Creature of Unknown Origin


“Yeah, we did, and part of that deal was you helping us with this portal,” I reminded her.

“And while you’re doing that, you can tell us everything you know about Riddleson, how you’re

connected, how you found each other, and anything else that can help put a nail in his coffin.”

Dr. Richards nodded weakly. The air in the room stood still, like we were all holding our

breath. The girls all stared at me. My eyes shifted between them. This was a powder keg waiting

for a spark. One wrong move, one misunderstood flinch, and I honestly thought the whole cabin

would burst into flames. Something told me that if anything did happen between any combination

of Delia or Ava and Dr. Richards, I’d be better off jumping out the window and making bets with

Howie. My gaze darted to him. He was too far away, and in my path were three of the most

daunting people I knew, of which one literally had a barbed tail and razor-like claws.

It was nice knowing him.

Howie let out a long breath, “ Well, if you’re all done now, maybe we can get goin’ on this


All the attention was on him now.

God bless him.

By some miracle, the tension in the room dissipated like a balloon loses air. He beckoned

Dr. Richards over to the lab table and her machine, and Delia shared a look with Ava. If it all went

well, I knew Howie and Dr. Richards would be there for hours. It was what Howie loved best:

hours spent bent over something, tinkering with this or that until he understood it, or even better,

got it working.

~ ~ ~

A lone figure sat on the porch steps. I couldn’t see t hem yet through the trees, but I could

smell them, and it was with that, that I knew it was Dr. Richards. She was a nervous woman, a

scent that wafted off her like orange Fizzle Pops —though Spencer said Fizzle Pops didn’t exist

here and they sounded like P op Rocks to him once I’d described what they were when I was trying

to tell him what I thought of Dr. Richards and my skepticism. He told me not to worry and that

we’d figure it out, that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. It was sweet, and I knew I wa s

pretty much at the mercy of my friends — and an enemy — in this world, but I reminded him I could

handle my own if need be. He’d laughed and said he knew that, too.

Either way, buried beneath Dr. Richards’ gruff and ambitiously determined exterior, was

an anxious woman looking for some kind of approval or redemption.

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