He was back at the precipice, looking up, up at the figure of the canine. The ground still swirled ethereally. This world, this place–it had no beginning and no end.
“It began and it ended,” the beast said. “You simply cannot see it. Not yet.”
Justin shook his head. “Who are you?”
The beast leapt down, its gray fur rustling as it fell, flew, to the ground. Justin was face to face with it.
“I am you,” the creature said again. Then it seemed to be amused. “But I am also called Daldion.”
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War still guided him.
We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.
The woman was no neighbor of his, but the logic still applied. They were sitting in a dingy cafe somewhere in the part of town he would normally avoid. They were close to the airport, though, and the fact was not lost on him.
He took a sip of his tea, he hated the bitterness of coffee, and let the pathetic heaters in the shop warm him. The woman had said little, but it had been enough to stop him from trying to do anything drastic.
Justin leaned back. The woman, who called herself Amber, was obviously distracted. She kept glancing out the front window of the shop, as if she was expecting something—or someone—to appear. The look on her face was fear. But it wasn’t of the various unsavory characters that seemed to be loitering directly outside the shop. He took another sip of tea.
She was obviously trying to let him calm down. But that wasn’t likely. Justin knew he had to stay alert, to watch everything she did. To learn her so he could defeat her. If necessary.
Unfortunately, he knew, to defeat her would require something he didn’t have at the moment. The way she had taken out Wayne with that series of moves—it was obvious she was skilled in more than one form of martial arts.
Justin rolled his shoulder. The presence was still in his mind. He could feel it. But it was back, behind his thoughts. For the moment, he was free.
Amber had told him in no uncertain terms, as he had awakened in the seat of car to a cupful of freezing water on his face, that the presence was on her side and that if he tried anything, it would attack his mind again. It wasn’t an idle threat. Justin knew he had only barely managed to free himself from its influence and that doing so had rendered him unconscious.
Amber suddenly turned her gaze to him. “I need you to know that you—that we are in danger.”
Justin laughed. “I’ve been kidnapped. Of course I’m in danger.”
She shook her head. “Not from me. From the people—those people that broke into your house. The people that followed me. They’re after you.”
“Why? What have I done to them? I’m just a teen with a lot of mental issues.”
Her gaze sharpened. Her gray eyes were piercing. “Tell me.”
Justin opened his mouth…and then closed it. “Why?”
“Because I can help you,” Amber said. “I had the same thing not too long ago.”
“It’s not OCD—but that’s the closest thing to it. At least as far as regular doctors are concerned.”
She was rambling. It didn’t make sense. Regular doctors? What other kinds were there? But that brought up another question. Why were her numerous cuts—on her legs, arms, and forehead—healing so fast. They were already fading. It was unnatural.
She continued. “It’s a side effect of being two minds in one body. The body can’t cope with the conflicting signals and loses control of the higher functions of the main host.”
“Main host?” Justin felt cold.
There was a commotion outside. A black van pulled up, followed by a smaller, silver colored car.
Amber stood. “Time to go. I’ll explain more on the way.”
“Way? Take me home or let me go!”
“If I do that…” she nodded towards the cars. Two men and one woman had emerged from the cards and were stalking towards the café.. “…they will kill you. Come. Now.”
She pushed him towards the kitchen.
Hiram Retland, in the front of his two companions, pulled up in front of the cafe. A huge burly man, maybe a dockhand or truck driver, was standing in the slush before the door, five or six of his friends around him.
“Let us pass,” Hiram growled. The cafe was empty. They had gone into the back.
Crossing tattooed arms, the truck driver sneered down at the smooth well-dressed doctor before him. “Why? We got good cash to make sure you stay out.”
“The woman hired you?” Hiram smiled. “Then I have no qualms.”
The three moved forward.