What happens when you get a school with a secret, a ditzy blonde guy with professional-league flirting skills, an a clueless new-girl?
A disaster of epic proportions.
PROLOGUE – Two Shots
They were standing in the doorway, drops of water ricocheting onto the threadbare school carpet beneath them. Sorrow and frowns were plastered onto the grim faces of two men and a woman. The man on the furthest right was a tall, hunched figure, with a shock of blonde hair and dark green eyes. They held a look of stressed apprehension. The huskier man next to him seemed more resigned. As if he was used to this kind of thing. Used to it… but hated it. Then there was the woman. Her wolfish face held nothing save for a harsh frown.. All three were staring tiredly into the eyes of a trembling teacher.
“What happened?” She whimpered out. “W-why is my student…”
At the mention of the student, the three solemn figures turned their heads to the strange boy cowering behind another woman’s pale skirt – presumably his mother. His body showed no sign of the form he had abandoned seconds ago. He was only seven years old. The youngest of the three, the blond man squirmed uncomfortably.
The stern woman pinched her brow before replying to the teacher in a darkly soothing tone, “Mrs. Levenski, why don’t you come with us? We’ll explain everything on our way there.”
The teacher stared after her. “G-go where?”
The wolfish woman grimaced, ignoring the question. She instead issued a new order. “Mr. Talon, Mr. Vordic, take care of matters here. I have to see to Mrs. Levenski’s relocation.”
Mr. Talon, the hunched figure, stood taller, straightening his shoulders regretfully. A sinister realization whispered to him of this woman’s version of justice. She couldn’t be asking him to… His blonde hair hung just above his heavy young eyes. Eyes that sparked suddenly with a calculated defiance. “What exactly are… ‘matters here’?” The look he tossed the woman in charge demanded an answer.
“You know full well what matters are.” She growled. The obvious head of the small assembly glanced over at the teacher cowering beside them, looking more worried as the conversation progressed. It should not have been necessary to explain to Mr. Talon. Nor was it something she wanted to discuss in front of the already struggling Mrs. Levenski.
“No. I don’t.” He continued boldly, “This has never happened under my command before. I’m afraid you’ll need to explain to me what we are to take care of.” He’d make her say it. Hear the cold inhumanity of it.
She glared, “Mr. Vordic will tell you what must be done then.”
“A personal discussion would be much more appropriate.” With narrowed eyes, Mr. Talon looked pointedly at her, and then at the confused, frightened woman hunched behind a desk. He cast a challenging gaze back at his superior. For a moment, they just stared at each other until the official looking female realized he wasn’t going to back down. She would make him wish he had.
“Fine,” she clipped, “Mr. Vordic, take Mrs. Levenski to the car and explain to her what happened, just as you’ve been trained. Find her a suiting place among the Laminas. Inform her gently, and don’t overload her. We don’t want her thinking she’s going insane.” Every word of the command was so blunt, so matter-of-fact.
Without a word, the door swung open, inviting a blast of frigid air, laced with the faint taste of death. Mr. Vordic walked grimly into the bitter wind outside with the trembling teacher trailing after him in a petrified daze. It was wet outside, wet and acridly cold. Yet it was the frosty glare from inside that had the potential to cause the most harm. Her unrelenting glower felt like pins sliding into Mr. Talon’s eyes. Suddenly the thundering rage seemed less of something to be trifled with. She no longer had a reason to muffle her howling fury. “Okay Talon. What. Don’t. You. Understand?” Each word was dotted with a threat.
The boy and his mom still stood white-faced before them. The child didn’t even understand. There were people in suits glaring back and forth. They looked grim. Like maybe something horrible was going to happen. And then he saw the horror in his mom’s face. Something was bad. Something was very bad.
Talon snapped, “I don’t understand what you’re asking me to do!” He didn’t understand why. He didn’t understand how she expected him to do it.
She gritted her teeth coldly. “You know what they did. They were warned of the consequences. They didn’t listen. We got lucky this time, but this one little mistake could have cost lives. They could have exposed everyone. Do you understand me Talon?”
Mr. Talon shook his head frustratedly, “No. I don’t. They didn’t know this would happen. No one ever told them they would be…” He choked on his words, unable to voice the punishment that loomed over the child and his mother. “No one told them… that this was the price.” He finished weakly.
Her eyes gave a flicker of victory and stared straight through him. “So you do know what’s expected after all.”
His shoulders fell. He was losing this battle. “I won’t do it.” The blunt answer sent a blaze of white-hot rage through the woman’s murderous eyes.
“They exposed us Talon! It was only one person this time, but what about next time?!”
Mr. Talon straightened furiously. “There won’t be a next time!”
“You can’t tell me that! What do your promises mean? Nothing! This is as much your fault as it is theirs! Next time you will not take these risks so lightly! Next time you will enforce the laws that have been set down! Next time, you will realize that failure to do so puts LIVES on the line!”
Mr. Talon shrank back against the torrent of blame. His fault. Their lives. His fault. No. No. That wasn’t true. “No! Look, I’ll take care of things here, just… just not like this. I can’t do this.” His mouth fell silently around an unvoiced ‘please’.
“Mr. Talon. You will do as you are instructed. You above all people knew the consequences if something to this extent were to happen! You did nothing to prevent it!”
He swallowed hard. This…this…this wasn’t his fault. But it was. What she wanted him to do, he wouldn’t. He simply couldn’t. He told her exactly that.
A scowl distorted her rageful face. “Yes. You. Will. Or you, your wife, and your children will be considered threats to our way of living. You will all face the same consequences. I have half a mind to disband you right now. But your family needs your job. So you’ll keep it. But you will do so in strict obedience to the laws that you helped create. Am I clear Mr. Talon?”
He blinked, moisture staining his vision. “I never agreed to this one.”
“You didn’t have to.”
An image of his wife’s smile and his two little boys flooded his mind. If this was what he had to do to keep his family together… “Fine.” He choked.
The cowering mother finally spoke up. She could no longer idly watch as they discussed the fate they would inflict on her child. Her voice shook with terror and grief. “No, leave my son alone, he didn’t know any better! He didn’t know anything!”
Mr. Talon drew in a shaky breath. He didn’t want any part in this. “Sh- she’s right, the kid, he didn’t know any better. He’s just a little kid. He doesn’t deserve this.” He’d already told this pitiless woman that he would go through with her unspeakable orders, but he had to ask for one small mercy. At least let the child live.
The stern look from his superior made him shrink. Mr. Talon stared into her eyes, pleading. There was no humanity. She going to make him deal out the same fate to this little boy.
“This is your responsibility. I refuse to discuss it any further. Do what needs to be done and meet me at Lamina headquarters.”
“But… I can’t, I just-”
He shrank into himself, shaking with the enormity of the task ahead of him. The cold-bloodedness of it. It was useless arguing with her. She expected him to kill them.
Both of them.
Was he the only one who recognized this as deeply wrong? Was there anyone, anyone else who, like him, was too much of a coward to stop it? Could he have stopped it?
“Are we clear?”
He felt tears blurring his vision as he listened to the wrenching sobs behind him. They were horrible, desperate sounds. He was the mother’s only hope, and he had caved under pressure. His face remained blank while the dark, teeming haze of emotions scraping and clawing inside of him tore any cohesive thoughts to shreds. His heart stabbed painfully every time he heard the choked word ‘please’ escape the mother’s lips. She wasn’t pleaing for herself. She was pleaing for her child. Mr. Talon struggled to hold back his own tears as he stared at the boy. He was the same age as his youngest son. What if my boy was in his place?
She was going to make him do this.
“Mr. Talon, are we clear?!”
“Yes.” The word left his lips numbly. He couldn’t believe he’d just said it. “We’re clear.”
Some puzzling emotion crossed over the stern woman’s face, one that it seemed would have been pushed away by her uncompromising features. It appeared to be regret.
“Then take care that I do not have to visit this place for a long time.” She sighed, “You’re a good man Mr. Talon. I’m sorry it had to come to this.”
The door swung slowly open, letting in the cold, dead, outside wind. It seemed fitting. Mr. Vordic walked in, shaking from cold.
The wolfish woman turned immediately to him. “How did it go?”
“She’s fine. She seemed to take it in stride. I think after a little time to take it in, she’ll be back to normal.” The words seemed to quake out of him, accompanied by the drip, drip, drip of black beads of water crashing into the bare carpet beneath him.
“Good,” She said simply, “then stay with Talon and make sure he takes care of things properly.” Vordic nodded slowly. He didn’t like this turn of events any more than the shrunken Mr. Talon did. In a few short strides, the door breezed open and slammed shut.
She was gone.
Mr. Vordic looked to Talon. A deep, unreadable mass of emotions on flashing over his face. “Take your things and get out of here,” he laid a hand on his colleague’s slumped shoulder, “I’ll take care of it Modo,” he said, slowly, guiltily lifting a gun from his jacket pocket.
Mr. Talon nodded gravely, eyes wide and terrified. He looked back at the mother and her son, his eyes haunted. “I-I’m so, so sorry.”
“M-mom, what’s going to happen mom?” The little boy quivered. He’d been watching these exchanges with growing confusion and fear. He couldn’t let go of the feeling that something really bad was going to happen.
Talon cringed at the tiny voice, thinking of his own son and the fate that would befall this family.
“Baby,” came the woman’s small trembling voice, “Mommy’s here. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
As he walked outside into the biting ice, he could hear the mother’s morose voice begging him still, “please, please don’t let them hurt my baby. Please! Don’t hurt my baby!”
Two minutes later, he heard two distant gunshots from the school.