The Emerald Truth: One

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I can help!” Noelle repeated, following behind her adoptive father. Kyle ignored her again, going over his checklist in his head once again. He just wanted this night to be over.

“Dad!” Noelle yelled, hands on her narrow hips. The moniker still caught him off guard; never did he expect to become a father in such a short amount of time.

“El, you are helping me. Your job may be the most critical of all.”

“Packing bags? That’s kid shit!”

“Yes, well, with the way you’re acting, I’d say you were very much qualified.”

“What if you need me to squeeze into a ventilation system or sweet talk a guard? I’m useful!”

“You don’t need to prove yourself to me, El,” Kyle said, sighing.

“Then what is it?” A knock on the door interrupted them.

“It’s time to go.”

Noelle slid the young sailor the second half of his payment as she disembarked the Elias. The dock smelled of the sea and spilled oil with barrels and containers filling the horizon before her. She hadn’t been stateside in nearly a year. Free from her seemingly endless journey surrounded by iron, her phone finally had a signal and 6 messages from Maverick. They were all coordinates, each pinpointing a burned safe house, except the last, dated 7 hours earlier. Please hurry.

The location was only 80 minutes from the docks, buried deep at the end of a residential cul-de-sac. Noelle had never used the safe house before, but considering the people after her, it was the perfect hiding spot. She parked the stolen Taurus 2 blocks over and walked down the dark street to 901 Magnolia. There was no car in front and no lights on inside, however, Noelle still performed a perimeter search for anything that would set off an alarm. It only took her a moment to pick the lock on the back door so she could slip inside.

Noelle paused at the door, allowing her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Even before her time with her father, she’d learned that patience made all the difference between a successful caper and spending the night in a jail cell. She tipped slowly through the house, making sure the place was empty before she got comfortable. As she entered the kitchen, the lights flipped on suddenly. Noelle whipped the gun from her hip and drew it on the person standing behind her, whom dropped the carton of ice cream and spoon she was holding with a clatter.

“Maverick?” Noelle sighed, holstering her gun again.

“Shit! Since when do you carry a gun?!” The girl said, picking up her midnight snack from the floor.

“Since people have been dropping dead around me like flies,” Noelle said, pulling the girl into an embrace. They’d only met in person twice, but they were the closest thing to family.

“Whose place is this?” Noelle said, setting her bag on the sofa in the living room. The house had been well-decorated and cared for, much more than a traditional safe house. “My parents. They’re on a month long cruise or something,” Maverick said, rejoining Noelle. Sure enough, Noelle stumbled along a family portrait of Maverick and three other similar looking people.

“Is it safe?”

“Other than you, no one knows who I am. It was the only place I could think of.”

“I’m glad you trust me,” Noelle said, putting the picture down.

A sob escaped from Maverick’s mouth, startling Noelle. She turned to see the girl in a delicate stage, wiping the tears away as quickly as she could. “I’m sorry. I’m just scared as hell. 3 people I know are dead and I’m probably next. My mom…they have no idea what I’m into. They still think I’m at Northwestern,” she said. Noelle crossed the living room to pull the girl into an embrace. Nothing came to mind that even resembled comforting; Noelle had been wondering all the same things. “It’ll blow over,” she managed.

Maverick snored lightly on the sofa as Noelle paced the kitchen, phone in hand. She didn’t want to call him. After the way she left things, it would be a wonder if he’d even speak to her. Maybe he’d lead her on just long enough to trace the call and have the Feds coming down on her. She scoffed and slid the phone across the counter. He’d already chosen his side and it wasn’t hers. She’d have to solve this on her own. She glanced down at the phone before picking it up again. It was late, but if she knew Dorian, he was still awake, still running from his nightmares. Noelle forced herself to push send and waited, her heart storming in her chest.

“Hello?”

*click*

Noelle snapped the phone closed. She wasn’t ready to open that can of worms while racing for her life. She would figure it out for herself. In the other room, Maverick had begun to stir from her brief nap. “Sleep okay?” Noelle asked, rejoining her in the room.

“As much as one can while being hunted,” Maverick said, pushing the mess of curls out of her face.

“You think this is a hunt?” Maverick gave Noelle a look before fishing her laptop from beneath the coffee table.

“It’s either a hunt or a sweep. Someone is taking out all of your competition,” Maverick said as she booted up the computer. With a few swift taps, she found what she was looking for, before swinging the computer around for Noelle to see.

“Aleksandr Ohannes, The Frenchman, Amara Chibuike, and more recently, Mihai Costin…”

“Kyle Rutherford?”

Maverick shook her head before continuing. “No body has been found. But the others…All dead. Also several of the contractors we’ve used in the past have been…targeted.” It all made sense as she looked through the files; nearly all of the people who’d been killed had a connection to Noelle. She’d been in denial, but she truly believed they were all in danger.

“There’s more,” Maverick said , presenting more files to Noelle. “There’s evidence, trace amounts, but enough. I got what I could and tested it and… it’s yours.”

“What??”

“A few drops of blood, a few stray hairs. It was all circumstantial, at first, but now, there might be a real case. I got what I could but I’m sure there’s more.”

“So, someone’s trying to set me up? Whatever happened to good ole-fashioned revenge?”

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