Baron Winters sat in a soft, comfy chair by his lit fireplace. A glass of wine sat on the table next to his elbow. Merlin lay at his feet. “Another success, Merlin,” he said. “No loss of life or limb for a change.”
Mrrow went the leopard.
“Of course, I’m still charging Constantine,” said Winters with a face of displeasure at the question. “I’m not running a charity here.”
The cat looked at him.
“No,” said the Baron. “I don’t care if he saved the world or not. Rules are rules, and the number one rule is cash on delivery. Besides, I am not paying Monaghan out of my own pocket. That’s out.”
Merlin closed his eyes and rested his head on his paws.
A group of three walked up to the front of the building and up the stairs to where young Timothy Hunter had lived. One of the trio, a blind man in white with a walking stick, pressed the button to the door ringer.
The door opened almost instantly. A haggard, middle-aged man stared at the trio, and his face lit up with joy. He grabbed the youngest one of the three in a hug, lifting him off the small step in front of the door. “Tim!” Bill Hunter said with a grin of relief. “Where on earth have you been? I have been worried sick! And what happened to your glasses?”
“Tim had an accident, Mr. Hunter,” said Tommy Monaghan. “Nothing major, but he was delayed by the doctors at the hospital. We were visiting and decided to help him home on the way to the airport.”
“Thank you. Thank you both.”
“No bother at all,” said the hitman. “It was right on our way. Goodbye, Tim. Nice meeting you.”
The blind Mister E nodded, shaking both of the Hunters’ hands. He turned, and both of them left to catch their plane out of the country.
Tim found himself holding a plain white card with the name Mister E and a phone number on front, and a handwritten phone number on the back. Below the number, words were written:
In case of need, call. Someone will come to help you.
It was almost too much to take in for young Timothy Hunter. Constantine had explained to the twelve-year-old boy that he had been specifically targeted by an enemy because Tim had a natural but very strong affinity for magic. That was news to the boy, who had never intentionally tried to practice magic, but it did help to explain a lot of strange things that had happened over the course of his young life. Mister E had gone on to tell him about a very special school located in the South Pacific that specialized in educating boys with his kinds of talents. But he and his dad would have to decide soon if he was going to attend this Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge, because the new semester began at the beginning of January.
Zatanna and John Constantine regarded each other for a long moment. Constantine wanted to say something, anything, promise the world for a few more seconds of this closeness. But he knew that was futile. He knew he couldn’t give up the life he was leading, and Zatanna wouldn’t share it.
He had a sense of missing something special, something to regret along with everything else that had gone wrong on his trail of tears. Zatanna seemed to understand the way he felt. She smiled fondly and said simply, “Goodbye, John. Try to take care of yourself a little better.”
Constantine smiled, lit up a cigarette, and began walking away. Zatanna turned and entered the teleporter building to go back to the satellite and then to her place in San Francisco. Neither one looked back.
Henry Valdemir rested in a cradle in a room under the city. The core of his computer system and life-support was on a rack being held off the floor. He wore a helmet with a large visor over his eyes. His gloved hands made gestures, and a crude form of his doppelgänger made repairs and new connections.
It might take years to get operational again, but he would. And when he did, he would target those two meddlers and that woman and make sure they died as painfully as possible. Then he would return to making his body work again as it once did.