Chapter no 16‌ – The Hunter

Hunting Adeline

The Basilisk Brotherhood lives in a bank in a suburb of Portland. Obviously, it was abandoned, though the sign outside the building still stands, the old name in bold blue letters. The entire front wall has been replaced with black slate, assumingly because it used to be glass when it was a business.

What’s more interesting is that they turned it into a mini skyscraper. I know damn well this bank didn’t look this good when it was active, and it sure as shit didn’t have at least five floors on top of it.

I swing open my door and inhale my cigarette one last time before stubbing it on the ground with my boot.

Stop littering.

Yes, baby.

I grab the butt and throw it in a little trash bag hanging in my car, the recyclable sack full of orange filters already.

Exiting my Mustang, I slam the door shut and slowly approach the building. The parking lot is empty, so I’m assuming their cars are hidden in a garage somewhere.

Several cameras watch me as I approach the front door. Glancing up, I stare directly into the lens hanging above the entrance, and seconds later, the door clicks.

Two of the four brothers are waiting for me on the other side. Ryker and Kace, the former with his arms crossed and a frown tugging on his lips, and the latter with his hands tucked into his front pockets and a stoic expression.

They both eye me closely, so I put my hands up.

“I swear I’m not here to rob you. Scout’s honor,” I say with a grin. “You’d be dead already if you were.”

I drop my hands, the smile on my face growing. Deciding I’ll push their buttons one at a time instead of all at once, I remain quiet.

We’re standing in what used to be the main room; the teller station now closed off completely. Now, it’s four walls, dimly lit with shiny gray wood

flooring and deep navy blue walls. A single black leather couch is pushed up against the wall to my left, and I imagine this is where all unwelcome or untrusted guests are vetted before they’re allowed into their home.

“You have two minutes to explain what the hell you want,” Ryker says.

“Well, fuck, no pressure, right?” I widen my stance and cross my arms, appearing at ease. “Long story short, my girl was kidnapped by the Society. Sold off into the skin trade.”

“You’re Z, and can’t find her?” Kace challenges.

I keep my face blank as I meet his stare. His blue eyes are ice cold and unflinching, unconcerned with questioning my skills.

“I’m capable of a lot of things, Kace,” I say quietly, unleashing a little bit of the darkness that’s been festering inside my body. “Including finding exactly where your twin sister stays. Claremont Drive, right? Her twin girls, Kacey and Karla, are getting so big already. Eleven years old, am I right?”

He snarls and takes a step towards me, the first sign of emotion sparking in his eyes. Ryker’s hand snaps out and lands on his chest, stopping him from advancing.

I forge on before any threats can leave their mouths. I have no interest in Kace’s family.

“Her name is Adeline Reilly. She was taken to Dr. Garrison’s place to be treated for injuries from a car accident—one that they caused. The doctor had a penchant for taking his patients to his room and having his way with them, except with Addie, he tried to kidnap her. He was killed by one of her kidnappers, Rio Sanchez, and when they left, they shut down the entire grid. The last thing I am is incapable, but I am also aware that the more people I have searching for her, the faster I am to find her.

“I am a patient man, but not when it comes to getting my girl back.” They’re quiet for a few beats, their brains churning.

“What do you need us for?” Ryker asks finally.

“You trade in human organs,” I answer. “Do you not?” Ryker tilts his head to the side, contemplating my question.

“If you know that, why would you want people who are in the market for people like your girlfriend to help you?”

I shrug casually. “You’re not going to hurt her, and I’m willing to look the other way in the meantime.”

If I find out they are getting people killed so they can profit off of their organs, then all bets are off. Though, I have a very strong feeling the rumors were true, and that’s not the case.

Kace shakes his head as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“You have extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the skin trade. I’m sure you know exactly how to track down product if it’s being auctioned or traded,” I continue.

“What’s in it for us?”

I widen my arms, the shit-eating grin back on my face. I’m empty on the inside—nothing but white noise takes up residence, but I’ve grown accustomed to arranging my face into expressions just as easily as I can wipe my face clean of them.

“I’m a man of many talents. I’ll write an IOU on a piece of paper, and you can tuck that in your pocket for when you need it. One-time admission. Can’t be reused. Like a coupon.”

Kace narrows his eyes, staring at me as if I’m a little sibling begging to play with him and his friends.

“What makes you think we’d have any use for you?” he questions dryly. My ego—it hurts.

“Crazier shit has happened,” I retort, dropping my arms.

Another pregnant pause, and I make sure to meet both of their gazes, not the least bit bothered by their intimidation tactics.

Ryker jerks his head towards the door, grumbling, “Follow me.”

Kace stares at his brother, communicating something with his eyes that I don’t care to interpret. Whatever silent conversation passes between them lasts all of three seconds before Kace gives in and follows after Ryker without argument.

But not before throwing a suspicious look over his shoulder.

Who hurt you, bro?

I don’t care to find that out, either.

A fingerprint scanner is built into the door handle, the machine chirping when Ryker’s print is recognized.

I follow them through the door, and my brows shoot up my forehead.

I’ve walked into a bachelor’s wet dream.

The room is gigantic and completely open, with the ceiling scaling up at least a hundred feet. The entire area is washed in browns and blacks and

made up of only four walls. A staircase on the far right leads to a balcony that completely circles the building, housing dozens of doors and a black elevator on the back left side. The upper four floors have their own floating balconies, too, and I wonder what the fuck do they need all this space for.

Scratch that—I don’t care.

Oh, but I might care about that. A massive vault is straight ahead, the door painted black. My curiosity piques, wondering what’s beyond it.

I whistle, impressed and maybe even a tad jealous of their get-up. “Human organs pay well, don’t they?” I muse.

“Shut up,” Kace bites out, heading for one of the black leather couches where a shirtless Daire lounges casually, knees spread wide.

I do a double take when I see a chain coiled around his hand, leading directly to a collar fastened around a girl’s throat, who is currently kneeling at his feet. Only a black band covers her tits, the rest of her body is fully exposed. Her head is bowed, and her hands rest neatly on her pale thighs. A curtain of black hair obscures her face from view, and I can’t tell if that’s intentional or not.

I think Addie would sooner rip my balls off before she’d ever kneel at my feet. Lucky for her, I’d gladly kneel at hers. Kiss her little toes while I’m at it, too. Eventually, my mouth would lead up between her legs, but I don’t think she’d mind that part.

Daire grins at me, the piercings above his brow glinting from the crackling flames in the fireplace next to him. He doesn’t look the least bit bothered by my presence, though that doesn’t erase the spark of challenge in his eyes.

Slade sits on the opposite side, his dark blond head turning to glare at me over the top of the couch.

Such hostility.

“I’ve agreed to help him,” Ryker announces, taking a seat beside Daire. He doesn’t even glance at the girl, and I assume he’s used to Daire’s sexual habits by now.

“Yeah? What’s he doing for us?” Slade asks, his question directed at his brother, yet his dark eyes stay glued to me.

“Oh,” I say, holding up a finger for them to hang on. I twist around until I find a piece of paper and pen on an end table, write the letters I, O, U on it, and hand it to him.

He looks at the paper with bewilderment, turning his glare back up to me.

“First off, don’t write on people’s shit. Secondly, you’re fucking kidding me, right? We don’t need you.”

I grin. Is he nervous that I might find hemorrhoid cream on his receipts, too? He should know I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me what Slade spends his money on.

“You can act like my skills wouldn’t benefit the business you four are conducting, but that won’t get you very far.”

He crumples the paper and throws it in the fire, and I can’t help but chuckle in response. Their attitudes don’t bother me—it’s expected when a stranger comes busting into their lives making demands.

But they will fucking help me, whether they want to or not.

“You’ll have to let me know the source of these rumors,” Ryker cuts in. “The last thing we want is word getting out.”

“I’ll point you to the forums they’re posted on. You can handle it from there, yeah?”

Ryker nods. “They’re dangerous.”

“Because they’re true,” I finish, already understanding the ramifications that can have. They have a process, and it’s built off their reputation.

“You trust him?” Slade asks, raising a brow.

Ryker shrugs, unconcerned. “There’s one of him, and four of us.”

My top lip pulls over my teeth, just as unconcerned. I settle into the couch next to Slade, earning a glare that I dutifully ignore. Not hard when it’s like a chihuahua growling at you.

“So, if you’re not bad guys, how the hell do you traffic in organs… politely?”

“We handle the extraction process of the organs before selling them. If they’re already deceased, we purchase the body for an inflated price, remove the valuable organs and discard the rest. Then sell the organs in the market. If they’re alive, we send them home.”

He pauses, waiting for a reaction he’s not going to receive. I keep quiet, and after another beat, he continues.

“Daire is the one who understands the trading system best. Locates the product and keeps track of what’s going in and out of the market,” Ryker

informs me. Oddly, I’m surprised by that. Daire winks at me, the corner of his lips still curled up.

“Slade is our negotiator and accountant. Sets up the deals, negotiates prices, and handles the money. Kace removes and preserves the organs. And I conduct the deals once terms have been agreed to. Our priority is to intercept humans who are being sacrificed for their organs and get them back home.”

“But you do sell people’s organs?” I clarify.

“Absolutely, but who we sell to provides a service to families in desperate need. People who have been on waiting lists for transplants or those who can’t properly afford it with our current healthcare system. Doesn’t matter if it’s underground, they still go to good people who deserve it. The black market is full of evil, but not all of us are. It’s only necessary we appear that way.”

“If you’re only extracting organs from the dead, are you saying you only sell bone and skin? Doesn’t seem like a profitable business.”

Ryker and Slade glance at each other, a short conversation trading between them. I arch a brow, waiting for their decision.

Slade turns to me. “Kace used to be a mortician. He’s not a doctor, which is why we went to Dr. Garrison for serious injuries, but outside of his mortuary knowledge, he’s well-versed on how to painlessly put someone to sleep.”

“For good,” I say, filling in what he didn’t say. “Yes.”

I glance between Ryker and Slade, narrowing my eyes as I figure out what exactly they’re trying to say. Daire is now petting the girl’s hair, zoned out of our conversation.

“You assist in suicides.”

Slade’s stare turns grave. “Consensually. These are people who have a low quality of life. Whether they’re terminally ill, old and tired, or suffering from other mental illnesses. Whatever their reason, it’s their choice, and they agree to donate their organs. Kace puts them in a deep sleep, extracts the organs, and then they pass. Completely painless.”

I nod my head slowly, turning that information over in my head. People often only care about life when it’s inside of a woman’s stomach but stop

caring once that life is born. Makes me wonder if people choose this route because they couldn’t get the help they needed.

I purse my lips, then state, “Oregon is a state that passed the Death with Dignity Act.”

“The people who come to us are not from the states who have passed that law. In order to qualify for a physician-assisted death, you have to prove your residency,” Slade explains.

“And the money you get for their organs—where does it go?”

“Depends on their wishes. Sometimes they ask it to go to the family, and we honor that. But in most cases, whether it’s because they are not on good terms with their family or they don’t have any at all, they don’t care what we do with it, as long as it’s helping someone.”

Ryker cuts in, “It’s a stable income, and they pass with dignity when they otherwise would not be able to. It also allows us to maintain our secrecy. As much as we want to be like the big, bad Z and go around killing all the evil guys, they’re the ones who deliver the victims directly into our hands so we can save them.”

I cock my head. “The little girl that was shot. How did that happen?”

Shadows fall over Ryker’s eyes, darkening them to a moss green. “That’s how one of the traders brought her to us. He didn’t say how it happened, just that she was now useless and that we could sell her organs since she was going to die, anyway.”

In this corner of the world, even the dead are valuable.

“If you killed them, that’s one less person capable of stealing innocent people from their lives. One less child getting shot and sold for their organs.”

Ryker leans forward, resting his elbows on his spread knees.

“We do, when we’re able to, which is why our reputation as ruthless, murderous assholes is important. But if every single tradesman in the black market were killed, it would raise suspicions. The second that happens, we’re out. We don’t have a worldwide organization like you, we’re only four men. This means if people catch on to us, that’s thousands of lives we don’t save. You know as well as I do that they’re parasites and breed like rabbits. Snuffing out a few doesn’t even put a dent in the cesspool of sick fucks. We save more lives this way, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of blood on our hands.”

I nod, pursing my lips. “Fair enough,” I concede. “Good thing you have a mass organization at your disposal now. Maybe hold on to the next IOU paper, yeah? You can even sell it on eBay after—those are valuable.”

Slade tightens his lips and looks away. “Fuck off, smartass.”

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