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Everett's good at what he does. He, which is being one of the Occult’s most effective agents, and one day he wants to be the boss. Only his sister – ranked above him and always smug about it – stands in his way.
When they are targeted by the infamous Illusionist, they must decide where their loyalties lie. To each other, to their overbearing father, or to the new member, who seems to know more than he’s letting on.
Warnings: Mentions of crime, non-graphic violence, spoilers for The Occult
Once Everett was feeling better, a few days later, he was summoned to what Everett and Prue called their father’s War Room. It was at the centre of the Underworld, deep underground, and had always frightened Everett as a child; it was so surrounded in mystery.
His father didn’t show himself often, dangerous as it was, even within Underworld territory. But when it did, it was always in the War Room. Everett did not attend it often, not unless his father had ordered it so, and he was normally accompanied by Damian and his sister. Rarely alone.
As he ascended the steps, his head still throbbing from his fall, a feeling of dread settled in his stomach. He thought his father might want to check how he was, before he dismissed it.
He tried to feel pleased that he would have time with his father, as he’d so desperately wanted, but he only felt ashamed as he had failed in his mission. He knew that his father would not forget. Perhaps he was angry.
Everett knocked on the door with unusual hesitation. He felt diminished since his fall at the mansion and since Sam’s betrayal; a shadow of his former self. He wasn’t even angry anymore. Just the thought of it clogged up his throat. He knew he was already red in the face.
Then, a familiar deep voice, called, “Enter.”
Everett slid open the door and crossed the threshold – into the War Room that had a long table at its centre, and monumental tapestries lining each wall. A man was seated on the other side, almost looking down on him, although they were at the same height.
His heart dropped. It wasn’t his father. It was Damian.
He looked the same as ever – his dark hair swept up from his head, not a hair out of place. His suit was dark blue and shining under the stark lights. He was broad and tall, his arms folded in front of him.
Everett did not know whether to be relieved or resentful; he was foolish for being hopeful that his father would come personally. He was a busy and successful man, and Everett had not earned it.
“Where is my father?” Everett asked, already knowing the answer. He heard the croak in his voice and tried desperately to clear his throat under Damian’s watchful gaze. “I thought he would be here.”
Damian cocked a dark brow at him – his disappointment clear, even from far away.
“Why would he be here himself?” asked Damian. “When his only son failed in his mission.”
Everett opened his mouth.
“Sit,” Damian ordered.
Everett sat. He was trying to resist the urge to wilt under the intensity of Damian’s glare. He had never had Prue’s ice-cold composure; he assumed it was one of the reasons their father favored her.
“The Illusionist set a trap,” he tried again.
Damian waved a hand. “I’m not interested in hearing your excuses. And nor is your father.”
“He has been disappointed by your failures,” Damian continued.
Everett said nothing.
There was nothing worse than the disappointment of his only parent. Particularly one he had tried so hard to impress. He felt like it had all been torn away from him after just one mistake.
Damian had always warned him; the Head did not tolerate failure.
“It is his belief that you are no longer capable of leading your team,” Damian told him.
“My team?” Everett echoed, as though hearing the words from far away.
His team, while beneath him, had become close comrades and, in some cases, friends. He had revelled in leading them. It was one thing he had always done better than Prue.
“Sam’s defection was incredibly disappointing,” Damian reminded him.
As though he didn’t already know.
The words made his chest clench. He didn’t know why Sam had betrayed him and he wasn’t sure he ever would. The uncertainty was the worst part. Wondering was going to keep him up at night.
“Yes, it was most disappointing for me, in fact,” Everett pointed out, sourly. “Considering he was my best friend.”
“The Head is removing you from the mission with the Illusionist,” Damian said, as though Everett had not spoken.
There was no point arguing, Everett knew that. Just like most of his conversations with his father and Damian over the years: it was futile.
“Right,” said Everett, stiffly.
“And Prue will be leading your team from now on,” Damian announced.
Everett flinched. Prue had not succeeded on her mission either. OK, she hadn’t fallen into an Illusionist trap, but nobody had come out of the mansion with success. The Illusionist had run rings around them all.
“She will?” he croaked.
“Yes,” answered Damian, as though daring Everett to challenge him.
He didn’t have any fight left in him; Sam and the fall and his father had stripped it from him. He only nodded, conceding defeat.
“I understand,” said Everett. “I’m sorry I have disappointed my father.”
“You are dismissed,” said Damian.
Needing no further prompting, Everett fled.
Everett slunk out of the War Room feeling as though he’d taken a blow to the head. He had been relieved to flee Damian’s piercing gaze and was ready to run back to his hospital bed and never emerge again.
And just when he thought the situation could not get any worse, he ran straight into his sister, who was stood outside waiting for him.
He tried to look as shaken as he felt. He didn’t feel like he was succeeding by the way she pinned him with her gaze, as though seeing into his soul. She did not look as together as she usually did; she looked tired.
“What happened?” Prue asked, without pleasantries.
“You already know,” Everett snapped, wanting the conversation to end.
“He removed you from the mission?” Prue summarized.
The words still hurt. “And made you head of my team,” Everett cried, unable to hold back the resentment.
Prue looked at him carefully. She did not look smug or victorious, as he might have expected. “I’m sorry,” she said, surprising him. “That wasn’t what I wanted.”
“Really?” he croaked. “I thought it was what you wanted all along.”
“You are the one who’s gotten all of the clues about the Illusionist,” said Prue, and her tone was earnest. “You deserve to be leading it.”
“I guess that won’t be happening.”
He tried to edge past her, but she intercepted him. “Won’t it?”
Everett froze. He sensed additional meaning to her words, but as usual, he felt as though he was speaking a different language. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t tell me you’re just going do what Damian tells you?” Prue asked, with disgust. “Stay in the Underworld and hope this goes away.”
Everett stared at her, uneasy. Was she leading him into a trap?
“What are you suggesting?” he asked warily.
“That we finish this together.”
He looked at her pale face and saw no deceit. Her eyes were urgent and pleading. He wanted to believe her, but he had been disappointed before. Mostly by their own father.
“Defeat the Illusionist?” he clarified.
“Yes,” said Prue.
Everett expected her to argue, but she rolled her eyes and conceded, “Fine.”
Everett felt a jolt of victory. The heaviness in his chest lifted somewhat – and a new determination was forming. “We’ll need help,” he pointed out. “From those who do not mind thwarting my father.”
“Nate,” Prue offered.
Everett did not disagree. As much as he butted heads with Nate, he was good in a fight and loyal to his sister.
“And Noah,” Everett added, surprising even himself.
Prue raised her eyebrows. “Really?”
“Really,” Everett replied.
Noah and Lily had saved him at the mansion, and he would not forget it. As much as Sam’s betrayal had hurt him, they needed allies; particularly if they were going to strike without the might of the Underworld behind them.
It was a dangerous move. Perhaps even foolish.
Everett no longer cared.
“Are you ready for this?” Prue asked.
“We need to finish this,” Everett said. “I’ve had enough of the Illusionist.”
Prue smiled at him. “I share the sentiment.”
To be continued…
It was surprisingly easy to give the Head’s men the slip.
You might expect the soldiers of the Occult to be more careful – Everett would have been, but they were painfully lax. Arrogant even.
He had left the Underworld. He suspected Damian thought he was going to drown his sorrows and he did nothing to dissuade him. Still, Damian sent some of his own soldiers to follow Everett, just as Everett suspected he might.
Everett did not hint that he knew of their presence and tried to act as normal as possible.
He led them around in a circle. He went to get lunch first, queuing for half an hour in a coffee shop and then eating his muffin slowly on the benches outside. Then, he went for a walk in the park. He sat in the sun for a bit, improving his tan. Finally, he went shopping for a new jacket.
He loitered in the men’s section, trying on an assortment of new clothes. He could feel the familiar burn of eyes following his every move. He tried on dozens of sizes and styles and did several turns in the outside mirrors. So, they knew he was there.
While he was in the dressing room, he pulled on a new jacket, with a hood and a cap. Then he edged out of the staff entrance, down the empty staircase and emerged from the back entrance onto the street.
Hoping his disguise might throw anyone situated outside, he darted into a passing crowd. He stayed with them until they reached a car park and ducked into an alleyway. He waited for a while, to see if Damian’s soldiers were still tailing him, but there was nothing.
He double backed, to be sure, and then went to meet the others.
By the time Everett arrived at their designated meeting point, the sun was beginning to set. Clouds had also moved over, and it was beginning to rain; light and drizzly.
Prue, Nate, and Noah were waiting for him.
Prue and Nate were prepared as always, ready with the equipment – weapons and communications. They had told Damian they were going on a date night. They looked like it too, dressed in black jeans, boots and in Prue’s case, a tiny silvery top.
Noah looked a little more uneasy – dressed in a dark polo neck and wearing a grim expression. Everett had been surprised by how little convincing Noah had needed to attend such a suicide mission, but he needed all the allies he could get. Especially after Sam.
It appeared as though this was his new team.
“Are you ready?” Prue asked.
“Yes,” said Everett.
“Are you sure you weren’t followed?” Nate asked.
“I wasn’t followed,” Everett promised them.
He was quite disappointed in the competency of Damian’s soldiers. They had been easy to lose, and he had been hoping for more of a challenge. Or an excuse to beat one of them, maybe.
“Are we sure they don’t already know the Illusionist’s location?” asked Nate. “Which you got from Lily?”
“They don’t,” said Everett. “I only told Prue. I never got a chance to tell Damian.”
Perhaps if Damian had let Everett speak in the War Room, he might have told him. He never got the chance to relay the key information, and it appeared Prue had never told Damian either. She was always calculating.
“This is not a scouting mission,” Prue said. “We’re here to take down The Illusionist.”
Everett and Prue entered the bar Lily had told him about at the mansion.
Noah entered first, as a scout; he was newest to the group and least likely to be recognized. He would not be the one they were expecting. Nate would stay at the exit to ensure nobody else disappeared into an alley at any sign of trouble.
They could call upon them both for backup, if needed. The mics were hooked into their ears.
The bar was not one that Everett recognized or had been in before; and he wondered why. Why hadn’t he known it was here? Was it by design?
They never would have found it without Lily’s clues.
It was elegant and expensive. The ceilings were tall, and the furniture made of shimmering glass. Jewelled ceiling hangings were glittering in the cold, white lights. The bar was at the far side of space, stacked with drinks and glasses.
“Do you see them?” Prue prompted.
“What?” Everett asked.
“The paintings,” she replied, with a pointed nudge.
Everett realised what she was referring to. Paintings on every wall, were the same style as those in the art gallery. Lily had been right. This place was important.
It also was beautiful. Not the normal sort of place Everett would frequent.
It was busy too, with people dressed in their finest clothes and expensive jewellery, the music thumping in his ears. They walked up to the bar, assessing the landscape, and ordered drinks.
Everett only pretended to sip his. They would need their wits about them. Enemies could be everywhere. The Illusionist could be anywhere.
No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, then he saw him.
The deaf man from the art gallery.
To be continued…
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