In Which He Has Until Friday
I lay wide-awake in bed that night, staring at the sloped, crinkled metal roof of the warehouse den. I’d begun mentally drafting what I could say to Adam, and it was making my head throb. This was worst than a tenth-grade Literature essay, and for the same reasons: mostly meaning, there was just no way to start.
“Mr. Dark, I need to speak to you.” Well, that part I could probably get through. Knees knocking, sure, but I could get through it. But then he’d look at me, and he’d cross his arms and say something like, “Okay, what?” and what would I say then?
“Who was that woman? An agent? Are you working with the Defenders?”
No, of course I couldn’t blurt that out. I wanted him to hear me out, not flip his top and react emotionally, even violently.
“I haven’t told you the whole truth.” I hadn’t really told him the truth at all, had I? “My name isn’t Jac Ravenheart. It’s Hailee Jackson. Maybe you’ve heard of me, maybe you haven’t, either way. I came here looking for you, looking for help.”
I could say that. I’m not sure how he’d respond, but it’s one of the better ways to start.
“Adam, what would you say if I told you I’m being chased? That maybe I haven’t told you everything about me and I need help?”
Could I call him Adam? I knew that he was more uptight about respect than many Alphas, including me, and if I was approaching him with a serious question, maybe he would rather I called him “Mr. Dark.” And the rhetorical approach, how would that go over?
Eventually, I couldn’t think about it anymore. I fell asleep instead.
Despite having been at the den for several days by then, I woke up the next morning with the feeling of not knowing where I was. Seeing the aforementioned metal roof confused me, and as if that wasn’t enough, I hit my head on it when I sat up. That must have knocked the information into me, because I suddenly remembered where I was, and all the terrible stuff that was going on. “Oh, right,” I muttered, rubbing my sore and bruising head. “Eff my life.”
I left my room -- which was also Thalia’s -- to find that Logan had invited us to breakfast. We walked to his apartment, in the crisp morning air. It felt very much like autumn, and smelled like autumn too, despite it being closer to winter. I remarked about that observation to Fred. “Can you believe how close it is to December?”
“It is crazy,” he replied. “The year is about to be over.”
That was a bittersweet thing, for me in particular. I’d always loved December -- the Christmas season, and New Year’s Eve especially. The last day of the year was one of my favorite days, with the low-key little celebrations we would hold in the pack house. Fred would miss that, he said. “I will too,” I said. “Maybe we’ll find a way to celebrate here, in Nashville.”
“Oh, I’m sure we will,” he said, shrugging assuredly.
We arrived at Logan’s apartment and rang the door. Tracy seemed to have moved back in; he was sitting on the sofa, looking at his phone, when we entered the apartment. It made sense that he’d return, since all the lycan boarders had moved out (Fred and Levi had come with us, and Holly was crashing with the band, doing stagehand work). Unsurprisingly, he didn’t look too happy to see us, but he said a cordial enough hello. “Logan!” he yelled. “Your friends are here!”
“Right!” Logan yelled back, and a second later came running out of the office. “Morning, everyone.”
“I dunno what you find so fascinating about them,” Tracy said, looking up from his phone. “He’s been like this since I met him,” he said to me. “I swear, being his boyfriend was bad enough, being his husband is gonna be one long episode of Supernatural.”
“And yet you asked me to marry you,” Logan remarked. “You want breakfast or not?”
“Us, or him?” I asked. “Because I’m famished.”
“I meant Trace.”
“I’ll catch up.”
There wasn’t enough room in the kitchen for all of us -- it was a place designed for two, not eight. Logan had dragged chairs from every end of the house into the small area, organizing them practically on top of each other so it felt smaller still. Every corner filled with the smells of toast and coffee. “It’s not much,” he said, apologetically, “but I tried.”
“It’s perfect,” I said. “We’re simple people, and easily satisfied. Fancy things don’t suit us.” I looked around the table. “Well, not me, anyway.” It was met with a chorus of agreements.
“So,” Thalia asked around a mouthful, “what’d you call us here for in the first place?”
“Anything suspicious?” I asked. “Strange people asking questions, threatening phone calls, anything of that nature?”
“Well...er.” He put down his steaming mug of tea. “Yeah. When I took in all these, you know, guests, people noticed. Everyone around here kinda thinks I’m strange already, so if a guy in a suit starts asking too much, no one has a problem throwing Logan under the bus, no!”
Privately, I could see why people find him strange. On this particular day, his hair wasn’t pulled back, but billowed out like a lion’s mane in bent, frazzled curls. He was wearing a sky-blue shirt with both sleeves torn off, and thin gold bracelets around both wrists. He didn’t look, by the South’s definition, normal. I could only imagine what a time he’d have in Oakland County, especially with another man on his arm. Plus, if his fascination (obsession, really) with the paranormal was well-known, then of course suspicions would go straight to him.
“Someone’s been asking around, then?”
“I guess they have. I’ve been getting knocks on the door, neighbors telling me to report anything that happens, hint hint, I can only assume someone’s been talking.”
I tapped my finger on the table, mulling over his words. With his someone talking and my growing distrust of Adam Dark, I was beginning to feel walls closing in on me.
“You know,” Logan continued, “now that everyone knows about you, it makes a little more sense that people like me get looked at, doesn’t it? I mean, yeah, I got called crazy before, but now we’ve got papers from the government not only backing me up but saying...saying....”
“That we’re dangerous,” I supplied.
“Right, that you’re dangerous, and that humans shouldn’t be interacting with you or ‘fraternizing’ with you or ‘harboring’ you, or whatever. When you’ve got government papers saying that, I’m the kind of person everyone’s gonna turn against, along with the lycans themselves.” At this point, I wasn’t sure what he was rambling about or why, but I let him continue. “But I’m still gonna help you, and I wouldn’t ever go back on it.”
“Why?” I asked. “Just because you’re intrigued by us?”
“Well, I am intrigued by you,” he admitted, “but I also think it’s really effed-up, what these hunters are doing. Everyone’s got rights.” To which I nodded.
I spotted a flash of orange on the side of my vision -- Tracy, finally coming to the kitchen for breakfast. “What are you suggesting we do, then, Logan?” he asked.
“I’m suggesting that we, you and I, do anything. I’m suggesting that we stay safe. But to Hailee and company, I say that if you’re going to make a move against the hunters, make it now. Things are heating up here.”
Little Rock. Birmingham. Atlanta. Lexington. St Louis. New Orleans. Nashville. Seven cities. Seven bases with hunters waiting at them. Somehow, they’ve narrowed it down to us, here, now.
With Tracy in the room, I pushed the conversation to more ordinary, more lighthearted topics. Logan recommended going to see the Parthenon museum, a few miles up the street. Jason’s face lit up at the idea. “That sounds fun,” he said eagerly. “We should do that.”
“We will,” I promised, “sometime.” I liked the idea as well; Jason and I shared a passion for ancient history and mythos. One more thing to do when all this blew over. A memory to be made.
When we finished our breakfasts and the conversation began to dwindle, Logan handed me an envelope. “I’ve been watching for anything weird,” he said. “Anything hunter-esque. I got pictures when I could.”
I took the envelope, and thanked him. Then we left, promising to rendezvous again soon. In the hallway, leaving, I slipped it into my back pocket. I shook my head. “He’s very eager to help, isn’t he?” I looked to Thalia. “Not like you, either. You were getting close me because you wanted to be turned. Logan isn’t like that, at least I don’t think so. He just gets close to us because it fascinates him.”
“I think you ought to look at them,” Fred encouraged. “There might be something of interest in those photos.”
“Maybe so,” I conceded. So when we were out on the street again, pausing under a leafless tree, I opened the envelope. Inside, there were eight low-quality color photos, some of them blurry and some of them surprisingly clear. The first is of the center from outside, from beyond the fence, with question marks and exclamations scribbled on it in Sharpie. Bit late for that, Logan, I thought. I probably should’ve told him about the break-in....
The next was of a line of cars headed out of the center. That picture was streaky, like he’d taken it while quickly starting his own car and hurrying off -- which he probably had, given the size and general intimidating quality of the cars.
The three after that were of people, talking on a corner, standing under his window, passing something between them. An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach when I saw these, as I wondered just how intense the Defenders’ presence was in this area.
I didn’t even look at the others. I assumed they, too, were of agents and informants and secretive deals. I’d seen enough of that.
It was time to come up with a plan.
Adam’s next meaning with the Director was set to occur that night. He was sitting on a park bench in a secluded part of town, checking his watch and tapping his foot. For the second night in a row, he’d had to leave his wife at home, alone, with no idea where he was going and no way to find out. Tyrone better have something good to say, he thought, and he’d better not keep me waiting to hear it.
Finally, the Director showed up, wearing a drab gray hood to cover the shredded side of his face. “My apologies,” he said, sitting down beside Adam like they were old friends. “Traffic was terrible, I only just got to town. How are things, Mr. Dark?”
Adam gave him a questioning look. “You’re talking to me like we’re acquainted.”
“We’re allies, aren’t we? It’s the least I can do to be cordial to you.” Tyrone sniffed. “But if you’d prefer things remain strictly professional, fine. I can do that. Report?”
“I’m sure you heard about the break-in?”
He sniffed again. “Of course I did. I was the one who sent Agent Bhuvani, remember?”
“Yes, you were, Mr. Tyrone.”
“So, what can you tell me about it?”
Tyrone raised both eyebrows. “Really?”
“Nothing.” It was a lie, and not a lie -- Adam couldn’t say much of anything about the break-in, or anything that had occurred with Jackson and her followers. But he could guess, and there were things he knew. He knew that two new people had arrived on her heels, and he’d seen them together enough to assume they’d known each other beforehand, especially that strawberry blonde kid -- those two were practically attached at the hip. They all were, as a matter of fact.
Because of course they are, Adam, he snapped at himself. Because she’s Hailee Jackson. She’s an Alpha, and they’re her wolves.
“So, was I right about her, then?”
Adam’s head snapped up. “Right about her? Excuse me?”
“Has she made any move against you?”
He answered with an adamant “No.”
“Are you sure? You’ve never even suspected anything?”
He couldn’t say he’d never suspected anything. Jackson was an ambitious young woman, much like he had been an ambitious young man at around her age. And with this robbery, or whatever they had done, with all the trouble she’d caused...she might have planned something. It wasn’t hard to believe she might have planned something.
Tyrone tapped the back of the bench, impatiently. “Earth to Mr. Dark.”
He shook himself. “Sorry.” Adam ground his teeth. Tyrone was getting in his head, as much as he tried to keep him out. He hated the way Tyrone could do that. “Something to say, Tyrone?”
“Yeah, I have something to say. It’s time.”
“For you to make your move.” He leaned in close, purposefully dramatic. “By Friday night, I expect you to either bring her to me, or.” Tyrone stopped, swallowed, shrugged his shoulders. “Or, you know, handle it yourself.”
“Friday night? Friday night? That’s a lot to ask, sir.”
“Friday night, Dark! I’ve got something up my sleeve, something big. If I don’t have her at midnight exactly, zero-hundred hours if you will, on Saturday night, then you best believe that at zero-oh-one, I’m coming for you.” He stood up. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
Adam grumbled an obscenity under his breath. This was it, wasn’t it? He was backed into a corner, and Tyrone wasn’t going to let him out. If he didn’t kill Hailee Jackson, or at least deliver to the Defenders (and they surely would), the same Defenders would destroy him. He and his pack had successfully both avoided and intimidated their hunter neighbors for years, but now that neither had to work in the shadows, they could avoid and intimidate no longer.
As much as he hated to admit it, too, he was starting to believe Tyrone could be right.