Erik parked the car outside of Anne’s apartment building and let out an exhausted breath. Anne chuckled lowly as she stepped out of the car. Erik snarled as he followed her up to the building. Mostly at himself.

“Samantha wasn’t exaggerating,” Anne said as she punched in her code to the front door. “You really have a hard time driving on the right side of the road.”

“I am so happy that my driving amused you,” Erik replied, a bit more primly than he wanted. Anne let out a guffaw as the two walked into the building’s lobby.

“Your driving was so perfect, a vice cop would’ve pulled you over thinking you were a mule,” Anne said. Erik quirked an eyebrow, not understanding her slang. “People who transport illegal drugs make it a point of carefully following the traffic laws to avoid being pulled over. In this city, the way you drive is suspicious.”

“Thank you. I will have to practice to conform to your driving habits,” Erik said. Well, that definitely wasn’t a part of the environmental brief. Damn, the Saint should have sent someone from Foreign Intelligence with his team. Anne walked over to the stairs, a smirk dancing across her face. Erik dashed over and intercepted her.

“I should go up first,” Erik said, “In case there is someone in your apartment.” Anne’s smirk vanished to be replaced with a scowl.

“Okay, I suppose,” Anne said, clearly not pleased, “Third floor, second door on the right.”

“Yes, I know,” Erik said, and then felt a spike of fury from Anne. Erik mentally slapped himself. Sam had told him that Anne was extremely touchy about the level of surveillance his team had on her.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Are you really?” Anne asked, still furious.

“I’m sorry you’re in this position,” Erik answered, “Not for putting you under surveillance.” Anne’s fury was tempered with appreciation for Erik’s honesty. The pair walked up the stairs with Erik in the lead. He had to remember that Americans weren’t used to having something like Imperial Security. Even their internal security forces were required to follow all sorts of laws and regulations before even beginning the most cursory of investigations. Of course, they didn’t have something like the Dark Towers attempting to wipe them out. It was easy to get indignant when monsters weren’t gating in with the help of local traitors.

As the pair reached the third floor, Erik stopped. There was someone in Anne’s apartment, but it didn’t feel human or Dark Towers. It was similar to the psi-scent of the man at the accident that delayed his team from getting to restaurant this morning, but slightly different. Erik drew his pistol.

“What the hell is going on?” Anne asked, drawing her own sidearm.

“Something is in your apartment,” Erik said.

“Something?” she asked. Then, Anne gasped as he pulled out the suppressor and screwed it on. “What the hell are you going to do?”

“Whatever it is, something like it caused an accident this morning and delayed us to our meet with you,” Erik explained as he crept down the hall. “Considering that Arem was there to meet you in our stead, I have a strong reason to suspect that it’s allied with the Dark Towers.” Anne’s anger was gone. She was scared, but she continued to follow Erik. Excellent. This one might actually survive more than a fortnight.

“Do you need a key, or do you have one already?” Anne asked, forcing some anger to cover her fear.

“I’ll need you to open the door so I can do entry,” Erik answered. The technical terms seemed to calm Anne. Police knew how to do an entry.

“Shouldn’t we call for back-up?” Anne asked as she snaked past Erik.

“Already did, but they won’t be here for a bit. We need to get whoever’s in there,” Erik said. The two took positions on opposite sides of the door. Anne reached over and unlocked the door. She mouthed the countdown for Erik to follow. At one, she slammed the door open. Damn, he wanted a quiet opening to sneak in, not a bleeding rush. That was his mistake.

Erik dashed into the apartment with his pistol raised. He felt out with his senses and spun just as a small man leapt from from the bedroom. Erik was knocked to the ground as the man backhanded him. Erik brought up his pistol, but the small man’s hand materialized and wrenched the weapon out of Erik’s grip. Erik sent a burst of power that launched the little man across the room. There was an audible crack as the man slammed into the wall. Erik finally got a good look at his assailant. The dark-haired man was maybe a 160 to 165 centimeters and dressed in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Nothing that looked that unusual. Well, except for that strange psi-scent. The man glared at Erik. A flash of molten gold flared in the man’s eyes before turning back to their original brown.

The man took a step and jumped at Erik. Another burst of power pushed him back while Erik drew his backup pistol. Sighting down the small barrel, Erik fired twice. Red holes appeared on the assailant’s sweatshirt, but the man didn’t slow down. He sprinted across the room and lunged at Erik. The operative ducked and felt the whistle of the blow on the back of his neck. Erik snaked his pistol around and emptied the magazine into man. The assailant let out a scream of pain and anger that sounded more animal than man.

Stars blossomed in Erik’s eyes as the man punched him. It felt like getting hit by an orc, not a man not much bigger than a goblin. Erik saw his sidearm on the floor and pulled it to him with a quick burst. As his hand gripped the stippled butt, a sledgehammer blow crashed onto his back and knocked the wind out of him.

“Stay out of this Avalonian,” the man growled. Erik was surprised he could hear the man’s low voice after the abuse from the gunfire. At least it gave him the opportunity to bring up his pistol. The man just grinned as the barrel floated in front of his face.

“Go ahead. It hasn’t slowed me down yet,” he said. Erik paused at the words. The man had absorbed ten .40S&W hollow-points without any effect except for some small bleeding. What the hell was the Erik fighting? Before his mind could come up with an answer, the apartment rocked with more gunfire. The assailant grimaced as more bullets slammed into him. Finally, more annoyed than hurt, the man leapt out of the window into the parking lot.

“What the hell?” Anne yelled as she dashed to the window. An empty magazine dropped out of her Glock as she slapped in a fresh one. “Where’d he go?” Erik rose to his feet and looked out of the window.

“He went that way,” Erik said, pointing across the parking lot into a small wooded area next to the apartment complex.

“How do you know?” Anne asked.

“Psychic, remember?” Erik asked. “I can sense his psi-scent out the window and into the forest.”

“How the hell did he survive getting shot and then a thirty foot jump onto concrete?” Anne asked.

“How indeed,” Erik murmured.

“He wasn’t an elf or something else from the Dark Towers?” Anne asked.

“No, but he was definitely on their side,” Erik answered. Now that the fighting was over, he sorted through the psi-scents in the apartment. Why had that little bastard been in Anne’s apartment? He followed the psi-scent back into Anne’s bedroom. The room was thoroughly trashed. Anne walked up behind him, reporting the incident to her partner. He needed to find out why that man was here before the police showed up. Then he caught a whiff of old rubber.

“Get the hell out of here!” Erik said, “That bastard set a–” He barely heard the click of the detonator.