I had come here to save a boy from suffering and his mother from certain death. I had not come here to peep through windows at rusty skeletons. Here they were though, remnants of the latest disease in a parade to take its turn filleting up parts of the city.
Oh good, the conquering hero, come to throw fate aside. Let us not mention that he destroyed or at very least, delayed one of the sources of a cure. It made me sick to my stomach that so many had died and were left to decompose in their homes. Their bodies served no real purpose, spread no disease that the Corps couldn’t cure. So to hell with them, they could stay in their tenement tombs until they faded back into dust.
Our intel hadn't been as accurate as I usually liked. It wasn’t horrible, mind. A four block radius when most of the city didn’t know what district these people were in was fine by me. I just hated having to scout by myself.
“Oooo…. More dead ‘uns!”
I sighed and rubbed my temples. Strike that. I wasn’t alone. I was much worse than alone. I was being followed by four imps in hooded sweatshirts that couldn’t stop gawking at the corpses. Or at birds. Or at people. Or at that shiny thing in the drain.
“Come on you lot. Let’s keep moving. Remember, we’re looking for a young boy. Quite possibly, we’re looking for several young boys who look exactly alike. We may even be looking for a boy with a team like ours. He won’t be friendly, that much is certain.”
“So fars, only dead ‘uns boss.”
“I know about those James.”
“Did you see that can in the drain!? It was shiny!”
I sighed and kept walking. Why oh why had I insisted on letting Mr. Jonathan, Rebecca, and Trevor scout from below? They could blend just fine. Instead, I was stuck playing peeping tom with four halfwit, badly disguised imps.
“Oh! That one’s pretty!”
“The lady with the ropes.”
“That one that’s tied up in that room. That looks like fun!”
I stopped in my tracks.
“Manfred, Whitfield, what are you two talking about?”
“The tied up lady in that room back there. She had a rope in her mouth and tying up her hands and feet. I remember you tying us up like that once. It was fun!”
I darted back to the window they were pointing at and squinted to see inside. Indeed, there a woman was tied up and gagged, sitting amongst a clutch of almost skeletons. The door started to swing open and a young boy sauntered into the room, wearing grungy khakis and a black button down shirt. Followed by his twin. Followed by a third duplicate. Then a fourth.
Two of them grabbed the woman by the feet and dragged her into the middle of the room. Then, each one of the no more than ten year old boys started kicking her in the ribs.
“Charles, get the others. You three, we’re going in.”
“Now? No waiting?”
I pulled my pistol, fired three times through the window, and jumped inside the room. This little shit needed teaching a lesson. Sons do not strike their mothers. Each one of the four turned, a frown on their faces, dark hair shading their eyes. Their feet stopped kicking their mother as their fists balled up and they came for me.
The butt end of my pistol kissed the nearest one’s chin and he spun away into the wall, crashing into the arms of a skeleton. One lunged forward, cocked back his fist to punch me in the stomach, and ended up with James landing on his chest.
The other two duplicate boys hesitated for a moment and ended up with Manfred and Whitfield tackling them. With the fourth boy still reeling on the floor, I stooped to undo the woman’s bonds. I ripped the gag out of her mouth.
“Is this all of them? How many more of your son are there?”
“This isn’t my boy. These are his things. I don’t know where he is. Help him. Help him please.”
A hand on my shoulder told me I had taken too long and the fourth boy was back up. Then, his claws dug into my shoulder and I realized that he wasn’t a boy at all. I put my elbow where its stomach belonged and made squishy contact. It was enough to make the thing grabbing me let go.
“Nod, these is brothers! Cousins! Uncles!”
I turned to see The Wrecking Crew wrestling blue-green imps with stringy fluorescent yellow hair. The one that had grabbed my shoulder grinned through a mouthful of half-rotted teeth.
“If they aren’t Mob, they don’t matter.”
I shot the imp three times in the chest and watched its shit-eating grin melt off of its face. It fell over wordlessly as a boy screamed somewhere else in the house. The imps my boys were handling howled and all at once lifted up Manfred, Whitfield, and James to fling them off and escape.
But my boys knew their instructions. If these were not Mob, there was no reason to let them live. Lethal force ends fights so much faster.
James’ foe fell with four knives sticking out of its neck. The two remaining imps successfully flung off Manfred and Whitfield and darted out the door only to explode into a cloud of teal mist moments later.
Then, I head the feet. Like raindrops on a tin roof. They were coming. That was what had torn apart the roadblocks. Not a little boy. Not four imps. An army of imps.
I helped the woman to her feet and pushed her towards the window.
“But my boy…”
“I promise, I won’t kill him. But you need to go.”
Then Mr. Jonathan was there at the window, taking her hand, lifting her through. The cavalry was here.
“Nod, what have we gotten ourselves into?”
Charles was coming back in through the window, speaking in soft words, his purple skin furrowed, crimson Mohawk drooping.
“Big mess, fur face. Big messes. All of you, get’s get’s your ass movin’. We wills take care of this. You’s watch for nasty man and nasty girl. These brothers hurt their caller. These brothers ran away, long time long time. They did nasty things to imps. We do nasty things to them.”
“You heard them Mr. Jonathan. Somebody needs to get Mob’s mother to safety, the rest of you start securing the neighborhood for when Corsair and his daughter get here.”
“What about you?”
“I’m staying with The Crew.”
I reloaded my pistol. Damnation those footsteps sounded like they would never end. Where were they coming from? Why weren’t they here already?
“Yeah, it’s time I picked on somebody my own size.”