Notes: Probably everyone's forgot this story by now. But I have always intended to continue it. So hopefully someone's still around who's interested.
Prompt: #4 at 30 Angsts - Angels and Devils; Disguise (Wings Stained with Blood)
The rain continued to pelt over the road and the taxicab as the hapless quartet fled from the black car and its angry occupants. But despite the slippery and visually limited situation, the thugs were not giving up or falling behind. Every now and then they fired another shot. Most missed, but one shattered the passenger side mirror.
"You're going to pay for that," the cabbie informed Duke.
"Fine, I'll pay for it," Duke snapped. "Although I really think the guy who did it should pay."
"Somehow I don't think he'd agree to those terms," David said.
Serenity kept her rain hat pulled low, gripping at the edges with her trembling hands. If they managed to get out of this and to the police station, what then? Would their troubles be over? She wanted so badly to believe they would be. She had never dreamed that anything like this would happen. And yet, she supposed she should have considered it. It was starting to seem that for them, there was never a happy ending.
"So, we're going to turn this bauble over to the police, right?" David said to Duke. He was trying to speak low enough that the driver would not overhear, but that was not a problem. The man was too terrified at trying to stay alive to be bothered with their conversation.
"That's what we should do, yeah," Duke said.
"But it isn't what you want to do?" David raised an eyebrow. "I'm supposed to be the greedy one, and there's no way I'd want to hang on to this thing after all this. It's not worth the trouble if I'm dead!"
"I just wonder what kind of properties the thing has," Duke said. "I guess what I'd really like is to find someone who might be able to tell us."
"Well, I guess the guy whose amethyst was stolen might be able to fit that bill," David returned. "The only problem is, you don't know if his amethyst is the Star of Bennu. For that matter, we don't know that's what we've got. And in any case, he could be the one who sent the goons."
Duke shook his head. "What a mess."
Serenity looked over at him. "Duke, please, just leave it alone," she begged. "Turn it over to the police. Let it be their problem."
Duke sighed. "You know, I honestly would, except for one thing." His eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure these guys will let up even then. They might keep chasing us, thinking we're lying about giving the stone to the police. Or they might want to kill us for knowing too much."
"We don't know anything!" Serenity protested.
"And that puts us at a disadvantage," Duke said. He stiffened. "I just had an idea. Of course; why didn't I think of it before?"
"Because bullets are soaring overhead?" David put in.
"Haha." Duke pulled out his cellphone. "I'm going to try to reach one of the Ishtars. They know all about Egyptology. One of them would probably know what to do about this for sure."
"Good luck carrying on a conversation," David remarked. "The circumstances aren't exactly forgiving. And you might not be able to get a signal. You'll have to call Egypt, right?"
"Maybe not," Duke countered. "They divide their time between Egypt and here. We might get lucky and they'll be here right now. I'll call their Domino home number and then the museum."
"Well, hopefully they'll be here," said David. "I hate to think what time it might be in Egypt right now."
"Probably the middle of the day." Duke's tone was flat and matter-of-fact as he dialed.
Serenity was amazed at them carrying on a normal conversation under these conditions. The driver was trying to keep them far ahead of their pursuers. Water splashed up on the windows from large puddles every few minutes. And also every few minutes, the other car caught up enough for another round to be fired.
Duke suddenly perked up. "Hello, Ms. Ishtar? This is Duke Devlin. Look, I know we haven't ever associated that much, and I'm sorry if my calling is inconveniencing you, but there's something we really need to see you about. Do you know anything about an amethyst called the Star of Bennu? . . . Well, we have one with us that might be it. We're not sure. We were going to turn it over to the police, but I'm not sure our troubles will be over if we do. Could we drop in and talk to you about it? . . . That's great! Thanks. We should be there in . . . well, let's say we'll try to be there in thirty minutes or less. Goodbye."
David and Serenity were both peering at him as he hung up. "Didn't she ask about all the noise in the background?" David wondered.
"No, but she sounded worried when I brought up the Star of Bennu," Duke said.
Serenity bit her lip and clasped her hands in her lap. The others, too caught up in what was happening around them, did not notice her silence.
"I just hope we can get rid of these guys," Duke muttered. "We can't take them to the Ishtars' place and involve any more innocent people in this mess."
Their driver really deserved a medal. Despite not having had any experience of the kind before, he managed to turn the rainstorm to their advantage as they swerved up and down various streets and side streets. Huge waves of water churned on both sides of the taxi, splashing across it with enormous force. The sounds of the gun finally became lost in the wind and rain and thunder. When he at last arrived on the Ishtars' block, no one was behind them.
David slumped back, letting out a breath he had not realized he was holding. "You, good man, have saved all our lives," he declared. "I'd be more than willing to pay you double whatever the meter says."
"And I'd be more than willing to take it," the driver shot back. "But it wasn't all just for you guys. My skin was on the line too!"
"Of course," David said, pushing up his glasses.
"We'll figure out what to pay you later," Duke said as he fumbled with the door. "Wait for us."
"Only if I don't see that car coming back," the cabbie growled. "First sign of it and I'm out of here!"
"That's perfectly understandable," David said. "Only call the police if that happens, won't you?"
"If I'm not too busy saving myself," was the retort.
The front door of the Ishtars' home opened and a figure stepped onto the porch. Serenity perked up, looking towards the new arrival. "I think that's Marik," she said. "Come on, you two." She waited to make sure Duke and David were right with her before hurrying up the walk.
Marik hastened to meet them. "Get inside, quick!" he ordered. "Ishizu's worried."
"You don't have to tell us twice," David exclaimed. "I'm feeling pretty jittery now myself."
Ishizu was standing in the parlor when the lot of them trouped into the entryway. "I heard the gunshots over the telephone," she said. "Are all of you unhurt?" She looked to each, trying to determine the answer for herself.
"We're fine, Ms. Ishtar," Duke said. "We just need some information about this thing we found, like I was telling you."
David held up the briefcase. Ishizu's attention flickered to it and then back to Duke. "You said you thought you might have the Star of Bennu," she said.
"Yeah," Duke said. "We were going to turn it over to the police, but I wondered if that would really do much good if it is that thing."
"If it is, then no, it would not. It would only place the entire precinct in danger." Ishizu held out her hand. "May I see the stone?"
David undid the latches and pulled the case open. Taking the amethyst out, he laid it in Ishizu's hand. "There it is, in the flesh, so to speak."
Ishizu shivered as it landed in her palm. She grasped it with both hands, frowning as she turned it over and over.
Concerned, Marik came over to look. "What is it, Sister?" He peered over her shoulder.
Ishizu said nothing for a long moment. When she at last looked up, she was troubled. "It may very well be the Star," she said. "I cannot tell for certain."
"Well, how do we find out?" Duke demanded. "And if that's what it is, what can we do with it?"
Ishizu turned, making her way into the living room. The others followed.
"The Star of Bennu controls the gears in the ancient Chamber of Sorrows," Ishizu said over her shoulder. "The chamber lies deep within the Valley of the Kings, safeguarded by a Pharaoh long passed into the realm of Osiris. The only way the Star can leave the chamber is if someone pays the price to use it."
For a reason he could not explain, a chill went up Duke's spine. "What kind of price?" he asked. "You're still talking in riddles."
Ishizu stopped and looked to him. "The Star can bring back that which was lost," she said, "but its power is not free. Every time it is used, a price must be paid. That price is usually both immaterial and very dear to the person seeking the Star. It may consist of the use of talents, abilities, even senses or memories. In return, they receive back what they lost, whether it be a person, a material belonging, or something else."
David was staring in disbelief. "Please don't tell me people really believe this stuff," he said.
"Anciently they did," Ishizu said. "And those who are desperate, even today, are willing to undertake the virulent journey to find the Star of Bennu."
Duke frowned, unconvinced. "So if it's not in the chamber, what happens then?" he wondered.
"It depends entirely on whose hands it falls into," Ishizu said. "It will lie dormant if those without any intention to use it hold it. But at the slightest hint of desire from its holders, good or bad, it will activate. And they, with no concept of what they wield, will plunge themselves, their loved ones, and potentially the entire world into catastrophe."
"So it has to be returned to this chamber," David deduced.
"Or destroyed altogether," Ishizu said. "Some say that such power can never bring good and that it should not be allowed to endure."
"Not that I disagree with that, but there are a lot of things in this world that corrupt," David said. "And we don't try to get rid of every one of them."
"But none of them are like this," Serenity said quietly.
Duke gazed at the rock in Ishizu's hand. "And if it's destroyed . . . does that unravel everything people tried to get it to fix?"
"It is possible," Ishizu said. "No one quite knows what would happen if the Star were to be destroyed. And it can only be done by throwing it into the gears of the chamber that sustained it for so long."
"It sounds like a really twisted version of The Lord of the Rings," David said.
"And I don't want to be Frodo," Duke frowned.
"If you do nothing with the Star, you must hide it where you feel no one will find it," Ishizu said. "However, should someone come within the proper distance of it, no matter where it is hidden, it will still activate on its own if the person longs for its power."
"Great." Duke reached to take the stone from her. "You still didn't tell how we figure out if this thing is the Star."
"Only those who have previously made contracts with the Star can activate the sign of its identity," Ishizu said. "There is an ancient verse about it." She glanced at her brother. "Marik, will you please bring my notebook from my desk?"
"Of course." Marik excused himself, frowning in bewilderment at their guests as he left.
Ishizu relinquished the stone to Duke, who ran his finger across its surface. "I still don't get it," he said. "You said someone can even get back a person. Are you saying this thing can basically resurrect the dead?"
"No," Ishizu said. "I said only that it can bring back what was lost. Including people, yes. But it doesn't have power over life and death, not really. Only God does. All that the Star of Bennu can do is to rewind time so that a particular death didn't technically happen."
Both Duke and David looked up with a jerk. "It's a time-traveling amethyst?" David gasped.
"If you want to think of it that way," Ishizu said. "However, time is a mysterious and tricky thing. Can it ever truly be erased? Rewound? Or does it continue on its way, always, and we only have an illusion that it has changed?"
David was chilled by her supposition. He folded his arms, slowly walking away from the group. If he knew Duke, the guy was freaked out himself. Their conversation from before, concerning memories and feelings that surely could not have happened, was echoing through his mind.
Duke had had what he believed to be irrational fears concerning locations and even periods of time. He also had flashes of what seemed to be memories of David being dead. And David had sensations of knowing what it was like to be dead.
Had he been dead? Could he have been?
Was he still dead now?
Discreetly he held a hand under his nose. He was breathing. And he could feel his heart was beating. But was it all fake? Maybe this was an illusion.
He frowned. Really, he was getting carried away, letting some kooky ancient fable get the better of him because he didn't know how to explain his macabre feelings. There had to be another explanation for it. He was alive. He had never been dead. He wasn't dead.
"Here it is, Sister."
David turned back as Marik arrived with the notebook. Ishizu accepted it and flipped it open, turning the old and yellowed pages. "Thank you, Marik. Ah, here it is." She held the book up as she studied the page. "The verse was written in the ancient Egyptian language, of course. In rough English it says,
"'If Bennu's face you wish to see,
You must be part of his confederacy.
Reunite the Star with his brethren bright,
And witness the vision of the night.'"
Awkward and bewildered silence ruled the group. At last David said, ". . . Well, Mother Goose it isn't, but somehow it's still catchy. Not to mention mad as a hatter."
Duke wound a piece of hair around his finger. "So what's it supposed to mean?" he frowned.
Ishizu closed the notebook. "You must hold the jewel up to catch the light from the night sky," she said. "However, it only seems to work if you're in Egypt."
"You have got to be kidding. So we have to go there no matter what else we decide to do?" Duke's stomach dropped. He had not wanted to become involved in something like this. He had hoped that Ishizu could verify the amethyst's identity then and there and that they could solve their problems that night. Instead it sounded more and more like it could drag on for days.
Ishizu nodded. "If you want to know if this is the Star of Bennu, I'm afraid you must."
"And these creeps following us. Will they figure out we're headed down there?" Duke let the hair spring free from his finger.
"Perhaps not. But their employer might." Ishizu regarded them in concern. "How did you come across this gem?"
"Believe it or not, it was in my storeroom," Duke grumbled. "And the stupid thing's more trouble than it's worth."
"You're not soon going to Egypt by any chance, are you?" David spoke up. "If they don't track us here, they'd never think we handed it off to you."
"We're going to be here a while," Marik told him. "And I'd just as soon have it be indefinitely."
Duke frowned, considering the problem. "Then maybe we can find another way to catch them off-guard," he mused. "We could openly catch a flight somewhere else, and sneak away to Egypt while they're busy looking for us in the decoy location."
"That might work," Ishizu said slowly, but her eyes were worried. "However, you would be taking a great risk."
"Can we even do anything about this mess that isn't a great risk?" Duke retorted. "It's starting to look like we're boxed in. If it's the Star thing it should go back to its tomb. But we can't even find out if it is or not unless we go to Egypt. And these thugs might chase us down there."
Ishizu sighed. "Unfortunately, Duke, you're right." She set the notebook aside. "And I suppose all I can do is to offer a prayer for your safety."
"Thanks," Duke said. "We can use all the help we can get." He glanced to the window, where the rain was still pounding. "We won't take up any more of your time. We should get going."
David nodded. "We might not even be able to pack anything," he realized. "They might go snoop around our places."
Serenity's eyes widened. "Oh no! What if they go to my house too?"
David cringed. "I don't think your brother would take it lying down."
"And he'd get hurt. I have to make sure he's okay! And Mom too, if she's home!" Serenity ran for the door, her hair streaming behind her.
Duke immediately gave chase. "Serenity, wait!" he cried. "There's no way you can go off by yourself!"
David gave the Ishtars an apologetic look. "Sorry about all this. It looks like we're off."
"God be with you," Ishizu said with a quiet nod.
"And good luck too," Marik said.
David nodded. "Thanks. We'll probably need both." He dashed after the others as they ran out into the rain.
Rishid stepped into the room, glancing over while the door shut after David. "I couldn't help overhearing some of the latter part of your conversation," he said in concern. "Should the police be called?"
Marik snorted. "I don't know what good they could do in this mess."
"Rishid has a point," Ishizu said. "If those men are terrorizing Joseph and Ms. Kawai, they could certainly be arrested, regardless of the Star of Bennu." She crossed to the phone. "I will place the call."
Rishid walked to the window, where he could see the teens climbing back into the cab. Marik wandered over to stand beside him.
"They're going to be in trouble," he frowned. "And if that really is the Star, I can't help wondering how they ended up with it."
Rishid looked to him in surprise. "You don't think one of them . . . ?"
"May have used it?" Marik supplied. He turned away from the window with a snap, his earrings jangling with the motion. "Who's to say."
Serenity kept her hands in her lap, wringing them in frantic desperation as they rode to her house. "Oh, please hurry!" she implored the driver more than once.
Duke could not offer any consolation. He wanted to, yet they all knew something could be wrong. And he did not want to give her false hope. That had never been his way, although it was Tristan's. Duke felt it better to present things as they were.
It was to all of their relief when they arrived and found Joey and Ms. Kawai standing on the front lawn, perplexed but unhurt as they spoke with two police officers. Serenity hurried out of the cab, running over to them. "Mom! Joey! Are you alright?"
Joey looked up with a start. "Yeah, Sis. Sure. Why wouldn't we be?"
Serenity opened her mouth, then closed it. She did not want to talk herself into a trap. There was already enough disapproval concerning her relationship with Duke without mentioning that now Duke was in trouble. "Well, it's not every night that I come home and find the police here!" she quickly covered.
"Smart," David said under his breath.
Ms. Kawai glanced to the officers. "Someone called them and said that we might be in danger," she said. "But everything's fine here. They were just about to leave."
The policemen nodded. One of them looked to Serenity. "Miss, do you know who placed that call?"
"No," Serenity said in all honesty. "But you're sure everything's alright?"
"Just fine," smiled the second officer. "Well, we'll be going now. Goodnight." They started back to their patrol car.
Ms. Kawai sighed as they watched. "That's enough excitement for one night," she said. "It's late and wet. Serenity, you should get inside." She glanced at the still-waiting cab. "Isn't . . . Mr. Devlin . . . going to tell you goodnight?" She spoke his name with great effort. Of all who disliked Serenity's relationship with that boy, Ms. Kawai was foremost among them.
"He's in a hurry to get to the airport," Serenity said, glancing over too. "There's a . . . a business meeting he has to fly out to."
"That's all for the better then," Ms. Kawai said. "You'll be away from him for a few days, anyway." She shepherded Serenity inside before the girl could let out a protest.
Joey, lingering behind, frowned. He went to the cab and bent down, peering in the window. "Hey, Duke, is that true?" he asked. "You're going away?"
"For a little bit," Duke said. His eyes narrowed. "I'm not abandoning Serenity, Joey. I'm coming back."
"Yeah, and you'd better not have another girl on your arm when you do," Joey growled.
"I won't. I'll send her a postcard somewhere along the way. Maybe I'll send you one too," Duke quipped.
"Nevermind. I'll see you later." Joey straightened, heading for the house.
David watched him go. "Well?" he asked then. "Are we going to the airport?"
"Yeah," Duke said slowly. "But first we should stop somewhere and get a few things. Especially since we shouldn't go to our homes and pack." He looked to the driver. "Find a place that's still open where we can get some clothes and luggage and stuff."
The cabbie glanced in the rear-view mirror. "Your best bet is probably Wal-Mart, at this hour."
Duke sighed. He could afford better, but they were in a rush. "Fine," he said. "Let's go."
David smirked at him. "You really are desperate."
"Yeah, yeah," Duke muttered. "Tell me about it."
He leaned back, watching the house as the cabbie started the engine. He did not like leaving Serenity behind, particularly when they had no idea whether those thugs would show up there or not. But was there anything he could do, aside from staying and watching? After pondering on the matter, he drew out his phone.
David blinked. "What are you doing now?"
"Someone should keep watch here," Duke said. "Driver, wait a minute."
The cabbie sighed but turned off the engine. "It's your dough. The meter's still ticking away."
"You'll get paid," Duke retorted.
David still looked puzzled. "Duke, who are you going to get to watch over the place? Seto Kaiba's private security guards?"
"I'm not going to wrangle with him right now," Duke grunted. "I'm calling my neighbor, Pete Coppermine. He's a card professor, you know. He can keep watch, and intercept the thugs if they show up."
"A mercenary?" David stared at him. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Pete's a good guy," Duke answered. "Besides, it won't be a favor. I'll pay him."
David leaned back. "Okay then."
Serenity hurried around her room as quietly as possible, gathering clothes and other items she thought she would need on the trip to Egypt. She packed them with care in her suitcase, her heart rate increasing the fuller the valise grew.
This was completely unlike her. Her mother and Joey would both be beside themselves with panic and worry. And Duke would probably hit the ceiling. He did not want her to come along. But she was certain that Duke and David were in far more danger than her family. It wouldn't take those men long to figure out that Duke and David might be trying to get away. And if she wasn't here, she could not be found and used her against them.
There was another, deeper reason for her determination to go with them on their quest. Grabbing a piece of paper on her desk, she scratched out a quick note to her mother and brother before taking up her suitcase and hurrying to the window to climb out.
Dear Mom and Joey,
I'm really sorry about this. I know you're going to worry, but I promise I'll be alright.
This is something I have to do. I can't explain it all right now, but it has to do with
saving a life. Two lives, really. I can't let anything happen to either of them, especially
now that they've finally been able to live normally again.
I love you both.