A Clever Rues


cesar_icon.gif devon_icon.gif liza_icon.gif rhys_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

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Scene Title A Clever Rues
Synopsis A cunning plan to catch an interdimensional kidnapper turns into a fiasco when nothing is as it seems.
Date January 6, 2020

“Junk. Junk. Bills.” One after another, letters slap down onto Rue Lancaster’s desk. Nothing terribly thrilling, though she does open her credit card bill and squint at the contents. “God damn it,” she hisses under her breath. “That explains a lot.”

There are several charges for the month of December that she definitely did not make. Which means her misplaced credit card is not misplaced or left behind at Cat’s Cradle, but stolen. Picking her phone up off the wireless charger on her desk, she dials the 800 number from the statement, wedging the phone between her shoulder and cheek while she goes through the automated menu.

“Yes,” she says to the first prompt, sorting through the rest of the mail absently.


“Billing Issues.”



And now, there’s the dulcet tones of Kenny G playing in her ear as she waits in the hold queue.

There’s a plain white envelope mixed in with the rest of her mail. There’s no address — return or otherwise — on the front or back. That’s not the most unusual thing. Sometimes the Hounds will toss notes into each others’ mail boxes. This one, however, is different.

Rue opens the unsealed envelope and pulls out a single scrap of paper. One she recognizes from her own notebook. Her brow furrows as she flips it over and reads the message.

Don’t trust your friends

The words send a chill down her spine as she shoves the haphazard stack of letters aside and pulls the notebook off the shelf above her desk to page through it until she finds the torn page and lines the note up with it perfectly. Someone’s been in her room, going through her things. Except…

That’s her own handwriting.

The Bastion


10:14 AM

A chime goes off down the hall, signalling there’s someone at the door waiting to be let in. Still on hold, she keeps her phone with her as she pads barefoot down the corridor and to the front entrance of the Bastion. Swinging the door open, Rue blinks at the sight of three SESA agents standing on the doorstep. And a small gaggle of press on the street beyond.

“Well hi, guys.” Rue smiles with a hint of uncertainty. “Liza. Agent Diaz. Agent Bluthner.” She makes a show of leaning past them to glance at the reporters, then straightening out again. “Is there something I can help with? I’m on hold with my credit card company right now, but I can grab someone for you. Or get you coffee while you wait?”

“Hiiii…” Liza’s voice rings out somewhat pleasantly as she slowly makes her way over to bridge the distance. It’s only somewhat pleasant as there’s a heavy tone of ‘I feel weird about this’ present. She looks over her shoulder at the press, then back towards the other two agents near her, then her attention settles fully on Rue. “Is that call going to take long?” She rests her arms behind her back,.scooting a bit closer to the redhead.

“I’m sure we can hold on just a minute, but it’s definitely you we need to see.” Her voice is a little bit softer.

There are a lot of things Agent Cesar Diaz has sworn to do. Uphold the law is one of those things. Serving justice is also one of those things. Justice for the people. One thing he hasn't sworn is the performative arrest. That, is a byproduct of "the job" that he dislikes. Worse when it's own of "their own". But there's questions to be asked still, answers to be given. Preferably, not directly to the crowd of cameras invisibly cordoned off across the street, and especially not with a sensitive situation such as the one current.

"Officer Lancaster," he greets back with the neutral, professionally polite regard. In one quick sweep of the lobby, he scans for other possible onlookers. Or interference. Liza's manner eases his tensed posture only slightly. He trails within arm's reach of the woman agent. Cesar shakes his head at the phone call. "If it's a customer service thing, you best call back. That's going to take awhile. And we're going to need to speak to you, first."

Rhys Bluthner is quiet among the grouping of agents, the corners of his mouth downturned to a frown from his involvement in this. Worry has given him a few more wrinkles and gray hairs he’ll never let the world see so long as he can get his hands on proper hair dye. But the weight sagging down on his shoulders is evident, the concern in his eyes unable to be hidden, and the languid pace at which he follows his fellow agents unmistakable. Beyond the moment, he is worried for the larger picture, for the threads of connection that tie people in this room to the abducted Raytech CEO, for the threads of connection that tie Rue Lancaster to the people in this room.

To Rhys, as his pupils dilate, the room isn’t filled with people any longer. It is filled with everyone that Rue Lancaster has ever met in her life. She is but a black silhouette ringed with a bruise of colors like a blind spot caused by a migraine. Fibers of that same color extend out from her silhouette, moving to blotches that orbit her like planets around a distant star, each one unique to his eyes and textured in ways beyond the visual. Millions of scintillating blotches tethered to Rue by exposure to their presence, some larger and more distinct than others, some little more than specks that bled like film grain into the foreground. Looking as though he was simply watching the room, Rhys begins the arduous process of sifting through those threads, identifying the blotches, looking for abnormalities. Is this Rue Lancaster or someone other?

Boots coming down the stairs slow at the sound of voices in the lobby. Little past half way through the flight to the main floor, Devon Clendaniel appears, dressed for travel and like his plan is to be gone a couple of days. One hand grips a small overnight bag, the other is raised toward his face. There's a touch of concern, or maybe it's more like aw fuck. For the moment, the difference isn't all that significant. His hand drops, and he eases down the remainder of the stairs.

The slow march becomes a stop once he's reached the lobby floor. Eyes lift to find Rue and the agents. His mouth tightens, weight shifts like he might backtrack, but somehow that seems even worse than watching. So instead, Dev remains, without speaking, shoulders shifting to adjust the weight of the backpack hanging from them.

“Sure,” Rue replies, trailing off faintly as she pulls the phone away from her face and presses the red button to end the call. She slides the phone into her pocket and takes a step back. Her head swivels to the noise on the stairs, and she settles her gaze on Devon. “Hey. I thought I was kicking your ass in Mario Kart today.” She doesn’t wait for his refutation. He’s clearly going somewhere. Their tournament will wait.

“What can I help you with, agents?” Rue crosses her arms over her chest and adopts a casual posture, despite the fact that her brain is screaming at her that something is wrong. Her flight or fight is kicking in, and she’s doing a valiant job at holding it at bay.

As Devon descends the stairs, Rue’s connection to him becomes visibly stronger to Rhys. If this isn’t Rue Lancaster, it’s someone who’s still very close to Wolfhound. She also has strong tethers to Agents Messer and Diaz.

“Weeellll…” Liza draws out the word, doing her best to balance a mix of casual comfort with someone familiar but also the professionalism required to handle things. She glances towards the door, then back to Rue. “Oh hell,” she mutters, surprisingly using a rare swear. She’s floundering because this all feels weird. She turns to the others for help. She’d certainly find this hard, real or staged, so at least her waffling isn’t causing anyone trouble. There’s no syrup in sight either.

“… someone?” Her cheeks flush with embarrassment.

Cesar casts a momentary glance back over his shoulder at the gaggle of press visible outside the lobby's front door. None of their group had shut it - a regrettable oversight, as he feels the eyes and camera lenses. He twists in positioning, making sure both SESA agents are within his own scope of vision. Especially Rhys, once Cesar notes the younger agent's focus.

Since Liza had approached first, Cesar lingers, looms as a supporting agent. But as she turns for help, he steps forward. "Rue Lancaster, you are being placed under arrest—" At the sight of Devon coming down the steps, Cesar's gaze jumps up to the other Wolfhound. Was this supposedly part of the plan, to have another set of Wolfhound eyes on this act? Given what evidence was turned over for review the evening prior, and the subsequent information of Devon's presence at the original internal questioning, he assumes.

So it's back to Rue. There's no amusement in Cesar's statement next, pushing forth with the unpleasant part of the circumstances. "Rue Lancaster, we're placing you under arrest for your role in the kidnapping of Richard Ray." And there it is. "You will be accompanied on transport to Fort Jay, where you will be allowed to contact legal counsel if you should so choose." As he speaks, he reaches behind him to flip open the pocket containing handcuffs. "Please place your hands behind your back."

Rhys’ involvement in the arrest comes as a modest nod over to Liza and Cesar, followed by a wordless nod in confirmation. Neither Cesar nor Liza have the clearance to know the full length and breadth of why Rhys was needed here, but in a world of shapeshifters and face-changers, of illusionists and spies, perhaps that’s answer enough. His subtle nod is the directive they’d been told to watch for, a confirmation that she is indeed February Lancaster.

Now, as Rhys steps back away from the actual events of the arrest, his shoulders slack and the corners of his mouth downturn into a dour frown. None of this feels right to him, but on the same token he’s here, he’s participating. Sometimes what’s right isn’t what feels right in the moment. But Rhys, like everyone, operates on specific assumptions of identity and order. Of a plan.

But the old adage goes: no plan survives contact with the enemy.

Devon’s jaw shifts with the forming of a reply to Rue that he ends up swallowing. Brows drawing together, a look slants to Cesar and Liza when their reason for seeking his teammate out is stated. He isn't an active participant — he'd thought there was time to leave the building before this charade took place — but he's neither leaving the scene nor trying to insert himself into it.

Rue’s mouth drops open the first time Cesar starts that declaration. She glances over her shoulder at Devon again, incredulous and waiting for signs of him to crack a smile. That this is one of his famous pranks he’s playing on her. But he looks serious. And he’s not intervening.

The redhead whirls back to the SESA agents, incredulity giving way to offense. “I’m sorry, what?” Blue eyes dip to regard the handcuffs, then lift back up to the man holding them. “This is a joke, right?” She glances to who she perceives to be the weak link in the chain, looking for some kind of tell on Liza’s face. When she finds none, she takes a step back.

No. What are you talking about? I didn’t kidnap anybody!” Rue shakes her head back and forth vehemently, another step taken backward. Her stomach drops when she realizes that Devon isn’t protesting. He’s letting this happen. “Call Avi!” she barks to her teammate. “And tell him to sober the fuck up and call our lawyer!”

One hand gestures to the door left ajar. “I’m not doing a fucking perp walk past all— You invited the press?” It seems she’s run out of protests then, and all Rue is left with is a sense of betrayal.

Liza hadn’t quite anticipated how weird this would feel, not because she wasn’t ready to play along, but because her friend was really convincing. “Ah…” She takes a step back to make sure there’s plenty of space, even if she’s not sure if it’s needed. It’s metaphorical space taken literally. She smiles towards Rue, though it’s a weak and awkward one. Still friendly, in spite of it, but she’s certainly out of place.

“You’ve got to, though,” she encourages, her voice gentle. “Even if it’s hard, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

There is a visible tensing in Cesar’s posture when Rue suddenly protests, a reaction he wasn’t expecting. But training has him prepping for retreat, the resistance. Previously agreed upon circumstances, though, has him briefly confused. He glances back over to Liza and Rhys, lowers the cuffs although they don’t disappear right away. “Epstein’s the one who arranged the arrest,” he states quietly to Rue, firming the position they’re showing to any would be witnesses.

“Lancaster… Rue. Come on,” Cesar presses forward the steps she took back, his attention on her. “We’ve got everything waiting back at Fort Jay. There’s no need to make it a bigger scene.”

The discomforted noise Rhys makes in the back of his throat is lost under the commotion. Lingering at the back of the arrest, he reaches into one pocket and retrieves his phone in the event that this continues to escalate. The look on Rhys’ face implies that he hadn’t expected it to be this awkward, though. At the same time, he’s scanning the people participating in the arrest, looking for anomalies within their personal lines.

Thankfully for the rest of Wolfhound, Rue and Devon are the only two staff members in the Bastion right now.

Devon returns Rue’s look, but his expression shows nothing of humor. It shows little of anything. Just as when they’d interviewed his teammate before, he can’t make a claim for any prank. His thoughts, his feelings, all regard for the arrest is buried deep. Shoulders shift slightly, a glance flickers to the two arresting agents, then to the observing one, mouth pressing into a thin line like a further barrier to any beliefs or unkeepable promises that might try to escape.

Rue doesn’t keep the surprise off her face when it’s revealed that this whole circus has been sanctioned by command. With the wind sufficiently knocked out of her sails, the incredulity drains away. She turns her back to the agents and holds her wrists out behind her.

Her lips part as her eyes squeeze shut. Large tears fall down her cheeks, a silent sob causes her chest to heave. It’s unlike her to cry, especially openly. This is even beyond the display Devon witnessed from Rue the day before. She’s afraid, aware of the gravity of the charges leveled against her, horrified that people she counts among her friends — her family — would think she could have done this… That they could think she would have done this is painful.

“H-Hey…” Liza certainly was not expecting things to go like this. She knew what was supposed to happen and tears weren’t in the playbook. Rue’s her friend, despite all of this. Was she trying to play things up? It didn’t look fake. She takes a step closer. “Hey, please don’t cry. You’re gonna be alright. I really wanna give you a hug right now, but that would look weird so I’ll just have to wait until no one’s watching.” She scrunches up her face a bit.

“But tears are a lot. We’ve got this, I promise you’re going to be alright.”

All of Rue's protest seems to fall heavily enough on Cesar that it forces a wavering of conviction. For a moment. He looks down to his cuffs in hand, unease when the tears start flowing leading to a tightening of his fingers around the metal restraints. "The fuck is this, Lancaster?" he asks after a beat.

"You know what, this really is fucked up. And maybe it doesn't make sense now. But it's out of our hands," says the agent in quieter tones. "And right now we just got to do what we're told and figure out what the fuck's happening back at Fort Jay." He glances to the other SESA agents, then back to Rue.

Cesar ultimately latches the cuffs on to Rue's wrists. "Messer, grab the car and bring it out front," he says after, tone as tight as it is grim. Dark eyes turn to Devon, studying the other Wolfhound. "Hey. Tell Epstein the clock starts when she sets foot at the fort, and he and Harrison's got 48 hours."

Rhys’ brows crease together, standing apart from the other agents, eyes tracking from side to side as though he were filtering through something. Nothing about this feels right, nothing about the arrest feels correct. His stomach turns, Rue’s reaction is all wrong. Everything about this doesn’t fit what the plan was. Jaw set, Rhys closes his hands into fists and narrows his eyes. The look of concentration on his face is intense even as the scenario continues to move and swim around him. Then, one sharp exhale of breath later, Rhys wobbles to the side and nearly falls over were it not for Cesar nearby. Rhys claps a hand on Cesar’s arm, too disoriented to even notice how solid that bicep feels.

“It’s not right,” Rhys gasps, breathlessly, a line of blood running out of his nose and down across his upper lip, his right eye bloodshot. “This— something’s wrong.” He’d felt it since Rue started panicking, since nothing felt the way he was told it was supposed to go. “This Rue hasn’t seen Epstein face-to-face in more than four days. She couldn’t— she wasn’t at the meeting. Didn’t organize this.”

Rhys looks up with a concerned expression to Cesar, barely able to stand up on his own. “They let the wrong person go.”

Cesar’s words are given a nod with Devon opting to remain a silent witness to the unfolding events. His eyes drift to Rue again, and he nearly steps away, finally feeling relieved of his unintended, unanticipated inclusion. He gets as far as shifting his weight when Rhys moves back into his field of view.

The agent’s claim grips him, holds him in place as firmly as those handcuffs keep Rue from escape. “What,” is barely a breath, but the word isn't for confirmation that he'd heard correctly.

Vindication is almost as strong an emotion as anger, and the two collide somewhere deep enough that neither are individually identifiable. Devon remains, riveted in place, knowing what he should — would — do, but unable to land on that mark. The hand gripping the small duffle slackens to let the bag fall to the floor, then promptly fumbles at his pocket in blind, anxious search for his cell phone. All the while he stares at the agents, and Rue, trying to guess, anticipate, their next move.

Rue turns her face into her shoulder to try and wipe away some of her tears on the fabric of her shirt. “What are you talking about?” she finally manages to ask in a shaky voice. In no universe does she jump to the conclusion that there’s someone out there wearing her face, setting her up for this.

Awkwardly, she turns around to face the three from SESA, searching their faces for some kind of answer, her eyes still glassy, but crying under control again already. That there’s now doubt about what’s being done here is enough to bring some of her usual strength back.

“What meeting? I just got back from Niagara last night. I was with Seren Evans. You can ask.” A look is cast to Devon. His reaction tells her something has gone very, very wrong, and that’s above and beyond what she already knows.

About to retreat to go get the car, Liza stops as soon as she hears what Rhys says. She blinks, looking back towards Rue as she frowns. She moves to head over next to Rhys, offering an arm to support him and not taking no for an answer. She looks between the agents, a perplexed look on her face. "Okay, so this is… not what was expected. And to be honest I'm not really sure what we're supposed to do in this case."

Her attention is drawn to the presence of people outside. "We need to think fast because we're basically on the record here. Even if it's something to stall while we figure everything out. I'd rather not act rashly given crucial information." Here, she glances towards Rhys.

Cesar's still prepped and ready with the handcuffs, but he's unprepared for the swooning of Agent Bluthner beside him and the particular words Rhys speaks. The sudden touch startles him, but he's already moving to catch and support before Rhys looks to be going down. In a couple passing moments, Cesar meets eyes with Rhys and then understanding dawns, digging an ever deeper hole that the situation is falling into.

"Coño," Cesar grits out. Mind racing, eyes whipping back to Rue upon her alibi, he visibly banishes skepticism of its truth. For now. "OK. OK… Okay then, fuck it. Plan B. Which isn't much different from the old. But now it's… a matter of containment." And not tipping anybody off that something has gone amiss.

Letting go of Rhys now that Liza has the other agent supported, Cesar points at Devon. "You know what you're putting in the press, right? Epstein made it pretty clear he wanted this to get out in print. We can only hold her for up to 48 hours without formal charges."

Cursing under his breath, Rhys is already making a beeline for the exit, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “I'm going to step outside and call Voss, he needs to know the target is potentially in the wind.” It takes all of Rhys’ focus to be able to properly handle the phone, though once he starts walking it's sheer temerity and momentum keeping him moving forward. He hasn't even reached the entrance by the time Voss picks up on the other end of the direct line.

“It's Bluthner,” Rhys says, breathlessly, “arrest not possible, broken watch in effect.” As he calls that opaque sign out over the phone, the energy in the room feels like it's shifted from the paranoid uncertainty of the moments before the arrest to a ticking close that — if Rhys’ conversation was any indication — may have already run out.

“Rue.” Devon’s eyes follow Rhys briefly then focus on his teammate. “Rue, listen to me. Listen, we’ll figure this out.” He nods to Cesar. 48 hours isn't a lot of time, but it'll have to be enough time. “Trust me, okay? I'll figure this out. It'll be fine, just… go with Agent Diaz. It's going to be okay.”

He angles a look after Rhys again, brows knitting as he catches snippets of the conversation. “We can't let this leak beyond our bosses.” He looks at Cesar and Liza, hoping for some form of agreement with that fact. “We need to stick to the plan as if Rhys found nothing, until we have some answers.” Dev’s eyes shift to Rue with that, emphasizing his point. There will be answers.

Rue turns and looks at the faces gathered in turn with uncertainty. Finally, her gaze settles on Devon once again. She’s on friendly terms with everyone assembled. It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith to trust them, now that she understands there’s been some sort of error here. Wiping her face quickly, she nods her head once. “Tell Avi I want to see him,” she instructs her fellow Hound before turning back to Cesar.

She smiles at him. It’s faint, but it’s there. “Okay.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, nodding her head again. “Okay. I’ll go with you. We’ll do the… whole walk past the press and whoever it is that’s trying to frame me can think they’ve got me nailed.” The smile Rue gives Liza is a little stronger. She wants to make some quip about how this might be something like old times, but… Old times didn’t turn out so well.

Liza returns the smile. Nothing needs to be said there—she understands the unspoken sentiment. It's nice. Momentarily she regrets not taking more of an opportunity to catch up with Rue, but that thought passes. She'll have an opportunity soon enough, she's sure. For now, she has a job to do… or pretend to do.

As Rhys retreats to go make a call, Liza turns back a bit and steps closer. "I agree. The safest course of action is to continue with the plan." Her eyes fix on Rue. "I know this must be pretty rough, but stick with it. If you need anything, let me know. If nothing else I'll be a friendly face."

What Liza isn't showing is her growing anger towards whomever it is setting up her friend.

Watching Rhys stride away, Cesar exhales a steadying breath as well to ward off the urge to curse what revelations have upended the assignment. "Tell him we're going to need everything we can to track the real suspect down. And you Hounds can get started sniffing out that trail ASAP."

The barest of nods then acknowledges Rue's faint smile, and Cesar steps forward again to secure Rue's wrists behind her. "Not exactly goin' the way I'd expected to be usin' these on you," utters the agent quietly under the click-clack of the cuffs. Then, louder, "But we'll figure this out."

And, nodding to Liza, he waits for her to lead the way out and to their waiting vehicle.

The street Rhys had walked out into, the one Rue Lancaster is led out into with Cesar and Liza at either side, is not a quiet and comfortable scene. It is not an average daily amount of foot traffic. There is a black Yamagato Lapis with the SESA emblem on one door parked just outside the Bastion with another ahead of it. Rhys is trying to hear the phone over the sound of voices in cacophonous report from the sidewalks, voices and noise that rise into a crescendo as Rue emerges.

Someone invited the press.

News vans from WRGB and WMHT in Albany are parked across the street. Reporters with television cameras record Rue’s emergence from the Bastion. Camera shutters snap loudly. Voices from print-media reporters on scene blur into a haze of shouted questions. NYPD officers keep the press back, but the flash on some of those cameras reminds Rue of better times. Of the runway. Of life before the end of the world. Her world.

February Lancaster! February Lancaster!” One reporter screams over the others, brandishing a digital recorder in one hand. She knows her.

Oh God, Rue thinks, Anyone but

“Phoebe Frady! Safe Zone Siren!” She shouts, elbowing her way to the front of the press line. “Ms. Lancaster is it true you were involved with a kidnapping? Sources tell me you may have been compromised by Humanis First, is there any truth to this allegation? Ms. Lancaster!”

“Already on it,” Devon replies to Cesar. He hasn't moved to make any calls yet, his eyes still focused on Rue and the arresting agents. The other Hound, at least, knows he's good for his word even if he doesn't appear to be acting immediately. He's already mentally mapping out an investigative tract, adding to and reprioritizing his list of assignments.

As Rue is led out, he follows at a distance. There's little else he can do but watch until his teammate is shut in one of those cars.

The swell of voices, as they drown out Rhys’ end of the conversation, draws Devon’s scrutiny to the gathered masses. It's no surprise there'd be members of the press there, and all vying for a statement or a word. His eyes narrow when Frady elbows her way to the front. “Don't answer her, Rue,” is a whisper that barely reaches his own ears. “Don't give her more than she already has.”

Rue clears her throat partially out of necessity following her tears, but mostly to cover the bark of laughter that threatens to follow in the wake of Cesar’s risque comment at her back, cuffs and all. “Well, that makes two of us,” she admits over her shoulder in a hush. She gives a brief nod to Devon to signal that she recognizes he has her back, and a sliver of a smile is spared for Liza.

Like old times, she draws in a deep breath. Head up, shoulders back, straight spine…

Think murder, and walk.

The pop and flash of bulbs on cameras is nothing new. It doesn’t dazzle or distract from her goal: Make it to the car and head to a SESA holding cell to wait this nightmare out. Except one voice and a shock of red hair not so different from her own causes her head to turn, focus drawn. Given that no one’s hauling her toward the car, Rue finds herself with a moment of leeway to stand as near the barrier between herself and the press. She has an inch of height on him even before she put on shoes, so rocking back slightly to lean back and look down her nose at Frady doesn’t take much effort.

“You missed the mothership earlier, the little green men were my accomplices.” With an effortless grace that comes with years of practiced choreography, Rue shifts her weight to the ball of one foot, the other lifting from the ground seemingly so she can about-face and walk away, perfectly poised for a hairflip.

Instead, that weight suddenly shifts again, this time thrown forward so she can slam that other heel down on the foot Frady’s stuck through the barrier line in order to try and scoop her exclusive. Her curls toss forward from the abrupt pivot of her momentum. It’s strewn in her face, clinging to lashes and the gloss painted on grinning lips alike.

“Have me arrested,” Rue taunts before turning to saunter the rest of the way toward the van. At least she’ll earn her night in jail.

Phoebe Frady doubles over in the wake of Rue’s escort, holding her foot and cursing. Reporters flash photos of her, bystanders across the street watch as Rue is led into the van amid a public media blitz. On the sidewalk, Agent Bluthner stands on his phone, one finger plugging his ear to try and drown out the crowd.

No,” Rhys shouts into the phone, “I said it’s not her. It was never her. It was a trap.” He looks back over his shoulder, watching the van door shut. “We have a White Rabbit Protocol in effect.

Whatever the person on the other end of the line says, it draws Rhys’ attention back to the van. His shoulders square, jaw sets, and brows crease in furrow as he considers what was asked of him and ends the call.

News crews continue to hound the scene, with NYPD keeping them back from the curb as the van pulls away.

Rhys doesn’t — can’t — see the strange reflection in the storefront window at his back. He can’t see the way the woman in the glass watches him, quirks her head to the side, and then steps out of sight. Even though he should be looking straight at her.

Because she was never there.

Except in reflections.

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