Dark Impulse Ch. 19byAurora Black©
John Radcliffe Hospital
David stirred in bed, opening his eyes to find himself in a sterile white room, surrounded by beeping machines and flashing lights. Ah, yes. The hospital. I suppose the old man changed his mind about shooting me, after all.
A shaft of pain pierced his heart as he remembered the sight of his loved ones' graves. It had been a very long time since he'd set foot in that churchyard. In fact, he hadn't been there at all since the funeral. Even though several years had passed, it was still too painful for him to bear. The thought of his wife and son in the cold ground, the immobile stones above serving not only as markers of who they were in life, but as a testament to the happiness that David once lived. It was a bright light which was suddenly extinguished by the hand of death, a life of joy that he could neither return to nor recreate, despite his best efforts.
Nearly six years before, when he had sought sanctuary in India to heal his wounds and come to terms with his troubled past, she rescued him from the aching loneliness that had consumed him. With one smile, she had knocked down the walls that surrounded his heart and conquered him, body and soul. He had thought of her every day, dreamt of her every night. He had to have her, and he couldn't rest until she was his.
At the time he knew she was waiting for a man who didn't deserve her, but he was determined to woo and win her. When her mystery lover never showed, David took the opportunity to take things beyond friendship. He had devoted himself completely to her happiness, and gave everything he had to drive away the haunted look in her eyes. He had succeeded enough for her to trust him, confide in him. It was enough for her to marry him.
With a sigh, he closed his eyes to block out the mid-afternoon sun that streamed in from the opened window blinds. Besides the fact that he loved her more than his own life, he had originally proposed to Grace because he thought the child she carried was his. She had quickly shattered his illusions. She said that she didn't want to unfairly burden him with another man's child, but at the time he honestly didn't care as long as he had her. He stood by his offer of marriage, embracing the possibility of having a family once again. He had wanted a child that would fill the gaping hole in his heart with unconditional love, and he had also hoped to conceive a child of his own with Grace someday.
Sadly, it was not to be. Soon after Rafe turned three years old, David learned from his doctor that he could never father another child. As a result of his discovery, his tender feelings for his surrogate son began to fade away, replaced by anger and resentment towards the child as well as the stranger who had sired him.
David knew that it was unfair and cruel to feel that way, but he couldn't cope with seeing such a brilliant child day after day and knowing that he was the product of another man, and that he himself would never have a son to replace the one he lost long ago.
Sterile. How ironic. This is my punishment for past sins; I have lost my ability to create life because I've willingly taken the lives of so many.
While David was unconscious, his dreams had been saturated with blood as he remembered and relived the experience of killing off his enemies. He saw each individual face in his mind's eye as he approached them one by one, reveled in the taste of their fear and agony as he ripped them apart. They were the ones who violated and killed his mother, and he had made them pay dearly for what they had done.
Looking back, he felt justified because he had done it for revenge. But it was only years later when he began to do it for enjoyment and personal gain, and that alone caused him to have nightmares every night.
Falling in love with Caitlin had temporarily silenced the rage inside him. When she and the baby died, there was nothing left to prevent him from sliding back into the abyss. After they were gone and buried, he left everything and wandered the globe in a haze of grief. Not even his best friend Liam had been able to reach him, couldn't bring him back to his senses.
With nothing left to lose, David immersed himself in the criminal underworld, dealing with a wide variety of shady businessmen and taking incredible risks to earn large sums of cold, hard cash. He became an assassin with a reputation for being icy and merciless, and his victims were always left in a condition where the cause of death was impossible to be pinpointed. For his unusual expertise, he had been highly sought after by clients in need of a professional to do their dirty work. He never refused a job.
On his travels, he visited so many places that they all began to blur together; Tokyo, Dubai and Paris all looked the same under the harsh neon glare of the casinos, cheap hotels and bars that he had frequented to conduct his business transactions. The pay was wonderful, and he had gladly earned every penny.
In the fourteen years that he had worked as a hired killer, David had always taken great pains not to get emotionally involved. But one night, while on an assignment, he reached his personal boundaries and crossed them.
He had been hired by a branch of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, to track down and eliminate a rogue member who had left the group to marry a young woman. Since it was against their code for members to marry or start a family, the others in the group wanted him dead as well as the woman in question to regain their honor.
It took three weeks before David managed to find the young man and his bride, locating them in a quiet suburb near Kyoto. He stalked the couple until the opportunity to strike presented itself. He had waited until they were asleep and silently entered their house, moving like a ghost. For reasons that were unknown to him, he had decided against attacking them in raven form as he did with many of the others, opting instead to use an antique katana sword, its blade honed to a razor's edge.
He stood over their bed, watching them sleep as he raised the sword high in the air. He plunged the blade into the young man's chest, his stomach churning as the youth's screams of pain reached him. The woman awoke and screamed as she saw the pristine white sheets covered in her husband's blood. David twisted the sword until the man finally died, and then he turned to the woman.
She had bolted from the bed in a futile attempt to save herself; it was easy for him to catch up with her. He dragged her back into the bedroom by her hair, hating himself for his weakness and hesitation at harming an unarmed woman. She cursed him and tried to bite him, but he had quickly subdued her struggles. She begged for her life, but David struck her down as if he was swatting a pesky fly. After she had breathed her last, his real work of the night had begun.
I want proof that the job has been carried out properly, the leader of the Yakuza gang had told him, and David knew that he had to deliver on his promise.
Later that night, David had gone back to the nightclub and met with his employer. The proof that he had asked for was presented to him in a small metal box. The sadistic bastard had laughed upon opening the box, and David wanted to vomit at the sight of his own handiwork.
Inside the box was the young man's heart and the tiny fetus of his wife's unborn child, which was removed from her dead womb with a surgeon's precision.
Returning to the present, David cringed hard at the memory of his crime, his cruelty and his shame. He was so devastated by what he had done to that young couple that he had immediately retired from the role of hit man and swore never to kill another human being. He rose above the dregs of society and put his knowledge of business to work, using the money he had earned as an assassin to create Anami Enterprises and to make it one of the top companies in Japan and then the world.
But he still couldn't sleep at night; no amount of money or success would wash away the river of blood that stained his hands, his mind and his dreams. After he married Grace, he had foolishly believed that it was the end of his service to the Morrigan and that he could live without the need to transform and hunt for souls, consuming them to gain power and longevity.
His recent taste of the old way of life back in London had greatly energized him, but he was deeply afraid of losing control again, of giving in to the dark impulse that always called out to him. Now that his life with Grace was ending, he desperately wanted to hold fast to the decent existence that he had worked so hard to build for himself. Even though Rafe wasn't his biological child, he still wanted to be a good person for his sake and somehow make amends for his behavior towards him.
David opened his eyes and sat up in bed.
There is still hate in my heart, and that is a far cry from who I want to be. I have to let go of the past and move on, but how? At first I thought that I could ignore the call of the birds, and for a long time I managed to do so. But then all this business with Cooper happened and I panicked, hiring a so-called expert to help out. But what do I have to fear? I didn't kill that bastard, and there's no way in hell that law enforcement could tie that to me.
He stared out of the window. I have proven to myself that I can resist the urge. I haven't killed anyone since that last job all those years ago, and I can easily continue that route. But must I give up my gift, which was so generously bestowed upon me by the Goddess in my time of need? It is so liberating to become one with nature and fly with the ravens. Until last night, I hadn't realized how much I had missed it. I can't give it up, not now. Perhaps not ever. Knight's services are no longer needed.
Satisfied with his decision, he laid back against the pillows and closed his eyes.
* * *
In the hospital cafeteria, Liam sipped his tea thoughtfully as he read the newspaper. Word had already leaked about David's rescue, and he believed that the wisest thing for them to do was to hold a press conference that afternoon so David could face the reporters head-on and tell whatever story he had invented to explain what happened to him. It was unacceptable for anyone to know the truth.
Liam grimaced as he set down the teacup. He recognized that voice.
Westbridge , that bloody bastard. He's come to cause trouble again. Of all the gall!
Colin Westbridge was a local businessman whose company had recently been bought out by AE, and in Liam's opinion he was one of the worst sons-of-bitches on the planet. Despite the fact that David kindly gave him a seat on the board, he was extremely bitter and would stop at nothing to see both David and Liam out of business or worse.
Liam tried to smile pleasantly as he greeted his unwelcome visitor.
"Ah, Colin. How lovely to see you, as always. Won't you sit down?"
Westbridge was slightly younger than the Irishman; his shoulder-length black hair was pulled back from his coldly handsome face, and the diamond in his right earlobe winked in the light. He stood beside the small table, staring daggers at Liam.
His voice dripped with malice. "I prefer to stand, you bleeding sod. What the hell is going on with Anami? He refused to show his face at yesterday's meeting, which I took great trouble to set up, and now he's supposedly fighting for his life. Vanished, my arse! I think this is some sort of trick created by you and him to deflect suspicion and gain sympathy."
Liam stood to face Westbridge, towering over him by several inches. His stormy blue eyes bored into the intruder's as he fought to retain control over his anger. His voice was a low and fierce growl as he spoke.
"I think that you're completely off your head, Colin. David is incredibly lucky to be alive, and I don't appreciate your attitude during this trying time. I want you to leave this hospital. Now, you sniveling idiot, before you upset him with your bullshit!"
A fearful look crept into Westbridge's eyes before he quickly recovered.
"You're in no position to give orders, Kilpatrick! I have the upper hand. I know everything that's been going on, you sanctimonious prick, and both you and your boss had better be careful how you treat me from now on. In fact, there will be some major changes on the horizon concerning my role in the company."
Liam could feel his blood boil in his veins. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Westbridge sneered. "I saw Anami beating the shit out of Cooper last week! I was walking to my car after the meeting that night, and I saw everything. So now the two of you are finally going to show me the respect that I deserve. By this time tomorrow I want ten million pounds in cash, and we'll see how things go from there."
Liam's hands curled into fists as he carefully weighed his options. If he gave in to his urge to rearrange Westbridge's face, he would create a scene and force a confrontation between himself and the many policemen who were visiting the hospital to investigate David. Colin would have loved that, so Liam convinced himself to change tactics.
He sighed heavily, shaping his features into a mask of defeat.
"All right, you win. I'll need to discuss this with David before we proceed. Also, it will take time to produce that kind of money at such short notice..."
The dark-haired man lifted a finger up to Liam's face, cutting him off.
"You have until tomorrow, like I said. Or else I'm calling the authorities."
Liam smiled widely, causing Westbridge to frown in confusion.
"Whatever you say, Colin. I really should check on David now. Take care."
He turned on his heel and left the room, feeling Westbridge's eyes on his back. Liam felt the corners of his mouth twitch as he strode down the corridor.
Don't worry, my greedy friend. You'll get exactly what's coming to you.
* * *
500 West 43rd Street at 10th Avenue,
Hiroshi's powerful voice echoed in the living room of Grace's studio apartment as he read a passage from Wuthering Heights to a captive audience of two. Rafe and Leon, Evelyn's young son, sat quietly on the carpet as they hung on every word.
"'My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind...'"
As Hiroshi continued reading, Rafe felt a strange restlessness build within him at the words. Several moments later, he couldn't stop himself from interrupting the reading.
"How could she marry Linton when she obviously loved Heathcliff?"
Hiroshi looked up from the book. "It's complicated, son. Even though the two of them seemed to share the same heart and soul, Catherine knew that they couldn't have a life together. She was under a great deal of pressure from her brother, who was her only remaining family, to marry well and save Wuthering Heights from ruin. She had more than herself to consider, and she knew that marrying Linton would help the situation a lot more than if she were to choose penniless Heathcliff."
He thought for a moment before continuing. "Perhaps it could also be said that Catherine chose Linton for something besides money. Heathcliff was as untamed and passionate as the countryside that surrounded the castle, and with him she felt free from the restrictions that usually bound young ladies at the time. But once Linton fell in love with the spirited Catherine, everything changed. She was told over and over to change her ways, to forget Heathcliff and make the smart choice."
Hiroshi suddenly remembered his late wife's harsh criticism of Grace; nothing she did was ever good enough for Keiko, from her wardrobe to her studies. Even her taste in men was under fire. He remembered one Thanksgiving when Grace brought home a boyfriend from Yale and Keiko hurriedly pulled her daughter into the other room and shouted at her loud enough for everyone to hear, "What are you doing, bringing that gaijin to my table? I try to set you up with nice Japanese boys and you bring that home???"
At the memory, he briefly removed his glasses to rub his eyes.
"Boys, sometimes if someone tells you something enough times, either good or bad, you begin to believe them. Everyone told Catherine that Heathcliff was below her, dirty and devilish, just because he was a gypsy and servant. They pounded her into the ground with their poisoned words, and they won. Her spirit was broken. She cut herself off from Heathcliff, the one she truly loved, and chose Linton."
The older man leaned forward. "I believe that she was trapped by circumstance, and as a result she sacrificed her own happiness and deluded herself into believing she would be happy with a man who was completely ill-suited for her. Catherine said of Heathcliff, 'He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'"
Leon spoke up. "So there was no way she could get out of it?"
Hiroshi rubbed his chin. "If you think about it from a modern point of view, of course she could have done a number of things to avoid the marriage. She could have moved away, she could have gone off to marry Heathcliff, she could have told her brother to butt out and mind his own business..."
The boys giggled at the mention of the word "butt" and Hiroshi smiled as he waited for the laughter to fade. He leaned back on the couch as he continued.
"But unfortunately in those times, women were always ruled over by some man or other. Father, brother or husband, it didn't matter. They had no control over the most important issues of their lives, and no choice but to go along with the wishes of the men who controlled them."
Rafe's dark eyes flashed with heat. "I'm glad those days are over."
Hiroshi nodded in agreement before raising the book again.
"Now, where were we?"
* * *
Fort Tyron Park
They had exited the subway at 190th Street, and Gabriel watched as Grace walked several steps in front of him, leading the way. Not a word was spoken between them since their brief exchange in the university classroom, and he had enough curiosity to kill twenty cats.
Where is she taking me, and what the hell am I going to say when we get there?
He continued to watch her walk, admiring the way her hair shone in the light and the sway of her hips beneath her skirt. More than anything he wanted to reach out and touch her, but he knew that he had to be patient and take things slow.
As he followed her, he allowed himself to relax for the first time that day and enjoy the beauty of the area. Everything was so quiet and peaceful compared to the noise and traffic that dominated the rest of Manhattan, and Gabriel took a deep breath as he looked at the gardens and the breathtaking view of the Hudson river.
He ran to catch up with Grace, and he noticed the museum's great tower for the first time. As they approached the impressive building, Gabriel felt as if he was being transported to another time and place. He remembered the castles that he saw in provincial France, and he finally recognized the unique medieval style.
They arrived at the Cloisters and were immediately confronted by a guard.
"I'm sorry folks, but the museum is closed today... Dr. Nakimura!"
Grace gave the guard a radiant smile, and Gabriel felt a twinge of jealousy because the stranger couldn't possibly know how valuable her smiles truly were, and how cold and empty the world can be when one no longer receives them.