Vince didn’t know how it had gotten there; he just knew the note hadn’t been in his pocket when he first headed off to class. The thin white slip of paper had been added to his left pocket’s contents (a phone and two quarters) at some point during his time at Lander’s normal classes. He became aware of it at day’s end, when he went to turn his phone off silent. It was then that his hand brushed the paper, but he resisted the urge to pull it out immediately. It was almost certainly connected with the Super side of his life, and Vince felt compelled to deal with all such matters behind closed doors. He was feeling emotionally stable thanks to Dr. Moran, but that didn’t mean he would permit himself to take stupid chances.
So it was that when Vince got back to Melbrook, he went immediately to his room, shut the door, dropped his backpack on the ground and pulled out the note. It was a simple index card, the kind some teachers allowed students to use as note-cards during tests. On it, in tightly-written print, was a message to him.
I wanted to tell you that I haven’t been avoiding you. Right now things are dangerous, and meeting up could put you at serious risk. I know you’ve got to be dying for answers, so I’ve carved out a small window of time. Tomorrow night, from nine to ten, neither of us will be under observation. If you can meet me, I’ll be waiting at the address on the back of this note. If not, I’ll try again when it’s safe.
Not for the first, or last, time that year, Vince dearly wished Nick were around. He could make sense of this, could explain what she meant by ‘serious risk’ or why she’d used their old names for each other. Yearning didn’t change the fact that Nick was gone, so Vince was stuck with bringing another person in or puzzling it out himself. The former seemed too risky until he grasped the situation, which left the latter.
Vince tried to keep a clear head and look at the message piece by piece. She’d said neither of them would be under observation. He didn’t know why she was being watched, but his own situation had been made clear to him. From the year’s beginning he’d understood that there were people keeping a close eye on what he did, and seeing if any of it hinted at contact with Globe. How on earth would she know that he wasn’t being watched tomorrow?
Another, more disturbing, thought occurred to Vince. Was it possible that the time she’d suggested was the only time he wasn’t being watched? After a quick glance around the room and making sure the window blinds were closed, Vince shrugged off the thought. If people were covertly observing him 24/7 then they were too skilled for him to spot or stop. Best to just assume this was the timeframe when they were both free to move about.
Next up was figuring out why she’d used the old names. Was she trying to reset their relationship to how it had been before the bar, putting mental distance between them? It might make having a discussion easier, for Vince as well as her, but a nagging part of him doubted that. Eliza had made it clear she was taking a risk in communicating with him, that wasn’t the sort of thing one did when they were trying to get space. No, more likely she was being careful. If anyone found this note, it had no ties to Vince Reynolds or Eliza Tracey; he could just claim to have found it on the ground. Well, most people could have done that, anyway. Vince’s skills at lying were roughly as adept as his skills at sewing: existent for necessity but far from impressive.
That left one last question Vince had to figure out: if he was going to go. Yes, he knew he wanted, needed, to see Eliza and get some closure, but depending on the amount of risk it might not be worth it. It wasn’t just his own future on the line, after all. There were five Powereds that were turned into Supers, and one of them had already been expelled from the program. If another got tangled up in something criminal, even if he was only suspected, that cast the project as a whole in a pretty poor light. It might mean that future Powereds turned Supers wouldn’t be offered the same chance at HCP enrollment they’d received.
Under his fear of what might happen, Vince realized he was also somewhat afraid of seeing Eliza again. He didn’t know what he’d say, what he’d do, or how he’d react to whatever she told him. She’d torn his heart out by leaving all those years ago; only now when it was beginning to regenerate, thanks to a healer no less, did she return. Possibly to finish the job, leaving him so broken even Camille wouldn’t be able to fix the damage.
It was that fleeting thought of Camille that set Vince’s resolution. She cared for him, and he had finally begun coming to terms with his feelings for her. Letting his past hang over whatever may come for them wasn’t a situation he was willing to accept. She deserved better, and for that matter so did he. But, the path to deciding what was right came from understanding. Vince needed to finally settle the chaos in his heart, and the only person who could do that was Eliza Tracey.
He rose from his bed, pausing only to check the address on the back of the card. It was close to campus, only a few blocks away. That meant no need to bum a ride; he could easily walk the distance in under ten minutes. Vince pulled open his closet and glanced through it, wondering what one wore to a secret late-night rendezvous. Nick would have known; Nick probably would have had three different outfit options to make him choose from. But Nick wasn’t here anymore.
Which meant Vince had to keep muddling through on his own.