Chapter 28 The Earth's Getting Hungry

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Dahl —Monday, 8:20 AM

The AC inside is cool but doesn't wash its usual calm over me as I head for my room. I'm ready to roll once I dig around for the keys. I had forgotten all about the bat. No sign of batty boy.  He's either crawled under the seat or escaped when I turned off the AC, which I don't even remember doing. No more beer...

I dial up the tunes. Everything's gonna be fine. Feels like I've gotten off with a warning. No more amateur hour.  It's time to represent, and stop fucking everything up. Time to get hard and bring it.

The crew at the site is doin' work as I pull in. God bless 'em. Belle's angled against the black sedan. The geometric patterns on her purple-blue, skin-tight leggings jump—tessellations without predictability. A silky, blue and white-striped short-sleeve shirt buttoned halfway up is easier to look at. A wide brimmed blue-ribbon hat and oversized shades gives her a nostalgia versus modern look. I snatch my shades and park—I won't be caught staring. She takes her sunglasses off. I feel those green piercers catching the sun and reflecting my way like lasers.

"Good morning, Belle. For once I don't have to worry about you hiding weapons, those leggings look painted on."

"I got something in here," her hands graze up her hips, "you wouldn't survive, baby g. You're the only one not packing."

I don't mean to sigh... Feels like a yawn that went out instead of in.

"No sub today—so you heard?"

"Oui."

My attempt to face away is countered by leaning on the scorching black sedan. I turn back. Can't get past this hurdle without jumping.

"'Kay."

"I gave Pixie a copy of the daily benchmarks, put her to work."

"—Him." I correct.

"Right. Another thing...  I told the others already. We received a bulletin that even though we're a third-party contractor we are not exempt from the unpaid, mandatory Baron-day tomorrow."

I process it, "That's unexpected. I thought those were just for ripping off government employees."

"Me too. But we can't afford the fine so we'll shutdown from midnight to midnight. The government is greasy as fuck."

A day off to let my mind chill is the medicine I need.

"I'll take it."

She's still here, not attacking, just waiting.

"Do you blame me for... Benny?" I ask.

"It's not your fault, Dahl. Nightmare's got you in over your head and it's starting to show."

I'm unprepared for her shrapnel. I let my shield down for a sec and she's hurt me. Now I just look at her, no words, trying to recover my cool.

"Y'alright? Dahl?" she advances.

I nod, steady myself with a hand atop her car. I welcome the scorch as it helps me get out of my head.

"Golden. I think my vision just dimmed a bit. I'm good."

I brace for a scratch as her nails weave my way then slide up to remove my shades. Glancing up is all I can do to avoid eye contact. Staring at the sun, going blind, it's too much like being at the dentist and looking at the light to avoid watchin' the drill. Man up. I meet her eyes. Her intensity's equally dazzling. She's taken me captive without trying—or knowing. I'll go blind before I'm free. I study her lips, demeanor, looking for a hint. Only her eyes tell me anything, as their black centers start to swell from the trap we've triggered.

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