Self Help Coach

Summary:
December 13, 2014: Constantine fills Mack in on all the supernatural gobbled gook that is trying to eat her face. He agrees to teach her how to deal with the things that go bump in the night while investigating her mystical tattoo.

Quint's Folly
The Quint's Folly isn't typically a boat of any noteworthiness. It's a simple fishing trawler, a 90-footer, used for the bottom netting of Atlantic Cod. Her hull is painted a deep navy blue, with white structures on top, and a bright red winch for the nets. She has several sections, with the wheelhouse sitting 3/4 of the way to the stern on the foc's'le deck, with the gantry tucked behind it on the trawl deck.

The front two thirds of the trawl deck is enclosed and holds the mess with it's galley equipment, vinyl booths and laminate tabletops, an industrial coffee maker, outerwear storage closet, and an old tv mounted to the wall with a radio system beneath. through a hatchway is a hallway leading to two crew rooms, each with 4 bunks and a head.

At the end of the corridor is the Captain's Cabin. Mack's personal room is not fancy, but consists of modular furnishings made of wood and covered in durable microsuede cushions, which can be used for seating, storage, or tablespace as needed. Her bed is shy of queen sized, and built into one wall. A small entertainment center is opposite the bed, with a small closet and a private head with shower, sink, and toilet. Everything is bolted to the floor and all cabinets and drawers have secure latches to keep them from opening in high seas.

The factory deck is next, with the freezers, prep rooms, and various fish bins, as well as the ramp room where the nets dump their catch into the interior. The lowest level is the hold, which has the engine room, rudder room, bilge, and ballast tanks.


Characters

NPCs

  • Rufus (Mack's Dog)
  • House

Mood Music:
None


It's a miserable, foggy day in Gotham on the docks. That's how it is in the city- either it's fetid and warm in the summer or grey, with a shaggy fog in the winter. With too much salt in the air for a proper freeze it just manages to be damp and miserably cold, even for veterans of the city's climate.

Constantine is fortunately somewhat protected from the cold inside of Mack Linden's ship, though steel is a poor thermal insulator. His coat is hung on a peg and his sleeves are rolled up. The magician is playing amateur surgeon- he has Mack Linden in front of him, the woman sitting backwards in a swivel chair and hugging the backrest. Her shirt has been ripped almost completely away, revealing a ragged line of flesh and blood that stops abruptly at the edge of the complex, highly detailed tattoo of a compass on her back.

Working with a needle, thread, and high-proof liquor, John Constantine is stitching the wound shut- a nasty slash from a blunt knife that left a six-inch incision in Mack's back.

"'ang on, luv," Constantine tells Mack, working with a practiced motion and a scowl on his face. He takes a belt from the bottle and passes it to Mack, no doubt to reinforce the effects of the local anesthetic he'd given her. A needle, empty, sits on a rusted metal shelf pressed into service as a surgical tray. "Couple more of these to go and I'll have you right as rain." His hands pinch the ragged flesh together and he puts another crude stitch through Mack's skin, pulling the skin back together.

Mack pities the poor taxi driver that had to haul her, in her bloodied sheep PJs, a 170 pound dog, and John-effing-Constantine from the Ephrates warehouse back to the Quint's Folly's slip at the Gotham Docks. Mack was silent for the ride, trying to process everything that happened and just what it means. Oh sure, she's come to accept the existence of mutants, metas, and even aliens thanks to the plethora of super heroes and villains on the news. Demons and magic and witchcraft though? That is pushing the limits of credibility for her. Amusing how the brain tries to protect a person through disbelief.

Mack takes the offered bottle and downs a mouthful, letting the burn be her focus instead of the feeling of pull and pressure on her back. "I'd say make it pretty and not scar, but I've got so many scars not sure I'd notice," she notes. In truth, there are quite a few small scars here and there, the price of working the dangerous life of a fishing captain. Everything on the deck of the boat is a danger to a human if it gets out of control or used wrong.

"So, Chauncey, what were those idiots bringing through that circle?" she asks quietly, her stare hard as she focuses on the port authority license to operate displayed on the galley wall across from her. Between the drugs and the booze she feels ready to hear the answer.

Constantine pauses for a moment, Mack's blood dripping from his fingers. "My name's John," he tells Mack, after a moment of reticence. He starts pulling and tugging at the thin silk thread again, head tilted to the side. "John Constantine. And they were summoning a demon. Nasty bugger, one of the Dukes of temporal authority- a sort of patron of thieves. Specifically," he clarifies, tugging another knot closed, "thieves who intend to kill while stealing their mark. Now, quid pro quo, love. What were /you/ doing there? You were bumbling about like a drunk giraffe, the way you was barging into that." He stitches another hole in Mack's skin. "If you're going to do that," he advises, "go in with a gun in your hand. Bricks aren't the most effective deterrant against demon-worshippers."

As John works, he can see glimpses of lines and outlines of places fade in on her back, almost legible, then fading out before he can really grasp them. The tattoo is certainly not natural. The compass itself has some sort of strange script barely visible worked into the design. It has a pulse of power to it, of an anchoring of sorts, and of a geas.

"John. Okay. I don't know. I was walking Rufus near here, then suddenly I felt like I needed to head towards the warehouses. Which was stupid, because it was late and it's not the safest area around. So I started heading back to the boat. Then everything went dark. I woke up, sort of, outside that warehouse and felt like I had to go inside," Mack confesses. She grimaces and grips the back of the chair tighter. "Weird shit has been happening since I got the tattoo. I woke up the next day and there was more than just the compass. And then, ugh, I sound like a crazy person."

John smirks, a tight, mirthless expression. "Crazy's my day to day, luv. You have to get up awfully early to ring my bell with anything. Why don't you tell me how you got this mark, and what else rained down on you besides a pretty piece of ink."

Despite his cavalier attitude, John is looking at Mack's tattoo with more than a little wary concern- the vague traceries of power and command that writhe through the woman's bared flesh are of more concern to the man than the six-inch cut in her back he's hastily stitching together. "Gonna give you another local, Mack," Constantine tells the woman, before pushing a finger against her lower back. A sharp pain, followed by a pleasant numbness, trickles out from his fingertip, and John quietly finishes stitching the woman's injury shut before his fingers start tracing invisible lines of force across the tattoo, following contours that have nothing to do with skin and bone.

The captain sucks in a sharp breath at the administration of the local, then her muscles slacken from it. "Went to a small place that was recommended. Inku, in the East Village. This tiny little Japanese guy said he'd been waiting for me. He did the tattoo. I don't remember much about it. I'd had some drinks before I went, and there was incense and it was warm and I was sleepy. But he said something about me being the Navigator, I figured he just meant ship captain. Called himself the Horishi. And there was some mumbo jumbo about showing the way and reclaiming what I lost."

She had been claimed by Obrou when he tried to drown her. Perhaps something of her soul was taken with him when he was banished? Perhaps she was marked to go to him upon death?

"Next morning, I saw my grandfather standing in my room. Which would be fine, except Frank died almost five years ago. I've seen him a few times since, freaked the hell out, and ran to Shucky's bar to get oblivious drunk each time," Mack admits.

"Oblivious drunk is the way I like to get after a job," Constantine agrees, fingers splayed across Mack's tattoo. He puts a hand on her shoulder to keep her in place for a moment, letting the sedatives- normal and magical- work. Busying himself for a few moments, he wipes down Mack's wound until the blood is cleaned, then applies a thick layer of superglue to the top of it to hold it all together. "It's a bit ugly of a patch job, but it won't burst unless you hit it hard," Constantine advises Mack. "You'll end up with a pretty scar from it, through. Rest easy and don't move too fast- you've lost a little blood and you took a fair knock in there."

He pats her bare shoulder then moves to a sink, busying himself with the mundane task of washing his hands. Eyes downcast, contemplating, he's quiet a moment. "Does your grandfather say anything to you?" Constantine asks. "Or indicate anything- any reason he'd want to talk to you or need your attention?"

Mack takes another swig off the bottle of booze, letting it soothe her frayed nerves in a way John's words certainly do not. She scrubs a hand through her shaggy, short-cropped hair as if trying to dust the taint of the supernatural off of herself. Rufus pads in from another part of the boat, licks her hand gently, and resumes his patrol of the tight corridors and rooms of the Folly.

Mack's eyes follow John, half-lidded, as he goes about cleaning himself up. She pulls a clean t-shirt off a nearby table and hauls it on, whether he's looking or not. Shy is not one of her qualities.

"He gestures, and walks in a direction. I know I should probably follow, but I was so scared shitless I ended up checking myself into a Wellness Clinic here in Gotham for a couple weeks. That's why I'm docked here instead of New York right now." Mack winces at the aches and pains. She wasn't beaten up too hard by the cultist goons, but she did hike quite a ways in her PJs to get to the warehouse.

"Wellness clinic will just give you a fistful of Xanax and tell you to get more sleep," Constantine snorts. He cleans his hands- rather fastidiously- and wipes them on a rag, turning just as Mack gets herself settled and decent again. He leans against a wall, crossing one ankle over another, and considers, slowly drying his fingertips.

"Horishi is a Japanese term for a tattoo artist. That's not quite an accurate translation-" Constantine immediately amends- "it's more… proper than that. A hori-shi is a master artist who has years of training, maybe generational attachment, to the Japanese art of inking someone. Proper hori-shi make tens of thousands of pounds a job for their work. For a man to call himself /the/ Hori-shi is… that's like calling yourself the Captain, as if you're the greatest captain in the world," Constantine explains.

"You don't look particularly Japanese. It's almost unheard of for a hori-shi to mark up a Gai-jin like you, let alone for free, let /alone/ with something this magically enhanced." Constantine walks around Mack and lifts the back of her shirt a few inches, looking at the bottom edge of the compass. "You're a bloody magical artifact you are. Sort of thing some people would kill for. And if you're seeing your granddad, that's a sure sign there's a bloodline geas attached to it. Whatever you're feeling you need to do," Constantine says, straightening and tossing the towel away, "your grandad seems to want to make sure you get to it."

"That whole 'I see dead people' thing is a pretty good indicator of being batcrap crazy, so I went in for some alcohol rehab," Mack says. She snorts as she picks up the bottle of spirits and looks at how little is left. "They do a bang up job with their treatment in Gotham. Probably should have gone to Metropolis for that. Not only didn't they cure me of my drinking, they sure as hell didn't cure me of the dead people thing. Or the demons thing. That's twice now. So what does this all mean, John? Am I going to be…compelled to take off whenever this tattoo wants me to, to stop bad things like those morons trying to summon a Duke of Hell?"

She shakes her head a bit. "My granddad was a fisherman. And, well before he was a fisherman he was something else but nothing to do with ghosts and demons and hocus pocus. So if this Horishi guy did this for a reason, what was the reason? What did I lose that he thinks I need to get back?"

"You're not crazy, luv," Constantine assures Mack wryly. "You're just wakin' up. There are worlds out there- whole worlds- that exist beyond ours. Heaven and Hell, Limbo, Pandemonium… a host of places that most humans never even consider. Seeing dead people is only the start of it, and believe me, they're about the most harmless thing in the world. Some creatures don't like being seen, and if you stare at them too long, they start staring back."

Constantine reaches for the bottle in Mack's hand and downs the remainder, before upending it in a sink. "My guess is that there's a blood debt somewhere in your family line," Constantine tells Mack. "Maybe you don't know your granddad as well as you think you did. If this Horishi guy marked you up, he did it because you're important somehow. You /need/ to be at these locations, for one reason or another. Maybe someone in your family is in Hell, and you're being drawn to these portals to help them find a way out. The dead have a way of reaching beyond the grave, and it could be one of them contacted this Horishi and had him put a geas on you to help you get them free."

"You think Frank might be in hell? I can't really picture that. He was the only real parent I ever had. My biological units are asshats living in Metropolis. Maybe in his old career but, I'd like to think taking care of his pain in the ass troublemaker granddaughter would have wiped his slate clean." Mack frowns.

"I am so not equipped for this supernatural crap, John," Mack says. Her brow creases in concern. "The only gun I own is a shotgun kept here on the boat, and carrying that around the city isn't really an option. I'm ok in a bar fight, but what I know about demons and ghosts and magic and cults would fit in a thimble with plenty of room left over for your thumb." She swallows and stands, stiffly, to move over to the coffee maker and put it in motion. Sleep isn't happening any time soon. She pokes around for some clean coffee mugs.

"I'm just spitballing, luv," Constantine tells Mack with a shrug. "You're involved in a world of sorcery and demons now and you either need to wake up to it and face the music, or make plans for a funeral."

Constantine watches Mack move around the cabin, before finding a chair and slumping into it bonelessly. He fishes a silver cigarette wallet from his pocket and produces a cigarette, lighting up with an addict's sigh of relief and tilting his head back as he sprawls out. "If you're serious about survival, I can help," John says, after a minute of listening to the water lap against the side of the hull. "Give you some wards to put up around your boat- at least that'll keep them from coming at you in your sleep. Running water is hard to work magic around so if you're at sea, most of them should leave you well enough alone. But if you keep following this compulsion to stick your nose into business you oughtn't, I'd recommend buying a gun and learning how to use it proper," Constantine advises. "Haven't met many amateur hour demon summoners who can shrug off a bullet to the forehead."

Mack pours them both a cup of coffee and brings them over to the table. She slumps down across from John and curls her hands around the mug, staring at the steam rising from it. "I have to survive. I can't leave Rufus to fend for himself. So I need to get a gun and learn to use it. And you can tell me what things work on bad things? That might be helpful." She smirks and sips from her cup.

"And Christmas is almost here. My daughter is coming to visit for a week. As it is I'm going to have to rent a hotel suite for us because I don't want her on the boat with the demon thing and Frank's ghost and all that crap," Mack says. She has a kid? Who'da thunkit? "The Folly was already no place for a six year old before I became a magnet for things that go bump in the night."

"I don't know," Constantine deadpans. "I've seen worse. At least you've got a bunk and some food for her." He takes another drag of his cigarette before the allure of coffee overcomes his bonelessness, and the magician sits up and reaches for the dinged up mug, taking a few cautious sips to gauge the temperature. He falls quiet for a while, then, considering Mack's words and the silent pleading that he offer aid on behalf of her daughter. It's covert, yes, but it's there- a parent needing the tools to be sure their child is safe. What price is too high to protect the innocent?

"Thanks for saving my bacon tonight," Mack says quietly. "And I'm guessing the night that thing was on my boat. I heard you call my name," she points out. "So it's not like you aren't already helping me. But I need you to help me help myself."

"I don't like charity cases," Constantine snaps, the words coming almost automatically. He seems to immediately regret the words, his jaw setting as he looks down and away in embarassment.

"Sorry," he says, after an awkward, tense moment. "I didn't mean it like that. You're not some bloody vigilante in over her head. I don't know what's going on, but someone's put a compulsion on you to dig in where you ought not. That's a sure way to get you killed."

Constantine fidgets a bit, then gets to his feet and moves around the corner to Mack, putting a hand on the table in front of her and leaning way forward, until he's well into her personal space. A scowl crosses his features, eyes small, glittering agates in the swaying illumination of the overhead lights. He fishes in his pocket and produces a lighter, crossed with arcane sigils. He snaps the zippo open and holds it up in front of Mack. "A verbum ancillae pro veritate," he murmurs. The flame turns a deep scarlet color, painting both their faces in red.

"Swear now you are not an agent set upon me, and you have no intention of falsehood or treachery," Constantine orders Mack, in the harsh voice of an inquisitor. The flame writhes and twists unnaturally, brushing through his words wheat before a wind.

Mack blinks in confusion, at first thinking he was moving in for a kiss like that Hunter guy in the bar. But the words have her even more confused. She can feel the tattoo pulse suddenly and it snaps her out of it. "I swear I'm not, whatever you said. An agent set upon you. No falsehood or treachery." And her words are true. She is definitely not out to get John Constantine, or anyone else for that matter. Ok maybe she'd like to put roaches in Maggie's father's wife's bed, but that's about it.

Constantine watches the way the flame dances between them, then snaps the zippo shut. "You aren't lying," he informs Mack. He stares at the woman, not quite stepping back for a moment, eyes searching her features. Finally he straightens and moves to his coat and valise, tucking his lighter back into his pocket. He picks up his coat and his valise. "Grab anything you're going to need for a few days of overnight stay," Constantine tells Mack. "You're staying with me for a bit until I can get this geas and that tattoo figured out. I can't protect you here and I can't have you bumbling off into the dark trying to stop some bloody amateur sorcerors armed with your pajamas and a brick."

Mack seems even more confused, but the tattoo pulses again, and the urge to follow John comes along with it. The compass rose shows the way. "Um, all right? I have to go into New York City for a bit tomorrow though. Have to get Maggie's Christmas presents. I only get to see her a couple weeks a year, I can't screw up that." She gets up and moves off into the boat, packing a small duffle with what few necessities she deems fit. She comes back with the bag and Rufus on a leash. "Hope your place has space for him. He outweighs me by about fifty pounds." At least. He tail wags happily at the prospect of WALKIES.

Constantine eyes the dog, then gives Mack a baleful look. "Keep the mutt off the furniture, eh?" And with that, he turns and opens an utterly unremarkable looking bulkhead door, revealing an extremely posh firelight parlor, filled with all number of books, odds, ends, and everything else imaginable.

Constantine walks in and sets his valise on the table, his coat on a coatstand. "It's me," he says aloud. "Make a room up for the guest and her dog." He walks over to a cabinet that can't be more than six inches deep and digs around, then sticks his entire arm into it up to the shoulder. "Go ahead and get comfortable," Constantine says, nodding at a sofa. "Your room will take a minute or two to be ready." He pulls out a bottle of scotch with an aged, peeling label, uncorks it, and takes a belt out of the bottle. He looks at Mack, then walks over and extends the bottle to her with a nod. "Fancy a belt?" he inquires, wiggling the bottom of the bottle at her.

Mack stares. And stares. And stares some more as she stands at the threshold of the bulkhead leading, impossibly, into someplace other than the hallway of the Folly. Rufus, however, lopes happily after John and plants himself beside the sofa, resting his head on his paws and going immediately to sleep. That's a good enough commendation for Linden, and she follows, sitting gingerly on the strange sofa, and gladly taking the bottle, and gulping from it. "That is going to take some getting used to," she rasps out as she hands it back.

"Yeah, it's a bit of a trip getting used to good scotch," Constantine agrees, examining the bottle. "I'll drink anything, but I love a well-aged Macallen. Cheaper to buy it and age it then to buy- oh, you mean House?" Constantine looks around, as if seeing some of the building for the first time. The door swings shut with a boom, punctuating his statement- from this side, it's a rather posh, heavily ornate double door with actual brass knockers instead of doorknobs.

"This is my home. It's not really anywhere, which is handy when you don't want someone to know where you are. You're either finding trouble or trouble is finding you, so for the moment, I'm going to keep you somewhere where the two of you can't find one another." He takes another swig of his scotch, which despite the weathering and dust on the bottle, is only ten years old. "Few house rules. Don't touch anything. Don't open any doors, don't open the front door, even if someone knocks." He pauses. "Come to think of it, /especially/ if someone knocks. Don't go wandering," Constantine adds. "There are doors in here that'll literally eat you for dinner without a thought. Keep to your room, the loo, and the parlor, and you'll be safe." He moves to a large, extremely comfy looking leather chair and flops into it, promptly sinking six inches down.

"By don't touch anything, what do you define as anything?" Mack asks, with a look of alarm. Because she really wants to touch a pillow with her head right about now. It's been a long, chaotic, crazy night. Course she might be asking if she can touch him, but if she is, she isn't elaborating.

"If you can't tell what it's for, don't touch it," Constantine says, as if that's perfectly obvious. He settles deeper into the chair, tilting his head back so it rests on the leather back, and closes his eyes. "I'm not in the habit of keeping guests about, so forgive me if I didn't put all my toys away. The parlor's the only place you'll find anything dangerous, as long as you don't go bumbling about." He lifts his head to take another swig of his scotch, looking at Mack with a speculative, narrow-eyed gaze. "I'm still trying to get a finger on you," he tells the woman. "When we met the first time, I thought you were just a random victim. Now it's looking like you're the bearer of a bloody magical artifact that's got you compelled to get into trouble. I just want to know if it's the artifact making you look for trouble, or just encouraging you to do what comes natural."

Mack folds her arms over her chest and settles back on the sofa, as if to illustrate she's not about to go touching things she doesn't grok. At least she's good for that, since she tells the same thing to newbs on the boat the first time they go out. "Nothing much interesting about me before the tattoo," she admits. "My parents are rich, but they were shitty parents. I did shitty in school and as punishment they sent me to Grandpa Frank for a summer to try and scare me into doing better or else I'd wind up fishing like him. Backfired on them because I loved it. So I never finished high school, and I've been fishing on the Folly since I was sixteen." She shrugs a little and leans forward to pet Rufus' massive head as he snores, loudly.

"Maggie was an oops. I was involved with this guy who owned a chain of restaurants and bought his cod from me. He knocked me up, then he told me he was married. He had lawyers and he and his wife took my kid from me when she was a few months old. Better off for her, really. They have money and don't live on a fishing boat. They don't smoke or drink, she goes to private school, all that jazz." Mack grunts.

"Sounds like a bloody tosser," Constantine says, taking another few swigs from the bottle. He leans forward and passes it back to Mack, resting his elbows on his knees. "Can't say I've got any brats of my own, though God knows that they'd be better off not knowing who I was. Too many people want me dead for me to risk anyone having my last name tagged to them," the wiry man mutters.

He watches Mack, still with a sort of wary curiousity. "It just doesn't figure, luv. In the world of the weird, you're a nobody. Unless you've got some deep magical blood in you or a family curse or something of the like, there's no reason for you to have that thing on your back. I can barely suss out what it is, though admittedly I've not looked at it too much."

"What I'm trying to figure out," Mack says, taking the bottle and swigging from it again, "Is why I had that demon drowning me on my boat before the tattoo. Could that have something to do with it? Did whatever brought that demon on the Folly put the curse on me?" She stands then and turns her back to him, hauling her shirt off and holding it to her front so he can look at the tattoo more fully.

Constantine rises slowly, looking at Mack's bare back. His eyes flicker to the back of her head for just moment, as if gauging her intentions. Wiry fingers rise and press against Mack's tattoo, running in a wide circle around the outer edge of the inking. It's clearly more than just a mundane- or even an a exceptionally mundane- tattoo. There's an art that goes deeper than the skin, as if magic itself has been embedded in her flesh. Constantine shakes his head, slowly, brow furrowed deeply.

"I can't imagine why a demon would implant in you a desire to hunt other demons," he frowns. "It'd come for you itself, or send a lackey. And this art… demons don't do art like this casually. This is irezumi, properly magical at that- and if it's been done by the man you say, then this is a powerful working. Best I can guess," Constantine says, resting his hands on Mack's shoulders, trying to be reassuring, "is that you survived a brush with something terribly dangerous, and by blood or birthright or hell, maybe it's the bloody ship, someone thinks you should get into the demon-hunting business."

Mack sighs. "Well shit. Does it pay better than cod fishing?" she asks, each word dripping with sarcasm for a moment. Then she remembers she's drinking ten year old scotch in a posh extra-dimensional space you can get to by walking through any door. It might not pay cash, but it seems to pay in dividends.

Constantine actually laughs out loud at that, though the sound is that of someone trying to remember a word in Yiddish they haven't said in a few years. He drops back into his chair, shaking his head. "Not really. Not unless you've got a few connections or you're a bit liberal in taking payments from desperate people. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't bilked a few richie-rich types for a fake seance or two. Sometimes people want reassurance more than they want truth, and you'd be amazed what you can get out of a fifty-dollar ventriloquism send-away course and a bit of prop magic," Constantine says, his words edged with clear contempt for himself. The man reaches down and pulls up the bottle of scotch again, taking a few swigs. He examines the bottle a bit blearily, the hootch finally getting to him. "Picked this up for twenty quid a few months ago," he says, tilting the amber liquid in the half-empty bottle. "Aged pretty well- been sitting in a cupboard for three decades now, at least. Easier than buying fifty year old scotch down at the local pub," he says, smiling grimly.

"You have a magic closet that ages scotch?" Mack asks, dubiously. She pulls her shirt back down and slumps onto the sofa. "That sounds like it's worth all the trouble of nearly getting eaten by hell spawn." She chuckles, the booze has gotten to her too. Along with everything else from the night.

Constantine shrugs. "Why else would I have a magic interdimensional house?" He rises up and goes to a footlocker, digging out an incredibly comfy looking afghan, and hands it to Mack. "Get some rest," he tells the woman. He makes a gesture at the fireplace and all the lights in the room dim, to something warm and reassuring without being pitch-black. "I'll get you sorted, one way or another." He sticks his hands in his pockets, looking down at Mack for a moment, then turns and walks away, moving into the messy office that adjoins the parlor. With a muttered word and a gesture, a wall soundlessly slides into place, leaving Mack alone in the peace and warmth of the parlor- which, oddly, is a surprisingly friendly-feeling place to be.

Mack curls up on the sofa under the afghan, watching after John as he retreats through bleary eyes. It doesn't take long for the safe feeling of the place to lull her into sleep after the exertions of the night. She winds up with her back away from the cushions, to keep from hurting her stitched skin, and she sleeps soundly.


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