I suppose, in the end, honesty is always the best policy.
"You're not going to believe this," Nathan began, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck. "But you remember that man in white? He's trying to hunt Avery down so he can kill him, and I need to find him first and warn him about it." It was true, for the most part. He didn't need to tell the waiter that the man in white was actually the angel Michael, or that Avery was the host for some unknown evil, or that he was seeking him out at the request of Lucifer himself. No, the reason was weird enough all on its own without Nathan making it look like he had lost his marbles.
Xiao-ping, however, still stared at him like he'd sprouted a second head. "Uh huh..." he muttered after a few seconds, wide-eyed with apprehension as he took a careful step back. "And who was it that told you this?"
Nathan forced himself not to cringe. The less information he had to give, the better, but it looked like there was no avoiding this one. "The owner of Sterling & Son?" He hadn't meant to make it a question, but at this point it was too late.
"Alton?" Xiao-ping asked, taking another small step back. "That man's a weirdo, looking at people all kinds of funny. Avery thinks he's okay, but he's way too trusting. You know what they say about him, right?"
He instantly regretted bringing Alton up. "Uh... well, no but..."
"They say he's one of those child predators." The waiter looked around, lowering his voice to a whisper. "You know, the sort that likes to prey on young men?"
"No, I hadn't heard that." Nathan shifted from one foot to the other. He remembered the odd feeling he'd gotten when Alton had touched Avery's cheek after his fall. The small incident suddenly felt even more uncomfortable, and he frowned. "Look, I only just moved here this morning. I'm nowhere near up to date on town gossip..."
"Well then, now you know." Xiao-ping nodded for emphasis. "I'll let Avery know what you said, and he can judge for himself, but sorry, I can't just tell you where he is when that creepy Alton might just be using you to track him down."
"Okay... I guess..." Nathan had to admit that he was a little concerned too. The more he thought about it, the more disturbing Alton's behavior became. He needed to think about this more seriously if he was going to get anywhere. "I'll just head on home then. Uh, thanks?"
The waiter waved him off, practically shooing him out of the restaurant. Nathan shoved his hands in his pockets and started on his way home.
It was almost one in the morning when he finished his notes, and even then, Nathan was having trouble wrapping his head around everything that had happened that day. As soon as he had gotten back to his apartment he'd dug out one of his empty notebooks and scrawled down everything he knew about Alton.
"Alton owns the bookstore Sterling & Son," he read out loud, hoping that if he said it, it would help him focus. "He appears to be about my age, maybe a little younger. He's a junior, named after his father. He owns a Siamese cat named Adonis. He creeps everyone out." Nathan paused, reconsidering that fact. So far, the only people not uncomfortable with Alton had been Avery (who seemed to be aware that others thought he was weird, but wasn't bothered by him at all) and Micah (who had his own list of notes Nathan needed to go over). The writer sighed, scribbling a question mark next to the note. "He creeps me out. He believes that he's Lucifer, but prefers the name Lumiel. He has very unsettling blue eyes."
Just thinking about Alton's eyes sent a shiver down his back. Nathan couldn't understand why, every time he stared at him, he was completely unable to move, sometimes unable to even speak. Was it fear? Was it some sort of defense mechanism? Or was it something else entirely?
Was it supernatural?
Thinking about all this made Nathan look at the list of things that confused him, things about Alton that didn't make sense or just seemed too surreal to be true:
"Alton is Lucifer." Saying that out loud made a sickening knot form in his belly, like the feeling before getting onto a rollercoaster. He wanted it to be true, but at the same time he didn't. Believing Alton when he said he was the Devil was like believing a stage magician's magic was real: you knew it was fake, but what if it wasn't? What if the impossible really was possible, despite breaking all the known laws of the universe? The thought made Nathan dizzy. He moved on to the next item on the list.
"Alton is seeking out people he believes are possessed of some great evils, and he can sense them. He believes that Avery is one of them." Nathan rubbed his temples. "And he believes that I'll be drawn to them." It occurred to him that even if the shopkeeper was completely insane, he still believed that Nathan would attract these individuals, and would therefore very likely be keeping a close eye on him. Whatever the case may be, he wasn't going to be able to just ignore him. "He probably was following me to the restaurant, looking to find Avery..."
Nathan yawned, exhausted but unable to sleep. This was too fantastic a story to be real. It had to be fake. It had to just be the ramblings of a deranged mind. He wanted to sleep so bad, but he continued reading the list. "Alton can move faster than humanly possible."
It was that one little thing that made believing this was all just some ruse impossible. He had called Alton at his store, and less than a minute later he was at his apartment. There was no way he could have done that by any human means. Nathan had tested it. On his way home, he'd stopped by the store, not going inside, but standing just so he could see Alton sitting at the front counter. He called the store on his cell from number stored in the memory, and sure enough, Alton answered the phone in front of him. Not a cell phone. He had to be sitting in the store when he answered. Nathan thought about timing himself as he walked back to his apartment, but after the first minute he knew that it was completely pointless. No matter how long it actually took him, Alton had done it in under a minute. It took Nathan that long to reach the first intersection, and he could still see the shop from there.
The writer rubbed his hand across his face and glanced at the clock on his phone: one o'seven AM. He yawned, turning back to his notes. He still had the ones on Micah to review, but he was getting really tired...
I need to sleep... I need to sleep... I need to... ah fuck. I can't sleep. Not with all of this shit on my mind. Maybe I should make a quick run to the store and get some sleeping pills. It's the only way I'm going to be able to get any rest.
On the other hand, I don't know if I should leave this until tomorrow. I want to get it done, God damn it! But I can't focus like this. Not when I'm so... tired...
I suppose I could go out and get some coffee or energy drinks instead. It wouldn't be the first time I pulled an all-nighter...
To sleep, or not to sleep? That is the...