Path of Endurance chapter 10
Bryan woke up before Brianna the next morning. Luckily, it was Saturday, so Bryan would have a day off ? but Brianna wouldn't. First he supposed that she had already left, but as he saw her sleeping on the sofa he quickly shook her awoke. ?Sis! You're late for work!? he cried out. Brianna forced her tired eyes open the instant Bryan's anxious voice pierced her dream. ?Wha... what?? she managed to mutter. Bryan pulled her up from the sofa.
"You're late for work!" he cried out.
It took a good while before Brianna was able to kick her brains into action. She took a quick look at her watch and realized she should've been at work for an hour already. But, to tell the truth, she didn't feel like she was in shape to work right now. Her head ached like never before, and almost every muscle in her body was sore from jumping through the Syndicate window like that. She stood up from the sofa, ran her fingers absently through Bryan's hair and grabbed their wall-phone, phoning to her friend's beeper. Soon the phone rang.
"Cassie?" Brianna answered the phone.
"I'm here, boo," Cassie replied. "What up?"
"I'mma take the morning off, Cassie. Tell Central I'll come after lunch hour, okay?"
"Don't worry, boo. Cassie's got your back covered."
"Thanks," Brianna replied and hung up. She had to take a long yawn before she felt able to move again.
"Sis, are you OK?" Bryan asked. "You don't look so good."
Brianna replied with another absent-minded caress and made coffee for herself. Bryan sat down to have breakfast with her, feeling Brianna left something untold. He watched like a hawk when Brianna took the first sips from her mug. "What?"
"You're not telling me something," Bryan said, lowering his tone significantly. "You've never slept this long anyway."
"I was tired," Brianna avoided eye-contact with her brother. "That is all."
A heavy silence.
"You're lying," Bryan said. Brianna felt like she was hit into head with a log upon hearing those words. Not exactly because what he said ? more like how he said it. Bryan had had no emotion in his voice, and he spoke like it had been the most obvious truth, as if he had said the sun rises from the east and sets in the west. He looked at her straight into her eyes, silently demanding to know the truth.
What could Brianna say? "I was stealing an item from a mafia that runs about one third of this earth so I could get money for your birthday, but gee, I almost got caught by my former teacher and had to dive head-first out the nearest window?", eh?
Brianna knew she could never come to speak such things aloud in front of Bryan. She wasn't sure how would he react if he heard his sister was a thief. After some quick thinking, Brianna dismissed Bryan's inquiry with a simple; "It's not polite to snoop around right before your birthday, Bryan."
That made him shut up with an excited smile on his face.
Meanwhile at DPD police department, a Chinese man known as Lei Wulong looks up to the security camera recordings of yesterday, catching Brianna bringing up the package for Lee Chaolan. "Yes, that is her," Mr. Chaolan declared. "Brianna Grendel, according to Mr. Irvine."
"Brianna Grendel was reported missing two years ago along with her little brother Bryan," Lei knew to tell. "They ran out from home with their father's pickup that was found from a river near Detroit. The siblings were presumed dead, but their bodies were never found. Tho' no one has heard of them ever since."
"It doesn't take a Houdini to disappear in the Detroit slum area..." Lee muttered.
Lei took a close-up on her.
"Looks like a regular girl to me," he said. "You said she dived head-first through your window after breaking flawlessly into your office building and taking out your sumo bodyguard?"
"I want her brought in front of my brother, alive, in two days," Lee insisted while standing up and towering over the sitting supercop. "It doesn't matter how great a police officer you are in Hong Kong. This is Detroit, and you're under the employment of Detroit Police Department ? thus you work for the Mishima Syndicate. Understood, Mr. Wulong?"
Lei stood up to his full length, yet still remaining slightly shorter than Lee. "Find this girl," Chaolan said, in a slightly more polite tone of voice.
?And what if she disappears into thin air?? Lei inquired.
"Then there's a good chance you disappear right behind her," Lee snickered and left the station. Wulong sat down and let out a heavy sigh. He looked back at the monitor, when suddenly something in Brianna's clothing caught his attention. After zooming in on her jacket, he clearly saw a D-Race messenger ID card. Lei grabbed his jacket from his locker and headed to D-Race immediately.
D-Race was a messenger company that hired many young people; most of the workers were in their 20's and drop-outs from various places of education. Brianna fitted the group like a glove. The place was led by Central, a republican man in his 30's or so. He wasn't very popular among the messengers, but even they would admit he kept the place up and running with his annoying comments and tight schedule. He took in and sent out the packages from his desk through the messengers without moving much throughout the day. After the lunch break was well over, Lei Wulong marched into the D-Race, straight to Central. It took Central a while to understand that someone had come to speak with him.
"Can I help you?" he inquired absently.
"Lei Wulong of the Detroit Police Department," Lei introduced himself. Central's eyes weren't far from dropping out of his skull. He stood to attention that instant, saluted and said; "Herman J. Smith, a proud, patriotic American. How may I help you, sir?"
"I'm looking for a certain young lady who works here."
"I'm sorry, sir, but ladies would be elsewhere."
"Her name is Brianna Grendel. Is she working here?"
"There are no Grendels here, sorry. And only one Brianna, come to that, too."
"Really? May I speak with her?"
"Look... she may be easy for the eye, but she's got some serious attitude problem. Especially here, at work. If you want to do it the easy way, you should speak with her when she's off. Here's her home address, but she usually hangs out in The Strike with her pals, you can find her there during the evenings."
"I need to speak with her now."
Central nodded in his excitement and headed towards the back of the D-Race with Wulong. Cassie raced into the girls? room. "Brianna!" she hollered, receiving Brianna?s gaze as an answer. "What?s the dealio? Why is the super cop after you, boo?"
"Super cop! The Great Who-Long!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Lei Wulong! The guy just waltzed in and spoke with Central, asking something about a girl named Brianna Grendel. Central figured Wulong would be talking about you, so he escorts him over here right as we speak."
That instant, Central banged the door of the girls' room. "Brianna! I know you?re in there!" he hollered. "Come out, or you?ll be in big trouble."
Brianna didn?t startle. As calm as ever, she looked around the girls? room to find another way out. Nothing was found.
"Please, you don?t have to scare her," Wulong said to Central. "She?s not in trouble. I just wish to speak with her."
"Brianna! Don?t let the authorities wait!" Central shouted, ignoring Wulong for now.
"Boo, what?s going on?" Cassie demanded to know.
"I?ve no idea," Brianna lied. But it was something she was good at. It didn?t matter if people put her a lie detector on her; she could still be able to say whatever she wanted. That?s why she was startled when Bryan caught her lying.
"If you?ve done nothing wrong, then you don?t have anything to worry about, right?" Cassie declared. "Or have you?"
Brianna let out a heavy sigh. When Central began pounding the door again, Brianna slammed the door open right into his face, dropping him down immediately. She gave him an indifferent "Sorry" and went on her way. Wulong grabbed her by her shoulder.
"Brianna Grendel?" he asked.
"No, you must be mistaken," Brianna replied and shook off his hand. Still, Wulong blocked her way.
"I think I?m not mistaken. You have just changed your last name."
"You ARE mistaken," Brianna growled with the maniacal glimmer once again appearing in her eyes. "Now leave me alone."
"You were caught last night in the Mishima Syndicate?s security camera while you broke into their office," Wulong said quickly, but lowering his voice so no one else could hear. "Kazuya Mishima?s bodyguard Bruce Irvin recognized you as his former student in kickboxing, after you knocked out Kazuya, startled his wife Jun Kazama and took out his other bodyguard. The sumo wrestler Ganryu. Does that ring the bell?"
"I don?t know what you?re talking about," Brianna dismissed. "Do I look like a gladiator or a ninja to you?"
"Kazuya?s associate Lee Chaolan ? who unofficially runs the Detroit Police Department ? ordered me to bring you to him, alive. You know what he will be after. Apparently your stunts impressed him and he seeks to recruit you. No one has refused to work for him and lived to tell about it. I would so hate to do that to you."
"Look, cop, you?ve got the wrong person!" Brianna exclaimed, but then Wulong pulled out a printed pic from the recordings of the security camera. Brianna was clearly visible in the pic. "Put that thing away. What?re you gonna do, blackmail me? No one has done that and lived to tell about it, either."
"I?m not seeking to bring any harm to you," Wulong said. "On the contrary, I would just like to speak with you for a moment."
"I?m at work. I don?t have time for the likes of you."
"Oh, so now you?re ready to roll, huh?" Central?s voice echoed from the distance. Apparently he had just managed to pick himself up. "154 Primrose Lane, hot run!"
Brianna grabbed the package from Central and headed outside with her bike, followed by Wulong. "Will you stop following me?" Brianna growled again.
"I do not work for the DPD, Brianna," he said. "My name is Lei Wulong, and I?m from the Hong Kong police. I?m cooperating with the Interpol to get the Syndicate?s paws off the DPD, thus I?m pretending to work for them."
"I still don?t see what?s that got to do with me," Brianna declared, stopping on her track.
"You broke into the Syndicate?s office bare-handed and took down two thugs without breaking sweat. That?s quite a stunt, wanna tell me how?"
Wulong stopped on his tracks; Brianna had disappeared into thin air. No matter how hard he looked around him, she was nowhere to be seen. There was, however, Bruce Irvin standing a hundred feet away from him on the other side of the road, minding his own business. Wulong shrugged and decided to head for The Strike that night.
Even though The Strike was a club where there were no kids allowed, Bryan was an exception, since there was no pornographic entertainment provided. He sat at the same table with Brianna, Cassie, Flex and Ahma ? all of them were D-Race messengers. Flex was slightly geeky fellow, with a constant drool over women and easy money. Ahma was a Rastafarian, who avoided deeds that weren?t in keeping with his religion. He was also the guy that was always ready to give some advice. Cassie was a bad-ass bitch, yet the closest thing to a friend Brianna had ever had.
Bryan had become so usual a sight in The Strike that no one paid any special attention to him. Not even when he stood up onto a barstool next to the barkeep and requested one more can of beer to Brianna and her friends. The barkeep handed the can to him, as well as another lemonade. Even when the place was packed with people, Bryan was small enough to sail through the crowd without getting stepped on.
"What do you say, Bryan?" Flex said to him that evening. "Care for a game of pool?"
"No thanks, I'll pass," Bryan dismissed and took a sip from his lemonade.
"Oh, come on, man!" Flex begged. "No time limit! You can aim as long as you want."
Bryan gave Brianna an inquisitive look, getting a slight nod as a response. "Ok, Flex," Bryan said. "I'm in."
The two guys left the table. Brianna emptied her beer mug and subdued a yawn. Last night was still taxing her. Cassie moved closer to her. "So what did the super cop want?"
"Whaa...?" Brianna muttered, hardly staying awake.
"The super cop is a human, too," Ahma began preaching. "Humans make mistakes when under pressure, and now he has mistaken Brianna for someone else who has done bad."
"That's the gist of it," Brianna nodded.
"Uh-huh," Cassie replied. "Then why is your super cop standing there with the Barkeep and looking at you?"
Brianna wasn't far from spilling her beer out. She looked at the bar and lo'! There stood Lei Wulong, in person, getting guided by the Barkeep, and then approaching their table.
"So I was stopped by a cop the other day and he said..." Brianna sighed as Lei was close enough to hear her.
"We didn't have a chance to finish our conversation today," he said.
"Cassie, Ahma, say hello to my friend..."
"Lei Wulong. Nice to meet you."
Cassie and Ahma nodded their hello. Just then, Flex happened to come over. "Oh, man! I can't believe it!" he cried. "I lost a game of pool to this midget nine hundred and nothing!"
"Hey, at least I wasn't tryin' to cheat!" Bryan exclaimed.
"Pushing the opponent isn't cheating, it's clinging on an opportunity. Twisting the opponent in an arm lock is cheating!"
"Shut up, both of you," Brianna growled.
"You should teach this moron some manners!" Flex groaned. Brianna launched herself up from the stool, standing in her full length in front of him. All color drained from Flex's face as Brianna towered over him, like a zombie preparing to dig her teeth in her victim's throat. "If I say 'shut up', even the stand-up guys become mimics. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Flex replied.
"Say 'I understand'."
"... I understand."
By now, Bryan had noted Wulong standing by the table. "Who's he?" he inquired. Brianna looked first at her brother, then at the super cop. "No one," she finally said.
"Is there a place where we could talk?" Wulong insisted on meeting Brianna. Brianna weighed the situation and thought she'd be sooner rid of the guy if she spoke with him. Besides, Bryan seemed tired already. It was time to call it a day. "We're leaving," Brianna said, briefly. "Bryan is tired."
"Is not," Flex muttered, but zipped his mouth shut as Brianna's sight could have easily blown his head off. Bryan grabbed Brianna by her jacket and climbed his way onto her shoulders where he usually sat when walking from The Strike home. Now Bryan towered over Wulong, who laid an amused look on Bryan.
"So you're Bryan, huh?" he grinned.
"So you're no one, huh?" Bryan replied. Brianna gave her part of the pay to Cassie and went outside, being followed by Lei. Bryan rode the whole way on Brianna's shoulders, like always, almost falling asleep. Brianna and Lei didn't speak while walking, but as Brianna had once again tucked Bryan into his bed, Brianna made some coffee ? mainly for herself ? and sat down at their dinner table to speak.
"What do you really want from me?" she asked.
"I'm going to be honest with you, Brianna," Lei replied. "I would like to recruit you. Interpol needs your kind of people."
"I'm not exactly the cop-type."
"None of the best detectives are, and that's why they are the best. No one realizes they are cops. You are a talented cat burglar and ? if I may say ? you can scare the living daylights out people if you want. That is a skill that is needed in many undercover missions. And the pay is much higher than that of what you get from the D-Race."
"And the hours much longer, right?"
"Then forget it. I won't do that to Bryan."
"How old is he, anyway?"
"He'll turn 9 day after tomorrow," Brianna told and took a long sip. Even though she didn't show it, the idea of better payment tempted her like hell. She let her tongue lick her lips as she thought about everything she could do if she earned more money; she wouldn't have to steal anymore, she could always offer Bryan a decent birthday and life state... if only she spent a little less time with him. Even though she thought of herself as his bodyguard, she knew Bryan had to grow independent of her. Now that he was able to defend himself and his life, there was one less thing Brianna had to worry about. But she couldn't help thinking about the chance she was putting Bryan in danger as well. Suppose she gets into some mafia's black list, they could get Bryan instead of her. Unless...
... unless they were unaware of the fact Bryan was her brother.
"You don't have to decide it now," Lei said, laying his hand over Brianna's. "Let's do it like this; I'll come to see you after one week has passed. I'm giving you a fair chance to disappear if you feel threatened. If you are still here after a week, I will hear you out. Either way, I won't pass you over to the Syndicate."
"...thanks," Brianna forced herself to say. Lei stood up, wished Brianna goodnight and left. Brianna was left sitting at the table, thinking about what Lei had offered. Suddenly, she jumped up and raced after Wulong. He was a few dozen meters away from Brianna's house as he heard Brianna's voice calling him.
Brianna caught him easily. "I've decided," she said.
"You will join us?" Wulong supposed.
"This is too good a chance to improve Bryan's life. I can't miss it. But, under one condition."
"And that is...?"
"No one must know about Bryan. And if there is the slightest chance he is in danger because of me, I want him delivered to safety immediately."
"Naturally," Wulong nodded, offering his hand. "Welcome aboard. You are now officially a member of International Police."
Brianna and Lei shook hands in the darkening night.