Two weeks went by fast. Heck, Carson's first week back at work went by even faster. Every day felt more and more normal, and Carson soon fell into the routine of his new life.
Good morning, Officer. Your dreams sucked last night, Goldie said. Well, aside from her. Goldie never really seemed to fade away completely, but Carson didn't really mind.
"You're welcome," Carson grumbled. He got out of bed and stepped into the hologram room. "I'm picking this morning."
But you always pick the same thing, Goldie complained. Let's got to the Himalayas today. They are magnificent.
"I can't believe you've been so many places!" Carson said. "How is that even possible?"
Those two hundred years? They weren't all mine.
"Thanks for reminding me, murderer."
You're welcome, Officer. But Carson was getting used to his mind guest, in his own way. He still could shun her away if he wanted to, but life was more fun with a friend. Even if that friend was a dead spirit.
Today's the day, Goldie hummed with anticipation.
"I know." Carson stared forlornly into the fake ocean. "Today is the day I trade one life for another. The day I intentionally break the very laws I hold sacred."
Ooh, what a softie. Just get over with it. Besides, that cute girl picked a great target for your task.
"Shut up. That 'cute girl' is my boss, you know," Carson chided.
But you agree, don't you? Goldie baited.
Carson smiled. "Yes. That is the perfect target." Goldie almost audibly sighed.
Carson walked to work the same way he has been doing for five years. He grabbed a bagel and collected his files for Renora Arc. She was a small woman with curly red hair and a knack for killing her targets with her augmented Taser. She wasn't something to scoff at.
Arc's last location was a small diner at the edge of Ithaca. It seemed to be her preferred people-watching spot. And habits were the epitome of every Time Killer. She seemed such an easy target that Carson couldn't figure out how he was going to mess his case up for his final report.
Carson set out after lunch, walking to the diner. He knew there was a narrow alley near the diner, and he that was where Carson was going to strike.
She would escape, Goldie said, already manufacturing their tail. She hopped the fence; there was no way you could catch her without lethal force.
That's too obvious, Carson thought, rounding the corner to the diner. We can't hint of death or they will know. He slowed down when he was close enough to see the diner.
Ooh, she's already there. Need guidance? Goldie offered.
Not until the actual deed. I can lead her out on my own, you know, Carson defended. Goldie's presence faded. Carson strode into the diner.
The smell of bad coffee filled Carson's senses. He felt someone scoff in revulsion, but as a third-level spirit, that person was faint. The candy red booths matched the dull lighting, but the place was quite a lot louder than he anticipated. Maybe loud enough for a silencer, Carson thought for a second. No, that's a horrible idea. Too many potential witnesses.
Arc was sitting in the corner by herself, a half-eaten bagel in front of her. Bagels had always been Carson's favorite breakfast.
She's a murderer, Carson told himself. She deserves it. But that didn't make him feel any less empty.
Carson advanced and sat done across from Arc in the booth. Her pink contacts glared at him. "Officer?" she asked. "What's up?"
"Hi, Ren," Carson said. "I want you to come with me."
"Which side are you on?" Arc asked.
"Which side are you on, Officer?" Arc sneered.
Um, Goldie? Carson shivered mentally. A little help?
Lie, Goldie nudged. Say you need a "partner."
"Your side," Carson said. "Are you interested in being partners? You're quite… talented."
Good job, Goldie beamed. She quivered with anticipation.
"What makes you think I believe you?" Arc asked.
Carson shrugged. "Um, I don't know. Nothing, really. But nothing really tells me you actually killed all those people, either. I'm willing to bet you did." The last part was a lie. The Time Killer Spies were quite adamant about her accomplishments. A few of her kills were even captured on video.
"Good point. I'll join you," Arc decided. "Where to?"
"My place," Carson said. "I have a good route, away from their eyes." He brushed his badge, sending a subconscious message that he would know some things that she didn't. He got out of the booth, not looking behind to check if she followed. His instructor had taught him that was a sign of trust with the target. He gave her the choice, and he was telling her he trusted her to make the right one.
Carson let the door slam behind him, but Arc caught it. He had won her trust. He continued past the diner to the dark alley as he had planned. There was no way this could go wrong. It was perfect.
She has her awesome Taser tucked in her pants, Goldie said. She keeps feeling for it. Be careful.
It'll be over faster than she can blink, Carson thought, stopping at the end of the alley. He gripped his gun. You've got me, Goldie?
"Where's this?" Arc asked. "First kill together?"
I've got you, Goldie promised. Count of three.
One. Carson stood still.
"Officer?" Arc asked. He could hear her fumble with her deadly Taser.
Two, Goldie added quickly. Her sharp instincts quivered, ready for his use.
Three. Carson turned around and fired, into the pretty girl's face. Her Taser fell, barely out of her pocket.
Her eyes went wide, her mouth open soundlessly. Carson didn't hear her fall, didn't see her splayed. He was numb. This time was on purpose.
The gift, Goldie reminded. Say it out loud.
"Richard Harrison, I give you Renora Arc's body," Carson whispered. Arc's spirit sat up and stared expectantly at him.
My life for one of his, she seemed to say. A fair trade, I admit. She was a crackle of electricity, the bliss of a flower. And so much more time.
The red on Renora Arc's face faded. Her eyes closed; her mouth serene. Her fingers twitched, and she snored, asleep.
I knew you would do it, Carson, Harrison's voice spoke.
"What in the world are you doing here?" Carson whispered.
Shut up. The connection only lasts a minute. Tell me where she is, Harrison demanded.
"What?" Carson sputtered.
Tell me where Emilia is! Harrison repeated.
"Roman Street Diner, Ithaca," Carson said. "Or in the alley south of it."
Tell her to go to the diner, Harrison said. I'll meet her there. Good job, Officer. You're a smart guy. And he was gone.
Emilia woke up and looked up at Carson. Her eyes were different, even thigh they still hid behind pink contacts. The eyes are the window to the soul, Carson, Goldie said.
"Hello, Emilia," Carson managed.
"Hi. Where am I to meet Rick?" she asked. The voice was the same as Arc's was, but with a more subdued tone.
"There's a diner a block from here," Carson said. "I'll take you."
"Thank you," Emilia said. "We appreciate your sacrifice."
Carson made it back to the office unscathed. Goldie helped him sculpt the perfect report without insinuating death. All was well. One life for another.
Goldie, you know what? Carson thought.
I think we make a great team, he said.
Goldie smiled internally. Me, too.
Oh, you guys are great together, Arc said.
Shut up! Carson and Goldie thought simultaneously. Arc slunk away, disappearing into the back of Carson's mind.ns126.96.36.199da2