I'm going to try my best to keep a chapter/week pace for this story. This chapter is more violent than the previous two. As always, feedback and suggestions are greatly appreciated, so please review! I hope you enjoy this next stage of Edward's journey.
My first dreamless sleep in ages is ended with a face full of stinging cold water.
"Rise and shine, pig." An unfamiliar jeering voice cuts through my still groggy senses.
It takes a few moments for my vision to come into focus after shaking the icy water out of my eyes. My police training is so engrained into my reflexes that I begin to survey my new surroundings before I'm even able to see them.
My first breath is filled with the scents of dust and old brickwork; not uncommon in the dingy slums of Olympic City, and therefore not immediately useful. The room I find myself in is dimly lit, unfurnished apart from the hard metal chair I'm seated in, and windowless. A basement, maybe?
I lean forward to rise out of my seat, only to find myself bound by leather straps across each wrist to the arms of the chair. Attempting to kick my feet forward reveals a similar predicament with my ankles. I try to rock back and forth, but the chair seems to be bolted to the bare concrete floor.
A soft snicker reminds me that I'm not alone.
The single bare light bulb dangling over my head isn't much assistance, but it's enough to make out 3 figures in the gloom. Two of them, one tall and wiry, the other stocky and thick, are standing side by side near the base of a staircase on the far side of the room; another quick survey of the room tells me that this is my only exit. Though they're mostly cloaked in shade, I can see the unfriendly smiles directed at me by the whites of their teeth.
The third man is standing off to the right, leaning lazily against the wall with his arms crossed. It might be the poor lighting, or the after effects of whatever these assholes stuck in my neck, but this guy could easily be 7 feet tall, and thick as a tree trunk. The giant is the first to break the silence.
"Hey, Cullen, long time no see. You never write anymore." The voice is deep and gruff, and brimming with malicious sarcasm. It's a voice I know well, and pieces of the puzzle start falling rapidly into place.
"I didn't know you could read, Jacob." I reply scathingly.
Jacob Black, muscle-for-hire, had been the yin to my yang for nearly my entire career in law enforcement. He's roughly my age, and had begun work on his rap sheet around the same time as I started walking the beat. One could almost say that we grew up together, the way rivals often do. It occurs to me that I haven't thought about, or cuffed him in quite a while; I guess he doesn't get under my skin as much as he would like to think.
"Tsk, now is that any way to greet an old friend?" replies Jacob, as he strolls out from his dark corner and into the dim ring of light on the floor around me. If it's possible, he looks even bigger up close. He had always been tall, but now his black t-shirt is stretched across him like plastic wrap. He stops in front of me, and crouches down to his heels, bringing him to eye level.
"You know, anabolic steroids are really bad for you." I offer matter-of-factly. He responds with a wide smile, creating a sharp contrast of white teeth against russet skin.
"You hear that, Quil? You'd better lay off the juice." He calls over his shoulder to the two men still in the shadows. The tall one tries, unsuccessfully, to muffle his laughter. The short one seems less amused.
"I've gotta say, Cullen, I'm impressed. You must be trying extra hard to be a pain in the ass these days for the boss to set his sights on you like this." Jacob continues, turning to once again fix his dark eyes on me.
Boss… right. I scoff at the thought. Jacob Black pretends to be as loyal as a dog as long as the pay checks keep flowing; as soon as they dry up, or bigger ones start showing up elsewhere, he's just another hungry wolf.
"Which of your many 'bosses' did I piss off this time? Still running protection detail for old Sam Uley?"
"Oh, you haven't heard?" He flashes another wide grin. "Some detective you are. I take my orders from the King these days, and boy, does he have it in for you something fierce."
A small surge of electricity runs down my spine. I wasn't expecting that; this could be worse than I had anticipated. If the King of Hearts is kidnapping cops now, he's taken things to the next level; it means open war in Olympic City. We pushed him by clamping down on his production in the city, and this is him pushing back.
Even though this new piece of the puzzle is triggering my instinct for self-preservation, I work hard to keep any sign of distress from tainting my carefully composed façade.
"Alright then, let's cut to the chase. You didn't bring me here for my sparkling conversation. What do you want, Jacob?" I inquire coolly. I'm anxious to know the answer; for better or for worse, I want to get this over with.
Jacob only continues to beam his shit-eating grin at me, seemingly detecting my impatience.
"You know what? I've got something for you to tell the King." I fire at Jacob and his juvenile smirk, making no secret of my irritation now. I cast a theatrical and deliberate glance at his two lackeys before flicking my head back, in a gesture to beckon him closer. He raises an eyebrow in feigned interest, but leans forward to receive my message all the same.
The moment his face is close enough, I send my forehead hurtling down into the bridge of his nose, producing an audible and unmistakable crunch. The startling force of the impact forces him backwards over his heels, and onto the cold concrete. I'd say he got the message.
I can't help but grin and laugh mirthlessly as Jacob scrambles to right himself and stem the steady flow of blood trickling from his undoubtedly broken nose. It's been so long since I've crossed paths with Jacob Black that I forgot how much pleasure I get from shutting his smug mouth.
After regaining his balance, Jacob locks eyes with me for only a moment to convey his raw hatred before swinging his brick-sized fist across my face in a vicious right hook. It connects flush with my cheekbone, forcing my head sideways in a blast of concussive force. I don't even have time to assess the damage before another wrecking ball strikes me across my right eye, causing a flash of white in my vision. I have just enough time to regain my senses to watch Jacob plant his feet and torque his hips in preparation for another violent blow. This one catches me in the base of the jaw, and the impact sends shockwaves of pain rippling through my skull. I press my lips together, hard, to stifle a moan; I won't give this asshole the satisfaction.
It takes me awhile to pull my senses together after the onslaught. My vision is still blurry from my right eye; my orbital bone might be broken. I can taste the warm blood pooling in my mouth, the unpleasant flavours of rust and salt that beg to be expelled. I lean forward to spit on Jacob's shoes, but a sharp pain in my jaw stifles the attempt, allowing the crimson saliva to dribble out onto my shirt. My jaw must be broken too, or at least dislocated. I hate how I must look right now; only three punches and I'm battered and helpless, leaking blood and spit on myself, unable to do anything about it.
"You always have to do things the hard way, don't you, Cullen?" Jacob growls, halfway between anger and amusement, the sound distorted by his nasal injury. "We were only ordered to carry out one little task, and then cut you loose, but then you had to go and do something like that."
Task? What task? And how can they possibly think they could cut me loose after this; we both know damn well that Emmett and I would be kicking down his door tomorrow, along with an army of cops and their itchy trigger fingers. I try to ask, but the pain in my jaw stops me short and brings on another wave of dizziness.
"Quil, Embry, go to work on this piece of shit. I've got somewhere to be. Call me when it's done."
"We can go all out, Jake? Seriously?" asks the tall one, Embry I suppose.
"Sure, sure. Make him beg for a bullet before you do it. I'll see you boys later."
Jacob turns back one last time to meet my eyes. I'm expecting one last taunt, but he only stares at me with a narrow glare for one long moment with a tiny frown on his lips. Finally, he raises a hand up and points his index and middle finger at me, miming a pistol. He mouths the sound of the imaginary gunshot, before turning and heading up the stairs, leaving me alone with the two goons.
The only things cutting through the utter silence now are the steady rhythmic drip, drip of a leaky pipe somewhere behind me, and my own laboured, uneven breathing. The thugs are looming over me hungrily, looking me over, trying to decide where to begin. The baton in Quil's hand gives me a pretty clear idea of what to expect from the next several minutes.
I close my eyes and steel myself for the pain. No matter what happens, I'm not going to scream. I've taken more than my share of beatings from being a cop in Olympic City; trespassing in the grimy slums where the law is an unwelcome guest. This could even be the last one I ever endure, depending on what the King has in store for me. I run through some possibilities in my head; hanging my battered corpse from the flag pole in front of the station, dragging me through the streets behind my own car… none of them are terribly appealing ways to die.
The first blow comes sharp and crisp against my left hand with a crack, sending lightning up my arm. I clench my teeth reflexively, only to loosen them in response to the searing pain in my jaw. The only noise I surrender is a muffled grunt; so far, so good.
I've found in the past that keeping my eyes closed is an effective way to deal with the mental aspect of physical pain, like setting a dislocated finger on 3, and doing it on 1. It lets me focus on something besides the baton now being swung into my kneecaps. I think about dinner at Emmett's; earlier today, I was dreading a night of pleasant socializing in order to ward off dark thoughts, but now I'd definitely prefer a nice steak to this beating.
Ribs, forearms, collarbone, shins… The repeated strikes are blending together into one blanket of pain covering my entire body. I feel like a teddy bear with half his stuffing missing, shapeless and headed for the trash can.
I open my eyes when I realize that the blitz has stopped. My vision is still blurry and unfocused; probably a good thing, since I don't think I can bear to see how pathetic I look after that thrashing.
I can see the two mugs still standing nearby, and hear them speak. It sounds distant, like they're at the other end of a long hallway.
"Phew, that really takes it out of you." Says one.
"Still, glad to be on this side of the stick." Replies the other.
"Anyway, you ready to do this?"
"Yeah, let's get it over with, I'm getting hungry."
"You're always hungry."
One of them grabs a fistful of my hair and wrenches my head backwards. His other hand grips my jaw roughly, which sends another shock of pain through my system and causes my vision to reel once more.
I can feel something cold and thin across my lips… a cup? They're pouring whatever's inside into my mouth. It's warm, like hour old coffee, but as viscous as cough syrup. It tastes terrible, somewhere between sour milk and stomach acid. What the hell are… they…
Only now do I start to squirm in my chair, but it's not much use when your bones are made of jelly and dust; it only amplifies the pain and the panic. I start to cough and sputter to expel the poisonous liquid, but they simply pinch my nostrils and clamp my mouth shut with their grubby paws.
I hold on as long as I can, but it's only a matter of time before the hemo slips down my throat, coating it with the venomous drug. Of all the possible ways to die I had considered, this is the most humiliating, vulgar, degrading…
I've just been giving a death sentence.
I love to end a chapter with a cliffhanger. Please review!