Artemis LaFleur and Robert Thorpe sit alone in Robert’s office, drinking coffee.
They haven’t spoken of anything important—other than how each prefers their coffee prepared—since CB and Agent Grant left. Artemis drinks his coffee slowly, savoring the bitterness and the heat, and waits.
David Bernard shivers slightly as he steps into the large gym. It’s large, and mostly empty—most people are at work, and the few who are there are sticking to the stationary bikes.
It’s a well-provisioned gym. There are the traditional stationary bikes, ellipticals, free weights, bench weights and weight machines, as well as some devices David recognizes as specific to physical therapy and rehabilitation. He hadn’t used any of them—healing from the concussion came first—but they were all in his future, once upon a time.
Not any more. Creepy magic island took care of that.
Robert Thorpe’s pain is real. The pain’s location isn’t.
He feels pain because his nervous system is damaged. The kind of pain changes: sometimes he has headaches, sometimes he has muscle cramps, sometimes he has sharp, stabbing pain going up and down an arm, or a leg. Today his pain is in his lower back, and it’s more severe than usual.
There’s never anything specifically wrong with the part of his body that’s suffering at any given time, but he feels the pain all the same.
Years ago the sight of a young black woman sitting alone at Elliot’s Diner might have been cause for concern. Morrisania was once considered the worst the South Bronx had to offer, and the Diner was the unofficial stomping grounds of the Red Sevens, a gang with a reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty. Back then, anyone who wasn’t a Red Seven would immediately be marked a victim if they dared set foot in the place—and a young woman would be considered particularly vulnerable, no matter who she was.
That was before Jacob Dupree bought the place. Before his niece and nephew moved in. Before the Bastions claimed Morrisania as their own.