I ditched the car as soon as possible, casting a return home spell on it. Vehicles are too big for my magic to teleport, but the spell would find a way to get the car back to the garage. I don’t like taking things when it was evident that the owner needed them. Given that a fast-food uniform was hanging on the back passenger side, I doubted they could buy a new car like it was no big deal. I got on a train headed for Orlando. A highway would have been faster, but I didn’t want to steal another car when I didn’t have to. The hunter hadn’t caught up yet. The train station would stall him if he did manage to track me that far. An airport would have been better. There were so many possible ways to leave airports that even a skilled witch needs a fair amount of luck to track someone from there. But I needed to be careful with the cash I had since I threw out the card. Taking the train was the cheaper option. Plus, the more witnesses I had, the less likely the hunter would force a confrontation.
The world might know the truth about magic now, but would The Coven want one of their agents scaring people with a display of combat magic so soon? It could work against their public relations campaign. I wasn’t sure of that, though. My certainty that I had room to breathe back in the hotel almost got me caught. I couldn’t relax. For all I knew, The Coven would crack down on people on their shit list. They could show the mundane world one face and the magic community another. I’d only seen him for a second, but I knew this new hunter was a lot bigger than me. I hadn’t stuck around long enough to see him use any magic. I had no way of knowing how good he was. If it came to a fistfight, I wouldn’t stand a chance. I had no intention of letting things get to that point. I didn’t kill a member of The Coven by playing fair. There was no reason to change that now.
I fished a water bottle and protein bar out of my bag. It wasn’t ideal, but I was starving. The hunter found me between meals. The time I’d spent leaving false trails behind hadn’t included any stops for food. I was regretting that now. When I got to Orlando, money would be my priority. I was pretty good at bank jobs these days. If I couldn’t find the local underground, I’d have to pull one off pretty quickly. I’d need a good meal and new clothes soon enough. I ate the protein bar in two unsatisfying bites and drank half the water bottle. It was enough to ease the hunger pangs. That let me focus enough to scan the train for any magic users. It was a skill I’d perfected fairly quickly to survive on the run. I should have done it earlier, but the combined hunger and lack of quality sleep would have made it shotty at best. I closed my eyes and reached out with my magic. I only picked up a few minor talents. Two of them were so faint they likely didn’t even know they could use magic. The other three were dabblers. They likely didn’t have any family that could teach them, and they weren’t strong enough to draw The Coven’s interest.
When I opened my eyes, I noticed a man walking towards me. He was a clean-cut and fit man with a confident stride. I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t coming for me but was just walking the length of the car. His gaze had lingered on me too long, though. There was determination in his dark brown eyes. He wasn’t one of the witches I’d sensed. Maybe he was looking to harass someone. I’d had my fair share of confrontations with assholes who had a problem with openly gay men. Now that people knew about magic, I’d probably attract the attention of people who wanted to provoke witches too. There was no shortage of stupid in the world. It wouldn’t get that far if he were dumb enough to be looking for trouble. He slid into the seat next to me with casual ease. As close as I was, it would only take grazing his skin with my ring to knock him out. No one else would notice the interaction.
“Milo Grimshaw?” he asked. It was enough to make me pause. I didn’t answer. It had been sixteen years since someone called me by my birth name. The Coven called me Erebus. “I know that you have no reason to trust me, but I promise you I don’t mean you any harm.”
“You have one minute to tell me how you know that name.”
“The Coven can cover up a lot of things, but they got sloppy with your mother,” he said. Vincent was sloppy. He’d acted alone. “I’m going to pull my badge out of my pocket. Please just give me a few minutes to explain.”
“All right, but if you don’t convince me, you should know I’m not as sloppy as The Coven,” I said. It wasn’t true, but it got the threat across.
“I’m with the DPI,” he said, handing me a badge that said Department of Paranormal Investigations. It looked real enough. I’d seen my fair share of amateur fake ids. At the very least, he’d put some effort into this.
“Let me guess. It’s an off-the-books organization tasked with proving that magic is real?”
“Not quite. There was already enough proof out there to justify starting the organization. We cover up things that could cause public panic, and we learn everything we can about the supernatural world.”
“So what do you do now that everyone knows about the things that go bump in the night?” I asked.
“Recruitment. Ordinary law enforcement isn’t going to be ready for all the changes coming their way.”
“So you want to offer me a job?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, handing him his badge back.
“You might want to give it a little more thought than that. We can link you to several bank robberies in Florida.”
“An ultimatum? Do you even have back-up?”
“Not an ultimatum. I know that I couldn’t stop you from making me disappear right now if you wanted to. It’s more than just a job offer. It’s protection. You wouldn’t need to worry about anyone coming after you for the banks. I know what it looks like for a man to be on the run. I don’t know what happened between you and The Coven, but we can keep you safe.”
“That’s not a guarantee you can make. You probably don’t even know a tenth of what they’re capable of.”
“Maybe not, but we’re an official government organization. If The Coven wants things to go smoothly, they’re going to have to recognize the authority we represent.”
“Past my alleged involvement in bank robberies, what do you know about me?”
“Enough to make this offer,” he said. It told me nothing, and I had no talent for mind-reading to find out more. I couldn’t risk it. As he said, if The Coven wanted things to go smoothly, they had to work with the government. His offer could be a trap meant to bring me in without hurting anyone. He hadn’t answered my question about back-up. I needed to know at least that if I was going to give him the slip. Leaving him behind on the train would only help so much if he had others all set to start following me. I didn’t have an easy exit. If I shadow stepped, I couldn’t guarantee a safe landing. I didn’t know the surrounding area.
“Do you have a card?” I asked. He pulled one out of his jacket pocket. I used the enchantment in my ring to put him to sleep as I took it.