Jade sat on the hotel bed, thumbing through the local yellow pages, looking for somewhere to eat lunch. Zachary sat in a chair by the window, staring intently at nothing, tapping his bottom lip with his forefinger. Without warning, he got up, put on his black trenchcoat and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Jade asked, glancing up from her quest for some decent cuisine.
“To have a talk with the mayor and see if we can’t make things a bit more difficult for our Circle friends.” Zachary replied, his voice harsh and cold.
“How are you going to get him to help you?”
“I figured the direct approach would be appropriate. I don’t know if I’ll be back in time for us to eat lunch together. Just go next door for now. Find some place nice for dinner. Okay?”
“Okay. Be careful.”
Zachary glanced back at her, grinning from the doorway, and then peered into the noonday sky, nearly cloudless. He chuckled at her concern for his safety and then closed the door.
“Susan,” Barry said, speaking into the intercom on his phone. “What does my afternoon look like?”
Susan stopped typing and glared at his door over her horn-rimmed glasses. She looked at the calendar on the desk beside her. “After lunch with your wife, you have a newspaper interview at two and a haircut at four.”
“Haircut should come before the interview. Don’t you think? How did that happen?”
“The haircut’s been set for three weeks. The paper called the day before yesterday.”
“Sleeping on the job, Susan. Heh. Just kidding. Call my wife and tell her we’ll have lunch at eleven instead of 12:30, move my haircut to first thing in the morning and the interview to ten. I’ll be out of the office this afternoon.”
“Excuse me, Mayor,” a voice said from his doorway. “Do you have a moment?”
Barry stared out his office window at the fountain in front of City Hall. “Depends on who’s asking,” Mayor Seagraves replied without looking to see who was inquiring.
“Someone powerful, on whose side you most definitely will want to be.”
“Then, of course, I have a mom—Where are you?”
He got up from his desk and began to walk around it but before he got to the front, he saw a large, black bird glaring up at him from the floor.
The bird unfolded its wings and jumped to the top of the mayor’s desk, planting its talons on a stack of city ordinances that were awaiting signatures. Zachary tucked his wings back into his sides and cawed loudly.
“Susan,” the mayor yelled into the hallway, “Get Animal Control over here.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Zachary said, now a man sitting in the mayor’s chair. “They won’t find anything and they’ll think you’re hallucinating. And I wouldn’t call the police, either.”
“Cancel that, Susan.”
“Are you alright, Sir?” Susan asked through the intercom.
“Yes. I’m fine. Hold my calls, will you?”
“Who are you?” the mayor asked the strange man sitting in his chair.
“My name is Zachary Di Corvo. I can be your best friend or your worst foe. It is entirely your choice.”
“Can I have my chair back? I think I need to sit down.”
“Of course. My apologies.” Zachary stood up, walked over to one of the less regal chairs in front of the mayor’s desk and made himself comfortable.
“What, um… What can I do for you, Mr. Di Corvo?” the mayor asked as he cleared his desk of all paperwork.
“I have some friends that are not-so-friendly who are staying at Queen Anne’s Revival Bed and Breakfast. I was wondering if you could help me by making them less comfortable.”
“Less comfortable… how? Did you have something specific in mind?”
“On what grounds would you have me do that? I can’t just kick them out without good reason. I’d be asking for a lawsuit… from them and the bed and breakfast.”
“One of them, Stewart Kasey, was a suspect in the kidnapping of his girlfriend and the murder of her grandmother.”
“Was… a suspect? As in, no longer… a suspect? As in… he wasn’t charged with anything?”
“That’s not what your citizens will think when they find out he’s in their city. Innocent until proven guilty is fine for the court system. But the media shoots first and asks question later. With the public… it’s guilty until proven otherwise. Give me your hand, if you would, Mayor Seagraves.”
Not knowing what Zachary’s intentions were and utterly spellbound by his argument, Barry offered his hand. Di Corvo took it and turned it over, exposing the mayor’s wrist. Zachary looked into his new friend’s eyes and said, “Repeat after me…”
Marc was in the backyard of the bed and breakfast, leaning against a picnic table, watching Goose sniff around the edge just inside the wooden privacy fence. The air was crisp with winter. Stew opened the back door and joined his friend at the table.
“Marc, you okay?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, this is about to get ugly. I don’t like the fact that I’ve put you in so much danger.”
“Stew… you’re my best friend. More than that. You are like a brother to me. We’ve known each other since we were little. As far as I’m concerned, we’re family. Mortal… immortal. It doesn’t matter. Family looks out for one another.”
“Yes, but my sister was just kidnapped. Zachary could kill you. You could die.”
“I can join the military and get killed. What’s the difference?”
“Dude… You’ve never been interested in the military.”
“True. But I have a feeling I might as well get interested because war is coming. And I’m not going to be a spectator for the end of the world.”
“That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Eh… maybe. Besides… this is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. Definitely the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you.”
“Come on. Seriously? I am so much cooler than you.”
“Yeah, right. In your dreams.”