Before the military, Ryan spent plenty of time trying to get out of scrapes. Even with his background, he still hasn’t gotten used to starting them.

Ryan Shane

I never should have come here.

Mr. Shane quietly cursed the situation he found himself in. He was sitting in another car, one whose owner he didn’t know, thinking of how he’s going to accomplish the task given to him by Lady Vash.

The apartment building loomed over him. He needed to go in, draw the attention of any hired goons watching and notify Vash so she can get the hidden cash. And no killing. Not that he had an issue with that last edict.

“Dammit!”

A car passes by and no more look to be coming up the road. It’s time.

He opens the car door, steps out and slams it shut. He quickly crosses the street, though taking care to not run and draw too much attention to himself. The glow of the city seemed to hum to the City’s Heart.

At least I’ll be able to hear it, even in there.

The neon lights fade as Mr. Shane slinks into the shadow. He moves slowly now, listening for people inside the building. There should be a door around the side here somewhere…

A-ha!

Bella’s information was accurate. The door was open and led to a long, dark hallway. The shadows were only broken by small, dim lights lining the hall.

To his relief, he could see just enough that he knew there was no one on this floor. Though that would only delay the inevitable.

Mr. Shane moved down the hall, toward the elevator. He’ll need to go up to the tenth floor to find Ms. Gaudio’s apartment. He pulls the door to the lift open and silently closes it, selecting the appropriate floor.

The elevator sounds like a freight train to Ryan after his expert sneaking. He prays that the sound of the machine blends into the City’s Heart. The cart slows to crawl as it approaches the floor.

The doors slide open and creak to a stop.

Several men in very nice suits are pointing handguns at an empty elevator.

“What the hell?” The one closest to the car questions. “It’s empty?”

“Check it out.” A deep voice calls from the back.

The man in the front moves in the car, leading with his handgun. He points it around the elevator, looking for whatever phantom force caused it to move to their floor.

“There’s nothing here.”

“Damn thing is probably broken.”

“I’m going back in.”

The men holster their weapons somewhere in their jackets, sure the elevator is nothing of their concern. They take a step back to one of the apartments when Mr. Shane decides to act.

Five… Six… and Seven… Damn. I was hoping for something less flashy, but this will have to do.

He kicks out the vent on top of the elevator, dropping down to the floor below him. In the instant the man in front of him starts to scream out, he knocks him to the floor, snatching the man’s gun from his jacket in the process.

Another instant passes, and Mr. Shane dives out of the elevator between another two brawlers. As he moves, he disassembles the weapon, chucking pieces of it at the other two men down the hall.

The distractions prevent them from drawing their weapons, just long enough for Mr. Shane to get to work. He kicks out the legs of the two men next to him, slamming his elbow into one of them as he stands up.

The other man reaches into his jacket to pull his gun back out. Ryan grabs the man he just hit, and throws him down onto the other, ensuring their heads slam into each other.

The next instant sees the two men Mr. Shane threw the gun pieces at whipping out their handguns. There isn’t enough time. He sprints down the hall at them, hoping the act is enough to surprise the men, and keep them from firing.

It doesn’t work.

The guns each light up as they fire shots at Mr. Shane. One whizzes inches past his head, much to his relief. The other hits his shoulder, leaving a trail of blood in the air.

Despite the heat of battle dulling his pain, he still feels the sting.

This is gonna hurt…

He puts his hands out, grabbing the heads of his opponents, and slams them into each other. Their weapons discharge shots wildly, as the men lose control and collapse.

A gunshot rings out behind him, as the bullet misses him. One of the two men just outside the elevator must have gotten together enough to fire. Mr. Shane picks up the unconscious body of one of the other men, and hides behind him as he thinks of his next move. It must have worked, because the bullets stop.

Won’t last for long.

He notices the door to the apartment is open, so he dives through, just in time for two more bullets to barely miss.

He turns around and slams the door shut, locking it to buy himself some more time.

The sound of the hammer of a gun cocking back lets him know he failed.

“Who the hell do you think you are, kid?”

The voice was deep and grizzled. The sound of a man who has done a lot and seen too much more.

Mr. Shane curses under his breath. He doesn’t dare turn around.

“I asked you a question, boy.”

“If you’re going to kill me, then kill me.”

“Not just yet.”

The sound of another set of footsteps crosses the room, coming up behind him.

“Hands where we can see them.” His voice is younger, less experienced.

“You’re gonna tell us where Lady Gaudio is, otherwise, my friend here is going to make things messy.”

He wasn’t sure why, but the way he said ‘Lady’ stuck out to him. It wasn’t derision or sarcasm. There was almost… reverence.

“Rupert? You work for the Gaudio’s right?”

The footsteps stop.

“How do you know that name?”

“Bella told me. I’m here on her behalf.”

A rough hand grabs the back of his neck and slams his face into the door.

“Don’t you dare lie to me, boy!”

“It’s the truth!” Ryan can barely speak with his mouth crushed against the wood. “I swear, I’m helping her.”

The man pulls Mr. Shane back and forcibly spins him around. His hair was pushed back, peppered with gray. It looks like he hadn’t shaved this morning. But it was his eyes that fascinated Ryan. They were manic and angry and powerful, but they betrayed a sense of desperation.

He needs to find Bella.