Scarlet damselflies darted to and fro across the crisp sky above. Sparrows chattered in the birch trees above the trickling of the river streaming around the legs of Cadence, who was seated on the bank amidst the wild buttercups and dandelions scattered with clovers. A honey bee swirled around the sandals beside him and hummed out of sight. Cadence stared down at his pale calloused feet beneath the current and the scar he received on his ankle after getting entangled in a barbed wire fence when he was six. After his skin was cold as ice in the stream, he drew his legs up and slipped his sandals on.

He returned to town meandering around and smiling at the people he knew. Some reached to drop coins in the pouch he kept slung over one shoulder. Some reached out to shake his hand, and some even embraced him.

He reached his pile of possessions strewn on the cobblestone between the antique dealer and the market and dropped down to retrieve an apple he stashed in a basket beneath his bedding. After one crisp bite, two men stepped outside the antique store and passed the alley.

Cadence stared. The first man stopped to await the second and met his eyes. He started with a polite nod and a smile, but stopped cold when his sharp eyes caught the scar beneath the sandal strap. He stopped the second man, Daire Kerrigan, and pointed.

Cadence's blood ran cold.

He scrambled up and ran, the two in pursuit as they shouted "Thief!"

Pedestrians stopped and stared as he passed, but not one seemed inclined to believe the accusation. He darted between structures and around crowds in a vain attempt to weave his pursuers into a greater distance. He slipped in the river water smeared between his feet and the sandals, which slapped the pavement as he ran.

Between two structures was a plastic bag beside a pile of bedding. Cadence snatched it up as he ran and pinned it beneath his arm to silence the rustling. His pursuers were close, but not as close as they were. He darted around another corner, and by the time they did they same, he was gone.

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"Blueberry Splash to Michelle," Aaryn set a crystal vase of a sparkling cobalt drink at the end of the wooden counter and returned to the register to greet a woman reaching into her leather purse. Before she could request an order, the door swung open and a man peered into the shop.

"Excuse me," he announced, "Cadence ran down the street with a man chasing him, calling him a thief. Another man and I went after them, but they turned a corner and disappeared." Aaryn raised his eyes, a tingle in his spine. "He looked scared."

"Let me contact someone who may have seen him," Aaryn said as he started toward the door at the end of the counter that led to the stairs to his apartment. "Excuse me, but I'll be right back."

He closed the door behind him without another look back and rushed up the stairs. Soon as he reached and entered his apartment, he dialed Calder. After two rings, he answered.

"We may have a problem," he said. "Someone chased Cadence out of town, accusing him of stealing. He has never stolen anything since I've known him, no matter how little he had or what he needed. He still asks me if he can get a glass of water when he's in my home." He sucked in a deep breath and released it. "I get the sense whatever mystery he has been running from has caught up with him."

There was silence as Calder considered his response. After several moments, he answered, "I'll report him missing. We can protect him if we find him. Make your community aware he's missing and put down my contact information as a tipline. Do you know where he may go if he's still running?"

Aaryn racked his brain as he paced up and down his hall, running a palm across his hair until it was disheveled. Cadence never mentioned a word about a past asylum or an emergency plan. He almost never said a word about anything in his personal life, current ideas and emotions aside.

"I don't know."

"Anyone else he may confide in?"

"No, he is a sealed vault. He does everything in his power to be independent and completely self-contained…" A realization struck his mind: The one outreach to society he convinced Cadence to make after associating with Calder. He convinced him that his stash of stored evidence would be more secure in a safe deposit box, and among that evidence was a leather book that resembled an old journal.

"Yes?" Calder asked abruptly.

"Actually, I may have an idea. I can update you if it proves useful."

When he returned to the shop, he was met with about five pairs of expectant eyes, including the customer who remained standing at the counter.

"So," she asked, "has your contact seen him?"

"No," Aaryn answered as he returned behind the counter and started to assemble the clogged syrup bottle he dismantled to accomplish the previous order. "Reported him missing to the Gardaí. Make sure everyone around knows what happened. Let me know if he shows up, and I'll let them know."

The antique mantle clock seemed to count the seconds at half speed as the afternoon eased back into routine. Still, the sense of a disturbance seemed impossible to shake for Aaryn. He messaged Calder with a request, then resigned to maintain his shop until it was time to close

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The moment it came time to close, he excused his patrons, retrieved a satchel out of his room upstairs, and strode out into the cool summer evening. There were streaks of scarlet at the horizon, but some stars managed to peer down out of the indigo sky.

The streets were starting to settle into trickles of people as shopkeepers closed their establishments and people returned home. There was an eerie sense of solidarity as Aaryn became the only person on the street, eyes darting in each direction and searching the darkness until he reached his car.

After driving about two miles, he entered an open rural road and coasted to a stop opposite of a black car. He and Calder each rolled down their driver side windows, and the latter reached toward him with a battered leather book.

"Got it out of the safe deposit box right before closing. Any word on our man?"

Aaryn accepted the journal and dropped it into the satchel beside him. "Not one," he leaned on his arm to ease closer to the investigator. "Look, I know he answers to no one about where he goes and what he does, but the manner in which he left and the fact I haven't seen him all day…"

Calder nodded and restarted his car. "I know; it seems bad. I read that journal before I got it to you. Makes an interesting read. Soon as you know anything, let me know."

"Yeah, will do. Thanks."

Calder responded with a polite nod as he continued by and disappeared down the road. Aaryn peered down at the leather book and battled the temptation to start reading it in the car. Instead, he started back to his apartment.

There, he switched on the antique street lantern attached beside his door and seated himself on his chocolate suede sofa, where he switched on the rose-painted Tiffany lamp that dangled overhead. He opened the journal on his knee and started to read:

"This is a risk I have to take. This book has to remain a secret. Really, I should not record anything, but if I if I do not record my mind, I am going to lose it. I'm scared, but I'm determined to live. I saw something that put a target on my back, so I have to make myself a cover as someone who is not a threat. I have to vanish in plain sight. Maybe someone will read this one day decades from now and know who I am. Maybe it could make my life worth something. Unless that happens, I have to live as someone who never existed at all – "

He started with surprise at the knock at his door. He leapt up with the expectant hope to see Cadence behind the peep hole, but when he squinted at the magnified sphere, he saw a woman with lengthy flaxen hair; the one other person with access to the inside of the shop. He pulled open the door and opened his mouth to speak.

"We need to talk," Brita moved around him and made her way to the corner booth styled table at the corner of the kitchen area. She dropped down across where he had been seated and crossed her arms, eyes on the leather journal ahead. He strode back to the table and moved to snatch up the book, but she slapped a palm down on it. "No more secrets. Spill everything."

He released his breath and seated himself across her. "I can't do that yet. Stop," he covered her hand with his as she rose, "There is a lot more at risk than you know about. I will explain everything as soon as I can, but trust me, everyone is safer so long as there are secrets right now. Until then, I can explain some of it, but not everything."

Brita stared down at him and chewed her lip with consideration. She dropped back down and crossed her arms again. "So who is Cadence, really?"

He ran the events that happened a couple weeks prior through his mind to sift the facts she was made aware of from the secrets that needed to remain buried. She came up to his apartment one afternoon to leave a birthday present on his table. After realizing the door was locked, she searched around until she discovered a spare key in a crack behind the door frame.

Soon as she entered, Cadence was leaving the bathroom after a shower – towel around his waist and humming. He stopped in his tracks when they locked eyes, stunned. She ran downstairs as Aaryn returned to the shop from a store and stormed past him without a word since.

"He made me promise to not say anything."

"What about me?" she demanded. "We've dated since secondary school! A decade!"

"I wanted to tell you!" he snapped. "You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you."

"So why didn't you?"

"Because he pleaded with me not to. He doesn't trust anyone. The only reason I knew is because I caught him, same as you. In the almost sixteen years he has maintained this cover here, only four people have caught him. And each incident happened several years apart." She remained silent, so he knew he had her attention. "He has experienced a lot of loss, and a lot of reasons to distrust everyone. All I wanted was to give him a place to be safe and secure. I promised him you were loyal, but he couldn't muster the courage to risk it."

She considered his words. "What happened to him?"

"That's what I'm learning," he said as he raised the journal up beside him. "The main thing I knew all this time was that he was in danger and on the run. He used his cover to make himself scarce, so no one would see him as a threat." He ran his palms over his eyes and across his hair with the promise that "He's a good man. And after I moved to the area, aside from you, he was the only friend I had."

Brita stared down at the worn leather journal. "What can I do?"

He smiled and darted toward her to kiss her cheek. "That is why I love you. We have to make sure everyone around here knows what happened," he rose and gathered some papers he had spread across the coffee table by his sofas and returned. "I have one photo of him that really reveals his face that a local photographer gave me, and I wrote down what I estimate his height and weight. I plan to make some posters to put up around town."

"Let me," she shuffled together the papers and stood to search for supplies. "I'll have these ready by the time we open up shop tomorrow. By the way," she stopped a moment. "What's he really like?"

Aaryn considered his response. He remembered when Brita stormed out of An Sionnach Rua and he rushed up the stairs to see what caused her rage. Ryan stood in the hall with a towel around his waist, eyes astonished. "She say anything to anyone?"

"No, but she's mad. She knows I've been lying to her," Aaryn ran his fingers through his hair. "I have to catch up to her and explain everything. That's the only chance she might forgive me."

He reached toward the door, but Cadence swept past him and slammed it shut with his palm. "No. Go apologize for knowing I'm not who I act like, but do not say who I am."

"You must be joking! She's not going to go gossiping about you or anything!"

"I know," Cadence assured him. "But she could let something slip. Anyone could; even you. I never chose to explain to you who I am. You already know. I cannot let anyone else know, but you and Calder. You have no idea what the stakes are," he hissed the last sentence. "There is much more to all this than you know. Promise me," he clasped his shoulder with pleading eyes, "that you will keep my secrets."

Aaryn swatted his hand away and reached around him to open the door and leave. They had not spoken since. Guilt twisted him inside as he rubbed his eyes.

"Aaryn?" Brita asked in a gentle tone. "What is he really like?"

"He is paranoid," Aaryn answered, "but he was right. He's brilliant, and now I know that he saw all this coming," he uncrossed his arms and propped his elbows on the table, then dropped his eyes into his palms. "When it comes down to it, he's a good man and he has been a good friend. The best friend I've had, along with you."

She nodded. "When do you plan to go to sleep?"

Aaryn shook his head as he reopened the journal to read the first real entry. "Not tonight."

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Sunshine warmed the raspberry colored santos rosewood floors of An Sionnach Rua when the sun arose. Sparrows greeted one another in the eaves before darting out in search of a meal. Passing car engines grew steadier. Streetlamps shut down. Aaryn added another shot of espresso into his coffee.

He raised the cup to his mouth and drained its contents within a minute or two.

As he made himself a second cup, he saw a stout man with a rim of thin brown hair waving to catch his attention outside the window. He released his breath and strode to open the door. "Hi, Daire."

"Good morning," Kerrigan met Aaryn at the counter as he went to retrieve his espresso. "Have you learned anything since we last spoke?"

"No," Aaryn answered and raised the cup to his mouth. "Stayed up last night making posters."

"Interesting you should say so," Kerrigan reached into his pocket and spread a sheet of paper onto the counter. "I made some as well. I have some money stashed in case of emergency, and I'd say the disappearance of our Cadence qualifies, wouldn't you?"

Aaryn stared at the poster and set the cup down. A surveillance photo of Cadence outside the antique shop was plastered in the middle above the promise of a substantial reward for information leading to his whereabouts. His physical attributes were listed as well: blue eyes, brown hair, slender, aged in his late twenties, stands at 1.87 meters.

"A couple associates of mine have spent a great deal of time in search of him," Kerrigan searched his expression, which remained stunned as his blood ran cold. "And I have spread the word around among people I deal with, should they cross him. They've all heard about him. We have been quite concerned."

"Me, too," Aaryn mumbled as the paper was snatched away and Kerrigan strode toward the door.

"Let me know if you hear anything!"

The door closed behind him and he disappeared across the street. Aaryn slammed his palm down in rage, skin stinging upon impact. He covered his eyes and snarled more frustration, resisting the urge to start pitching bottles at the brick walls.

"Aaryn," Brita appeared in the doorway close to the counter. "What happened? Who was that?"

"That was Daire Kerrigan," he said as he dropped his hands to the counter. "With his own missing person posters. And a reward to anyone who finds him."

"So?" Brita asked. "Maybe an incentive will help."

"Or get Cadence killed."

Her cheeks drained of color. "Why would it do that? Are we in danger? Can't you tell me anything?"

"We might be. Maybe you should leave town until this is over."

"I'm not leaving you to deal with this," she answered resolutely. "Why could a reward kill Cadence?"

Aaryn released his breath as he considered what information he could give. "Cadence sees a lot on the streets, and he passed that on to the authorities. All I know about Kerrigan is that he advised me to steer clear of him some time ago, and now I saw Daire watching my reaction to everything he said."

"And how did you react?" she asked softly.

"I don't know. Stunned. How else could I react? We have to reach him before anyone else does."

"We can't," Brita answered. "We have no leads."

"Well, we're gonna have to find a lead!" Aaryn snapped as he checked the clock.

"Aaryn," she caught his attention with her tone. "Go upstairs and sort yourself out while I get the shop ready. Maybe you'll get an idea of what to do next if you're not distracted."

He smiled at her with gratitude. "I appreciate it," he said and kissed her cheek as he passed by her.

She smiled after him and set to work, altering the specials with colorful chalk on the blackboard and preparing the pastries and sandwiches to sell. Then, when she completed these duties in record time, she set her sights on the antique dealers.

She darted her eyes in each direction before trotting across the street. There was a poster on the window that matched what Aaryn described. The phone number listed at the bottom was a personal cell phone, which she could determine by the first digits.

Suddenly, she noticed a pair of eyes beside the poster that startled her. The man disappeared out of view a moment or two before the door swung open and Kerrigan stepped outside.

"Good morning," he said cheerily.

"Good morning," she strained to smile. "Aaryn mentioned you made fliers as well, so I came to see."

"Yes, I did. What do you think?"

She sensed him staring at her as she returned her eyes to the poster. "You have a lot of information on there that I think will lead to where he is," she answered honestly.

"That's my hope. Well, I have to get to the store before my own opens. Have a nice day, hon."

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"They are definitely associated with him," Daire announced to his sons as he stormed past them with a motion that they should pursue him upstairs to their apartment. The two men trotted up the stairs after him and made it into the apartment as he slammed the door behind them.

"What makes you say so?" Aengus asked and searched out the most desirable place to sit in the living room. The simple cream carpet was contrasted by the latest television ahead of an elegant black couch and recliner. This is where Aengus chose to seat himself, where he could swivel around to see his dad.

"Because I saw alarm in his eyes when I showed him the poster," Daire answered with a twisted sneer. The power to cause alarm earned him the respect that he savored with such satisfaction.

"Do you suppose he might know where Cadence is?" Aengus asked.

"Too scared," Daire snorted and disappeared down the hall, adding "He wants to beat us to him."

"Maybe he's been putting together the case against us," Phelan leaned against the kitchen counter.

There was silence until Daire returned with a pocketed amount of money. "No. The snitch has to be curious and inquisitive. He avoids me."

"Suppose that private detective is the man?"

"He has not shown up in years. He may be behind it, but he is not the main man."

"But you believe Cadence is," Phelan concluded with an air of skepticism.

"Lives on the streets. Access everywhere. Knows everyone. Curious about everything."

"We let ourselves get complacent around him," Aengus realized. "We all dismissed him because we thought he was retarded. We let him sleep in the alley and wander about without a second thought."

"And he recognized Shane," Daire concluded, "as the man who killed his parents. So he ran."

"His parents made the hit list," Phelan stated for confirmation.

"Samuel was a decent courier. Never arrested. But I started to see his loyalty become divided. Started as a man desperate to provide for his family, and that grounded him until he realized the hazards that come with the business. He wanted out, and I knew he would sooner disappear than give a notice. So we eliminated the threat to our family and our business."

"Right. So what do we do?" Phelan asked.

"We eliminate the threat to our family and our business. C'est la vie. Man stands alone in this world. He has to be willing to do what he has to in order to get what he wants. My sisters and I grew up destitute, always wanting more. But when we took the initiative to take what we wanted, we got it. This empire has been built by the ruthless and tenacious. Survivors. Any snitches and other interferences must be weeded out."

"And the evidence?"

"We have not been arrested, so there is something missing in their case," Daire answered. "So we prevent them from obtaining anymore."

As he spoke, he snatched his keys from the hook beside the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Aengus.

"There is a man who may be able to eliminate the threat," Daire answered with a smile of anticipation. "I am about to meet him. Open the store if I haven't returned yet."

"When Cadence is killed, the Gardaí will know it was us."

Daire darted his eyes up and stared at Aengus until he recoiled, eyes on his shoes. "You want out of this operation?" he pronounced each word with a deliberate step toward his son, who shook his head.

"No, sir."

"Get up! Look me in the eye."

Aengus leapt up and strained to raise his eyes up to those that bore into his within inches.

"You make the decision right now: You dedicate yourself, or you're done."

"Then I will dedicate myself," Aengus promised. "I swear. Everything I have."

"I hope so."

Daire spun round and stormed out the door. Aengus listened with intense anticipation until the shop door slammed closed. He ran his fingers through his chin-length hair blew through his lips. Phelan stared at him with crossed arms.

"Aren't you concerned?" Aengus ventured.

His elder brother remained silent as he stared.

"I swear to never snitch or leave," Aengus raised his palms up in surrender as he searched his brother. "All I want to know is if you have any doubts about the plan. Maybe there is another tactic to use."

"I get that you want to leave," Phelan stunned him with this admission. "But we can never leave. There are winners and losers. The survivors build the empire, but the snitches and the traitors get killed. You know that he would hunt us down, same as anyone. No disrespect. We do everything he says, and we will survive and be richer than kings. But you let another thought cross your mind, you're dead."

"We have to be sure this will work."

"This is the only option we have," Phelan insisted. "It has to work."

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The private restaurant patio was the ideal location for lovers and conspirators alike, enclosed by a stone partial wall entangled with ivy. Each of the mesh tables were spaced so that conversations would not likely be overheard. Daire arrived first and seated himself at the one closest to the ivy wall.

Some minutes later, a slender man appeared at the gate, searched the area behind a pair of Aviators, and strode toward him. He wore a blue plaid shirt with jeans shredded at the knees and work boots. His chestnut hair was pulled back. He seated himself across Daire when the man scraped the chair back with his shoe. "I assume you are Daire Kerrigan," he supposed with an English accent.

"Brent Halden. My sons confirmed that you were a customer as a university student. Delivered to you in the Tanglewood Hotel when you came to visit your aunt. What have you been doing since?"

"Wildlife photography," Halden answered as he eased against the chair, elbows on the arms. "Not the most lucrative passion."

A secondary school-aged waitress approached with a smile and received their orders: a rare steak to be savored by Daire, and a ham sandwich with a soda for Halden. The antique snorted at his order with contempt, but waited until the waitress disappeared to speak.

"Any experience in the field you're interested in?"

Halden leaned his elbows on the mesh table. "Sarah Sampson. Hank O'Connor. Brock Duffy."

Daire searched the names on his tablet as the man listed them. He removed a pair of wire glasses from his breast pocket and adjusted them over his eyes to read the discovered articles. All were reports of accidental, suspicious, and unsolved deaths around England.

"Adultress. Conman. Just wrote out his will."

"I have something else to ask you," Daire shut down his tablet and removed his glasses to peer at the man. "Our couriers are the ones who contact our customers. What made you connect them to me?"

"There is a gallery in the same town as your antique shop. Been trying to get my photography in there every time I see my aunt. That was when I saw your sons behind the counter in your shop. Then I saw Robert Pierce with an antique watch. When I asked about it, he smiled proudly and said his relatives own an antique shop in town," he could see Daire curse beneath his breath. "Then word started to circulate underground that you wanted this man Cadence out. I saw the poster on your window."

Kerrigan considered his response with a steel expression. He raised the water to his mouth and drained most of it. When he set the glass down, he cleared his throat. "The reward I posted should be ample enough. You will be paid when you complete the assignment and send evidence."

Halden snorted and smiled. "You are not the only man here who wants accountability. If I am to chase this bloke across the country, I want some assurance that it will be worth my time. A portion of the reward prior to completion will earn my commitment and your own. Makes it so that we are both accountable to each other. Would you agree that would be a smart solution?"

"Say someone else completes what you started. You will be accountable to me."

"Yes, sir. That is true. All the more reason for me to complete the job first."

"I have associates across the country and elsewhere," Daire eased his elbows onto the table as he spoke. "You realize that also makes you accountable."


Daire smiled and produced a cell phone out of his pocket. "This is a burn phone. I will know if you do not have it on your person. Contact me when you are done and I will send the rest of the payment."

"Will do," Halden accepted the phone as well as an envelope.

"I knew you would request a down payment," Daire explained with an arrogant sneer.

"You are a wise man, sir."

Daire Kerrigan smirked back at him as their meals arrived with one last warning: "Be sure not to fail."

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Sunlight made a silhouette of the scarlet Ferrari Ryan raised above his eyes. He examined the etched license and the beetle that darted by and perched on his wrist. When it continued on its way, he dropped his arms into the bristling grass and released his breath. Abrupt murmuring could be heard behind the closed door of his home. He pushed himself up and sneaked to the screen, where he squinted past the sunspots in his eyes to see his mother standing with crossed arms while his dad spoke.

"Look, I got into this with the promise that I would be able to provide for you. I wanted to back out when Ryan started going to school. You know that. Anyone who backs out or goes to the Gardaí is gone. I endanger us either way. You know I never imagined any of this would happen."

His mother smeared a wrist across her eyes. "We have done everything we can do keep him separate from all the dealers and users. You've made deliveries for years without a single mistake, so why would they be afraid of you now? And why is Ryan in danger? He has no part in this."

"Sybil," his dad said severely, "They know I want to leave, so I'm a loose end. And he could be someone they threaten to keep me in line. You know that anyone can look around and know he exists. We may have burned our photos and kept him a secret, but anyone can come here and see we have a son. They could use that to threaten him as well as us."

"So what do you suggest we do? Give him up?" she demanded.

His dad remained still as he peered at her. "It may come to that."

"We have no one to trust him with! We would have no authority in where he goes. And say he ends up with abusive people?" Sybil shrieked as tears started streaming down to her chin. "We have no say in where he lives or who looks after him. He would grow up in a system, not a family, same as we did. Is that what you want, Samuel?"

"No," he answered harshly, "but what options do we have?"

Sybil smeared her tears away and crossed her arms. "We could run."

Cadence racked his mind to remember the reply, but his heart started thundering within his chest and he started awake to the rushing of the freight train drowning out the sound of his hastened breaths. Silhouetted pines darted past the open boxcar door, but the smattering of stars in the darkness above seemed steady. The cold air burned his lungs and misted away from his mouth, so he gathered his arms beneath him and burrowed down in his sleeping bag. The rattle of the tracks and rough splintered wood coupled with the chill roused him every time he drifted into sleep.

The sky eventually became azure, until the sun rose above the horizon so that warmth and revealed colors streamed across the vast pastures and into the boxcar. Cadence edged closer to the open door until the warmth reached his cheeks and the wind ruffled his hair.

He gathered his possessions and returned to his position and watched the occasional house dart by. Soon, several houses darted by, and then a town approached. The sea was beyond it. As soon as the train started to coast to a reasonable speed, he cast his possessions out and leapt after them.

After crashing to the earth, he tumbled wildly down the slope beside the railroad tracks, needled by the thistles that now covered him. By the time he stopped at the end, he hated movies that made this action seem painless. He eased onto his knees and pushed himself up to survey the area.

The pasture was peppered with field roses and the elusive thistle that so readily attached to his clothes and pricked his skin. Honey bees hovered above the scattered clover that scented the air with sweetness. To the right was his change of clothes in a plastic bag, now covered with thistles. He stopped to pick the burrs out of his socks before he trudged to the bag and swiped it up. He rummaged around it for a beanie, which he stretched over his hairline. Then he exchanged his overcoat for a crushed and wrinkled plaid shirt to wear over his white tee. Satisfied with the minor changes in his appearance, and as he already had the unsettled sense that he was a hunted wild animal exposed in an open field, he started toward the city by the sea.

The houses were tall rectangles of emerald, scarlet, cobalt, and beige with sharply angled eaves. As he reached the downtown area, the stores were similar. People streamed up and down each side of the street. Vehicles maneuvered into spaces positioned along the pavement. As he searched around for a payphone, he discovered by one of the signs that he was in Cobh.

Eventually, he discovered a payphone beneath a streetlamp and stepped inside, searching his pockets for a coin. When he unearthed one, he dropped it into the machine and dialed. Two rings later:

"Good morning; Aaryn Stark."

"Aaryn –"

"What happened to you? Kerrigan put a price on your head and alerted his entire criminal –"

"Aaryn, stop and listen to me. Do not submit any of the evidence I gathered until Calder gets the hitmen. No matter what happens. Do you hear me?"

"Yeah, I got it. But please, let me help y –"

"Gotta go," he said when someone tapped on the glass. "Everything's gonna be fine. Good-bye."

He slammed the phone back on the hook to beat his regret, then abandoned the booth and continued down the street. The ocean glistened in the sun to his right, and he often caught himself peering at it instead of minding where he was going.

The street curved to a square area on the left, where he discovered a public library with an arch to accommodate vehicles and another smaller arch on each side of that one to accommodate pedestrians.

The interior was rather lovely and daunting in size. He made his way toward the computers, dismayed when he saw the sign that said their use was restricted to those with memberships.

There were about five people at the computers. One was a woman with a small son seemingly unable to sit still beside her seat. Another was an elderly man with a hearing air. Two were students with earbuds in their ears. The last was a balding man with glasses. Cadence approached him and crouched down beside his chair.

"Excuse me, sir," he murmured, so as to not disturb anyone else. "I'm passing through Cobh and I'm not a member of the library. Would you mind checking the Ferry schedule for Cork Harbour?"

"Erm. Sure," the man nodded and entered the search. Moments later, he said, "Two are departing toward Helen's Bay in Northern Ireland at one and three."

"No, I don't do street riots," Cadence answered, stealing another glance at the librarian, who was peering back at him as if he was causing a commotion.

"All right," the man replied. "There is one leaving for Pembroke, Wales at two and six, and another destined toward Plymouth, England at three and five. Or there is one at four going to Roscoff, France."

The librarian rose and started toward them.

"Much obliged, sir," Cadence gave him a pat on the shoulder and rose to disappear outside again.

He searched the store names until he discovered a restaurant with reasonable prices to suit his meager budget. It was strange to be seated and order coddle with soda bread and lemon tea as if he was an independent and capable man.

As if he was. Even he started to see himself as someone else.

He savored the dignity that came with eating at a restaurant. Such a simple action that so many took for granted. And he relished the taste of his meal and the satisfaction of a packed stomach. Reluctant to leave, he peered at the watch a man seated across the aisle wore. He had fifteen minutes to reach the harbor. He reached into his pocket and placed the allotted amount of money on the table, then rose.

In his pocket was a passport he received some time ago. He suspected there could come a time that he would need to run, and he applied with misinformation. He was astonished when it worked. When and if he got out of this alive, he should probably alert someone in authority about that.

He arrived at the port with several more passengers and evaluated the parked vehicles waiting to be driven onto the ferry. If the passport wasn't in his pocket, he would be curled up in the trunk of one of the vehicles being driven onto the ferry. Cramped, sure, but it would work.

He had never been more than fifteen miles from where he was born. Exhilaration and trepidation made his heart race as the stream of passengers boarded the ferry.