Here are the previous scenes:
After this scene, I’ll be posting excerpts from the story instead of entire chapters. Please feel free to make comments and suggestions. I’m still trying to figure out a title for this.
. . .
The two ran down the stairs and out onto the pavement. A black SUV with tinted windows was idling on the corner. The window rolled down, the driver was wearing shades, and a smile. It was Sarah.
“That was quick,” Sarah said.
“Yup. Max, get in the back.” Andie climbed into the passenger seat. Max held his duffel bag close to his chest. He couldn’t get the scene they just left behind out of his mind. The smoking floor, the black blood all over his living room, poor Jules’s ravaged body crumpled in a corner.
“We can’t just leave the apartment like that, Andie. I’m a cop. I can’t leave the scene of a crime. Jules was my girlfriend,” Max panicked. But Sarah was already peeling down the street.
“What’s your station chief’s name? It’s the one in the West Village, right?” Andie asked.
“Yeah. Robert Sheehan.”
“Oh, no problem. My dad can take care of that.” Sarah answered, smiling at Max in the rearview mirror. “He’ll sort it out.”
“Are you taking me back to that gym?” Max asked nervously.
“No, that’ll cause trouble for Wallace. We’re going back to my place and you’ll stay there for now.” Andie replied.
“How did you know about Jules?” The emotion in Max’s voice surprised him.
“I didn’t. I just knew something was up. After I dropped you off, I went back and got Sarah. I’ve been staked out in front of your building the whole night. I had asked the rats to keep an eye on you in your apartment. Moledaemon’s take on the host’s body and act almost like normal but the rats were able to recognize your friend Jules for what she was and came out to tell me. They’re much easier to kill when they’re inside the host.”
“What did the Moledaemon do to Jules? Was she alive in there?”
There was a brief silence.
“Technically no. She wasn’t alive. But the Moledaemon can still access the host’s memories.” Andie paused before adding softly “She didn’t feel anything, I promise.”
Max buried his face into his duffel bag.
“No, don’t take the Manhattan bridge, take the Brooklyn bridge to the FDR, ” Andie said to Sarah.
“But it’s right here,” she countered.
“It’ll be quicker to my apartment.”
“Ok, but this is right here.”
They argued about directions for the next ten minutes while Max tried not to cry in the backseat.
Max hadn’t spoken a word another word during the ride to Andie’s apartment. Sarah glanced in the rearview mirror to see him staring straight, almost catatonic.
She lowered her voice, “You think he’s ok?”
Andie turned to look at Max, his face ashen and his eyes glossed over. “I’m sure he’ll be alright once we get him back to the apartment.” She shrugged her shoulders at Sarah.
Sarah pulled up to a tall apartment building on 76th street and Madison.
Andie turned around to Max, “Hey Max, we’re here.” He nodded his head without blinking. “Ok, I’m going to get out and open your door now.” Andie said as if speaking to a child. Max nodded again but didn’t move. Andie got and opened the back seat, reaching a hand out to Max. “C’mon,” she said reassuringly. Max looked at Andie’s hand as if he hadn’t never seen anything like it. Slowly he shook his head.
“Oh boy.” Sarah whispered, watching the exchange.
“It’s ok, Max. You’re safe now.” Andie proffered her hand again. Max still didn’t move. “I know things are scary right now but I promise I’ll explain everything when we get upstairs.” Max finally inched his way out of the backseat and out on to the curb. He was still clutching his duffel bag close to his chest. Andie exchanged a look with Sarah and mouthed “Oh my God” before closing the car door.
Andie held Max by his upper arm and wheeled him around to the building door. The doorman had been looking on with interest.
“Hi Jeff, this is my cousin, Max. He’ll be staying with me for the week.” In an undertone, she added, “He’s a little disturbed. We don’t take him out often.”
“Oh, of course, Ms. Janjua.”
Max felt like he was walking through a fog through the lobby, but what did catch his eye was a weird looking security man sitting behind a desk outside the elevator bank. He was pale with the black hair and inky black eyes. The security guard was so bloated it looked as if he had no bones in his face. The guard caught Max looking. He abruptly turned away and shoved his chin deeper into his duffel bag.
Once inside the apartment, Max sat down on the couch, crouched in an almost fetal position.
“Well, you must be starving. I’ll go see if I have anything in the fridge.” Andie kept her tone light and conversational. She didn’t wait for Max to answer before she disappeared behind him into the kitchen.
A black cat came trotting into the living room and jumped on to the couch next to Max. They stared at each other for a few minutes. Max never really trusted cats and the fixed gaze this one struck him with made him feel even more uneasy, it was as if it was reading him. Just as he was about to move away, the cat began purring and digging its paws into the couch, after a moments of this, began pawing at his lap. Moving his duffel bag, the cat climbed into his lap and curled up. It didn’t seem like it would be moving any time soon. The sound of a blender went off in the kitchen. Max lifted his head and surveyed his new surroundings. He was sitting in the most beautiful spacious apartment he had ever seen in New York. The ceiling was high and the living room area was decorated immaculately. There was a terrace off to the side that seemed to wrap around the whole apartment.
Andie came back in handing Max a glass, “Berry protein shake. And I see you’ve met Layl.” The cat in his lap lifted her head and sniffed hopefully at the drink in Max’s hand. “No, bad girl. It’s not for you.” Andie whispered, “She’s put on a few pounds.”
Max wasn’t really listening but nodded his head anyway and asked, “What is going on?”
“Right,” Andie sighed. “A long time ago, the world we live in was very different. It was a world with creatures, creatures that you’ve heard about in mythology, like demons and dragons. They were real. And so were powerful warriors who protected people from these creatures and maintained balance. But then there was a shift in the atmosphere; there are different theories about what caused it, some say it was the spread of Christianity, others say it was slow splinter starting with the development of the ancient civilization of the Sumerians. Either way, the world split in two. The one we live in and one where the those creatures reside and these two worlds are linked. So a secret society was formed of warriors from around the world in order to keep order between these two worlds. They guard the two worlds.”
“And you’re part of that secret society?” Max asked.
“Yes,” Andie replied.
“Why doesn’t everyone know about this?”
“Because the worlds are linked and it’s a very fragile link that’s easily disturbed. The less who knew about it, the less disturbance there was. The Guardians, given the gifts of strength, long life, and ability to communicate with the supernatural, understood the importance of maintaining the balance of the worlds. As long as order was kept in both worlds, they could coexist peacefully. Of course, when you’re dealing with something so fragile, it’s really hard to maintain that type of peace. There have been plenty of incidents in history that have caused an imbalance. Sometimes it’s man-made, sometimes it’s Otherworlder made, but most often it’s both. They tend to coincide, feed each other.”
“Like what? You mean if something bad happens here something bad happens in the Otherword?’ Max wasn’t sure he understood entirely.
“Yeah, something like that. They’re tangentially related. Like back during the crack epidemic in New York. We were were facing an uptick in crime and drug use, and Otherworlders were facing an uprising from the cambion, Dhru.”
“Sorry, what’s that?”
“Cambion? Half demon half human. Some demons would trick women into sleeping with them and then steal their babies in the middle of the night. Dhru was one of those. He thought since he was both demon and human, he should rule over both worlds. He riled up support in the Otherworld and a few on this side as well and waged a war. We lost a lot of good Guardians and plenty of good Otherworlders, during that time. Sarah’s mother was killed and both of Jack’s parents. Wallace lost his entire family. Parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. Killed right in front of his eyes by Dhru. My sister, as well.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that.” Max fidgeted uncomfortably.
“Don’t be. It happened a long time ago, I was only six, and she wasn’t the only one,” Andie said matter-of-factly.
“So how does this whole society work? Are you only in New York?”
“No, we’re all over the world but the governing body, The High Council, runs its operations out of the city. The guardians are made of a network of folks who work to ensure that this world is kept safe and that the other world is kept in order. All guardians train to fight until they’re 16. After that, you’re given the choice to either continue fight training, or you choose a different path to help the network. Those who choose training are collectively known as Bellatorum. Those who don’t are called Keepers. The guy, Len, who owns this apartment building realized his talents lay in real estate. He owns a bunch of buildings across the city and as a Keeper, he allows Bellatorum to live in his buildings for free.”
“So you’re a Bellawhatever?”
“Yes. From the Janjua clan of Southeast Asia.”
“Are both your parents fighters?” Max was still confused.
“No, my dad decided to quit fighting after he met my mom and studied horticulture. He has greenhouses up in Long Island where I grew up and I help him make and sell bath and body products. By the way, have you not been using the aloe I gave you? Your face looks terrible.”
“I don’t know where I put it,” Max lied. “What about your mom?”
“Oh, well, she is the ultimate Janjua. She runs a training center in Long Island like the one you saw last night. The group of Guardians in the city is one of the largest and most diverse given the influx of immigration back in the 1900s. Since the city was being industrialized at such a rapid pace, there were a lot of atmospheric disturbances that caused Otherworlders to enter this world and cause havoc. The Guardians decided to send reinforcement and called upon different clans to send Bellatorum and Keepers to the city. My maternal grandfather was one of them. He lived here for about 20 years before he went back. Then my mom and dad decided they wanted to settle in the New York to start their family.”
“When did your grandfather come?”
“I think around 1910.”
“You mean great grandfather.”
“No.” Andie and Max stared at each other blankly. “Oh, right!” Andie realized where the confusion lay. “Guardians tend to live much longer lives than their non-Guardian counterparts. So, they’ll usually have children spaced far apart so that they can focus on each individual child’s training and school. My sister and I were 12 years apart. And that’s because I was an accident.”
The mention of her sister brought Max back to the this terrifying demon thing she had mentioned, “So how was Dhru stopped?” he asked.
“My mother.” Andie smiled. “Anyway, enough about me. What about you?”
Max felt silly, “Oh, my family history is way too boring after that.”
“Oh, come on. I just told you everything.”
“Um, I grew up in Staten Island with my mother and my sisters. I never really knew my dad, he was shot in attempted robbery when I was just a baby. But my mom used to keep a picture of him in his blues right by my crib. I don’t think I ever thought about being anything other than a cop, you know?” Max was surprised that he had divulged that much information about himself to Andie but he felt like she would be the one person to understand.
“That’s pretty heavy.” Andie said.
“Yeah? I guess. But I really want to move up to detective, you know?”
“Yeah, I’ve watched a lot of Law and Order.” Andie drained her smoothie and abruptly stood up. “Well, it’s almost 1. We’ve got a get a move on if we’re going to make it to the library in time.”
“We’re going to the library?”
“Yup. Gotta start my research somewhere. And you can’t really find this stuff on the internet.”
“Research to find out what?”
“Why you were attacked. But first, I need a shower.” Andie walked down into the hallway off the living room. “You can put your stuff in the second bedroom. First door to your left.” Andie called before slamming the door to her’s.
“This is a two bedroom?” Max said in awe. Layl rose from Max’s lap, stretched luxuriously and trotted off to the kitchen.
The second bedroom looked hardly used. There was a bed and small dresser with a mirror. The rest of the space was filled with boxes of white bottles labeled “Nightingale: Organic beauty.” There was a box with “exclusive” written across it in marker. He cautiously opened it up and peeked inside to see more bottles but in a pale green. He picked one up at random, it read “Aloe Soother: Dramatically reduces the appearance of dark spots and scars.”
Testing it out won’t hurt. Max walked over to the mirror. There were specks of black blood all over his face making the red scars stand out even more. He wiped as much as he could off with his sleeve and carefully applied a small amount of the lotion. He placed put the bottle back in the box, leaving it the way he found it. His duffel bag on the floor caught his eye, he wasn’t even sure what he had packed in such a panic state. He picked up the bag and sat on the bed to sort through his belongings but before he could even open it up, Max had fallen asleep.
There was a knock on the door half an hour later.
“Max, you ok? We should get going.” Andie called softly from the hallway.
“Coming.” Max got up and opened the door. Andie stood in the hallway texting someone on her phone. She was dressed in brightly colored jeans and a white t-shirt, a brown bag slung over her shoulder, her long hair loosely braided so that strands fell out around her face and slender neck. Maybe it was because he was seeing her out of her usually head-to-toe black or maybe because he was recovering from shock, he was surprised at how normal she looked; pretty, even. If he allowed himself to think of her that way. She had a just a hint of makeup and looked like a girl he would have let his eyes linger on if he saw her on the subway or in a park. “Ready?” Andie asked without looking up from her phone.
“Uh-huh. You look . . . normal.” He couldn’t think of anything better to say without making it awkward.
“You can’t expect me to walk around in black with a sword hanging down my back. Kind of defeats the purpose of being in a secret society.” Andie looked up from her phone, “What happened to your face?”
“What?” Max ran back into the room and stared in the mirror. The wounds from last night were practically gone. Just a faint trace of red was left.
“Which one did you use?” Andie asked suspiciously.
“Um, the aloe something,” he said to the floor.
“White or green?” Andie sounded curious now so Max thought it best to tell the truth.
Max cleared his throat and whispered, “Green.”
“Hmm, that may work too well. We’ll have to reduce the amount of zaldi we put in it,” Andie said studying his face.
“It’s a plant that has certain properties that reduce blemishes,” Andie said.
“Are those properties magical?” Now it was Max’s turn to be suspicious.
“Very astute.” Andie flashed him a smile. He noticed she had a dimple in her right cheek.
“You sell these to regular people?” Max looked back at the bottle, suddenly feeling a little shy.
“Well, the exclusive line is our first attempt at branching out from more traditional ingredients. It’s also very expensive.” Andie looked at Max with one eyebrow raised.
“It’s alright, now I can take you out in public.” Andie motioned to Max to follow her as they headed out of the apartment.
“Where are we going now?”
“The New York Public Library.”
“Oh.” Max felt a ball of anxiety rise up in his chest, he didn’t speak on the elevator ride down. They passed the odd looking security guard on their way out.
Andie turned to Max on the curb and put a hand on his shoulder, “We’ll take a cab there.”
The ball of anxiety loosened. Max didn’t think he would be taking the train for a very long time.
. . .
- Meet Andie and Max (thecoldshouldercat.wordpress.com)