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Chapter 20

Henry doubled back on himself and crawled through Shyla’s window. She was where he left her, sprawled face first on the floor just inside the window. He gently scooped her up and placed her on the bed. She barely surfaced, and snuggled back down into her bed. This gave Henry a chance to examine the objects on her bedside table, when she couldn’t rebuke him for nosing about.

Henry had never spent any amount of extended time in Shyla’s room, because they usually sat in the living room downstairs. Now, he tried to keep silent as he picked up and examined some of the things on the table. Some perfume, an alarm clock, a lava lamp, and three photographs, cluttered the small table. He picked up the pictures, looked closely. The first was a picture of her and her mom, with some kind of wildlife preserve in the background. They were happy, and laughing into the camera. He turned it over. There was writing scrawled on the back. Shyla, age 9, with Clarisse at Yellowstone National Park. She looked happy, full of life.

The next picture was of an older man. His smile resembled Shyla’s, and his eyes sparkled with life. The writing on the back read, Andrew, at home. Rest in eternal peace. Henry knew that it was her dad. Shyla didn’t mention him much to her peers, just that he was killed in a hit-and-run downtown, Henry, of course, knew the truth.

The last picture was one of himself with Shyla. They were at a funfair the previous summer, and she was grinning widely around some blue cotton candy. Henry had had his arm around her shoulder, his other holding the camera. He didn’t even realise Shyla had kept the picture.

He placed the pictures back where they had been and slipped soundlessly through the window. He stole off home and snuck through his own window into his darkened bedroom. The light flicked on. “Where have you been?”

Jacob stood in the doorway, his arms folded and a deep scowl on his face. Henry glanced down, trying to hide his shredded palms from his over-protective but well-meaning uncle. “I was out with Shyla.” He mumbled.

“Do you have any idea what the time is?” Jacob fumed. “How do I know you’re safe if I can’t contact you?”

Henry ripped his mask off, his frustration from the evening hitting a tipping point. “The whole point of ‘stealth warrior’ is to not receive a phone call midair between a tree and the ground.” He said loudly, unthinkingly taking his frustration out on his uncle. “If I’m staking out an area, hiding under a window or on a roof, and I receive a phone call or a text, my cover is blown.”

“Please just respect the curfew…” his voice faded as Henry took his shirt off. “Hold out your hands.” He demanded.

Henry glanced down at his palms to find them coated in a thin film of dried blood. Not exactly easy to hide from Jacob. “I ended up crawling on broken glass.” He admitted sheepishly.

“Henry James Stevens!” roared Jacob.

“Well,” seethed Henry. “It was either that, or the glass hit me in the face. I chose, quite frankly, the safer option. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to go to bed. I have work tomorrow.”

Jacob stormed out of the room, muttering away to himself. Henry shook his head. He knew that his uncle’s rage was out of love, rather than hate. Not that it made it any easier to deal with a pissed off relative, just gave the rage a little more perspective.

He switched off the light, crawled into bed and dropped off into a restless sleep. He tossed and turned, waking every few minutes. There had been a lot for him to absorb, and he was still trying to make sense of it all. His dreams were vivid and wild, not making any sense. Eventually, at about four a.m., Henry fell into a deeper sleep. He woke at seven, ready to start his day, but still not very well rested.

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