Ian scanned the street. Unlike many pawn shops, this one had a clean, attractive appearance. Part pawn shop, part beach rentals, the building had colorful surf and body boards lined up against its outer wall. Built with a rusty-colored brick it sat along the sidewalk on Main Street, bright blue awnings shaded the windows. It had a small-town charm that matched the appeal of the other buildings on the street.
There was no 'bad side' to this sleepy little seaside town. And although each structure had its own design, it seemed as though the city council had decided, some time ago, that the buildings of the city should look unified. The blue awnings which hung at most of the windows, and the planters bursting with multi-colored flowers sitting on each side of the main doors seemed to do the trick.
Near the pawn shop, this street had a music store, a shoe store, and a men's clothing store. Further down the road were a few restaurants, most of which Ian had tried, and at the corner, the busiest place on the street, a coffee shop.
The couple leaving the pawn shop caught Ian's eye. Now was the time to go into the shop, if he wanted the owner's undivided attention. It tended to wander if he had other customers inside the store. Ian hopped out of his car and ran across the street. He reached the front door just as the owner, Rick, was turning the sign from OPEN to CLOSE.
Was I sitting there that long? I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped.
Ian's eyebrow went up when Rick hesitated. He slapped a hand-drawn picture of the artifact up to the glass to remind the man of the importance of this visit. It was clear that Ian's size, if nothing else, intimidated him.
Finally, Rick nodded and let him in. "Hey, sorry, dude. I gotta night planned so I don't have a lotta time." He slowly drew out his words, enunciating them in such a way there was no doubt he was born by the beach. Rick pushed back his sun-bleached hair with a well-tanned hand while eyeing up Ian.
"We all have plans." From the looks of Rick, his plans included a bottle and maybe something more.
Rick swallowed. "Yeah, sure, of course. Lookin' a little rough today? Gnarly night?"
Ian ignored him and walked to the counter.
"Dude, let me guess. Babe trouble? Let me tell ya—" Rick was clearly about to launch into a story about his own woman trouble. Ian didn't want to hear it.
"Stop. That's not what I am here for." Ian ground out as he turned and faced him.
Rick threw his arms up. "Hey, sorry! Didn't mean to upset ya."
Seeing Rick's surprised and almost hurt face, Ian told himself to cool it. The last time he'd been here had been before—before her. The man he had been then was friendly and charming. That man had gotten Rick's help, barely. Acting like this wasn't going to help him get anything from the young man.
"No, I apologize," Ian said shaking his head at himself. "Your right, it's that. I just can't talk about it."
"Too fresh. I get it, dude. I get it."
Ian laid the picture he was carrying onto the counter and tapped it with his finger. "Did you find out anything about this?"
"I'd never seen anything like it before you brought the picture 'round the first time. Not really the kind of thing I deal in here. So I reckoned I wouldn't have any answers for ya."
Ian slumped and leaned on the counter. He'd known it was long shot. This was the only source for a lead he had right now, his others had dried up.
"But then I started thinking," Rick continued and chuckled, "something I try not to do too much or too long. My family's been on these waters a long time, and you hear things. Stories. Even my grandma, she used to tell me stories. She used to say, 'Rickie,' that's what she liked to call me. 'Rickie,' she'd say, 'there's a lot more to this world then you or I know.' My parents used to laugh at her, but I never did. She used to fish out there with her daddy. She knew things."
Ian stilled. Rick laid his arm next to his and picked up a black light. If Ian was going to leave, he needed to do it now.
Rick gave him a hard look before clicking the black light on. The light showed what Ian knew it would. With little variation, Rick's human skin was a dark, eerie color of blue.
Ian's was not. The slight luminescence of his skin enhanced ten fold creating a brilliant effect. Though it was mostly blue, it was radiant. Patterned lines and dots in dark reds and purple scattered his skin. Even a few flecks of gold caught the light.
It seemed to have an almost hypnotizing effect on Rick, similar to the stare that Ian had seen people give tanks full of glowing jellyfish. Something he stayed well away from.
"Wow, man, wow. This is trippin'." Rick shot Ian a look before going back to Ian's arm. "You're like this all over?"
"Born like this?"
When Ian pulled his arm away, Rick grunted his disappointment.
Rick's eyes lit up. "Do you grow a tail and everything?"
Ian sighed. There'd been other occasions to tell people what he was on this hunt for the traitor. He'd been permitted to do so by the council. Rick was right. There were always stories in the coastal towns. No one Ian had told had seemed all that shocked. This, however, was always their first question.
"No, we don't grow tails."
Rick looked disappointed. "So this artifact. It is really your people's."
"Yes, it was stolen from us."
"I knew it, dude! That ain't right, that's what I think. So I asked around, and I think I have something. A buddy of mine works at the Natural History Museum over in the city. He says he's seen something like this in the basement storage there.
Ian perked up. "Here, right here at the museum a half hour away?"
"Yeah bro, that one." Rick stood and crossed his arms. "Ready to be totally amped? He said they're getting it ready to loan to The Marine Center here in town. They're going to open an exhibit with that at the centerpiece."
Ian stepped back, stunned. A lightness he hadn't felt since the beginning of this hunt filled him. Ian put a hand to the countertop and easily jumped the counter. He grabbed Rick and hugged him, then thumped him on the back. Rick accepted the heartful, if somewhat crushing, appreciation.
Ian had searched the world for it. Followed the traitor to every single continent before losing his trail. And now Rick had found it.
All this time and it was practically in their backyard.
Did that mean he was too?
"Is there anything about who brought it in?"
"There was a tag with the address on the box. Doesn't seem to be anyone special. I asked around a bit and only heard good things about the dude. He just lives down the road here." Rick pointed in the right direction as he handed Ian the address.
Ian took the paper and stared at it speechless. He could hardly read the address because of his trembling muscles. He wished his father was close enough he could share the news.
Could it really be the traitor? The one that had taken what was not his to take? The Artifact. Something crucial for both Atlantians and humans. The one that murdered his own people? Showing his contempt of them even in the end by sending their mutilated bodies out to the sea to mock the entire Atlantian people. I can finally stop him.
Ian smiled and shook Rick's hand, then noticing the man's small grimace of pain, he loosed his grip. "Thank you! I cannot explain how important this is. I will come back with a reward for your help." Ian stared at Rick. "And about me, it goes without saying..."
"Yep, I know. It's nothin' but tall tales. I wish ya'll the best, dude."
Ian pounded Rick on the back again as he left. Rick stood at the door watching as Ian walked to his car. A bemused look on his face as he rubbed his shoulder.
A/N: Ian's on the hunt! I hope you enjoyed the chapter. If so, please press the little star below. :)
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Sea Bound (A Sanctuary's Aggression Novel)Science Fiction
#159 on Scifi Hot List. A Golden Pen, Pen and Ink, and Rose Award Winner. In this sci-fi fantasy, Sonora yearns for more than life has given her until the day a shadow becomes a guide to a world she could never have imagined. A new world that offers...