The elevator stopped on the top floor and the bronze doors opened. The café was beautiful, with an amazing view off the twenty-foot building. Allison led him to a table by the edge of the roof. He almost felt vertigo, glancing down the side of the building in the bright sunlight. Everything was so much brighter than he remembered but just as beautiful. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡopmS0b8pGw
"Hello Tex," a waitress said. "Who's the new guy?"
"Jennifer, this is David," Allison said. "David, Jennifer. He's on my team, a General Catcher."
"I'm from Parle City, volunteering this week," Jennifer said, gesturing to her gold tag. "Consulting Detective."
"So there isn't always this many people?" Carson asked.
"Every break, I'm here," Jennifer said. "It's the safest place to be since we take care of our own." 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ65Tnu26xce
"You'll be right at home here, David," Allison reassured. "I'll have a coffee. And you?"
Carson coughed. "Um, a bagel?"
"I'll be right back," Jennifer said, walking back to the café's bar.
It's okay, Officer, Goldie said. The world is a strange place, but it's the same world you've been in this whole time.
That's so helpful, Carson bit back sarcastically. This world was never safe, as far as I remember.
You're doing just fine, Goldie reassured.
"So tell me, David, why are you here?" Allison finally asked.
"Tex, I'm sorry," Carson said. "It was an accident, I swear–"
"No apologizing," Allison said flat out. "You're already here. Apologizing won't bring them back."
"Oh, of course," Carson replied, taking a deep breath.
It's okay, Goldie said suddenly. I don’t think she's going to kill you. In fact–
Shut up! Carson screamed internally. He was still getting used to Goldie and all her souls trying to offer him advice. "It was Goldie Rose, my most recent case."
"The 'missing' one?" Allison asked. "Makes sense. That was a smart move. It won't raise any alarms."
"What about you?" Carson asked.
Just then, Jennifer returned with Allison's coffee and Carson's "bagel." It wasn't an old-world bagel, but Carson was pretty sure those didn't exist anywhere anymore.
"I'm from the war," Allison said after Jennifer left. "I was a marine in the USA, fighting for all that government stood for. During the war, I killed enough high stakes targets to make me practically immortal." Allison tensely laughed, taking a sip of coffee. "I guess you could say the vets from the war are the biggest Time Thieves."
"Wow," Carson breathed. "I would have never guessed. You don't have the look."
Allison chuckled. "You know, the look is a myth. But yes, we can teach you how to lose the look that some Catchers associate with Time Killers. How long are you staying?"
"Two weeks," Carson said.
"That should be enough time for you to take some courses from our retired TKCs, the ones with the silver name tags," Allison said. "If you need any more time here, just let me know."
"Great!" Carson said. Maybe he could learn to blend, to get used to life before he was back to pretending. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡHEMQ7Gb6Nz
"Oh, how are you coping with the voice?" Allison asked
What about your promise? Goldie asked.
"I can't make her go away," Carson sighed. "And I have a problem."
Well, you're doing great so far, Goldie said. Don't worry about me. He drowned her voice in his bagel.
"After a month or so, the voice will fade. She'll get bored and she'll only respond when you call her."
"That's not the only problem," Carson admitted. "I promised someone I'd revive their girlfriend."
"What?" Allison gawked. "You do know that means you'll have to kill someone? A life for a life."
Carson nodded. "I know, but that was the only way I could find this place. Help me, please."
Allison sighed, finishing her coffee. "Do it quietly. If you are caught, even I cannot save you. And whatever you do, do not commit suicide."
It was Carson's turn to be surprised. "What?"
"With all this time, committing suicide will only send all of it flying out in an explosion," Allison explained. "I suppose those scientists were up to something there."
Carson popped in the last bite of his bagel. "Wait. So you're okay with it. More killing?"
"Well, pick a prolific Time Killer, obviously," Allison said. "It'll be another missing, I guess. I mean, never anger a murderer. That would be the stupid option." Allison stood up and paid the bill.
"Oh, yeah, of course," Carson said, following her to the elevator. "So I'll go back to work?"
"Yes, but before that, we need to discuss housing," Allison said. "You going to stay at the Ephemera for your two weeks?"
Carson shrugged. "Maybe? I guess, yeah." The elevator dinged and they got in.
Allison pressed the tenth floor. "Let's go organize that," Allison said. The door closed in front of them, the bronze showing their reflections. Allison, the strong, confident blonde. Carson, the nervous, dark haired cop.
"Don't worry," Allison said. "You're going to make the best of this."
That night, Carson sat awake on his new bed in his new room, the room he was going to have for the next two weeks. Allison had signed him up for a few "beginner" classes for his time there. She had assured him, again, that things were going to be all right.
The world is a strange place, buddy, Goldie said.
"You will soon be gone," Carson replied. "That's what Tex said."
Not gone, Goldie argued. Bored. And you know I never imagined you'd be so boring. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRdodjK43jM
"That's reassuring that you're not doing anything weird to my body," Carson sighed. "I can't believe it. Actual murder."
It's just a trade, Goldie reassured. Just pick someone totally despicable. Then you'd be doing a great service to the world.
"Shut up. I need some sleep. It's been a long day."
I agree. Night-night, Officer, Goldie replied. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1Ilp4W8CZ3
"You are such a bag of kittens, aren't you, Goldie?" Carson jested. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡHshEQnhVcY
No, my girlfriend's the cat, Goldie clarified. Oh, I miss dear Fauny so much. I wonder what's she's doing without me.
Ah, yes. She wears the cat ears, Carson realized before drifting into dreams. 569Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡZvuoMrrllans 220.127.116.11da2