It was shortly after we finished talking about ways to stop Voodoo Jones' spell that Red edged her way closer to me and dropped her voice to a whisper.
"I wish to ask you about the Skull," she said.
Jesus Christ. What was I, Clark Kent? Was she seriously falling for this whole 'I-Just-Work-For-Her' line? "Uh, sure," I said.
"What is she like?"
The question threw me off. "What do you mean?"
"I do not wish to pry, but--is she young, like me?"
I stared at her.
"It is just, ah--I have not told you everything that I have seen in the future," she admitted, and then she blushed.
"You mean there's something else that happens that isn't in those paintings?"
"Yes," she said. "One other. I did not paint it. It was--ah, embarrassing." The blush intensified. I felt an odd tug in my stomach at the sight of it; her cheeks turned a particularly dark shade of apple red.
"What?" I asked.
"I could not see her face, but it was clear from the vision that the Skull was--ah, she kissed me," she said, and then she turned her face down to the table.
Now I really stared.
"Are you... serious?" I asked.
"Of course!" she said, her tone quick and defensive. "I would not lie about something like this."
I folded my arms on the table and leaned in toward her, narrowing my eyes. "Like--what are we talking about here? On a scale of one to ten--with one being a chaste little peck, and ten being, uh..." I trailed off, unsure of where I was going.
"A six," she said, her answer quicker than I expected. "Perhaps a seven."
"Um. Okay," I said. "Well, I mean, you saw what you saw, I guess. I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. Do your visions always come true?"
"Yes, although the manner in which they do so is not always clear," she said, and then she looked to me. "Oh--I am sorry," she said. "It had not even occurred to me--"
"You are not in a relationship with her, are you? The Skull? If so, please--I beg your forgiveness! The thought had not even occurred to me. But you should know, I bear no intentions toward this person--I do not even know her. So--"
I lifted my hands up in front of me as if to ward off a blow. This was getting incredibly weird. "Whoa. I mean, no. I am not in a relationship with the Skull," I said. "I mean, I am, but a purely professional one." That probably could have come out better.
"I see," she replied, and there was a funny look in her eyes.
A boy from the hall popped his head in. I recognized him immediately--the same boy who had directed Bonesaw into the alley after Red. "Red?" he said. "There's a big white car right out front."
"That'd be the backup," I said, getting up to my feet--thankful for the reprieve. "Gotta help him unload the gear."
Sumerset met me outside of the building next to the refurbished Tank. Various teenagers were watching him suspiciously, peering around corners and out windows--none of them dared to venture past the graffiti and wards that had been layered around the building's circumference.
"They know who you are?" he asked.
"No," I said, before I added: "One of them, Red. She's kind of weird, but cool. Uh--she's got some sort of magic thing going on."
Sumerset wrinkled his nose with disapproval. "Yeah, I should have figured magic would be involved in this."
"That a problem?"
"Magic's trouble. Always trouble," he said, and then he popped the trunk. He reached inside, removing an immense metal suitcase; somehow, he managed to lift it up without much difficulty. I noticed there was a curious hum around him.
"You're wearing an exo-skeleton?" I asked as he passed the suitcase to me.
"Yeah. Wasn't any other way to pack the car this quick," he said. "Pretend you're having a lot of trouble with the suitcase."
As I made a show of struggling to lift its weight, I noticed him pulling several more out from the backseat. "Jesus. How many did you bring?"
"A lot," he said, and then he grinned. "Brought a few extras, too. Including the spare Battle Suit--I've done some work on it."
I gave him a look. "You're letting me out with the Battle Suit?"
"Figure it's as good of a time as any," he said. "And this time, you ain't going in alone."
"Oh? Who else is coming?" I asked as I threw up an eyebrow.
He hefted two of the immense suitcases up, plopping them down on his metal-encased shoulders with a dull clank. "Me."