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.
“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.