I told them the whole story, explaining the statue and a little bit about what’s like to phase out. I finished with, “Julie’s not here anymore. I think we’ll be safe leaving after lunch.”
Tara had stopped eating while I talked. When I stopped, she started, her words coming out all at once, moving her hands as she talked, “So that’s how they keep tabs on everybody—I bet they’re listening to all of us. And you wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard about people who started fights here. They completely disappeared! I wonder if they’d talk to me if said hi on the way out?”
Rod opened his mouth a couple times when it almost seemed like the torrent of words would stop, but said nothing, looking frustrated.
Samita broke through before he did, taking her hand away from her chin. She’d been holding it there through most of what I’d said. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice. I’ve been trained to notice when someone’s bound a guardian spirit to an artifact.”
Her brows furrowed. “That might mean that they enchanted the spot to discourage enchanters from examining it, or it might mean that I’m completely unfamiliar with their techniques.”
Her voice trailed off as she thought about that, reminding me just a little of Nick.
Rod didn’t hesitate to jump in. “The important thing is that Julie’s gone. We should get out of here.”
Travis shook his head. “Maybe not. If she’s not going to bug us as when we’re here, we should stay. If she’s watching for us, she’ll get bored and find something else to do.”
Thinking back to how many times she showed up, I said, “It depends on how obsessed she is.”
Travis sighed and nodded. “Got it. Point made. I’d say, let’s stay long enough to eat, and then check outside again.”
* * *
An hour later, we stepped into the hall. Tara had already paid the bill. We walked down the hall, Travis ducking to avoid hitting his head on the red lights hanging from the ceiling.
I hadn’t thought about how he had to do that much lately.
Any thoughts I might have had about past dates, and how hard it had been to kiss him vanished when I noticed we weren’t alone.
People were exiting a room ahead of us in the hall—and from the double doors, it appeared to have been a big room. I was surprised by how similar they looked. For a second I thought it was their uniforms.
They all wore black uniforms, but half of them seemed to be accented with blue, and the other half with green. The material of the uniforms reminded me of the bullet resistant material most supers used in their costumes. They all almost looked like they might be related, but if they were, their relationships didn’t include much trust.
They separated into two groups as they stepped out the door, the blue group lingering on our side of the door. The green accented group gathered around the other side of the door.
The groups stood just out of arms reach.
Without the accents on their clothes, it would have been impossible to tell the groups apart. The men and women had blond hair, and square jaws. The men stood a little taller than six feet with muscular frames. The women were just a couple inches shorter and if not as muscular not weak looking.
A moment later, I realized that the men didn’t have similar faces, but the exact same one—blocky, but handsome, the kind of face you find on pictures of knights. The women were almost the same, but not quite—wider cheekbones, thicker lips, and wider eyes.
Tara stopped when she saw them, shrinking into herself. That’s when I noticed that she looked like she could be the women’s younger sister. Her face wasn’t quite the same, but it was close.
“Let’s stop here, and let’s not go out the door until they’re gone,” she said. “It’ll be safer.”
I stepped ahead, standing in front of Tara. She didn’t complain.
After a moment the two groups started moving, walking with an easy grace and power that reminded me a little of a tiger, and lot of the way Haley and Travis moved.
Lee had been training me to notice it. It meant they might be fast enough to hit me before I became intangible.
By the time we stepped into the main dining room with its tables, servers, and easily more than one hundred people, Tara had recovered, and was walking next to me.
She reached out and gave my hand a squeeze, and said, “Thanks,” before letting go.
Quietly, I asked, “So, what was that all about?”