The Last of the Hand, rebooted

Or, what I did today while everyone else was napping…

Chapter One: Jonathan, then

The daylight in downtown Chicago was weakening, the wind was picking up, and I — Jonathan Archibald Masterson Brightwell — was on the run once more.

From inside my dirty wool vest, I could feel the grinding of tiny gears in the pocket watch that rested against my chest. And the time between each tick of my cherished, reworked watch felt a tiny bit longer than the last.

Time. I had spent more time running in my life than I had not running. For almost a century, I believe, though I looked no older than fourteen to most people. I tried to look older and bulk up my thin frame by wearing dark suits two sizes too big for me, like the blue suit I had on this warm October evening. But I was fooling no one. I was just a skinny kid, in over my head again.

I hurried past dusty wooden storefronts and around leaning gaslight poles, inhaling the unlikely mix of horses, perfume, and manure. The other walkers milling around me wore their Sunday best, and many of them gave me a smile or a tip of the top hat. Probably thinking I was running an errand for a parent, or perhaps a devout churchgoer, scurrying home after late afternoon services.

If only you knew, I thought. You’d keep your distance and hold your smiles.

Still hurrying down the street, I dipped my right hand into the pouch at my side. I twisted and pulled a long, dark blue garment from the pouch, a hooded robe made of seemingly far too much material to have possibly fit in the small pouch.

“Finally,” I whispered as I pulled on the slick, slightly worn robe over my suit. I kept the hood down, for now. After touching the round lump of my watch — still ticking! — under my ancient robe and vest, I felt a sudden sense of security. I hadn’t worn the robe in a long, long time.

And tonight I would need it.

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