“Hey, Bee. You haven’t moved yet, right? … Great, I need a favour.”
I was grateful to be outside again. It was dead silent in the middle of the forest, and would have been pitch black if it wasn’t for the moon. Mel had guided us to a small clearing, and I could see the stars above.
When I was a child and Mum tried to explain death to me because my hamster had died, she said that stars were the souls of our loved ones. Did the military guy’s family look up tonight and see a new light sparkle back at them? How long would it be before they knew?
“So your name is Poppy?”
Her voice was like silk, instantly likeable. I couldn’t fathom why someone would lock her up.
“Yeah. Poppy Joy Lace.”
Give her your address while you’re at it, why don’t you?
“Thank you for helping me, Poppy. I’m sorry I had to use telepathy. I know humans don’t always understand what’s happening, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
“I’m grateful that you came to help me. When we’re safe and if you’d let me, I would like to reward you.”
I had so many questions I didn’t know where to start, so I shrugged.
I couldn’t shake the worry that I had made a horrible mistake, and freed a killer instead of an innocent. Persistent as it was, she didn’t seem like the type. There was something comforting about her, something loving. Her voice was soft, forever patient and gentle. She hadn’t grabbed my wrist and demanded I come with her.
No, she wasn’t the bad guy here. The people down below had been bad. I clung on to that thought with all I had.
“That’s all right. You’re welcome, I mean.” I blushed. “I’m sorry it took me so long to find you.”
She gave me the warmest smile I had ever received, and the last of my worries melted away. How the fudge did she do that? It was insane how much one little smile affected me – and I was probably the authority in Sunset Valley on insanity. I knew my madness pretty well.
“That you did at all speaks highly of your character.
I wanted to ask her about her tattoos. I wanted to ask her how she had ended up in this place. I wanted to know what she meant by humans, like she was something else. I needed to know if her boobs were real.
“Are you all right? Are you sure they didn’t hurt you?”
“Sure as I can be.”
I had so many questions for Mel, too. How the fudging fudge had he broken into this secret facility, taken out the guards, rescued me and this woman, and made it look easy? This wasn’t the grumpy Mel I knew. This was the real Mel, and I wasn’t sure if I preferred him.
“Bee is on her way. We’ll drive to Anna, and she’ll explain everything. We can make sure you’re not injured, too.”
How could he be so calm? The voice had said that he had done this before, but how many times were we talking exactly? Was this what he did when we weren’t studying the supernatural at Anna’s?
“How did you know where I was? How the fudge did you just walk in there, take out the guard, and rescue her? I shot someone, Mel! I. Shot. Someone!”
Could a good person shoot someone? Even in self-defence? I had forever taken a person out of this world. He had threatened me, true, but did that give me the right to take his life?
“I’m a monster, Mel.”
“Why would you say that?” He stepped closer and spread his arms, presumably to hold me again, but I moved away. I didn’t deserve hugs. Only good people deserved that comfort.
“I killed someone! That’s pretty self-explanatory!”
Mel reached out again and I didn’t back away this time; I didn’t have the energy. He didn’t hold me, but he held my hands and made me look at him.
“Monsters kill for fun and the thrill, Poppy. They don’t feel remorse afterwards. So, by definition, you can’t be a monster.” I wanted to hug him. Berry, in that moment I wanted to kiss him. But, fortunately, I didn’t get a chance to regret either. “Bee’s here.”
I was relieved to see Bee. For some reason I thought that her joining us in this clearing would make sense of everything. Like she had all the answers.
A backpack was hanging over her shoulder and came close to slipping off several times as she ran to us.
She let it fall to her feet the instant she reached us, and pulled me into her arms.
“Oh, Pop, are you all right?” I really wished people would stop asking me that. I killed someone, I wasn’t supposed to be all right. “Mel told me what happened. Come here.” She crouched down a little, her fingers running all over my face, bending me every which way. “Are you injured?”
“Good. We need to get them to Ana.” She turned to the woman whose name I still didn’t know.
“So, is this our guest then? Hi, I’m Bee.”
Why the fudge wasn’t she more freaked out by the lady with tattoos all over her face we’d just rescued/helped escape from some weird underground dungeon? Berry, had everyone done this before but me?
“Here.” Bee handed her the backpack. “I’ve brought some clothes for you. I had no idea what size you were so I hope they fit. There’s a wig in there, too.”
The tattoo lady thanked her and disappeared behind some thick bushes to get changed.
“A wig?” Mel asked.
“Yeah. A bright green one.” Bee shrugged. “What? I figured it’d help her blend in.”
“Why do you have a bright green wig laying around?” I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to know.
Bee sighed. “It’s a sex thing, okay? My girlfriend likes to role-play. Don’t worry, it’s clean.”
Mel blushed, and I choked on my laugh which burst out as a snort instead.
The woman came back before either of us could think of a worthy response.
“Thank you, Bee. They fit perfectly.”
“We should get going,” said Mel. “We don’t know if reinforcements are on the way.”
I scowled. “I’m not moving until someone gives me some answers.”
“We have to move, Poppy,” said Mel. “It’s not safe here. I promise I’ll answer all of your questions just as soon as we’re at Ana’s.” He didn’t even wait for me to respond. He just walked off.
“I’m sorry, Pop. I know this is confusing, but Ana can make sense of everything. I promise.”
I very much doubted that, but I’d come too far to just go home now.