Chapter 3: Guilt

Alexander tossed in his hotel bed, a guilty weight in his stomach. I’m not the only one awake right now, he thought. She is, too. Doing what? He kept thinking back on his stakeout in the woods. It could’ve been over by now. If not for that blasted car.

He cursed his luck. No one ever drove that way. Definitely not at night. Hardly anyone even knew the place existed. You only found it if you knew exactly what to look for, or…

And there lay the reason for his guilt. Alexander knew the dangers of that valley, and he’d watched someone enter it after dark, cursing them out of anger. But what had become of that person? You only found that village if, like Alexander, you were looking for it, or else—

But if that’s the case, what could I do? It’s too late for them.

Not necessarily. I could check in the morning. Ask if any strangers came in, if they managed to get out. Maybe they were just passing through. Maybe they were just lost.

But not even the lost find their way to Hallowdale. Not without help. And nothing good would help you end up there.

I have to do something.

He sat up and looked at the clock. If he left now, it would be well past dawn by the time he arrived. Whatever she planned on doing would be done by then, and if she even suspected his presence, he’d have to start his hunt all over again.

But I can’t just give up on them, whoever they are.

Throwing off the bed covers, he got dressed and grabbed several items from the bag on the floor. Lastly, he donned his coat and gave himself a quick inspection in the mirror. Alexander’s eyes were sunken, his skin dark and tight. Gray and black bristled across his chin and cheeks, but he wasn’t interested in hygiene at the moment. He just needed to make sure his tools were stowed properly. He was likely to draw strange looks or worse if anyone caught sight of what he carried in his coat. Satisfied, he headed out to his motorcycle and fired it up. It was two hours to Hallowdale, if you knew all the right shortcuts, but Alexander didn’t fancy risking those in the dark. His prey wasn’t the only thing that stalked the valley. There were legends about—well, Alexander didn’t necessarily believe them, but he wasn’t reckless either. That meant it would take him closer to three hours, most of that spent on major highways that, through subtle curves only visible from the air, avoided a vast stretch of woodland.

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