The restaurant was terrible. They took forever to seat us. The service was slow and the food was cold when we finally got it. Daddy sent it back. The manager came out. When Daddy got finished politely explaining why, the manager fired the waiter. The waiter wasn’t overly concerned, not surprisingly as we later learned it was the fifth time in a month he had been fired from the place. A new waiter finally brought us warm food, which really wasn’t worth half what we were supposed to be charged. The only good thing was that after keeping us nearly three hours just to get fed the manager decided not to charge us for the fiasco. As we were walking out, I noticed that first waiter taking orders at another table.
I’m not normally easy to annoy but the whole evening I was incredibly irritable. I did my best not to take it out on anyone – not even that idiot waiter – but Mama noticed. I didn’t really know why I was so put out but I was awfully glad to get in the car to go home.
That changed the instant we turned onto our new street. I sensed something before I saw the police cars. Something had been here – something I should have been here to deal with. I was cursing myself silently as Daddy pulled up to our building. It was then that I realized the police were in Jack’s building. I have never been so mad at myself before.
Inside the house, I dug through boxes frantically. Whatever creature had been here was gone but maybe I could still find it. I finally managed to find my jacket and my short swords, Gwen and Grace. Kissing Mama’s cheek good night, I dashed out the back.
Even slayers can’t leap more than fifty yards so jumping from the roof across the street was out of the question. I ran down several blocks before crossing then followed a back alley a couple blocks closer before taking to the rooftops. Slayers can leap very impressive distances and clearing a narrow alley between buildings is no problem at all. I just never tell Mama, of course.
I got to the building next to Jack’s. The sensation was weak – the creature was long gone and I was more than a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to follow it. I walked to the ledge and peeked over. There were officers in an apartment on the fourth floor. The creature had been there, I was sure. But I couldn’t hear what the officers were discussing and I couldn’t very well go ask them what kind of creature had been there. I looked around a bit but in the dark I couldn’t see enough detail. I sighed and started retracing my steps. Maybe tomorrow I could come back…
The next morning Mama woke me earlier than usual.
“Mama?” I asked, rubbing my bleary eyes.
“Honey, a man was killed last night, over in that other building. I met a Mrs Myers who lives there while getting the paper this morning. She said your friend found the body. It’s all very strange. No one knows how the man died but its being investigated as a homicide. I thought you’d want to know.”
I stared at Mama for a minute. “Did she say anything about how?”
Mama shook her head, “No, Honey, she didn’t know. I know I don’t usually ask but…”
“No, ” I shook my head as I anticipated her question, “I didn’t find anything. I sensed a creature but it was too weak by then for me to know what it was.”
“Do you think?…” Mama let the question hang.
“Yes, Mama. It has to be. It can’t be a coincidence that a creature was there and a man died. What… what was his name?”
“Jenkins. A Mr. Jenkins. Lived there for years – everyone is very broken up.”
“Jenkins…” I repeated the name of the man I’d failed.
Mama came and sat beside me, “I never would have made those reservations…”
I hugged her, “No, Mama, it wasn’t your fault…” I looked at her, catching on, “Or mine, huh?”
She returned my hug, “No, Honey, it wasn’t. You’d have been there if you’d had any inkling you needed to be.”
“Why didn’t I?” I sighed.
“You know what that woman said.” To Mama the Mistress would always be ‘that woman’. “People like you are often where they need to be when they need to be but not always. Nothing is perfect, including your knack for being in the right place at the right time. You weren’t here; there was nothing you could have done because you didn’t know you needed to be here.”
I shrugged, “I know, it just…”
“Feels like you should have done something?”
Mama laughed gently, “Honey, everybody feels that way sometimes. But none of us can predict the future, not even you. It’s enough that you would have helped if you could have. You find someway to help now and stop fretting.”
“Okay, Mama.” I promised, not really feeling it yet even if I did know she was right. “Does Daddy know?”
She nodded, “I told him before he left.”
“Oh yeah, he had an early appointment. I forgot.”
Mama nodded, “That’s right. He’ll be home directly and we’ll get this place in shape. In the meantime, could you get up and go get a few things for me at the grocery?”
I pulled the covers back, “Sure. Banana pudding?”
Mama shook her head, “Potato casserole. Your friend has a large family and they are kinda Mr Jenkins extended family, as I understand it. I thought something more filling would be better.”
Mama got up and I hopped out of bed after her, “Sounds good. So, a bag of potatoes, sour cream, chives…”
We had no groceries yet so I bought everything in the recipe. Walking back home, and not paying attention, I ran, quite literally, into a girl a few years younger than I. I managed to save the groceries but knocked her down in the process. Helping her up and apologizing for being such an idiot, I couldn’t help but notice that she resembled Jack, a lot. We chatted a moment and she introduced herself as Tina, Jack’s youngest sister. She was heading to the grocery to pick up a couple things for her mom. I waited a couple minutes for her to run in and then walked back with her.