"An old Chinese proverb says 'it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness'. In other words, deal with your situation, your troubles, your gland in the brain. It's good advice. But after meeting Leila I kind of wondered, what's wrong with the darkness?"
-- The Invisible Man, "Beholder"
Darien Fawkes sat in comfortable silence on the rocks overlooking the Pacific, contemplating Chinese proverbs and watching the waves break against the shore. The sun had just dipped beneath the horizon, and now the clouds were glowing crimson and orange in breathtaking splendor. He wished Leila could see it.
"Describe it to me," Leila asked, suddenly.
Leila Bach flashed the incandescent smile that companies paid big money to have shining behind their products. "The sunset you're sighing over so eloquently. I wasn't always blind, you know...I remember sunsets. Describe it for me"
"Leila," Darien shook his head in exasperation, "You are wasted in modeling. You should really take up a career as a mind-reader." Leila's smile got a fraction wider and acquired faint air of mischief.
Darien attempted to describe the brilliant colors and glowing clouds for her, but didn't really feel he'd done the experience justice. It was over too quickly, and very soon the sky was dark. The breeze that had been warm at their backs all afternoon turned suddenly chilly, a subtle reminder that, even in balmy San Diego, summer couldn't hang on forever.
"So, you're going back to work next week, full time?" Leila asked, as they walked back to his car.
"Yep. The docs say my eyes are back to about 90%. Good enough to drive legally, though my peripheral vision is still a little cloudy. Claire thinks I'll be completely recovered within a week or so. How about you? Heading off to a photo shoot in...Maui, was it?"
"Yes, tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to it. I think a little distance will be good for me. Too many things around here remind me of Claude...I just need to get away for a while. Not that I haven't enjoyed spending time with you, but..."
Darien nodded, understanding. "Yeah, I was actually thinking the same thing. I've been stuck here in town for over a month. And, yes, it's been a more pleasant month with you to keep me company, but now that I can travel again, I'm going take these last few days and fly up an visit my aunt. Treat her to a kind of belated Thanksgiving thing before I get caught up in work again. I promised her a while back that I'd visit more often; guess it's time I started following through." He chuckled softly at the thought. "I'm sure it'll shock the hell out of her."
Two days later, Darien was walking down the familiar main street in Cold Springs, watching his breath condense in the cold mountain air. It might still feel like summer in San Diego, he realized, but here in the Sierra foothills, winter had already arrived. There was no snow on the ground yet, but it could start any day.
Lost in thought, he didn't hear the footsteps approaching behind him and started a bit when a finger tapped him on the shoulder. Turning, he found himself looking into the familiar face of Sheriff John Pizzetti, and it didn't look happy to see him.
"John," Darien acknowledged warily, sensing this wasn't the right time to revert to his old nickname, 'Pizza'. They had been friends as kids, but now that might not matter.
"Fawkes," the sheriff replied flatly, with no expression.
"Gonna throw me back in the clink?" Darien inquired, only half joking.
The sheriff frowned. "Don't tempt me. I was this close to issuing a warrant after you broke out, but then your friend treated us to that little 'parapsychology' show of his. Couple of days later I got a firm 'hands off' order down through the chain of command. You got friends in high places these days?"
"Strange places, more like."
"I'll bet. I'd still love to know how you busted out, though, so I can keep it from happening again. Prison breaks don't look good on my record."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. I wouldn't worry about repetitions, though; it was just a ... freak thing."
Pizzetti frowned, remembering car doors opening and sirens blaring seemingly by themselves. "That friend of yours...little bald guy...he some kind of stage magician? He sure had me fooled there for a while."
"Not quite, but Hobbes does have a few tricks up his sleeve." Darien smirked, looking forward to relating this conversation to his partner. Hobbes would get a kick out of it.
Pizza finally responded to the smile with one of his own, shaking off his pique. "So, what're you doing back in town, Fawkes?"
"Came to visit Aunt Celia. I didn't make it up for Thanksgiving, so I'm treating her to a big picnic lunch up at the old cabin before I have to head back. I was just on my way over to the store for supplies."
"Ah, that sounds nice. Well, I better be getting back to work. Try not to cause any traffic accidents this time, ok?" Pizza teased.
Darien snapped to attention, gave a mock salute, and said, "Do my best, sir!"
The sheriff shook his head, smiling slightly, and walked away. Darien watched his back retreat for a moment, smiling at their private joke. He and his old pal Pizza might have taken their childhood game of cops and robbers to extremes as adults, but there was still something left of that old teenage screw-up camaraderie they'd once shared.
Turning again, he continued on towards the small town's one and only grocery store. Grabbing one of the small carts lined neatly out front, he walked in, nodded to the clerks who were standing around gossiping, and started down the first aisle. The clerks stared after him; it wasn't often that they saw an unfamiliar face in here, especially with tourist season so long over. One of the young women whistled softly under her breath as she watched the stranger walk away, then turned back to the others and raised her eyebrows suggestively.
Darien heard stifled giggling from behind him as he started through the aisles, but was lost in his own thoughts and paid it no attention. Proceeding from one end of the store to the other, he filled his cart with more food than he and his aunt could eat in a week, much less an afternoon. He planned to go all out with this feast, to make up for all the Thanksgivings he'd missed in the past several years.
He nodded to a girl who was pushing her cart the other way down the aisle. She couldn't be much more than sixteen, he thought. Probably just got her license, and now her mom was sending her on errands. Liberty and responsibility, he mused. Not a concept he'd had much use for at that age.
He and the girl seemed to have the store mostly to themselves. Many people in town would be sitting in church at the moment, and most of those who weren't so inclined would still be in bed.
As he approached the end of the last aisle, reading over his list trying to figure out what he'd forgotten, Darien suddenly heard angry shouting and panicked voices rising from the front of the store.
/What the hell? /Leaving the cart behind, he jogged quietly back to the front and peered around the corner.
Four large men were standing behind the check-stands. They all wore dirty camouflage fatigues and sported face paint that disguised their features fairly effectively. And every one of them was pointing a semi-automatic weapon at the terrified employees.
Darien drew in a breath. "Oh, crap..."
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