Babette caught herself gaping as Cook walked onto the shipper. Cook didn’t leave town. He was born in Las Tumbas and he’d been in Las Tumbas every day after.
She pulled the cap further down and hunched over a bit more, trying to cover her face. They hadn’t been expecting anyone to come chasing after Charlie. Madame had told Babette the girl always left town alone. Yet there were three miners, a guy in a suit, and now Cook all following her.
Babette had almost chickened out when the miners filed into the port. She was sure one of them would’ve taken one look at her face a known she was a fake. She’d cut her hair and smudged coal all over her clothes and face. The shift change wasn’t for another few weeks. None of the miners were s’posed to be anywhere near this shipper, which was one of the reason’s Babette had let herself be talking into this mad plan.
She was just s’posed to play the part of a boy, trying to feed his family by working the mines. She looked too young with her hair cut, but that was part of her story. She’d s’posedly lied about her age to get the job and when the manager caught on, he’d sent her packing. Madame thought Babette would be too noticeable otherwise.
But the miners hadn’t given her a second glance. They’d kept together in a group, their eyes locked on Charlie and only spared a look or two for the guy in the suit. It baffled Babette. She wanted to run back to the house and ask Madame what to do. She wanted out of these filthy clothes and a warm bath. She wanted her hair back. She wanted her makeup and jewelry.
Still, it was those very thoughts that kept Babette in her seat on the shipper, head down, watching the group through her lashed as she pretended to sleep. She was here to prove that she could do this, to herself as well as the other girls, and she wasn’t going to come back until she had the information Madame wanted.
Still when Cook walked up the gate, she’d almost called it quits again.
Charlie hadn’t known Babette very long. And the girl didn’t give most of Madame’s flock a second glance. Babette couldn’t ever remember Charlie looking her in her eyes.
Oh, she was polite and kind to Babette, as polite and kind as you got in Las Tumbas. But she was like that to all the flock. Distant. And she kept her eyes pointed somewhere near the girls’ left shoulders, almost like she was looking at the pulse in their necks.
The younger ones gossiped that she was a bloodsucker, but Babette had seen her out in the daylight, so she knew that was just a rumor. Trouble was there were so many rumors about Charlie.
But Cook might recognize her. He knew who everyone in Las Tumbas was; looked everyone in the eyes straight through to their soul. He intimidated the hell out of Babette. If anyone on this ship was a monster, it had to be Cook.
Babette watched as he settled himself in the seat next to Charlie. She looked just as stunned as Babette felt. Glancing over to the miners, she noticed them having a silent conversation, the slightest nod or jut of a chin giving it away. Babette knew they’d been following Charlie and she suspected they weren’t miners at all, but that the guy in the suit was with them confused her. Why not all dress as miners? Why separate their group? Why was everyone suddenly so interested in Charlene Navarro?
Babette couldn’t make out the conversation between Cook and Carlie from where she was sitting. Moving was out of the question. There weren’t enough people on board to hid the movement, it being just the seven of them, and surely drawing attention to herself was the last thing she wanted. Once they got off planet, she might be able to manage it. If she got up to stretch her legs, would any of them notice if she sat down in a different seat?
She couldn’t keep second-guessing everything if this was going to work. The ship shook violently as it began to pull away from the port. There was no going back now. Babette would find out what the girl was hiding for Madame and why everyone was so interested in her.
Or she would die trying.