Chapter Fourteen

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Martin sighed wearily as he closed the front door belonging to the F.I.T.E. house. After giving the door knob a quick tug, he stood on the stoop and blinked his eyes rapidly, readjusting his eyesight to the outdoor light. He hoped that the sunlight w...

Martin sighed wearily as he closed the front door belonging to the F.I.T.E. house. After giving the door knob a quick tug, he stood on the stoop and blinked his eyes rapidly, readjusting his eyesight to the outdoor light. He hoped that the sunlight would somehow alleviate the slight discomfort brought on by the lack of light in Rumi’s office.

Temporary blindness was the least of Martin’s worries, though. The fact that Rumi didn’t believe a word they said was disheartening to say the very least. He walked into the situation with the expectation that he’d leave with guaranteed assistance from F.I.T.E. Instead, he and Chess found themselves defending their accounts even after showing Rumi the photo.

With his sight somewhat back to normal, Martin stepped off the stoop and walked towards Chess, who waited for him on the narrow walkway that led to the house. They both headed towards the side street, surrounded by the silence that once greeted them about an hour ago. As Martin walked alongside his mate, he looked down and noticed that Chess’s hands were tucked into the pocket of his trousers, moving under the fabric—an indicator to Martin that his friend was suppressing the start of an unavoidable tirade.

“Got to be fucking kidding me,” Chess finally spat, breaking the silence between the two of them. “The nerve of her calling us liars. The fuck we got to lie about knowing we might get locked up? Makes no fucking sense!”

“You think I don’t feel the same way right now?” Martin responded despondently.

“You should. Shit, I know I’m pissed. I mean, how the fuck can you keep your head on straight after what happened?”

“Because blowing up isn’t going to help matters. Besides, I can understand why she’s a little cagey about it. Pictures don’t prove shit nowadays, Chess. I mean, we could’ve taken a snap shot of a woman and shrunk it with computer software for all she knows.”

“I guess that seems legit,” his mate agreed somewhat reluctantly. “So what now?”

“Well…she’ll have to see Lianna for herself, which is gonna be another matter all on its own,” Martin concluded with a heavy sigh. “Getting her to agree to meet with Rumi is going to be like pulling teeth. You—you know this, right?”

“Based on what you told me, I believe it.”

“Chess, she barely talks to me—let alone trusts me, so how the living fuck am I going to convince her meet a complete stranger?”

“Ask her,” Chess chuckled while a crooked smile quirked his lips. “Granted, you have to lock away all your styluses—“

Martin shook his head as they turned the corner, rejecting his friend’s attempt to disguise his anxiety with humor. “Not now, Mate.”

“Just trying to lighten the mood,” Chess explained apologetically as his half smile faded. “Seriously, Marty—I get the meeting with whatsherface went balls-up, but worrying ain’t gonna do us a bit of good, either.”

“I get that, but we don’t know who we’re dealing with here. I mean, Wayland’s been surveilled for a year for a reason. If there’s some criminal activity going on—which I don’t doubt—then none this is going to go well for those involved—Lianna especially.”

“Yeah—since you put it like that.”

“Exactly.”

Martin and Chess were halfway up the empty alley when a car swerved around the corner. Initially, the car drove at a steady pace down the alley, the glow of its headlights beaming onto the concrete. As it came closer, the worn forest green vehicle suddenly slowed down and began creeping towards the two men.

Martin could see the person staring at them through the wind shield, their eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He didn’t quite recognize them at first, feeling his heart speed up at the thought of finally being apprehended by one of Wayland’s henchmen from the Red District. He turned to Chess, who was following the car with his eyes while a smile rested on his face.

“Who is that?” Martin asked, his tone low yet loud enough to catch his friend’s attention.

“My sister in another old piece of tin,” Chess snickered lightheartedly, allowing Martin to let out a sigh of relief.

“I heard that,” the woman announced good-humoredly out of the driver window as the car stopped beside them.

Martin soon recognized her upon closer inspection, the style of dress and appearance nudging his memory. She wore a dark well-fitted cardigan over what resembled the heather grey suit vest that coordinated with her trousers. Though the bottom of her head was closely shaved, her thick dark chocolate-shaded mane was slicked and parted on the side, the style complementing her curved face decorated with a mischievous smile.

“And what’s this with you walking out in the middle of the street?” she teased as she pulled her sunglasses up towards her mane, revealing grey eyes shining with playfulness. “You asking to get hit?”

“I’m surprised you can even drive the fuckin’ thing. Looks like it’s ‘bout to explode.”

“Whatever. I traded some good coke for her.”

“I believe it.”

“Fuck you.”

“You first.”

“Sorry, but I don’t engage in incest, Little Brother,” she joked as she opened her car’s door and stepped out before shutting it behind her, “at least not without a proper hug.”

“Shit, Nomi. Could you be any creepier?”

“If not, I wouldn’t be any fun.” Stretching her arms out slightly, she said, “Now shall we before I change my mind?”

Martin watched as Chess laughed and embraced the woman known to them as Naomi Rule, Chess’s older half-sister. According to Chess, the two have the different mums but the same father—something Chess didn’t even know until a few years after Mr. Winchester’s death.

Nonetheless, the two of them were definitely siblings: both had the thick brown hair and round faces. The only differences were that Naomi was in shape and had grey eyes that reflected a quiet intensity. And unlike her little brother, she wasn’t boisterous, but still exhibited kindness through crude jokes and respectable displays of affection.

“What’s good, Albert?” Naomi asked, releasing her brother from their hug and resting her hand on his broad shoulder.

“I’m doing alright for myself these days, Nomi,” he replied affectionately. “You?”

“Well, you know—fighting the good fight,” Naomi spoke matter-of-factly, shrugging her broad shoulders. “Doing what I can to not have my head blown off by black market thugs.”

“Sounds like you’re living the dream.”

“Wouldn’t have any other way. But enough about me, right?” Naomi suddenly looked at Martin, her grey irises smiling at him. “How the hell are you, Martin? You holding up alright?”

“For the most part,” Martin replied, a weak half-smile quirking his lips. “I can’t complain. I’m just taking everything one day at a time.”

“Well, that’s all you can do sometimes.” She lifted her hand off her brother’s shoulder and leaned against the driver side of her car, crossing her arms across her chest. “Little Brother told me you’d be in my part of the world around this time to meet with Rumi. What brought you two to our bat cave?”

“You want the long or short answer to that question?” Martin asked with a weary chuckle.

“Whichever version’s more entertaining.”

Chess placed his hand on the back of his neck, rubbing away the tension as he looked at his sister somewhat sheepishly. “Don’t know about entertaining, but the matter’s a bit more serious than you’re thinking, Nomi.”

“And you probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you.”

Naomi looked her brother and his best friend, her deadpan expression coloring her face. “You seriously forget who you’re talking to?” she asked earnestly, somewhat chuckling. “Nothing’s too out of it these days, so get on with it.”

Martin stared back at Naomi pensively, mentally choosing his words wisely. She seemed nice enough, but he knew very little about Naomi or what she was about. Granted, Chess meant well by wanting to reach out to his sister, but his friend’s good intention was one of the reasons why they were in this predicament to begin with. At the same time, he felt he had no other option but to trust her enough to answer her question.

“There’s a little woman living in my flat,” he replied straightforwardly. “She was at a place called Stewart’s Exotic Pets and snuck into my bag while we weren’t looking.”

“She told Martin she was kidnapped from her home planet by drawing him pictures of was happened.”

Her eyes shifted from Martin to her brother, the look on her face reflecting quiet concern. “How did Rumi respond to all that?”

“Unfortunately, she thinks we’re lying. Even after we showed her the pictures, she didn’t believe us.”

Naomi nodded in acknowledgement, unfolding her arms and lowering them to either side before letting her hands disappear into the pockets of her coat. “Well, I’m not surprised honestly. It does sound like something from a gods-awful B-Movie.”

“That’s understandable,” Martin replied, “which is why she needs to see Lianna for herself. That way, she can see we’re not making this shit up.”

“Speaking of which,” Chess intersected, “maybe you can come along or meet up after the first meeting.”

“Right,” Martin agreed hopefully. “You’re more familiar with the Red District, Naomi. If there are any more Littles coming through, I’m sure you’d be the first to know.”

“Or that’s the plan anyway,” Naomi continued thoughtfully, examining both men quietly. “Alright then—count me in,” she finally spoke. “I’m meeting with Rumi anyhow, so I’ll do what I can to convince her to join in as well.”

“Sounds good,” Martin said nodding.

“Meanwhile, I need you two to get home and do so safely. In fact, call me so I know you got in alright.”

“Yes, Mum.”

“I’m serious, Albert.”

“I know, Nomi.”

“We’ll give you a ring as soon as we get back,” Martin promised earnestly.

“Good,” Naomi said as she opened the door and slipped back behind the wheel of her car, “Cuz you’re going to make a habit of it.” She started her car, which trembled when the engine turned over. The woman then turned her head towards Martin and her half-brother as she pushed her sunglasses down onto her eyes. “Be good—and stay out of the street, will you?” she said before driving down the empty alley.

 

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