Project Ordine – Chapter 2: Red As Fire

Chapter 2

Aedus Butler, the late 20s, ginger haired, green eyed Irishman, was in a bit of a sulk. A storm had hit mid-flight, and they were coming in for a landing just before the winds were expected to pick up. Aedus was accustomed to the frequent rains of Ireland, he liked rain, but this was something else. A downpour of rain beat upon the plane. All of the toddlers seemed to be crying in unison. It was a horrific symphony, and there was a sense of dread–knowing that he should have brought earplugs.

The plane landed without event, and Aedus located the terminal that led to the car rental space where Rotso had arranged for a car. When Aedus picked up the keys, he found that it was one of those tiny, no frills, front passengers only, budget cars. It just screamed ‘fun times!’ Kinda like Rotso. The rental clerk made a joke of it, and Aedus laughed with him. Apparently no one rented this car. Ever.

Aedus used the GPS on his phone to navigate to the house where Elbert was staying. A family of five were his hosts, and he’d given them a call before coming. Everyone was eager to meet the big brother. Even Elbert was excited. They didn’t have the typical stepbrother, or regular sibling relationship. They didn’t see each other often, with Elbert from France, and Aedus often returning to Ireland. They’d never lived in the same home either. Their parents had married after Aedus had moved out. So whenever Aedus came to visit, they had fun with it. This time, Aedus hoped to coax his little brother into playing some rugby. That is, if the host family wasn’t too frightened with the prospect.

Aedus arrived at the house. It was a ranch style, red and white brick house, with fittingly French style windows, and a neatly manicured front yard with a marble fountain that also served to water the garden. Elbert was living it up!

He stopped the car at the curb and got out to check the tiny trunk. Rotso had supplied him with ‘necessities,’ which included a loaded automatic pistol, and a rapier. Aedus smirked and unloaded and pocketed the pistol, but left the sword. The chance of him getting into a sword fight was a slim one. It had been years… around the time he’d met up with Rotso for their last mission.

He approached the house and knocked upon the door. A woman in her mid-30s answered the door. She was of average stature and with wavy brown hair, and soft, brown eyes. “Welcome, are you Elbert’s brother?” she asked.

“That’d be me. My name’s Aedus,” he extended his hand and she shook it. Soft hands.

“Welcome Aedus, my name is Clarice,” she stepped aside and opened the door further. “Come on in.”

Aedus pocked his keys and walked inside. He was greeted with a wide open space that separated into rooms with glass doors and more French style windows. There was an office, patio, front room, dining room, formal dining room, a spacious kitchen, and bedrooms marked by their oak doors. Clarice brought Aedus into the living room and motioned to a chair. “I’ll go get the kids from outside. My husband, Charles, will be home a bit later. But before that, can I get you a drink?”

“No, I’m great, thank you.” Aedus was looking forward to meeting everyone, but he needed to get to Jake as soon as possible.

Elbert ran into the house with two girls and three boys alongside him. Clarice introduced the kids: Ronnie, 14; Josh, 12; Ashley, 12; Eliza, 11; Jacob, 6. The youngest, Jacob, grabbed ahold of Aedus’s leg and clung on as Aedus walked in circles, with the little boy cheering, “yay!”

Clarice moved to remove her son, but Aedus shook his head. “It’s fine,” he laughed. “I like kids.” He continued walking in a circle, but looked to Elbert and the other kids while doing so. “What are you all up to today?”

Elbert snickered and shook his head at his big brother. “My friends from school are going to the local bakery, and they’ve invited me. Then…” He looked to the kids. “…we’re all going to a movie later, right?”

Ashley perked, “Yup! It’s the new superhero movie, Colonel Weak, Now Strong, everyone from school has been talking about it.” The other kids observed Aedus in silence.

Clarice smiled, “What about you, Aedus? Will you go with Elbert to the bakery, or do you want to stay and rest here for a while?”

“Actually,” Aedus stooped over as Jacob got ahold of his arm, “I have some business to do while I’m here.”

Clarice raised an eyebrow, prompting further explanation.

“A friend wanted to meet up,” Aedus lied. “So I think I’ll do that first and meet up with you all later. Are you and your husband going to the movie as well?” He raised his arm up like a crane and lifted Jacob up in front of him, with his other arm ready to keep the boy from falling.

“Oh yes,” Clarice laughed. “Charles is a huge superhero fan, and I’m interested this time myself. We wouldn’t miss it. Would you care to join us?” She took Jacob from Aedus’s arm, and tickled the boy’s belly.

Aedus nodded, “Sure! That’d be great.” He dug inside his pockets and took out his keys. “I’ll be off then. Thank you for your warm welcome, and I’ll see you all later!”

“Alright!” Clarice said, still holding Jacob. “We’ll see you then. And know that dinner is at 5, if you can get back in time.”

“Got it,” Aedus smiled. “Thank you so much.”

“Bye!” Jacob called, with his arms flailing. “Bye,” the kids all echoed.

Aedus waved as he headed for the door, which was still ajar. He looked around through the glass for a moment, and then went outside.  His phone buzzed as he reached the car, and he snapped it out of the holster. The screen came on and showed a text from ‘Izo.’ The message read, “Find the boy and record each movement. Do not interfere unless absolutely necessary.” Aedus laughed and set the phone to sleep. Izo was about as much fun as Rotso.

• • •

The start of spring break wasn’t the most eventful for Jake. A fierce rainstorm with high winds kept everyone indoors on the first day, and although the rain eased, the high winds continued their onslaught into the second day. He felt that his time was being squandered away by the merciless hand of nature. He wanted to see Michelle. He’d already asked his parents about going over to her house. He’d even settle for texting with her, but the internet wouldn’t connect and his phone wasn’t getting a signal. By the second day, he was considering using the landline, until the power went down. It wasn’t just nature; even technology was working against him!

The third day, however, brought sunshine and gentle winds. His cell phone signal was restored, and he received a text from Michelle: “Garrett and Elbert are going to Annapati’s Bakery. Wanna meet up with them?”

Jake asked his parents for permission, and upon receiving a ‘yes,’ he grinned and tapped out his reply, “Of course! I’m on my way.” After kissing his mother goodbye and receiving a fur-in-face bear hug–that really felt like hugging a bear–from his father, Jake took his bike from the garage and set off up the street. He stood atop the pedals as he climbed the steep hill that led to Annapati’s Bakery.

The bakery was owned the Panettere family who had been baking in the Portland area for generations, and they weren’t more than a few blocks from Jake’s neighborhood, next to a strip mall with his dad’s favorite Chuck’s Burgers and Pork.

At the top of the hill, Jake could see the bakery. The building was over a hundred years old, and the chestnut and cream paint was beginning to flake, but inside was a paradise of fresh baked goods. Jake locked his bike into the rack beside the shop, next to a silver bike that was similarly chained, and then walked inside with the door chime announcing his entrance.

The aroma of chocolate éclairs and chocolate buns, cream puffs, brownies, fruit tarts, breads, and coffee hit Jake all at once. His eyes settled on the table where Garrett and Elbert were sitting. His heart sunk. His friends were here, but not all of them. Not Michelle. He checked his phone and considered texting her, but she was probably still on her way.

Mr. Panettere stepped out from the kitchen. He was a tall, tanned man in his 40s, with light blue eyes and dark brown hair. “What can I get for you, Jake?”

Jake had been here many times, but there was ever a dilemma of choice.

“I just finished some cream puffs,” Mr. Panettere said with a grin.

“Then I’ll have the cream puffs,” Jake said with a smirk.

Mr. Panettere took a piece of wax paper, gingerly picked a trio of chocolate glazed puffs, and set them atop a plate.

Jake peered out the door as he waited, his eyes searching the parking lot.

“Looking for Michelle?” Mr. Panettere said, as he set the plate by the register and moved to the coffee machine.

“Yeah,” Jake replied. “She’s the one who texted me about everyone coming here. I probably should have checked to see if she was coming first.”

“Did you tell her that you were coming?” Mr. Panettere asked. He filled a cup of coffee and cream and began ringing everything up at the register.

Jake took out his wallet. “Yes, why?”

Mr. Panettere laughed. “If that’s the case, I’m certain she’ll be on her way.”

“How–”

The door chime sounded, and Michelle hurried inside, her face flushed and hair fluttering from a gust of wind. Her eyes met Jake’s and she let out a breath. “Hey! Sorry, we’ve been getting ready for grandpa Domenico. Have you been here long?” She smiled to Jake and Mr. Panettere.

“No, I just got here a few minutes ago.”

“That’ll be seven dollars,” Mr. Panettere said to Jake.

Jake sifted through the bills in his wallet and found a ten. “Do you already know what you’re getting this time?” He asked Michelle.

Michelle peered through the glass, careful not to rest her hands on it. “Black coffee and a chocolate bun,” she decided.

“How do you do that?” Jake shook his head.

“What?” Michelle laughed. “Drink black coffee?”

Mr. Panettere watched the two interact, a smile ever present on his face, and handed Jake his change.

“That and you always decide so quickly,” Jake said, taking up his coffee in one hand and his plate of puffs in the other, and waited for Michelle.

“I know what I’m in the mood for,” Michelle said. “And right now, it’s a chocolate bun, black coffee, and seeing you.”

“It’s an honor,” Jake pursed his lips and took a bow.

They both laughed. Mr. Panettere set Michelle’s order on the counter. Garrett and Elbert were quietly watching from a high rise table in the corner of the bakery, both with the same knowing smile as Mr. Panettere.

Michelle paid Mr. Panettere. “Thank you,” she said and took her coffee and chocolate bun.

“You’re welcome,” Mr. Panettere replied. “It’s good to see you all again.”

Michelle nodded, “I’ve missed coming here with everything going on at school.”

“Me too,” Jake said.

“Summer isn’t too far away,” Mr. Panettere said. “I expect to see you both a lot more then.”

Michelle laughed, “Oh you will.” She walked with Jake to their table.

Mr. Panettere stepped out from behind the counter. “And you boys too!” He called to Garrett and Elbert. “Are you staying for the summer, Elbert?”

“No, I’ll be going back home,” Elbert said. “My parents wouldn’t be happy with me staying too long. But it’s been great to be here! Your pain au chocolat is as good as back home.”

Mr. Panettere’s face lit up with delight. “I’m glad to hear that! I’ll be headed to the back now. Let me know if you all need anything, and enjoy your vacation!”

“We will!” Jake and Michelle chimed together.

Garrett nudged Elbert. “Already acting like they’re married,” he whispered.

Jake and Michelle took the seats opposite of their friends.

“Hey Jake,” Elbert said. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing great, now that the internet is working and we can get outside. Did anyone else have a connection issue?”

Elbert shook his head. “I didn’t, but I have an international phone and I wasn’t using wifi.”

Garrett checked his phone, “Now that you mention it, I guess I haven’t had any new texts, but I’ve been packing for Hawaii, not trying to finish my homework early, like you nerds.”

Michelle sipped her coffee and shook her head. “Have you even started on your English project?” She turned to Jake. “And to answer your question, our internet wasn’t working either.”

“No,” Garrett replied. “I’m going to work on it in Hawaii. The ocean inspires me.”

“Hmm, alright,” Michelle said with a faint grin. Everyone knew that Garrett was a huge procrastinator and he liked English about as much as Jake.

“You’ll see,” Garrett said. “My muse lives on the ocean waves.”

Michelle laughed.

“How is it in Hawaii?” Elbert asked.

“It’s great,” Garrett said with a sigh. “The waves are perfect, the sand feels incredible, the people are great. I’d like to live there. My dad is actually Hawaiian, so we visit pretty often.”

“How is it in France? What’s your family like?” Michelle asked Elbert. “You’ve spent all this time learning about us. Now let’s hear about you.”

Elbert laughed. “I’ve said how I come from the Normandy region in western France. It’s mostly countryside and small towns around there. I live in a city called Bayeux, which is far smaller than Portland and Paris, and about 20 minutes from the ocean.”

“Do you visit Paris much?” Jake asked.

“We’ll visit Paris as a family sometimes, once on a school trip, but it’s more than 3 hours away, so not too often.”

“Have you ever been to the Notre Dame?” Michelle asked. “I’ve always wanted to visit. The Eiffel Tower looks beautiful, but there’s so much history with the cathedral.” She took a bite of chocolate bun.

“I have and I agree,” Elbert nodded. “In Bayeux, we also have our own Notre Dame. Many cities do.”

“I didn’t know that!” Michelle said. “Are they very similar?”

“There are architectural similarities, but I wouldn’t say they’re very similar. The Notre Dame de Paris, for example, is much larger and more elaborate.”

“How about family?” Jake asked. “You have a brother, right?”

“One stepbrother, yes,” Elbert said.

“And he’s from Ireland?” Michelle asked. “I remember you talking about him during the family culture project in social studies. And the way you talk about him, you seem close.”

“We are,” Elbert smiled. “But I don’t always see him that much, with his work and home back in Ireland. He travels a lot, but that can also be a good thing, since he has a business contact in Bayeux. Apparently he has one here too! He flew in today.”

“Will we get to meet him?” Jake asked.

“I hope so!” Elbert replied. “Aedus said he’s meeting up with a friend, probably the businessperson, for lunch, and then he’ll join us at the movies tonight. Would you all like to come?”

“Sure!” Jake said. “I’ll have to check with my parents, but it sounds like fun.”

“I’ll have to check as well, but I’d love to!” Michelle said.

“I won’t be able to come,” Garrett said. “I’m leaving for Hawaii tonight. But what movie are you going to?”

Colonel Weak, Now Strong,” Elbert said.

“Oh yeah! We were talking about that at school. You’ll all love it. Even has some romance for Michelle,” Garrett laughed.

“Jake likes romance too,” Michelle looked to Jake. “Don’t you?”

“I…” Jake stopped between his bite of cream puff and hesitated between Garrett and Elbert. Then his eyes settled back on Michelle. “Definitely. I’m not big on overly sappy stuff, but romance gets a bad rap.”

Michelle smiled.

“Whatever,” Garrett said, shaking his head. “I better get going guys.” He stood and took his plate of croissant crumbs to the dirty dish tub above the trash.

Michelle stood up and gave him a hug. “Don’t forget the project.”

“Yes, mom,” he smirked.

Jake and Garrett gripped hands, “Have fun, and don’t get too crazy,” Jake said.

Garrett laughed, “You sound like Michelle.” Then he moved closer and whispered in his ear. “You two are perfect. Make a move.” Jake’s face flushed slightly. Garrett stepped back and grinned.

Elbert clasped Garrett’s hand, “Enjoy the surf. It’s been great getting to know you.”

“It’s been awesome,” Garrett said. “I’ll have to check out the surf in Normandy sometime. But I should be back before the end of school and we can all hang out some more.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Elbert smiled.

Garrett fetched his sunglasses from the table and placed them atop his head. “Enjoy the break. Especially you two,” he winked to Jake and Michelle and left.

Jake and Michelle exchanged a quick glance and turned back to Elbert.

“So when’s the movie?” Jake asked.

“This evening at 7 o’clock,” Elbert replied. “Text me and let me know if you both can make it, and I’ll let my host family know.”

“You think they’ll be okay with us joining?” Michelle asked.

“Oh definitely,” Elbert said. “They told me to invite friends from school.”

“Great!” Michelle checked her watch, a gift from her father. “We’d better get homework finished first though.” She looked to Jake. “Still up for helping me with biology?”

“Of course.” Jake said. “As long as you’re still up for helping me with English.”

“Of course,” Michelle chuckled. “How’s your homework progress, Elbert? Would you like to join us?”

Jake focused his attention on the remainder of his cream puffs. If Elbert came along, it wouldn’t be a study date anymore. Although, Elbert was fun and he wouldn’t want to leave him out either.

“Not this time, but thank you,” Elbert replied. “I’m going to check if Aedus is back at the house already. But I hope to see you both at the movie tonight.”

“I hope to see you both there too,” Michelle said. “And get to meet your brother!”

“Same here,” Jake said. “I’m excited for it.”

“Me too,” Elbert said. He stood and picked up his plate, followed by the others.

Michelle and Jake texted their parents as Elbert went to talk with Mr. Panettere, who had family in Bayeux. It appeared that the two shared an acquaintance.

“You mentioned Jean when I first got here,” Elbert said to the baker. “Did you see him recently?”

“Oh yes, he visited yesterday,” Mr. Panettere told Elbert. “Small world, isn’t it?”

“Very small,” Elbert said. “Maybe that’s who my brother is meeting with…”

“And who is your brother?” Mr. Panettere asked. “Maybe I know him too.”

“Aedus Butler,” Elbert answered. “He’s from Ireland, but grew up a bit with me in France.”

“Now that’s not a familiar name,” Mr. Panettere frowned. “Ah well.”

“My parents said yes!” Jake told Elbert.

Elbert turned around, “Awesome!” He looked to Michelle.

Michelle looked up from her phone and shook her head. “I don’t know yet. I’ll text you later, like you said. My mom must be busy right now, and dad won’t be any help.”

“Alright,” Elbert said. “That’s okay. I don’t need to know immediately. The movie has been out long enough, it shouldn’t be too busy. Just let me know before 5, if you can.”

“Sure!” Michelle smiled. “I don’t know of anything going on, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to, but I’ll definitely let you know before then.”

“I hope you can,” Jake said, as they headed for the door.

“Me too,” Michelle said, and waved to Mr. Panettere. “Bye Mr. Panettere! And thank you.”

“Yes, bye and thank you, Mr. Panettere!” Jake said.

“You’re all welcome anytime!” Mr. Panettere said with a wave back.

“Enchanté et merci!” Elbert called out.

“Enchanté et de rien,” Mr. Panettere replied with a smile.

It was late afternoon and the sun outside was not shining so brightly as it had when they’d arrived. A few clouds were to be seen in the sky, but there was no sign of rain. It was warm, and a refreshing breeze pressed against them.

Elbert’s host family’s house was within 15 minutes walking distance, but they’d set him up with a silver mountain bike to be safe. He’d locked it up in the rack beside the shop, and it was now next to Jake’s. Although she had a car back home, Michelle had also brought a red mountain bike and locked it next to Jake’s.

The three teens unlocked their bikes, strapped on helmets, and said their goodbyes. Elbert biked up the street, while Michelle and Jake biked alongside downhill.

• • •

Aedus was doing just what he wanted to do on the weekend–watch a 17-year old and his friends socialize at a bakery. When he saw Jake, Michelle, and Elbert leave the bakery, he set down his binoculars and moved a hand towards the ignition. He was far enough out of sight for Elbert not to spot him, but close enough to keep track of Jake. Not that he needed to be especially close. Rotso had tapped into Jake’s phone and configured it to send live GPS coordinates when requested. Aedus could admit that it was creepy, but it was for the boy’s security. He started the car and shifted to reverse but kept his foot on the break until Jake was out of his line of vision. Jake was heading towards home and Aedus could wait outside the neighborhood or continue to tail him if he was going elsewhere. Aedus  clicked his phone, with its GPS app ready on the screen, into a holster suctioned to the car window. He then maneuvered out of his parking space and shifted into drive. If this didn’t take too long, he could meet Elbert back at the house before dinner.

• • •

Michelle’s neighborhood was a few miles away from Jake’s and he followed her home. It was nearing rush hour and they talked a little along the way while watching for traffic.

“Do you smell anything?” Michelle asked as they passed his neighborhood. After his dock incident about 4 weeks ago, Jake had begun confiding in Michelle about everything that had been going on.

“Not at the moment,” Jake smiled. “But I did the day before break. I smelled burnt burgers and sewage on the way home.”

“Oh that’s nice,” Michelle plugged her nose.

Jake laughed. “Yeah, but no incident since then. It’s been close to four weeks now.”

“Maybe you can relate with the movie tonight,” Michelle said with a smile.

“Why?” Jake asked.

“It’s like I’m friends with a superhero,” Michelle replied. “You have had these incidents, and these powers that are beginning to surface, and next you’ll be saving the world.”

“I don’t know about that,” Jake said. He felt a lump in his throat. “But that’d be cool. And I would like to get the girl.”

Michelle looked to Jake, and then to her bike handles, and then back to Jake. “And do you have a particular girl in mind?” She said, with a slight tremble to her voice.

Jake was silent for a moment and his face began to redden. This was the moment. There was no turning back. He looked to his bike handles and gripped them tightly. He turned to Michelle. “You.”

Michelle slowed down, moved her bike onto the sidewalk, and set it on the ground. Jake followed her lead and set his bike next to hers. She sat against the wooden fence that bordered the road with  a wide patch of grass. Jake sat alongside, a further distance than he did usually.

Michelle extended her hand, palm out, and lay it upon the ground. Jake moved closer and took her hand into his.

“I love you,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

Jake’s heart beat heavily through his chest. “I love you too,” he said with a breath.

She looked into his eyes and held his gaze for a long moment. She turned her body to the side, to face him, and Jake met her there. She slowly bent forward, her eyes shifting down his face. Jake felt his breaths quicken and he bent forward until he could feel her breath upon him. He tilted his head slightly and parted his lips. She slowly parted hers and set her free hand against the back of his neck. He shivered upon the contact, and placed his free hand against the back of her hair. Their lips made contact and Michelle pulled Jake closer. She shifted her head, opened her mouth wider, and wrapped her lips again around his. They held the kiss for a minute and gently broke off. They watched one another in silence. Jake took up Michelle’s other free hand and held them together. Michelle took a deep breath and looked to the traffic passing by. She squeezed Jake’s hands and smiled. He smiled back.

“Let’s go, Jake.” She quickly kissed him on the cheek. “Homework to do. And you still have to let your parents know when you’re coming over, right?”

He nodded. “They said I could, but they wanted me to stop by the store and get some milk first.” The words coming from his mouth felt wrong. He wanted to tell her more about how he felt. But she was right. Time for homework.

Michelle shook her head, her eyes still moist, and she wrapped both of her arms around Jake and kissed him once more. “I’ve loved you for a long time, Jake.”

“I have too,” he said. “I mean, you.”

Michelle laughed. “I thought you may have.”

She didn’t ask why he hadn’t said so sooner. She didn’t say anything else. She just stood, one hand still holding Jake’s, and then let go and set her bike upright.

Jake stood with her and they biked the rest of the way to her home in silence, sharing the occasional gaze. When they arrived at the house, Michelle opened the garage, moved her bike inside, and came back out to see Jake.

Michelle’s house was a grand, redbrick house, far bigger than Jake’s moderately sized home–situated in a wealthy neighborhood–with stone corinthian columns, and a wide mahogany with curved window panes. Along the stairwell of the house, there were a series of windows from which one could look outside, and Jake saw Michelle’s dad standing there, looking out for a moment before passing up the stairwell.

“I’m going to have to tell mommy and daddy about my boyfriend,” Michelle said, walking up to Jake. “You better come back quick so I can reintroduce you.”

Jake smiled. It all felt like a dream. His greatest dream was coming true. “I will.” He looked to the upper window again. No one was there. He kissed Michelle and biked down the street towards the store.

At the bottom of the hill he braked and made a left turn onto Oak Street, the same road that he took to school. It was then that the smell of peppermint hit his nose. The store and bank were just ahead and there was a tea shop and cafe further along the road, but not close enough to smell peppermint unless they were brewing cauldrons of it. Were his senses picking up again?

A loud scream made Jake jump in his seat and stop his bike. He moved up onto the curb, got off his bike, and looked around. There were people walking along the streets, but nobody appeared alarmed.

Jake heard a shout. “No screaming!” Then there was a click and Jake could hear something sliding into place. It sounded like a gun. “Nobody makes a noise or speaks unless spoken to.” There was a shifting of feet and Jake could hear two hands slam upon a counter. “Get the money, but not in a bag.”

“All… alright!” stuttered another voice. “It’ll just take me a moment.”

A bank robbery?

There was another set of feet with a heavy tread, and Jake felt that they belonged to someone else.

“You have three minutes. You’re going to take the money and place it in this bag. Just the bills. Nothing to hold them together. Nothing but the bills. As much as will fill the bag.”

There was a click and the shuffling of dollar bills. A few alighted upon the floor.

“Don’t pick them up. Just grab more. And you! Help them grab more.”

“O…okay.”

More shuffling of bills.

“That’s good. We’re leaving. If I see you so much as take one step on my way out…”

“I… I understand.”

Jake’s hand involuntarily dug into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He no longer had control. It was another episode! He detached the back panel of the phone and yanked out the battery. He set the phone into one pocket and the battery into another. What was the purpose in that? So he couldn’t call for help? It felt as though he were being kidnapped by his own body.

The bank doors opened and two men walked out. They wore black vests and had grey wolf masks that covered the entire head. One man held a large cloth bag in one hand and a pistol in the other, and another, much larger man, clutched an automatic. They walked towards a dirty black pickup truck. It was so dirty that the license plate was mostly obscured.

Against all the force of his will, Jake mounted his bike and set off towards them. What was he doing? How was he going to stop men with guns? Not to mention the one man five times his size. Despite these fears, his body forced him onwards. Faster. Faster than he’d gone before.

The pickup truck sped off and went down an alleyway. Jake pedaled across the sidewalk and reached the alleyway. The truck turned for a side road, and Jake followed fast on their tale. His vision focused on their rearview mirror and he saw a pair of eyes focused back toward him. The truck pulled off onto a corner next to a set of apartment buildings and garages, and parked. The two men stepped out, threw their masks into the trunk of the truck and replaced them with motorcycle helmets. With their guns still in hand, they ran towards a garage. Jake reached the apartments as they stepped inside the garage which contained two motorcycles. The big man spotted Jake, and aimed his gun at him. Jake stayed true to his path. The other man raised his hand and the big man halted. Jake stopped his bike at the garage, feet from the men.

“What do you think you’re doing, kid?” the smaller man asked. “You want to die?”

Jake didn’t answer. He moved towards the big man.

“Fine, but it was your choice,” the smaller man shook his head in despair, drew his pistol, and fired.

• • •

Aedus followed the GPS and waited at the entrance to Michelle’s neighborhood as Jake stopped by her house. He biked out of the neighborhood a few minutes later and Aedus followed slowly as he turned onto Oak Street.

When robbers emerged from the bank, and with Jake headed straight for them, Aedus hit the gas and followed after them. He reached the apartments in time to see Jake walking up to the men in the garage. Aedus stopped the car, and drew his pistol from his pocket, just in time to hear the gunshot.

• • •

Jake somersaulted forward as the shot was fired, narrowly avoiding the bullet, and standing to face the smaller man. At this close range, he twisted the man’s arm, took his gun, and slapped him across the face with it. The man fell to the ground unconscious. The big man opened fire with his automatic as Jake flipped backwards and landed behind one of the motorcycles. He stopped firing for a moment when he saw Aedus step outside of his vehicle and aim his own gun. In this moment, Jake lifted the five hundred pound bike and threw it towards the man. The motorcycle crashed against the man’s frame and sent him against the wall of the garage, a pile of bricks falling from the force of the impact.

Jake suddenly felt a tremendous fatigue forcing him to the ground. He gasped and his head throbbed. His vision turned red and he fell unconscious next to the robbers.