Nicholas Hughes has finally gone to ground, but that doesn’t mean that he’s done running, or that Scarlet’s done chasing. When last he saw her, she promised to take his head, but when next he hears of her, she’s waist deep in trouble and he’s the only one that can help her out of it. This time the problem isn’t so much choice. It’s price. After all, he has his own battle to fight, with things speaking into his ear and looking over his shoulder. She told him too that all debts come due, and among all the shadows, it’s difficult to see the face of the clock that’s counting down. He’s not in Bay City anymore, but then again, Nick also isn’t the same man, but that doesn’t mean the man he’s become won’t regret the decisions made by the man he was.
“I need your help,” Scarlet said, followed by a snicker and a chuckle from the darkness.
“Well, supposing you do, you certainly went through more trouble than most people would to get it. Call the police.” That sounded like the conversation was over.
“He is an exile from the Academy.” Scarlet had bought into the sniper story. She did not move. “I trust you know what that means.” After another moment, the darkness spoke again.
“Well, we aren’t an assassination squad. We go where we’re needed,”
“By the time he makes himself overtly known it will be too late. I’ve been tracking him,”
“And you lost him,” the interruption stung the pride. Scarlet nodded.
“Yes, he was in league with a vampire and a lycanthrope, and together they killed those with me,” but it would have been more correct to say the ones she was with.
“And you survived?”
“Yes.” The answer sounded ridiculous even to her ears. For a brief moment, she thought she might actually be shot and left dead on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. In the moment after the bullet didn’t arrive, she briefly contemplated her situation more objectively. She had to accept that she was alive for reasons out of her control.
A broad, plain-faced woman stepped from the shadows beneath the overpass. Her dress didn’t say stalker. It said farm-wife. A plaid shirt and blue jeans with her hair pulled back, she was wearing work boots and holding a shotgun trained steadily on Scarlet. She was cautious, and yet confident. At ten feet distant, she stopped.
“Well, you look like maybe you could play the part,” the woman said. Up close, she was somewhat tall, too. “If I put your story together right, then that makes you,”
“Just like you.” Scarlet jumped at the opportunity to interrupt her. Strangely, the woman smiled. She was more handsome when she emoted, but only slightly.
“Not so much. I gather we do things a little differently here in the new world. You sound like a foreigner. Where you coming from recently?”