Getting under the skin of the sultry, sometimes overconfident Lydia McKinney had been Daniel Richardson’s greatest accomplishment of the month. Grinning as he sat in his beat up Dodge Neon, which he preferred to any of the Hunters’ shiny new behemoths, Dan made himself comfortable in the driveway two houses down from where Lydia slept in the house shared by her sisters, Daria and Jade.
Or perhaps she wasn’t sleeping. Dan knew for a fact he’d irked her. Lydia had a hard time sleeping when she was annoyed. He’d known when he sent her the letter detailing his before now unknown involvement with the Hunters who threatened everything she loved that he’d get a rise out of the lovely Lydia. Very close to the top of the list of what the Hunters sought to take from Lydia was her life, and Dan would not let that happen. He reviewed the letter in his mind, hoping he hadn’t implicated himself in any way with the painstakingly-chosen words.
‘Lydia,’ he’d written. No ‘dear’ or ‘lovely,’ as he’d frequently addressed her letters with when he’d written them embarrassingly often before. ‘I hope this letter finds you well. I didn’t know if you moved or not, but I see your sisters here often, even if you come around so rarely. I knew the letter would get to you eventually this way. No time for casual chat, I’m afraid. You’ve pissed some people off, and they’re going to be moving Heaven and Hell in order to make you pay up. You need to call me, because I think I can help you. I want to help you. Miss your face, kid.’
No, he didn’t think he’d put himself in too familiar a context with the Hunters for her to make him think he was one of her many enemies. He already had a plan for the lie he’d have to tell her when it came to how he’d become involved with them in the first place.
Sipping from a gas station Styrofoam cup filled with cold pop, Dan kept one wary eye on the house the Dragon sisters were currently sharing. He didn’t taste the pop, as he didn’t taste any food or beverage he imbibed. His body needed nourishment, per se, but not in the same way most normal human bodies did. He could easily go weeks without eating or drinking anything. He could just as easily binge eat for a month, shoveling 12,000 calories into his face each day and his body would not outwardly change. It would, however, become harder to control the facets of what Dan considered his external body, a visage invisible to any normal human.
If he didn’t give the human body fuel to continue its charade, his ethereal skin would begin to crawl, trying to part from the mortal form. His wing stumps would burn and itch as though infested with moving, writhing insects beneath the unseen flesh. The life of a Fallen Angel, no matter how many times it was repeated on the little blue planet, was never without its difficulties.
Dan wished the human body he’d been given to utilize this time around would change. He wanted the perfect russet hair to muss, the unfailingly neat and tailored appearance to suffer damage of some kind, the attractive but unremarkable looks to become somehow different. Though physical injury could definitely be inflicted upon his kind, they were just too outwardly perfect for his liking, especially considering the internal rot occurring beneath the flawless skin of most of them.
This was the first lifetime he’d been invited to join the elite ranks of the Fallen on Earth known as Hunters. He’d been a fence sitter ever since The Fall, so he couldn’t really fault the others for not wanting him to be a part of their most secret and prized operation. Dan hadn’t really cared either way. He wanted to do his time and stay out of the way for those who actually sought to impact the universe. How fast could eternity pass, he often wondered. He wasn’t fantastically happy living among the humans, but neither was he pissed off at their continued confinement like some of the other Fallen had been for centuries. In fact, he’d come to appreciate and respect them throughout his many lifetimes lived among them. That wasn’t even counting the interesting life forms such as the amazingly beautiful Dragon named Lydia.
Dan had first realized that he wouldn’t be meshing well with the Hunters when he oversaw an interrogation. The human woman had been fragile and scared, and her power wasn’t even something spectacular or dangerous. She was a palm reader who could actually read people-big deal. Before Jerry slit her throat, the woman had given up the names of psychics in the area who were actively working against the Hunters.
As he rolled down the windows, irritated with the heat that still lingered into the night, Dan wondered how the Wrights fared. The palm reader had given the name of a cop who was a psychic, his wife and son, both normals, and their daughter, who was another psychic. He had to go off the radar after what had happened on his first, and last, mission, so he’d been unable to approach and warn them. From what he’d seen of Lydia’s comings and goings, the Wrights were all still alive, if not doing quite well.
Dan leaned his head back. It had been almost four hours on his watch and he hadn’t seen any threat, from the Hunters or anything else. He knew something big had begun to brew, and he’d be damned if he let Lydia get tossed in the crossfire he’d helped create. She put herself in it often enough as it was.
Closing his eyes, Dan willed his stupid human body to rest for a while. Lydia hadn’t been followed home, as far as he could tell, and he would sense it if another Hunter approached, even in sleep.
Instead of drifting off into dreams, Dan’s mind replayed the images he’d been trying to forget. The mission. The target.