Chapter 2 Part 1

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Astin gave Guyton a sour look, but passed him two evidence bags. "Your keyring, and your wallet," he said.

"So you've set me up with an identity?"

"SOP. Just remember, you'll be in the world, but not of it. You ain't gonna live in the lap of luxury, but you won't lack for anything. You can eat and drink, but you won't need to. Your body is tuned to sleep in the morning hours. You have a car, one that's just as forgettable as you, but it can get ticketed, booted, or towed. Don't get complacent."

Guyton looked over the driver's license. It had his name and face, but... uh, where's Clarkston, Georgia?"

"Outside of Atlanta. Eastside suburb."

"Never been there, except at the airport."

"Yeah. You found out, you don't actually change planes in Atlanta when you die, huh?" Astin gave him a lopsided smirk.

"Go directly to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Unless you get diverted."

"Right. You got one Get Out of Hell Free card, and you already used it. Believe it or not, Guyton, I don't like delivering guys like you to justice. I have to watch it happen, and it sucks. No matter how much you deserve it. Don't screw up, okay?"

"I have a pretty good idea what's at stake," said Guyton. Training had taken his mind off the events just before his diversion, but now the memories came back.

"I don't have a whole lot of hope for you, but seriously. Try not to screw it up too much." Astin stuck out his hand, and Guyton took it. "You won't go wrong, going by the book."

Guyton's reply froze in his mouth, as he dropped through the floor. He plunged through a dense fog—

—and found himself in a recliner. He jerked with the imagined impact, and the footrest flipped up.

"Well... here I am," he said, taking in the place. A small kitchen awaited at his left, and that pair of doors across the way had to be the bathroom and bedroom. On his right, a makeshift desk—a door, spanning a pair of two-drawer file cabinets—sat at the wide window. There was a laptop, lid closed, and the other odds and ends looked as if they might have come from his old desk, in his old life.

With nothing better to do, he got up and looked around. The kitchen had little more than bare necessities—not surprising. He had been training non-stop for weeks, without meal or sleep breaks. "At least there's beer and coffee," he muttered, looking in the fridge.

The bathroom was more spacious than expected, and had doors at both ends. The door at the far end led to the bedroom. A bed, a dresser, a closet, a nightstand. Basic, but decent. The drawers and closet had clothes in his size, more upscale than he bought for himself, and enough that Guyton realized he would need to do laundry and take showers on occasion.

Back to the living room, and the desk with its mix of familiar and new things. The file drawers held only a few odds and ends, and a handful of file folders. On a whim, he sat and opened the laptop. The screen lit up, open to a paused video. Birch's face stared back at Guyton. He shrugged and clicked Play.

"Welcome to your new life, Guyton," said Birch. "I know your training covered pretty much everything, but I suppose you'd like some last-minute refreshers before you get started."

"Wouldn't hurt," he mumbled, knowing the recorded Birch could not hear him.

"Right," Birch's image replied. There's a few files in your file drawer that you should review. One of them has pictures of your car, copies of the registration, maintenance records... anyway, you won't have to figure out which one is yours. Another one has addresses of local businesses and other locations that are likely to have soulburned nearby. Tonight, just go check out the ones close to home. Some are within walking distance of your apartment. Don't go hunting just yet, but if you run into a soulburn, and you're alone? Might as well take the opportunity.

"Feel free to email me or Astin with any questions you might have. Your address book has our info. Good hunting." The video faded to black, then the player disappeared.

"Huh." Guyton clicked around, looking for the video, but it was gone. "Probably in a hidden file." Or maybe it had just self-destructed, like the messages in Mission Impossible.

He slid the laptop aside, and pulled the file folders out of the drawer. Most were blank, and he focused on the labeled ones. The one with the particulars of his car was labeled 2012 Civic. Looking at the picture, he thought the car might be as forgettable as he was, now. Another folder, Rental agreement, informed him that the apartment was sublet from one Solomon Ulysses Burns. "Sol U. Burns," he snorted. "Subtle as a sledgehammer." There was no information about where to send a check, or when, and Guyton figured it was just being taken care of.

The third folder, Venues, was his beat. Each of the pages listed coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Places for strangers to meet. The first page was all nearby joints.

"Sleep and hunt," he said, standing up. "Beats the alternative."

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