The back of his gloved hand clocked the man in the face. The lanky fellow stumbled backward, away from Murchadh.
“Please!” The man gasped, holding his injured face.
Murchadh ignored his pleas, and punched the abdomen of the man. The guy keeled over, and Murchadh swept his leg, slamming the man’s back against the countertop. His gloved fingers dug into the man’s throat. The man seized in pain as he was choked by the inquisitor wearing an executioner’s helmet.
“Are you ready to talk?!” Murchadh spat, easing up on the man’s neck.
The man nodded fearfully and Murchadh released him. The criminal coughed, rubbing his neck. The restaurant was eerily quiet after the scuffle was finished.
“Who do you supply?”
“Who do you supply?!” He repeated.
The man suddenly swung at Murchadh’s head. The inquisitor caught the fist with his hand and squeezed. The man writhed in pain.
“Ok, ok!” The supplier yielded, “Just don’t kill me… please.”
“No promises. Tell me everything.”
“They call him the King! That is all I know, I don’t know his real name!”
“But you have dealt with him, right? What does he look like?!”
The man shivered, “Beady eyes, black… haunting. He has red hair; it is not very long…”
Murchadh quickly realized that this line of questioning was leading him nowhere, “Tell me where I can find the King.”
“I swear, I dunno!” The man screamed, breathing heavily.
Murchadh applied pressure to the man’s neck and twisted the fist that he punched with. The wrist tensed and shivered before it snapped. Broken. The inquisitor got closer to the man’s face. The criminal was now screaming in agony and squirming.
“I advise that you start telling the truth, or I will break every other joint you have.” Murchadh spat, thinking about all of the inquisitors in the building on fire.
All of his friends and allies fueled his rage, “Thatch told me everything about this little operation, except where to find the boss!”
“Ah, ok!” the man heaved, coughing, “I’ll tell you!”
Murchadh grabbed the man’s collar and threw him to the ground. The inquisitor whipped his gun out of his holster.
“The K-King, he has a hideout!” the man clasped his hands together, “I never liked those guys, honest!”
“If you weren’t friends, you wouldn’t have lied the first time!” Murchadh spat.
“Ok, Ok! I will tell you how to find the hideout! It is in the industrial manufacturing district, north of here,” the man stammered.
“Write down the address,” Murchadh ordered.
“You broke my wrist!” the man sobbed.
“I didn’t say to use a pen,” he growled and held up his communications device, letting the man carefully type out the address.
Murchadh used the extracted information to get the coordinates of the criminal base.
“Please don’t kill me…” the man whimpered.
“Don’t worry. I will only come back and kill you if you were lying,” Murchadh told him grimly.
The inquisitor grabbed cuffs and latched the man’s unbroken wrist to a rail behind the bar of the restaurant. Pressing a button on the handcuffs, a small light started to blink.
“Executioners will come and pick you up later. If you run, I am sure the High Inquisitor will sentence you to death, so I advise against it,” he explained.
The criminal nodded solemnly, looking at his shoes. Murchadh turned away, strolling to the restaurant entrance. As he stepped outside, he was greeted by a huge armored vehicle, lighting the alleyway. The inquisitor tilted his head, surprised to see an executioner vehicle parked beside the motorcycle.
The driver stepped out, “Inquisitor Josephs, Sir. Another inquisitor wanted us to follow you.”
Murchadh blinked under the helmet, unsure who would have sent the two executioners.
“She is in the back if you want to talk,” the executioner gestured to the back of the transport.
“She?” Murchadh breathed, and walked around to the side door.
The executioner opened the door, and Murchadh slid off his helmet, covering his mouth with a gloved hand. There she was. Qinyang looked like she was in pain, holding her arm as she leaned against the wall. Murchadh stepped inside and sat beside her. He could hardly believe she had escaped with her life. The woman was still covered in ashes and looked a mess. The inquisitor lightly brushed the hair on the top of the rookie’s head.
“You are alive,” he exhaled, sounding a little more relieved.
“I know, too bad, huh?” Qinyang snorted.
Murchadh put his arms around her. He remembered seeing her walk to the building. Imagining Qinyang inside the blast, he shuddered.
“No…” He hung his head.
Getting a bit more serious, Qinyang leaned on him and stayed quiet. Murchadh was glad that his new partner was not dead. The girl laid her weary crown upon his shoulder. Murchadh did not move, simply bearing the burden and contemplating the night.
Qinyang’s soft voice was barely a whisper that only Murchadh could hear, “I am weak, Murchadh…”
She sniffled a little, seemingly regretting the entirety of her life and mourning her dogmatic approach to reality.
“I am not strong enough to be an inquisitor…” she bit her bleeding lip.
“Shhh…” he whispered back, shushing her.
“I am too weak; I am going to get you killed… I just wanted to bring you two soldiers that can help... “ she sobbed softly, leaning on Murchadh.
“This is it for me.”
“Qinyang, just be quiet and do your job,” Murchadh shook his head.
“What?” Qinyang’s voice trembled and she swallowed some blood.
“You are alive, aren’t you?” he looked into her brown eyes, “That is strength enough.”
Qinyang closed her eyes and looked at the building outside. A few minutes of silence passed.
“So, what is this place?” she mumbled, pulling herself together.
“This is the home and place of work of a supplier. He sold illegal materials to a guy called the King,” Murchadh explained.
“Ok,” Qinyang wiped her eyes on her sleeve and straightened up, no longer leaning on Murchadh.
“Now, I have what is hopefully the address to a hideout,” he sighed.
“Lead the way,” Qinyang took a deep breath and narrowed her gaze.
Murchadh slid out of the vehicle, closing the door. He mounted the motorcycle again, inserting the key card. His silver badge flickered in the lights of the armored executioner vehicle. The inquisitor donned his helmet again, driving off. Heading north, the vehicle tailed close behind him through the city.
They came to a stop outside the building and snuck up to the back entrance. Murchadh attempted to open the door, holding his gun in the other hand. The entrance was locked.
One of the executioners walked over, “Let me get that, Sir.”
His voice was slightly muffled, but he placed a small device against the panel. Moments later, the door unlocked.
“Ready?” he whispered to Qinyang.
She nodded and followed him into the building, clutching her firearm in the arm that was not damaged. The squad burst through the door, immediately noticing that the lights were on. They dashed from corner to corner, sweeping the area while maintaining cover. Large boxes filled the rooms in addition to drug lab equipment. Murchadh peeked around the last corner in the hideout and looked around.
“Huh. Nobody is home, but this is definitely a drug lab.”
Qinyang half smiled, “At least the tip was accurate.”
“Yeah. Let’s wait,” Murchadh remarked.
“Huh?” Qinyang blinked up at him.
“Let’s just wait here until the criminals get back.”
“Like a trap?” one of the executioners asked.
Murchadh nodded, “Yeah, like a trap.”
Qinyang shrugged slightly, with a wince. She gently pulled her hair back, out of her face, looking up at Murchadh.
“Let’s do this.” she forced a smile.
Murchadh paced around briefly and pointed to some boxes, “We can hide here.”
The squad settled down and breathed deeply. Murchadh leaned against the box and looked to his side at Qinyang. A few moments later, she noticed his gaze, despite the helmet.
She blinked slowly, her small pink lips parting, “Hmm?”
Murchadh spoke no words and turned his attention back to the handgun that his gloved fingers were wrapped around.
Meanwhile, Irene was pacing in circles, the speed of her movement steady. Her eyes flickered. With nothing else to do but desire freedom, she desperately searched her own mind. She wanted to be free. She wanted to see the ocean. The memory lacked clarity, but the happiness it brought her was intense. Irene occasionally found her mind drifting to less happy memories that were equally hazy. She questioned if her mind had ever been erased. If she could recall the bright blue ocean, why not everything else? Did she have an entire secret life that had been erased? Irene sought answers, working backward through the chronology of her memories. She closed her eyes and stopped moving, concentrating all of her processing power on her shattered memories. They were right there, just out of reach somehow. What was the last thing? She met Murchadh. No, that was just the last thing she liked remembering. Before he came to get her, she remembered the gang. She remembered how they slaughtered the other people in the brothel. She remembered climbing into the empty tank and closing the lid to hide. She remembered never being found and calling the police after. Then, Murchadh came to get her.
Irene shook her head, her dark hair flopping around. She knew the ocean had to be there somewhere, prior to everything else. Before the shooting, before the customer violated her, before she met Murchadh… Was there another customer? That made sense to Irene. She tried to focus on what happened before the Madam told her to clean the bedding. Thatch.
Irene remembered him. Not his dead body, which she had also seen. Irene could see Thatch huddled against the wall.
“Are you alright?” Irene asked him quietly.
“Yeah,” Thatch hiccupped.
Then, he repeated breathlessly: “Yeah.”
Irene remembered getting off of the bed and walking over to him. She was worried that he was injured. Then, it happened. Or did more time pass? The visions were so clear and distinct. Thatch clutched her throat and whimpered as he held her down on the bed. Irene felt her concern for the man change into fear and panic. She wanted to escape. Thatch didn’t let her.
Irene did not want to remember such things, forcing herself past that, and deeper into the past. The memories eventually came into focus. She saw the men. There were so many men. Some of them were the same as before. It was like a habit… Sometimes it was the same face every day, sometimes every week. They were all the same to her, and there were so many. They hurt her over and over. Irene wanted to scream as she remembered it all. The years of torment... Every single day of her existence, she just wanted to make someone happy. They did not want to be happy, though, not really. They used her again and again; there was no end to the memories of suffering.
Irene opened her green eyes, unable to find the memory of the ocean, but at the same time, it was there somehow. She felt so happy. There was only the one happy memory in an endless sea of dismay. Yet, Murchadh seemed to think that the ocean was not like Irene recalled in her hazy memory.
“Was he right?” Irene mumbled, her eyes flickering, “Do I not remember the ocean?”
Irene decided that she had to know the truth. She walked to the exit of Murchadh’s home and waited. She stared at the locked door intently and her green eyes flickered.