The Gifts of Gotham
I remembered the night I'd met Isabella Swan. The dream haunted me often, when I would begin to think about where she was, wondered if she was safe, or even alive? After her brother had died on my watch, she had left me behind. I couldn't blame her. Her anger and resentment would follow me for the rest of my days on Earth. It had been my job to look after the pair. I had taken on the task. I had believed it was because I was familiar with the unfamiliar. I could lend a helping hand for their situation. I now wondered if it would have been best if I had never laid eyes on them at all. What a sight that had been, the first time I had met Isabella Swan…
I was awoken from my dream by a pillow colliding with my face. I growled and tossed the pillow off the bed and opened my eyes. It was still dark. I looked over and saw the clock, telling me it was the very early morning hours.
"Geez. What is it, Emmett?"
"Hey, I tried the whole Mr. Cullen thing. Sorry, but I'm not your Alfred. I'm not about to keep your house and wipe your ass."
I knew it was a mistake to let Emmett come and stay with me. I ran my hand over my face to wipe the sleep from my eyes. I'd had a rough night, and now, I had to deal with Emmett's ornery ass.
"Just tell me what you're doing in my room at three o'clock in the morning?"
Emmett huffed and backed up from the bed. "There's a fire down at one of your warehouses. It looks bad. Something sinister is going down. I can feel it."
"That's funny coming from you. The last time I checked, Jasper was the one with pathokinetic abilities," I retorted.
"Well, you'd better get your ass up and hope I don't use my strongman abilities on you." Emmett began to walk away and shouted as he went, "And answer your own damn phone from now on."
I leaned over and grabbed my cell phone. I saw it was lit up with messages from my assistants and various other heads in my company. I began to regret ever attempting to get a decent night's sleep. It would have been easier to just stay up and deal with this drama, than to drag myself out of bed and drive all the way down to the docks to find out what had happened. I knew when I'd purchased the location, it would be the scene for possible shady deals. I wasn't ignorant of what the area had to offer. Illegal drugs and arms. Sex trafficking. But I'd thought my presence down at the southside of the wharf would have been the start of cleaning up that area.
I wanted to take a quick shower to wake myself up, but I knew my immediate attendance was needed on the scene, so I grabbed a coffee and jumped into my Quattroporte to get down to the warehouse. Blocks away from the location, I could already see the smoke billowing out from the fire. The flames lit up the sky, and I wondered what could have started this. My warehouses were still vacant, having only been purchased a few weeks before. There wasn't anything worth its salt to cause the ignition, or fuel to keep a fire going for this long.
I jumped out of the car and proceeded towards the police tape, ducking underneath it. The hardworking firefighters had already managed to get the fire contained. I saw the man Emmett and I had just spoken about and headed towards his direction.
"Detective Whitlock," I greeted.
"Edward," he said, shaking my hand. "Nice of you to join us. Afraid to say, this doesn't look good. There were people inside."
I narrowed my eyes in question.
"Yes, when I first arrived, I could feel them, as they burned and died. I don't feel them anymore."
When Jasper decided to move back to the city, we felt that, with his abilities, it would be best to insert him into a position with constant police contact and resources. My other brother, Emmett, was strong, but we still had no idea what to do with him, since he had issues with knowing how to be professional.
"The firefighters have reported bodies, but they still don't know what the cause of the fire is. We probably won't know till later," Jasper added.
"I don't know what it could be. The damn building was completely vacant. Please, send me the reports the moment you receive them."
Another hour later, they had finally made some headway with the fire. Firefighters were bringing out bodies with the help of the paramedics. From what I could tell, they all looked like they would be the kind of people you would find in an abandoned warehouse at this time of night, probably participating in unscrupulous dealings. Suddenly, a firefighter began yelling for everyone's attention.
"We have survivors! Get the EMT's ready!"
Two paramedics rushed past me, and I couldn't help but follow along after. I know I was not wearing the proper gear, but I had to see for myself. We all rushed into the building. The structure was completely black and charred, but all our feet skidded to a halt, when we took in the scene before us. Two kids, probably not much older than fifteen or sixteen, stood holding onto one another in the center of the room, with not an ounce of soot marring their light skin and matching auburn hair. A circle of untouched pavement surrounded them. One was a boy, and the other a girl. They looked similar, so I wagered they were siblings. The firefighters and paramedics exchanged a look, before they walked cautiously toward them.
"Impossible," I heard one firefighter say under his breath.
"Perhaps they got lucky," I said.
"No. Not with how hot this fire was burning. It's a damn miracle. That's what it is."
The paramedics slowly took the two and looked them over. Jasper jogged to catch up with us to see for himself the miracle. But he and I knew this wasn't a miracle. There were some people who had been given gifts. Jasper with his abilities. Emmett with his strength. I wasn't fortunate enough to have such gifts, but I had been exposed to them my whole life. It was clear one of these kids had the ability to shield the pair from the wrath of what had happened here tonight.
Jasper immediately went to work and began to question the boy. I could see he was quite upset at the events that had unfolded here.
"I need you to tell us, Son, what happened here tonight?"
The girl spoke up and seemed quite insolent with her tone. "He doesn't speak, so any questions you have, you can direct them to me."
Jasper looked back at me, surprised by her brazen attitude.
"Okay…darlin'. Can I have your names? Why don't we start there?"
"So you can look us up and see if we're in the system? No thank you! And I'm not your darling, so you can cut the southern niceties."
I saw Jasper getting put out, and he looked over to me and mumbled, "This one has a mouth on her and is stubborn as the dickens."
I stepped forward and decided to take over for Jasper.
"Look, we just want to know what happened. I take it from the looks of your clothes that you two are living on the streets. Probably have no parents, considering your charming attitude and manners. By the looks of the bodies that've come out so far, I'm sure they were the aggressors, and you're somehow wrapped up in something way above your paygrade. So, why don't you just do us all a favor and answer the good detective's questions, and we can all be on our way."
The girl's light brown eyes looked me over, as she decided whether she would trust me. I could feel Jasper already working his mojo to help with her compliance.
"Fine, once my brother and I get something to eat, I'll sing like a damn canary."
The paramedics walked the young boy and girl out to a safety zone, while Jasper called ahead to make the meal arrangements. The girl began to argue what she wanted on her pizza, as Jasper had apparently ordered incorrectly. I took one last look around the building and saw how the structure would most likely have to be torn down from the damage. It was clear these kids were special and unique in the way that Jasper and Emmett were special and unique. Who better to deal with this mess than me?
An officer escorted the teenagers towards his car and helped them into the back. Jasper stopped and waited for me to catch up.
"I don't think we should take them downtown. They need more than the police department can provide, and I think we both know they're gifted," he began.
"I agree. Definitely something special, and the girl seems to have an issue with authority. I don't think she'll give you much, if you put her in an interrogation room."
Jasper looked at me and gave me a slight smile and a look I knew all too well. I might not have any special abilities, but sometimes, I knew my brothers so well, I could read their damn minds.
"No," I began. "Absolutely not. What the hell would I do with a mute teenage boy and a bitchy teenage girl?"
"Edward," Jasper placed his hand on my shoulder. "Don't make me do that thing to you."
I shrugged off his touch and backed up.
"Don't say it like that. It sounds gross. I don't care if we aren't related by blood. I'm straight, and I'm never going to get with you, man."
Jasper shook his head at me.
"You straight guys all think we're always trying to change your sexuality. You keep talkin' like that, and I'll call mom," he threatened. "Look, just…take them for the night. A couple of days, until we know what's what. Looks like, from the bodies that came out of here tonight, whatever issue that caused these kids to be in this warehouse at this time of night, was dealt with. You have a way with people. You can get the girl to talk. Take them home and clean them up, and I'll do my best to find a good foster situation for them, until we can find out where their parents are."
I cracked my neck and shook my head in disbelief that I was considering this.
"Fine. Two days max, but then they're out to some suburban soccer mom for care. You know I can't have kids at the house with what I do. I don't need them snooping around into my private affairs."
"Yeah, yeah. You're a regular superhero. Statues should be forged, and panties should be sewn with your emblem upon them. Happy?"
I slugged him in the arm and took off towards my car.
Jasper and Emmett thought I was stupid for taking on the life I had chosen. But when your whole childhood was spent with your father researching into gifted individuals, and he had even gone to the extent of adopting two and calling them your family, it became hard to not want to help make the world a better place, even if I didn't share their talents. I focused on my studies and trained harder than either of my brothers in various martial arts. Even with their abilities, I knew I could kick their asses if need be.
The sun's harsh light made it harder to drive towards my house in the country. The police officer was following me, escorting the kids in the back of his car. I tried to call Emmett to let him know of our new houseguests, but like the prat he was, he didn't answer.
I pulled into the long drive and parked my car near the main entry door. I would move the car into the garage later. I got out, and I could already hear the girl squawking, as the officer opened her door.
She jumped out and asked, "What the hell is this? Bringing me back to your mansion to have your wicked way with me?"
I rolled my eyes and sighed.
"We thought this would be preferable to an interrogation room. At least here, you can get a decent meal, shower, and have a comfortable bed. You don't even have to talk until you've had some rest, so why you don't stop your complaining for two seconds and go in the house and eat something. Maybe then, you'll be more agreeable."
The officer gave me a look, sympathizing with me. Even though the boy hadn't said a word, I noticed he smirked at my statement. The girl gave him a look, trying to decide if she should do what I had said. She rolled her eyes and pulled at the boy to follow her.
I put my arm out to stop her, before she reached the steps.
She narrowed her eyes, challenging me, but I stood my ground.
"Bella. My brother is Seth. But that's all you'll get from us until we eat."
"Why don't you shower first. It might be nice to eat with clean hands," I said.
She scoffed and went up the stairs towards the front door without another snotty word. I opened the door after thanking the officer and then making sure he left. I heard Bella whistle, as she stepped foot into my entryway, the sound echoing throughout the house.
"Damn, Daddy Warbucks. Leave some money for the rest of us."
I didn't reply to her comment, because I knew she was baiting me. Two days couldn't go fast enough. They followed me towards the laundry facilities, and I handed them freshly laundered clothes. Bella cringed at having to wear something of mine, but I told her I would order her something new that would be here this afternoon. I took them towards the guest quarters and explained I would have their food ready and waiting when they were through cleaning up. I knew Jasper would be here with the pizzas by the time they finished.
"And just how are we going to find our way back to the kitchen? Is there some kind of tram system in this mansion? A Roomba we can follow? Should you run a string along for us to navigate? An app or Marauder's map…"
"I'll make sure you find your way when you're ready," I cut her off. My head was already pulsating from the pain she was inflicting.
I shook my head and walked away, trying to leave before this girl made me go insane. I headed towards my office for peace and quiet, pulling up my security cameras to find the one that was pointed at Bella and Seth's room to keep an eye on their door for when they were finished.
Emmett sauntered in and crash-landed on my leather couch.
"So, what the hell happened?"
"We have guests," I said aggravatedly.
Emmett immediately perked up. "Of the female persuasion?"
I rolled my eyes and prepared to dash his dreams.
"Yes…but she isn't legal."
"How far away from legal?" Emmett asked. I wished I was closer to smack him.
"Don't even think about it. That's disgusting."
Emmett looked to me as if I had lost my marbles.
"They're kids…teenagers, who were caught up in the fire mess. Somehow, the damn building seemed to burn down around them, and not only are they alive, but they have no smoke inhalation and not a damn mark on them, which is impossible, so it's obvious they're…"
"Gifted," he said, finishing up my sentence. "God, dad would be excited. Did you ask them? Find out their powers?"
I shook my head. "No, the girl is difficult to say the least, and the boy…he doesn't speak. Jasper wants me to keep them for a couple of days, while we sort this out. Figure out why they were there in the first place and what, exactly, are their gifts."
My eye caught movement on one of the screens, and I saw it was a camera from the front door. Jasper. He had a key and fumbled for it. I pressed a button, opening my front door, so he could get in with the pizzas.
"Jasper's here. You want pizza?"
I shouldn't have even asked. Suddenly, there was an Emmett-shaped imprint on my couch and a bang from my office door from his quick exit. My eye caught movement on the hallway camera outside the guestroom. I sighed and prepared myself for round two.
When I arrived back to the guestroom, Bella stood with her arms across her chest and tapping her foot in irritation that it took me all of one minute to get back to her.
"Detective Whitlock has the pizza you requested. There's something we need to speak with you about. I'd appreciate it if we can put a lid on the snotty attitude, so we can get through this more efficiently."
She rolled her eyes at me, and the boy nodded his head, although I thought it was unlikely that he would say a word during our conversation. The kids followed me down the stairs and towards the kitchen. I could hear the girl scoff, when we would pass by one of my pricier paintings.
Jasper was sitting at the table, looking at our brother disgustedly, while Emmett tore into one of the pizzas.
"Gross. Who invited the ogre to eat our food? That wasn't part of the deal. To eat some giant's scraps," Bella complained.
"Ogre?" Emmett asked, offended.
"Calm down, your pizza is in the oven keeping warm. Go sit down and have some respect. This is my brother, Emmett, and Detective Whitlock just happens to be my other brother," I explained.
Bella walked over and pulled out a chair. Her brother followed her lead and did the same.
"Funny, you don't look related."
"Technically, we aren't. Not by blood," I said, pulling the pizza out of my oven and bringing over a couple of plates and napkins.
"So, do you all live with your Richie Rich parents or something?" she asked, pulling a piece out of the box and stuffing it into her mouth with no worries of speaking with her mouth full.
"This is my house, and Emmett is crashing for the time being. Our parents don't live in the city. Although our father would be mighty interested in meeting with you."
"Why? Does he want to adopt us, too?" she asked.
"No. I think my parents had their fill with the three of us," I replied, sitting down. I looked over to Jasper, and he sat straighter in his chair. "Bella, our father is a doctor and has been researching people like you for most of his career."
"People like me? What the hell does that mean? Kids who live on the street or something?"
I shook my head.
"No. People with extra abilities."
Bella stopped stuffing her mouth and dropped her pizza down to her plate. Her eyes danced between my brothers and me. She jumped out of her chair and grabbed her brother's arm.
"We're out of here."
She pulled her brother with her, but I jumped up from my chair and blocked her exit.
"Not until you hear what we have to say. So, sit your ass down and give us a minute of your time. Eat your pizza and keep your ears open," I ordered, pointing back to the table. She was stubborn, but she had met her match.
I saw her struggle to conform, but after a solid minute, she did as she was told, and Seth followed. Instead of picking her pizza up, she sat back in her chair with a challenging stare, waiting for me to continue.
"Look, I know all about superpowers. Special abilities. Our lives revolved around them when we were growing up. As I said, my father studied people just like you. You aren't the only ones out there with these abilities." I looked at Jasper, and he gave me a slight nod. "Jasper has pathokinetic abilities, which means he can influence your mood. Apparently, not well, since you're still the same snotty kid we met in the warehouse."
Jasper gave me a look. I knew he didn't like to use his ability unless he needed to. Bella scrunched her nose and gave me a stare of death.
"Emmett is strong. Super strong. Able to lift a car if need be over his head. We know all about what you're going through. I've kept watch over this city for years, coming across many who'd use their gifts for evil. But I know you're not evil. I don't know what happened at the warehouse, but I think you were the victims. So, tell us what happened, and we'll do our best to keep you safe and make sure no one comes after you again."
Bella looked away from me towards the table. Her fingers traced the pattern in the wood, as she decided whether she would trust me. Her brother's hand reached over and squeezed her knee. I could tell he was ready to trust us. She sighed and leaned back in her chair.
"We don't know who they are, but they've been after us for some time now. We've managed to shake them or…kill them, but more pop up like damn cockroaches. You name a major city, and we've been there. Always running. Never able to stop for more than a few weeks, before they're on us again. They killed our parents over a year ago, and we haven't stopped running since. They want us. They know what we can do, and they want to collect us or something."
Jasper spoke up for the first time.
"What, exactly, can you do?"
Bella shared a look with her brother and gave him a nod. Seth turned over his fist and opened his hand, and after a second, a fire appeared. Emmett sat a little straighter, and his mouth opened, allowing a piece of chewed-up pizza to fall out. Bella placed her hand in the fire and held it in place. Suddenly, the fire was thrown to the table, and hit the pizza box, engulfing it completely. Seth waved his hand, and the fire was absent from his palm. Bella reached out to touch the table, and even though the pizza box burned, the table was completely safe.
"Get a cup of water or something, because I can't put the damn thing out, and I can only block whatever I'm touching," Bella ordered.
I quickly went over to the sink and ran a glass of water, throwing it at the pizza box, and it sizzled, as the flames were dashed.
"That was fucking awesome!" Emmett cheered.
Bella rolled her eyes. "Try telling us that, when you can't get the damn fire to stop. You wouldn't think it was so awesome, if this mansion burned down around you."
I stood with my hands on my hips, pondering if the next words out of my mouth would be my undoing.
"You need training. Your powers are new, which is to be expected at your age. I can help you. I can keep you safe. If you're up for it."
Bella laughed ironically. "No offense, but how the hell do you think you can keep us safe? I don't think these assholes take personal checks."
Emmett laughed, and I gave him a deathly stare.
I turned, and Jasper held out a hand to stop me.
"Are you sure you want to do this? I don't know if they can be trusted with this kind of information," he warned.
"The trust has to begin somewhere." I looked back and the two and said, "Are you going to come with me or not?"
Seth stood first and was ready to join, but his sister still looked reluctant. She attempted to act as if she didn't care, but I knew she must. After what she had been through, she was afraid to lose any hope I could provide, if I couldn't make good on my vow.
I thought back to this moment all the time. This would be the turning point. I could have let Jasper handle it from there and hoped for the best. Maybe Seth would have still been alive. Or perhaps they both would have been dead in a months' time. It was too hard to tell. Hell, Bella could be dead now, and I would never know. I had spent the last five years looking for her, and I'd had no luck.
I walked into the den and towards the bookshelf. I went over and pushed in a sequence of various books and ran my finger down the spine of the last book. The shelf slowly dropped down into the floor, revealing an opening.
"How cliché," Bella scoffed. "A mansion with a secret dungeon."
I didn't pay attention to her. Emmett and Jasper followed after Bella and Seth. We went down the steps and entered my informational system center. My computer and screens turned on with our presence.
"Holy Batman freak! Someone wears a cape to bed."
Emmett laughed at Bella's crude comment, and he came over to slap me on the back.
"Can we keep her? She has you pegged."
"Would you shut up?" I snapped.
"I'd think you'd take it as a compliment. I mean, that's what you are, basically. A vigilante who goes out at night to fight crime. He wears all black, but no cape," Emmett told Bella. "Maybe you can convince him to get one."
"Are you two done?" I asked.
Emmett held up his hands, and Bella smirked, knowing she had gotten under my skin. A favored pastime of hers. She began to walk around and look over my supplies and technology.
"Okay, if you're as good as all these fancy tools lead me to believe, then why haven't I heard of a vigilante who's been saving our fair city?"
She picked up one of my short batons and waved it around. I immediately went and snatch it from her hands.
"Don't touch, unless you know what it is you're touching." I pressed a button, and it sent a spark out the end. "And you haven't heard of me, because I'm that damn good."
"Well, that and it pays to have your brother as a lead detective," Emmett added.
"As I said upstairs, you need to be trained, and I have the ability to train you. You need a place to stay, where you won't have to worry about those goons coming after you. This place is lead-lined. Your powers won't work here, and no one, no matter what ability they have, can track you as long as you're here. Now, I'm not saying stay down here for the rest of your lives, but just to sleep, so you can be rested and alert. This house has more of a defense system on it than the Pentagon. You'll be safe here."
Emmett hadn't been down to this room too much in the past. Hearing that his abilities wouldn't work here, he walked over to the table and struggled to get it off the ground.
"Son of a bitch," Emmett whispered, annoyed.
Once again, Bella looked over to her brother to have a silent conversation with him. She looked around my center and slowly walked around without touching anything. She stopped and turned back to me.
"You never told me what your superpower was," she said.
Jasper smirked, and Emmett outright laughed.
"I don't have any. I'm not gifted."
The boys knew how much I hated saying it out loud. They used to tease me for it when I was younger.
Bella stopped and began to laugh. Her giggling turning louder and louder, as it echoed throughout the place.
"So…this really is like the Justice League. Everyone has powers but the billionaire," she laughed. "Poor Bruce."
Emmett and Jasper joined her with laughter, and even Seth shook a little in amusement at his sister's observation.
"Yeah, and as I recall, Batman could kick everyone's ass. He didn't need special powers," I argued. "Are you going to take what I'm offering or not?"
Bella attempted to stop. She smiled at me and shook her head. "Fine. Whatever."
"Not whatever, Bella. There are rules I expect both of you to live by if we're going to do this. You're what? Fifteen? Sixteen?"
"Sixteen, nearly seventeen. Seth is fifteen."
"You have a curfew. You don't leave this house unless you tell me, and even then, I might not agree to let you go, if I feel the situation is dangerous. You'll attend school. Whether it be homeschooling, where I bring a tutor in for you, or at a private institution nearby. You'll be respectful. You'll have chores. And I have high expectations for how hard you'll work at controlling your gifts.
"You'll not touch any of the weapons in my house without permission. You'll learn a martial art, and rules may be added at a later date if necessary. You have to ask yourself; do you want to act like a badass, or do you want to be a badass? If you do everything I've asked, you're more than welcome to stay, and I promise I'll keep you safe. Are we in agreement?"
Bella was fighting her nature to tell me to fuck off. She wasn't used to taking orders. I knew how much my list of demands upset her, but I wanted to set it out right here and now that I would not let her act in the manner of which she had been accustomed. She was a child. I didn't care what age she was. Until she reached eighteen, she would be my responsibility, and therefore, a child in my eyes.
Funny thing was, I never saw her eighteenth birthday.
Bella had surprised me. She had worked harder than I had thought she was capable of. Seth and Bella had done everything I had asked of them. They had worked hard with their tutor. They had worked hard with me in learning various martial arts, and they had worked hard when it came to learning to control their powers. Don't get me wrong, Bella was a pill some days. Most days. She'd had a mouth on her to make up for the silence her brother brought. She could drive a nun to swear with her insolence, but no matter how loud our fights had gotten, we had always calmed down…neither of us apologizing, but it was a silent agreement that we would get over our argument and move forward.
I had found Seth to be the most puzzling of all. He had rarely smiled or laughed out loud. I could tell his was in pain, even without Jasper having to comment on it when he would come by. I had finally gathered up the nerve to ask Bella about it one day.
"Is your brother doing okay?" I asked, unwrapping my wrist with the gauze.
Bella stood up from her stretches and walked over to change my dressing. She was quite good at it, I had learned, since she had come to live with me. My nighttime activities seemed to have increased as of late. The goons who were after Bella and her brother were also after others in town. I found my nights fighting them most of the time.
"No different than usual."
"Bella, why doesn't he talk? Has he always been mute? Or is it a recent development?"
She looked at me, wagering if she wanted to share that information with me. She shrugged and replied, "Since our parents…"
She rewrapped my wrist and stepped back.
"I don't push him. The scene was…gruesome…and Seth…he thinks it was his fault."
"Why would he think that?"
"Because they were after him. Obviously, with what I can do, they can't find me. My shielding ability keeps me safe from being found. No need to sleep in a lead-lined Batcave."
"It's not a Batcave, Bella."
Bella knew she could irritate me by always comparing me to that damn comic book character. She gave me her infamous eye roll I had come to ignore.
"Look, I don't know. Maybe I should talk to him. I've seen a lot of really messed up things. Maybe I can give him some perspective," I said.
"You don't need to parent us, Edward. We have parents. Even if they're dead, we don't need a new daddy, so don't worry about Seth. He'll get over it when he's ready and move on. I mean, that's life, right? Shitty until you die."
"God, I certainly hope not," I replied. "And I wasn't trying to parent you. I think we can agree a pack of wild dogs couldn't parent you."
She shrugged and grabbed her boxing mitts. "Okay, just wanted to be sure. I don't need a daddy, old man."
I shuddered. "Please, don't ever say that again. And I'm not much older than you. You only think I'm old, because I was able to accomplish great feats at such a young age. I'm not even a decade over you."
I never did talk to Seth. I should have talked to him. Even with Bella telling me to leave him alone, I shouldn't have listened. Maybe Seth would still have been alive if I had reached out to him. I guessed the torment he had been living through from his past had become too overwhelming. Seth's abilities had been phenomenal. I knew my father would be interested in both kids, so I'd made the mistake of taking them to meet my parents.
My father rarely left his study. It was something my mother would mention often when she would call. Getting Bella on board to go to my parents' house had been a bit of a challenge. I had explained that my father was far more educated in dealing with people who had special abilities. I had hoped my father could give them insight into managing their powers. I had given him far too much credit.
"Edward, what's the meaning of this? Can't you see I'm busy? Please, take your guests out to your mother. Heaven knows she could use the company. Maybe then, she'll get off my back."
My father returned to looking down at his notes and working with his figures.
"Father, I brought them here, because they're gifted. I thought you could help…"
"Gifted?" he asked, rising from his chair immediately and forgetting his notes. "Both? What gifts?"
I felt Bella shift slightly to stand behind me. It was strange, I would never have guessed she would feel timid, since she was always so headstrong and brave to the point of recklessness.
"Seth can light things on fire, and Bella is able to shield herself and anything she's touching."
My father put his glasses back on and began to walk closer.
"Such talents. Such gifts. You must show me. Let me test you and see what range you are," my father said eagerly. He placed his hand on Seth's arm and began to prod him.
"Dad, would you stop? I didn't bring them here for you to turn into one of your experiments. I just want to know if you can provide some insight in helping them control their gifts. Limit them…"
"Why would you want to limit them? With your power, you could be invincible. You could do anything you want to do. I could show you a new world."
Bella gave me a look of concern, and I sighed.
"That's not why we're here. Look, this was a mistake. My apologies for wasting your time."
"Edward!" my father snapped.
"No! I'm not going to have you test them or treat them like some project. I thought you could help, but it seems as though you'll never change. Jasper and Emmett told me about what you used to do to them. Test them. Push them to see how far they could go. These kids are my responsibility, and I won't let you turn them into weapons." I looked to Bella and Seth. "Come on. We're done here."
I pushed them out the door, and I didn't even take the time to say goodbye to my mother I was so angry. I didn't even apologize to Seth or Bella, even though I felt horrible for subjecting them to my father. Little did I know the role my father had already played in their lives.
Five years had passed since I had seen Isabella, despite my efforts to find her. I never thought about the night she had left. It would remind me about Seth and my inability to save him. I couldn't waste my focus on mourning the death of that child. It might eat me up, and then I would be of no use to the city.
The gifted were still being hunted down. My intel on who was running the operation was still little. Every step I took, I felt as if I was getting farther and farther from finding out who was responsible. I only had one name. Metamorphosis.
The next step I took was one that worried even me. It was one thing to go out in a costume and be the faceless savior, but I knew in order to infiltrate this enemy's organization, I couldn't hide behind a costume. This time, I would have to go in as Edward Cullen. It would be dangerous if this went wrong. I could be arrested for what I was about to do. My whole reputation would be ruined.
Standing in my best tuxedo, I awaited further instructions on finding an illegal nightclub. I had learned it was a center for sex trafficking. One of the many exploits this Metamorphosis dealt in. I received a mask I had to wear at all times. It was to protect my anonymity, so no one else would know who I truly was. Ironic.
A bag was placed over my head, and the next time I could see, the room was filled with campy colored lights. It looked like a bar-slash-dance club. There were men and women drinking themselves stupid, while half-naked girls fondled their clients.
"If you want to order a girl, go to the bar. They'll have a menu."
I looked to my left at the muscled security and nodded. I couldn't keep standing in the same place, even if my mind was in overdrive to all I was witnessing. I slowly made my way towards the bar, trying to hold back the bile in my stomach, as I saw girls performing lewd acts. The girls were masked, too. Probably worried someone like me would identify them from missing person's posters if given the chance.
I walked over to the bar and saw a folder. I began to flip through the pages. Every girl was completely bare and posed perfectly. My choice had better be good, or else taking this whole risk would be for nothing. I tried not to look at anything but their faces, even if there were masks to cover their eyes, trying to choose one who looked older.
"Are you ready to order?"
I looked down and pointed to a brown-haired young woman.
"Do you want a private or public showing? Private will be double, but you can do whatever you like to her."
"Private," I replied.
"Go through that door, and we'll have her come to the room on the right," I was instructed.
My hand reached up to mess with my bowtie. I felt like it was too tight, or maybe I was stressed for what was about to happen. I walked through and found the right door. Inside, there was a bed, a couch and various instruments used for torture and kinky sex.
I sat down on the couch, and two seconds later, the girl I had ordered was shoved roughly through the door. She stood there, timidly waiting for instruction. I knew I would need to get her close, in case there were listening devices.
"Come here," I softly ordered.
She walked slowly toward me and stood a few feet in front of me. She was completely bare, but I tried not to focus on that. I held out my hand to her, and she placed her hand in mine. I pulled her to me, guiding her down on my lap.
I kissed her ear, so if anyone was watching, it would look like I was playing my part.
"How long have you been here?" I whispered.
"Long enough," she whispered softly back to me.
"I need help. Your help. I can get you out of here, but I need you to trust me. Do you know who's running this operation? Can you give me any details about him?"
She pulled back to look at me, her light brown eyes staring through the mask. Suddenly, she jumped up and straddled me. She began to ride me, placing my hands on her backside. I was thankful I still had my clothes on, but I was having a hard time trying to remain professional, especially when it has been too long since my last sexual encounter.
"Who are you?" she asked me.
"Why don't you tell me first. I can help you."
"You don't believe me?" I asked.
"Who said I wanted to be helped?" She slowed down. "Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do. Nice to know you're not just another disgusting asshole, but I'm right where I want to be. You want to know who's running this place? So do I, and you're way out of your league. So, Mr. Fancy Pants, why don't you get out of here, before you get yourself killed."
"You'd be surprised at what I can do. I think I'm in the right league, so why don't you tell me what you know and let me get this revolting place shut down and save all those poor girls out there who don't want to be here."
It was the first time I'd raised my voice. If we were being listened in on, I might have just screwed up. The girl immediately stopped what she was doing and reached up to my face, pulling off my mask.
I heard her voice and reached up and grabbed her mask, already knowing what I feared most would be true.
"Bella!" I stood up and immediately let her go. I ripped off my suit coat and tossed it at her, not wanting to see her naked body. "What are you doing here?"
"Probably the same thing you're doing here," she snapped.
I looked around for the cameras, knowing we didn't have much time.
"Don't worry, this room is protected. No one can see or hear anything. Gifted, remember?" she said, pulling on my coat.
"How is that possible?" I asked. "And if that's true, then why were you riding me?"
She gave me a teasing smile and shrugged. "You were hot. I still have to do my job…a little…anyway," she shook her head and got back on track. "I have the ability to shield things, if you need a recap, and thankfully, while I was in here, I met another girl who has the ability to make people see what she wants them to see. Jane. As far as security goes, they think they're practically watching a porno movie, from what they can see on their video screens."
I scoffed and shook my head. I had been looking for this girl since the night she had left, and leave it to Bella to find the most dangerous place to be hiding out in.
"So, you've been fucking people while trying to get information? That shit stops now!"
"I haven't fucked that many people. Like I said, my friend has a gift. It comes in handy. And you don't get to tell me what to do anymore. I'm no longer your ward of the state. I'm twenty-two years old, and this is my chance to get those assholes who killed my family. Don't stand in my way, Edward Cullen, or I will end you!"
"You're such a child. You think you can go up against Metamorphosis on your own? You'll get yourself killed," I growled.
"I. DON'T. CARE!" she yelled. "If I get a shot at Meta, you'd better believe I'm going to take it. If I die, then at least I tried. Go home, Edward. Find another way in. Go back to protecting old ladies from getting mugged."
She took off my suit coat and threw it on the floor, before stomping off to the door and slamming it behind her. She was going to kill me for what I was about to do next, but I couldn't leave her here. She had no idea what she was doing.
I put my coat back on and went out to the bar.
"You want another so soon?" he asked.
"No, I want to speak to the owner. I want to buy the girl I was just with. And be sure to tell him I'm prepared to pay any price."
Kicking and screaming, Bella was brought out to the alley barely clothed. I grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the security guard.
"You're going to pay for this," she hissed, struggling to get out of my grip, but she was unsuccessful.
"Stop it!" I yelled.
The security guard went back into the club and left us be. I let her go, and she continued to pound her angry fists on my chest.
"That was my only chance! Asshole. Fucking asshole!" she screamed. I saw her eyes were filled with tears and fury. I couldn't let her stay in that place, even if she was legal to make her own decisions. I had once vowed I would keep her safe. I wasn't planning on ever breaking that vow, even if I hadn't lived up to my word regarding her brother.
I grabbed her wrists to stop her and pulled her into me. She gave in and sobbed into my chest.
"We'll get them. I promise."
She could help, but you'd better believe I would do anything to keep her from the final showdown, even if I had to lock her in my Batcave.
I pulled off my coat, placing it around her bare shoulders, and led her out towards the street where my car was parked. The alleyway was dank and smelled of garbage. I saw flies buzzing around one of the trash heaps as we passed, and my eye caught sight of something.
Bella stopped walking, feeling my pause. I let her go and bent down to remove one of the boxes, and a face stared back up at me. Lifeless. I heard Bella gasp. I turned back to her, and she began to stutter in shock.
"Jane?" she whispered.
"Your friend? The one with special abilities?"
I immediately pulled her to me and put my head on a swivel, looking around. The body was cold, which meant they knew about Bella and me.
"Let's go." I grabbed her and hurried toward the end of the alleyway to the street, but our path was blocked.
"Mr. Cullen," one of the goons said. "Our boss wants a word with the two of you."
I knew they would never let Bella go. I had no idea how I was going to get her out of here alive. I walked first and held Bella's hand, so she would follow along behind me. A black Escalade waited for us on the street. I helped Bella in and followed quickly after, worried they would try and separate us. Once we were in the car, I saw there were two men with guns pointed right at us. Another two sat upfront. With Bella's ability, I needed only to touch her to be blocked from impending gunfire; however, I didn't make a move, because I hoped this would be one step closer to bringing me face to face with Meta.
The windows on the car were completely blacked out. I could barely see out the front window from the angle I was sitting. I began to memorize how many turns we took and the approximate time in between those turns. But with the city, I would be lucky to get within a block or two, if I got the opportunity to retrace my steps, and that was only depending on whether Bella and I made it out of here alive.
My backup plan was a Hail Mary. I twisted the ring on my right hand to send off a signal to my informational center. It would ping Emmett and Jasper's phones and alert them to known coordinates. My cufflinks had listening devices in them that weren't detectable. Bella still had my coat on. I worried she would pull it off and leave behind my last insurance plan. If something did happen to me, I hoped my brothers would carry on in my absence, and after tonight, have what they need to go after Metamorphosis.
The car angled down, and we were heading into a parking garage. We were pulled out of the vehicle and frisked for any weapons or phones we were carrying on our person. Thankfully, they left my coat alone on Bella. They took my ring, however, no matter how much I protested.
We were shoved into an elevator and had four extra riders with us. They all had their guns at the ready, in case we got the stupid idea to cause problems. I felt my heart accelerating. I had hoped for this moment for so long. Waited patiently for this day to come, when I could finally put a face to all the problems I'd had and see the look on this person's face who had taken Bella's whole world away from her.
I looked towards Bella, and I could see she was as anxious as I was. She wasn't scared, as she should have been, she was ready. Like a samurai, ready to go into war. Her stance was solid. Everything I had taught her would be for this defining moment.
The elevator doors opened, and we were pushed out into a windowless room of a swanky, sleek office. I already knew the walls were lead-lined by the look of them. A deterrent against most powers. Like a scene out of a crap Bond movie. We could see someone sitting in a chair faced away from us. I felt Bella ready to charge, but I grabbed her wrist and held her back.
The chair slowly turned. This was it. This was what I'd been waiting for.
My heart dropped into my stomach. I heard Bella gasp and cease her movements from shock.
I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me. I couldn't form an intelligent thought. Thankfully, neither could Bella, as I didn't have it in me to stop any actions on her part.
"Hello, Edward," he said, as if this were any normal day. "I know you probably have a few questions. I'm sure you're wishing I hadn't taken your gift away."
I narrowed my eyes, confused as to what he was referring to.
"Oh. You don't remember." He stood up and walked over toward the wall and pressed it with his finger. It lit up, and a screen showed a confusing equation. I was intelligent, but this was way over my head.
"A long time ago, I had a vision. I believed I could make the world a better place, if I could restructure DNA to allow a person to be gifted with special abilities. Once I had the formula perfected, I tried it out on you, but your gift was far too dangerous. I knew if I wanted to keep going with my work, I'd need to change you back. I found that every person was different.
"I talked your mother into adopting a boy, and Jasper surprised me with his ability to alter a person's mood. Then Emmett came along, and he was strong. I could use those gifts to my advantage to help further along my vision. And I could have, if they'd allowed their minds to be opened, but I learned early on they'd never see things my way, so I abandoned that project."
"What was my gift?" I asked. I was still in shock, and I knew my question was probably not appropriate with everything I should have asked, but I needed to know.
"You were telepathic. You damn near gave me a heart attack the first time you read my mind," he laughed, remembering the memory.
"I wish I had," I replied coldly.
He waved a naughty finger at me and returned to looking at his screen. He pointed and clicked to go to the next screen. Now that the shock had worn off, I found my anger bubbling to the surface.
"I found the agent I created only worked on adolescents. Which was a shame, as I would've loved to find out what my special ability could've been. Well, I'm still working on it and trying to come up with a way to make it happen. Anyway, once I realized it'd only work on adolescents, I decided to add my little cocktail to the H1N1 vaccine, and then I handed gifts out to kids like they were candy. Slowly, my results rolled in. This was the stage to take my vision to the next level. I've been collecting people with the most effective gifts and forming my own army."
"Why are you telling us this?" I snapped.
"Because I have faith you two will do the right thing and join me. We can make the world a better place. You'll do the right thing, Edward, because I'm your father, and you'd never go against me."
I laughed. "I think the time to play the family card has long passed. You may be a psychopath, but I don't think you'd kill your own son."
He shook his head and whispered, "So disappointing."
A loud commotion came from behind us, and it startled everyone, including the escorts and their guns. The elevator doors opened, and the small car was filled with bodies lying on the floor, except for my brothers. They sauntered in and looked at our father. They didn't seem surprised in the least.
"Your mother will be horrified to lose all her children in one night, think about this," Carlisle warned.
Emmett looked at the men holding their guns and shrugged. He didn't know his powers wouldn't work in here. "Seems like a fair fight to me."
We all instantly took a fighting stance, Bella beside me. Her eyes looked over to me, waiting for my signal. Even after all this time, and how much she had grown, she still looked to me to take the lead. I threw the first punch, and chaos ensued. Even with their guns, they were no match for us. I could even watch after Bella and make sure she wasn't in over her head, but she made me proud, watching the lessons I had taught her being put to good use.
Every last one of the foot soldiers was put down quickly and efficiently. My father didn't even move an inch. He smiled, mocking us. I began to advance, but suddenly, he was gone. Literally vanished before our very eyes.
"Nice try, boys."
Jasper ran over toward the desk and found the piece of tech he was looking for.
"A damn hologram!" he growled, throwing it to the floor.
Dad had never been here. Nothing had been accomplished. I looked to Bella, and she didn't seem nearly as upset as I was.
"I'm sorry, Bella," I said softly.
She sighed and shook her head.
"Hey, at least we're one step closer. I'll get my chance. Like you used to tell me; we never stop training. Never stop improving. When we think we're invincible, that's when we'll be conquered. Your dad thinks he's invincible. We'll get him, Edward."
Her words brought me comfort. I didn't care if he was my father, I would make sure he would pay for his countless sins. At least we knew who we were dealing with now. However, my father wasn't going to be my next problem to deal with, Bella would be my problem. I needed her to stick around and work with me. I needed to know she was alive and safe. She was right on nearly everything she had said but one thing. We would get him? No, Bella, I would get him.
AN: Thank you for taking the time to read and review. This was my entry for the Crime Crusaders Contest, and I'm honored that it received a first-place slot. For everyone who voted, THANK YOU! I plan on expanding this after I finish The Lesser.
Thank you to DOLLYBIGMOMMA for taking the time to edit this!
STORY IS MINE. CHARACTERS BELONG TO STEPHENIE MEYER.