Agent Moreen Lee rushed up the stairwell after Dave, her breaths short and quick. She didn’t like trailing behind him, but there was something to be said for having a bulletproof human shield in front of you.
“This place must have ten floors.” Dave’s voice echoed off the tall, blank walls. “They could be anywhere.”
“The Black Valentine mentioned a helicopter. Head for the roof,” Moreen said.
Which meant they had to climb every single stair in the whole damn building. When they reached the tenth floor, Dave yanked open the door so hard that it came off its hinges. He tossed it aside, and they found themselves in the corner of a nondescript gray hallway.
“See any way to the roof?” Dave asked.
“You go right, I’ll go left. Shout if you find more stairs.”
Dave turned to her, his eyes full of annoying concern. “If you run into Jeffries—”
“I’ll shout. You’ll be able to tell I found Jeffries and not the stairs because I’ll be shouting profanity.”
“I think I’ll shout a polite request for help if it’s me.”
“Great. Get going.”
Moreen walked swiftly down the hall, Glock held out in front of her but pointed at the floor. The walls were lined with wooden doors that opened to small offices. Plaques displayed room numbers, and she kept her eyes open for one that said “Roof Access.” The whole floor was ominously quiet. If Jeffries had already left in his stupid helicopter, she was going to be pissed. Then again, maybe the Falconer or whatever his name was could ask his birds to track the machine to where it landed.
A bump came from the room to her right. Either something had fallen off a shelf, or someone was in there. Moreen’s arm muscles tightened, but she kept her gun pointed at the floor. The door was cracked open. Moreen approached it slowly, alert for any sign of movement. This could be a trap, someone waiting in there to shoot her. She shouldered the door open, and of course the hinges creaked.
A sound somewhere between a shriek and a squeak greeted her, and a woman scrambled back from the door. “Please don’t hurt me!”
Moreen took a moment to let her heartbeat return to normal. “You’re fine,” she said. “I’m with the DSA. There are bombs in the building. Take the stairs down and get outside as fast as you can.”
“Now who told you about the bombs?” asked a male voice. “They were supposed to be a surprise.”
Moreen spun to the left and raised her gun. Where there’d been no one a moment before, a man now stood in the hallway. He was tall and handsome, with an elegant, fine-boned face and bright blue eyes. His skin was tanned, and his brown hair had just a bit of a curl to it. In fitted jeans, a tight T-shirt, and a leather jacket, he looked like an escapee from a fashion magazine. Bradley “Pretty Boy” Jeffries.
“Run,” Moreen told the woman, not taking her eyes off of Jeffries.
The woman didn’t move.
“Run!” Moreen barked. The woman dashed away, her footsteps fading off in the distance as Moreen stared down Jeffries.
“Bradley Jeffries, you’re under arrest.”
“Of course I am.”
“Where’s the Prophet Kid?”
Jeffries gave her an infuriatingly smug smirk, the kind that was begging her to knock out a couple of his shiny white teeth. “Come out and say hello, Kid.”
“I’m staying in here,” said the Prophet Kid, his muffled voice coming from a doorway to Jeffries’ left. There were the stairs to the roof.
An ugly expression crossed Jeffries’ pretty face. “I said come out.”
“She’s about to start shooting at you. I don’t want to get hit.”
Jeffries smirked again, his attention returning to Moreen. “You’re not about to ruin our nice conversation with violence, are you?”
Moreen’s arm muscles started to burn from holding up the gun. She might shoot him just so she could lower it. “Put your hands on your head, and we’ll be fine.”
“Are you really going to try and arrest me all by yourself? I almost feel bad for you. This is comically unfair.”
“Mind if I call for backup, then?”
“Knock yourself out.”
Moreen took a deep breath and shouted “Son of a bitch!” at the top of her lungs. A ringing silence followed. Jeffries couldn’t have looked more confused if she’d broken into song and dance.
“Backup’s on his way,” she said.
“Then let’s see how many pieces I can tear you into before he gets here.”
Jeffries’s face screwed up like he was trying to pass a kidney stone, and the sickening sound of bones cracking and reforming filled the air. His muscles began to bulge and his face widen. Moreen didn’t wait for the transformation to finish. She opened fire, bullets striking Jeffries’ chest. He roared, and it wasn’t the sound of a wounded animal but the battle cry of something very angry. He tore off his jacket, his arms muscles pumped up and covered in throbbing veins. His face stretched out like some kind of bad computer effect. His mouth widened, and his nose flattened. His baby blue eyes looked positively beady now, and his head seemed too small for his thick neck. Bulky muscles tore the fabric of his T-shirt, and the blood coming from the bullet holes didn’t seem to bother him one bit.
He charged her, and Moreen might as well have faced off against a stampeding elephant. She turned and ran.
“Aren’t you going to arrest me?” he snarled in a deepened voice. “What happened to all that bravado you had a minute ago?”
Moreen didn’t dare spare the focus it would have taken to come up with a snappy retort. Faster, she told herself. Her shoes beat against the tile floor as she ran, but Jeffries’ footsteps were like thunderclaps. She could practically feel his mass looming behind her, displacing the air. If one of his massive hands reached out and grabbed her….
The hallway turned a corner ahead, and Moreen put on a burst of speed. A second later, a loud crash told her that luck was on her side. Barreling down the hall with his jacked up muscles, Jeffries hadn’t been able to handle the tight turn. He’d skidded and hit the wall. It didn’t stop him—it barely slowed him down, but it stalled him long enough for Moreen to pull out her taser.
A second later, he was twitching and screaming on the floor. Oh, that was a very satisfying sight. Moreen took it in as she caught her breath, sucking in lung-fulls of cool air.
Jeffries tore the two electrodes from his chest and pushed himself to his feet.
Moreen cussed. He couldn’t stay down for five seconds after an electric shock? This really was unfair. And where the hell was—
Dave tore past her and tackled Jeffries right through a wall. About freaking time.
“I’ll get the Prophet Kid to safety,” Moreen called through the hole in the wall as the two men wrestled on the other side. “You kick his ass.”
“Go!” Dave said—right before one of Jeffries’ massive fists smashed into his face.
Moreen winced and dashed back down the hall to the doorway the Prophet Kid’s voice had come from. But when she reached it, there were only narrow, empty stairs leading up to the roof.
“Kid?” she shouted. “Jean-Baptiste?”
He was gone.
I’m moving next weekend and am in the middle of packing up my apartment. (I have so much stuff. Why do I have so much stuff?) The next update will be Monday, August 8th, but will probably be posted late in the evening due to general moving/starting a new job madness. But I will update. Cross my heart.