Prologue: Things We Lost in the Fire
The water ran like ice across her skin. She'd turned the knob of the shower blindly, not caring if it was hot or cold, but desperate for the renewing baptism the rushing water would offer. Her boots would be ruined, she knew. They were designer, ones she'd taken from the set of Everyday Heroes and had conveniently forgotten to return when they fired her. Maxie would weep if she saw what Sam was putting them through, standing in the tub of some dank motel, letting a stream of water flood around them, over them. It was worth it, though.
He was heavier than he looked, Sam thought to herself, cradling the frighteningly pale figure of her friend as best she could. The water ran over his head, which she was careful to keep angled in such a way that he wouldn't drown, though his dead weight made it hard for her to maneuver. She had to drag him into the cramped space, he was completely out of it. The rush of water was making it harder to keep a grip on him, but Samantha held tight. The limp ragdoll in her arms still had a leg awkwardly draped over the edge of the tub. Water was pooling on the floor all around the bathroom.
"Come on," Sam shook him a little, willing him to wake up. She needed him conscious. Thin lifeless arms dangled by his side. But he was alive, she was sure, he had a pulse, he was breathing, but God, why wasn't he waking up?
A quick jerk, a gasp, followed by shudders as his muscles reacted to the cold water let Sam know her goal had been reached. She turned off the shower as soon as some indication of life was exhibited. Sliding down the wall of the tub, Sam rested in the puddles of water that remained, taking her ghost of a friend with her. His teeth were chattering but there was color in his face again.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart, I just needed to wake you up," Sam murmured to him like she would a child. His hair was sopping wet now. The tendrils let loose large drops of water like tears as she pulled her fingers through them, trying to soothe his positively racing heart. His hair, one of his defining characteristics, seemed to be the only thing that was the same. A little longer perhaps, it needed a good trim. Sam fought back tears. This wasn't a moment to come undone, he needed her focused and sharp. But here he was alive and in her arms. Her heart was simultaneously swelling with happiness and breaking with sorrow.
"Where have you been?" Sam sputtered, her eyes blurring. He didn't answer her, staring out of bloodshot eyes at the tiled wall in a daze, one labored breath hissing out after another. He needed a doctor. Adjusting his weight, she tried to make him more comfortable as he lay listlessly in her arms. The two were cramped in this tub and Sam was definitely losing feeling in one of her legs, but she wasn't going to move him until she was positive he would stay conscious.
Tucking his head under her chin, Sam relished being this close to someone that just this morning she had assumed dead. So many people would be happy he was back, he was safe. This was a miracle, if such things could happen. Of course, if they could, they would only happen to someone as good as him. A radiated light always seemed to come from him, inspired by genuine goodwill for other people, people who had mourned him. Even with the tears creeping their way down her cheeks, Sam wanted to laugh. Eyes that had adjusted to the darkness wouldn't have to strain anymore, the light was back.
At least, Sam thought to herself as she examined him, she hoped it was. What had happened to him? What had she walked in on? The rush of adrenaline that had surged through her at seeing him collapse in spasms had set her into action so quickly that Sam was distracted from everything else. Shifting slightly, Sam pulled his left arm high above his head so that she could examine it closely. He protested, pulling against her he yanked his slick arm out of her grasp, clenching it defensively to his chest. Trembles raked through him still and that allowed Sam to take advantage of his weakness. Gently, Sam exposed the skin at the crook of his arm, pulling up the sleeves of his shirt to reveal purple splotches and lines. A warm heat burned in her chest, deep sorrow ablaze. Some dark thing was overtaking the light.
Surprised, Sam realized the leather belt was still looped around his forearm; it had managed to stay attached through their frenzied struggle to the shower. There was prominent wear on the loose end, small indentions still tattooed into the leather that Sam suspected were teeth marks. He was a pro at this and obviously knew exactly how to get the veins to stand at attention. The belt slipped easily off of him and Sam flung it on the floor where it lay like a dead snake.
She turned her attention back to her friend. Friend, Sam wondered, or stranger? He blinked dully, his breathing finally returning to a normal pace. Black circles heavily outlined the striking green color of his eyes, the only real color in his entire visage. He could have been a black and white photograph, the raven hair contrasting against white flesh, had it not been for the green eyes.
"You…you okay?" Sam murmured. Of course he wasn't okay, but she still had to ask. Things were very visibly not okay.
"Sleep," he croaked. "Just need to sleep."
"Oh no, buddy, you aren't sleeping…" Sam laughed darkly, as if she would let him sleep after seeing him have a seizure just moments ago.
"Fair Samantha assumes she knows better?" Spinelli groaned, wiping some water off of his face.
She was still Fair Samantha, after a year. That was a good sign. "Spinelli, I don't even know where to start…"
"Then don't," he spat, rolling the sleeve of his shirt back down, as if it was possible to simply pretend what was underneath had magically disappeared. His attempt at hiding the truth even after everything Sam had seen caused the first stirrings of anger in her.
"Where have you been?" Sam repeated the question again, this time with more emotion in her voice. "A year, Spinelli, a year! You just disappeared!"
"The Goddess is making the assumption that staying was within the Jackal's brief," Spinelli replied darkly.
"If you had a problem, you should have told one of us. No one would have judged you; we would have just wanted to help you."
"A problem, she calls it a problem. Oh, yes, The Jackal had a problem. Except the problem was that he was the problem. I have always been the problem. "
"I can't believe we didn't see this…how…"
"Samantha adds up the equation and comes up short,"
"We've got to get you help," Sam sighed.
"There is no help to be had when he finds there are things already set in motion and I cannot stop them, and neither can Fair Samantha. What will happen must happen, has been building, and we are all moving at rapid speed to the inevitable collision."
Digging in her pocket for her phone, Sam fervently hoped the impromptu shower hadn't ruined it. Spinelli made a motion to sit up but grabbed his head and quickly rested against her once more. Finally, Sam managed to pull her phone out. She flipped it open and saw that the device was glowing cheerfully, ready to assist. As she punched number one on her speed dial, Sam could already envision the overwhelming shock and relief that would come coursing over the earpiece as she informed him of her discovery.
"It's okay, Jason's going help us, all right?" Sam pressed the send call button, already relaxing a little at the idea of reinforcements. Jason would know what to do.
He moves so quickly it was a blur as the phone was ripped from her hands. One minute she was punching buttons and the next a pitiful crack rang through the tiled bathroom, plastic pieces rolling into the puddles of water on the floor. Sam was shocked. Spinelli was holding his head with both hands now, scooting away from her and before she could make a grab for him he was crawling jerkily out of the tub. He was dry heaving over the toilet as she sat in stunned silence. The phone lay in ruins on the floor, her friend was shattering in front of her eyes, and her heart was fractured at the sight of it all.
"Oh…okay…" She said slowly, hoisting herself out of the tub.
"No calls," he slumped over.
"Okay, no calls. No calls at all…" Sam mimicked stupidly.
"No one came for The Jackal then, why would they bother now that the damage is done?"
"Didn't come for you? We…we spent day and night trying to find you, Spinelli! No one let you go easily. I mean, it makes sense now why you left us, I guess--"
"Why I left?" Spinelli asked incredulously. "There was no choice…The Jackal was given no option, it was coercion of the darkest nature."
"You keep saying that, but, God, Spinelli of course there was a choice…I still have no idea how you could have hidden this," she gesticulated at him, at his arms, at the belt on the floor.
"It is of no consequence, now." Spinelli muttered. He stared fixedly at the dripping shower faucet as if mesmerized by the steady trickle.
He spent the first month watching the leak in the ceiling getting larger and larger. They put a bucket underneath it to catch the falling water, and when it rained heavily it filled up passed the brim, spilling over into puddles that soaked the mildewed carpet, which smelled in the heat of the day. Spinelli could reach out his hand and graze his fingers over the water, causing tiny ripples to undulate across the surface.
What started as a small stain in the ceiling developed into a dark rotting hole, and no one ever came to patch it up.
Author's Note: Welcome to my latest adventure. I hope you enjoy a dark tale inspired by a combination of the films Taken and Requiem for a Dream, with additional thoughtfulness added by the television show Breaking Bad, all wonderful things you should see. This will be my first real action story as a twisted mystery unfolds with the hacker at the center of it all. I hope you enjoy the ride.
This story would not have been possible without Suerum, who has aided me beyond belief, making this story extensively better with her eye for evil. Thanks Sue! You're my fiction hero. If you aren't reading her vampire story Vacuus a Animus, you are missing out.
Next Chapter: One year ago.