True Deception, Chapter 26

“This doesn’t seem like much of a punishment!” I conveyed to the four Fallens with as much cynicism as I could muster.

            “I’m sorry?” Leonard reacted in disbelief. Jinn and Alastor stared at me incredulously, and even Violet seemed surprised by my assertion! I would have to explain it to her later, but for the moment, she would just have to trust me on this!

            I shrugged and then expounded on my point, “You said this was the Punishment Site, and, well, this seems so quick and painless. How is that a punishment?”

            Leonard, Alastor, and Jinn appeared impressed by my stance, and I inwardly pat myself on the back for how convincing I had been to our foes! It never occurred to me until then that I had any acting skills, and I bemused myself in thinking that I wasted my college years studying pre-law! Leonard asked me, “Well, what did you have in mind?”

            “Uh…” My inflated ego popped as I had to go back to business, and I made sure to really concentrate on radiating a sociopath with homicidal tendencies as I answered him, “There’s a forest right there! Why not make it more sporting? Let him run and dare to believe he has a chance at survival, and then, the moment he thinks he’s got a shot at victory- BAM! We get him!” I didn’t have any actual interest in hunting this poor man down; I was hoping to get the Fallens away from him so that Violet and I could secretly help him out, and I prayed that these goons were sadistic enough to fall for it!

            “I like what your twisted brain comes up with!” Leonard mused himself with this notion I raised, and I started to get the impression that my plan might prevail, but then… “But we can’t possibly do that!”

            My heart sunk to hear his refusal, but I wasn’t prone to give up so easily, so I challenged him on that, “Why not?”

            Leonard rationalized his denial, “We don’t have much control over what happens in the woods! There could be a hiding spot there that we’d never be able to find, or he could run into someone who could save him! Plus, you don’t know when something dangerous could turn up and hurt us! The longer we let him live, the more danger we put ourselves in, so it’s better to kill him right away! And bury him right away too! If we got him out there, we run the risk of somebody seeing us with his corpse! Your idea sounds fun, but…”

            Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something that caught his attention, and when he whipped his head in the direction of this source of distraction, we all mimicked his move. The Fallens were horrified to see that the trespasser had a watch on and used our preoccupation in that discussion to discretely call 9-1-1! For a second, Leonard stared at the device as if it were a time bomb ready to explode, but then he abruptly shouted, “Scatter!”

            As Alastor, Jinn, and Leonard all sprinted in different directions, they did a spell to remove their armor. Violet and I kept ours on as we prepared to depart, but before we left, the intruder stopped us, “Hey!” I don’t know why we complied with his wishes- we were his perceived enemies, what good could have followed that request? I guess something about his tone made us consider trusting him, and I crossed my fingers that we hadn’t erred in trusting him! Luckily, he gazed at us gratefully as he expressed, “Thanks!” I felt relieved to learn that he caught on to how we assisted him, but since Violet and I were still getting framed for murder, we couldn’t stick around. Instead, I gave him a thumbs up as we took off.

            Violet and I didn’t have a pathway to guide us, we simply headed away from the beach and figured that if we kept going this route, eventually we would come across some sort of road. After quite a bit of fleeing, the two of us had to pause and catch our breath! Once I had gotten enough inhalations to speak again, I remarked, “It didn’t seem like such a long trip as we were heading over here!”

            “Seriously!” Violet shared my sentiments, and after taking another big gulp, she suggested, “We should probably take the silver off since that thief probably gave the police a description of his assailants.”

            “Yeah, we don’t wanna get back to Anwynston in the back of a cop car!” We laughed a little despite our wheeziness, and as we shed our helmets and mail, I conversed, “Too bad we’ll never know why that dude broke into the school!”

            Violet thoughtfully reflected on that, “Yeah, I’m curious if he was gonna do a regular robbery or if he had some kind of resistance to Birsha in mind! If Nathair hadn’t contacted us when he did, I wonder if we could have gotten an ally out of him!” She paused and added, “Oh well! It doesn’t really atter what might have been, we gotta focus on what we’re gonna do now! How do we travel that far without getting caught and thrown in prison?”

            I brought up, “But do we wanna avoid capture anymore? The Fallens are pretty adamant about us not getting incarcerated!”

            “Because they don’t want anyone else blabbing secrets,” Violet asserted. “I’m assuming some Guardians have been telling the courts everything they gathered from their encounters with Birsha’s Army! Oh! Nicole just got arrested, and she did imply she was gonna do that!”

            “I hope she stays safe wherever she is!” I greatly admired her conviction to inform the masses on this regime’s malevolent practices, but I could only imagine that she obtained a huge target on her back from this intention, and I fretted for her well-being! I couldn’t linger on that concept for too long though since we had our own safety to worry about! “It’s still dark out, and we have a lot of plants to shield us on this trip, we can probably make it back alright.”

            Violet frowned as she commented, “It’s gonna take us at least eight hours to get to Anwynston on foot! That’s a long time to go without us running into something that might get us thrown in jail!”

            I reminded her, “The authorities are more likely looking in the air for a vehicle that matches what that man described, I doubt they’ll search for anyone walking around on the ground! Besides, who would be crazy enough to hoof it for such a long trek?” Violet giggled at my quip, a feat that always elated my spirits, and I attempted to further my joyful impact on her mood by encouragingly ensuring her, “School doesn’t start ‘til Monday anyways. We have a whole day to wait anyways! It’ll be fine even if we never stumble across another method of transporting us home!” Violet gave the mirthful reaction that I wanted, and I began to look forward to having such an expansive opportunity to be alone with her!

            My solitude with her was briefer than I envisioned it would be! What felt like no time at all, we saw pavement ahead of us! Initially, we assumed that it was part of a street, but it turned out to be a parking lot belonging to a church. We presumed that this house of worship was in a remote location, and we expected their driveway to lead us back to the freeway, but the avenue we faced led to the entrance of a tiny city full of antique buildings! “Hmm… Do you think this town will get us back on track, or should we go the other direction through the woods?” Violet posed to me.

            “I dunno…” Both routes contained potential danger for very different reasons, and I had no inkling which one would offer us the most amount of protection! The mail and helmet grew heavy in my arms, it would have been so nice if we could have ditched these garments in the forest! Unfortunately, we had to use them when we returned to Monico Elementary, and the outfits we obtained from the Buddhist temple didn’t have any pockets! The material would have folded up if only we had somewhere to place them! I tried to make my peace with this burden we had to carry, but I grew uncomfortable with the extra weight! As I readjusted my load to make it easier to bear, I happened to read what the message on the sign said. It intrigued me, and I alerted Violet to this development, “Wow! Talk about meant to be!”

            “Trip to Anwynston, nine a.m.! What a coincidence! Too bad we can’t go with them!” she sighed.

            I inquired, “Why can’t we?”

            She replied, “They probably already have a set number of people slated to board whatever vehicle they’re using. They may even do a role call! We’d get caught for sure!”

            “They would do that for a long trip, but not a thirty-minute drive!” I argued. “If they let us on, we’d save at least five hours of travel time!”

            “And if they don’t, we’ll lose several hours waiting here!” Violet differed. “Or worse, they could recognize us and we’d land ourselves in lockup! Although… in a small town like this, their jail system would probably be simple enough for us to break out without too much trouble…”

            It relieved me to see her entertaining this possibility! I really believed that it was the most practical method of getting to Anwynston, but I needed to address one lingering issue… I glanced around at what resources were available around there, and I grew ecstatic to see a costume shop a few doors down! “Aren’t you glad Halloween is just around the corner!?!”

            Violet chuckled, and we walked over to that store. It was still dark out, so obviously the store wasn’t open. I peered through the window and declared, “It doesn’t look like they have any kind of a security system here. They probably have a cheap lock too!” As I wiggled the handle to test it, the door instantly became ajar! “This is just too easy! It’s gotta be a trap!”

            “Shh! Someone might hear you!” Violet quietly reminded me before we set foot onto the property. We tiptoed inside and scoped the vicinity out. It wasn’t a big space, but it had a lot of options! The inventory was numerous enough that all of the racks were stacked to the max, so we had a multitude to pick from! “What would make the most sense for us?” Violet whispered.

            “Is somebody there?” an elderly voice yelled form the top of a staircase in the center of the structure! Panicking, I grabbed the first costume I laid my eyes on and dashed out of there! Violet copied my action and got out before the shopkeeper could catch a glimpse of us!

            We came back to the church and found a wall bordering their dumpsters where we could discretely change, and I volunteered to go last. While she swapped her garments, I studied what I nabbed and commented, “I hope these things fit!”

            Violet exclaimed, “Oh, we’re pilgrims!”

            “What?” I puzzled.

            “Look!” She came out wearing a long, old-timey dress with an apron and bonnet! We cracked up at this realization, and then she gleefully regarded me, “Please tell me your hat was attached too!”

            I held up a capotain and kidded, “Hey, these things may be goofy, but I bet no one will think we’re up to no good in them!”

            As I got out of my previous attire, Violet stated, “Hopefully we won’t be the only ones dressed up! If this is a solemn ceremony, we’ll have to walk to Anwynston like this!”

            “So? At least it has pockets!” I came out of the shadows and showcased my outfit for her. “What do you think?”

            “Your shoes don’t match!” a man behind us put in. We grew startled by this abrupt appearance, but he didn’t seem to find our presence so strange! “We may have some boots in the back! Hold on!”

            He ducked into the building and swiftly rejoined us with a pair of shoes that kind of matched my costume! As he gave them to me, he also gave me a compliment, “It’s so nice of you to do this! Now as we pray for the lost souls of the witchcraft trials, the kids won’t picture ghosts of the past, they’ll know real human beings died that day!”

            And just like that, Violet and I basically became party hosts! No one questioned our identities, everyone assumed that we belonged there! We thought we ran into an incredible stroke of luck at the premise of us being actors who tagged along for the journey, but once we arrived at this historic district of Anwynston, we found that we couldn’t separate ourselves from the group! We were too noticeable to slip away without getting seen, so we felt forced to remain on their touristy adventure! I don’t know what we could have gained from that school on a Sunday, but I knew we weren’t doing much for our cause by participating in this stunt! Fortunately, almost no one recognized us in this façade! One old lady queried if we ever got mistaken for the two most wanted criminals in the area, but she was merely teasing us! Finally, at some staged production of the trials, Violet and I managed to sneak out of their periphery!

            The door was unlocked when we, at last, got to the school! We ditched our headwear and donned our armor again, so none of the staff suspected anything heinous! When we were alone in the camera room, I joked, “Well, on the plus side, I kicked the itch to become an actor to the curb!”

            “Good!” Violet grinned as she sleepily rested her chin on her hands. “The real plus side is that Nathair didn’t call us when we were with that church bunch!”

            “Why didn’t he call us?” I pondered with a yawn.

            Violet gave me a shrug. “As long as he doesn’t have us thrown out of here, I’m not gonna worry about it!”

            I agreed, “Yeah, we should be glad were here again, and tomorrow, we can search for the…”

            All of a sudden, someone was nudging me to wake up, which was funny because I didn’t recall falling asleep! I opened my eyes, and my panic began to resurface…

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