True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 13

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.”

“As suspects?”

“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.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 12

Mama had pulled the last sheet of cookies from the oven as the doorbell rang. I jumped, still not used to the loud ringer. Dumping my apron on the chair, I trotted to the door.

The man on the stoop was Daddy’s age, maybe a bit older. He had warm, twinkling blue eyes. He was tall, just a bit shorter than Jack and well built under his designer shirt and jacket. He had a long, thoughtful face with just a bit of grey along the temples nicely blended in with the gold.

“Yes, may I help you?” I asked, assuming him to be one of Daddy’s business acquaintances.

“Mistress Crystal?” he smiled warmly, more telling me that asking.

“Oh! Master Ethan?”

He nodded, “The same…”

I moved aside and opened the door wider, “Oh, please do come in.”

I got him settled in Daddy’s study. I brought a few of the freshly baked cookies and Mama put on a pot of coffee for him.

Once I finally sat, he spoke, “So, tell me, which building was it?”

“The brownstone directly across the street, the one with alleys on both sides.”

He nodded, “So, besides the werewolf and the unidentified creature, have you sensed any others?”

I shook my head, “No sir, Although I did get a weird feeling yesterday but I didn’t really sense anything.”

“If you had to guess, who would you think the new slayer would be?”

I shook my head, “No idea, but we haven’t lived here a whole week yet. I don’t really know the neighborhood.”

He leaned back, “That’s fine. Some slayers get a sense of others, most don’t. I was wondering if you might have some sense of this new slayer but evidently you don’t. Don’t worry about it – it’s not a talent we really need.”

“So, do you have that talent?”

“Yes, in fact it’s easier for me to sense slayers than creatures at times.”

“That’s how you knew?”

He laughed, “Well, partially. I did sense a slayer but the Mistress mentioned your age when she called to tell me to expect you. You mentioned being an only child so it wasn’t hard to guess when you opened the door.”

I blushed, “Oops…”

He shook his head, “Not at all – reasonable question. I did some checking with a friend of mine who works for the police. The cause of death was exsanguination so our creature was likely a vampire type. The police are being rather tight-lipped with this case so I’d bet on a traditional type – any time a case puts them in mind of a supernatural creature the police tend to get very tight lipped about it.”

“I don’t get it, though. I’ve never seen a vampire bypass so many opportunities like that. The nearest cemetery is more than ten miles from here – surely it could have found a closer meal?”

He tapped the side of his head, “Good thinking. You’re right, it is not normal for them to travel very far when food is readily available nor do they usually kill their victims. Now, that could have been an accident; the gentleman might have kept bleeding after the creature departed. It does happen occasionally.”

“Could it have been attracted to the new slayer, then?”

He cocked his head then shook it, “I doubt it. If it were close by, certainly, but ten miles? No, that sounds more like a commanded creature.”

I sat up at that, “Really? I’ve never seen one, I mean, not one the Mistress wasn’t commanding. So, you don’t think there’s a new slayer?”

“Oh, I think there is. That werewolf you spoke with was after something, undoubtedly. And I’m not a big believer in coincidence – a commanded creature just happens to show itself in a building so near to where a werewolf tries fishing for a new slayer? No, that I do not believe.”

“So, what do we do?”

“We go for a walk, of course.” He smiled. “I’ll see if I can get some sense of this new slayer.”

Mama knocked and came in with the coffee. She and Master Ethan chatted for a few moments while I collected my thoughts. A commanded creature? That is a scary prospect even for slayers. They don’t behave normally and they are guided by someone else so they’re usually smarter in their actions than they would be left to their own devices. Werewolves and vampires have nothing on human beings where evil is concerned.

Once Master Ethan finished his coffee and I helped Mama clean up, we headed out. We started toward the north since I usually went that way to get to Jack’s building when I didn’t want to be observed. I was a bit chagrined to realize I had a ‘usual’ way of doing that already.

We chatted about the weather and inconsequential matters. It was for appearances; Master Ethan was already hard at work. We walked the entire block then went around the block my building was on. I couldn’t tell if he was getting anything but I could tell he was trying hard.

“Show me that rooftop.” Master Ethan whispered as we reached the corner.

I nodded and lead him to the alley behind that building. It was empty, not even a stray cat making the rounds today. I leapt to the fire escape, thinking I’d bring the ladder down but Master Ethan merely leapt up himself. I grinned – I’d almost forgotten he was a slayer, too.

On the roof, I pointed out the apartment that had been Mr. Jenkins’. Master Ethan leapt the short distance across to the roof of Jack’s building and I followed.

“I never thought to come up here.” I admitted.

“You’re young yet. You haven’t learned all the tricks.” Master Ethan winked at me.

I watched him go over every inch of that roof. I tried to sense something but it felt sterile to me.

Master Ethan motioned for me to join him. He pointed to a small area. In the tar, I saw a distinct foot print – one that showed no tread.

“Dress shoes.” He commented.

“How?”

“No detectable tread. Sneakers would leave a tread and so would work shoes.”

I didn’t need him to tell me why. If a body is buried with shoes, they are usually dress shoes. Hence vampires usually have dress shoes if they have shoes at all.”It was up here?”

He nodded, “It waited up here. It fled off that other building as you suspected.”

“Waited?” I asked, knowing what it meant.

He stood up, “Yes, it was definitely commanded.”

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 11

Considering we had only lived here three days we were certainly well up on the neighborhood news.

Mama and Mrs Myers had a lot in common – namely both had a passion for knitting and crochet. Mama taught me but I never got very good and never really fell in love with it like she is. Mrs. Myers, on the other hand, didn’t seem to ever not be crocheting or knitting something. She and her husband lived in Jack’s building with their little daughter Grace. He is in insurance, I think, and she’s staying home for another year until Grace starts kindergarten.

Mrs. Myers came by Sunday evening. She and Mama sat in the living room knitting and talking for hours. Daddy was in his study, hiding, though he denies it. I curled up on the window seat with my computer catching up on my Facebook and listening to them gab.

Naturally enough, Mrs. Myers mentioned a lot about Mr Jenkins and the upcoming funeral. She described him as a fine man and I felt a twinge of regret. Not guilt, I was coming to accept that I can’t be everywhere, but I wished once again that I’d been here when I needed to be. She went on to say that the funeral would be tomorrow morning and that most of the neighborhood would likely attend. Mama asked about the particulars, I guess to be polite since we weren’t going. Mrs Myers answered her and they started talking about whatever a slip stitch is and how hard it is on the project Mama was doing.

The next morning Daddy knocked at my door, "Pumpkin? You up?"

I was now, I thought as I groped for the bedside lamp, "Yes, Daddy?"

"Bob sent that album over by courier this morning. It’s on the kitchen table when you want it."

"’Kay, Daddy…" I answered and flopped back into my bed. Then it hit me, "Wait, a courier?!?!" Visions of my entire weekly allowance going away danced unpleasantly in my head.

I could hear him chuckle through the door, "Don’t worry about that. He wanted to send me some samples as well so you don’t owe anything for the shipping."

I sighed in relief. Couriers are expensive! I tried going back to sleep but I was fully awake now. I got up and dressed then went to the kitchen. Mama had found some nice wrapping paper and had already laid it out for me the night before. Still early, she hadn’t started breakfast yet. I wrapped the little gift and peeked out the window at the street.

People were already milling about. I noticed a few of Jack’s brothers and sisters outside with other people. They had several cars pulled around and were attending to various preparations.

Mama came in just then, "What are you looking at so early, Honey?"

"The neighbors – getting ready to go to the funeral, I guess." I left the window, "Mama, I’m gonna run across the street for a minute and give this to Jack, okay?"

She nodded, "Don’t be too long. You want scrambled eggs?"

I went to her and kissed her cheek, "Yes, thanks. Be right back!"

With that I hurried out.

I didn’t get back for an hour and a half. Jack wasn’t up yet and his mother insisted I join them for breakfast. It was a madhouse, very unlike breakfast at our house. But it was also nice, in a crowded sort of way. Jack finally came in and sat beside me – and promptly started flirting. Mind you, I flirted right back at him.

I gave him the gift after we finished the dishes. Any hopes I had of getting to talk were promptly dashed by his little sister but Jack invited my family to the reception. He swore that it would be okay with the family so I said yes. Only half way home did it dawn on me my parents might not be thrilled.

But they were okay about it, even though I’d missed breakfast. Mama fretted over what to make – that she would bring something was never in question. It was too late to make a decent banana pudding – it wouldn’t have enough time to rest. She finally opted for cookies. I was dispatched to the grocery for ingredients and we spent the morning baking.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 10

The next morning being Sunday, we got up early and went to our new church. I can honestly say that was the first Pentecostal Methodist service I ever attended. It was also the last. The people were nice but it really isn’t our denomination… and besides, the service was unlike anything I’d ever seen before – and not in a good way. Daddy didn’t say a word all the way home and when he finally did speak it was to apologize for not paying close enough attention to the ad in the Yellow Pages.

While Mama fixed lunch, I went online and found a few prospects. I printed the pages – Daddy is still very old school – and took them to his study where he was ‘reading’. Actually, he was staring at the paper trying to forget the weird service we’d attended.

“Daddy?” I called as I knocked.

“Come in, Pumpkin.” he answered.

“I found some stuff online. There are some other Methodist churches pretty close to here…” I handed him the pages.

He sighed, “I’m so sorry…”

“Come on, Daddy, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, other than the live frogs and I’m pretty sure that was just because the message was about the plagues of Egypt…”

Daddy smiled, “I imagine that’ll be a good story to tell when we get back home…”

I nodded. “Can you imagine what Mrs. Ferguson will say?”

At that Daddy burst out laughing. The excessively prim and proper Mrs Ferguson would have had a heart attack at that service, “It’d almost be worth it to pay for her to come up here just to visit them.”

I laughed myself at the thought. I sat across from Daddy in the armchair he had placed by the window. Idly, I pushed open the curtain and looked at the street, “Have you met the neighbors yet?”

“Just a few. That Jack fellow and a couple from down the street. I’ve been too busy with moving and meetings to do much socializing. Your mother said you two had paid the family a visit?”

I nodded, “Yes sir. I ran into Jack and his brother yesterday. Mr Jenkins’ family is still gathering. I think the funeral is tomorrow or the next day.”

“Yes, pity that. He seemed a nice young man. I’m sorry he’s having such a bad time.”

I looked at Daddy. “Huh?”

“Your mother ran into a Mrs Myers yesterday. Seems Jack and Mr Jenkins were close and of course, he found the body. Mrs Myers seemed to think they were worried about him, Jack, I mean.”

I let the curtain fall closed and began twirling a lock of my hair, “I didn’t know…”

“Now, now, don’t start that. We’re new here – of course we’re not going to know a lot of the goings on.” Daddy pointed a finger at me, “And you cannot be everywhere, Young Lady.”

I nodded, “I know, Daddy. I just wish…”

“Why don’t you find out when the funeral is and get your mother to make her banana pudding for them?”

“Mama already sent a potato casserole. I’ll see if they need anything…” I stopped as an idea occurred to me, “Say, Daddy, could you get a copy of that new Pink Pandas album for me? I’ll pay for it…”

“Pink Pandas? I think so – I know the local distributor. Why, I thought you preferred contemporary?”

“I actually like some of their slow songs but that’s not it. Jack mentioned them when he was helping us unpack.”

Daddy nodded, “I’ll make the call. Now, skedaddle and go help your mother with the table.”

I smiled as I hopped up and crossed over to where my father was sitting. I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and hurried out.

After lunch I went out on the stoop and sat a while. Seeing John, I waved. He and a woman about his age came over. She proved to be his wife and they were from Delaware, not Philadelphia. Mama can keep these kind of details straight but I need a scorecard.

Jack and a girl I didn’t recognize came out of the building and crossed the street to join us. Jack introduced me to his sister Donna. I admit, it was a relief. It wasn’t like I’d had a lot of time to talk to Jack – barely any at all, really – but I had already begun to enjoy his company, and to hope he might enjoy mine. Now it dawned on me that I didn’t even know if he had a girlfriend. By the time they all left, I had my answer – Jack was unattached. Score one for girl power and the art of conversation, I thought as I climbed the steps to my house.

As I reached the door, something made me turn and look at Jack’s building. I don’t know why, I didn’t sense anything. No creatures or anything like that, just a sudden sense of foreboding.

Just as quickly, it was gone. I went inside. Tomorrow would be a long day.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 9

It took me awhile to find my way back – I’d been paying more attention to the creature than to the street names – but I finally got to the building next to Jack’s and climbed to the roof. Unfortunately, broad daylight didn’t improve anything. I found no trace of whatever creature had been here.

I wondered if I shouldn’t have killed that werewolf after all. I looked at the window two stories below. A werewolf could certainly have jumped that distance but Jack’s sister had only said Mr Jenkins was dead. A werewolf’s attack is bloody – surely she’d have mentioned him being torn apart? I didn’t know for sure but I doubted that werewolf was the killer.

I sighed, a bit stymied at the moment. I didn’t know enough about how the man had died to even guess what had killed him. I wasn’t sure how to approach Jack about it or even if it would help. Then there was the possibility of a new slayer being about.

Well, that one I could at least help with, I decided as I climbed back down the side of the building. I wandered about the neighborhood a bit – that would be natural enough for a new girl to do – before crossing back to my side and going home.

After lunch, I made a few phone calls to my new college to take care of a couple last minute matters. That done, I spent an hour finding my address book in one of the as yet still packed boxes littering my room. Then another ten minutes trying to remember the guy’s name. The Mistress had sent me the name and number of a slayer here in New York when she learned I would be moving to NYC. She’d said he was a guide type – just exactly what I needed now.

Ethan Collinsworth. Well, at least it ended in C and not X – I had to find it the hard way. The Mistress’ letter said he would be expecting my call so I wasn’t nervous as I lifted the receiver.

A man answered, “Collinsworth residence.” he announced.

I told him who I was and who I needed to speak with. It took forever but another man’s voice finally came on the line, “This is Ethan Collinsworth. Mistress Crystal?”

I smiled. Yep, he was expecting me, “Yes, Master Ethan.”

“Lovely! How are you finding the big city?”

“Very big.” I admitted. I’ve been to Atlanta but it seemed like a small town compared to NYC. “But the people are nice and I think I’m gonna really like it.”

“Wonderful. I’m glad you called.”

“The Mistress said I should. I actually have something I need to ask you about.”

“Oh?”

“I think there may be a new slayer emerging in my neighborhood.”

“Really? What makes you think so?”

“Well…”

I gave him the whole story, including the rather embarrassing fact that I hadn’t killed the werewolf.

He laughed gently as I finished, “Don’t worry about that – you made the right choice. It’s best to hunt at night here – the darkness gives the corpse plenty of time to dissolve undetected before the cops arrive and even if it doesn’t, most creatures don’t look human at night. But more importantly, I think you’re probably right about an emerging slayer. I have wall to wall meetings tomorrow but I should be able to come by Monday and see if I have better luck sensing him or her. Would you like to meet me there?”

“Yes, I’d like that. Would you like to come by my house first?”

“That sounds fine…”

Arrangements made and good byes exchanged, I hung up and stretched. Looking around at the mess that was my room, I decided I’d better get to work on that.

A few hours later, I was on my way to the grocery again. Mama had forgotten ham and mustard when she did the main shopping earlier and Daddy really wanted ham sandwiches for dinner so I volunteered. I noticed a car pulling up to Jack’s building. A couple young boys bounded out of the back as Jack emerged from the front. He glanced my way and gave a friendly wave but was obviously busy so I merely waved back and headed to the grocery.

Jack was out front talking to a couple older guys I didn’t recognize when I got back. Once again he noticed me and smiled and waved. This time, I crossed the street and joined them. Jack introduced me to one of his brothers – Tim, I think – and Mr Jenkin’s eldest son, John, just in from Philadelphia, if I recall correctly.

We chatted a few minutes, John being more interested in why a Mississippi girl would be moving to NYC than in discussing his father’s murder with a total stranger. I let it go – there was a time and place for some things and this wasn’t the time or place for being nosey. I mentioned the trip to the grocery and Jack promised to introduce me at the local deli where he assured me I could get much bettter ham. I smiled wondering if he was trying to get into my good graces or my father’s. Daddy does love a good ham sandwich, after all. With dinner in the bag in my hand, I had to excuse myself much sooner than I’d have liked. I left them still standing on the street as I went home. I had the feeling a certain set of eyes were still watching me as I climbed the steps and I definitely hoped they were.

 

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 8

I decided to use the same route I’d taken the night before. Up two blocks, I started to cross the intersection to Jack’s side of the street. I was halfway across when the sensation hit, the unmistakable sensation of a werewolf.

It was easy to pinpoint. I turned around and crossed to the next block down from my own house instead. This thing wasn’t in any hurry; it seemed to be taking its time.

Most people assume werewolves are always nocturnal but it depends on type. This was a pseudo-traditional – like a traditional it looks like a huge wolf but unlike a traditional it lacks a lot of self control in its wolf form. That’s what the Guide says, anyway. Pseudo-tradtionals are more likely to act in their human form, in my limited, three year experience, that is. Since their wolf form is nocturnal this had to be a human form.

Not that it matters much to a slayer. To us, the creature looks like what it is even when not in its creature form. It was a mere matter of catching up and spotting it – which was beginning to be much easier than it should be. This thing wasn’t speeding up at all, yet it must have sensed me by now. Creatures don’t generally hang around slayers unless they are under command by a Master or Mistress or …

The ‘or’ bothered me a lot. Creatures are attracted to new slayers but that certainly didn’t apply to me. This thing was slow, like it was luring me along. Yet the chances of it being under command were ridiculously low. It wasn’t white so it didn’t belong to the Mistress; the Master was in Asia last I heard and besides, it didn’t feel like a commanded creature. Yet it definitely wasn’t trying to flee like a creature normally will.

I kept following it, slowing down myself. It slowed even more. So it was aware of me – yet it wasn’t fleeing. There are other reasons a creature won’t flee but I could eliminate all of them. All but ‘or’ – did this thing think I was a new slayer? Or was it expecting a new slayer and not me?

Only one way to find out. I decided to change the game. If it expected a new slayer and had any idea what new slayers are like, it should expect me to make a few ‘mistakes’. I decided to give it one. The creature was moving south. I decided to go west.

Bingo – within minutes it was following me instead. That was both good and bad. Good in that now I had control of the venue; bad in that I didn’t know the neighborhood and would have to find someplace to confront this thing.

New York is famous for its alleyways and empty lots – I had to move into a neighborhood with neither. It took six more blocks before I found an alley that would do. I ducked down the narrow lane and leapt up onto a fire escape. Gwen fussed at me; she has a silver coating on her blade and she knew full well this was a werewolf yet I hadn’t drawn her from her scabbard. I shushed her and waited.

I didn’t have to wait long. A tall, heavyset man came into the alley. Not seeing anyone, he immediately became defensive. To human eyes he looked like anyone else; to me there was no mistaking him as anything but a werewolf.

“Looking for something?” I asked pleasantly.

He jumped back, giving a deep, guttural growl. In another time and place, I’d have slain him without a thought but police don’t like it when you stick swords in people and werewolves don’t dissolve fast enough to make slaying him a real option at the moment. Actually, I was more curious.

“Well?”

His eyes narrowed at me, “No, nothing… Slayer.” He started backing out of the alley.

“Don’t come back. I won’t be so accommodating again.” I warned him.

“Accommodating, is it? I hear you, Slayer.”

I drew Gwen partially from her scabbard, “Wait. Why did you follow me?” I demanded.

He eyed the silver blade nervously, “You won’t…”

“Won’t I? I think a little information is fair payment for my accommodation, don’t you?”

My threat wasn’t veiled and he weighed it carefully, “I was… drawn here. I thought it was you…”

Unlike the Mistress, I can’t tell if they are lying. But since his lips were moving it was a fair bet at least part of that was a lie. The question was which part. “Drawn?”

“We sense your kind – you must know that. Sometimes it’s … attractive. That’s what I sensed.”

What he wasn’t going to say was that when slayers are ‘attractive’ is when they are vulnerable. He intended to kill a new slayer – simple as that.

I thought for a moment but couldn’t come up with any way to get more information from him. I had what I’d wanted, anyway. “Don’t let me so much as think I sense you again, understood?”

He nodded slowly, “Yes, Slayer. You will never see me again.”

I sheathed Gwen, much to her displeasure and he took off. I watched him run away before dropping to the pavement. So, there was a new slayer around. I wondered if I would be meeting this new slayer anytime soon.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 7

Tina was chatty, probably more than usual because of all the excitement. She told me about Mr Jenkins, how kind he had been and how he’d fixed her bike for her once. She mentioned her brother finding the body and that another brother had locked himself in his bedroom ever since.

I confess, she lost me in all the names. Jack had mentioned that his family was large – he hadn’t said how large. I counted at least five siblings by the time we parted company at my doorstep.

Tina was sweet. She left me with no idea how badly I was now feeling. Mama might be right, maybe it wasn’t really my fault but it sure felt like it. A nice old man was dead and he might not have been had I been here to do my job. Silently, I cursed myself, that stupid restaurant, the creature and everything else that I could rationalize blaming as I climbed the steps to our door.

I worked on the unpacking as Mama cooked. We hadn’t brought a fraction of what we had in the house in Tyler and yet it seemed like we’d brought twice as much as we packed. I had just finished the last of the good china in the dining room when Mama called me to the kitchen.

“Honey, would you like to go with me?” she asked as I peeked in.

“Sure Mama.” I answered, unsure why she’d even bothered to ask.

She took off her apron, “Let’s freshen up while it’s cooling.”

I nodded, following her from the room.

‘Freshen up’ is Southern for ‘get dressed properly’. It means going up one step in dress formality – or in our case, getting to ‘formality’. Not as easy done as said. My suitcase had been put in the car upside down and on its head thanks to my Daddy’s jigsaw puzzle theory of packing. All my neatly folded clothes were a wrinkled mess and I hadn’t yet had time to redo them. I shucked off my jeans and grabbed a nice skirt that was supposed to be wrinkled. I found a peasant blouse to go with it that looked okay. I hoped so, anyway.

Mama was impeccably dressed in a nice dress suit. Her clothes had been in a trunk in the moving van and were all in great shape. I got the casserole from the kitchen as she put on her hat and gloves – yes, Mama still does that. She says her mama always looked so elegant that way that she had looked forward to being old enough to wear gloves like a lady. Fashion changed before that day came so mama just decided not to be fashionable. I always admired her courage in that.

The casserole was safely in its carrier and we made our way to the neighbor’s house. Mama knocked on the door. Neither of us recognized the teenaged face that answered. From behind the boy Tina’s voice called to let us in.

The hallway was incredible. Every surface had been stenciled – it looked like one of those psychedelic Sixties posters on steroids. It was beautiful and dated at the same time. I grinned, knowing Mama would like it but never admit it.

Mike turned out to be our guide’s name. He escorted us inot the apartment on the left and to the kitchen where we found about a dozen people all busily chatting and doing whatnot. Mike got his mother’s attention and disappeared.

“Oh, my, I’m so sorry, I didn’t hear the bell.” Mrs Scarlotti apologized as she took off her apron and shooed away various kids.

Mama smiled warmly, “Not at all. I’m Evelyn Abernathy and this is my daughter Crystal. We don’t want to intrude. We just wanted you to have a little something from us to express our sympathy.”

“Oh, how thoughtful!” Mrs Scarlotti exclaimed, “Thank you…”

“I hope you like potatoes…” Mama began as she handed over the casserole.

The two matrons compared notes on casserole preparation, returning errant carriers, relative family sizes and complications thereof and swapped respective compliments. It was kinda fun to listen to – the ritual is the same in both the North and the South but the particulars are a bit different and so are the accents.

With so much going on, we didn’t stay long. Mrs Scarlotti was finishing breakfast and getting ready for lunch – not surprising since she had nine children! I didn’t see Jack but the older kids seemed to be absent, probably with other assignments, Mama speculated later. We said our good-byes and followed a young child to the door. Her name was Grace Myers and she lived on the fifth floor with her parents, her cat and a doll named Missy, so she informed us on the short trip to the door.

As Mama reached for the knob, Grace being much too small, I glanced up the staircase to the next floor. I felt something. Not a creature, at least not here, but something… I patted Grace on the head as I followed Mama out. I stopped, made very sure I didn’t feel any danger, then followed Mama home.

I excused myself the instant our door closed. I ran to my room and grabbed my sword Grace, telling her silently that I’d just met her namesake. I grabbed Gwen as well and tucked them both into their scabbards. Pulling my big coat on over them, I dashed out the back again. This time I wasn’t leaving that roof top until I knew something, I promised my swords and myself.

Of course, that was before I got to the intersection…

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 6

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?”

I nodded.

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.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 5

I did have some dates but inevitably the guy would eventually realize I wasn’t normal and we’d just be friends. My prom date gave me the speech before the prom. Probably just as well – he was making eyes at Cynthia Travis well before the stupid goblins showed up. He took Cynthia home while I slaughtered a half dozen really annoying goblins in the gym rafters. Honestly, I wasn’t all that upset – the goblins were more fun than he was.

I planned to enroll at UCLA – California being far enough from Mississippi that I might at least have a chance of more than three dates before the ‘let’s be friends’ speech. But I got an offer from NYU the same day Daddy got a new job offer from a record company in New York. Kismet or just the usual slayer type weirdness that results in us being where we’re needed – I didn’t know or care. I just knew New York was the place to be.

Daddy passed up a lot of job offers over the years. He didn’t want to move – he always said because he liked the country but the real reason was me. It was hard enough in Tyler where we knew everyone and were close enough for the Mistress to visit but elsewhere it would have been harder on me, at least Daddy thought so. It took me a few days to convince him that it was okay – having my parents in the same huge town as my school was not going to cramp my style.

I wanted to get away from Tyler so I might have a chance at a dating life – I didn’t feel the need to get away from my parents. Sure, they have their hang ups and stuff – who doesn’t? But I’ve always known they love me no matter how weird they get sometimes.

Five weeks later, I got my acceptance letter. Mama and Daddy were in New York finding a place and I was staying with Aunt Belle so I could finish my finals. Two months after that, we closed up the house, climbed in the van and drove away, heading for New York.

It was a Friday morning when we pulled up to the three story brownstone that would be our new home. Daddy bought it with the idea of converting the two upper floors into apartment space, one for me and the other to rent out. I looked at it through the windshield and felt anxious for the first time. It was really happening – and I was now a long way from home.

I climbed out of the van and followed my parents up the steps. The door was old and in need of a few coats of paint. The little foyer was dark but the inside was newly painted, bright and airy. Mama showed me where my temporary room would be. It was nice, a light shade of pink and facing the east with a window that would catch the morning sun. I liked it.

Having dumped what we’d brought in, we started back outside to haul the rest of the stuff in. The moving van pulled up just as we got the next load. Mama and I took things in while Daddy talked to the movers. Then it was just a matter of getting everything in.

I was on my fifth or sixth load when a guy walked across the street and introduced himself. He was tall with sandy blond hair and a thick New York accent. He was dressed nicely – like a man who takes pride in his appearance. He reminded me of a character in an old movie I saw once – a smooth talking detective that worked for some genius guy. He said his name was Jack Scarlotti and that he lived across the street. Next thing I knew, he was helping us unload. And he definitely was a smooth talker – he talked more than I did!

Don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely cute and I wouldn’t have minded him asking me out. But Daddy had him pegged instantly. I realized that when Daddy asked for his ‘help’ with something in the back. I stifled a sigh and went to get another box figuring that was going to be the last I’d see of Mr. Jack Scarlotti.

If I’d liked him before, I liked him a lot more when he came back out and kept right on helping with the move and talking to me. Most guys scare off when they meet Daddy but Jack took it in stride. I’d thought he was cute before; now I found him impressive.

He had to leave around 3 that afternoon. It was his birthday and his mom was having a family thing for him. I think he considered asking me – he seemed like he was gonna say something but Mama broke in and announced that we had reservations at some restaurant. I was kinda disappointed but honestly, I was exhausted by then.

We got back late from the restaurant. – too late, it turned out.

True Slayers: A Girl’s Song, Part 4

Of course, I might have remembered a lot more had I stayed awake.

The grown ups were talking and I didn’t understand most of what they were talking about. It had been a busy morning and I had been all excited about the Mistress coming but now, comfortably in her lap, all that energy drained. I tried to stay awake but the warm sun coming through the parlor curtains and the drone of adult voices discussing incomprehensible things took their toll. I fell sound asleep.

She left late in the day with Nyota. They returned a couple hours later and the Mistress assured my parents there wouldn’t be any more werewolves – at least not for a few years. The Mistress left for home that evening, promising to return when she could. Nyota stayed a few days more before heading back to Africa.

Just like that, everything was back to normal. Clifton hadn’t understood things much better than I had. I asked him a few times over the years but he only remembered being really scared of something in the dark and Nyota saving us. He remembered something about me being a slayer but didn’t know what it meant. He never even teased me about it – he pretty much just forgot the whole thing.

About the only thing that changed was that I was now allowed to handle knives if I wanted – which I always did. The Mistress kept her promise, dropping by occasionally and helping me learn how to talk to blades properly. She even let me talk to her sword dóigh (It’s Gaelic, I can’t pronounce it either) a few times. He’s fun to talk to. Nyota would write every month and call every six months but other than that, I was a normal girl, just like everyone else.

That changed a week before my sixteenth birthday. I was on a date with Michael Davis – the first time I’d been allowed to go on a date with just us two and not a double or group. Michael took me to the Impresario, which was the overly fancy name of the little theater in Tyler. It was a double feature of some B horror flick and a romantic comedy. Mr. Jameson, the owner, called it ‘Date Night’ for obvious reasons.

I tried hard not to laugh but seriously, zombie, mutant, vampires from outer space? Evidently, they saved a lot on costumes by using whatever they found on the lot. I swear, one of those zombie vampires was wearing Dorothy’s dress from the Wizard of Oz. I faked it the best I could and clung to Michael’s arm at the parts that were theoretically scary but he wasn’t buying it.

Micheal’s a bit uptight but a nice guy. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I tried harder. When the movie finally ended and the benevolent space aliens wiped out the zombie vampires the lights went up. Michael told me we could leave if I really wanted. I apologized and that’s when he admitted he thought the movie was pretty bad, too. We had a good laugh and got some popcorn before the second feature.

The second movie was pretty good and I was enjoying both it and being on Michael’s arm. The strangest feeling came over me. Something was on the roof and it wasn’t anything good. I couldn’t very well tell Michael I needed to go to the roof to kill something evil so I excused myself to go to the restroom.

Creatures are attracted to newly emerging slayers – mostly to try and kill us. The one bad thing I had sensed had four little friends with it. All pseudo-traditional vampires and all bent on killing me and then everyone else. It was my first battle and frankly, I’m not so good at tactics. It took me the better part of an hour to kill all four and I probably wouldn’t have gotten the last one if it hadn’t gotten turned around and tried to flee through the mechanicals door instead of the stairwell.

Needless to say, Michael wasn’t happy when I finally got back. I’d straightened up my hair the best I could and lied about being sick but he really wasn’t buying it. I got the ‘let’s just be friends’ speech on the way home.

Between the occasional disappearances to go slay things and my now huge sword collection it wasn’t long before the guys started steering clear. I was heart broken at first. Daddy explained that any guy worth keeping would be able to handle the truth about me and that in the meantime I was still his little girl.

But a girl wants to be asked out, you know?