Chapter Forty-TwoMature

'Hello Cassie,' he replied cheerfully, walking past me and deeper into the warehouse.  'What a surprise to see you here.'

'Listen Steve, you can't be here.  Something is going to happen and-'

'I could say the same to you,' he said, turning round a concerned look on his face.  'You never know who could  be hanging around in places like this.  I wouldn't want you to get hurt.'

There was something wrong about the tone of his voice, almost mocking, as his eyes bored into me.

'Is there something wrong Steve?'  I asked tentatively.  'You seem to be acting a little...different.'

'Not at all my dear.  In fact, nothing could be better, everything is perfect.'

I heard more footsteps behind me and drew my knife as five men dressed all in black entered, a woman with a bag over her head being pulled along behind them.

'Mum,' I breathed, taking a step forward.

'I wouldn't do that if I were you Cassie,' Steve said.  'You might end up regretting it.'

I suddenly felt very cold as the sharp blade of a knife pressed itself against the small of my back.  My brain was having trouble processing what was going on around me, the appearance of Steve, the men in black, my mother.

'Steve, what are you doing?'  I whispered, suddenly very scared.

'I think it's so cute you don't know what's going on,' he chuckled.  'We're the people who've been waiting for you,' he whispered, pressing his head as close to my ear as possible.  'I'm the Dragon.'

'You can't be.'

'I think you'll find I can.  How else would I have known to come to this particular warehouse at this time tonight?  I was the one who organised it.'

I couldn't think of anything else to say to this.  Steve was the Dragon?  The small fat man who was my mother's boyfriend was the most influential person in one of the biggest underground criminal groups aimed at destroying the natural order.

'I don't understand,' I hissed.  'Explain.'

'I don't think you're in a position to be making demands Cassie.'

'Do not call me that!  I just need to know why.'

'Your people have been running the show for too long.  Look how easy it was for us to get you here, you can't cope.  Of course had your little friend not gone and died on you then things might have been different, but that doesn't change the fact that we need someone else in power.'  The men in black nodded in agreement, their black heads bobbing up and down.

'Then how did you know it was me?  You started dating my mother long before I found out who I was.'

'That's down to your little friend again.  If Demitri hadn't been so unsubtle in his methods of finding you then we wouldn't be here.  He led us straight to you.  After that it was only too easy to convince your mother I was a lovely single man who was interested in dating her.'

'You're a horrid manipulating bastard!'  I shouted at him, surprising both myself and the rest of the room.  For some reason the idea of Steve using my mother in that way made me sick to my stomach.  'Is Steve even your real name?  Or have you lied about that too?'

'Surprisingly Steve is my real name.  I knew you wouldn't think twice about looking to see if I was involved, I don't fit your stereotypical gang leader image.  Not that there would be anything to find that would connect me with 'The Twelve Zodiacs'.  We're very good at hiding.

'Now, as lovely as it has been to have this little chat, I want what we came for.'  Steve clicked his fingers and two men walked over to where Abril was standing, mute, in front of Clay.

'I'm not giving him to you until I know my mother is alright,' I protested.

'As I've already said, you're not in a position to bargain with me.'

I felt the knife press a little harder against my back and I signalled to Abril to give Clay over to the men.

'I'm glad you understand me.'

'You can stop gloating, you've got what you wanted, now give me what I want.'

'And what would that be?'

'Don't mess me around.  Let my mother go.'

'Now I was worried that this would come up.  I never intended on giving you back your mother.  All this was just a ploy to get the Ox back.  You didn't believe that we would give up the only bargaining chip we have left?'  He laughed again, menacing echoes bouncing off the walls.  'Not that we'll need her for much longer.'

I felt a hand on my back and suddenly I was thrown forwards and onto the hard floor.  I put my hands out just in time to break my fall and turned to look up at my attacker who was standing scarily above me.

'What do you mean by that?'  I asked.

'We didn't just want the Ox.  Your regime won't fall while it still has a figurehead, so we'll have to get rid of it.  With the leader of both sides dead and the chosen one going to join her guide your authority will collapse and we can finally replace you.'

My body froze as I heard the familiar click of a gun being cocked and seconds later it was pointed at my head.

'I'm sorry it has to be like this,' Steve said insincerely.  'But you're in our way.'

The End

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