Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Metal stairs rang underfoot. From this vantage, Raine saw a sliver of the Market below. His little show hadn’t stirred up much of a commotion, but that wouldn’t last long. By the time Raine had found the trinket shop, he’d stopped searching the skyline for signs of apartments. Now, it was all too obvious. Full length windows wrapped around the side of the residence, not open but blocked by heavy shades. He crossed under a metal balcony that faced the struts and wires from the tram lines.

Raine paused at the door to make sure no one was watching him. He noticed a drowned ashtray sitting on the window sill. Forcing the lock open, he moved into the room, then eased the door shut. Long lines of red light filtered through the blinds, highlighting the swirling motes, giving him just enough light to work by. Trapped with the stale air, he fought the urge to open a window. He pushed into the murk, praying he’d find something, anything, to put him on the right path.

He couldn’t just let them escape justice. With that girl’s death on his hands, he had no right to walk the streets, but he was the only one that knew the truth. As much as it plagued him, these men were far worse than what he’d done. He had to keep telling himself this to be able to move forward.

Outside, the sounds of the street slipped in, all noise and bustle. It rattled, tapped at the walls. No wonder Turrell didn’t sleep here during the day. Thankfully, he’d avoided the apartment during the festival. Raine counted his blessings, hoping his good luck would continue on to finding Jaiden.

The efficiency mixed work and rest, leaving little room between the desk and the bed. Raine followed a wall to the bathroom. The switch was on, a light buzzing filling the space. He tapped a light on the wall which sputtered to life then promptly burnt out. He didn’t need it to see how filthy the room was.

Raine retreated to the main room. He crossed to a desk, skirting piles of dirty laundry. An oversized tri-fold mirror sat atop the desk, blocking light from one of the windows. Faded notes were tacked all over its surface. Flies buzzed around plates of half-eaten food, discarded bottles. He swept them aside with the back of his good hand.

Studying pictures wedged into the mirror’s frame, he spotted Jaiden and Turrell late at night, conquests wrapped in their arms. He wasn’t prepared to see their jubilant faces, carefree and plastered. Doubt flickered through his chest. He forced it away with thoughts of their file.

Pulling drawers open, he sifted through crumpled magazines, half-written letters and overdue bills. Exasperated, he darted from drawer to drawer, barely registering what he was seeing. At the last drawer, he spotted the same shit as the rest. He flung the drawer across the room. It struck the opposite wall, fanning papers in a frenzied flurry. A small black book hit the ground. He scooped it up. The leather binding had cracked, most of it shed to reveal cardboard backing. He flipped through the pages, seeing names, numbers, addresses. He found his mark, froze on Jaiden’s entry.

The lock clicked.

Raine slipped the book into his jacket, turned to see Turrell’s silhouette filling the entry. Raine stood amidst the chaos he’d created. “Well, isn’t this awkward.” He fingered the knife in his pocket, testing its serrated edge.

Turrell dropped his bag. “When’re you going to learn?”

“Never been the schoolin’ type.”

Turrell threw himself forward. Raine leaned into the attack, then pivoted. Instead of deftly avoiding Turrell’s attack, Raine was thrown atop the bed as Turell barreled past. Turrell toppled into the desk. It scraped against the floor, the tri-fold mirror slamming into the window, cracking glass. The mirror toppled, exploding over Turrell. Bits of glass fell from his frame as if shedding water. He let out a frustrated shout, gripping the edge of the desk, wrenching it aside.

Raine pushed from the rank sheets, fumbling at the knife. Turrell fell atop Raine, fists pummeling his face. Raine’s senses blurred, distorted as his face was reframed, teeth dislodging in the flurry. Raine flailed against the barrage. He managed to lodge a knee in Turrell’s stomach, shoved.

Turrell stumbled back as Raine pulled the blade free, ripping his jacket. Turrell descended, locking his hand around Raine’s arm. Turrell twisted, using his other hand to grip the knife and drive it into Raine’s opposite shoulder.

A fresh pain blossomed, Raine’s choked scream trailing off. His hand worked at the blade numbly. Turrell stood, slapped Raine’s face. “All this work tracking me down. Pity.” Walking to the doorway, he knelt at his bag.

Raine released two sharp breaths before he rolled off the bed, tugged at the handle. The knife shredded muscle as it went. It clattered to the ground. Its bloody edge gleamed in the daylight, staining the fanned out pages. Raine vomited, splashing the side of Turrell’s dresser.

“Fucking great.” Turrell pulled out a long pair of pliers, already coated with a layer of crimson. “Just for that, we’re going to make this hard.”

Raine’s vision faltered. He crawled, dragging himself through his vomit, as he groped for the blade. His fingers wrapped around it and he forced himself to his feet, steadying against a dresser. Blood coated his jacket, his head swam, but he stared in the direction of the giant. He waved with his mauled hand, tucking the knife by his side, forcing a smile across his destroyed face.

Turrell smirked, brandishing the pliers. He leaned in, placing them on the desk, and wrapped his rough hand around Raine’s jaw. “Sit down—”

Raine slammed the knife through the flesh beneath Turrell’s jaw. Slumping, Raine watched the beast falter, Turrell’s hand going to the handle. Turrell’s eyes rolled in his head and he toppled forward, slamming into the window, pinning Raine between them. The glass groaned. Tendrils snaked out. Raine mustered the last bit of his strength and pressed into the glass, shoving Turrell’s flaccid body off him. Raine curled on the ground and Turrell slammed into the cracked window. It shattered, pitching Turrell into the day.

Fresh air greeted Raine as he slouched against the frame. He sucked in the air, only now reconciling the pain covering the left side of his body. Shouts, screams echoed outside. Using his sleeve as protection, he leaned out the window.

Below, a figure recoiled from the sprawled body. Officers ran to join the gathering crowd. He pushed himself up, putting pressure on the wound. His thoughts scattered as light filled his vision. Even as the pain dulled, he was able to keep one clear thought: He had to leave.

If the Officers were worth their salt, he wouldn’t have much time to hunt down Jaiden.

At least Raine knew where the fucker lived.

 

Marise pushed through the throng of people. She pulled her bag tight, annoyance rising at all the gawkers. Muttering what could pass for apologies, she spotted three Officers in the gloom, standing around a woman, one interviewing her while the other two stood ready.

She leaned into a couple, asked, “What happened?”

“Guy broke into the store, went crazy. Attacked the woman.”

“Did he steal anything?”

“Nope. Heard he was asking about the tenant upstairs.”

“Sounds like fun,” Marise said, disinterest lacing her words.

“Yeah, sounds like Raine has finally lost it.”

Marise stared at the woman. “What’d you say?”

“That’s the rumor. Keir’s right hand was the guy. Zak’s brother was just up there last week on business. I’m glad they didn’t send that psycho out to help him.”

Marise staggered back through the crowd. The narrow Market had come to a standstill, blocked on both sides by all the attention. She craned her neck, spotted an alley running along the side of the shop. Ducking her head, she wished, not for the first time, that she had her hat.

She watched the Officers as she crossed parallel to the scene. They moved in formation to the front of the store. The already crowded entrance only allowed for them to enter one at a time. As they started their breach, she entered the alley. Damp paper clumped together along the edges of the stores. Tucked from the madness of the Market, a merchant sat on the fringe of the passage, a frayed canvas laid out in front of him with discarded books of varying sizes. He didn’t try to barter with her, but his eyes tracked her.

Pressing forward, Marise inspected the trinket shop. Wires connected it to several other buildings, crisscrossing into a tangled web. She followed the curve of the alley, found a metal stairwell. Her gaze traveled up the winding steps when she heard splintering. She spun around, searching the area around her, then the sound came again, this time in an explosion. A hail of glass pelted the concrete.

She stepped back as a body slammed into the concrete, skull splitting like a watermelon. A knife—her knife—jutted from what remained of the man’s chin.

Marise tripped, hit the ground, and, though the gravel cut into her hands, propelled herself from the corpse. She stared at it, its eyes lifeless and unblinking, a crimson pool spreading. She looked up, spotted Raine peering from the window.

She screamed.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.