Logan leisurely opened his eyes to the warm, dazzling light of morning spilling through the open window. The gentle breeze that brushed against his skin carried the sweet aroma of baked goods and pastries from the French bakery down the street. He watched the cream curtains slowly sway back and forth, capturing the movement of the breeze. His eyes closed again, savoring the sounds and smells of the pleasant October morning. Other than a few murmured conversations and a lone street musician, the street the window overlooked was oddly quiet. For a moment, he forgot how much he hated New Orleans. Lying there in the small one-bedroom apartment, it felt like the world was suddenly smaller and free of the cameras that were always watching. Logan felt the other side of the bed shift and he smiled as an arm snaked around his waist. He breathed in the familiar scent of jasmine and vanilla as he felt a soft kiss on his nape.
“Mornin',” Maureen breathed into his ear, “don’t you think you’ve slept long enough?”
“Who said I was sleeping?” He quipped as he brought her hand up to press his lips against her terracotta skin.
Logan felt her grin against his neck, the fingers of her other hand idly toying with his disheveled hair. “I did, but you needed the rest. You haven’t been sleeping well lately.”
He turned over and looked into her deep brown eyes that he could easily get lost in. “You’re too good for me. You know that, right?”
She shook her head. “Logan, you need to realize that you aren’t as bad as you think you are.”
He brushed his thumb against her cheek, studying the contours of her face that he already knew by heart. It was easy for her to make such an assumption. Maureen knew what he was and the life he had escaped from. He had also told her about Weapon X, including what it stood for and their obsession with inhumane methods as a means to accomplish their goals. Even so, there were still skeletons in his closet that he kept hidden away from her. Weapon X’s indoctrination aside, he had killed innocent people and there was no excuse for that. No matter where he went, there was always collateral damage. Whether it was the little girl outside Kabul or the guests in the hotels in Burma and Bago, none of them had asked for the havoc that followed him. It was a constant battle between the animal and the person, his instincts and his screwed up moral compass. It was who he was, who he had been programmed to be. Sure he had escaped the facility, but there were remnants of Weapon X that were still part of him, were interwoven into his being. In the back of his mind, he knew without a doubt that they were hunting for him. And when they found him, they would exhume all the vile parts of him he’d desperately tried to bury.
Maureen’s eyebrows pulled together. By his silence alone, she could tell that his mind had wandered somewhere dark and distant. “There’s something bothering you.”
“You know Weapon X is going to find me, right?” He asked.
“I’m their property, Maureen. Their investment. It’s only a matter of time before they track me down, and with all the cameras and bodies in this damn city—”
“We’re going to be fine here. We just need to continue lying low.” She interrupted, her tone firm as her eyes continued to study him. “And Logan,”
“You can’t blame yourself for everything you’ve done.”
He sighed, both loving and hating how she could read his mind like an open book. “Babe, you don’t know half the things I’ve done or what I’ve been trained to do. What I’m capable of? How I see things?”
“I get that, but here’s still the half of things that I do know.” She said as she lowered herself, pillowing her head on his bare chest. “I know that you’re capable of love, and that’s enough for me.”
He scoffed. “That’s the cheesiest shit I’ve ever heard.”
“Doesn’t mean it’s not true,” she said as she traced his defined abdominal muscles with featherlike touches, earning the slightest shiver from him. “I can hear every beat of it. Just because you’ve done terrible things, doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being good.”
Logan kissed the top of her head as he wrapped an arm around her. She was right about a lot of things, but he was still convinced that he didn’t deserve her. It amazed him that she had stayed around this long. He smiled to himself. In a city as big as New Orleans she had plenty of options, and yet she had chosen to stay with him. The thought warmed him and subdued his persistent doubts for the time being.
“What are you thinking about now?” She asked as she looked up at him.
He quirked an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Your heart rhythm changed.”
“I was actually thinking of you.” He grinned.
She smiled and kissed him, her lips gliding over his. Logan tenderly grasped her chin as his eyes closed. He noted the taste of her favorite chapstick and coffee as he captured her lip between his. After a moment, Maureen pulled away and placed a kiss on his cheek.
“Why didn’t you take me with you?” She asked softly.
Logan opened his eyes as his head tilted, confused by the question. The glint in her eyes had disappeared and he felt an all too familiar twinge of guilt. “What?”
“You took off to Burns without me. I meant it when I said I’d follow you to the end of the line.”
All at once his memories of the shooter in the French Quarter came back to him. How the cameras and phones had caught how he’d beheaded the gunman. The realization that Weapon X would hear about it if they weren’t already watching. He knew they would be quick to act and that they would come for him, and when they found him there would only be more killing. Understanding this fact and the hurt he would undoubtedly cause, Logan had fled to Alaska without so much as a goodbye to avoid any further bloodshed. “I—”
“Tell me, Logan, what is it that haunts you most?”
He examined her features, feeling a melancholic nostalgia settle in his chest as he realized he was dreaming. “They turned me into a weapon that can see every way to hurt someone. It doesn’t matter who they are, and that’s how I understand people best: as things that scream and bleed, as things that can be taken apart. I attract violence, my very presence encourages violence, and I can’t stop it. It’s how I’m hardwired.”
She took his face in both hands and gazed into his blue eyes. “You’re more than a weapon, Logan. You always have the power of choice.”
A loud, insistent knocking pulled Logan from his bittersweet dream. He swore under his breath as his eyes opened. The brisk Alaskan air had chilled the old cabin and he could hear Sherman’s voice from outside the door. The fisherman sounded panicked and was begging desperately for him to answer the door. He waited for a while, hoping the man would give up. Much to his dismay, the knocking only continued and became more persistent. With a scowl, Logan rose from his makeshift bed of deerskins and trudged towards the door. He paused, his hand resting on the locking mechanism.
“I wouldn’t have saved you from those wolves, Sherman, if I knew you were gonna be such a pain in my ass.”
“I’ll leave, I promise I’ll leave if you just open that door. I got something I need you to see.”
Logan huffed and muttered under his breath, still debating if he wanted to see what was distressing him so badly. Nearly half a minute had passed when he finally slid the lock back on the cabin door and opened it.
What he saw in front of him stunned him. Behind Sherman was his old pickup truck with its tailgate open, and inside was a woman’s corpse. Her body was torn up with deep gashes, and by the smell of it alone Logan knew she’d been dead for quite a while. However, it wasn’t the sight of the corpse that shocked him. He was used to seeing corpses. What left him speechless was the absence of her head. Flies swarmed around the exposed, rotting flesh and it took him a brief moment to find his voice again.
“Oh my God, Sherman.”
Sherman looked down at him with pleading eyes. “Her name is Sarah Martha.”
About a month ago, he’d decided to quit his unsuccessful attempts at suicide and to start righting his past wrongs instead of wallowing in them. But this…this was more than he had bargained for. He was familiar with wounds inflicted by animals, and what he saw was too emotionally driven to be animalistic. Predators were cold and calculating, usually killing to survive, and the deep lacerations that raked the victim’s body were messy. It wasn’t something that had done this, but rather someone.
“Christ, this world isn’t worth saving.”
“Good people are worth saving, she was good people!” Sherman insisted.
“It’s Gone! Torn off!”
Logan took in a deep breath and clenched his fists before looking up at Sherman. “If you’re trying to make me angry, Sherman, it’s working.”
“There are others, same thing happened to two other women. Do you see now? Do you see why we need your help?” He asked. “We need them claws!”
His hard gaze returned to the corpse in the pickup, his jaw set and eyebrows furrowed. In his gut he knew that the Langrock family was somehow involved and that the Burns police would do nothing about this. The two worked in tandem and scratched each other’s backs, both corrupted to the core. In fact, the cops were already classifying these women as bear attack victims. His eyes flicked over to Sherman. As much as he wanted to stay out of this, he knew without a doubt that nothing would be done if he didn’t get involved. He was the only one in the small town of Burns with the ability, and gall, to bring the Langrocks to justice.
“Alright, you got em.” He muttered gruffly. “But on one condition, the cops cannot, under any circumstances get involved.”
“You have my word, Logan. Thank you,”
“Don’t mention it. Really.”