Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chapter 25

I spent the next week locked in my room, waiting patiently for Raiden to return. For some reason, he spent most of that week in Chicago, staying inside of Tryst Tower of all places. Apparently, Raiden and Trystix were negotiating. For what? I don’t really know. They had no love lost between them, and yet they appeared as friends. But I could see through their fa├žade. I saw the cracks in the porcelain. They despised each other. Almost as much as Trystix and I did. But my time would come. In the meantime I had to stay in control.

I paced around my room like a caged lion. I was lost in thoughts for hours, maybe even days at a time. My first problem was being locked in this room. My second was convincing Raiden that I was in control of my passions. Third would be escaping his watchful eye. Then would be returning to Chicago. And lastly, how could I get to Trystix? And then escape? Every fiber of my being ached for redemption; for my sister, for my niece, and for my self. He should have died that day on the roof, and yet he managed to hang on. This time I’d cut his fingers off one by one if I had to. He was finished. He would not be surviving round two.

Twice a day, one of Raiden’s butlers would bring me food. They brought me meals fit for a king, several courses deep. I enjoyed the smell and it sated my hunger, but little else. I’m sure it was good, but I was so lost inside of myself that I don’t recall ever tasting it. To be honest, I would have killed for a Mountain Dew and a candy bar. I didn’t need steak or chicken for every meal. That wasn‘t my style. I would take pizza or a burger over it any day. Raiden’s butler seemed particularly anxious every time he entered my room. He would linger by the door until I finished, and then bolt out of the room as quick as he could. He had a guard just outside the door, just in case. I thought it was kind of funny, honestly. They didn’t need to take such precautions. I wasn’t ready. Yet.

The butler would try his luck at small talk periodically, but I ignored him. I didn’t say a word to him for days. I continued pacing and pondering, trying to formulate a plan. Preferably one without too many casualties. I’d killed three men, two of which would have killed me without a second thought. The other was an accident, all those years ago. Despite the one blemish, I still had blood on my hands. I didn’t enjoy taking the lives of Trystix‘s guard or BlackJack, but they were necessary at the time. I hoped to slip away from Seattle without notice when the time was right. I didn’t want to stain my hands with any of Raiden’s blood or any of his men’s. Or Johnny’s if he was still in town. When I left Seattle, there was only one man whose blood I wanted on my hands.

One day, about a week into my imprisonment, there was a knock at my door. I found this amusing considering I couldn’t open the door. It was meant out of respect. Raiden. I rolled my eyes and told him to enter. The giant of a man opened the door and stepped in. He was wearing a sky-blue suit and a long red tie over a ruffled white shirt. He looked at me, a concerned look on his face. I stared at him a moment, then started laughing. He furrowed his brow and tipped his head to the side.

“What’s so funny?” He asked.

“You look ridiculous.” I managed between laughing fits.

“What do you mean?”

“You look like a seven-foot Uncle Sam.” I was almost hysterical at this point. Raiden blushed and smiled in spite of himself.

“Nice to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor, Jared. Are you well?”

“About as well as you’d think. I’ve been locked up in here with little to do but count the ceiling tiles. One-thousand-fifty if you were wondering.”

“Why didn’t you just turn on the TV? I’m sure something was on that you’d like…maybe boxing?” Raiden grinned at me.

I will be completely honest; I had forgotten the TV was even in the room. The thought to turn it on had never even crossed my mind.

“Nah. I’d have to look at your ugly face too often.” I said. Raiden laughed.

“I hope you don’t harbor ill will towards me for this, Jared. You put me in a bad position, and I couldn’t let you return to Chicago before the dust cleared a bit. Trystix is convinced that I’m hiding you, which I am, but he has no proof to the point. He has offered me a lot of money for your head.”

“Well, I am rather pretty. And you say I’m the one who struggles being human. What did you say?”

“I told him I had no idea where you were.”

“Interesting. His money could finance your research into the virus, and you still turned it down.”

“That’s what friends do. I hope you can forgive me for all of this. I was just trying to protect you. From yourself. Did you have any side effects from the drug?”

“One hell of a headache. And I was dizzy. Really dizzy. Nightmares too.”

“Really? Interesting…Anything else?”

“Anger. Lots of it.” I’m relatively sure that my eyes were burning a hole through his skull at this point.

“Jared, I…I truly apologize. Johnny followed my instruction. I knew you’d want to return to Chicago. I couldn’t let you.”

“Yeah, I remember your note.”

“I am sorry, my friend.”

“Friends don’t drug each other, Raiden.”

“How would you have dealt with it then?” He snapped.

I thought about his question a moment, gazing into his eyes. The intensity in them was impressive. Looks like I’m not the only at the mercy of my emotions.

“How were your negotiations with my sister’s killer?”

“Ah.” He nodded his head at my deflection. “Now we spar then? Fine. Trystix has been holed up in his tower ever since the funeral. I understand he has snipers watching all points of access to the building around the clock. Johnny thinks he has undercover security walking around the interior structure as well. There is absolutely no way of getting inside that building now. Therefore, it is not prudent to allow you to return to Chicago. Not now, at least.”

“No shit. I wasn’t supposed to have reason to return after the first time. The plan was to fade away.”

“Yes, I’m aware. But you didn’t stick to the plan. You made up your own and pursued it without backup. You are lucky I kept in contact with Johnny. By all rights you should have been killed.”
“Where is Johnny now? I need to have a little chat with him about sticking needles in my neck.”
“Chicago. Keeping watch. Your chat will have to wait.”

“Fantastic. That way I can let the wound fester and hit him even harder than I had planned.”

Raiden shook his head and reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a large set of keys. He tossed them onto my bed and turned towards the door. I looked at them, then back at Raiden.

“Which key is it?”

“You are a smart man, Jared. Smart enough to single-handedly make an enemy of the entire Eastern States without any help from me. Smart enough to make me commit treason against my own country by protecting you. Your picture is already circulating through every police office in the nation. My guess would be that Trystix put a hit out on you, too. I’m sure an exercise in patience wouldn’t hurt you. It might even help you control your emotions a bit better. Know this; one of those keys frees you, but another injects the R5. Use reason and logic to find the correct key. Choose carefully. Good luck, my friend.”

I picked up the keys and examined them. There were about ten keys, each with a different color on the top.

“You know, Raiden, I really hate you right now.” I said without looking up.

“I know. But you’ll thank me one day.” He smiled and left the room, locking it behind him.

I sat down and pulled my ankle up to examine the mechanism. The key hole was small; almost comically small. I looked again at the keys in my hand, then back to the locked ankle bracelet. I tried the first key, a red one, with no success. I then tried the yellow and the blue keys. No dice. My temper started to flare. As I put a solid gold key into the lock, I started thinking. Why was he testing me? What purpose could this childish game serve? Raiden always had a motive. Was I really supposed to learn something here? All of these keys were too big! I was getting frustrated.

I tried each key until I was down to three; a bronze key, a black key, and a worn silver one. I looked at each of them carefully, trying to find a difference from the others. Maybe a magnetic trigger or a knock in the teeth of one of the keys could give it away. I wasn’t really in the mood for another nightmare-plagued nap, so I had to be sure before I tried another key. I spent about fifteen minutes looking for something to give away the right one. I had just about given up when a bell went off in my head. One of these keys was very familiar…The silver key was the one that I’d taken from Lena! The one that opened Trystix’s safe! That had to be it! I flipped back to the worn silver key and stared at it. There was a red spot on the side…blood. Probably my blood. I had it! This was the one! I brought the key to the lock and swore. Still too big! I screamed in frustration and threw the keys at the locked door across the room.

Needless to say, I was seriously angry at this point. I began pacing around the room, talking to myself. I cursed Raiden and his games, Trystix and his treachery, and myself for not finding the right key. I knew I had two left, but one of them would activate Raiden’s drug. I would rather be angry than unconscious at this point. I was shaking, and my self-control was slipping. I would have killed for something to burn! I eventually turned towards the door started pounding on it.

“Is this what you wanted? Is this the point? That I have no hope! That I have nothing? That I have no life beyond these walls!?! Did I figure out your game, yet?” I screamed and kept punching the oak doors.

My hands ached and started to bleed. I was at my breaking point, but the solid doors stood tall. Eventually I gave up, turning and sitting against the doors to my prison. These oak monsters were more menacing to me than the iron bars I had gotten used to in the past. I sat down right next to the keys. I picked them up, hoping I would find the one to activate the R5. My hands stopped searching when I found Lena’s key again. I looked at it closely, wishing I had my little niece in my arms. I stared at the red dot, not knowing why. I scratched at it with my thumb, only to find it wasn’t blood at all. It was just paint. Red paint. Why would Raiden mark a key this way? I hit my head against the door again, only to hit the edge of one of the locks. I swore and looked at the lock. It had a red dot on it, just like Lena’s key. The pieces were starting to fit together.

Then it hit me; the key wasn’t for my ankle bracelet at all. It was for the door. I jumped to my feet and slammed the key into the lock. It opened! I put the key into the other locks and each opened easier than the last. I smiled and threw the doors open. Raiden was sitting in a chair just outside. He looked at me like he could see my soul itself, then smiled and started clapping.

“Very good, Jared. You’ve earned your freedom.” I gave him a look that could have turned a normal man to stone.

“Freedom? Bull shit! This isn’t freedom! All you did was let me out of my room! If you want me to thank you then take this damn tracker with the R5 off of me!”

“Not so fast, my friend. You earned your way out of the cage, but that doesn’t mean you get off of the leash. You are still an animal. You are a wolf, Jared. And wolves, by nature, will do anything to survive. Anything. You passed your first test, but that doesn’t mean you are home free. Look at your hands; look how your own blood stains them. This is your curse; when ruled only by emotion, your hands are stained by your own blood. Prove to me you are in control. Prove to me that the blood on your hands is there from calculated risk, not reckless abandon. I can only show you the door; you alone have the key.”

“So I’m your pet now?”

“No. Trystix made you his pet. His animal. I’m going to make you into a weapon.”

Chapter 24

I have never put much stock in dreams; I find them trivial and ambiguous. I think that people have always wanted to understand the inner workings of the human mind and therefore dissect anything that may or may not have relevance to them. I have never thought much about my own dreams. I had never had reason to do so. But the dream I had during the hours of unconsciousness from Johnny’s needle was, shall we say, enlightening.

It started without vision, just a sensation. I felt air rushing past my face, like the feeling of being on a motorcycle flying down the highway. Slowly, my vision returned, spinning into focus. I saw an enormous city with a shadowy tower in the distance; Tryst Tower. Chicago. No, only partly Chicago. My right eye saw the Windy City. My left was much more modern…Seattle, judging by the Space Needle. The world to my right became a war zone. The ground shook, the sky started twisting and contorting. The blue sky became as red as blood, and it started snowing. The thing was, the snow wasn’t snow at all. It was ash. The buildings to my right had burst into flames, the smoke was clouding my vision. The world to my left began shifting, and suddenly the worlds were one. Tryst Tower, still in flames, morphed over the top of the Space Needle. The patchwork building became as large as a castle. A lone figure stood atop it, cloaked in shadows. He held his head high, as if he alone ruled the world. But as the king looked out over his kingdom, his world burned. He was the king of nothing.

I woke up screaming, not knowing why. I was disoriented, lost in the caustic nature of my dreams. I was sweating and shivering, both burning and freezing. I sat there a while trembling, trying to regain my composure. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. I had to get my thoughts under control. One…Two…where was I? Why was my body in such a state of shock? Three…Four…I had to find Raiden. I had to get to Chicago and get my niece…Five…And punch Johnny in the face when I got a chance…Six…Seven…Eight…Come on Jared…Wake up…Nine…Ten. I took a deep breath and looked up. I was in my room in Raiden’s building. My head was killing me. I reached up and felt a small goose egg on the side of my head. I must have hit it on something when I passed out.

My room had undergone a few changes; a large television had been brought in, the windows were darkened, and my door was bolted shut. Damn. The television had a note taped to it with my name written on it in bold letters. Great. A love letter from Raiden, I guessed. I sighed, shook out the cobwebs in my skull, and swung my legs around to the side of the bed. I had a new accessory; an ankle bracelet with a bright red light on it. Even better. I knew exactly what that little gadget was. I was now on house arrest. I swore again and grabbed the letter off of the TV.

Jared,
I can imagine how angry you are right now. Please, channel this anger just towards me. Johnny only acted as I directed him to. I wrote you this to explain my actions. We have talked before about your disposition, and how volatile you can be. I have warned you not to let your emotions rule you, but I do not believe you are your own master. Not yet. This is why I drugged you and have locked you in your room. I am sure you’ve noticed the tracking device around your right ankle, and I’m sure you don’t care for it. Please, do not try to remove it. It has a trigger to release the R5 (the drug you were put to sleep with) if you tamper with the lock.
I am sorry to do this to you, my friend. It is not my desire to imprison you, especially with your history, but I cannot allow you to return to Chicago. I need you in the days to come, and I fear you would be killed. I have taken it upon myself to be present at your sister’s funeral and to try to be civil with Regan Trystix. I hope to convince him to help out my research for the virus that has infected your niece.
I apologize again for the primitive method to which you must succumb. The funeral will be broadcast this evening, and I hope you will watch. If not for your sister’s sake, then your own. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are still human. Your humanity needs this closure. Embrace it. You must acknowledge your own demons and release your past if you wish to be a part of the new day that approaches. War is coming.

Micah Raiden

That son of a bitch. He had gone without me and locked me up like an animal! I crumpled the note and threw it across the room. I got up and walked around my newest cage. I couldn’t believe he would do this to me, after all the things I have done for him! I should kill…Wait, I thought. This is exactly why he locked me up. I knew I had trouble containing my ire, and so did Raiden. He knew I would want to go back to Chicago and raise hell. He knew I was a loose cannon. He knew I wasn’t in control of myself, despite what I might have said. Damn. I have always hated it when people prove me wrong.

I grabbed a mirror off the wall and smashed it on the floor in frustration. It shattered without hesitation; the little pieces showed me a thousand visages of my face. I barely looked human. Again, I proved Raiden’s point. I shook my head in frustration with myself and walked back to my bed. I turned on the TV, the channel preset to Trystix’s funeral coverage. It was taking place in a small cemetery just outside of Chicago, miles from Tryst Tower. It was wide open, not a building in sight. There were hundreds of people there, crawling like insects over the beautiful gardens ironically placed in the middle of a cemetery. I found it almost sacrilege to surround the desolation of death with such aesthetic beauty. To me it seemed to detract from the magnitude of the situation. Then again, I burned down buildings in my spare time.

The news anchor was talking about the weather being subdued and the mood being somber throughout Chicago on this day. In the middle of her rambling, a long dark limousine pulled into the beautiful cemetery. I knew who was inside immediately because of how low the car was set on the road. The driver got out, walked the long way around the limo, and opened the door. Two giant legs in a tailor-made suit stepped out. The car lifted as the great girth of Regan Trystix exited his car. He was wearing all black, his face serious. He smoothed out his suit and surveyed the scene around him. Finally satisfied, he began to walk to the burial site. Cameramen and reporters swarmed around him as he made his way towards the main assemblage of people. The driver waited patiently for Trystix to clear the door, then slammed it shut.

This was odd; where was my niece? Lena surely would have wanted to be there, regardless of how sick she was. Had she…Was she…gone? I felt a lump in my throat.

The news anchor commented on how low-profile Trystix had been of late. The world hadn’t laid eyes on him nor been treated to one of his web casts since the day before I had laid siege to his tower. The anchor spoke of how she couldn’t blame him for it, after all that he had been through. She spoke of what a great man he was to put the East on his shoulders and that it had cost him his beautiful wife. The whole narrative made me sick. Trystix, even now, had made my sister’s death a publicity stunt.

A beautiful oak casket, polished to shimmer in the rays of the sun, stood brilliantly before the assembly. Trystix made his way to the front, shaking a few hands as he went. He walked with a noticeable limp, favoring his right leg. I wondered if he’d ever walk the same. The news anchor again plugged what a trooper Trystix was, calling him a victim and a hero. He had survived a frightening ordeal, after all. Trystix stopped near the front, speaking with a tall man wearing sunglasses: Raiden. Raiden said a few words, shaking Trystix’s hand, then put his arm around him. Trystix responded in kind, clapping the tall man on the back. They were awfully good at faking that they liked each other. Trystix continued to a small podium next to the coffin in which my sister lay.

Trystix stood before the microphone, seemingly overcome by emotion. He motioned to one of the cameramen to come closer. The camera raised to his eyes, he looked directly into it.

“I’d like to say a few words on behalf of my dear wife. She was a great mother, a beautiful wife, and my best friend. She was preceded in death by her brother just a few years ago. She was an incredible woman…I loved her very much. Her daughter hasn’t stepped crying since she was killed. I just want to say that the perpetrators of this heinous act will be found! They will be brought to justice! I will find my nemesis! This act of insurrection will be put down! I will reap redemption for myself and my family!” Trystix raised his fist to the sky and lowered his eyes.

The crowd cheered. Imagine that for a second; cheering at a funeral. A funeral for my sister. A funeral for Trystix’s wife. A funeral where her own husband didn’t even say her name nor bring their daughter. And the people cheered. Hundreds of people gathered to mourn my sister’s death, and none of them even heard her name. And yet they were standing up and clapping for her so-called husband sending a death threat to his nemesis. A death threat to me. And the people cheered.

Trystix soaked it in for a moment, then made his way back to his limousine. His driver opened the door for him, closed it behind him, and went back to his seat in the front of the car. The engine started and the car departed. People were still clapping and talking amongst themselves. The news anchor was buzzing about the power of his words. Only one man seemed to notice that he was at a funeral. Raiden took the flower off of his lapel and laid it on the beautiful coffin. He began to walk to his own car, being pelted with questions as he went. He merely smiled for the cameras and continued his departure.

That was it. The funeral had lasted a grand total of ten minutes. I was irate. I began shaking, my vision clouded with rage. I was seeing red again. Trystix wanted to call me out and say he’d find me more than he’d wanted to say goodbye to his wife, my sister. He cared more about his own vengeance than anything beyond it. That was something he and I had in common. I too wanted recompense. He had named me his nemesis; he’d been mine longer than I could remember. So be it. One of us would have our revenge. I’d play by Raiden’s rules for now, but I would get out sooner or later. Trystix would be mine soon enough.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chapter 23

“Are you out of your mind?!? Hell, NO!” I screamed.

“Jared, it’s his right.” Raiden answered.

“BULLSHIT! He’s the one who killed her!”

“She’s still his wife…”

“She’s my sister!”

“Unfortunately, his legal relationship trumps yours. I’m sorry, Jared. We have to send her body back to Chicago.”

It had been three days since the battle on the rooftop. We had flown immediately to Seattle, but I didn’t remember much of the flight. I held my sister’s body the entire time, sobbing like a child. Olivia had been closer to me than any other person on the planet, and now she was gone. I had one living relative left, and she wouldn’t be alive much longer. The thought of Lena’s illness was just as heartbreaking as Olivia’s death.

“No. She’s not going.”

“Jared…”

As you can see, this conversation was not getting anywhere. I don’t know what I thought we would do with Olivia’s body, but I didn’t want Trystix to have possession of her again. Ever. Raiden and I had been at it for an hour, neither of us giving ground. Despite his dislike and disdain for Trystix, Raiden was still a politician. He had to do whatever he could to keep the peace between East and West. Trystix had made it clear that he had to have Olivia, and would accept nothing less. He said little more than veiled threats directed at Raiden and some, shall we say, un-veiled threats towards myself. It was Olivia’s body or else.

Trystix would probably pretend everything was fine in their marriage, at least in the public’s view. He’d probably build her a statue; she deserved nothing less. But that wouldn’t buy me off. Liv never should have been on that rooftop. Trystix was the one that was supposed to die. Somehow, the cockroach hung on to the edge long enough for his security goons to pull him up. Trystix was one lucky bastard. But luck eventually runs out. His clock was ticking. How’s that for a veiled threat?

“No. It’s not happening.” I continued to hold my ground.

“It’s already done, Jared. I gave the go-ahead before I even told you.”

“You did WHAT?”

“I knew you wouldn’t allow it, so I preemptively made it happen.” Raiden said.

“Are you insane? I should kill you!”

“Please, Jared…I just saved you off of a rooftop where you should have been killed! You held Olivia’s hand and spent her last moments of life with her. You did everything you could to save her! So did I. But aren’t you forgetting something? Lena. She never got to say goodbye, Jared. She had to hear of her mother’s death on the five o’clock news! Don’t you think Lena deserves a chance to say goodbye to her mother?”

I hate to say it, but the man had a point. I hadn’t forgotten Lena; I’d even begged Raiden to go back for her. But it was risky. Too risky. Raiden promised me I’d see her again. I decided not to refute him, even though I knew better. I would never be able to hold my niece again. The Red Rose Fever would see to that. She didn’t have long left, and I knew it.

“Fine. I’ll concede that much. Lena deserves a chance. What about the blood packs I found? Did you ask Trystix about them? Does he know about Lena?”

“He claimed he had no knowledge of any blood work on him or his daughter. He said neither he nor Lena have the fever. He called you a delusional madman. He’s got a laundry list of charges he’s considering filing against you; murder, kidnapping, attempted grand theft, trespassing…You name it, and he’s got it on his list. The only way he wouldn’t press charges is if we sent Liv back to him. Even still, I think you might consider laying low for a while. Stay under the radar.”

“Fine. What’s next? ”

“Jared…”

“Don’t tell me we’re going to sit on our hands and do nothing.”

“We have to lay low. The risk of any rescue for Lena is too risky.”

“I know how damn risky it is! I am well aware of it! But she’s dying, and you are the only one who has the resources to help her!”

“We don’t have a cure developed…”

“But you could slow it down, right? Buy some time?”

“Perhaps, but we’d have to take her from the Tower. Trystix has Lena with him at all times now, high up in his offices. You’d have to get in undetected, find her at a time when Trystix isn’t with her, then get out without stirring up trouble. We still don’t know how he knew you were there the first time! He could have extra security or more cameras or something worse. That could get everyone who goes into the Tower killed.”

“But the blood…”

“We don’t have the blood, Jared. All we have is what you’ve told us you saw. I wish you could have understood what was on those logs. Then we’d have a better idea what exactly was happening there.”

“So we do nothing.”

“For now.” Raiden gave me a sad yet reassuring smile.

I spun on my heel and slammed the door to Raiden’s office on my way out. Raiden’s staff had learned to stay out of my way by now, each of them slid out of my way and pretended they were occupied with something. I stormed down the halls and corridors to my room. My room here was nice, if not a little sterile. The walls were painted a subdued blue, accented by white upholstery and gray accents. I walked into the bathroom, also the same bluish color with white porcelain fixtures. I turned on the faucet and splashed water on my face.

I looked into the mirror then, watching the water drip down my face. I wondered who it was I saw as I looked into the empty, soulless reflection. At times I looked so much like Olivia did. Others I looked like someone completely different. I didn’t know who I was at this moment. I just wanted vengeance; justice. If that made me something less than human, so be it. I stared at the aberration in my left eye, the ‘evil twin mark.’ The one that my niece also shared. Maybe I should just let her go…Maybe I should just lay low like Raiden said. Something in my head clicked just then, and I turned away. I grabbed a towel and dried off, then went looking for a television. Trystix would be on soon.

After flipping through a few channels, I found his daily broadcast. He was discussing the state of crime in the East, saying that instigators would be found and punished. This made me smile. Catch me if you can, you big elephant. He went on, talking about the abduction and murder of his wife.

“A man in power has many enemies, and man’s family sometimes gets caught in the crossfire. Such is the case of my beloved wife Olivia. She was abducted, beaten, and murdered on the roof of this very building. I arrived too late to save her. I..” Trystix began to feign crying. A young woman, probably a secretary, put her arms around him and led him back to a chair. She then returned to the microphone.

“That’s all for today. All you need to know is we’ve obtained her body and will give her a televised funeral tomorrow at dusk. Thank you.” The secretary said.

This was exactly what I’d been expecting and hoping for. I could go to Chicago, sneak into the funeral, and find Lena. I ran down the hall to Raiden’s office, a plan forming in my mind the whole way. I burst through his door and closed the distance to his desk in seconds. He barely seemed to notice. He was deeply consumed in something he was reading. I couldn’t tell what it was, but he looked at it grimly. He raised his eyes to mine, then back down to his project. He sighed and stuffed it in a drawer.

“Heard the broadcast, then?” He asked. Apparently he had been expecting me.

“Maybe. What was that about?” I motioned towards the drawer.

“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. We’ll see. So what’s your plan? You might as well tell me.”

“Go to the funeral. Probably something like a limo driver. Get Lena out. No big deal.”

“You can’t save the world, Jared. She‘s out of reach. I can’t let you go to her. You would put her in unnecessary danger, and that plan would just make you a kidnapper. A dead kidnapper, once Trystix caught you. I can‘t let you play into his hands.”

“What do you mean?”

“He knows you’ll try. He’s counting on it. He has snipers all around the cemetery. Been there since yesterday.”

“I won’t be seen. I know how to blend in.”

“Jared, we’ve tried it your way. You couldn’t hold to your own plan. Your emotions rule you. You should have called me and told me instead of trying to do it all on your own. I know about Stu. I’m sorry about your friend.”

“Yeah? Where’d you hear that?”

“You remember your buddy Johnny Michaels? He gave me a call. He’s the one keeping an eye on things in Chicago for me. He’s the one who told me you’d been caught that day on the rooftop.”

“What? Johnny…How do you know him?” I hadn’t heard from Johnny since Stu died.

“It shouldn’t surprise you much. I worked for Trysticorp a long time before you did. He and I have stayed in contact.”

“I guess it really is a small world. Interesting. I really don’t care. I’m going to Chicago.” I said.
“Sorry, Jared. You’re not. Forgive me.” He said. Before I could respond, I felt a sharp pain in the side of my neck.

My head started spinning. Raiden’s office was distorted as I tried to turn and see what had stuck me. Johnny himself was standing behind me. He smiled sadly as he put a syringe back into his pocket. I lost my balance and fell to my hands and knees; the world going black.

“Sweet dreams, Jared.” Johnny said as I lost consciousness.