He found Phil in the alley behind City Bakery. Zahal leaned against the brick of the building opposite, waiting. If Phil saw him, he gave no indication. After awhile, the back door of the bakery opened and a young woman stepped out, a garbage bag full of bread loaves in one hand and a pastry box in the other. She spotted Phil and flashed a smile.
“Hey, Phil. How are you doing today?”
“Fine, thanks. How’s Luna?” As if they had known each other for years. Probably had.
The woman’s smile turned wry. “Well, she’s good—except she ate a pair of my shoes yesterday. I wasn’t too happy about that.”
Phil laughed, the rough sound turning into a cough halfway through. He bent in half, covering his mouth with his sleeve. “S-sorry,” he wheezed, when he was finally able to draw steady breath again.
“That’s all right. Here, I’ve got some good stuff for you today. We didn’t sell all the sandwiches, so I boxed them up for you. And you can take your pick of the bread. I’ll leave the rest inside for the Mission to pick up in the morning.” She handed Phil the box. “Which bread do you want today? Sourdough’s your favorite, right?”
Phil nodded enthusiastically. She untied the bag, pulled out a round boule of bread, and handed it to him. She started to re-tie the bag, but caught sight of Zahal.
“Hello,” she said, like she was talking to a stray cat she didn’t want to scare off. “Would you like some bread, too? I have plenty.”
The pity in her voice hit Zahal like a sledgehammer. Her brows, knitted together in concern, were the brows of a nurse who had passed him an address, the brows of the doctors who had treated him, the brows of every foster parent who had taken him in, their minds intent on saving the poor, helpless child he was not. His lips ached to pull back in a snarl and tell her to keep her pity, that he didn’t need it—but the truth held them in place. He was hungry. He was homeless. He had to take all the help he could get.
He broke eye contact, gazing at his nonjudgemental feet instead. “Thanks. Anything is fine.”
The rustling of the bag for a few moments, and then: “Here, this is my favorite loaf. We hardly have any leftovers.” Zahal forced himself to walk over and accept the loaf from her outstretched hand.
When she was gone, Phil cocked his head sideways at Zahal. “You came back. Got hungry?”
Zahal didn’t answer.
“Come on.” Phil walked down the alleyway, and Zahal trailed along behind him, sullenly kicking bits of trash and rocks out of the way. The older man ignored this, focusing instead on expanding his collection of random items to include a dirty cushion with a rip on one side (“Just needs a wash and some thread”), a broken umbrella (“It’s not pretty, but it’ll keep the rain off”), and two pieces of particle board (“Nice and sturdy!”).
He also stuffed a few empty cans and bottles into the reusable grocery bag he carried. “Free money,” he said, looking pointedly at Zahal. “I have a stash in my tent to take in soon. I’m saving up for a big payout! Tell me if you find any. I’ll give you what you earn.”
Zahal stopped walking. “Why are you being so nice to me? I haven’t been nice to you. You don’t know me. You don’t have any reason to help me.”
Phil paused, turning around halfway. “You seemed like you needed help. I wish someone had helped me and B-billy.” His face darkened for a moment, but then he shrugged and turned back around. “Sorry about earlier. You remind me of him.”
They walked the rest of the way to Bridge City in relative silence, every step a brick weighing down Zahal’s soul. He was stupid to have ever thought someone like him could make it in this world. He was a burden, a mutation, a runt left to die alone. But he hadn’t died. He was still here, more damaged than ever. And it just kept getting worse. He’d thought… hoped… that he would feel less crazy once he was free of the sanitary walls and the medications and the watchful eyes trying to evaluate if he was just like her, poor child.
The doctors said the nightmares were just nightmares and the visions were just fantasies. That his mind was simply making up a story for the trauma he’d experienced. That he’d replaced the real violence with make believe to cope. What if they were right?
“Hey.” Phil’s voice pulled him back to reality. “We’re here.”
Bridge City was a more elegant name than the place deserved. The city’s homeless, outcast, and vagrants had simply turned unused space beneath the interstate’s bridge into something resembling a neighborhood. Or an anthill network. Unwanted like them, the land had been trodden down by countless feet, an intricate lacework of paths connecting various camps to each other. They extended far past where Zahal could see. Each camp was made up of an eclectic collection of items that their owners, like Phil, had scavenged. The lucky ones had tents and camp chairs. Most others had bits of plywood, clothing, and trash bags that were used to create lean-tos against the highway’s concrete pillars and walls. Trash was strewn about haphazardly, the ramshackle city lacking bins to collect it in. Or the means to haul it away. The constant roar of cars above made the air vibrate; it would be a miracle if he could sleep tonight.
When he was younger, the adults at the home—and a few of his foster parents—had almost gleefully told him stories about the city’s police cracking down on places like these, pushing those who had settled into sudo-homes out, telling them that this land was not for their use. That they had to go somewhere else. To get a job. To have a little self respect.
One year, an inexperienced officer got nervous when a few camps took issue his demands. He responded with pepper spray, turning the peaceful protest chaotic and violent. Hundreds had been injured. A little girl had died. There were public protests; the following year, the city’s mayor declared Bridge City a permanent sanctuary for the homeless.
“You should be grateful you’re here with us,” the program director told him, and all the other wide-eyed children in the home at the time. “You could have been like that poor little girl, trampled to death for no reason. Such a tragedy.”
He snorted. If only she could see him now.
“Who’s the new kid?” A gruff voice pulled Zahal’s attention back to the present. It belonged to a short, solid looking woman wearing a grubby tee shirt, camp pants, and a pair of combat boots that had seen better days. She scowled in Zahal’s general direction, but her eyes were on Phil.
“Rosie!” Phil’s voice was high and nervous. “N-nice day, isn’t it?”
“I asked you a question, Phil.” Rosie tapped her foot impatiently. “It looks to me like you were trying to sneak him through without checking with me first. You know the rules.”
Phil shook his head his head in fervent denial; it was a miracle his eyes didn’t make rattling sounds. “Of course not. I was bringing him to you right after dropping my stuff off.” He gestured to the day’s findings. “I’d never break the rules, Rosie.”
Rosie raised one grubby eyebrow, but didn’t press further. She turned her attention on Zahal. “You got any enemies? Anyone who might come looking for you and cause trouble here?”
“I’m a nobody.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“No one cares about me enough to come looking.”
“You got a drug problem? You look like a junkie to me, the way those clothes hang on you.”
“You sure about that?”
“I think I’d know.”
Rosie let out a short bark of laughter. “You just better keep your dealer away, and no getting your fix while you’re in Bridge City. Last think we need is another raid.”
“I’m not a drug user,” Zahal said. “And anyway, I thought they couldn’t raid you anymore.”
“Not for being homeless. They won’t kick us out, but sniffing around for drugs is another story. They love proving that we’re all criminals here.”
A dog barked in the distance, and Zahal twitched.
“One of ours,” Rosie said.
“So he can stay?” Phil shifted his weight back and forth, the bottles and cans in his bag clinking against each other.
Rosie ignored Phil. “You got any weapons? You can’t stay if you’re packing heat or knives. It’s the skinny ones that always cause the most trouble, carry something dangerous for protection. And you look like a strong wind could blow you over.”
“I won’t take your word for it,” Rosie said. “Empty your pockets and let me pat you down. If you’re weapon and drug free, you can stay.”
“Fine,” he said tightly. He took off his jacket, pulling his journal out gently and placing both items on the ground. The scattered coins from his pants pockets joined them.
Rosie patted him down none too gently—or respectfully. He stiffened but stayed silent. She laughed. “Sorry, kid. Nothing personal. Common hiding place.”
She moved on to the items on the ground. Zahal clenched his jaw as she opened the journal and flipped through it carelessly. She glanced at a few of the pages, then thumped it shut and handed it back to him, frowning.
“What are you, some kinda starving artist? Making up scary stories to sell someday?”
“Something like that,” Zahal muttered. He took the journal from her outstretched hand.
“You can stay—for now.” She jabbed her finger into his chest. “Follow the rules and we’ll get along fine. One: I’m boss around here. Nothing goes without my permission. Two: don’t bring your drug problems here.”
“Three: no violence whatsoever, including weapons, threats, or anything else I think is violent in nature. Four: respect other people’s space. No trespassing into someone else’s camp; you only go if invited. Got it?”
“Good. Now, what’s your name, kid?”
Rosie extended a hand. “Welcome to Bridge City, Zahal.”
Phil offered to share his camp with Zahal, since he didn’t have his own yet.
Yet. His stomach turned uncomfortably. But things had never worked out for him. Probably never would. So he might as well get used to it.
No. The doctors had been right. He was nothing special. Just a kid who could no longer dream without screaming or live a live resembling normal in any way. He was weak minded, had broken at the first test. At least he had figured out there was something wrong early, before he had made the mistake of having kids or thinking he could have what others had. No attachments to mourn his loss of sanity.
“Here.” Phil handed him a can of cheap beer, the kind that looks—and usually tastes—like piss. He was underage. But what did it matter, really? It was a cold drink on a hot day, and he was thirsty. No one here knew him or cared. He took the can.
They ate their bread in silence—or, as silent as it could be sitting on a concrete barrier beneath a busy highway. Two men and a woman came by to barter trades with Phil—objects they’d scavenged for ones he had.
“Zahal, this is Tom, Stan, and Inisha.” He nodded to the lanky blonde man, who gave Zahal a wide grin; the grizzled bear of a man, who gave no indication he recognized Zahal’s presence at all; and the middle-aged red-headed woman, who glanced at him warily before turning back to the business at hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Zahal said, feeling no emotion of the sort. None of them responded, and he went back to staring at his hands. Even here, he could feel it—no. He balled up his fists, squeezed his eyes shut. He had to stop—
Zahal snapped his eyes open and found himself face-to-face with the blonde man, whose smile felt more like a leer in such close proximity. Zahal pulled his head back, putting distance between himself and the man—Tom.
“Whassa matter, you a little skittish?” Tom laughed, drenching Zahal in the stench of stale whiskey and rotting teeth.
He suppressed a gag and spoke through gritted teeth. “I’m fine.”
Tom leaned closer, setting his hand on the concrete slab. “Is that s—”
“Tom!” Inisha’s sharp call cut the him off. “Let’s go.”
“Alright, alright.” Tom grimaced and pushed back from the concrete. “See ya around, Zahal.”
An avalanche of tension flowed out of him as soon as they were out of sight.
“Are they your friends?”
Phil shook his head. “No. They just come to trade sometimes. Acquaintances.”
“Is he always like that? Tom?”
“You should stay away from him.”
“Fine by me.” The sun had begun to set, long shadows streaking across the camp. “Phil, you should know something about me. I don’t sleep well. Sometimes I wake up screaming. I thought I had it under control, but it’s been really bad lately.”
“Ever since you’ve been on the streets?”
Zahal nodded. “I didn’t want you to get freaked out. Just kick me or something if it happens. It never happens more than once a night.”
Phil’s eyes unfocused as he nodded. “Billy used to have bad dreams, too. And me. Mine stopped after we ran away, but not Billy’s. It’s why he left me. Dreamed he found us. Said he had to go to protect me.”
“Your dad?” Phil nodded. “What happened? Did he find you?”
“No. A man came looking for Billy after he left. Told me he could protect him, left a trinket for him. But Billy never came back. B-but then…” Phil’s voice trembled and cracked, tears flowing down his cheeks as the memories flooded in. He rose and disappeared into his tent, reappearing a moment later clutching a newspaper in his hands. He handed it to Zahal.
The tabloid was yellowed and stained, dated fifteen years prior. Business magnate kills himself after brutally beating his son to death—in public! A young man’s face was plastered across the front alongside who could only have been his twin brother. William and Phillip Masterson—William deceased; Phillip, still missing, will inherit fortune. Another photo below showed the stern face of their father, John Masterson.
“Jesus,” Zahal said, eyes wide. “This is you and Billy?”
“Used to be.”
“Why didn’t you go back, after? Once your father wasn’t around anymore?”
“Why would I go back?”
Zahal pointed to the paper. “This says your family was rich. Really rich. You inherited it all. You should be living in a mansion, not a tent.”
“Living in a mansion never made my life any better.” Phil drooped his head, shaking it. “There are too many bad memories from that life. And I didn’t want anything tainted by that man.”
Zahal shook his head. “But you could have had a life, any life. Helped people if you wanted. I can’t believe you chose this,” he said.
Phil shrugged. “It’s mine. And it’s home.”
“The man. Who—”
“Excuse me!” a high pitched voice interrupted. A girl no more than ten years old had crept into Phil’s camp and was hopping back and forth on her feet impatiently. “Sorry, Phil, my mom needs your help. The back wall fell down again.”
“I’ll be right there, Ellie,” Phil said. He turned to Zahal as she skipped off, message delivered. “This won’t take long. I have a spare single tent you can set up for sleeping tonight.” He ducked into the large tent once again, stowing the newspaper and coming back out with a tarp-wrapped package, which he handed to Zahal.
“Thanks.” He’d still be sleeping on the ground, but being protected from the elements was a luxury he hadn’t enjoyed for weeks. “Hey, is there a bathroom around here, or…?”
“Follow the trail that way.” Phil pointed in the opposite direction from where he was headed. “Second left and then a right.” And then he went off to help a woman with her wall.
The sun was drooping closer to the horizon, pink and orange hues beginning to spill across the sky artistically. It would be easier to set up the tent in the remaining light, but getting lost in the dark surrounded by potentially hostile strangers seemed like a worse idea. He struck out along the path Phil had indicated, marching as quickly as he could. A few people looked up from their camps as he passed, but only a couple of the kids called out to him. Suspicion: yet another trait he apparently shared with everyone else here.
The smell hit him first: human waste masked by a pungent sickly-sweet fragrance. Six port-a-potties sat on the opposite side of a chain-link fence. The only gap in the fencing was secured by a thick padlock and chain; this wasn’t part of the camp itself, but rather the construction site for a new high-rise. The fence was topped with barbed wire, and previous attempts to cut through the fencing had been sealed off with new cuts of chain-link and zip-ties. How the hell was he supposed to get through? Or was this side of the fencing all he had access to?
“It’s unlocked.” Zahal jumped and whirled around. The woman from earlier, Inisha, stood just behind him, an amused smile playing on her lips. “The padlock,” she clarified. “I picked it after they tied the fence back up. It looks like it’s locked, but it isn’t engaged. Just turn it and slip the chain off. Put it back when you’re done, and don’t lock it by mistake. Otherwise,” she motioned to the various bushes around them, “this area won’t smell so sweet anymore.”
“It’s not exactly a garden now.”
“Yeah, well, you weren’t here before they put those units in.”
He followed her through the gate, and when he had finished his business, she was waiting for him on the path. They walked back toward Phil’s camp together. The shadows were growing long, one side of the sky lit in fiery orange and the other a deep blue-gray.
“You get used to it,” Inisha said, leading the way. “The lifestyle. The people. It doesn’t always feel like it does now. It gets easier, if you let others help.”
“I’m not planning on being here long. Just until I get back on my feet.”
Inisha’s shoulders shook in a silent laugh. “Sure, kid. Maybe you will get out of here someday. But if not, it’s not all bad. It’s a life, anyway.”
Zahal was saved a reply by two young girls giggling and chasing each other down the path. Inisha managed a well-practiced dodge, but Zahal wasn’t quick enough.
“Watch it!” Inisha warned, but it was too late. He stumbled off the path as the girls pushed past, his ankle turning on the loamy earth. He flailed his arms out in an attempt to catch himself, but found only air. His short fall ended in a patch of blackberry brambles, which stabbed through his thin clothing viciously. His vision started to darken around the edges, and the vines tangled around him like—
They were alive. Writhing like a nest of snakes, they spiral up his arms and legs, tying him down. Tighter, tighter. The more he struggles, the harder he is bound. They will swallow him whole, absorb him into the darkness.
It is so quiet here. No sound, except—wait. A voice? It is alien to him, unrecognizable. Who would be here, with him? It grows in volume and insistence, loud enough to be right next to him—but invisible.
“Kid! Kid! You okay?”
There is shouting now, too, but all he sees is black. The vines pull him deeper, cutting off his air. Another winds its way around his arm, trying to tear him apart. A surge of panic.
“No! Get off!” His scream is guttural, desperate. He lashes out, and it feels like fire is burning through his veins, shooting through every pore. The brambles pull away, finally. The ground stills beneath him, and the darkness recedes. It is silent.
The earth was soft; it should have made for a gentle fall, as falls go. But Zahal’s body was battered and bruised, as though he had fallen down a rocky mountainside and then been trampled at the bottom. Every muscle screamed, and the sharp pain of lacerations ran up and down his arms, face, and torso.
He might have stayed there smelling the mossy earth and the smell of smoke if someone hadn’t started screaming.
He cracked his eyes open, looking for the source of the commotion. Back up the hill, a dozen observers looked down on him with expressions ranging from horrified to stunned. The two little girls who had caused him to fall were sitting on the path crying beneath the protective silhouette of their father.
Zahal glanced down, assessing his injuries. There were a few tears in his clothing and a little blood. He ran a hand over his face, and it came away clean. Why was everyone staring at him like that?
A low moan sounded from in front of him, and he lifted his head toward it. Inisha was lying spread-eagle on the ground, her red locks fanned out like a lion’s mane around her head. The hairs spread away from each other, charged with static electricity. Echoes of laughter bounced through his mind; the other kids in the home used to rub balloons on their heads to make that happen, used to giggle for hours as they snuck up to shock each other and pass the current on. Inisha wasn’t laughing, though.
She moaned again, but didn’t move. “Inisha?” He started to crawl toward her since no one else had moved to help. She must have fallen at the same time he did.
“Don’t touch her, you freak!” The man’s angry shout rang out from above. Zahal halted and looked up, but it was impossible to know who had yelled. Had they noticed his flashback? It had been so brief…
Inisha was trying to roll onto her side now, pressing most of her weight onto her left hand while her right arm hung at her side as though broken. The hair on Zahal’s neck raised; her injured arm was burnt and blackened, a curl of smoke twisting lazily off of it.
“Inisha,” he called out. “What happened? Are you all right?” She cringed at the sound of his voice and didn’t respond.
“Leave her alone!” This time it was a woman’s voice, closer than before. He sat up onto his knees and tried to stand, but his vision grew spotty and he lost his balance. On his hands and knees, he closed his eyes and waited for the dizziness to pass. The crack of twigs underfoot made him open his eyes again.
Three braver observers had stepped forward a few feet. A woman was edging toward Inisha while keeping a wary eye on Zahal, as though afraid he would attack her. The two others, a twitchy young man and an aggressive-looking older man, were nervously posturing around Zahal.
“What’s going on?” Zahal asked, carefully sitting up. Dizziness swept through him again, but he was ready for it. After a long moment, he got his feet underneath him and stood up. His legs were shaky, but he didn’t fall. He shivered despite the lingering heat of the day.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know!” The young man spat, bravely taking another step forward. “We all saw you attack her!” A chorus of agreement rang out behind him, and the crowd—ever growing—stirred restlessly.
“No. She fell, we both did, after those girls ran by.” Zahal gestured to the two weeping girls with one hand; the movement put him off-kilter again and he stumbled forward. The young man stepped back defensively, and the two girls started to wail loudly. Their father pulled them in tighter, his eyes murderous twin daggers.
“I don’t abide by liars.” This time, it was the older man who spoke, his voice a low growl. He advanced on Zahal, drawing the crowd forward with him. Zahal took a step back; his foot hit blackberry brambles, almost toppling him again. Emboldened by the older man, the crowd kept advancing toward him. He held his hands out in appeal, looking around for an escape; there was none.
“And I don’t abide by violence. From anyone.” Rosie pushed forward through the mob, which immediately halted its advance. Several individuals looked ready to attack, but her gravitas stalled them. She glared back and forth, from Zahal to the crowd and back to Zahal. “I thought we had an understanding, kid. Get your stuff and get out.” Her voice rang out, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“But I didn’t—”
She ignored him. “Phil will escort you. Phil?”
“Here.” The crowd parted, and Phil stepped forward, standing in front of Zahal. For a moment, it looked like he was going to argue, but Rosie narrowed her eyes at him and he held his tongue. “Come on, Zahal. Let’s go get your things.”
He made to grab Zahal by the shoulder, but Zahal flinched away. “I already—”
“You forgot something.” Phil dropped his hand and started to walk away, back toward his camp.
Rosie leaned in as they passed, speaking in a low voice. “Make it quick. I’ve stalled them for now, but you better be gone by full dark. And don’t come back.”
“But what about Inisha?” Zahal asked. A few people were leaned over her now, forming a protective barrier between her and Zahal. One woman hissed at him when he looked over.
“That’s not your concern,” Rosie said, steel in her voice. “We’ll take care of her. You’ve done enough.”
Phil led him up the hill in a wide arc that avoided the onlookers. He kept his feet on the ground, trying to ignore the whispers and the feeling of eyes on his neck. Silence stretched thick and heavy between them. Zahal replayed what had happened—what he thought had happened—over and over in his mind, but none of it made sense. He couldn’t see reality through the fog of his flashback.
Phil’s camp was as he had left it less than an hour before, but everything else had changed. He looked around aimlessly, searching for whatever it was he had left behind.
“There’s nothing here,” he said. “What did I leave?”
“I saw what happened,” Phil said. “I knew there was something different about you.”
Zahal ran his hands through his hair. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t do anything!” Didn’t you? Didn’t you strike out? Do you remember not hurting her? He spoke quieter this time: “What did you see?”
“I heard you yell as you tripped. I was coming to make sure you found your way back without trouble. When I got there, Inisha was trying to pull you out of the thorns. But it was like you weren’t all there. L-like you didn’t see her. She grabbed onto you, you screamed at her, and then… you flung her backward. You don’t remember any of it?”
Zahal stayed silent.
“Billy used to do things he couldn’t explain. It’s why our father hated him so much. I think it’s why that man came looking for him.”
But he had died anyway, beaten to death by his own father in the street while everybody watched and nobody stopped it. The eyes of Bridge City were still on Zahal now, none of them friendly.
“What did I forget? You heard Rosie; I have to go. No one wants me here.”
Phil ducked into his tent, returning a few seconds later. “Take this.” He pressed something into Zahal’s hand. “From what I saw today… you need to go somewhere safe. You can’t come around here anymore. If someone recognizes you outside of Bridge City… Rosie won’t be around to stop them from hurting you. Maybe whatever that man left for Billy all those years ago will help you.”
Zahal opened his palm; a small pink crystal rested there, attached to a leather cord. He felt strange, holding it—like he was being tugged toward something. But raised voices nearby pushed the crystal out of his mind and into his pocket. He followed Phil out of the camp and into the city, his feet growing heavier with every step.
Despite Phil’s advice, Zahal found a place to sleep about five minutes from the edge of Bridge City. It wasn’t that Phil’s warnings weren’t warranted; he was just too exhausted to walk any further. He’d find somewhere new in the morning.
He tucked himself behind an unclaimed dumpster in an alley that smelled of piss and roadkill and, despite the stench, managed to fall into a dreamless sleep within minutes.
Sometime in the night, he woke to the sound of low voices. How long had he been asleep? His head felt like it was stuffed with cotton, and his entire right arm was afire with the worst case of pins-and-needles he’d ever experienced. He must’ve pinched a nerve in the fall.
“…you sure?” The words were quiet and difficult to hear against the noise of traffic, but the gruff voice sounded familiar. “…must be stupid… so close.”
“I saw him.” This voice was louder, petulant. “Came in and didn’t come out.”
The two men were close; their footsteps crunched on the loose gravel of the alley’s entrance. Zahal winced as he tried to get to his feet silently. He needed to get out of here, and fast. Someone stumbled and kicked a glass bottle, earning a growl from the other man. Zahal peeked out from behind his hiding spot. The two dark silhouettes were clearly visible against the light of a nearby street lamp: the two men who had advanced on him earlier. And they were headed straight for his dumpster. He jerked his head back out of view, sucking in a gasp of air.
He might be able to sneak away out the other side of the alley. The new moon didn’t provide any light, and there wasn’t another street lamp until the far end. The adrenaline beginning to pump through his veins promised him that it would let him run for a little while—hopefully long enough to lose the two men after the spotted him.
Zahal edged to the far side of the dumpster, took one more deep breath, and darted a short distance to a darkened, receded doorway. He listened for the sounds of pursuit, but heard nothing. Glancing down the alley, he plotted a rough course that would offer cover behind various bins, dumpsters, doorways, and trash bags. He could do this. Had done this a million times before, evading everyone who’d ever tried to hurt or control him.
Anger swelled inside of him as he remembered, and, strangely, it calmed him. Fueled, he propelled himself out of the doorway and toward the first check point.
His arm wrenched backward, as though it had caught on something. He cried out involuntarily as a streak of pain raced from his wrist to his shoulder.
“Not so fast.” A new voice, this one smooth and dangerous. Unfamiliar. “We’ve got a reckoning to sort out with you.” The man turned, light glinting across his face as he called to his fellow hunters. The father of the two girls who had tripped him. Except now, the two girls weren’t there to cull the violence.
The man looked back at Zahal as the other two fell in beside him, and unpleasant smile spreading slowly across his lips. “Time to pay for what you did to Inisha, freak.”
PLEASE FILL OUT THE CHAPTER SURVEY BELOW BEFORE CONTINUING TO THE NEXT CHAPTER.