Eli Ever sat in the back of the history seminar, tracing the wood grain of the desk and watching a girl with blue hair named Beth. It wasn’t such a strange thing, the hair, not in this part of the country, but Eli happened to know that Beth dyed it that color after it had all gone white. The white was the product of trauma, a trauma that had almost nearly killed her. Technically had, in fact, for four and a half minutes.
Yet here Beth was, alive and taking notes while the blue strands around her face fell across her paper.
Eli couldn’t stand history. It couldn’t have changed that much in the fifteen years since he’d taken it. He stared at the ceiling, then at the dark chalk spaces between the professor’s notes, then back at the blue hair, then at the clock. Class was nearly over. His pulse quickened in a delicious way. He pulled out the the slim dossier from his satchel, the one Serene had put together him, laying out with painstaking clarity the girl’s history, her accident, her miraculous recovery.
It was good to be informed. He brushed his fingertips over the photo of Beth, wondering where Serena had swiped it from. He rather liked that hair.
The clock ticked on, and Eli slid the dossier back into his bag, and pushed a pair of thick-framed glasses up his nose—they were plain glass, not prescription, but he’d noticed the trend around campus and followed suit. Looking the part age-wise was never a problem, of course, but styles changed. Beth could choose to stand out if she wanted, but Eli did everything in his power to blend.
The professor finished his lecture early–Eli bit back a smile–wiped his chalk-covered hands against a cloth, and wished them a good weekend. Chairs scraped, bags were hoisted. Eli rose and followed the blue hair out of the auditorium and down the hall, carried on a wave of students. When they reached the outer doors, he held it open for her. She thanked him, tucked a blue strand behind her ear, and headed across the campus.
As he walked he felt for the place in his jacket where his gun would be, a product of habit, but the pocket was empty. The dossier had told him enough to make him wary of anything that might succumb to magnetism. He’d have to do this the old-fashioned way. A smile flitted across his face. He liked the old-fashioned way.
Eli crossed the campus at a safe distance, basking in the crisp fall air, the beauty of the late afternoon sky and the leaves. One tumbled down from a tree and clung to the girl’s blue hair.
He slipped his gloves on.
When they were almost to the parking lot, he began to pick up his pace, closing the gap between them.
“Hey!” he called, catching up, “It’s Beth, right?”
The girl slowed, and turned to look at him, but kept walking. Soon he was beside her.
“Yeah,” she said. “You’re in Phillips’ history section with me.”
“Sure am,” said Eli, flashing his best college-kid grin. “I’m Nicholas.” Eli had always liked the name. Nicholas and Frederick and Peter, those were the ones he found himself repeating.
They passed through the lot, row after row of cars, the school falling away behind them.
“Sorry, can I ask you a favor?” asked Eli.
“What’s up?” Beth tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I don’t know where my head was during class,” he said, “but I missed the assignment. Did you write it down?”
“Sure,” she said, reaching her car.
“Thanks,” he said, biting his lip, “better things to look at than the board, I guess.”
She giggled shyly and set the bag on the hood and unzipped it, digging around inside.
“Anything’s better than the board,” she said, pulling out her notebook.
She had just turned back to face him when his hand closed around her throat, slamming her into the side of the car. She gasped, and he felt his metal ring hum—he should have taken it off—beneath his gloves. He tightened his grip. She clawed at his face, raking the black-rimmed glasses, carving out scratches on his skin. He felt blood trickle over his cheek. The car behind her began to shake, the metal trying to bend. Eli waited patiently until the struggle slowed, and weakened, and stopped.
He peeled his gloved fingers away from her throat, and watched the girl’s body slide down the warped metal of the car door and onto the concrete, blue hair falling across her face. The angry red scratches on Eli’s cheek knitted and healed, leaving only smooth, clear skin.
He tugged the gloves off. The ring had dented in, like a crushed coke can, and cut into his skin. He forced it free, pocketing the bloodied silver. A couple drops of blood ran over his knuckles before the skin stitched itself back together. Eli pocketed the gloves and knelt to retrieve his prop glasses from the ground beside the body.
His cell rang as he straightened them on his nose.
“The Hero Line,” he answered, “How can I assist you?”
Note from Tessa: Thanks, Victoria, for joining us!