A/N: Am posting this early since I have to attend to other personal matters this week. I apologise for any technical errors you might find. Haven’t had time to edit this chapter but will get back to it once I get free time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
The Mysts may be led by a government but a number of people outside the political arena held an equal power to politicians in the running of the land. These individuals were descendants of the first families who decided to take up residence after adventurer and explorer Archibald Sebastian Roucan claimed it as his.
The man had a grand scheme of opening a large part of his new acquisition to refugees from the countries which had sunk into the depths of the ocean. He gathered the first families and set up a temporary ruling class until they could find qualified people to form a government. Once it was established, authority was gradually turned over to the elected body of representatives.
In recent years, the first families were no longer directly involved, but they were still a force to be reckoned with. They were leaders in the economic market and held a majority of stocks in various industries in the city. Moreover, they knew most of the Mysts’ well-guarded secrets and understood its other-worldly technologies. Still, the one person everyone looked up to was the head of the Roucan Global Enterprises, the explorer’s descendant.
“I don’t get it. Alfred Roucan only has one son,” Tony said, still refusing to believe the conclusion he came up with. “Isn’t the son’s name Robert?”
“In public, he goes by the name Robert Roucan,” James explained. “His friends use his second name Louis. His father made sure that photos of family members were kept to a bare minimum. The last press release that had Louis’ photo was ten years ago.” He glanced at his best friend. Fred’s expression was devoid of emotion – rather, he didn’t have an ounce of feeling that James could feel until a hint of anxiety brushed his senses. Puzzled, he doubled back.
Fred had pulled his mobile phone out when it vibrated in his pocket. He stared at the hyena’s head on the screen a second too long. James clapped him on the shoulder and asked, “You alright?”
“It’s my patient,” Fred said, knowing James would pick up his guilt if he lied.
“You should probably answer that.”
Gratefully, Fred retreated to the hall and read the message. It was similar to the previous one he had received earlier on but for the time of their meeting and an image of a weed at the bottom. The picture was a healer apprentice’s symbol. Zafeera’s brother. Mohy. The inclusion of the sender’s personal signature was an uncommon practice. The dubious message screamed urgency, but what kind of aid was being asked from him? Mohy didn’t look like a fighter like his sister. If he was in trouble…Fred considered leaving at once now that they knew Louis was safe.
He re-joined the group just in time to hear James ask Tony to check the situation in Cheska’s home.
“We don’t know if Louis is alone though,” James said.
“I’ll be careful,” Tony promised.
“I’ll stay with Diana,” Cheska said, mentally crossing her fingers. She hoped no one would suspect that she had other motives beyond chatting with an old friend.
Tony was too relieved to have avoided an argument he was bracing himself for – if she insisted on tagging along despite the danger – that he gladly accepted her decision.
Cheska thought she would have to find a way to talk to James privately while Fred was under the same roof. Yet, as luck would have it, he said: “I have to see a patient.” He gestured at his phone with an apologetic look.
“Can’t they wait ‘til tomorrow?” she asked. He was still a little pale and subdued for her liking. “You’re not fully recovered yet.”
“It’s probably just a false alarm. Some patients tend to panic with the slightest change in their symptoms. I’ll be back as soon as I finish the job,” Fred reassured her though he prayed that was the case with the cryptic message.
“I can take you there before going to Cheska’s,” Tony interjected. Inwardly, he cringed for speaking up. To offer assistance to a person who had treated his friend unkindly, her benevolence must be rubbing off him. But if the doctor falls ill again, all her efforts would have gone to waste. For Cheska’s peace of mind, Tony resigned himself to be Fred’s temporary nanny. “Anyway, I’m still your chauffeur. Might as well do my job, sir,” he added as afterthought.
Tony smiled wryly at their reaction. Everybody seemed to have forgotten that significant detail about him. Or maybe not? He caught a flash of uncertainty from Fred who avoided his gaze.
Fred got off the car near the park and rented a bike to head to the old ecumenical chapel. Dread crept in at the sight of the entrance doors. They loomed at him, locked instead of welcoming the public to offer prayers to their gods. He went around the building and checked the back door. Its handle turned in his grip, creaking as it opened. After a moment’s hesitation, he crossed the threshold and left it slightly ajar. If this was a trap, it might be his only escape. Fred scanned his surroundings. He lingered in areas where trouble might arise like a knife flying at him from a dark corner. His progress was slow-going with him treading stealthily in the corridor and out of the side door to the altar.
The pews in front of him were empty. Colors played on its surface and on the tiled floor where the light, which shone through stained glass windows, struck. At the front entrance, a few candles were lit. The chapel had been closed at the same time the message was sent to him. From his vantage point at the top of the staircase, the columbarium underground was dimly lit. Fear slid down his spine. He couldn’t go in there without adequate light. Without it, the walls would close in and crush him.
The place was a death trap. The only thing which kept him rooted on the spot was that Mohy was in danger. Fred deposited his bag on the pew, knowing it would encumber him if he was attacked, but kept a scalpel on hand. Taking a deep breath, he pressed himself on the railing and slowly descended the stairs. Half-way down, a soft voice echoed in the cavernous room reaching his ears.
“Hold on a little longer, Zafeera. Fred will be here soon,” Mohy said.
All caution fled at the sound of her name. She was hurt. He raced down the steps barely noticing the man who waited at the landing. The glint of metal alerted him to its presence. Fred narrowly avoided a fist aimed at him. He staggered backward, his headache spiking a second time that morning. Automatically, his hand came up to his head.
“Fred, behind you!” Mohy shouted.
Too late, meaty arms enclosed Fred and lifted him several inches off the ground. Caught off guard, he lost his makeshift weapon. The man who had assaulted him before prepared to strike again. Fred struggled against the giant holding him. He kicked his legs in front of him to keep the attacker from coming nearer.
The huge man muttered in a foreign language and tightened his grip on the captive. The constriction made breathing difficult for Fred. He began to see spots in his vision and feared blacking out. The other man was aware of his dilemma and triumphantly waited for him to lose consciousness. Fred closed his eyes, let himself go limp, and evened his breathing.
The giant shook him first. When he didn’t respond, the man shifted his hold on him. Fred suddenly grabbed the nearest limb he could touch and let loose a shock of electricity. Instantly, he fell on the unforgiving floor. He opened his eyes and watched the giant’s body shudder and twitch on the ground.
The remaining enemy panicked and turned tail before dropping unconscious as well. Fred spun to the source of the last assault. Several feet from him were the siblings of the rebel group, kneeling on the cold stone floor. Mohy held a tube between his lips. Fred stared back at the prone figure and saw what had saved him earlier: a gold ring on a chain looped around the man’s neck. He couldn’t help wonder at its significance. Fred hoped the dart was meant to incapacitate temporarily.
His gaze transferred to Zafeera. The woman leaned heavily on her brother’s side. Her face was wan under the glow of the torch light. Fred got to his feet and hurried over to them. He wasn’t quick enough though. Over bright brown eyes met his before it rolled back in her head and she fell on her brother’s lap. It was then that Fred caught sight of the blood on her side.
They moved Zafeera to the surface and laid her on one of the pews to attend to her injuries. A quick scan on her body showed small cuts and bruises she acquired from the ambush Mohy had told him before. He turned to her bloodied torso and lifted the hem of her shirt to inspect the damage. The knife wound on her side was superficial to his relief. He cleaned, stitched and bandaged it up. The routine helped him not to think of what Mohy planned to do with the unconscious men. The younger man’s expression had been grim and angry when he set off to the columbarium.
Fred blocked Zafeera from view at the sound of booted feet coming up the steps. His shoulders slumped at seeing it was only her brother.
“How is she?” Mohy asked. His gaze wandered to the gauze covering his sister’s wound.
“She lost a lot of blood, but she’ll be fine.”
“Has she been taking the new medicine I gave her?”
“She gave them too much,” the younger man shook his head. “She wouldn’t be lying here if she was a bit more selfish.”
“What are you saying?” Fred had a bad feeling he knew what Mohy meant.
“I lied,” his voice cracked. He met Fred’s eyes with unshed tears. “The ambush was real. Zafeera’s medicine was too precious to lose so she kept some in her person…for emergencies,” sarcasm laced his voice. “I didn’t know she had doled it all out to plague victims. I caught her stashing away four empty vials from the new prescription you gave her. I confronted her, but she assured me that the healer was reproducing it. A new batch was coming in soon, she said. What Zafeera didn’t tell me was that she hardly left some for herself.”
“The outbreak…” Fred’s eyes snapped to the unconscious woman. He remembered the news he had read the day he first met Cheska.
Mohy laughed humorlessly. “She found something in your miracle drug to keep the plague from spreading. The sickness spreads to individuals with low immune system. The first stage has flu-like symptoms. The second stage, you’ll be vomiting your guts out. The third…” He shook the gruesome images out of his head. “Your medicine corrects the illness in its initial phase.” Mohy frowned as an idea occurred to him. “Zafeera suspected you were trying to heal her old injury, but I think you were preparing her for something else?”
Fred nodded as he thought of a way on how to convince Mohy and especially Zafeera to accept his offer.
“Fred?” A new voice reverberated in the chapel.
Mohy’s hand inched to the blow dart in his pocket. Fred saw him and motioned to stop.
Louis emerged from the side door at the altar. He glanced at them and ran down to the columbarium. Moments later, a deafening sound rang and shook the whole building.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Aren’t I cruel? Yes, I know. Hehehe.
And on to trivia part 2: Tony. He is actually one of the new characters and doesn’t make an appearance in my good old high school manuscript. I didn’t intend for him to have more than a few lines since he was just supposed to be a chauffeur. His friendship with Cheska (Electra’s doppelganger), however, demanded that he should have more participation in the story. A reluctant witness to the growing attraction between his friend and his client, Tony becomes ever suspicious of Fred’s identity. What would a chauffeur do when he unravels the mystery surrounding Fred and, ultimately, Cheska’s past?
Stay tuned! 😉
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