DISCLAIMER: Please, no one sue me! I do not own any of the original Streets of Rage characters. I have merely adapted the game series storyline to aid my overactive imagination. I have been a huge fan of the Sega series since childhood and this is purely a fanfic for my own and online readers enjoyment. I did however create the character Ali Stone and should anyone wish to use her please ask me first, thanks. Helpful and encouraging reviews are most welcome but please, nothing too hideous!

"Those useless hoodlums are no better than a twelve year old shoplifter. Why do you still bother with them? You have me, and I am more than willing to act."

Speaking in a grave tone Leon Shiva cracked his knuckles and straightened his back, making his strong and sturdy frame appear taller than its six foot three stance. His body sank into a nearby chair and his narrow black eyes bore into the back of the man he had addressed, this being none other than Mr. X.

The men were situated in the plush top floor office of X Corporation. On the far side of a large desk the head honcho studied the pieces of a platinum chess board in front of him. The King and Queen figurines were beautifully crafted with tiny green stones that glistened along their crowns. The colour was almost a match to Mr. X's own ensemble; a marble green suit completed with a black silk tie. Just like the chess board, the outfit looked expensive.

His brown-hair-turning-grey reached the nape of his neck and was neatly combed behind his ears. His stubbly chin rested on the back of his hands and his broad chest tilted forward over the dark mahogany. Slowly he began to turn in the high backed chair and proceed to light the cigar that dangled from his lower lip. He puffed from the thick cuban three times before responding to Shiva's question.

"Think of this life as a game of chess. You always send the pawns out first," he glanced down at the chess game, waved a hand over the pieces and went on. "Inferior to every other specimen and yet they still serve a purpose on the board."

Mr. X sucked on the cigar again, blowing a perfect circle of smoke up above his head and repeated his initial statement.

"You always send the pawns first."

Shiva nodded in understanding. He was still angry at himself for letting Dr. Gilbert slip through his fingers, a first for Shiva since working for Mr. X. He plotted payback for Zan since the humiliating experience and was prepared to take down anyone who would try and defend him. Balling his hands into a fist he cracked two more of his fingers.

Sensing Shiva's anticipation Mr. X gave him some reassurance.

"Relax Leon, you'll get your turn. We've no idea how much Laxine the doctor has used on himself. But judging from your 'encounter' with him I suspect even you will need to be on your guard." Mr. X was facing the large rectangular window, staring out at the city skyline.

"Since Hunters kidnap they're all curious as to what goes on here behind closed doors. He was easy bait, like a fish biting the hook. The catch and release method has them hungry for more. But I won't take anything for granted. We need something to ensure they make their move tomorrow, so I can make mine. The moment Zan Gilbert is without his babysitters you need to be ready for him."

"Completely," came Shiva's immediate reply. He was loyal, no one could deny him that.

Mr. X let his back relax into the cushioned chair and let his thoughts on the next move wander through his mind. Once Zan had dragged the interfering ex coppers into the equation Mr. X had known he had to create a ploy to get them out of his way. The following night's benefit was no more than a decoy, a staged event. An attempt to get the doctor out from behind the curtain.

The phone buzzed and he twirled around in his chair, promptly placing the receiver to his ear.

A female voice spoke quietly from the other end of the line and Mr. X gave his instructions to her.

"Send him up along with the other two."

Opening the top drawer of his desk he withdrew a hand gun, a dark grey nine millimetre pistol.

"All part of the act."

Screwing a silencer onto the barrel he glanced at Shiva. "There will be work for you after this meeting Leon, if my suspicions are correct."

"Is this the eyewitness?" Shiva asked slightly mockingly. "Do you really believe Barbon dared to give you false information?"

Mr. X laughed heartily while Shiva removed himself from his chair and went to stand by his bosses right hand side. Mr. X remained seated.

"Anything's possible Leon. It's been six days since I ordered the boys to stake out the address Barbon passed on and not once has the doctor been sighted. There's no sign of life in the place, and no coming or going by anyone."

"But why would he lie about that, what would he be protecting?"

"What or who? I think we may be about to find out."

Holding his pistol firmly beneath the desk and out of sight, Mr. X eyeballed the men that came hobbling into the spacious office.

Galsia and Harlem were two of the three, although they both looked in bad shape. Galsia had map bruising on his face and a bandage covering his entire left hand. A nose splint that spread right across his blackened eyes indicated the strength of Axel's punches. Harlem had cuts and bruises over his forehead too, and his right arm lay limp in a sling across his chest. Shiva smirked at the sight of the two henchmen before rolling his eyes over to the third man. He was a skinny redheaded fellow wearing tatty jeans and a black t-shirt with the slogan "100% CELTIC" splashed across the torso. He stood with a casual posture and did not appear to be nervous in the presence of James Brendan Xavier. It was on that basis alone that Shiva decided he did not like him. As usual Mr. X's expression was a complete poker face, giving nothing away. He studied each of the three males before finally speaking to the new guy.

"And you are?"

"Me name's Seamus," came the cheery irish accent, "and I've information for ya about that science bloke you've been lookin' for."

Shiva let a low snort rumble from the back of his throat but he said nothing, knowing full well to leave the questions to his more than capable boss.

"Very well then, let's hear it."

The younger man began to elaborate.

"Meself and the lads went to Barbon's for Friday night scoops. Wasn't really my cuppa tea to be honest, wouldn't be bothered going back."

Mr. X scrunched up his forehead in a manner that told Seamus to arrive at his point quicker, and so the irish man continued.

"It would've been between twelve and one that I saw the old geezer sitting at the bar. He kept to himself and didn't stay very long. Only person in the place he talked to was the barmaid. She made a call for him and he left soon after."

Shiva's ears pricked up on the mention of a barmaid and Mr. X probed further.

"Describe her to me, the barmaid that he spoke with."

"Sexy as hell but with a real sassy mouth."

J. B. Xavier's forehead became wrinkled with frown lines.

"They're professional whores in that place least you forget, that statement describes each and every one of them. Be more specific."

"Eh, the tall one, curvy like. The one with the longish hair, kind of a, browny colour…?"

Seamus trailed off looking positively stumped on how one should describe a woman's physique without using adjectives such as 'hot' or 'sexy'. He was quite a dishevelled looking creature himself which told the rest of the room that taking care of his own appearance was far down on his list of priorities.

Having first suspected Barbon's niece as being the one to aid Zan, Shiva was somewhat surprised upon hearing the irish man's account, for the woman he illustrated was certainly not the short and skinny Garnett.

"She had big green eyes and a squiggly "M" inked on the back of her neck, if that helps," added Seamus quickly, gesturing to the nape of his own neck. "She was told to go back to work after having a tiff with some fella, looked like a boyfriend of some sorts. Then he and another chick spoke to the main man and left. Oh but not before kicking the shit outta him and a bunch of the lads in the alley way! That was the best part of the night!"

"By the main man you mean the owner, Barbon?"

Seamus nodded. "Yeah, I'd been watching the fight from the corner window, 'til we were all removed from the place and it shut up early."

Mr. X shot Shiva a look which the asian reciprocated. Well well well, this was getting intriguing. There were no doubts that the barmaid described to them was Mona. But who was the boyfriend and what triggered the hand to hand combat? More than just some jealous partner, surely. Mr. X felt the plot thickening and so he furthered his inquest.

"And this boyfriend type, you say he spoke with Barbon before the fight broke out?"

"Yeah, the english chick he brought with him started asking something about the Zan fella but I kept me mouth shut and went into the lounge. I'm not a nosey lad so I don't like getting involved in stuff that don't concern me."

Galsia, Harlem and even straight faced Shiva lifted an eyebrow to Seamus' last statement.

None the less it painted the picture quite clearly for Shiva and his boss. Mr. X tutted quietly under his breath and made slow nodding movements with his head. If this account was accurate then Mona was playing with fire, first by having a boyfriend on the opposing side and second for acting as Zan's good samaritan. Either she lied to Barbon or he had lied straight out to Mr. X himself. Whichever way it happened, neither way was going to be tolerated.

"Do ya drink downtown yourself?" Seamus asked tentatively. "I'm always around with the lads, sure pop in sometime and we'll buy ya a pint." Ignoring the question completely Mr. X spoke.

"Thank you Seamus, there is an envelope waiting for you downstairs. You can collect it on your way out which will be in a moment."

Seamus beamed with satisfaction that he had been of some help to the notorious head of X Corporation. He was an average petty criminal at the bottom of the ranks. If reciting his encounters of the weekend earned him enough for a few ales he was only too delighted to come forward.

Before Seamus was dismissed from the room Mr. X turned his attention to the two injured minions before him. Through narrowed eyes he made enquiries with them.

"Where's Donovan? He was with you that night too, yes?"

Galsia replied in a raspy voice.

"Yeah. He was. He's still in recovery. That british bitch really did a number on him."

Mr. X looked unimpressed and was about to speak when Harlem jumped in first, attempting to explain.

"They've really upped their game, Galsia and I both took on the blonde guy, Axel whatever, but he was just, faster or somethin'."

Mr. X rose from his chair and moved towards Harlem. Within a second he had his fist clenched around the Brooklyn goon's elbow making him gasp loudly in agony. The sling was meant to keep his tender arm from being hurt further but it did not stop Mr. X from inflicting pain. In a swift movement that impressed even the highly trained Shiva, Mr. X had the cool metal of his hand gun pressed against the sweaty skin of Harlem's temple.

"You fool, they did not up their game as you so lamely put it. They entered that place on the attack and you louts were unprepared. It was you who was taken by surprise this time around."

Galsia and Seamus both took a few steps backwards, unsure just how far Mr. X was going to go with this dramatic production.

"Donovan should know, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," he breathed down Harlem's neck. "She smouldered with rage for him since their last encounter, of course she was going to beat him within an inch of his life. That 'british bitch', Blaze Fielding. Well, she waited a long time for that moment."

He practically spat her name into Harlems face, but all the syndicate hooligan could do was take his bosses outrage and pray he would leave the building alive.

"Seamus are you sure that what you've told me here this evening is the truth?"

The irish twenty something bobbed his head vigorously and called out "Yeah yeah, course it is!"

"Because you see what happens to people when they let me down…" and as Mr. X slowly began to curl his finger around the trigger Harlem let out a whimper, a mixture of the pain that shot through his arm and the realisation that Mr. X may just have had enough of him.

But the trigger that had been aimed and squeezed a multitude of times on others before him was not pulled. Mr. X released his grip on Harlem and calmly backed away from the three unnerved men, returning to his seat behind the large mahogany desk. He replaced the gun in the drawer catching Shiva's eye for a split second as he did so. He only just made out the sideways smile spread across Leon's cheek.

"You may go, all of you."

Each one of the syndicate members were wide eyed, due to fear and disbelief at what very nearly took place. It was a lesson to each one of them; Never lie to Mr. X. And don't ever piss him off.

The solid door shut firmly behind them just seconds after Seamus could be heard declaring, "Holy shit, for a sec I thought he was blowin' ya away there amigo!"

Their voices echoed through the long corridor causing Mr. X to grin, but he quickly straightened his middle aged face and turned to Shiva. He had had enough of people tip toeing around him and he felt now was the time to make some noise.

"So our little Mona-Lisa has allowed a man into her life. And not just any Joe-Soap for that matter. If it's true then it's a crying shame, I had taken her for a smart girl."

"What do you want me to do about her 'other half'?" Shiva asked sneeringly. He cocked his head to one side and cracked his knuckles.

"Nothing yet. I must first see to Barbon. But a window of opportunity has been opened now that the heavy weight is involved."

"Barbon needs someone to put him straight," Shiva stated. "It wouldn't be the first time he's failed to come forward with information, and I'd be happy to deliver the message personally." Shiva grinned broadly, eager for the chance to let off some steam in his most preferred fashion.

"No, Barbon deserves to hear this from me."

Once again Mr. X opened the top drawer of his desk and retrieved his hand gun.

"And as for Mona?" questioned Shiva, lifting a dark thin eyebrow.

"I need to hear that from Barbon but if my suspicions are correct then you will need to find her, along with riling up any of the others in order to ensure their presence tomorrow night. You have a lot of work to do."

Shiva's mouth grew wider until it formed a sinister smile and a sharp nod of his head was his undertaking to carry out these instructions. Never one to dawdle he disappeared from the room and crossed the hall. He used the elevator to take him down to the outside world to get the car ready for himself and his boss. The wicked smile on his cheeks became more prominent as he neared the door. They had work to do.

Mumbling incoherent french to himself Barbon traipsed down the corridor which led to his office. His chiselled body stank of high-priced whiskey and cologne. A self rolled cigarette was sandwiched between his bruised lips and he held tight to a pile of papers under his left arm.

As he reached the varnished oak door he paused for a moment, using his free hand to retrieve a big bunch of keys from his trousers pocket. W. BARBON, PROPRIETOR was printed in large letters and fixed to the office entrance. He jingled the keychains around in his large palm until he could clearly see his office key. He pushed it into the keyhole but as the door slowly began to open with the movement he discovered the door was already unlocked.

Cautiously edging the door open he observed the three visible corners of the room.

"Who is there?" he called out gruffly, but no one answered him.

He walked towards his desk muttering under his breath but when the door closed with a click he jumped around, dropping most of his paperwork with the noise.

"What are you doing here?" he asked the man, and began stooping to pick up his things.

"Leave those," came the reply from the voice. "I need to speak with you. Take a seat."

"This is my workplace, you do not just tromp in here and think-"

But the voice, which belonged to Mr. X interjected.

"Sit down Wayne. I don't plan on staying long. I just need some information. When I get it I'll go."

Barbon's eyes burned into Mr. X's from across the small room. He did not appreciate the unexpected and unwelcome visit from his estranged business colleague and he wished he would just leave. He did not have time for these games, he had his own work to be getting on with.

Barbon edged his way behind the desk and sat at his chair keeping his hands in full view, palms down on the hard surface.

"The doctor has not been seen since his visit last Friday. You should know I do not like to get involved in these issues, I told you all I know on the phone. I have nothing more I can tell you."

"But I believe you do," disagreed Mr. X. "You see my men have watched and waited for Zan all week and he's nowhere to be found. Poof! Like he vanished. When they went as far as breaking and entering you know what they found? The place has been vacant and by the looks of it for quite some time." Mr. X explained all this in a sort of singsongy voice, as though he were speaking to a small child. "You know what I think? I think I was misinformed. I think you gave me the wrong address because you were not the one who spoke with Zan."

It had been a long time since the men had had to cross paths on any matter, and Barbon's face remained stiff and impassive. In less than perfect english he repeated his initial plea.

"I will tell you once more. He asked me to call him a cab from the bar. It was to that address, the one I give you over the phone. I know nothing more."

"I have reason to believe you do. And I also think you're lying to me…"

There was a pause as the two men stared at each other, Barbon feeling unclear as to what Mr. X would do next. He went ahead and asked the syndicate headman what was on his mind.

"What do you really want from me James?"

And without hesitation Mr. X replied,


Knock knock

From the small bathroom Max could hear two hard thumps that sounded on his front door. He was not home all that long having spent the day in Axel's dojo training hard with the gang. It was Saturday evening and he intended to chill out in the apartment, to rest up for the events that would take place the following night. Having eaten with his friends sometime earlier he had returned home to shower and change into his sweats.

Knock knock knock

Loosely tying the string on his bottom attire Max shuffled barefoot into the open plan lounge and towards the main door. He just about managed to hide his surprise when he saw Mona standing on the other side of the door frame.

"If you're here to apologise-"

"I'm not," she interrupted him. "I'm here to explain."

Max drew a deep breath and let his eyes take her in. Mona's thick waves of hair were pinned in an up style with only the odd loose curl dangling against her face and neck. Her short denim skirt and string top showed off her sun kissed skin beautifully. She looked stunning.

"James Xavier is my step father, in a manner of speaking."

Max's expression froze on his face. At first he was unsure whether to believe her or not, but there was something in her emerald green eyes that told him to take the chance and hear more of this information.

"Can I come in now?"

Slowly releasing the long sigh Max breathed out, "I think you better."

Max let the girl brush past his unclad top half, getting a faint smell of her coconut shampoo. Taking a step forward he swiftly looked to the left and right of the outside hallway. Upon seeing it was empty he shut the door behind him. Mona had already sauntered on inside the apartment. Her eyes shifted to the clothes strewn across the back of the couch and the magazines that had somehow fallen from the coffee table onto the floor.

"So this is how your place looks when you're not tryna get laid."

Her icebreaker only made Max frown and he promptly brought the conversation back to the important issues.

"How about you just get to the part where the guy who's tried to take out my friends is actually your Daddy?"

Mona's dimpled smile vanished and she took a seat on the edge of the sofa.

"In a nutshell," she began, "Momma liked the rich guys. And she was gorgeous, the perfect trophy for him to wear on his arm during the brief time that they were together."

"I once read he's been married four times and divorced just as many."

With a fixed smirk on her face Mona went on.

"Momma was number two but it didn't last long, and she died in a car crash soon after they divorced. I was twenty years old with not a dime of my own, but I'll save you the poor little orphan story."

There was very little empathy in Mona's husky voice as she spoke about her Mother. She appeared more matter of fact than emotional, yet her eyes did not meet with Max's.

"I wouldn't go as far as to say James cared about my well being, but perhaps he pitied me. All I know is I was put up in the place I'm in now and the girls there became my family."

"He got you a job in a strip joint and you call that family?" Max snorted, managing to raise an eyebrow through his scowl. He recalled Barbon's unsavoury manner towards Mona the last time they'd met, but she was quick to correct him now.

"It was tending bar to begin with actually but you really don't get it. Barbon's never laid a hand on me."

Max's face showed his disbelief and Mona elaborated, "That wouldn't be true of all the girls I admit, but for me it really is. I work and go home. Alone. That's the way my life has been for a long time."

"And your stint at the gym? Why bother with that if you've been content where you're at?"

A burst of laughter came from Mona's mouth.

"You don't meet nice guys where I work, and I was thirty two on my last birthday!"

Studying her expression Max saw sincerity in her face, possibly for the first time since they'd met. Her eyes gazed down at her manicured hands which were wrapped around her knees.

"I won't do this job forever you know, but I've made money…I've saved a lot."

"Good for you princess, but I'm guessing you didn't come here to clue me in on your family tree. Now what do you really want to tell me?"

Mona stopped chewing on the inside of her mouth and actually looked solemn for a moment. She could see Max had his defence shields up to her so she got to the point. "Why were you looking for Zan?"

Another grunting sound came from Max's direction and he slapped his hand down onto his lap.

"Ha! Oh don't tell me, you're buddy-buddy with the doc too right? Mona why would you ask me that?"

"Because even though I believe he's a good guy, trouble has a way of catching up with him. Most people who get involved with him end up in a very bad way."

"So what have you got to worry about, you work for Barbon not Mr. X. And if Barbon is the family man you portray him to be then you and your sisterhood are all in the clear."

Max did not try to conceal the animosity in his tone of voice, and his patience had started wear thin. He hated what Mona was telling him about her life, especially her work, and yet a part of him knew there was more to her than what Barbon claimed. He wanted to believe she had substance, but now she too was getting frustrated.

"Don't you get it? It's not me or my sisters I'm concerned for. Barbon and James did business together for years 'til going their separate ways, mainly over issues with Zan," and she slowly made her eyes look into Max's dark ones. "I don't know all the politics involved so don't ask me that. I just know that when people who they don't want hanging around get too close they become very dangerous people."

"If that's the case then why are you here now telling me this? Isn't this be a big risk for you?"

With Max's question hanging in the air Mona's whole body went tense and her jaw bones clenched up right before she answered him.

"Because I've been warned. When I leave here you won't see me again, but for your own sake I'm warning you to stay away from Zan!"

The silence that suffused the crimson coloured office only confirmed what Mr. X's source had revealed earlier that evening. Mona had spoken with Zan that night, not Barbon. She was involved with the wrestler friend of the ex officers and Barbon was actually covering for her.

"I believe you had a bit of a scuffle with her boyfriend, and his friend. Was it he who gave you that shiner?" Using his left hand to gesture towards the sweaty mans bruised eye sockets Mr. X kept his right hand bent behind his back.

"If I were to take a stab at guessing who they were I would go with the wrestler and the english rose! Come on now, you can tell me old friend."

Rubbing his swollen temples which had turned a purplish colour from his ordeal with Mona's boyfriend, Wayne Barbon eventually let some words come out of his mouth.

"She was sleeping with him, Max, the former wrestler. When I discovered this I gave her grave warning, but the tables turned and he ended it that same night. As for the cop, she asked about Zan, oui, but I told them nothing and later a brawl ensued."

"Those are not the important parts. What did Mona tell the old man?"

Barbon's mouth began to form a small 'O' shape. He blinked twice and responded, "I don't understand."

Mr. X was growing increasingly tired of Barbon protecting his whore by blatantly lying. It was time to demonstrate that he meant business and so he inched closer to Barbon and repeated the question.

"What did she say?"

"I don't know," said the owner, "She was the one to call him a cab, I don't know where to."

With an exaggerated sigh Mr. X let his eyes drop to the floor. "That's not good enough."


In a rapid movement Mr. X had pulled his pistol from behind his back and fired straight into Barbon's forehead, killing him on the spot. The silencer prevented anyone remotely close by from being aware of the owner's sudden and immediate death. Blood trickled from the small hole that had pierced his skull, flowing down his cheek and past his ear. His head lolled back in the chair, slightly to one side.

Out from the shadowy fourth corner of the room Shiva emerged with a smirk on his face.

"Will I dispose of him?"

Mr. X shook his head while he wiped his gun and returned it to it's original place.

"No it's a waste of time. I'll take the car back to headquarters and you need to make a call. I want that address. First you need to find Mona, although I'll bet it's not hard to guess where she could be."

"And if she won't talk?" asked Shiva, nodding towards Barbon who was slumped motionless at the desk behind him. Mr. X took one last look at his former colleague and business partner. The blood that oozed from his head had reached his shirt causing different patterned stains to appear in patches all over the chest and shoulders. Safely tucking his gun away in his breast pocket he shrugged as he replied.

"Then we don't need her."

For the next moment the only sound to fill the room was the noise from the streets outside. Muffled club music, stifled voices.

Mona lowered her eyes and spoke in a quieter tone of voice, "I don't want you to get hurt."

Max did not say a word but continued to stare at the young woman who sat no more than three yards away from him.

"The day you saw me in Barbon's was the first time in my job that I ever felt wretched. But what really made me sad was when I discovered who you were, or rather who your friends were. I cared about you Max, I still do. I don't wanna see you get hurt."

Uncrossing her legs and rising to her feet Mona hurriedly began to make her way towards the door. She barely got as far as the kitchenette when Max reached his wide arm out to her. Gripping her wrist he pulled her back, swiftly drawing her close to him.

He did not say anything but just looked down at her face, trying in vain to lock pupils with her. But she kept her eyes firmly fixed on the floor, reluctant to meet his gaze that she could feel burning into her. He held her hand against his chest and she could feel his heart beating. Beads of water remained on his torso from his earlier shower, and the sweat pants he had hastily thrown on were loosely hanging from his pelvis.

"Max, I know what you think of me but it's not-"

He cut her off by kissing her, full and hard on the lips. Mona was slightly surprised with this act of affection but she too was quick in returning the kiss just as intimately as it had begun.

Eyes closed they manoeuvred themselves backwards into the kitchenette behind them, all the while engaged in the adrenalised lip lock. Mona's hips pressed against the breakfast bar that extended from the countertop, letting Max know they could take no further steps. Within seconds he had her hoisted onto the kitchen work surface where she wrapped her arms around his wide neck, keeping him close. Separating her knees Mona broadly hinted at what she wanted and let one of her hands slide down over the latinos muscles until her fingers found what they sought. She reached his string belt and tugged at his sweats. Squeezing her legs tighter around his wide waist she continued to kiss his mouth sensually. Allowing his big paws of hands to roam freely over the magnificent figure in front of him Max let out a low groan as he felt his need for Mona surge.


The couple were jolted apart before their embrace could go any further. The living room window had been blasted by a fiery gun and there were shards of glass all over the carpet. Mona leapt off the countertop in shock and Max vigorously pulled her into the bathroom, this being the closest door to them.

More bullets were fired into the now bare window frame and passers by on the street outside screamed as they scurried off out of harms way.

"What the fuck is goin' on?" called out Max, more to himself than to Mona. They both held their hands up to their ears in an attempt to block out some of the deafening noise of gunfire. But Max's expression turned from utter shock to that of contempt as the penny began to drop in his mind.

"You! You led them here?"

Mona's eyes grew wide like saucers as she started to protest, but Max cut across her. "I knew I couldn't trust you. They want my friends so you led 'em here."

Crouched down beside the panel of the bathtub Mona shook her head repeatedly.

"No! That's not true, I dunno who's out there!"

The guns stopped firing and all that could be heard from outside the apartment walls were shrieks from the handful of pedestrians who remained close by. As the last few civilians fled the area and saved themselves, Max edged out of the bathroom and observed the mess. He did not get long to study the damage however as seconds later the front door burst open. A powerfully fast-paced kick left Max with a throbbing in the back of his head which sent him straight to the floor, unconscious and unmovable.

It had been delivered by Shiva, and he made a grab for Mona as she attempted to flee the bathroom. The martial artist took hold of her with ease and shoved her back against the main wall. Using his outstretched hand to pin her neck in place he spoke casually to the trembling female.

"You've been playing with fire Mona, and now you're going to get burned."

"Go to hell," she croaked, desperately trying to prise the asians fingers away from her throat.

"Where did Zan get that cab to Mona?"

"Go to hell!"

"Where did he go?" bellowed Shiva, his eyes fiery and full of hate.

Tears pricked the eyes of the tortured girl. She felt her body being lifted slowly off the ground, her feet no longer feeling the floor flat beneath them. As she tried in vain to put weight on her tip toes she felt Shiva's grip increase on her neck.

Finding it harder to breath she choked out the words, "Wood Oak."

When she did not utter so much as another syllable Shiva eventually smiled with no sincerity.

"That's better. Not that anyone's here to listen but do you have any last words?"

The clutch on her throat became more like a squeeze as the teardrops left Mona's eyes and ran down each side of her face. She strained to looked at Max who was laid out only a few yards away from her. His long spine lay flat across the carpet while his legs touched off the kitchenette's tiles.

She blinked a couple of times as more tears streamed. In a gasp of breath and with her emerald green eyes fixed on Max she murmured, "I'm sorry."

In one quick action Shiva snapped her neck and let her body sink to the floor. He approached the heavy wrestler who was still passed out upon receiving the mighty blow to his head.

"I don't finish you off just yet," he muttered to himself. "We want you to come along tomorrow night, seeking answers. It'll be fun."

Moving back towards the front door he had come from Shiva stepped over Mona's lifeless body, completely unmoved by his recent actions. Her pretty green eyes were now shut for good. Her chest would no longer rise and fall with breath. Her body was present but by all accounts, Mona was gone.

Out into the corridor and down the four flights of stairs Shiva eventually reached the outside world once again. His jeep was waiting right where he had left it, with Jet grinning from ear to ear in the drivers seat. He was singing along to a rock tune while packing away a lightweight machine gun.

Shiva slid into the back seat and with two taps on the back of Jet's head rest he instructed him on where they were to drive. Jet lowered the volume of the in-car cd player to take direction from his only passenger.

"Wood Oak.