“How did you know that?” Starling asks me. In the fog of what just transpired, it slipped my mind that I just did what I did. The blonde bartender ran away from the crime scene. The detective furiously yelled at the both of us before he took off after her, and I revealed my powers to an unsuspecting mortal.
“What do you mean?” I ask her coyly, hoping she’ll just drop it.
Placing all your cards on the table is never a good move. I have no desire to reveal what I truly am to any mortal I encounter in this city. I’ve played that game before. It’s too much to put onto a meager human brain.
Starling gives me a baffled look, as she should. I’m playing dumb with her. “How did you know she was lying?” she asks me, exacerbated.
“It was all over her face.”
Starling returns to scribbling in her notebook. The medical examiner zips the victim up before carting him away. It’s strange how a furious pen and the enclosure of a body bag sound so similar.
“I think I really have something here,” Starling says with her eyes still fixated on her handiwork. “I don’t know if it’s my place to even go with this. Kelso pointed it out perfectly. I’m not the crime beat reporter.”
“Does that matter?” I ask honestly. I genuinely don’t understand what’s holding her back.
“Themis,” Starling begins, her eyes reflecting the doe-like and scared demeanor of a child. “I work for one of the lowest-ranked newspapers in the city. We’re barely hanging on as is with the death of print news and whatnot. Honestly, it’s a miracle I still have my job. The whole reason I even came here is that the crime rates are so high I thought I’d have a better chance… I’m rambling. Sorry.”
“A better chance for what?”
“Like, I know it’s stupid to be so wrapped up in this societal pettiness, but I’m turning 33 this year, you know? Like, I don’t have forever just to make things happen or go with the flow anymore. I’ve been doing that my whole career.” She’s talking a mile a minute, with anxiety creeping into every word.
She’s barely three decades old. She has no idea how little time that is in actuality.
“And I know we just met, and I don’t even really know you, but…what would you do if you were me?” she asks me, looking down at the pavement with bated breath.
“I think you just answered your own question,” I respond. It’s like she’s asking me for permission.
She smiles at me, eventually smothering me with her embrace.
“I need to go home and write this,” she proclaims. “Let’s do this again.”
“Find a dead body?”
Starling laughs, like a real genuine laugh. We exchange phone numbers, and she takes off into the night. Alone.
Which is where I find myself as well. Alone.
The crowd of nightlife begins overflowing in the street. The night isn’t over.
The sun’s rays shine on my face like a perpetual beckoning to be on the alert. I’m in an unfamiliar environment. Not a dangerous one, but something tells me I should leave. I’m on a creaky bed in a much nicer apartment than the one I’m renting. The housing situation in the mortal world leaves something to be desired. I began to realize what a scam everything was when I saw the importance of checking some magic number that’s supposed to let property owners know I can be trusted. Then I am to give said property owners three times the amount of money right from the start of moving in. It seems like everything revolves around money. Time is money. Money is time.
I roll over on the bed and come face to face with a muscular back. Toned arms glisten from the sunlight peeking through the sheer curtains. A tuft of dark hair looks unkempt and disheveled, with light, whispered breaths escaping from unseen lips.
It comes back to me. I stumbled upon this handsome stranger after Starling and I parted ways. I don’t remember if he offered much of anything about himself. I think he just let me carry most of the conversation while he sat there like a fool, which I happen to be fond of for whatever reason. Who am I to wake a slumbering fool?
I definitely need to get out of here.
I slowly get out of the bed, spying my crumbled dress on the floor. I check for everything else. Heels? Check. Handbag? Check. Wallet? Check.
I gather my things, scooping everything up in my arms. It might be best for me to dress near the front door. I plot out my path, meticulously taking each step so I can be as quiet as possible.
I take a good look around his place on my way to the entrance. Whoever this is, he cleans up nicely. The most gorgeous art covers his walls, from colorful and whimsical paintings to a rather edgy-looking mural covering the entirety of his south wall. He looks like a collector. It wasn’t just the art. He has pristine furniture. Everything is immaculately clean and dripping in the kind of luxury only afforded by disposable income. I don’t remember his name, much less what he does to acquire this much to blow on nothing.
I haven’t mastered walking on wooden floors. There always seems to be that one squeaky board in every home intent on blowing my cover. I haphazardly step on it, causing a noise that might as well be an air horn in this quiet room.
The man stirs awake, taking long and dramatic blinks as his eyes adjust to the sunlight. I’m caught.
“Morning,” he says with a raspy voice, noticing me. He’s a smoker.
I try to laugh it off. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Well, I didn’t mean to catch you trying to make your escape.” Cheeky.