Thursday, September 22nd
The silent specters watch,
A silk web waits prepared.
The spider grins at her catch,
The helpless prey ensnared.
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Then came Mashka, tailed by Jack.
“Here, you may want an umbrella.” He offered, a cheeky grin on his face.
Mashka could not deceive herself. The young man obviously got his father’s attractive genes, but she was determined not to accept gifts, it would only make him more obnoxious. “No thank you, the car is dry.”
“You're going to be walking in the rain later.”
“No, thank you.”
"As you wish. Oh if I need to get a hold of my wayward father, might I have your number?”
Mashka replied in monotone, “My phone is drifting somewhere at the bottom of the North Sea.”
Jack blinked a moment, trying to figure if she was joking or not. “Then, email perhaps?”
“I don’t give private information to strangers.”
He seemed wounded at her last statement. “I’m hardly a stranger, I’m your guardian’s son, we’re family!”
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Mashka tried to put a nail in the coffin of this conversation. “Not interested.”
“What are you implying?” Jack looked almost shocked.
Mashka wished her dangerous glare was not so well concealed behind her dark sunglasses. To accommodate she lowered her voice into a sickeningly sweet tone. “Goodbye, Jack.” She flashed a quick smile, revealing her lengthened eye teeth for just a moment before she turned on her heel and hastened to the car.
After they had gotten onto the road, Mashka glanced over at Evan. “He takes after you, am I right?”
Evan chuckled. “To a ‘T’, I was just like him when I was that age-- ouch!”
Mashka delicately laid her hands in her lap after punching Evan’s arm.
“What was that for?”
Mashka shot him an accusatory glare.
Océane sat quietly in the classroom. The morning light glared in her eyes, but her mind was on what she would do that evening. All day she had been experimenting with the ‘gift’ Claire gave her on some of her classmates. Instead of only seeing their daydreams, she could force her classmates to see or hear things that were not there. She made the illusions brief, and thus far none of the students suspected they were being tampered with. She found it was easier to manipulate the minds of those in her class than other students at the school, it seemed she had to become used to how the person thought to an extent before being able to alter their perception. Throughout the day the process became more comfortable and expedient.
It energized her knowing that at any moment she could disrupt someone's personal reality. It also terrified her, the fact that such power could exist, and she knew it was an impossibility that she and Claire were unique. She mentally questioned how much Claire was manipulating her. Given how powerful the gift was, Océane was left to assume that Claire was much more powerful than she was letting on.
Océane suspected that she was not communicating with the now deceased Claire who she dream walked with as a girl. This Claire was possibly someone else, who was using her childhood friend as a doorway to gain her trust. The thought was disturbing, but Océane did not feel frightened by it. ‘Claire’ had not done anything to harm her, yet, unless it was she who initiated her power in the first place and forced her to come into contact with other minds at a young age…
The though was too astonishing and feasible that Océane had to stop herself and return her attention to the teacher’s lecture. But, in the back of her mind she went over her actions after school, and how she would bring justice to Pierre Renoir.
Her feelings of hate had subsided, replaced by a kind of exasperation. No matter what she did now, whoever the child of that woman was, he would never again feel a mother’s warm embrace, and nothing she could do would fix that. She was no longer going after Renoir out of wrath, but was out of solemn, grim duty.
'Mother who I do not know… I would hope this will cause you to rest in peace, but I doubt you will, knowing your child is silently suffering somewhere in this city. And no matter the punishment I inflict, your child’s tears will not dry.'
Rain poured down outside in torrents and even the thick walls of the East Street bank could not block out the sound of pattering rain. A dark, round faced man in his mid-thirties, glanced in his reflection in the window that looked out on the bank lobby. He pulled off his damp sweater then hastily combed his straight, brown hair into place with his hands, reforming it into its trendy but formal spiked style. He nodded in approval and put on a pair of rectangular black glasses over his wide, honey-coloured eyes that cancelled out the modern form of his hair and instead made him look studious and younger than his age.
He then practised his work smile a few times, switching between wide mouthed and toothy, and more subtle and professional. He settled on wide and toothy, he looked silly, but he felt it would make the customers feel at ease on this rainy day. Taking a deep sigh he put on his work mood and made his way behind his teller station, turned on the computer and straightened his tie with the name tag which read ‘Ravi Donnelly’.
“And now ready for another day,” he declared happily to himself
The clock struck nine and the doors unlocked as the first customers entered.
An elderly woman made a beeline towards his station and sat in the chair on the other side of the desk from him. “Oh, I get the cute one today.” she smiled warmly.
He laughed cheerfully, “Good morning Mrs. Olawale.”
“And good morning to you too, Ravi.” She grinned wide, her pearly dentures contrasting with her coffee skin.
Ravi liked this particular customer, she always had something nice to say and annually for the four years he had worked there, she had given him a card on his birthday, as if he was her own grandson. Most of all it was her cheerful smile that bloomed upon her wizened face that he loved the most, and it never failed to leave him in a good mood the rest of the day.
“So how may I help you today madam?”
“Oh well, I just need to deposit a cheque from my son.” she fished in her purse and pulled out the blue rectangular slip. “He just earned another acting job down in London, but he says he can’t tell me what it is yet. He is going to be out of country for a while.” Her face briefly betrayed a hint of sadness.
Ravi knew all too well how lonely the woman was, her husband had died several years ago and all her children were elsewhere living their own lives. He snatched the balance sheet and handed it to Mrs. Olawale. “There you go madam, is there anything else I can help you with?”
“You could put me at ease and get a lady friend.”
Ravi slumped forward comically. 'Here we go again…' This was the one side of being an honorary grandson he was less than enthusiastic about.
“I worry about you, all alone in that house of yours.” She insisted. “I mean, what if something happened and no one was around to help you?” She made a furtive glance downwards.
Ravi smiled at her concern over his condition. “Thank you Mrs. Olawale, but, I’m afraid I’m one of those solo types.”
“Well, if you ever change your mind, I know a few young ladies who would be happy to take you. It’s hard to find a sweet chap like you in this day and age, with all things of this world going on.” Mrs. Olawale muttered.
As usual, the two of them went off on a tangent of local and global affairs, with Mrs. Olawale doing most of the talking with many exclamations and disapproving tongue clicks. After an invitation over for dinner, which Ravi could never reject, and a question if he needing anything that week, to which he answered with a few household odds and ends and then handed her some money and a brief list, thanking her. The lady took her leave after giving him a motherly embrace.
Ravi shook his head sadly as she left the door. “I’ll miss you, old fr-.” He muttered.
The banks lights snapped off.
His gaze swerved through the bank lobby. In the dimmed room he spotted a woman, face covered by an expressionless white and black chequered theatre mask, and wearing all black. She raised her gun straight at him and fired.
Customers and staff screamed in terror.
Aleksei emitted a low whistle as he climbed out of their silver sedan into the drenching rain and looked through the iron bars of the gate. He beheld in awe the whitewashed two story mansion. “That’s no dasha…”
Mashka nodded in agreement, however Evan looked unimpressed. "It's no cottage, you're right, but something is a little off."
“Why is that?” Mashka asked.
“Isn’t the building a wee bit on the plain side? And it's in the midst of a middle class street.”
“What do you mean? Edinburg properties are expensive.” Aleksei reasoned.
“Well, yes, but this would be reason for someone with a few million, but Ravi Donnelly is worth billions, and this is his main house? Seems a little… understated.”
Aleksei took a closer look and he was inclined to agree. The garden was modest in size and did not have anything exotic, just the same plants as any other suburb, and it was not groomed beyond average. There was a lack of statuary and the building itself was of bland design. Even the curtains in the windows declared that they had been bought at a discount store.
“Perhaps he likes to be frugal?” Mashka suggested.
“I suppose so…” Evan muttered unsurely. "Speaking of frugal, here are your temp phones." He retrieved two flip phones from his coat pocket and handed them to his charges. "I have our contacts already saved, we must dispose of them when we are done with this Donnelly business."
Aleksei leaned on the gate which suddenly swung forward causing him to overbalance and tumble to the grey stone path. “Ow! Care to warn me when you open the gate!” He cautiously lifted himself up, feeling a bruise appear on his hip.
“I didn’t open it.” Evan insisted.
Mashka glanced at the gate, “It was never closed, see.” She pulled the gate back together and it swung loose when she released.
“No, it is locked,” Evan corrected. “the bolt was cut through.”
The three looked at each other, confirming one another’s thoughts as they dashed towards the door of the mansion. On sight of the ajar door, they all felt an uneasy weight in their stomachs.
Mashka carefully released her power just enough to enhance her hearing. She heard only one person, a woman, wheezing on the floor. Without any other heed, she hastened up to the porch and entered the house, Aleksei and Evan hissing out caution. She waved at them to signal all was fine.
“The scent is cool." She declared, "whoever broke in has come and gone.” She followed the noise into the living room where an elderly Indian woman lay on the floor, a nasty, swelling bruise covered the left side of her forehead.
Mashka dropped down beside the woman. “Are you alright?”
The woman groaned in pain.
“I’ll call for an ambulance.” Aleksei declared, drawing his cell.
The woman pointed to the phone on the coffee table by a window. All three of her rescuers sighed in relief that she could still move and hear.
Mashka placed a comforting hand on the woman’s cheek. “Listen, madam, help is coming, but we need to find Ravi Donnelly, he might be in danger.”
“Pl-please… he’s at work… the bank…”
“Did people come here to find that out?”
“N-no, they came here to open the safe…” the woman started to cry, “They wanted the passwords to his bank accounts, they are going to take everything from him!” she sobbed in distress at her employer’s fate.
“The ambulance is on its way,” Aleksei announced.
The woman looked uncertainly at them. “I don’t know who you are, but please warn him, he’s at the bank at the end of the street, and around the corner, hurry!”
The three of them hesitated, not wanting to leave the injured woman behind.
“I’ll stay here and call him,” Mashka offered, retrieving her cellular.
Evan nodded. “Let’s go Aleksei! And Mashka, when the ambulance arrives, I want you to leave the scene as soon as possible, but stay nearby. If we aren’t back soon and don’t call your burner cell, just lay low.
With no more than one more glance back at the door, the two men hurried out and ran down the sidewalk. The thundering rain soaking them.
“Aleksei, I need you to be very careful.” Evan instructed.
“I intended on being careful.”
“Be especially cautious this time. We are not dealing with the Association any more.”
“How do you know that? I mean, besides the fact you were one of them.”
“Simple, the safe.”
“Safe?” Aleksei looked thoroughly confused.
“The Association is a lot of things, but it has never been an organisation of thieves. We, I mean, it always generated its own wealth. No, this was SICA, they take pride in not being 'wasteful'. If they are going to kill a Jinn, they might as well take advantage of their assets.”
Aleksei’s face twisted in disgust, however, his disgust did not have much time to fester as they rounded the corner and spotted a crowd in front of the bank. The sounds of sirens filled the air as the first few Scotland Yard vehicles arrived on the scene.
“Bank robbery? Now of all times?!” Aleksei exclaimed. “SICA doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty.”
“No, this would be the Association,” Evan corrected matter-of-factly.
Aleksei grit his teeth then snapped back, “Make up your mind will you!? Is it SICA or the Association we are dealing with?”
“The bank robbery is just a façade the Association is using to kidnap their target, assuming this is not a coincidence. If it were up to Sentinel they would just snipe their target any time they…” Evan’s heart began to race as he started to put the pieces together. “A setup…”
“Come on!” Evan grabbed Aleksei’s shoulder and tugged until he followed willingly back up the block and into an alley. He looked up at the forgotten clothesline with a soaked white sheet hanging on it. Evan raised his open palm towards the strings, the air rippled and inclined his fingers upwards then flipped his hand forward and back in two chops. The lines snapped and the freed sheet fluttered down with the rain.
Grabbing it Evan explained. “For camouflage, we are landing on the roof.”
Despite his fear of heights, Aleksei flung his arms tightly over Evan’s shoulders. Now was not the time for petty phobias.
Evan flung the large sheet around them and took off.
From the sudden burst of speed Aleksei could feel his blood rush to his feet and it took all his might just to concentrate on hanging on. He made the mistake of looking down between the fluttering edges of the sheet. Besides the sudden fluttering of his heart and the dawning nausea, he also noticed a single, black clad figure on the roof. Feeling Evan's shoulder's stiffen he knew his ride had seen as well, and when their descent began, Aleksei prepared himself to follow Evan’s lead.
The agent tapped his foot impatiently. What’s taking them so long, this “bank robbery” is going to fall to pieces if we hold out much longer. He glanced at the grey sky again and squinted.
Like a meteorite a white mass hit the roof just a few metres from where the agent stood. "Kakogo che-?!" his voice cut off a whet linen sheet enveloped him.
Aleksei broke away from Evan and rushed into the blind spot. Before the man could even remove the sheet from his sight Aleksei had brought his shin into his diaphragm.
Aleksei muttered a quick apology in Russian in a strange sense of camaraderie with a fellow countryman he had just assaulted. As he recovered from his feelings of vertigo he followed Evan’s lead to one of the glass A-frame skylights. They peeked down at the situation below. The bankers and customers were all huddled against one side of the lobby, on the other side, a figure in black standing in front of a man with his hands raised in surrender.
Nudging Evan for his attention, Aleksei gave him the ‘what now?’ look.
George looked at the pink tuft tranquilizer dart sticking out of his shoulder. He grabbed and ripped it out, glaring defiantly at the masked woman.
She cocked her checker masked face in curiosity. “Oh, I like this one.” She raised her second weapon. “Unfortunately, I have more where that came from.” She began to squeeze the trigger. Her face scrunched up. Jammed? She glanced up at George, who had his hand placed in front of him as if he was holding an invisible handgun. She watched as his trigger finger straightened, moving hers along with it. He moved his arm to the side, forcing her to do likewise.
His legs jerked a moment and he rose from behind his work desk. He opened his hand and her weapon dropped.
“A little help here!” she shouted.
One of her partners, a bent over figure cocked his gun.
George shook his head discouragingly and raised his right hand and pointed an invisible gun at his temple.
The woman realised he had forced her to draw the PSS silent pistol she kept on her leg and now the barrel was making a circular indent on her temple.
“I suggest you don’t do anything and wait for the Scotland Yard. It would be good for your health miss.”
He brought up his other hand and made her remove mask, the chequered face clattered on the floor and her short red hair tumbled into view.
“You are quite a lovely woman, you could have gotten my attention with more subtlety.” George looked pityingly.
Anya rolled her eyes. “And here I thought I would like you. You are just another Scot who thinks he’s charming.”
“You are Russian?”
She raised her eyebrow curiously, she was pretty certain she was using her London accent at the moment.
“We have immigrant services here, you could have made a wonderful life for yourself, and here you are wasting it.”
Anya’s face fell and her eyes watered, producing a face any actress would train years to attain. She felt George’s hold weaken. Against the resistance of her own muscles she snatched an oblong round object and dropped it on the ground.
George’s eyes widened at the sight of the grenade and in his surprise he lost concentration and his legs buckled beneath him, leaving him helpless as he collapsed to the ground. He closed his eyes awaiting the explosion as others in the bank scrambled for cover.
“Psych!” Anya declared, then bent over and whispered. “If you come with us, all of this will end without any casualties, agreed?”
Anya glanced upwards at her two partners, giving a signal. They nodded.
Suddenly glass shattered as a small object smashed through the second story office window that overlooked the lobby trailed by a white, billowing cloud.
Smoke bomb, Anya glared in irritation as the cloud enveloped the room, sending the patrons and staff into more chaos, a few of them cheered, believing rescuers had arrived, but most screamed.
Anya heard someone approaching from behind. Swinging her right arm back, gun in hand she prepared to kill whoever had interrupted their mission. However her hand arm by a firm grip and she found herself face to face with Evan.
“Long time no see.” Evan grinned.
Anya’s testy reply matched her expression. “Oh, I am going to kill you.”
With skillful grace Evan relieved her of her firearm and twisted her wrist held it behind her, pressing her own weapon against the middle of her back. “Not today you aren’t.” Evan’s face was close enough to her ear that he heard the muffled voice of The Czech through her ear bud.
“We have guests.”
“What kind of guests?” Anya seemed to ignore Evan’s presence for a moment, confident that he would not harm her.
“I think you know who.” The Czech’s rolling eyes could be heard through the speaker. “Oh, and greetings Evan, we were told you might show up.”
“It seems everything we are up to is on broadcast lately.”Evan’s shoulders fell in exasperation as he wondered if it was The Apparition who was tipping people off or whether it was just The Administrator’s intellect.
“Ok, Aleksei,” Evan spoke softly. “Move the smoke screen to the parameters of the building, keep the civilians in the mist.”
“Roger that.” Aleksei replied.
The fog evacuated the centre of the room like water travelling in rewind out of a drain and compressed to the edges, covering all it touched in a heavy dew.
When the fog receded Anya found that the blonde youth had been standing a mere two metres in front of her the whole time and just as if he passed through a white wall he fully emerged from the retreating mist. He raised his hand and waved, leaving transparent wisps of mist floating in the air that continuously drifted off his body. “Greetings, what is this all about?”