Aaron sighed and looked into his empty glass. Where could he start? He still wanted to keep his past behind him, but that was becoming harder and harder to do.
Setting the glass down he took the bottle in one hand and poured some more of the brew into his glass. Grace hadn’t touched hers yet.
I’ll just have to start from the beginning. “You remember that ex I was running from last time,” he started slowly, hating having to spill any of his past he’d worked so hard to leave behind.
Grace nodded, quite. She waited patiently for him to continue.
“Well, she caught up to me. She’s not my ex either. She’s… she’s someone I used to work with.”
“So why run then?” asked Grace softly, trying to get him to open up more. They’d never talked much when they’d dated, but Grace had found ways to make him open up, if not about himself then about where their relationship had been going at the time. She knew he had something deep down, but had not tried to pry it from him.
Aaron had been thankful for that in the past. She hadn’t cared who he was or where he was from, just that he’d been himself.
“Because…” sighed Aaron.
Grace shook her head.
Aaron closed his eyes. He could feel a headache coming on in the back of his head. “Because I left that job behind a long time ago and I cut all my ties to my past.” There it was. The truth behind everything.
“That’s doesn’t explain what happened to you while you were gone, Aaron,” said Grace.
Aaron took a long draught from his glass.
“She’s trying to get me to come back, to work,” he said dodging the question.
Grace shook her head and stood up, putting her hands on the bar top. Looking over his head, she called out to the few occupants of the bar, “Bar’s closing!” she called out, authority ringing in her voice. “Everyone out!”
The patrons looked up and then started to file out the door. The moment the door closed, she headed over and switched off the open sign outside.
Aaron watched her, unsure of what to think of what was happening.
Pulling up a stool, Grace sat down next to him and pulled her own drink toward her.
“Spill,” she said.
Aaron turned on his stool to face her and sighed. “Fine. She brought me back something… something that I thought I had left behind me.”
Grace leaned in, touching her hand to his arm. “What was it? What do you mean?”
Aaron shook his head. “It means I’m not who I told you I was. My name is Aaron Black, not Aaron Backer.”
He looked her in the eye, expecting a reaction from her of fear of recognition of the name. Most people when they’d heard his name in his past profession cringed with fear or shock. He’d been feared as a demon, a man with a black heart, the reason he’d been given the name. Grace showed no such reaction.
“Aaron Black-Heart. I thought that was you.”
Aaron’s head whipped around at the sound of the man’s voice. Standing in the doorway of the bar was a tall man wearing a long black coat. It hung open over the man’s finely pressed clothes. Aaron recognized the man’s features at once. The ghost he had seen pass him earlier had been real.
He stared at the man, his gaze becoming hard. In the back of his mind he felt the presence of the curse surge forward into his thoughts.
“The bar’s closed,” said Grace sternly.
Aaron raised a hand to stop her from saying more, slowly standing.
“I’m glad you have some sense to stop her. But I’m hurt. I would have at least thought you would remember me if you really were Aaron Black-Heart, but I know that man died.”
Aaron stayed silent. He remembered alright and he didn’t want to. The man had been his rival back in his old line of work. There had been many candidates that were chosen to wield the cursed pistol. Many had had their minds broken, others had been influenced in other ways, but has still been fit to become Protectors after the pistol had been removed from their possession. Even thought Aaron had been the only one to actually be able to use the pistol fully, there had been others, not nearly as strong as him, but they had been able to withstand it’s consuming power to some degree.
“Barret Bray,” growled Aaron.
“You know him?” asked Grace cautiously, keeping her eyes on the man.
The man, Barret cocked his head to the side looking amused. “So the dead man still lives. I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to kill you myself and take you place back then. Do you know that Headquarters still has me doing dirty grunt work? Not the important stuff you used to get? It’s horrid really!”
“Why are you hear?” growled Aaron.
Barret looked at Aaron fixing his gaze on his coat pocket.
Aaron could suddenly feel the weight of the pistol in his coat and could feel the curse seething in the back of his mind. Barret knew he had it on him.
“Why, they have me securing this planet for Protection,” he said matter-of-factly, as if it was common knowledge. “But now that you’re back from the dead, I’m going to kill you and take what should be rightfully mine!”
With his last word, Barret pulled his pistol from his shoulder holster and fired. Everything happened in the space of a second as Aaron moved in front of Grace, wrapping his arms around her to protect her.
The crack of the gun was loud in the confined space. He felt a white-hot heat sear through his back as the shot pierced his skin, ripping into his chest.