For the first time, the boy's eyes met mine, and he playfully hopped down from the desk top to approach me. I saw him blow a bubble with his gum and smile, all the while still playing with his yo-yo. He had an arrogant smile that seemed as thought it was designed to antagonize everyone around him. A bratty smile. A demon's smile.
He was in no hurry to get close enough to me to speak. And he was close enough...he was in no hurry to speak. He blew another bubble with his gum as he looked me up and down, head to toe and back again. And finally, he asked, "What did you say your name was again?"
"It's Justin..." I said.
"Justin. Nice. You look like a Justin." He chewed his gum a few more times, still looking me over during another pause. "So...you say you've got business here with us tonight?"
"Yes. I do."
"And you say...the Jeweler contacted you...he 'gave' you this location...and just told you to show up? Do I have that right?" He let his yo-yo drop down for another extended spin before pulling it back up again.
"Not exactly. He didn't know I'd be coming tonight. But I know that it's extremely important that I see him as soon as possible. He's the one who told me that."
The boy nodded. "Hmmm...ok. So how did he contact you? Exactly?"
"Online. Through a friend of mine." I said, and he just gave me another aggravating smirk in silence. "Look, I don't have a whole lot of time. If you can just tell me how to find my way around here..."
"Whoah whoah....slow down there, Dagwood."
He snickered to himself. "Wow...you really are a young one, aren't you?" He leaned forward a bit and sniffed the air around me. "Newblood, huh? Spanking new baby boy. I'll bet you haven't even made it through your first year yet, have you?" I didn't answer, but he never lost his smile. "Yeah, I can tell."
At that moment, a small walkie talkie on his belt loop beeped, and the boy answered it. The voice said, "Objective completed."
"Cool." The boy said, giving me a wink. "Bring him in."
Already irritated by the difficulty of this situation, I asked him, "Are you going to help me or not?"
"Well...here's my problem, 'Justin', can I call you Justin?" The boy started playing with the yo-yo again and walking a slow circle around me. "If my employer had really contacted you...online, as you say...then I am assuming that he would have given you a list of house rules prior to giving you this location. He did give you a clearly worded list of instructions, did he not?"
Confused, I told him, "I...I don't know what you..."
"You've just walked in the door, and you've already broken one of the first, and most important, parts of you being allowed to come here at all. And that is...that you come here alone."
"What are you talking about? I did just what the Jeweler told me to do. I am here alone."
"Oh really? Is that so?" The boy said, and I felt that familiar sense of dread and danger as I heard some scuffling coming from one of the side doors in the lobby. And it was then that I saw a boy struggling to break free from their rough and rugged grasp of him.
It was TARYN!!!
"Let me go!!!" He shouted, and my heart nearly stopped from the shock of it.
The boy gave me another smirk and said, "So I take it that you don't know this person, then? Is that what you're telling me?"
"Let him go. He has nothing to do with this..." I pleaded.
"But on the contrary, my friend...he's here. I'm looking right at him. So he has everything to do with this, now doesn't he?"
They manhandled Taryn and pulled his hair back to hold his head up. God, it HURT me to see him mistreated like this. "TARYN!!! Please...please don't!" I whimpered.
The boy grinned. "Taryn, huh? That's nice. He looks like a Taryn."
"You're making a BIG mistake! I didn't even know he was here!" I yelled, but he wasn't buying it.
"A likely story." He said, dropping the yo-yo down again and pulling it back up. "You've only been here for a few minutes and you've already insulted the man upstairs by breaking his ONE cardinal rule. ALL visitors...come alone." Then he leaned closer to softly whisper, "Sorry...but the Jeweler doesn't do group jobs." Then he looked over at the guards holding Taryn and gave the order. "Take the kid out back and 'stake' him. We'll put him in one of the hotboxes, he'll be ash by dawn."
"NO!!!!" I screamed! "Get your hands OFF of him!"
This time, the trigger was automatic. My feet dug into the ground, my legs balanced in a powerful stance. And as I felt the bitter cold of shadows wrapping themselves around my fists and quickly swirling up to envelop both arms just past the elbow...the static electricity in the air began to build. A FIRE began to burn hot within me, and the storm that I had once gotten a hold on so easily was now swirling into a tempest of anger that I wouldn't be able to control once it was unleashed upon those who would do my angel any harm.
The windows of the giant lobby began to rattle. The floor began to tremble. Dust and small objects began to lift off of the ground as though there were no gravity left to hold them in place...and my eyes turned a deep shade of red as I prepared to tear this whole fucking BUILDING down around us if they caused my Taryn to utter so much as another whimper of pain!
The guards had never seen anything like it before. They all looked around them as the walls and support beams began to blister and crack from the pressure. Fear had been introduced into their hearts, and as Comicality's shadows connected to it...they only got stronger. Colder. I've known fear. I've known pain the likes that they've never SEEN! Do they want a taste? Because I'm prepared to give it to them.
"LET HIM GO!!!" I said, giving them one last warning before I surrendered myself to the moment and treated them to the painful bloodbath they've been looking for! "I won't say it again!!!"
At that moment, I heard the boy's walkie talkie beep again. "Strings. Come in, Strings." Said the voice on the other end.
The boy never took his eyes off of me, but he answered the call. "Go, for Strings."
The voice calmly said, "Escort our young guest upstairs. I would very much like to meet him."
Unwilling to back down just yet, the boy, 'Strings', kept his stare fixed on me. "With all due respect, sir...I've got no confirmation on his identity yet. And he's not alone..."
"It will be alright. Bring him to me. Let's not be rude to our guests. Let them both come up, if that is his wish."
Strings gave me a bit of a mischievous wink, and he said, "Copy that." Then he held up a hand to the other guards. "Break up the party, people. boss' orders."
The second they let Taryn go, he ran across the lobby as fast as he could and lunged forward to hug me tight around the neck! I held him so close. So very close! I hate feeling so HELPLESS when it comes to keeping him safe!
"I'm sorry, Justin! They came out of nowhere, and they..."
"Shhh! It's ok! We're ok..." I said. I just closed my eyes and held him against me. My heart was still beating out of control. It took a few moments for my body to power down, for the objects in the room to drop back down to the floor. But it was Taryn's love that always brought me peace of mind. Always.
Strings sort of grunted to himself, and said, "Yeah, yeah. Real cute. You wanted in? You're in. Let's not make a soap opera out of it." I heard him, but I didn't dare let Taryn go. Not just yet. Seeing him in a position to get hurt was a huge scare for me. I wasn't really ready to let him go until I knew for sure that he felt safe. That's when I noticed Strings drop his yo-yo down again...but this time, he let the spinning end of it touch the ground. It instantly flared up with an electric spark, and it crawled towards us on the tile floor...giving me a bit of a shock as it touched my foot. "I said...let's move. Quit being so damned queer." And he pulled it back up into his hand as he guided us to the furthest elevator at the end of the lobby.
Three guards also came along to 'escort' us, crowding the elevator as soon as they stepped inside. Strings hit the top floor and we were on our way. Hopefully to some much needed answers, and a clear path for me to follow from here.
I could feel Taryn's hand nervously reach for mine, and I held onto it. But I was upset that he would put himself in danger like that. I wonder if what I felt outside was his presence. His distress. The only thing that kept me from getting angry was the fact that I was so relieved that he was ok.
Strings kept slinging that yo-yo up and down, almost obsessively, in the elevator. That along with the loud chewing of his gum was grinding on my last nerve. "Do you have to do that?" I asked him. "The yo-yo thing?"
"Nope." He said with a grin. And he let it drop again....this time letting it spin and dangle at the end of it's string for even longer than normal before pulling it back up. All while looking me directly in the eye. Almost as if to make an extra nuisance out of the act itself. I think he liked being an asshole, and he didn't hide it.
We finally reached the top floor of the building, and Taryn and I were happy to get some breathing room again.
Strings left the guards to watch us, and he said, "You wait here. I'll see if he's ready."
Standing in that long hallway, I turned to Taryn and whispered, "Why did you follow me? I told that this was dangerous. You shouldn't have come here."
"And you shouldn't have lied to me." He said. "I've been in love with you every minute of every day for months now, Justin. Do you really think that I can't tell when you're lying right to my face?" I looked away from him briefly, but he was right. "I'm not as dumb as you think I am."
"I don't think you're dumb, Taryn. I was trying to protect you."
"I'm not as helpless as you think I am either." He said defiantly.
That's when Strings came peeking back around the corner and whistled for us. Beckoning us forward like a couple of trained puppies. Still...I followed. And I held Taryn's hand in mine the entire time.
What we found at the end of the hall was much more than what I had expected. I steep set of stairs, leading up into a giant glass greenhouse that sat on top of the office building. It was sooooo big. As big as an entire floor of the building itself, and the starlit sky above was clearly visible through the endless skylight windows above. Dim lights and soft classical music added a soothing atmosphere to the place, filled with small trees and plants, the fragrance of freshly grown flowers lingering in the air. The trickle of water from numerous fountains flooded the room, and I almost felt like some sort of intruder in this...an urban replica of the Garden of Eden itself.
It was then that Strings led us forward to the very center of the garden...and I laid eyes on him for the first time.
"Justin? My, my, my...I am certainly very honored to meet the likes of you." He said. "My name is Fabian Lockheart. I...am the Jeweler."
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