I didn't exactly relish the thought of facing off with that lying information-stealing son-of-a-badword, but to get back the information it looked like we didn't have much choice. I voted for getting Phoenix to intimidate him into returning the stolen file pages, but since he had already gone the idea was shot down.
"I'm sure he'd find us anyway if he wanted to that badly. No doubt Shadow had already gone to send word to the Eternals that we've been here so he won't have to do his daddy's dirty work anyway," Meena grumbled half to herself as she tapped out a text on my mobile, and sent it to the number I had recieved Allan's texts and calls from. "He's meeting us at our place in half an hour. The one near your house, Ruby."
"That's cutting it a little fine," I said, thinking of how long it had taken to walk. "I want to be there before he shows up."
Meena looked at me with one eyebrow raised, her blue eyes sparkling the same vibrant shade of bright that I had thought was a trick of the light the first time I had met her. Thinking back felt like it was years ago, I had discovered so much since then.
"We only walked here because we didn't want to explain to your mum how we got here so fast if we saw her," Meena eye-rolled. "We're going back the fast way."
With that, she promptly transformed into a magpie in front of my very eyes and took off, disappearing over the closest rooftops.
"Cheater," Willow grumbled. "Go on, then, Ruby, you don't have to wait for me to change. I'm going to have to move fast - I don't know if I can pass for an Alsatian these days."
"Can I?" I asked stupidly. I had thought that I was human during the day, aside from my quite improved eyesight.
"Nightwalker traits during the day," Willow quoted drily, pointing to the street. "If you travel quickly enough they won't even see you."
I grinned, and decided to put that to the test. I felt a little foolish, trying to run so fast, and started out at a human running pace. Then I got a little faster - the kind of fast an Olympic runner could compete with. Then faster still, until the wind was blowing my hair back as if I was being pulled into it. It had been exhilarating running the night before, with the darkness on all sides and the winking lights, so I couldn't be sure if I was running through the sky or not. But in the day, it was something different. Like running through a grey vortex; the buildings and people were sucked past me and I didn't stop. It was effortless, and I couldn't help feeling gleeful.
When I breezed to a stop - regretfully - at the end of the road Meena had said their hide-out place was, I saw a black cat perched on the low wall in front of the tiny strip of grass that constituted a front garden for the tiny five-room house. I knew it was Meena from the cat's unblinking sky-blue eyes. As I approached at a normal walk she leapt down agilely and trotted to the front door before resuming her human form. I couldn't help but look around nervously, expecting to see someone stood there, mouth gaping. There was nobody about, nobody that I could see looking out of the windows of the neighbouring houses, but I still felt that she should exercise more caution.
She unlocked the door with a key pulled from somewhere just as Willow strolled around the corner at the opposite end of the street, hands in pockets nonchalantly. There was a telltale smudge of greyish-brown dirt on one side of her face, though - she had taken a shortcut through the woods.
Inside the place wasn't furnished. I hadn't known exactly what to expect, but it surprised me how bare the place was. The first room had nothing but wooden floorboards, the kitchen had nothing in the places reserved for refrigerators and dishwashers and ovens.
"There are beds upstairs, and the bathroom's fully stocked," Meena smiled as I swept the place with my eyes. "That's it, though, I'm afraid. Shame we can't make our guest feel comfy."
"So, how are we going to work this?" Willow asked, wiping the dirt from her face with the back of her left hand as she sat cross-legged on the floor. "One of us should stay outside as look out and to stop him if he tries to run off again with the documents."
"Yeah," Meena agreed. "He'll be expecting that, though."
"Maybe we shouldn't trust him. He might get something out of us then not even have the things with him," I frowned. "Maybe we should just knock him out as soon as he gets in the door and search him."
"He'll be expecting that, too," she said, peering out through the lacy curtain over the front window. Odd that it had curtains and no furniture. "He'll come alone, though. He'll have conferred with his daddy on this one, and thanks to the ever likeable Shadow he'll know by now that we know what they know - at least, except for what's in these pages."
I think I understood that.
There was a heavy-handed knock on the door, and Meena jumped back from the window in surprise, not having seen anyone coming.
"It's me," William's voice came through the door. Meena moved to open it, but Willow restrained her with a hand on her arm.
"Did everything go all right at the hospital?" she called out.
"Fine," he replied. "It's all sorted as long as nobody digs any deeper into it."
Apparently satisfied, she unchained the door and opened it to let him in. I knew that Guardians had all sorts of special powers, so it wouldn;t surprise me if he had some kind of sixth sense allowing him to locate us. Nobody else had questioned how he'd found us so quickly.
"We're expecting Al - "
Willow didn't get any further than that before William's large fist connected with her face. Her head snapped back, spurting blood gruesomely as the force of the blow sent her staggering to the opposite wall, where she collapsed at the foot of it. Meena yelled something I couldn't quite hear as I stared in shock, as William forced the door the rest of the way open and entered, glaring around with a malevolence I had never seen before in those violet eyes. Behind him followed - Meena and I gasped in unison at this - Allan, looking extremely malicious and clutching a sheaf of paper to his chest, like a schoolboy with his homework books.
"Hello, ladies," he smiled, eyes glinting coldly. "I believe you were expecting me? Now, how much pain would you like to pay for these?"