Raven’s Run 43

Will reached over the seat to nudge me awake when we reached the outskirts of Nimes. I shook the sleep out of my eyes and told Will the last thing that had been on my mind when I drifted off. I was leaving the automatic with him, to hold for me. When we were in immediate danger, I had wanted it handy, but carrying a concealed weapon around Europe is just plain crazy. France isn’t the wild west; it isn’t even Tulsa, Oklahoma. The French take a dim view of people with unregistered guns. Possession could lead to a long stay in a small, steel room.

I unkinked painfully and crawled out of the back seat. Will and Raven got the packs while I went to the ticket window. The train station was nearly deserted at three in the morning. There were a few kids scattered around, sprawled in the corners or stretched out on top of sleeping bags with their heads pillowed on their packs, catching a free night of sleep while they waited – or pretended to wait – for their trains to come in. I bought two tickets to Valence, the two more from Avignon to Nice. I stuffed the second pair in my jeans and rejoined Will and Raven.

Raven reached out and I took her hand. Then she smiled oddly and took Will’s hand also. She said, “I want to apologize to both of you about today; yesterday, I mean. Sometimes I’m pretty much of a bitch, and I get jealous if I am ignored.”

Will smiled and said, “Who could ignore you?”

“You and Ian did.”

“We were just catching up on each other’s lives,” Will said.

“I know. That’s why I’m sorry. I didn’t really mean to play you against each other.”

I didn’t say anything. I was surveying the platform for anyone who looked suspicious. It seemed to me that there was a little truth in Raven’s apology, and a great deal more of deception, but this was no time to discuss it.

In the distance, the train was coming. It’s one burning eye lit up the night, and there was a slight trembling of the concrete platform. A slender man with close cropped gray hair, a rumpled business suit, and a newspaper stuffed under his arm came out of the station. He was followed by three kids who were struggling into their oversized packs and shaking the sleep from their eyes. The kids had been here before us. The man had not. He had come from the direction of the parking lot. He was probably a local businessman on his way to Lyon or Paris. Probably. But he could also have followed us here by automobile.

If you are going to be paranoid, it makes no sense to go half way. I smiled at Raven, and memorized the man’s face while looking past her shoulder.

The train came in with a whoosh that sent dry leaves and candy wrappers swirling about the platform. I caught Will’s hand and said, “Thanks.”

“Any time, Ian. You know that. But how do you keep falling into these things?”

“Just lucky, I guess.” I grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll miss you.”

“Keep Raven safe.”

“That is my first priority.” more tomorrow


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