(I’ve been asked for this “deleted” scene from Shadowbound for years now, so, here you go.)
He paused, turned toward the voice. A young man in a blue vest was following him, and to say the human looked concerned was a vast understatement. “What?”
The human froze. He apparently hadn’t planned what to say if his frantic gesturing and calling actually worked. “Um…you can’t go in the store like that, it’s…”
Deven looked down at himself. “Gross?” he ventured.
The young man, who was perhaps eighteen and still made of nothing but knees and elbows and an outsized nose he was unlikely to grow into at this point, went stark white when he got a better look at the Prime. He must have thought Deven was simply filthy in some ordinary way – this was a rural area of Texas, perhaps people came in covered in mud from some sort of animal-killing pastime now and then.
Deven cast a glance around. So far he’d avoided much of a disturbance; it was late enough that the store was mostly empty. The cavernous building, lit by fluorescents that were already giving him a headache, was cacophonous in sound and sight, a strange combination of festival color and soul-sucking commercial enterprise that seemed to go on for miles. The thought of trying to hunt down something suitable to wear on an airplane, particularly after the evening he’d had, was unappealing to say the least.
He took hold of the human’s arm. “This way.”
A feeble protest died on the human’s lips as Dev dragged him toward the men’s restroom he’d sighted as he strode in through the automatic doors.
The restroom stank of urinal cakes and bleach, and a single mortal stood pissing. Deven waited exactly ten seconds for him to finish before barking, “Out!”
The man started violently mid-zip and, taking in the spectacle at the doorway, all but sprinted for the exit.
“All right,” Dev told the young man, checking his name tag, “Javi. You get to help me avoid making a scene here in your fine retail establishment tonight. I want you to go to the men’s clothing department and bring me something clean to put on. I’ll give you my sizes – bring me something black, please, with as little decorative nonsense as possible. Oh, and stop by the soap and bring me one of those travel bottles of something inoffensive.”
“But I’m supposed to be at the front doors–”
“Child, do as I say.” Deven bent heavily on the human’s mind with his own. “Do you want me to frighten your customers? I’m covered in blood, Javi. Human blood. I think there’s some brains on my shin, want to see?”
A terrified squeak.
“Good lad. Now, scoot.”
Javi stumbled out before he had time to notice that the gore-splattered stranger didn’t show up in any of the restroom mirrors. Deven sighed tiredly and started stripping off his clothes, stuffing them into a garbage bag. He was in luck; the restroom had been cleaned perhaps an hour earlier so the trash was empty and everything was reasonably not disgusting.
He laid out his weapons on the counter, checking them over quickly as he did; one of his stakes would need a new blade. Getting through security was going to be problematic, but it was hardly the first time he’d had to do so, and it would be immeasurably easier if he wasn’t strutting around Intercontinental stinking like an abattoir’s toilet. He took a moment to rinse off his boots, which he’d worn specifically because they were easy to clean and waterproof.
By the time Javi returned Dev was debating on whether to throw his underwear away, which meant that the human walked in on a naked, tattooed vampire standing at the sink.
Deven snorted and took the bundle the human thrust at him. The boy, he noticed, was very determinedly Not Looking, and Dev might have thought he was Not Looking at the tattoos or piercings except for how scarlet he’d turned. Hmm.
“Stay there,” the Prime snapped; Javi had taken a step back, intending no doubt to flee for his life. “I might need you again.”
He quickly washed the blood out of his hair, scrubbed it from under his nails, and rinsed the smears off his forearms.
To his surprise the boy had brought a towel. “Well done,” he told Javi, who still Was Not Looking By God You Can’t Prove Anything. Dev took pity on the human and wrapped the towel around his waist while he sorted out the clothes.
“Not exactly what I’m used to,” he noted, tugging on jeans that were far too long and a rather unfortunate wash that was about five years behind current fashion. “Isn’t that always the way, though: fly to the aid of a friend and you end up shopping off the rack like some kind of peasant.” He pulled a knife, earning another squeak from Javi, and cut the jeans off short enough to roll once. With the boots on they weren’t too bad, he supposed.
Then he picked up the shirt. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Javi, this was the best you could do? There wasn’t a solid black?”
“N..not…not in your size,” Javi replied. “I could try the kids’–”
“This will do,” he said impatiently. It was still a little large, but he didn’t want to wait any longer – he needed to get to the airport. He’d stolen one of the cars left behind by Morningstar, and David’s estimate of the time it would take him to get to Houston was probably far more accurate than any GPS out here in the ass-fuck of nowhere, but still, best not to linger. There was no avoiding it; he was going to walk out of here wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Snoopy and Woodstock dancing gleefully across his chest.
Javi watched with huge eyes as Deven armed himself and finished getting dressed. Finally, he gave the boy a long look up and down, reflecting that he had probably cost the lad his job by hauling him away from his post for so long and technically forcing him to shoplift.
“I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of employment opportunities here in Rio Verde,” he said. “Are you still in high school, Javi?”
“You poor thing. You know by the time I was your age I’d already been a monk for three years, caught blowing another novice, tortured to death by the Inquisition…I sincerely hope you’ve been having a better time of it. But if you haven’t…just remember one thing, Javi.”
He held the boy’s eyes. “This terrible little town isn’t the world. A few years from now nobody who torments you for who you are will matter. They’ll be stuck here their whole lives popping out redneck spawn and living for nothing greater than the Superbowl. Get out of this place, Javi, and you can be anyone you want.”
Javi actually made a sound that was something laugh-like, though not terribly humor-laden. Deven could tell what he was going to say–that opportunities for escaping this town were thin on the ground without scholarships, which were hard to earn when you had to spend your entire life outside school working at a place like this to help make ends meet. The kids who took pre-college courses might as well live on a different planet from a kid like him.
Deven smiled and took out his wallet. “You’ve been an excellent valet, young man, and therefore I think you’re entitled to a tip.” He handed the boy a fifty. “That’s for the clothes – give it back to the store or don’t, I really don’t care. Meanwhile…if you wouldn’t mind, I need some information from you. Full name, address, birthdate, social, please.”
The lad recited the data as if it hadn’t occurred to him not to, and Dev recorded it on his phone, then sent it to Julia, the CPA who handled his and Jonathan’s petty cash accounts. A moment later she called him.
“What have you gotten into now, my Lord?”
“I need you to make a delivery to the human whose information I just sent you. One-time cash drop payment.”
“Informant, hit, personal service, or miscellaneous?”
“Miscellaneous.” Personal service was Jonathan’s silly euphemism for a prostitute. “What’s the going rate for a four-year university these days? Whatever it is, triple it, just to be safe.”
Now, Javi looked like he was about to faint.
When Dev hung up, he met the human’s eyes again. “I expect you to use that money to get the fuck out of this town and go to school. I don’t care what kind or where – college, trade, art school, culinary, anything that pleases you. I don’t care if you use part of it to help your family as well, just as long as you do something to help yourself. And trust me…if you don’t, I’ll know.”
“But…why?” Javi managed weakly. “Just because I got you a pair of pants and a Snoopy shirt? You didn’t really give me a choice.”
“It’s not really that.” He regarded the human in silence for a beat longer than was probably appropriate in mortal society. Finally he said quietly, “I am a haunted man, Javi. I can do very little to exorcise all the ghosts that follow me from one decade to the next. But I like the idea of warding off a few of yours.”
“And you just have that kind of money lying around, and you’re hanging out in a Wal Mart covered in blood?”
Deven smiled. “Not anymore. Good luck, child.”
With that, he Misted out of the restroom and back to the parking lot, just in time for Miranda to call.
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