Location: Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center – Richmond, Virginia
The Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center had been one of the leading hospitals in the country, before the nuclear holocaust. When the war broke out, the U.S government made it a priority to prevent attempted attacks on any nationally important resources across the country. This hospital was one of them. It was the only one still standing in Virginia. Like most other states in the East Coast, Virginia had suffered heavily throughout the war that still raged on. The hospital was not operating at full capacity – nothing in the country was – but it served just about anyone from Maryland to South Carolina.
Knowing this, the packed hospital ward – filled to the capacity with sick and severely injured patients, most of them soldiers – was no surprise to either Rosalia DeGrandes or Ryan Douglas. Led by a junior agent, they walked past a cacophony of painful groans, screams and sobs. The footprints of war were always a terrible sight and a gut-wrenching sound. The agent stopped in front of a green bed curtain that was drawn shut for privacy.
Ryan and Rosalia stepped through the curtain, while the agent stayed behind. Frank Matthews lay on the bed and evoked a pitiable sight. Bandages wrapped around his head, covering much of his left eye and face. The right eye was swollen but open, letting them know he was awake. His entire face was bruised and both arms were held up in a cast.
“Wow.” Ryan said as he walked up to Frank, whose right eye focused on him.
“Hang in there buddy. You’re gonna make it.” Ryan said.
Frank slowly nodded.
“Could… be… worse.” He said, with much difficulty. “Could… be… dead.”
“Yeah and I know this sounds… fucked up, but any information will help. How did you survive? You were the only one, Frank.”
“S… sixteen of us and… only… me?”
Ryan nodded and waited on Frank.
“I… know… it sounds crazy but… I think… he… spared me.”
“Spared you?” Rosalia asked, stepping forward. “You were standing between him and the target. Why would he spare you?”
Frank chuckled. It sounded more like a deep gargle than a chuckle.
“More like… kneeling between him and the target. He… got me… good… in case you… haven’t noticed.”
“I’m sorry.” Rosalia said and her face betrayed her guilt.
“All… he had… to do… was off me. But… she… she… told him… not to… and… he didn’t.”
Rosalia and Ryan looked at each other before turning back to Frank.
“You’re saying he spared you because Meghan Castella told him to?” Rosalia asked.
“Yeah… and that’s… not all. There were… two… of em. The other one… wanted… to kill Meghan. But the one… who… did… this to me… didn’t. They fought about it. I didn’t… move… Didn’t dare, but I heard it all.”
Ryan nodded and placed a friendly hand on Frank’s shoulder.
“Thanks buddy. You’ve been a great help. I’ve got four agents in regular clothes, stationed on this floor so you are in good hands.”
Frank let out his gargled chuckle, once more.
“Thanks sir… but… with all due respect… there were sixteen of us in the Castella residence. Four ain’t gonna do shit.”
Ryan nodded and both he and Rosalia turned to leave.
“There’s… one more… thing… sir.” Frank called out, stopping both of them in their tracks.
“The one… the one… who wanted to kill Meghan… he’d called his partner… Horus. It was them sir. Horus… has Meghan Castella.”
Ryan nodded once more before pushing through the curtain. Both of them walked back through the crowded ward.
“Why would Horus listen to the pleas of a target he was sent to kill?” Rosalia asked, breaking the silence.
“That’s what I was thinking. More importantly, why would he spare her and turn on his own partner. Why would he turn on the guild?”
Rosalia’s phone rang and she quickly reached into her pocket, answering the call.
“DeGrandes speaking. What? We’re on our way.”
“What happened?” Ryan asked.
Rosalia tucked the phone back in her pocket.
“The FBI traced Meghan’s phone to a Motel 6, in Harrisonburg. They got into a shootout with one suspect.”
“Horus. But that’s unprofessional. An assassin of his caliber would have ditched the phone.” Ryan said.
“True. They initially thought it was a diversionary tactic, so they sent a small team… Four guys.”
“They’re all dead.”
Ryan cursed under his breath.
“Let’s move Frank to Langley.”
Set walked inside the restaurant, located in the Short Pump mall, in Richmond. It had been a fantastic outdoor mall and one of Virginia’s attractions before the war. Now it was a deserted place filled with live shells, torn up buildings and a haze from the ground being constantly cooked up by radiation. The war had made the earth a dangerous place. It froze over in one moment and was cooking in the next. Another radiation wave was due in a few hours. He would hole up here until it blew over.
The restaurant however, was abuzz with activity. The people who occupied it, were clearly high class and wealthy, judging by their smooth suits and trendy apparels. Fashion had survived the war and so had the rich. Even with death all around them, they still found time to revel in themselves and drown in their own vanity.
Set walked past them and got to the bar on the far side of the entrance. He sat down and placed his order. A glass of Whiskey with ice. The bartender hurriedly fixed his drink and it was soon on his table. Set took a sip from the glass, and swallowed. He welcomed the warmth of the liquid, in his chest. His mind went back to the events that had happened in the Castella residence. It was clear to him now, that Horus knew the target. He’d wondered why Horus had never mentioned her. Then again, he’d never asked. Set had learned a long time ago that most people alive today, had a very painful past. It was better to look ahead to the future, than dwell on it. The problem was that these days, the future didn’t have much to offer so Set just lived in the moment. So many questions swirled about in his head. Why hadn’t Horus killed him? He certainly had his chances. More importantly, Set had asked himself if he could hunt and kill Horus when it came to it. The guild and the customers, had gotten word of their ‘failure’. Reports of the attack, was all over the news. They covered a troubled Victor Castella who threatened the worst for those who would attempt to kill his wife, and to find her. There was no body, so she was declared missing.
A man sat beside Set, to the right of him.
“You know, this is a bit of mess right now.” The man said in his Slavic accent.
“I wish I were seeing you under different circumstances, Andrey.” Set responded.
Andrey looked at him and his eyes hinted at the churning wheels of his mind.
“The clients are not happy. Let’s not get started with the rest of the guild. But they would like to believe that you haven’t turned as well.”
It was Set’s turn to look at Andrey.
“Good. It appears we will be here a while. Let’s go down to the bunker. I’ve assembled a team of eight of our best assassins for you to command. Your orders are simple. Hunt down Horus and Meghan Castella, and kill them both. Is that understood?”
“Great. I’ll see you in the bunker when you’re ready.”
Andrey slid out of his chair, leaving Set to his thoughts. Set picked up his glass and downed the rest of the Whiskey. He turned to the bartender.
“I’ll have another.”