Chapter Thirty-OneMature

''The Twelve Zodiacs'?  Come on!'  Savannah collapsed back into her chair in exasperation.  'No-one uses the name 'The Twelve Zodiacs'.  That man in there, whatever his name is, is playing us.'

If he was playing us he was doing a very good job.  After he'd told us about the group, we'd left, leaving Ash on guard outside the door.  Now all we could hear were his shouts, demanding release for the information he'd given us.

'It may not be the most plausible name in the world but it's all we've got,' Abril sighed.  Over the last few minutes I'd seen her droop, her shoulders becoming more hunched and not fighting back at Savannah.  It was like her fire was dying before my eyes.

'It does exist.'  Demitri's voice was very quiet but we all heard him, Savannah and I snapping our heads around to look at him.

'And how would you know that smarty-pants?'  Savannah's attitude was really starting to get on my nerves.

'Because I've met them before.  I don't know why I didn't recognise their style,' he said frustratedly, half tearing his hair out.  'The kidnap and the notes.'

'But any organisation can do that,' I reassured him.  'It's not your fault.'

'But I should have remembered!  I promised her I wouldn't forget.'  I thought I could see a tear forming in the corner of Demitri's eye but he blinked and it disappeared.  I thought it must only be my imagination.

'Who did you promise?'

'Mimi Jackson,' Abril stated blandly.  'The last chosen warrior.'  

'You knew her too?'

Abril nodded.  'I was young then.  The idealistic new leader of my group, thinking the chosen warrior could bring peace.  But I was wrong.  The day she died she stopped a violent group called 'The Twelve Zodiacs' from taking possession of the necklace and harnessing its power.  By giving up her life she sent the necklace into hiding, waiting for its next owner.  But it can only hide for so long.  Now the necklace has re-emerged, so has its enemy.'  There was silence as we tried to take this information in.

'Mimi was Mark's mother,' I said, saying the connection out loud.  'The woman whose son you promised to protect.'  I kept my eyes locked on Demitri's face, looking for any signs of emotional break down.  'You've done so much for her.'

'But it's not enough,' Dem replied desperately.  'I forgot about 'The Twelve Zodiacs'.  I let them hide, undisturbed for thirty years so they could build up their strength and retaliate.  Mimi died for nothing.'  Now there were definite tears falling down his cheeks and I couldn't stop myself from reaching out and hugging him.  'It's all my fault.'

'No it isn't,' I insisted, stroking Dem's hair, trying to sooth him.  'You're so brave, but you can't be that strong forever.'

The only sound was the sniffling of Demitri against my shirt, everything else was silent.  There was something wrong about the silence.  Something I couldn't put my finger on.

Then I saw Ash standing by the door behind the bar and everything clicked.  'He's gone quiet,' I almost whispered.  'That can't be good.'  Letting go of Demitri, I strode towards the bar, fear growing in my heart.  'Open the door Ash.  Now!'  I probably snapped a little harder than I would normally but I needed to see Clay sitting, tied to his chair, still in the room.

The door swung open to reveal an empty room.  'He's gone,' I breathed.

'What do you mean he's gone?'  Savannah strode past me and into the room, eyes wide open in disbelief.  'Well where the hell has he gone?'

'I- I don't understand,' Abril stammered.  'This room is secure.  No way out and no way in except through the door we've just come through.'

'Then where is he?'  Savannah's shout reverberated around the room, sending shivers up my spine.  There was a tense silence where no-one dared answer the question Savannah had asked.

'No,' Dem said, panicking.  'No, no, no, no, no!'

'What is it?'  I was immediately by his side, trying to figure out what was wrong.

'We've fallen into a trap.  This is a distraction.  It's not us they want it's-'

'Mark,' I finished.  As one we legged it as fast as we could out of the pub.

The End

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