Darker By Degree

Kyle was angry. I could tell from the firm line of his mouth, from the way he slashed at his notebook with the pen. He looked at me and looked away, opened his mouth and closed it like a fish that found itself unexpectedly on the bank.

We stood on the front lawn like strangers waiting for a bus, in each other’s company only by accident. Morning was still a few hours away, but old people in slippers and housecoats huddled under the rain of light from street lamps, survivors on islands in the darkness. They looked as disoriented as I felt, and some held each other’s hands like children. The trampled grass smelled of the end of summer and the flashlights bobbing around the sides and back of the house could have been fireflies, flickering away their existence. The rest of the team was inside, doing whatever it is they do, picking up things and putting them in bags, walking around and muttering to each other.

Chauncey seemed reluctant to leave me, so I held him, warm against the cold places inside of me. I’d looked him over, and it seemed none of the blood was his. I think he was just half-starved and missing his owner.

Kyle said something under his breath.

“What?”

He sighed and flipped the notebook shut. “Do you know how incredibly stupid this was?”

“Yes,” I said.

That seemed to throw him.

“Well, it was. You out here playing Nancy Drew. I can’t believe you came here by yourself.”

“Wait ’til you know me better, you’ll believe anything.”

I was only making things worse.

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