TITLE: Historian: A Tempest Guard Novel
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
Chase drew in a single deep breath and breathed out responsibility. He let all his stresses ease away. No worrying about the stuck drain in 5B and how he was going to have to page through the do-it-yourself plumbing books yet again. Hopefully he’d end up with less scraped knuckles this time. He could put off ordering in new light bulbs for the hallway lighting fixtures for a few hours. And there was no sense dwelling on the fact that he was pretty sure that Mrs. Hattaway in 3D was switching out the bulbs shortly after he replaced them.
All those concerns could wait.
Chase slouched against the side of the wide windowsill in his almost-uncle Mack’s apartment. He’d just meant to drop some groceries off while Mack was at work, but as often happened, he had gotten seduced by the peace of his window perch. Mack’s place was small and sparsely furnished, but just as clean and orderly as his automotive garage a few blocks away. Chase liked it here, and he liked Mack. But when he had the place to himself, he always came to watch from the window. From up here he could look out over the streets and not have to be involved. He didn’t have to worry about turf wars, getting knifed in the back for his shoes or getting roughed up for what few scraps of cash he might have on him.
He also didn’t have to be in charge of his apartment complex. No seventeen-year-old should be, but it had been status quo for him since he was about twelve. His mom had stopped even making an attempt right around that time and simply stayed doped up on whatever she could get her hands on. Chase had kept the complex going with Mack’s help or he wouldn’t have eaten. Now he took these precious minutes to simply watch and let the weight of responsibility slip away.
Then they ruined it. They looked innocuous at first – a chick completely tricked out in a leather biker babe getup and the tall, corpse-looking guy walking beside her. Weird people showed up down here all the time and this duo could be just two more in the long list.
Usually it wouldn’t bother him. Strangers came and went. They came down here by accident, to escape their own lives, or to tiptoe around danger and feel brave. His instincts, however, were screaming at him - the same instincts that warned when he was being followed; he’d learned to trust them.
These two stiffs had checked every street sign and hadn’t greeted a single person along the way. In fact, people were giving them a wide berth like they were dangerous. That last was what decided him. After they entered the squat abandoned storefront across the way, he blew out a disgusted sigh and hopped down from his roost. He’d go take a look-see, find out what they were all about and if they looked like serious trouble, he’d go tell Mack.
He hustled down the three flights, fought for a moment with the busted door knob, and then finally emerged into the dark night. Strolling across the street, he automatically avoided both the glaring street lights that would ruin his night vision and the deep shadows that hid the human predators stalking the area. A pungent odor had him looking at the pavement. Stepping lightly, he avoided a pile of desiccating newspapers and a puddle that smelled like piss and vomit.
Gak. Wouldn’t want that on his shoes – they were in rough enough shape.
A flicker at the edge of his peripheral vision caught his attention. A guy about his own age, thin and lanky, with a predatory glint in his eyes took a step towards Chase. Jakes or Jaz or something like that was his name. He was a small-time thug. But even wanna-be gangsters could be dangerous. Chase returned a slow smile and reached behind him, hand going under the bottom of his shirt to his waistband. He only had a small knife there, but this guy didn’t know that. As he started to withdraw his hand, Jakes or Jaz, whoever, hesitated, splayed his hands out and backed away. Chase smiled bigger. God loved a good bluff.
Once he reached his target building, he stuck to the shadows and methodically worked his way around, listening carefully to the sounds of the streets around him. The usual faint night traffic was reassuring. No sudden ruckus or tense silence. Nothing going down. The truly rough denizens weren’t out yet but it still paid to be vigilant.
He peeked quickly through each grimy window he could reach. At one time, someone had tried to brighten the place up by hanging colorful curtains at some of the windows. Chase snorted at the wasted effort. Now those curtains were ragged and bleached by the sun. Some windows had been boarded up.
Finally, around the back he saw light gleaming faintly from a window. Faded red draperies gapped a couple of inches at the center.
As quietly as he could, he crouched down to one side, brushing away the chunks of chipped mortar peppering the ground. His grungy gray sweatpants were already torn in three places and the drawstring was almost completely ripped out. The last thing he needed in them was another hole.
Settling himself on his knees, he took a deep breath and spared another quick glance at his surroundings. He was still alone. Leaning over, he darted a look through the window. Blazing teal eyes stared back at him from the far wall. His heart jumped and a shocked breath forced its way into his lungs. In that heartbeat, his brain refused to process anything more significant than the eye color. They were no normal shade of blue or green, but a shade in between.
It was like the color they’d used on those Geos so many years ago, was his bemused thought. Hideous color on a car, but absolutely kickin’ on the lady chained to the wall before him.
His brain started catching up with the scene.
Ah, s***. Who the hell chained people to walls, nowadays anyways? This was no castle and dungeon setup, although she definitely looked like a damsel in distress.