Alex blew a deep breath and regarded her closest friend in this odd, foreign land with something that was akin to pity. Luckily, Nicki didn’t seem to care at all. He was apparently too shaken up. “Look, Nicki, I know this is your first ticket but come on. It’s not the end of the world.” Personally, she thought that being called up and rudely awakened at an ungodly hour was a bit too overboard for her. She was adding this to her latest feats: Being able to drag herself away from her comfortable, VERY comfortable bed, at half past three in the morning. And then, to add to her suffering, being able to hail a cab and drag her ass to the nearest Starbucks.
Nicki took his cup of Americana to his thin lips with shaking hands. “Alex, this is not about the ticket,” He laughed shortly. “At this rate, I don’t even care that I now have an official violation record. Never mind that it’s my first ever.”
“Nicki, what’s wrong?” She asked softly, alarm bells clanging away softly in her head. Something was not right here. Of course. Nicki would never have reacted this way if it was something as trivial as a ticket for speeding. She took in his disheveled hair, the shadow under his usually brilliant honey colored eyes. He looked like hell.
Nicki took a gulp of his coffee and then shook his head. “Alex, I’m not sure how to tell this to you without sounding insane.” He looked at her then, his mouth set in a grim line.
Alex gave him the most encouraging smile she had ever given to anyone at this damn hour. “Try me. Does it involve a roadkill? A hitchhiker who turned out to be a prostitute and when she got down, she demanded that you give her all your money or else she’ll send you to kingdom come?”
Nicki let out a small burst of laughter and Alex smiled a genuine smile. “You never fail to amuse me with your imagination,”
“Glad to be of service,” Alex said. “So what gives, Nicki?”
Nicki sighed. “Something approached me. I was just leaving the convenience store near our office when it approached me.” The story tumbled out of his mouth in a rush, not really thinking as he narrated. “My grandmother said that the world is full of creatures most of us have never seen. The stuff we see on TV — vampires, shapeshifters, hellhounds, ghosts — don’t even cover half of what they are. And she said that there are humans whose job is to counter those creatures. There are more than a dozen types of roles that those humans fulfill and one of those is called Trackers. Trackers are those people who are able to distinguish non-human entities and creatures but their strength lies in knowing where those creatures are.” His gaze bore into hers as he said flatly, “Alex, I am one of those so-called Trackers. And I wish I could undo it but it is what I am.”
It took all of Alex to not let her jaw hit the floor. And here she thought that of all the people she knew here, Nicki was the normal one. He wasn’t an immortal, he didn’t come from lineage of the Ancients, he didn’t change form, he didn’t rely on blood as his choice of steady diet. He was just Nicki, her closest friend in this bustling, bursting at the seams island called Maroon. Apparently, she was a magnet for the not normal, the not natural.
“I know this sounds insane and I am not asking you to believe. I just needed someone to hear me out with little to no judgment,” Nicki looked as if he had given up on the game of life.
Alex sighed. “I believe that there are supernatural things out there and that there are people like you who battle with them. Heck, there are mini wars going on between the two sides and the run-of-the-mill people don’t even know it.”
Nicki looked taken aback. “Okay, I was expecting you to argue with me or even make fun of me. But this?” He cocked his head to one side. “Alex, what makes you say what you just said?”
“I like to keep an open mind,” Alex said with a shrug. She looked out the glass window, at the dark and nearly empty street. The night looked quiet and peaceful but she knew that somewhere, some things lurk and prowl and kill. “The world is too large for me to refute or overlook the fact that other creatures apart from humans do exist.” She turned to him and gave him a grin. “Now go ahead and tell me I’m the insane one here.”
Nicki grinned back at her. “I think it’s safe to say we’re both crazy.” It was his turn to look out the window, into the darkness and silence. “What do you think is the lifespan of the likes of me? My grandma never talked much about it. I guess she thought that if she kept silent about the matter, it would magically make my being a Tracker not real.”
Alex knew the answer to this. “Nicki, I think that it’s not so different from those normal people out there. If it’s your time, it’s your time. But I do suggest that you never go down without a fight, should it come to that.”
Read the other parts of this ongoing series: