Welcome back to another chapter of Random Paths! In the last chapter Thomas Destansi thought he had caused the death of Eva Wallis only to find out it was a ploy to get her into witness protection. After thinking long and hard about it, he decided to accept the offer of going with her. And now on with the story.
The rest of the day was long and drawn out. It took some doing to get Thomas and Eva out of the house without causing too much of a scene. They had gone to the SBI office in Moonlight Falls. It was the safest location due to it being in the city with the highest proportion of occults to mundanes. There the SBI officers who crafted their new identities went over their identities with them. And they kept going over the identities for several hours.
The crafted identities were: two friends who went to the same high school in Appaloosa Plains go to college together and both end up moving to Riverview and decide to get an apartment together. During college Allison O’Neill had entered a very controlling relationship and it was through her high school best friend Malcolm Riker that she was able to break free, though it left her scarred. Malcolm had had a crush on Allison since he met her but was too shy to act on it. He was devastated when she ended up in what he thought was a serious and happy relationship. He eventually realized the relationship was a bad one for Allison and helped her gain the courage to end things. Allison O’Neill got a job in Riverview as a journalist for Simnational Geographic. Due to Malcolm’s vampirism, he’s been unable to get work.
Several hours later and they were allowed to say their final goodbyes to the few who came. Wolfgang and Ian were there.
“I don’t want to say goodbye,” Eva cried.
“I know, Eva. But this is for your own safety,” Wolfgang said, pulling his cousin into a hug. He couldn’t help the tears from flowing on his end either. He didn’t want to say goodbye to Eva, but he promised her mother he would look after her. And if keeping her safe meant sending her into witness protection then so be it.
“And everyone else’s, I know. And that’s why I agreed. But that doesn’t mean I want to say goodbye.”
“Ian and I will be keeping an eye out on the situation. If we deem it safe enough we’ll get the ball rolling on getting you two out of witness protection if you want. You will not be forgotten.”
Ian gave a quick hug to his son. “Your mom didn’t come because she didn’t want to make it harder on you,” Ian said, “She was crying when I left. But it’s the typical my baby is growing up and leaving crying.”
“So Mom and Myles know I’m not a nomad. Who else knows?” Thomas asked.
“Zachary is aware that Eva’s still alive. He doesn’t know about you, but he’s smart enough to piece it together. He’s also smart enough to know that none of us can tell him he’s right so he won’t say anything. Wolfgang obviously knows. Zachariah Smith knows. So your brother Samuel does not know,” Ian said, “Now keep a wary eye and ear out for anything that might be a sign that you’ve been discovered. Feel free to call me any time if you need me.”
When Ian was done talking with Thomas, Wolfgang approached Thomas. “Words can not express my gratitude to you for doing what you’re doing. I know you were told that protecting her wasn’t to be the primary reason to agree to go into witness protection with her, but there’s the risk of her being discovered. Even if your relationship with her doesn’t work out, stay close and don’t let your hot headedness put a nail in the coffin of even being civil with each other. Just in case.”
“You’re welcome. And I would not dream of doing anything that would put her life in danger.” Thomas said.
While Wolfgang and Thomas talked, Eva approached Ian. “I never got a chance to thank you for your part in saving Miranda,” Eva said.
“You’re welcome. It was the least I could do. Definitely helped the SUA lose some members for a time not to mention your testimony extended the trial meaning they spent more money on their lawyer.”
“It’s time to go,” one of the agents said.
The final goodbyes were teary for Eva. Thomas remained strong to help Eva not completely fall apart. The agents then escorted them to a private airfield and gave them their final instructions.
“Alright. From here on in you’re no longer Thomas Destansi and Eva Wallis. You’re Malcolm Riker and Allison O’Neill. You’ve been awarded a two person one night, one day vacation in Hidden Valley. You get to arrive via private jet, but you leave via commercial jet since the private jet can’t stay for the full day. So you’ll have one day to see the sights of Hidden Valley. Do go out and see the sights and sell the vacation. You’re plane for Riverview leaves Hidden Valley at 9 pm. You have a hotel room already booked in Riverview so that you can find your new apartment during daytime hours.”
Their day in Hidden Valley was too long for the two of them. Or at least it passed a lot slower than they wanted. But they used it as a means to get used to calling each other Mal and Aly. Or at least more used to it. It was going to take more than one day to get accustomed to their new identities.
It was mid morning when they decided to move into their new apartment in Riverview. It wasn’t too early as they didn’t want to wake their neighbors, but not late enough that they wouldn’t have time to go explore the city. Or at least that was the plan.
But when the final things were put away in just a few hours, Eva had a breakdown. “It’s not fair! I shouldn’t have had to leave all my pictures in the care of my cousin! It should have taken us several days to move in!”
Thomas hugged Eva and said, “I know. But at least this way your sister is safe. And your cousins and their families. And you have me and your memories. They can’t take your memories away and I don’t plan on letting them take me. And we’ll make new memories and new pictures to fill up the blank walls.”
The next day the doorbell rang, startling both Thomas and Eva. They weren’t expecting anyone. Thomas opened the door and vaguely recognized the girl. He thought he saw her walking dogs the previous day. “Hi. Can I help you two?” Thomas greeted.
“I’m Renee Waters and he’s Paul Reynolds. We live here in the same apartment complex. I’m a few floors down, he’s a few floors up. We saw someone moved into this apartment and figured we’d welcome you to the neighborhood so to speak. Is now a good time?”
“Yea, now is as good of a time as any,” Thomas said, “I’m Malcolm Riker. I live here with my best friend Allison O’Neill. Aly! We’ve got company!”
Paul and Renee stepped into the apartment and introduced themselves to Eva. “Hey, why don’t we show you around? It’s nice outside and while it’s not a huge city, it doesn’t hurt to have someone show you where things are,” Renee said.
“Sure. We’d love to have an escort,” Thomas said, “Just give us a few minutes to get dressed for the outdoors.”
The group then headed off. “Let’s start with the main city park. Not that it’s very big, but most everyone has a huge yard to play in so there haven’t been funds allocated to making a big city park. Question for you and it’s going to sound really random, but what’s your opinion on the SUA? They murdered that poor girl in Bridgeport just last week.”
Eva tensed up at the mention of the SUA and of her faked death, but the SUA tended to be very secretive. They wouldn’t bluntly ask for people’s opinions of the group. Not on first meeting. And so, Eva relaxed, “Terrorists. This isn’t the first country they’ve been to. Each country they get kicked out of after a long drawn out civil war. And they’ve left a slew of broken families behind them.”
“You sound like you’ve had some personal experience with that,” Paul said.
“I lost my mother to the former Bridgeport crime lord Darius Myst. My father was devastated and I got passed to another family member. So I understand what it’s like to have a broken family,” Eva said. While it wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t the complete truth and Paul and Renee would likely assume her mother was one of the people murdered by Darius’s clan.
Renee and Paul apologized for her loss before they moved onto happier topics. Thomas and Eva really enjoyed the tour of the city they took with Renee and Paul and soon the four became friends. Thomas and Paul became best friends as did Eva and Renee.
“I think Mal likes you,” Renee said one afternoon while they were walking in the park.
“We’re just best friends, Renee. I’m not wanting another relationship,” Eva said.
“You’re scared it will turn out like your last one, I know. I get that. But I see the way Mal looks at you and Paul wouldn’t be best friends with Mal if he even got the vibe of abuser off of him. And didn’t he help you break free from that loser?”
“You don’t get it, Renee. It’s really easy when you haven’t been on the receiving end of an abusive relationship to just say get over it and move on,” Eva said, snapping, “But when you have, every little thing can remind you of the pain and suffering. A song on the radio. A smell, a sound, a phrase. And right now I associate a romantic relationship with abuse. So no, I’m not wanting to learn who likes me in that way. Because I don’t want to taint what relationship people have with me. I don’t want to associate my friends with my ex. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work at home I need to do.”
Weeks went by. Soon a few months had gone by. They had learned that Paul worked for the SBI, like Wolfgang did, and Renee was unemployed like Thomas was. Though she was lucky enough to do some odd jobs like dog walking or apartment sitting. Thomas helped people move things and what not for tips.
It definitely wasn’t what Thomas wanted to be doing for a living. He stepped back into the apartment after another unsuccessful interview to hear Eva crying. “What’s wrong, Eva?”
Eva opened and closed her mouth. “Zachariah. He’s… he’s been…” Eva said and lost it before saying what happened.
Thomas stepped quickly over to Eva, sat down next to her and just let her cry on his shoulder while looking at the television. It was a news report going over the outcome of a battle between rival gangs in Bridgeport. It appeared Zachariah had been killed in an attempt to save the life of Agent Wolfgang Rand who had been in the area investigating the SUA when the violence erupted. The report didn’t say anything about Wolfgang, but based on Eva saying Zachariah and not Wolfgang, he figured Wolfgang wasn’t dead.
An hour or so later and Eva had calmed down. Not entirely since the reporter had said that Wolfgang was in the hospital in critical, but stable condition the last they heard. But him being stable was why he was not out buying a pre-paid cell phone to make a phone call to his father.
And it was about that time when Renee and Paul came over for their weekly get together. Both Thomas and Eva had temporarily forgotten about it after hearing about Zachariah.
“Good, you’ve got it on the news,” Renee said, “So we don’t have to ask if you had heard the good news. Smith is dead!”
“It’s never good news when someone dies,” Thomas said sternly, “Especially when the reason for that death was protecting someone else. As I recall, Smith was killed while saving Agent Rand’s life.”
“I’m of the belief that Agent Rand is corrupt. Smith was as evil as they come. You can’t be friends with someone so evil without getting tainted yourself,” Renee said, “Smith was just trying to protect the one person keeping him out of jail.”
“I’ve heard rumors that they just had a do not talk about work agreement between each other so there was nothing for Agent Rand to hide,” Thomas said before Eva could say anything.
“Let’s not argue about the relationship of two strangers,” Paul said, “I’ve got the movie. I’m sure you guys have the snacks. Let’s get this hang out started.”
A month or so later, Eva went out to get the mail and a woman approached her. “Long time no see. Haven’t seen you since graduation. It’s Rami.”
Eva blinked a few times before the name clicked. This must be someone who was connected to Zachariah Smith. “Yea, it has been a while. What brings you by here?”
“Was looking to put something in your mailbox. I live here as well and figured it would save me some stamps and I pass by here regularly. Heard from a mutual friend of your new address. Well, I’ve got work to do so I’ll see you around.”
Eva walked back in after grabbing the rest of the mail and opened up the letter. There were two envelopes stuffed into the one. And Eva froze at the handwriting. It was Zachariah’s. She had seen enough of the correspondence he had with Wolfgang to know his handwriting.
“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked, catching her sad look.
“He found a way. Zachariah found a way. And now it’s a moot point.”
Eva handed Thomas his letter and opened hers. The letters read as follows:
I hope you are well. We all miss you.
Miranda apparently had had a boyfriend the past couple of years and he proposed a month ago. I’ll make sure to send you some pictures of the wedding, even if I have to get the pictures from Wolfgang if I’m not invited.
Sean is still dating around, but that’s usual for him according to Wolfgang.
What about you? Has Thomas finally popped the question? Or have you two not even started dating yet? If the answer to those questions is no, ask him out yourself! Tell me as much as you feel comfortable doing.
I hope you are doing well. Your family misses you.
Samuel has started working at the one of the businesses in Moonlight Falls. Myles has started working at the police station. Finally putting his police academy degree into action, he said. And your father said that everyone else was the same as usual.
If you have not asked Eva out. Ask her out. I heard you two admitted you loved each other the day you decided to enter witness protection with her. So what’s the hold up if you aren’t dating?
Eva read the one addressed to her and cried. Her sister was getting married and she couldn’t attend. Miranda and her had made plans to be each other’s maid of honor.
“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked.
“My sis. She’s getting married. I was supposed to be her maid of honor.”
“I’m sorry. Speaking of relationships moving forward, do we want to discuss us? Or well, would you care to be my girlfriend?”
“How about we just skip that step, will you marry me?”
“That’s a little sudden.”
“Not really. We hung out and did things together while you were my body guard. Sure, we couldn’t kiss or anything, but does that really define a relationship or is it how we feel about each other? Then my junior year of college as well as now, we’ve lived together. So we’ve done that test and we’ve done it smoothly.”
“We should probably fake the dating stage though.”
“Why?” Eva said and crossed her arms.
“We’re not Eva and Thomas to our best friends. We don’t want them to think we’re moving too fast.”
“I can live with that. I didn’t want to have the wedding right away anyway. And we should probably write something up for our families to give to someone, I say your father since he’s a former crook. Do we want to include our engagement?”
“Yea. They’ll want to know and they’ll expect it,” Thomas said and gave Eva a kiss. “And my father is fine with me.”
And that’s it for this chapter! Will the two be able to continue to lie to their best friends? Find out in chapters to come!