31st October 1987 

Chapter 1

Hefting his duffle bag into the trunk of the Jeep and leaving McCall to stow his own gear, Mickey glared, daring the Englishman to comment. He was going to drive. Something had to stop him brooding about the funeral he attended just yesterday and the meaningless accident that caused it. Everyone survived the mission, only for one of the men to be hit by a drunk driver for Christ's sake! How pointless was that?

He waited until McCall had settled himself before starting the engine. Driving too fast, he headed away from the private plane and out of the small Louisiana airfield. He wasn't stupid or inexperienced and he knew that he needed to calm down. He'd been this close to the edge before and had kept himself under control. He could do it again.

At any other time he would have welcomed a trip to the Louisiana swamps. This late in the year it wasn't too warm so McCall wouldn't be bitching to him about the heat or humidity. There was bound to be lots of fishing and maybe even gator wrestling – which was something he'd had the urge to try for a long time.

He took a turn a little too fast and had to correct at the last minute. Mickey waited for McCall to rip him a new one. The older man hated being driven at the best of times.

The silence lengthened until Mickey couldn’t stand it anymore. "You're not saying anything."

He saw McCall smile. "I don't think I need to comment. Do you?"

"No, guess not. Sorry. It's just –"

McCall interrupted him, "It was an tragic misfortune, Mickey, nothing more and it will serve no useful purpose if we end up as another accident statistic."

Mickey gripped the steering wheel tighter. He had known the man too long not to know that his words had been chosen carefully.

"That was below the belt."

"I know." McCall fixed him in place with a patent stare. "But while I understand how you are feeling, I will not have you acting less than professionally while you are working with me."

Mickey writhed under McCall's gaze, feeling like a green kid all over again. "Okay."

"Good."

McCall pulled some papers out of his bag. "These are Control's notes and instructions for this jaunt. We need to run over possible scenarios as, from the report by Phelps and Gross, the locals were not at all helpful."

"My take on it is that they were no help at all – apart from that kid. And the report makes him sound pretty odd."

Robert nodded and rested his finger on part of the report, "Yes from what is said here, the boy Tristan, was the only one who would even speak to the agents. Not surprising I suppose, if you consider the historical context. The Cajun people have been living here for more than two hundred years and they don't welcome or trust strangers."

"Right and as Doc Boudreaux is a local they're not going to give anything away. I guess I might have to get persuasive…"

"Mickey! "

He heard the warning note in McCall's voice and had to stifle a smile, sometimes it was so easy to push his buttons. "Just kidding, McCall." Mickey decided that he needed to push the talk back on track. "From what I read the Doc's family owned a big piece of real estate around here."

"Yes. The family settled here with the first of the Arcadians over two hundred years ago. They own fertile lands around Sabine's Bluff that made them their fortune, but Doctor Belizaire Boudreaux, a brilliant but eccentric medical researcher, decided to live and work in the obscurity of a parcel of land his family built a house on in the Atchafalaya swamp area."

"Sounds like a 'Mad Scientist type' to me," Mickey chuckled.

McCall shot him a look of annoyance. "And according to Control's information, around twelve years ago under his auspices, the Company paid the doctor enough money to construct and fit out a very sophisticated lab. When the doctor’s reports on his work stopped coming in the Company became vexed. Getting to Boudreaux to check on him isn’t easy. The house and lab’s location makes maintaining security effortless, we both know how treacherous swamps can be if you don't know your way around."

Mickey nodded, keeping his eyes on the fast narrowing road. There had been swamps aplenty out in Asia when he and McCall had been working there. "So how long has the doc been missing? And do we have any idea how to find this kid?"

Robert shook his head as he answered. "We don't really know. The family lawyer isn't aware of any problems and we've been careful not to start him worrying. He's still paying all the bills for the Boudreaux interests as they arrive. The boy, and there is a rumor locally that he is somehow related to the good doctor, doesn't appear to live at the Boudreaux house, but other than that hardly anything at all is known about him. Local gossip has him appearing and disappearing at will."

"Great! Another needle in a haystack job."

"Control wasn't very forthcoming on what Boudreaux was working on other than it was some sort of gene therapy. He made a major breakthrough around ten years ago and his reports were regular and enthusiastic until the last couple of years. Then the statements taper off with the last one coming around four months back. Even though Company agents Phelps and Gross got out to the house, they didn't find any trace of the doctor or his research papers." McCall read from the notes "It says here that the local antipathy towards Boudreaux was such that none of the locals would even go near the house. So that would indicate that they wouldn't go there to steal either, even if the house were empty. That rules out robbery or murder by the locals I would think. The boy might be a suspect though, he knows how to get into the house and doesn’t appear to be worried by the local superstitions." McCall glanced at him before studying the files again. "But you know what worries Control the most?"

"The Soviets, right? Maybe it’ll be nothing, no international intrigue either. You think if we just find out that the doc is gone of his own free will that Control would be willing to close his file?" Mickey wasn't really in the mood for one of Control's little jaunts. He just wanted to get back home, maybe get a few beers with some of the guys.

"I think Control is out on a limb this time, Mickey, that’s why he called me in – off the record. My feeling is that Control had taken personal responsibility for the Company’s funding of Boudreaux's research and he will want to close the file neatly. You know how he hates mysteries. We need to find the man himself or the definitive picture of what happened to him. We also need to make sure that any research hasn't fallen into enemy hands."

"I think with what’s going on in Eastern Europe nowadays, the KGB have enough on their plates without looking for more trouble," Mickey muttered.

He slowed the Jeep as a fork in the road appeared. There were no signs around so he stopped the car. "Pass me the map. These people must be hinkey about outsiders, there’s not one road sign around here. "

Taking the map, he unfolded it. "Okay, I need to turn west here like I figured. It's about another ten miles to Sabine's Bluff."

"How long will it take, do you think?"

Mickey looked at the quality of the road and shook his head – it was more like a dirt track now. "Your guess is a good as mine. Could be twenty minutes, could be two hours." With a sigh he pushed the gear shift into drive and pulled away.

 

Chapter 2

After an hour of off-roads and country lanes, the car finally approached the outskirts of Sabine’s Bluff. Buildings of only one to four stories edged along what must be considered the main road: a two lane simple blacktop with scattered traffic lights hanging and swinging in the near gloom of the oncoming dark.

Robert checked his watch. It was almost 5pm, and all this traveling in the open jeep had chilled him and increased the discomfort of his jostled rump. He desired nothing more than a warm place to relax and a good pint to get him settled.

The report from the other agents said there was a small motel on the side of the main road. Robert was about to point it out to Mickey when his colleague sped up, made a hard left and cut the engine in the parking lot in front of the motel.

"Lucky for us," Mickey grumbled, staring at the vacancy sign popping on and off in the gloom of the late afternoon, "They got rooms available."

Robert didn’t see any reason for them to be glued together, especially as Mickey’s black mood was bringing on a darker hued one of his own.

"You go in and get us a couple of rooms," Robert said, "I’ll walk over to the restaurant mentioned in the report. We might be able to get some information right away and perhaps have a hot meal before we start searching for the Boudreaux house."

"I thought Control wanted us to get to the kid who helped Phelps and Gross find the place," Mickey said.

"I hope the young man contacts us, but we could be here for heaven knows how long, cooling our heels, as you’d say, waiting. We will give him time to get in touch with us, but we can also try to get a guide from town. The sooner we get there, the sooner we’ll get to the bottom of the mystery and the sooner we’ll be finished here." Robert heard more tightness in his voice then he had wanted.

Mickey started to get out of the Jeep, then turned back to face him. "Sorry I’m acting like a pill. The mission went like clockwork and then bam, we get home and out of nowhere one of my men is killed by a drunk driver. It’s eating at me."

Robert scanned Mickey’s face, he saw lines that he could swear he hadn’t seen before. "Don’t mention it Mick, that kind of serendipity has happened to all of us, and not just on missions. It might simply have been the agent’s time. What you can remember is that you brought your men back alive. You have no control over the random."

Mickey just sat there.

"But," Robert said, now making certain his voice was kind, "knowing that doesn’t help you feel much better right at the moment – does it?"

Mickey climbed out of the car. "No, not right now. I feel like garbage, but I know the feeling will fade, sooner or later." He patted his pockets and drew out a credit card. "It always does," he added, a bitter note in his voice as he turned and went to the motel’s front door.

Robert thought about the sad truth of that last statement for a moment, then got out and began walking away from the car.

Once on the main street – such as it was – he remembered the hand drawn map of the town and headed towards the restaurant/ bar/ meeting hall of the town of Sabine’s Bluff.

The walk was pleasant enough. After hours in the private plane and then the rough car ride, he was ready for some exercise. The town was small and not very prosperous looking, though most buildings had made a valiant try at looking festive with the addition of Halloween lights and decorations.

He passed a few rather dour looking people, all of them stared at him. The population must know every other inhabitant of the town on sight.

He kept on walking at a brisk clip until he started to hear loud music. When he turned a corner he came upon a garish sight about a quarter mile away at the end of a short street. Over the name of the bar, The Fais Do-Do, there was a large brightly lit orange pumpkin with the silhouette of a buxom witch superimposed over it. The witch, with a tall pointed black hat, was sitting astride a broom’s handle letting her rump bump up and down on it, as though gyrating to a raucous song. The rest of the front of the establishment had life sized Frankensteins, wolfmen and vampires all jumping to the same beat. As Robert approached the place, through the large front, brightly lit windows, he saw a crowd of people dancing to the strains of the music played by a live band. It was a dance – Cajun style.

Since he and Mickey had spoken about making the Fais Do-Do their first stop, he had little fear that his colleague would have any problem finding him. And since this was anything but an undercover operation, outright questions could be asked. If getting to the doctor’s home was such an arduous thing to do, then only the best scouts in the town – a handful at most – would have the knowledge and skill to get to the house. Unless agents from another government passed enough money over to the locals, he couldn’t think of another way that an outsider could have found the Boudreaux home.

The high security of the nature of his work had meant that the house and laboratory be fitted with high tech security of its own. Control had given them the necessary keys and codes to be able to get into every corner of the place.

Now, all they needed was a guide. Although both he and Mickey were trained to find their way through any obstacles and both could man a boat with the best of them, there was no need to put their lives in jeopardy this time. It was not like most of their missions where they had to get through on a deadline. Nature here in the swamps was far too dangerous for outsiders. The silt in the water shifted far too much to have any set pathways.

At best, they’d get the young man’s help. Yet the thought of waiting made him impatient, if need be they’d make their own way to the house, if they had to wait more than a day or two.

He was beginning to feel a sour note invade his consciousness. The job seemed simple enough, but his instincts were clanging unhappy noises at him. He had to make certain that nothing was taken for granted. Just because the other Company agents returned with no mention of trouble – in fact, their glowing reports of the boy were unlike both men – it needn't be an invitation for him to be lax.

When he got to the restaurant, the sun looked as if it would set within minutes. After one last glance behind him to see the layout of the surrounding street and roadway, he opened the door of the Fais Do-Do and was hit with a blast of aromatic air, thick with the smell of boiled crab, cigarette smoke and whisky. The sense of excitement was palpable.

He made his way past couples, some in semblances of Halloween costumes, all dancing energetically. A waitress in normal clothing with a pad and pencil as the giveaway, pointed to a table off the dance floor. He sat down just as the band wrapped up one number and the people on the dance floor went back to their tables.

"What can I get for you?" The waitress, a handsome woman of twenty-five to thirty stood in front of him, a wide smile on her face. She was dark-haired and red lipped, a vision of ripe womanhood.

Robert found himself smiling for a beat too long. "I’m waiting for a friend who should be here shortly, but I’d like a menu – or a recommendation of something good to eat."

The woman’s face lit up. "You’re from England, ain’t you?" Her Cajun accent was thick as molasses poured slowly – and just as sweet.

"A long time ago, I’ve lived in this country for over thirty years now."

She grinned, "Ah like how you sound, so nice and refined and all." Her smile shown out of her eyes and Robert felt a warmth rise. Lovely woman.

"I admire your accent too."

She laughed a full throated lilt. "That’s right kind of you, but ah don’t sound so fine." She leaned closer to him. "Why don’t you put yourself in my hands darlin’, and I’ll bring you something fine from the kitchen. A taste of the best Crawfish étouffée in all of Louisiana."

"Why thank you, miss." Robert said, "And something to drink. If you’d be so kind."

"Why darlin’, all you got ta do is ask, and Yvon, she do you right."

Her expression was so filled with amiability that he decided the timing was right to try for information. "Well, Yvon…"

Her eyes flashed, "Yes?"

"I could do with some information."

A shrewd smile played on her lips as she slid into the chair opposite him. "Yeah, what about?"

He glanced around, no one was paying them any attention and Mickey was still nowhere to be seen. "I’m interested in a place, hereabouts."

"Just ask. Ain’t too many places round here I don’t know of and I’m related to just about everybody." She laughed.

He stared at her to gage her reaction. "Doctor Belizaire Boudreaux has a place around here, I’ve been told."

A shadow crossed her face. "Yeah, he sure do," she said, the warmth drained from her voice.

"Friend of his are worried about the doctor and I’ve been sent to see if I can find him."

She stood up quickly. "I don’t know much about that one. He keep to himself as long as I been born. " She made to leave. "I’ll just bring you the food, we got the best here and the taste’ll prove it."

"If I’ve offended you, Yvon, I’m truly sorry." Robert was sincere about that. The woman seems genial and the Doctor must be a very sore point around here for such a reaction.

She blew out a deep breath and shot him that smile again, but this time it was a bit dimmer. "Don’t nobody know about that one, and I don’t aim to get myself involved – "

"I booked us the rooms," Mickey appeared out of the blue next to the waitress.

Robert was just about to try an introduction between the younger people, but what he saw happen between the two could only be described as an electric fireball of mutual attraction.

"Hi, " Mickey said to the young woman. He had made his voice a deep velvet to attract her attention. It seemed to work. She stopped breathing for a few seconds.

Ah well. As he watched Mickey cast his line, he was able to see that the remnant of Mickey’s aura of anger was making him even more attractive to the woman. The shadows under his eyes highlighted their color and the two days growth of beard made him look tough, on top of his usual self composed air, and Robert could understand how a woman might see his younger friend as worthy of a second glance.

"Hi, " she drawled back, somehow giving the word multiple syllables. "I’m your waitress, Yvon," she said, still flustered but glowing pink now. Mickey took her hand and stepped closer. "Your friend gave me the order." She let her eyes wander over Mickey’s face and chest. "I’ll be right back, with something you’ll like to close your lips around. Yvon guarantee it."

Mickey moved even closer to the woman, "I already see something I would like to do that to." He made a point of looking deeply into the woman’s eyes.

Robert had to admit, Mickey was good at this.

Yvon blushed a deep red. "I’ll be right back," she said, her voice a whispered sigh. Her legs were visually shaky as she moved away, but her hips swayed most invitingly.

Robert caught Mickey’s attention and nodded for him to do what he must.

With a barely visible dip of his head, Mickey moved away from the table and followed the waitress across the room.

 

Chapter 3

Mickey threw a single glance at McCall as he left him sitting at the table. The instinctive understanding they shared had snapped into place effortlessly, allowing them to communicate with looks instead of words.

Yvon moved through the dancers with little effort and made her way to the bar near the kitchen. Following her, he enjoyed the sway of her hips as she walked and began to feel a better mood wash away his sour one.

Yvon touched the hand of another waitress and Mickey heard her pass on their food order before saying, "I'm just gonna take a ten minute break, cover for me with Constantin?"

The other woman, a little blonde, nodded. "Sure thing."

The music started up again and he pulled Yvon into his arms, dancing a few steps with her. She seemed to be enjoying his attention and Mickey figured that he would be able to steer her outside pretty soon, then the serious questioning could begin.

Her eyes started on his face, but then moved downward and she smiled. "My my," her voice was breathy but she had on a wily look. "You sure do move fast, don’t you?"

"I couldn’t help myself darlin’," Mickey answered, making sure to give her his winning deep stare. "Not often that a man sees such a flower as yourself."

Eyes lit up with amusement, she threw her head back and let off a peal of laughter. "Why sugar, what can a girl say when she been dipped in that kind of honey?" Her large eyes sought his.

Through the loud music she leaned forward and spoke into his ear. "Where you from, darlin'? You're not English like your friend back there."

"Nope I'm from Texas originally, but I live mostly in New York now." Mickey had to almost shout to make himself heard over the din of the music. "Man, the music's so loud! Maybe we could go outside get some fresh air?"

Yvon licked her lips, nodded and Mickey followed as they walked to the rear exit. He found himself looking forward to spending a little time with her. If she wanted to go further than some questioning, he wasn't going to fight it. Spending some time with someone warm and soft appealed to him a lot.

They were just past the back door and the silence outside the bar was startling, it took his ears a little while to adjust. Though the air was cooler, Mickey was feeling mighty warm as she stood with her body against his. "That's some party going on in there," he said.

"Yeah, well folks round here do themselves out to celebrate Halloween. We’re mighty superstitious in these parts so we figure on having a good time – just in case."

Mickey smiled and chose his next words deliberately, "Just in case huh?"

She nodded somberly. "Don’t no body know when the evil in this world gonna come on in and overtake you."

"Do tell and Amen sister!" He felt a real smile grow. "So what do you call a good time?"

"Anything that feels good."

The look in her eyes left Mickey in no doubt about what she meant him to think. Taking her cue, he leaned in, filled his arms with her soft, vital body and pressed her parted lips in a deep kiss. When they came up for air, he murmured, "How's that?"

"Yep, that felt good." She looped her arms around his neck and this time she kissed him.

Afterwards, Mickey leaned back a little, keeping his arms clasped around her waist. He figured Yvon wouldn't be able to take much more than the ten minutes for her break, so he decided to start.

Mickey tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear and whispered, "Lord, I wish I could stay here longer, spend more time with you, but I’ve got a job to do. Gotta find the whereabouts of a fellow."

Yvon looked around nervously, "Your friend was asking about finding Doc Boudreaux's house."

"Yeah, that’s the guy. I don’t know much about him. Is he a medical doctor?"

"Not that I know. Everyone call him doc but that can be on account of him being sent away to study. I don't know. No one round these parts’d go to him for any of their miseries. He kept to himself. Just as well too, there are spirits that live in the swamp near that house, and whatever he was doing, it made them angry."

Mickey needed facts, not stories. He tried another tract. "I heard about a kid called Tristan that's supposed to know the doc real well."

As Mickey watched, Yvon grew pale, her face became a reflection of the moonlight shining down on them. "I think I'd better go back inside now."

Mickey persisted, tightening his grip on her waist. "I didn't mean to scare you." He made his voice soothing. "What's wrong with the kid?"

"Don't even talk about him! That boy, he a swamp spirit in human form. Plain evil, he does things that can't be explained."

"What sorta things?"

Yvon started to blush, which surprised Mickey. He hadn't expected that reaction – fear yes, but not embarrassment.

"It's just that he has this power over people, ‘specially women," she looked away, hiding her eyes, "Some women, that is. The older ones want to mother him, they always trying to feed him up. But the younger ones swarm round him like flies to honey – an he ain’t the kind to not lap up as much sweets as he can. But what happens is that when some of them young girls get back home, they not right in the head no more. He bad Mojo, he, all the evil of the swamp itself. "

Mickey listened with interest but discounted the rumors, he'd dealt with superstitions before.

Then, sudden silence from inside the bar put him on alert. He was overwhelmed with the feeling that something was happening and he needed to get back to McCall.

Chapter 4

Sitting at the table, waiting for Mickey’s return with some usable information, Robert scanned the crowd in the Fais Do-Do. The zydeco music had started again and he permitted himself a long study of the crowded dance floor. For the most part, all the people appeared to be similar looking. He suspected that in this secluded community, there was quite a bit of inbreeding.

Another waitress, blonde, buxom but younger than the one who had gone away to be interrogated by Mickey, delivered the food and two long necked bottles of Dixie Beer.

She smiled at him, a little wide-eyed. "Yvon left the food order and I see her go dancing and then outside with your ami, so I brought the étouffée."

Robert couldn’t help but be drawn by the aroma of the food. He looked up to thank the waitress and saw that her hands were set on her hips – which were swaying to the music. "Best not to leave a hungry man waiting." The message behind her voice and inflection was crystal clear, both welcoming and sexual in overtone.

The music had increased in tempo and now it was riotous. She spoke while studying him, "Your friend, he be back soon. Yvon’s got to get to work, or else Constantin, the owner, will beat on her coonass self."

If possible this woman’s Louisiana accent was even thicker and more syrupy than Yvon’s – it took him a moment to understand what she was saying.

Robert let his smile shine. "I’m sure your employer will be fair to your friend. She’s only furthering the good name of this fine establishment."

The young woman leaned closer to him. "Yvon said you come from England, your accent an all. The way you speak is real nice."

She looked into his eyes with a surprisingly open, carnal invitation. He let himself play with her gaze for a moment, as if savoring the temptation. But he wanted information from this fetching girl, not a hurried fling.

Time to push past pleasantries. "What do you know about a fellow called Tristan?"

She stepped back as if slapped. "Don’t know nothing bout that one." White complexion replaced the blush that had been there, her voice became hard. "He just show up in town to make trouble or to bring on bad time." A note of hysteria in her voice had become clear, and the woman must have heard it herself, for suddenly she stopped and visually forced calm onto her body.

"Hell," she forced a smile, "What can I say? The Fais Do-Do attract young Cajun males bent on fighting. It’s tradition. A rite of passage and fun – for some." She bent forward, leaning her hands on the table, getting very close to his face. "Whenever that Tristan show up, there be blood flowing, if you get all the sides of my meaning." Then she gave him a knowing look, stood up and pivoted away, stomping from the table.

Blood flowing of every type? Passion of all types, aggression and sex? Robert pondered that sentence but then the smell of the food overwhelmed his senses. Crawfish and butter, rice, onions and a spicy aroma wafted up from the creamy dish. He picked up his fork and dug into the fragrant fare.

Suddenly the raucous music, laughter and talking stopped. An unexpected heaviness filled the room, even the light seemed hazy. Robert had the fork down and his hand inside his pocket on his gun as he lifted his head. Following the gaze of the rest of the people in the unnatural quiet of the restaurant, he looked at a dark haired young man who had just entered through the doors. Instinctively, Robert knew it had to be Tristan.

The boy was taller than he had expected, but was still dwarfed by the large men around the room. He looked gangly, as though his weight hadn't caught up with his height, but Robert could still discern some muscle definition beneath the white short sleeved t-shirt the boy wore. Faded denim jeans, riding low on his lean hips and sneakers made up the rest of the boy's wardrobe, but even dressed so casually he radiated an aura of power.

He turned to look directly at Robert. Tristan's eyes were dark and compelling bottomless pools, they sucked in the light from the room and reflected nothing.

The young man made a beeline towards him. Robert rose for a greeting, but within a moment the boy’s way was barred by a phalanx of grim-faced men who, only a moment before, were lighthearted dancers.

"Get your evil ass out of here," one man, a large and grizzled specimen, said as he placed himself in front of Tristan. Immediately other like-looking men joined the group blocking the boy’s way.

Tristan’s smooth face had no fear in it, only a slight hint of displeasure, as if the men were no more inconvenience to him than bothersome flies.

"Sit down, Thibodeaux," the boy’s accent-free voice had a velvet sound to it, cajoling, insistent. "I’m not here to bother with you –"

The big man opposite him stepped back, almost as if an unseen wind had pushed him,

"– or your family."

At the mention of his family, the large man’s face became red and his eyes bulged. He again stepped forward. "I won’t stand here and let you walk by without I face you down – for the sake of my sweet little Clotile, I do that."

At that, the men behind him began to growl. The tension in the room shot up to a fevered pitch.

Whatever the matter, Robert knew, it was still one boy up against ten times his weight in muscle and brawn. He’d best do something before any blows were thrown. Slowly, he started to move forward.

Tristan stood his ground but gave a slight nod to Robert, as if to let him know he registered his presence. But there was still no fear in the boy’s face. Tristan turned back to the group of men, which, Robert realized with a jolt, had not moved closer to the lone, slender boy at all.

Strange.

Tristan spoke. "You’d do better to take care of yourself, Thibodeaux, it’s better not to vex me. Or don’t you remember Narcisse and his sad end?"

People that had been gathering behind the angry man gasped. Some paled and backed away.

Robert couldn’t read what was going on. There was enough anger and brute force in the men to have exploded in violence. But no one moved to touch the solitary lad who looked as if a sharp wind might blow him away.

Very strange.

Robert decided to step forward then. If he could divert the group’s attention away from Tristan and disturb the pattern of the violence, perhaps he could diffuse this situation.

Making his way up to the group of men, he spoke. "Gentleman, gentlemen, please." He lifted his hands in front of him so they could see he was unarmed. "There’s no need to ruin this lovely evening. I suggest we take this all outside."

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw the lead man, Thibodeaux, physically shaking himself now – either out of anger, or out of a trance.

"You got no power on me, devil’s spawn!" he bellowed at the boy. "A righteous good Arcadian man, me. I fight your evil."

Robert was about a foot away from the boy and prepared for trouble. The air was so full of hot enmity that it tasted oily.

Tristan smiled. His dark eyes seemed to pull more light from the room. "Then you won’t mind if –" He moved his finger to point up at Thibodeaux’s face.

Without Tristan touching him, a spray of blood burst from Thibodeaux’s nose.

"Stop him!" A roar went up in the room. Before Robert could think, the wall of angry townspeople fell upon Tristan.