A Shot In The Dark
Location: Tina Cyparissus' apartment, Shady Side
Timeline: December 27th, just before midnight
A loud bang shattered the silence of the night.
It was one of those noises that seemed like it might have been nothing, a noise from outside of a car backfiring or some teenager being obnoxious when he or she should have been sleeping. Perhaps a drunk had lost all realization of what time it was, or an oddly nocturnal bird had hit a window.
It could have been completely natural. Then again, there was just as much of a chance it wasn’t.
Deo sat bolt upright in his bed, suddenly awake. He had never been able to sleep deeply, save for when someone he trusted held him, and sleeping on a strange sofa-bed did little to help him rest after a long drive from Virginia to Maryland. His pupils dilated, his breath froze in his chest, and his heart beat rapidly in his chest. He feared the hammering in his ears might prove so loud that he was deaf at a critical instant. This as his senses grew painfully alert to danger. His mouth went dry and the entirety of his body coiled, poised for fight or flight.
Knowing his luck, it was a cat bouncing off a trash can outside, but Deo could not help such an extreme response. It was his curse to live with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, the legacy of his father’s beatings. He waited, listening, hoping for it to be something innocent so he could force his body down for some semblance of rest.
“Shhhh!” A male voice hissed in what he likely thought was a soft whisper. The sound was close. There was no question that whoever had spoken was inside the apartment.
“Sorry.” A second man was quieter than the first.
Soft footfalls moved within the living room, shoe soles clicking on the stone tiles near the entry way.
Deo felt as his breath hitched in his chest. A chill shot through his body and suddenly all emotion fell away, replaced by intense focus. He rolled out of his sofa bed and onto the floor with feline facility and flattened against the wall next to his door. Only his pajama bottoms covered his modesty as he scanned the darkness for weapons. The door handle turned a second later.
“It’s over here.” The second man whispered from just beyond the door. Steps moved closer as the first man approached. The door opened slowly, as though great care was being taken to make sure that the door didn’t creak.
“See anything?” The first man whispered loudly.
“I’m not even in the room yet!” The second man grumbled as he stepped inside. He was tall and slender, dressed in an expensive black suit with a ski mask covering his face. He looked like someone who learned how to break and enter from watching cheesy, outdated crime dramas. “Bring that flashlight over, my batteries died.”
“Jesus! I told you to check them! Here.”
“Yeah, shut up. Let’s just get this over with.”
It seemed like an eternity before the door pushed open, creaked, and pushed the rest of the way. A blindingly bright beam of light touched the messed up sofa bed. Deo saw as the flashlight entered the room. The light panned across the bed. The heartbeat sound deafening him vanished. A wrist came into view--and he lashed out.
“Oh shit, there’s someone...” The second voice began to curse.
Deo seized the wrist in a crushing grip and yanked the figure into the room with all of his might. All sound and motion appeared to slow to a crawl as he moved. He stepped across the open doorway and struck the door closed with a crushing elbow, turning his attention back to the first intruder with icy calm.
The tall, slender man in the suit and ski mask cursed again as he was flung in to the room. He crashed in to the bed, falling on to it with a loud grunt.
Louder still was the shout of the other man. The door slammed against him hard as Deo shoved it closed, and by the sounds of anguished protest the louder man was making it seemed like it must have hurt. “Fuck! Sonova... Who’s in there? You come out now, y’hear?”
From the other bedroom, Tina moaned as she stirred, waking up and feeling unusually groggy. The doors were thin enough to hear through, though she didn’t seem entirely with it. “Whuh...?”
There was no expression on Deo’s face. No thought, no feeling. Only pure action and determination. His hands latched on to the intruder’s ankle. Ye yanked once again, upending the figure on the floor. He then twisted the leg at the knee, putting the modicum of Tai Chi training Deo knew to use.
Deo’s intruder let loose a blood-curdling scream as his knee twisted with a pop. The one in the hall shouted as he pushed the door open. He held a large hunting rifle at Deo. “Let him go!” He shouted with a deep, authoritarian voice. “Now!”
Deo dropped the first intruder and whirled about on the newcomer. He stared directly into the eyes behind the mask without fear and shot a hand up to slap the rifle aside, opposite hand poised to seize the attacker’s throat.
But Deo was too slow for the trigger-happy attacker. The rifle fired, a single, loud shot that shattered the silent air and slammed in to Deo’s chest. The eyes behind the mask went wide, but his hands stayed steady.
A spray of blood covered the walls, desk, and computer behind Deo as the bullet shattered the office window. The force of impact at that range catapulted the young Greek back over the bed where he tumbled into a heap. Astonishingly, he sat up with the same stony expression and pushed slowly back against the wall, struggling to rise to his feet.
“Holy shit! Deo!” Tina exclaimed. She stood behind the shooter in a pair of crimson silk pyjamas with terrified, wide eyes.
The gunman turned toward Tina, levelling the rifle at her. She raised her hands. “Who the hell are you?” Tina's voice trembled. “If you're after drugs, they're downstairs.”
“I'm not...” His deep voice growled before he paused shook his head.
Tina's brow furrowed. “Tom?”
“I ain't Tom!” His voice lowered suspiciously.
Deo pushed up the wall and regained his footing. Pain registered only as a dim knowledge, something irrelevant to the moment. The second attacker threatened Tina and that filled him with renewed energy. He pushed off the wall, leaving a bloody smear in his wake and marched with absolute determination to end the threat to one he loved.
The gunman wavered, swaying on his feet. His gun seemed suddenly heavy in his hands. Tina moaned softly, hit with a wave of dizziness that came on inexplicably and threatened to make her pass out.
“What the... Fuck...?” The gunman asked. His voice trembled in fear as he glanced over at the rising Deo. “Jesus! You're... You're one of them freaks!”
The gunman backed away, stumbling over his own feet before he turned and bolted out the door.
Tina swayed on her feet, leaning against the door for stability as she turned from the attacker to Deo. The sight of his wounds gave her strength, an adrenaline surge that have her legs stability. She moved quickly in to the room, heading for his side. “Lie down!” She commanded.
Deo seemed deaf to her words. His eyes followed the attacker until it vanished from view. He marched after it, leaving a trail of blood in his steps.
“DEO!” Tina shouted, grabbing his arm. “Stop! You're hurt!”
He paused as she caught him back and looked down at her hand. He looked at her face, then her eyes, and then--as she watched--life slowly returned to his eyes. A twitch of recognition appeared in his brow. His lips fumbled awkwardly, “Aunt...Tina?”
He fell back against the wall outside the office and slid down to the floor, leaving a bloody smear. He touched the wound in his chest numbly. “Why am I bleeding?”
“Lie back. Stay still.” She commanded, a slight tremor in her voice as she gently helped to lower him to the floor. She quickly grabbed a pillow for his head before rushing in to the office to get some bandages and equipment. “You've been shot, Deo. Stay with me.”
“Stay with--shot--how--who…?” He looked at his hand and it began shaking violently. “B-Blood...MY blood! Oh, gods!”
Tina rushed back in to the room, a phone to her ear. “I have a white, male, early twenties, gunshot wound to the chest, in my apartment above the clinic... Rifle, high calibre... Yes, he’s still alive, still conscious... I don’t know, Jane! Just get the damn ambulance here, would you? He needs a hospital!”
“Hold on, Deo. Help is on the way.” She dropped to her knees and set the phone down at her side as she carefully examined the wound. She put pressure on it, and was surprised to find that he wasn’t bleeding out as fast as she’d have expected. Tina frowned. As good as a sign as that was, it was certainly strange.
Deo shook with near panic. “W-What is it? I don’t like that look on your face!”
“Nothing... It isn't as bad as it looks.” She forced a smile.
“T-That’s good, right…?” He broke into a sweat and shivered. “I-I feel cold,” he gasped. “It’s hard--hard to breathe--there’s--somebody in my room--watch--don’t!”
“You knocked him out. It's alright.” Tina assured him. He'd lost a lot of blood, but even now the flow of blood was starting to stop. If he was having trouble breathing, she mused, something could have pierced his lung - but that should have shown a lot more damage than this. She'd only seen healing like this a few times in this world, but she'd seen it a whole lot more often in her memories of the old world. Was it possible? “I'll get you a blanket, Deo. Stay with me, kiddo. Tell me about Emile again.”
His eyes flew open. “N-N-NO, don’t leave me!”
“I'm right here, Deo. I'm not leaving you. I'm just going to grab a blanket off the end of your bed.” She reached in to the room, tugging a folded blanket loose from under the unconscious attacker as she continued to speak. “Everything's alright. You're not alone. Tell me about Emile, Deo. Tell me what he looks like.”
“O-kay…” he swallowed anxiously and a smile crept across his lips. “Emile...I have a p-picture...on my phone.”
“Describe him to me.” Tina prompted, spreading the blanket on top of him before going back to look at the wound.
“He has long brown hair and d-dark eyes. He’s very pale b-but it looks good. He has this w-way of l-looking at me and his smile…”
“Gotta love a nice smile.” Tina added distractedly. How was there not more damage? “How did you meet?”
“W-We were in the same class,” he licked his lips. “D-Drawing a nude… I saw he exaggerated the m-model’s...um--and asked about it. We g-got to talking about perception and emphasis…” His words drifted off slowly until his chin dropped and he fell still.
“Deo?” She checked for a pulse, breathing slightly easier once she knew he was still alive. His breathing was shallow, but still steady. That was good.
Her suspicions weren't quite as good.
Tina's mind raced. If she was right, Deo had an x-gene. There was no other easy explanation for how he'd survived a rifle shot to the chest, nor how she had felt sudden and inexplicable fatigue after the shot. If she'd been in the old world, a simple genetic test could have confirmed her theory, but this wasn't the old world and she wasn't a genetics expert.
All she knew was that if she was right, sending Deo to the hospital would go very badly for him. Worse still if Tom raised suspicions in his role as Sheriff or questioned her about who had broken in to the apartment and shot her cousin's son.
She didn't imagine ‘you did, you son of a bitch!’ would be a reaction that would be taken very well. Tina sighed, running her fingers through her hair, streaking blood through her raven locks. No. She couldn't report this to the police. She couldn't let Deo get to the hospital. She had to take care of this herself.
She picked up the phone and quickly called Jane's cell phone to cancel the ambulance. Jane wasn't pleased, but that was fine. She didn't have to be.
Deo’s pulse was still steady, but he needed care. She needed to get him downstairs to the clinic, but there was no way she'd manage to take him there on her own. Her eyes drifted to the unconscious man sprawled on Deo's bed.
“If that was Tom...” Tina mused as she stood and walked over to him. She lifted his head, pulling the mask off his head.
“Well, that's just great.” Tina cursed in Greek.
Paul McArthurs groaned as consciousness began to return.
“I hate this world sometimes.” Tina sighed, her jaw clenched. “Zeus, when I find you again, you've got some explaining to do.”