Blood and thunder, p.2

Blood & Thunder, page 2

 part  #2 of  THIRDS Series


Blood & Thunder

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  “On the ground! Get on the ground now!” Sloane yelled. The two Human shooters threw their rifles to one side just as Ash grabbed them and roughly forced them onto the floor of the bus.

  “Hands behind your backs,” Ash spat out, taking zip ties from his utility belt and securing their wrists.

  Calvin’s warning came through their earpieces. “Fire in the hole!”

  “Dex, side doors!” Sloane pushed Dex to the front of the bus. They ran across the street to the aluminum structure as the third vehicle door catapulted off the building in a burst of smoke, skidding across the dirt until it launched off the side into the river. Like there wasn’t enough shit down there already.

  Dex and Sloane positioned themselves to either side of the smaller entrances with their backs to the aluminum structure and waited. They didn’t have to wait long. The doors swung open, a rifle poking through the doorway beside Dex. He snatched it with his right hand and thrust his left elbow into the gunman’s face, snapping his head back and bloodying his nose. Dex tossed the gun to the grass beside him with one hand, and with the other, pointed his rifle at the emerging Humans coughing and gasping, their eyes bloodshot and tearful from the smoke.

  “On the ground! Get on the ground now!” Dex ordered. “Hands where I can see them!” One of the gunmen tried to reach under his open plaid shirt, but Dex shoved a boot down against his back, pushing him harshly onto his stomach against the dirt. “I said hands where I can see them!” He unhooked a handful of zip ties from his belt, crouched down, and lifted the hem of the guy’s shirt to find a revolver. He tossed it out of their reach, then looped a tie around the man’s wrists and gave it an extra tug, enough to make the guy hiss. As soon as he’d checked all three for additional weapons and secured them, he stood and tapped his earpiece. “I’ve got three in custody.”

  Rosa’s breathy voice came through, “We’ve got four in custody.”

  “We got five in custody,” Calvin added roughly, yelling something at one of the perps. His teammate sounded grumpy, but then who wouldn’t be after taking a bullet to the vest? Dex took a step back, watching in amusement as Ash dragged over the two gunmen from the bus, both practically dangling off the ground. Unit Alpha’s Therian Defense agents were all made of Apex predators, large Felids, each Therian agent with the strength of two Human agents. When the teams faced Therian perpetrators, the score was pretty even, with a Therian agent’s advantage depending on the shape they were in, their skill, and their smarts. When facing Humans, Therian Defense agents didn’t even break a sweat. Dex liked those odds.

  Sloane stepped up beside Dex and patted him on the back in approval as he gave his orders. “Beta Pride, Beta Ambush, move in. I want our perps lined up, asses to the floor. Agent Taylor, Agent Stone, see if you can get any information out of them.”

  As soon as their fellow agents from Beta Pride and Beta Ambush showed up, they left the perps to them, and Sloane motioned for Dex to follow. Along the way, they removed their ballistic helmets and handed them to one of the agents standing by. They headed into the main structure, which was still smoky from Calvin and Hobbs’s entry.

  “What have we got?” Sloane asked as they took in their surroundings. The aluminum structure was supposed to be a three-car garage, but instead had been set up as a base, with insulated walls, rows of metal shelving running down two of the walls, a third wall strewn with corkboards containing maps, newspaper articles, invoices, and a host of other random paperwork. In the center of the room were three large metal tables with supplies, boxes, burner phones, masonry tools, and weapons. Dex caught Hobbs’s gaze and followed the silent agent’s finger pointing to one of the large shelving units. Calvin joined his partner and called them over.

  “Sulfuric acid, nitroglycerine, batteries, timers.” Calvin picked up a box of heavy-duty nails. “From the looks of it, they weren’t thinking about just taking out buildings.”

  Sick bastards. It was bad enough they wanted to plant bombs, but to build them with the specific purpose of killing and maiming innocent citizens? How deluded could they be to think they’d be doing good? Like crime in this city wasn’t bad enough, now they had a whole new level of fucked up to deal with.

  “Any explosive devices already constructed?” Sloane asked.

  Calvin shook his head. “No, just the materials, though Hobbs says they’d need more than this. He thinks maybe they were in early stages, collecting supplies, getting ready to build the bombs.” He cast Hobbs a glance, and his large Therian partner nodded somberly.

  “Okay, thanks, guys.” Sloane let out a sigh, and Dex knew what his partner was thinking. Unless one of those bastards out there spilled, they wouldn’t have much to go on. Getting these assholes off the street was a win, but until they had Isaac Pearce, the danger was nowhere near over. Who knew how many more bases just like this one were out there. How many already had devices waiting to go off?

  Dex stepped up to the corkboards, hoping to glean some information, anything that might give them a clue as to where to find the Order’s leader. “Everything’s so neat.”

  “What do you mean?”

  Sloane joined him, and Dex waved a hand over one of the corkboards. “All the maps are brand new, like they’d just been bought, and they’re not of any specific locale. There’s a street map of Brooklyn, a subway map of New York City, a bike map of Manhattan, and I’m pretty sure that one there of this area is an Internet printout. The news articles are perfectly clipped and all from the last two months. They pinned up the invoices for Christ’s sake. What bomber pins up their supply invoices? Are they planning on writing off the expenses?” He leaned in closer. “They’re also all dated two months ago.” Looking around the room, he strode back over to one of the shelves, where he ran a gloved finger over one of the timers. “There’s a thin layer of dust on most of the supplies. Like they’d been placed on the shelves and not touched since. They could have been waiting for orders, or….”

  “They could have been waiting for us,” Sloane finished. He stroked his jaw. “Good job, Dex. You’re right. This all seems too… easy. Let’s see if anyone’s cracked.” He tapped his earpiece. “Cael?”

  “Call in the CSA’s?” Cael replied over their earpiece.

  “Yeah. I want this place swept from corner to corner, and I want to be notified as soon as they get the detailed inventory attached to the case file.”

  “You got it.”

  Dex followed Sloane outside where fifteen perps were sitting on the ground in a neat row, hands secured behind their backs with nearly twice the number of heavily armed agents positioned around them in case someone got a stupid idea in their head. It was amazing what some criminals did when they were desperate. Just as the thought crossed his mind, one of the men jumped to his feet and started running.

  Ash stared after the guy. “Where the fuck does he think he’s going?”

  With an agent drawing in from every angle, the guy came to a skidding halt then stunned them all by jumping into the East River where he proceeded to sputter, gasp, and in between drowning, call out for help.

  “Seriously?” Dex had seen some pretty stupid shit in his time, but this one was right up there with the guy who tried to steal his patrol car with him in it back when he’d been an HPF rookie. Ash let out a snort of laughter. “What an ass hat.”

  After losing a round of Rock-paper-scissors, one of Beta Ambush’s Therian agents started stripping, cursing up a storm the whole way. Down to his colorful boxers and flipping off his fellow teammates whistling and throwing catcalls at him, he dove into the river, popping back out a few breaths later and dragging the wheezing man with him. The dark haired agent pulled himself up with one hand and tossed the man up onto the dirt with the other.

  The agent climbed out, snatched the towel from a teammate, and glared at their arrestees. “That’s the last time I’m doing that. Someone else want to be a moron, you’re going to drown. Shit, that water’s cold.” He gave a sniff. “Ugh, it reeks. Am I going to
be quarantined? This shit smells toxic.”

  His teammates laughed until Sloane held up a hand, silencing everyone. He stepped up to the line of somber looking men, a couple looking no older than Cael. In fact, one in particular caught Dex’s attention. The kid was sixteen, seventeen at most.

  “Where’s Isaac Pearce?” Sloane demanded. He paced slowly in front of them, his intense amber gaze studying their perps. Dex wasn’t surprised to find fear creeping into some of their defiant gazes. None of them looked like hardened criminals. Standing over six and a half feet tall and weighing 240 pounds without the eighty pounds of equipment strapped to him, Sloane Brodie was imposing to most even when he wasn’t in intimidation mode. Add the fact he was a Therian with the government tattoo on his thick neck marking him as a jaguar Therian and the twenty-odd years of field experience, and you’d have to be dumber than the guy who swan-dived into the river not to be scared shitless.

  “Do you realize the severity of your situation? Do you think the THIRDS takes terrorism lightly? Your so-called leader murdered an officer of the law in front of the world. He’s made threats against innocent civilians, against innocent children. He’s looking at life in prison, if he’s lucky. This is your chance to do the right thing, to save what’s left of your future.”

  One beer-gutted idiot spat at Sloane’s feet. “We’ll never talk to you, Therian freak. Your kind is a mistake. The Human race is superior. You’re nothing more than a glorified pet. Your kind should be locked away in zoos with the rest of the animals or put down. Humans for dominance!” The guy started chanting and Dex rolled his eyes. “Humans for dominance! Humans for—”

  Sloane’s boot against the guy’s chest, knocking him over and onto his bound up arms, put a stop to the chanting. It wasn’t even a kick. A tap from Sloane was enough to send the guy tipping over and flailing like a turtle on his shell trying to right himself. Dex put a gloved fist to his mouth to keep himself from laughing. “Anyone have something useful to say?” Sloane asked.

  Dex studied the silent, glaring group, his gaze landing on the teenager again. The kid swallowed hard, his eyes not moving from the ground. An older man with a strong resemblance knelt beside him. Dex tapped his earpiece. “Sloane.” His partner glanced at him, and without a word walked over, following Dex to one side.

  “What’s up?”

  “I think we should try the Deceptive Dash.”

  Sloane arched an eyebrow at him. “You think it’ll work?”

  “That kid’s ready to shit a brick. I’m thinking the guy next to him is his old man. Probably dragged him into this mess.”

  His partner rubbed his jaw then nodded. “Okay.” Sloane turned and signaled Ash over.

  “What’s going on?” the surly agent asked, and Dex could tell Sloane was trying hard not to smile when he spoke.

  “We’re going with the Deceptive Dash.”

  As expected, Ash let out a low groan. “Fuck me.” He glared at Sloane. “I can’t believe you not only allowed him to make this a thing, but you let him name it.”

  Sloane shrugged, his eyes lit up with amusement. “You couldn’t come up with anything better.”

  “Because I didn’t agree with the stupid idea.”

  “Yeah, well, it’s effective, so suck it up.” Sloane gave him a hearty pat on the shoulder, chuckling at their teammate’s pout.

  “Who’s the target?” Ash grumbled.

  “The kid.” Dex tapped his earpiece. “Cael, drive the BearCat up.”

  “Copy that.”

  Dex headed toward the approaching BearCat and hopped into the back when his brother opened the doors.

  “What’s up?”

  “We’re doing the Deceptive Dash.” Dex positioned himself to one side of the truck, hearing Ash cursing and growling as he approached.

  “I can’t believe you convinced Sloane to adopt that as an official strategy,” Cael said with a laugh, settling in behind the surveillance console. Guess his brother was going to stick around for the show. “Ash hates it.”

  Dex wriggled his brows. “I know.” Though he knew Ash’s disapproval of the maneuver stemmed from it being Dex’s idea and that it worked. His teammate especially didn’t approve of having his name married with Dex’s to form “Dash.” For all his bitching, Ash couldn’t deny their clashing personalities had a way of providing results when it came to interrogations. Ash was the kind of guy who made babies cry just by looking at them. The maneuver was less “bad cop/good cop,” and more “holy fuck get him away from me/I’ll talk to you because you’re not psychotic.” The best part was, there was little acting involved.

  “Get the fuck in there.” Ash shoved the wide-eyed teen into the back of the BearCat so rough he stumbled. Dex caught him before he could run headfirst into something and knock himself out.

  “Jesus, Keeler, take it easy.” Dex ducked his head to look at the kid. “You okay?”

  The kid pressed his lips together, his brows furrowed. Dex motioned to the long bench where the team usually sat.

  “Why don’t you take a seat, um…. What’s your name?”

  “You gonna sing him a lullaby too, Daley?” Ash snorted.

  Dex ignored Ash, his focus on the kid who’d reluctantly taken a seat on the bench. “What’s your name?”

  He received no reply. Ash stormed over and grabbed a fistful of the kid’s shirt, hauling him off his feet with a snarl. “He asked you a fucking question. Are you going to cooperate, or am I going to have to shift and pick my teeth with your scrawny ass bones?”

  Dex schooled his expression, doing his best not to laugh at Ash’s cheesy lines. The kid’s eyes widened, a squeak escaping him when Ash dropped him roughly onto the seat and loomed over him. “You got five seconds to state your name before I get really pissed. Five.”

  “Keeler,” Dex sighed. “That’s not going to help.”

  Ash rounded on him, poking him in the vest. “That’s your problem, Daley. Too busy making daisy chains and cracking jokes to get your hands dirty.”

  “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” Dex planted his hands on his hips. Ash stepped closer, his voice a low growl, but Dex wasn’t intimidated.

  “It means you don’t got the balls to get in there and do what you gotta do, always trying to be the good guy.”

  “I am the good guy. We’re all the good guys! Screw you, man. I know how to do my job, and just because I don’t go around scaring old ladies or trying to make it rain vengeance and wrath, doesn’t mean I’m afraid to get my hands dirty.”

  Nostrils flaring, Ash stormed over to the kid and lifted him off his seat again. “Now you listen to me, you little shit. Every minute you spend not talking, is another minute I gotta be in here with that gummy-bear-eating, Cheesy-Doodle-crunching, eighties-music-singing asshole, and that puts me in a bad mood. Do you want to put me in a bad mood?”

  The kid shook his head fervently.

  “Then answer his goddamn questions, or I swear on my momma’s grave I’m gonna make you wish you were never born.”

  “Simon!” the kid burst out. “My name’s S-Simon Russell.”

  Ash dropped the kid roughly onto his ass before turning to bark at Dex, “Get on with it, Daley.”

  Dex took a seat beside Simon who was looking rattled and miserable, his shoulders slumped, and his wary gaze going from Ash to Dex.

  “I apologize for my teammate, Simon. He gets cranky when it’s time for his sippy cup of OJ and a nap.” Dex could have sworn he saw the end of Simon’s lips twitch. “My name’s Agent Daley, and despite what you might think, I’m here to help you.”

  Simon looked Dex over, assessing him. “Dad says all Human THIRDS agents are traitors to their race.”

  The words were low, but Dex could hear the uncertainty in them. Dex would bet his salary the kid never would have gotten involved in this kind of thing if his fuckwit of a father hadn’t filled his head with hateful nonsense. “I’m not a traitor, Simon. I’m just a regular guy trying to do the right thing. I
t’s my job to protect innocent citizens and help those who are feeling lost. I believe everyone has a chance to lead a safe, happy life, no matter their species. You know, I was an HPF officer before I became a THIRDS agent, just like my dad was.”

  Simon tilted his head and shifted slightly. Dex knew everything he needed to know about the young man in that instant, and he continued while he had Simon’s attention.

  “My dad was a homicide detective for the Sixth precinct. He and his best friend Tony were the best at what they did. I was so proud of him. My friends would get sick and tired of me telling them how great my dad was,” he said with a chuckle, still feeling a squeeze to his heart when he thought of his father. A day didn’t go by when he didn’t miss his parents. “He was my hero.”

  “Was?” Simon asked with a frown.

  “Yeah, he was killed during the riots, along with my mom.” Dex let out a sigh and shook his head. “He’d gone off to deal with the riots on several occasions while on the job, and then he goes out to the movies one night with my mom, their date night”—he swallowed hard, his gaze on his gloved hands clasped in front of him—“and there was a shootout at the movie complex. My dad tried to get everyone out, including my mom. She… got hit in the crossfire. My dad got shot in the chest trying to save her.”

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