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28. Playing the Audience

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28 - ch28

I had a very logical reason for reopening the bar.

It just wasn’t time to close. And besides, there was only one place for the demons to run where they’d be completely safe. Or so they hoped.

The sewers.

And I was the expert on the topic. Hence, I set out for the bar. Reopened. And waited. I didn’t have to wait long – I knew something would unfold. And sure enough, Maven showed up.

She looked exhausted, out of breath, like she was running for an eternity and had just realized now that she’d been going in circles. I tried to seem calm and collected. I didn’t want her to know what I knew. I didn’t want her to know that they were caught. I didn’t want her to know that I’d quit on them, that I refused to save them. I smiled and nodded, keeping my opinions to myself. I let it be. I sat and listened to her talk.

She was ranting. Rev was dead. I wasn’t surprised. He trusted the wrong sort of people; it didn’t outwardly shock me to hear of his fall. From the way Maven spoke about it, it might’ve been some really screwed up back stab. I thought of his girl, but she wasn’t the one. I made a mental note to investigate his death later.

She needed a gun. She wanted a weapon. She was in danger and needed to make a stand. This would require involvement. I would be a part of this. And I knew it. And for a moment, I stopped caring. I wanted her to win. I wanted her to make it. I wanted her to learn and be stronger. But I knew it wouldn’t happen my way. I knew it just by looking at her.

But I gave her the gun anyway. I had a very special gun that I was most partial to. And I lent it to her. I knew I’d get it back, but I wouldn’t be getting it from her. I’d have to go claim it. I knew it just by looking at her. The more I looked at her, the deeper I saw. I saw the pain and the madness shining through. And I knew that I wouldn’t see her alive again, but I let her have the gun anyway. She might as well be prepared.

We believe firmly in the principal of fighting – to the last.

And she took it and she went down to the sewers. She was going to disappear into the circus. And that’s if she could live with that. If she could hack it, running forever. Forever is a really long time when you’re always in motion, when you’re always on your feet.

 

A few minutes went by that I sat collecting my thoughts, when I heard the door open and close again. I knew without looking up that this was the one going after Maven. I considered throwing her out. I considered getting involved. Stopping the pain. But with this, the two great families would end. And our worst fears would be over. That’s it. No more. I looked her up and down, this punk that wandered into my bar.

She looked like she’d walked through a tornado. She was covered in dirt and dust, possibly blood in places, I couldn’t be sure. She was young and confident, as most of them are nowadays. She took a few steps, looked the place over. She wasn’t paying attention to me, and I couldn’t tell if it was intentional ignorance or not. I decided to see how she’d react to the obvious. Worst case scenario? She’s imposing on my territory.

“Sorry, we’re closed,” I told her.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, I won’t be here long,” she replied. She had a tone to her that tried to impose on me that she belonged. She seemed comfortable even in the unfamiliar. I wouldn’t let that sidetrack me.

“I’ve been here too long as it is.”

“I haven’t been anywhere,” she replied, in a cold, almost monotone voice. A chill ran down my spine for a moment, but I kept up.

“Is there anything I can get you, being you’re not in too much of a rush to be nowhere?”

“I think I’ll be just fine, haven’t you heard? Time runs short,” she replied, again in the same icy tone. She had a small bit of a smile on her face, nothing too major.

“Do I know you?”

And she smiled such a wicked little grin as she edged closer to me, moving toward the door. “Do you want to?”

“We’re closed, go on, get the hell out of here.”

She looked around – thinking about her options, then asked in a sweet tone – “Can you wait around a minute for me?”

“Yeah, sure, if it gets you gone faster.”

And she started towards the door, walking even steps. Right before she went to follow Maven’s tracks, she turned around, smiling back at me.

“Thanks, darling,” she said.

And she was gone.

I listened to her steps in the empty corridor. Once they got past the doors into the circus, I wouldn’t be able to hear anymore. But I could hear the steps for a small piece. And I counted the time in my mind – I counted by beats of my heart. I tried to keep score. I tried to keep count. I wanted to know how long it took. I wanted to be able to say that she survived for a certain amount of time. I heard the steps, moving away. I could count down in my mind; I could imagine the fall that was coming, the evitable. And I listened with every fiber of my being.

And Maven Merrick joins the ranks of the lost.

As I heard the shot, the girl that had come in before crept out of the door. And I knew, right then, locking eyes with her, that this was Angyl Hunter. I knew that both of the kids had been screwed. I knew right then that we’d all been beaten, and she’d get away with murder on all counts. And she locked eyes with me, smiling real slowly. And she spoke in such a surreal tone…I had to stop and consider if I was really here –

“Thanks Harl, it’s been real.”

And I saw her back as she slipped out the door. I was confident that I’d never see her again. The silhouette of her leaving, the smile and the look in her eyes, it was gone. Right then, right there. Like a trick of smoke and mirrors.

 

I stood for a minute, out of respect for the lost. Out of respect for Syn, for Payge and Set, for Rev, and for Maven. And I looked around, and went down to the hallway. I crept in the dark, using the little light available to find her. Maven lay in the ground, bleeding from the head. I bent down, picking up my gun from the ground next to her. She had tears still running from her eyes, for a moment I thought maybe she was still alive. But it was just another trick of the night. Another elaborate gag. Nothing more. She was dead. It was done, over. And the wheel would turn no longer. I turned the gun over a few times. And I turned and walked away from her, from this. I had the gun in my hand, my arm relaxed. It was like a part of me, I couldn’t let it die with her. This gun was an important part of my life, as a precious gift from a friend.

It was the most powerful reminder of my past that I possessed.

I walked away, leaving Maven where she was. The circus kids would find her, and they’d bury her like they were supposed to. I was sure that Irish would find Rev, and he’d be tended to as well. Either which way, they were demons of some sort. I debated on what to do next. I had the gun in hand while I locked up. And I brought it upstairs with me when I trudged up to collapse. I wanted to sleep. I needed to, desperately. But there was one order of business that needed to be tended to. A favor I had to fulfill. I tucked the gun away, out of harm’s way, where I alone could find it. And I found my daughter and husband curled up on the couch, sleeping soundly. I bent down, kissing them both softly, before moving off.

I thought about it for a moment. I couldn’t walk anymore. I picked up the phone instead, dialing the familiar number. I heard the click as she picked up, the familiar greeting. The normal pleasantries were exchanged. I coughed, searching for the words.

“Pandora…we have to talk.”

And from there, I think you can fill in the rest of the story. If not…it becomes your problem. Sorry kids.

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