In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
By AL BRUNO III
A cluster of houses, motels and stores sprawled between the interstate and Grand Canyon National Park. The buildings facing the road were devoted to the businesses that depended on the steady traffic of tourists going to and from the park for survival. The houses of the people who lived and worked in the those businesses and Park itself were relegated to the sidestreets.
Night stretched from one flat horizon to the next, winter stars sparkled and the moonlight shone. The village was dark save for the irregular stream of headlights cascading down the interstate. It was a little after three in the morning.
The woman who lived in the second floor apartment above the Magic Lantern Gift Shop twisted and turned in bed, unable to return to sleep. Lying there, with nothing more than a pillow to hold for comfort, she listened intently for whatever had woken her.
There it was again, a gentle knocking. A thin film of fearful sweat seeped from her pores.
Slowly uncurling her hands from the pillow she reached into the open night stand drawer. The revolver’s weight was reassuring.
The knocking continued, persistent if not assertive.
She got out of bed and fumbled into her robe, the gun never leaving her hand. For a moment she debated the wisdom of switching on the lights and finally decided that at this point it didn't matter.
Turning on the hallway light, she paused to make sure everything was all right in the room next to hers before moving on. The knocking began a third time. She clicked the kitchen light on with the muzzle of her revolver. The knocking died abruptly, leaving her to briefly wonder if in her paranoia she'd imagined the whole thing.
Well, one way or another she was going to find out.
After a deep breath, she opened the door.
"Isobel." the man in the doorway said.
After not using it for so long her name sounded alien to her. She hadn't even dared think of herself as Isobel Talbot for fear she might somehow give herself away.
Well, either invite him in or tell him to get lost. She thought, You don't need someone noticing him.
"Come in," she slipped the revolver into the pocket of her robe and stepped aside. Isobel tried to imagine how she must look, worn down and pudgy with hair that was going prematurely gray.
"Your timing's good," she said grimly, he still looked exactly the same, "it's almost a year to the day since I saw you last."
Isobel offered him a seat at the kitchen table, he accepted. "I searched for you whenever I could."
"How did you find me?" she leaned on the refrigerator.
"It wasn't easy. You left very little to go on."
"That was the idea." Isobel said, "The Monarchs-”
Galen smiled, "The Monarchs have other problems to worry about these days."
"Well I don't have to ask how you've been occupying your time do I?" Isobel returned the smile in spite of herself.
Galen laughed nervously, shifting in his seat, "How have you been?"
"Don’t you mean who have I been?”
“I had to help Zeth get Magwier back to Windham. He woke up while Zeth was stealing a car and handed me an envelope from his pocket. It was full of cash. And a fake driver’s license for a woman that looked just like me,” she chewed her lip, “a woman named Lily Ferguson.”
Galen said, “He kept calling you Lily before that.”
“I know but he looked as surprised as I was to see it,” Isobel said. “As soon as I could I started making my way on my own. It was rough at first but once I got here the woman that owns the store downstairs, her name is Joyce, she took pity on me and gave me a place to stay."
"That was kind," Galen's sorrowful eyes lingered on her.
"It worked out pretty good too. I design T-shirts for her now." Isobel shrugged, "I guess my art degree finally paid off."
Galen looked up suddenly, his hackles raising at the faint rustling sound.
"No." Isobel raised a hand, "It's nothing to worry about."
“Who is it?”
She appeared lost in thought for a moment and then said, "Come on. I'll show you."
Hand in her bathrobe she led him to the room.
Galen stiffened at the sight of the crib, "You were- I- We-"
Loving, cooing words leaving her mouth, Isobel reached into the crib and hefted the heavy red-haired baby in her arms. Gurgling, his tiny hands flailed at the air, his dark eyes blinked.
"Galen meet Warren." Isobel said. "My son."
"-our son..." he said with disbelief, reaching for the baby with trembling hands. Isobel carefully passed him over to Galen. "How old is he?"
"Three, almost four months."
"He's big." Galen smiled, his son reaching out to touch his face.
"Tell me about it." Isobel took him back, "They had to do a C-section to get him out. He was a few pounds short of the hospital record."
Galen helped tuck his son into the crib, "He's beautiful."
"Yeah," she gently kissed Warren's forehead, "When I first found out about him, I didn't know what I was going to do, but he ended up being the only thing that's kept me going."
"You were the only thing that’s kept me going all this time."
Isobel wound up the mobile dangling over the crib and returned to the kitchen. Galen paused and watched his child staring raptly at the rotating musical chimes before following her.
"Do you need money or anything?" she leaned on the refrigerator.
"I need you." Galen drew close, "I've missed you."
She crossed her arms, "Galen-"
"What? What's wrong?"
"What did you come back for that night Galen?" Her voice was growing cooler, "To make an honest woman of me? To rescue me? Or something else? Were you going to cover your tracks?"
"Galen..." she said slowly, "You have to go now."
"I love you! I made a mistake, I made so many mistakes.”
"I love you too." Isobel opened the door as Warren began to wail, "But I can’t trust you. I’ve learned a lot about you over the last year. Magwier and his friends watch over me and they’ve told me everything.”
"Please! I’ve changed."
"It's not about me anymore Galen." she said gently, "It's about my child, I have to do what's best for him."
They stood staring at each other then finally Galen crossed to the door, "Can I see you again someday?"
"We'll be gone by tomorrow."
Galen turned and walked down the stairs.
Isobel closed the door and almost ran to Warren’s crib, he quieted as soon as he was in her arms. She wasn't lying, she would have to move on now. There was no way she was going to risk either of them being found. The thought saddened her, she'd been happy here.
Well, if not happy then content.
Still rocking Warren in her arms, Isobel returned to her bedroom and peered out the window. She spied a huge canine shape making its way towards the Interstate. Isobel could imagine all the talk she would hear tomorrow about some huge animal spied roaming about town.
The shape paused and looked back. A deep baying filled the air, the sound lulled Warren to sleep, a moonlight lullaby.