Remain in Shadow: Joshua’s Point of View

The Watcher Series Extras: 1.3

The Unintended (L)

SPOILER ALERT: Best not read until you have completed chapter 7.

Three months prior to The Unintended

I puzzled over it for days. Bowen had taken the time to break into my place, but hadn’t touched anything…as far as I could tell. As the sun would be rising soon, I settled into my bed and reached behind my headboard, pulling out the well-used journal—its aged brown leather scratched and softened with use, a tattered, red ribbon marking my place. I snatched my favorite pen from the nightstand and eased back against my pillows behind me.

Closing my eyes I drew in a deep breath and focused my thoughts. I flipped open its pages and prepared to write a response to Ali’s latest e-mail, though she would never see my reply. Feeling a pang for something familiar, I turned to the second-to-last page to pull out the postcard and photo I kept…They weren’t there…I skimmed through the journal, fanning its pages and shaking it, trying to loose the items I sought. I whirled through the pages a third time. I felt cold. I spun onto my knees and shoved the bed from the wall, peering over to see if they had fallen on the floor behind my bed…Nothing.

And then it hit me. Time stopped. I ceased to breathe. If my heart still beat it would have failed. Bowen had taken something.

I dashed upstairs to Sebastian to ask him to go to California to check on Ali. He said he would “make a request.” I swallowed my pride and begged, but he didn’t waiver. He insisted on an appeal to the Council.

That night, every time I closed my eyes I saw Aleria and felt utter panic battering my insides. I had always felt protective of her, but this was my fault. I may have sent death to her door. I have already become a monster. If anything happens…

Memories flooded my mind as I tried to lose myself in sleep. I still remembered the day her family moved into the house across the street, her dark pig tales, and her teddy bear named Stiches who was almost as big as she was. In the evenings, all the kids in our neighborhood would play tag or hide n’ seek until the street lights came on, and we had to hurry home. She always managed to hold her own, even though she was the only girl.

Then, all of those thoughts led me down a rabbit trail to something I had tried to forget—to the summer before I went away to school. Our families had traveled to her great-grandmother’s sprawling estate in Oregon. I had gone on long walks with Aleria’s great-grandmother, Mrs. Pryce, each day. She told me I would experience great tragedy, and that Ali would be part of my life after some of the darkness had settled. She informed me that I needed to trust a warrior named Gabriel when he entered my life. She had even made me repeat his name several times to burn it into my memory. It seemed absurd until—it came true. She told me he would give me wise council and protect what I valued most if I could prove my worth.

I still hadn’t believed I would see Ali again, even after I had experienced the accuracy of Mrs. Pryce’s predictions. I wished I could go back to that moment in time and record the conversation. I opened my eyes and stared at nothing in particular. I didn’t miss the irony that I was now fighting to get back to her. I would do anything to shield her from this life.

~~~~~

The Council deliberated for two days on my petition, and the wait was nothing less than torture. When I asked Gabriel his opinion on my chances, he didn’t answer; instead, he gave me a tight-lipped smile and clapped me on the shoulder. He was right—my request was denied. Prejudiced idiots.

I contemplated going without permission, but I didn’t want to disrespect Sebastian’s or Gabriel’s trust. Though I hadn’t given up. The squeaky wheel gets the grease…or it gets put out of commission…

Sebastian had faith in my assessment though; he contacted a friend in the estranged Watchers division and burned up some favors. They dispatched a Watcher named Phineas to observe Ali. Sebastian would be contacted if there was any sign of Bowen.

Weeks dragged on with no sign of him, and then, there was.

Bowen was spotted at Campbell Perk, the coffee house that was the backdrop of the photo that had served as my last link to my old life. He had spent his first two evenings there alone, but the third night he had spoken with someone—a girl who looked to be 17 or 18, had light skin, was about 5’5”, and was “crowned with thick, chestnut-colored hair that fell halfway down her back in waves.”

If I had begged to go to California before, those pleas now paled in comparison. I would have set myself on fire if needed. Sebastian relented, against orders, and booked a private plane. I spent every waking moment praying that we were in time, knowing the Watcher dispatched wouldn’t lift a finger to save Aleria if Bowen showed any aggression.

While waiting in the private airport, I watched as Gabriel pulled up The Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle and perused the local papers on his e-reader. This seemed to be part of his ritual whenever we departed for a new area of the world. I sat next to him with my arms crossed tightly against my chest, glancing at the headlines every once in a while.

I hadn’t looked in some time and noticed Gabriel had turned slightly away from me. I leaned forward and read, “Missing Girl Total at Four: Serial Killer?”

I gasped.

Gabriel hit the home button and the article vanished. Without looking at me he spoke softly, “Her name was not on the list.”

I swallowed hard. “But they fit her description.”

Gabriel didn’t answer, confirming my fear, but instead tried to comfort me with, “We will be there soon, my friend.”

I rubbed my eyes, hiding the grimace on my face. Not nearly soon enough.

~~~~~

I thought the flight would never land, and in my panicked state, I hadn’t considered how they would get me from the plane to the waiting Watcher surveillance vehicle during the middle of the afternoon. Crawling into a body bag while Gabriel carried me was a small price to pay.

Just after sunset, Phineas phoned—he was following Ali and Bowen. Bowen was trying to coax Aleria to enter an apartment. Phineas said Ali seemed hesitant, but he didn’t think it would be long before Bowen convinced her to go inside. I could barely dam back the tumult of emotion I was feeling.

We arrived at the location no more than ten minutes later and burst through the door. Two things happened almost simultaneously: One, I took in her crumpled figure on the couch and froze in horror. Her skin looked waxen, so pale it was almost transparent. My world stopped. And two, my baser instincts overcame me. The smell of blood hit me so hard that I felt my teeth spring instantly; I was blinded to anything but the need to feed.

I felt the crash as my head hit the door-frame, and I was suddenly pinned against the wall in a steely grip. I didn’t fight Gabriel as I struggled to regain control. Shame surged through me as I realized that if Gabriel hadn’t stopped me, I would have ended the life of the person I cared about most.

I closed my eyes, afraid to look as Sebastian check her pulse. I couldn’t find my voice. After all this I’m too late. I should have come as soon as I found out he was here. What was I thinking?

After a few moments, I was finally able to whisper, “Is she—”

“She’s alive,” Sebastian answered, his voice like gravel.

I pressed against Gabriel’s hold.

“No! Stay back!” Sebastian barked.

I still strained against Gabriel.

Sebastian glanced back and added, “Now! I mean it!” I exhaled in a gust and pressed myself against the wall, bearing down until I could feel the sheet-rock groan behind my back.

“She’s lost a lot of blood,” Sebastian assessed.

I could barely think, let alone speak, out of a fear worse than death: “Did he—“

Sebastian cut me off again: “I don’t think so…No, he didn’t.”

I sighed in relief, and yet still felt sick. If we had been a few minutes later….

I put my hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “I’m okay; you can let go,” I whispered. Gabriel gave me a measured look, then released me.

As Gabriel stalked through the rest of the apartment searching, I still kept myself pressed against the wall and focused on Ali. She looked so fragile…so beautiful. She wasn’t the kid from my memory. I clenched my fists until I lost the feeling in my hands as Sebastian finished wrapping her wound. Once he had sealed the punctures with tape, the smell of blood dissipated enough that I could relax a little and allow myself to breathe more deeply.

Gabriel strode back into the room. “He did not leave anything of value behind…a few pieces of clothing, maps of the area, and brochures for San Jose State University.” He tossed the papers onto the ottoman and looked at me with an unusual expression, like something was brewing beneath the surface.

Sebastian twisted his mouth to the side and rubbed his bearded chin. “Always one step ahead,” he grumbled. He seemed to drift off in thought for a short moment. Abruptly, he looked down at Ali. “It’s time to get this young lady home.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“Then,” Gabriel paused and looked at Sebastian, “we go hunting.”

I was pleased to hear those words. Bowen will pay.

Gabriel walked over and scooped Aleria off the couch; I took point as we traversed the stairs. The sound of our footsteps reverberated down the cement and wrought-iron staircase. When we reached the vehicle, I opened the door and sat on the bench-seat, motioning for Gabriel to give Ali to me.

“Are you sure?” he questioned. I looked him dead in the eyes. Gabriel returned the look, but gently placed her in my awaiting arms. Sebastian fired up the engine and started driving towards her home as the GPS chirped directions.

Ali murmured a little, and a piece of me wanted her to wake, but then the situation would get complicated. It was better to remain in the shadows. I pulled her against me, breathing in her fragrance; she smelled like home and everything I would never have. I pushed her hair off her forehead, my fingers lingering in her thick hair. I pulled her closer and rested my cheek against hers for a brief moment. I felt more than protective of her. Something much more…

The van came to a quiet stop. Gabriel opened the door and started to reach for her. “I have her. You’ll need to pick the lock,” I said, pulling Ali just a tiny bit closer to me. Gabriel nodded, and I followed him to the door cradling her, savoring every last moment. This may be the last time I see her…or touch her. I felt a pang in my silent heart again.

Gabriel pushed open the door and waited for me to relinquish my hold. “Where is her room?”

“Upstairs on the left,” I whispered, my voice a little strangled.

I wished I could take her inside, but I hadn’t been invited. I placed her in his arms and slowly backed across the front lawn until I was leaning against the massive oak tree in the middle of the yard, watching her window. I wished I could be there when she woke up. Depending on how much she remembered, it could be a very bad morning. Guilt flooded me once again.

Gabriel marched out of the house and urged me towards the vehicle. I shook my head no. He raised his left eyebrow at me. “Do we not have something to kill?”

I nodded. “Yes, we do.”

“She will be safe tonight. He knows we have her, and Phineas is on the way to keep watch. He will call if there is any activity.”

I reluctantly followed him.

I looked back at her house one last time and had the overwhelming feeling that nothing would ever be the same.

BACK TO EXTRAS

Copyright Robin Woods 2011

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