Chapter 4 Part 2

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Guyton visited the Depot Tavern on occasion, despite getting gut-shot after his first trip there, because it felt like a good hunting ground.

It paid off, although not how he had expected.

Entering the bar one night, he smelled the soulburn right away. Nobody paid attention to him as he crossed to the bar, weaving around tables populated and empty. Under the soulburn, he took in the scents of the other souls in the bar. Bars often smelled of frustration, boredom, and lust, sweetened with a little celebration and relief.

There was the target, a young woman sitting at a particular table with two men and another woman—sometimes, double-date night could snag three souls for the price of one. The second woman had an odor of envy and self-conceit, and Guyton figured that would lead to a bad end. Both men were fascinated by the soulburn, drawing ever closer to the web she wove.

But there was a time for everything, and an opportunity would present itself at the proper moment. He made his way to the bar and sat down. Next to him, a woman smelled of desperation... and something darker. She stared at her glass, half-full of a drink the color of arterial blood.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Huh?" She turned his way. "Uh... yeah. I guess."

Guyton's mouth took over, for the first time since he had sat in front of that prig Astin. "Hang on, okay? Things will look better in the morning. I promise."

"Yeah, right." But that dark scent faded. She looked him over—maybe the first person since his return from diversion who actually noticed him. "You got no idea what I'm dealing with."

"Nope. But I've seen some shit. Not the shit you've seen, but I've seen my own."

"I ain't gonna give you my number."

"That's okay," Guyton assured her. "I'll have the barkeep call you a cab, though. Or maybe you'd better do it. He doesn't seem to notice me too well."

"You're weird, you know that?" The woman's expression matched her words. "So what do I do about my car?"

"That's easy. Get a friend to bring you back tomorrow and pick it up. Or call a cab if you don't want to bother anyone."

"Shit. I could just drive home."

"Bad move," Guyton replied. "Your DUIs walk away from a wreck far too often, and the other guys are dead or worse. You don't want that on you."

"Sounds like you've been there."

"Not personally, but I've had to clean up a few. It wasn't pretty."

"Yeah." She waved at the bartender. "Hey. Hey. I think I need a taxi. And give this butthead a beer on me, okay?" She slumped forward, then raised up and sipped at her drink.

That darkness was not completely gone, but Guyton thought maybe it would finish fading out on its own. One of the servers helped her out the door to the waiting taxi as another brought the gifted beer. Where there's life, there's hope, he thought, wondering where he had heard that.

Perseverance paid off, and Guyton got the bartender to bring him a third beer. Not that he felt the effects of alcohol these days, but the local craft beers were tasty. Still, even if a buzz was beyond him, he still had to drain the ol' weasel on occasion.

As he stepped out of the bathroom, the reek of soulburn nearly overwhelmed him. But she just stood there, slumped against the wall. The bombshell disguise was gone, replaced by a still-attractive redhead. "I can't do this," she whispered. "I can't."

"Can't do what?" Guyton blurted, wondering why he had not already sent her back to Hell.

The redhead jerked upright, looking Guyton over. "Uh... I had a touch of nausea. I think it's better."

"You sure? If you were nauseated, wouldn't you be in the toilet?"

The redhead smirked. "Back off, bud. You're wayyy out of your league."

"Nope," Guyton mocked. "Same league, different teams." He touched his weapon.

"Shit!" she gasped, then slumped back against the wall, looking at her feet. "Figures. I can't get the job done, so they get you to send me back."

"Your they don't get me to do nothing," Guyton rasped. "It's up to me if and when I send you back. Maybe I don't need to. What's going on?"

"If you're a hunter, you know what I'm doing," she sighed, still slumped against the wall. "It sucks, where I've been. I just need to find a few subs, is all. Let them take my place. But I can't. I can't send people... there. You might as well do what you do. They'll come for me, sooner or later."

Guyton shrugged. "The way I see it, if you're not doing your job, I don't have to do mine. Listen. You and me, we walk outta here, nobody has to know. Your friends are expecting to see a blonde, right?"

"Then what?"

"You go home. I go home. If you don't try pulling someone down to Hell, I don't have to do something about it."

"And how long is that gonna last?" she countered.

"That's between you and whatever handlers you got," Guyton replied. "You have handlers, right?"

"Sort of."

"All right. Let's get outta here. We get outside, we can figure out what to do next. Fair enough?"

"I guess."

"Okay. Let's go." Guyton put a hand on her waist and nudged her toward the open area. "Hey. What's your name, anyway?"


"I'm Ron."

"Yeah, Ron. I know men well enough that you're not cutting me a break outta the goodness of your heart. What's your angle?"

"To be honest, I just realized what my angle is. Maybe we need to go sit down, and I can explain. But I pick the table."

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