Catching Smoke: Ch. 7

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Colin didn’t like to be kept waiting, but that’s exactly what he had been doing for almost a half hour in Emmalee’s hotel lobby. He was considering that she might not come. Perhaps he had overestimated her anxiety. But just before he could begin to consider himself disappointed, she strolled into the lobby, fully dressed.

So, he hadn’t overestimated her. He had simply underestimated her femininity.

“I suppose I should have told you we’re just going for a drive.” He told her.

“I suppose there are many things you should have told me.”

“Are you regretting your scene earlier today? Because that wasn’t my fault.”

She stayed silent, and Colin began walking toward the door. Thankfully, she followed. He had worried she would cause another scene, and he really wasn’t in the mood to play any games right now. He had only prepared for a brief drive around the block, enough time to give her just enough information to keep her interested.

Colin had a car waiting for them at the curb when they stepped outside. The driver was another associate of Harlem’s, and had the car door opened for them already. Colin gestured for Emma to get in first, but she hesitated.

“I don’t trust you.” She said.

“Understood.” Colin nodded. “Get in.”

“I’m not getting in a car with a stranger. I don’t even know your name.” She shook her head and took a step back. “I don’t trust you. I’m not getting in.”

Colin sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Trust goes both ways.” He said. “I’m trusting that you’ll get in this car and hear what I have to tell you in confidence, and you’re trusting I won’t kill you and will give you the information you seek.” He waved his hand toward the car again. “So get in.”

Emma hesitated, clasping her hands tightly in front of her waist. She met Colin’s gaze, and held it for a while. Then, she sighed and immediately climbed into the car, as if another second of hesitation would have her running back up to her hotel room.

Colin got in after her and the driver shut the door before getting into the driver’s seat. The driver was already informed of the route, so he began driving immediately while Colin and Emma sat in silence for a moment. Colin was staring at Emma, taking in the anxious expression on her face, the way she clasped her hands tightly in her lap, the smooth curve of her neck as she looked out the window, intentionally avoiding Colin’s gaze. Finally, she looked at him, her green eyes staring into his forcefully.

“Well?” She said.

“Madame Delveaux was reported missing four days before her - or really your - appearance in New York,” Colin said, “by her mother. Which wouldn’t have been suspicious if her mother hadn’t been dead for three months already. Care to explain?”

“Perhaps she wanted attention. Daddy issues.”

“Is that so?”

Emma shrugged, and looked back out the window.

“I don’t see how my story has anything to do with yours, and that’s the only reason I’m here. Who are you? What do you want with me?” She asked.

“That’s pretty straightforward for somebody who likes to play games.”

“That doesn’t answer my questions. Who are you?”

“A friend.”

“I don’t have friends.”

“Well, then. Why should I help you?”

Emma sighed.

“What’s your name?” She asked. “Can you at least answer that?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter? If we’re not friends?”

She clenched her fists, and glared at him.

“I don’t understand what you want from me.” She said through clenched teeth.

“You’re not supposed to.” He grinned. “Not yet.”

“I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean!” She took a deep breath, and looked at him. “Did Sergei send you? Is that what this is about?”

Colin was caught off guard. There was nothing about a Sergei in her file.

“Sergei?” He asked.

She looked out the window again.

“Nevermind.” She said.

There was silence as Colin tried to recall any mention of Sergei. Her file had only contained her various identities and how she had stolen them. There had been nothing about Sergei, though. Colin was sure of it. He’d memorized every detail of the file. Who was this Sergei? What did he have to do with Emmalee? Or perhaps the better question was why she was so afraid of him? Is that why she was on the run? Constantly changing identities? Perhaps it was more than just boredom fueling her escape into different lives.

Colin was so lost trying to figure everything out that he didn’t realize Emma had been slowly shifting towards the car door. By the time he snapped back to the present long enough to gauge her next move, she already had the door open and was prepared to jump. He quickly grabbed a hold of the green dress she was wearing, but she was already gone. He watched her tumble onto the street, gripping nothing but a ripped piece of green cloth.

“Stop the car!” He yelled to the driver, and the driver slammed on his brakes.

Colin hopped out of the car, and dashed toward Emma. 

But she had already disappeared.

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