For the Internal Conflict Blogfest, and since the sequel is on the way, an excerpt from my UF novel Searching (Published by DDP). Although I have since wandered off into rather sillier things, I hope you enjoy it:
When I got back, I ate in the hotel restaurant. Whatever I had wasn’t memorable enough for me to recall it. I think it might have been at about that point that I realized that this was more serious than just the after-effects of fear and adrenaline.
I stayed at the hotel bar for the space of one drink. Even though it was still no later than ten when I was done, I resolved to try and get some sleep, because Evan would no doubt end up calling me at some impossibly early hour. Vampire business usually equalled vampire hours.
Before I slept, I tried to run through a few exercises from the fighting systems that I practiced, because without constant practise, I risked losing my edge. At least that’s what I tried to tell myself. The truth, I realized half way through wing chun’s double knife form, was that I was trying to make myself feel better.
The moment I recognized that fact, I stopped. I placed the knives I had been using carefully back in their hiding places, because some habits die hard, then stood and walked to the bathroom. I ran the shower cold, cold enough that when I forced my body beneath it, it protested. I stayed there for only a couple of minutes before I got out, but the water felt like an assault. I stepped out of the shower and stared for a long moment at the form reflected in the bathroom mirror. My eyes picked out scars, moving from one to another and carrying glimpses of memory with them.
There was the crescent shaped gash of a silver knife on my side; there the parallel lines of claws that had ripped into my stomach; there the round discs of scar tissue that were all that remained of a particularly nasty vampire bite. There weren’t many scars, and they weren’t too bad because I heal cleanly as well as quickly, but they were there.
It occurred to me that practically every scar there had been earned in jobs that involved little more than finding a target and killing them. Not one of them had involved anything more subtle, and now that something did, I felt weak, helpless.
I laughed bitterly. Violence was what I was. It was stamped on me, as much a part of me as being a shifter. I had never before considered that it might be all I was.
When had I started thinking like this? Instinctively, I knew that it was not something that had been started that night, even though that was when I would have to deal with it. Claire and Suria’s faces drifted into my thoughts. I had been different since taking them in, at least a little. Before them, I had avoided that kind of contact. I had wanted to watch over people but never to have to care for them. I had even avoided friends who were not, like Evan, involved in the violence of my world.
Miranda had been another part of it, daring me to let her see all there was to see of me. I had lied to myself about my reasons for not letting her use her talents. I could pretend all I liked that I wanted to protect my secrets, but I knew the truth. I had been ashamed.
I stood there and stared at myself for a long, long time.
Why was I letting this case get to me? Why was this so different? I didn’t know. Perhaps it was because I suddenly feared that Miranda was right. Maybe I was no different from her sister. Maybe I was worse, because I couldn’t even find a simple missing person. I thought about the things I’d done so far. I’d charged in to kill the shifters who attacked the student, Heather. I’d intimidated Dells. I’d used the same tactics at the vampires’ bar. Was I little more than a thug?
I found myself promising my reflection that I would change. I would become a better person. I would at least change the way that I worked. I needed to become more of a detective, and less of an assassin, and I needed to do it…
After the case.
I laughed bitterly, because for the briefest of seconds, I had forgotten the case. Forgotten all about the reason that I was in York in the first place. I felt some guilt for that, because there were people relying on me. Amy Winter for a start. She was in danger, and I was busy having some sort of breakdown. If I gave in, gave up, put away my knives, and went off to do missionary work somewhere, Amy Winter would die, assuming that she hadn’t already.
It occurred to me, as I stood there letting the water drip from me, that Amy Winter was a big part of the reason that I was thinking the way I was.
A few days ago, when she had been a distant figure who I had known of only by a reputation harsher than my own, it had been easy to reassure myself that I was ok. At least I wasn’t as bad as her, I could tell myself. I had, more than once. I killed, but only when it was absolutely necessary. I wasn’t like her. I was different.
But this case forced me to think of Amy in other ways: as the sister of a woman who insisted that she was a good person; as an ally who Evan turned to ahead of me; and, potentially, as a frightened young woman at the mercy of some unknown group. I hadn’t known her at all.