Chapter One: From Love and Pain
Adrian’s eyes flashed open as he sat bolt upright on the makeshift bed of clothes he had piled into the corner of the abandoned factory he had found late last night and decided to slip into when he thought that someone was following him. He blinked his eyes, trying to force the images from his head, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t banish the nightmare from his mind. Groaning, he closed his eyes and relieved the nightmare that was once his life…
“Come here you little piece of shit!” Daniel yelled from the other end of the hall.
Adrian risked a look over his shoulder, stumbling as he did so.
Daniel’s face was flushed red and his ears appeared to be on fire as his chest heaved and his long legs ate up the distance between him and the fleeing terrified four-year old boy.
Adrian’s left foot slip and he went sliding into the wall next to him. He scrambled to get his feet back underneath him hut it was already to late.
He heard Daniel skid to a halt beside his crumbled form a second before an over large sweaty palm grasped the nape of his neck, lifting him easily to his feet.
Daniel spun him to face him and then slammed his head into the wall at his back, wrapping his hand around his throat.
Knowing that it wouldn’t save him, it still wasn’t in Adrian to just give up. He kicked out his short legs never making contact as Daniel deftly deflected his pitiful attempts to hurt him. He knew what was coming and he honestly didn’t think his body could take anymore of the abuse.
Daniel leaned down until they were face-to-face and smirked. There was an evil gleam shining in his pitch black eyes.
Adrian fell silent and ceased all movement.
“I suggest you stop it or it will be way worse for you than you have ever imagined, little boy.” releasing his grip on Adrian’s neck, he grabbed his hand in a death grip, causing the boy’s small bones to rub against each other painfully. But he refused to cry out. He dragged Adrian down the hall, back to what Adrian only knew as hell.
What had come next was so horrible, that just the thought of it made Adrian physically sick.
He snapped his eyes back open and peered into the dark shadows surrounding him, swearing that he could still hear the echo of Daniel’s mocking laughter, but not seeing anything in the weak predawn light breaking through the rotten boards on the windows.
Rubbing his large hands over his face, Adrian pretended he didn’t feel the tightening of muscles behind his eyes as he fought the tears that threatened to spill. Tears never got you anywhere.
He always felt like crying for the little boy he had once been whenever he slowed down long enough for the demons that gave chase to catch up with him. It was why he was constantly doing something or on the move.
Standing, he gathered his things together and stuffed it all into his pack. He hated that he had to sleep in this dump; he much preferred his own bed back at his place, but yesterday was an emergency.
Shaking his head, he holstered his gun and placed his knife back into his boot. Slipping his arms into his authentic leather jacket, he felt his phone vibrate in the front pocket.
Throwing his bag over his shoulder, he pulled it out and checked the caller-id.
It was Crow.
“What the hell happened now?” he answered as he moved the entrance of the building and out into the brisk dawn. Anytime Crow called it spells Trouble for Adrian with a capital “T”.
He headed in the direction of his house.
Crow chuckle traveled over the line and Adrian felt himself relax infinitesimally. “Relax man. Nothing’s wrong this time. But you didn’t check in last night and when I dropped by your place before you weren’t there. A few of us were starting to get worried. What happened to you?”
Despite Crow’s reassurance, or maybe because of it, Adrian tensed up all over again. He knew the man well enough to know when he was stalling for time.
Making a left turn on the corner, he massaged his nape.
“A distraction.” he murmured.
“I said I got distracted last night.”
For several minutes neither one of them spoke.
Just as Adrian was getting tired of the listening to Crow’s heavy breathing and was going to ask what the damn point of the call was, he spoke up.
“Well, okay. Look, Ashe, we got an offer yesterday.”
Adrian sighed and Crow continued. “I think it’s a good deal but it’s your call. Do you want me to give you the rundown on it or wait until you get here?”
Adrian thought about it. Usually Crow didn’t call him to inform him that they had gotten a job request. He knew something had to be up.
Telling Crow that he would be there in half an hour he picked up his pace. His house was right around the corner.
Jamming the key in the door, he pushed it open and stepped inside.
Kicking it close behind him, he tossed his pack to the left, not bothering to see if it landed on the couch.
He turned into the kitchen, which was right off of the entry way on the right side and flipped on the coffee maker. Turning the faucet, he quickly washed his hands, drying them and grabbing an apple out of the bowl on the black marble top island in the center of the room.
Exiting the kitchen through the Dining Room entrance, he walked out the door on the other side of the room, taking a huge bite off the apple.
Turning, he continued up the stairs to his bedroom and stripped out of his clothes while he finished the apple in a few bites, eating every last piece of it.
He learned a long time ago not to waste food because you never knew how long it would be until your next meal.
If you were lucky enough to even have a next one.
Shaking off the morbid thoughts, he went into the bathroom and started the shower.
The water quickly warmed up and he stepped inside, pulling the shower door close behind him and latching it.
He turned his mind to business and wondered just what this job was.
Twenty-five minutes later, Adrian was walking into the run-of-the-mill warehouse that was serving as their temporary HQ until the renovations were completed on their security building.
There was about a dozen people standing and another hand full sitting at computers scattered around the room.
Spotting him, Crow came running over and started leading him towards the breakfast table in the back.
In his rush to get here, Adrian had forgotten to get his cup of Joe so he was extremely thankful when a cup of black coffee was pushed into his hands. Taking a sip he nodded his head in thanks at Crow.
This was true bliss.
“Yeah, anyway, about that job, yes or no?” impatiently, Crow shoved a file into his hand even as he started to give a summary of the facts.
“Subject went missing around 4pm the day before yesterday. Well known and well liked guy. No known enemies. Male neighbor reported it yesterday evening, after noticing he hadn’t seen him since the morning before. Police are looking into it, but apparently not fast enough for the sister. She’s the client. She wants this to be our top priority.” as he talked he turned towards the center of the room and the huge conference table seated there, where the other occupants of the room were already gathering.
Adrian took his seat at the head of the table and Crow sat to his right. He continued to look over the file as Crow talked.
“Anyway, you’re the boss; it’s your decision. She wants us to find him, rescue him and, and this is my favorite part, kill the bastards who dared to touch her beloved brother.”
Flipping through the papers in his hand, he asked Crow, “Does she have an inkling of who took him? Why?” he looked at Crow.
“She doesn’t, no. All she knows is that when she came home from work last night, there was a picture taped to her door and on the back a typed message.”
Adrian drank some of his coffee and waited while Crow looked through the file.
Apparently finding what he was looking for, he passed a sheet to Adrian, pointing towards a highlighted section of the sheet.
“She doesn’t know what it means but fears the threat to her brother’s life is too much to trust the police to save him.” taking a deep breath, he finished. “We’re their only hope, Ashe.”
Adrian wondered at the strain in Crow’s voice as he finally stopped speaking. He looking down he also wondered again at what made this job any different than countless other ones they had done in the pass five years. It was their job to do the dirty work for people who needed them. They bent the rules and constantly broke the law.
On the surface, they were one of many security companies. Underneath, they were all men and women who did what they had to do when they had to and if they got paid in the process, it was just a perk. Not one person in this room had a pretty past. But every single one of them had made the choice to help others so that no one suffered the way they did.
Their past was just that, their past. They all worked hard to put it behind them. Nobody talked about it and nobody knew anything about anyone. Not even their real names. It was why everyone called him Ashe.
Only Adrian, being the boss, knew everything about everyone, each and every gruesome fact.
And God was it gruesome.
No one should have to suffer like his people did.
Looking back at the paper in front of him, he felt his heart speed up, as he read the highlighted section.
You should know by now that you can’t run from me. If you want him back, come get him.
“Dude, are you all right?” he felt the hand that landed on his shoulder and give him a light shake. He breathed in deeply.
Releasing it, he met Crow’s eyes. Ignoring that worry there, he forced his heart to calm down.
It was an irrational reaction. Many people had that name. It didn’t mean anything, other then there were two monsters in this world, which went by the name of Daniel.
He hated how words that weren’t even meant for his eyes could have such a grand effect on him.
He felt like a kid again; terrified for his life but even more terrified of living. He could feel the same old fear clawing at the back of his throat, threatening to cut off his air supply and before it got any worse, he shut his eyes and pushed the unwanted memories away as he regained control of the tight leash he kept himself under. He couldn’t afford to slip and let go of it.
Coming back to the present, he opened his eyes and noticed Crow’s gaze on his hands.
Looking down, he saw his fingers gripping the edge of the table so hard, the tips were white.
One by one, he loosened his hold and finally clasped his hands together, resting them on top of the sheet of paper.
“Are you okay?” Crow whispered, to avoid being overheard.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
It was clear that Crow didn’t believe him, but wisely he let it go.
Raising his voice Crow said, “So are we taking the job?” Adrian could easily read the hope Crow fought to keep off his face and out of his voice.
At his question, all conversation ceased and every head turned their way, awaiting his response.
There was no point thinking about it, his mind was already made up.
Turning to Star, who handled the phones, he spoke in a clear voice.
“Call the sister, tell her to send us a copy of this picture and a recent photo.” not waiting for her to respond, he turned to John, who sat on his left.
“I want you, Sindler and Kayse to work the computers, find out whatever you can.” John nodded and signaled the other two men to follow him.
“Joy, you I want to talk to the neighbor. Raine, I need you to get a team together and haunt the precinct, see if you can find anything helpful. The rest of you go check out this guy’s place, make sure no one sees you. Crow, you’re with me.” as he assigned every one their tasks, Crow handed out copies of the file folder and all the information he had managed to gather. It wasn’t much and they had a lot of work to get done.
“Where are we going, Boss?” Crow queried as Adrian ditched the empty coffee cup.
“We’re going to pay a visit to the sister. I got a bad feeling about this one.” They started towards the door, but stopped when Star called out his name.
As she approached, the bad feeling he had turned to acid in his stomach as his heart rate doubled.
“I called her. She was up and more than willing to send us the pictures via fax. This is the one that was taped to the door.” she handed him a blurry image in which the man was so badly beaten you could barely recognize him. Adrian grimaced and passed it to Crow. He felt the poor man’s pain. He’d been there plenty of times and it was not fun. “This one was taken last month. The man on the left is our guy.” Star said as he reached for the other image she held.
As his gaze focused in on the man to the left of the photo, Adrian felt his world tip off balance and distantly he heard a sound that could only be described as an agonized groan. He was barely aware of the room going quiet. His body went numb and his hands spasmed around the paper in them.
He whispered “Jaxon.” just as black spots took over his vision and everything disappeared.
The second and third chapters can be found on my GoodReads member page in the writing section, if you want to read them.