Margot tensed at the sound of Roberto’s voice and the double-barreled shotgun cocking. She felt it on the back of her head, but felt no bloodlust coming from the hunter. He was detached, dispassionate. Just doing what needs to be done, is it? She thought to herself, but didn’t dare say it aloud.

Margot didn’t waste time grimacing. She knew if he fired, it would all be over quickly, so she just looked ahead, calming herself, lamenting everything she would leave behind unfinished. It wasn’t the case she cared about, though it nagged at her, but the bonds she had yet to mend, the vengeance she had still to savour. “Not going to beg? They usually beg at this point.” Roberto’s voice brought her back to the present.

“What’s the point?” She said without glancing back. “If you’re gonna do it, just do it.” She said, fighting to hide the shivers and shakes of fear from her voice. I’ve never let fear command me, not in public anyway, not about to start now.

She felt Roberto shuffle in place, the shotgun swaying slightly. What is he waiting for? Think, Vance! She commanded herself. Margot closed her eyes and steadied her breathing, clearing her mind enough to analyse the situation. Her only other course of action was fighting him, but everything she’d heard about him made her sure she would lose.

He’s killing the Fixers, true…but…he only took them out after they attacked the Knights. He could’ve killed me without me even knowing but didn’t. He projected himself to Weston, when he could’ve killed me and Ferd from a mile away with a rifle, but didn’t. Instead he warned the king about me. He saved me in the graveyard…

Analyse the situation…motive? Based on behavioural patterns, containment. Course of action? Do not attack. Body tense but resolve wavering. Waiting for an excuse.

Call his bluff. Margot opened her eyes and grinned. “Do it.” She said flatly.

“What?”

“Take the shot. That’s what you’re here for, aren’t you? Only I’m not giving you the excuse. If you wanna drop me, do it, but I won’t give you a reason to hide behind.” She said flatly, turning to face him.

His reaction startled her.

He laughed. “John was right about you.” He put the shotgun away. “He said you’d see through every threat I made unless I was serious about it.”

“You could’ve taken me out any time, even in the graveyard, and you didn’t. You could’ve killed us all in Weston’s room and you didn’t. I was too scared of you to see it before, but a shotgun to the head has a way of clearing your mind!” Margo said, crossing her arms. She explained her entire thought process to Roberto, who just nodded and chuckled.

“True. I’m on cleanup duty. John’s on prevention and Peter’s on tracking.” He said.

“Peter? As in Tiger?” She said, remembering the restaurant.

“Yep. I was there at the restaurant when you came over. Good call, but he wasn’t going to tell you anything. John gave us all very specific instructions.”

“Then why all the theatrics with Weston? Is he in on this too? Are you guys after Ferd?”

“Who the hell and what kind of a name is Ferd?” He said, with a quizzical look on his face.

Margot weighed the options, considering what revealing Ferd’s identity might do. Too late, you’ve already put the thought in his head, might as well go all the way. Maybe he’ll drop his guard and tell you something else. “Ferd’s another ‘Harrowed’. He’s one of Weston’s Unnatural Investigators.”

“Ugh, that name. Styles always had a flair for the pompous.” Roberto shook his head. “But no, we didn’t even know about Ferd. John wants Weston to have total deniability on this. Making myself the villain is the easiest way…I’m also used to it.” He said, and she felt a deep sorrow in him, but noticed the mental effort he put into pushing memories down. Same as me.

“So what now?”

“Now, you come with me and help me stop a couple of Fixers. Got a fresh trail from Peter.”

“Then why come after me?”

“I wanted to see for myself if John was right or if he was deluded. The Illusionist often was.”

“Is he reverting?” Margot said, the fear clear on her face.

Roberto answered with an incredulous look. “Who the hell told you that?”

“Weston.” She said, concern still in her voice.

“Moron.” He shook his head, disappointed. “It’s impossible. If it were, I would know.”

“Why?”

“I would see it.” Did his eyes just shine at will? That is disconcerting.

“What’s the deal with your eyes?”

“Long story, we don’t have time for it.”

“Lead the way then!” She gestured towards the road.

“Before we leave, I just want to make something clear.” He regarded her with cold stare. “If the Harrowed Wave does take you, I’m putting you down.” Tense and unflinching. No retinal dilation, no perspiration. He’s serious.

Margot considered a witty comeback, but preferred not to push her luck and simply nodded. “So, where are we going?

“Let me see. The district names here confuse me.” He pulled out a piece of paper from the breast pocket of his leather jacket. “Tinkertown, know the place?” Margot nodded. One of the places the Mapmaker pointed out, Powers vanishing.

Tinkertown is Makai’s technological wonder. Home to every super-scientist on the planet, the living and the ones in chloroform jars or suspended in vitalising soups. If you haven’t found a way to cheat death, the Tinkerers won’t even consider you part of their community. Some scientific institutes look for IQ points as a measure of intellect but in Tinkertown, they look for your ability to break the laws of physics and leave Mother Nature crying in the corner.

Everything in Tinkertown, from the shops to the apartment complexes breaks one or several natural laws, so it’s best to avoid thinking about it. You’ll only give yourself migraines and nightmares. Peter’s trail led them to Oppenheimer Square, a name given to the place not so much as a warning of the dangers of science, but as a tongue-in-cheek reference by the locals, who consider the atom bomb to be quaint.

“I’ll take south side you take the north of this place. If you find the Fixers, do not engage!” Roberto jabbed a finger on Margot’s chest. “You can’t take them on your own.”

“Will do…boss.” She said flatly, reverting to her usual impassive persona. Back on the clock.

Margot watched Roberto walk away amazed no one gave damn about the man covered in guns and ammo. Then again, this is Tinkertown. Once he was out of sight she moved to the nearest alley, stopping just short of the deepest shadows. “Mapmaker, I know you can hear me. I’m in Tinkertown. Find me the Fixers here, now!”

A bloodstained bound scroll rolled out of the alley and stopped in front of her. Blood? Too dramatic for him. “Vance, if you hear this, they’ve found me. But I’ve compiled all maps you requested and set them to auto-send as soon as you requested them. I won’t ask you to make them pay, I know you don’t care about my fate, but make sure the maps don’t go to waste.” A voice echoed in Vance’s mind as soon as she picked up the scroll.

“Damn.” She said, frowning, and drew the Tinkertown map from the bundle. “You outdid yourself this time, con man!” She smiled widely. The map showed the entire district, and as she touched it, she felt the scroll read her thoughts. Suddenly, a random dot became ‘Golden Eyes’ and two large ones became ‘Grauzul’ and ‘Knightmare’. Next to them were other dots, bigger and of a bright red that slowly dulled.

As she studied the map she noticed Roberto was now too far away. The lights would dim before she got him to follow her. No choice. Gotta stop those two, Warren and Sylvia, if I remember our last get-together. Nice kids, ugly couple.

“Me versus two fixers…shit.”

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