True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 23

Tuesday came entirely too early for me. I pawed at the clock until it finally stopped making that racket and pulled the covers over my head. Too late, Mama was already calling. I muttered a word I would never let Mama hear and crawled out of bed to face the day.

I had had enough sense to schedule my classes for late morning since being a slayer and being a morning person are almost mutually exclusive. But this morning, I was supposed to meet Mr Ethan on campus so I needed to be there early. A few pancakes properly disposed of along with my morning juice improved my disposition. Mama kissed my forehead as I said good bye and trotted out the door.

For once, Intro to Logic wasn’t the biggest head ache of my day. Mr Ethan met me in the cafeteria. Between interruptions from various new friends and classmates and his cell phone incessantly ringing it seemed we were not ever gonna finish the conversation. Mr Ethan had me go over absolutely everything with him again. By time for my Intro class, we were only half done. Mr Ethan promised to wait and I went to class.

Getting back to the cafeteria, I found Mr Ethan and another man sitting out front on the cafe chairs.

Mr Ethan rose when he saw me and the other man followed suit. Mr Ethan suddenly became very formal. “Mistr.. er, Miss Crystal, may I the pleasure of introducing Mr Tresmayne?”

I hope I didn’t gape. I’m pretty sure I had my mouth closed but it took a second or two to speak, “A… a pleasure, Sir. I’ve heard so much about you.”

Understatement of the century! Tresmayne is an ancient traditional werewolf! He’s one of only three traditionals in the Mistress’ pack and he’s said to have provided her with counsel! He’s a freaking legend! Little wonder I hadn’t sensed him at all! I couldn’t believe it – I was meeting Tresmayne!

Mr Ethan pulled out a chair for me and I sat before my knees gave way. Tresmayne?! HERE?!?! I could not believe it!

“The pleasure is mine, Young Lady.” He replied, taking his own seat. His accent was European, maybe one of the Eastern European ones – I didn’t know for sure. “I understand you’ve had a bit of confusion here. Please, would you be so kind as to tell me about it?”

I nodded, fighting to get the lump out of my throat, “Yes sir. Well, see, I, that is…” I stopped and forced myself to calm down, “Er, I guess I should begin at the beginning?”

They both nodded. Mr Ethan leaned forward to listen yet again. Mr Tresmayne leaned back and closed his eyes yet I never had the feeling he wasn’t paying attention.

“Well, it started just after we moved here a few weeks ago…”

I finished my account, still trying not to stare at the legend in front of me. Mr Ethan and I waited a moment for Mr Tresmayne to speak.

“I have to agree with you, Ethan. There is something more than the mere emergence of a slayer going on here. Did you locate the grave yet, Young Lady?”

I shook my head, “No sir, I’m going to just go ask as soon as I get home and head straight there. Tonight’s the first new – it’d be tonight if ever, right?”

He and Mr Ethan both nodded and Mr Tresmayne spoke, “That’s correct, Young Lady. I wish to accompany you.”

“That would be… I’d like that, Sir.” Was what I said. Sure, Superman wants to come over to your house – who’s gonna say no? I was totally blown away. Any other circumstances and I’d have been dancing, I swear I would have.

I paused and turned to them, “He’s fully emerged now, right?”

Mr Ethan nodded, “In all likelihood, yes. And yes, he might just sense something if it does rise tonight. You two will need to be prepared to deal with him.”

I sighed. Well, at least it wasn’t likely. After all, I’d be there so by the time Jack sensed anything and could get there the creature would be back in its grave, probably. And it might not rise at all – creating a new vampire is tricky business and doesn’t always work. Even I knew that. I just wished I hadn’t been so nervous about it, however.

Arrangements made, I trotted off to my next class. The rest of the day was a blur of classes and homework. I wouldn’t have time to do it tonight.

I finished my last assignment on the bus home. I ran into Donna at the bus stop. I was beginning to wonder if there was anyplace in this neighborhood where you could toss a rock and not hit a Scarlotti. We chatted just a moment – she was waiting for the next bus to go to the mall for new shoes and I still had things to do at home.

Once home, I put away my books and gathered up my equipment. Two bus rides, per the schedule, to get there – I couldn’t very well conceal the girl’s under my coat for that. I grabbed an old gun case I use for transporting my swords in public. It’s ancient and doesn’t really look like a gun case.

I went for the swords. Gwen would be coming, of course, but Grace wasn’t what I needed for this. I got Samantha down from her hook. She’s a hand and a half bastard sword and has a much better reach than Gwen or Grace. She was all giddy – she doesn’t get to go out much – as I put her in the case with Gwen.

I changed quickly. making sure I had everything, I pulled on my coat and headed for the door. Mama met me there, handing over a sack with my dinner in it. I hadn’t said anything; she just knew. Who says slayers are the only ones with weird senses? I gave her a kiss on the cheek, hollered bye to Daddy and walked out the front door. Tonight was just beginning.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 22

I was right about one thing: that wound hurt like the dickens the next morning.

I called Mr Ethan first thing and left a message for him. Back from Ontario but tied up in meetings until four this afternoon, so the butler informed me. I sighed as I hung up.

The day fairly flew by. Classes, a quick stop at the drug store for more aspirin, girl talk (okay, a LOT of girl talk – I’m a girl, sue me.), a few hours in the library (it’s my first week! How many papers can one English prof assign, any way?!?!), dashing (well, as ‘dashing’ bus ride can be) home and then a very long talk with Mr Ethan about the night before – busy day.

Daddy and Mama were debating restaurant versus sandwiches so I went out to the stoop. Jack’s building was abuzz with activity so I wandered across the street to see what was up. I met Mrs Myers and her husband who told me Jack had gotten into some trouble. They didn’t know details but were expecting him home shortly. Mrs Myers left to check a roast and I was still chatting with Mr Myers when Jack’s entire family pulled up in two cars.

First off, I was impressed they managed to fit all of them in just two cars, even if one was an SUV. Second, Jack didn’t look any the worse for wear as he climbed out of the car and tried to get his sister Tina to take her hands out of his hair. Weird.

Not that I have room to talk, given that I still had the remnants of last night’s wound in my side. Fortunately, we slayers heal that kind of thing fast. Unfortunately, it hurts more. A lot more, and I was nearly out of aspirin again.

Jack came up as his family disembarked and invited me to dinner with them. I’d have preferred a first real date but I got the impression he couldn’t escape just yet. I swear, his mother is worse than mine – she actually came up and asked if he had a fever yet.

I accepted, of course. I wanted to get to know this guy and besides, I couldn’t wait to hear this story. As Jack headed up the stair I got a good whiff. Whatever he’d been in, it smelled horrible. Well, it wasn’t like he normally smelled bad. I shrugged to myself and I trotted home to tell my folks.

An hour later, I was sitting beside a much nicer smelling Jack at his family’s huge dining room table listening to all the chatter. It was chaotic but nice – a type of family life very different from my own yet strangely cozy and inviting just the same. Marty sat to my right and was telling me a funny story about how all five brothers had tried to fix a leaky toilet in their father’s absence and how they had managed to flood two apartments in the process.

When he finished, the room quieted down suddenly, almost on cue. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something and they were all looking at Jack. He flushed red for a second and then started telling us what had happened at his job that day.

Okay, I’m a Southern girl from Mississippi and I have zero experience with gangs but guys that ready for a fight don’t run when someone shows up. They slaughter the guy. I said nothing; Jack was obviously trying to spare his family something. Trouble was, he was failing miserably.

His youngest brother Mike, evidently the family hothead, confronted him. Another brother, Kevin, I think, kept digging into Mike’s ribs but he didn’t have enough sense to shut up. he didn’t call Jack a liar outright but he came close enough. That made Jack’s mom mad and things went steadily downhill from there.

Some things you can change; some you can’t. Sticking your nose in when you don’t understand what exactly is going on will either change nothing or change everything for the worse. I couldn’t think of anything I could do or say that would help. I could see Jack was getting angry but his brother was clueless. It was like watching a train wreck; you can’t do anything but watch.

What happened next took me by surprise just the same. I’d never, in the nearly two whole weeks I’d known him, seen Jack actually angry. As amiable as he was, I never expected him to get so angry so very fast. He was furious and taking it out on his youngest brother. He scared me, he changed so fast. And not just me, Tim and Marty both started pushing back their chairs getting ready to stop their irrational brother from doing anything he’d regret.

But Jack never made a move. Instead, he retold his story, this time very differently. Five gangbangers that didn’t look human, four huge dogs that didn’t look like dogs and Jack fighting like he was Jackie Chan or something. It probably sounded crazy to his family, but it sounded familiar to me. He even described the rapid dissolution creatures undergo when slain.

I sat there, just looking at him as he finally got control of himself. There was no doubt now, he was a slayer, fully emerged now, judging from that story.

The room was silent for over a minute. Finally, Jack’s father started laughing and the rest joined in, assuming the second story to be made up for comic effect. Jack looked at me finally, and I managed a reassuring smile. But I didn’t feel reassuring.

It all made sense. The creature’s weird behavior, the multiple attacks, the whole darn thing. Jack was a true slayer, like me. I didn’t know why, but I did know what that first creature had done. I’d have to deal with that, very, very soon.

I decided to tell Mr Ethan before talking to Jack. That thing had to be dealt with and I could not let Jack find out before I did. There are a lot of gross and a lot of bad things slayers deal with but there are a few that you avoid if at all possible. Besides, I’d failed Mr Jenkins by not being here. I would not fail him by letting Jack or anyone else see him if that blasted creature had succeeded. No one deserves that.

It took a few minutes to get back into the swing of things. I don’t know if anyone noticed but I couldn’t sit there mulling this over any longer without being weird. So I smiled and chatted just like normal. I got some time to chat with Jack, which was perfectly fine by me. By the end of the evening, it was if nothing had happened earlier at all.

Jack was kind enough to walk me home. I didn’t need to look back – the windows were full of faces, I’m sure of it. It was funny but annoying – any chance of a good night kiss, even a small peck, was gone. Of course, Daddy being right behind the front door didn’t help – did he think we didn’t see the shadow through the side glass?

I had to settle for a warm handshake and a lovely good-bye. I watched for a moment as he sauntered back to his side of the street, hoping he’d be back sometime soon to ask me out. I went in, more determined than ever that I would handle that thing.

I called Mr Ethan immediately. I apologized for waking him up and told him the whole thing.

“He said they dissolved before the cops arrived…” I finished recounting Jack’s second story to Mr Ethan.

“Do you know where the grave is?”

“No, I’ll ask tomorrow while Jack is at work.”

“Good girl. I’ve got some calls to make. I can’t be there but you will have someone, I promise. And don’t chase anything else from that building – it comes, you make it fight you there, got that?”

“Yes sir,” I sighed. He was right, I’d been stupid to follow it so far away. “Is this normal?”

“For an emerging true slayer?” He asked.

“Yeah…”

“Absolutely not. I’ve never seen the like before. They know something we don’t. I want to meet this guy as soon as possible. Thursday is my first free day. In the meantime, as I said, I’m getting you two some back up. What time will you get home tomorrow?”

“I’ll be here by two…”

I sat back as I hung up the phone. I was glad I’d already done most of my homework because I wanted to make sure I had enough sleep for tomorrow. Wolfing down two more aspirin, I went to say good night to my parents. Tomorrow would be coming much too soon.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 21

Going straight, even when descending to cross streets, at least I didn’t have to worry about how to get back. I concentrated on my senses. This thing was running in a straight line; it was either stupid or trying to lure me into something and I bet on the latter.

Five blocks then six. Finally eight and nine before it slowed down and then stopped. Odd, I couldn’t sense any other creatures. What was it doing?

The building it stopped on was short – only two stories. I could see the entire roof but the creature itself hid behind the mechanicals. Weird, no others to be seen or sensed. I waited a moment until I was sure, then leapt from my third story vantage onto the roof. I drew Gwen and walked carefully to where I knew the creature was hiding.

Behind the giant A/C unit, I found my prey. A female, whimpering in fear, cowered beside the cowling, holding on for dear life. What the heck? The vampire I’d sensed in Mr Jenkins apartment was undoubtedly male and it sure wasn’t this afraid of slayers. This was a grey female – not the black male I’d sensed before. A pseudomodern but a weak one – what the heck was going on here?

“What did you want at that building?” I asked, holding Gwen at the ready.

It eyed the sword fearfully, “Nothing, Slayer, nothing! I was told to wait there and run if a slayer came. I did as I was told!” it wailed pitifully.

“By whom?” I demanded.

“Mycroft.”

“Who is that?”

“Our master’s steward, Slayer.”

Great, a steward can be a human or a creature. “What is he?”

“Vampire, Slayer.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know, Slayer. He looked in that window and ran when the other slayer came out. He told me to wait on the other roof until a slayer actually chased me so I did.”

Two of them but I’d only sense one? This was getting more confusing by the second. Wait, if I hadn’t sense the first one…

Just in time, I glanced around to see a male vampire trying to hit me with a very big pipe. I dodged and came around with Gwen. I felt Gwen get a bite but he transformed and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The female took that as her cue to run. I wasn’t about to toss a sword with a difficult to detect vampire nearby so I let the female go. Odds were that ‘Mycroft’ would deal far more harshly with her than I was going to.

I put my back to the cowling and tried to sense the creature. Nothing, it was like nothing was there. A sound, a scratch, maybe, caught my ear and I brought Gwen around fast, once again getting enough to know I’d hit but the creature withdrawing before I got any real teeth into him. This thing was fast, lots faster than the norm.

Well, I couldn’t stay here. I looked for a better spot and decided to reture to the three story building to the north of this one. I swung toward my right flank as I darted toward the other building. I felt something sting from the left and swung to meet it. This time it disappeared before I could get Gwen to it. I felt the warm trickle of blood from the wound in my side but ignored it. It would hurt like heck in the morning but at the moment I couldn’t feel it.

The instant I was close enough, I leapt for the other rooftop. I felt something hit my back but not hard. This thing was toying with me!

On the third story roof, I had a couple good corners to make use of where the stairwell came up. I threw myself into one and help Gwen defensively. I drew Grace and waited. I listened but there was no sound. I let my senses reach out but nothing seemed to be there.

I debated my options but ‘wait and see’ was the only one that didn’t involve exposing myself again. After an hour, I let myself go into sleepwalking. All slayers can do it. I was pretty sure this thing was long gone but I couldn’t know it. Once creature might be able to conceal itself so perfectly, but I doubted it had friends since I couldn’t sense any. No need to risk more injury just yet. I slept for another half hour. No attack.

I sheathed Grace against her protests and left the corner. Nothing. I started back to my street, not nearly as fast as I’d gotten here. Nine blocks, and a whole lot of climbing later, I was looking at Jack’s building again. I couldn’t sense a thing. it was quiet now.

Flustered and angry with myself for being drawn in so easily, I went home. I was asleep the instant I locked our door. Being able to sleepwalk at will has a few advantages.

They just don’t help a lot the next morning when you wake up sore and tired and with holes in places you aren’t supposed to have holes. I crawled to the bath and dressed the wound. It was minor – no need to get Mama to look at it. I checked my back in the mirror – that bruise would be gone by midday. Another good thing about being a slayer – creature inflicted wounds heal very quickly no matter what they were inflicted with. Doesn’t make being hit by a pipe a good thing by any means, though.

I got ready for school and went to breakfast. My parents didn’t need to be told what I’d done last night – they could read it on my face.

“Busy night?” Daddy tried to sound casual.

I nodded. “Kinda. Do we have any Alaga left?”

Mama got the syrup from the pantry and I made swirls in it with butter for my biscuit. Syrup on a biscuit – nothing like good food to make the day better.

On the bus, I jotted a few notes in my notebook to ask Mr Ethan about. Now, I’m no genius but this was past weird and into suspicious territory. That male had set me up but then played around like he wasn’t terribly interested in killing me. Something powerful enough to mess with a fully emerged slayer should have had no proble killing an emerging slayer – so what ehe heck was this thing actually trying to do?

I closed the notebook and my eyes. My little brain had enough to worry about with Intro to Logic – I wasn’t gonna solve this enigma now.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 20

So, Thursday comes and I finally talk to Mr Ethan. My first class isn’t until one on Thursday so Mr Ethan called at ten. I told him what had happened and all that I got from Arnie. I even told him my suspicion, well, idea, that Jack might be the emerging slayer. I was hoping he’d tell me it was stupid but no, he tells me it’s a real possibility. Drat.

He was in Ontario helping with something there. Guide slayers are exceptionally busy, so the Mistress told me, so it’s no surprise he had other things to attend to. He promised to come by as soon as he was back in town, whenever that happened to be. He advised me to stay close as I could, especially at night.

Emerging slayers are at their most vulnerable – but that doesn’t make them wimps. During the day even an emerging slayer can take a creature or two. It’s rare for creatures to work together, much less gang up, so the real danger is at night when a creature can overpower an emerging slayer.

As I put the phone back in its cradle, it occurred to me that being just across the street meant I was in the right place again. I sighed, wishing I’d been in the right place the night Mr Jenkins needed me.

I started gathering up my stuff and another thought occurred to me. If Jack were the emerging slayer could that have been why I didn’t ‘happen’ to be where I was needed, because another slayer was already here? But if so, why didn’t Jack respond sooner? Concealment is only a big thing to normal people – it isn’t usually much of a problem for even weak slayers. Was Jack weak or was that concealment somehow stronger than normal?

This time I grabbed a notebook and jotted down my questions for Mr Ethan. I’d never even thought about how strong concealment might be or if it could be adjusted before. Swinging my backpack on my shoulder and hollering bye, I jogged out the front door. For a fully emerged slayer, I still had a lot to learn.

Jack was helping pack some car. We exchanged waves as I hurried to the stop. I hadn’t gotten to see him much since Sunday and I was regretting it already. Even if there was never to be an ‘us’ he was still a neat guy and fun to be around. I sighed as I swung into my bus seat. So much to sort out….

I got to see Jack briefly on Saturday when I went out on the stoop trying to clear my head from my ‘Intro to Logic’ homework. Most of the Jenkins kids were now gone or leaving today, he mentioned. I silently hoped that would mean he might have enough time to ask me out, assuming he wanted to, of course.

Jack was called away to help carrying something and Donna, his sister, took his spot on our stoop. We chatted some until she got around to telling me what was really on her mind. It’s a girl thing – sometimes we can just tell when another girl has something important to say.

"So, John told me you said you thought Jack m,ight possibly like to have Mr J’s bayonet…" She said, biting her lip nervously.

"Close enough – he asked if Inoticed anything. Why? Was it wrong of me?"

She shook her head emphaticly, "Oh, no, not at all. But John and the rest decided to give it to Kevin and John didn’t want you to be angry or anything…"

I shrugged, "Why should I be? I told him I didn’t know for sure and honestly, I was really surprised he asked me, of all people."

Donna smiled knowingly, "Oh, that’s no surprise. But they gave Jack Mr J’s old jacket – Jack always thought it was cool when we were kids. Kevin and Mr J were closer; Kevin was the only one besides John that knew Mr J actually named that thing. You’d have to have known Mr J but believe me, it came as a surprise when John mentioned it." She got up, "I just wanted to let you know and make sure it was okay."

I nodded, "Sure. I understand."

I watched her leave before getting up to go tackle the rest of my homework. So Arnie had a new home. Good, I knew he’d like that and I’d know where to go looking for him when the time came. Arnie would have his chance to taste vampire blood if I ever got the slightest chance of slaying that savage corpse.

I didn’t set foot outside once we got home from church on Sunday. the house was pretty well settled except for my new room on the second floor. Painters had been in earlier in the week and it was now a sunny yellow. The tile guys had redone the floor and it was finally dry. Mama had done enough getting all that done – I was determined to move in on my own. Except for Daddy helping with the bigger furniture, that was just what I did.

Of course, it was almost ten before i finished and could turn in. Mama came up and said good night and Daddy hollered up the stair. I hollered back and climbed into bed. Prayers said and lights out. I was sound asleep in no time.

Then suddenly, I wasn’t. Sometimes slayers sleep walk through the early part of a hunt. I awoke fully as I was tugging on my jacket. I took the back stair three at a time and raced down the hall to the front door. This time of night, it wouldn’t matter if someone saw me since it wouldn’t be likely to be someone I knew. I flew down the step and across the street then down the alley to the south of Jack’s building. I hit the fire escape behind it and climbed to the top. I couldn’t see my prey but I knew which way it had gone. Stupid vampire, heading south over the rooftops, huh?

Without a thought, I raced after it. Tonight, it was going to be slain.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 19

Funny how a day or two changes things.

I did call Mr. Ethan after breakfast and left a message for him. But the more I thought about it, the less it seemed likely that Jack could be the emerging slayer. I kept waffling on the subject as I rode across town to my campus. I was still mulling it over when I sat down for my ten o’clock class.

Algebra commanded my attention for the next hour. My parents have always been super supportive and had insisted on supporting me at least my first couple years in college. I wasn’t about to let them down by not paying attention in the class they paid for. I also had no intention of flunking out which meant I had to really hunker down in my math classes – a math wiz, I ain’t.

I met Jessica outside class and we found Sally on the lawn south of the building as planned. Sally had already been asked out by a guy in her chem class. As her new best friends we had to have all the details, of course. Jessica had an oddly scheduled lab at eleven thirty and had to leave so Sally and I hit the cafeteria without her. By the end of lunch we’d managed to meet three more girls, Kimberly, Monica and Kagome.

Kagome and I had the same one o’clock class, Intro to Logic. We chatted on the way there about our respective homes, me about Mississippi and her about Japan.

An hour later, I was convinced I was doomed to flunk Intro to Logic. Kagome laughed at me in her polite, reserved Japanese way. I think that made it worse, actually, but she was also encouraging, assuring me that I could do it. We met up with Kimberly, who had been Kagome’s pen-pal since fifth grade and Sally who had found Jessica again. Monica had a two o’clock class so the five of us hit the library to theoretically study.

We did study – we were just more interested in studying boys, was all. My three o’clock was English, which at least I had some hope of passing. At four o’clock, that hope was dashed – somehow I’d managed to get the hardest English teacher on the planet. I had a four page paper due tomorrow on only my first day. Yep, doomed…

I met up with the girls after my four o’clock class, gymnastics. We hadn’t even dressed out, just gotten a syllabus and had talked about our various back grounds. Well, at least I’d pass one class this semester, I told the gals as we headed for the cafeteria.

I wrote my essay on the bus ride home. I’d have to type it when I got home but at least the worst was over, I was working on my algebra on the final bus when Mr. Jenkins’ son, John, got on and sat by me. He was kind enough to help me with one problem – he’s an engineer – and I put it away to finish later. I asked about their plans and he told me that Mr. Jenkins’ kids were in the process of dividing up his things and getting the apartment cleaned out. As I result, he expected to be there the rest of the week.

He asked me what I thought Jack might like of his father’s things. I’m not sure why – maybe because of his sister Mary he had the idea I knew Jack better than I did or maybe he was just making small talk. I told him I’d gone with Jack and he said he’d known that. Had I noticed anything that Jack might like?

I chose my next words carefully, "I don’t know if Jack would like it or not, but there was one thing I noticed. I imagine it meant something to your dad since it was hanging on the wall…"

"His bayonet?" John asked immediately.

I nodded, wondering how he’d guessed.

He sat back in thought for a moment. "If anyone outside the family were to get it, it would be Jack or Kevin. Dad would have been okay with that. Those guys were like sons to him."

He turned to me and grinned, "At least they were both as much pains in the neck as we Jenkins boys."

I smiled and laughed politely. He was trying to lighten the mood.

"Isn’t that true of just boys in general?" I winked.

He chuckled, "I think the bunch of us abused the privilege." He paused, "Oops, we’re about to miss our stop…"

John walked me to my house. Jack and John’s sister Elaine were coming out of Jack’s building. Jack nodded, his hand full of boxes and Elaine waved a small bag at us, her other hand toting a huge suitcase. We crossed the street to join them and the guys spent several minutes trying to cram the things into Elaine’s car as Elaine and I chatted. Jack and I had only a moment to chat as he still had work to do helping his family and a ton of homework still awaited me.

Once home, I tossed my books on the kitchen table and my backside into a chair. Mama was frying chicken and Daddy was annoying her playfully. I pretended to ignore my flirting parents as I cracked open my logic book.

As Mama finished whipping the potatoes, she turned to me, "Oh, Honey, you had a call earlier. I put the message by the phone in the study."

I nodded and dutifully trotted off to get it. As expected, Mr Ethan had called. He would call back tomorrow when I was expected to be home. I sighed as I headed for the dining room. I had forgotten again.

Dinner eaten, homework done and prayers said, I curled up in bed, unable to sleep. I had nearly forgotten my promise to Arnie and I didn’t know if I would be able to keep it now. Maybe if he was given to Jack or Kevin but not if one of Mr Jenkins’ children decided to keep him. Maybe not even if he was left here – I mean, how do you borrow a bayonet?

It had seemed so obvious two nights ago that Jack was the new slayer – it seemed absurd now. Was it wishful thinking on my part? No, that didn’t make sense. I actually dreaded the idea that Jack might be a slayer, too. I’ve never heard of two slayers becoming a couple. I already had hopes of that with Jack – but if he was a slayer then would it be right?

There are many more slayers than you might imagine – but there are also a whole lot more creatures than you would ever believe. There aren’t enough of us for us to be congregating – the Mistress had said so a long time ago. She probably wouldn’t approve…

Not that we needed her approval, at least I didn’t think we would. But the idea of the Mistress’ disapproval actually hurt. I’d never given her reason to disapprove before.

It occurred to me that I might be trying to reason myself out of thinking Jack could be a slayer because of all that. I sighed and tossed myself over. Enough already, I need to sleep. I promised myself to talk to Mr. Ethan about the whole thing. I had enough to worry about without worrying about something I didn’t even know was something. Jack and I weren’t a couple; he might or might now be a slayer; the Mistress might or might not disapprove and the whole crazy thing might just be in my head. With a quick apology to God for being such a nitwit, I snapped off the light and forced myself to stop thinking about it.

The clock hadn’t ticked five times before I was asleep.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 18

I woke up late the next morning, feeling a lot like a dishrag after being wrung out a few too many times. I crawled out of bed only because I had to then dressed and went to breakfast.

Mama put her hand on my forehead the instant she saw me. I told her I was just tired but she fussed until she finally got a thermometer and it confirmed that I really didn’t have a fever. Just to prove the point I wolfed down three eggs instead of my usual two.

Which was a mistake – crawling back to my room I felt even worse, now tired and way too full. Didn’t matter, I told myself as I scooped up my bag and college materials. My very first day of college I was at least going to show up on time for my orientation.

I ran into Jack’s sister Donna on the walk to the bus stop. Good thing, she gave me a couple of great pointers on how to get to NYU. I’d have been late for sure if she hadn’t been there.

Three changes and a five block walk later, I finally reached the hallowed halls. Well, the lawn, anyway. Fifteen minutes later I found the gym I was supposed to be in and found a seat just a minute before the orientation was scheduled to start.

The school seemed to be having the same kind of day I was. The program started thirty minutes late. I met a couple of girls my age, Sally and Jessica, and we chatted about our respective homes, prospective majors and the relative cuteness of the current crop of guys.

The Dean of Academics gave us a less than rousing speech about what to expect and what was expected of us. The secretary came up and told us where to pick up our packets and where to go if we hadn’t yet registered for classes. Then we were herded into the cafeteria for a welcome lunch. I had an apple, still feeling breakfast only too well.

By late afternoon, I had a new copy of my schedule, a better copy of the bus schedule and had visited all the buildings I had classes in. Sally, Jessica and I grabbed a burger at the cafeteria before splitting up to head home.

On the last transfer, I found Jack’s brother Marty and his sister Jane on the bus with me. I confess, I had to ask Jane’s name. I don’t know how people keep so many names straight! Jane told me Jack was busy helping the Jenkins’ family so I decided not to bother him today.

I said good bye to Marty at the bus stop when he headed the other way to run to the store for his mom. I said good bye to Jane when we got to my house. Then the repeat performance with Mama who was now convinced I had the flu. I passed on dinner and had a hard time convincing Mama it was because I’d already eaten.

At long last, I crawled into bed and said my prayers. My head hit the pillow and I realized I hadn’t called Mr Ethan. It was much too late to do anything now so I wrote myself a note and turned in. Besides, I told myself, it seemed kinda silly to think Jack was a slayer, didn’t it?

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 17

Blades like Arnie, who’ve drank a great deal of human blood, can be very talkative. But more than just his words, I’d also been able to see what he’d seen. It’s hard on me – it’s not like a movie that’s clear and concise – it’s more like a jumble of painful memories that I have to sort out for myself. That’s what being a sword singer really is – being able to understand the song left on a blade by the blood it has shed. Arnie had shed a lot of blood – it took a while and a lot of energy to sort it all out.

But that gave Arnie the ability to see what had happened the night his master died. Some things I had to figure out – like that ‘other part’ meant another part of the apartment. To a blade, room names don’t mean much. The hard floor had to be the scuff mark in the kitchen.

I was still sorting through it all as Jack led me out of the apartment. I tried not to let on how tired I was now. Fortunately, we ran into Mr Jenkins rather contentious son and daughter which distracted Jack before he noticed.

As Jack was explaining something to me about leaving them alone I was thinking about the creature’s strange behavior after the meal. It had opened its coat and acted like it was laughing. That was weird. Vampires don’t gloat without someone to gloat to and they can’t hear blades like I can so it wasn’t gloating for Arnie’s benefit. Opened its coat…

We reached the landing and it hit me – that thing had dropped its concealment! Almost all creatures conceal themselves so humans can’t sense their presence until its too late. Slayers can sense them even concealed but it varies – a strong slayer won’t notice concealment but a weak one can be affected by it. A weak one and an emerging one! That thing had intended to be noticed but didn’t stay to confront the slayer.

I lost my train of thought as Jack asked me if I would like to stay a while longer and have him walk me home. He would be a bit busy but would make time. I sorted myself out enough to ask why and he mentioned all the work to be done to prepare for the night – evidently they would be housing quite a crowd. I volunteered to help and went to tell my parents while Jack attended to something else.

We were very busy the next few hours. Jack’s apartment was the official ‘boy’s room’ for the night and we had cots and pallets to make up. One kid got upset about sleeping on the floor, which was actually where Jack planned to sleep and I had to calm him down. Turned out he was really scared of bugs, which I could understand – I can kill a vampire without blinking but will shriek like a baby if a spider gets on me. The little guy just needed some reassurance and he was fine.

The kids were piling in and it was late so I said my good byes. For a second, I thought Jack just might, well, a girl can hope, can’t she? But he didn’t and I left his apartment to go get my parents at his parents’ apartment. Daddy was already on the stoop and motioned for me to come as I got down the hall. I glanced back just a tiny peek as Daddy pulled the door closed – would you believe Jack was still standing there, looking at me?

I was so elated that I couldn’t think straight as we crossed the street back to our home. Mama and Daddy planned to watch TV but I headed straight for bed.

I was in bed, just finishing my prayers and about to go to sleep when I sat bolt upright. Jack! He was the first one to find the body because he’d been the one to sense the creature! Of course, it made sense now! The new slayer had to be Jack!

Realization over, I fell back into bed, sound asleep.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 16

(Arnie, the bayonet, is speaking)

“I heard him come in with that kid Tim. He’s the one that got peanut butter on me once. They were in the other part and then I heard the kid leave.”

“Archie came in and started to change his clothes. There was a noise in the other part and he went out. I heard people talk but the door hadn’t opened. Archie yelled and came running in here. He reached for me but some guy grabbed his arm and pulled him away. Then Archie swung at the guy but he missed.”

“Something weird happened then. Archie looked at him in the eye and all the fight went out of Archie. The guy’s eyes were weird; I’ve never seen red human eyes like that before. I thought maybe Archie felt bad for him or something. He just stopped fighting.”

“The guy pulled Archie over to the chair and made him sit. I didn’t like it but Archie wasn’t holding me and I couldn’t stick the guy. The guy grabbed Archie’s other arm and forced it down. Archie got real scared, I could see it in his eyes and feel it even across the room. Then the guy bit Archie’s neck.”

“I wanted to stick him so bad, that guy that was hurting Archie. He just stood there, biting Archie and Archie just got more and more scared. But then, after a long time, Archie started getting weak. It was like he’d been bad stuck or something but I didn’t see any blood.”

“The guy finally stood up and walked away from Archie. It was like Archie didn’t matter to him any more, ya know? I’ve seen humans do that before. I knew Archie was dead then. I woulda stuck that guy if I could have; I really would have.”

“The guy took off his coat and threw back his head like he was laughing but he didn’t make any noise. I wanted to stick him, laughing at Archie like that – it was wrong, you know? But he stopped and then he started running into the other part. I heard him go on the hard floor and then I didn’t hear him any more.”

“No time later, that other kid, Jack, comes in. I heard him yelling at the window and messing with Pepe. Then he came in here and looked at Archie. I guess he knew cause he didn’t even touch Archie. But cause he knew – I mean, I could tell from how he looked. He’d have stuck that guy if he could have. I know he would.”

“Then he left. I heard the kids talking in but I think they were outside ’cause it was hard to hear them. Then they left and a little later Archie’s friend came, the kid’s dad, and checked to see if Archie was dead. He cried a little then left. I don’t think he could stick that guy but that kid of his could.”

“I wanna stick that guy. Do you think you could help me stick him or get the kid to use me? Please. I really wanna stick that guy for what he did to Archie. Would you, Girl?”

I sighed and silently promised that I would see if I could arrange it when the time came. No sense trying to explain to a blade that it can’t kill a vampire unless a slayer uses it especially since I’m a slayer. I put Arnie back on the wall and turned to Jack.

“That’s… quite a blade…” I told him.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 15

Yes, I know, no one will ever accuse me of being the sharpest tool in the shed. The whole way up and while Jack was letting us in, it never struck me as strange and none of the pieces fell into place for me. It didn’t seem odd to me that a guy would want to see the scene again even though it had been thoroughly trampled by now. I was just glad he did. While a normal guy might not be able to get much out of such a thing, a slayer like me just might. It was certainly worth a shot. As a result, the whole time I was more concerned with how to share anything I did get. After all, it was Jack’s friend and his idea but I couldn’t exactly tell him if I sensed a vampire, now could I?

Yes, now, hindsight being what it is, that whole thing seems really stupid, but at the time it just didn’t occur to me. So I decided to figure it out if and when I actually got something. If necessary, I’d wait and talk to Mr Ethan first then have my ‘epiphany’. Whatever, I wasn’t going to leave Jack out in the cold – that would just be wrong.

Once inside, the apartment seemed remarkably unremarkable. I had no sense of anything, not that I expected it off the bat, but I did begin to wonder if I’d just wasted a lot of worry for nothing. That changed when I followed Jack into the kitchen. Looking out the window I’d looked in a couple times before gave me an odd feeling. I looked at the sill more carefully as a result and noticed that it was painted perfectly, except for a few scratch marks. I felt them and knew immediately the creature had left them – they were much deeper than they appeared.

That matters to a slayer because it’s something that happens when a creature or a slayer is leaping unnaturally far. I don’t fully get why, but any mark left will be deeper than it appears. But, of course, Jack wouldn’t know that so I played dumb and asked if he had made them before telling him that they felt so deep.

Jack found scuff marks on the floor he was sure he hadn’t made. I touched it and knew he was right. I could sense the creature from it, definitely a vampire. I wasn’t sure of the type yet, but I was finally certain of what it was.

Jack led me into Mr Jenkins’ bedroom. The first thing I noticed was a pale blue armchair with a lot of upholstery cut off the armrest. Why the armrest, I wondered, then asked Jack to confirm that was where the old gentleman had died. Jack was surprised that I’d suspected the chair was where the old gentleman had been found but the place was neat as a pin so the only reason for the chair to be cut would be if the cops took it for evidence. Ten years of watching CSI finally paid off.

Jack and I were trying to figure out why the blood the cops presumably took was on the armrest. Jack noticed that the end showed marks as if someone had dug their nails into it. Of course, that made perfect sense to me in a very, very bad way.

Poor Jack was still confused but I was more worried about the implications. Everyone knows the old wives’ tale that a vampire’s hair and nails grow in the grave. They don’t, it’s just the effect of dehydration but the truth is, a vampire’s nails can be quite sharp. The creature had held Mr. Jenkins’ arm down as it attacked and probably scratched his arm in the process, hence the blood. But vampires don’t do that when they are just feeding – the victim is usually asleep. Vampires hold onto conscious victims and there aren’t but a couple reasons for that – neither of which are good.

I couldn’t say anything to Jack. He wouldn’t understand and it would only make things so much harder on him. I would take care of it myself – it was my job as a slayer and my duty as a friend. Besides, no one and I do mean no one should ever see – well, what I was now pretty darn sure might happen.

Once we were finished discussing things, I turned toward the door. That was when I saw a beautiful bayonet hanging under a mounted, tricorn folded, American flag.

“May I?” I asked Jack. He told me it would be alright and I lifted the blade from the wall.

His name is Arnie. Mr Jenkins had a sergeant by that name who trained him to use the bayonet and Arnie had been named in his honor, a fact he told me that Mr Jenkins had only shared with a few people over the years. Arnie had belonged to a soldier named Joe Daniels in World War II and had been in the European Theater. Joe died of dysentery after being wounded a few days after the Normandy invasion on D Day.

Arnie had been sent back with Joe’s things and put in a garage for a number of years. Some kid had asked for him when helping clean out that garage but his mother had taken Arnie and sold him to the local surplus shop. It was there that Mr Jenkins had bought Arnie several years before being called to service in Grenada.

Using Arnie had saved his life several times. Arnie had been there when Mr. Jenkins, then Corporal Jenkins, had been the only survivor of his five man team. Arnie told me how Corporal Jenkins had tried so hard to save his friends but had been knocked away by the concussion of a grenade, fallen in a ditch and awoken to find himself alone, his friends dead.

Arnie told me about the battles, the people he had cut, the men who had handled him, the bravery, the fear – blades have a sense of things people don’t usually get.

When he finished, I thought about the night Mr Jenkins died. I don’t speak out loud to blades much anymore – people stare at me when I do that – and I don’t need to, they can hear me just as I hear them. Arnie remembered the whole thing. I felt his bloodlust, wanting to dive deep into the killer and his frustration that he could only hang on the wall and watch as he lost yet another comrade in arms.

I got all that from the images and feelings Arnie shared. But now, Arnie began to tell his final story…

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 14

Once we arrived, Jack became our host. He started introducing us to the crowd of guests. I don’t know how Mama manages to remember so may people so quickly – I can never do that. To me, it’s just a sea of confusing names and faces.

Well, it was until we got to Mr. Jenkins’ daughter, Mary. No sooner had Jack said my name than she grabbed my hand and blurted out, “So you’re the girl that had our Jack so flustered.” and the room erupted in laughter.

Mary tried to explain, “It was just too funny, the way he started rambling about you coming today – I suppose that sounds strange. But he so seldom gets flustered you see.”

I smiled, totally confused, “Sure, you had to be there, didn’t you?”

Mary threw back her head in laughter, “Exactly! I can see already why Jack likes you so much!”

To be honest, Mary had just gone way up on my ‘favorite person’ list – a girl likes to know where she stands with a guy – especially one that has her attention, if you know what I mean. Mary had just confirmed I had Jack’s attention and I was grateful, even if I still had no idea what was so danged funny.

I turned to glance at Jack. The poor guy was totally red faced but his sister was reassuring him. I smiled, trying to look reassuring as well. From the grin I got, I assumed I had succeeded. I didn’t get a lot of time to confirm, Mary had my hand and was pulling me away.

I ended up on the couch by Mary. There was no way to seat everyone so the Scarlottis were either standing or sitting on the floor to make room for the guests. Jack propped on the sofa arm by me; his brothers Marty and Tim sat on the floor beside him. I listened as they shared happy memories of Mr Jenkins, with just a twinge of regret for having not met him.

Jack went for punch and Mary turned to Marty, “All right, so, tell me the whole story now.” She insisted, suddenly serious.

Tim spoke first, “You sure?”

Mary nodded emphatically. “Yes, I want to know.”

“You already know most, I think. We were in Tim’s room – it used to be Jack’s – and Jack was on the fire escape, playing my guitar. We were just chilling out and all of a sudden, Jack was running up the fire escape. I never saw him move so fast before…”

“I have.” Tim offered, “When we were kids, he kept me from getting hit by a fastball. Charged the plate so fast I couldn’t believe it.”

“I remember that.” Mary nodded, “John was playing, too.”

Tim nodded and Marty continued, “So, Jack bolts up the fire escape and Tim, Kevin and me run up behind him. He went in and was coming back out when we got up there. He told us we had to call 911 and that was when Kev asked him … if your Dad was dead and Jack said he was. We came back down and called the cops.”

“But what made him run up there in the first place?” Mary asked.

Marty shrugged, “He just said something moved or something – it got his attention but he couldn’t really describe it. Mike pestered him about it until he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Mike, pester? I can’t believe that…” Mary smiled evilly.

They all laughed. I smiled, not getting the joke.

I lost track of the conversation as I got lost in my own thoughts. Had Jack seen the creature? Was that why he didn’t want to talk about what he’d seen? If so, how could I get him to tell me – without being a jerk.

Jack returned with the punch and rejoined the conversation. We were now chatting about the Jenkins family and Mary was catching the guys up on the latest in Jenkins grandkids. After a few minutes, Jack excused himself. I gave him a couple minutes then excused myself as well.

Slayers get used to following our instincts and sometimes even when we have no particular sense of things. I can sense creatures but not humans. Yet I had an inkling where Jack might be. I caught a glimpse of him leaving the apartment, pretty much as expected. Tina caught my arm and I was distracted for a moment before I could follow him out.

I found him Jack coming back out of his apartment. I asked if I could join him and, after tripping over his tongue a few times, he agreed.

“I want to see the apartment again before tonight. I know that sounds crazy…”

I’m a slayer – that actually sounded completely normal to me. I shook my head, “No, it doesn’t…”

He sighed, “Anyway, it’s probably pointless, but…”

I wrapped my arm around his, “It’s not pointless if you need to do it. So, let’s go.”

He smiled wanly and lead me up to Mr. Jenkins apartment