Over the past week, I was attacked three more times. Part of me was still amazed at how easily I could handle my attackers, but Alma never let me forget that worse was still to come. The training she put me through was rigorous even for me. There was no way I would have survived this before my change.
Hearing something strange, I said, “Computer pause.” I was in my office, going over training courses. There was screaming? I took off out of the room and down the stairs at a run, jumping to skip the last flight entirely. The screaming grew ever louder as I approached the entryway. Jarod was there on the ground, tears rolling down his cheek as he squeezed Mai in his arms. She was screaming endlessly, convulsing in his grip.
Alma had beaten me here and was asking “Where’s her sister?”
“I don’t know.” replied Jarod, desperately trying to hold onto Mai.
“Let go, Jarod. I’m taking her to her room.” commanded Alma.
He didn’t listen. I wasn’t entirely certain the words even registered to him. I gently peeled his arms off her, and Alma whisked Mai away the moment he released her.
“What happened?” I asked.
He stared at his hands as if uncertain where Mai had gone.
“Jarod!? What happened?” I asked again.
“We were just… shopping. Everything was going great. Then Ai stepped outside while Mai finished changing. I heard her collapse, but there wasn’t an answer when I knocked. I tried getting Ai, but didn’t see her anywhere.” he explained, sounding unsteady.
Nodding, I asked “Then what?”
“She was half-dressed on the floor. I had to dress her, man. The attendant wanted to get her to the hospital, so I made an excuse of needing to get her to her meds. I wasn’t prepared for this, but there’s no way any good would come of a hospital. I didn’t know what to do.” he insisted, grabbing onto my arm.
“Come on. Let’s see what Alma thinks of this.” I told him, helping him to his feet.
Alma ran out of the door to Ai and Mai’s wing, stopping us before we entered and saying, “I have her restrained, but I can’t seem to make her rest. Wait here. I’m going to find her sister.”
Squeezing Jarod’s shoulder, I told him “I’m going as well. Call me if anything changes.”
As fast as I was now, I couldn’t keep up with Alma. I had never seen her run so fast before. I sent Jarod a text, asking where he last saw them. His reply seemed to take forever, but I had an idea where they would be. The twins had expensive tastes for clothes. When I finally got the text, I darted a couple blocks over, looking into every car I passed on the way. Realizing too late that I might be seen in my careless searching, I started using a number of spells to better hide myself as I searched.
Without thinking, I pulled a small boy out from in front of a truck and placed him by his mother. I had to stop for a moment and watch, making sure he seemed okay. I hadn’t thought to protect him with spells. There wasn’t time. I felt guilty, feeling the need to run, to search, when I might have accidentally injured a child in my attempt to save him, but I was rewarded by seeing him laugh at his mother’s shocked face. He would be fine. My search continued.
Receiving a text from Alma, I changed my path to search the docks. Alma was searching airports, believing that whoever had Ai would be trying to smuggle her out as freight. This wasn’t the time for explanation; I was certain she had a reason. Without a clue for what I was searching, I checked everything I could, creating spells to seek out heat in closed containers. There was nothing. I looked elsewhere.
I spent hours scouring the city, pulling in residual energy everywhere I went to fuel myself and my spells. I couldn’t find any sign of an abduction. I could hear that Mai was still screaming as I approached the house.
:Aaliyah, I need you.: I thought. I should have asked for her sooner.
“Sorry, boss-man, sir.” she told me, hugging my leg.
“You can’t find her?” I asked. I felt Alma approaching from behind me and was certain she was angry by the amount of magic I felt in use.
“This is Slayer business.” replied Aaliyah.
I looked at her incredulously and asked “What do you mean?”
“She means that someone in my family abducted Ai.” replied Alma. “I should have been more careful with them, but I didn’t imagine anyone capable of this daring to come here.”
“What? Why would they want to abduct Ai?” I demanded.
“Leverage, James. Unfortunately, my fondness of the twins isn’t a secret by any stretch. I will find her.” she assured me.
Part of me didn’t want to ask, but I still said, “They’re torturing her, aren’t they.”
Alma nodded, and I hugged her, certain she was distraught about the notion even if she kept her face smooth.
“Tell me if there’s anything I can do. Anything at all.” I told her.
Alma took a deep breath, exhaled, and took another before saying, “Let me go for now. There are a great number of people I need to contact, so I can find out who did this. Check on Jarod. He seems to be with Mai.”
I did as she asked, letting myself into the twins’ wing and following the sound to Mai’s room. I couldn’t help wishing for her to go hoarse. The sound of her screams tore at me. Jarod barely glanced at me as I entered. He looked absolutely miserable, holding Mai’s hand.
“Jarod, your finger!” I exclaimed, realizing one of his fingers was broken in her grip.
“I know.” he told me. His voice was dead.
“Let Alma set that for you. Then you can come back.” I told him, trying to make myself heard over Mai’s screams.
Jarod shook his head, unwilling to leave her. I left him briefly. I learned how to set the bone in under a minute from one of my company’s lessons, but worried there might be other complications with Jarod being unwilling to get medical aid.
Alma assisted me immediately when I told her what happened. Then we devised a spell to keep Mai’s hand from shutting far enough to break anymore bones, since Jarod refused to be careful. We needed to end this quickly.