Errand Runners

In Nova City, sixteen-year old Nole does what he has to in order to provide for his brother and sister, but after coming into contact with a mysterious teenager, their stable way of life begins to crumble as Nole is suddenly targeted for a crime he didn't commit. With lethal gangs and brutal city Enforcers, he must navigate his way through the corrupt city system in order to keep him and his siblings alive.

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4. THREE

The gloved hands that hung over the bedside were limp, lifeless, and stained red with blood. The glasses were on the floor, the lenses shattered and frames contorted. Nole reclaimed them and gripped them with both hands as he gazed at his friend. Murphy’s body was sprawled over the bed like the countless patients he had painstakingly remedied. His eyes were closed as if in a deep sleep, but the bullet hole on the left side of his chest told another story. The familiarity of the face made Nole look away from the hideous sight before him. The dark red liquid was no longer oozing, but stained his white doctor’s coat and the sheets spread out underneath him enough to make it appear as if crimson was their original color.

Murphy?

He mouthed, not believing that the identity of the body before him belonged to his friend. Who would do this? His emotions blurred together.

Why?

The feelings of anguish and disgust overcame Nole. They were the same nauseating feelings he experienced exactly a year ago. His mouth hung open, but no words came out, only short, rapid breaths.

For an instant, Nole saw his mother there. Suddenly, the cellar was his old home on the outskirts of the city, and a two and a half-year old Caden stood in the corner as he cradled his newborn sister. Their mother, lying in a pool of her own blood, had multiple stab wounds all over her body. Their father, who was always away, stood over her corpse speechlessly. Nole remembered his own words clearly. “You should’ve been home! You left her! It’s all your fault…. I hate you!”

That very same day their father vanished, leaving them parentless. Nine years later, Murphy, the man he looked up to, the man he thought of as a real father, was murdered.

“He’s dead,” stated a voice behind him.

Nole spun around and faced the man that had spoken. He was taller than Nole, with tousled black hair that shadowed his eyes from the fluorescent lighting of the patient room. His sharp features were grimly contoured by the shadows that were thrown across the room. He guessed his age to be eighteen or so.

“Y-you killed him?” Nole stuttered, steadily regaining his composure. His company didn’t answer, only standing there silently. Although he could not see his eyes, Nole felt like he was being analyzed; like he was the suspect instead of the prosecutor in the twisted murder case in which he found himself.

“No,” the stranger responded flatly to the accusation. Nole saw small stains of blood on the man’s hands.

“You have the nerve to lie to me?” he snarled through clenched teeth. His hands squeezed the bifocals and the remaining pieces of glass dug into his skin. In a way, he fed off the pain. It distracted him from the gruesome reality around him, and allowing him to focus on the originator of his newfound misery.

The stranger didn’t budge. He didn’t even attempt to hide the evidence with which Nole had condemned him. Instead, he stared at him. His poker face was as good as Nole’s, maybe better. “What are you doing here then?” he yelled, his frustration boiling.

The man’s eyebrows flinched slightly. Nole bit his lip in anger and forcefully ceased his trembling. “What did you want with Murphy in the first place?” he continued. “Why are you here?”

He could feel his heartbeat speed up; the rapid thuds echoing in his eardrums. There were no replies, no excuses to hinder Nole’s raw emotions. Murphy, his best friend, his only friend, was dead, no, murdered and the only suspect wasn’t talking. Nole had had enough. He prepared a strategy of attack in his head before being interrupted.

“If you come at me,” warned the stranger, “you’ll get hurt.”

Nole was startled by the accuracy of his foe’s intuition. He anticipated Nole’s attack formulation immediately. He’s dangerous, Nole thought, analyzing him. But not like the gang members. He’s… strong. Nole looked over his shoulder at his deceased friend. The image still stung him.

Even though he no longer had the edge of a surprise attack, he figured it was better for him to attack first rather than being caught off guard. Loosening his grip on the glasses, he tossed them at his opponent.

The stranger stepped away easily, avoiding the flimsy weapon as Nole rushed in his direction, swinging his fist with all his strength. His adversary skillfully dodged the assault, letting Nole move the complete motion of the follow-through. Nole continued to swing punches, not letting him get a single opportunity to counter. To his surprise, none of the blows were connecting, and as his opponent seamlessly avoided each one, they moved further and further back into the room.

Nole could feel his attacks losing momentum, and apparently, so did his opponent. With one quick move, he grabbed Nole’s arm and rotated it behind his back. Within seconds, Nole was against the wall near the foot of the staircase, his face pushed into the cement wall by his opponent’s free hand.

Taken aback, he struggled, but not like the act he used with the second-rate gang members he targeted. He knew he was in genuine danger. In a last-ditch effort, Nole kicked his right leg back at his oppressor. The kick landed on his foe’s knee, and his leg buckled slightly, but it wasn’t enough to set Nole free. Nole felt the grasp on his arm and neck tighten as his opponent regained his bearings.

He readied himself for the final blow, but instead was released. Astonished, he turned to see him standing firmly about two yards away from him. He could see his eyes then, gray[MA1]  and cold, looking through him instead of at him. Nole rubbed the back of his neck and rolled his sore shoulder.

“The people that killed your friend,” he explained as if the fight never happened, “were most likely looking for the guy you brought here.” His words had an icy edge, as if he were relaying a message that didn’t interest him. The guy I brought here? Was he dead now too? Or maybe he was the one who killed Murphy. “And they’re probably looking for you as well.”

Nole furrowed his eyebrows and blinked in confusion. “How do you even know that? Who’s looking for me?” The blind frustration began to fade, but the anger still existed.

“It’s a long story. Someone else will tell it to you. Let’s go.”

Nole instinctively thought of Caden and Suri. Even though the stranger was offering the answers he wanted, he couldn’t forget about his siblings.

“I can’t,” Nole declined.

Neither of them moved for a few minutes. Although the man had shown Nole that he didn’t intend to kill him, Nole still didn’t fully trust him.

“Zane!” called a voice from upstairs, surprising Nole, “They’re here.” Nole gazed up the staircase and saw a girl perched above him. He returned his eyes to the man, who he assumed was Zane.

“We’re leaving,” he answered, maintaining eye contact with Nole.

“What about him?” she called. Zane didn’t answer, as if the question were meant for Nole. He heard the girl’s footsteps as she rushed downstairs and saw them engaged in a stare off.

“He’s not coming,” he answered, turning to face her.

“But we have to-,” she persisted, but stopped once he walked past her and Nole. As he made his way upstairs, Nole’s eyes turned to the girl, who looked at a retreating Zane with a puzzled expression. Her long strawberry blonde hair was tied in a ponytail and her cheeks dotted with freckles. She sighed as she followed him up the stairs. Stopping midway, she turned back to Nole. “There are Pents outside,” she warned, not waiting for his reply as she scurried up the rest of the stairs.

Although Nole registered her words, he lingered in the room, looking back at Murphy. I’m sorry. On the floor, he saw the glasses he had launched at Zane. He recovered them, put them in his pocket, and ran upstairs to find that Zane and the girl were gone.

Outside the shattered window, he detected a gathering crowd of gang members, their bodies covered with the pentagon insignia that represented their group. Pents, he confirmed. The girl was telling the truth. They weren’t doing anything in particular, just socializing, or waiting. Seeing the Pent gang out and about so early gave him a bad feeling.

He eavesdropped on their casual chatter, but heard nothing about Murphy or the shack. Acknowledging the suspiciousness of the outdoor situation, he decided that the best thing for him to do was to escape through the back.

“Hey!” called a Pent from outside. “I see him!”

“Yeah, me too!” joined another.

Nole stopped in his tracks. They spotted me.

“Stop you two,” warned a third, “wait until he gets here.”

Although the Pents were mildly strong, Nole didn’t want to face a group of that size alone. He pondered an escape as he waited. Judging from what the last man said, they were waiting for someone. Nole took advantage of the opportunity.

Stepping on tiny fragments of glass, he approached the window to address his soon-to-be-enemies.

“Which one of you killed the doctor?” he demanded, the jagged edges of the windowpane framing his face. He stared at them intently, taking note of their every detail- the tattered and frayed clothing, the assorted colors of bandanas, the varying facial structures, the diverse skin tones. His eyes shifted to each man within the square plot of land.

He wanted answers. He wanted a name.

Amused by his demand, a few of them began laughing. Before he knew it, the whole group of thirty or so let out a massive guffaw. He felt his eyebrows flinch at the unwarranted response.

“What the hell is he talking about?” one roared in amusement.

“The sap’s clueless!” he heard another say in between chuckles.

Nole clenched his jaw. The laughing went on for a few more seconds before a newly arrived man silenced them.

“Enough!” he shouted. In an instant, they were all silent. From behind the large mass of gang members emerged a tall, muscular man. His scraggily, long black hair was wrapped in a black bandana, and Nole noticed that the man had a dark tan and sharp facial features. The taut tank top he wore allowed Nole to see the solid black pentagon tattoo on his collarbone.

Judging by the way everyone responded to the man, Nole automatically assumed he was the leader. “I’ve heard quite a few things about you,” he told Nole, “not just from my men, but others too.” There was a palpable tension in the air, like a massive volcano was about to blow. “My guys tell me you interfered with our business last night.”

A few of the men snickered quietly and nodded their heads in agreement.

He’s probably talking about the stranger I saved, Nole deduced.

“You’ve got the wrong guy.” More snickers from the crowd filled the tense air.

“Now I understand why everyone was laughing.” The Pent smirked. “Don’t take me lightly boy. You’ve involved yourself in some serious business.” He turned to the side to make room for someone behind him. They too emerged from the back of the group. “And I don’t like others getting involved in my business,” continued the man. Nole’s heart stopped as he saw another Pent make his way to the front of the crowd with Suri in his arms. “So let’s talk.”

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