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“Tough week?”

“No offense, but you’re not my type.” Nomura didn’t look up from her bourbon. She didn’t know anyone in San Francisco, and she wasn’t in this bar to fix that. It had been a tough week, in fact. Blade-to-blade with Gunmar, swinging over bottomless pits, leaping down a cliff with a broken leg tough. The kind of week that left a girl wanting a drink or six.

“I kind of think I am your type. Not the way you mean, but…” The guy was massive: he was giving her plenty of space, which was a good sign, but he wouldn’t have needed much effort to loom. Craggy, angular frame, squared-off chin, crooked teeth like jagged chunks of stone. No need for a gaggletack for this one: this guy wasn’t a proper changeling at all. He was one hundred percent troll, disguised with a cheap illusion spell and a weatherworn Giants baseball cap.

“I see what you mean.” She let her eyes flash briefly with their natural glow. “But I’m not here to cause any trouble.”

“No, no.” The big guy shook his head. “‘S not what I meant. Just, you’re new in town, maybe there’s something I can help you with. What brings you here?”

“Looking around the museums, see if anyone’s hiring. You know anyone who needs a 19th century specialist, I can give you my card.”

“Not my thing, I’m just a cab driver. You used to be a curator, though? What happened?”

“Quit. Fired, then quit? Quit, then fired? The boss was… tough to work with.”

“On the outs with your liege, huh? That’s tough. Look, uh, have you heard much about the Kingdom of Mists?” The guy lowered his voice, glancing nervously from side to side.

“I’ve been kind of… in the dark, let’s say.”

“Heard anything about the queen, in particular?” He was practically whispering.

“Nope.” Nomura considered. “How about I tell you a little about my old boss, and we’ll see if any of it rings a bell? The guy was a total control freak, always making his lackeys fight each other for his favor. Liked to mess with peoples’ heads.” She shuddered briefly, remembering the Trollhunter screaming as the Decimaar blade grasped for his soul. That could have been her.

“Made everyone wear stupid uniforms and call him a fancy title?”

She nodded. “Some of that sounds familiar, then?”

“I didn’t say that,” said the big guy. “I try to stay out of all this stuff. But if I were you, I might not stay too long here.”

“You never know.” Nomura sipped her bourbon, tasted oak and caramel. “Perhaps trouble doesn’t bother me.”

Maybe it was bravado. Maybe she was tired of running away. Or just drunk.

“I got a friend like you,” the guy said. “Likes to push boundaries. I admire her, but it’s not my idea of a good time.”

“How does she like it?”

The guy frowned wryly. “She gets any more blood on my upholstery, I’m giving up and dyeing it red.”

“There’s this play I saw once,” said Nomura. “The hero gets lost in the darkness, flailing at a voice he can’t see and can’t hurt, and the voice keeps saying, go around, go around. I’ve gone around a lot, in my time.”

“Yeah. Toby— Sir Daye— this friend of mine. She doesn’t go around. She goes through. Lost a lot of blood that way. Saved some lives, though.”

Nomura nodded, slowly. “Maybe I should try that for a change.”

“So you’re gonna stick around? You can take my number, call me if you need.” He scrabbled in his pocket for a card.

“Don’t think so.” Nomura got to her feet, sticking a few dollars under her empty glass. “Not for a while. I’m headed back where I came from… I have a few words for my old boss.”

She smiled, and for just a moment her eyes shone green, and her grinning mouth was full of teeth.