John Hughes is a man who has come a long way to forget who he is and where he came from. Lost and unafraid is exactly how he wants to be and he intends for it to stay that way for a long, long time.
All that changes when Mara Dee shoots her way into his life, leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake as she drags him into a different dimension. He soon finds himself plunged into an interplanetary war where a brutal alien being being believes John the answer to its immortality.
She was here.
She wasn't a raving beauty. Or some kind of voluptuous vixen. Not really. She was alright. Actually I preferred the red head behind her. She looked younger, face not so hard. Pouty lips and vacuous expression.
But there was something about that other one.
Ted had given me that look. I knew that look, recognized it from decades of male bonding: A dart aimed at your Math teacher's back, taking an offered cigarette in the boy's toilet, looks exchanged while standing on the roof of your house, hands wrapped around some girls waist in a party while you eye her cleavage.
Go on then.
I'd shrugged and focused my attention on the red head. And a few hours later had got exactly what I wanted and obviously so had she. No exchange of phone numbers in the end. No promises. Just a quick shower, a borrowed shirt and she'd been out the door. I liked that.
But here I was again, without Ted and there she was. In the exact same spot, her outfit just as tight as it had been the week before. She was leaning against the bar, flicking the hair out of her eyes. Bored as hell, I could see. But she held the glass in her left hand, occasionally tilting her chin up to look round. I shifted on my own stool , but her gaze passed over me, over the riotous crazy club crowd.
The mountain...Mohammmed....this just might work.
I drained the contents of my glass and threaded my way through the crowd, through the bouncing bodies and the sweat and the strobe lights and the humidity. There was a time these places used to be the watering holes for single twenty-some things looking for a good time. Now they've become these overhauled warehouses with loud techno-pop music mix, everybody's bumping into you, drinks get poured on you, you could actually step in something. Oh... and the twenty-somethings are forty-something cougars in transition. Maybe Eagle's city's lost something. Time for a change.
But first things first-
I pushed past a clump of girls that were dancing wildly, inhaled a cloud of hair spray and squinted past them. Dream girl was still perched on her stool, not slumped or crooked like half the girls lining the bar. Mum was always on about good posture, sitting straight like something's been stuck up your back. Good advice. Good posture just looks good on a girl. Like trust funds are necessary for spoiled, ungrateful, underachieving sons.
I turned round sharply, rubbing the ache in my side. It wasn't one of the blonde babettes shaking their hair in ecstasy. This one was dark haired, half of her face covered by long bangs of it. A gaunt looking face with dark circles around her eyes or it could just be smudged make-up. Her clothes were made up of strips and straps of some shiny black material exposing as much skin as necessary. But instead of showing curvy loveliness all I saw was taut muscle.
She didn't look happy.
But Goth girls never do.
"Sorry," I say quickly and turn away. But then I feel the pull on my shoulder, tight fingernails biting. Oh crap.
"You shoved me," she said. Or I think she said, the music was so loud and then there were the lights....flashing this way and that.
"Sorry," I said, a little louder this time. But she didn't go away which meant she was probably going to get nasty, real fast. Sometimes the wrong people get past the bouncers: amped up junkies looking for a little bit of fun that always goes wrong. And sometimes some of these wrong people have guns.
I looked down at her, scanning her tight abdomen. Black straps cross-crossing it. No gun
I glanced over my shoulder at 'Dream girl' who at this time was inspecting her glass, as if searching for a nick or a scratch or just biding time before she took off.
"Are you even listening to me?" Goth girl said, squaring her shoulders.
Okay. I had to sort this out. So I gave her a quick smile. "I'm sorry, love. I've said it twice now. So why don't you give it a rest, eh?"
She blinked at me suddenly, her gaze unreadable. Then she turned and walked away. Smoothly, like it was something she'd planned not some sudden movement, and moved through the clump of now crazed babettes in the middle of the room.
I turned away, threading my way through the grid-work of dancing couples and finally reached the bar. At the last possible moment, I staggered and grabbed a stool to steady myself. Someone gasped and I looked up.
'Dream girl' was staring at me, a flicker of surprise on her face. I bit back my embarrassment and smiled at her "Slippery floors," I said while I slid onto the stool.
She smiled back, perfect teeth, face much better close up than across a crowded room. "Or you've just had a few?"
"Could be that too."
She nodded at me, and then turned to look back at the bar. That was the cold shoulder or pseudo-cold shoulder. My turn.
I turned away and focused my gaze on the bar, shaking my head at the approaching bartender. A tall man, a bit heavy in the middle with friendly eyes. Not one I recognized. The bartenders I met here were usually lean and arrogant. Must have been new.
I drummed my fingers across the bar, looking every which way but left. I waited.
"So are you a normal klutz or do just do that to get noticed?"
Right on time
I swiveled toward her, wearing what I hoped was my most bewildered smile. "I'm sorry-"
She was facing me now and I get to see her in all her glory...long beautiful legs, great looking bod, black hair spiralling to her shoulders. Nothing Gothic about this one. "I mean...slippery floors. You could do better."
"And I have."
"So you're a regular troll then."
I laughed and leaned against the bar." I'm hardly a troll."
"So what are you?"
"A man that finds it hard keep his balance in the presence of a beautiful woman."
"Now that's lame."
"You'd do better with the 'slippery floor' line"
"You're a hard woman to please."
"I'm just critical."
I slid off the stool, pushing back from the bar slightly. "Maybe I could try again."
"Maybe. Maybe not."
She suddenly shifted on her stool and pulled up another stool beside her. Patted its surface.
I smiled and started walking over to her.
I spun round just in time to see the crowd on the dance floor , people scrambling in different directions, the inevitable screams, licks of flame on the wall, the smoke...
That's when I saw Goth Girl in the middle of them all, half her face covered with hair, guns in both hands, standing as if frozen in the middle of the chaos.
Both guns were pointed at me.