Brothers of Chaos (The Unstoppable Titans Book 1) (4 page)

He wasn’t
looking forward to telling Chris about Eric’s second escape, however.

Owen slowly
walked into the house where he had left Chris and the girl. The girl was on the
plain brown couch, crying. Chris was sitting next to her.

“It’s okay,
Stephanie. He’s gone, now.”

“He bit me!”

Blood was
dripping from a wound on her neck. She was holding a towel against it. It
appeared nothing would calm her down. Chris noticed Owen.

“You get
him?” he asked Owen.

Owen knew
the procedure: After the creature’s heart was destroyed, its body dissolved
into a nasty, brown sludge. After the slaying, the sludge was to be buried to
keep from being discovered. In the case of the tree house, they’d had to leave
the sludge there. They didn’t have time to dispose of it properly because
they’d had to get Daniel and the girl to the hospital. No one seemed to notice
or care that it was there, though.

In the two
years Owen had known Chris, he’d never lied to him about anything. This would
be his first lie. “Yeah, I got him.”

CHAPTER
4
 
 

Daniel still couldn’t believe
he’d broken his arm. He sat at his worktable with his arm straight out in front
of him. His laptop computer was glaring at him, but he was not glaring back.
Instead, he was noticing Alyssa, who was sitting on a couch in the middle of
the room. She was reading a book.
What
book is it, today?
he asked himself. He leaned forward slightly to get a
better look:
The Nature of Animals.

Another
animal book. Daniel just didn’t get Alyssa’s obsession with the beasts. He knew
she had wanted to be a veterinarian but he didn’t get why. Ever since he was a
kid, he’d always had bad experiences with animals. His first pet—a frog—wound
up dead after only three hours in his care. His second pet was a little more
common: a dog. The dog had bitten him when he’d tried playing with it and his
dad, being as overprotective as he was, gave it away. Daniel never saw it
again. He didn’t even have enough time to give it a name, but he’d been partial
to Bentley.

That was the
name he’d given his next pet, however. He’d waited until he graduated high
school and moved out on his own to get another dog. Bentley had been a good
dog—an English bulldog—and extremely affectionate. Daniel would have never
guessed once he’d gotten into his first relationship with a girl he would’ve
gladly given up the dog for her. Amy, his first true love, didn’t like Bentley
at all and made sure Daniel knew every moment of every day they were together.
In an effort to make her happy, Daniel had given Bentley away to complete
strangers.

Amy broke up
with Daniel a few weeks later. He had been devastated. He had no girlfriend and
no dog. Bentley had been the only one in this world who’d loved him
unconditionally, and Daniel had given him away without hesitation.

Alyssa
noticed Daniel peering awkwardly at her book and put it down on the table in
front of her. “Yes, it’s another animal book. What of it?” she asked with a
smile.

“Nothing. I
just don’t get why you love them so much.”

“You used to
love them, too. I remember that sad story about Bentley,” she said as she got
up from the couch. “You know, it sounds more like you should hate girls instead
of animals.”

“I could
never hate girls,” he said smoothly.

Alyssa
laughed. “Stop trying to convince me you’re not gay. I never thought you were.”

“Who started
that rumor, then?” Daniel asked
defensivesively
.

“I already
told you. Your brother did.”

Daniel had
heard that before. Douglas, his biological twin (Daniel loved to brag about how
he was “two minutes older”), had caused a little havoc when he came to visit
one time. Daniel didn’t doubt his brother was the root of the “gay” rumor but
he loved teasing Alyssa about it anyway. It made her laugh and he loved to make
her laugh.

He leaned
back in his chair and stared around the huge condominium in which they resided.
It had two floors, all of their bedrooms upstairs. He couldn’t believe Alyssa
was able to afford this place, though he shouldn’t have been surprised. Her
family was rich, her daddy being in the oil business. But Alyssa never pretended
to be better than anybody.

Suddenly the
front door opened and in walked Chris and Owen. Neither one of them looked too
happy. Chris immediately went upstairs without a word. Owen sat down on the
couch and stared at the wall in front of him. Alyssa sat down next to him.

“Tough
night?”

“It was
action-packed,” Owen declared. “I used my Rejecter.”

“You only
get one,” Daniel said.

“I know,”
Owen replied, and then whispered, “Eric got away. Again.”

“Oh no.
How?” Alyssa asked.

Owen didn’t
answer.

“Chris is
taking it pretty hard, isn’t he?” she asked.

“He doesn’t
know yet.”

“Are you
serious? Why did he seem so upset?”

“Because
Eric bit Stephanie.”

*
 
*
 
*

Chris stood
in front of his bathroom mirror, studying the bite mark on his neck. His heart
began pounding relentlessly in his chest. He had felt the pain in the
beginning, when he was fighting Eric, but it didn’t really register until
later, when he was comforting Stephanie. It was still a mystery to the monster
hunters as to what happened to a person after they were bitten. Was it like the
movies, where the victim turned into one, too? Upon seeing Stephanie with the
wound on her neck, he knew she would be their first case of this. And now Chris
knew he would be the second.

He had known
going into this that he and his friends were out of their league. This sudden
outbreak of monster attacks had started two years ago; there had been nothing
like it before. Basically, before that time, monsters didn’t exist.

But then he
saw it for himself. Owen had killed the first one shortly after he and Chris
met, and with a pencil no less. Right through the heart. Chris had encountered
many unsightly things on the streets, all of which led to the creation of their
enterprise.

He knew he
had to tell the others what had happened to him tonight. He wasn’t going to
make the mistake people do in the movies, where they became infected by
something and didn’t bother telling anyone until it was too late.

There was a
knock on the bathroom door. Chris opened it and saw Alyssa standing there,
smiling that warm smile she always wore when she was sure someone needed
cheering up. Chris saw her eyes settle upon his neck, the smile fading
instantly.

“It was only
a matter of time, right?” he asked.

*
 
*
 
*

“What do we
know about these things?” Chris asked as he paced in front of the others. “What
happens when one bites you? Where did they come from? These are the things we
are still in the dark about.”

Owen, Alyssa
and Daniel were sitting on the couch, pads and pens in their hands, but not
writing anything. There was nothing to write, really.

“We’ve never
had a chance to find out,” Daniel said. “All the people who have been attacked
by these things have died. We do know the vampires aren’t very consistent—first
they were leaving bodies everywhere. Then, bodies stopped showing up.”

“Exactly,”
Chris said, still pacing. “We’ve never gotten a chance to find out. But our
luck may have just changed. I was bitten by one of them tonight. We’ll have to
keep an eye on me to see what happens.”

“You mean,
use you like a lab rat?” Alyssa asked.

“Yes. It’s
our only chance to learn more. While we’re doing this, I’m stepping down as
leader of the group. Owen is in charge for the time being.”

“What about
Stephanie?” Owen asked.

“She’s in
the hospital,” Chris said. “She lost a lot of blood. She’ll be fine for now.
Guys, we have to do this. Otherwise, we may never find out how real vampires
function.”

“I don’t
think they’re vampires,” said Owen.

“What do you
mean?”

“Right
before I killed Eric”—he chanced a glance at Alyssa—“I mentioned the word
vampire
and he claimed to not know what
that was. It was like he’d been living under a rock his whole life or
something.”

“If they’re
not really vampires, what are they?” Daniel asked.

“I don’t
know,” said Chris, “but I’m guessing I’m our best chance of finding out.”

*
 
*
 
*

Daniel
didn’t like this idea at all. He ran his fingers through his short brown hair
and stared intently at his laptop. He didn’t know what to look for. He used the
search engine to look up vampires but none of the information he was reading
was very helpful; they all referred to vampires as “undead creatures.”

From what
the monster hunters had encountered on their few occasions, these vampires were
alive. Their hearts beat; their blood ran through their veins. The only myth
that seemed to hold up was their reaction to sunlight. It burned their skin
slightly (Chris and Owen had seen it happen with the vampires they’d
encountered on the streets), but not enough to kill them. Daniel imagined if
they did indeed want to kill a vampire using the sun, they would have to hold
them down for a few hours.

He laughed
at this thought, and then looked around to make sure no one saw him. He tended
to amuse himself often, but he hated when someone saw him laughing at a joke no
one else heard. It was embarrassing. He saw Alyssa sitting by the large
bookcase on the far wall of the condo. She was engrossed in a book; hopefully
not one about cute little kittens and rabbits this time. She was too far away
for him to tell what it was exactly, but he was sure it was relevant to their
current situation. Alyssa was dependable; once she focused on something, she
didn’t stop until the job was done.

He was
pretty sure she would make a great girlfriend, but he never had the nerve to
ask her out. He didn’t care about the gay rumor his brother had started. He
knew she didn’t believe it, but he still didn’t have the confidence to take the
big step. He flirted with her occasionally, but that was as far as his skills
would take him. He looked back to the screen. For some reason, a news story
popped up about a giant squid-creature terrorizing the Gulf of Mexico.

One monster at a time,
he thought.
Once we expand our operation, we’ll get to
you.

He continued
browsing sites.

*
 
*
 
*

Chris was
sitting on his bed, staring at his reflection in the full-length mirror in his
room. He looked the same, but he felt different. He wasn’t sure what it was. It
was something deep inside.

He wondered
if Stephanie felt the same.

He wondered
if he should be with her right now, to comfort her.

He was so
wrapped up in his thoughts he didn’t notice Owen standing in his doorway.

“How do you
feel?” Owen asked.

“Different.
I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel different.”

Owen sat
down next to him. “I know I’m in charge now, and I hate to bring this up, but
what do you want me to do if all of this goes south?”

“Do what you
have to,” Chris said simply. “Whatever it takes to keep the team safe.”

“You are a
part of the team, though. You’re the reason we’re all here, doing what we do.”

“I know, but
there’s no telling what will happen to me. We should plan for the worst.”

“Is the
‘darkness’ taking you? You’re so emo.”

Chris
laughed. “I didn’t say that. I was about to say it, though.” Of course he was
being intentionally dramatic, but it was merely a way of masking his fear.

“Chris,”
said Owen as he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, “everything’s going to
be all right. I promise.”

“When did
you become the adult?” Chris asked with a grin.

“A long time
ago. You didn’t notice until now?”

They
laughed. Chris was relieved when he realized he felt a little better.

“This was a
really close call,” he said to Owen. “They seem to be getting closer each time
we go out there and face these things.”

“Are you
getting worried?”

“Yes. I
don’t know what I would do if I ever lost any of you guys. Sometimes I wonder
if I made a mistake in starting us up in the first place.”

“Fighting
monsters, you mean?”

Chris looked
at Owen and nodded. “We’re all still kids, practically. I just wish I knew
where all these monsters came from.”

Owen had a
troubled look on his face. “I keep wondering that, too.”

“Maybe they
came from space,” Chris teased.

Owen gave a
distracted grunt in response. He looked seriously worried now.

“What’s
wrong, Owen?”

He shook
himself back to the here and now. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were from
space, to be honest. I mean, if they’re not vampires, what else could they be?”

“You still
don’t think they’re vampires?” Chris asked skeptically.

“Eric said
he wasn’t.”

“And you
trust him?”

“Why else
would he say it if he wasn’t?”

“To confuse
you.”

Owen sighed.
“Well, it worked. But I think he and the others are something else. I really
do.”

“Okay,
Owen.”

He stared at
Chris for a moment before leaving the room without another word. Chris suddenly
felt like a jerk with his condescending tone, but could think of nothing to say
as his friend disappeared into the hallway. He would make it up to Owen
somehow.

CHAPTER
5
 
 

Not caring about anything at
the moment, Les tossed his bag of quarters haphazardly to the floor. It was
late and he was exhausted; tonight had been too weird for him. He rubbed his
big belly and lay down on his bed. The walls of his room were covered with
posters for videogames, anime, and movies—pretty much anything considered
popular.

That’s not
to say he was a slave to popular trends. In fact,
Hero Saga
was not even a popular videogame, but he loved it anyway.
The only reason the arcade kept the machine was because Les kept it well funded
every week.

His
grandmother disapproved of so many posters. She insisted it covered up the
beautiful color her husband had painted the walls before he passed away. She
was fond of the color cyan, but Les didn’t care either way. He didn’t bombard
the walls with posters to cover up the color. He merely liked being surrounded
by his favorite things—it made him feel good and whole, and he needed that.

Speaking of
whole, he suddenly couldn’t remember when he’d last eaten. He’d completely
forgotten after the encounter he’d had with Michael. Since he walked to and
from the arcade, he’d worked up an appetite. He always had to walk or take a
cab to get places because he didn’t have a car and Grandma had forbidden him
from driving hers (she disapproved of him “spending so much time playing those
god-awful ‘
vidya
’ games”). It didn’t bother him so
much since he lived right down the street from the place in which he spent much
of his time, but the walk had taken a bit out of him.

As he tried
to work up the energy to get up from bed to make a sandwich, he cursed himself
for mentioning he lived nearby in front of Michael. That guy had been too
weird.

Les got up
from his bed and headed to the kitchen. He knew his way around so well he
didn’t feel the need to turn on any lights.

He froze for
a moment in the hallway just outside his room. He could have sworn he just saw
something move in the living room, in the darkness. He could also swear he felt
something else in the dark, a presence dispelling the air around it. But what?

He was about
to flip the nearest switch to turn on the living-room light, then his stomach
growled. He patted his belly, then stared into the dark living room for a few
more seconds. He could still feel the presence, but he almost didn’t want to
know—see—what was standing there, watching him.
Just make the sandwich and get back to your room, dummy!

Once in the
kitchen, he grabbed the handle on the refrigerator door and opened it. Then he
froze upon seeing the horror that waited.

There was a
head inside the fridge!

Its dead
eyes were rolled up so the whites showed, its mouth wide with what Les figured
was its last scream of agony. He was about to scream himself when a hand rested
on his shoulder. He slowly turned and saw a dark figure behind him. Les could
barely make out the features because he was blocking the light from the fridge,
but he could tell the figure had a finger to its lips.

“Don’t
scream, Les,” said the figure. “We don’t want to wake up Grandma.” Les
recognized the voice immediately. It was Michael. Les nodded in compliance.
Michael removed his hand.

Les was no
longer paralyzed with fear. He slowly turned back to the fridge. Marco Garcia’s
eyes continued to stare upward as if they were trying to look at the contents
on the shelf above.

“What did
you do?” Les asked, turning back to Michael.

“I gave him
a choice, and in the end, it came to a fight.”

Les looked
at the head again. “Looks like you won.”

He walked
very quickly to his room a moment later, his heart beating painfully. Michael
was right behind him. Les wanted more than anything to just slam the door
behind him and lock the bastard out, but he was sure if Michael could rip the
head off of someone, he could probably break down a door, and Les didn’t want
to give him any reason to be angry. He waited for Michael to enter the room,
and then closed the door behind him.

Michael
looked around the room in awe. There were the life-sized replicas of
Aslain
and
Norrack
in the far
corner of the room in front of
Les’s
closet. They
were facing each other as if they were battling to the death.
Aslain
was wielding what looked like a real sword and
Norrack
had a battle-axe held high over his head, ready to
strike.

“This is
really nice,” Michael said.

“Thank you,”
Les said nervously. He didn’t know where this was going. What he wanted more
than anything was for Michael to just leave and never come back. He wanted to
call the cops and let them deal with it. But what about the head in his fridge?
And where was Marco’s body? He was certain the cops would have a few questions
about the head. Les would tell them it was Michael, of course, but it wouldn’t
end there. They wouldn’t believe for a second there wasn’t more to it. Les
wouldn’t have blamed them, either.

Michael sat
down at
Les’s
desk and spun around in the chair,
giggling like a kid. Les slowly sat on his bed.

“How did you
know I lived with my grandma?” he asked, remembering what Michael had said in
the kitchen.

“I know
everything.”

Les remained
silent for a moment, terrified by that notion.

“I saw all
the pictures in the living room,” Michael finally added with a smile.

“Why did you
come here?” Les asked, trying not to sound frustrated.

“I’m looking
for someone,” Michael answered, still spinning.

“Who?”

Michael
stopped spinning. “I don’t know yet.”

“How can you
look for someone if you don’t know who it is?”

Michael
thought about this for a moment. “I can’t. That’s why I need your help.”

“My help?”
Les was astonished. No one ever needed him for anything. Well, that wasn’t
quite true: Grandma once needed him to give their dog, Skittles, a suppository.
That had been an unpleasant experience. “Is it a guy or a girl?” he asked.

“I don’t
know.”

“Are they in
this state?”

“Yes. In
this very city. That I do know.”

“In San
Sebastian?” he asked Michael, who nodded in reply. Les was getting caught up in
his questioning. He felt it was time to ask the big one: “Who are you?”

“The answer
to that question would drive you insane.”

Les didn’t
like the sound of that at all.

“Earlier
today, I asked if your dad was the devil. You didn’t say anything…” Les
continued delicately. “Is he?”

“He is if
you want him to be” was all Michael would say.

There was a
knock on the door. Les jumped to his feet and came face to face with his
grandmother. She stood in his doorway, much shorter than him. Her hair was
silver and very thin; her skin hung off her arms. She was wearing a dull gray
nightgown.

“Lester, who
do you have in there?”

“Just a
friend. What are you doing up so late?”

“My
arthritis was
botherin
’ me, so I decided to walk
around a bit,” she said, rubbing her knees. “It’s a bit late for
comp’ny
,
doncha
think?”

Holy crap, it’s
com-PA-
ny
, Les thought. His grandmother had one of those thick
country accents he despised.

“We’re just
going over
Hero Saga
strategies,” he
said. “We’re almost done.”

She tried
looking into the room but Les only had the door opened a little and was
blocking the rest of the gap with his body.

“All right.
Don’t forget to take out the trash in the
mornin
’.”

Morn-ING,
he thought.

“Okay,
Grandma,” he said.

She went
back to her room. Les closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief. He sat
back down on the bed and watched as Michael started spinning again.

“Why are you
looking for this person?” Les finally asked.

“My brother
said we need their help with something.”

“With what?”

“If I tell
you, you won’t help me.”

Les was
suddenly afraid to press on any further. He already knew he didn’t want to help
Michael find the person who was so important to him.

And what
about Michael’s intentions with this person?
If I tell you, you won’t help me,
he’d said. He made it sound
diabolical.

“Do you want
to kill this person?” Les asked.

“Not at
all.”

That was
something. Les felt a little better, but not much.

Suddenly he
remembered something: “What should I do with the head in the fridge?”

Michael
stopped spinning again. “I’d get rid of it before your grandma finds it.”

Les stood up
to begin his task, but then turned to Michael. “Why did you put it in there in
the first place?”

Michael
thought for a moment before saying, “I saw it in a movie once and thought it
would be cool.”

“You must
have some crazy parents, if they let you watch movies like that.”

“I don’t
know about my real parents, but my foster parents were pretty cool.”

“You’re
adopted?”

Michael
nodded. “My foster parents were killed.”

“Oh. I’m
sorry.”

“They died
trying to protect me from crazy people,” Michael said somberly. “I miss them.”

“Crazy
people?”

Michael
nodded again. “The people in our town tried to kill my brother and me when they
found out who we were, but our foster parents protected us.”

Les thought
about that. Why would people want to kill Michael because of who he was? What
was he, exactly? Les was too afraid to find out, so he dropped the subject. For
now.

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