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