Part One is here. For the people who asked–what’s next?
* * *
Six people stride down the sidewalk, all wearing bells wrapped in black cloth. The silenced bells swing as they walk at a fast, ground-eating pace. They all have set, determined expressions, except for one of the women. A pretty blonde with her hair cut short in a wispy style that flatters her face, she wears sadness and anger in her red-rimmed eyes and tightly clenched fists. One of her hands is smudged with blood.
The dark haired woman who stabbed a knife through that hand walks in front. She smiles as she runs her fingers across another, larger knife in her pants pocket. Though the smallest of the group, she carries herself with the assurance of a venomous snake, and the others give her a careful margin of personal space.
After several minutes walking, they arrive at their destination, a small house wedged between two larger houses. All of the buildings on the street are a little worn around the edges, with peeling paint, garden beds running to weeds and dying grass, and cracks beginning to spread across sidewalks.
One of the men knocks at the door, several hard raps, and after a moment, a man opens it. A bell hangs around his neck, too. His eyes travel from one unfriendly face to another, lingering on the woman with the injured hand for a few extra moments, his expression never showing surprise, only resignation.
“Did you think you would get away with it, Max?” The dark haired woman asks, tense with excitement, both hands in her pockets and clutching a knife.
It’s possible to leave the Bells, a gang of werecats, alive. A were must petition the leader, and compensate for their future loss by doing the leader three favors, and paying triple the tithe while they do so. In truth, this is a punishment, the favors always tasks no one else would want to do, and when they are finished, they must fight another Were to prove they still have honor. For the Bells, that was knife-wielding Ana, who had put every single one of her opponents in the hospital.
So Max had found a new job and a new place in another city, and bought a plane ticket under an assumed name, precautions that hadn’t kept him from discovery.
He stepped down from his house, closing the door behind him, but not bothering to lock it. All his belongings will be sold, and someone will use his ticket, and spread a story about how he had left. No one will find his body.
The Bells part around him, forming a circle as they walk. Max can feel Ana’s eyes on his back as they round a corner and approach a vacant lot, full of trash and scrubby weeds. Somewhere in the darkness where the street lights don’t reach, the knives will finally come out.