Chapter Three: Mal
“You should have called us. Why didn’t you tell us the funeral was today?” Hank admonished him as he stepped into the nest, Nova, Svana, Darel and Matteo following along behind. They separated quickly and went to their partnered dragon’s all giving them a pat and a quiet word before heading back to stand in front of Mal. It would have been rude not to say hi.
He really didn’t have a good reason as to why he hadn’t called the guys for support.
“Hey, Nidhogg, you don’t mind if we join our boy for a minute do you? We promise we’ll take him with us and let you all get some peace shortly.” Nova cooed as she walked towards Nidhogg, her hand held out to rub his scales. The dragon didn’t respond, no one expected him to, but it was still nice to let him know what the hell was going on, even if the animal had no idea what they were saying.
“Speak for yourself. I’m more than happy right where I am,” Mal said as he took a long pull from his beer. The alcohol had warmed slightly but Mal was beyond the point of caring.
“Mal,” Hank said, his voice just this side of disapproving. Mal shrugged it off. He closed his eyes and drank. He opened them again quickly when the last image of his sister flashed in his mind. His eyes welled again and his heart ached.
Svana placed her hand gently on Mal’s thigh. “We’re a family Mal, whatever you need.”
Mal knew that. Beside Anya, these guys were it for him. Their ragtag group had been completed when first Darel then Nova had joined them three years before. Ever since then they’d been inseparable.
Mal finished his beer and pulled another out of the nearly empty pack. He twisted the lid off and downed half of it.
“They beat her,” he finally said. Everyone around him was silent, except Nidhogg who seemed to be the loudest breather of all time. “Something happened to my baby sister. She was taken, beaten, raped and murdered, then they dumped her body in the ocean, probably hoping she would wash out to sea.” The ME had told him far more than he probably should have, and by the scowl on the cop’s face more than the asshole had wanted shared.
“I could barely recognise my own twin sister when I had to identify her body. Have you got any idea what that’s like?” he asked, glancing around at his friends. He took another swig of beer. “I’ve known Anya my entire fucking life, all the way from creation for crying out loud. I’ve been looking at her beautiful face for thirty years. Looking down at that lifeless body and not recognising my own sister broke something inside of me.”
Darel pulled him into a rough hug from where he’d taken a seat next to him. Mal couldn’t hold the tears back any longer and he let out a choked sob. The small tie he had used to pull his hair back earlier finally gave up the ghost and thick strands fell across his face. He could hear a couple of the others sniffling and murmuring but Mal ignored them.
When Darel’s shirt was wet under him, Mal finally pulled back. “Sorry, mate.” He sniffed and wiped at his face once more. He would think with the amount of tears he’d shed recently that he would be all out by now, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
“No worries. Anytime you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m more than happy to lend one.”
Mal nodded and finished his beer.
“What are the police doing to catch this son of a bitch?” Matteo asked him as he reached over and patted Mal on the back.
“That’s the pisser.” Mal pulled the final beer from its cardboard casing and opened it up. He expected a disapproving look from Hank at least but was happy when he didn’t find one. “Every time I call or even go down there to see what’s happening or if they’ve caught the son of a bitch yet, they act as if I’m a damn nuisance.”
“Fuckers,” Hank spat out.
Mal nodded. “I’ve never really had anything against cops. They always seem to be pretty good at their job and doing the best they can to keep us safe. But this Sergeant Bates doesn’t seem to give two shits about my sister’s death. Him and his partner both.” Mal would keep the promise he made to Anya. He would find out what happened to his sister and why, even if he had to do it himself.
“Come on man, tomorrow is a new day, we’ll help with anything you need. But right now we need to leave these guys to get their sleep and you need to sleep off those beers.” Svana said. They all made noises of consent and Mal had to agree they were probably right.
Hank held his hand out and Mal finished his last beer before he took his friend’s offered help. Hank pulled him to his feet and Mal staggered a little. His head swam with the sudden movement and the alcohol flooding his system. Hands grabbed a hold of him from all angles, his friends steadying him. Mal smiled weakly at his friends, every single one of them shorter than he was, but all of them holding him up right then.
“Don’t mention it.” Nova smiled then reached down to pick up his empties.
Mal turned and patted Nidhogg on the neck. “Thanks for the company, boy.” His dragon didn’t even acknowledge him, neither did any of the others, except a tail flick from Tharos.
They slowly made their way out of the nest, making sure to secure the Diver’s door behind them. His friends escorted Mal back to his apartment. Thankfully the rain had abated for the time being and Mal’s clothes that had slowly dried were able to stay that way.
Nova threw the bottles in the first recycle bin she came across, the clanking of the glass loud in the still night air.
They said goodbye to Mal at his front door, promising they’d help in any way they could to find out what happened to Anya.
Mal nodded, said goodnight and walked inside. He locked the door behind him then stripped off all his clothes. His boots took the longest and were frustratingly difficult due to the laces being wet and tight.
After a long hot shower Mal crawled into bed. He was just about to turn the light out and roll over when his phone beeped that he had a message.
Mal looked at the phone and frowned. What the hell? Why was he all of a sudden getting a message when he hadn’t even heard the damn thing ring? He growled in frustration. The contraption had been playing up for months now. Mal promised himself he would see about getting a replacement in the next week or so.
He pressed the screen for his voicemail and placed the phone to his ear.
“You have one new message.” The automated voice told him. “Message received on January thirteen at three twenty p.m.”
What the hell? That was nearly two weeks ago.
“Mal, Mal.” His sister’s scared voice sounded down the line. Mal’s heart stopped.
“I need your help. I think I’ve stumbled across something I shouldn’t have. Call me as soon as you get this. Love you.”
The line went dead and with it Mal’s heart broke all over again.