'd had was their few days with him before he cured them of their living state. It had been a relief to see them go, poor tortured souls. They didn't have enough voice to speak for themselves so he had spoken for them. They had wanted to leave this world. They were better for it now.
"Now about this invisible knife-throwing," Brand said. "I don't like it. I can smell you, you know."
He kept moving, not wanting to give them an opportunity to hit him again. he pulled his knife out with one hand, remote still in the other. He could smell someone nearby and he swept his arm out, blade forward, not sure if he was close enough to hit anyone.
Backing away he moved toward the fused storage room door again. He didn't want them to get it open quickly; this was Rowan's turn. The game wasn't over until his main objective was dead, tangled in smoke and fear and cries of horror. Brand wanted to take Christian too, but if he had to settle for just the doctor, he would. He knew he was outnumbered here. He knew they could take him. but the music had to play on and on, in his head, and he had to dance to it.
"A little gift to you. You made me bleed. They can bleed, too."
He hit another button and one after it. There was a second explosion inside the storage room, followed by a muffled thump from the floor above them. Brand could hear, with his keen senses, someone scream. It was the perfect chorus to his symphony.
Brand answered his question by saying that no one was innocent while vampires hid amongst them. The children were tainted because Rowan had touched them. Cris hoped that his partner couldn't hear that nonsense; he didn't want Rowan to feel any more guilty for the deaths of the children that Brand killed any more than he already did.
He was sick; Cris knew that but to hear it spoken so plainly was astonishing. He knew then for an absolute certainty that there would be no reasoning of any kind with the man, not for the lives in the hospital, not even for the children. He hadn't truly expected it but if there was a small hope he had felt compelled to try.
[What a twisted mother fucker! And people call me morally compromised...] Heather muttered in response to his last sending about her knife throw. [It hit but I don't know where.]
The murderer said that he could smell them. Cris figured that meant that someone was close by. He was about to suggest they form a line and sweep the hall when he heard a soft noise, barely a whisper. He turned in that direction and saw blood dropping from the air. [Over here!] Gary's voice entered his head. The larger man had been on his far side; Brand must have moved back toward the door and then moved again because his voice had originally come from the other direction.
[Grab him!] Cris couldn't tell if Gary was complying with that order or not.
Brand spoke, complaining about the knife wound. He set off two remotes, one in the storage room. Cris stared in horror, knowing that this one was close to where Rowan and Jamie had been hiding. Another muffled blast could be heard from the floor above.
*Gary slapped a hand over the cut in his left arm and lashed out with a kick in the direction the blade had come from. He hoped that the man had dodged backward expecting a grab, like they had done in their first encounter but not a low kick from a very tall man.*
[Tell MARI to set off the sprinkler system on this floor and the one above it.] They would go off soon anyway once enough smoke reached the height of the ceiling but he didn't want to leave that up to chance. A lot of people and equipment were about to get wet but better that than the alternative.
Cris answered Rowan's question, again trying for calm as he moved once more toward the door. This time with a silvered knife in his hand. He was not the equal of the assassin but he was very familiar with a knife; it had been his very first weapon. [Xeph and Henri are on their way. Brand has been injured. It will not be long now.]
*Gary was telling her where he was in relation to the door. Heather slid slowly forward, a knife in each hand. She made short jabbing motions with one knife and followed each with a slash from the other.*
[Where are we with the cutter?] Cris lunged forward, jabbing with a dagger and then stepping back. He was directly in front of the door. Gary had been off to his right and Heather had answered that she was moving toward it from the left. Brand would have to come in contact with one of them again fairly soon; the hall was only so big.
((OOC: Heather in red. Gary in teal. ))
[Just stay safe Cris,] he sent back. [Please stay safe. I can't lose you.]
Never mind losing his life. He'd burn in hell forever if Cris was injured or worse during this fiasco. [He wants you too, not just me.]
That was the point after all. The killer had Cris targeted as well, and Rowan was fearful that they were playing right into his hands. Here he was, trapped as Brand intended. With Jamie. As intended. Cris outside, as intended. But Cris had Evenhet at his back. There was an entire Clan out to get this murderer. They wouldn't fail, Rowan had faith in that. But he had to have faith in that Cris would survive it, too.
His partner's voice rang into his head again and Rowan gasped with relief hearing the update. Cris could have recited the alphabet for him at that point; Rowan just needed that cool tenor, the voice of reason right now.
He didn't have much time to respond, however. There was a short clicking sound and, before Rowan could respond, a deafening roar. He wrapped himself around Jamie and they both cried out in surprise as the wall next to them exploded. Rowan hoped he'd muffled Jamie's ears well enough; his own were ringing in the aftermath. He clung tightly to his small charge as bottles of pressurized chemicals exploded around them, adding the the vapors in the air. Rowan tried not to breathe it in but he had to breathe sometime. He could feel blood, his own, on his side and face, but miraculously he didn't think he was too badly injured. He had the presence of mind to reach up for the fire extinguisher. Pulled the pin... nothing. Yanked at it, Jamie huddled behind his back. Nothing. The mechanism was bent, torn out of place.
He reached out again and pulled the fire alarm. If nothing else at least he could get the patients in the hospital out safely. Then he returned to holding Jamie tightly, moving into the corner of the tiny room that seemed the least affected by the blasts. God, he hoped there wasn't another one. Smoke and chemicals had him feeling nauseous and light-headed already. Or was it blood loss? Shock? He had no idea. But he was cold, shivering really, and that couldn't be a good thing.
He had the presence of mind to get as far away from the oxygen tanks as he could but so far they seemed undamaged. Rowan fervently hoped they remained that way. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a hysterical little voice said the next time he got stuck in a burning building he was going to hope for a marshmallow factory. Right next to a Hershey distributor.
That didn't seem to have to be the case though, since it was Christian's team who identified Brand as the killer. They weren't far away. Xeph's werewolves weren't numerous; there weren't that many of them living here in Nachton. But the ones that were there were working with Christian's people to keep alarm down to a minimum and handle this quietly.
That said, there was a crashing noise that practically everyone in the hospital heard followed closely by the fire alarm going off. A great deal of panic ensued but it was the well-trained panic of medical professionals who were prepared to handle a crisis even though they'd never expected one to happen.
Xephier was stopped by several people as they moved through the halls but he managed to wrangle his way free with agility surprising for one his size. Within a moment or two he had arrived in what appeared to be an empty hallway, past several men in black suits who looked like they meant business but were waiting for the call to action.
When he heard Christian's voice again Xeph responded in kind. [We're right around the corner. I don't know if I can get you a shot but I'll do what I can.]
There was no more negotiating with this man. He'd broken every Pack law there was. Even if he were turned over to Xeph, the Kadzait Alpha wasn't sure he'd bother wasting the fuel to cart the serial killer back to the Den.
It was deceptively quiet; there was a little bit of what appeared to be blood on the floor and Xeph could smell more of it. Behind the storage room door he could see flickering flames. The room next to it, an lab of some kind, also appeared to be on fire. Xeph heard a muttered French curse next to him. "Merde."
He could feel around him the various needs of those present. They all seemed similar. A need to bring down a killer. A need to complete a job successfully. A desperate need to open the storeroom door.
And then a chilling need to kill. To take a life and crush it, to rip it apart. It was tangled with a desperate desire to be done with this game, whatever it was, but that one was fleeting and faded almost before Xeph knew it for what it was.
"Brand," Xeph said. "This game is up. You are completely surrounded."
There was nothing but silence. Xeph knew the Evenhet would be closing in on the lone wolf. There were plenty of them here. There would be only one way out for brand; Christian had done a thorough job of pinning the were down and ensuring he had no escape route. Xeph didn't feel 'escape' from Brand though. The wolf wanted to rip, to tear, to injure. Xeph knew they all wanted to avoid that if they could.
"If you come out now, I'll bring you back to the Den and we'll judge you fairly."
Kill, yes. But he'd be fairly judged.
Still there was no response, and Xeph began to worry that he wolf was getting ready to attack. A cornered wolf nearly always would.
"You've lost this one. You need to play by the rules and come quietly."
Clearly Brand was not going to listen. Xeph's hopes for getting out of this with no further injured people on either side began to sink. Suddenly, however, there was the slightest noise. Xeph realized the werewolf had listened, and was moving. But he hadn't come visible and what he said was murmured softly. Maybe it was enough.
Someone kicked at him, he thought. He felt the air close - too close. They were all in such tight quarters. Brand re-gripped his knife. He just needed Christian. These others, they were decoys. If he could kill them too he would, but it was the blond he wanted.
The arrival of his Alpha made him hesitate but only for a moment. He ignored Xephier's words, even though a tiny part of him was compelled to obey, to to what the dominant wolf wanted him to do. Brand was so far gone, though, that the bit of humanity left in him was easily conquered.
Didn't Xephier realize how important this was? To clean the world of filth, to purify it? He had started this task, this mission, long ago. He would finish at least this one today.
They were closing in on him now. He had seconds, maybe, to make a choice. He thought he remembered the scent of the man he wanted but everything was tainted now with fumes and chemicals. Brand heard Xephier's words but he wasn't going to appear. He wouldn't do their bidding.
He took the risk, picked the person he thought was the one he wanted. "It's not my place to judge," he said softly, very softly, and then he leaped for where Christian's throat would be, arms outstretched, ignoring the pain of the silver burn that had made him bleed.
One chance to finish it all, just the way it should be, wrapped neatly up.
Rowan cautioned him about the killer wanting him as well. He hoped that would keep the man here and focused on trying to reach him. A sane person would have fled a long time ago, especially after he had done his best to see his original goal accomplished. Escaping would be difficult but not impossible for someone with the ability to move unseen. Cris wanted the man dead, today. He didn't want Rowan to suffer any longer or any more people to die because of this man. Of course he also know that serial killers tended to have certain rituals and it was possible that Brand had to make certain that he succeeded in killing his victim.
Cris was very intent on disappointing him.
Xephier arrived in a timely manner, for which he was thankful. That also gave them another blended security member with a very personal reason for wanting Rowan alive and Brand very dead. The alpha said he would do what he could. Cris hoped for something significant, like retrieving a cutter from his back pocket, or being able to work some wolf magic to make this guy appear and hand over his remotes.
He continued to confer with Heather and Gary as they moved toward the door. Heather had reached out her right hand and briefly brushed his outstretched fingers so that he would know where she was. Gary told him his location by telling him which of the tiles he was on in relation to the door. He said that his arm should stop bleeding in a second and then he could stop covering the wound. It had been an exploratory swipe with no real power behind it according to him.
Meanwhile Xephier was offering the man a fair trial if he came along quietly. The alpha had said that he was going to try to give him a shot which Cris would take as soon as he was certain of where the killer was. A part of him was surprised that Xephier would offer such a thing knowing that Cris was going to shoot his pack member at the first opportunity but then when you dealt with terrorists and murderers you said what you had to in order to get them to do what was needed to take them down. Offer them a plane, money, a trial...whatever.
Something suddenly blocked the heat coming from the storage room door, creating a noticeable change in temperature right in front of him. It was like stranding in front of a fireplace and having someone come between you and it. Cris remembered how wide Brand was and knew also how tall. He aimed his pistol about heart level. If he hit then he could unload a couple more and hope for the best.
A soft murmur of response came from the air in front of him. This was it; he wouldn't be more certain as long as Brand remained unseen. Cris fired once. And then a solid wall of muscle hit his outstretched hand. He fired again and again even as hands reached for and gripped his throat.
[Die knowing that you have failed.]
Cris dropped his blending so that everyone else could see him and therefore know exactly where Brand would be. He tilted the gun upward, until the silencer pressed against the under side of Brand's chin and fired the gun one last time.
"Why hasn't anyone opened the door? I want to get out."
Rowan caught the gist of Jamie's words, or at least he thought he did based on what was going on, but he realized he couldn't hear them at all. The blast that had made his ears ring still had them ringing, incessantly. He didn't hear the boy's voice. In fact he didn't even hear the fire roaring around them and that was a blessing.
Staying calm right now was possibly the most difficult thing he'd ever done. he was trying to ignore the flames but they were getting closer and closer, licking out to taste his legs as if he were an appetizer at a buffet. Fortunately at least that part of him was still clad in protective gear. The rest of him was as battered and bruised as you could expect to be after being caught in this situation.
"They'll be here soon. Hang tight," he said, not sure if he was screaming or whispering, or if Jamie could hear him. The little boy said something else and Rowan shook his head. He hadn't even understood that. He lifted one arm away from Jamie and pointed to his ear. "I can't hear you. The explosion..."
Jamie's brow furrowed and his face fell. He said one more thing and then curled into a little ball, crying, holding onto Rowan's scrubs and clinging as close as he could. Rowan wrapped himself back up around him, trying to cover him up as best he could without smothering him. They were sitting near the door now but not against it. It was a metal door, and too hot. Maybe if he were feeling bolder he'd have battered against it trying to break it down but just the thought of doing that to his hands again had him cringing away. He couldn't do it.
It had been too long since he'd heard from Cris, when suddenly there were gunshots just outside. Rowan jumped, thinking for a moment that they had just been caught in yet another explosion. Then he realized what had happened. Unwinding himself from around Jamie he found every ounce of motivation he'd needed to hit the door, literally, pounding against it with his fists.
"Cris!" He was screaming now, he knew it, his sore throat burned from it. "Cris!"
Did Brand have a gun? What was going on? It was tough to see out the window; it was filthy and smoky now, and even when he touched the hot glass to wipe away the soot he couldn't clearly see what was happening. He beat at the door with both fists then lowered his shoulder and tried to force it open that way. It had to have been Cris who'd fired the shots. It had to. Otherwise Rowan may as well just stay in this room with the fire.
What was even more frustrating was not being able to see any of the action. And there most certainly must have been action. Suddenly a shot was fired and Brand appeared, hands locked around something in visible, squeezing as hard as he could. His body jerked as yet more shots fired.
Xeph stepped toward them as Christian reappeared, in Brand's grip. The wolf's body jerked once, and one hand slipped away from Christian's neck. It flashed up again as Christian tilted his gun up but Xeph couldn't see what he had held. When the man fell away, finally, he saw a knife.
His attention was diverted by a sudden flood of people into the hallway, both his and Christian's, he imagined. Then there was the sudden pounding at the metal storeroom door. Xeph could see someone behind it. A flash of red hair. Henri moved between them, though, as Xeph turned to address his own people.
"We need to get that door open now. What do you have?"
Someone, from his crew or Christian's, he wasn't even certain at that point, called out, "Here! Here, coming through!"
Xeph moved aside to let them do their work, turning to a few of his others. "We need this cleaned up and vanished," he said softly to them. They nodded, understanding.
More people were appearing, with fire extinguishers and emergency equipment, ready to help the people inside the room. Meanwhile Xeph looked to Christian, uncertain if he had been injured under Brand's assault.
"Are you all right?"
There were more, suddenly, explosions of heat and pain in his chest. Brand lost control of everything. His breath, his heartbeat, every nerve alive with fire. He heard Christian's voice and suddenly saw his face.
He lifted his hand once more, the one that now had his long knife in it. The knife had tasted this man's blood before and would be eager for more. Brand thrust and twisted, putting every ounce of energy he had into it even as there was an explosion, one final explosion. In his last thoughts he wasn't even aware of where that explosion was. There was just a noise, a sound, and then nothing.
He had thought, in life, that death would be the ultimate judgment. But, as it turned out, when you die you just die.