Lucas Black lowered his gun as his target crumpled to the ground. Out on the street, the crush of city workers rushed past, scarcely noticing the fallen man. Those who did barely hesitated—helping him to complete another mission for The Order of Orion. Silencers made his job a damn sight easier too. The slight snap of the shot had been swallowed by the din of traffic and the wild rhythm of nearby street performers playing metal drums.
The Order had observed Fromberg’s miserable life for a fortnight. An investigative journalist, with no friends or family, he’d been a solitary figure. Easy to track. Cigarettes and his work at The Detroit News had dominated his life, but it was his obsession with his latest story that had catapulted him straight onto their hit list. Secrecy was vital. Chances couldn’t be taken.
“Sweet shot, Black.” Granger stood beside him watching the scene unfold. “But I wish you’d give me a chance. It’s been four months.”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunities to complete a mission. Give it time.”
“I’m ready now.”
“Nothing prepares you for a kill order. It never gets easier. Trust me.”
“I can handle it. You need to trust me.”
Lucas grunted his reply. Granger was a pain in the ass, but he reminded Lucas of himself years ago, when he too had craved retribution.
But the similarity ended there.
Granger hadn’t had his heart ripped out. Granger didn’t burn with grief and revenge. No, the rookie had signed up to become an assassin because he was an arrogant twenty-three-year-old chasing glory and female adulation within The Order. Things Lucas had never sought or claimed. He was seven years older than Granger, but it might as well have been a lifetime.
As he stared across the street at his latest kill, there was nothing but emptiness inside him. A woman had finally stopped to help. She screamed and glanced around in panic. Gunshot wounds were hard to miss.
“Time to go.” He threw the semiautomatic pistol into a nearby dumpster and jumped into the passenger seat of the white hatchback they’d lifted a few hours ago. Revving the engine, Granger rocketed down the street, narrowly missing the corner of the dumpster.
“Easy. Don’t bring attention to us.” Lucas glanced over his shoulder. Meticulous planning and clandestine operation methods were the cornerstones of The Order, not gung ho gangster action.
“So, Tom Licari is gonna go down as the trigger man?” asked Granger.
He shrugged. “Fromberg’s been investigating Licari’s links to the motorcycle wars and it’s Licari’s gun.”
“Using our abilities to eliminate him would’ve been less messy.”
He gritted his teeth. “Eliminating targets is easy. But leaving a zero footprint isn’t. All kill orders need to be completed by ordinary human means. It’s our way.”
“Yeah, yeah. I hear you. Stealth is our friend.”
Lucas chose to look out the window instead of dropping a left hook into Granger’s face.
Driving through the seedier part of downtown Detroit, they passed liquor stores and shop fronts with barred windows. Granger eased the car to stop in front of their hotel. Run down and unwelcoming, it was in urgent need of a face-lift, just like the surrounding area. Frequented by hookers and the desperate, the hotel had an air of furtiveness that suited their mission.
“Dump the car and don’t get noticed.” Lucas unfolded from the hatchback, pulled his black hoodie up and made his way into the hotel.
A female hotel attendant, safely encapsulated behind a glass barrier, sat a little straighter when she spied Lucas. “Hi, sugar. You need anything?”
Without a glance, he continued through the tired-looking lobby. Her not-so-subtle offer was of no interest to him. He scanned the corridor carefully before entering his room. It paid to be vigilant. Hovels like this one bred rodents—of the human kind.
Threadbare mismatched furniture greeted him, but thankfully the room was undisturbed. He moved to stand beside the window, which afforded a delightful view of a brick wall from the building next door. Scanning his palm over his tablet device, he logged in for orders. A photo of Fromberg flashed up under their current orders and he checked it off as completed.
Scrolling down, he found their next order. Capture two emerging Starborn from a psychiatric hospital, and eliminate their psychologist, a Doctor Willow Trilby.
He clicked on the related documents and perused the psychologist’s file; twenty-six years old, recently moved to Nova Scotia, lived alone. He followed the links to a web page with an article from the University of British Columbia, Canada.
A photo showed her accepting a PhD. A ridiculous feather cap sat on a mop of flame-red curls and bright blue eyes stared into the camera. Lucas sucked in his breath.
He rechecked the mission brief.
Four red letters. KILL.
There was no option for elimination through memory erasure. The Order of Orion had deemed her PhD research into the paranormal a high threat to their discovery. As with Fromberg, chances couldn’t be taken. Orders needed to be followed. Sometimes this job was a complete bitch.
Lucas peered through the scope of his long-range sniper rifle to better see his target. Her long red hair made her easy prey. Even in the miserable afternoon rain so typical of Nova Scotia, she stood out like glowing embers in gray ash.
“How much longer do we have to wait?” Granger crouched beside him under a large white spruce tree. “It’s been days. She’s alone in a cottage in the middle of nowhere. It’s a slam dunk. I’m sick of being freaking wet.”
Lucas didn’t bother to look over at Granger, and instead kept his gaze trained on Trilby as she gathered firewood from the large woodpile at the back of her cottage. She wore floral pajamas and ridiculously large white fluffy slippers.
“We don’t do anything until I say so.”
Lucas frowned. “You’re keen. I understand that, but watching and not rushing in Rambo-style gets better results.”
Granger snapped off a twig and jabbed it at the wet forest floor. “Why have that rifle if we can’t use it?”
“Noctem. If they arrive first and try to capture the Starborn then we have permission to engage. Otherwise, we wait until we get a good opportunity for a clean kill that’ll look like an accident.”
Granger let out a long drawn out sigh. Within a minute, he was talking again. “Lucky she’s hot. A nice bit of ass to watch even in that getup.”
Lucas gripped the rifle tighter. “She is our target, not one of your playthings.”
“She’s still hot. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the hunt. A cute little mouse is more fun for this cat. What’s it to you anyway?”
“Nothing. I’m just sick of your fucking talk.”
They both watched her walk into the tiny cottage and close the door against the approaching night. Lights illuminated the cottage and suddenly they had a clear view of her movements through the building’s windows. She filled her coffee pot with water at the kitchen sink and then set it back into her coffee maker. It was a mundane activity, and on the surface she hardly seemed a threat. But dig down, and Doctor Willow Trilby was their number one enemy.
Her psychology research into paranormal abilities at Halifax’s Queensgate Psychiatric Hospital was getting dangerous. She was close to discovering that two of her patients had Starborn ability and stumbling upon The Order of Orion’s two-hundred-year-old secrets.
The sound of Trilby’s phone ringing saved them from any further discussion. He pulled out his Order issued tablet device and swiped the screen to intercept her cell phone.
An official and somewhat pompous voice informed her that the hospital board was lifting her twenty-four hour suspension and that she needed to report to a Doctor Barclay tomorrow morning. Trilby thanked the caller and hung up.
Lucas stared at Trilby through her living room window. The forest was pitch-black now and she stood out in the cottage as though under spotlights. She still held the phone in her hand and he watched as she dialed a number. He made sure he was patched in and waited to see who answered.
“Professor Laidley,” answered an elderly male.
“Professor, it’s me, Willow.”
“Willow, how are you? Any word from the hospital?”
“Yes, they’ve just called.”
“And?” he asked, his voice full of concern.
“They’re letting me keep my job but I need to adhere to strict new supervision arrangements.”
“Thank God. And your research?”
Trilby’s voice cracked. “On hold.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll keep the funding. They’re just being cautious. But what in God’s name possessed you to access health records you didn’t have authorization for?”
“Eve.” Trilby’s voice trembled.
“Willow, you’ve hired private investigators, been given access to foster care files. It’s all led to nothing. She doesn’t want to be found. You need to let go and move on. Go back to work tomorrow and make sure you take the second chance they’re offering.”
Trilby had turned her back to the window but Lucas could hear the lack of conviction in her voice. Knew she wasn’t ready to let go. She placed the phone on the table and then hugged herself for a few moments. He couldn’t help but feel a pang of pity for her—not for her imminent death, because that was necessary—but for her fruitless search for her sister. He’d read about it in Trilby’s file, but hearing her pain as she spoke about her sister made it more real. Memories of his own family flowed through him. His gut tightened and for a few seconds he fought for control, trying to stay in the moment and not be taken back to those dark days. Clenching his fists, he reminded himself why he was here—to protect Starborn and their families from discovery. Trilby’s private search for her sister might be harmless, but her professional research into the paranormal wasn’t.
“She’s a threat,” he said, surprising himself that he said the words out loud. “She’s found a link between patients with delusions of supernatural ability and high suicide rate.”
“Yeah, shit. Our method of covering our abductions has gone statistical.”
Granger’s eyes glittered. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s come up with a way to complete the order now. A gas leak should do the job.” He stood up and made a move toward the cottage.
Lucas grabbed Granger’s arm, tugging him back. “I’m giving her one more day. Something about her warrants more observation.”
Granger looked incredulous and then a sly grin spread across his face. “That something wouldn’t be about her hellfire hot body, would it?”
Granger’s comment irritated Lucas more than it should have and he found himself firing back, “Do you always have to think with your dick?”
“Yeah, I do. That’s the beauty of being a hot-blooded male. Maybe you’re finally doing the same. Too bad it’s for a kill order.”
Willow changed into her fourth outfit for that morning, and was finally satisfied. The gray mid-calf length dress screamed serious professional. It was only material, but she’d wear it like armor for her return back to Queensgate Hospital. She needed any help she could get. Accessing restricted patient files and getting caught was a big deal. She smiled at her bedroom mirror, trying to look genuine and contrite, but it was difficult when disappointment and frustration tore at her insides. Turning up nothing, again, was crushing. Smoothing down her dress, she tried to rally her thoughts and emotions. She wasn't giving up on Eve. It wasn’t even an option. One day they’d be together again. Soon, she promised herself, it would be soon. She ignored the little voice that reminded her that this had been her daily vow for the last fifteen years and that she was still no closer to finding Eve.
Sighing, she completed her professional image by scraping her long red hair up into a prim-looking bun and slipping her feet into sensible flat shoes. Her patients might wonder why she wasn't wearing her usual jeans, but they wouldn't hold this new look against her. And that’s who really mattered today. Not the bureaucrats who would joyfully rake her over the coals, but the lost souls she was trying to study and understand.
Her research on delusions of paranormal ability though, wasn't just a professional interest.
She walked into her living room and stopped to take in her obsession. Hundreds of printouts and newspaper clippings were taped to the walls. Every spare spot covered. It was a little serial killeresque, but she liked to see her research grouped according to paranormal sub-types. Telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, shape shifting, and of course vampires. On the supernatural websites recently, every man and his dog claimed to be a vampire. But she was more interested in finding people with metaphysical abilities.
People like her. And maybe like her long-lost sister.
She stared at the old Polaroid of Eve taped to the wall in the center of her clippings. For fifteen years she’d searched for Eve; hired private investigators, petitioned the courts, checked public records, only to reach a dead end every time. Now the only avenue left was to find others born with metaphysical ability like herself. It was a long shot. But if she had this strange gift, surely her twin might too. A heart full of childhood memories and hope drove her forward. Made her do things that she wouldn’t normally do. Like illegally accessing health records. She reached out and peeled the Polaroid off the wall. She needed it close to her today and it fit perfectly into the pocket of her dress. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her laptop bag and walked out of the cottage ready to play nice with the hospital and grab the second chance they were offering.
After a forty-minute drive in her old Mustang, Willow arrived at Queensgate Psychiatric Hospital. Located in the outskirts of Halifax, it was built in the late eighteen hundreds, making it one of the oldest private psychiatric hospitals in Canada. Four stories high, it featured Victorian archways and detail, and possessed a grim presence so common in old asylums. Squaring her shoulders, she entered the hospital and accepted the stipulations of her return to work arrangement as proposed by her line manager. An hour later she was regretting her decision. She didn’t mind the elderly Doctor Barclay having to scrutinize her work, but she did mind being in the same room as him when she knew he was packing a major hard-on behind his desk. Emotional telepathy could be a gift and a curse. When you could feel crazy lustful vibes radiating from an elderly psychiatrist, it was the latter.
The shrunken gray-haired Doctor Barclay spoke to her with the utmost respect, but she found it hard to concentrate when she could feel his arousal reach out to her from across the room. Willow shook her head, trying to block his aura from reaching hers but failed dismally. If only she had better control, but her ability was erratic and unpredictable. Sometimes she could sense another person’s emotions with perfect clarity, like now, and other times she could detect nothing. Sometimes she could block their feelings, sometimes she couldn’t. As a young teenager it had been a nightmare, now it was a daily frustration she’d learned to accept.
Early on she’d lashed out, accidentally transferring her own emotions onto others and then later she’d experimented—influencing people’s moods on purpose. Guilt pushed at her for those times, even though she’d sworn never to manipulate another’s free will again. As Doctor Barclay’s lust continued to float across the room, this vow was sorely tested. Steering his emotions in another direction would make this session way more comfortable. With a start, she realized Doctor Barclay was waiting for a response from her and she hurriedly gave a noncommittal reply.
After another thirty minutes of clinical reflection she was free to go back onto the ward and prepare for her usual morning group therapy program. As she walked through the hospital’s rabbit warren of corridors, she told herself she should be grateful. Her research project would re-commence after an independent review. Everything would be fine. They would find nothing. She might have crossed the line with taking a peek at the health record system, but her research project was beyond reproach, her data gathering meticulous and ethical. The results would speak for themselves—a much higher suicide rate for patients with a paranormal type delusion than any other type of delusion. This was observable. Measurable.
Of course, her own theory behind this finding was less objective and more along the lines of crazy—that some of these patients did in fact have metaphysical abilities and took their own lives in despair because they couldn’t prove it. So yeah, she wouldn’t be sharing that hypothesis when the audit happened. No need for the hospital and university boards to think she was as crazy as her patients.
After taking the decrepit elevator to level four, she made her way to the group therapy room. Even with the harsh fluorescent lights on, the windowless room was bleak and depressing. A few weeks ago, she’d tried to relocate the life skills program to the hospital grounds, but the hospital board had denied her request, citing it as too unorthodox. She sighed, looking around the room. At least the orderly had already prepped the room, arranging six plastic chairs around a large blue fitness mat. Six red boxing gloves were lined up next to the mat, and her mood lifted at the prospect of running today’s segment on basic self-defense. Teaching freshman protective skills at British Columbia University was something she’d missed since moving to the East Coast.
“Hi, Doctor Trilby, can I come in?” Paige Miller stood at the doorway with her eyes downcast.
Willow nodded and gave her a gentle smile. “Hi, Paige.”
Paige chose the seat farthest from Willow. Dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, Paige pulled her legs up onto the chair and hugged them to her chest. Although the long-sleeve shirt hid most of Paige’s disfigured skin, horrific burn scars could still be seen on her throat and wrists. Willow’s heart contracted painfully for the twenty-one-year-old. Diagnosed with a delusion of self-accusation, Paige blamed herself for the death of her parents in a house fire, claiming she had created the fire with her mind. She’d been reluctant to engage in therapy so far and Willow hoped that today’s session might appeal to the young woman.
All at once, the rest of the patients filed into the room and Willow directed them to the seats. “Welcome, everyone, to session four of our life skills program.”
Paige continued to hug herself and stare straight ahead as the other four patients settled into the circle. Isobel Stone, the only other woman in the group, chose to sit beside Paige. They couldn’t be more different in appearance or temperament. Isobel was a vision of gothic drama; bright blue hair cascaded down her back, contrasting vividly with her pale complexion and all black clothing. Unlike Paige, Isobel radiated energy outward. Her angry aura pummeled Willow internally, while her constant verbal challenges kept Willow on her toes in every session.
On the other side of Paige sat Gabriel Cole, a twenty-six-year-old with a diagnosis of amphetamine induced delusions. A tall, athletic man with full-sleeve tattoos, Gabriel looked intimidating, but had so far proved to be the group’s teddy bear. She’d been interested in his claims of telekinetic ability noted in his chart, but he’d expressed none of those in the group so far. Beside him was Mark Harrison, the eldest of the group at forty-one. Overweight and balding, he was a poster child for middle-aged despondency. Mark was the most vocal in his delusions, frequently bemoaning that his wife had been trying to poison him for years. The final seat was taken by the youngest group member and self-proclaimed geek, Jack Winton.
Once everyone was settled, she addressed the group. “Let’s start with how your week’s been.”
Everyone, including Isobel, looked everywhere except at Willow. Gabriel was suddenly fascinated by a crocheted wall hanging. Silence stretched from seconds to close to a minute.
Finally, Jack spoke up. “I’ve had one of my better weeks since I came here six weeks ago.”
“Six weeks? I hope I’m not stuck in this hellhole for six freaking weeks,” said Isobel, playing with her blue hair.
Others murmured in agreement on the hellhole comment. If Willow wanted to avoid trash-talk about the hospital, she needed to move it along. She motioned to Jack. “Can you remind us of what brought you here to Queensgate?”
He swallowed and pushed his thick-lensed glasses up on the bridge of his nose. Long, shaggy brown hair covered much of his face. “Mom sent me here to help me cope. I can’t get over what the aliens did to me. Even though they let me come back to earth and be with my family, I can’t move on. I want to feel normal. I want to be just like everyone else.”
Isobel interrupted again, leaning forward with an incredulous expression. “Why would you want to be like everyone else? That’s my idea of abnormal.”
Leave it to Isobel to focus on the normality comment rather than Jack’s alien abduction belief. “Thank you, Isobel and Jack for sharing with the group,” said Willow, deciding to shut the discussion down to keep the group supportive. “Let’s start with the body awareness exercise from last week. Focus on your breathing and push out your emotional pain with each exhale.”
Willow walked around the circle, checking the posture of each group member. Some were more into it than others. Jack had his eyes closed and was channeling his inner yogi. Paige sat still, no movement discernible, while Isobel had her eyes open and surveyed the group with disdain.
“Slowly open your eyes,” said Willow, using a calm voice. “Continue to breathe slowly. Notice the areas in your body that are tense and try to relax them.”
After a few minutes, Willow handed out the boxing gloves. She invited her patients onto the mat and held up a strike shield tight to her body. Her left hand grasped the top hand grip, while her right forearm was strapped in across the back of the shield.
“I’m going to show you some basic moves then I’ll get you to break into pairs and each take a turn.”
“Gabriel, come up first and we’ll have a go.” Best to get the big guy up and spar with him. Despite his sweet manner, his size and tattoos made him look pretty intimidating.
“Lift your gloves, hold them in tight to your chest, and then give me a few soft taps.” Willow put herself in a defensive stance. She gritted her teeth as he gave a few punches, the sounds echoing across the room. “Good job.” She looked around the group and added, “One of the keys to self-defense is confidence. We’ll work on the gloves and shield first and then later if you’re feeling comfortable, we can focus on some basic break hold moves.”
Surprisingly, Isobel was already pulling on a pair of gloves, her eyes shining with excitement. Paige, on the other hand, sat with her arms wrapped around herself, ignoring the gloves on the floor in front of her.
Willow spoke to the whole group but her message was primarily for Paige, “If at any stage you feel uncomfortable, let me know and we can have a chat. If you’re not keen on the physical contact then I can come up with some individual exercises you can do at your own pace.”
Willow walked around to give occasional words of encouragement or suggest a different stance as the patients began sparring. Gabriel gently punched the shield held by the overweight Mark, who tried his best not to get knocked over. Isobel called out encouragement to Jack, who was timid in his strikes against her shield. Paige, however, remained sitting in her chair, staring down at the ground.
Willow picked up Paige’s untouched gloves and shield. “Would you like to take a turn with someone?”
Paige shook her head.
“How about you throw a few punches at me first. I don’t mind.”
Paige seemed to retreat further into the chair. “No. I don’t want to.”
“Come on, don’t be a chicken,” called out Isobel, who stopped sparring to watch.
Willow ground her teeth at Isobel’s encouragement.
Paige’s face crumpled. “I don’t want to and Doctor Trilby said I don’t have to participate if I don’t want to.”
Isobel walked over to stand beside Paige. “I’ll spar with you if you want?”
Paige covered her face with her disfigured hands. “No.”
Willow stepped forward. “Isobel, thank you for offering but let’s leave Paige to go at her own pace.”
The whole group now stopped and stared. A few of them called out words of encouragement to Paige.
Suddenly, Paige jumped to her feet and shouted, “Leave me alone. Don’t come near me. I’ll hurt you, I know I will.” Her eyes darted around as though looking for an escape.
Goosebumps appeared on Willow’s arms, tingling some kind of warning. She put her hands up reassuringly. “It’s okay. No one is going to force you.”
Isobel, however, wouldn’t leave it alone. “Paige, you’re so timid, this sort of thing is exactly what you need. Pretend you’re punching some asshole, that’s what I’m doing and it feels great.”
“Isobel!” Willow shook her head. “Please let Paige choose her degree of participation.”
Paige began to rock back and forth on her feet. The temperature of the room suddenly became stiflingly hot. Willow wiped away beads of sweat off her brow. “Paige?”
Paige stopped rocking and let out a wild and tortured scream. Her eyes stared vacantly ahead, her body immobile except for her open mouth. In the periphery of Willow’s vision, a burst of orange flame flashed just as Gabriel shouted, “Fire! Fire!”
In the blink of an eye, the room erupted into chaos.
Flames licked the edges of the floor mats. Then the boxing gloves too burst into flames. The patients yelled and threw their gloves to the ground in panic. Willow raced toward the emergency buzzer near the door, only to be forced back by a sudden rush of heat. Flames leapt up from the floor, seemingly coming from nowhere—forming a barrier to the exit. She turned to look at Paige, who continued to wail as though deep in shock, or what Willow suspected was some sort of trance. Willow went to her without hesitation or thought of the fire, laying her hands on Paige and trying to use her ability to calm her, certain Paige and the fire were connected. She’d sworn off manipulating other people’s emotions after previous disasters, but now she had no choice except to try.
Touching Paige was like meeting with agony itself. “Paige? Paige!”
Desperate to help the troubled young woman feel safe, Willow steeled herself to feel calm. She focused on sending serenity through her arms, hands and then her fingertips, and into Paige. Rather than soothing her, Paige’s emotions intensified to an unbearable state. Willow coughed as smoke filled her lungs and the acrid smell of burning plastic invaded her nostrils. The flames rose higher as the fire alarm screamed a shrill warning.
Willow dragged Paige away from the flames and toward the rest of the group who huddled near the solitary window at the back of the room. Paige allowed herself to be moved, but didn’t stop her screeching. Willow took a quick look out the window and her heart went cold; the car park lay four stories below.
Everyone looked to her for what to do next.
She took a deep breath and slapped Paige across the face. Hard.
The screeching stopped, but the fire continued.
Gabriel stood and moved in front of everyone, getting perilously close to the fire.
“Gabriel! Stay back, the fire brigade is on its way,” she shouted.
“Doctor Trilby, please trust me,” he said softly, staring at something intently.
Willow turned her head to look at what his eyes were fixated on—the fire extinguisher surrounded by flames. “No. Don’t try and get it.”
In one of the priceless moments where you witness the unbelievable, the fire extinguisher lifted up off its bracket and levitated in the air. It wobbled and then dropped to the floor.
“No!” Gabriel cried out in frustration and rushed forward to the extinguisher.
Fearful of him being hurt by the flames that were now dangerously close, she grabbed his shoulder to hold him back. The power that surged from him through her fingertips almost threw her off her feet. She was consumed by determination as waves of emotion from Gabriel crashed through her. The extinguisher again rose in the air. This time, steady. It floated above the flames. In the distant background the wail of sirens sounded. Within moments, the extinguisher rested in Gabriel’s hands. White foam covered the flames and after a few minutes the fire was out.
Willow’s heart pounded with excitement as she stared at the extinguisher in Gabriel’s hands. “It’s true, it’s really true,” she whispered to herself. “I knew I couldn’t be the only one.” The years of searching and finding nothing all crowded in on her. She wanted to collapse in relief.
“You just moved that extinguisher through the freaking air!” yelled Isobel.
“I can’t believe it.” Gabriel shook his head, his eyes wide. “I’ve never been able to do it in front of anyone before.”
Isobel pushed her blue hair back off her face. “I’d say that was the perfect time, ’cause you just saved our asses.”
Willow’s elation took a sudden nosedive when she saw Paige. The young woman knelt and sobbed into her scarred hands, her burns taking on new meaning. “Paige? It’s okay, you’re okay,” said Willow, crouching down to comfort her.
Shouts from the other side of the door heralded the fire department’s arrival. Relief poured through everyone as the burly firemen in their bright yellow coats entered and secured the room. Hospital staff quickly ushered Willow and her patients out of the room for medical treatment.
She had no idea what to tell the hospital board about a fire starting from nowhere and an extinguisher floating through the air.
But she sure as hell knew she would be suspended. Again.
“Holy shit! Did you see that?” Granger banged the steering wheel of their stolen minivan with excitement. “He just lifted that extinguisher!”
Lucas stared in horror at the Queensgate’s security feed on his tablet device. Paige Miller and Gabriel Cole had just demonstrated their Starborn ability in a room full of ordinaries and in front of a researcher desperate for paranormal evidence. “Our mission has just been fast tracked.”
“Shit yeah, it’s just hit freaking DEFCON one.” Granger fist pumped the air.
Patients and staff streamed out of the hospital and into the car park, swarming around their stolen minivan. The hospital fire alarm bleated loudly adding to the sense of chaos as a fire crew pushed through the agitated crowd.
“No more waiting, right?” Granger’s eyes shone. “We got to do something now.”
For once Lucas agreed with him. “Eliminate all digital evidence. Now.”
“Got it.” Granger closed his eyes. Despite his overzealous behavior, his electrokinesis made him a key asset to the military arm of The Order. Interfering with security systems and removing a Starborn’s digital footprint came in handy. The feed from the hospital security system went black; the last image was of staff escorting Trilby and her patients down one of the many hospital corridors. He thought of Trilby’s mentor, Professor Laidley. “Make sure you immobilize all communication. No Internet. No cell phones.”
Granger opened his eyes. “Done, now what?”
“We go in,” said Lucas, stashing the electronic device in the glove compartment. “We can’t risk the information spreading outside the hospital.” Out of habit, his fingers sought the Beretta strapped to his chest.
The movement wasn't lost on Granger, whose smile widened. “About time.”
“No guns unless it’s absolutely necessary. Follow my lead. We can’t mess this up.” In truth, it was already a clusterfuck, but he didn't want the rookie screwing it up any further.
“Yeah, yeah. How are we gonna do it?”
Extracting two Starborn and killing an ordinary in plain sight wasn’t ideal. But they could use the chaos of the fire to their advantage. “We’ll make it look like the two Starborn patients make a breakout together. A Bonnie and Clyde escape during the chaos of the fire. Trilby can meet with an accident.”
“How we gonna kill her?”
Lucas didn’t answer straight away, his head and heart doing battle. “A fall down the stairs.”
Lucas nodded, ignoring the unfamiliar tension pumping through his system. “I’ll wipe anyone’s memory that sees us.” He stared directly into the rookie’s eyes. “Quick in and out. No drama.”
Lucas waited until Granger nodded in agreement before leaving the minivan. The fire alarm had stopped and they merged into the crowd now flowing back into the hospital. Many of the patients were distressed and required staff attention, allowing him and Granger to slip through a security door undetected. They took the internal stairs to the top level of the hospital, both silent and focused on the mission at hand. Opening the stairwell door, they found the corridor empty and began systematically searching the rabbit warren of rooms for Trilby and her patients. Over the years, Lucas had done plenty of snatch and grabs from mental hospitals—they were prime places for people who had emerging abilities they couldn’t control or understand. Queensgate was the same as the rest, full of lonely and dejected people huddled in ugly white rooms lit by over-bright fluorescent lights. But no Trilby and no Starborn.
A loud crack reverberated through the ward. He stilled, trying to make out the sound and where it had come from. Another crack, and then another. Gunshots. And then screams and cries for help. Lucas pulled out his Beretta and checked the chamber. He turned to Granger who already had his gun poised. Lucas mouthed, “Noctem,” and Granger nodded, his face flushed with excitement. Rookies. So eager to fight, so eager to face death.
“Cover me from behind. No heroics.” Lucas took a deep breath and ran along the main corridor straight into bedlam.