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Chapter 26

Andreus came to retrieve Colin and Kurada from the airport. Hammond vanished the minute the plane touched down and Manny wasn’t even on the same flight.

“How’s it been?” Colin asked.

“I saw the Kat video,” Andreus answered. “Entertaining, looks like you did your job.”

“Without killing anyone,” Colin said.

“Well, probably,” Kurada said. “What? We would have heard by now if they were dead. It was so much fun, Andreus. I bought you like five things. I almost got picked to be in a video. That magic guy that Zep was obsessed with?”

“What do you mean almost picked?” Colin asked.

“Well, I could tell he was going to pick me, so I got out of there. I’m not an idiot. But I saw him after and he totally bought me a drink. It was definitely better than the show would have been.”

“Okay,” Andreus said. “Please keep all further details to yourself.”

“Ha, ha,” Kurada said. “How about you, Colin? Did you have a good time?”

“Well, I didn’t hook up with any internet celebrities, but I think I learned a lot from Hammond.”

“What, you’re not sure?” Andreus asked.

“Hammond is a real smooth-talker,” Kurada said. “He’s really good at the job, too.”

“I’m a smooth talker,” Andreus said. “Silver-tongued, even. I’ve been called that.”

Colin smiled. “You’re still my best friend in the whole wide world, Andreus.”

Andreus swept his hair back. “That’s all I ask. Did you meet any cool famous people? Other than the magic guy?”

“Probably, I just didn’t know who anyone was,” Colin said.

“Seriously?” Kurada said. “We’re going to fix that right now.”

She started rattling off names and looking up videos on her phone. They smiled and talked, and watched a few videos before Andreus pulled up to Colin’s big, empty house. He looked at it for a long time before Andreus said, “My car, man.”

“Sorry,” Colin said. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“You could come to CERT,” Kurada said. “If you don’t want to stay here. Or I could stay with you if you don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll be okay. I have to do this sometime. Thanks, you guys. See you in a few days.”

They said their goodbyes and Colin went inside.

He hesitated in the hallway upstairs, trying to decide if it would be better to shower before going to bed, or the other way around. He didn’t want to do either, he didn’t want to think about the happiness he’d known in this house, as a child with his parents and as an adult with Mary. They were all dead. Dead and buried, not necessarily in that order.

He opted for the shower. He took his clothes off, turned the water on, and felt the blood drain from his face.

The hallway. That statue. The damn lion was back, and he didn’t even notice it. Again.

Tentatively, afraid he might have imagined the whole thing, Colin stepped into the hall. It was there, the lion, Mary.

He tapped it.

She collapsed onto the carpet. Colin gathered her up in his arms and kissed her face. “Oh, my god, you’re alive. Can you hear me?”

“Yeah.” Her voice was a dry, hoarse whisper, but it was her. It was real. Mary didn’t die in that cave.

“How long have you been here?”

“Since I could get out,” she said. “I don’t know. I need time to wake up.”

“Wake up?”

“I needed to rest.” Clarity slowly came into her eyes and her skin warmed. “I needed to be alone. I meant to wake up before you returned, but I was a little worse off than I originally thought.”

“Take all the time you need.” Colin brought her to bed with him, covered her with blankets and helped her drink water.

“I’ll be okay now,” she said. “How did it go with the video guy?”

“Don’t worry about that right now, it went great. Didn’t even have to kill anyone. No video, no live feed, no suspicion.”

“You’re amazing.”

“I know.”

They laughed.

Colin looked into her tired eyes. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’ll try,” she said. “But the next one, the next job…”

“The next job for me is checking on a weather girl or something. There’s nothing to worry about right now.”

“Oh, Colin,” Mary breathed. “There’s always something to worry about.”

He kissed her. “Not right now. Right now, everything is perfect.”

“But what about telling the others I’m alive?”

He kissed her again. “That can wait until tomorrow.”

She pulled him closer. “Tomorrow.”

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