Chapter 8

Hey guys! Long time no see, and I deeply apologize for the wait. School actually sucked the life out of me, but it's summer now, so hopefully I'll have more time to write.

Note of clarification: mind-speak will now be in quotes and italics, while regular inner thoughts will be in italics.

NORA POV:

"Hey, Vee. You want to go shopping today?"

One loud squeal from the other end later, Vee rolled up my driveway, waiting for me to get in. Grabbing my keys and bag, I headed out the door. I should have been studying for Chemistry that Saturday. But the only thing that was going to distract me from my worries was a day out with my best friend, not a date with electrons.

"Hey, babe!"

A smile was plastered on my face as I got into the Neon. She rambled about some random things all the way to the mall.

"You want to go to that fancy new store they opened up at the corner?"

I nodded and followed her along the sidewalk.

As we entered the store, she noted, "You're awfully quiet today. What's up, babe?"

I mentally facepalmed myself; she couldn't just let me be. Maybe I could fake losing my voice or something.

"Nothing really. Hey, look! Isn't that the dress you've been wanting for the past couple of weeks?"

She was thankfully distracted as she talked about how good that dress would look on her if she could afford it.


PATCH POV:

My senses were buzzing, driven by adrenaline and adrenaline alone. Five Nephilim played pool with two humans three tables down from where I played. I'd already identified three of them as members of the Nephilim blood society; their brands stuck out on their collarbones, and utmost arrogance plagued their table. No doubt they would convince the other two to join also.

After a few more rounds, I saw them leave and move to the back of the building, perhaps in favor of seclusion. As if I would let that happen.

Five minutes later, I left my table in search of them. As I got closer, alarms started ringing in my head, warning me of the danger and disgust that lay ahead. I've been at it for hundreds of years, and yet I still couldn't figure out how to control more than one Nephil's mind at a time. It was easy with humans, but it seemed as if there was a barrier in my head, hindering me from focusing on more than one Nephil - even the weak ones. Knowing tricks like these were especially handy in situations like this. But I didn't, so I couldn't stop them from being alerted of my presence, let alone force them all to spout out all of their secrets.

Expecting an attack, I walked in to meet glum faces compared to my confident one.

"What are you doing here?" barked a Nephil branded with the fist. Calmness was not what I anticipated from a member – in fact, I envisioned the total opposite - animosity.

Ignoring his question, I acknowledged the men without the brands, "I suggest you two get the hell out of here. You know, for your own safety."

"Be bossed around by a fallen angel? Hell no, boy."

Well I gave you a chance. You should have taken it. I didn't waste any time with those half-breeds. Moving quickly to the left side of the room where a brandless one stood, I grabbed the hem of this T-shirt, lifted his figure up, and slammed him against the wall, covered with rusty nails I might add. An agonizing howl erupted from his mouth, and I resisted the urge to laugh and take pride in his pain. Because of Nora.

"So you'd rather be beaten up by a fallen angel?" I taunted. The young boy attempted to kick me, but I flung him at another man and beckoned the others with my middle finger.

Another young idiotic Nephil charged at me. I thrust my arm in front of me and awaited his assault. Once he plunged himself into me, I drove my fist straight through his midsection with all my strength. I met some resistance at first but eventually rammed his stomach, liver, a couple smaller organs, and a few vertebrae out of his body. Unlike with fallen angels, there were no specific ways to immobilize Nephilim, but this guy would definitely be taking his time retrieving his vitals.

Right as he fell backwards, a burly wrestler-type dude hurled himself at me. Before he could reach for my throat, I clawed his out while simultaneously kneeing him in the groin. Blood spurted onto me. Did I just get a filthy Nephil's blood on me?

I wiped it with the back of my hand and smacked his body to the side. The other two proved smarter and therefore took longer to tame.

The man with the large, squishy nose that reminded me of a clown's red one produced a knife from his coat, ready to stab me.

Deciding that the other one – the one with warts dangling from every square inch of his face – was easier to handle since he had no weapon, I ventured into his mind and proceeded with the attack. He fought back, pushing me back with all his strength, but I conjured a sword up for a counterattack. As he struggled to pull up a weapon of his own, I decapitated him. I immediately gained control of the unsurprisingly vacant space and instructed it to kill the other guy.

Warty wouldn't move until I pushed him in the right direction – he was still resisting me – but eventually he got the idea and proceeded to kill off his buddy.

"Ned! The hell are you doing?" Warty punched Clownface in the guts and smacked his face.

As their battle pursued, in Warty's mind, a new force started to push up against me: Clownface. I guess he finally realized that I was controlling his friend. As I started to fight him off, he unexpectedly backed me up against a wall. Where the hell did that come from?

And then it hit me – Clownface and Warty were sandwiching me with their minds. They physically crushed my body, and mentally, I felt as if a grindstone just pulverized me. I've experienced numerous tricks from both fallen and Nephilim, but never something this powerful or as oppressing as this. Nephilim were too stupid to be this clever.

Confused and in extreme pain, I exited his mind. It wasn't worth it, and frankly, I didn't think I could win.

Still a little dazed, I planted a roundhouse kick in Clownface's abdomen repeatedly. He lunged toward me, but I grabbed his face and wrenched it all the way back until it hit his spine, causing his neck to split open. Even through all this, he managed to put some energy in to try to swipe my legs. Relentless to the end… I jumped just in time and landed on his stomach on the way down, finishing him off for good.

All around me the Nephilim either writhed in agony or lay there, motionless. Taking the opportunity to clear myself, I wiped their mind of any trace that they had even come here today. I turned around to face Warty. Clearly, his mind was still jumbled from the ambush, but I wasn't about to give him a break anytime soon.

I seized him by his neck, half-strangling him in the process, and deposited him in the next room over. No leeway when it came to these creatures.

Interrogation time. Setting myself down backwards on a chair, I contemplated how to go about obtaining answers from him. He was still physically strong, so violence wouldn't be the smartest approach. I decided to start off as good cop.

"You part of that society?"

"Lie to me, and you'll end up like your friends back there," I spoke to his mind, jerking my thumb backwards.

"Yeah," he grunted.

Aren't we off to a great start? I cringed at my own false enthusiasm bleeding through my words.

He looked agitated. I looked like I was having the time of my life.

"So who's the leader?"

At this, he smirked and quipped, "I don't know."

Fury fired through my veins. Who did this smart aleck think he was?

But at the same time, a feeling of uneasiness settled into my stomach. It seemed as if he were telling the truth.

"Then how were you recruited?"

"Everyone's recruited differently. The Black Hand found me personally."

"Well if you were recruited by the leader, then you should know who he is." I couldn't help the irritation that slipped into my voice; these idiots couldn't be idiotic enough to not even know who their leader was, right?

"Recruited me anonymously. There's really no way of finding out who he is. Besides, it's insignificant."

"How?"

"We're all fighting for our freedom. From your kind. Who cares who our leader is?"

There had to someone who knew something about him. "Doesn't he have some sort of group he relies on? For security, errands, etc?"

"Of course. But nobody knows them either."

Maybe I just stumbled upon a mentally deficient Nephil.

"Listen up, Warty." As I called him by his nickname, his face scrunched up in confusion, and I had to fight off my laughter. "You better tell me the truth and only the truth. What do you know about the Black Hand?"

He fidgeted in his seat, and I knew he was hiding something big. "Well, the only thing we know is that he isn't happy."

"About?"

"I don't know, about the circumstances? He's furious about something."

"And that something is?" I spurred him on, feeling like I was talking to a kindergartener.

"Again – nobody knows."

Keep up the poker face, Patch. Don't let this inconsequential half-breed breach your cool.

"How long has the Black Hand been running your little society?"

"A few months."

That didn't make any sense. He couldn't have accrued so many followers in such a short time. Hell, even Parnell was recruited a while ago.

"You're lying. Explain yourself, now," I commanded.

"Am not!" Now I knew I was talking to a kindergartener. "The Black Hand wasn't the founder of the society – he just became leader a few months ago."

A few months ago? That was when Chauncey died…that couldn't be a coincidence, could it?

"Who was the old leader, and how long has the society been operating?"

"I don't know."

I'll be the first to nominate you for the "Most Helpful" Award.

"Then how did you know the leader changed?"

"There was a big commotion that relayed from the top where the Black Hand is, all the way to us."

Well, I couldn't be sure, but Chauncey was most likely the leader of the society. The timing of the leadership change was too eerily close to be a coincidence. That filthy bastard had built up this society without my noticing?

Swearing under my breath, I resorted to a different set of questions.

"OK, so do you all have some place where you meet up? Where you get orders from your superiors?"

His eyes darted from side to side; he wasn't going to tell me without a little push.

I rose up from my chair and walked towards him. Instantly, he rose up also, but he stood his ground.

"Look here, Warty. If you don't tell me right now…" I let the suspense finish my sentence for me.

"Buddy, I've already told you what I know," which wasn't much, "but I…if I tell you this, I'm gonna be in big trouble. The Black Hand is notorious for being ruthless, you know."

Ok, I've already given you one chance too many.

And with that, I launched into his mind, excited for some fun. I conjured up a black hurricane, one of my favorite mind-tricks to pull on stubborn-ass Nephils like Warty. As the storm approached, lightning shot out from its centre, striking him in the heart.

That was easy – he didn't even put up a fight.

As I gathered up the reins of his mind, fear swamped the fellow's mind. If he was this scared of me, why hadn't he just fessed up?

"Tell me the truth." I commanded. "Where are your society's headquarters?"

With a little jerk from me, he spouted all the details.

This was going to be an interesting ride.

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