Stiles was leaning back in his chair and waiting. He could hardly breath in this suffocating air of the place but for what is going to happen soon he could bear with it. His hand clenched glass until the knuckles were white, and his lips curled slightly as he watched the crowd around him. He couldn't bother to make his body seem relaxed — doesn't even think he could do it despite the two years training for it. His legs, knotted tightly under the seat, were ready to move in an instant, and his eyes moved from the front to the back of the place. They were bright brown that were never still — always moving, watching, waiting. He had waited for so long, waited and hunted with bitter patience. But now the long wait was drawing to a close. He knew that Cassie was coming and the trap was set.
For the thousandth time this evening, a shiver of chilly pleasure passed through him at the thought. He squirmed in eagerness, hardly daring to breathe. With his free hand he caressed the cool plastic handle of the gun that was close to his side, and a tight smile appeared on his thin lips. Cassie was coming and … at last … at last … tonight he will kill her.
The place around him could be only described as madhouse. Or a magical world of disco lights, laser beams, and the irreplaceable glow of black lights shining on people. Everyone is smiling and having such a good time. They were packed in the club like sardines. The DJ mixed the loud music on the turntables watching the half naked bodies of young men and women dancing around as if something has possessed their bodies. Man are wearing undershirt, or no shirt at all, and pants. They eye the women who strut around in tank tops and tight dance pants or skirts, and who are smiling, and letting all their worries go away. The line at the bar is extremely frantic too, with people getting water or their favorite alcoholic beverage. Due to his sensitive nose Stiles could smell the muck of the guys and the sweat smell of perfume from the ladies mixing together creating a smell that makes him want to cover his nose with his hand.
Stiles rubbed his eyes, blurred from the bluish haze filling the long, high-ceilinged room. The unhealthy laughter broke out again, and someone bursted into a bellow of song, half giggle, half noise.
At the bar an heavy drinker sittered, muttered something unintelligible and returned his nose sadly to his glass. Stiles eyes flicked over the man with distaste. The scrawny neck, the sagging jaw, the idiotic, almost unearthly expression of intent listening on the vapid face: a typical picture of man Stiles come to hate. Watching him for a moment in disgust, he moved his eyes across the room, a flicker of apprehension passed through his mind.
A girl, quite naked except for the tray slung at their waist, strolled by his table, wagging her hips and turning on her heaviest personality smile.
“Good night, dar’?”
The smile cooled slightly in the girl’s lips. “Just askin,” she whined. “You don't have to get—”
“Fuck off!” Stiles shot her a venomous look, trying frantically to keep his attention from straying from the front of the room. It would be too much to slip up, more than he could stand to make mistake like that again.
The trap was perfect. It won't — it couldn't fail this time. Each step was carefully sketched, plotted through long sleepless nights of conference and planning. He couldn't have hunted a woman like Cassie all these years without learning something about her — about her personality, about the things she liked and disliked, the things she did, the places she often visited, the friends she made.
Last time, after Stiles understatement the enemy her allowing her to slip through the net at the last moment, there seemed to be no hope. Everything seemed all more hopeless when she disappeared completely as if she was dead. But then they found a girl — the key to her hiding place. She had formed the top link in the long, meticulous chain which had been drawn tighter each day, drawing Cassie Gramm closer and closer to the hands of the man who was going to kill him. And now the trap was set; there could be no slip this time. There might never be another chance.
The street door opened sharply, and a short, bull-necked man with sandy hair walked in. He was followed by two other men in neat business suits. The first man stepped quickly to the bar, shouldering his way through the crowd, and stood sipping beer for several minutes. He glanced closely at the people around the bar and the surrounding tables before he walked toward the back and seated himself next to Stiles. Looking at Stiles with an indefinable expression, he finished his beer at a gulp and set the glass down on the table-top with a snap.
“What’s up?” Stiles asked hoarsely.
“The sky, what else.” The sandy-haired man’s voice was a smooth bass, and a frown appeared on his pink forehead. “She should have been here by now. She left the hotel over in Beacon Hills an hour ago, private three-wheeler, and she headed here, I’m sure of it.”
Placings his arms on table Stiles leaned forwards, his face going white “You’ve got someone trail her?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” The man's voice was sharp, and there were tired lines around his eyes. "Take it easy, Stiles. You wouldn't be able to get her if she did come in—the way you are. She'd spot you in two seconds."
With trembling hands he gripped the glass, and settled tensely back in his chair. "It can't go wrong, James. I must caught her and lock her up for good.”
"It should. The girl is here, and she got word from her last night."
"Can she be trusted?"
The sandy-haired man shrugged. "Don't be silly. In this game, nobody can be trusted. If she's scared enough, she'll play along—okay? We've done our best to scare her. We've scared the hell out of her. Maybe she's more scared of Cassie—I don't know. But it looks cold to me. On a platter. So get a grip on yourself."
"It's got to succeed." Stiles growled the words savagely, and drained his glass at a gulp. The sandy-haired man blinked, his pale little eyes curious. He leaned back thoughtfully. “Suppose it doesn't? What if something goes wrong? Then what?”
Stiles’ heavy hand caught the James’s wrist in a firm hold. "You don't talk like that," he grunted. "Your men I don't mind, but not you—understand? It can't go wrong. That's all there is to it. No ifs, no maybe. You got that now?"
James rubbed his wrist, his face red. "All right," he muttered. "So it can't go wrong. So I shouldn't talk, I shouldn't ask questions. But if it does go wrong, you're going to be dead. Do you know that? Because you're killing yourself with this—" He sighed, staring at Stiles. "What's it worth, Sti? This constant tearing yourself apart? You've been obsessed with it for years. I know, I've been working with you and watching you for the last five of them—five long years of hunting. And for what? To get a woman and kill her. That's all. What's it worth?"
“You know what she has done. Who she has killed!” Taking a deep breath he took out a pack of cigarettes he bought for his cover up character. “Here take one,” he said, offering the pack. "And don't worry about me. Worry about Cassie. She's the one who'll be dead."
James shrugged and took the smoke. "Okay. But if this blows up, I'm through. Because this is all I can take."
"Nothing will blow up. I'll get her. If I don't get her now, I'll get her the next time, or the next, or the next. With or without you, I'll get my revenge." Stiles took a trembling breath, his gray eyes cold under heavy black brows. "But there better be no next time."
He sat back in his chair, his face falling into the lines so familiar to James Stone. Stiles had been a handsome man — if you are into social awkward teens that is —, but the long years of hate had done their work on his face. He was still small like before but now he was powerfully built too, heavy-shouldered, with a strong neck and straight nose, and a shock of dark brown hair, neatly combed back. Only his face showed the bitterness of the past five years—years filled with anger and hatred, and a growing savagery which had driven him almost to the breaking point.
The lines about his eyes and mouth were cruel—heavy lines that had been carved deeply and indelibly into the strong face, giving it a harsh, almost brutal cast in the dim light of the bistro. He breathed regularly and slowly as he sat, but his dark eyes were ice-hard as they moved slowly across the little show floor. They took in every face, every movement in the growing atmosphere.
He was out of place and he knew it. He had no use for the giddy, half-hysterical people who crowded these smoke-filled holes night after night. They came in droves from the heart of the city to drink the alcoholic drinks and inhale drugs frantically as they tried desperately to drive off the steam and pressure of their daily lives.
And Stiles...well he hated the smell and stuffiness of the place; the loud screams of laughter, the idiotic giggles of women falling in love or finding her next victim, hated the blubbering drunkards who crowded the bars with their beers and their strange, unhealthy dream-world. Above all, he hated the resounding artificiality, the brassiness and clanging noise of the crowd.
His skin crawled. He knew that he could easily disappear in the crowd, sway his body alongside music and use his charm on giggling girls and males but today he can't bring himself to do it. If he was haunting anyone today but Cassie he would do it without thinking about but with Cassia … he only sees his dad’s bloody face staring back at him. The eyes that will never look at him gazeless and the arms that will never wrap around his body were cold and stiff soon to become cold and stiff as eight hours since the death neared.
“Stiles? You okay there buddy?” James asked watching him from corner of his eyes. “You know I could take this mission on myself? If you aren't feeling good.”
“No, I’m good,” easing back in the chair he fought for control of his trembling hands. “I must be one to kill her. It is last I could do for dad.”
The lights dimmed suddenly and a huge red spotlight caught the curtain at the back of the show floor. Stiles heard James catch his breath for a moment, then let out a small, uneasy sigh. The crowd hushed as the girl parted the curtains and stepped out onto the middle of the floor, to beginning of an erotic dance battles. Stiles eyes widened as they followed her to the center of the red light. She has some good moves for kid of her age.
Stiles glanced sharply at James. "The girl? She's the one?"
Nodding James let his eyes room over her thin body. "Cassia knows how to pick them — could be because she is woman and who knows a woman better than another woman. She's supposed to meet her later one. This is her first show for the evening. Then she has another at ten and another at two. She's supposed to take her home." He glanced around the room carefully. "Watch yourself," he muttered, and silently slipped away from the table.
The girl was nervous. Stiles sat close enough to see the fear in her face as she whirled around the floor. The music had shifted into a slow throbbing undertone, as she started to dance. She moved slowly, circling the floor. Her hair was long and black, flowing around her shoulders, and her body moved with carefully calculated grace to the music. But there was fear in her face as she whirled, and her eyes sought the faces on the fringe of the circle.
The music quickened imperceptibly and Stiles felt a chill run up his spine. The upper part of the shimmering gown slipped from the girl's shoulders, and slowly the tempo of the dance began to change from the stately rhythm it had a moment before. The throb of the music became hypnotic, moving faster and faster. Stiles hands trembled as he tried to draw his eyes away from the undulating figure. There had been nothing to mark the change, but suddenly the dance had become obscene as the music rose—so viciously obscene that Stiles nearly gagged.
He felt the tension in the crowd around him. He heard their breathing rise, felt the desperate eagerness in their hard, bright eyes as they watched. The nervousness had left the girl's face. She had forgotten her fear, and a little smile appeared on her face as her body moved in abandon to the quickening beat.
Slowly she moved toward the tables, and the spotlight followed her, playing tricks with her hair and gown, concealing and revealing, twisting and swaying.... Stiles felt his body freeze. He fought to move, fought to take his eyes from the writhing figure as she mingled among the people, moving from table to table, never slowing her motion, graceful as a cat, twisting and twirling in the flickering red light. In and out she moved until she reached his table, her face still a peacefully smiling mask. With amazing grace she leaped up on the table-top and gave Stiles glass a kick that sent it spinning onto the floor with a crash. And then the red light hit him full in the face—
"Get out of the light!"
Like a cat he threw his chair back and struck the girl, knocking her from the table. Someone screamed and the light swung to the girl, then back to him. The table went over. He rolled out of the light, twisting and fighting through the stunned and screaming crowd. His gun was in his hand, and he frantically searched the shouting room with his eyes.
"Get her! There she goes!"
He heard James's voice roar from the side of the room. Stiles swung sharply to the sound of the voice. He saw the tall, slender figure crouched with her back to the bar, eyes wide with fear and desperation. There was no mistaking the face, the hollow cheeks and the high forehead, the strawberry blond hair. It was the face he had seen in his dreams, the twisted lips, the evil face of the woman he had hunted to the ends of the earth. For a fraction of a second he saw Cassia crouched at bay, and then the figure was gone, twisting through the crowd toward the door—
"Stop her!" Stiles swung savagely into the crowd, screaming at James across the room. "She's heading for the street! Get her!" The gun kicked sharply against his hand as he fired at the moving head. Rising for an instant, it disappeared again into the sea of heads. A scream rose at the shot. Women dropped to the floor, glasses crashed, tables went over. Someone clawed ineffectually for Stiles’ leg. Then, abruptly, the lights went out and there was another scream.
"The door, the door—Don't let her get out—”