Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
Yet grace must still look so.
— Macbeth, Act IV, scene ii
Blue eyes introduced himself as a doctor.
Maybe he thought I was in shock. Maybe I was.
Macho guy flashed me a distracted smile before turning away to talk on his cell. The woman pulled out some kind of electronic tablet –like nothing I’d ever seen – and started doing something with it. They both looked pretty serious for people strolling in the park.
I couldn’t hear what macho guy was saying, but he turned back to me, distracted, phone still to his ear, and asked me what day it was.
Friday, I said. Duh.
The year? He asked.
Oh, man. What were these guys smoking? Well, at least it made me feel an irrational wave of relief: whoever they were, they couldn’t be Worsham’s. His goons were anything but clueless.
More conferring, Macho man and whoever he was on the phone with. The woman, showing him something on her tablet.
Meanwhile, blue eyes finally loosened his own grip on me and took a step back. Dr. Leonard McCoy, as he’d introduced himself, peppered me with diagnostic questions, though they were presented with that kind of laconic gallantry I recognized immediately from my own Southern upbringing. I just shook my head, intent on finding my balance again, physically and mentally.
But then, I saw macho guy look at me; really look, as if he hadn’t really registered me before now. I instantly thought how some good-looking men are so full of themselves, they don’t notice you even if you’re right in front of them. But then he looked down at whatever the woman was showing him on her tablet.
And then they both looked back at me. I swear he did an actual double take. Both of them acted like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. What the hell was this?
I felt the panic coming back, rising like bile in my throat.
Macho guy finally spoke directly to me.
He asked if I was Hanalie Surat.
I think I blurted something like, “Hey, go fuck yourself” and turned to bolt, but stumbled, and doctor blue eyes grabbed me. Somehow his calm voice cut through my panic. I don’t know why, but I let his arm come around my shoulders as I stood there, every muscle in my body rigid.
Macho guy walked over to me. No question now that all his attention was focused in my direction. He spoke, with a crispness that automatically commanded my attention, maybe even my confidence, like he was used to being in charge.
“Look. We know you’re in danger. We can protect you, but we need your help. There are… bigger things at stake, and there’s not much time. Will you just…hear us out? Is there somewhere we can go to talk?”
I hesitated, feeling like there was no firm ground under my feet. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
He clearly knew when to press his advantage. “Just… talk. I guarantee you’ll find what we have to tell you… interesting.” Again he flashed that charming smile, which I had to admit was hard to resist, even if it was clear he knew just how to use it. I looked to the doctor’s face. He nodded, looking imminently trustworthy, I swear. The woman, still occupied with her tablet, and now carrying on her own conversation with someone – although I didn’t see any evidence of a Bluetooth device – looked up and smiled, too, a warm and reassuring smile.
God help me, for all the weirdness of the afternoon, they struck me as normal, even if it was maybe only in comparison to the malevolent hunk who’d just threatened my life. But that “somewhere to talk”? Yeah, like I was going to go off alone with three random strangers who showed up in a beam of light? What did he think this was, the freaking Twilight Zone?
On the other hand, I was all too aware of being exposed out here in the woods, and the Great Outdoors suddenly wasn’t as appealing as it had been half an hour ago. Also, if anyone was offering to explain anything, I could go for some of that, even if they turned out to be total space cadets.
And yeah, it didn’t hurt that the woman looked like she had her shit together, and the guys were kind of, well, they weren’t exactly unattractive. Not toothpaste-commercial hunky, but then, that hunk hadn’t panned out so well, had he?
Yeah, yeah, I know. Not exactly a paragon of logical thinking, right? But then, I’m only human, and in the end, humans aren’t all that famous for our logic, are we?
In my moment of hesitation, I suddenly recalled a little dive bar, more or less between here and my apartment, the kind of place so dingy and disreputable even the Georgetown college kids didn’t go slumming there. Bob and I had dropped in a few times, in the early days, just for the funky peace and quiet. Yeah, that might do. In fact, a drink sounded like a really good idea about now.
So, spurred mostly by a pressing desire to just get away from here, I heaved a very uncertain sigh and started up the slope. I didn’t even say anything; I just waved, with a half-hearted hand, for them to follow if they wanted. What the hell. Maybe a few beers and some bullshit story weren’t the worst way this day could end up.