Trade is a city in northern Michigan, that used to be known for the steel factory in the south of town. Trade is split in half, the south side and the north side. The north side is full of cookie cutter homes, historic buildings, a library, hospital, school, apartment complex and even a park. The south side is populated by whorehouses, bar, abandoned buildings, warehouses, and a junkyard. There is a mom and pop diner that glues the two halves together that lives right in the center. Across the street is the movie theater. The town has motel that's in the southern side that charges by the hour.
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Class was long and boring. Mary-Alice loved history, however the lectures Professor Trudge gave couldn't be any more boring. The class was four hours long, it focused on American history. For some reason Trudge wanted to focus on slavery, the abolishment of slavery, and of course the civil rights movement afterward. Mary-Alive considered the topics important, of course she did, however there was more to American history besides slavery. She brushed her short black hair out her face. She couldn't wait to get back to her tiny, but cozy apartment. Her bag was overfull with textbooks and homework. She didn't mind it though. Without the constant flow of papers, worksheets, and notetaking she wouldn't do much. There wasn't much besides history that interested her. Her Netflix was filled with historical fiction and documentaries, in the summer she went to festivals and comic-cons. She owned several replicas of dresses, corsets, and petticoats.
Mary-Alice punched her code into the complex door and started up the stairs. Behind each door was a completely different life from her own. She smiled softly to herself as she could hear children laughing. Behind another was the news blasting at top volume. She liked the sounds of other people. It made her feel less alone. When she turned eighteen she moved as far away from home as a tank of gas would let her. She ended up selling her car to help pay for her college classes.
[center Olivia gave him another smile, disappointed that she couldn't be much help. She made a mental note to do her own research, having never really considering it before now. After that, she left him to his meal, sneaking glances every once in a while to make sure he was still doing alright.]
[center As soon as she was flagged down, she was quick to get him a box and make sure everything was settled before he left. She set to cleaning the table, ignoring as many questions as she could from her pestering co-worker. She loved her, but the girls' brain worked some serious overtime.]
[center The rest of Olivia's shift was pretty uneventful, save for Allison continuing to push her towards the more attractive customers. When her relief came in, she was quick to clock out and leave, pulling her hair down from her ponytail once she was outside. [i Jeez,] she thought, wishing her friend would find something more important to fawn over than Olivia's interest in people.]
"Thank you so much." Mason said smiling. He wasn't overly surprised at her knowledge on the town's history. He was mainly looking for any small town gossip she might blurt out. Part of him was impressed by her ability to hold back anything overly juicy. A chews his second meal considering everything. The rest of his day would be spent exploring the town. He made a mental note of going to library to hunt up some maps. He was looking for the oldest name. Perhaps he could find pictures of a supernatural hiding in plan sight. Even though supernaturals weren't entirely human, they did make the same mistakes that humans did. Often times that made them predictable.
After he had eaten over half of his meal. He gently flagged Olivia down again. He asked for a box. This last interaction was simple and quick. A quickening had started in his blood. He needed to get up, move, learn, and plan. He had been idle too long.
Having left the diner, Mason takes note of the weather. How it changed. The cool morning had given up to the sun. The cloudy day was warm with a biting wind. Winter would be close on autumn's heels. It was expected for northern Michigan. The winters were known to be frigid, icy, and dangerous in more ways then one. Then there was the thick blankets of snow that transformed the usual green landscape.
Mason walked with his hands in his jean pockets. He let himself wander, his mind turn over the pattern of symbols and what they meant. His package had been received. The kill had been confirmed. The police had already found the body. He had a new name on his list. Fortunately the name wasn't a priority so he could continue as usual. The next name on his list was a woman named Mary-Alice Waldron. She was a tier four supernatural. Not too dangerous. The tiers stretched to fifteen. Tier five and down were human feeders. That meant they usually fed off of humans in one way or another. The death toll for Tier Fives and under was low. Usually so low they were invisible. Tier Six through Ten killed infrequently. These were the ones that could choose if they killed or not. The death toll was medium. Ten through twelve were a hundred percent deadly. These were hard to find. Mason often had to track them across the country. Many serial killers were tier ten through twelves. Twelve through fifteen were monsters. Humans had named them cyrtids. They were devoid of any human though. Whether they were deadly or not depended on the situation. They were beings of complete and extremely animal instinct, as close to wild animals as possible.
Mason paused in his walk. He leaned against a decorative tree that the county had put up. He fished his off burner phone from his pocket and pushed the buttons in a rhythmic manner. The screen remained off. Across the street was Mary-Alice. She was wearing a short denim jacket, a white crop top, and black leggings. She wore a collection of gold jewelry. Her short black hair was fashionable. She was talking to a dark bald headed man. The man looked twenty years older than she was. He was wearing a long tan knitted sweater and a pair of jeans. He pushed his narrow glasses up as he spoke to her. Mason couldn't hear what they were talking about from where he was. At this time he wasn't worried about the topic. The most important thing about today would be being seen. He wanted to be caught around town, walking around, being as normal as he could be.
Mary-Alice ended her conversation, shouldered her backpack, and continued south. Mason finished his text that didn't exist and walked north. He would return tomorrow at the same time. These are the first steps in learning her routine.
[center Olivia wrote down the order and bit ber cheek, frowning for a moment. [b "Unfortunately, I don't know much. Mostly that the place is split into two sides and that the South side is to be avoided."] She leaned her hip against the seat opposite his. [b "That's what I've been told, at least. My parents don't tell me much, and eben high school wasn't a big help. You could always check the library, if you like. I can't imagine they wouldn't have anything available."] Her smile returned before she left to turn in his order.]
[center As she waited, she got to thinking about his question. She had never thought about the towns history before. She figured she could as her father, but she wasn't sure she'd get a lot of information. Hearing the bell, she quickly grabbed the plate and brought it to him.]
"Can I get some eggs and bacon?" Mason's eyes comb over her. She hid it well, the spill however had gotten to her. At least a little. "Also, would you happen to know anything about local history? I'm a little bit of an enthusiast."
[center Had Olivia been like Allison, she would have melted on the spot. She couldn't deny that the man was handsome. She wouldn't be surprised to know that most women threw themselves at him. However, while she was interested in men, she'd had her fill for the time being. And so she just gave him that smile again, nodding. [b "Enjoy then! I'll be back to check on you in just a bit!"] She spun on her heel, turning her attention to the couple at the table next to him.]
[center She'd only wanted to check and see if they needed refills. Instead, she ended up with luke-warm coffee on her uniform. The girl swore up and down it was an accident, and of course, Olivia took it in stride, even if the man was the one who should've apologized for knocking it over in the first place. She let Allison know about the spill before making her way to the back, searching for an extra outfit. She was disappointed when she didn't find one. She sighed softly. [i Looks like you're just going to have to smell like stale coffee.]]
[center She dabbed at the spot with some paper towels, hoping to make it bearable before she made her way back to the front, painting that same smile on her face. After making sure the couple had a fresh cup, she slid back over to the newcomer's table, taking up the dishes. [b "Was there anything else I can do for you today, or are you ready for your check?"]]
"No, this is absolutely perfect." Mason nodded flipping the paper open with satisfaction. He flashed her his almost perfect teeth at her again. Of course he had the money to get the million dollar smile, but it was all in the details. He took another sip of his tea and settled in to scan the paper while taking bites of his pancakes. Many don't realize how much information about a town is really in the newspaper.
Mason settles for a story about the local government. A man by the name of Wierson has taken a seat on the city council. Mason chews over the name for a moment.
The name rang deep into hi mind and he wasn't sure why. The thought made him happy. He liked mysteries. The pancakes are devoured slowly. The light fluffy consistency is better than he's had in awhile. After the pancakes were gone, he gently pushed his plate to the side. Once the story of the new city council member had been read, he neatly folds the paper back up and sets it on the end of the table. He's sure to keep it clear and clean. He sips at his coffee and waits Olivia to get his dishes. He had already decided to order the bacon and eggs next. As he waits he's making the final decision if he's going to take them with him when he leaves.
[center Olivia bit the inside of her cheek, thinking for a moment. [b "I want to say yes. There's an old man who comes in everyday and he usually leaves them for the bosses. They love doing the crossword puzzles."] She grinned and slid the pad into her pocket. [b "I'll go put your order in and get that paper for you!"]]
[center She moved away from him, quick to hang the ticket up and put a bottle of syrup on the tray. They used to keep them on the table, but one too many shattered containers had changed that. As she waited, she dug around behind the counter before finally finding that days copy. She glanced at it, but didn't actually bother reading anything before she added it to the tray as well.]
[center When the bell rang, she was just as quick to race his order out, setting the plate down first. [b "And here's the paper,"] she said with a wink. [b "Anything else before I leave you to it?"] Perhaps she was being annoying, but she tended to go above and beyond for their customers.]
Mason nodded, "I'm curious, do you have a copy of the local newspaper?" It was an easy interaction. Something that flowed like breathing. He liked interactions that flowed. Mentally he'd already decided to buy a copy on his way back to his motel room, whether they had a copy or not. Even though his job description was simple to be a hunter. Part of him enjoyed it. Enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. There also was a part, an extremely dark part of him, that got a kick out of looking into innocent faces after the fact. It was like keeping a well known secret a secret from the one. A small smile pulled at the corner of his lips. He stared into his swirling blond tea. After a moment he dared take a sip. He was impressed. It warmed his throat and chest on this cold morning, but didn't burn his tongue.
The daily bustle of the diner continue in the background. He could hear muffled voices talking, coffee cups clinking on tables, a child kicking his feet on a booth. The morning quiet was quickly turning into the familiarity of life. A young couple waltzed by his booth. She had her hand wrapped around the inside of his bicep and was leaning into him. He walked with his chest puffed out and shoulders back. Mason watched them sit down booth away from him. She sat with her back to him. He wondered if he had trained her to sit facing away from other men. Mason stretched his own shoulders. People were more entertaining than T.V.
[center Olivia watched him closely, her smile faltering for just a moment. Not because of anything bad, but because of how fluid his movements were. She had to admit, she was in awe. She could only dream of being as graceful.]
[center She jotted down the pancakes, making a note on the side to add fruit. [b "We can add it on the side, no problem!"] She made sure to write a cup of butter as well before turning her attention back to him. [b "Anything else? Or just the pancakes for now? You can always order more if they don't do the trick!"]]
Mason flashed her his brightest smile. "First off," He took a few sugar packets and shook the sugar to the bottom. With a smooth motion he ripped the packets open and dumped them into his cup. Next were two packages of creamer.
"I'd like a tall stack of pancakes, please. I'm pretty hungry, but we'll start with that. Does it come with a little cup of fruit?" Paused in his stirring to look up at her.
[center Olivia listed off the teas they had, the words rolling off her tongue with practiced ease. Most people were surprised to know that tea was an option. He seemed to be one of them. She quickly jotted down his drink and smiled once more. [b "I'll be right back with that!"] And with that, she slipped away.]
[center Allison was quick to greet her at the counter, that same mischevious look on her face. Olivia rolled her eyes playfully as she began brewing the tea, taking special care to not mess it up. He wasn't one of their regulars and she'd hate to scare him off so soon.]
[center [b "So?"] Allison's voice sounded beside her. [b "What's he like?"]]
[center Olivia frowned and glanced at her, pouring the fresh tea into a cup. [b "Like any other customer?"] She grabbed some napkins and looked at her friend. [b "Don't look at me like that. I'm not looking to get close to anyone like that. [i Especially] a customer."]]
[center [b "That's when it's the best!"] her friend said with a grin.]
[center Olivia chuckled before making her way back over to him, setting the cup and napkins down. [b "So, have you decided on the pancakes? Or perhaps your more of a waffle person?] She smiled again, her pen ready to go.]
Mason smiled as he looked up. "Good morning." he spoke with a hint of surprise and cheer in his voice. "What kind of tea do you have?" He wasn't used to diners such as this having tea. He waited for her to read over the options before deciding on a simple green tea. He would add his own creamer and sugar when she left. As she noted his order, he made a point of glancing over the menu. After a moment he set the menu down and looked up at her again. She was youthful in a way that he had come to expect from waitress staff. Having dragged himself through every possible bar, motel, and diner across the globe, he had picked up a few generalizations on how the world worked. Usually those that needed it the most worked in the food service. They were kindest people or the angriest people. Part of them filled a hole within themselves in caring for others needs. They either loved their job or hated it. Mason enjoyed watching and even becoming acquaintances with either group. On a few occasions he had even had short term relationships with the people he'd met. Mason watched Olivia walk away.
A buzzing in his pocket pulls him from his thoughts. He fishes for the small black burner phone. A grouping of symbols pops across his screen. He pulls a napkin from the holder and pulls his construction pencil from his wallet. Using a complex system of numbers he notes the order of the symbols, doubled checks them, then deletes the message. The sender's ID was a single period. There was only one person that knew his number. He had been waiting for that message. Carefully folding the napkin he stuffs it in his jean pocket while repeating the number order in his mind a few times. He would revisit the pattern until he had it memorized. He would then burn the napkin.
[center Olivia leaned against the counter, gossiping with one of her older coworkers, a woman named Allison. She had no idea how long the woman had worked there, but she adored her. Allison, unlike most people Olivia knew, was a woman who told a person how she felt, no matter how much it hurt their feelings. It was one of the reasons she liked her so much.]
[center She'd let out a loud laugh, covering her mouth as quickly as she could and glaring at the brunette, when the bell on the door jingled. The two looked up and Allison let out a low whistle. Olivia raised a brow and looked at her. [b "You've got this one?"]]
[center There was a mischievous glint in her blue eye as she shook her head. [b "I'll let you get this one. I've got to go clean a spill at table three."]]
[center Olivia nodded before grabbing a pad and making her way to the customers table, putting on her best smile. [b "Good morning. I'm Olivia and I'll be your waitress for the day. Can I start you off with a cup of coffee? Or maybe some tea?"] She couldn't say she recognized him, but then again, she was usually so busy she didn't pay attention to faces.]
Mason dressed himself in a thick black hoodie and a pair of charcoal grey shorts. The sun had barely risen over the top of the buildings across the street. A blanket of mist hovered above the pavement. A deep breath filled his lung with cold morning air. He loved mornings like this. When the only cars on the road were those going to work. The world was quiet, peaceful. Within minutes of waking Mason is out of the door to his cheap motel room and jogging briskly down the sidewalk. Within the first five minutes of his morning jog, his blood is hammering in his ears and he's indulged in a full on sprint. Sometimes he ran, just to run. Other's he walked. It really depended on what he hadn't done in awhile and how the night had gone. Five minutes quickly turned into an hour. He stretched his legs with the aid of a park bench. To calm his racing heart he started a lap on the park's trails. Trade was a place dripping with sin, but just shiny enough to have it's own newspaper. Mason had paid for a week in the room in advance. He had signed a fake name at the desk. He paid in cash, with a hundred and a few crumpled twenties, that was in the minor details. The little things that kept him awake at night. Most of all he wondered what people would think and what they do think.
The blanket of mist rose and so did his momentum. He returned to his motel room to complete the strength part of his work out. He used the bed to hold his feet as he did angled push ups, he cleared the nightstand off and used it for weight lifting. Once his morning routine was over he indulged in a hot shower. Normally he took lukewarm to cold showers. He found a disappointing, even shocking shower, helped him think better. Plan better. Clean and clear, he dressed again in a pair of grease stained blue jeans and dark blue button up shirt. The edges of the sleeves were worn and stained, the left arm was missing the cuff button. He wore it anyway. It was all apart of the minor details. He took a moment to make sure his hair stayed to one side rather than the other. As he finished checking over the details, he lightly touched the scar on his lips as if it still hurt. He supposed it did.
It didn't take him long to discover Trade's shining gem. The mom and pop diner called Checkerboard. The place had charming black and white flooring, the numbers on the booth were that of a checkerboard, and a bell over the door greeted him. However the owners couldn't cover up the fact that the diner was built in the 1940's. The age of the place hung in the air, in the style of the booths, and the counter. Even the uniforms had throwbacks to the style. Mason seated himself along one of the many windows looking at the sidewalk. A menu was already placed at the table for two. Flipping open the cover he found exactly what he had expected. Eggs and bacon, pancakes, waffles, a country omelet, even crapes. He picked out a breakfast of a stack of pancakes, tall, eggs and bacon, classic over-easy with rye toast, and the biggest bowl of fruit they'd allow. With his breakfast in mind he waits for his waitress.
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