Chapter 3: Under the Stars
Chapter 3: Under the Stars
"Do you live in Mineral Town?" I started off with a simple question as Skye and I stood at the bridge and the sun further sunk in the horizon.
"No, I'm just visiting the town," he smiled charmingly. "How about you?"
"If you don't mind," I forced myself to put on a serious face even if it was also inevitably a red face. "I'd like to conduct an interrogation, rather than make casual conversation."
He grinned as if he knew something I didn't. "Certainly."
"Right..." I paused and inhaled. "When did you arrive in town?"
"Not long ago," his reply was ambiguous at best, as if he was cautiously testing the waters. Seeing my disapproval, he continued. "I haven't seen you around, so I take it you must have arrive recently too."
I ignored his attempt at conversation and asked for the specifics. "Could you give me a specific date for your arrival?" He was charming and he was out of my league. I was still heartbroken over Charles; some random stranger wasn't going to charm me like he did.
The main difference between Skye and Charles, I muse as the silver haired man smiles, is that Charles wasn't trying to charm me. No alarms went off in my head with him like they do with this guy. "Yesterday."
I let out a breath. No one in town mentioned Skye. He couldn't have arrived today or else I would have ran into him in the near empty ferry. But if he arrived only yesterday he could have escaped the town's notice and not be mentioned in my earlier interrogations. Or at least that's what I would conclude if I were anyone else. Yet I lived part of my childhood here and I know that there are no secrets in Mineral Town. "How come no one in town mentioned you?"
"I'm just a traveler," he doesn't lose his cool, though the look in his eyes slightly increases his charm. "I don't really know many people here."
"Suspicious," I mutter under my breath. "This is Mineral Town, even the smallest variation in its predictable routine is news!"
"Really?" He gave me an innocent look. "This place is that predictable? The atmosphere didn't feel that way to me."
"Well, not lately..." I have to admit it. There was a heavy tension in the air in town and perhaps the talk of an attempted murder, something unheard of in this town, had made people miss the arrival of this silver haired stranger. Yet a part of me feels that I am being led to think that, logical as it may be. "Why have you come here?" I try to regain my stern tone.
"To visit," he reiterates, "as a tourist. I heard Fun Land was building a hotel, so I thought I'd beat the crowds."
Other than simply being there, I could find nothing to accuse him and that wasn't enough. Besides, if his story held true and he did arrive yesterday, then he wasn't here on the night of the attack. Maybe I was just trying to blame someone other than the villagers, holding on to my childhood image of them. Yet they had their mean side, their rude remarks proved that to me today. "Thanks for your cooperation," I reluctantly released him from the interrogation. "Sorry for your trouble."
"It's no trouble at all, princess," another charming smile. "Now that you're done working, do you mind if we do talk, rather than conduct an investigation?"
I huffed, "I have no time for that." This man, no doubt about it he only wanted a heart to toy with and I wasn't willing to offer him mine. "Goodbye," I turned tail and ran. I don't know what I was running from. I was the detective, the hunter, not the hunted, but I still ran.
Yet my legs were no longer used to the uneven ground of the countryside. The pavement and concrete of the city was too leveled, with a balance of smoothness and traction that was just right. The grassy ground here wasn't. "Ah!" I tripped and fell, frantically throwing my hands to the ground to save myself from face planting. "Ugh..."
I gasped startled as someone suddenly helped me to my feet. "Are you alright?" He held my hand in his for the second time tonight.
"I'm fine," I stammered in embarrassment, he must think I'm a joke. "Thanks..." I want to run away again, but my knees are still sore from my last failed attempt.
"You're welcome," he examined my knees with concerned that I somehow doubted. "You're bleeding." Producing a handkerchief from his pocket, he started to clean the scrapes on my knees. I wince as my pants rub against the wound, their delicate black fabric not meant to resist something like this. I should have worn thick jeans, but no, I just had to look like an elegant detective from a movie.
"Stop, that's not necessary and you're ruining it." I pointed at the white fabric that was stained with drops of red.
Skye shrugged as if he didn't care about the stains. "This is more important." He pointed at the scrapes.
"I can take care of myself," I argued like a child and began to march away. If I had met this man during my student years, I would have fallen for him on the spot like I did for Charles, but I'm not so naive anymore. Yet I'm still helplessly in love with Charles, because he's so much more than a handsome face. He's a genius, he's amazing, he's... unattainable. The thought makes me frown.
"You must be in pain," Skye observes. Why can't he just go away?
"I'm fine," my replied is clipped and final. I am in pain but not because of the scrapes on my knees. That's just an annoyance, not a big enough wound to cause serious pain, even if it is a constant discomfort as the ripped fabric of my pants brushes my tender skin with every step I take.
xoxox xox xoxox
I walked all the way back to the inn in silence. Skye walked with me, much to my dismay. I wanted to tell him to get lost, but then I remembered that Doug's inn offers the only lodgings in town, at least until fun Land's hotel is complete, if they ever manage to finish it. Naturally, Skye must be staying there, where else would he go? Thus I respected his right to transit the sidewalk that I walked upon and let him walk with me to the inn.
Once in front of the inn and was surprised by the lack of light from within. Wasn't the bar open at this time? Sure enough the old faded sign that detailed the facilities' schedule testified that it should have been, but it wasn't. I tried to open the door and it wouldn't budge. I tried again and again, but it was locked. "Ann!" I shouted angrily, but no one answered. I reasoned that she heard me but didn't care. "Doug!" I'm so mad right now! "I can't believe this!" I fumed. "They locked me out, how much resentment can they have for me? This isn't my fault!"
Skye's eyes shone with interest at my outburst. "Resentment is indeed a cruel thing. Maybe this town isn't so friendly after all."
I grunted then sighed. "Not for me." I couldn't help it, I let it all out. "I sold that old farm to Fun Land. They think I'm a traitor, but it was my property and I could do whatever I wanted with it!"
"Indeed," Skye agreed.
I knew that I wasn't going to get that door open that night. "Looks like we're locked out." My fury was still present, but it was tinted by resignation.
"I know where we can go," Skye offered.
"Where?" I asked curiously and somewhat hopeful.
"Back to the hill to sleep under the beautiful stars, with the most beautiful star right here on earth beside me. Will you accompany me, princess?" I wanted to slap him.
"Get lost," I growled.
"Alright, alright, I see you're not in the mood for my company." He waved his hands in front of him as a sign of surrender. "Perhaps another time..." With those words of parting he left. The way he runs is so agile and yet so quiet it's almost unnerving.
I sigh, I'm not going to sit out here all night; I won't give the villagers that satisfaction. I'll ask Charles if he has a free room tomorrow. I'm doing this for him after all... for his Alice.
xoxox xox xoxox
I head on out of town again, past the construction site and back the way I went before. I keep going past the river and beyond. Then finally, after a long walk, I reach it, the top of the hill. The view here is beautiful. My gaze is so fixed on the stars that it takes me a moment to see him, Skye. He sits there watching me, quiet as a phantom. Perhaps the name suits him.
"So you've decided to join me, fair maiden." He smiles and I frown. What should have been a question sounded far too much like a statement, like an assumption.
"No," I stated firmly. "I didn't know you'd be here." He seemed harmless enough though. I suppose I could enjoy the view, the stars and more so the man, as long as I didn't let myself fall for his tricks. I sat down beside him, self consciously keeping the gun under my jacket on the side opposite to him. I hugged myself pretending it was just the Fall chill setting in and felt the cold metal of the holster's content with the tip of my fingers. If he tried anything... inappropriate, he would find himself dodging bullets.
"I'm here, so I might as well keep you company," he smile and I raise an eyebrow.
"Just what do you mean by company?"
"Anything you want it to mean, fair maiden," he winked.
"Just company then," I let out sharply.
He chuckled, "of course."
A silent pause followed until I had to look away from his handsome face. "Skye... why do you call yourself the Phantom Thief?"
"Because I am," he grinned.
"So, what do you do for a living? Rob people?" I laughed almost teasingly.
"I steal," he suddenly leaned in close to whisper in my ear, "hearts."
With embarrassment that should have been disgust, I shove him away. But we were too close to the edge of the hill and he tumbled down. "Skye!" I screamed in a sudden panic as I bolted to my feet and looked over the edge.
His silver hair peeked out and then his smiling face. "Aw c'mon princess, you don't have to be so rough." He had the nerve to laugh after he scared me like that!
"Idiot!" I growled, but none the less hurried to help him up. The pull of his hand in mine, the weight of his body, it all made it seem as if I was really helping him up. Back then I didn't realize he was fully in control of his motions and let him self pretend to fall to get a reaction from me.
The rest of the night was spent with ambiguous conversations. Skye had been all over the place and he had plenty of stories to tell. He didn't talk too much about himself as a person, about his morals and beliefs. Yet he spoke about things he liked, like food, scents and seasons, so I didn't quite realize how little he was telling me at the time. Neither did I realize that by adding anecdotes and opinions to the places I mentioned I was telling him a lot.
xoxox xox xoxox
Eventually we lay back on the ground and though it felt strange not to be on a bed, I fell asleep listening to his voice. When the sun came up, Skye was sleeping peacefully beside me, respecting my personal space for the most part, save for the fact that somehow my hand was in his. My heart beat rapidly and I told my naive side to shut up, then I ran again. Unknown to me, Skye had woken up first and set up that whole sweet and innocent scene. There were a lot of things I didn't know about him back then, but I would soon find out, starting on that very morning.
I marched to the inn with a sure pace. I let myself in stomping my feet and went upstairs. I had not asked Charles about the room, but it didn't matter. I wasn't going to stay there. I showered and changed after finally gaining access to the room I was rightfully paying for. I dragged my luggage down, paid my bill and before I left I glared at Doug who stood behind the counter. "I hope you're happy," I spoke loud enough for Ann, who was sweeping near by, to hear. "It wasn't just me you locked out, but Skye too. So much for that hospitality you claimed to be so proud of!"
The serious look never left his face as he replied, "I don't know of any Skye." I knew he wasn't lying. Somehow I knew. Yet if Skye wasn't staying at the inn, where was he living? Outside? He didn't look like that much of an outdoors person despite how at ease he had been last night. I hated to admit it, but I was curious.
To be Continued
Things are off to a rocky start. Can Skye break through the cautious detectives' defenses?