Both trains rushed through the night to reach their destinations. At one point, they traveled side-by-side with a whole track between them for a full hour.
Neither Ambrose nor Hildreth had any idea that the other was so close. Not even a psychic shiver.
Then, Ambrose’s train turned left and Hildreth’s turned right.
And then they were gone.
Hildreth turned on his cellphone and checked for any missed calls.
There was just one.
And she had left a message.
“Hildreth. I…” She sighed. “Oh, I don’t even know why I’m calling. This is…” There was a long pause. “I understand your fears about being changed. Every hunter has that fear. I do. Hildreth. It’s horribly cold out tonight. Isn’t it? I wish it weren’t so cold. It’s so wet out. It’s hard to hunt effectively when one is shivering. I’ll have to go home and take it all out on my punching bag.”
Another long pause.
“I guess…what I’m trying to say is…I. Hildreth. Whatever you’re up to, whatever mad scheme you’re really chasing, please. Come home to me.”
And she ended her call.
He lowered the phone and bowed his head.
Ambrose sat up in the cot and leaned his head against the wall. He could feel the rhythm of the wheels and the tracks in their long dance.
I wish Barbara were here.
I wish I had a phone to call her on. I never did buy a new one. I’ll have to do that when I get back…What should I call Pinkerlee? Home? I don’t even have a permanent residence there. I need one. I need somewhere…
He thought about his castle.
I can’t go back there. It’s too close to Mark Caten. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a group of hunters camped out around there, waiting for me to return.
He laughed softly. “They’re going to have a long wait.” I hope they’re bored. I hope they’re dying of boredom. It would serve them right for intruding on my living space.
I wish Barbara were here.
Bits and clips of his dream flashed in his mind, including the image of the candle-lit figure.
When I return home, will I find her there? If I do, what will she say? What will she think of me?
She’ll be disappointed in the man I’ve become. I know she will. How could she be otherwise? She was always so gentle and kind. She never struck me. Ever.
And I…I am so far removed from the boy I was, the man I should be.
She’ll hate me.
I wish Barbara were here. I wish she were here to hold me, to tell me that I’m wrong.
But she can’t be here.
I don’t want to hurt her.
I never want to hurt her again.
What will happen to me? What if Sammy’s wrong? What if that hunger overtakes me? What if I lose myself to it and it becomes all that I am?
I’d never be able to go back to her.
He bunched his knees up against his chest and wrapped his arms around them.
I’ll lose her.
And I will have no home.