Promise of wrath the hel.., p.3
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       Promise of Wrath (The Hellequin Chronicles Book 6), p.3

           Steve McHugh
 

  A horrible feeling settled in my stomach. I’d told Francis that I owed him three jobs for the help he’d given me—jobs he still hadn’t cashed in. But if Mordred was still alive, and wanting revenge on the man who’d shot him, there was every chance he’d go after my friends rather than come at me directly.

  I clicked through the rest of the photos, but they were nothing more than external shots of the local area, of the door to Francis’s lair: an underground station abandoned long ago.

  I exited the folder and clicked on the second: 2. Video. The feeling of dread grew inside me as I clicked the icon and a new window popped up showing a black screen. I turned the sound up slightly and clicked play, hoping I was wrong about whatever awful thing someone had decided to send me.

  A man unfolded a chair and sat in front of the camera. He was stocky, but I couldn’t tell much else. He wore a black jumper, black leather gloves, and a black balaclava that covered all but his eyes.

  “Nathan,” he said. His voice was deep, and the accent placed him from southern England, but I couldn’t tell more than that.

  “Don’t try to figure out who I am,” he continued. “I’m using some voice modulation software. It’s quite clever. I’ll reveal all at the end, but right now that’s not why you’re watching this little movie.”

  I looked at the timer; there were fifteen minutes left to run, so whatever the man had to say, it was going to take a while.

  “You’re watching because I sent you a USB stick. You’ll have to excuse the address; I don’t know where you live now. Otherwise I’d have delivered it personally.” He sat back in the chair, looking relaxed and comfortable. “You wronged me, Nate. You wronged me exceptionally badly, and I’m here to pay you back for that. I’m here to ensure that the scales are balanced, that you feel the full power of just how much I hate you for what you did to me.”

  He stood up and reached out of camera shot, returning with a gleaming baseball bat. “Do you know what this is—apart from the obvious? It’s an aluminum baseball bat that’s been dipped in silver. I had it made especially for you, Nate. I was going to use it to stave in your skull, but I think it would be better to save that for later. To build up to it.”

  He walked over to the camera and picked it up, taking it over to a man lying prone on the floor. The man’s shirt had been torn open, exposing his chest, and someone had used a sharp blade to carve lines across it, bathing him in his own blood. The camera panned down the man’s legs, showing that his legs were pinned to the floor by something that had been driven through his shins.

  “Silver spikes,” the cameraman said. “Had them custom-made. Look, there’re some more.”

  The camera panned up to show more spikes, which had been driven through the prone man’s hands after his arms had been stretched out. Essentially they’d crucified their victim while he was lying down.

  A black hood sat over the victim’s face.

  “Are you ready?” the cameraman asked. He grabbed hold of the hood, and tugged it off with a flourish, exposing Francis’s battered and bloody face beneath it.

  “Say hello to Nate,” the cameraman said as he removed the gag that had been placed in Francis’s mouth.

  “Fuck you,” he said and spat at the camera.

  “He’s not all that pleasant,” the cameraman said as he walked away from Francis, placing the camera back on whatever stand it had originally been on.

  “Are you listening to me, Nate?” the cameraman asked. “This is because you got in my way. This is because you crossed me.” Anger crept into the man’s voice for the first time.

  He crossed back over to Francis and rested the tip of the baseball bat against his skull. “Any words for our sorcerer friend?”

  “I’m sorry, Nate. I’m sorry for everything.”

  Rage erupted inside of me as the masked man brought the baseball bat up and then down, crushing part of Francis’s face. The man rained down blow after blow on the helpless vampire, driving the baseball bat into the skull again and again, turning Francis’s head into a mess of pulp and blood.

  I don’t know how long I sat there and watched the video, but I made sure to remember every single blow of that bat. And when he’d finished turning Francis’s head into a bloody mess, he removed a dagger from behind him and slit the vampire’s throat before plunging it into his heart.

  The man stepped over Francis’s corpse, dropping the blood- and gore-drenched bat onto the floor. He wandered out of sight for a moment before returning with the folding chair, which he unfolded before taking a seat on it. He slowly removed the gloves from both hands, letting them drop to the floor beside him.

  “Did you enjoy the fun?” he asked, reaching toward the camera and turning the picture black for a second as he got in the way of the lens. “Do you recognize me yet?”

  The voice was no longer distorted, and the voice was familiar but I couldn’t place it.

  He sat back on the chair, grabbed hold of the balaclava and pulled it off, throwing it aside and running his hands over the short, dark hair on his head. He’d grown a beard since I’d last seen him, and gained a fair bit of muscle. He looked like he’d done some training. It wouldn’t help him.

  “Kay,” I whispered, my voice fueled with contempt and anger.

  “I’m back, you son-of-a-bitch,” Kay said, with a smug smile. He stood up and walked over to the camera again, crouching in front of it so that his face filled the screen. “I’d like the chance to repay you for all you did to me. And if you don’t come, I’m sure I can find some more of your friends to play with. I’m in London. I’ll leave a note here with the address where you can find me.” He placed an envelope on the table beside him, and switched off the camera.

  I looked down at the table where my hands had turned red-hot, orange glyphs igniting over my hands and arms. I shut my magic off and saw that my handprints had burned into the desk. I stared at the screen for several seconds. I was going to kill him. I was going to find Kay and do what I should have done years ago. I was going to rip his fucking head off.

  CHAPTER 3

  I don’t really remember leaving the office, the building, or getting into my green Jaguar F-type R and pulling out of the car park. It was only after I’d been driving for a few seconds that I forced myself to take a breath. Driving to London would be a much worse proposition if I wrapped my car around a lamppost.

  I drove the remainder of the way in the sort of mood that would have made me explode at the first person who cut me up, or didn’t use their indicator, should I have been able to stop the car and get out. Fortunately, I was more interested in getting to my destination than I ever was in getting into an argument with some random shitty driver.

  As I reached the outskirts of London, I was grateful that the car I was driving was exempt from the London congestion charge, due to being on a list of vehicles approved by Brutus, the king of London—which meant I could drive through the streets without any concerns other than my destination of Whitechapel. Also because having to pay to drive through London always bugged me.

  Ordinarily the journey would have given me ample opportunity to think about what I was going to do when I actually got to Whitechapel, and where I’d go from there if I didn’t find anything. But, instead of taking my mind off things, I only thought more about what I’d seen. What Kay had done to someone who had once been a friend of mine.

  I parked the car around the corner from the entrance to what had been Francis’s home, and took a deep breath, preparing for whatever I was about to find inside. As I walked up the alley to the massive iron door, the whole world appeared to move slower. I thought about whether or not coming here was the right thing to do, but the decision to stay was an easy one. The need for revenge outweighed the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  I grabbed hold of the door and pulled it open with a loud screech as the metal rubbed against the brick floor. Inside, a small room led to a staircase that went down to an old subway station, long aband
oned and forgotten about. Francis had probably paid off several people so he could use it as his base of operations and home.

  I stepped into the room and closed the door, bathed in the flickering lights that sat on either side of the staircase. Every step down into the subway station echoed around me. It was a good thing I hadn’t bothered to try being stealthy; I sounded like a herd of elephants trampling around. By the time I was all the way down to the station platform, anyone who might have been waiting for me would have had plenty of time to prepare for my arrival.

  I moved to a wall and made my way along it, taking my time as I walked to the archway that led to where Francis and his people had plied their trade of dealing in information and goods—not all of which were acquired legally. I looked around the corner and found that the room was empty and completely trashed. The lights that sat high above the room flickered in time with those on the staircase, and I wondered whether I’d be better off without them, relying instead on my fire magic to see in the dark. But then I realized I had no idea where the fuse box or light switch or anything else that might control them was, so I decided to put up with it.

  A quick search of the room revealed nothing of note, so I carried on to the next, moving from room to room, but finding nothing that might be helpful. Each room brought back memories of my time here. Memories of laughter, friendship, being healed after I was hurt, and of the death of some of the people I had known just before I regained my past.

  I walked into the medical room, and, after finding nothing once more, threw a gust of wind toward a collection of rubbish strewn across the floor. My magic scattered the rubbish, taking some of my frustration and anger with it. Most of it slammed into the wall and fell to the floor with nothing more than a clatter, but I watched one piece of paper slide under the wall and disappear behind it.

  Kneeling in front of the wall, I cast a small amount of air magic, watching as it seeped under the wall. It could be nothing, but it could also be a door to a hidden room. Francis was big on secrets, and I wouldn’t have put it past him to keep his most important things hidden from everyone.

  I didn’t want to force the wall apart, just in case Francis had booby-trapped anything, so I went searching for a switch or lever to open the door, but found nothing. I was just beginning to think that maybe I’d only been hoping that the wall would lead somewhere, when I re-entered the medical room and noticed that one of the wall tiles was the wrong color. All the other tiles on the wall were dark blue or white. Over time those colors had faded, but the tile I found myself looking at was pale green.

  I pressed my hand against the tile and felt it give just a little, but something behind it clicked, and almost immediately the wall beside me also clicked and moved back a bit. I cursed myself for not looking at the walls when I was searching, for not seeing what was right in front of me, but then I guessed that was the whole point of hiding something in plain sight.

  The detached part of the wall moved easily enough, sliding to the side and exposing the room behind. I stepped into the pitch-black room and ignited my fire magic, using it to give me night vision as I tried to find a light switch. It didn’t take long, and the room was soon bathed in the soft glow of artificial lighting.

  The room itself contained a wooden desk opposite the entrance, which stretched the width of the room. A leather swivel chair sat in front of it. On top of the desk were a computer, a small lamp, and about fifty pieces of paper, another fifty of which appeared to have fallen onto the floor at some point. A filing cabinet sat just inside the room.

  I opened the cabinet, but found it empty; presumably the contents were now all over the floor and desk. I picked up a few things, but they were just receipts or agreements for work carried out. Mostly the names meant nothing, although a few of the dozen I’d grabbed had my name on them. I wondered if it was for blackmail purposes, but more likely it was in case someone tried to blackmail Francis.

  The computer was a bust too. Someone had literally torn the insides out, leaving pieces of wiring hanging from a gaping wound in the side of the desktop. I looked through the drawers on the desk, but found nothing more than some stationery and about thirty packs of sticky notes.

  Kay and whoever had helped him take Francis had been thorough in their destruction of Francis’s property. I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the desk, but found nothing of interest. I was about to get back to my feet when I saw something under the filing cabinet. I reached under and took hold of some masking tape, pulling it free, and with it came a small case with a micro-SD card. I pocketed the card and left the room, wanting to go somewhere private to look at whatever was on it.

  I left the medical room and soon found myself standing outside of the only room I hadn’t been inside of. I placed my hand against the steel door and gave it a slight push, finding the large room to be devoid of everything barring blood, a folding chair, and a table. This was where Francis had died, and before then where those who’d lived here had laughed and worked together. I’d had good memories of being in this room when there had been furniture. The last time I’d seen it, it had been covered in blood, just like now, when a friend of mine, Jerry, had been bleeding to death after having his arm torn off. I wondered what had happened to Jerry. Had Kay killed him too?

  I walked over to the blood and found that it was dry: probably a few days old. What had I been doing while Francis was being beaten to death? Laughing, joking with friends? I clenched my fists and counted to ten. There was no one to hit, but there would be soon enough.

  I picked up a blood-stained envelope and opened it, removing the small card inside, on which was written:

  Tate Modern. 10:30 a.m.

  There was no date or anything else: just a place and time. I guessed Kay would have to turn up at the museum every day at 10:00 a.m. until I arrived. He couldn’t have screamed trap any more than he already had.

  I looked at my watch. I had the better part of sixteen hours before I’d be able to find Kay, and that was if he turned up, and then I’d have to get help from others—something I didn’t want. I wanted this done without the need for any intervention. Leaving Kay alive was my mistake: one I intended to correct.

  I wasted no time in leaving the station, glad to be out in the fresh air. I’d walked to the end of the short alley when four men blocked my path.

  “You need to give us some money,” one of the men said. He wore a black hoodie, with blue jeans and had a diamond earring in one ear.

  I looked at the other three, who wore similar clothing and were nodding along with their friend.

  “I don’t have any money,” I told him.

  “Your phone, then,” one of the others said with a slight smirk.

  “It’s been an unbearably long day,” I told them. “I get that you think I’m easy pickings, but if you don’t leave, you’re going to get hurt.”

  “You sure?” one of the men asked as he brought out a switchblade, flicking the blade to life and looking quite pleased with himself.

  Of the two beside him, one had put some knuckle-dusters on his hand. The one who’d spoken first held a dagger with a six-inch blade. They’d come to hurt someone. I doubted they’d have let me go even if I’d given them the money.

  I could remove them as easily as clicking my fingers, using my magic to throw them around with ease, but I was angry and frustrated, and I wanted someone to take that pent-up anger out on. And seeing how Kay wasn’t readily available, these four would have to do.

  I let one of the thugs move so that he was almost behind me, before burying my elbow in his face, breaking his nose and probably doing some damage to his jaw, too. I sprang forward, driving my foot into the knife-wielder’s chest, sending him sprawling to the ground.

  The last two men moved toward me as one. The third threw several punches, but they were easily deflected, and I grabbed his arm, dragging him toward me, forcing him off-balance, and slamming my fist into his nose as he fell forward. The knuckle-duster-wearer threw a
powerful right that would have done a lot of damage had I not easily been able to avoid it. I stepped to the side and planted a kick on his knee, which dropped him to the ground.

  He threw another punch and tried to get back to his feet, but I grabbed his arm and punched him in the face, spilling blood all over the ground from his torn lip. He fell face-first onto the ground, and tried to swat me away. I grabbed his arm again, planted a foot on the back of his neck, and snapped the limb at the elbow. His howls of pain weren’t going to be alone for long.

  The fourth man was back to his feet, but it was only for a moment before I kicked him between the legs, dropping him back to his knees. I drove my knee into his face, doing more damage to it, and knocking him out. The one I’d punched in the mouth earlier was still where I’d left him: on the ground. He was breathing, though, so either he’d hit his head or had a glass jaw—maybe both. That left the knife-wielder, who was back on his feet, looking pretty angry about everything that had happened.

  “I’m going to cut you,” he said as he started toward me. He was confident in his knife skills, although I doubted he was as good as he believed. It takes a lot to learn how to wield a knife with dangerous efficiency, although both experts and novices can kill you just as quickly if they get close enough.

  Despite the fact that there were several feet of air between us, he stabbed at nothing, presumably hoping that in my fear I’d run onto the blade and save him the trouble. I took a step toward him, and then another and another until I was close enough that it would be more effort for him to step back than just come at me with the knife. I kept eye contact with him the whole way, hoping he’d step forward and try to finish what he’d started, but he just stood there, clearly terrified of what he’d seen.

 
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