"Whatever you do, stick to the script," John said, as if he were directing my thoughts too. Did he suspect something?
I focused on the shed's lone window without actually looking outside. Meanwhile, John's knuckles dug deeper into my back until I finally straightened and the clasp of my cloak snapped taut.
John grunted, satisfied. "Your uncle told you what happened to the boy who trailed off-path, didn't he?"
Obviously, I'd heard. What native of Tarrytown hadn't? The legends of the Headless Horseman haunted everything in town, including this morning's package of locally roasted coffee: You'll lose your head over our fresh brew—guaranteed! People flew in from all over the world because of those stories.
Oblivious of my silence, or maybe because of it, John came around front and looked me in the eyes as he straightened my collar. A raised pink scar that I hadn't noticed before trailed from his knuckles to wrist. "Found the boy myself," he said, "floating belly-down in the river with weeds sprouting from his headless neck."
Had I not been so focused, I would've laughed. He really thought I was a gullible kid, didn't he? But John didn't know how personal this performance was for me. I wasn't here for a job or his opinion. I was here for someone else.