The Lower Level. Where things that go bump in the night come to hide. Where vengeance makes its dirty home. Where everything and anything can take you by surprise. Earlier today I was cornered by Benny and he confessed how he wanted me to be his eyes and ears. He said this was the chance he was waiting for to take down the Dusks. The worst part? I agreed. Why? Benny threatened to fire me and leave me in the streets. I can't afford that. Actually, I can't afford a thing right now.
Walking through these streets was a normality. It's sad, but I've gotten used to the damp air and trashed roads. The Lower Level rested over the Underground. We weren't completely cut off from the sun, unlike the Underground was. The sun might barely grace us with its light, but the Underground was all dark with the exception of lamp posts her and there. I've never gone down there but I've heard rumors, enough to keep me from setting foot on the remaining stairs that would take me there. Nothing good came from the mouth of those that spoke of the Underground. Now the Lower Level was in alliance with the Underground.
There was a pounding in my chest when I walked into Benny's bar. I was greeted by Hobs, one of the Underground's most known criminals. He was a friend of Benny's. I noticed him from the countless times he's come to talk to Benny. They always took to the back of the kitchen and talked for a considerably long amount of time, often in secret and hushed tones. Also, he had a thing for me. Something he was not ashamed of showing.
"Always a pleasure to lay eyes on you, Jinx." His forced tone come off raspy, as always. He reached down to grab my hand but I gave him a warning look. He should know better by now than to touch me. In defeat, he raised his hands and stepped aside to reveal the round table surrounded by middle aged men and a hand full merely in their twenties. They waited for me, and I wished I could make the journey toward the table just a bit longer.
"Well?" Benny stood from his seat. He was no longer wearing the black stained apron that once was white. He glanced at me as if I held the answers to everything, which is what all this charade was about.
"Well?" I responded.
"Don't play games, Jinx. Tell us what you know." Benny's fist pounded on the table and it rattled, the men falling into a deafening silence.
"Nothing." I admitted.
"I told you this depended on your employment." He forced.
"I know! Benny, it's been one day. Do you really expect me to know all the secrets the Dusk have?"
"I expect you to work faster."
"If I work any faster I'll rise up suspicion. It's bad enough you made me go out with Mason. Don't you think that was too soon?"
"He was the one coming over to you." He said.
I shut up. That was true. Mason asked me out on his own. No one forced him or persuaded him.
Benny sighed and sat back down. He scratched at his beard before looking at me through thick eyelashes. "You will have more time. I'm hoping that a week will suffice. If not? Consider yourself fired."
I turned from the group of men.
"Jinx." Benny called out. "This is what we agreed on. You spy for us and you can keep your job. Therefore, your home and the ability to feed yourself. If you don't keep your end of the deal then... Well, you are either with us or against us."
"I take no side. I need the money and that's all."
"That's not what it will seem like to the Dusk family. I suggest you rethink where your loyalties lie. When we overthrow the Dusk family and expose them for the power hungry tyrants they are, you wouldn't want to be at wrong with us. So take the week off work and focus on getting the information we need. That is all."
I was out the door as fast I could. Hobs followed me onto the street and made the attempt of wrapping his arm around my shoulder. I slapped it away, and he let it drop with a grin across his face. It made him look his age. He wasn't young, but not old either. If anything, Hobs was in his mid-twenties, but his stern look always made him seem a lot older. It suited him most times, and then other times it only give away the fact that he was a slimy little rat.
"Oh, Jinx. Why do you fight me?" He leaned against the lamp post and folded his arms across his chest. He was well built and broad at the shoulders. His long hair was always tied back into a pony tail. His hazel eyes were glued to me and it gave me the impression that he was doing a lot more than looking at me. The strong features he possessed were another factor that added to the much older look he had going on. Most of the time I wanted to punch him, but other times I'd like to know what it's like to be with a man like him. I always ask myself not to judge. I've never been with a man because no man has really been interested, except for Hobs.
"I wasn't aware you were trying to conquer." I made my tone sound well composed and even. Only I knew that I was ready to give myself in to his teasing smile.
"You dressed up for him."
"It's an act, Hobs. I need to seem convincing." A jealous Hobs. Interesting.
"Are you sure? That it's just an act?"
"I don't even know the guy."
"Attraction has nothing to do with knowing a person."
"Is that what you tell yourself?"
There was a horse laugh from his part and I shook my head when he winked at me.
"Alright. Point to you. But..." He trailed off. His index finger was suddenly under my chin and he tilt it up so I'd be staring right into his eyes. For a moment I felt paralyzed, and I thought I saw something shift in his eyes, something hungry and lustful. "One day." His voice lowered to a whisper and his face leaned in closer. "One day I shall divide and conquer." His eyes trailed down my dress. Maybe I was insane, but I could feel his eyes on my flesh, fully taking in the sight of me.
"Don't hold your breath." I realized he was aiming for my lips, so I pushed him off me as hard as I could. He didn't even stumble, but he did step away. Keeping a smile on his face, he left and disappeared back into the alley towards Benny's. I felt sick to my stomach. Lying, threatened to get fired, hit on by a scum bag I find attractive. It was no doubt this place was getting to me in more ways than one, none of them good. I would do this just to make the money I need to get the hell out of here. I've been here too long and I'm more afraid of being found than betraying anyone. Of course, if I could avoid both that would be fantastic but we all know that's the fault-full wish of a dreamer.
The migraine squeezing my brain only got worse when the manor came into view. There was a smell in the air that was terrifyingly familiar. My feet carried me to the porch. There was a note. It sat on the spot in front of the door and I snatched it from the floor. There wasn't much on it, but it was enough to paralyze me with fear. I felt like all my nightmares were unraveling. There was no room for reason in my head. It read: Jinx. Is it? See you soon.
No you won’t.
At the back of the manor there was a garage. I kept a bag, and all the money I saved up in case of an emergency. Well? I'm calling this a freaking crisis. I doubled back out of the porch and hurried towards the garage. The rusty, metal roll up door cried as I pulled it up with all my might. It lifted out of my hands and I ducked inside and grabbed the bag. I ran without looking back. I was pushing my feet to hurry through the graveyard. Too bad for Benny and the others. They'll have to find someone else to do their dirty work. My time here is done and I'm not about to get caught because a bunch of old men and naive juveniles needed a snitch.
Running suddenly seemed like mission impossible. I didn't get very far. A hand gripped my arm and the next thing I knew I was flying towards a tree. I forced my eyes to close as hard as possible and braced myself for the impact. It never happened. My back against the tree, I willed my eyes to open and fluttered them until the blurriness cleared. Mason held me up against the tree with his body, hands pressed to either side of my head. He was focused on something beyond me and I tried to look back. He didn't let me. When he seemed sure enough he moved back and finally looked at me.
"What was that about?" I asked him.
"I should be asking you the same thing." He pointed at the bag and I twisted the handle in my hands.
"Family emergency. I gotta leave."
"The other presence in the manor says otherwise."
That frightened me. I thought they had found me but now I was sure.
"I have no idea what you are talking about." The words came out shaky.
"You are not leaving. You're running. The question is, from what?"
"From nothing. Get out of my way!"
"Jinx, I can't help you if you don't talk to me."
"I don't need you to help me. You barely know me!"
"I find you interesting."
"You still don't know me."
"Come on. The manor is empty now." He dragged me with him and I pulled and tugged. His hold was firm and unwilling to budge. How could he be so sure someone wasn't in the house anymore?
"Let me go. What the hell do you think you are doing?!"
"Knowing you." his tone was mocking, yet dead on serious.
I was all but hurled into the manor, then Mason came in behind me and closed the door. He stood posted in front of it as if to barricade it. I dropped the bag and folded my arms over my chest, giving him a look that could kill. Unfortunately, he didn't drop dead.
"Speak. What are you running from?" He asked.
"Speak." He pressed.
"Talk!" His foot rose and came down on the floor. Like a wave, the floor rattled and lifted before shooting out and shaking the whole place. I was afraid the manor would come crumbling down but the place showed to be a fortress. I started thinking that maybe I should reconsider who and what I'm really afraid of. Mason's eyes were a glowing orange that felt like hell was finally on earth. I drew in a deep breath, hoping it would fill me with bravery. It didn't. The thought of Kai possibly being in the manor just seconds ago had me shaken.
"I... I'm running from my mothers. The Kovra Sisters. They are three of the most dangerous witches in the world. I've been running from them for years. If they catch me? They will kill me. I tried to run just now because I found this note." I reached into my pocket and took out the piece of paper. He took it and raised an eyebrow after reading it.
"J 0.3?" He asked.
I nodded. "I'm their creation. The third and only humanoid to have made it through the awakening."
Mason took a moment to let that sink in. Then he looked at me. "I'll keep an eye out. Rest and we will pick this up tomorrow. I want to know all about these sisters. I won't allow them to harm the people in my family's city."
"I'm not staying." There should have been reassurance in my voice, but something told me Mason would get his way.
"You have no choice. You led them here and now you will help me drive them out. Or better yet, eliminate them."
There was a menacing chill to the way he spoke those last words.
"Fine, but there isn't a way to get rid of them. I spent a lot of time trying to figure something so I wouldn't have to run. No luck."
"Obviously you don't know me." Mason's posture stiffened.
Benny and the others expect me to continue spying for them. I'm tired of people bossing me around. I had enough of that and more back when I still lived with the Kovra sisters. What I learn will be at my disposal and Benny can't to shit to me if I have the information he needs. If I play my cards right, I might just come out of this alive. Maybe.