Who Are You?



Scene Title Who Are You?
Synopsis At the request of Freyr, Kara Prince sets on the trail of Taylor Kravid.
Date February 16, 2020

It’s snowing today.

Ferrymen’s Bay looks peaceful in these conditions. A good six inches of snow cover the ground, dust the rooftops and cover cars both parked and derelict with pristine, untouched cover. From inside of her truck, Kara Prince can see furrows carved in the snowy streets by the occasional automobile or tracks from a horse. No plows have come out here yet, it could take days given the way the city’s infrastructure still is.

The heat in Kara’s truck barely works anymore, leaving enough chill in the air that she can see her breath when she exhales. Parked on the side of the road, she can see out to the harbor where dozens of boats are moored, many of which are covered in tarps for the winter, but a large number still seem active. The harbor was one of the two locations marked on the map sitting partly open on the passenger side seat.

A few car lengths ahead of Kara’s truck a stray dog comes into view from an alleyway. It sniffs at the snow, following the tracks a horse left an hour ago. The dog looks healthy enough, well-fed by someone but free to come and go when it pleases. Snow collects on its dirty blonde fur, a little bit of gray showing at its muzzle.

The dog’s ears perk up at some sound unheard by Kara, and then it bounds off down the street at breakneck speed, disappearing out of sight between two snow-covered cars.

Ferrymen’s Bay

February 16th
5:12 am

She'd ended up in town even earlier than she'd expected, truck squatted square in the area of one of the circles marked on the map. With another foggy sigh, she wishes she'd have brought the vehicle she stole from Connecticut rather than her truck, but hindsight's 20/20.

Not enough time has passed for her to regret having come out here at all— just that she's not warmer.

The dog taking off flicks Kara's gaze up with interest, and she turns to look across the snow to check for signs of whatever caused it. Seeing nothing immediately, she shuts the truck off entirely and swings the door open with a creak. Sense said she'd be warmer moving, even with the snow— even if she didn't expect to find much of anything on her walk. It felt better to be moving forward than sitting idle, anyway. After locking the cab and shutting it closed, she shoves her gloved hands in her pockets and begins walking in the predawn gloom.

The falling snow makes all of this feel serene. Thick, heavy flakes slowly make their way straight to the ground. There’s no breeze, just an ambient cold coming off of every surface. The snow underfoot is fluffy and light, mostly untouched at this hour. Moving up onto the sidewalk, Kara tracks furrows in the snow behind her and the distant sounds of the city awakening to a new day are just that: distant. The harbor is quiet, save for the clunk and clank of nearby boats and the distant ringing of a ship’s bell somewhere off into the fog that collects on the river.

At the end of the street there’s a dirt lot covered in snow. Boats covered in plastic sit on trailers for the winter. The residential houses all around seem quiet, though smoke comes from most of the chimneys. West 10th street ends at a snow-filled parking lot and takes a hairpin turn onto Shad Creek Road, following the rows of one and two-story residential townhouses. Most of which are either in varying states of disrepair or brand new. It feels like every third house is demolished and awaiting reconstruction.

Kara turns down Shad Creek, following the curve of the coast and the piers filled with boats. Up ahead there’s an abandoned two-story school. A wooden sign on the side of the road, topped with a fresh dusting of snow, reads Public School 47. Just beyond the sign is a broken chain link fence and abandoned playground equipment buried in snow. Tracks from the dog she saw earlier originate through the playground, long-legged strides and hasty pace keeping each pawprint far apart.

Snow is the only thing that could make this place look remotely charming. It had a way of setting even decay in a beautiful cast. It covered blemishes… and illuminated paths where there would otherwise be only darkness to guide.

The fog of Kara's breath is small before her as she considers the pawprints. Her last run-in with a dog in unfamiliar territory brings a tightness to her expression as she glances up at the school. Venturing into its territory might not be wise. If not because the dog could be dangerous, then for anyone who might look after it. In her desire to keep moving forward no matter what, though, she does not linger in indecision born of those concerns. She just does what she can to keep the crunch of her steps light as she heads toward the school.

The shadows loom impressively inside the building, the depths of its disrepair made modest by being unable to fully see them. Kara slides a yellow pocket flashlight from her coat, only holding it for now as she advances over the threshold, seeing first what path can be seen without casting light. Then, she turns it on to see if there's sign of snow tracked in to further guide her.

If there was a front door to the school it was lost a long time ago. No remnant of it can be seen on the floor. Snow fades it from the outside and fans out into a thin and brittle crust on the tile floor inside. Without lights and with the windows covered in plywood, the only light is what little ambient glow spills in through the door and the flashlight Kara carries. Its stark light casts long shadows of stacked chairs up against the walls, a front desk bereft of equipment, and a shopping cart tipped on its side. There’s no footprints in here, no sign anyone had come into the school for a long time.

The slam of a car door somewhere behind Kara sends a reflexive jolt through her. It’s far enough away that the sound feels distant, has that muffled quality to it. She can hear voices, too, but can’t make out what is being said. Straight through the open doorway behind her, Kara can see an old brown station wagon with a considerable amount of rust, faux wood paneling on its sides. There’s a middle-aged man in a heavy jacket and winter cap brushing snow off the car. He circles the vehicle, cleaning off the side windows first.

When the man moves out of the way of the passenger window, Kara can see someone sitting inside the car. A dark-haired young woman. Tanned. The right age. It might be Taylor, but it’s hard to tell from here.

That it might be her is enough to brings Kara's feet to move on her own, her brow furrowed. The girl she thinks she might recognize from the photo pulls her into the direction of the door. She snaps the flashlight off, slides it back into her pocket.

A jog takes her back to the door, and even though she walks with a calm pace, she steps in the tracks she'd already made to lend her that extra bit of speed. Her breath tightens in her chest as she looks around to see if there's others or just the two, then sharpens her attention back in the direction of the car.

She internally practices her story, her smile, if the man looks up and asks her that inevitable question most people do when they feel they're being looked at or approached.

The man outside the car continues to brush off the snow, including the roof, until the vehicle is mostly clear. He opens the door behind the driver’s side and throws the snow scraper in, then shuts the door with another audible pop. Kara’s not quite close enough to be able to hear him crunching through the snow to the driver’s seat. But that driver’s side door shutting rings loud through the silent neighborhood. A moment later the engine turns over with a rattle and a sputter, exhaust fumes choking gray against white snow.

With an initial grinding noise the station wagon backs out of the driveway onto the street and Kara has the clearest shot of the woman in the passenger seat yet. Dark, curly hair is mostly all Kara can see at first. She has an even worse view of the driver. But right before the car shifts into drive, the passenger turns and looks directly out the window, and this time the view is clear.


It’s her.

Recognition dawns on Kara instantly, her features softening with the realization. Dread colors her expression for a moment, the kind when you see someone you weren't hoping to see.

For a moment, she has the urge to call out, one she barely tamps down. This Taylor wouldn't have the answers she's hoping for. This Taylor wouldn't have answers about her missing time. No, this Taylor is just a target.

Her shoulders slip downward and her pace lags. While it's not likely they'll stop to talk to her, she has this piece of information. She knows where they're likely to return back to this afternoon or tonight. The school at her back serves as an adequate spot to wait and watch from. This is still good, arguably, save for her disappointment in the map's accuracy.

"Why'd it have to be right?" she murmurs to herself.

The station wagon pulls out down the street, heading north toward the boulevard that leads to the Safe Zone mainland. The noisy vehicle moves quick enough through the snow, occasionally slipping and sliding at the back just a little. But it doesn’t appear to be in any major hurry. Kara’s attention briefly moves back along the tire tracks in the snow that lead up to the driveway across from the school, a long and isolated single-story house rests right on the water with a private dock in the back. There are no lights on inside, no smoke coming out of the small chimney.

But there are tracks that serve as beacons, huddled around the imprint the car left behind, coming from the front door.

Kara tightens her hands in her pockets and turns away from the house directly, heading back for the direction of her truck. It was early still. First order of business would be to obtain breakfast…

and handwarmers. Plenty of them.

Some Time Later

Kara didn't see the dog when she returned to the schoolhouse. Perhaps it bolted from here just the same as it had at the sound of movement on the street. She sets up watch in a room off the main entrance of the school, one with wide, cracked windows that faced the house across the street. The persistent quiet here— the sounds of the city dim and barely felt— leaves her largely alone with her thoughts. Questions about who Taylor Kravid is and what makes her special surface frequently. She resolves to not drown in them, attention focused always out.

At some point tonight, she'd need to check in with Noah regarding his plans for the morning, and in turn let him know she'd arrived safe and sound in the city. But she believes she has plenty of time before heading to the room they had rented.

A set of binoculars hang loose from her neck while she sits on a three-legged chair, shrouded in the shadows of the building. Her breath fogs before her as she lets out a sigh.

Hopefully, they'll be home before dark.

Kara is left in that space for several hours, watching the dim light of day track its way across the sky and the gentle snow continue to fall. No plow ever comes to clear the road, though some residents do what they can cleaning the driveways of their houses, but wind up just shoveling the snow directly into the street. There is no activity in the house across the way, not as it begins to get dark again. Not until the street lights start to come on one-by-one.

The dusk hour has approached by the time Kara hears another vehicle coming down the road. Headlights track bright beams against the white snow as the station wagon returns to that house. It slowly pulls into the driveway, then stops three-quarters of the way in. The revving sound of the engine accompanies a squeal of the front tires. The station wagon struggles to pull the rest of the way in. The driver stops, throws it into reverse, and tries to back up with equally no success. The station wagon is stuck.

The driver stops struggling with the car, throwing open the driver’s side door which causes the interior dome light to come on. It’s at that moment, through frost-mottled windows, that Kara can tell he’s alone. Taylor didn’t come back with him. The driver gets out of the car, mumbling to himself and cursing, as he heads up toward the house, leaving the car idling and the door wide open.

The binoculars fall from Kara's hands and the supporting strap snaps taut as they sink toward her lap. She pushes from the chair she's kept vigil in, breath fogging. The binoculars are ripped from around her neck and left on the seat, her eyes closing for a hard moment. What now?

It's a question she doesn't linger long on. She resolves to keep moving forward.

It looked like he might need some help.

Back out into the snow she goes, the freshly renewed handwarmers she'd shook into the air tucked back into the palm of her gloves as she trudges across the yard, across the street, and uses the path the vehicle bowled through the snow as a gate to access the driveway with. Tiredly, she almost lifts her voice to yell and ask him if he needs help moving the car; it was the neighborly thing to do, and that came natural to her. But then she stops.

And her head slowly turns to the open door of the cab which bleeds heat each passing moment, eyes roaming the contents within.

The pump-action shotgun in the passenger’s seat demands attention first. The box of ammunition next to it — candy-apple red shells with brass caps — follows suit. There’s a thermos in the center console, some scattered wrappers from takeout stuffed into another cup holder in the door. The back seat is mostly empty but dirty with dead pine needles. The rear of the station wagon is full of unmarked cardboard boxes, many of which look like they’ve been in the car for a long while.

The creak of a screen door’s spring groaning draws Kara’s attention back to the nearby house where the man who’d gone inside is coming back out with a plastic shovel in hand. He’s older than Kara had first assessed at a distance, plenty of gray in his stubbly beard. His round face sags with a frown when he sees her, tired, dark eyes fixed on her silhouette and past her to the shotgun inside of the station wagon.

“If you’re here to rob me,” he says with a slow rise of his free hand, “the gun’s worth more than the car. You’re welcome to it, provided you keep all the shells to yourself.”

Kara's head swivels quickly, the fabric of the beanie pulled down over her ears keeping her tied-back hair from flailing in that motion. "I…" she starts, and then her shoulders sag too. "No," she clarifies quietly, hand pulling from her pocket to gesture vaguely behind her, face tilting just slightly away from him, eyes going with it. "I'm sleeping rough nearby, heard you having trouble. Figured I'd see if I couldn't help."

Head shaking once, her hand splays open in a dismissive wave. Self-conscious, uncomfortable. "No more intention than that." Kara assures, finally looking back to the man to get that closer look at him. "You want a hand, or…?" Or does he have this on his own?

The old man makes a noise in the back of his throat, watching Kara pointedly for a few moments, then plants the shovel in the snow beside her. “I got some kitty litter in the back,” he says on his way to the rear of the station wagon. “It isn’t good weather to be sleeping like that,” he opines, fiddling with the tricky latch at the back of the wagon before swinging the back door out wide. “Plenty a ways to lose a finger or a toe.”

Rummaging in the back of the station wagon, the broadly-built old man hefts out a half empty sack of cat litter, then starts shaking it out on the ground behind his station wagon. He tracks around the side opposite of Kara, pouring some beneath the front wheels as well to create more traction. “What’s your name, stranger?” He asks over the hood of the car.

Kara makes a distant note in the back of her throat when the man makes his point about the weather. "Been lucky, most weeks this winter," she offers up idly. "Warmer than most. Think I can count on my hand the number of times it's snowed like this." Her eyes shift to the shovel, and she rocks it free to start dragging snow away from the wheel wells, doing a quick job of flattening it out.

"Terry." she answers evenly to the question of her name. Short for Teresa feels like an unnecessary addition, so she leaves it off. She sighs shortly at the stubborn snow, chopping at it with rough motions. "Think I saw you this morning, too. With your daughter, or something." Her eyes stay on clearing the snow.

The word daughter has the old man stopping in his tracks. He looks up from the ground, dark eyes fixed on Kara and lips pursed. He lingers in that stare for a moment, then starts making his way around to the side of the car she’s on. “She isn’t my daughter,” he explains, pouring more litter by the driver’s side front wheel. “I took her in as a favor, because she was hard on her luck. First big snowstorm of the year collapsed the roof of her trailer out at the Creek.”

Litter distributed, the old man walks back to the rear of the station wagon and puts the sack back inside, then swings the door shut firmly. “Why don’t you hop in the driver’s seat, see if you can get me out of the deep snow there,” he says with a motion to the side of the driveway he’d inadvertently pulled onto, “and I’ll just stay out of the way.” He holds up his gloved hands. “These ain’t as delicate as they used to be, hard to turn the wheel as rough as you need to.”

He takes a few steps back from the driveway to the footpath he’d trampled to the front door. “There’s a hot drink and a warm meal in it for you if you can manage it.”

Kara firms her mouth into a hard line, scattering the litter around the wheel with the edge of the shovel. She keeps her quiet, keeps to herself as she heads around to the passenger side to finish clearing that one too. In that silence, she wonders if his story is any truer than hers is.

Or if it matters, since he's displaying the blind trust in her that he is.

"All right," she says to seal the matter, stabbing the shovel back down in the snow before she hops into the driver seat. Her own hands flex tenderly from both the exertion and the cold. She adjusts the seat, throws the vehicle into gear, and eases off the brake. The wheel cutting grounds against the grit laid down on the snow, and she tries to let gravity help her along before gassing the car into reverse.

The wheels spin— but catch. Swiftly, she switches the gear, rocks the car forward, then lets it roll back again and cuts it back to reverse. With that second rock, she clears the lump of litter-specked snow and pulls the vehicle out onto the street.

When she hoists herself up back into the snow, she hesitates before shutting the car door. She says nothing as she heads back up the driveway, tossing the keys in the man's direction. Her eyes travel past him to the door for just a moment, then back to him without pressing him verbally to see if he really meant his word.

The old man misses the keys when he tries to catch them and they fall in the snow at his feet. With a grunt of effort he doubles over and picks them up, offering a mumbled apology. “Not as fast as I used to be, either,” he says with an awkward laugh, turning toward the door. “Mind the mess, I’m a bit of a pack rat,” he says, opening the screen door and holding it there with his shoulder while he opens the interior door, leading into a very dark house lit only by a distant light in what looks like a small kitchen.

“Not accustomed to having company all the time,” he explains as he walks in. Dark shapes fill Kara’s periphery as she follows him in, stacks of boxes that take on looming obelisk shapes in the dim light of dusk and what little yellow light spills in from the street lamps through partly-drawn blinds. There’s a smell of musty paper in the air, but also the tang of acetone and acrylic. “Wiring burned out in the living room a couple months back, not that it’ll matter in a couple hours when the power shuts off.”

The old man lumbers through the unlit living room toward the beacon of light that is the linoleum-tiled kitchen with its faux pine cabinets and a green Formica dining table surrounded by four red chairs that look straight out of the 1960s. The only light comes from an oil lamp burning on the table. There’s a sliding door in the back of the kitchen that goes out to a snow-covered porch. A few wooden frames are stacked up against it with canvas stretched over them, only the backs are facing Kara.

“We’ve got a couple hours before the blackout, though,” the old man explains, moving past the kitchen table, pausing just long enough to pull out a chair for Kara. “I’ve got coffee or tea, nothing fancy and no cream. Little bit of honey, if you’re that sort.” He continues past a kitchen counter stacked a foot high with old copies of the Safe Zone Siren. “Food’s…” he picks up a couple cans, turning them over. “Black beans and I got some eggs. Plenty of spices though, if you like that.”

Kara would feel guilty about posing as a homeless woman, but she'd have felt more guilty for roughing this man up for information outside his home. Lying isn't as hard as it used to be, for her. She visually roams the kitchen after kicking the snow off her boots at the door, keeping her peace about the state of the home. She seems disinclined to sit for all that she's been invited to, though, heading past the chair in an idle pace.

"Listen, just a coffee's fine," she says, it somehow sounding like an apology. "I already ate earlier. Just something to warm up with should be good enough to keep me going." She looks back to him with a small smile, vague discomfort at the whole situation of invading his home coming up again.

"You were right about things being tight in here." she notes, pausing by the back door to pull one of the canvases forward just enough to try and glimpse the subject of the painting. "You a collector?" It's light, conversational.

His response to Kara’s question is a rough noise. “By necessity,” he clarifies. “Haven’t had steady work in a long time, not much I can do in the shape I’m in anymore. Not without folks asking too many questions, that is.” That part seems somewhat pointed in Kara’s direction. Regardless, the old man heads over to the sink and turns on the water, letting it run for a moment before collecting it in a metal pot which he puts on the stove. There’s a soft click-click-click of a propane burner igniting, followed by a gentle blue flame under the pot.

“Those,” the old man says with a motion to the dusty old frames, “are mine.” But he doesn’t quantify more of what that means. What seems to be missing from all of this is Taylor Kravid. She left with him in the morning, but didn’t return at night. “Water’ll be boiling in a couple minutes,” he says, returning to the dining room table, pulling out a chair and settling down. He tugs his knit cap off his head, revealing silver-gray hair cut close to his scalp. Gloves come off next, and without the extra layer of padding Kara can see that his hands visibly tremble.

The corners of Kara's eyes soften as he shares his work situation. At the same time, her jaw tightens. The old man's situation seems to check out, as far as she can tell. "Mighty nice of you to open up your home to that girl like that, even with your situation." Calmly, she makes a point of looking around the home, its lack of the girl noticed. "She get her things sorted out and move on?" For the first time since they've come in, she studies him openly, watching instead of just listening to the nature of his reply.

The first thing Kara notices as she’s looking around the home are the open paint supplies in the kitchen, just past the newspapers on the counter. Cheap oil paints in plastic bins, a mason jar full of paint thinner with brushes still sitting in them. It explains the acetone smell she picked up on entering. “Not much sense in living to this old age if you can’t be kind,” he says, wringing his hands together, focusing on massaging his knuckles. Kara gets the impression he doesn’t get a lot of company.

The paintings stacked up against the sliding door are obscured to her at first. “No,” he says, “she has a job up in Jackson Heights, splits her time here and at a shelter up that way when she’s working.” And that explains why Freyr had spotted her in the two distant neighborhoods. “You’re welcome to browse,” he says of the paintings, “just don’t expect much. Hard to hold a brush these days.”

As Kara leans back one of the frames and inspects the canvas, she sees a painting that looks impressionistic, but the style may be more a necessity from what she’s beginning to suspect is at least severe arthritis in his hands. The old man is probably an indigenous American, judging from his features and the subtle accent he has. That first painting gets her attention again, a tank rolling through an urban setting. It reminds her of the years gone by.


The next one is, perhaps, more alarming than the first. Fiery shades of orange and black, swept together with determined brush strokes. She can’t help but feel a tightness in her chest on seeing something as iconic as an eclipse.


But at the same time, Kara can’t help that it also feels like it’s watching her. A painting of a fiery eye, more so than a celestial event. Or, perhaps both. The third painting is almost exactly the same as the second.


Another eclipse, it would seem the old man has a particular style. It isn’t until she leans back the last canvas that all of this feels entirely less coincidental.


A painting of a dark-haired woman on a field of red, a pair of orange glowing eyes — like Lanhua’s — staring back at her.

“Did those a few months ago,” the old man says. “I used t’be better.”

"It sounds like we've got a lot in common, me and her…" Kara comments while she browses through the paintings, her tone slowing as she takes a harder look at them. If this was what he painted when his hands were nearing the end of their finer use, she can only imagine what earlier works of his must have looked like. Then she pulls the second painting… the third… by the time she comes to the last one, she's forgotten her train of thought entirely.

She looks like Lanhua. She looks like the girl.

Kara sucks in a breath, realizing she's not taken one in some time til her lungs cause her discomfort. "These… these are amazing," she says, and only looks back to him then, realizing she still doesn't have his name. "Um…?"

Once again the old man makes a non-committal noise in the back of his throat. “I just paint what comes to me,” he says as if they were just handed to him on a silver platter. “You’re welcome to any of those ones, if they speak t’you. I don’t sell them or anything, never had much of a calling in that regard.” He eyes the stove, hearing the water only just now starting to come to a boil, but not quite ready to take off the burner.

“Oh uh, forgot my manners didn’t I?” The old man says with an apologetic smile. “Name’s Thomas.”


“Thomas Redhouse.”

If any call to her? She glances back at the back of the last painting— even having let it fall back hidden again, she imagines those gold eyes still following her from the other side of the canvas. Kara pulls off her gloves, the handwarmers shoved into them slinking around inside them as she rubs at the side of her face, tired and weary and now perplexed on top of it all.

"That one you did of the girl with golden eyes. How'd that one come to you?" she wonders, trying to keep her voice as even as she had before. "Have you seen someone like that?"

“Oh, I see all of those.” Thomas says with a gesture to the paintings. “Up here,” he adds with a tap of two fingers to the side of his head. “Not like imagination, it’s…”

"Something else," Kara supplies understandingly, glancing back over at him. "It's an ability, isn't it?"

Thomas manages a smile, nodding slowly. “Something comes over me, sometimes, when I’m painting. I never know what it will be. I’m a man possessed,” he says, holding out his shaky hands, “and when I come to, there’s something new sitting in front of me. A window into things.” He turns his head toward the sound of a rolling boil in the pot, then levers himself up from the chair.

“Lots of people over the years have been interested in my work, even though I don’t advertise on a shingle out front,” Thomas adds with a wry tone. “But somehow, people come and find me when they need an answer to a question they never knew they had. Awonawilona guides them, maybe.” He says with a shrug, laughing. Like it was a joke.

“My daughter,” Thomas says as he turns the burner off, “my actual daughter… she was always worried about the things I painted.” He lets the why of that linger as he opens up a cabinet and pulls out packets of instant coffee and two mugs, tearing the packets open and filling the cups up before pouring boiling hot water over them. “Because they’re the future,” Thomas says in a matter-of-fact tone, “if you believe that.”

As if he was discussing the weather, Thomas brings Kara’s coffee over to her. Both mugs shake in his hands, black coffee sloshing dangerously close to the brim.

Kara doesn't need to understand the name Thomas speaks to know it's god, or a god being referenced. She sees no need to dig. Her brow knits together when he shares the worries his daughter has, on the verge of offering up a suggestion to him as to the why before he cuts right to the heart of it.

Seeing things was a given. The future, though?

She'd only heard of people like this.

She reaches out to take the coffee before he possibly hurts himself with it, given it just came off the stove. It takes some maneuvering, shoving her gloves under her arms while she cups the mug between both hands, sitting for a moment in silence. "Thank you," she mutters belatedly, not wanting to be rude, but her thoughts are clearly elsewhere. She takes in a breath a little more sharply than she means to when she makes up her mind. "Can you paint anything you want? If… if you think about a certain thing, are you able to paint about that? Or does it just…"

It's impossible not to hear the hope in her voice. The hope for guidance, from someone who's lost on their own path.

Kara shakes her head to herself.

Thomas shakes his head. “No. That’s the trick of it…” he admits with a weary look in his eyes. “Seeing the future, but never understanding it, or knowing what shape it will take. It feels like a tease. Maybe if I were a younger man, maybe if I’d had someone to teach me how to control the gift this is… but I learned on my own in a time where if I told the wrong person what my art was, they’d lock me up.”

Thomas laughs at that, but he finds no humor in it. He makes his way back to the table, sitting down again with his mug. “You wouldn’t be the first to come asking that though. Not many folks believe me, but the lady in the papers…” he motions to the stack nearby, “Ms. Chesterfield?” The secretary of state. “She came by once. Long years ago.” Thomas laughs, softly, then shakes his head. “Takes all kinds.”

Coffee warming her palms, Kara listens without any real change in her expression throughout it all. She knows better than to expect a person to have that kind of control over their gift, but it takes a while to step back from that edge of wanting to know. Her eyes close hard and she blows on the top of the coffee before taking a shallow sip off the top of it.

"I'd buy your art," she offers up abruptly after realizing the silence that's lapsed. "Prophetic or no, you've got a talent for striking imagery." The corner of her mouth quirks up in a small smile before it lapses away. "The kind of thing that should go up in an art museum."

She goes quiet again, cupping the mug and pressing the warmth of it up against her mouth. Thinking ahead to the next steps she needs to take on this path someone else sent her on is hard, but leaving here without a plan would be even harder. "Maybe I should look into that shelter the other girl stays at. The last one I tried was full, but maybe…"

Kara looks back to the old man, making no attempt to mask how unhappy she is to be asking this. "By any chance, you know which one she stays at up there in Jackson?"

“It’s a church,” Thomas says with a motion of one hand toward Kara. “Right ah, on the border with Elmhurst. Church of the Ascension.” He finally lifts up his coffee, but just blows on it rather than testing a sip. Judging from the steam coming off, it’s still far too hot. “And if you want to make a donation when you take those off my hands,” he points to an empty mason jar on the table, “I take tips.”

But then, Thomas’ tone becomes more serious. “You should sleep somewhere warm tonight. Church is still open to the public for another hour or so.” He keeps his coffee cradled in both hands. “You need a ride?”

"No," Kara assures him with a small smile, eyes going down to her drink again. "No, I've got an old truck nearby and enough gas to get me across town. I'll manage."

Though at this rate, she might not end up meeting up with Noah tonight at all.

"Thanks, Thomas," she murmurs, and takes another sip off the top of the coffee. Too hot, but it's better than leaving it with only one drink taken from it. "If I'm going to make it, though, I should probably go." She struggles with the act of going, though, knowing herself the precise type of information he's armed her with. She only looks back up at him once she's tugged her gloves back on, fixed the position of the warmers inside them. "… Really, though. Thank you."

Thomas looks to the coffee, then back up to Kara, then over to the paintings. He sets down his coffee and levers himself up from his chair. “You drive safe out there, ain’t many good roads right now.” He’s polite in waiting for her to be ready to leave before showing her out of the house, making sure she makes it down the slick driveway alright, but he doesn’t linger to see where it is she’s gone. Instead, Thomas shuts the door to his home and walks back through the unlit living room to the kitchen, then through it to a small storage room at the back of his house.

Here, old books are stacked on top of newspapers, folded squares of blank canvas material are stacked by plywood palette boards. Thomas picks up one of the books, an old scrapbook of photographs and movie theater stubs, and flips through it. In and among sketches on napkins and drawings of nature, is an old pencil sketch with a coffee ring on it. He looks at it thoughtfully, then shakes his head and sets the scrapbook down.

Thomas sets the slip of paper with the sketch on it down on the table, then looks back up to the unlit living room. “Chuwap do:'o?” He asks the drawing.

There is no good answer.


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