Chapter Six (first draft)

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This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Six for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Tricia has much less reflection on Sebastian’s news in this version, and has a much more selfish motivation. I changed both in future drafts to reflect the fear Hinge’s presence inspires, and her genuine caring for Sister Rosie. You can check out the current version of Chapter Six here.

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Chapter Six

The Cursed

 

I strode invisible through the homeless camp beneath the downtown I-5 overpass. Vagrants huddled in a motley collection of tents and sleeping bags, sheltered beneath the shadow of the freeway. A few gathered around bitter fires of whatever they could find to burn. The torn cyclone fencing around the camp rattled against the breeze, dripped from the sheets of mist falling from the cold sky.

The reek of smoldering trash, sodden clothing and unwashed bodies assaulted me. The wind, rather than driving the odors away, churned them into a repulsive soup. But I followed the faint scent of coffee and perfume through the camp until the woman I sought came into view.

Police Chaplain Rosangela Marinha do Carmen crouched on the trash-strewn and mossy gravel in front of one of the homeless men. To most, the steady vibration of traffic would drown out the words she spoke to him.

I could have stood yards away and still heard them, but Rosie’s warm presence always drew me close. I stood just a few paces back as I listened.

“Are you positive I cannot offer you a ride to the shelter?” Her Brazilian accent melted her words together in a graceful waterfall of sound. The gentle voice was striking coming from such an imposing woman. Her hair, black streaked with gray, was pulled back in a bun, and her snug uniform held no decorations other than her name, badge and a cross stitched into the collar.

The man shook his head but said nothing. The wind gusted, drug the morning mist under the shelter of the overpass and took the man’s breath with it in an erratic stream. He pulled his torn blue sleeping bag closer at his neck with skeletal fingers. The slate gray light from the overcast sky muted his already lifeless colors. His callused hands were caked in grime, his cheeks beaten to a rosy shine by the elements. His yellow and bloodshot eyes swiveled aimlessly in their sockets to avoid her gaze.

She smiled sadly and pulled a black thermos from the bag hanging at her hip. “Well, at least let me offer you a cup of coffee. It will not be as warm as the shelter, but it will ward off some of the chill.”

A river of steam poured from the thermos as she filled a paper cup for him. The richness of its smell rolled over me on the wind. More than for her ministrations, more than for her caring, the homeless knew Pastor Rosie for her coffee.

Life touched the man’s eyes as he cradled the cup close to his face, inhaling the scent before taking a sip. Rosie twisted the thermos closed and set her dark hand on the man’s greasy tangle of hair. Her massive grasp could have picked him up by the skull.

“I’m no believer,” the man said. His voice sounded like rocks tumbling over metal.

Rosie laughed. “That is fine. You do not have to be.” She pulled him close and whispered words in his ear even I couldn’t catch. He shuddered, fell against her shoulder, and she held him for several moments before patting his back and standing.

“I will be back tomorrow if you decide the shelter is a better place to sleep,” she said. The man didn’t reply and clutched his coffee in his trembling grip. Rosie turned away, her boots crunching over the gravel and brittle weeds.

My heart leapt at seeing her unharmed. Though Hinge was in Seattle, he had done nothing to hurt her. Again the suspicion tickled my thoughts that Sebastian was fucking with me.

Even though I couldn’t think of a reason why he would bother, I had to confirm his story. If my old master was indeed here, it was inevitable he would harm my lone mortal friend.

“I need into the morgue,” I said.

“Mae de Deus.” Rosie spun with an alacrity I would have thought impossible for her. “Tricia. I did not see you. What are you doing here?”

“You’re always at the homeless camps. It wasn’t-”

“Your face!” Her expression darkened. “What happened to you?”

I looked away. Once she pointed them out, every ache I had been ignoring started to groan. The marks of the Andrasi fight must still look terrible. “I’m fine.”

“How did you get hurt?” Her thick hands touched my bruises with surprising tenderness. “We should get you to a hospital.”

Her touch was warm, welcoming, but I jerked away from her examination. “I said I’m fine. It was just a bar fight.”

“You got into a bar fight.” She said it without reproach. I heard the reproach anyway. She had never asked how old I was, though I didn’t look old enough to drink. Then again, she had been my friend for almost a decade.

I shoved away the concerns that followed that thought. I wouldn’t deal with my eternal youth until she brought it up. And I had no idea what I would tell her when she did.

“You should see the other guys,” I said.

“Guys. Plural.” Her eyes widened. “Did they rape you?”

“No.”

Her eyes stayed fixed on me. I looked her straight in the eye. “They didn’t rape me. I’m fine.”

She didn’t break her stare for several moments. Then she shrugged and started walking toward her car. She pulled the thermos back out of her bag. “You could probably use some coffee. You do not look like you have slept since the… bar fight.”

I shook my head and matched her pace, took the offered cup. “Do you ever run out? It’s like loaves and fishes.”

“Except with coffee and biscotti for Seattle?” Rosie’s big, embracing laugh warmed me to the core. “I have an urn in my squad car. Coffee is the only way to get most of the homeless to talk to me anymore.” She nodded to indicate the homeless camp.

“Why?”

“I used to be able to overcome the uniform. They are suspicious of police. But lately it seems I am gaining the reputation as an angel of death. Some of those I talk to have been disappearing. The worst of them.” She crossed herself with a movement so natural it seemed like second nature. “With the lives they led, it is no surprise that ill became of them. But even the worst sinners deserve the chance for redemption.”

I covered my reaction by taking a swallow of coffee. Hot and smooth, no bitterness. I couldn’t help but smile. I had no idea how she brewed it, but it was incredible coffee.

She must have seen my expression as I drank. She smiled. “My husband used to say I needed to drink water as well as coffee to survive. I never saw the point.”

“He must not have been from here.”

“He was born here.” She frowned. “Even if he moved right after the divorce, he would still be more a Seattleite than me.”

Passing traffic and the hiss of rain filled the silence. I knew hints of her life before we met, shadows of her history, but she was seldom more open than me about her past.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I said. It felt unfamiliar, awkward to ask. I tried to keep the distaste out of my words and failed completely.

She waved a hand. “What’s there to talk about? I don’t blame him. I doubt Joao has fond memories of me, either, or Eduardo any.”

I heard sadness edging words that were dismissive on the surface. More silence followed. The mist draped us as we passed out of the freeway’s shadow into the open.

“I need into the morgue,” I repeated, as much to break the quiet as to press my immediate need.

“Oh, meu filha, why do you need to go there? I haven’t set foot in the place since my days in homicide. Before we met. What reason would I have to take you?”

“You’re police. Can’t you just go when you want to?”

Rosie laughed again. “Why would anyone want to go to the morgue? You have to sign in, they want to know what your business is-”

“But you could take me if you wanted.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have a reason to be there. Or to bring a civilian.”

“You must still know people from your time at homicide.”

“Well, of course, but….” She kept shaking her head. “I’m not going to take you into the morgue.”

“Why not?”

She stopped walking and turned to me. “Why do you need to go there anyway?”

“One of my friends is missing,” I lied. “I want to make sure she’s not there.”

Rosie looked at me sidelong. I didn’t lie to her often, but she gave me that same look every time I did. She started walking again, with a pace fast enough that I had to jog to catch up. “She would be ID’ed if she died.”

“I doubt it.” I started to dig the lie deeper, then thought better of it. “This is just something I have to do.”

“Does this have anything to do with the fight last night?”

“No.” At least I didn’t have to lie about that.

We had reached her car. She stopped and turned to me with her arms crossed. I felt like a child under her gaze, cowering before a woman as immovable as a statue. “You have come by my apartment for years just to chat. We talk morality and spirituality for hours. You seem genuine in your desire to become a better person. I thought we trusted each other and were truthful with each other. But you show up today in ripped clothes, bruised from a fight, looking like you were up all night, and all you say is that you want to get in to the morgue.” She set her mouth in a determined line. “Tell me the truth about what happened to you last night – and why you really want to go – and I’ll find a way to get you in.”

I could only hold her stare for a few moments before looking away. Even if she didn’t see through any lie I gave her, I couldn’t do it anyway. I had the ability to break her face into a jigsaw puzzle before she could move, or seduce her to my will, but doing any of that to her was as impossible as lying.

“I did not think so.” She tried to hold her glare, then her features softened. “You do not look as bad now that you are in the light.”

“I told you, I’m fine.”

She sighed. “You are always welcome to come by my apartment. I’ll make some coffee and we’ll talk. But no morgue.”

I looked down at the ground, sorting my thoughts, then nodded. “Right.” I turned to walk away.

“Oh, no, we are not ending like this,” Rosie said, and reached out to me. I let myself melt into her embrace.

“You know I am always here for you, yes?”

I nodded. In her warm grasp, the weight of my worry, even the aches of my injuries, seemed to evaporate. If even for just that embrace.

She gave one last squeeze, then released me and opened the car door. “Can I give you a ride anywhere?”

The morgue, I thought. “No,” I said.

“Then go on and stay out of trouble,” she said. “I will see you soon?”

I nodded. She smiled again and slipped into her squad car. In moments I was alone in the lot with the Seattle mist surrounding me.

The click of my boots on the pavement fell dead in the rain around me. I needed to get back to my lair to change, drag a comb through my hair, at least look as presentable as possible. I never wanted to use my powers outside the hunt. I had wanted Rosie to help me avoid confrontation while getting into the morgue. And fuck, I wasn’t even sure the place would reveal anything. But I had to get in there to follow the only lead I could think of. If I confirmed Hinge was here, and I didn’t find a way to track him, I feared the next late night discussion at Rosie’s apartment would never happen.

 

 

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