Taken! Tina has been taken by Felig from the home she and Nate shared and had believed Felig-proof. Just when the couple had smoothed out and polished the jagged edges of their relationship. Just when everything had fit together so perfectly. Nate is on a mission now and is learning nowhere is safe and no one untouchable. And most importantly, that allies can be found in the most unexpected of places.
An injured Nate and Avner dragged themselves over to the rest of the dining room’s petrified occupants. A robotic Moz held an apoplectic Evie. Spechelle sat on a salvageable chair. The mute girl rocked back and forth. Wiley stood by her, jittery as a tweaker. The silence in the room, punctuated by Evie’s occasional sobs, was testimony to the horrific fact that Tina, Iris and Akivah were gone. The three had been ripped from their seats at the breakfast table. Caught up in a spiral of hot, mad air furnished by Lord Advisor Leltin, they’d been unaware of the enemy’s presence and had realized too late that a Felig was on their turf. Able to morph into anyone or anything, Leltin had chosen to invade the Lowe compound by appearing as Tina’s pet cat, Tatum. Since the animal roamed freely, he had been able to get close to his prey. Once in their midst, he’d revealed himself and had wreaked havoc. The ticked-off Felig leader had reminded all present of his sovereignty after having scooped up the women and the child. Victorious in the mission, he had blown out the back wall of the dining room, flown through the opening with his prize and had disappeared.
“Good god! Here one minute, gone and absorbed the next.” Wiley shuddered.
“Don’t say that. Don’t even think it,” Nate demanded. “You’re feeding it power if you believe that.”
“Nate, be real. They are…dead, absorbed. No one has ever come back. Matty doesn’t count. She’s converted,” Moz reminded.
“They aren’t absorbed. Tina can’t be gone. Shut up! I just got her back.” Nate looked to the gaping hole at the end of the room.
“I don’t want to accept it, but I have to face facts and you have to, too. Don’t delude yourself,” Moz said, pushing Nate into reality as swiftly as possible because when the truth hit him it was going to be next to impossible to handle. They had not always seen eye to eye, but he felt for the guy right now. Moz thought of Tina, teared up and hugged Evie tighter to him.
“I don’t want to accept any of it. Oh god!” Avner yelled. He was so worked up that he poured sweat and began hyperventilating. He fell to the floor on his knees only to be hoisted up by Wiley and Nate.
“I won’t accept it either. I know what I saw, but it’s not going to be my reality,” Nate vowed. He observed Avner, then shouted an order at Wiley. “Please bring water and find something to drink it out of.”
“Will do.” The boy made for the kitchen.
Evie broke out of her trance. “Nate, you and Avner are bleeding. Let me get my first-aid kit.”
“You ain’t goin’ anywhere,” said Moz, holding her by the elbows.
“It’s okay, hon. I’ll be fine. Lightning’s not gonna strike twice in the same place this morning.” Evie slipped from her hubby and patted his arm. She turned and spoke to Spechelle. “Come on, missy. I need your help.” She pulled the teen up from the wobbly chair. They hustled out to fetch the kit and anything else useful.
Moz and Nate transferred Avner to a vacant, stable chair. Nate buckled. Moz caught him, but not able to find an unbroken chair, he aided Nate in sliding to the floor next to Avner’s seat.
“Evie! Wiley! Hurry up!” hollered Moz. “I need help in here.”
The ladies came running with a couple of first-aid kits. Wiley returned from the kitchen with a stack of paper cups and a pitcher of iced tea he’d found in the fridge.
Evie fell back into nurse mode. She tended to the facial cuts that Nate and Avner had sustained. She knelt between the two with Spechelle assisting. “I’m cleaning these cuts with peroxide and adhesive strips. Clean it better when you get to the bathroom.”
“Oww!” Avner cried, but he wasn’t reacting to the disinfectant on his skin. Avner yelled because in re-arranging himself on the chair he discovered something uncomfortable. He held out his left hand in front of him. “Son of a bitch!”
“You got a broken pinky, man,” said Moz. “I can fix that.” He bent and picked pieces of chair splinters from the floor. He broke two pieces to size to fashion a splint. Evie cleaned the injured digit as best she could, took the wood and attached them to Avner’s finger with tape and gauze.
“That’ll hold until we get you to an ER,” said Evie while administering her handiwork.
“I’m not going,” Avner replied.
“Yes, you are,” Nate said.
“Only if you go.”
“Not me. I’ve got a lot to do.”
“We have a lot to do,” Avner corrected. “Wiley, some iced tea, please.” He offered his good hand.
“Stubborn bastard,” Nate remarked.
“Proud of it,” Avner retorted.
Wiley poured and served everyone. Without a place to sit, he put the pitcher on the floor and plopped next to it. All sipped in the eerie quiet.
“This is not doin’ it for me. I think I’ll make a Long Island Iced Tea,” Wiley declared. He gulped his non-alcoholic drink and jumped up with his empty cup. “Oh, I forgot. Nate, may I raid your liquor stash?” Wiley waited, a hopeful look on his face.
“Knock yourself out, kid. Remember though. Don’t try to drown your sorrow with booze.”
Wiley left to get something stronger.
“Bring the tequila bottle back!” shouted Nate.
“Now what?” Spechelle asked. She finished affixing the last adhesive strip to Nate’s forehead.
“Take your pick. We have reporters outside, a public in God-knows-what state after seeing my and Avner’s pictures, a big-assed hole where this room’s back wall used to be and most importantly, three loved members of this circle gone.” Nate took a deep breath and cleared his throat.
Avner broke down.
Nate reached up and touched his friend’s hand. “Hold it together for Iris and Akivah.”
“Nate, they are gone, aren’t they? Am I kiddin’ myself?”