I recognized him. The towering man with tawny skin, smoky hair, and a long, crooked nose sat on a small couch on the other side of the room, and while I was used to seeing him perched next to Nicole during their broadcasts in a fine suit, his unique visage made him easily identifiable in plain clothes. I didn’t watch their show very often because of the political bias presented in their version of the news, but if I knew that they were being forced to deliver that tripe, I would have tuned in to their show more regularly! While I couldn’t have known that their network was under the control of the Fallen, I wished that I had ignored their words so that I had some idea of what his personality was like. Right then, as Violet and I stood there, I couldn’t tell if we were in the presence of a friend or foe! Not that we could do much anyways with that security guard keeping an eye on us in the hall! It seemed like a difficult feat prior to this moment, but with this unknown variant now before us, the odds of Violet and I obtaining the information we needed from Nicole seemed nearly impossible! I remained motionless as my brain went blank on solution to this conundrum!
Nicole, who had been leaning against the ledge on the vanity mirror across from us, gazed at us in awe. Clearly, she could see through our mail carrier disguise and was astonished at our presence, and I could tell that she ached to bombarde us with questions, but she didn’t say or do anything that would give our identities away. Instead, she stood up and politely asked us,” Can I help you?”
“We have a certified letter for you to sign.” As I answered her, I stared at her in a meaningful way hoping to signify to her that we came her for a much different cause than what I conveyed to her moments ago.
“Oh, I see.” She subtly signaled to us that she understood our situation, and while that came as a small wave of alleviation to me, I still felt confused on how we could discuss this vital issue with so many witnesses present! She didn’t give us any concrete prompts on how to proceed, so all I could do was hand her the envelope that Violet and I nicked from the supply room at that post office. As I did so, I realized that we hadn’t included an actual document for her to pull out! If that security guard beheld her putting her signature on an empty vessel, I fretted that we would end up battling our way out of the studio! Nicole must have sensed my distress since she chose not to write on the flat surface next to her and instead requested to her co-anchor, “Jeremy, can you give me that clipboard?”
Jeremy picked up the item that she petitioned for, and I got relieved when I noticed that it had some papers on it! I prayed that she would pretend that one of them was new so that it looked more natural when she gave us the envelope back, and fortunately, that’s exactly what she did! She placed the envelope on top of the clipboard, and after she scribbled her name on it, it remained on this surface as she opened it and pretended to add something to her pile. Once she finished, she returned the envelope to our possession and stated, “Here you go.”
I began to rejoice that the transaction had gone so smoothly, but soon I developed a frown from sheer disappointment! Our interaction would have come to a close at this point, and we didn’t gather anything viable from it! We put in so much work to get to this juncture, and apparently, it had all been for nothing! We couldn’t interrogate Nicole on what she knew about the Arch Deity, and we had no other way to converse with her on another occasion! I mean, I knew we could probably have cooked up another scheme, but it would take time, and the longer we waited, the more opportunities the Fallen had to wreak havoc on our society! Yes, it would have been fatal if we had attempted to dialogue on this subject, but it was devastating that we had no method of communicating about this topic whatsoever! My last shred of hope got dashed when I observed that the envelope was empty, which meant that she hadn’t slipped in any sort of message detailing a manner in which we could talk to each other privately! All Violet and I could do at this point was turn around and head out, and we started to do just that until…
“Wait!” Jeremy called out to us. Violet and I swiveled back around not knowing what to expect. In the clips I saw of Nicole and Jeremy at work, they certainly acted like they were good buddies, but in this industry, it was difficult to discern whether or not they were being genuine or if they simply put on an act for the cameras. If their alliance was authentic, then I thought he may have had an offer of assistance to us, however, if they were adversaries, then he might have chosen this second to take us down! I also considered that the truth may have laid somewhere in between and that he had a more neutral objective to this interruption. Neither Violet nor I could make out any hints of his motives, he had such a poker face! We could only hope for the best as he inquired, “Can you take this with you?” He held up some mail for us to grab.
“Sure,” I replied without enthusiasm. It was sealed and stamped prior to our visit, so I doubted that it contained any contents for Violet or me to go over! I supposed that I should have felt grateful that he wasn’t a loyalist to Birsha, but despite our guarantee of exiting from the station safely, I couldn’t muster any joy from this encounter! Actually, it kind of annoyed me that we had an extra task to perform as we tried to think of our next move! I decided that we could drop it off in the nearest postal box while we sought out a safe harbor, so I extended my arm to retrieve his mail.
Jeremy pulled it back towards himself and let us know, “Oh, I forgot to put my card in it! Hold on!” He procured a letter opener and undid the adhesive. He then quickly found a fresh envelope to replace the ruined one, and he slipped in a business card before sealing everything up again. None of this appeared very noteworthy… except that he wasn’t at his own desk! This was definitely Nicole’s dressing room, only her name was etched on the door, so they couldn’t have been sharing this space, and yet he claimed he needed to add something to some mail that he got from her quarters! My curiosity peaked- did he know about Nicole’s secret investigation? Was he intending to give us some assistance in our journey or a warning not to interfere? I inwardly acknowledged that it was possible that he honestly had some mail to send, but something told me that he aimed to provide us with some aid! That insight only got confirmed by the earnest expression he bore as he handed the letter back to us! He very seriously regarded me, “Thank you!”
I cordially addressed him, “Happy to be of service!” Violet and I walked out of that sector, and when we rejoined the security guard in the hall, I reviewed his demeanor and did not detect any changes, so we assumed that our correspondence hadn’t raised his suspicions! He initiated his obligation to lead us out without saying a peep to us, and I was totally fine with that! The less banter we engaged in with our probable foe, the more we increased our probability of vacating the premises with no incidents! My mind eagerly anticipated studying what Jeremy relayed to us, and for the sake of the world’s future as well as Violet’s fate, I crossed my fingers that we now held the key to finding the Arch Deity in our hands!
The security guard who escorted us to Nicole and Jeremy reunited with his comrade stationed at the door, and the two of them watched us as we headed towards the back of the building. We came from that direction, so it would have been suspicious if we travelled toward the street, which is where I really wanted to go. I hankered to tear open this envelope immediately, but there was no way we would be able to do that traversing this course! There was nothing back there but cameras that could capture most of our movements, so how could we escape from this place let alone read Jeremy’s letter? I momentarily panicked that Violet would use her magic to get us out of here, and that was out of the question as feasible option for us to perform! She claimed that she had enough to last throughout the remainder of this mission, but I didn’t know how long she estimated that our quest would last! For all I knew, she could have only had days remaining, and I couldn’t bear the concept of losing her so abruptly! Thankfully, my anxious fantasies didn’t come to pass- Violet and I spotted a large chestnut tree in the back corner of their property line, and it hung over into their neighbor’s territory! We swiftly climbed it and got out of that perilous locale!
We landed in the rearmost part of a movie theater, and while it was presently vacant, we didn’t dare to delve into our message until we could ensure total privacy, so we marched out of that parking lot and out onto the main avenue. While no one paid attention to us in these uniforms, my previous dread of getting identified by a passerby renewed itself in me! We kept our heads low so that our hats could conceal our faces, but the risk of getting caught persisted still! I wasn’t familiar with this division of Anwynston, so I couldn’t offer any suggestions to Violet on where to proceed to next. We wracked our heads until we happened to stumble upon a vacant construction zone, and when we spotted a port-a-potty on the site, we gazed to each other to wordlessly query on whether or not we should use that facility. Since time was of the essence in this harrowing scenario, we shrugged and agreed to give it a shot.
This unit was pretty cramped, and if I had the opportunity to nestle this close to Violet in any other instance, I would have been thrilled! Unfortunately, the various odors that lingered in the air made any romantic notions I might have had vanish! Straight after Violet shut the door, she avidly directed me, “Open it!”
Excitement cascaded throughout my body as I finally got to rip open this mysterious letter, and my optimism reached its pinnacle as I awaited the results! I truly expected to behold something marvelous that would provide us with some much-needed guidance! My hands shook as I held the document before me… and then my spirits deflated in an instant! “It’s a logistics company soliciting Nicole for business!” I hollowly announced.
“Seriously?” Violet read the paper for herself, and she concluded, “That can’t be what he meant to tell us! What about the card he took from Nicole’s desk?”
“Oh yeah!” This reminder prompted my aspirations for a fruitful outcome to rise once more! I didn’t get the impression that he aimed to rid himself of some junk mail, the business card he purposefully placed in this envelope had to offer us some insight to Jeremy and Nicole’s plan! I presumed he dealt us some means of contacting them in order to discuss the vital issue at play, and it shocked me that we received something else entirely! “It’s for a soup kitchen down the road!”
Violet’s expression looked puzzled at first, but then she appeared to get struck by inspiration. “They must want us to meet them there!”
That sounded plausible at first, but then I grew skeptical of this theory. “I dunno, it’s not exactly private there…”
“There has to be something there that they want us to see!” Violet insisted. “Jeremy didn’t slip this in here by accident, and nothing about our outfits cause anyone to believe we might need these services! This means something! We need to find out what’s there!”
“Alright,” I acquiesced. “I didn’t get any vibes from Jeremy that would make me think that he’s trying to set us up for a trap, so there probably is some sort of lead there. I just…” A prickly sensation developed all over my extremities, so I asserted, “We better keep our guard up just in case!”
Violet put her hand on my shoulder, stared straight into my eyes, and voiced, “Jack, ‘til we find the Arch Deity and defeat Birsha, we always gotta keep our guard up!”
I concurred, “Right!” For a minute, we said or did nothing more than stare deep into each other’s eyes! My heart fluttered for a flash, but before any other pleasurable phenomena occurred, the putrid stenches of this edifice invaded my nostrils again, so I appealed to Violet, “Can we get going?” She nodded and vigorously got on board with that proposal! We barged out of this stall, causing us to garner some strange faces from the pedestrians who witnessed this event! We gave them no explanation as we made our way out of that vicinity!
I was astounded at how drastically different the conditions of the structures on this side of the street were compared to where we had originated! The news station was surrounded by professional and sophisticated complexes, and everything around this region seemed so rundown and neglected! The soup kitchen was no exception! It had blemishes so visible that I wondered how it was allowed to stand! It saddened me to see so little effort getting put into a neighborhood in dire need of improvements, and it made me that much more nervous to have gotten sent there! “Why would Jeremy and Nicole send us to this neck of the woods?”
Violet reminded me, “Guardians go where they’re needed the most! Nicole and Jeremy are classy people, so they wouldn’t hang out here without a real good reason! I’m guessing one or both of them are a Deity who chose to assist this community! The soup kitchen is significant to at least one of them, so let’s go see why!” My hesitation hadn’t waivered, but I also had no inclination to stray away from Violet, so I continued to follow her.
When we approached our destination, we paused our gait as we took a gander at the long line of folks waiting to get inside of the soup kitchen- it wrapped around the block! Neither of us were pleased with how long it would take for us to get inside, but we resigned ourselves to committing to this endeavor… Or, at least, we were going to! I froze as a wave of alarm stuck me unexpectedly! I didn’t see Nicole or Jeremy there, but I saw two individuals whose presence there horrified me to the core…