Tooth wanted to gnaw off his lips. The whole outing was a failure. When they arrived at Rick’s alleged apartment, it was deserted. The bastard had left some garbage, but there weren’t any documents, any clues. They scooped up some of the loose paper just in case it hid something relevant, but Rick obviously knew wolves were after him.
He watched the empty streets as they drove along dimly lit roads, passing by prostitutes and the homeless walking down the side of the road. There were no words for how frustrated he was with the outcome of tonight’s mission. Tracy was still waiting for his justice, and Luci would still have to endure the fear of possible abduction. They all would.
As they turned to the gate to the compound, a small shape moving on the side of the road caught Tooth’s eye. From afar, he thought it was a rat, but the sinking feeling in his gut deepened with the realization it was Manson wandering on the sidewalk. The kitten backed away to the wall at the sound of roaring bikes.
“Stop! Stop the car,” he yelled at Don, who hit the brakes so abruptly Tooth’s arms hit the dashboard. They were lucky to be the last ones in the group, or things could have gotten nasty. Ignoring the sudden pain in his side and the horn coming from some car driving up to them, Tooth opened the door and ran out onto the sidewalk, descending on the tiny kitten like a hawk. He cradled it to his chest and ran for the gate with his stomach sinking all the way to his navel. Luci would never leave Manson out of sight like that. Would they find a bloodbath at the compound? His face heated up as he reached the gate and slipped in even before it opened enough to let in the bikes.
He almost tripped over something on the ground, only to realize it was Luci’s phone.
It was as if his mind split into a thousand pieces that couldn’t put two and two together. His throat tightened, and he sped straight into the clubhouse where the three men he’d left on guard were watching some shit on television. They all looked his way.
“Where is he?” wheezed Tooth, rushing to the staircase.
“He went to pet the goat or some shit, but then he came back,” yelled one of the guys.
“His fucking phone was lying on the ground by the gate, and the cat was outside. You were supposed to fucking know where he is!” shouted Tooth on his way upstairs. He would have smashed in their faces if it wasn’t for the fact that time was too precious. A tingle of hope glinted in his heart when he saw their door, but upon entering, all that greeted him was a cold, empty space. “Luci?” he asked quietly, stepping forward with his mind blank.
Blitz followed him into the room, white as a sheet. “I’ve seen him just like, ten, twenty minutes ago. He was walking Astaroth to her scooter. I made sure he knew not to go out.”
All Tooth wanted was to kick Blitz in the balls. He didn’t do it because he was still holding Manson in his right hand. “Fuck. Tell Priest you lost his son,” growled Tooth, rushing to the computer. The necklace. Surely, Luci would still be wearing it.
He put Manson on the bed and started his computer, pacing in front of it. Why did it take so long? He needed this information as soon as possible. And somewhere behind the corner of current thought was Luci’s voice screaming at him, “I didn’t want you to go. Everything would have been fine if you stayed.”
Tooth sat down on the bed and pulled hard on his own hair. Luci had told him he was scared, and Tooth still left to find stupid motherfucking Rick. How could they have gotten to Luci though? Maybe the information about Rick’s house was all a smokescreen to get a chance at abducting Luci?
Tooth finally got the tracking program to run, but what he saw made his heart stop beating and blood run cold in his veins. Tooth dragged his hand down his hip. If he was ever close to crying, it was now. And just as he thought that, a beep turned his attention back to the screen, where a detailed map revealed Luci’s location. He sat down and enlarged the picture, keeping air in his lungs. The results made him break out in cold sweat, and he rushed for the door.
“Priest!” Tooth turned on his heel and shut the door to keep Manson in as he went into the corridor. “He’s not here. He’s fucking gone!”
“I know!” Priest yelled from downstairs, and his voice was followed by a scream. “These motherfuckers had one job!”
“I tracked him. He’s in a morgue fifteen minutes drive from here,” shouted Tooth breathlessly, already on his way down the stairs. Adrenaline prevented him from feeling any physical discomfort. On his way out, he saw Priest put a big long nail through Blitz’s ear, pinning him to the bar. “It’s Ghost’s hospital.”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Priest showed his teeth when he caught up, with his hands still bloodied.
Ghost followed close by. “Do you want me to call them? Maybe someone knows something.” His contacts could come in handy, but if Luci was still alive (Tooth would pray to Satan himself for that to be true), they didn’t want to warn whoever was with him that they were coming.
“We need to go now.” Urgency burned in Tooth as if there was boiling oil instead of blood flowing through his veins. He needed Luci to be alive.
“Let’s leave someone with your computer, to inform us in case he moves,” Priest said and ordered one of the guys to do so before Tooth even answered. “We can’t take too many men inside. Someone’s gonna notice otherwise.”
Tooth swallowed hard but nodded despite his doubts. “You’re right. It’s a public building. Fuck.” Tooth bit his lip and stormed through the door. “Let’s go.”
Priest must have given silent orders because several men followed him to their bikes. His blood was on fire as he reached the car.
Ghost got into the passenger seat and fastened his seatbelt. “I took my instruments, in case he’s injured.” The pale blue eyes had so much focus they relieved at least some nerves in Tooth’s body.
“How long does it fucking take to take someone’s organ?” asked Tooth, driving through the gate right away. He didn’t look left and had to hit the gas pedal hard not to collide with another car. But it was all nothing. They would be there on time. He’d hold Luci and carve the heart out of Rick’s chest. In that order.
He couldn’t stop thinking that all this wouldn’t have happened if he stayed behind. Luci was so sad to see him go, and he had reasons.
“You need to cut the breastbone for the heart. I think they would leave that as their second thing. And they need to put him under first properly. Depends on how prepared they were to do it today. Maybe they want to keep him for a few days under observation. They probably don’t know about the tracker.” Ghost sounded confident and calm as usual, but it wasn’t helping Tooth’s anxiety. The image in his mind, of Luci having his breastbone sawed through and ribs cracked open, made him want to howl, kill, and smash skulls.
The streetlights melted into a single line on Tooth’s left as he rushed down the highway, followed by a swarm of motorcycles. They didn’t give him much confidence this time. He should have never left Luci with those three idiots. Images of blood mingled with those of unbearable defeat and frustration only grew under his skin as he left the highway to park near the hospital.
Ghost unbuckled his seatbelt and took his bag on his way out of the car. “There’s a back entrance into the morgue.”
“Do you have the keys or do we break in?” asked Tooth, quickly parking the car and getting out to join the other brothers. He would attack a hospital for Luci, even one as vast as this one.
Ghost looked at his watch. “There should only be one person there at this time,” he said, already leading them through a row of trees and then along the back walls of the morgue.
Priest gestured for everyone to follow, and a total of seven men slid into the shadows like a pack of wolves tracking down a bear that had snatched their young. Tooth was sweating from the stress of it, but with his hand already on the gun, he was ready to confront Rick any moment. This time it wouldn’t be him bleeding.
Ghost stopped them, and heat flooded Tooth’s brain when he noticed a man in scrubs having a smoke by the open backdoor. This was the chance they needed, but when he clenched his hands on the gun, Ghost stepped out of the shadows himself. “Hey!” he said to the smoking man. “I know it’s late, but I forgot my keys, and I don’t wanna go all the way from the front.”
Tooth wouldn’t wait. He emerged from behind the corner and went straight for the guy, who didn’t even have the time to scream before the handle of Tooth’s gun hit the back of his head. “We’re going in,” he said, pulling on the door. His skin crawled the moment he faced a dimly lit corridor.
Ghost stalled for a moment by the unconscious man but then pulled him inside like a good boy. He stood up and turned on the white halogens.
“Tie him up,” Priest said to one of the guys.
“We have to be quiet. Noise carries easily here,” Ghost said and passed Tooth.
There was no discussion, they needed to move quickly. As they ran down the sterile corridor, each room was a disappointment. Empty examination rooms, offices, and what not. They all stirred when someone gave a silent shriek upon opening one of the doors. All became clear when Tooth saw a white silhouette on a steel table. His stomach turned. He wasn’t afraid of blood and guts, and the man was definitely not Luci, but the sight of a corpse on that fucking table, lit up by the halogens like a fucking UFO victim, with his chest open, had Tooth gagging. This was what would become of Luci if they didn’t act fast enough.
Not to mention that even being here brought up all the memories Tooth wanted to keep buried. Only now did he realize that it was the exact same morgue where he’d had to identify Tracy. They were in the room where bodies were refrigerated, and checking all the shelves was a tedious task, but it had to be done. As Tooth pulled out the metal container with a young black man, for a moment he almost thought time had stopped, and it was in fact Tracy, cold and dead. But time didn’t stop. It was ticking quicker than ever.
“Where the fuck can he be?” Milk groaned as he pulled a bandana over his nose and mouth.
Priest was already on the phone. “The tracker is pointing to the morgue? Hasn’t moved at all?” He gave Tooth a grim glare.
Tooth growled, hitting his thigh with his fists to unload at least some of the tension deep within. He was looking at body after body, but none of them was Luci. It didn’t make that much sense if Ghost claimed the surgery would take time, but he still needed to know if his love hadn’t been drugged and left in the coffin-like refrigerator.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” Milk exclaimed with a yelp when he opened another one of the shelves and stumbled back so fast he tripped over something and fell on his ass. There was a dead body with the head open and brain on show on the shelf. It was something Milk had already seen during his career in the Coffin Nails. Still, it was gruesome.
Tooth opened his mouth to speak but shut it when they heard a loud clicking noise and... one of the walls seemed to stir.
Ghost hissed, looking around. “What the fuck is that?”
Tooth shut the drawer and rushed to the strange wall. At first he thought it was just wishful thinking, but no, there was a gap at the corner, which had previously seemed as solid white as the rest.
“I’ll be damned,” muttered Priest as he too noticed.
Tooth put his hand against the gap, and a shudder went down his spine when he felt a cool breeze from behind the wall. Without thinking, he slipped in his fingers and pulled.
Milk pointed to his own chest. “It was me who found it. Remember.”
He didn’t even get to finish before Ghost pushed him away to help Tooth pull at the wall. Something cracked, and the wall moved smoothly, uncovering a dark corridor leading to a lower floor. Tooth was sure going down there would be like uncovering the gates of hell.
He looked back, shocked with that find. Why would the hospital obscure the entrance to the basement? The walls around the stairs were a dirty beige, which reminded him of old, non-renovated buildings.
“Don’t look at me,” Ghost muttered with his eyes wide. “I’ve never been there.”
“Let’s just go,” ordered Priest.
They descended the stairs in silence, and the worst thing was that a part of Tooth yelled that this could just be storage rooms, and they were wasting valuable time when Lucifer could be dying. But hadn’t they penetrated the rest of the building by now?
He dove right in, step by careful step. The lamp at the landing was unstable and kept twinkling, but it led them lower, into a space smelling of antiseptic and old paint. His breath stilled when he stood in front of one of the longest corridors he’d seen. The light was extremely sparse, yellowish lamps placed just close enough to provide sufficient light for moving around. He didn’t see any doors either, just a broad walkway with a few white pieces of furniture scattered on the way, as if this were some kind of abandoned asylum.
It almost felt like they should be anticipating hidden traps, arrows flying from the walls, but there was nothing like it, just them and their boots stomping on the tiles. Tooth didn’t even notice when his march turned into a jog. He needed to find Luci so bad it hurt. He’d give a kidney to get him back.
He was happy to see the corridor narrow down, but instead of ending at a door, or something logical like that, it branched out into three smaller walkways, each with cables and pipes taking much of the ceilings. Air left his lungs as he stared ahead, trying to guess where they should go. There was nothing about any of those corridors that seemed to make it a better option than the others.
“What do you think?”
Priest was about to say something when they saw a shadow of movement in the corridor to the right. Tooth’s feet acted before he could even think, carrying him toward the male silhouette. The guy’s first impulse was to get back behind the door he’d emerged from, but the moment he spotted Tooth, he ran down the corridor at full speed.
Thinking wasn’t even an option. Tooth shot forward, each step carrying him farther than he ever thought possible. His muscles ached, heavy and warm as he took yet another deep breath, closer and closer to his goal. That broad set of the shoulders, that ugly bald skull, the cheap leather jacket. It was Rick. The bastard didn’t deserve a shot in the head. He would be tackled down. His face would slap against the hard tiles of the floor. Then, there would be a gun to his head.
Tooth couldn’t remember ever planning his movements in such detail, but once he reached his target, everything happened almost exactly like he imagined it to. Rick was wheezing under him, still bucking a bit, but he had to know the battle was lost.
Despite a pained moan after the clash with the floor, Rick remained silent. He had to know he was a dead man.
Only then the other men caught up with Tooth, who gritted his teeth. “Milk, cuff him,” he muttered, pressing the barrel to the back of Rick’s head. “Where’s Lucifer?”
“It’s that blue-haired junkie that brought him here for cash, not me. She sold her kidney, so why not a boy?” groaned Rick when Milk restrained him and pulled him up so hard Rick’s joints cracked. He wouldn’t look Tooth in the eye.
Priest stepped up closer. “Where is Lucifer?” he huffed into Rick’s face.
Tooth shook his head. So it was Suzy, whom they’d accepted with open arms, who had lured Lucifer here. “Fuck.”
Rick spat out some blood and looked up, completely stiff in the shoulders. “I can show you.”
It didn’t sound good at all. Tooth needed to make sure he kept an eye on Rick in case the fucker wanted to weasel out of this one. He did lead them down the corridor, but he was stomping so loudly Tooth wanted to smack him.
“If I break your legs, you won’t be making all that noise, will you?” he hissed, but flinched when his injured side made itself known. He hadn’t felt it as he raced after Rick, but now that he wasn’t on such an adrenaline rush, the pain was coming back. At least they had Rick, the only person who could show them the way.
And like magic, the stomping stopped. Rick walked through the labyrinth without hesitation, but his breathing was practically a wheeze by the time they reached a small steel door. He didn’t try to say anything, didn’t try to bargain like Harlow did. It seemed he knew that killing Priest’s son was when any business ended.
Tooth walked over and opened the door with his gun raised, but what he saw made him feel like his legs became one with the floor. In the eerily white, sterile light of an old surgical lamp lay Luci, strapped to an operating table with cables that connected him to a computer. His face was hidden by an oxygen mask, but those were his beautiful eyebrows and cheeks. Tooth would recognize them anywhere.
Within a heartbeat, his eyes rose to a man and a woman, both dressed in surgical protective gear, staring at him over the unconscious boy. He squeezed his hand on the gun, ready to blow their brains out. The edges of the room seemed to tremble with each breath he took.
The surgical masks were down, and when it hit Tooth, it was like a slap in the face - the male was the same doctor who had him identify Tracy’s body. There were more wrinkles on that face than twelve years ago, but it was the same guy, without a doubt. There was not enough anger in the world to describe what Tooth felt. Fire was consuming him from within, making his eyes sting with its smoke.
“Back off to the corridor, or I’ll cut the boy,” said the doctor, but his voice wasn’t all that steady. The scalpel in his hand hovered a fraction of an inch above Lucifer’s stomach. The woman was slowly backing away, her eyes wide.
Tooth let out a low exhale, trying to focus. “You’re outnumbered. Put that scalpel down and wake him up,” he growled, trying very hard to keep his hand steady. He couldn’t bear that piece of sharp steel so close to Luci’s bare stomach.
The doctor looked into Tooth’s eyes and a fraction of a second later, pressed the scalpel to the pristine skin and cut. Flesh parted like a hungry mouth through the entire length of Lucifer’s stomach. The scalpel fell to the floor with a clatter that seemed to break Tooth’s eardrums. With the screaming and chaos that ensued like an avalanche, the doctor turned around and darted to the other exit.
Tooth stumbled forward. “No!” His throat clenched, preventing him from breathing properly. He stood in the middle of the room, confused. The Nails charged after the doctors like a pack of hungry mongrels. If they got to the bastard first, Tooth wouldn’t get to pull his teeth. Tracy’s face on the pillow briefly flashed through his mind, but it was only a fantasy he had chosen not to bury and leave behind. It was over.
Luci was bleeding.
A shot resonated through the room like thunder, and someone fell to the floor by Tooth’s feet. Rick. Shot through the forehead like Bell. Priest ran past them, but Ghost was already on the other side of the table. Each second was too slow as life trickled out of Luci’s pale body all too quickly. Ghost pulled up his sleeves and got a pair of latex gloves. It was all like a lucid dream. Tooth couldn’t escape the sharp smell of blood and the way Luci’s body opened in front of him, revealing parts that should never be seen - dark and meaty. He put the gun on the table and rushed to get his own gloves. This was more important than catching the doctors. Everything became a blur of screams and pulsing. He joined Ghost, mechanically doing all he was told. He was Ghost’s two additional arms, but it wasn’t good enough. He had no idea what he was doing. All he ever did to flesh was tear it apart, so how could he put it back together?
“Luci, love, please don’t die,” he uttered shakily. His vision was continuously blurring so he needed to blink all the time to see what they were doing. And Ghost was pushing needles into that lovely skin to sew it back together like a rag doll.
“He didn’t injure internal organs.” Ghost’s words came like from behind a thick veil, just like the stampede of steps down the corridor and a gunshot from where Priest followed the doctor. If it could save Luci’s life, Tooth would let that stain on humanity live. It didn’t matter anymore.
His mind was in a haze, but his moves remained sharp and undisturbed, allowing him to follow instructions right away. There were loud noises and shouting in the background, much more than he’d expected from the number of people who came with them, but he just didn’t have the time to worry about them, completely focused on the slim body in front of him. He needed to keep him alive.
Policemen surrounded them like black hyenas, some pushing the brothers to the ground, including Priest, who wouldn’t stop yelling.
“Better call a doctor. The boy got cut with a scalpel!”
Police. Fuck. Tooth’s body covered in cold sweat but he was like a statue, glued to the tiles, and he wouldn’t move away from Luci until they finished patching him up
“We’re almost done,” Ghost whispered to him, moisture beading on his forehead.
“Step aside, there’s medical staff coming,” yelled someone all too close to Tooth and tried to push him aside. What followed was a reflexive move. Tooth spun back and smashed the officer straight in the face. All hell broke loose. After a short struggle, Tooth was pushed to the floor with a discrete kick to his injured side. It sparked a flash of light behind his eyelids, and he hardly recognized the howl of pain as his own. His hands were pulled back and cuffed in sharp, punishing movements.
His eyes blurred with yet another stab of pain when several new pairs of legs passed through, all clad in the thin loose pants hospital personnel wore. It was the medical staff this time, and all that Tooth had left was to watch the boy be gently transferred to stretchers. At least the rhythm of the heart monitor was a calming presence in his mind.
Ghost got cuffed behind the table, so now they could look at each other underneath it, across the old, tiled floor.
“He’s gonna be fine, Tooth. He’s safe.”
Tooth hit his head against the floor with a low growl but watched the medics, in their clean scrubs, carry out the stretcher while one of them stayed with the injured policeman, stopping his nosebleed.
Tooth looked around, at all the brothers flat on the floor, and then back at Luci, whose pale hand slid off the stretcher, waving from the motion, as if saying good-bye.
But it was more like ‘see you later’.