It started with Byron Wolffe showing up at the café clearly intoxicated and being loud about it. His brothers, Christopher and Thomas, were already there. Ever since knowledge of the Wolffe boys' return to Levant County, and especially to Marrakech, many of the locals were on edge. It was only a matter of time before something happened.
When Ira Milligan calmly asked Byron to be a little quieter, he shot up from his seat, shouting cheap vodka obscenities, and smashed his coffee mug on the side of her head. That was when William Connelly, whom had been seated a few tables away, tried to interfere. He managed to subdue Byron without much effort, but failed to notice that Christopher had gotten the baseball bat Ira kept behind the counter.
The beating was merciless. Christopher didn’t stop until Connelly’s head split open. Both he and Thomas, who held Connelly down, were caked with blood and savage amusement. Once assured their prey was dead, they recovered Byron, and with a crack to Ira’s ribs, ran from the café.
Bast and Tarot were waiting when Lankin stalked in with a snarl on his face and murder on his mind. Ian was taking a statement from Ira as she was being loaded into the ambulance. Connelly’s shrouded body was being put into the county coroner’s truck. Lankin walked up to Ira and squeezed her hand.
“I will take care of this, I promise you.” He said, and then turned his attention to the EMT. “If she gets anything less than the best of treatment…”
“Say no more, Lazarus,” the EMT said.
“Lazarus, they took her,” Ira said.
“Sydney! Just Sydney! Your Sydney!” She cried. “That’s why they hit me in the ribs, I tried to stop them.”
“I see,” Lankin muttered, his eyes narrowing and his face darkening.
“Don’t worry, Lazarus,” Ian said. “Word’s already out. They won’t get far.”
“How very reassuring, Deputy.”
He stepped back outside. There was a crowd. It was as if half the county had shown up. Lankin felt a growl boil in his throat as his fists clenched and unclenched.
“What now?” Tarot inquired, stepping into his field of vision. “I don’t think the Wolffes are going to let the sheriff get them after this.”
“They are going to make for the Dragon’s Teeth,” Lankin mused. “The terrain there is difficult and if they can get through it then it’s just a ridge away from Hell and Gone. If they can make Hell and Gone, they’re effectively out of the county.”
“And then who knows where,” Tarot finished, once more catching himself thinking that those who mapped Levant County and Gaia’s Backbone named many of the geographic features to try and frighten away the foolhardy. “Not good. I’ll go get my gear.”
“Because I know you want to go after them,” Tarot said. “And I want to help.”
“I don’t need your help,” Lankin growled. “You’d slow me down.”
“Dammit, Lankin! Sydney’s my friend too! And you and Bast are the closest thing I have to a family anymore.”
“I am not going to discuss this with you, Jimmy,” he shot back and then felt a strong hand seize his arm. Looking down, he saw Bast, pulling herself to a stand from her wheelchair with one arm.
“Then you will discuss it with me, Lazarus Amun Lankin!” She said, her own gray eyes narrowed in predatory challenge.
“Stay out of this, Bast!” He snapped.
“Little brother, you mean to go hunting monsters,” she started, her eyes never flinching. “And certainly you remember the saying about fighting monsters.”
“Do not become the monster in the process,” Lankin said. “Yes, I’ve read Nietzsche.”
“Jimmy goes with you,” Bast said. “And that is the last word on the matter.”
“Very well, elder sister,” Lankin muttered. Then, with a determination in his expression that made Tarot jump. “You; my house before the end of the hour, if not sooner. We go light and quick. After all, we have monsters to hunt.”