Chapter Twenty-Eight: Ashe
Give 'em Hell
Jaxx side-eyed Ashe. The phoenix was going out of his way to be polite and soft spoken, answering every question, over and over again, without objection.
It was weird.
Jaxx thought he understood the reasons for it. For one, Ashe had just been through a bit of an epiphany, realizing how much he’d been letting his emotions rule his actions. How much he was like his father in that respect. Kino had been a man of little tact, and a lot of anger.
It was natural for Ashe to try to rein it in now, to search for a calmer way to respond whenever he felt stressed. It was probably healthy, even. Ashe’s father had caused a lot of damage, both physical and emotional. Ashe must have scared himself shitless.
For another, his poor phoenix was like a caged bird, stuck inside for days and days without feeling the sun on his wings. He needed the open air, and he’d confided in Jaxx more than once that he felt trapped and claustrophobic.
“And you think they killed your father because he knew something about your mother’s work? About this flash drive?” Mr. Davos held up the little device. “Is that right, Mister Heyoka?”
Jaxx shook his head. The man was everything Ashe hated—a suit, arrogant, talking down to Ashe as if he were ten years old—and yet Ashe was acting chill. Super chill. His fire was gone.
“Yes, Mr. Davos,” Ashe said with a nod. “That is correct.”
“He’s already explained this to you three times,” Jaxx said, exasperated on Ashe’s behalf. “Look, we came in here at Akemi’s request. She told us—“
“What she told you is immaterial at this point. She asked me to take a full deposition from you. I use a detailed, well-thought-out process, Mister Kendrick, and I’m sorry that you don’t like it. Your childish outbursts won’t make this go by any faster.” He patted Jaxx patronizingly on the hand.
Jaxx looked at Ashe, waiting for his phoenix’s predictable outburst, his outrage on Jaxx’s behalf.
Ashe just gave him a sad smile and looked away.
Even their guard, Felipe, shook his head at that.
Mr. Davos adjusted his spectacles. “Now, as I was saying, it’s very important that we get the order of events straight. At what time did you arrive at your dwelling to find your father ‘lying on the ground in the bedroom, unconscious’?”
Ashe nodded. “It was after 5 o’clock—”
The door slammed open with a crash.
Felipe swung around, drawing his weapon, and got off a shot as two men burst into the room.
“Shit!” What the hell’s going on?
Ashe grabbed Jaxx and bodily dragged him over the table past a shocked Mr. Davos. “Get down!” Ashe shouted, and heaved the table up to create a barrier between them and their attackers.
Gunfire sounded on the other side, and there was a heavy thump.
Felipe? Jaxx hadn’t known the man, but he’d seemed decent enough.
We’ve been betrayed.
“We want the flash drive.” It was a woman’s voice, cold and calm, coming from the other side of the flipped table.
Jaxx looked around their side of the barrier. The little flash drive had been on the table.
There it was, out beyond the protective edge, over near the side wall. They’d see it soon.
He looked over at Ashe, who was breathing in deeply, eyes closed, trying to be calm.
Mr. Davos huddled between them, shaking in his argyle socks.
“You have five seconds before we come over and take it by force. Five.”
Jaxx touched Ashe’s arms. The phoenix’s golden eyes opened and looked back at him.
I know, he mouthed. Then he tilted his head toward the two attackers. It’s okay. Give ‘em hell.
Ashe’s eyes narrowed, and he nodded. You sure?
Jaxx nodded. Go!
Ashe turned and crouched, his wings burning through his shirt, his arms lighting up on fire.
God, he looked sexy.
Ashe leaped into the air with a roar as his clothes burned off, soaring over the table like an avenging angel, his whole body aflame.
Jaxx grabbed the flash drive and shoved it in his pocket, daring to peer around the side of the table at the same time.
Ashe slammed into the two attackers, throwing them backward.
The woman’s gun went off, firing into the ceiling in a rat-a-tat-tat rhythm as she hit the wall, her sleeve catching on fire. She dropped the gun and frantically tried to put it out, but phoenix flames burned hot.
The other assailant ignored his burning arm and turned his gun on Ashe.
“No you don’t!” Jaxx leaped over the table and slammed into the man’s chest with his horns, knocking him out of the open door into the hallway. His body hit the brick wall of the hallway outside with a sickening thunk, and he was still, his arm burning.
The woman was fully consumed by fire now. She screamed and ran out of the room. The stench of burnt flesh filled the room.
Jaxx wrinkled his nose. He never got used to that.
Ashe’s flames died away, his face a mask of horror as he looked around the room.
Jaxx grabbed him and held him tight for a few seconds. “Don’t think about it now,” he whispered in Ashe’s ear. “You had no choice.”
He let go and knelt to check on Felipe.
The man was dead.
Jaxx’s field training kicked in. He had to get them out of here. He began to methodically strip the man’s corpse.
“What the hell are you doing?” Ashe asked, looking over his shoulder.
Mr. Davos peered over the table, looking like an accountant mouse.
“You’re naked. You need clothes.” He handed the bloody shirt over to Ashe. it had a big bullet hole in it, but would have to do for now. “Put this on.” Then he pulled the man’s shoes, socks and pants off. He drew the line at the man’s underwear.
Ashe frowned but did as he was told, pulling on the shirt and pants. They fit well enough, though he had to roll up the pants.
“Is there another way out of here?” Jaxx asked the lawyer.
“What just happened?” Mr. Davos looked up at Jaxx in fear. “Who the hell are you people?”
Jaxx was out of time and patience. He grabbed the man by the collar, pulling him up to eye level. “Is. There. Another. Way. Out?”
More gunshots and screaming echoed down the hall.
Mr. Davos nodded. “Though the back rooms.”
“Show me.” He let go of the man’s collar.
Mr. Davos shrunk back and turned to feel along the walls for a moment. His hand found something at last, and he pressed his palm against it.
There was a click and a flash, and a part of the wall slid away to reveal a dimly-lit hallway.
Ashe’s face was gray. Jaxx wondered what he was wrestling with inside.
Jaxx picked up Felipe’s firearm and took Ashe’s hand. “Come on, love. We have some scores to settle.”