ON THE ROAD
Caleb hated driving, but Bella didn’t seem in any shape to get herself out of the city or travel by his preferred methods. He felt bad for running out on Bob with no explanation, but every time he glanced over, he knew it was the right decision.
She had no fight left in her.
“Do you want more water?” he asked, his voice purposefully gentle. He only asked questions he thought she could handle—ones that would give her some agency but ultimately didn’t matter.
“N-no,” she cleared her throat. “I’m okay…you said Salim is a vampire?”
Caleb hesitated, but he thought it was good that she was asking questions. “There’s no record of him before 15 years ago. He lied to you. He didn’t know Eliza when they were kids; he didn’t meet her until he was casing an electronics store with Alice.”
Bella nodded and rubbed her hands on her pants. “Who killed Eliza? You found out, didn’t you?”
“Your shoulders are always tight when you know something but don’t want to say it.”
Caleb sighed, flipping on the turn signal and passing a few slower-moving vehicles. There was no hiding from her, but the sensation wasn’t pleasant.
Probably because it was one-sided.
“Johnny was running his own side job and planning to use the Focus No. 9 potion on Alice,” he explained, referencing the email he sent her after leaving Darrel’s house. “Eliza wrote about it. She was in love with Salim.” He nodded at the console, “Look at the photos on my phone.”
He knew the exact moment Bella found the image of Eliza’s last journey entry. After a sharp intake of breath, she began to read it out loud.
“Johnny gives me a hard time, but he wants to help me. He told me about the potion. I thought it was bad, but he promised it would just make Salim’s real feelings stronger. I know Bob is going to be heartbroken, but this is for the best. He can find someone who wants the life he wants to live,” Bella took a breath and tried to regain her composure. “Salim does love me. I just know it. Johnny always said more magic was better. I want this work, so I got a few extra bottles…”
The silence stretched. “She did it to herself,” Bella finally whispered.
“It was an accident,” Caleb stared out at the road. “A horrible, painful accident. Helped along by Johnny, who had no business giving a sim access to that kind of magic.”
“Does this mean it’s over? Is there anything else I should know? I…I’m going to lose my job,” she turned her bright green eyes on Caleb, but they looked hollow. “It’s probably for the best.”
He didn’t think less of her. Caleb didn’t know a single immortal who hadn’t stood on the precipe of life and death and wondered—himself included. But he also didn’t trust her judgment. Even at her best, Bella made decisions that were driven by an alarming lack of self-awareness. He could see that now, and it would be insane of him to ignore it.
Gazing forward, he kept his shoulders loose. “Yes, everything is solved. It’s over.”