Ascension II: Handout

Bates peered down the stairs as he approached the woman. Was the convict that wouldn’t kill him lurking down there? “Hey, sailor; you buying?” she coaxed.

“That guy you just talked to; who is he?”

“Who’re you?” she challenged. He glared at her. “Naught for naught,” she concluded, cracking her knuckles.

“If I were buying, what would I get?”

She slipped off her necklace and removed a bead from it. “Free sample, pal. Come back if you like it. You can quit any time you want.” And she threw back her head and laughed, exposing filed teeth.

Bates stepped back a pace. He stepped forward again. “I need an in. What should I do?”

“Take this, and you’ll know exactly what to do.”

Puzzled, Bates accepted the bead and went down the stairs. At the bottom, he allowed the coughing fit he’d been holding back to start. The air was thin this side of town, and what there was was full of grit. He stopped coughing and stared at his hand.

A drop of blood was oozing from a tiny wound in his palm. The bead was gone.

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