The awe inspiring and domineering city of Riga, the Latvian capital began to recede as the silver van rumbled and bumped over the cobblestones. These gave way to flat bitumen road Chen felt a slight relief as the ride became smoother. He didn’t get much of a look at the stunning city, the second largest old town of Europe, large medieval walls and buildings, a river in the middle of the city split it in two and a pleasant park in need of some maintenance, but still never the less a nice place, and it gave the whole city a stunning view. Or at least it would have if Jovan in the passenger seat didn’t keep barking orders at Chen to keep his eyes on the road.
‘Left here, come on, you asian drivers are deadly, watch the pedestrians they have right of way.’
‘They don’t according to the signage,’ he barked back.
‘Well, welcome to Eastern Europe, rules are optional, not left, go right, watch the road!’
‘Jovan, would you like to drive?’
‘No, why? You’re doing fine, not right, turn left.’ Chen stared daggers at him. ‘Watch the road!’
They had received a message, a simple text on Jovan’s phone, the convoy was moving on to Sigulda, therefore, so were they.
It was a few hours until sunrise, they hoped to get to the end of the road so to speak before then and slip away with all the information they needed on who was getting the shipment of weapons and if possible, stop them from collecting. Easier said then done, but taking out a dozen trucks worth of supplies was easier when they were on trucks rather than being used against you.
The road turned into a motorway, such as it was and the trip became simpler, Jovan calmed down and nodded off to sleep. The roads weren’t great, Chen had to concentrate, but with European Union money, the major highways in countries like Latvia were likely to receive an overhaul very soon, good for the economy, and good for my backside, he thought as he went over a hump in the road. They would reach Sigulda in an hour and a half if the road held out, thus staying one step ahead of the convoy.
It was now after five in the morning, sunrise was no more than an hour away, yet getting later every day as winter came hurtling towards the Baltic. Temperatures rarely hit over thirty in summer, but winters could be devastatingly cold. Will and Katalina were warm enough, tucked away in the back of the truck as it drove through the streets of the small town of Sigulda. ‘The switzerland of the North,’ the tourist board stated rather optimistically. It was a beautiful town by all accounts, wonderful and green in summer, snow filled and cosy in winter, palaces and castles. Now however, the sun was not yet up and a miserable autumn rain was drissling down onto the soggy ground. The convoy pulled up into a damp clearing that seemed to be only five minutes from the centre of town. Sigulda had a population of a few thousand people only and so it was easy to escape the centre and feel like you had left civilisation behind, at any rate, this was to be the meeting point, and they were off the main road surrounded by trees, it was an ideal place to avoid attention.
Will slipped out the back of the truck, Katalina followed. They assumed that if this was to be the arms deal, then staying put wouldn’t do and so took the opportunity to slink away into the soggy trees. Looking back, the lights of ten trucks lit up the centre of the clearing spectacularly. The smell of rain was strong, and a thick but slow moving sheet could be seen in the lights. The engines were all doused, then the sounds of foot steps in mud came to the fore. Peering through the darkness, the smell of damp foliage around them, they could see a group of men in the centre, three were conferring, some were hanging back, all were wearing coats or ponchos of various kind. several other drivers stayed back near their beasts of burden and smoked as they waited for the miserable night to be over.
Will couldn’t tell if there were any shapeshifters, it was harder to tell when they were covered up moving unnaturally in the mud and rain. He didn’t dare draw on his powers lest he reveal himself.
There was some conferring in the group, one man seemed to get angry.
‘If I had to guess,’ Katalina’s Serbian tongue was by Will’s ear, ‘they’re talking about de fact zat two of their trucks are missing.’ She didn’t smile but Will sensed that she was smirking internally.
Before long the conversation broke off as two cars arrived. They appeared to be Mercedes, black. Their lights lit up the three men even more so as four men got out of the lead car and went to meet the group. They were a security detail, but dressed in suits. They ignored the rain and conversed with the three men who suddenly looked rather shabby in their common clothes and jackets.
Suits and ties, that said someone official, not a crime lord or gang, this was interesting Will thought to himself.
After a small conference, two of the four security men dispersed and began keeping an eye on the surroundings whilst the other two stood at the ready. The second car suddenly moved as two doors flung open, two more security figures emerged, dressed the same, one had an umbrella. He opened it and waited for another silhouette to emerge. Will squinted, couldn’t see who it was but waited. In a few moments the new figure trod out into the field, there was something precise about his movements, something obvious. He was an elderly man in appearance, perhaps late seventies, wore glasses, had thinning white hair. He was possibly German, or perhaps Dutch. His suit was silver, tailored, very expensive.
‘What is it?’
‘That’s Hans Ulrich.’
‘Should I know the name?’
‘He’s the head of a major committee in the European Union.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Yes, you do miss out on some things don’t you? His is the final stamp needed to approve new members in the Union. All of the countries in Eastern Europe that have been brought in this past year, it couldn’t have happened without his vote. What on earth could he be doing here at an arms deal with Derrick’s men?’
‘He is ‘Derrick’s men.’
‘He’s a shapeshifter, there is no Hans Ulrich, or if there was, he’s long dead.’
Four minutes passed and as the rain pattered down, the creature known as Hans trodded back under cover of his subordinate’s umbrella to his car, got in and the security team followed. The two cars drove away, their transaction apparently complete.
Shortly thereafter a less luxurious vehicle arrived, a Soviet era station wagon. Four men got out and met with the three apparent leaders of the convoy. What this all meant was not immediately obvious to Will, but he knew he had to pay close attention. Pulling out his night vision camera, a rather expensive device that Chen had tracked down for him, he took more photos, adding them to the ones he had taken of Hans and his group, they could be used for analysis later.
‘Do you recognise any of these men?’ He asked.
‘No,’ Katalina replied. After less than one minute of conversation, one of the men from the station wagon returned to the car and retrieved a brief case. ‘Might as well have a bag with a dollar sign painted on,’ Katalina said flatly. Will smiled, enjoying his companions dry sense of humour.
‘So this group must be buying some, if not all of the weapons.’
‘Yes,’ Katalina said, ‘they look Russian to me, that makes a lot of sense. Russian gangs are number one here.’
‘Wouldn’t it make sense to not arm the strongest group, I thought Derrick wanted to take over this neighbourhood.’
‘He wouldn’t be selling all these weapons unless he wanted a war, who better to sell them to then the largest group of angry men in the whole region?’
‘Ok, so he arms some Russian thugs,’
‘lots of thugs.;
‘Ok, lots of thugs, who does he expect them to fight?’
‘Good question, I was going to say against the West, the EU, but it appears Derrick has his claws in there already. This is getting more complicated.’
Will turned his head around and looked behind him. He thought he heard something, but the noise of the rain, even being a light but steady downpour, was enough that noises were less than obvious, he turned back to the scene in front of them. The briefcase had changed hands, six of the trucks engines started and the men got back into the station wagon.
‘We’ve got to tell Jovan,’ Katalina said getting her phone out. ‘Damn, no reception.’
‘It’s alright, one of them is the truck we were hiding in.’
‘So, I placed a tracking device, Chen has the receiver, once he sees it moving he’ll go after it.’
‘Well, good thinking.’
‘Had to do something whilst you were blowing trucks up.’ Katalina smiled at him.
Will turned, he thought he heard something this time, much closer. Just behind them, out of the trees they were using as cover there was another clearing. Not anywhere near as big as the one with the trucks, but it was still big enough for a few smaller vehicles.
‘Stay here,’ Will said and crept through the cover of the trees, trying to move quietly in the mud. He decided to take the risk and as he listened with his more conventional sense, he also channeled a tiny amount of his powers, his inner eye, buried deep within his person showed the source of his power, his hand reached out, it brushed against the core, just enough to feel the slight tingle that came from channeling his energy, but not enough to alert any creature unless they were right next to him. On the other hand, it gave him enough strength to scan the area within a hundred metres or so of his location. He could dimly pick up two or three creatures behind him with the trucks, that was hardly surprising. They were using their powers to stay in human form and so they shone brightly in his mind’s eye. In front of him however, he could detect something as well. It was close, very close, there maybe more than one, but it was so faint.
The roar of the trucks meant that he could no longer discern any sounds around him and after the six trucks were gone, heard what sounded like the remaining trucks start up as well. That meant they were heading off, likely to another location if they were leaving separately. He had to go back to Katalina and work out what they were going to do.
He began to turn back but felt the dim light of something grow brighter. He decided to peek through the trees and peered out into the clearing in front of him. It was a round clearing, muddy ground, indeed a smaller version of where the trucks parked. The lights from the trucks leaving the area gave only a tiny periphery of illumination, but Will didn’t need it. He shifted the power from his mind to his eyes. Now he could not use his ‘radar’ to detect the creatures, but he was able to close his eyes, they were no longer needed, he could see perfectly. The rain hitting the ground, the leaves whooshing in the breeze, it was better than night vision. He scanned the clearing, nothing stood out. He wanted to also use his ‘radar’ but didn’t dare draw enough power to do both, whatever was out there would detect him easily enough he suspected, it was close.
He was just about to give up when he thought he saw movement at the other side of the clearing. Keeping himself covered knowing only too well that the creatures could see quite well in the dark, he wasn’t sure if that was just their eyes or if they too used their power in the same way he was. Either way, he had to be careful.
‘We meet again,’ a voice croaked from the darkness. Will snapped his head to the right in alarm, there was someone, or something, not ten paces away. He could barely see a figure in the trees, it was in human form, but that didn’t make it actually human.
‘Who are you?’ he replied, louder than the intruder, knowing that Katalina would likely hear him and that would alert her to the situation.
‘Oh, I’m hurt, you don’t remember me.’ Will’s mind tried to clambour through memories, voices, it sounded familiar, but who was it?’
‘The figure sighed, apparently hurt at not being remembered. ‘Well, at any rate, I’m ready for you this time.’ Will’s hairs stood up on his arms and on the back of his neck, this was a creature and it was channeling its power. He began to do the same as he tensed his body, returning the camera to his jacket pocket and retrieving one of his crescent shaped blades. Now with stealth gone he didn’t have to hold back as much, but he still showed some restraint, not wanting to alert any creatures further away to his presence, but he had enough to scan his immediate surroundings, and sure enough, what stood in front of him was a creature, a shapeshifter and he recognised it. Each creature had its own signature, if he sensed it once, he could pick it out of a crowd again, as long as he had his powers on hand. This was the creature he had tangled with in Vilnius, the one that had no doubt alerted Derrick to their presence and brought about the three hounds to attack them.
‘You,’ he growled.
‘Ah, now you know,’ the creature seemed to smile even though Will still couldn’t see it clearly. ‘Let’s dance!’ It growled as it unleashed a blast of energy directly at Will. He dove to his left which took him out in the open, mud sticking to his clothes but he managed to return to his feet as the blast exploded behind him illuminating the area for a moment. He kept his ‘night vision’ active and watched as the creature stalked out into the open, crouched low, ready to strike at any moment.
‘I’ve been looking forward to this, but I must confess, I’m somehow doubtful of my ability in defeating you and so I hope you don’t mind, but courtesy an old friend of yours, I’ve brought some of mine.’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ Will crouched a little lower, ready to move quickly and charged more energy into his limbs ready for a fight.
‘Blaine, sends his regards.’
‘Blaine?’ Will started, the creature that had caused Will the most pain, the strongest he had ever faced. Last he heard he was still in Serbia, could he be here now? The creature indicated to its right, the clearing, and the trees beyond. Will clearly saw a large creature, definitely not pretending to be in human form, not now or ever. That was the way for this type of monster, the huge enforcers towered over most humans, they were brutes and this one marched towards Will, its body glowing with energy, it’s fangs contorted in a grotesque snarl and it’s claws outstretched searching for a meal.
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2017