8. ‘Pay The Price’

‘Positively Amazonian’ is today’s track by Peter Connelly & Martin Iveson, which is taken from ‘The Dark Angel Symphony’. You can listen to the track HERE and visit the online shop and site HERE.

Ready for bed, I gazed in wonderment at the Dagger of Xian within my grasp. It was weighty; its snakes head was crafted from gold with two sparkling amethysts for eyes. I mildly sighed as I was relieved I’d managed to get home with it; the lengths I’d gone to to get it into my palm and away from others was quite the experience.

I frowned as wheels crunched on the gravel outside; sliding the blade through the belt loop of my robe. I tightened it, staying low and taking a closer look out of my bedroom window. Black vans made light work of my iron gates, bursting through and quickly screeching to a halt. The red logo of a serpent glowed, even in night. Fiamma Nera. I expected every single one of them to have the taste of revenge gliding through their gums. It was obvious they wanted me to pay the price; it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were here to avenge Marco’s death and claim the dagger back.

I shot up and raided my gun cupboard. Many of my weapons were out being repaired or cleaned since I’d come back from China; the only weapon I had for defence was my trusty shotgun. I loaded the barrel and filled my dressing gown’s pockets with shells. It was the best I could do for now – I hadn’t the time to find a belt for them. My main worry was Winston.

I ran out of my room, being cautious as not to spill my only ammunition all over the landing. I padded to his room as they continued to bang heavily on the doors to the manor. Hopefully its strength would keep them at bay until I could get him to safety.

‘-What in the devil’s name is happening out there, Ms. Croft?’ Winston said groggily as he wrapped a robe around his striped pyjamas.

‘We need to get you safe, Winston. Bartoli’s goons are after the dagger and, quite possibly, me.’ I tried to keep my voice as still as possible. As much as I hated to ever admit it, I felt slightly worried. Yet my concern was about my companion rather than myself. I’d never forgive myself if anything were to happen to him.

It was rare that I found myself in Winston’s quarters; I tried to respect his personal space even and though it was under my roof, it was his safe haven. It bothered me to no end that this was due to be threatened.

I pushed aside his bedroom chair and quickly scanned for the spine of The Undetected Realm, I tugged it and a section of his bookcase pulled itself back and slid to the side to reveal a quaint, yet reinforced, panic room.

‘What on earth?…’ he trailed off as he couldn’t believe what had been hiding behind his wall of literature for many a year.

‘I’ll explain everything later, I promise.’ I said quietly as I went inside myself to place the dagger in the safe on the back wall. ‘Once you get inside, hit the labelled buttons under the monitor for the cameras and lock the door – it’ll all shift back into place. Just please, stay in here until I come and get you, no matter what happens.’ I paused, looking into his concerned eyes. There was an outside line in there, but I didn’t want to even entertain the thought Winston having to dial out due to my death. Those bastards weren’t going to get away with breaking into my house, that’s for sure. ‘Promise me.’

‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘Yes of course. Be safe, Ms. Croft.’ He offered.

With a severe and final bang, they were through. The alarm system cried through the house, not that I needed the alert. I quickly flipped the trip switch inside the panic room to plunge what little light the manor was in, into full darkness. I gave Winston a nod; as he hit ‘lock’, the bookcase quietly shifted back into its original position. I lifted the chair and placed it back in front of the now concealed entrance, simply praying that he would stay well out of sight until I’d come to fetch him.

I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy fight by any means, but I would give as best as I knew how knowing that that blade was tucked away and, most importantly, that Winston was safe too.

My grip tightened around the shotgun as I listened to the heavy boots stomping around downstairs. It was now or never.

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