This is the first chapter of a mystery-thriller series I’ve just started working on. The series focuses on Bartholomew ‘Thorn’ Briar who works as an agent for East Coast Eninone Assistance. (I’ll explain more about the ECEA and Eninones in a later post. All you need to know is that ‘Eninone’ is my word for mythical creatures.) This is only the rough draft, but I’m pretty pleased with it. So here’s my hook for you guys.
𑁋 I 𑁋
Sirens wailed in the night, their high pitched cries proclaiming tragedy and death. The flashing lights glared on the wet pavement and the rising wind pulled at the yellow police tape, making it dance to the macabre song of the emergency vehicles. A crowd had gathered the border, clutching coats and bathrobes, hastily thrown on, against the chill. A man pushed through the crowd, his canvas coat and worn jeans belying his official status. An officer stopped him as he tried to duck under the yellow tape, mistaking him for a civilian.
“Agent Bartholomew Briar,” he explained, pulling out a badge.
“Oh, Thorn,” the officer grunted. “Didn’t recognize you with glasses.”
“Didn’t have time to put contacts in,” Thorn grimaced. He ducked under the tape, stuffing his badge back in his pocket as he did so. “What are we dealing with-” he glanced at the officers badge, “-Mulaney?”
“It looks like The Scientist,” Mulaney responded, his voice hushed. A chill ran down Thorn’s spine and settled in his stomach, making him regret his hastily drank coffee on the drive over.
“But Eisenhower said there was a survivor; The Scientist doesn’t leave survivors.”
“I’m not so sure we’re dealing a victim,” Detective Brenner stalked out of the house, his face more grim than usual.
“Why do you say that?” Thorn asked. Brenner pulled Thorn away from Mulaney, far out of ear shot.
“I think we might have The Scientist in there.”
“What? But Eisenhower said the victim was a-”
“I know, I know,” Brenner interrupted. “But I’ve got a hunch.” Thorn dropped his next argument immediately. Brenner’s grandmother had been a rather powerful Seer, and his ‘hunches’ were always more than just hunches.
“So what is it you want me to do?”
“Go in there like usual and do whatever it is you do and try and get our subject contained. We need to get out of here before this stops looking like a normal crime scene and starts looking like the mouth to Hell.”
“He’s that powerful?”
“He threw Jackson back with a single word. We still get can’t the blood to stop pouring out his ears.”
“On her way- but not fast enough. I want The Scientist taken in as peacefully as we can manage. But the moment you think he’s about to start something, shout and we’ll shoot.” Thorn nodded soberly. He hated it when they couldn’t get people out, but sometimes they would utterly revert to beast-mindedness when they were in traumatizing circumstances. And when they were like that, they could be even more dangerous than their attacker.
“Alright.” He took his mic and made sure it was secure and turned on. “Keep your ears open, I might have to do some negotiating.”
Taking one last breath of fresh air, Thorn stepped over through the doorway; the welcome mat with its flowers garish and unseemly for such an occasion. No one should be welcomed into a house that reeked so strongly of death, a house that had nothing but a few splinters left of the door, a house whose carpet was dark and squishy with blood. There were six other officers in the living room, waiting armed and ready. Thorn nodded silently at them as he walked through the destroyed room. It was so much easier to look at them instead of the two bodies that lay sprawled on the floor. They hadn’t had time to clean anything up yet, and despite how hard he tried, Thorn still got to see too much of the ravaged, shredded man and the pale little corpse beside him.
The Scientist had been at large for seven weeks, and in seven weeks they had killed nineteen people; thirteen male, six female, all adults. This was the first child. And it was also the first time The Scientist hadn’t followed the regular pattern; the precise dissections, the piles of notes in an unreadable language. Here, it was nothing but a chaotic bloodbath.
The bedroom where The Scientist was hiding was dark. Sheets hung over the windows and the light bulb had been smashed. The magic in the air was so thick and black that Thorn felt contaminated just by breathing it. His eyes slowly adjusted to the dark as he tried to see where The Scientist was hiding.
“I told you all to stay out.” The voice came from the gap between the bed and the wall. It was deadly calm, but held such violence, such rage, and such hurt that Thorn wanted to weep from either terror or pity or both.
“I wasn’t here before,” he replied, his own voice shaking slightly. He had never dealt with the criminals before. Only victims.
Cold magic oozed over Thorn, feeling and stroking him like a blind man trying to discover the shape of someone’s face. Then it pulled away, crawling back to its master to report its findings.
“I don’t care!” The Scientist wasn’t as calm any more. “Get out!” The power struck him, sending him to his knees, choking. Choking on nothing. On nothing but the raw power that formed a noose around his throat and crept into his head, showing him the memories- over and over and over again. His radio was squawking frantically, no doubt Brenner wanting to know why Thorn let out a scream.
The magic suddenly disappeared. Why did he stop? Thorn rose shakily to a crouch. The Scientist had stood up. The boy was maybe seven, painfully thin, and spattered with blood. His arms were coated in the stuff, up past his elbows. Though fear ementaed from every shaking inch of him, his eyes burned red, filled with a hatred no being should ever feel, let alone a child. “Why aren’t you running away?” the boy asked, his voice ragged and filled with bewilderment. He’s just a child. He’s a broken child. A broken child who could probably kill every single person in this building in a matter of minutes. Thorn waited a few seconds before responding, trying to decide on his approach.
“I’m not running,” Thorn began, “Because I don’t think you meant to do that to me.” It wasn’t a complete lie. Thorn didn’t think the boy had meant to attack him at that extent. The magic had been too forcefully projected and too violently jerked away to be entirely purposeful. At least, he hoped that was what had happened.
Relief and something else flooded over the boy. He dropped to the ground, tucking himself against the side of the bed. “How’d you know?” he whispered.
“I don’t mean to throw it, it just jumps away from me. I don’t know how to make it stop.” The boy’s voice became feverish, the words pouring from him like they had been trapped within for years. “I can’t find anyone to help me make it stop. And when I want to use it it doesn’t always obey. It fights. How can it fight? How can it fight when it’s not real?” Tears began to trickle down his face, the demonic red of his eyes dulling down to the glow of old embers. “It’s not real, it’s not real….” The boy had curled into the fetal position, shaking violently, muttering on and on.
Thorn tapped his mic. A returned tap let him know Brenner and the rest of his team had been listening. He waited maybe two minutes before he moved a fraction of an inch forward.
“What’s your name?” The question triggered an explosion of pure rage. The boy flung himself against the wall, bracing himself against the bed.
“I DON’T HAVE A NAME,” he screamed. “THEY DIDN’T GIVE ME ONE. YOU DON’T NAME THINGS THAT DON’T MATTER.” Ripples of dark red magic ran across his body. Thorn couldn’t bring himself to look into the boy’s eyes. It was easier to focus on the claws digging into the wall and the bed, the tail, which hadn’t been there a moment ago, lashing about; its barbed end gouging the furniture. “WHY NAME SOMETHING YOU HATE?” the boy continued. “WHY?” Thorn kept his head bowed as he settled into a less threatening position. Criss cross applesauce, he thought, remembering the little rhyme. He had a wild urge to laugh, but the part of his brain that was still functioning properly warned him against it.
“Because everyone deserves a name,” Thorn answered, hoping he had said the right thing because he didn’t know what else to say. The boy stayed frozen for a moment longer before dropping into a limp heap.
“Really?” he whispered. “They said I didn’t. Could I have one?”
“Of course, but not yet.” From the corner of his eye, Thorn saw the boy’s head snap up. “I’ll make sure you get a name. But first we need to get you moved someplace safe.”
“Safe for you, you mean,” the boy snarled. “I don’t need anyone to keep me safe.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” Thorn asked, changing direction at a thousand miles per hour. The boy nodded slowly. “Everyone in this house, they are very, very scared of you.”
“I know. You are too.” Thorn ignored the chilling calmness in the boy’s tone.
“I think you also know that sometimes, when people are scared, they’ll attack. That’s what I mean by keep you safe.”
“You just want to get me out in the open so they can shoot me.”
“No! No, that’s not it at all! We’re going to take you to a nice, warm, safe place where we’ll give you new clothes and bed and something to eat.”
“Anything you’d like, within reason.”
“Alright; soup. We can do that.” Another idea was forming, one that would either make this whole process much easier or get himself killed. “And to prove that I’m not trying to lure you out so you can be shot, I’ll carry you out. They can’t try and shoot you without shooting me as well. And I’ll ride with you in the police van and I’ll take you to your room so I can make sure that you get everything I promised. I’ll be your hostage. Does that sound alright to you?” The boy stared at Thorn with his horrible eyes. It felt like they were boring through him, uncovering his every thought and feeling, laying them bare to be sifted through. Focus!
Thorn tried not to look as overwhelmingly relieved as he felt. “Great. Now, if you’ll just let me pick you up…” He stood and slowly moved towards the boy. This was the most critical moment of the night. If he did this wrong, or the boy freaked out…It’s safe to say I would definitely not get to watch the last season of Supernatural. “Wait, I have an idea.” He pulled off his coat and wrapped it around the boy’s shoulders. It swallowed him completely and hid him from sight. Perfect. “It’s pretty cold outside, you’ll want this.” Then he gingerly picked him up.
Immediately, the boy wrapped his arms and legs around Thorn, his claws digging through Thorn’s shirt and needling his skin.
“If you hurt me I swear I’ll kill you.” His voice was muffled and his breath was hot against Thorn’s collarbone; his mouth unnervingly near his throat.
“I promise I’m not going to hurt you.” He didn’t think the shivering bundle of fear he held heard him, but he needed to say it anyways. Thorn walked slowly out of the bedroom and prayed no one would anything foolish.
Officers stood in every doorway, their weapons lowered, but only just. The boy began to whimper; it wasn’t a human sound. The sporadic whines were soon joined by a constant low growl. Every muscle was taught and Thorn could feel blood trickling down his back. “We’re almost out,” he murmured, trying to calm the boy and himself. It didn’t work. The boy started panting, each intake of breath sounding like a death rattle. Then he bit Thorn.
Thorn let out a yell and started to drop the boy and call for help; until he realized what the boy was doing. He wasn’t attacking Thorn, he was trying to keep himself from crying out. He clenched Thorn’s shirt and part of his shoulder between his teeth and took slow deliberate breaths through his nose. He’s trying to keep himself calm. He’s helping me, really. But the other agents didn’t know that. “Back off!” Thorn hissed as several officers rushed to help him. “I’m fine!”
“He bit you!” Wendt, one of Thorn’s friends, snarled.
“Tis but a flesh wound,” Thorn replied, trying to move through the living room as quickly as possible. Wendt didn’t appreciate Thorn’s reference, but he didn’t move any closer either. At last, Thorn stepped outside into the chilly night. The back doors of the transport van were open and waiting. He stepped inside and settled carefully onto a bench. The doors shut with an ominous clang “Are you alright?” he asked. After a moment the boy nodded, jerking at Thorn’s flesh and making him gasp. “That’s good,” Thorn hissed through clenched teeth. “That’s really, really good. We just have a short drive, and then I’ll find you a bed, and some new clothes, and soup. Okay?” And I’ll get shots and stitches and painkillers. Again he nodded, and it was Thorn who whimpered this time. The van roared to life and the agonizing drive began.