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Chapter 7 - The Shadow

'Well, then...' Nike continued. 'I take it you'll be willing to answer my question?'

Halle nodded. 'That was the deal.'

'Haha. Good girl. Now, I realize it might be insensitive to ask about this...but King didn't happen to leave anything in your care seven years ago, did he?'

Halle cast her mind back to her last memory of her father and felt a slight twinge of sadness thinking about what had happened to him after it. The pain of his loss had subsided since she met Jack and would likely continue to do so, but it would be a lie to say that it had completely gone.

She racked her brain seeking an answer to Nike's question, and quickly realized that the other woman was probably asking about the jeweled Eastern-style necklace that she wore around her neck.

'This,' Halle said, showing her the pendant. 'He gave it to me when he came to visit for the last time.'

Nike was silent for a moment. 'Thank you. That's all I wanted to know.' She rose from the stool. 'Well, then, I suppose I should be going. I wouldn't want to keep Leonard waiting.'

Her farewell said, she handed a tip to the bar's owner and exited with a beguiling sweep through the door.

The punks watched her departure in silence, none daring to break her spell even after she was gone.

After Nike had left, Halle resumed her usual work. Time ticked by as she wiped down tables and busied herself.

She sighed. 'Jack sure is late...'

It had been almost an hour since he had left to run his errands. She wasn't concerned about him, though. She'd bet her boots that he was just off somewhere slacking or messing about.

She stepped outside through the back entrance to take out the garbage. Just as she did, a great shadow filled the alley, blanketing her in darkness.

'Hey, hey! Guess who's back!' came the loud call of none other than Jack. His voice was almost drowned out by the shriek of the door as he flung it open.

One look at him proved Halle's suspicions on his tardiness correct; he had far more shopping bags than he should have.

'Huh? Where'd Halle go?' he asked, noticing her absence.

The owner glanced around. 'Now you mention it, I haven't seen her since she went to take the garbage out earlier.'

Jack was suddenly overcome by a great sense of foreboding. He hurried out the back entrance, but only a collection of scattered garbage bags awaited him. Bags...and a very conspicuously placed card.

On its front was a simple message.

'We have Halle. If you want her back, come to the designated place.

- Leonard'

'Damn it!'

Jack's angry cry echoed in the empty alley. His face a thundercloud, he crushed the card in his fist.