Bustling crowds pushed their way through the subway station. Last-minute shoppers, arms full of bags, rushed to the next department store. There were the usual commuters, already looking forward to kicking back with a glass of eggnog and enjoying the holidays. A few families fought the crowds , laden with suitcases and duffel bags on their way out of town. Christmas carols floated through the air, mixing with the bells of volunteers dressed as Santa asking for donations.

“Jimmy, hurry up, the Q train is pulling in,” Meghan snapped, grabbing the sleeve of her eight-year-old brother’s coat. “Mom’s going to be furious if you make us miss our flight.”

“Hold on, I dropped my MetroCard.” Jimmy yanked his arm from Meghan’s grip and reached for the yellow card on the ground. A black-gloved hand swooped in, picked up the card, and held it out. Jimmy looked into the face of a tall businessman, clean-cut with salt-and-pepper hair and a curious smile. “Thanks.”


“Coming!” Jimmy spun and raced after his sister, shoving the card into his front pocket. He jumped through the doors of the train right before they closed. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, just take a seat.” His mother motioned to the seat next to Meghan. People pushed in around them as the train pulled away. “Wipe your mouth; you still have some chocolate on it.”

Jimmy reached up and rubbed his face.

“I’ll get it.” Jimmy’s mom removed her glove and rubbed at the chocolate. It proved to be stubborn, and she licked her finger to remove the smear.

“Is Dad going to be at Grandma and Grandpa’s when we get there?”

“No, we’ll meet him in Atlanta during our layover, and then we will fly together to your grandparents.”

“Cool.” Jimmy leaned back and closed his eyes as the subway rattled on.

Meanwhile, the tall businessman maneuvered through the crowd. He threw change into a donation bucket and excused his way past people. As he reached the stairs leading to the street, he carefully removed his left glove, making sure to flip it inside out. He threw it into a garbage can and then disposed of the right glove as well. He climbed the stairs and disappeared into the winter evening.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1: Asher - after