Just because I learned I was a slayer when I was small doesn’t mean I’m all that experienced. I only emerged three years ago and living in rural Mississippi means fighting a lot of zombies, ghosts and ghouls – I’ve only slain a handful of vampires and werewolves. Other than creatures the Mistress had control of, I’ve never even seen a commanded creature before. I’d read about them but never encountered one.
This was way out of my experience. To slay a zombie you just need to know where it is and to severe its head – simple. But to deal with a commanded creature you have to anticipate what its master or mistress is doing – and that’s a world of difference. I was quiet on the way back to the house wondering just what I’d gotten myself into.
Mama had coffee waiting for Master Ethan when we returned and invited him to lunch. He accepted graciously. He and I settled back in the study. After a couple moments of silence, he spoke, “I have very little sense of the new slayer but I do think he is close.”
“He?” I asked.
Master Ethan nodded, “Yes, that much I’m pretty sure of. What I don’t know is why that particular gentleman was targeted.”
“I don’t get that at all. Why wouldn’t it attack the new slayer – unless Mr. Jenkins was…”
Master Ethan shook his head, “Such late emergences are rare. I get the sense of a slayer being present – at least having been recently. I wouldn’t if that person were already dead. It is a valid point, however. Why attack someone other than the slayer?” He shook his head, “There are too many unknowns.”
I bit my lip, “Master Ethan?”
“Please, just Ethan.” He paused, looking at my face, “Ah, I forgot. It’s been a long while since I traveled in the South. How about ‘Mr. Ethan’, then?”
I smiled, “Thank you, Mr. Ethan. I’ve just never called an adult by just their first name before.”
“Quite all right. Now, what were you going to ask me?”
I sighed, “Look, the truth is, I’m not smart enough for this kind of thing. I stink at puzzles and mysteries. My parents and I are going to the reception this afternoon but I don’t know what kind of things to ask, let alone how to ask them.”
He chuckled, “You are a very intelligent young lady. There’s nothing dumb about knowing one’s limits. I’ll create a cheat sheet for you. As well mannered as you are, I doubt you’ll have any trouble knowing when you can and when you cannot ask such questions. We need to know about the mode of death but leave that to me and my contacts. You concentrate on the players – the victim’s family and friends.”
“Partially, but also as targets. Maybe his death was a warning to someone, our new slayer, perhaps. Or maybe one of them is the new slayer. We are casting a wide net at the moment in hopes of getting enough information to narrow our search. Does that make sense?”
I nodded, “Yes sir. How do I…”
Mr. Ethan left shortly after lunch, and I spent the next couple hours studying the ‘cheat sheet’ he’d made for me.
Mama called me at a little past three. I’d expected them to take a long time – Jack had mentioned that both the church and the graveside were a distance away – but this was a lot longer than I’d have thought. I got changed into something more appropriate, a navy blue summer dress that didn’t need ironing. Mama had changed and Daddy got into his Sunday suit. It felt funny dressing up to cross a street, but not any weirder than going to a funeral reception for someone we’d never met. Daddy led the way and we went.