Eat, Prey, Blood

Chapter Seven

I woke up to find sunlight streaming through the window of my room, and the other bed empty. I took a quick shower and put on my favorite khaki shorts and a red t-shirt. I ran downstairs to find Johan and Claire sitting at the kitchen table. Willow was curled up in Johan’s lap, purring.

“I thought vampires had to be invited in,” I said, rubbing Willow’s ears.

“We do. And we were, years ago,” Johan said. “But everyone has to be invited in to your house, not just vampires.”

I stared at him. “What does that mean?”

Claire cleared her throat. “You know those Celtic knots your mother collects?”

“Yeah,” I said. “They’re kind of a hobby of hers.”

“More than a hobby,” Claire said. “They have protective power. Have you ever wondered why the doorways to your house have carvings on the stone stoops?”

“No,” I shrugged. “It’s just something old. But everything in Charleston is old.”

“Charleston is old for America, but it’s just a baby compared to cities in Europe,” Claire said. “The carved stones at your house came from Ireland, and are thousands of years old. The specific carving is a triskelion. It’s really important in Celtic legend. Ask your mother. She’s done a lot of research and even published a few articles on it.”

“Okay,” I said, thinking that Claire had been a lot more fun before I knew she was my protector.
“So what’s happening today?”

“Your mom and Johan’s parents have gone to work, because it would look suspicious if they didn’t show up,” Claire said, picking up her plate and putting it in the dishwasher. “Adam and Ariel are doing a little research to see if they can find out who might want to steal the book other than the Velathri.”

“It feels strange to hear you call your parents Adam and Ariel,” I said to Claire.

“Maybe to you, but they aren’t my parents. Ariel has had much too much fun bossing me around for the past seven years,” Claire said.

“What about us?” I asked.

“We’re supposed to do normal stuff. Not draw attention to ourselves,” Johan said. “But we have to stick together.”

“Okay. Claire and I were going to get pedicures,” I said, watching Johan’s face.

He groaned. “Like that’ll look normal for me.”

I laughed.

“We’ll skip it since you’re with us. What else can we do?” I asked as I pulled the Cheerios from the pantry.

I looked down at the yellow box in my hand. It was so normal, so reassuring. I remembered yesterday morning, eating Cheerios before I headed to school for the last day of my junior year … wow, was that really just yesterday? Maybe it had been a dream … but Johan and Claire were sitting in front of me. And Johan was drinking a can of tomato juice. I tried not to think about what that meant. Yuck.

I poured cereal and milk in a bowl, sliced a banana over the top, and began to eat, still staring at the can in Johan’s hand.

“So, Johan,” I said, clearing my throat. “You ate food last night. Do you need to?”

“No, blood is all I need,” Johan said. “But I can eat.”

“Yeah, I figured that out all on my own,” I said, just a little snippily.

“I think we should walk around downtown,” Claire interjected. “We can act like we’re helping you shop for your trip to Italy while we keep our eyes open for anything strange.”

“Great idea,” Johan nodded. “I had an idea about the book. Maybe we can follow up on it.”

“Nothing too dangerous. I may be a Garda, but there is only one of me,” Claire said.

“Nah, it’s not dangerous,” he said. “There’s a bookstore downtown. It sells used and antique books. What if someone stole the book out of my backpack, thinking it was just some old book they could sell for some extra money? I mean, I know it’s not likely, but it’s worth a try.”

He looked at Claire hopefully.

She thought for a minute, finally saying, “That sounds safe enough. And it fits with our cover of shopping.”

She turned to me. “Katie, when you’re ready, we’ll go.”

I finished my cereal and ran upstairs to brush my hair into a ponytail and put on my running shoes. I looked longingly at my new espadrilles. But a day walking around downtown Charleston, possibly being chased by mysterious guys in black coats? I decided comfort and speed were more important than style.

I grabbed a small purse out of my closet, and added a brush, lip gloss, and a change purse with some cash in it. I didn’t want to unpack my regular wallet, which was already stashed in my carry-on bag, ready for the trip to Italy. I looped the narrow strap over my head and across my right shoulder, and ran down the stairs.

“Okay, I’m ready,” I told Claire and Johan. The three of us headed out the front door. I locked it behind me, pushing aside the unwelcome thought that a lock wasn’t going to keep out the really dangerous creatures. I looked down at the three swirls carved into the stone stoop in front of the door … more powerful than a lock? Maybe Claire’s talk this morning hadn’t just been boring history stuff. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.

We walked toward King Street, taking the same route Claire and I had taken the day before.

“Let’s walk toward the school,” I said. “I’ll show you the house I saw black-coat guy going into yesterday.”

When we reached the intersection, I looked left. The “For Sale” sign was still out front, but there was no one on the front porch today.

Claire gave a worried look around. “We should keep walking. Something feels wrong.”

“No,” Johan said. “I think we should take a look inside.”

“Absolutely not,” Claire said. “It’s my job to protect the two of you. I’ll call one of the others and have them come search while we keep shopping.”

“I just want to check for the book.” Johan had a familiar stubborn set to his mouth. “I lost it. It’s my responsibility to get it back.”

He started toward the house, ignoring Claire’s hissed, “Johan! No!”

Claire and I started after him, but he’d already reached the front door. He tried it, rattling the doorknob when he found it locked. Johan shrugged and started around the house toward the back door.

“Johan! Stop!”

Again, he ignored Claire and disappeared behind the house.

Claire looked at me. “Stay here.”

“No way,” I replied. “Do you really think I’m going to stand out here by myself? That’s asking for trouble.”

“I guess you’re right,” Claire sighed. “Come on.”

I followed Claire as she walked carefully around the side of the house. The back yard was empty, and the back door was open. Claire and I shared an exasperated glance, then tip-toed up the back steps. Claire motioned for silence with her hand. The back door opened into a kitchen that looked like it had never been used. It was spotless, the stainless steel sink and faucets gleaming as the morning sun streamed in the window.

Claire whipped around at the sound of footsteps, but it was just Johan coming down the stairs.

“There’s nobody here,” he said, disappointment in his voice.

“Well, that’s a good thing,” Claire said. “Any sign of the book?”

“No, this house is so clean it looks like no one has ever even lived here,” he answered, his shoulders slumping.

“Okay, then, let’s go,” Claire said. “And don’t go off by yourself like that again, Johan. The Velathri don’t mess around.”

We exited the back door, closing it behind us. We followed Claire up the side of the house. She looked around as we crossed the street, sniffing the air as she turned her head from side to side. Her movements were smooth, almost feline. How had I never noticed this about my best friend? Or was she just not hiding her true identity anymore?

We passed our school on Alexander Street, which already had that empty, lonely look schools have during summer vacation. As we walked, I decided to quiz Claire and Johan a little more about what I’d learned yesterday.

“If I’m so special, why don’t I feel special? Why don’t I have superpowers?” I asked, partly joking, but mostly not.

“Well,” Johan said. “You do. You just don’t know it.”

“Like what?”

“Think about how fast you can run.”

Ok-aaay. I was the fastest person on the track team except for Bryan Blalock, a senior who would be graduating on Saturday. “Bryan’s faster than me,” I said.

“I know,” Johan said, giving me a half-smile.

“You mean …”

“Yep. Bryan’s a vampire,” Johan smiled.

I thought that over. Bryan liked tomato juice, too.

“So … is everyone who drinks tomato juice …”

Johan laughed. “No. Some people just like tomato juice. And it is healthy. If you’re human. But no one at our school is human. At least, not completely.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I’m human!”

“No, you’re half fairy and half vampire. You’ve just been raised to believe you’re human,” Claire said. “Everyone in your school – teachers and students – have at least one supernatural parent.”

“Why?” I sputtered.

“It’s just safer that way,” Claire said.

“So everyone knows about this? Except me?”

I was getting a little annoyed. Okay, very annoyed.

“ So what else should I know?”

“You heal as fast as I do,” Johan said.

“How do you know? I’ve never had a bad injury,” I said.

“But you should have, remember?” Johan said. “The time you fell off the monkey bars in first grade? When you ran your bicycle into the side of a car in third grade? A moving car? And the time you fell out of a tree in sixth grade? Don’t you think you should have broken a bone at least one of those times?”

I stopped walking, shocked by Johan’s statements.

“I guess I never thought about it. The school nurse was pretty freaked out, though.”

“Yeah, that’s because your leg was broken, but by the time she splinted it and got you into her office, it was healed. She thought she was going crazy,” Johan laughed.

“I remember my mom wasn’t too happy, either,” I said.

“Right,” Johan said, sobering. “She was afraid people would figure out you were different.”

“And the next year she transferred me to St. Pat’s …”

As I turned that over in my mind, we reached Ann Street and turned toward King Street. On King, we took a left, heading toward the market. Johan wasn’t sure exactly where the bookstore was, but he said he knew it was near the shopping district.

About two blocks down, Johan stopped. “That’s it,” he said, pointing at a narrow storefront beside a coffee shop.

“Where?” I said. “I don’t see a bookstore.”

The building he pointed to was brick, with a glass door in a wooden frame and a large front window. There were a few books in the window, but none of them were on the New York Times Bestseller List. Some of them were downright ragged looking. A hand-lettered sign encouraged us to “Seek Shade.” Not bad advice for June in Charleston, but still. This was the place we were looking for?

“Look at the door,” Johan said.

Inside a small square, the name “Blue Bicycle Books” was painted on the glass.

“Blue Bicycle? What kind of name is that for a bookstore?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t name it,” Johan said irritably. “Come on, let’s go in.”

“Wait,” Claire said. “Something still doesn’t feel right.”

She stood still, closing her eyes.

“What are you doing?” I hissed.

“Quiet,” she said. “I’m listening.”

Finally, she opened her eyes. “I can’t tell,” she said. “I think it’s safe, but I’m not sure. Stay near me.”

A bell chimed as we pushed open the door. A large orange cat napping on the counter raised its head, regarding us sleepily. It purred as I scratched its ears.

All three of us jumped when a voice addressed us: “Are you looking for anything in particular, or are you just browsing?”

A character from a Charles Dickens novel peered at us from the next room. He wore a pressed white shirt with suspenders holding up his black trousers, and his eyes twinkled above thick mutton-chop whiskers that would have made Wolverine jealous.

“William,” Claire said, sounding pleased. “I didn’t know you were in Charleston.”

As we walked toward him, I realized the store was much larger than it appeared from outside. It was long and narrow, a series of rooms, each holding a different genre of book. Wooden ladders that slid along metal tracks let you climb up to reach books on the shelves near the ceiling. I didn’t think I’d ever seen this many books crammed into such a small space in my life.

“Been here for decades, my dear,” William said, winking. “Incognito, you know. Who are your friends?”

Obviously, these two knew each other. My best friend was full of surprises today.

“This is Katie, my assignment,” she said. “And this is Johan, her friend.”

Huh? When did I go from being a best friend to being an assignment?

“I am pleased to meet you both,” William said, bowing gravely. “Now what brings you to my shop?”

“Johan has lost a book, and we were wondering if someone might have tried to sell it here,” Claire said.

“When did you lose this book?” William said, turning to Johan.

“Yesterday,” Johan said. “I had it Tuesday evening, but when I looked in my backpack Wednesday morning, it was gone.”

“And what is the title?”

Johan looked uncomfortable.

“It’s okay,” Claire said. “William is a friend.”

“All right,” Johan said. “Rulers of Ireland.”

William went very still, his eyes the only movement as he looked at each of our faces in turn. Finally, he spoke.

“Yes, I have seen this book. But not here, and not in this century,” he said cautiously.

“Wait, what do you mean by ‘not in this century?’ ”I asked.

“The last time I saw this book, it was in Rome in the year 1012. I owned a bookshop there, and someone sold it to me. If I saw it again, I would not buy it.”

“Wait. Did you really just say 1012?” I stared at the man, trying to calculate how old that made him.

“Yes, of course,” William replied, raising his eyebrows at my question.

Claire nudged me. Right, I was supposed to know this stuff.

“So, um, why wouldn’t you buy the book again,” I finally managed to say.

“Because it nearly cost me my life, my dear. My bookshop was burned by those seeking the book, and I spent centuries in hiding. Eventually, I made my way to the New World, and opened another bookshop here in Charles Towne. Now tell me. How did you come by this book?”

“My father found it excavating an archaeological site, and he hid it in our school library,” I said. “But Johan checked it out, and now it’s gone.”

“Best that it is lost again, my dear. That book is dangerous, and those who seek it even more so.”

“No, William, we need to find it,” Claire said gently. “We can’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”

“I’m just a merchant,” William said. “I avoid politics. I just want to live in peace, and sell books.”

“But if this book falls into the wrong hands, your peaceful life won’t be allowed to continue,” Claire said. “Those who seek this book would wipe out werewolves along with the rest of us.”

My eyes widened. Werewolves? Guess that explained the sideburns. Wolverine was probably his cousin or something.

“I’m sorry, my dear,” William said to Claire. “I cannot be involved. But feel free to browse. There are many interesting books in my shop. Books not so dangerous.”

I shrugged, and moved into the third room of the shop. A small hand-lettered sign told me I was in the room of Myths and Legends. The titles ranged from serious research to recent fiction: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, City of Bones, Twilight …

I turned to Claire. “So why are these books here?” I asked. “They’re not old or rare.”

“Because they give us insight into what humans are thinking about the supernatural world. Some humans are gifted – they see beyond the mundane. Not everything in each book is true, but certain elements are.”

“So …” I said nervously, looking over my shoulder. “Do werewolves and vampires really hate each other?”

“Well, not really hate,” Claire said. “But they’re not inclined to go out of their way for each other, as you’ve just seen.”

We continued to browse, moving slowly toward the back of the store. I had just picked up a book on Roman ruins written by my father when the bell chimed softly, signaling that someone had entered the store.

Claire stiffened. She jerked her head toward the back of the store. I looked toward the front, and saw a tall man in a black coat talking to William. He was dressed like the blond man, but he looked nothing like him. This man had dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark look on his face. Velathri? I didn’t know, and I really didn’t want to find out.

The cat on the counter arched its back and hissed at the newcomer. The man glanced at the cat, then with a flick of his hand knocked it across the room.

“How dare you!” William said. “Who do you think you are?”

I stood frozen as the man leaned toward William, menace in every movement. “You know who I am,” the man said. His voice was low and gravely. Chills ran up my spine as he spoke.

“Now where is it?”

“Where is what?” William asked, standing straight before the dark figure.

“The book. You had it once before, and I know it has found its way back to you,” the man growled.

“Not this time. Even if someone brought it to me, I would refuse it,” William said. “I don’t want trouble.”

The cat was crouched in the corner, ears back and tail twitching. His eyes didn’t leave the man.

“I’ll take a look around to make sure,” the man said. “And if I find it …”

“Fine,” William said. “Go ahead.”

I knew we couldn’t let the man see us. I began to edge toward the back room of the store, a messy office with stacks of unshelved books stacked head-high. Maybe we could hide in there. Claire and Johan slipped through the door just ahead of me.

Suddenly, the dark man turned toward the back of the store. “Who’s there?” he asked William.

“Just the cat,” William said.

I looked, and saw the cat in the next room, jumping from a stack of books to a nearby chair.

“Come on,” Claire hissed. “The cat’s giving us time to get away.”

I tore myself from the scene in front of me, and looked at what Claire was doing. She’d opened a trapdoor hidden under a throw rug, and Johan was already halfway down the stairs. I followed him, and Claire hooked the throw rug to the handle of the trapdoor with a loop that must have been put there for that purpose, and pulled both down over our heads.

I looked around. We were in a cellar. I realized I could see because Claire was glowing.

“Claire, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Fine. Just follow me,” she said, leading the way toward the back of the underground room. Behind a bookshelf, there was a door that led to a tunnel. I wanted to know more, but considering the possibility of mortal danger, I decided to just roll with it for now.

“What’s that?” Johan said, pointing at the book I was holding. I looked down. I’d forgotten I even had it in my hand. I held it up.

“My dad wrote it. I didn’t mean to take it – I had it in my hand when the man came in the store.”

“It’s okay. William will understand. If it makes you feel better, you can return it or pay him for it later,” Claire said. “And if we go back right now, we put him in danger as well, not just us. Come on, we’ve got to get out of here.”

“And how are we going to do that?” I asked my glowing friend.

“These tunnels lead to safe houses all over the city,” she replied.

“How do you know this?” I hissed.

“Garda must know all the escape routes of a city where they live. We’re quite capable of fighting, but the results are hard to explain to human investigators. And the memories of any humans who happen to witness an altercation must be erased. It causes an incredible amount of work. So we prefer stealth,” Claire said. “Now come.”

We followed her gentle glow down a maze of tunnels. I could see palmetto bugs, which are Charleston’s very own version of giant scary roaches, fleeing the light Claire emitted. I shuddered. I was glad when we finally reached a ladder that led to another trapdoor. I tucked the book into the waistband of my shorts, and climbed up behind Johan. He pushed on the trapdoor, lifting it cautiously.

“No one around,” he whispered.

We quickly climbed out, shutting the trapdoor behind us. I stood up and looked around. We were in what appeared to be the storage room of a restaurant. I sniffed. A pizza restaurant. I looked at the boxes stacked on shelves around me. The Mellow Mushroom.

Claire cracked the storeroom door, peeked out, and waved us through. We were standing beside the restroom doors. To the right was the kitchen, and to the left was the dining room.

It was lunchtime. We could hear the clink of glasses and the hum of conversation from the dining room. A waiter stopped, staring at us. “Can I help you?” he asked. He was young, probably a college student waiting tables as a summer job. His nametag said Robbie.

“Yes, I think we got lost,” Claire said, giving him her brightest smile. “Is there a table free? We’d like to eat.”

“Sure. I just cleaned one right here,” he said, pointing to a table just inside the dining room, well away from the front windows. Most people would consider it the worst seat in the house, but then most people weren’t hiding from vampires who wanted to kill them.

“Perfect,” Claire said. “Thank you, Robbie.” She led us toward the table, grabbing three menus from the waiter’s station as she walked by. As we settled ourselves into the chairs, I asked, “So what are we doing now?”

“We’re eating lunch,” Claire said. “And then we’ll go shopping in the market. We have to look normal, remember?”

“But what about the book …”

“Put it in your purse,” she said. “We’ll return it another time. We can’t go back to the bookstore today. They may be watching it. And besides, we have bigger problems to deal with.”

“Come on, Katie,” Johan said. “A dangerous vampire in a black coat is chasing us and you’re worried about a book?”

I rolled my eyes and shoved it into my small purse. It fit, but barely.

Suddenly, I remembered Claire glowing in the tunnels underneath our feet.

“Hey, Claire,” I hissed. “What’s with the glowworm routine?”

“What, you mean shining?” she said, looking surprised. “All Garda can do that. It’s part of who we are.”

“You mean my mother can do that?”

“Sure,” Claire said.

“And you didn’t mention this earlier? Why haven’t I seen it before? Do you turn it on and off?”

“You haven’t seen it before because I didn’t want you to. Yes, I turn it on and off …”

We fell silent as Robbie came to take our order. He soon returned with three Cokes and a large pepperoni and mushroom pizza. Looking at the pizza, I realized I was starving. That bowl of Cheerios hadn’t lasted very long.

Johan and I made small talk, discussing music and books and college choices while we ate. Claire kept her eyes on the front window, joining in our conversation occasionally without looking at us. Soon, the pizza was gone.

“You guys stay here,” she said. “I’m going to go up front and pay. I’ll look around while I’m there to make sure we’re clear to leave.”

She was smiling when she came back. “All clear,” she said. “Let’s head for the Market.”

We continued down King Street, stopping to look in shop windows and even going in a couple.

“Katie, you need to buy something,” Claire said. “We’re shopping for your trip to Italy, remember?”

I stopped in front of Half-Moon Outfitters. A mannequin in the window was wearing a sleeveless black dress made of some kind of knit, wrinkle-free fabric. It had a scoop neck and was snug through the bodice, flaring slightly at the hem, which looked like it would hit about six inches above my knees.

“My mom wants me to take a dress, and that one’s perfect. It doesn’t look little-girly, and it won’t wrinkle in my suitcase.”

“Let’s go in, then,” Claire said.

We entered the cool dimness of the store, Johan heading over to the men’s section while Claire and I found the dress in my size.

“Go on,” she said. “Try it on.”

I found an empty dressing room slid the dress over my head. I loved it. It fit perfectly, and I’d been right about the mature factor. I looked 25, not almost 17.

Hmmm. Except for the pony tail and running shoes. I pulled the elastic out of my hair and fluffed my curls with my fingers. I slipped off my shoes and stepped out into the store barefooted, twirling to show off the dress to Claire.

“Oh.” Johan sounded like he’d been punched in the stomach. He’d rejoined Claire while I was in the dressing room. Now he was standing there with a blank look on his face. I narrowed my eyes at him.

“I think it looks good,” I said.

“It looks great,” Claire said. “I’d say it’s a definite yes. What do you think, Johan?”

Johan swallowed, then croaked out, “Sure. It’s fine.”

Fine? Really? That’s all he could say? I looked at him, my eyebrows raised.

“I like it! Buy it,” he said, sounding more normal. “I’ll wait outside.”

I watched him walk toward the door, wondering what was wrong. I shrugged and decided not to let Johan’s reaction bother me. What do guys know about dresses, anyway?

I changed back into my t-shirt and shorts, pulling my hair up into its habitual ponytail. I took the dress to the counter, and had to dig around the book to get to my money.

I paid, then on impulse put the book into the shopping bag that held the dress. That was better. It made my purse lighter, too, so the strap didn’t cut into my shoulder so much.

We exited the store and turned onto Market Street. The crowds of tourists were thickest here. Restaurants, shops, and of course the Market itself drew them like moths to flame.

We maneuvered our way down the crowded sidewalks, admiring the nimble fingers of women weaving sea grass into baskets. We swerved around a kid who’d stopped in the middle of the sidewalk while he tried to catch the drips from a rapidly melting ice cream cone. The narrow one-way streets were clogged with more pedestrians, bicyclists, horse-drawn carriages, and of course the few brave (or foolish) souls in cars attempting to find parking.

June is my favorite month in Charleston. School is out, it’s not too hot and humid (yet), and the biting insects have not had time to multiply. I took a deep breath, breathing in the scents around me – waffle cones, the stables the carriage horses lived in, the briny smell of the marsh that was just a couple of blocks away.

The trees were bright green and the sky was turquoise, washed clean by spring rains. The clouds were so fluffy and white they looked Photoshopped.

We stopped at the fudge shop and took the salesgirl up on her offer of a free sample. I sighed. This was how I had planned to spend my summer. All of it, not just this afternoon.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” I told myself sternly. Someone bumped into me as I licked the last of the fudge off of my fingertips.

“Oh, excuse me,” a man in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts said. “I apologize.”

“No problem,” I said, stepping back. The man was short and round. The top of his bald head was turning pink in the Charleston sun, and sweat poured off of him like he’d just run a 10K. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, which were small and close-set.

I wondered why visitors to Charleston felt it necessary to wear Hawaiian shirts. Hello! We’re on the East Coast! Atlantic Ocean! Original thirteen states here! We are not anywhere near those Polynesian islands in the Pacific Ocean that make up the state of Hawaii, which was, by the way, the last state to join the Union.

Okay, so we’re proud of our history in Charleston. But I get tired of people thinking a beach is a beach is a beach. As I finished my little internal rant, Hawaiian shirt guy turned and disappeared into the crowd.

“Let’s buy some fudge,” I said to Claire and Johan. “My mom makes great dinners, but we can bring dessert.”

I reached for my purse, but it wasn’t there. Hawaiian shirt guy – he must have cut the strap and taken it!

“Claire! Johan! That guy took my purse!’

They both looked at me like I was nuts. “What guy?” Claire said.

“The one who bumped into me! The guy wearing the Hawaiian shirt!”

“Almost every guy here is wearing a Hawaiian shirt,” Johan said.

“Wait. Your purse is gone?” Claire said, turning even paler than she was normally. “What was in it?”

“Just a hairbrush, lip gloss, and a change purse with some cash. I left my real wallet at the house.”

“Nothing with your name and address on it?”

“No, I don’t usually carry that purse. I just used it this morning because I already had everything else ready for Italy.”

“Good, because if someone took your purse, I’m afraid they may have been looking for information about who you are or where you live.”

“At least I still have William’s book,” I said. “I put it in the bag with my dress. I would feel so bad if it got stolen before I could return it! But my money is gone. And I liked that purse!”

Claire smiled. “I’ll buy the fudge. Money is replaceable, and so are purses. But you are not.”

“What did the guy look like?” Johan asked. “I didn’t see anyone who looked suspicious.”

“He looked like a tourist – you know, Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, old man shoes. He was sunburnt and sweating – I don’t think he’s used to our weather.”

“So not from here … but probably not a real tourist,” Claire said. “Tourists don’t steal teenage girls’ purses. They’re too busy making sure their own pockets don’t get picked.”

“Yeah. And his outfit was almost too perfect – like he was trying to look like a tourist,” I said thoughtfully. “All he was missing was a straw hat.”

“And the wife and kids,” Johan said, grinning. “How many middle-aged men come to Charleston and wander around the market in Hawaiian shirts by themselves?”

“We need to head back to your house and let the others know what’s happened,” Claire said. “I didn’t think we were being followed, but between that guy in William’s shop and the ‘tourist’ stealing your purse, I’m starting to get a little nervous.”

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