Mike tensed as Crandall stepped forward. Crank shrugged from the arm Mike had had around his waist. Crandall gestured at Mike’s gaming chair. It was old and worn and dirty. It appeared as if it might fall apart if you looked at it wrong. “Sit,” he said, and then turned his back on Nica and grabbed a small wooden decorative box off an end table.
“I’ll stand.” Nica wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms.
“You’ll sit.” Crank pointed at her with the box. “Or, you’ll leave. I don’t have the patience for melodramatic pacing.”
Nica stepped in front of the chair, giving it a dubious look before sitting, slowly, and perching on the edge of the cushion. She folded her hands in her lap, and looked up at Crandall like a chastised and petulant child.
Crandall glared at her a moment longer, and then flipped open the lid of the box. “Fuck me.” He slammed it shut and tossed it on a nearby shelf.
“Not the best choice right now.” Mike whispered the words; his gaze on Crandall’s every moment, while keeping Nica in his periphery.
“It’s empty.” Crandall’s frown turned into a brief, hungry grin. “That’s why I called you.”
Mike glanced at Nica. She hadn’t moved, and looked very unhappy about it. He returned a questioning gaze to Crandall.
Crandall shrugged. “Work sucked more than usual. I wanted a distraction.”
“But you said…” Mike snorted, trying to hold back a sudden chuckle. “Okay, whatever, we can talk about that later.”
“Guys,” Nica started.
“Shut up.” Crandall disappeared into the kitchen and returned with an open bottle of beer.
“Good stuff,” Nica said, eying the bottle.
“Just talk. And keep it short. What are you going to do to make this happen?”
Nica sighed. “I don’t know. What questions do you have?”
“Shit. You insist on coming here and talking, but you don’t have anything to say?”
“I’m supposed to help you, but I can’t just say, ‘Go to Quincy Market at midnight and he’ll be waiting.’” She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “If he knew you were coming, you’d never survive anyway.”
“I’m only going to ask once more. Why are you here?”
“To help.” She made some meaningless gesture with her small, pale hands. “I can… I don’t know. Feed you information. Answer questions. Maybe help you figure out his routine.”
“Okay, so what’s his routine?”
“So far?” She looked at the blank TV. “There hasn’t been one.”
“For fuck’s sake–”
“But, I could suggest he make one. Something you guys could figure out.”
Crandall rolled his eyes. Mike crossed his arms. He wasn’t sure why Crandall agreed to let her stay and talk, and now it seemed even more unlikely that Nica would do anything but piss off Crandall.
“You do that.” Crandall took a long drink from his beer.
“I’m serious,” Nica said. “He can’t just lie down and let you stake him. That’d be suicide. But he doesn’t have to be so cautious either. You’ll need to figure out a way to take him by surprise, because he will fight back. He has to.”
“So when you tell him to create a routine, tell him to do it in a steel and concrete box, so we can lock him in.”
Nica wrinkled her nose as if an odd odor offended her. She opened her mouth to say something, but seemed to think better of it. After another moment of silence, she said, “You mock me, but if you could find a way to set up a trap somewhere you knew he’d be, you might actually have a shot at this.”
“You don’t think we can do it, so I can’t imagine your advice will be all that fucking helpful.”
“You’re right. I have my doubts. But he’s disrupted my life with this prophecy too, and I wanted it over, one way or another.”
“You’re not that cold-hearted.” Mike leaned against the wall, near the hall to the bedrooms. He wanted to get the first warning should Ash wake up and hear Nica in the apartment.
“I’m not. Judas is determined to die. Max has tried to dissuade him. So have several others. You may have to catch Judas without his entourage. They’ve been told to flee if you attack, but I wouldn’t assume they will. They…” She smirked and did nose thing again. “They kind of worship him, in a way.”
“So kill the fucking groupies first.” Crandall finished his beer and set the bottle aside.
“I didn’t say that.” Nica pushed to her feet. “Day will dawn soon. I should go. Do you need my cell number again?”
“No. Just go. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with you all day.”
“Forget that.” Nica shuddered, and Mike didn’t think it was just for show. “I wouldn’t want to be that vulnerable in this apartment.”