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Sinister Intent: Chapter Two
He got plenty of weird looks in the store, but nobody said anything to him—one of the advantages of having red eyes; they intimidated most people enough to keep the comments behind the back instead of to the face. He would have waited until his clothes were dry, but he would have been waiting a long damn time; once the body armor was wet, it tended to stay that way. Oh well, let them think he went for a dip in Puget Sound.
He bought a pair of jeans and a shirt. He looked through the shoes but couldn’t find anything in his size—14 AA was pretty rare at Wal-Mart—and he had to make due with his boots. They were still dry inside, which was good, but they weren’t exactly casual-wear. When he got to Baton Rouge he’d have to hit some of the nicer stores.
He bought a wristwatch, a small duffel bag and a paperback novel—the latest bargain-bin offering from Dean Koontz—and changed into his fresh clothes in the bathroom at the front of the store. His wet uniform he wadded up and shoved into the bottom of the duffel. He thought about picking up a can of Pringles or something, but a warning growl from his midsection told him he might want to think about getting something a little more substantial before checking out the flight schedules. He was in no great hurry after all—Sinister wouldn’t try for him so soon after letting him go, it wasn’t his way. He was probably safe until the scientist cooked up something else to try on him. A bigger and better neuro-blaster, maybe. The thought made him shudder.
He wadded up the tags and stickers from the jeans and shirt into a ball and tossed them in the garbage can. The receipt he folded carefully and stowed in his wallet. A thief learns to keep his proof of purchase handy.
He took one look in the mirror over the bank of sinks and groaned. It wasn’t the hair, although that was bad. It had started to dry and as a result it was beginning to frizz. He regretted not having purchased a brush but that wasn’t going to help much anyway—what he’d need would be a bandanna or a baseball cap. No, the hair could be made presentable, more or less, but nothing was going to help his face. It was small wonder people shied away from him in the aisles; he looked like a drug addict and lobotomy patient who’d been dead for six hours. He wondered how long Sinister had had him in his lab. He toyed briefly with the idea of makeup, but tossed it as he realized that he didn’t know squat about it in the first place, and that it would probably only emphasize the problem in the second. Maybe he could fake a head cold.
He slicked his hair down and back as best he could and tied it into a pony tail, then reentered the store and headed back to the menswear department. Most of the ball caps featured either the Mariners or the Seahawks, and he didn’t care to support either team. Finally he settled on a Ford Racing hat. He wouldn’t want anyone he knew to see him wearing NASCAR apparel, especially not Bobby Drake or Logan, but the colors went well with his shirt and jeans. Almost as an afterthought he grabbed a pair of cheap sunglasses. He wasn’t really all that interested in hiding his eyes, although in some situations he would be stupid not to, but they’d cover the dark smudges of puffy flesh under them.
He broke down and grabbed a can of Pringles after all, as well as a bag of Hershey’s Nuggets. Toffee and almond; a serious weak spot on his sweet tooth. Even a short commercial flight was nearly unbearable without chocolate. He paid for these items all the while shuffling through his mental map of the Seattle area for a good restaurant. There was a TGI Fridays nearby; that would work.
He eschewed calling a taxi in spite of the drizzly weather outside. His duster wasn’t wet, thank heavens—Arclight had shoved it into his arms just before she shoved him out the theater door—and it kept the light rain off his new clothes. The restaurant was only a few blocks away.
The waitress flirted with him while she took his order, that shy forwardness that told him two important facts: she was seriously interested, and she was way too young and inexperienced. He downplayed his own end of it to let her know that he wasn’t serious, but that he thought she was sweet. She brought him his food with a shy smile and he wondered if it was the dim lighting in the restaurant; she wasn’t likely, he thought, to be so interested if she could really see what he looked like just now. Of course, the hat and the shades were a big help. Still, he was wearing off-the-rack and even if he really did look all right, he hardly felt he was up to his usual standards.
He ate his way through the thick burger with unusual deliberation—he was, in most cases, a speed-eater, unless he was on a date or at a really nice restaurant. But his mind was fully occupied with uncomfortable thoughts and he scarcely noticed his food at all. Foremost on his mind, of course, was the still unanswered question of exactly what he had done, at Sinister’s bidding, to his friends and teammates. But he couldn’t help wondering, through it all, exactly what Sinister wanted with him. If it was a weapon he was after, there were other mutants whose powers were every bit as effective as his own, mutants who were more easily controlled. Sinister could have his pick of any of them. Why then would he choose to focus his attentions on the one mutant he had never successfully managed to dominate?
“Mebbe ol’ Sinister jus’ need a hobby, Gambit…an’ mebbe you it,” he muttered out loud to himself just as the pretty little waitress arrived with the check. She gave him a look that struggled for askance but swiftly crumbled into helpless longing and she scurried away after he affirmed that he would not be needing anything else.
On to Chapter Three!