Chapter 5: Endgame
"Turn the key and open the door slowly. Let's not play any games."
"Shit," muttered Cal. He unlocked the door and opened it. Niko wrenched him inside and pinned him to a wall, the knife still at his throat. Cal held perfectly still. If Niko did kill him, the Feezig's spell would end and Niko would know exactly what he had done.
"Search him," Niko said to Robin.
Goodfellow stepped to one side and in a matter of seconds stripped Cal of every concealed weapon he carried, tossing them onto the bed. He pulled out the small wad of bills from his jacket and snapped, "This had better not be all that's left!"
Cal shrugged. "Sorry, but do you know how much gas is these days?" Okay, so he wasn't being too careful.
Robin stepped forward, eyes narrowing. Niko stopped him short with a glance. "We came for the car, Goodfellow. Now is that all he had?"
Robin hissed in annoyance and checked the inside of Cal's jacket. He pulled out the glowing Feezig and sucked in his breath.
"What is it?" Niko asked.
Robin's irritation was melting into uncertainty. "I'm not sure, but if Timur was involved…" He looked at Cal, and shook his head. "No. I just can't believe this. Surely there would have been something out of place, some indication…"
Cal slumped against the wall. It looked like he might have his choice made for him after all.
"Robin, a little explanation, please."
Robin held up the ball, squinting at it up close. "The Timur truly are the pissants of the monster world. Any abilities they have are purely defensive. They have a tendency to scam a lot of people in an area and then move on. When things get too hot and the angry mob starts to close in, they ah, have something called a Feezig that erases a person out of other people's lives: memories, belongings, and so on. That way they can make a clean get away."
"Niko's eyes cut over to Robin. "And you think this might be one of those," he curled his lip at the name, "Feezigs?"
"Well, I've only seen one other before this, in Constantinople around 900, actually. You see there was this eunuch having an affair with a nobleman's wife-"
"Alright," Niko cut him off. He searched Cal's face. "Damn. You do have her voice and eyes. This thing took away our memories of you?"
Cal hesitated. He knew he couldn't lie to Niko, even now. Still, he hadn't expected this to happen so soon. "You may be better off not knowing," he said quietly.
Niko let go of him and he slumped to the floor, exhaustion pinning him down. Niko stood looking down at him for a moment, his face unreadable. Finally he looked at Robin. "Break it."
Robin looked horrified. "Do you have any idea what this is worth?"
"I want to know the truth," Niko said firmly. He looked back down at Cal. "If he breaks it and nothing happens, you will regret this."
Cal grimaced and nodded. He'd never been on the receiving end of one of Niko's genuine threats. It wasn't fun.
Robin grumbled, "And here I thought I could make a profit from this mess." He dropped the ball to the carpet, and crushed it under his heel. There was a flare of purplish light and a brief pressure against their eardrums. Cal held his breath.
There was a moment's pause, and then Niko inhaled sharply. "Cal," he whispered in a hoarse voice. He hauled his brother to his feet and gave him a crushing hug. Cal returned it in spite of his bruises and sore muscles. He could feel a slight tremor in Niko's arms. At last his brother held him out to take a look at him.
Cal almost quipped, did ya miss me?, but the look of guilt and worry in his brother's eyes stopped him. Instead he shrugged and gave him an awkward smile. "I'm alright, Cyrano. Don't sweat it."
Niko straightened the jacket he'd had clutched in his fist moments ago. "I'm sorry."
Cal hit him lightly in the arm. "I said don't worry about it. It wasn't your fault. If anything it was mine for getting tackled by that damn minotaur in the first place."
Niko frowned a little. "Yes, we'll have to work on your dodging. And why is there broken glass in your hair?"
Cal winced, and briefly touched his hair. "I, um, went to this art gallery and got tossed out a window."
Robin snorted in amusement. "No surprise there. Your manners are atrocious and you couldn't tell a Seurat from a Pollock. Even so, I'm, well, glad to have you back." Cal started to thank him when he added, "But don't think that means you're getting out of paying me back! There's the vandalism at my store, the money from the safe, the cost of tracking down your ass… I have gas receipts!"
Niko cut him off. "We'll pay you back for the cash, Robin. But your insurance covered the store, and as for the cost of coming down here, I remember you offering to pay for this trip in full in order to recover your car, plus the agency's usual rates. I'll be willing to wave the agency fees, a generous offer seeing as how we actually have recovered the car."
The look of outrage on the puck's face was priceless. He sputtered, "But, that wasn't…Your own brother took…" There was more sputtering, to which the siblings faced with equally bland expressions. Finally Robin huffed, "Right. That'll teach me. I'll never make another deal with a gypsy!"
Cal snapped his fingers. "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. The Camaro got a little scratched up and the passenger side door took a hit, but I'm sure a little body work will fix her right up."
Robin squawked and rushed out the door. Niko pinched the bridge of his nose. "Please tell me the car's alright."
"The car's fine."
He studied Cal. "And you? How are you, really?"
Cal sagged onto the edge of the bed. "I'm wiped out. I had to make a gate tonight when I got tossed off a roof. It's been a long couple of days." He paused. "Jesus. I missed you, Nik."
Niko sat next to him and put an arm around his shoulders. "You'll have to tell me everything. I am sorry Cal. Maybe it wasn't anything I did, but I can imagine the kind of hell you went through. Why don't you get a quick shower while I settle your bill? You can sleep in the car on the trip home. And Cal?"
Cal paused in the process of getting up.
Niko's hand flashed out and he flicked Cal's ear. Hard. "That's for saying I would be better off not knowing. I am not 'better off' without my family. When we get back we'll discuss this at length."
Cal scowled and rubbed his ear. He didn't put up a fight, though. It was an old argument and he was too tired to get into it now. When he got out of the shower he had to put on the same dirty clothes, but at least his hair was glass free. He came out to the main room just as Robin was finishing up a call on his cell.
Robin said, "Well, I managed to find a buyer for the Camaro here in Atlantic City."
"Ha! See? I ought to get a commission." At the puck's glare he gulped. "Or not."
"Hhmph. Neo-ninja's settling your bill, and then I think we should get the show on the road. Word on the street is a very frightening auphe-like person crashed a showing at Aurelion's and shot up the place. A couple of vampires are saying they barely escaped with their lives after you tried to kill and eat them. Really, Cal. I thought you knew the difference between an art gallery and a shooting gallery. Didn't Niko house train you?"
Cal rolled his eyes. "Hey, I would have been perfectly happy to just get in and get out. But that crazy-ass peri damn near killed me. What's the story with him, anyway?"
"You mean you don't know?" Robin stared. "I keep forgetting just how little you and your brother knew about the supernatural world until recently. I'll tell you both on the way back."
Cal laughed. Great. Robin would have hours to tell a story and a captive audience. He found he was actually looking forward to it. The laughter faded. "Hey, Robin. What was it like, the last two days?" he asked diffidently.
Robin grimaced. "Oh, goody. I see we've reached the angst portion of the evening."
"Fine. Forget it."
"No, wait." He stopped Cal with a hand on his sore arm. He couldn't see the bruises since Cal had put his jacket back on before coming out, but he let go when Cal winced. "It was quiet. And your brother had this perfectly clean apartment and a well ordered life, but…" Robin searched for the right words. "He didn't seem to have a focus. Like he was doing things because that's just what he was supposed to be doing, not because he had a driving reason to do them."
"Well put," said Niko from the doorway. "Come on, little brother. Let's take you home."
"Yes, let's. Before Feral Boy here decides to set fire to a concert hall."
"Bite me, Loman."
"When and where, Sweet Cheeks?"
Niko put a hand on Cal's shoulder. "You must be exhausted to have walked into that one."
"Like I said: it's been a long couple of days."