Author: Notmanos
E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
Disclaimer:  The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics.  No copyright infringement is intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be
a patron of the arts, I won't object. ;-)  Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off! 




The call came in around noon.

According to Mark, there had been a sighting of the quarry (apparently called simply “the package” by the Organization) at a place called Santiago, which Logan had never heard of. A quick check of the web and a road map that Faith had wadded up in her closet - she claimed she had no idea when she picked it up or why, which she pretty much claimed with a quarter of her stuff; he wasn’t sure if that was alarming or not - gave him an idea of where they should be headed. It was a flyspeck of a town, on the outskirts of Death Valley, and Logan was surprised that the “package” had gotten this far this fast. Marc told him that a semi had been found with a driver killed in a similar manner as the other victims, which indicated that this person (whom Marc had nicknamed “The Mummy”) had gotten a lift.

He and Faith got dressed fast, and headed out. Since Faith didn’t have a car, they took his motorcycle, and although she complained about riding on the back, he promised her she could drive it sometime. Marc had already headed out, hoping to intercept the Organization ahead of them. Logan didn’t think it was safe, but that wasn’t going to stop Marc any more than it would have stopped him.

The ride down towards the desert was pretty uneventful, although Logan thought he smelled the hint of a nascent fire under the all pervasive smog. Nothing was burning yet, but this was the beginning of brushfire season, and you could almost taste it. The earth smelled baked and desiccated, as starved for water as the victims of the “Mummy”. (God, how he hated that nickname. They had to come up with something better.) L.A. wasn’t burning yet, but it probably would very soon. It was only a casually discarded cigarette away.

Being able to cut off road allowed him to avoid the worst of the traffic, although the heat seemed to be rising off the pavement like it was baking them, the air shimmering ahead of them long before they neared Death Valley. He was glad he left his jacket back at Faith’s.

Santiago had its own “Welcome” sign, pockmarked with bullet holes, and the population number sign beneath it had been broken, so now it was simply a jagged piece of wood, also riddled with bullet holes, reading “Po”. They hadn’t seen a single other vehicle on the road for the past five minutes.

This end of Santiago was barren, all dirt and sky, although they eventually came upon a weathered looking gas station that could have dropped out of a ‘60’s road picture. They could use the gas so he pulled up beside an old gas pump - maybe more ‘80’s than ‘60’s, but still damn old - and he discovered how awful it was to stop the bike. The heat slammed down on them like a weight, instantly making sweat ooze out his pores, and he could taste dust in his mouth. It must have been over a hundred degrees out here, and even in the shade of the gas station’s roof, the heat was no more tolerable.

Faith got off the bike and told him, “I need a drink. You want anything?”

“Beer me.”

“Ah, but you’re driving,” she replied, arching her eyebrows humorously and wagging her finger at him as she went inside the station. He heard the tiny bell bang against the door as she opened it.

He started filling the tank and wondered where everyone was. There was no movement on the roads at all, which made him suspicious, except this was probably a ghost town and wouldn’t have much in the way of anything. Perfect setting for a horror story, or an A bomb test.

He was just racking the nozzle back into the pump when Faith came out and said, “Hey, you wanna come in here?”

Okay, now he was really suspicious. He crossed the cracked asphalt island and walked into the little store, which was roughly the size of a small shed, crammed with small, dusty shelves full of snacks, sodas, and “impulse items”, which ranged from cheap sunglasses to road maps, pocket flashlights, and an assortment of hats with obnoxious sayings. To make things worse, their air conditioner wasn’t working, and the air was suffocating, stale and heavy with dust; he sneezed three times after inhaling.

Faith looked at him askance, and asked somewhat sarcastically, “Need a Kleenex?”

He scowled at her, but in his sleeveless t-shirt and jeans, he envied her her more weather practical wardrobe of a red tank top and khaki walking shorts. But as soon as he got his sneezing under control, he sifted through the scents. “Nobody’s here.”

“No kidding, Captain Obvious,” she said, shoving a cold beer in his hand. It was already sweating condensation from exposure to the heat. “I even poked my head in the back. Nada. Which is weird, ‘cause the open sign’s on the door, and it’s unlocked.”

He peered around, but not for people - for any obvious signs of a fight. But the store was so haphazard in its set up and arrangement he couldn’t tell. It was possible there was a scuffle, or it was possible someone couldn’t be assed to set up the chip display. “I’m not smelling any blood. Someone was here - a guy who chewed tobacco and needed a stronger deodorant - but not too recently. Maybe an hour ago.”

“Wooh!  Way to use the super-smellin’ capabilities,” she said cheerfully, getting a can of energy drink from the cold case.  “Although you know it’s also kinda creepy, right?”

“So I’ve been told.”

She reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, taking out some cash and leaving it on the counter. Because she had his wallet, she looked inside, reading his Canadian driver’s license. “Logan Campbell?” she read aloud, laughing. “Why the hell Campbell, man?”

He plucked the wallet out of her hand, and while he scowled at her he didn’t know why; it would never apparently discourage her. That was the problem with being with a fearless person. “I’d been using Smith and Jones too much.”

“What, not Johnson?”

He shrugged. “I’ve known a couple of Johnson’s in my time - didn’t like ‘em.”

She looked at him with a sly smile, her eyes bright with mirth. “There’s an obnoxious joke I could make here. Wanna hear it?”

“Do I have to?”

She looked at the small display of sunglasses, and plucked a mirrored pair off the stand, putting them on. She then pulled off a pair of deep black wraparounds, and put them on him. She grinned broadly. “You look so much like Clint Eastwood in those. Well, I mean the young one, not the one nowadays who looks like a saddlebag.”

There was something very wrong at this gas station, he knew it, but rather than concentrate on it he snickered, unable to keep from smiling. There was something luminous about her that was totally distracting, and he realized bringing her along may have been a mistake for that reason. “You’re too young for me.”

“Everybody’s too young for you.”

“Oh, ouch,” he replied, putting a hand to his heart as if stricken, and that was the exact moment his cell phone rang. He reached into his front pocket and fished it out, figuring it was Marc. Maybe he actually found some useful info. “Yeah?”

“Perimeter’s been breached,” Marc said, without preamble. Faith reached over the counter and snagged the restroom key that was basically attached to a two by four, and left the store. The air outside was devoid of anything even mildly refreshing or cooling, but at least it smelled better, so he turned and went out, into the warm shade of the gas station island. “Where are you?”

“At a gas station just inside Santiago city limits.”

“The Texaco?”

“Oh, so you’ve been?”

“I saw it. I didn’t think it was open; place looked dead.”

“That’s one way to put it. So how badly has the perimeter been breached exactly?”

Marc sighed, and just from that alone, Logan knew they had wasted their time coming down here. “It fell apart like a bad soufflé. They lost communication with the advance team shortly after I called you; just before I got here, they found the bodies.”

He groaned and rubbed his road dry eyes, only now aware that he was still wearing the dorky sunglasses. Ah hell, he could use some sunglasses anyways. “How many?”

“All of ‘em. They got the whole team. They have no idea where the Mummy’s headed. We just came up serious bupkis.”

“Logan.” He turned to see Faith gesturing to him from the side of the station. She disappeared around it before he could ask, so he simply followed.

“So what now? We just give up?”

“I dunno. You wanna come here and see if you can pick up a scent?”

“Where are you?” As he walked around the corner of the station, Faith was pointing at something in the weedy scrubland behind the station. It was so thick with Scotch broom he almost didn’t see it at first, but then the sun glinted off of something silver. “Hold on a sec.”

There was a body sprawled out in the brush, dressed in a stained blue-grey coverall, with a patch that read “Ed” embroidered on the left breast pocket. But the thing was, Ed - while reeking of chewing tobacco and body odor, now also reeked of rot, the sweet smell of decay and cancer … and something else. He had been dried to a husk, a corpse that looked mummified, and was now baking in the ferocious heat of the day. Huge blue bottle flies crawled over his face, making it look like he had a living beard, and some paused to clean their forelegs on his withered eyeballs.

“They were here,” he told Marc.

“Who? The Org?”

“No, the … killer. We just found the body of the station owner behind the Texaco.”

“Holy shit. He’s been jerked?”

It seemed not only a silly way to put it, but disrespectful, and yet it also perfectly encapsulated how they looked and seemed to be. He was pretty sure he‘d never eat beef jerky ever again. “Yeah. The sun’s baking him, I can’t say how fresh he actually is … but I’m gonna say it’s recent, certainly within the hour. Most of the rot I’m smellin’ is cancer rot.”

Faith grimaced as if the thought was sickening, and Marc seemed to make a similar noise over the phone. “Well, that was more than I needed to know. But that does tell us they went thataway. I wonder why.”

But Logan thought he knew. He turned and looked from this sad vantage point, where beyond the gas station with its peeled paint and heat warped roof tiles you could see nothing but dirt and scraggly weeds, a ribbon of asphalt shimmering with heat and a sky so pale as to almost be white, and he knew. In Santiago, there was only one way to go. “They’re following the highway,” he told him, feeling a cold certainty in his gut. “They’re headed towards the city.”

“L.A?” Marc’s voice dropped a octave, as it was a horrible thought. Someone with a power that seemed to be nothing less than lethal loose in such a large city, with so many potential victims. If they were smart and stuck to the poorer and grimier sections of the city, they could kill for a while before anyone noticed, even the Organization. “Well shit, where else would they go? Fresno? We gotta get them before that.”

“You think I don’t know that? Get here as fast as you can. They can’t have gotten far.” Or so he hoped. The one time they needed the Organization to not be so stupid, and they couldn’t do it. The bastards were always letting him down.




Going into the sewers was always a thrill, especially when he really didn’t have to. But he kind of had to this time, so he could deal with it.

Bren had fallen asleep on the couch after they got back from Lyle’s, and now he felt a bit ill, possibly as a consequence of having been up all night and having had his dinner be a series of several alcoholic drinks. He only barfed once, which seemed like a triumph, and he actually felt a little better afterwards. Now he felt a little shaky and queasy, and he figured he needed to eat something, but how did you eat when you were a little nauseous? It seemed almost unfair, but he couldn’t complain to anyone, as he’d done it to himself.

He’d just stepped down into the sewer tunnel when Kier came out of the noisome shadows, staying in his Human form. “Got some good news for me?”

“Yep. Your former agent was a Belial demon, and he’s been feeding these production companies victims for decades. Hundreds to thousands of runaways and wannabe actors and actresses have disappeared straight down that particular rabbit hole, and we’ll probably never be able to name them all unless we comb through all the movies. Lyle never kept files on any of them so he could never get caught up in any police investigation.”

He grimaced and looked down at his boots. “That many? You’re not actually telling me the exact number, are you?”

“No. But we honestly don’t know it. Assume it’s appalling.”

He shook his head and looked endearingly sad. “I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that I was killed with only four lines, or the fact that I was merely one cog amongst a billion.” He looked off to the side, briefly lost in thought, then seemed to come to the decision to change the subject. “You found out where they are?”

“Yeah. Giles went down to San Pedro and took some photographs of what we figure is the place. It looks like a fortress.”

He nodded. “That’s it. When you hitting it?”

“Tonight; we have to wait for the sun to go down so Angel can get into play. Hey, could you smoke?”

Kier gave him a curious look. “Why?”

“I told ‘em I was takin’ a smoke break. If Angel doesn’t smell smoke on me, he’ll know I was lying.”

That made him smirk as he dug out his pack of cigarette and tapped out a butt. “Wouldn’t you like a smoke?”

“No. I really am trying to quit.”

“They think you haven’t now.”

He shrugged, as Kier lit the cigarette and took a big drag, which he then blew in his direction. “They can think that if they want. I don’t care.”

He gave him a sly look, smirking rather sharply. “It’s all better than meeting with a vampire, huh?”

Damn it, he sussed it. But it probably wasn’t that hard to figure out. “Look, I’m sorry -”

He waved the apology away and shook his head. “No, don’t. It’s not like I told the vampires I know that I was goin’ off to meet with a Brachen who works with Angel. Our lives are just filled with lies.”

“So we live in the right city.”

“We seem to, yeah. So I guess this means I’m not comin’ with you guys, huh?”

“Well, Logan isn’t with us, he’s busy with something else, so no, probably not.”

Kier looked suspicious as he blew more smoke on him. “Who’s Logan?”

“Oh, uh, the “decapitator”.”

“Shouldn’t I be glad he’s not around to kill me?”

“Actually no. No one understands or appreciates the gray areas of things as much as Logan. As long as you’re not trying to kill him or someone else, odds are he’ll let you walk. Angel’s … um, not so forgiving, especially of vampires. But if, you know, you met us there … maybe I could talk them into it. Maybe.”

He nodded, but seemed suspicious, and Bren couldn’t blame him. He knew of Angel by the stories told by other vampires, and they hated his fucking guts. As he’d said before, they saw him as a traitor to the species. Maybe he’d have had better demon PR if he hadn’t been so adept at killing them, but then again, he might not be alive - so to speak - to have any PR if he hadn’t been so good.

Kier cocked his head to the side, as if listening to some far away noise, and after a moment, gave him a strangely serious look. “You all right? Your heart sounds a bit funny.”

“My … oh, vamp thing, right?” Kier simply nodded. “I’m a little hung over from last night, and I missed a lot of sleep.”

“Maybe so, but that arrhythmia suggests you need some fluids, perhaps a little food. Isn’t there anyone around who wants to force feed you tea and toast?”

He stared at him in disbelief, not sure if he should laugh or not. “And what the hell are you? The Jewish mother vampire? Christ.”

Kier just smiled, his lips pulling taut, as if he was trying not to laugh. “You’re just too cute, you know that?” He then leaned in and kissed him, firmly but quickly on the lips. He pulled back, continuing to grin in that slightly teasing, slightly maniacal, and extremely sexy way, and Brendan felt the need to get the hell out of here before he did something he would instantly regret. He suddenly felt too hot, almost like he couldn’t breathe, and he knew this was bad. “I’m … gotta go, expecting … they’re expecting me,” he stammered, aware that he was barely making any sense at all. Why did he become so incoherent when he got nervous? It wasn’t fair.

But Kier continued to smile at him in that annoying, alluring way as Brendan groped blindly for the ladder up to the building, and he asked, “See you in San Pedro?”

Brendan just nodded, giving him a last look before scrambling up, into the building. Now his heart was really pounding double time, and he felt unbearably hot, like he had a fever. Damn it!

The problem was he didn’t know if he could really trust Kier. He was a rent boy, an actor, and a vampire, a triple threat as far as manipulators were concerned. He hadn’t known many actors, but he had known many himbos, and they could be classic manipulators, using their obvious sexual appeal to get what they wanted. Matt was that way; he knew it, and yet Matt managed to manipulate him all the time. But whose fault was that? Shit - was his self-esteem so low he was easily manipulated by the first cute guy who was nice to him?

Yes, yes it was. Damn it! No wonder he sucked as a vampire hunter.

What could he want from him, though? If he wanted him to go after the people who killed him, that was a done deal. But how was he supposed to know that? He could take his word on it, but until Silver Sun went up in a nuclear cloud, he had no guarantee that someone like Angel would help someone like him.

He took a moment to lean against the wall and let his heart calm down a bit (if Kier could hear it, certainly Angel could), but he still felt shaky and a bit ill. Maybe Kier was right about the tea and toast. When he was certain he could actually walk without shaking, he walked into the office, only to stride in mid-conversation. “ - but we know we’re going to be outnumbered,” Angel was saying to Giles and Naomi. He was standing by the filing cabinet, facing them. Naomi was sitting on the couch, nursing a cappuccino, and Giles was perched anxiously on the arm of the couch, looking like he wanted to get up and do something before he jumped out of his own skin. He’d been that way since he and Naomi had told him of the general death toll that Lyle had guesstimated. “And with Logan and Faith out of the picture, we need all the back up we can get.”

“But them?” Giles replied, his expression one of general pain.

Angel crossed his arms tightly over his chest, not fond of being in the position of defending them. “I know, but there are few people who would see the idea of being grossly outnumbered as fun. They do.”

Naomi looked between the men curiously. “Are they that good, though?”

Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them with the hem of his shirt, a nervous gesture that meant he could end the staring contest with the clearly uncomfortable Angel. “Sadly, yes.”

Brendan slumped in his chair, wondering if he could put his head on the desk without garnering unwanted attention. But it was too late, as Naomi gave him a scrutinizing but not unsympathetic look. “Bren, you okay? You look a little green. I mean, not your normal demon green, the other kind.”

Now Angel and Giles were looking at him too, both with variations of the same expression, little frowns and lowered eyebrows. “Maybe you should go home, get some more sleep,” Angel suggested.

He turned to glare at him. “Oh right. You think I don’t know what’s gonna happen? You’re going to leave me out of this.”

“No, we’re not. Believe me, we need all the help we can get.”

He was probably telling the truth, but he didn’t want to risk it. Then again, why was he so eager to fight? He really wasn’t in any shape to do it. Maybe if he switched to his demon form he’d feel better; he always healed faster if he let his Brachen side out to play. But he hated it, he hated the way people looked at him in that form. Ooh, the demon porcupine boy; they either stared at him like he was a freak, or like they felt bad for him, and he didn’t know which was worse. There were attractive demons out there - even vamps looked kind of cool, if you could overlook the unfortunate teeth - but no, he couldn’t get one of those. He had to get one of the uglier ones, with little benefit to the physical repulsiveness of the form. He was a wash out as a mutant and a demon alike, which figured somehow.

The phone rang, and it seemed explosively loud, making him wince as the ring seemed to echo through his head in waves of pain. He groped for the phone and snatched up the receiver, if only to make the ringing stop before it shattered his skull like an egg. “Angel Investigations,” he answered automatically.

There was a long pause on the other end of the line, as if he’d stymied someone. “Is a Mr. Brendan Chambers there?” A woman finally asked. She had a husky voice, but not a sexy husky voice; it was the type of voice that suggested a bad cold or sinus infection. He didn’t recognize it at all.

“That’s me,” he replied, with some reluctance. Strange phone calls were never good.

The woman went on to introduce himself as Louisa Parsons, the warden at his mother’s prison, and he groaned, aware his mother had just fucked up her own potential parole. What had she done now? Start a riot in the cafeteria? Attack a guard? Shiv a fellow prisoner? Try and burn down the laundry room? He hated this feeling that he was somehow his mother’s keeper, that he could do a damn thing about her behavior. He could barely control his own - what could he do about a woman all the way across the country, one he wasn’t sure he could pick out in a line up?

But she took on a professionally sympathetic tone, one that made his stomach clench, and he knew what she was going to say before she said it. His mother was dead; she’d committed suicide. “How?” he asked automatically, not even sure why that was his first response.

There was something guarded in Parsons’ response, as if she wasn’t all that surprised by his question, but wasn’t terribly thrilled with it. Was she worried about a lawsuit? That was probably it; everybody worried about being sued, even prisons full of professional fuck ups and head cases.

His mother had been hording her meds - no surprise to him, not after her latest letter - and took them all at once after “light’s out”, then tied a plastic bag around her head. She was found dead this morning, and he had to squash the urge to comment that she’d finally gotten it right. She’d tried to kill herself before, but those two attempts were kind of sloppy. Finally she figured out how to do something correctly.

Parsons went on, but he really wasn’t listening anymore. Her voice was a white noise blurring into the constant hum of the air conditioner. Shouldn’t he feel something? His mother was dead, and yet all he felt was a mild sense of relief, accompanied by a pang of guilt. Did this make him a monster?

She said something about the “disposition” of the body, and he told her honestly that he didn’t care what they did with it, and to please call him at home later since he was at work now. She seemed a bit startled by his abruptness, but he didn’t wait around for any further response, as he hung up the phone.

He looked up to find all three of them were staring at him, varying levels of concern playing out across all their faces. “Is there something wrong?” Giles asked first.

He shook his head, and decided to let his demon side emerge. He felt cold, and sometimes he didn’t feel the temperature so much when he was Brachen. “No, it was nothing. And I hope you don’t mind me goin’ demon, I just figured it’ll help me heal from the hangover faster.”

Would it help other things as well? He didn’t know. But he could hope.




The meeting between Marc and Faith went pretty much as he expected. Marc put on his “gentleman” act, taking Faith’s hand and kissing it as Faith looked on, torn between amusement and smacking him on the head.

Marc then turned to him, and said, “Damn! What is it with you baggin’ all the hot chicks? Goddamn, you’re a player.”

Faith raised an eyebrow at that, but she still had a small, amused smile on her face. She found Marc as entertaining as most people did. Well, those who weren’t on the wrong end of his gun, that was. “Exactly how many “hot chicks” are we talking about here?”

“Since I’ve known him?” Marc made an elaborate show of thinking about it, pretending to squint in thought, count off on his fingers several times, mutter something about “carrying the seven”, and Logan continued to scowl at him and threaten him with a severe beating with his eyes alone. This, of course, only encouraged Marc to continue his pretend counting. “What’s the square root of a hundred and two?” Marc finally asked.

Faith laughed, and even though he continued to glower at Marc, she snaked her arm through his and leaned against him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. “I don’t care that you’re a man whore. You’re my man whore now.”

“I am not a man whore!” he protested, and now Marc laughed, while Faith continued to give him a sweet smile and blew him a kiss as she walked back to the bike.

Marc continued to chuckle, but he watched Faith walk away, and let out a low whistle. “Goddamn. So she’s one of those super powered demon killing girls, huh? They all look that good?”

“I got no idea. Although you think I should, being a man whore.” He glared pure molten death at him.

Marc just gave him his patented smart ass grin. “Oh, come on, you know I’m teasin’. And she digs it. So what’s the plan now, kemosabe?”

“Oh sure, dump it on me.” He scrubbed a hand through his sweaty hair, and tried to figure out what the hell they could do. “Fuck if I know. Let’s follow the highway. I’ll see if I can catch a scent, or see anything suspicious. Is there any pattern to the killings at all? I mean, I can see killing the advance team: self-defense. But this gas station guy? Why?”

Marc frowned in thought, scratching his head. How hot must he be having to wear those protective gloves on a day like today? “Again, all I can think is they’re panicking. Totally bugfuck.”

“Yeah, but they’re following the road. Roads always lead to cities; progressively bigger cities. If they’re afraid of people, why seek them out? When I was afraid of people, I hid. I didn’t go after them, I avoided them. I was crazy, okay? I know that. But I had enough sense to know that roads led to people, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near them. Nuts or not, they can’t have missed this big clue, not after all this time.”

He shrugged with his hands, sweat starting to glisten on his forehead. “Then there’s something we don’t know. Could they be looking for something?”

“Like a person? Maybe. I guess we need to go find ‘em first.”

“Then let’s get to it,” he said, walking back towards his rental car. How Marc had found a rental Jaguar he would never know.

He led the way back up the road, his bike on point, and it wasn’t really that easy to parse scents at sixty miles an hour. But he really wasn’t trying, not since he figured their quarry had taken the station owner’s car. (Who’d walk out on foot in this heat? You’d have to be suicidal on top of crazy.)

They’d been on the road for about twenty minutes, the bleak landscape of the Death Valley outskirts giving way to the bleak outskirts of Barstow, endless stretches of highway with lots full of scrub brush, drainage ditches, and the occasional cluster of mobile home parks and strip malls. There were long stretches that reminded him of parts of Nebraska and Alberta, places where the emptiness seemed not wild and untamed, but hollow and sad. The emptiness of death, of something that had once been and no longer was, something so fragile and needless it wasn’t even remembered anymore. All it left was a blank, an empty space where something used to be, but no one could say exactly what.

The smell of the wind changed suddenly, a stark and harsh scent of smoke and cordite, the acrid taste of gunpowder. And on top of that, there was the sharp sound of multiple gunshots up ahead.

He signaled for Marc to pull over as he swung over onto the soft shoulder and killed the engine. As he did, Faith, who’d been holding on to his midsection, leaned forward and started to say, “What’s -” But more gunshots rang out, closer and louder this time, and she interrupted herself. “Holy shit, who’s shooting?”

“I dunno.” But he thought he recognized the sound of the automatic weapons - Organization issue. He could be wrong, but that was his hunch.

As soon as Marc pulled over and got out of the Jag, he heard it to. “Think the Org found them first?” Logan asked, although it wasn’t really a question.

Marc held up the radio he stole from the Organization. “There hasn’t been any communication at all.”

“They might have gone radio silent.”


“So what do we do?” Faith wondered. The three of them exchanged quizzical glances, but there was a tacit understanding as well - what else could they do?

They proceeded ahead on foot, deciding they didn’t need to announce their arrival to anyone, but that was okay, as they didn’t have far to go.

What they saw was weird and inexplicable, so much so that Logan wondered if they were hallucinating. There was a couple of police cars - Barstow PD, along with at least one from the California Highway Patrol - engaged in a shootout with an Organization unit. There was a huge black utility vehicle - Organization property, obviously; it looked like a prisoner escort van - on its side, which the Organization boys were shooting from behind, while the still moving and living cops were crouching behind their cars, which gave no cover at all. The Org were using armor piercing rounds that plowed through the cars like they were made of plywood. There were three Org members dressed in black sprawled out on the highway and the side of the road, floating in pools of lurid blood, while there were approximately six cops splayed out on the highway and opposite side of the road in even bigger pools of blood, with good portions of their heads or bodies missing due to the large rounds the ! Organization used. Were they using adamantium bullets? They’d punch through cars and people like they weren’t even there.

“What the fuck is this?” Faith asked with a gasp. “Since when do these guys engage in shoot outs with the cops?”

“They don’t,” Marc said, sounding just as puzzled. “They’re totally low profile. They usually pull rank and don’t have to worry about local or federal interference.”

No, it didn’t make sense, but what especially didn’t track was a Highway Patrol car involved in this. He was trying to imagine how this scenario had unfolded - the HP tried to pull them over? - but they could just flash their bogus clearance and drive off. What had led to this?

As they looked on, totally unnoticed by either group, another cops’ head dissolved in a crimson mist as a bullet punched through the trunk of a car and exited through his skull, and Logan sighed. He had no love for cops, no one in their group did, but it was clear what they had to do. “You guys ready?”

Marc nodded, lips thinning to a grim line, and Faith concurred. “As ready as we’ll ever be.”

Marc, the only one of them carrying a gun, pulled his most powerful piece, a Smith & Wesson model 500 Magnum, a big ass hand cannon that would have led him to a phallic joke if anyone but Marc had been carrying it. (But Marc had it presumably because he was expecting a fight with the Organization. It wasn‘t like that was an easy gun to carry in any circumstances, even with a shoulder holster.) He took aim and fired, the noise and kickback of the thing incredible, as he and Faith moved beneath his covering fire.

Even the cops were startled, jumping and turning as Marc sent some of the Org guys scrambling for cover, although he seemed to tag one in the temple and sent him falling to the dirt, blood spurting from his head like he was an extra in a Tarantino film. Faith rolled under a randomly fired hail of bullets and came up to her knees behind one of the Barstow PD cars, now cradling a shotgun one of the dead cops had dropped.

He ducked low and scrambled to a farther car, one that looked more like Swiss cheese, mainly because it was almost perfectly parallel with the overturned prisoner transport. Along the way, he noticed a cop laying in a still growing puddle of blood in the dirt, making a gurgling noise as they struggled to breathe, and on the way he grabbed them (her - it was almost impossible to tell physically since she was wearing a bulletproof vest and her face was covered with blood) and dragged them behind the meager protection of the car. He felt a bullet rip into his shoulder, but it hit a bone and ricocheted away, too fast for him to honestly tell if it was an adamantium bullet or simply a high velocity round.

As he grabbed a still warm sidearm from a dead cop, trying not to put his hand in a puddle of goo where his guts used to be - it now looked like gory pudding - he shouted to the cop, “What happened here? Do you know who these people are? Did you call in back up?”

He looked down at the cop, and quickly assessed her wounds with a clinical detachment that suggested he’d done this dozens of times before. She was most likely terminal; she took a round in the arm, but then it exited into her chest, totally bypassing her vest, which may have been useless against these rounds anyways. From the way she was struggling to breathe and the way her chest gurgled, her lung had taken the bullet, and it was possible she was drowning in her own blood. He could do a tracheotomy easily (wait a second - since when had he known how to do a tracheotomy?), but her lungs were the problem, not her trachea.

He looked down at her as Faith’s shotgun boomed, and her wide brown eyes met his. He wasn’t sure how much of this she was comprehending; her chocolate colored eyes had a glaze of shock and pain, and blood was starting to dribble from her mouth. She was dying, and even if an ambulance arrived here right this second, she probably had too many internal injuries to survive.

He didn’t know who she was, or why she was even here, but he was suddenly furious on her behalf. Those Organization fuckers - they just had to spread the wealth of their pain around, didn’t they?

A bullet whizzed past his head, buzzing like an angry hornet, and he tried to will her to hang on, just for one minute more. “I’m a sniper with the Emergency response team of the RCMP, Officer. I can help you if you let me. What the hell’s going on here?”

Okay, it was something lie; a total lie if Lafayette had made it up. But if it allowed someone to die with some kind of peace of mind, it wouldn’t be so bad.