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Darkness was just starting to descend, putting an end to the long sun cast shadows of the evening. Off to northwest lightning flashed, making a line of thunderstorms. Cinder exhaled audibly as he continued to fill the gas tank of his 1977 Harley Davidson FXE Super Glide. The last thing he wanted was to have to fire up the generator again, but any hit to the power grid would mean the generator or no power for hours if not days. He shrugged as he realized even without a storm, he'd probably need the generator for a couple of days in the next couple of weeks.
With a shake of his head, the five foot five inch man moved up to the security window and tapped on the glass. The second he had the attention of the pimply faces teen on the other side, he spoke. "Hey, I need to grab a five gallon can. Let me in."
The kid glanced at the man and pointed at the .44 Desert Eagle openly displayed in a shoulder holster outside of his black leather vest. "Not with no piece you ain't!"
The man inhaled deeply. The young man's scent was partially blocked by the heavy security glass, but the money slot was enough for him to tell the kid was not outright scared by the gun, but was uneasy. "It's legal."
"I don't give a shit if you are a cop, no piece inside, no way!"
The man stared at the young man, causing beads of sweat to pop out on the kid's forehead. He hid a grin, knowing a human would not be able to see the tiny amount of moisture, let alone the pours on the skin open. In truth, he doubted a human would even be able to detect the kid's increased discomfort. He was impressed. Still, he didn't want to ride his bike home in the rain nor did he want to go home with an almost empty tank on his generator. "Do you really want me to hang around till you get off so we can have this conversation face to face?"
The kid shook his head wildly, causing his greasy looking long brown hair to fall over his face, all but blocking out his sight.
"Alright, then. Let's make a deal here. I'm gunna push two more twenties through this slot. That'll more than cover the gas for my bike, the extra five gallons, plus the can. Drop the can outside your security door and inside the outer door. I'll grab it, fill it, and we'll both have a good night. If you dick me on this, I'll sit here until your shift ends so we can have a more in depth conversation. You get my drift?"
This time the kid's head bobbed up and down like some cheap bobble headed doll.
The man rolled his eyes, while sliding a pair of twenties through the security slot and into the tray beyond. He watched as the boy took them, scanned them under a UV light to make sure they were not counterfeit and then disappeared. A full minute passed before he heard the outer door buzz. He yanked open the door, noting the plastic gas can had a price of $11.99. Feeling a bit sorry for the kid, knowing the money he gave would not give him much of a tip, he grabbed the can, made sure the door was shut then came around to the window. He pulled out another twenty and pushed it into the slot. "That's for you. Get a meal and a bath. You look like you can use both."
The kid's eyes went wide and he gave the man a thumb's up, "Thanks mister!"
The guy nodded, "The name's Cinder. You did good kid."
The youngster managed a bit of a smile, "You best fill up and get going, radio says the storms are coming fast and it looks like the Vipers are taking an interest in your bike."
Cinder glanced over his shoulder noting two guys across the street were hassling a woman and her young son while two others were moving toward the gas station. "I plan on it." As he continued to watch he saw the woman fall. His extremely sharp hearing picked up the kid's terrified voice telling his mom to get up so they could leave. "You may want to call for an ambulance..."
"Just let it go. You screw with the Vipers, they'll gut you man..."
"Thanks for your concern, but the ambulance ain't gunna be for me. I think they just hurt the chick."
"The paramedics... They'll expect payment."
"Shit, I hate this town." Cinder grumbled, "Fine, call the cops. Let them pick up whatever pieces I leave behind. Make sure you stay put till they finally show up, too. I don't want your blood on my hands."
"I ain't steppin' out as long as the Vipers are hangin' out in numbers, mister. I grew up in these streets."
Cinder grinned, liking the kid a bit more. He pulled out another twenty and shoved it into the slot. "I was never here and if I find you used this on anything but food or rent I'll come back and kick your ass." Before more could be said, he turned and made his way toward the closest Vipers. He eyed the first two, a couple of punks in their early twenties, wearing the green bandanas of the local Viper gang. They were eyeing both the gas station and his bike. A smirk crossed his features as he patted his pistol and walked straight toward them.
The second they spotted his pistol and realized the small, yet very well built guy was coming for them, they both started to back away.
Cinder cocked his head to the side, gave it a single shake while he raised his left eyebrow. He didn't slow as he continued to walk past his bike and toward the two goons.
This time they got the hint and bolted right past the other two who were too intent on messing with the woman and her son to realize they had company coming their way.
Cinder cleared his throat loudly while eying the last two Vipers. Both of them were a bit older than the first two. One was in his mid twenties while the other was probably about thirty, but it was hard to tell since both were rail thin from too much drugs and too little care for their bodies. The odor of their unwashed bodies blocked most his sense of smell, but it was not bad enough to cut off the smell of some blood, and it was fresh. This only made him pick up his pace.
Cinder was quick to notice the older gang member was some kind of leader and he was not afraid to show it, since he had a green hoody with a coiled viper insignia on it out for the world to see. The guy was grabbing the boy's arm while the boy tired to reach for his mom. Not impressed in the slightest with what he was seeing, Cinder clapped his hands loudly. Finally the two looked over his way.
Once he had their attention, he held out his hand while motioning for them to come over to him. At the same time he pointed to the boy, "Let him go, unless he is all you can handle."
The older guy let go and clenched his fists, clearly not liking the fact he was being disrespected in front of a fellow member of his gang.
Cinder glanced over to the boy. "Help your mom up and get in the doorway there. You'll be safe there while the three of us discuss this man to man."
While the kid struggled to help his mom off the sidewalk and into a recessed entry of a long ago abandoned business, the smaller, older, gang banger froze at the sight of the massive gun on the side of the man facing him while the taller one bolted, leaving his buddy high and dry.
Cinder laughed as he discerned a wet spot in front of the guy's pants once the so-called leader realized he was alone. The added smell of urine to the mix of body odor and fear was still not enough to block out the smell of blood, so he knew someone was hurt bad. Looking the hoodlum over, he noticed the guy's hand shakily move toward the small bulge of the .38 revolver in the right hoody pocket. At the same time he realized the guy's hands were covered in blood. A single whiff told him it was the woman's. His eyes narrowed to mere slits and his voice took on an unearthly growling sound. "You cut her didn't you?"
The man's voice shook badly as he spoke, "The bitch wanted more than the original deal!"
"So you shanked her... In front of her kid... let see if you can take on something other than a woman and a kid. Come on, let's see what you got." Cinder pointed to the guy's right pocket, "And, let's keep the firearms out of this. Mine's bigger than yours. Besides, you try to pull your pea shooter on me and I'll force feed you every bullet or worse. Now pull your hand out without the hardware or lose them both."
Cinder closed to within punch range and waited, hoping there would be enough intellect inside the drug damaged brain for the guy to do what he was told. However, it was just not meant to be. The scent of nervousness was replaced by the even stronger scent of terror mixed with rage. This was not something a human could detect, but Cinder was no mere human. Even as his sensitive nostrils caught the scent change, fur and long beast-like claws burst out of his left hand. At the same time, his eyes took on a bit of a glow and his jaw pushed forward into an almost canine shape. With a single swipe he took the guy's arm off at the elbow.
Even as blood sprayed out over the side of the building, Cinder's hand changed back and the rest of him made some odd popping sounds as they quickly shifted back to look totally human. While this amazingly fast transformation was taking place, he used his other hand to spin the guy and slam his face into the side of the building with enough force to shatter his nose, jaw, and left cheek bones. Still his right had left three long claw-like marks across the back of the thug's head.
He stopped for a brief moment and cringed in pain as the rest of his bones in his body returned to his human form. It was so much easier and less painful to do a full transformation, than a partial shift, but to do more than he just had would have been too big of a risk. Besides the pain was tempered by the fact he had purged the streets of the creep and the idiot's gang would almost certainly steer clear of the area for quite some time.
Knowing he didn't have much time to prevent the guy's death, and wanting to honestly say he didn't kill anyone tonight, he pulled out a can of lighter fluid. He sprayed it on the arm stump, flipped his lighter on and dropped it on the fluid coated, blood pumping, wound. As it burst into flame, he aimed the small can of lighter fluid at the injury and squeezed, causing the flames to flair while cauterize the injury. His nose scrunched up as it caught the scent of burned flesh and blood, but it also could smell the staleness of alcohol breath. At the same time, his hearing picked up feint signs of ragged breathing.
Satisfied he had not outright killed the moron, he used his foot to push the body into a trash pile off to the side of the building. Before he could do more, his hearing caused him to stop. He turned quickly, spotting the lower arm and hand, still clenching the small .38 revolver. The only problem was, the pistol was not staying still. Instead the fingers were slowly opening, and the pistol was moving in small jerks toward where he had told the mother and boy to hide.
Cinder felt his jaw drop some at the very creepy display, but at the same time he knew he had accidentally stumbled across someone the government was spending a fortune trying to find. He had seen similar stuff more than once at the museum where he worked as a maintenance man. He moved quickly to first jump over to the gun and step down on it. He then turned to look over at the woman and the boy.
The woman was down again, holding her side while the boy was staring wild eyed at the detached lower arm and gun, still partially clenched in the hand, now with a booted foot over it.
The filthy tear stained cheeks of the boy lost what little color they had as Cinder appeared back in his line of sight. The pulse of fear caused him to want the gun even more. Without realizing he was doing it, his brow crinkled and his light greenish-blue eyes turned a shade darker. At the same time the gun lurched hard, almost tripping the powerful man. The strain of the attempt coupled with the fear of the past few minutes was too much, the boy started to black out.
Cinder rocked back as the gun under his foot suddenly shifted and totally broke free of the fingers still trying to hold onto it. Only the fact he was in full combat mode plus having reflexes far superior to a human allowed him to react. Once again his inhuman side showed as he was fast enough to not only stay on his feet but also bring his other foot down on the small pistol as it seemed tried to launch toward the boy.
He glanced down at the pistol with a cautious look, however, his peripheral vision caught sight of the boy wobbling. He glanced up and pounced just in time to catch the slender child as he fell.
Further into the small alcove, the boy's mother gasped at his appearance, while continuing to hold her side. Even in the increasing darkness of the mid April night, dark red liquid could be seen oozing around her fingers.
Cinder moved forward, smelling the blood. "You're hurt bad, lady. We have to get you out of here."
The woman coughed causing a bit of blood to trickle down out of the corner of her mouth. "The Vipers..." She coughed again, bringing up even more blood. "...they want payment..."
Cinder moved closer, getting ready to lift her. "Payment for what?" As he reached forward, he saw the needle marks on her arm. "Drugs... You came down here with your son to give them drug money? Are you nuts, do you know what happens to non-gang kids his age in this part of town?"