Banks shook his head, "You have to understand, we have to keep ourselves a secret. Can you imagine what kind of pandemonium would erupt if people knew about our kind?"
Ellison nodded, "I could see that happening. But that's not what bugs me. What bugs me is this secret game you're playing."
"Yeah. That. Look, there's more to being like us than getting up after we're shot and having to change our identities every few years. None of us know why we are the way we are, but we do know that there is one way for us to die for good, and there are some among us who make it a lifelong practice to kill as many as possible. I don't know how much of it even I believe, but look at it this way: in the end, there will be only one of us left, and it'll be because we killed each other. That's the Game."
Pierson added, "This has gone on for longer than recorded history. It transcends any laws that may have been written."
"So then it wouldn't break your heart if you found out that Amanda escaped?"
"How the hell did you find that out?"
Ellison knew that they hadn't lied to him. Not even their heartbeat betrayed them. He could also understand why they had to keep secrets - hell, he had his own secret to keep. That's when he decided to throw in the next tidbit. "There was this guy who was watching you, Captain. He says that he's a 'Watcher', and after I finished questioning him, he called his headquarters and let them know that Pierson is one of you, and not a rogue Watcher after all."
The expressions from the Captain and Pierson were like night and day: utter confusion and utter fear. The Captain, because this was probably all new to him, and Pierson, probably because he knew exactly what it meant.
"Perhaps, Mr. Pierson, you might like to explain what you know about the Watchers?"
* * *
Amanda was feeling better after slamming down a few burgers and beers at a run-down bar on the waterfront. She had a high tolerance for the beer, but it hit her a lot harder this time, and she couldn't help but get something more than a buzz.
The Duke was furious. "That witch has escaped me!" He spun to face her, the muscles of his face and neck strained.
Amanda shrugged, "Sometimes that happens."
"We don't have that option, you idiot! We have to have the secret that d'Egmont held!"
She didn't need to be reminded. Though the Duke thought it was his idea, it was actually a tree which sprang from one of Amanda's seeds, planted many years ago. "What did the looting of his estate produce?"
"Only objects that would make the mercenaries happy. Nothing of any importance."
"Damn it!" She pounded the table, nearly knocking over a glass of wine. What was truly frustrating was that even though she had received d'Egmont's Quickening, she was unable to unlock any of the man's memories. They were still such a jumble of chaotic smudges that she would have had better luck remembering forgotten dreams.
What also frustrated her was that she knew more than the Duke, so much that she knew the proper question to ask: where. Not what. She had not been given the opportunity to ask that question, because the Inquisitor was in charge.
"I can promise you, my Duke, that the whore is alive and well somewhere, and I'll find out where she is, and when I do..." Her smile wasn't pretty. "We're going to Amsterdam. You're going to Germany. We'll take out both possible routes and ask everyone at the borders if we have to."
* * *
Marisa arrived back at the warehouse, needing sleep but knowing that she had to make Amanda hurt some more. The moment she got inside, she knew that something was different. She didn't sense any immortals. That's when she knew that either Amanda had escaped or she had help. Door number one seemed to be within easier reach.
On entering the room, she knew that Amanda had escaped.
Marisa laughed in glee. Although torturing the whore had been fun, it was also quite boring after a while. Somehow, hunting would be more fun.
Kalmar was heaven. It was Amsterdam without all the wars, which meant that it was a place where those who had the money and class could have fun throughout all hours of the day and night. Wheldrake surely knew how to take advantage of such a place, and he made it his intention to allow Marisa to experience every bit of the decadence that she could take.
Maria had to roll her eyes up on many an occasion as she observed Wheldrake get her student intoxicated with hemp and wine, but indulged in wine herself. It wasn't so much that Marisa was getting intoxicated that made her cringe, but that the lowlander was falling for the charms of a poet who had probably made the same promises to hundreds of women in his lifetime.
Nevertheless, he seemed to be the better choice of many Marisa might have chosen.
Marisa blushed and giggled just as Wheldrake whispered something in her hear, which was probably something very naughty. It must have been, because the next thing, she was practically dragging him by the hand to one of the rooms upstairs, oblivious to the roaring laughter of everyone else here.
Maria snickered a little and drew another sip from her wine. She would be far from drunk.
She was a little affected however, which might have fueled her decision to move on. Marisa was happy with Wheldrake, and though he was no immortal, he seemed world-wise enough to keep her safe, and had the right balance of kindness and decadence to keep her happy for as long as he lived.
Maria would reach the shores of Estonia alone.
She wiped a tear from her eye. Maria's leaving her without even a goodbye hurt after all these years. She'd never understood why she left her. With Wheldrake's help, she remembered scouring all of Kalmar. On failing that, the two went to Estonia, where they again failed.
But it gave her the basic training in hunting.
* * *
Harlowe was quite drunk by the time that Sandburg arrived. He didn't know how the man did it. No matter which place he went to, the kid managed to find him. He was less hospitable this time. "What do you want, lad?"
He smiled, "I think I'll get an India Pale Ale."
A snort greeted that, "Good luck. You won't find it."
"Even though it's plastered all over the windows?"
"You'll also find Bud plastered everywhere, but I'm not drinking it."
"Suit yourself." Several moments passed. "I know your secret. Do you want to talk about it?"
"What secret would that be?"
"Your picture is plastered all over London newspapers as far back as the late 1800s. Add that to the fact that you get back up after being shot, and I'd say that's enough evidence to say that you're not quite human. How long have you been alive?"
The accusation hadn't startled the Inspector. "1827. What do you plan to do with your new found realization?"
What did startle Harlowe was the kid's curiosity and enthusiasm. "It's not new found. But don't be afraid. I just want to learn more about you. What is it like to be immortal?"
There was silence for a few moments. "It's hell. Absolute hell. Suppose you knew you were damned? You don't have long to suffer. Maybe a few years, then you die, and that's the end. There's no end for me."
"Oh? But think about all the chances you'll have. All the times you'll actually be able to do things over?"
"And screw them up again? I've tried that. I don't care to do it for too much longer."
"You weren't always like this?"
"No. But sometimes it takes a lot longer for reality to sink in some heads."
"Reality, or cynicism?"
"Reality, cynicism, what's the difference?"
* * * *
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