Chapter 2: Storm Clouds Gather

Chapter 2: Storm Clouds Gather

A Chapter by Patrick Masters
"

A reunion with an old associate

"

The morning proved to be rather miserable. The storm only ended a couple hours before I marched out the door, leaving the ground slippery and riddled with puddles. It was cold and people were in a hurry to get wherever they were going. It's hard to move forward because the sidewalks are crowded and people are shoving and pushing to get by to their destination. A flood of "Excuse me's and sorries" filled the air, brushing off all other sounds. One particularly rude sonofabitch pushed right past me without so much as a word, which boiled my blood.

"Watch where yer going you rude little s**t!"

The boy had moved further by that point and my outburst simply earned me the stares of those around me. With an annoyed sigh, I continued on my way. Though my anger would only be further peaked by those around me. Eventually, I came upon the final crosswalk, with the office on just the other side of the road. I checked my watch and saw it was 9:15. thinking to myself I loathed my near future.

"Abigail's definitely going to be pissed. She always has a stick up her a*s when it comes to being on time. She always tells me "The boss should always be the first one there! You need to set an example!" Set an example for who? She's the only other person I work with. what difference did it make?"

The light at the crosswalk turned green and I began to walk across before I noticed a car speeding in my direction. The driver was on the phone and did not appear to be enjoying his conversation, nor did he look like he was going to brake for pedestrians. Pacing back to the sidewalk the car zipped past as if no one had been standing there just a minute earlier. Plowing through the red light cars honked their horns, signaling their annoyance. The driver earned my ire as well. I shouted

"Get off the damn phone and watch where yer driving you JackAss."

Sighing I continued on thinking to myself

"God, why is everybody in such a damn hurry these days."  

Making my way up to the main entrance I made note of the various cracks and broken bits of stone that littered the stairs. Reaching into my right pocket I fumbled around until I found the tiny little piece of metal I needed. Jiggling it into the keyhole I turned it and unlocked the door, twisting the knob to let myself in. Taking off my hat and coat, I placed them on the rack that stood near the front door. After storing my effects I meandered over to my office and sat down at the desk. Opening one of the drawers I placed my gun inside, along with three clips of silver bullets. As expected I heard steps coming down the hall followed by an exasperated question.

"Mr. Blackwell where the hell have you been? You're almost a half hour late." Asked my pupil, Abigail.

She was a young lady, twenty years old. Her brown ponytail shifted from one side to the other as she sped around the corner into my office. Coming over to my desk she planted the book I had assigned her to read on top. Making contact with her hazel eyes through the plain rectangular glasses she wore, I explained to her with indifference why I had been late.

"Sorry Abby, the sidewalks were busy and I got out a bit late."

"I keep telling you..."

"Yes, Yes, the boss needs to be the first one. I get it. Okay. Just accept it I am not, nor will I ever be an early riser." I stated dismissively

"Whatever. I did actually have something to tell though." She said with disappointment

"Oh, joy! Is that right? What do you need to say." I responded with a hint of sarcasm

"I finished that book you gave me."

"Already? I gave you that book two days ago. It's damn near a thousand pages and the print ain't big."

"Yeah."

"Bullshit"

"Nope"

"You're lyin to me."

"No, I am not sir."

"What did you learn?"

"I learned all about the different vampire classifications from Ghouls to Progenitors. Would you like to test me?" She asked with a devilish smile, daring me to do so.

"No, I think I'm good. You seem too confident for me to throw down that gauntlet."

"Haha!" She laughed boisterously

"Yes it's a big book and I just don't feel like makin the effort."

"You never change do you."

"No, and I don't intend to. ...So is that all you wanted to tell me."

"Uh...yeeaahh...umm" She said with an uncertain tone.

"Jesus Christ if you have something to say would you just spit it out already."

"I...I want to start my practical training." She said apprehensively

"No" I retorted bluntly

"Oh come on! When then? I'm sick of reading books! I want to actually do something."

"You are doing something. You are learning."

"I want to do more than just read a bunch of books. It's all I've done these past two years! You promised to train me to be a vampire hunter. I can't become one if all I do is read! I need to learn how to fight!"

"I am not discussing this right now. I will start your practical training when I deem you ready and not a nanosecond sooner!" I snapped at her

"But..."

"My answer is no and you will not convince me otherwise. I am assigning you a new book. Head up to the library and pick out Arthur Stone's A Study on Vampiric Regeneration and Vulnerabilities. You will read it and write a report on the most vulnerable pieces of a vampire's body and the best weapons with which to attack those areas."

"But I've already read..."

"No, you haven't. The one you read was by Matthew Parker. The title and subject may be the same but they are different books. Stone's is a bit more detailed and focuses more on combat weaknesses."

"Very well then..."

BUUZZZZZZzzz! A buzz on the intercom put us both in pause. We did not receive many visitors. The office had no signs or indications that any business took place within. Abby and I shared a glance and I pressed the button to answer.

"I apologize this office is closed right now. You will have to come by another time."

The voice that replied shook me to my very core. It was the voice of a woman I had not seen in nearly a decade and it was the last one I wanted to hear today.

"Oh, Benny enough of this little charade. I know you know it's me so just drop the act and come open the door."

It was the voice of Alice Townsend, my old boss, back when I was official. What I could not understand was why she was here. My contemplation put me into a sort of daze that Abigail needed to shake me out of.

"Sir? Mr. Blackwell? Are you going to answer the door?"

"Huh? Wha...Oh yeah, I'll go do that."

"Are you feeling okay? You're looking a bit pale. Is something wrong?"

"I'm fine," I told her as I slowly paced towards the door. Reaching it I unlocked the locks and proceeded to walk away without opening the door and greeting her. This upset Abby who thought I was being rude.

"Well, aren't you going to let them in!? Why are you acting so weird." she berated me as she opened the door to reveal a middle-aged woman with long blond hair, dressed in a black pantsuit and holding an ornate cane. Making eye contact with her brought an ear to ear smile to her face and a blank expression to mine. While her's was a face I recognized I did not remember the face of the man next to her. He was an ebony man with short buzzcut hair. He had a lean muscular build and stood taller than Alice but shorter than me. He looked to be young, maybe slightly older than Abby. He wore a black suit that matched up with Ms. Townsend's attire; she had always liked things to look uniform. She opened up the conversation as we walked towards the office.

"Mr. Blackwell it's been too long. What's it been? Nine years now, going on ten"

Leading the pack into my office I ignored her pleasantries. So Alice turned her attention to my pupil, likely looking for a chink in my armor through her.

"I never thought you would take on a disciple. What's your name little one."

"Abigail, Abigail Mckay ma'am. Mr. Blackwell isn't one to talk about the past, so I'm afraid I'm a bit confused. How do you know each other?"

"Oh, he never even mentioned me?"

she turned to face me with a sarcastic smile

"Benjamin you are so cruel, acting like I never existed."

Alice then turned back to Abby and explained to her

"I guess you could say I'm his old boss, from back when Benjamin worked with our organization."

Abigail was caught off guard by that answer and stepped back, looking at me with nervous eyes.

"Mr. Blackwell this woman was your b...boss."

with a sigh, I confirmed the truth

"Yes, Miss Townsend here was the head of my division back when I was official."

Abby's mood went from nervous to excited as she started to inquire about my past.

"So what was he like back in the day?"

I thought I should shut that down.

"Abby, not now. So, Alice, I presume you have some business here; you wouldn't show up unless you did. Also, who's this guy you brought with you?"

"Oh dear! Terribly sorry. I guess I got caught up in our reunion. This is Malik Kateb he's from our African division."

Malik nodded towards me but didn't say a word. I inquired as to why he was silent.

"What? the cat got his tongue or something? Why can't he tell me that himself."

Alice explained

"Please understand, English is his third language and he still needs some time to get his sea legs back when it comes to conversation. Plus let us be honest for a minute, you can be a tad...oh let's say abrasive. Making him hold a conversation with you so soon would have felt like throwing him to the wolves."

"Okay, I get it, fair enough. So what is your business here."

"Oh yes, that. I'm afraid I need to tell you privately, so I have an idea. Abby, darling, did I see a sign that said there is a library here on my way in?"

"Oh yes, ma'am there is one. It's up on the second floor." Abby replied with a hint of curiosity.

"Wonderful! Would you be a dear and show it to Malik. You two can get to know each other and help Malik get used to speaking English again."

Before replying Abby looked at me for approval. I nodded back that it was fine.

"Okay then. If you would just follow me Mr. Kateb I'll lead you up to our library."

"Thank you miss Mckay I shall," Malik replied slowly, with a thick accent.

Before he and Abby could leave the room Alice grabbed his arm and whispered something into Malik's ear. He simply nodded to her on the way out. Once Abby and he had left the room, and we could hear them making their way up the stairs, Alice started to talk.

"Benjamin it truly is wonderful to see you." She cheerfully told me.

"Would you take off the mask already. They aren't here anymore so there is no need for the facade."

Immediately the air around Alice changed and she reverted back to the demon I knew.

"You really have not changed have you," she said seriously

"It would seem you haven't either. I guess when you reach our age you start to get set in your ways."

"Oh, how true that is."

"So, why have you sought me out. I may have been dismissive earlier, but I know you wouldn't be here unless things were serious."  

Alice paused and took a minute to think before responding.

"A situation has arisen that puts us in need of your skills."

"How bad are we talking?"

"Catastrophically so. In the last three months, we have had over four dozen agents fall victim to the same opponent."

"Bloody hell, what kind of monster are we dealing with here?"

"One that is both strong and smart. You know Malik, the man I brought in earlier."

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well, as things stand at the agency, we had high hopes for him. Before this incident, we believed he could be the next you. Now it's become clear that we don't have anyone like that."

"What happened to him?"

"Let's just say it took us three weeks to regenerate the limbs he lost."

I became wide-eyed at that fact.

"The man you thought would be the next me lost multiple limbs to this s**t? Jesus Christ!"

"I'm afraid that's not the worst of it."

"It's not? Do I even want to know?"

"Yes, I'm afraid you do. This bit of information specifically concerns you and is the main reason this needed to be a private conversation."

She looked at me with pity in her eyes before speaking

"Just spit it out already. Whatever it is I can take it."

"All the evidence we have managed to gather has led us to only one plausible conclusion. The vampire, Lucian Magus, has returned."

The room went silent. Alice, who had always been the cool and collected type, had nervousness plastered all over her face. I was different. A fire began to burn my gut. It was a feeling I hadn't felt in years.

"That is not possible."

Alice tried to speak with caution

"Benjamin I know this is..."

"No! Your intel is wrong! Someone screwed up! I killed that b*****d myself! I saw his body disintegrate with my own eyes! Lucian is dead!" I yelled in a voice much too loud for the sensitive information we were dealing with, earning the ire of Alice, who returned to her normal disposition. Needing to resist screaming herself, she scolded me.

"Would you please comport yourself as an adult! I told you this information is sensitive. Stop yelling like a child. The reality is what it is and you need to accept it. Whatever you thought you did twenty-five years ago, you didn't finish the job."

My temper was getting the better of me. I had to admit, she had a point. I was acting immature and that wasn't going to solve anything.

"So you're absolutely certain we are dealing with Lucian?"

"Just about. We have never heard of or seen any other vampire with the same capabilities."

"Who else knows about this?'

"Not many. The top brass is afraid if word gets around that he's back it will throw people into a panic. Only the heads of the various divisions have been made aware, with strict orders not to tell anyone, without express permission to do so."

"Wow, I almost feel kind of special."

"This is not a time for jokes Benjamin. We need you now more than ever. Even if you didn't actually kill him you're still the only person to have ever bested him in a fight. Do you think you can do it again?"

"I don't know. As you can probably tell I ain't as young as I used to be. This blade may be getting a bit dull."

"Stop beating around the bush, I need a yes or no."

"I'm not beating around the bush. I was in the middle of my prime the last time I fought him. Now I'm pretty far past it. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it; I have my doubts as to whether I could beat him in my current condition. But I'm also not certain I couldn't do it. I'm gonna need to see the reports you have on Lucian's current condition. Even if I didn't kill him, I must have damaged him enough to make him go into hiding for twenty-five years. He might not have regained his original strength."

"Fair enough I suppose"

"So, can you get me the information that I need?"

"There will likely be a bit of red tape to get through, but I should be able to get you what you need. However, you'll have to come with me to headquarters."

"Wha? Why do I need to go to that rat's den?"

"Because, like I said, this information is sensitive. They won't give me clearance to let you see it unless they know it is going to you."

"I guess things really don't change. The higher-ups always were a bunch of uptight pricks."

"So are you coming? Please try to be an adult. We all have to do things we wish we didn't."

"Oh piss off, of course I'm coming. This is Lucian we're dealing with! Did you really think I would leave this to those baffoons in HQ?"

"No, I didn't."

"Of course you didn't. So when are we leaving?"

"There is a flight that we booked for three days from now. Gather whatever you intend to take. Pack on the heavy side, even with you there, it will probably take some time."

"I'll make sure to do that."

"Oh and what of the girl."

"Abigail, we have a ticket for her too."

"Excuse me? No. Just no."

"Fine then if that's how you want it. I don't have anything else I need to say so, we should probably tell those two upstairs that we're heading out."

The thought of Alice leaving seemed like music to my ears.

"That sounds just great. I'll be right behind you."

Leaving the room and turning the corner we both made our way towards the stairs, with me taking the front. Leading Alice upstairs, she was able to see the library we had. It was far from the largest she had ever seen, but for our small operation, it was pretty impressive. Books lined shelves along the perimeter of the room that stood as high as twelve feet. In the middle, there were a couple tables and some chairs that Abigail and Malik were seated in. Malik seemed to be laughing at something Abby had said.

"Ahaha! Is that right Ms. Mckay? How funny! I could never have imagined that!"

I inquired as to the nature of their conversation.

"So you guys seem to be having a good time. Might I ask what's got ya laughing so hard."

"Ah! Mr. Blackwell; Abigail here was just telling me about what it was like working with a man of your stature."

"Oh really, and do tell what did Abby have to say," I said while looking at Abby with curiosity. At this, Abby shrunk into her chair. Malik, however, was happy to explain in his thick accent.

"She was just telling me that you are a "late riser" and that she often is the first one here by about a half hour."

"Oh, is that right? What else did she tell you about."

"Nothing of too much note, just what you can be like. You are not what I expected."

He said with an innocent look. I couldn't really tell if he meant to say what he did, or if he was blissfully unaware of the implications of what he was saying. Knowing that he was one of Alice's men it was likely to be the former.

"Well, that is good to know."

"Yes, Mr. Blackwell. So Ms. Townsend are you two finished with your business? Should we be heading out?"

"Yes we should, we have a trip to prepare for."

"Oh you have somewhere you need to go?" asked a curious Abby

"Yes, we have a flight to catch in a few days. We'll be heading to America. Benjamin will be coming with us. You can come too if you would like to?"

said Alice who smiled in my direction knowing I couldn't say no now.

"Really! Sir, will I really get to come too?"

"Well...um...uh...yes you will be allowed to come. But don't think that gets you out of reading that book I assigned you."

"Oh of course. May I head home and start packing things."

Scratching the greyish hair on my head I consented

"Well there really ain't much else to do around here, is there? Go ahead."

"Thanks, boss!" she said while heading out at a brisk pace. Turning to Alice I told her

"You little snake. I should've expected you would pull that kind of s**t."

"Indeed you should have. Malik, we are heading out. We need to start prepping as well."

"Yes ma'am," he replied

Slowly the two of them made their way down the stairs and out the door. Following them out I could see that the day had taken a turn for the better. The overcast had started to clear and a few rays of light had begun to poke through.  One of the rays settled on my face and I had to squint and look away. Turning back inside my mind focused solely on the imminent confrontation I was preparing for.









© 2017 Patrick Masters



Author's Note

Patrick Masters
I hope you enjoy.

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Added on October 17, 2017
Last Updated on November 1, 2017