For Disclaimers See Part One
Feedback as always can be sent to Terias_McKlay@hotmail.com
*Author's Note: Apologies all around for the delay in posting. It's the end of my semester and the profs seem to be having a contest called 'who can hand out the most essays before finals'.*
On with the story…
"I'm a friend."
"I'm sorry, no one but family is allowed."
Lex awoke to the sound of an argument outside her Dhaskalos' room. She was just about ready to go outside and murder the disturbers when Brian's head popped in the door.
"Hey, how are you doing?" He asked before being roughly shoved aside by a young, stern looking male nurse. The man quickly checked Athena's IV and marked something down in her Dhaskalos' charts.
"I'm sorry Miss but it's family only, your friend is going to have to leave," he said leaving no room for negotiation.
Brian looked ready to argue but Lex silenced him with her eyes. He nodded and retreated into the hallway followed closely by the nurse.
"I'll be back soon," Lex promised lightly kissing her Dhaskalos' forehead. The brunette closed the door quietly and walked over to where Brian was sitting.
"What are you doing here?" Lex asked motioning for him to move over. He did so and she sat down with a bit of a sigh.
"I heard about your Aunt's attack on the news, when you didn't come to school I figured you'd be here."
Wow, that's actually kind of sweet. I wonder what the catch is?
"Oh, um, thanks for coming by then I guess."
"Sure, you okay?" He asked motioning with his chin toward her wrapped hand.
"Yeah, I think I cut myself in the apartment when I was looking for my Aunt, I'm not sure, it's kind of a blur," Lex lied.
"What happened to her?"
"I don't know, I came home, the place was trashed and there was blood everywhere."
"What did the cops say?"
"Not much of anything."
"Huh, figures." He shook his blonde head. "Listen, do you want to get out of here for a bit. Maybe grab some supper?"
"Um, sure, can we hit my apartment first though? I really need a shower." Lex said as she put her jacket on. She had washed her hair as best she could in the washroom sink but she could still feel dry pieces of blood aggravating her scalp.
"Sure, I borrowed my Dad's car this morning so I can give you a ride over." Brian said standing and following Lex down the hall.
"Great," the Hunter said as she fiddled absently with the gauze. Her powers made her a quick healer and the wound would be gone within a day or two. Her head would take longer but the stitches weren't bothering her much so she didn't mind.
"So how was school?" The brunette asked as they stepped out into the afternoon light. The sun would be down in four or five hours and she would have to ditch Brian to go on patrol.
"There was a big argument in art class over who was a better painter: Michelangelo or Leonardo? Tempers flared, paintbrushes were drawn, it was a thing." Lex smiled at the boy and got into the car.
"Whoa, this place is totally trashed," Brian commented as he and Lex ducked under the police tape. Lex's stomach did a back flip as she caught sight of the damage and the trail of blood that lead to Athena's office from the hallway.
In her search for Athena last night nothing else had really sunk in. With the amount of blood everywhere it was barely short of a miracle that her Dhaskalos had survived. The girl desperately fought the urge to empty her stomach on the floor, gripping the wall for support.
"You all right?" Brian asked placing a hand on her shoulder. A small nod was his only answer as Lex moved further into the loft. All the rooms buzzed with activity. A few beat cops hung around as well as some plain clothes detectives.
"Hey kids get back behind the line," one man barked. Lex looked over at the man fighting to keep her temper in check. Who was he to tell her to get out of her own apartment?
"She lives here," Brian explained trying to keep the peace. Interested in no such idea Lex made her way to the big mouthed cop intent on showing him he wasn't dealing with some little girl. The burly man stepped towards her a frown fixed on his face.
"Relax Mike," a detective said as he put a restraining hand on the man's arm. The cop backed off but kept his frown firmly in place and gave the Hunter a glare that could've melted ice. Lex glared right back and it was the cop who finally turned away.
"You would be Lexina I assume?"
"Yes," Lex answered shifting her eyes imperceptibly so she could take in the goings on of the room as she spoke. A white gloved CSI inspected a crossbow before replacing it on the floor. He sifted through a large pile of debris caused by the destruction of Athena's ornamental weapons cabinet.
The dark wooden cabinet had been splintered and thrown halfway across the room and its contents lay strewn across the floor. The functional weapons were thankfully upstairs in the training salle.
"We can't seem to find the weapon that was used against your Aunt." The detective said. "It's likely the perp took it with him."
"Any descriptions of the one who did this? The way the lobby and apartment door look you can't tell me no one snuck a peek at the noise." The detective shook his head.
"People don't see much when the police get involved." He said regretfully. Lex made a mental note to talk to the people on the ground level as she listened to the detective ramble on. There was no way in hell someone on that floor hadn't seen whatever had come into the lobby. They were probably just so unbelieving of what they'd seen that they hadn't reported it.
"Did your Aunt have anyone she was having trouble with?"
"Not that I know of," Lex answered, she couldn't very well tell him the truth.
Yes detective, every demonic cult within city limits is out for our blood. Right.
"She's a website designer, she hardly leaves the house except when we go out to eat and she hasn't had a boyfriend since I moved in." That was, at least, most of the truth, she wasn't about to mention Siobhan, she didn't want to drag the poor woman and her store into a police investigation.
"Okay, we're just about done here, maybe another hour," the detective said. "I'm Detective Thomas, if anything comes to mind, anything at all I want you to call this number," he said as he handed her his card.
"No problem, I'd like to know how the investigation goes detective, my Aunt will want to know when she wakes up."
"Of course, I'll be in touch," the detective assured before shaking her hand and turning back to his work. The Hunter motioned for Brian to follow her as she went to the doorway. She'd have to speak to the maintenance guy about replacing the door. Lex walked silently down the stairs of her apartment building.
Goddamn landlord still hasn't fixed the lift. Despite her outward calm the girl was seething inside. When she found Athena's attacker the goddess herself wouldn't be able to protect him from her wrath.
"Lexina?" Brian called, by his tone it wasn't the firsttime either. Lex looked up at him putting a cap on her anger. For now.
"Where do you want to go for dinner?" The blonde asked as they approached the lobby.
"Anywhere but McDonald's," Lex answered crushing a piece of broken glass with her heel. Soon, her enemy would be the one beneath her boot.
"He's threatening to expel me?" Lex asked with a laugh putting her water down lest it end up coming out her nose.
"That's what Kerry Dickson said, her Mom works in the office, something about too many truancies. And Lex that wasn't supposed to be funny." Brian said giving the girl a strange look.
"Being expelled will ruin your chances of going to a decent college." Another round of laughter from the girl and Brian's eyes became more questioning.
"Brian don't worry about me, I'll take care of it."
"I'll handle it."
"Okay, fine," he said letting the subject drop. He couldn't afford to antagonize her. If he alienated himself from her he'd be useless to his employer and he'd seen what happened to dead weight. It usually ended up…well…dead.
Brian sat back in his chair surveying the small Chinese restaurant he was sitting in. He never would have come in here on his own, the place looked like a total dive from the front and only considerable prodding from Lexina had got him in here. The waitress had known the girl by name and Brian idly wondered how often the blue eyed girl came in here.
"So are you going to use your Aunt's car to get back and forth to the hospital?"
"I guess so, it'll be easier than getting my Mustang out of storage."
"Wait, you have Mustang?" Lex nodded, "and you keep it in storage?" Another nod. "Why?"
Lex shrugged her shoulders, "Athena figures it makes me lazy. I live close to the school so I haven't really needed it."
Not to mention it's considerably harder to sneak up on the bad guys with a car.
"It seemed easier to just store it rather than fight over it." Lex admitted sipping at her pop. Truthfully, the only reason she hadn't fought with Athena over the car was because she couldn't stand driving it after the night her mother had died.
No matter how well the blood had cleaned off the leather all Lex ever saw when she looked at the car was her mother's near dead body sitting in the passenger seat.
"I guess so," Brian said picking up a piece of ginger beef with his chopsticks. Lex shrugged and tried to pick up a chicken ball from the plate. The breaded sphere slipped between her sticks and Lex speared the food. She popped the entire thing in her mouth just to show it who was where on the food chain. The Hunter glanced up to see Brian looking at her with a smirk on his boyish face.
"What? No one ever made the mistake of calling me cultured," Lex commented stealing some almond chicken from Brian's plate to prove her point. He sighed, giving the girl a smile before he focused on his food. The young warrior returned to her meal enjoying the quiet supper.
She'd get Brian to drop her off then clean up and head out on patrol. Tonight she would start searching the forest and sewers in earnest. Hopefully she'd pick up a warm trail and have the demon's head on a pike by dawn. Not likely, but hopefully.
"So who do you think did it?" Brian asked once they were out of the small Chinese restaurant and in the car.
"Attacked your Aunt."
"I don't know," the Hunter said with a shake of her raven hair. She was of course lying through her teeth, she knew exactly who it had been, that damn demon who had been following her for the last month.
"Lex, you saw your apartment, that wasn't some botched robbery, whoever it was went in there to hurt your Aunt," Brian stated.
"I know that, I'm not an idiot!" Lex snapped. Brian winced at the tone, he was treading on thin ice. His getting what he needed involved earning enough of Lexina's trust to get into her apartment.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to go off like that, I'm just a little stressed."
"I understand, look, you know I'm here for you."
"Yeah, sure," Lex said as the car turned into the apartment parking lot. The patrol cars that had filled it earlier were gone now and Lex was thankful for their absence. She didn't relish the idea of not going on patrol tonight nor did she think going out without her weapons was a good idea. Without the police around to hinder her neither of those options needed to be considered.
"Lexina?" The Shadow Hunter looked up at the teen, startled from her musings.
"Sorry what was that?"
"I asked if you wanted a hand cleaning up," Brian said looking at her questioningly. The Shadow Hunter was about to shake her head when she looked over to the West side of the city. There were still a good three hours before sunset and the apartment was a wreck. If Brian was so intent on keeping near her she may as well get something out of it.
She was a little leery of letting a virtual stranger into the inner sanctum but, truth be told, she didn't want to be alone either.
Athena would pitch a bitch if she knew I let anyone in the library unsecured.
Lex looked over at her companion, what could it really hurt? He was a nice guy, a bit of a pahtzer but a nice guy none-the-less. And, he had offered to help, it wasn't as if she'd asked.
And if he asks about the library you can say Athena's some kind of parapsychologist or something.
Yeah, the big word'll probably confuse him so much he won't ask anymore questions.
Easy, he's helping us out, the least we can do is be nice.
I'm being nice, I'm just not thinking nice.
Alright, that's enough.
"Huh? Oh sorry. Sure Brian, some help would be great." With a nod Brian opened his door.
"Chill here for a second, I'm going to have a quick shower," Lex said as she dropped her keys on the counter and moved to the bathroom.
"Okay," Brian righted the over turned couch and sat down. He looked around the room waiting to hear the shower start. Once the water was running he was on his feet scouring the room in earnest. Off to his left a spiral staircase led up to another half level.
The area was enclosed by glass and even from the bottom level he could see the reflection of a punching bag in the floor to ceiling mirrors. The first floor was in shambles: shelves lay on the floor books scattered everywhere. He picked them up randomly tossing them on the couch when they weren't what he was looking for.
"Damn it," the shower stopped and Brian dropped the book he had in his hand and began walking around the room trying to look casual. His employer's thug had certainly done a number on the place. About the only undamaged things in the room were the TV, and an ancient looking piano.
Old style weaponry was strewn about the main room and Brian picked up one of the swords. The sheath was made of sturdy, dull, black leather that was attached to a belt of the same material. The blonde took the hilt and pulled gently exposing a shiny double-edged blade. Brian ran his fingers lightly over the metal feeling the imperfections from where the blade had been struck.
"Careful," Lex warned. Brian looked up in surprise to see a towel clad Lexina moving toward him. His mouth went dry at the sight and he fought to keep track of his thoughts. Against the white towel and dark hair her eyes shone with a blue hue he'd never seen before, not in anything human. It was amazing how silently she moved too, he hadn't even heard her enter the room.
"Blade's very sharp," she took the sword from his hands and unsheathed it completely. Lexina seemed totally comfortable with both the move and the blade. In fact, the sword looked perfect for her. The length and width of the hilt matched her hand amazingly.
The only thing he couldn't figure out was the weight. He was no scrawny guy and the sword had felt heavy to him. Lexina was strong but the weight of the blade had to make it difficult to wield.
Those powers the Boss talked about must really make her something else.
"So, does your Aunt collect antiques?"
"Kind of, she used to travel a lot, she found all kinds of cool stuff, there's probably close to 1000 books in her library from countries all over the world. We've also got weapons whose style date back to the dark ages but those are kept locked up in the training salle." She said pointing up to the second level.
"Wow? That's huge," this is going to take me forever.
"Yeah and most of them have to be translated, it's a pretty big job." Lex chucked the sword in the air and caught it gracefully on the blade. She held the hilt towards him indicating him for him to take it from her. With a moment of hesitation Brian took the sword from the girl.
"I thought your Aunt was a computer nerd."
"She is but when she lived in England she worked for the British Museum."
"That's an awfully big switch, why'd she move?" Lex looked up at him a tinge of guilt in her ice blue eyes.
"To take care of me."
"I'm going to go get changed. Don't chop off your foot," Lex cautioned before turning and ducking into her room. Brian swung the blade experimentally liking the feel of the weapon in his hands.
His employer had mentioned what to expect in the girl's apartment. Weapons, books, occult type stuff. It was different from Brian's usual gig which was thieving various valuable goods for pay. The Boss had warned him that this would be different, Brian wouldn't even be able to get into the apartment without permission, such was the security system.
The Boss had been able to break it down long enough for his thug to get inside but for whatever reason it had been a one shot deal. Brian hadn't asked why, it didn't matter to him.
His employer wanted a book Lexina's guardian had stolen some years ago. Brian's end of the deal was simple, get the book and he lived with some serious bank as compensation. Don't get the book and there was a vague but distinctly unpleasant consequence waiting for him.
Lex appeared several minutes later fully dressed in black cargo pants and T-shirt, a hoody was tied around her hips. Brian replaced the sword in its sheath and threw it to Lex. She caught it without problem and put it on its rack.
"Mind if we get started? I'm kind of wiped so I want to get this over with."
"Yeah no problem, I'll start in here."
"Great, I'll work on the kitchen."
"Hey Lex, where do you want me to put the books? All the shelves in here are fubar." The brunette walked out of the kitchen a severely dented frying pan in hand. She tossed it into the garbage pile and considered the question.
Guess he can go in the office, if he starts asking question I'll snow him with the parapsychologist/historian thing.
"The shelves in the office will work, just put them on the floor so I can organize them later. Be careful though, I just mopped up and if it's not dry it could damage the texts."
"Okay," the girl turned back into the kitchen and Brian made a stack of books quickly and moved into the office. He searched for a dry spot to dump the books and placed them there quietly. His eyes widened as he caught sight of the shelves.
Most were of floor to ceiling height and one was nearly half as wide as the full wall. If not for the desk space near the large window he would've been hard pressed to say what color the paint on the wall was.
I'll never be able to find it in this. The books had been placed back on their shelves in no apparent order just before Lex had mopped. One of the large shelves was lying open side down. The book he wanted could easily be one of those beneath the shelf. It wasn't like he had a good description of the book, it was black, old and lacking a title. That was about it.
The teen's attitude brightened a little when lifting an overturned chair revealed a pile of dark books. A few glimmered with new leather bindings and he discarded them out of hand. Others were old, the ink nearly illegible and its content written in languages varying from old English to what he thought was Greek. Still, they all had titles.
"Damn it, where is it?" Dejected Brian slammed his fist to the floor, he probably wouldn't get back into the apartment after tonight. If he didn't find it now he was as good as dead. The teen wondered how far he could get if he started running now. This thought surfaced instantaneously with the resounding of a hollow sound from the floor as his fist connected.
Brian put his cheek on the floor, knocking at intervals along the wood. He found the hollow spot again and searched the floorboard. The seal along one edge was missing and Brian used his pocket knife to wedge the board up. It came up with a creak revealing a small compartment, the board rested on a small hinge hidden on the inside and Brian marvelled at it.
Unless you were specifically looking for the hidey hole you hadn't much chance of finding it. The floorboard had been completely level with the rest of the floor and it was only upon close inspection that one could tell the sealant on the sides of the board was missing.
More than the compartment interested him though, inside rested an old black book. He pulled the book from its hiding place sparing a quick glance at the doorway to be sure Lexina hadn't snuck up on him again. The door was clear and Brian began to investigate the book. It was old but well cared for, the leather binding was intact and the lock that kept it shut was rust free.
He searched the book for a title pumping his fist in the air when he couldn't find one. He quickly put the book in the back of his pants pulling his hooded sweatshirt down low to hide the added bulk. He walked out of the office glad to hear Lexina still clanging pots in the kitchen.
He opened his backpack and shoved the book inside closing the zipper. He grabbed another pile of books off the floor and took them into the office returning the floorboard to its place as he left. 15 minutes later the living room was absent of any books and most of the weapons were in a pile ready to be taken onto the second level and into the training salle.
"Hey Lex, can I use your bathroom?" A dark head poked out from the kitchen followed by the rest of the girl.
"Actually we have a pit dug outside for guests." She said as she dried a cup. Brian looked at her in an uncomprehending way and Lex took pity on the boy.
"Second door on the right." The blonde moved off with a mutter of thanks and Lex shook her head.
Someone should really talk to him about removing that stick from his rectal aperture.
The young Hunter put the cup in the dish rack and went over to the TV turning it on to the news. Her Dhaskalos' attack had earned a small blurb on the local channel and Lex grimaced. The public loved the gore, no matter how much anyone spoke against it they would rather see a double murder then they would the success story of the underdog.
The girl switched to the music channel and put the remote on top of the TV. She wasn't a particular fan of the latest mainstream hits but the main room's stereo lay in pieces, totally irreparable. The Hunter moved to the couch and pushed it back to its proper place.
She picked Brian's backpack off the floor surprised by the weight. That was an awful lot of homework for a guy who took mostly art classes. Lexina rarely ignored her gut instincts anymore and right now it was telling her something wasn't kosher. The Hunter unzipped the bag feeling slightly guilty until she saw what was inside.
She pulled the book from the bag inspecting it carefully. It was definitely one of the reference books, the lock was the standard one used on all Dhaskalos' Journals. It was untitled and though it was uncommon it wasn't unheard of for Journals to be unstamped. Lex sat on the couch waiting for the boy to come out. He opened the bathroom door and flicked off the light smiling at Lex.
"What's up?" He asked as he caught sight of Lexina's stony façade.
"I'm going to give you five seconds to explain what my property was doing in your bag, or I'm going to beat you into a bloody incoherent inch of your life with the book you tried to steal."
"That's gruesome," Brian said mentally calculating his distance to the door. He was a thief, not a fighter. He'd seen what she was capable of when he'd manoeuvred himself into a bad situation on Hell night.
"A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Five…"
"Wait, Lex there's a…"
"Four…" Brian tried to figure his chances on getting to the door with the book.
"Three…" There's no way I'm getting that book. I'm gonna die, he thought with alarm. Lex's going to pummel me and then Boss is gonna turn me into a corpse.
"Two…" Lex stood from the couch and stepped threateningly toward the blonde.
"One…" Brian tired to sprint to the door but Lex pounced on him grabbing him by the collar and pulling him to the floor. She snapped a fist into his face knocking him senseless and causing his nose to bleed, just as she'd promised. He lay there, his head spinning, unable to defend as Lex hoisted him over her shoulder.
She opened the door and tossed him against the hallway wall. He slid bonelessly to the floor and sat there dazed. Satisfied he would be there when she got back the Hunter went into the loft and retrieved his bag. Brian was just picking himself off the ground when Lex arrived. She whipped his bag at him, catching him in the stomach and knocking the air from his lungs.
"Lexina wait, I can explain," Brian said squinting through his already swelling eye. He had to get that book.
"Time's up. You ever come near me again, I guarantee you won't enjoy the experience." Lex promised as she slammed the new door. The landlord had replaced it shortly after she'd gotten home. The stout man expressed his sympathies over the attack but also made sure Lex realized Athena's safety deposit was gone. The brunette went into her room and collapsed onto the bed, exhausted.
Of all the damn nerve, shows what I get for trying to be nice.
I told you so.
Moron probably thought it would be worth big bucks if he sold it.
Yeah well, it's a Tribunal Journal, he wouldn't even know who to sell it to, it's not worth anything, besides my hide that is. Athena would've killed me.
We'll just keep this to ourselves then.
The young Shadow Hunter put a pillow over her head, trying to block out the dying light of the sun. She wanted a nap before going on patrol to let out some of her frustration.
"The nerve, to steal from me," Lex shot out a kick knocking her opponent to the ground. "I just wanted to check on you, uh," the Hunter grunted as she was caught with a punch. The blow mostly glanced off her jaw and she answered back with one of her own doing far more damage than her attacker's strike.
"Lexina, I can explain," Lex mocked as she front kicked the blonde into the tree.
"Who are you talking to?" She asked looking around. Lex ignored the undead woman's question and pulled a stake from her coat and threw it at the vampire. The pointed wood whistled as it sliced through the air and pierced the vampire's chest. The woman's eyes widened in surprise as her body began to dust.
"Ah fu…" The stake dropped to the ground landing atop the dust pile before it too disintegrated. The Hunter had never understood that particular quirk. Unless her stake was out of the vamp's body when it dusted the wood usually turned into ash as well.
No matter, Lex always had a good supply while on patrol and she pulled one from her book bag and slipped it into her pocket. Dawn was fast approaching and it was easy pickings to get a vamp on his way back to his crypt. Tonight had been a good patrol, she hadn't found her demon but she'd dusted three vampires and worked out most of her anger.
I'll gut him if he ever comes near me again. I never should've expected any better from him. Athena told me not to trust anyone, she was right. I can't afford to count on people who are going to betray me, it's going to get me killed one of these days.
Shaking her head Lex headed back toward her apartment, if she was lucky she'd catch one more leech before dawn.
Lex tugged on her coat sleeves trying to at least seem presentable. She knocked on her first door in the search for anyone who may have seen anything on the night of the attack. A young girl, maybe five or six opened the door and looked up at Lex her big eyes widening.
The Shadow Hunter gave her best 'friendly' smile, trying to eliminate some of the fear her imposing figure caused. She knelt down to get closer to the girl's eye level, her coat pooling around her feet.
"Hi there, I'm Lexina, what's your name?
"Tara," she answered shyly still clinging to the doorknob.
"Hi Tara, is your Mom home?" The girl shook her head. "How about your dad?" Another shake. "Tara are you here by yourself?"
"No, Megan's here," she said looking back toward the kitchen area. As she spoke a short blonde walked to the door, a dishtowel in hand. The blonde looked to be about Lex's age, maybe a couple of years older, she also looked vaguely familiar.
Do I have a class with her?
"Tara, Sweetie, what have I said about opening the door to strangers?"
"Sorry," the girl said looking between Lex and Megan, finally settling her curious stare on the Hunter.
"It's alright, why don't you go inside and turn on your cartoons?"
"Okay, bye Lexina," the girl said smiling shyly at her.
"Bye Tara," Lex gave a little wave and smiled slightly as the girl scampered away and idly wondered what she was like at that young age. Standing to her full height, Lex was surprised at how tall she was compared to the blonde.
There was probably a good five inches between them and Lex became unconsciously uncomfortable with her height. The blonde looked at her expectantly from sea green eyes waiting for an explanation.
"Uh, I'm a journalism intern from the college," Lex said.
Goddess that was weak, shoulda planned this better.
She realized it probably looked bad for an intimidating stranger, dressed all in black to have been talking to a small child.
"I have information that someone on this floor saw the perpetrator who attacked the woman upstairs a couple of days ago."
"And?" The blonde asked crossing her arms and leaning against the door frame.
"Um, I was wondering if you were perhaps the person who saw it or if…"
"No, I wasn't here that night. I'm just babysitting my niece, now if you'll excuse me." The girl stepped back into the apartment and grabbed the door, beginning to shut it.
"Wait," Lex put her hand on the door easily keeping it open. This was the last apartment on the floor making it closest to the lobby. Someone here had to have seen the demon.
"Could Tara's parents have seen him?" The blonde sighed but didn't try to shut the door again.
"It's possible but they went away for the weekend."
"Damn it," Lex muttered under her breath, searching without a description was useless. There was no way of knowing one murderous demon from the next.
"You're not really a reporter are you?" She asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Of course I am," Lex said defensively.
"Uh huh, funny then that I've never seen you in any of my classes. Why didn't you bring a notepad or a tape recorder?" The young woman asked incredulously her glare intensifying.
"You're in journalism?" Lex asked weakly.
Oh fer crap sake.
"Okay, look, you got me. I'm not an intern, I'm the girl who lives upstairs. It was my Aunt who was attacked," Lexina said figuring it best to come clean rather than be caught in another lie.
"Oh," the blonde's expression softened and the girl even smiled slightly. "Sorry."
"It's okay," the Hunter waved off the girl's apology and Megan opened the door further.
"Why are you trying to find this guy? Shouldn't you let the police handle it?" Lex snorted at the question.
"Please, the police in this town couldn't catch a cold," the blonde laughed quietly and nodded in agreement.
"True, listen my sister may have seen something, why don't you come in and I'll see if I can get a hold of her."
"Thanks, I really appreciate this," Lex said as she stepped through the doorway. "I'm Lexina by the way."
"I'm Megan and you've already met the rugrat," the blonde pointed at the child sitting on the couch watching the pair interestedly. Lexina smiled at the girl who promptly abandoned her seat and ran up to her.
"I'll call my sister and see what's up."
"Thanks," the blonde disappeared into the kitchen leaving Lex and Tara to their own devices.
"Want to watch cartoons?" Tara asked looking up at the Hunter hopefully.
"Sure, I love early cartoons," just not more than sleep.
The girl took Lex's hand and led her into the living room. Lex sat on the couch, the girl at her feet drawing a picture on the coffee table. Lex looked up at the TV to see three poorly drawn superheroes who'd laid claim to the name 'Powerpuff Girls'. The Hunter shuddered at the degradation of cartoons. What had happened to the Ninja Turtles?
Oh goddess, is that a talking sponge? Why is he wearing pants?
Shaking her head dismissively she leaned over to check out Tara's pictures. The usual scenes were played out, rainbows, animals and the favoured family portrait. What the girl was working on now looked to be totally different but she was leaning over and Lex couldn't quite make out the shapes.
"Sorry Lexina, my sister didn't see anything, neither did my brother in-law," Megan said as she put the cordless phone on the coffee table and sat down.
"Son of a…" Six year old eyes looked up at her innocently, "biscuit." Tara went back to her drawing and Megan smirked at the Hunter.
"No use in corrupting innocents before their time," Lex stood straightening her duster. "Thanks for trying Megan, I appreciate it."
"No problem, sorry it wasn't more helpful."
"It's alright, I'll figure out another way of finding him." Lex walked back to the door opening it and stepping into the hallway.
"I guess I'll see you around some time then."
"Yeah, sure," Lex smiled, "bye Tara."
"Wait Lexina," the girl said standing up and running to the door, paper and crayon in hand.
"I drew you a picture, I knew you would come to get it." The Hunter looked at the girl inquisitively before she knelt down to accept the gift. She looked at the picture her eyes widening and looking up at Megan.
"She's been drawing that the last couple of days, my sister thinks it's something she saw in a dream. She gets night terrors, sometimes she sleepwalks."
"Do you like it?" Tara asked her big eyes hopeful.
"I love it Little Bit," Lex ruffled the girl's hair and returned her gaze to the picture. The fiery red eyes of a demon glared back at her in silent ferocity. It was a rough sketch, drawn in a six year olds uncertain hand but it held enough key elements to help narrow her search. The monster looked vaguely familiar but she couldn't quite put a finger on it. Whatever it was, the demon was huge if the drawing was anything to go by.
"How long ago did you say she started drawing these?" Lex asked turning on her boot heel to look up at Megan.
"Um, couple of day's maybe," Megan said as Lex stood up.
Timing's right. It's a horrid lead but I've got nothing else. Kid might've seen it when she was wandering around at night or something. Lex nodded before looking at the girl again.
She knew I was coming?
Tara reached up toward the Hunter her arms wide and it took a second for the teen to realize what the girl wanted. She took the tiny girl into her arms giving her a hug albeit an uncomfortable one. She was about to pull away when the girl whispered into her ear.
"The man laughs when the boy cries, one of you lives, the other ones die." The Hunter pulled back seeing a quiet sadness that had no place in a six year olds eyes. Tara gave her a final pat on the shoulder before turning and skipping back into the apartment. Troubled, the Hunter stood carefully rolling the picture and putting it in her pocket.
What the hell? Is this kid some kind of precog or something?
"Um, thanks for everything Megan," Lex shook the woman's hand. "I'm in 1231 if you ever want to borrow a cup of sugar or whatever."
Okay that was lame, once upon a time I was capable of charming conversation...
"Great, I'll remember that," The Hunter smiled and turned back toward the stairwell wondering what the hell had possessed her to make such a Gomerish offer. Generosity and friendliness weren't her strong points.
And what was up with that kid?Serious creepy factor, 'the man laughs, the boy cries, one of you lives, the other ones die?' Not exactly a pleasant prediction, meh, I've got bigger things to worry about then the musings of child. Like food for instance, damn I'm hungry.
"Son of a bitch," Lex slammed the book shut and pushed up from the desk. Two weeks. Two fruitless, boring weeks of searching through the unorganized library for an ID of the demon. She was seriously considering the possibility that what the kid downstairs had seen was just a dream. Not that anyone else had had much luck tracking the attacker, the police were twice as clueless as her.
Alongside that, Athena's case had been put on the back burner after some psycho's personal graveyard had been found five days ago. Lex had taken a quick peek at the grave after its discovery to check for supernatural involvement.
As it turned out it didn't look to be anything more than a run of the mill murderer. It wasn't that Lex didn't sympathize with the loved ones of the deceased but human killers were the cops' job not hers. She had her plate full dealing with vamps and demons, there was only so much one person could do.
She'd informed the Tribunal of what happened when they'd called last week. They'd expressed their concern but let her know she was unequivocally on her own. Two more Shadow Hunters had been called to Rome to deal with the demonic cult. The other seven could ill afford to stop patrolling the other cities of the world, many of which were in worse condition then her own.
Lex's only hope might be that one of the Shadow Hunters or a Dhaskalos would make a quick pass through the city on their way to another assignment. Lex wasn't holding out much hope for that. She was one of only two Hunters in North America for the time being and her US counterpart had his own issues to deal with.
Besides, she had to prove her worth to the rest of her comrades. As the youngest, most inexperienced of the group she had to show she was capable of solving her own problems and worthy of the powers that had been bestowed upon her. If not to her team mates, than at the very least, to herself.
The Hunter stretched, loosening the muscles in her back that had tightened up while she'd been sitting in the chair. She'd do an hour or so of training to loosen up before patrol but that still awhile away. Sighing, the brunette pulled the unstamped Dhaskalos' Journal from its place on one of the shelves using Athena's issued key to open the lock. She'd been reading the book on and off over the last couple of weeks, it was one of the few Dhaskalos' Journals in Athena's library the Hunter hadn't read.
Lex was amazed she'd never found it before, scouring the library was one of her favoured pass times. The teen was having trouble figuring out why the book was unstamped, though it could have been one of a variety of reasons. It was obvious the girl had never been chosen as a Shadow Hunter, Lee Xing and Josephine Murdel had been the only female Thirteens during the Protégé Emma's time.
That didn't explain why the journal was unmarked, even if the girl was never a Hunter the journal would've ended shortly after the Tribunal did whatever it did to deem it unlikely that the girl would become a Shadow Hunter. The Protégé would've been released of her duty to the Tribunal, though many stayed on to become a Dhaskalos or an operative, and the journal would've been stamped and sent to the Tribunal Library.
This book had probably gotten lost somewhere near the end of the Protégé's training and, since she hadn't ever become one of the Thirteen, no one much concerned themselves with finding it. Knowing Athena and her keen ability to find such lost artefacts Lex figured that the woman had likely found it on one of her travels.
Books from the Tribunal's library were valuable no matter what the content and the journal had probably been floating around with some black market proprietor. Athena had gone away for a couple of days shortly before her attack and had possibly picked it up then. In the ensuing chaos after the attack it was no wonder Lex had only now found the book.
The Hunter turned to the first entry rereading in for the nth time.
July 27th 1977,
The girl is little more than a child. The death of her parents has turned her into a sullen recluse, cut off from the world. The Tribunal wishes me to train her for some task the likes of which I can't even begin to fathom. Even at so young an age Emma shows great Protégé as a warrior. Her mind is quick and reflexes quicker. I think the desire to avenge her parents is what drives her and I would loathe too be the ones who murdered her family. Time will tell as to whether she is worthy to become a Shadow Hunter but, one of the Thirteen or not, she will be a great asset to the Tribunal.
Lex fell out of bed trying to reach the phone before it went to voicemail. She'd fallen asleep after patrol, sometime around four am. She'd been reading the journal last she remembered which would explain why the book had been lying on her chest.
Phone Lex, pick up phone.
"Hello?" The Hunter finally answered her voice rough with sleep.
"Am I speaking to Lexina Ballard?"
"Yes." Lex ran a hand through her hair in an unconscious effort to order it. She hated looking like she'd just gotten out of bed, even if she'd done just that.
Spill over from my popular days I suppose.
"This is Dr. Gertling from St. Peter's Hospital, we've been trying to reach you since last night." Lex sat up from the couch and looked at the answering machine, the red light blipped at her silently.
The Hunter smacked herself on the forehead with her palm, stupid girl must check messages.
"Sorry my machine's on the fritz. Is something wrong?" For a split second Lex's stomach climbed up into her throat ready to disgorge its content at a moments notice.
"No, quite the opposite actually, your Aunt appears to be waking up. She's been showing elevated brain activity since early last night and we think she'll come out of it sometime today." Lex's nausea disappeared replaced by a feeling she hadn't had in weeks. Pure, unadulterated confidence: her Dhaskalos was alive and would be up soon and together they would lay waste to the demon Azriel and any of his allies.
"I'll be there in ten," Lex said not waiting for the doctor's reply before hanging up the phone. She tossed on her jacket and grabbed Athena's car keys. It had been a while since she'd driven stick, she hoped she remembered how. Bed ridden or not Athena would kick her ass if Lex blew out the clutch.
"She's not quite awake yet but I suspect she will be within the hour," the doctor said as he put his chart down on the table.
"I'll check on you both later," Lex nodded and sat down in the chair.
"C'mon Athena wake up. I know you can hear me. Get up. You think I talked a lot before? You haven't heard anything yet. I'm gonna keep talking until you wake up." Lex said.
"When I get tired of talking I'll start singing," the Hunter threatened. She quite possibly had the worst voice in the world and Athena knew it.
"Get up Athena," Lex's heart stopped as she saw her Dhaskalos' eyelids flutter. "Come on Athena, I'll start belting out showtunes."
"Please don't," Athena moaned as one eye opened slowly than the other. "I'd rather be dead."
"Welcome back," Lex said throwing her arms around her Dhaskalos mindful of her still healing wounds.
"Yes it would seem so, how long have I been out?"
"Couple of weeks, you gave me quite a scare. If you'd done the coma thing much longer I might have had to learn how to cook."
"I would never allow the world to suffer such tragedy," Athena joked with a small smile.
"How are you feeling?"
"Tired and thirsty," Athena said closing her eyes.
"I'll go get you some water," Lex said standing up.
Lex came back short minutes later with a water bottle and a doctor in tow.
"Good afternoon Athena," he greeted. "How are you feeling?" The doctor asked as he checked her pulse.
"Alright, considering the circumstances," she answered.
"Good. Are you comfortable? Do you need any more painkillers?"
"No thank you, I'll be alright."
"Okay just press the button if you need anything." With that doctor walked out of the room closing the door softly behind him. The Hunter listened to make sure the man had really left before turning back to her Dhaskalos.
"Athena what happened?"
"I'm not quite sure, it's a little fuzzy. I heard the door cracking."
Athena took a crossbow from the wall of the training salle pulling the string back and loading a bolt. It was the largest manageable crossbow in the apartment and the bolt would easily rip through three humans before slowing. Athena had no intentions of fighting.
She was already feeling disoriented from the sudden flux in magical energy. Whoever or whatever it was had managed to momentarily bring down her magical shield and let the demon in. Judging by the damage that was being done in the apartment the monster was far too large for her to handle. Lexina was out on patrol and wouldn't be back for at least another hour.
The Dhaskalos moved out of the training salle as quickly as possible, she could hear the demon ripping though her office and Athena cringed at the amount of work she'd have to do to reorganize her library. The brunette climbed over the banister and dropped the 12 feet to the ground landing lightly on her sock clad feet. The stairs up to the training salle squeaked noisily and try as Lexina might the girl had yet to figure out a way to silence them.
From her position Athena had a clear path to the doorway and the Dhaskalos made her way toward it using the debris that had once been her furniture as cover. She was deliciously close to the exit when the heater kicked in and the vents began to blow hot air. If the demon had an acute sense of smell the air currents would quickly carry her scent to it. Deciding she had no other choice the Dhaskalos prepared to sprint.
She would have to cross the hallway to get to the door and that would risk the demon seeing her. Steeling herself Athena vaulted over the fallen couch and dashed for the door. The Dhaskalos was surprised when a hand grabbed her by the back of her shirt and flung her toward the kitchen. She landed with a grunt her crossbow falling from her hands and sliding along the floor.
I'm too old for this. Athena jumped to her feet and ran for her weapon slipping on her socks as she grabbed the crossbow.
The demon's bulk blocked her exit and the only other place she could think to escape to the outside was from her bedroom. The Dhaskalos ran for the hallway slipping again on her socks and slamming into the wall.
Her shoulder exploded in pain and she dropped to the ground crab crawling backwards trying to escape the demon who was fast approaching. She got through the doorway of her bedroom and closed her door using the small respite to stand up and get to her window. She looked down considering what to do.
She didn't think she was enough of an acrobat to jump from balcony to balcony all the way to ground level but if she stayed she'd likely die in battle. No good choices.
The bedroom door splintered and broke inward pieces of wood flying everywhere, Athena cried out in pain as a sliver of wood raked her temple. The demon charged at her, she ducked the bulk of the demon but caught part of its claw.
The blow was enough to carry her into the wall nearest the door and Athena's grip on the crossbow loosened as she slid to the floor. The demon's momentum took him to the window and Athena wished she had the strength to push him out. As it was she'd be lucky to survive the encounter let alone kill the demon.
Taking aim with the large crossbow Athena took a shot landing it deep in the demon's throat. Blood poured from its neck and shot out in spurts momentarily distracting the monster.
Athena used the wall to climb to her feet her head already spinning from blood loss. She clamped a hand down as best she could on her wounds and made her way to her office as quickly as possible. The Dhaskalos took her hand from her stomach to open the door her grip slippery. She was finally able to get it open and dropped to the floor inside, exhausted.
She could hear the demon's approach and kicked the door shut managing to set the lock in place praying the reinforced door would hold fast. The phone rang somewhere in the office but the Dhaskalos had slipped too far into unconsciousness to hear it.
"I thin it was a Laox demon," Athena said after she'd finished her recount of that night's events. "Perhaps a Mantarri but it looked too big."
"Whatever it is, I'll find it," Lex promised putting on her jacket. "Get some rest, I'll come by later today or tomorrow. I'm gonna do some sniffing around, see if I can get a lead."
"Be careful Lexina," Athena warned. "That demon is dangerous, whatever it is."
"I know, I will," Lex kissed the top of her Dhaskalos' head and left the room. Her heavy boots thudded on the tile as she walked and the Shadow Hunter allowed her mind to wander. A dangerous grin settled on the young warrior's lips and she cracked her knuckles in anticipation. Now that she knew what the demon was, it was living on borrowed time.
To be continued…
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