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Chapter 2 : Trust Issues
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He'd only met Albus a few times and Alexa even less, but they were good people. Besides, no one deserved to be taken against their will. Human or not, it was vampires who had broken the law and Hunter did work for the vampire Council.
Louis knocked, choosing not to be quiet about it; it was early morning but they both guessed Jason's parents would be awake now. Someone would have come to give them the news of their son's disappearance.
They didn't have to wait for very long; Minister Andrew Shepherd was quick to answer the door. He ran a hand through his dark hair, flecks of grey barely noticeable. He was still a good looking man at age sixty, but now he seemed so much older than his years. He glanced between the two men, then finally stopped on Louis.
"Why are you here?" he asked, too confused to be very polite about it.
Louis gestured to Hunter calmly. "This is my friend Oscar Hunter, he's a bounty hunter and he's here to help find Jason, if you'll allow it."
Hunter gave Andrew a polite hello and held out a hand to shake. Andrew took it wearily, more perplexed than before. "Bounty hunters go after insurance claims and stolen items for Muggles, criminals if they're hired by the Ministry."
"Yes, for humans," Hunter replied slowly, cautious of how the Minister would take knowing a vampire was at his door. It was known across the Wizarding world that Andrew Shepherd was trying to change the rights for vampires, make them fairer among humans, but after what had happened with Jason, it was unclear where he know stood.
"I work for the vampire Council and our bounty hunters are named so because most of the time we're sent to apprehend our criminals, but it's not all we do. I can find Jason."
To his credit, Andrew didn't flinch at the word 'vampire' or shut the door in their faces in anger; he only stood and watched, the same nervous expression on his face.
"I'm only here to help," Hunter added gently.
"Oscar Hunter?" Andrew asked, recognition in his eyes. He nodded. "I've heard about you; you're one of the Council's best and one of their scariest. No offense, but you don't look very frightening. You look like a nineteen year old boy."
"Technically, he is," Louis said with an odd, slightly twisted smile on his face. "But you've never seen him in action. He'll find Jason and the ones who took him will wish they'd never been born."
They didn't know if it was because of hearing that Hunter was capable or because he trusted Louis, but Andrew stepped back and opened the door for them to step through.
"Come on in. The living room is on the left."
Feeling the wards ripple as they let them through, Hunter followed Louis into the house. They were both surprised to see Louis' uncle, Harry Potter, and his friend, Theodore Nott, already sat on the couch. Harry was equally shocked, unsure as to why they were at the house, but Theodore was too busy reassuring Rebecca Shepherd to care.
She was a few years older than Andrew, her hair was dyed blond to hide any signs of grey. Hunter suspected she used magic, maybe glamour charms, to hide her real age; tears fell down smooth, nearly wrinkle-free skin.
"What's going on?" Harry asked, his gentle tone startling Rebecca into looking up.
"Andrew?" she whispered.
Andrew gestured to Hunter. "He wants to help find Jason, he came for my permission. I think."
"It hasn't been given to me by the Council, so I can take this as a freelance case," Hunter explained quickly. "But I don't know your son, so I need something to go on. Plus, after what happened, we thought you should know what I'm doing."
Harry nodded, giving Louis and Hunter a small but reassuring smile that said he agreed with what was going on. Theodore watched skeptically, his eyes moving from Rebecca to Andrew.
"Council?" she asked.
When Hunter opened his mouth to answer her, he caught Theodore's hardened gaze and the shake of his head and snapped his mouth shut. He guessed what was about to happen.
"Hunter is a vampire," Andrew told her tiredly.
"No!" she cried, refusing to look at them now. She turned on Andrew, furious and scared. "Get him out! I don't want him here! Not now!"
"We can trust him, Rebecca," he told his wife, trying not to yell. They'd had this argument before, Hunter realized. He felt awkward, an unwelcome outsider pushed into the corner.
"The fact that a vampire is willing to help is proof that we can trust them," he continued.
"They're monsters," she hissed.
"No, they're not!"
She didn't give him a retort; Rebecca jumped up from the couch and pushed passed him. Everyone heard a door slam shut upstairs.
"I'm sorry," Andrew murmured, moving to sit on the couch. "It's just hard on her, that's all. She's scared for Jason." He choked on a sob. "We always knew we'd lose him eventually, but it was never meant to be like this."
"Lose him?" Hunter asked, confused.
"Jason is very sick," Theodore said quietly, speaking to them for the first time. Andrew can't say it, Hunter knew. "He was born very premature, his problems are very severe; bad eye sight, asthma, along with a weak heart and practically no immune system. He takes all kinds of medication and he has a breathing tube that he uses almost constantly. He doesn't have them with him now."
"Why not?" Louis asked.
"He can go a few hours without the tubes if he's careful with his medication and has his inhaler," Andrew answered, his voice cracking. "He would have been fine for the night if he had gotten home before six am. That was deal we made so he could celebrate his twenty-first birthday with just his friends, no bodyguards to watch over him. When the Aurors told me they'd found his inhaler in the alley, I knew something was wrong."
"He really doesn't have anything with him," Hunter confirmed, bracing himself for his next question. Andrew shook his head, told him that Jason had only taken one inhaler and everything else was in his room. He asked his question, being as gentle as he could. "Without his medication, how long does Jason have, sir?"
"Depending on the environment Jason is in now and taking into account that he last took his medication around half seven last night, Jason has about seven days. His body will shut down a little each day; it'll be painful," Andrew whispered, a tear falling down his cheek. "If he's found before then and gets his medication, it'll help save him but will cut time off the estimate the healers gave; they said twenty-five."
Andrew looked up, his gaze hard and steady as he looked at Hunter. "What are the odds of you finding him in less than seven days?"
Hunter didn't hesitate with his answer. "Better than a human."
After a few moments of awkwardness, with Theodore consoling Andrew just as he had done for Rebecca, Hunter was quick to ask if he could see Jason's room. Harry frowned before pointing him in the right direction, but Louis, being part werewolf, caught on to the fact that Hunter wanted a stronger scent to find Jason, one that wasn't mixed with other humans, as well as the vampires who took him. It would make the scent easier to find and track.
He made his way up the stairs as quietly as possible, not wanting Rebecca Shepherd to hear him; he didn't fear the woman, but he didn't want a repeat of her outburst and if she hated vampires as much she seemed to before, he doubted she would like seeing Hunter snooping around her son's bedroom.
The first thing he noticed was how clean the room was; everything, from the floor to ceiling, was spotless. And there was a smell around the place, like disinfectant. It eerily reminded him of a hospital, even though the room was dark blue with Quidditch posters on the walls and video games on his desk.
Hunter picked up the cap that hung on the end of his bedpost, his scent strong. "A Puddlemere fan. Nice."
"Are you a fan, too?"
Hunter spun around, surprised to see Andrew stood at the door. His eyes were bloodshot from crying, but he seemed to have newfound strengh; his features were set, determined, like he knew what he had to do and he was going to follow it through. Hunter nodded in answer to his question and, smiling softly over a memory, Andrew pointed to the hat.
"He was weak as a child, always in hospital, but it was manageable for longer periods of time back then, he got worse as he got older," the man explained softly. "When he was nine he received this new medicine and it seemed to work, at least for a while, so when he begged me to take him to a Quidditch game, I said yes. He met Xavier Sinclair after the game, he signed the hat and gave it to Jason."
He was tempted to take it, wanting to keep something of his son's with him, but restrained himself.
"Louis explained why you came in here; the hat is probably your best bet, he wore it all the time." Andrew chuckled weakly. "He probably would have worn it tonight, but he wasn't sure you could wear a cap in Eros."
"You knew he was there," Hunter said casually.
"Where else would a gay man go?" the Minister asked, a little sarcastically. "He told me he was gay a long time ago and he told me where he wanted to go yesterday. He couldn't really do much; he's not strong enough to go dancing or be with someone and he can't drink, but he didn't care. He just wanted to be with his friends. Rebecca and Jessica, our daughter, don't know. Yet," he added with a frown.
Hunter knew why; the press would already be writing their stories. He could guess why the radio and television weren't on.
"I'm sure they'd be more interested in getting him back than in his sexual preferences," Hunter promised. Andrew nodded. "Thank you for your information. I don't need to take the hat."
He handed it back and Andrew pulled it close. "It's just a stupid hat really," he muttered, looking down at it.
He didn't need to finish his sentence: But it's my son's.
A loud, short ringing interrupted the silence and Hunter pulled out his phone; he frowned when he recognized the number, sincerely hoped that they weren't choosing now to give him a case of their own. He followed Andrew back downstairs as he answered, coming up with ways of getting out of whatever they wanted.
"This is Hunter," he said formally, no longer acting as though it was his day off.
He listened intently, each second slowing down until he was frozen at the doorway to the living room. He hung up eventually, no longer trying to get out of the case.
"Hunter, what is it?" Louis demanded, freaking out over his friend's scarily still figure.
"That was our Council leader for the UK; I have a case," he managed to get out after a few moments. "Nate is missing."
"Nate?" Louis frowned. "He always goes off on his own. People are lucky if they see him twice a year."
"But he always checks in. Always, Louis," Hunter reminded him. "There's been no word for two months. He's officially missing; they gave it to me."
"Why not Carter?"
Hunter shook his head. "Carter is Nate's best friend, he's too emotionally involved. He'll just kill whoever he finds, vampire or human. The Council don't want that, not with everything that's happening between us and the Ministry."
"The laws," Andrew added. "Who's Nate?"
Louis grimaced. "Prince Nathaniel Vega," he answered. "The youngest child of Alejandro and Marisol, the vampire king and queen."
"Interesting," Theodore muttered, staring at nothing. His mind was turning, though. Everyone asked him what he was thinking. "The son of the human Minister and the son of the vampire king are both taken, while their fathers are working on new laws and a treaty to give everyone fairer rights and ban vampire hunting. Don't you think that's a bit too coincidental? You have just as much opposition as you have support; someone might be willing to take them."
"Oh, God," Andrew whispered.
"How did they get a prince, though?" Harry asked. "Wouldn't he be guarded?"
Hunter shook his head with a sigh. "None of them are, unless they're at events or in situations that require guards. They probably figured Nate was the easiest to get to."
"Nate is a partier," Louis said when Harry asked why. "He drinks, he smokes, he takes things he shouldn't. And he is always at a club or party of some kind, always looking for fun and sex. Give him a drink and show him that you're willing to sleep with him and he's all yours. The other five, however, are more cautious."
"I have to take this case," Hunter told them. "Unless it can be proven that the same people have both of them, the Council will consider Prince Nathaniel my priority, so we'll have to keep my involvement in Jason's case as quiet as possible."
"We'll start looking for leads," Harry promised, nodding his head in the direction of the rising sun. The Aurors at the scene will be back at the Ministry by now; it was time for them to start work. "We may not have a face for the people who did this, but we do know Jason's face; Theo will have a few Hit Wizards out looking for him. They will go to Theo and Theo will go to you."
"What can I do?" Andrew asked.
Hunter hesitated. "Figure out who would want to do this."
"That's... a lot of names," he said.
"Well, you'll have help soon," Hunter answered. Andrew looked confused, his eyes widening when he elaborated, "King Alex is on his way."
Jason woke up in a blurry room. It was dark and cold and there was what looked like a large box in front of him, but that was all he could make out. He was somewhat aware of the fact that the blur was due to his contact lenses falling out at some point and not the dull ache at the back of his head. He tried to push himself up and onto his knees, until he put pressure on his right hand and pain shot through his arm. Jason screamed and forced himself to roll onto his back. He'd been in the hospital enough times to figure out what had happened; they'd broken his arm.
"Broken, sick and blind," he whispered to the ceiling. "Great."
It took too much time, energy and pain to pull himself to the nearest wall, but Jason finally managed it. He checked his head gingerly, wincing but finding no fresh blood or an open wound. He frowned; he couldn't have healed that fast. His arm felt battered and bruised, but he couldn't see to check it.
All Jason knew was that he was terrified and hurt and if he didn't get to his medication and a healer soon, he was going to die in a few days. If he didn't calm down and stop the impending asthma attack, if he didn't keep his heart rate down, he was going to die in a few minutes.
Jason closed his eyes and took deep calming breaths; it usually helped until he could reach his medicine. He didn't know how long he could put it off for.
"Hey!" Jason called out, praying someone would hear him. "I need help. I need my medication! Please!"
He took another breath, already feeling the strain on his heart and lungs. "Please," he begged softly.
The door opened and Jason sighed in relief, sure they had heard him. They were probably being helpful because they wanted him alive, but as long as he got his medication he didn't care. However, his hope evaporated almost as soon as it came.
They didn't talk to him, demand to know what he wanted or even tell him to shut up; they threw someone else in, a large shadow who wouldn't stop screaming at their captives, wanting to be let go. He was very creative in how he was going to make them pay. If anyone was around, Jason would swear he was against such methods, but deep down, the loud shadow was quickly becoming his favorite person.
Maybe he'll get us out.
The door slammed shut with a heavy bang and the shadow was slow to get up and start slamming his fists against it, demanding to be set free. He was also slow to acknowledge another person in the room; he froze after a few tries, Jason saw the shadow turn but could only guess that it was watching him.
"No," he whispered, his voice hoarse. He started banging again, this time more desperate and frantic than angry. "Let me out! You can't do this to me! Let me out!"
"Gee, thanks," Jason muttered.
"You don't know who you're with, do you? Or who took you?" he asked. Jason shook his head slowly, once. "Vampires, kid. And they've been starving me for two months. I don't want to kill you."
"Then please try to control yourself, because I don't think they care enough to open that door," Jason said weakly. He tried to force calm again, not wanting to show fear over the thought of dying.
I'm dying anyway, why should I care?
"I'm Jason, by the way. And you are?"
The shadow scoffed. "You must be the first to not know."
Jason shrugged. "Maybe I'd know your face if I could see you; my contacts fell out when they attacked me and I don't have my glasses."
"Oh. Sorry," he answered softly, though Jason couldn't tell if it was because of the attack or if it was because the vampire's throat was rough from screaming and hunger. "You got a last name, Jason?"
The shadow moved a little closer, until he was sat in what Jason guessed was the middle of the room. He was keeping his distance, Jason knew, trying not to kill him.
"Shepherd," he answered. "Jason Shepherd."
"Shepherd? No," he whispered. Then he yelled, "You went after the Minister's son? Are you fucking crazy?"
"Crazy is an understatement," Jason told him. He felt his eyes close and forced himself to stay awake; he wasn't sure if it was fatigue or he was passing out and he didn't want to sleep. "You haven't told me who you are."
"Nate Vega. My dad is one of the people helping yours with vampire laws and rights. That's how I know you."
"I know the story," Jason said, slurring his words. His eyes were shut now.
"Jason! Stay with me. Talk to me, Jason," Nate pleaded, sitting beside him to check for a pulse. "Talk to me? Do you know why we're here?"
"No. Do you?" he asked.
"I think it's about the laws, they might be opposition," he said.
That was the last thing Jason remembered.
From the camera, Mya watched as Jason Shepherd passed out, fell to the side where Nathaniel Vega was able to catch him. He didn't know what to do about having an unconscious boy on his lap, but didn't try to move him. He probably thought moving him would make things worse.
Mya focused on Nathaniel's face; she'd have to give him blood soon, she needed Jason alive and couldn't have the vampire kill him accidentally.
Making a mental note of everything she still needed to do, she turned to her brother. Rex was sleeping on the chair, almost looking peaceful except the slight twitching of his face and hands. Anyone else would think he was just restless, but she knew of the nightmares that still plagued them both - Rex would start screaming soon, she'd have to wake him before then.
"Mya," a voice behind her whispered.
She turned to see John-Paul watching her, his eyes wide with worry and fear. He had only been a vampire for a few years and was considered a brother to her and Rex; if anyone asked, she would always tell them that. She hated to see that look in his eyes and wished she could take it away, but what they were doing was the only way and she couldn't stop it because he was scared.
John-Paul waved her over, his eyes glancing at the cameras nervously. Mya checked on Rex again, knew she had a few minutes before she had to wake him, and followed him out.
"What's the matter, Paulie?" she asked, guessing his answer.
"I don't like this, Mya," he murmured, still watching his back. "This is wrong."
"We have no choice, you know that," she reminded him. She placed a hand on his cheek, hurt when he flinched, though she understood why. "It'll be alright, I promise. We have them both now, it'll be over soon."
John-Paul shook his head and leaned in close. "We can't trust him, Mya. I don't think he's trying to help us."
Mya didn't answer, she didn't know how, not when her mind was following similar thoughts.
A/N: It feels so good to be updating again. NaNo was not kind to my list. :P
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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