Lachlan Wentworth and Rowan Anderson were two people who were never supposed to meet. His mistake, her inconvenience - of epic proportions.
Witch Realm: Ireland; Tratchett Alley
An earsplitting scream pierced the silent night, shredding through the silence like a knife. The man went down like a rock, the bejeweled hilt of a dagger protruding from his back. Pain was not immediate; he had a few seconds to think about the weapon piercing his flesh.
Then it came, dull at first, until it radiated out so that he felt it from the tips of his booted toes to every hair on his head. Black shadows edged his vision. The hand that grasped the gold medallion twitched uselessly. Soon, it would slip from his grip, and his attacker would retrieve it. He had failed this mission, and he was about to pay for it…with his life.
Dark brown Hessian boots came into Dolfo’s focus as his assailant prowled around his weak body. They made austere, staccato tapping sounds on the dirty cobblestone street. Slowly, Dolfo lifted his head so that he could get a good look at the person.
The lad was no more than eighteen. Pain was momentarily replaced with a chill that seeped into Dolfo’s very bones. For as long as he lived—and it would probably not be much longer—he would never forget this lad’s eyes. They were unlike any color he had ever seen. Rich, untarnished green—and as hard as an emerald, with a cold, calculating stare. He had to look up, and up, to meet the eyes, for the boy was tall, his hair as black as the surrounding night.
“Don’t try and fight, Dolfo. Don’t try to scream again. The pain will just worsen,” the lad said softly.
That much was true. Alas, even if he did try and scream for a second time, still, no one would come. They were in Tratchett Alley, a slum known for its frequent murders and unspeakable violence. Not a light was on in any of the houses that lined the road that reeked of human excrements and cheap, stale smoke. These people were used to it; they would not interfere.
Dolfo wheezed. It was becoming harder to take in breaths with each passing second. The soiled air was like a blade to his lungs, which were beginning to fill with fluid. A sheet of perspiration shone on his face, and his tawny hair matted to his paling skin.
“Just k-kill me, then. Don’t drag it out any longer,” he begged, his voice a mere rasp.
He knew he was done for when a second pair of Hessians stopped next to the lad’s. This figure, he could tell, was a man. A young one, but a capable man nonetheless. The newcomer’s voice was a low baritone that made the hair on the back of Dolfo’s neck rise.
“But why not?” the second man asked. “Is that not what you did to Roland Grange? By the way, Lachlan, nice shot.”
Dolfo closed his eyes briefly, a sense of dread filling him. He had killed this second man’s partner nearly a fortnight ago. He should have known it was Jason Maxwood who had been trailing him for two weeks, making him lose sleep in fear of getting strangled in his sleep.
“Had to,” he gasped. “You know Olivier wanted him dispatched.
The younger lad, Lachlan, spat on the ground. “To hell with—”
Maxwood’s placating tone silenced him. “Now, Lachlan,” he said. “Let’s not let you run away with your temper again. Of course Olivier ordered it, Dolfo. And what are you but a common thief that he paid off to do his dirty work for him? What, did you think you were special? That you were in with Olivier? Obviously you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.”
“He’ll come back—”
At this, Maxwood outright laughed. “My dear man, Marius Olivier will not come back for you. He does not care a whit about where you end up. He wants what you were sent to get.”
Dolfo clutched the expensive piece of jewelry more tightly in his palm, though the semi-taxing action sent a rush of pain through his arm and to the wound on his back. “This will get to him eventually, Maxwood. You should know well that what Olivier wants, Olivier gets.”
Lachlan spoke again. “Over my dead body,” he said harshly. “That belongs to Roland Grange’s wife, and you know it. Olivier will not lay one greedy finger on it.”
Dolfo laughed, but it came out more like blood-and-fluid laden hacks. “I don’t know, young man. Marius is a very avid collector. This medallion will complete a set, and that set is worth more than a pretty penny. Lachlan, did you say your name was? Not the Lachlan Wentworth? Your story is all over the country. How the Scottish high wizarding officials left you for dead, a struggling infant forgotten by his Royal, lazy father—”
His tirade ended on a horrible cry of pain. Before Maxwood could stop him, Lachlan pulled a second dagger and slashed Dolfo’s neck from tendon to tendon.
“No!” Maxwood cried, but it was far too late.
Dolfo emitted a gurgled sound. For five horrifying minutes that seemed to stretch on for an eternity, the two men watched him die a slow, painful death. Towards the end, he twitched spasmodically and then emptied his bowels, emitting a thick, reeking stink. The night lapsed into silence for a few more minutes.
Then, “Sorry,” Lachlan grunted, wiping the bloody blade on Dolfo’s tattered tunic.
Jason Maxwood rubbed a hand over his square jaw, which was covered in soot and stubble. He watched absently as the young Wentworth retrieved the second dagger from their victim’s back, and wiped that off on him, too. “We need to put off the body,” he said.
It was true. Dolfo was splayed out in the middle of the road, a trail of red-black blood and body fluids spreading until it disappeared into a nearby stinking gutter. Without a word, Lachlan sheathed the blades and grabbed hold of Dolfo’s feet. Carelessly, he dragged the lifeless body until it was pressed up against a curb. In a few more hours, an animal would perhaps come across the corpse and dispose some of it, if not all.
Maxwood bent and picked up the medallion that had been left in the street, separated from Dolfo. He carefully wiped away any traces of dirt and grime with his sleeve. Then his grip tightened on it grimly. It had been an anniversary gift from Evanta Grange’s dead husband, his dead friend. It was priceless, an heirloom in the Grange family for centuries.
Marius Olivier would never touch it.
He gave a start when he realized Lachlan had come to stand beside him once again. “Well,” Maxwood said tersely, “you botched that one, Wentworth. We have no way of knowing where Olivier might be headed now. And we’ll have no way of finding out unless we run into another one of his cronies. And after Dolfo’s murder reaches their ears, I have a feeling they’ll stay clear of our land for the time being. You want to dispose of this for me?” he brandished the locket.
“Beg pardon, but no,” Lachlan replied tonelessly, glaring down at Maxwood. The eighteen-year old was lithely muscled and had about a head on his new partner, a fact that he managed to annoy Maxwood with about a good twenty times per day.
“Not granted,” Maxwood replied flatly. “This isn’t going to work out if you can’t stop acting on emotions. I understand you’re young, lad, and you’ve been through a lot, but none of that matters when it comes down to the hunt. You’ve got to keep a damned civil head, Lachlan.”
“Sir,” he acknowledged, inclining his head. A lock of pitch black hair fell over his eyes. He was in bad need of a haircut.
“Come, then,” Maxwood said. “We’ve to get back to Fern Square before sunrise.” He didn’t want to stay in the area for long, be sighted, and be reported back to Olivier.
Lachlan took one last look at Olivier’s body before following his partner. It had been a long time since he’d felt anything in the act of taking another being’s life.
In fact, it had been a long time since he’d felt anything at all.
~ * ~