Mewenn's babble: Hello everyone. A few things before I let you read.
This story was written as a birthday present for the wonderful (run to check her pen-name, sorry dear but you do change quite often) Sukidayo! If you don't know, she was my beta on the "How to survive a paranormal research centre" project. We owe her Angela (another birthday present) and her fabulous dialogues (which she rewrote to include proper swearing and use of slang). Unfortunately she isn't done editing the story, which is why Angela suddenly became less fabulous as of chapter 26. Since good things come to those who wait, that might be remedied to one day. Anyway, for this story I was given a prompt "Anthony" and then let my imagination run wild. I hope you will enjoy it.
Working with Angela
Anthony sighed deeply as he fell more than sat on a chair at the terrace of his favourite café. Work had been very tiring today. Well, it was everyday, but today had been worst than usual. He asked the waitress for a pot of coffee and two cups, then he put his head on his arms and closed his eyes, waiting for the coffee or Oliver to show up. Whatever came first. He was too tired to care anyway. Hell, it wasn't even midday yet and he was already wishing he was home and in his bed.
He didn't fall asleep, didn't have time to. Opposite him someone sat on the vacant chair and a husky voice asked with mock concern, "Anthony, what happened to you my poor dear? You look like you have not slept in days."
Lifting his head slowly, Anthony sent a glazed look to his energetic friend. He didn't know how Oliver could maintain that fresh appearance when he felt so worn out.
"Please save me," he whined, "break me a leg, kill me, no better yet, kill her. I cannot take it anymore."
Oliver's smile morphed into a deep laugh that showed all his white teeth. "Well my friend, you are so pitiful I will consider your proposition." He mimicked deep concentration and after a few seconds declared, "the answer is no. Sorry."
The waitress came back with the pot of coffee. Anthony didn't move and let Oliver pay. The blond didn't protest, merely took advantage of the situation to give the waitress compliments and barely disguised propositions. One more thing Anthony didn't understand; why Oliver seemed to get into flirt mode every time he so much as exchanged two words with any human being. No, that wasn't right. Flirt mod was reserved for attractive human being. All the others got the 'you are boring and I am worth so much more than you' look. But attractive could apply to either girls or boys and there wasn't any age-limit where Oliver was concerned. And no one he got an interest into ever said no. The man looked like an angel, complete with the golden locks of feathery hair and the sky-blue eyes. Next to him, any other man seemed dull and ordinary. Except for Anthony. The two were such opposite they couldn't be compared. Where Oliver was an angel, Anthony was the perfect bad boy cliché, tanned, muscled, his brown hair stylishly ruffled. But behind his cold black eyes, the man was kind, collected, slightly romantic and every bit the gentleman Oliver teased him to be.
"So, what happened this time?" asked Oliver.
Anthony groaned. "She found another contract. I cannot believe the woman. She finished the previous one merely… three hours ago! and now she has a meeting at the harbour at midnight. God only knows what it will be this time."
"Well if it should ever involve drugs, keep me some."
Anthony's face set into a scowl. "I am serious Oliver."
Oliver put on his most charming smile. "So am I."
Something else that grated on Anthony's nerves, when it came to his blond friend, was his lack of respect for the law. Oliver had his own ethic code. In his book, getting high and enjoying all the pleasures available in life wasn't a crime. If it meant manipulating people to get them in his bed, or dealing with less than recommendable persons, then so be it. As long as nobody got physically injured, then all was well. Sometimes, Anthony wondered how they could be friends, when they were so different. Anthony didn't consider himself too attached to laws, but at least he respected them… most of the time.
Nearby, a church tower rang the first bell of the fifth hour of the afternoon.
Anthony looked at the clock tiredly and sighed loudly. "I should be going, try to get some sleep before tonight."
Oliver looked at him with disbelief, then sent a pointed look to the third coffee cup. "Yeah… right."
"I am so tired, I could drink the whole thing and still fall asleep," replied Anthony. He started to get up, hesitated and then sat back. Locking gaze with Oliver he asked, "is there really no way to pass this file to someone else?"
Oliver laughed softly, believing that Anthony was joking, until the seriousness of his friend registered. The man's smile faltered and turned into a serious expression. "You know as well as I do what the conditions are for a case to be transferred. Do not think about it further." With a more cheerful voice he added, "go sleep. Things will look brighter when you are not so tired."
Anthony felt sceptic, but he didn't have any other option. This time, when he got on his feet, he left for good.
Oliver stayed at the terrace for some more time. Just long enough to order a pastry and exchange phone number with the waitress, as well as set up a date for the next day. When he left he was smiling. Humans were so easy.
At eleven forty the same day, Anthony was driving toward the harbour. He was alone in the car but hadn't turned on the radio, as was his habit. He had slept. As he had told Oliver, coffee wasn't enough anymore to keep him awake when there was a soft mattress under him. It shouldn't have been like that.
At a quarter to midnight, he had reached the bar, which would be the meeting point. Upon entering, he didn't recognize anyone. Spotting an empty table he claimed it for himself and ordered a coffee.
At ten to midnight he was still alone.
Five minutes before meeting hour she finally came in.
Upon her entrance, all eyes immediately converged to her. If Anthony was honest, there were reasons to. She was a true beauty. The shoulder-length dark red hair and the tanned silk-like skin were exotically attractive. Her dark chocolate eyes held a fire to them that could both warm you up or burn you. Her face was fine boned but the sharp jaw spoke of willpower. She was wearing black slacks and a black silk dress shirt over a tank top the colour of her hair that showed off the curves of a near perfect body… screw that last part, Anthony had once seen her in only a swim suit and if you were into the sportive type then her body was perfect. Anyway the point was that everyone thought him lucky to have such a boss. They just didn't know that Angela was a slave driver and his worst nightmare.
"So," she murmured low as she sat next to him, "you spotted anything suspect?"
Not even a greeting, he thought bitterly before shaking his head no. Whoever was their next client, at least they hadn't tried to set up a trap, as far as he could tell.
Before long, two men came in the bar and Angela waved them over. Anthony wasn't very impressed by them. They looked too much like gangsters for his peace of mind. Their two clients gave them a quick once over before they took their seats. From then on, he let Angela do the talking while he kept an eye out for trouble. He was surprised when a deal was concluded without anything going wrong.
Once their two newly acquired clients were gone he turned toward Angela.
"You do know that those two have word trouble written on their forehead?"
The smile she flashed him was so dribbling with innocence it couldn't be anything but fake. "Of course I do."
"Then why are we doing business with them?"
"Money mainly. You know, those green papers that pays the bill and the food you eat," she answered lightly, already gathering her things to leave.
"Do not try to make a fool of me. You are keeping something from me. What is it?"
She didn't answer, instead she sent him this little side-glance that meant she was calculating her chances to lie her way out of it.
She must have seen none and opted for a quick escape. Only Anthony was already seething with rage and was determinate to make her spit everything. When she passed at his level to leave he grabbed her arm, none too gently, threw some money on the table and pulled her with him to his car. He practically shoved her on the door. "Get in!" He ordered.
She turned round indignantly and tried to stomp away but he grabbed her wrist again and, opening the door for her with his other hand, ordered in a low tone, almost a growl "get in."
Her face was inches from his, she couldn't miss the anger on his face, a look really out of character for him.
Maybe he did really frighten her, or maybe the sudden change of mood intrigued her. Anyway, she suddenly stopped resisting and got in the car.
As soon as her but touched the seat, she crossed her harms moodily and started pouting. Anthony couldn't care less. He slammed the door shut, circled the vehicle, sat behind the steer-wheel and started up the car.
Usually, he was a careful driver. This night though he felt like being a chauffard. He needed to make Angela loose her cool, wanted her to scream in fear. Driving like a fool seemed like just the thing he needed.
Other cars were slow, he overtook them without any care if it meant that he had to cut their path or that he was almost run over by the vehicles coming the other way. Red lights and stop didn't even make him pause. Angela was gripping the dashboard so tight that her fingers were white. So was her face under the tan.
One hand on the wheel, the other on the gear lever, Anthony spent more time looking at her than at the road. And he was mightily enjoying the frightened expression on his passenger's face.
"Now dear I believe there is something I should know," he said sweetly.
But Angela wasn't one to submit so easily. "Watch the road!" she ordered, anger overcoming the fear in her voice, "watch the road before you get us killed!"
The disdainful expression was so alien on the man she couldn't have imagined it. Nor could she have the cold voice that answered. "Tell me what you are planning." And to emphasis his point, he swayed to the other side of the road.
"Anthony that's not funny," warned Angela. Her eyes were wide open and fixed n the road. At that speed and with the numerous bends, what he was doing was suicide, for them AND for any car coming the other way.
"Information dear, we are partners so I get to share your plans." Said the stranger who had taken hold of her usually sympathetic companion.
"Alright ALRIGHT! I'll talk, just… WATCH OUT!" A car appeared in front of them and, for a brief second, Angela saw her life play in front of her eyes like a movie. She screamed in fear and closed her eyes tight. She felt the car sway madly under her, heard the sound of a car horn getting closer and closer and the screeching sound of brakes. She hadn't fastened her seatbelt and was thrown against the door. When she opened her eyes again they were on the right side of the road and driving at normal speed. She felt like crying in relief. Instead she turned to face Anthony and screamed at the top of her lunges. "YOU STUPID ASS, YOU ALMOST GOT US KILLED! WHAT IN GOD'S NAME PASSED THROUGH YOUR MIND YOU STUPID INSANE FUCKING SON OF A BITCH…" The rent kept going for a few minutes each qualifier worst than the previous one. She would have continued had Anthony not stopped in a parking lot and gotten out of the car. Not intending to let him escape so easily, she followed him outside.
They road they were on was higher than the rest of the city, giving them an overall sight of all the buildings and lights. It was beautiful, full of twinkling lights. Angela paid it no mind.
Anthony had gone to sit on a bench that faced the view. He had his hands in his pockets, legs extended in front of him and his head downcast. There was a small breeze of cool air coming their way and Angela shivered. The cold calmed her a bit, so that when she sat next to him the urge to hit him had vanished.
Anthony turned his head slightly and looked at her from the corner of his eyes. "You promised," he said, voice deep and strangely soft after his earlier insanity.
"And you almost killed me," she reproached, "I really thought I was going to die. I didn't even know that you could drive like that."
It stirred a sad little smile from Anthony. "I used to be a race driver in another live." Angela snorted. Anthony's smile only grew sadder. "So? What am I missing?"
There was a pause, then Angela shrugged and resumed her bossy tone. "We're in to spy. A while ago, a good friend of mine asked me to keep an ear open for a gang named Spear. Said that if I could find anything on them the information would be handsomely paid."
"So the two we saw?"
"Belong to the gang."
Anthony scratched his head, not entirely reassured by that explanation. "What do your friend want with them?"
Angela shrugged. "I planned on contacting him as soon as the deal would be concluded. See if there is anything more specific we should look for."
Anthony considered his chances to have her reveal the name of this friend. Poor. So instead he asked, "will I know why we are in this if you ever learn it?"
Angela sent him a careful look. "Will there ever be another bout of craziness?"
The man's jaw was set in a resolute expression. "Depends on how you treat me from nom on. I am your associate, I deserve to know."
"Humpf. Don't think too highly of yourself."
Anthony didn't respond. When Angela looked at him she saw that he was hurt. She started saying something but he interrupted her. "You know," he said, eyes lost in the distance, "I thought I had done enough for you not to treat me like shit. It is not like I sworn fidelity and obedience."
Angela felt bad, just a little, but what she could or couldn't tell him didn't entirely depend on her. Since there was nothing she could do about it, well, kinda nothing, she abandoned the thought.
"Bring me back in town." She ordered briskly. "And this time, drive like you actually earned your licence."
Anthony almost asked her what licence. Somehow though, he doubted she was already calmed enough for that kind of joke.
When Anthony reached his flat, at around two in the morning, the only thing that was keeping him standing was the idea of his bed. Or more accurately the remaining steps that led to his bed. He had calculated that there was around thirty of them, maybe a little more since he didn't have the strength to drag his feet around properly.
Fifteen steps lead him from the elevator to his doorstep, following his calculation there should be still fifteen more from his door to the soft mattress where he could fall down and sleep until the world ended or until Angela called. It made little difference either way.
He put his key in the lock and turned, but the door was already unlocked. Swearing under his breath, he entered the apartment, preparing himself mentally to find it trashed and TVless. It was worse than that.
Oliver was sitting at his table and looking at him with The Look; the one that said he was in Big Trouble. Sighing tiredly he threw his keys on the little table near the door and dragged his feet across the room to start some coffee. Oliver followed him with his eyes, silent.
"Coffee?" Anthony asked while opening a cupboard.
"No, thank you." Oliver answered coldly.
Anthony's shoulders slumped at the tone. He wondered how deep in shit he was.
Oliver didn't utter a word until Anthony had grabbed his cup and joined him at the table. Even then, he looked at him disapprovingly for a whole minute before he deigned open his mouth. Anthony was getting smaller by the second.
"You know why I am here I presume?" Oliver's tone was positively freezing.
There was no use playing dumb, it was written all over Oliver's face that he already knew. Plus he had never been able to lie to the man anyway. Angela could push him for hours and never get more than the poker face but Oliver didn't even have to prod to make him spill his guts.
"If I say that I am sorry and promise never to do it again will you let it go?" The attempt was lame and useless if Oliver's expression was anything to go by. A sort of wry amusement had taken hold of his features, which didn't warm his smile one bit.
"Never do it again? Anthony dear, it should not have happened in the first place. At least that is what you vowed before coming here if I remember correctly."
A vivid memory of himself, one hand up and the other on his heart, came to Anthony's mind. What had been the words already? Something like "serve and protect". And as lame as it sounded to his ears right now, he had believed those words when he pronounced them, had truly believed that they were worth it.
Oliver must have known what sort of mess he was right now. Oliver always knew what darkness you hid in the deepest part of your soul -it was the conclusion Anthony had reached after so much time spent in his company- but he offered no comfort, no help, only this disdainful stare and cold smirk. And though sometimes they could give everyone else the illusion that they were friends, there were moments like this, when Anthony would suddenly remember that they weren't friend, never would be and that Oliver was an asshole of the worst kind possible: the kind that never feel sorry for anyone or anything.
It made Anthony feel even more dejected. Which didn't faze Oliver in the least.
"I will let it go for this time. Next time you feel like being a fool though, remember that if she die then so will someone else. I do not think that you want to explain to your elders why they suddenly lost one of their chosen."
By that point Anthony had almost collected enough anger to retort but Oliver wasn't done. The last blow came when he reached the door. Just before leaving he turned, amused smirk still firmly in place. "Oh! I just wanted to congratulate you for that act you pulled earlier. 'I am your devoted partner who deserve your trust'? What a joke."
The clic of the door locking behind Oliver went unnoticed by Anthony. Mechanically, he rose to his feet and went in his bedroom. There, he collapsed in his bed. He was asleep even before his head hit the pillow. And if it ended having more to do with coma than actual sleep then all the best, dreams had never been his thing.
He didn't wake up rested -it had been a long while since he last had- but it was already noon and he couldn't offer himself the luxury of staying a whole day in bed. What would it have changed anyway?
The office he shared with Angela was a run down thing that had been a studio at one point. The stuff they had acquired over the years had slowly transformed it into a mess of books, newspaper and junk in which you could hardly find the telephone even when it was ringing.
To tell the truth, they didn't use the room that often, but there was still a desk, a computer and the coffee machine was in service, everything Anthony was asking for at the moment.
He googled spear and when it gave him more roman relics than gang related entries he added criminality, which made it a bit better. After two hour and six cups of coffee, all he knew was that they existed and were a bit on the rampage side. Not what you expected of something worthy of Angela's time. Not the kind to which the two men of yesterday were likely to belong.
Anthony sighed and whished for something, just one thing, to go right for once. Instead God sent him Angela. She banged the door open and stopped in front of him, hands on her hips. A bad omen if there ever was one.
"Happy to see you here, I've been looking all over town for you."
With a bit of disbelief, Anthony fished his cell phone in his pocket, and of course the damn thing's battery had died on him at some point.
Excuses weren't good enough for Angela who made him drive her for one hour with stupid pop music blasting on the car's stereo. By the time they reached their destination –a three stars hotel at the outskirt of the city- his ears were about to bleed.
"Can you remind me what it is that we are doing here?" He asked nonchalantly while turning off the so-called music.
Angela turned to him with a brilliant smile. "Babysitting."
Surprise froze him in place, he had to run to catch up with Angela. They entered the hotel side by side and were greeted by one of the men from the previous day. He led them into a suite where they met with the other guy.
"We were expecting you sooner," greeted the second man.
Angela made a dismissive gesture. "Traffic, you know how it is at this time of day."
The two shared a suspicious glance but didn't comment further. They all sat at a table, Angela and Anthony on one side, the two men on the other.
"You already know what you have to do," said suspicious man number 1, "there are bags with all you will need in the room and your charge shouldn't pose any problem."
"If she does," interrupted suspicious man number 2 "there are tranquilizers in the bag as well. Do not hesitate to use them."
Anthony's eyes widened a bit, a sharp stump on his foot from Angela made him regain his composure. He still made sure to glare at her for good measure.
She didn't pay him any attention, instead she nodded to the men "We understand. You can count on us, the job will be done, well done."
Apparently there was a bit of waiting to do, which Anthony put to use by cornering Angela in a corner, far from the other men, to ask for information.
"I think you forgot to enlighten me on this, so I will only ask you once. What crap did you put us in?" He asked in a hiss.
"Relax, I told you before, it's only babysitting. Take person X from point A to point B and make sure nothing happens. We've already done this before and it didn't trouble you."
"Maybe because at the time there wasn't any tranquilizer involved. Is that X person consenting to be babysat?"
While Angela shrugged, he couldn't help but notice that her shoulders were a bit stiffer than usual. A hint that maybe she wasn't as relaxed with all this as she wanted to let on. Or maybe she had fallen asleep on a couch and her shoulders were knackered, proposed a snide little voice at the back of Anthony's mind.
It was maybe fifteen minutes later when someone knocked. Suspicious man number 2 got the door and, after a brief and quiet exchange with the person behind it, they were meeting another one of the suspicious squad, closely followed by a sulking woman. The man wasn't much to dwell on and Anthony would have gladly dismissed the woman as well if his eyes hadn't suddenly caught sight of a tattoo on her wrist. The sleeve of her shirt covered half of it, but it wasn't difficult to make out the pair of wings.
Now mildly intrigued, Anthony let his eyes wander back to the woman's face. Doing so, he noticed the well proportioned curves and the long, dark brown hair. Her face wasn't exceptional. Next to Angela, she was average, but still pleasant to look at. She had soft light brown eyes and the tiniest bit of wrinkles at their corners despite her young appearance. Her lips were full, her mouth -though grimacing right now- looked very kissable, her nose was slightly too big for her face and her jaw was maybe a bit too square, but it still suited her, made her look like a real person instead of another pretty face.
Suspicious guy number 3 had her wrist in a death grip, his other hand was hidden inside his coat. Anthony would have bet his salary that he was holding a gun.
The woman sent them the most disgusted glare in human history. "Oh look, more guard dogs. Hello doggies!" She snarled just before Suspicious guy number three jostled her further in the room.
"Shut up" He ordered and then proceeded to sit her in an armchair.
Suspicious guy number two pointed at the girl and addressed Angela, "here is your client. Have fun." This was the signal for the Suspicious squad's departure.
With the glaring woman as a replacement, the room's atmosphere hadn't improved. Feeling too tired to deal with it, and more than angry enough at Angela to leave her with the burden she had put on their shoulders, Anthony opted for some sleep while he still had the chance. Both women followed him with their eyes as he made his way to one of the sleeping room. Not even a good night was exchanged.
The room contained two beds. The information registered even though he didn't know what to make of it. The fact that he could lose time assessing that he didn't care was a sign that he needed some real rest. Soon hopefully. When this was over he would bully Angela into spending some of that hard earned money on a relaxing holiday. Somewhere either too warm or too cold for her to stir mischief, with a comfortable bed for him to sleep in. A voice that sounded strangely like Oliver's echoed in his mind to tell him how stupid that was, sleep was hardly the root of the problem. But he didn't have the strength to put himself in question. Not now, probably not anytime soon. So, until he could catch up on his lost-sleep, he would keep it responsible for all the wrongness he was going through.
He realised that he was standing in the middle of the room, starring into space. In rapid movements, he kicked his shoes off, got rid of his socks and undid the first few buttons of his shirt. Damn Angela, she hadn't even warned him to pack anything. With a sigh, he laid himself on the bed, where sleep welcomed him without delay.
A shriek woke him. A second one made him realise that it was coming from the room in which he had left Angela and the woman. A third cry found him bolting for the door as he realised that it couldn't be coming from Angela.
In the other room, he found the two women on the ground. Angela was pinning their charge to the floor, the tattooed woman had her arms secured behind her back in a way that Anthony knew from experience was painful and a favourite of his boss. Another shriek echoed in the room, this one without a doubt loud enough to be heard from the hallway. If it kept going, they'd soon find themselves with more attention than they could handle.
Catching sight of the bag that had been left behind by the Suspicious team, he retrieved one of the syringe that it contained. As he hurried toward the two women on the floor, he thought that maybe he should pretend to miss and give the shot to Angela, it would be worth a good laugh of nothing else. He hurriedly wiped a smile off his face before his boss could see it. It didn't count as attempted murder but he was sure that doing so would only bring him another speech by Oliver. Or maybe not, Oliver tended to be very lenient toward crazy actions as long as they didn't put charges in danger. Surely there wasn't enough drug in the syringe to count as dangerous?
"You planning on using that thing anytime soon?" Suddenly shouted Angela from her position on the floor. It was enough for Anthony to go back to the matter at hands.
The woman did try to get away from the needle but, with Angela pinning her to the floor, it was a hopeless task. To compensate, she sent Anthony a glare even more hateful than all the ones she had given him up to this point.
Whatever it was in the syringe acted fast and, soon. The expression on the woman's face melted away as if she didn't have the strength necessary to maintain it. When there was no more resistance, Angela let go of her opponent whose limbs limply fell to her side.
Anthony kneeled next to her curiously. Wondering if she was still conscious, he snapped his fingers in front of her open eyes. The woman's eyes moved to his face.
"I 'ope y're proud o' wha'y're doin. I 'lso 'ope y'll burn'n 'ell." She said slowly, words so slurred Anthony could barely make them out.
"Oh please!" spat Angela angrily, "after the useless struggle the useless threat. If you don't have anything original to say then shut it."
Anthony winced. An angry Angela wasn't something you wanted to deal with. Whatever the woman had tried to do, Anthony felt sorry for her. A quick glance toward Angela just confirmed that she was eying the rope maintaining the curtains open as if she was contemplating other uses for them.
Shaking his head, Anthony contemplated the sprawled woman in front of him. Well he could always carry her in the next room and put her on a bed. The girl hadn't asked to be kidnapped, there was no reason to make it worse for her than it already was.
The woman wasn't light, or really heavy, for that matter. Angela looked at him curiously, but soon decided to ignore him in favour of putting some semblance of order to her hair. An excuse to not help since she wasn't one to really care what she looked like. His charge was a bit more concerned and had tried to ask him what he was doing. His assurance that he would just put her somewhere more comfortable didn't seem to reassure her. Anthony could understand her concern but, frankly, her fears made him want to roll his eyes and tell her that he had better to do with his time than torture helpless people, or rape them or whatever else she was currently suspecting him of. He did make an effort to be gentle and to look as non-threatening as he could though. He tucked her in the unused bed and then came back in the sitting room, leaving the door open so that they could keep an eye on her. He didn't know how long the tranquilizer would last but it was safe to assume that they had a good hour in front of them.
Angela was still ignoring him when he came back. He wondered if he had done something to upset her. Knowing his luck -and the woman- he must have. A brief flash of a smiling child with dimples reminded him that it hadn't always been so. Why did she have to grow up?
Refraining from rolling his eyes again, something he seemed to do a lot recently, he sat on a chair. Knowing that there was no use trying to talk to her until she made the first step, he made a big show of getting comfortable, stretching, groaning and sighing exaggeratedly. "Oh God I miss that bed." He murmured loud enough for her to hear. Sadly it was true. Currently he felt even more drained than before his little nap. Maybe something was wrong with him?
As if echoing his thought Angela finally spoke. "You've been awfully sleepy recently. Your girlfriend not letting you sleep or what?"
"Sounds about right." Anthony heard himself answer rather dryly.
"What! Really?" Angela didn't hide her surprise. She was so genuinely shocked it was almost comical in a "my boss is convinced I have no life" sort of way.
She kept starring at him and when he didn't elaborate asked "do I know her?"
There was no one but it suddenly sounded like fun to pretend for a bit. "I hope so, she is called Jo."
Angela's face creased in concentration. Anthony was vaguely aware that she had never seemed so interested by his life, but, hey! that was Angela for you. However long you stayed with her, there was no way to know what made her tick. Finally, she seemed to come to a conclusion and eyed him suspiciously "I don't know any Jo."
"Short for Job. I must say that the threesome is getting tiring though. What do you say I leave the two of you to get married and find myself someone who will actually warm my bed at night?"
Horror flickered through Angela's expression, horror and anger. The realisation that he had just made a mistake dawned on Anthony. Before he could word an excuse, her features resumed their usual shape and the moment passed. What she had decided to do with it, he didn't know. Most likely it would come back to stab him in the back later. Or Angela would keep it somewhere inside and he'd never hear of it again.
An hour later, he was relegated to the bedroom, keeping an eye on the woman and conveniently hiding from Angela. His time had been spent meditating on the recent events and he had come to the conclusion that he was screwed. His boss was mad at him, the woman they were supposed to "baby-sit" was angry at the both of them, even Oliver had left in a bad mood, though in his case it had probably already abated. The best he could hope for was that Angela wouldn't ask him to pay for whatever offence he had committed until the job was done. There was also the slim possibility that the woman woke up in a better mood than the one she had gone to sleep in. Maybe if he explained the situation to her? Why had she been fighting with Angela anyway? They had seemed perfectly fine when he had left them. Unless she had tried to escape and his boss had decided to set an example?
A groan coming from the bed interrupted his thoughts. The woman was moving and sighing and slowly coming back to the real world. Anthony got to his feet and closer to the bed, ready to ward off any threatening move.
Her eyes fluttered open. She looked slowly around her. There was a tired resilience written in her features that Anthony didn't really like but, what could he do?
He moved from his seat to come closer to the bed. The woman's eyes followed him across the room; he felt uneasy under her gaze.
He leant against the wall at the head of the bed and waited for her to do something.
"You work with a she-demon." Stated the woman calmly.
The way this sentence reflected his own thoughts so exactly amazed Anthony. If the circumstances had been any different, he would have approved frantically and asked the girl to go out with him. As it was, he just wasted efforts into keeping a composed air that eventually dissolved into mad laughter. It was closer to a hysterical fit than real laughter but still, it felt good. If it hadn't been for the woman's lost expression, he might have just kept on going until he died from lack of oxygen. "You… nailed it… so perfectly," he managed to croak between bouts of hilarity. "Ouch that hurt." As he was hugging his middle in a vain attempt to ease the pain from his cramped muscles, he caught a glimpse of the woman's mouth and noticed that it had somewhat of an upside tilt at the corners.
By the time he stopped laughing it had disappeared. Then a heavy silence set, that Anthony didn't know how to break. He was trying to solve his own little dilemma, that could be summarized as: to make or not to make friend with the prisoner. He sensed that it would be easy enough, he also knew that Angela wouldn't like it and that it might make further interactions awkward.
The choice was taken out of his hands when the woman looked at him right in the eyes and said, "I changed my mind about you, you don't seem to be a he-demon."
As he returned her smile, Anthony decided that having just one person around on speaking terms with him would be worth any later trouble.
It was already late in the evening, around nine, as Anthony found out when he finally deigned check the time. Too early to go to bed, too late to really do anything. Not too late to catch up on the dinner he hadn't taken, his stomach reminded him with a loud rumble. "Are you hungry?" he asked the woman politely. She was watching him with yet another one of those smiles. It seemed the more Anthony's body betrayed him with ridiculous noises, the more she was feeling up to forgive him for sticking a needle in her. At the question her smile widened further.
"Very. I could eat an elephant." The sparkle in her eyes implied that there was a joke in here somewhere. Anthony wished he knew what it was. Would she tell him in time?
He crossed the room to go back in the salon and find out what could be done to fill their stomachs. To find out, also, if Angela was in a better mood and if she had decided how she would make him regret his earlier words. Speaking of whom, Angela was seated in a couch and reading a paperback that had seen better days. It was in Italian and Anthony knew, for having read it once, that it was a sappy love story. Angela said she read it because the heroine made her laugh with all her naivety and sweetness. In his least charitable moods, Anthony sometimes wondered if it wasn't just because she still had to finish it after all those years, or maybe she just kept it around for the front-picture, a reproduction of a painting showing a musketeer protecting a woman.
Right now her mind was obviously far from the story. As soon as Anthony entered the room, he was caught in her gaze like a deer in headlights. The room was soon filled with overwhelming uneasiness. Apparently she hadn't forgiven him yet.
"You hungry?" Anthony asked meekly when it became evident that Angela wasn't going to start the hostilities. She didn't answer, just kept on glaring.
Making a strategic retreat, Anthony just uttered a quick 'Going out for food' before the door shut close behind him.
The smell of food that reached him from a nearby fast-food just increased the nausea that the encounter with Angela had left him with. He didn't waste any more time than he needed to get something for the three of them. As much as he didn't like to face Angela again, he liked the idea that she was alone with the prisoner even less.
There was no bloodbath to greet him when he re-entered the room but their charge had left the sleeping room and was now sitting at the table, discreetly keeping an eye on Angela who was pretending to read her book again. The atmosphere was as filled with electricity as it had been when he left. With an inward sigh, he put the three meals on the table.
"I took burgers, I hope it is alright."
The woman shrugged and started sorting through one of the bags. "As it is, I am hungry enough for anything." To illustrate her words she brought a burger to her mouth and bit a big chunk out of it. A bit of sauce dribbled down the corner of her mouth which Anthony watched with fascination.
Angela dropped her book, stomped to the table and looked through the bags until she found a napkin that she threw at the other woman. "Disgusting." She commented.
Their prisoner didn't react and just made a pleased sound before taking another bite. Anthony decided then that his hunger had returned enough to pick at some fries. His sitting with the woman was probably taken as treason by Angela who took her part of the meal and locked herself in the single bedroom with it. Anthony didn't mind, the woman spared a chuckle at Angela's childishness and then resumed her meal.
Halfway through the meal, after Anthony had thought of her as the woman for the umpteenth time, he finally asked her name.
"Melaike." She answered simply. She didn't add anything nor did she ask for his name. He decided that he would give it nonetheless.
"My name is Anthony."
They finished their meal in silence and then went to bed. Angela was still brooding. Anthony decided it might be safer to share the room with Melaike. She snored, but it didn't keep him from falling asleep, not for one second.
Anthony was woken by someone shaking his shoulder none too gently. He opened his eyes to find Angela, only covered by an open shirt and her underwear.
"Please," he whimpered, "tell me you are not drunk again".
She had enough presence of mind to look perplex, that was a good sign. Her voice didn't slur either when she asked what he meant. Her suspicious expression finished to reassure him that there would be no re-enactment of a best forgotten episode of their shared-life. It had been a real relief the next day to find that she didn't remember what had happened, such a relief that he had never spoken to her about the incident again, avoiding the subject of that night as best he could. Since he wasn't about to tell her now, of all times, he dodged answering by asking her what she wanted.
"I wanna talk to you."
"What, now?" Anthony felt the irritation rise in him. "Could you not wait until tomorrow?" His voice had gotten louder and Angela shushed him with a finger pointed toward Melaike. The woman was still sleeping but Anthony felt that she wouldn't be for long if they stayed in the room. With a sigh he got out of bed and gestured for Angela to precede him in the other room.
The light was lit and Angela's book was back on the couch. Maybe she had felt that she needed to stand guard. Or she was upset about something and couldn't sleep. Melaike had managed to make Anthony forget that she was their prisoner, but it didn't mean that she wouldn't try to escape. Well, he wouldn't let himself be enrolled for watch duty tonight. He didn't think he owed that to Angela, not with how tired he still felt. With this in mind, he waited for her to start the conversation.
"I am sorry." She said finally.
It wasn't what Anthony was expecting. Wasn't something Angela said often and never with such good-will. It was so unexpected that Anthony didn't know what to do. "I… uh… okay?" He sought a reason for which she might want to make amend so earnestly, found none and, hold habits kicking in, wondered where the catch was.
As if she could read his mind, Angela started to justify her sudden apology. "There has been a lot of work lately and not much free time. Also, I realize that being always sharing time and space with each other might be rough on our nerves. I haven't been at my best either and things between us have become tense and messed up and so, I apologize."
Her ramble didn't make much sense in Anthony's opinion. It felt as though she was saying sorry more for the sake of saying it than because she felt she had done anything wrong. At least, Anthony mused, she had noticed that things were wrong and was trying to do something about it. Asking for forgiveness wasn't the right way to go about it, but Angela probably thought that since it was hard on her it would be enough. He didn't want the rest of their mission to be like that evening, so he decided to accept Angela's peace offering. For now at least.
"Okay. I accept your apology. I apologize also for that joke earlier, it was not funny."
Angela smiled, obviously pleased that he would take things so well. "Good. I accept your apology." She stood still and Anthony wondered if she expected him to say something more.
"Is there anything else?" he asked nervously, hoping that he wasn't making a mistake right after they had managed to fix the previous one, "because I would like to go back to bed."
"Oh." Obviously it wasn't what Angela had been waiting for but she hurried to hide the disappointment. "No, nothing else, you can go." Anthony hesitated. He didn't know what he could say and admitting his ignorance might be just as bad as saying something stupid. The fear of things becoming tense once again won in the end. With a last 'good night' he turned around and went back to his bed.
"Yhea, good night," he heard Angela say behind him. He itched to turn around and ask her what she was expecting from him -what the fucking hell her problem was with him- but forced himself to keep his eyes on the door. Angela was and would forever remain a mystery. It wasn't only a conclusion he had come to, it was a way of protecting both of them. There could be only pain if they got too close. Oliver would know and from then on… there was no way out that he could see. So it was better to just avoid anything deeper than that boss/employee relationship. Maybe he should thank the Lord for Angela's thorny nature. Maybe that was what people called a blessing in disguise.
After the door clicked shut behind him, he spent a little time just standing with his back resting on the wood. It would freak people to know just how fast and how well his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he mused inwardly. He could never see perfectly in total darkness, but well enough to see how Melaike's head was turned toward the door, eyes opened and expression intent. Had she heard? Even if she had, would she get how deep the unease ran? Would it matter?
"Did you hear?" he asked low enough that Angela, who was still in the next room, couldn't hear him.
"She is still a she-demon," answered Melaike in the same tone.
Anthony nodded though she couldn't see him. She had heard and she had understood. Well he could live with it he guessed.
He didn't sleep very well for the rest of the night and, when Melaike sneaked out of her bed the next morning and tip-toed to the door, he watched her and greeted her loudly before she could try to get in the next room. Sneaking out was useless anyway, Angela had been awake for an hour already. He had heard her leave the suite and come back. Hopefully, she had gone to get some breakfast.
Indeed, a while later, the three of them were having breakfast together. Anthony had noticed that Angela was wearing the same dark circles under her eyes that he was. On the bright side, she had ignored Melaike until now. Their charge had been behaving as well and had given her no reason to complain. The messy eater of the previous day had disappeared entirely and Melaike was eating her breakfast almost with grace.
They left soon after that. Angela and Melaike had been able to get a change of cloth but Anthony hadn't packed anything and had to wear his rumpled shirt. When he threw Angela a murdering look she shrugged. "I sent you a text to tell you to pack. Not my fault you didn't get it."
Anthony sighed. "I'm going to need cloth though, and a charger for my cell, and a razor." The best way to do that would be to let Angela with Melaike and go get his things. He could catch up with them at the next halt. Or even before if he was quick. But could the two women stand each other for that time? "Do you think you can leave me in town and be on your own for a while?" he finally asked Angela.
She hesitated before nodding firmly. Melaike didn't look pleased but didn't protest. Anthony was holding her arm in an apparently friendly manner, actually it was to keep her from trying to leave. They reached the car without trouble. Angela went in the driver's seat while Anthony and Melaike shared the rear bench. Very few words were exchanged during the drive to the town centre. Anthony left with the promise that he would see them at the next hotel as son as possible. Angela told him that he better be quick, "or else," she menaced good-humouredly, "I'll find things for you to do. Lots of things."
Angela might think it was a joke, Anthony took it very seriously. He had been sent to buy frilly panties and bras once. Angela's idea of friendly payback. Never again.
A surprise was waiting for him at his apartment. Oliver was waiting for him, coffee on the table along with one of Anthony's duffel-bag looking full.
"Do not forget to brush your teeth every night and to send a postcard," said the blond with a wide smile. By watching him you would never guess that he had been threatening Anthony not even two days ago. But it was Oliver for you. He could never hold a grudge for long, because that meant actually remembering the people you were mad at and he had better things to do, didn't he?
Anthony had lost some of his momentum. "Thank you, for breaking in my apartment and getting my things ready."
"Do not mention it, it was my pleasure." Replied Oliver much too politely to be genuine.
Anthony didn't bother going through the content of the bag. Instead he sat at the table where Oliver joined him and started pouring coffee.
Anthony eyed him warily, wondering what Oliver thought he was doing. The scene had him thinking back on Angela's own peace offering the night before. "What do you think you are doing?"
Oliver took a sip of his coffee. "Mmh, yummy," he approved heartily, "you should try it, I made it especially for you."
Anthony sighed and brought his own cup to his lips. It smelled very good as far as coffee went. He was no specialist, could drink pretty much anything even instant coffee, but this one tasted especially nice. Nothing like the cheap stuff he had in his cupboards. Which meant that Oliver had bought it.
"Nice," acknowledged Anthony. "What is the occasion?"
"I thought that I would leave you a bitter taste of a different nature than that of our last meeting, since you and I are not going to see each other for some time."
This declaration was explainable by the current job Anthony was working on but the solemn tone worried him nonetheless. "Is everything alright?" he asked with a falsely detached air, "are your elders unhappy?"
His question provoked a baffled look, followed by a laugh. A genuine laugh that had Oliver losing his breath and cling to his ribs. When he spoke next, he was whipping tears from his eyes, "Anthony, Anthony, so caring and so concerned." His gaze locked with Anthony's confused face. "What am I going to do with you?" he asked quietly, as if he was talking to himself.
Anthony rolled his eyes to show how unimpressed he was by Oliver's antic. "Then you are on good terms with your hierarchy right now?"
Oliver smiled with false sheer. "Yes, lots of fun. Smiles and sunshine everyday. We even have pet names for each other. Mine is Fuck-up right now. Seriously though, you do not have to worry about me. Not when you already have so many reasons to worry about yourself. Speaking of which, you should go. I believe you are making two lovely ladies wait for you, it is an unacceptable behaviour from a gentleman."
Anthony recognizes the cue for what it was. Oliver was done with the conversation and wanted Anthony to be on his way. The fact that Oliver knew about Melaike wasn't a surprise, he always knew plenty, if not too much.
He had no trouble finding the girls at a drive-in that provided them with a descent meal. Angela took the wheel after that. Only when they stopped into the yard of a three stars hotel, that had nothing to do with the rundown thing they were supposed to spend the night in, did Anthony realize that they hadn't followed the plan. He waited until they were all installed in their rooms and away from Melaike's ears before he asked Angela for an explanation.
"Don't worry," she replied with a coy smirk, "everything is under control."
She then spontaneously and loudly volunteered to find them food and made a hasty retreat toward the door with a brief order to keep an eye on Melaike.
"O…kay." Anthony stood still while he wondered what she wasn't telling him. Again. But he couldn't leave their charge behind to run after Angela and torture her until she spilt the bean.
Melaike had already colonized the couch and was flickering through the channels. He sat next to her. "What are you watching?" he asked though it was obvious that nothing had managed to hold her attention yet. An orange monstrosity with four arms appeared on the screen, fighting things while an old man with an Hawaiian shirt and a little girl with orange hair and purple circle around her hands were being cornered by other… things. One look at his distraught expression and Melaike dropped the remote at her side..
"Cartoons" she stated, mischief clearly visible in her eyes.
The four-armed alien –who turned out to be a little boy actually- was replaced by a yellow sponge wearing pants, the story still didn't make much sense but his eyes were glued to the screen nonetheless.
When the insanity paused to allow some advertisement, he hastily turned to face Melaike. "How can you watch this?" He asked with horrified fascination.
"I don't," she answered with sadistic glee, "I'm watching you, and it's really entertaining."
"That…" he was about to say that was cruel, but seeing as she was being held against her free will, making him watch insane characters on a screen was rather mild as far as pay-back went. He had to say something, though, because Melaike was waiting for his next words. "That is flattering. I guess. What do you usually watch then?" It wasn't a very subtle way to change topic. Melaike didn't comment on it.
Discovery channel wasn't much more interesting. At least Melaïke wasn't watching him stare at the screen in horror. Seriously though, what was so interesting about volcanoes?
The week was spent waking early everyday, driving never more than two hours and getting set in a new place. Angela was keeping her distance and Anthony was looking over Melaike, spending his entire days with nothing to do but watch TV and talk and share little unimportant things. He learnt her favourite colour, her favourite movie, the name of her first pet. Listened to her tell him very seriously that when she was five there was a monster living under her bed whose name was Alphonse. She had funny stories, touching stories, cute stories, disturbing ones even and he listened to all of them. At first because there was nothing else to do. After a while because Melaike proved to be a good storyteller. Through those stories, he found out that the wild cat who had attacked Angela on the first day was actually a ridiculously tame pet. Melaike liked little children, kittens and flowers. She watched clouds and played at guessing shapes. She helped little grannies carry their grocery. She had been raised thinking that a kind angel with fluffy white wings was watching out for her and that everything would always be alright. After so much time spent around Angela, the workaholic adventuress of all extremes, Melaike couldn't have seemed more exotic if she had had green skin.
The seventh day of this stupid mission found Melaike and Anthony lounging in another motel room while Angela had left to get the food. On the TV was a comedian. Anthony had never heard of him before, but his jokes were making Melaike laugh. And Anthony found that he liked the sound a lot. It was joyful and carefree, everything such a wonderful person should be. Her smile was warm, her eyes looking kindly at him. He felt better than he had in years, more awake, more alive. And too wise not to recognize the feeling at the source of this well-being. Fuck. He was in love.
Melaike turned to him "Uh? What's going on?"
He stood up so fast his head spun. "I am getting a drink. There is a vending machine in the hall. Do you want something?"
Melaike was surprised. "Aren't you supposed never to leave me alone?"
"Are you going to jump out the window?" The girl made a show to look through the glass, down to the ground four floors below. Anyway Anthony was ready to bet she probably wouldn't have left even if the room had been on the first floor. Still he locked the door behind him, glad that the hotel was old enough that the lock still needed a normal key and Angela had left it to him.
He walked quickly to the machine and then spent ten minutes starring blankly at sodas. His mind kept going back to that awful thing, certainly the worst that could have happened to him.
"What a moron," he murmured to himself, "falling in love. With a human." His mind pointed out that it wasn't any human either, but the girl he was supposed to baby-sit for some gang, no less. What a screwed timing. "What am I going to do?" The question had been asked to no one, so it came as no surprise when he never got an answer.
He was barely calmer when he went back in the room. The TV was off and Melaike was obviously waiting for him. Her eyes searched his face. They must have found something, though he didn't know what, unease maybe, or fear.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she asked.
That made him chuckle. Captive wanting to make captor feel better. What did it say about the kind of villain he was?
"Thank you, but I believe it is best if I decline this offer."
The following hour was spent in uncomfortable silence, sitting stiffly two meters away from the woman he loved.
When Angela came back from hiding, carrying bags from the local fast-food, as if that would explain her absence, Anthony and Melaike were sitting on opposite sides of the room. Melaike was watching Anthony with incomprehension and Anthony was pretending that she wasn't in the room.
Angela had to slam the door for them to notice they weren't alone anymore. "Dinner's ready," she announced, almost not missing a beat. Almost.
Things were shared by Angela. Which didn't uphold any importance, until Melaike started to nod off on her fries. Not only did she nod off, but Anthony had to rescue her from dropping asleep face first on her hamburger. "What!"
No amount of cold water and soft slaps on her cheeks could wake her and Anthony finally gave up and carried her to her bed. When he came back, glaring angrily at Angela, she mock-innocently raised her eyebrows in question.
"Did you drug her?" He asked harshly.
Angela made a noncommittal sound. "Since she's not about to wake up anytime soon, can we talk? I'd like to have a conversation with you that doesn't involve eavesdroppers."
He frowned "not that the poor girl is stuck with us by choice."
"Indeed. Still, now we can talk with our minds at peace. I'll start. I've got news from our employers." Her face was grim as she announced this.
"What's wrong?" asked Anthony. If they had asked for Melaike back, Angela would have looked gleeful, same if they were supposed to let the woman go. What could they ask of his boss to make her unhappy?
"You're not going to like this," warned Angela, "they asked for the hostage back." She paused seemingly looking for the right words. "My contact tells me they didn't give the Spear what they wanted. Only thing it can mean is that the gang plans to make an example of the girl."
Example of the girl… they wanted to kill her. Make it gruesome so that it became memorable. "No!"
His vehemence was a little out of character but Angela didn't comment on it. "Yhea, I thought so as well." Absentmindedly her eyes went to the door behind which Melaike was waiting. "She deserves a lot of things. Death ain't one of them."
Relief flooded through Anthony. Right now he could have kissed his boss. "What do we do?" he asked instead, "what options do we have?"
"We can keep running. Or…" She stopped with a grin that promised doom.
"Or we can take up another friend of mine on his offer."
Anthony rubbed his forehead with his fingers. Hoping the headache he could feel coming would wait a little more "Offer?"
"A very good one. I say we accept it."
Anthony's glare didn't impress her in the least and so he finally broke down and asked, "and what awesome task would we be set up to do?"
Angela beamed. "Why, I thought you would never ask." then her glee turned into a proper evil smirk. "There is a contract with an impressive set of zeros on one side, and the disappearance of Spear's current batch of leader on the other just waiting for us in a dusty drawer. So what do you say Partner, should we sign?"
The idea sounded good, which was usually the trick with Angela. "Before I agree with anything, I want to know who we are dealing with."
She didn't look pleased. "You," she said with her finger pointed at him like a gun "deal with me." Finger didn't change target, go figure. "And I take care of petty details like where the money comes from."
It was Anthony's turn to feel pissed. "My, that conversation reminds me of something, should I bring you on a car ride again?"
Angela's frown worsened. "I thought we had dealt with that."
"Yes, by agreeing that you should let me know things. Or was I misled?"
He knew it was on the tip of Angela's tongue to agree that, yes, he had completely misunderstood and she had never promised any such thing. He also knew that if she was working so hard to hide it, he wouldn't like whatever it was she wasn't saying.
"Angela I told you already. I am your partner, not your guard dog. That there is no love lost between us I can understand, but I would certainly hope that we can work together without me having to hate you, which I am coming closer to with each passing day." His voice was a nasty sneer, packed neatly with all the frustration he had gained during the last week or so and especially in the last few hours.
"Hate me?" Angela had palled "Is that how you feel? You hate me?" Indignation, of all things, was slowly making its way in her voice.
"I don't hate you, but I wonder about the other way around. So tell me boss, do you hate me?"
Angela's expression was worth all the kicks and shouts. Disbelief, horror, hurt. All bound together and displayed with such abandon that she couldn't not be genuine. "Hate you? How could I hate you?" her voice broke on the last words. Tears escaped the corner of her eyes.
"Oh God, no." Anthony murmured. He knew there was a real hell somewhere, but suddenly he wondered if this wasn't worse. "Angela… Do you…" please let him have got it all wrong. "You do not… I mean… I like you a lot but…"
All of a sudden there was a pair of hands in his face. "Stop!" ordered Angela, arms extended in front of her as if she was planning to stop a car. "Fuck we are not having this conversation! Certainly not now, in a hotel with a dosed hostage in the next room." Her hands went to rub her face, not doing anything for the crazy looking eyes. "Actually, we're not having it. Ever."
"Shut up! I don't want to know!" she snapped. "I'm…" she put her back to him in a vain attempt to hide her shining eyes. "I… Just shut up!"
Anthony did. He starred at her back for what felt like an eternity, and then some more. He starred until he was sure she had calmed down and only then did he speak. "We are going to do as you said."
Startled, Angela turned around to face him. "What do you mean?"
"Whatever you want," he answered to her surprise.
"What's the catch," she asked with narrowed eyes, "you were ready to fight me teeth and claws not a moment ago. Why are you agreeing so easily now?"
Anthony had half a mind to ask her how it felt to have things in reverse for once. He never knew why he didn't but instead of the taunt what came out of his mouth was a very stern, "I will sign that contract, I will follow your orders, anything you want from now on. And when we are done…"
"So there was a catch," interrupted Angela bitterly.
Anthony continued as if she hadn't talked "when we are done, I will stop our partnership and leave."
Angela's mouth gaped. Her face became pale. She didn't loose it. She was very close to, but her voice was tightly controled when she talked. "Very well."
The door banged so loud when she left that several customers complained to the hotel management. An employee came to ask nervously if it was possible for them to quiet down a little.
Melaike woke up the next morning with a headache and complained about it all morning long. Anthony barely paid attention. He was going over the list of things that would need doing after the mission. Packing probably. He doubted his apartment had stayed under Angela's radar despite the fact she had never been in it. Maybe he should find a place where he would be allowed pets, he had always liked cats…
"Tony! Are you even listening to me?" Melaike was looking at him sternly with her arms crossed over her chest. "What is the problem with you lately? Yesterday afternoon you freak out, yesterday evening the she-devil drugs me, and now your head is so far up in the clouds you just agreed when I asked you if it was that time of the month." Reference to female problems never failed to make him uncomfortable and today was no exception. The red that rushed to his cheek didn't impress Melaike very much, though she did smile a little. "You're cute when you blush." This of course had his cheek become even redder.
With a muttered excuse for not listening Anthony stood up and pretended to go put away his things. Melaike roller her eyes but let him off the hook.
It turned out that Angela was even crazier than he had given her credit for. She must be. How else could she have accepted such a deal?
"Could you please repeat that again?" Anthony asked, impressed by his own ability to keep his voice down.
"To make it short and sweet, my contact has agreed to cover our asses should the head of the spears become permanently incapacitated. A good old massacre being out of the question, due to you being a pansy, I have gone to an old friend of ours. And here, is the result of my shopping." From her pocket, Angela fished a small vial filled with a transparent liquid whose vapours were highly toxic. Anthony knew that a few minutes of inhalation would provide a deep sleep filled with sweet dreams. Dreams from which you never woke because they were the result of your brain being slowly corroded. A vegetative state was the best you could hope for once the poison was finished with you. The vial received a dark look and Angela a darker one.
"No blood on the crime scene doesn't make our hands less dirty you know."
Angela shrugged. "You're being overly dramatic. Do you think they would hesitate?"
"That is not the point. When are you going to understand that even the worst scums have children and wives as well?"
Angela's features hardened. "They should have pondered the possibility of leaving orphans and widows behind before they came after us. Any other pointless argument you'd like to throw at me before you finally agree to accompany me?"
Massaging his temples didn't make the vial disappear. "No. Lead the way."
The spear's HQ was, according to Angela's source, situated in a club. Well in the same building as the club. The basement held the room with low light and overbearing music and the rest was used by the gang as living quarters, storage, office and meeting-room. Since they were so lucky there was a meeting scheduled on that very night, an information which also came from Angela's source. How everything seemed to go out of its way to make their task easier didn't escape Anthony's notice. But convincing Angela that it was too easy had always been a very difficult task. And anyway, they hadn't gotten close enough to the club when they suddenly spotted two familiar figures.
"Isn't that?" Asked Angela
"Look like it… well them." Answered Anthony.
Walking like they owned the street were none other than suspicious guy number two and his acolyte. As well as ten goons, all wearing suits and looking meaner than Angela in her bad days. Anthony would have loved to suddenly pull Angela in a dark corner, an alleyway or anything to provide cover just before they could be spotted but alas, their particular length of pavement was lit up like it was daylight and devoided of anything worth hiding behind. The next best thing was to turn heels, go back the other way and hope they hadn't been recognized yet. Which they did.
They adopted a brisk pace that was just short of a run and made their way to the closest intersection. They didn't slow down until Angela got them in a smaller alley which she promised lead to the club as well. They walked along for ten minutes or so when Angela forced Anthony to slow down.
"Shush. Do you hear?"
People were following them. Now that Angela had pointed it out it was easy to make out the footsteps amongst the background noise.
"Shit. Who do you think?"
He gave her his best duh look.
"Shiiiit!" He couldn't agree more.
"What do we do now?" Her wild look around was the very indication of her ignorance on the matter. Anthony spotted a dark alley on their left. He pointed at it discreetly. "There, hurry."
As soon as they were out of sight from the main street they started running. Before they could reach the end of the alley, their pursuers' footsteps started echoing theirs. Both he and Angela were rather athletic. Running had been an important part of their curriculum and they maintained that skill with good care. They managed to gain a precious few seconds on their pursuers for each corner they had to turn. It was pretty obvious though, that whoever was on their trail wouldn't get lost quite that easily. Hopefully, it was still doable. Just as he thought that the footsteps seemed to double. The new set sounded awfully like it was coming from the direction they were fleeing in. The panicked look on Angela's face proved she had heard it too. Now was the time for a miracle.
Hoping that he wasn't doing a big mistake, Anthony reached for Angea's hand. He stopped suddenly, used Angela's momentum to swirl her around and back her against the wall. The motion was a simple waltz step he had learnt years ago. How different the current situation was, compared to that music filled night, how different his current partner from the sweet petite blond he had had in his arms then. Angela and her fiery temper to match her red hair, Angela and her big mouth that got her as often in trouble as out of it, Angela and her stubbornness, her tough girl act and her apparent carelessness about her own life. Behind them and ahead of them their followers were getting closer, in front of him Angela was opening her mouth to protest, to insult him and tell him how stupid he was being. That wouldn't do, wouldn't do at all. Luckily, he knew of a good way to shut her up.
Leaning down he pressed his mouth to hers and, when she grabbed his shirt to push him away, leaned in even closer and started to give her the best French kiss of her life. Their pursuers were coming closer and closer but here he was, making out with a woman he couldn't stand and who was his boss. Please let Oliver remain forever ignorant of what was going to follow.
In the kiss, he started murmuring words, he was lucky he had such a good memory because it had been ages since he had last used Hebrew and right now his mind was slightly distracted. When the three men rounded the corner, Anthony had taken a few inches in height and lightened a few shades in colour, as for Angela, she looked exactly like that blond girl with whom he had shared a dance so long ago, though she was still ignorant of that fact. Actually she had started kissing him back and he had to admit that she was a great kisser, maybe a bit too stiff but, for all she knew, she would get shot any second now so he couldn't hold it against her.
"Do not worry," he murmured in her ear just as a hand landed heavily on his shoulder and jerked him away from her. He was just able to hear the gasp of air she took behind him, probably the shock at his sudden change in appearance. It could pass for surprise at being suddenly interrupted by dangerous looking strangers in the middle of a kiss. He prayed silently that she would keep enough wits about her to let him talk.
The look of surprise and fear he sent the man in front of him was only partly an act, the frightened part being all too real. "What? What's going on?" He made a show of looking the strangers over and to stare at the guns. "Oh fuck! Is that a gun? Is it money you want?" He started ruffling through his clothes, inwardly rejoicing in the frustration he could read on their followers' expression. He got his wallet out, feigning clumsiness and even dropping it on the ground for good measure. Shaking like a leaf he got it back and held it out to their attackers "Here… that's all I have…" They finally let out a disgusted noise and went their way, running faster than ever.
With a sigh of relief, Anthony watched them leave until he was sure they had rounded the next corner. Then he turned to Angela, readying himself for the worst. She was still standing against the wall, mouth gaping like a fish, starring in the direction the men had taken. Slowly, her eyes moved to him, to his now light brown hair and the beard that had suddenly grown on his chin –it had been in fashion at the time of that dance-. Her eyes searched his face, maybe for something that would look familiar and remind her of the Anthony she knew. She didn't find what she was looking for. As if from an afterthought, she started looking herself over, starting with her hands that were now a very light rosy colour, the strands of long blond hair that were reaching her waist.
In a daze, she stumbled to the nearest window where she managed to get a good look at her new appearance. Her eyes widened, her hands lifted up to come touch her face. "Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit! What the fuck did you do?" Anger, her endless anger, replaced the dazed look on her face, twisting the charming memory into a harpy's mask.
Anthony's hands rose in a gesture he wanted calming but that would also be very useful if Angela decided to attack him -something he wouldn't put past her-. "Calm down. Everything is alright."
It didn't have the desired effect on her, much the opposite. "NO! Everything is NOT alright! WHAT DID YOU DO?"
The shrill in her voice sent a shiver of fear down Anthony's spine. Now he was as worried for her sanity as he was for his own well-being –theirs actually because if the men after them had heard her, they wouldn't be long in finding them. Undoing the changes he had made was just a matter of a few words. This time he didn't bother with keeping his voice down. In three seconds top, the two of them were back to normal again. It seemed to have a good effect on Angela whose eyes lost that lost look. She took a deep breath, doing an obvious effort to regain control of herself.
"Now," she started in a much calmer voice, "what was that?"
Though she sounded in control, Anthony knew that it was shaky at best. If he didn't go about all this the right way, she would freak out again. They didn't have time for this. They didn't have time for an explanation either, but he guessed that if he didn't give her something, she would refuse to leave. Then his fuck up just now would have been for nothing. But what could he tell her?
"Aah… well…" The words didn't want to come. Once upon a time it was enough to just admit to being an angel and –if you were lucky- people didn't sick the church on you. Truth had ceased to be an easy out a few centuries ago though. On the bright side, they didn't burn you just on the ground of witchcraft suspicion anymore. "First, you are not crazy. Nor am I." That was a descent enough start. "What happened…" Angela gestured for him to keep going and the rest just spurted out of his mouth. "I used magic to change our appearances. It is an old spell, Hebrew spell that was once used for… well you do not want to know that actually. And I am… not really human. But you do not want to know about that either."
Angela took all of it in. Quiet well, judging by the fact that she didn't throw another fit. She looked him up and down carefully, doubt clearly expressed on her face.
"You look human enough to me," she said esitantly, as if she was expecting him to turn into a psychotic axe murderer any minute.
Anthony let out another string of words and flickers of flames started dancing around them. "Yes, perfectly human." Another string of word and the flames grew in intensity. "And that is a very human like behaviour what do you think?" Another word, the fire turned a bluish hue, the flames changed into birds that flew away without leaving a trace. "Everyday occurrence. You could do better with a little training," he added, his lifeless voice a stark contrast to his sarcastic words.
Anthony didn't know what reaction he wanted from Angela. If he wanted her to reject everything or accept it, him, and the label of abnormality that went with it. She surprised him when she starred him straight in the eyes and said: "Okay… okay so you're… you're… What did you say you were?"
The sigh that escaped him was loud enough to sound like a sob. A relieved sob mind you, but still. "I did not say. But it is better if you do not know."
She nodded once. "Okay. I don't know. I think I can live with that. Any other shit I should know about?"
"Fire raining from the sky? Brick-wall sprouting wings? Ballet dancing monkeys?"
Anthony had to laugh. "No. No monkeys, I promise." He hesitated. "I can make fire fall from the sky though. Other things as well."
Angela rolled her eyes. "And it's only now you tell me?"
"It is not…" he avoided her eyes again, "it is forbidden to tell humans. I could get in a lot of trouble for showing you what I did."
Angela frowned. "Forbidden?" Anthony had his mouth open to tell her she couldn't know about it but she raised a hand to stop him. "Okay, got it, better I don't know. So. What are we waiting for?"
She led the way back to the street they had come from. A while later they reached the nightclub. Hidden behind a row of cars, they watched the line of people wanting in and the group of bodyguards, not bouncers, bodyguards filtering the entrances. The movie atmosphere was made complete with their badly hidden weapons and paranoia hanging thick in the air.
"Fucking hell!" swore Angela, "how are we going to pass that?" If the front was so well defended it made sense to think that the back would be as well. "Can you do your shape-shifter thing again?"
Anthony glanced her way with a laugh on the ready but she looked serious. "No I cannot, it is already surprising that I got away with it once. I should not risk it twice."
Angela pouted. "Come on, you make it sounds as if God is going to strike you down from up there."
Anthony didn't want to tell her how right she was with that comment. He was surprised that Oliver hadn't showed up by now. So in the meantime, there was no way he was doing magic again. "How about we try the rooftops?" he proposed instead, "that building over there seems close enough for a jump, it is also slightly higher which should make matters easier."
Angela protested but, Anthony didn't give her a choice. They broke in the neighbour building and had no trouble getting on the roof. From there, they both had the most frightening seconds of their life while they jumped above a four stores deep pit, to land none too gracefully on a flat cement roof. No one started raining bullet on them which was a relief. The rof and the door were not guarded.
"Well that was easy," commented Angela with an hint of a waver in her voice.
Anthony agreed. "Yes, maybe too easy."
"Don't be a spoilsport. Now I'll feel obliged to imagine a guard behind every door."
There wasn't one behind every door, but there was one behind the door leading to the roof and it was all they could do to keep him from giving the alarm. The poor guy broke his neck when they both launched themselves at him to clap a hand on his mouth.
"Eew, I think he licked my hand," whined Angela. She eyed Anthony's shirt and the next thing he knew she had wiped her hand on his sleeve.
"Such a baby," he muttered.
They hid the corpse in a closet. Anthony kept hopping that the guy had merely banged his head very hard and would wake up eventually. Then they made their way further in the wolf's den.
"What are we looking for exactly?" asked Anthony after Angela had made him take yet another turn into a deserted hallway.
"A way to the floor below, from then, a room full of people thinking of themselves as hotshots." Well that was precise.
"Do you actually know what you are doing?"
Angela grinned at him widely. "Of course, do you doubt me?"
He had every right to because it was pure chance if they found anyone. At least the guy fitted the hotshot description. Anthony tackled him down, Angela gave him a few sniffs of the vials, in two minutes top he was lost forever to Orpheus's loving yet deathly embrace.
Angela beamed. "Well that's one. See, easy as pie." Anthony had to agree. Angela didn't see his nod, she was already marching to the next room.
They managed to get a few at once, who were lounging in a room that had so much cigarette smoke in it they never noticed the door had been opened. On the down side, Angela had had to throw the vial in without the stopper so they were left without poison.
Which didn't seem to faze Angela too much. "That should be all of them so it doesn't matter. Oh and don't breath while you get that bottle back."
Anthony ignored that last sentence but made sure to pack the vial in a plastic bag before he put it in his pocket. He didn't want to risk killing a dog coming to say hello or, worse, the lady who did his laundry. Yes, laundry was something he didn't feel macho not doing. If anything, he usually had no clue how to clean the stains made by the substances that sometimes spilled on him. Blood being far from the worst of them.
"Are you sure that this was all of them?"
Angela counted on her fingers "first one, hallway one, plus… one, two, three, four, five, that's seven. Yup, we got them all."
"Sweet. Let us not spend more time here than needed then."
Angela sent him a military salute. "Aye aye Sir. This way if you please." She left the room and turned right. It wasn't the direction they had come from. A fact which Anthony didn't hesitate to share with her.
"One last thing to do," she answered enigmatically.
"Have I not said already what I think of your surprises?"
"Oh don't be a killjoy. You'll like this one I promise."
They visited several other rooms until Angela found what she was looking for. Apparently it was an office. Several desks and computers could be seen but Angela ignored them all. She dragged Anthony in a dark corner where they were not visible from the door. And then they waited. It was obvious she was expecting someone or something so Anthony didn't bother to ask.
He was a little disappointed when one of the bouncers from the entrance came in. More so when Angela left her hiding spot, signalling that he was the one. She silently crept on him from behind and had one of her numerous knives around the man's throat before he could move. He proved at least intelligent enough not to struggle.
"Who?" asked the man more calmly than anyone Anthony had ever seen in his position.
"Good evening Salim," Angela greeted amiably.
"Angela. Aren't you done yet?"
"Oh we are." Angela made a sharp gesture which Anthony had no trouble translating. He followed her in the light and walked around the two to put himself in sight of the man.
"So you are the famous associate," the man said when he spotted him.
Anthony made a show of bowing. "And you must be the famous contractor."
The man smirked, "a true gentleman I see. You will not hold it against me if I keep my greeting more traditional I hope," while saying so, he pointed the knife at his throat.
Anthony was slowly revisiting his first impression. Despite his brutish appearance, the man had a very clear elocution. His sense of humour spoke of a certain level of self-derision and education. If one could draw conclusions from such a short encounter, the obvious decision was to consider the man as potentially dangerous.
"So, Angela, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"My money of course."
There was a deep rumble that was actually the man's laugh. "Hadn't we agreed that you would be paid after the job and on another location? What if one of my colleagues come in and see me at your mercy? How am I going to explain all those bodies then?"
"You'll come up with something I'm sure. In the meantime I suggest you come up with a way of paying me. Right now."
It was fascinating to watch. The smallish woman holding the giant at knifepoint and bullying him for money. Even more so because the giant was so polite and charming.
"Don't you think your demands are a bit too sudden? Those things need time."
"So do setting a trap to make sure Anthony and I don't talk. You know, I don't trust you further than I can throw you which, despite my muscled little arms, is really not far. So for your sake I hope you have enough money with you to make me happy, else slicing your throat will have to do."
The man sighed. "Fair enough. If your colleague look in that safe over there, behind the picture, yes that one. The combination is nine-four-five, two-height-height. Will that be enough?"
There were several wads of one hundred notes. About… a lot of money.
Angela sounded pleased when she talked. "That's pretty good Salim. I guess the official version will be that we killed the heads to get the money?"
"Exactly. Now if you would be so kind as to leave…"
Angela let him go with prudence. She checked him for weapons before she joined Anthony to fill her pockets. They made to leave but Salim called them back.
"Angela! Make sure you do not remain in this city. Because as soon as this organisation is back on tracks," his voice grew darker at that point, "your name will be at the top of the hunt list."
Angela smiled. "You're just a sore loser Salim."
They mingled with the guests at the club and got out without any trouble. Then it was back at the hotel where Anthony put all his energy in packing, convincing Angela to pack and generally making the girls feel just as stressed as he was.
"The fuck is wrong with you!" Asked an exasperated Angela when he got her bags for her and started folding her shirts. "You'd think you were purchased by the hounds of hell, not a lousy bunch of goons."
"We will rest just as well in the next city. That guy did not seem like he was making idle threats when he told us to leave so why not do so?" Angela didn't want to listen to him and protested that she was tired. She wasn't, he knew, and had no intention of sleeping at all. Angela never slept after a mission, she just didn't know that he knew and was being difficult. Their starring contest didn't last though, because Anthony had an unfair advantage and didn't mind one bit using it.
"Anyway I am going, whoever wants to tag along get ready now." Melaike moved at once. Her clothes suffered a bit in the process but her pack was done in five minutes flat. The prospect of ending up alone didn't seem to please Angela too much either, for she finally started her own pack.
The room was abandoned without regrets and Anthony sent the girls to the car while he gave back the keys. He made it all the way to the door and was about to let out a sigh of relief when the doorman winked at him.
"Hello my little angel," out of the old man's mouth came a cheerful voice that sounded suspiciously like Oliver. "A little bird told me that the two of us need to talk." His voice became flat and cold, "I will meet you at your apartment tonight. The ladies are not invited."
Anthony blinked. The doorman blinked as well but when Anthony stayed mouth agape in front of him his expression became annoyed. "What," he grumbled in a voice that had nothing to do with Oliver's.
"Nothing." Anthony made a quick escape to the parking spot. He needed a lie and he needed it to be good enough to convince Angela to drop him in town. Worse, he needed a good enough one that she would drop him and then go without him and without following him. He also needed to give Angela something that would protect her from their followers when… he wouldn't be there anymore.
The car's window opened and Angela's face appeared. "You coming or not?"
"Yes I just…" What would she buy? " I need to go in town. I forgot something important there."
"You forgot something?" asked a disbelieving Angela, "what the fuck Anthony, you just spent half an hour convincing us that we needed to be gone."
"Not without this, I cannot. But you and Melaike should not come with me. Just drop me in town and I will catch up with you later." Angela looked about to argue "Please. I will not be long. All you have to do is drive to the emergency hideout and I will be back before you even know I was gone. Before you waste your time protesting, I want you to know that I will go whatever you say."
Angela frowned but Anthony knew he had won. "You tell your girlfriend then. We'll see what she has to say on the matter," she said surly.
Anthony frowned. "She is not…"
"Oh cut it. I don't want to hear it, and I don't care if you think it's not true. Or if it is at all." There was real hurt in her voice. Did it make a coward out of him that he didn't want to press the point either? God this relationship of theirs was so rotten he didn't think he could make it any worse.
Angela's frown turned into an all out grimace when all Melaike said was that he better come back quickly and in one piece. It almost broke his heart. He truly didn't think he would be coming back.
On the way to the city he kept thinking of all the conversations he should have had with the two girls in the last few days. Was that how human felt? Regrets at all the things they didn't have time to set straight?
When the car stopped, he told the girls to not wait for him more than forty-four hours. If he didn't give sign of life after that, then they needed to be on the run. That, of course, set Angela's radar in full alert mode. She pushed him out of the car and slammed the door on Melaike's face.
"What is it now? You've been acting weird all evening since… well since I suddenly grew blond hair. Are they after you?"
He could answer that question with a lie and go through a full out interrogation with truth serum involved, or he could tell the truth and never hear the end of it. He picked option three.
"Did you like it?" he asked with a smile, "the guards sure couldn't believe their eyes. I thought they were going to beat me up out of sheer disappointment."
He would have sworn the corners of Angela's lips lifted a little. "Yhea that was a neat trick. Wish we could use it again." She was about to add more but Melaike got out of the car in a huff.
"Crazy woman! you almost broke my nose!"
With Angela focused on the other woman, Anthony decided that now was as good a time as ever to do a little more magic. In a few words Melaike was falling asleep on Angela. The red-haired woman was so stunned she grabbed Melaike without thinking one second of letting her fall on the ground. Anthony didn't stop there and chanted his other spell while his target was immobilized. Angela's eyes glazed over. Her mouth opened without letting out a sound. Suddenly she dropped Melaike and fell on top of her.
Anthony put them both in the car with a note on the dashboard.
I am sorry for the sudden sleep. Do not go after me, you need to keep going. I gave you a little present to use at your discretion. They can't trace you so feel free to use it whenever. The spell-chanting and the kissing aren't necessary anymore, I'll let you figure it out on your own. I know I am asking much but can you keep Melaike out of trouble until she knows how to take care of herself?
Sorry again, I guess I'll never say it enough.
The door was open when he reached his apartment. The smell of coffee was strong. Oliver was pouring some in a cup when he entered.
"Good evening Anthony," greeted Oliver, "close the door, take a seat." He gestured toward the chair facing him. Anthony sat, Oliver pushed the cup in front of him and filled another.
"What is the occasion this time?" asked Anthony.
"Seeing you is the best excuse there will ever be," Oliver answered charmingly. He had the guts to go as far as reaching for Anthony's hand with his own and hold it tenderly.
Anthony jerked his hand free. "I will never understand your sense of humour."
Oliver's smile turned a bit sour. "Well I will never understand you at all. But this time it is my duty to ask what the fuck you were thinking about." He reclined in his seat and adopted a leisurely pose that spoke of confidence and carefree spirit. "I will summarise the facts if you do not mind. Stop me if you feel I am in the wrong. At the beginning was the big nothing and then those two annoying Lords of ours appeared, bored out of their mind as they have always been since."
Despite himself Anthony snorted. "Isn't that going back a bit too much?"
Oliver smiled. "Just making sure we had the same history lessons. How the two created servants to ease their lonesomeness, us, how they created toys to amuse themselves with, humans, how they cheated in every possible way before they decided that it would be more entertaining to have us play their game in their stead." Oliver's words were pure blasphemy of course, and very out of character in the demon's mouth. Enough to make Anthony pay attention. "We struggled for some time," resumed Oliver "then set rules, put some of us above the others. Things became easier, the highs-above added some more rules for good measure, then even more. Things were still rolling well. And then came that rule, which you must know about, that magic was to be whipped out of the human world. Whipped out and never to be seen by any of them again." Anthony felt cold all of a sudden. His face palled, his hands felt clammy. Oliver couldn't have been obvious to it but he didn't stop his little speech. "It made our job so much easier, don't you think? Being able to fight dirty, to use things way beyond their understanding. But for each rule there is a punishment. You do know that don't you? What await those who used magic in front of a human?"
The blood had definitely flowed out of Anthony's face. His hands were gripping the chair's arms in a painful way. Of course Oliver would have found out. He had known all along his little slip would be noticed so why the surprise?
"Truly Anthony, I had you pegged as someone who stuck a lot closer to the rules. Especially while looking after a spawn of our very own Satan. I mean, we are supposed to watch over them, and protect them from the other camp, not from other human beings. And certainly not by breaking the rules. All you had to do was let her get killed. Truly how difficult is that?"
It shouldn't have surprised him and certainly shouldn't have made him feel betrayed. "You are heartless," he growled.
Oliver smiled, that forever-charming smile that never left his lips however horrible the circumstances or terrible the things he did. "Well there is a reason my side of that sick game are called demons after all."
Oliver's answer to everything wasn't it? I can't help being such a big bad boy, after all I am a demon. Anthony didn't think everything was so limited. If angels could be so deficiently human why not demons? What made them so special that nothing could shock, frighten or simply move them? Why could Oliver stay unaffected by death, misery or love when the simple idea that he might never see Melaike again hurt?
"She is human, therefore she is unique. Whatever is planed for her, she doesn't deserve to die if it can be prevented."
"How sweet," mocked Oliver, "so instead of giving up on her, you decided to give yourself the role of martyr and disappear in her place? Because, if I remember correctly, that is the punishment for such blatant disrespect of the rules. Though I don't think the girl will last much longer than you. We can't use her anymore therefore she is free-game for your side. What do you say, you think they will give their divine forgiveness to someone whose destiny is to one day serve my master?"
Anthony shrugged. He had known this, had suspected that Oliver would give him no favour treatment and had still decided that it was alright. There was no more to say on the matter. Oliver obviously didn't understand this behaviour, he was a poor little demon after all.
Anthony's resignation didn't seem to go on well with Oliver though. "You could at least pretend to care enough to defend your case," he snapped suddenly, taking Anthony by surprise.
"Why, to give you grounds to mock me?" he snapped back, "I am tired of all this, so if you could please just call whoever you need to call and get it done with I would be most grateful."
Oliver's cool slipped entirely. His face morphed into a mask of anger. He forgot himself to the point of grabbing Anthony and showing him roughly against the nearest wall. This violent behaviour was so at odd with what Anthony had seen of Oliver until now that he didn't even think to defend himself. Of course he knew that, by definition, demons were violent creature, fire of hell running inside their veins and all. But Oliver was this cool and collected figure that only ever lashed out with words. Always the perfect robot, without a heart, without a soul, without feelings.
Who, then, was this furious creature he was facing right now?
"This is all?" asked Oliver in a voice that was close to shouting, "you are going to play the victim until the end and just let them do whatever they want to you? What! You think that because your side is all white feathers and smiles they are going to be more forgiving? Or maybe you want to suffer? Is that it Anthony? You want them to give you reasons to throw a pity party? But in the end my friend you are doing it to yourself all on your own."
That finally got to Anthony. "Do not call me that." Why dig out the friend act now? The useless friend act that had nothing, no sincerity, no trust, no feeling, nothing to back it up. "We are not friends so do not dare pretend otherwise."
Oliver snorted. "Idiot, is that really what you believe? Now listen, I have put up with way more from you than I would have anyone else. If we are not friend then explain why I would spend so much time listening to you whine about your charge? Or why nothing happened after your little car ride. How do you explain that?" His grip still tight on Anthony's collar Oliver bent closer and whispered in his ear. "You could give me a little credit for covering your ass, when you would have sold mine to my hierarchy without a second thought. The truth is that I am much more of a friend than you are."
Anthony's collar was released. To Anthony's relief, Oliver finally put some distance between them. The feeling of unease that hung between them remained though and Anthony didn't know what he should do about it. "Sorry," he whispered eventually.
Oliver starred coldly at him. "You can be."
"But there is still nothing that can be done about my case, though I appreciate the thought. So I do not understand what has you so worked up."
"Your resignation, for starters." Oliver pinched the bridge of his nose in a gesture Anthony had often seen. Usually when his friend was speaking about particularly frustrating humans. "Now, what do you want? Punishment and old geezers aside, I mean."
The answer was painfully obvious. And since everything was done why not tell? "Melaike. I want to be with Melaike"
Oliver didn't look surprised. "Very well, I will see what I can do."
Anthony wondered what was wrong with Oliver, what did he think he could do? Maybe he had lost all sense of reality. But he knew better than to try and reason him. "When are you going to contact them anyway?" he asked instead.
Oliver's coy smirk returned. "Already done." From his pocket he fished a small crystal ball. A faint light emanated from it and its surface seemed to shimmer from time to time.
At its sight, Anthony's heart sunk. "Oh."
Oliver drew near and Anthony started to step backward, away from the shiny object. Oliver was smiling, a reassuring smile that didn't reassure Anthony at all. "Do not worry," said the demon, "did we not just establish that I was trustworthy? I got you the best possible deal."
His light tone didn't make Anthony feel better. "What deal?" he wanted to know. But Oliver had him cornered against the wall by then and didn't look like someone who felt in any obligation to answer.
"Do not worry," he said again instead of answering. Not that it would make much of a difference, thought Anthony bitterly. Nothing could ever persuade him that this little ball could be a good thing. Oliver must have sensed how stiff and unconvinced he was because he grabbed him by the shoulder in an iron grip. Anthony thought that it was too bad he wouldn't live long enough to truly appreciate how bruised his shoulder would become. And now he couldn't even try to escape.
He made one last attempt. "Oliver what is going to happen?"
"I already told you," answered Oliver. The next words he spoke were in a language Anthony didn't know, a grating succession of sounds that felt as if they were scratching the inside of his ears, scorching their way through to his eyes, his head, his throat and down. It was horrible and painful; yet Anthony was frozen still and couldn't do anything, not even scream. His eyes anchored themselves on Oliver in a silent attempt to ask for help. But the Oliver he saw was even more unsettling than an angry Oliver would have been. Gone was the coyness, the smirk, the arrogance, the smooth façade of indifference. For the first time since he knew him, Anthony saw a man who looked genuinely weary and sad. His friend's lips moved, but Anthony couldn't hear any sound. It was English though, he was sure of it. A short sentence, something he should be able to recognize. Oliver said it again but Anthony's sight became blurry and black at the edge, soon the black had replaced everything and he felt his mind leave him as well. Oblivion came with a faint touch on his lips, like a soft kiss.
"What did you say your name was again?" asked Angela, voice laced with so much suspicion that she could have shared with an entire town of teenager raising parents. This man had kept rubbing her the wrong way since he had met them in the lobby. She had put it down to stress at first, to the hours of worrying that something might have happened to Anthony, trying to lie to Melaike to keep her from completely freaking out, only to learn that they had been right to worry all along. But now, she wondered if it didn't simply come down to him being from the police, cops and her just didn't go along well as a rule.
"Sergeant Hammond Ma'am," answered the blond man.
"Where did you say he was found?" asked Melaike next to them. Since they had been called and informed of Anthony's whereabouts she had been eerily quiet. Her voice soothed Angela some, the calm in it maintaining her sane. There was another reason for her acceptance of Melaike's presence to her side. Angela wanted to be able to see if the petite woman lost it and burst into tears, because she had promised herself that she wouldn't cry first.
"On the north outskirt of town Ma'am."
"Maybe it's not him," murmured Melaike, "there was no reason fro him to go this way." Her voice lacked assurance though.
The man stopped in front of a door and turned to them. "Now, I apologize but it is standard procedure for me to remind you that it might not be the right person…"
"Yhea, yhea," cut Angela with a sharp wave of her hand, "we got it, now please open that damn door." If this had to go on any longer she wouldn't be able to keep that stupid promise to herself. Only, instead of crying she might just murder the damn cop.
He opened the door, she heard Melaike take a deep breath and keep it in. So she forced herself to breath out.
Melaike followed the cop straight in. When she tried to do the same did Angela realise that her feet were stuck to the ground. What if it was him? What would happen next? A loud sob inside jolted her out of her thought and, before she could think about it, she was in the room.
Melaike was crying all that she was worth and it must have been contagious because Angela felt a tear run down her own cheek.
"I take it it's him then?" asked the cop next to her.
"Yes," she answered without looking at him, "yes, it's him."
She couldn't tear her eyes away from the dark, dishevelled hair, the too pale skin that was going wet with Melaike's tears as she clung to him for dear life. Anthony looked… well completely bewildered. Holding Melaike mechanically as his eyes kept going between her, the cop and Angela with a ridiculous "what the fuck" expression on his face.
Angela whipped her eyes with her sleeve before advancing on him. "You moron! We were worrying to death waiting for you to come back and you get yourself in a fucking car accident? You stupid… idiotic… Aw shit."
Anthony's face became even more distressed as she flung herself at his neck alongside Melaike.
Oliver watched silently, thinking that he should leave now, while they were all too preoccupied with other things. Angela had already been giving him the evil eye since he met them in the loby and Oliver had had to fight the feeling that she knew something was wrong. She couldn't of course; she was merely human after all. Well not merely any more, but close enough that she couldn't spot him. Same for Anthony, the orb had stripped him from any power he had and all of his memories, which was why he was gapping like a fish and starring at the two women like he had never seen them before.
Oliver's plan was that Melaike, and maybe Angela, for some times, would take care of Anthony. He had false papers, a false live that could easily be tracked in records that would give them all they needed to quench their curiosity. Hopefully, between the three of them, they could make that life complete enough to cover the little details that didn't fit. He was sure that Angela would do the right thing and leave the most unnatural bits out of the picture. Once she realized that Anthony's memories weren't coming back, that the strangeness had ended with the "accident" and if she was truly as clever as Anthony had said, she would take all that strangeness with her and leave Anthony and Melaike alone. Maybe he could help her make the right decision by sending someone after her. It was always something to think about.
Eventually, he forced himself to leave the room. Taking a last look at Anthony from above his shoulder, but not attracting any attention from the overwhelmed trio. It was better this way, he thought bitterly. Anthony would have a long, very normal and very human life with no more guardian angels and no more demon co-worker. There was no room in that life for an old friend of whom no one had ever heard about. As for Oliver… well his new charge had been decided already, her opposite had already a guardian as well, who was now waiting for him on an entirely different continent where he hadn't set foot since times when witch-hunting was still a national hobby. He had seen a picture of the guy already. Not as breath-taking as Anthony, but still cute and looking really… respectable. Getting him to loosen up would provide a lot of fun.