Where Shadows Lie: Hunting Grounds
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by J. E. Cammon
Category: Dark Fantasy
Description: Nicholas Hughes has finally gone to ground, but that doesn't mean that he's done running, or that Scarlet's done chasing. When last he saw her, she promised to take his head, but when next he hears of her, she's waist deep in trouble and he's the only one that can help her out of it. This time the problem isn't so much choice. It's price. After all, he has his own battle to fight, with things speaking into his ear and looking over his shoulder. She told him too that all debts come due, and among all the shadows, it's difficult to see the face of the clock that's counting down. He's not in Bay City anymore, but then again, Nick also isn't the same man, but that doesn't mean the man he's become won't regret the decisions made by the man he was. Excerpt: "I need your help," Scarlet said, followed by a snicker and a chuckle from the darkness. "Well, supposing you do, you certainly went through more trouble than most people would to get it. Call the police." That sounded like the conversation was over. "He is an exile from the Academy." Scarlet had bought into the sniper story. She did not move. "I trust you know what that means." After another moment, the darkness spoke again. "Well, we aren't an assassination squad. We go where we're needed," "By the time he makes himself overtly known it will be too late. I've been tracking him," "And you lost him," the interruption stung the pride. Scarlet nodded. "Yes, he was in league with a vampire and a lycanthrope, and together they killed those with me," but it would have been more correct to say the ones she was with. "And you survived?" "Yes." The answer sounded ridiculous even to her ears. For a brief moment, she thought she might actually be shot and left dead on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. In the moment after the bullet didn't arrive, she briefly contemplated her situation more objectively. She had to accept that she was alive for reasons out of her control. A broad, plain-faced woman stepped from the shadows beneath the overpass. Her dress didn't say stalker. It said farm-wife. A plaid shirt and blue jeans with her hair pulled back, she was wearing work boots and holding a shotgun trained steadily on Scarlet. She was cautious, and yet confident. At ten feet distant, she stopped. "Well, you look like maybe you could play the part," the woman said. Up close, she was somewhat tall, too. "If I put your story together right, then that makes you," "Just like you." Scarlet jumped at the opportunity to interrupt her. Strangely, the woman smiled. She was more handsome when she emoted, but only slightly. "Not so much. I gather we do things a little differently here in the new world. You sound like a foreigner. Where you coming from recently?" "Bay City."
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Eternal Press, 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: April 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [289 KB]
Reading time: 170-239 min.
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The higher the numbers on the gas pump went, the lower the man's spirits sank. Staring at the machine, ancient in design, he suddenly had the urge to complain to someone. Testily, he smacked the pump in the side. It was so old, maybe it was broken.
He looked around, searching for the prices. A sad little sign, half the size of a man, was propped up precariously close to the empty old highway. The man squinted in disbelief.
An old bell chimed and the man turned his head to see the door to the old service station open. His wife was waving at someone inside, laughing happily.
"Honey," the man called. She moved stiffly in her matching riding suit, arms full of snacks and souvenirs. "This is blatant thievery."
"What?" she asked as she placed all her findings down on the wide motor cycle seat, making a show of it.
"Robbery! We're being robbed. Look at those prices," he gestured at the pathetic little sign.
Her face drooped only momentarily, but she was determined not to make it a thing. "Oh, stop. We're saving on gas, aren't we? So, it all evens out."
She patted her pockets quickly in search of her camera. Meanwhile he squeezed on the gas pump to make the liquid come faster.
"Found it, okay, now say Mound City." The numbers went up, faster and faster.
"That's where we are, but the little Indian man inside calls it Mounds." The camera beeped and then flashed. Finally, the tank was full. Looking at the total, the husband felt like he had been punched in the stomach.
"How much did all this cost?" he asked. His wife walked back over, admiring her handiwork.
"Not much. You can't put a price on memories."
"I disagree. I'll bet whoever owns this place does, too, unless they were free."
"Look at this picture. I told you the matching suits were a good idea."
"I think I disagreed then, as well." The man lifted the seat to get at the bag with his wallet.
"Take a picture of me next to the bike."
"No, I have to go inside and get an enema."
"Real quick. Oh, oh you there," his wife shouted, gesturing. Sitting the seat back down, the husband could see a stranger making his way across the road, a bag thrown over his shoulder. He was dressed like a gas station service man, and had dark brown hair that was a bit too long. The stranger tilted his head as if he was having trouble hearing.
"Uh, he looks busy, Honey."
"Oh nonsense." At her insistent waving, the stranger diverted his path and came over.
Up close, the husband could see the stranger wasn't Indian. He had fair skin and a strange way of staring, piercing eyes and an obvious lack of familiarity with a shaving razor. He had the hands and forearms of a mechanic, and under his left eye he had a livid scar biting into his cheek, reaching back almost to his ear.
"Hi, hello, how are you, Jose?" Jose blinked, and then looked down at the name stitched into his jump suit. "Jose, could you take a picture of us?" her voice increased in volume and she pantomimed the action she wished of him. The husband smiled, and snatched the camera from his wife.
"He understands," he said to her. "You understand," and proffered the camera. Jose accepted the device and dropped his satchel. The bag seemed filled with heavy, blocky objects. "Also, I don't think his name is Jose," the husband said quietly to his wife through smiling teeth.
"Why? Because he doesn't look Spanish? You can be so close-minded. First this trip, then the matching suits," she replied through the same.