Born of Hatred – Chapter 2
We pulled up outside a pair of twelve-story-high, red-bricked buildings. I parked the car and stepped out into the cold air, surveying the large parking area with its expensive cars, which sat idly beside an expanse of immaculate green lawn.
I closed the door and walked across the grass until I reached a small bench beside an expansive koi pond. The large fish came to the surface, clearly used to being fed by passers-by, vanishing away back into the deep darkness when they realised no food was forthcoming.
“I don’t even know how you got us through the gates,” I said to Tommy, as he and Sara sat beside me. Unlike the other, smaller houses, which dotted the area, all with drives and garages, the two taller buildings had a pair of huge iron security gates for cars to get through before they could reach the outside parking area. I’d been more than a little surprised when Tommy had handed me the key card, which had gained us access.
“Friends in high places,” he said with a smirk. “Same person who gave me this.”
He passed me a folded sheet of paper, on which was written two sets of numbers – one four digits and the other six in length. “What are they?”
“The four-digit is the key code to the building on the left; the six-digit is the code to Neil’s alarm in his penthouse.”
“How the hell did they manage that?” Sara asked.
“The code for the front door is on file at the security company. No one but them can change it. The same company keeps the details for every resident’s alarm. Anyone who lives here is required to keep the code on file in case of emergencies.”
I memorised the two numbers and passed the paper back. “I assume you have a plan.”
“You get in, look around and get out.”
“Actually, I’m a bit more concerned about why you need me here if you have the damn codes, Tommy?”
“You’re better at this stuff than me.”
I stared at him for a good twenty seconds before allowing myself to say anything, just in case it was derogatory. “Fuck off.” Apparently I hadn’t waited long enough. “You’re a powerful werewolf who could easily get in and out without problems. One quick change to your wolf form and you’re basically the animal version of a damn ninja. So what’s the real reason?”
“Neil’s a wolf,” he reminded me. “If you’re caught in there, you can get away with little fuss. If I get caught by a werewolf, one of us is going to die.”
Why?” Sara asked Tommy.
“It’s a territory thing. If I get caught on his ground, he’ll protect it with his life and there’s no way the beast inside me will let a challenge pass if he attacks me. Best case scenario, I get away without tearing him in half. Besides, even if I don’t get caught he’s going to know a werewolf was in his home. Nate smells like a human, at least until he uses magic.”
“What does he smell like after that?” Sara asked.
“Power,” Tommy said. “And death.”
“Well, that wasn’t utterly depressing,” I said, trying to lighten the rapidly dampening mood.
“She did ask,” Tommy pointed out, before removing something from his pocket and passing it to me.
I turned the small radio and microphone over in my hands. “I’m not going on a mob bust.”
“It’s that or you wear one of those ridiculous Bluetooth headsets, which are about as secure as yelling really loud. I need to stay in contact with you, just in case he comes home early.”
I placed the radio in my pocket, clipped the microphone to my top and pressed the ear piece home. “I assume you’ve done some recon work to know where he might be at ten in the morning.”
“Of course. Neil leaves his building a little after nine am, and comes back at three pm. He then leaves again at six pm and comes back sometime in the morning between one and three. Twice he’s arrived back with a young woman, who then leaves a few hours before Neil surfaces. According to the notes, the young women were of… questionable virtue.”
“They’re hookers, is what you’re getting at, yes?” Sara asked, which made me laugh.
“I’m surrounded by uncouth ruffians.”
“And apparently you live in the nineteenth century,” I said. “I’m going to go break into his house before you call me a ragamuffin or something equally hurtful.”
Even Tommy had to laugh, but it was cut short by a serious expression. “Nate, be careful. This guy is a nutcase. If he sees you in there, he’ll attack you.”
I forced a grin. “Isn’t that why you brought me along in the first place?”
I walked off before Tommy could argue. We both knew that I was going into the house not only because he was concerned about killing Neil before we’d had the chance to talk to him, but because he knew that I could take care of myself better than anyone who worked for him. Over the centuries, Tommy and I had been caught in enough life and death situations to know that we could rely on one another to perform under pressure.
I entered the four-digit code and pushed open the front door. Warm air from the foyer beyond washed over me like a summer breeze. A single guard sat behind a desk opposite the buildings staircase. He couldn’t have appeared less interested in being there if he’d been sleeping. That lack of interest changed the second he saw me, though. He straightened up and pushed the newspaper he’d been reading to one side.
“Can I help you, sir?” he asked.
“You’re a bloody idiot,” I whispered into the mic. “There’s a damn guard.”
“Sir?” the guard repeated.
“Oh sorry, jet lag tends to make me a little all over the place,” I said with a smile and reached out my hand. “Nathan Garrett, I work for Neil Hatchell.”
“Mister Hatchell is not here at the moment.”
The distaste in his voice when he uttered Neil’s name was clear, maybe he didn’t approve of prostitutes being brought back to the upmarket building where he worked. Or maybe Neil was just a dick. I figured it was a little of both, and it meant that I could change tactics. “Okay, you seem like a nice guy…”
“Well, Roger, I don’t actually work for Mister Hatchell, and I know he’s not in.”
“Then you should leave.”
“Probably, but you see Mister Hatchell was recently let out of jail. Did you know that? He served time for rape?”
The fact that Roger had turned the colour of magnolia told me he didn’t.
“I work for certain people who want to make sure he’s behaving himself, sticking to the straight and narrow, if you will.”
“You’re his probation officer?”
“Exactly,” I said. “My job is to keep tabs on him. He came into a lot of money when he was released, and we’re not entirely convinced that he got it via legal means. I’m here to check that out.”
“I still don’t think I should let you—”
“Roger,” I interrupted. “Do you know what your employers would say if they found out that the penthouse suite was occupied by a rapist, a former prison inmate and someone who could be committing crimes as we speak? What do you think will happen to the property values of the other occupants? I don’t think they’ll be very happy. Now, if we do it my way and he’s done something wrong, it all gets sorted quietly. But if not, then the press will get involved and the police will want to interview everyone in the building. It’ll be a mess. Is that something you want to deal with?”
Roger shook his head.
“Good man, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going upstairs to look around and check that things are okay, and you’re going to go back to reading your paper.” I slipped a fifty pound note onto the desk. “Something to say thank you. There’s some more in it for you when I come back down, if you forget I ever existed.”
“Deal,” Roger said instantly.
I pushed the button for the lift and waited a few seconds for the number above it to drop down to GF and the doors to open. “Good man,” I said to Roger again, and pressed the button for the penthouse.
“Apparently they didn’t go inside the building to look around,” Tommy said inside my ear.
“Well maybe next time you should send people who will do a better job.”
“It was their first assignment; sit in the car and watch. I’m sorry; I’ll speak to them when we get back to the office.”
Any anger drained out of me. “Okay, don’t go overboard though. My first ever assignment didn’t exactly go to plan, either.”
“Weren’t you about thirteen?”
“Twelve,” I corrected. “Even so, it wasn’t the sparkling success that Merlin had been after. Anyway, we have another issue.”
“The lock on this door is a bastard of a thing. You sure I can’t just kick the damn door in half?”
“Not exactly a stealthy option is it?”
I mumbled something under my breath and placed my palm against the door’s lock. White glyphs cascaded from my fingers, across the back of my hands and down over my wrists and forearms, vanishing beneath the sleeve of my hoodie where they would continue up my arms and across my chest and back.
Magic is a complicated beast. For the most part, you think about what you want to do and, if you’re powerful and experienced enough, the magic will form on those thoughts. Magic wants to be used, to flow freely from the sorcerer, no matter how dangerous that might be. In contrast, the actual control of magic is very difficult. Even the smaller uses of magic, like lighting a candle, require precise movements and power, so that you’re not left with a big puddle of wax and a lot of fires to put out.
It’s why a young sorcerer is so dangerous, they don’t have the control needed to temper their magic and have, on occasion, caused devastation when their power has exceeded their ability.
Using air magic to fill the inside of a lock in the exact same way as a key was both time consuming and tiring. When the magic touched the inside of the mechanism, I felt it as if I were using my own finger. It’s a matter of remembering where each part was so that I could construct the key and turn it. One wrong move and I’d had to start from scratch, and it’s not something that I could do in a hurry. The more complex the lock, the more of a pain in the ass it is to use magic to open it.
The lock on the penthouse was one of the more secure locks that I’d ever had to pick. The main problem was that you had to turn the key once to make it click, move the key back to its original position and then do it again, but this time the click came further away. It took me ten minutes to get the lock open. I certainly would have been happier kicking the door in.
The second the door closed behind me, a continuous beep sounded from an alarm panel on the wall next to me. I inputted the six digits and the beeping ended. That had been my major worry. What if Neil had changed the code and not told anyone? Turns out, I needn’t have been concerned.
“I’m in,” I said, and started looking around the spacious flat.
“You see anything suspicious?”
“Who in their right mind would have weird shit sitting around the second you stepped into the house, Tommy?” I asked. “He might be nuts, but I’m guessing he’s not the ‘hang the dead corpses of your victims from the ceiling of your home’ kind of nuts.”
I started searching the flat, but found nothing more than an incredibly tidy place and some questionable movies next to the huge TV in his front room. Off the large main room was a kitchen at one end and hallway at the other. The kitchen, like everything else, was so clean that I made out my reflection in the marble worktops and although there was a lot of raw meat in the fridge, none of it looked out of place in a werewolf’s kitchen.
The hallway led to two bedrooms and a bathroom, all of which mimicked the rest of the place. “Tommy, there’s nothing here. I’ve found some porn in the bedroom, which wasn’t exactly a pleasant sight, but nothing illegal about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Extreme domination stuff,” I said candidly. “Women being tied up, gagged, beaten, that kind of thing. Not exactly my cup of tea, but also not an indication that he’s butchering women in his bathtub. Which, by the way, is also spotless.” I walked to the large window at the end of the hallway and looked down on the parking lot below me. “People like this don’t just give up and stop trying.”
“I know,” Tommy said. “They get worse, not better. All that pent up rage and aggression he would have had in prison, he wouldn’t have just forgotten about it.”
“He’s either letting it out somewhere else, or he’s castrated himself and he can’t do a damn thing anymore.”
“Something isn’t right here,” Tommy said.
I rested my forehead against the glass pane and thought about where I would stash something I didn’t want people to find. I’d want it nearby, I’d need it close so that I could go and look at it, to relive how I’d felt whilst I was doing whatever it was that had made me happy. “Did Neil take souvenirs?” I asked.
There was a rustle of paper before Tommy spoke. “He took their purses. Left them the money, but took everything else. The purses were recovered when he was arrested.”
“Does it say where they were found?”
More rustling. “Attic.”
“This place doesn’t have an attic,” I said.
I walked back to the master bedroom and glanced around. It was barely decorated with a bed, TV and chest of drawers. A wooden chair sat next to the window and a door led to a small, but well-maintained bathroom.
The only other item in the bedroom was the large built-in wardrobe. I opened the double doors and revealed a long row of clothes. I hadn’t given it much thought the first time round, but it wasn’t cluttered or full. I cursed myself and pushed all the clothes aside, revealing two leather handles at the top of the cupboard, which once pulled aside revealed a hidden room.
Once I’d removed the false panel of the wardrobe and tossed it onto the bed, I noticed a light switch just inside and above where the panel sat. I flicked it on, bathing the small room in light.
Once fully inside the room, I started my search. It took about three seconds before I found something wrong. Really wrong.
A desk had been placed under one of two lights, with a large pin up board behind it, leaning up against the wall. It contained pictures of women. “Tommy, do you have pictures of Neil’s previous victims down there?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You need copies?”
“Text them to me.”
Sure enough, after a few minutes, several texts appeared on my phone, and my fears were confirmed. “He has pictures of every victim up here.”
I scanned the photos, dozens in all, each overlapping the one closest to it until it formed some sort of hideous collage of stalking. “Four new girls, their photos are the same.”
“The same how?” Tommy asked.
“He stalked them from a distance like with his previous victims. If he’s hurt any of them, I can’t see any evidence to say he did it in here.” I opened the drawers on the desk and found a large map, part of which was circled in red pen with the word ‘farm’ written beside it. I used my phone to take several close up photos before continuing my search of the room.
“I might be wrong,” I said after finding some thick iron chains, which were secured to both the floor and ceiling. “He’s more than equipped to hurt people here.”
“There’s a map with the word ‘farm’ and a circled area, that mean anything to you?”
“A farm, you’re sure?” Tommy asked.
“Ask me again if I’m sure about something, Tommy. Yes, I’m fucking sure. No one has photos of people they’ve stalked and then a map of a farm in the middle of nowhere, unless they’re doing something horrific.”
“My client was informed that the police got a tip-off about some sort of suspicious activity taking place at an abandoned farm about thirty miles outside of the city. Apparently no one has had time to check it out yet; they’ve been getting crackpot calls about that serial killer in the news. Could the serial killer be Neil?”
“It’s possible,” I said. “It’s worth looking into at any point.” I stood and brushed my hands on my trousers, before switching the light off and leaving the room. The LOA, the Law of Avalon, would want to look into Neil’s activities. Hopefully this time they’d make sure he couldn’t get out again, preferably with a more permanent residency somewhere a little hotter.
I replaced the panel, ensuring nothing appeared too out of place, but as I stepped out of the wardrobe, I caught my foot on something and slipped back, landing with a bang. I stood to close the doors and paused when I heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun shell being loaded. “Tommy, we have a much bigger problem.”