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9. How to Conspicuously Eavesdrop

I pulled up my hood as I went belowground.

It was after one in the morning - the only people who should be out and about now are those leaving clubs and the sort. The subway closed at three nowadays, as opposed to before the Takeover, when they ran until one-thirty. But the vampires needed a way to get home in time to avoid the sun, and they tended to hide in the subway tunnels if they couldn’t make it back to their dens before sunrise.

I was pretty confident in my ability to stay under the radar - I wasn’t usually seen unless I wanted to be seen. Of course, my track record tonight wasn’t the best, having been seen killing two werewolves. And, as opposed to usual, my face was probably running through the head of every werewolf in the city.

So, conspicuously raising the hood of my hoodie was the best I could do to avoid detection. For now.

I stopped in front of the ticket booth, holding my breath. Though it was usually a human working such a mundane job - jobs supernatural beings didn’t want to do - you could occasionally find the odd witch or pack-less werewolf here as well, trying to earn extra income. Though I never thought it was fair to give only humans the minimum wage jobs. We had to pay higher taxes already - not to mention half the human population in the city had sworn themselves to serving a supernatural.

Luckily, the booth was being operated by a human - I think. There was also a chance that he was a warlock, since they were practically identical to humans.

Whatever he was, he didn’t recognize me - and if he did, he wasn’t interested. I had the sudden thought that the werewolves would probably want to keep my identity under wraps - with more than half of the supernatural community happy to see me dead in a ditch, having the famous Hunter’s name and face remain a secret would certainly make things easier for the Alpha. This way, he wouldn’t have to fight anybody else in order to take me. It would be quiet. Nobody would miss me. Nobody knows who Reese Hearne is, and Isabelle Sage was a nobody.

That’s not true, though - when I didn’t call, Opal would get suspicious.

But I can still use some of this newfound knowledge to my advantage.

I quickly purchased a ticket with the little pocket money I had, making sure there was enough left for a GO train ticket to Oshawa, as well as a few meals. I had Isabelle Sage’s debit card stowed away in my bag, but I’d only use it for emergencies. A few months ago, I’d transferred some money into a different account one of Opal’s clients set up - a warlock, a human sympathizer, and somebody I could go to if I had no other options. Though I don’t think he’s happy with the Hunter for slaughtering supernatural beings - even though I’ve gone easy on the magic-wielding community - he could be persuaded to help me.

Wheels began turning in my head as I stood on the platform, waiting for the subway to arrive.

For now, I’d stick to my plan - take the subway to Union Station, then board a GO train to Oshawa. It would be faster to find a GO train station further from the city, closer to my final destination, but that would be too easy, too predictable. The roundabout route would be less traceable. And since Union Station was so close to the pack’s headquarters, it would be the most idiotic thing to do. Smart people headed away from danger, not stray within blocks of it.

That’s what made my plan so brilliant.

Of course, there was always the slight chance it could go wrong - I could be sighted by a particularly perceptive werewolf. My plan could collapse around me, and I would be forced to flee into Toronto’s streets. If I was lucky, I’d lose them without too much grief. If I was unlucky, they’d corner me.

As unlikely as that scenario was - I’d been careful to prepare for a mission to go sideways, for my target to chase me through the streets - I had to think this through carefully.

What to do in the event that I was cornered?

The thought was halted as the subway arrived, screeching to a halt in front of me. I climbed on, taking a seat, all of my senses scanning for any supernatural beings lurking within the car.

Other than a young woman sitting a few seats away from me, accompanied by a teenaged boy who was facing out the window, I was alone. I let myself relax infinitesimally, turning my thoughts back to my backup plan.

If I was managed to be cornered... if I was managed to be cornered.

I should have thought about this before today.

Your confidence has served you faithfully for years, Reese, said my inner voice, annoyance tipping the words. Unfortunately, you’ve crossed the line between confidence and over-confidence.

I rested my head against the wall, sighing loudly. The woman looked up.

“Are you okay, miss?” she asked me. I glanced over at her, double-checking that my hood was shadowing my face. The woman was looking at me with slight concern. Good to know this hellish city hasn’t corrupted every nice soul.

“Yeah,” I replied. “It’s just been a... difficult night.”

The teenaged boy sitting next to her looked up sharply as I spoke. I did a double-take when I saw his face.

It was the boy from earlier. The one who warned me how close the Alpha was.

I don’t think he recognized me, since my hood was up and casting half of my face in darkness. Since he had just turned, his senses weren’t yet as heightened as that of a fully mature werewolf. Still, he frowned.

He recognizes my voice.

He peered carefully at me for another few moments. I didn’t make direct eye contact, putting on the façade that I wasn’t bothered by him. The woman didn’t seem to notice his sudden interest in me.

“Tell me about it,” she said. “The werewolves are quite restless tonight, even for a full moon. I came across three of them on my way here.”

“Oh?” this woman was more perceptive than most humans. “I didn’t notice.”

She shrugged. “They ignored me, mostly. I think they were looking for something.”

Or someone.

“How close to the station was this?” I fought to keep a note of anxiety from entering my voice. Then, worried I sounded too curious, I added. “I’m sorry to have missed them. I’ve never really seen a proper werewolf before.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t?”

“Not shifted,” I shrugged. “I don’t stay out late enough to see many supernatural beings.”

“I take it you have a day job?”

“Barista. You?”

“I’m taking time off. My brother died recently,” she frowned. “Very recently. I’m trying to process it.”

I could sympathize with this. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I know what it’s like to lose family.”

“Who have you lost?”

The words were curious, but there was a hint of empathy in her voice.

“Everyone,” though Opal was the only one who knew my entire story - Kyle knew bits and pieces - it was strangely a relief to talk to this stranger. “My mom, my dad, and my two brothers.”

“I’m sorry. How?”

I shrugged. “It was gradual, kind of, but they were all because of the Takeover, in their own way. My dad died first. I was fifteen. My mom died two years later. I lost my brothers two months after.”

I heard her soft intake of breath, but she said nothing else.

I didn’t either. I missed my family, with every fiber of my being. Some days, I think I can still remember the sound of my brother’s annoyed sigh...

I flopped onto the couch, not bothering to kick my shoes off, propping my feet up in Cedric’s lap. I grinned as he groaned - It had been raining, and I’d just gotten back from frisbee practice.

“Reese!” he said, pushing off my feet, brushing mud off of his pants. “These are my good jeans!”

In response, I moved my feet back up. He sighed, removed my shoes, and stood up to place them by the door.

“Mom doesn’t like you wearing shoes in the house,” he scolded. “Especially on days like today.”

Thunder growled outside, accentuating his point. I stuck my tongue out at him - affectionately, of course. At least, that’s what I’d tell Mom whenever she caught me. Still, I loved my older brother - even what he was being an insufferable know-it-all. Eighteen-year-olds were the worst.

“Mom’s not even home,” I reminded him. “And even if she was, she’d be occupied with trying to get Tommy to do his summer reading.”

As it was, though, Mom was picking my younger brother up from baseball - though he was twelve, she wasn’t comfortable with him walking home by himself, especially with the recent string of murders. Three city officials have been found dead, one of which was completely drained of blood. The whole thing reminded me of an episode from The Vampire Diaries. The other two bodies were clearly attacked by some wild animal - they were found dead in a park.

Three people dead, three days in a row. Obviously, the city has done something to piss off a serial killer.

I didn’t think too much into it. The murders didn’t seem all that real, just something that happened from afar, not having too much impact on my life. Of course, with Dad in the police force, it’s been affecting his working hours. Dad was captain of the most successful precinct in the city. Obviously, he and his team have been put on the case. I’d been proud of him when he told us this at dinner last night after the third murder had been reported. Mom and Cedric had looked more worried though. Thomas didn’t seem to care all that much.

“Please, Reese, try not to be too annoying tonight,” Cedric sat back down on the couch. I immediately moved my feet back onto his lap. He sighed again, but his mouth was twitching. “I’d hate to find a reason to stop you from dropping me off tomorrow. I’m already being generous enough, allowing you to tag along.”

Ah, yes. Six months ago, Cedric had been accepted into the University of Toronto. He was moving in tomorrow, though we lived close enough for him to stay at home. Mom was kicking him out of the apartment anyways. Since U of T was my dream school, Cedric had so graciously allowed me to join his farewell wagon with Dad. Mom was dying to come, but Thomas had a softball game. I think Cedric chose the day on purpose. If Mom was there, there’d be a long, drawn-out, tearful goodbye. Even though he’d come home on weekends to do laundry.

I desperately wanted to go see Cedric off, for no other reason than to have an excuse to visit the school. I could probably just go on my own, but I knew I’d feel stupid. Obviously, I was much too young to belong there. So I shut my mouth as my brother turned on the television.

Mom came home a few minutes later, Thomas dragging his feet as he followed after her. I jumped up from the couch, prepared to help her with dinner. But she shook her head at me.

“I ordered pizza,” she said. “It was Cedric’s request. Your dad’s picking it up on his way home.”

“You ordered cheese, right?” Thomas piped up. “I don’t like the other kinds.” Though I didn’t have much in common with my younger brother, an intense dislike for anything on pizza - other than cheese - was a similarity we shared.

“A cheese for you to share with Reese, and two pepperonis.”

“Uggghhhh,” Thomas groaned. “I don’t want to share with Reese. She’ll eat it all.”

“I will not!” I protested, sitting back down and moving my feet back onto Cedric. “If you want more pizza, just pick off the pepperoni. I’m sure it will taste the same as cheese once the meat has been removed.”

Mom heaved a heavy sigh. “Thomas, go read two more chapters of your book,” he started to protest, but Mom fixed him with a sharp glare. He groaned, kicked off his shoes, and practically crawled to the bedroom he shared with Cedric.

Speaking of, Mom had turned her attention towards him. “Cedric, you’re all packed, right?”

“I’ve been packed for a week,” he pointed out, keeping his attention glued on the television. “And if I do somehow forget something, it’s not like I’m across the country.”

Mom rolled her eyes, then retreated to her bedroom to do some reading of her own - that’s what she said she was doing, but I have the strong suspicion that she was actually getting overly emotional about Cedric’s departure. And she knows, like Dad, Cedric and I get a bit uncomfortable around emotional displays. Thomas is the emotional child in the family.

Dad arrived home an hour later, carrying three boxes of delicious-smelling pizza. I sat up to grab a box - then stopped short when I saw the expression on his face.

I knew that look.

There was another murder.

At some point in my reminiscing, I’d switched subway lines, leaving the empathetic woman and the strange werewolf boy behind. I was glad of that - I didn’t know how many times the boy was willing to betray his pack in one night, but I was pretty sure he didn’t recognize me. I wasn’t too sure about the woman, either - I hadn’t studied her long enough to determine whether she was supernatural or human.

It didn’t matter anymore, anyways. I was on a different subway, on my way to Union Station, and my current company consisted of two humans and a vampire. Though, judging by the infatuated way the humans were staring at the vampire, I deduced they were Blood Bags - humans that vampires regularly fed their blood to keep them subdued enough to feed on them. These vampires weren’t as dangerous as those that didn’t have Blood Bags - the ones that went on a killing spree every night - but even so, before the Takeover, Blood Bags didn’t exist.

Blood Bags were almost as bad as a real supernatural. They were utterly loyal to their vampire and would do anything they said without hesitation. More often than not, a vampire would leporem them to obey their every command.

I kept my distance.

I turned my attention back to coming up with a plan B - if I was spotted and cornered. Taking time away from mulling this over had been a good idea - a rough plan came to mind almost immediately.

If I was spotted, I’d try to lose them the best I could, but, of course, there was always the chance they were herding me into a corner. I didn’t want this to happen in some secluded alleyway.

No, I much prefer if this happened in a public place.

I’d try to lose my tail, then duck into a coffee place or a fast-food restaurant - something open all night - then hide out there for a bit. If I was lucky, I wouldn’t be followed, and I’d get a nice bite to eat before venturing back to Union Station to hop on a GO train.

If I wasn’t lucky - if I was followed into the building, then I’d use my status as a wanted criminal to my advantage. There would probably be a few vampires from the local clans - preferably, they’d be from Christian Roy’s Clan, the most powerful Clan in the city. Undoubtedly, they’d want to take me to Christian to kill. They’d fight the werewolves in order to capture me themselves. In the melee, I’d simply slip away - since I had no scent, they wouldn’t bother me.

I wouldn’t go back to Union Station in that event, though. That would be the first place they look. I’d do to Opal’s client, the warlock, the human sympathizer. I’d convince him to help me get out of the city. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t go to a supernatural for help - hell, I didn’t even let Opal use magic on me tonight - but I would be desperate to escape the city.

The warlock would probably help me, if only to get me the hell out of the city and away from his comrades.

That was the best backup plan I could come up with on such short notice.

The subway was slowing down, approaching Union Station. I sat up, pulling my bag back over my shoulder. I made the mistake of making eye contact with the vampire. She grinned at me.

I looked away before she tried to leporem me. There would be questions raised when I didn’t respond to the enchanting power - questions that I didn’t really want to answer.

The subway shuddered to a halt. I stood up, bouncing on the balls of my feet as the doors opened.

Then I was on the platform, walking away from the subway as fast as I could without being too suspicious, scanning my surroundings. All I had to do now was find my way to the GO trains, and...

I stopped in my tracks.

Two werewolves stood, not ten meters away from me. They were standing side-by-side, one of them muttering into a cell phone. The other was glancing around warily.

The second werewolf’s action confirmed what I already knew - they were looking for me. Obviously, the Alpha had learned by now that I wasn’t going to come quietly. Of course I wouldn’t. He’s probably figured out by now that I wasn’t going to be manipulated. Threatening my friends only made me more determined to get out of the city - the further away I was, the safer they’d be.

Unfortunately, this meant I’d never be able to strike a deal with him again. He’d be stupid to trust me to keep my word.

I knelt down, pretending to tie my shoelace, and strained my hearing towards the werewolves.

“... Nothing here yet,” the one on the phone said. “It’s been quiet all night. Nobody suspicious has come through here - nobody’s even traced her here... yes, we know what to smell for.”

But I don’t have a scent.

It was confirmed twice in one night. Unless the Alpha’s senses are augmented enough to pick up something from me, they shouldn’t be able to track me.

Though these werewolves obviously weren’t getting anything from me, though. I was practically waving my hands under their noses.

“Can we go soon, Keith?” the other werewolf shifted his weight uneasily. “It’s getting late, and I’m tired.”

“We’ll go as soon as the Alpha says we can, Oliver,” the first werewolf snapped. “We’re on a mission. Now, focus!”

Oliver frowned. “This isn’t how I planned to spend the full moon,” he muttered. I almost laughed out loud at his pout.

“It’s practically deserted here,” Keith said to the phone. His sharp gaze flickered across the platform. “There’s a vampire with a couple of Blood Bags. There a girl tying her shoelaces...” he trailed off. “No, she’s been here for a while.”

“Huh,” Oliver took a step towards me. “Hey, human, do you know how to tie your laces?”

Oops. Time to go. Carefully, I tugged on a shoelace, then stood back up, pulling my hood forward slightly. I slipped a hand into my pocket, feeling for my dagger.

“Hmmm...” Keith frowned thoughtfully as I took a few steps away. “Yes, Alpha. Of course.”

I froze.

They’d been talking to the Alpha? He was on the other end of that phone?

I shouldn’t have stopped.

At that moment, a vampire came rushing by me, running at their unnatural speed. The gust of air he generated blew over me, and my hood fell back.

I glanced back at the werewolves, raising my hood back up. Please, don’t be looking at me. Please, don’t be looking at me...

I have terrible luck.

They’re looking at me.

Keith grinned.

“On second thought,” he said into the phone. “You were right.”

I didn’t wait to hear what the Alpha had been right about. I turned and fled as fast as I could onto the street.

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