Chapter Five

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Two days.

Two miserable, stinking days, since he'd first arrived in the city, having detected an all-too-familiar presence. The firebird, himself; Phenex. Despite his weakened state, he couldn't resist the overwhelming desire for revenge frothing in his veins. It had been most fortunate however, that the trail—both the incredible outpouring of energy he'd detected, as well as the firebird's own—had gone cold. As much as Reeves hated to admit it, he knew that if it had come to a fight, the firebird would have had him at a disadvantage. Even now, he was far from being at full strength. Being locked away in Nowhere for all those years had drained him of all but the most basic of his powers. If not for the aid of his mistress, he likely wouldn't have made it this far.

For everything that flame-wielding bastard has put me through, I'm going to pay him back. In spades, he seethed, leather-clad hands clenching into fists. Just you wait, firebird. When I get my powers back, you're gonna be beyond sorry!

Lowering the brim of his fedora to shield his eyes from the midday sun, he leaned back against the alley wall, melding with the shadows as he watched humans pass him by. They scurried about, doing whatever it was that mortals did with their short, insignificant lives. Not a single person paid him any mind, though even if they had bothered to, all they would have seen was a man with curly brown hair in a dark brown hat and trench-coat, looking for the world like a gangster from the 1930s. Or perhaps a private eye from one of those old film noirs that had been so popular some fifty years earlier.

Sighing, he folded his arms across his chest and stared down the opposite street, absently taking notice of the heat haze rising up from the pavement, shimmering in the air like water. People wandered to and fro, gossiping about their day-to-day trivialities, but Reeves tuned them out. The only information he cared about involved one thing, and one thing, only: The location of the next artifact.

It had been eighteen hours since he'd received word of what had occurred in Germany, a mission that had resulted in the scorching deaths of nearly every last agent he'd been ordered to send there. Even without the intelligence reports his shadows had provided, he would have known who was responsible for their deaths. After all, only one entity possessed fire that nearly rivalled the sun, itself.

He had learned one thing of interest, however. Not only had the firebird been there, but a daemon and human girl, as well. According to his information, the daemon had served on the Regulations Force until being promoted to the position of guardian sometime before Reeves' incarceration. As to the girl...he couldn't help but laugh. For the High Council to include a human girl, of all things, on such an important mission? Well, it was downright unthinkable.

They really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel, he chuckled to himself. His gaze roved up and down the street, taking in the storefronts lining either side. Old, rundown brick buildings in shades of grey, white, and red, the paint long since beginning to yellow and peel. Every fourth shop or so, the buildings separated, leaving an alley between them that led to the parking lots out back, the concrete cracked and broken in several spots along the sidewalks. Some of the shops were new with bright, neon signs, or large, gold and black lettering set into cream-coloured backdrops, advertising anything from florists and coffee shops, to burger joints and night clubs. Others looked like they had been there since the dawn of man, their signs so worn with weather and age that it was hard to tell what they sold. The street itself was clogged with noon-hour traffic, cars of every make and model driving slowly, bumper-to-bumper, the sun glinting off of their taillights as they passed by.

He was just beginning to wonder how much more tedium he would have to suffer through, when something caught his eye.


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