A loud scream broke Halston from his thoughts. The sound seemed to come from far away, like an echo. There was desperation in that scream as it grew louder and closer. He felt the blond hairs on his skin stand on end.
Micka and Rohan both looked up from their work stations. They came to their feet in unison and reached for guns that were strapped underneath their desks.
Halston sat up and watched as Galena fell through the inkwell portal. There was a loud shriek as the black liquid spit her out onto his clean, white floor. Galena collapsed and Halston ran to her.
Halston left his seat and slid to Galena. He held her head up from the floor. Galena looked like a frail, crumpled rag doll. She was covered in blood. Her eyes were wet from crying and her blond hair was sticky with something foul.
“Don’t let him in!” Galena called out weakly. She squeezed her eyes closed and started to weep. Her entire body shook with her racking sobs.
Halston’s heart pumped with worry. He looked over his shoulder at the two agents that looked at him with fearful eyes. They lowered their guns. This was not normal… even for Netherworld agents.
“Get me a clean, wet cloth and some water!”
Rohan nodded and rushed to complete the task. Micka stood ready, with her gun pointed to the portal, in case someone followed Galena.
Halston pulled Galena’s hair from her face and she screamed. He withdrew and noted the bruises on her face and the cuts in the corners of her mouth. He drew a breath and looked at the inkwell portal. The portal stood in the center of the safe house. It was a large circular device held stationary by shiny black brackets. The portal was only supposed to be used in dire situations. There had to be a major emergency, for once a portal was revealed, the person escaping could easily be followed. The last thing Halston needed was a nephilim coming through that portal and causing havoc… or worse, damaging equipment in his laboratory. He wasn’t done with his latest invention.
He looked down to see Galena looking up at him. He held his breath. He’d rarely seen such terror in a person’s eyes. The way she looked at him spoke volumes. She had been frightened nearly to death.
“Galena,” he said. “What happened?”
Her face contorted and she started to cry again. Her sobs came from her soul. They were sorrowful, deeply hurt, cries of pain. Halston felt his skin grow cold. This woman was one of his best agents. She was human, but she was one of his best. From the poor streets of Russia, Galena had been orphaned early after vampires killed her parents.
Halston had found her just the way he found most of his Netherworld agents: angry, ready for revenge, and trying to seek that revenge in foolish ways. He had found her, trained her, and put her out there to be a spy. Halston had given her the tools to find her parents’ killers, and bring them to justice.
Halston didn’t seek out to simply kill all vampires and other nephilim, he tried to protect the humans. Sometimes that meant finding vampires that were willing to try a new life. Those vampires, like the Wryn clan, were open to finding ‘pets,’ people who sold their blood for money or care. They registered with his Netherworld Division, and lived their lives clean and free of murder and chaos. It wasn’t a perfect arrangement. There were still vampires that loved to kill, and resisted the Netherworld Divisions of the world that tried to bring order.
Rohan knelt down and handed Halston a wet towel. Halston wiped Galena’s face clean. She winced and jerked away. Like a frightened animal, she crawled far from both of them. Her eyes darted around the safe house.
“Did they follow me?” Galena’s voice came out ragged and almost too soft to hear.
Micka ran up with a bottle of water and paused when she saw Galena with her back pressed against the wall. Galena saw Micka and grabbed the small, older woman, by the leg. Micka looked to Halston questioningly.
“Don’t let them hurt me anymore,” Galena begged.
Halston sighed and came to his feet. He didn’t move closer to Galena. She was too afraid, and he didn’t want to make the situation worse. He stood there and thought about what to do. She had been missing for about a week now. There was no telling what she had been through. He put his hands in the pockets of his trousers and looked down at Galena.
“Galena,” he said. “We won’t hurt you. You are safe. We are the only ones here. Rohan, Micka, you, and me.” He knelt down and looked at her with a small, friendly smile. “I’m Halston. You do remember me, don’t you?”
Galena tilted her head and stared at him. Her eyes were as big as saucers, and for a moment, Halston doubted that she recognized him. Her shoulders slumped and she slowly nodded. “Yes. I remember you, Halston.”
Halston nodded. “Good. Good girl. You remember that I am your friend, and that I care about you, right?”
Galena let go of Micka’s leg. She ripped the black stockings the woman wore with her ragged nails. Halston noticed that her fingernails had blood caked into her cuticles. Micka adjusted her glasses but ignored her ruined stockings.
“I remember,” Galena said. She folded her legs and rested her head on the wall. She looked exhausted.
She shook her head and her bottom lip trembled. “I’ve been through a lot in my life, Halston,” she said in a wavering voice. “But nothing like this.”
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