Through the Looking Glass, Part Sixteen

Crystal followed but not directly. She let the creature gain some ground as she diverted to the left. It was her job as a slayer to kill that thing; it wasn’t her job to be lured into a trap. Once was enough, thanks.

Jack pulled to the right as he sensed the creature slowing. Now, either these things got tired a lot faster than the books he’d read said they should, or it was slowing down to let Crystal catch up. That had to mean she wasn’t following as closely as she could. If she was veering to one side, it would be the left since she is right handed and would be more effective with a sword that way. Jack really didn’t have to think it all through; such things came instinctively to him when he was in battle, now more so than ever. He grinned briefly at the realization that Crystal did have a head for tactics after all.

Crystal sensed the slow down as well. She also immediately noticed a new vampire joining its friend. That clinched it – it was a trap. Great, so how to get them without exposing herself? She smiled grimly. If you can’t win, dump the board. Time for a reboot, she decided as she came to a complete halt. No sense in letting them pick the battle ground. They weren’t going to leave completely until they were sure – they’d have taken off full speed if so. Crystal looked around. No, not here, too little cover. She’d have to find a place. She at least knew where she was – the same area she’d played cat and mouse with that werewolf. Of course, she hadn’t been on the roof tops then but it did give her some options. She took off to her left.

Jack caught a glimpse of Crystal as she took off running in a new direction. He was gonna have a serious talk with her about teamwork when this was over, but he did like how she was thinking. That’s right, make them play by your rules, he thought. Jack waited impatiently but was soon rewarded – the vampires, now plural, had both back tracked. Much slower, he noticed. Evidently they weren’t as stupid as he’d thought. Well, he hadn’t yet learned concealment so he’d have to settle for misdirection. He took off to the right.

Bingo, both Jack and Crystal sensed the vampires splitting up. One after each slayer – mouse chases cat. Both slayers intended to make sure the outcome was just that predictable.

Crystal started hooking back toward home. She poured on the speed. This was one of the fun parts of being a slayer – the ability to run faster than any normal human had the right. She sensed the vampire slow down and increased her speed. After a moment, the vampire increased its speed exponentially. Crystal smiled triumphantly – it thought she was its prey. Perfect – come get me, she thought to herself.

Jack kept a more moderate pace – by a slayer’s standard. A normal human would have found it breakneck speed at best. The vampire began to close. Good, Jack thought to himself. A little dodging to make it convincing and suddenly Jack felt the vampire pull out all the stops. Jack grinned. That’s it, boy, you come to me.

Crystal unsheathed Gwen and dove down a fire escape. Her concealment wasn’t the greatest but at this speed it wouldn’t matter. She hid herself in the shadows. She couldn’t sense the vampire while concealed but she didn’t need to. It had evidently transformed and now she heard that sicking poof as it transformed back to its human likeness. It took a few steps. Crystal held her breath. Another step, then another, louder each time. One more step and there it was. Crystal moved like a flash, leaping back onto the rooftop and cutting the vampire in half with one swing. Gwen sang in triumph as the vampire turned to dust.

Jack ran behind a massive AC unit, stopping short just as the vampire closed. Too late, the creature realized its mistake as it turned the corner. Jack brought the ball bat down on the creature’s head with enough force to dent the AC’s cowling, which it did as the vampire’s head got caught between the two. The weapon doesn’t matter in the hands of a True Slayer, Ethan had said. Jack saw now why as the vampire turned to dust.

No time to lose, Jack took off in the direction he’d last seen Crystal. He lost the sensation of the other vampire a few seconds later – it had gone back toward their houses. Crystal must be that way, too, so Jack changed course. He didn’t like this at all. They might not have fallen victim to this trap, but what had happened while they were gone? They’d been lured out – why? Jack couldn’t think of a reason that didn’t turn his blood to ice water so he poured on the speed. First find Crystal and then get back!

Through the Looking Glass, Part Fifteen

Jack was less than pleased with himself as he descended the fire escape. Glaring, freaking obvious and he hadn’t even thought about it until tonight. He’d call Ethan first thing in the morning. There was a small chance he was wrong, of course, so he’d held off telling Crystal. But if he was right, he finally had a lead he could use.

Jack closed the window behind himself. He and his siblings had used the building’s two fire escapes as a source of amusement ever since he himself had learned to crawl, much to their parent’s dismay. Amazingly, none had ever been seriously injured despite the occasional fall. The net result being that Jack was quite used to using his bedroom window as a door. It occurred to him in passing as he went to his desk that his mother’s fond hope of him eventually outgrowing that habit was now thoroughly dead.

Jack spent the rest of the evening outlining everything. There was a pattern, there had to be. He just had to find it.

Crystal finished her studies for the night. She grabbed Grace from the closet and headed for the family room. Her parents were engrossed in some TV show so Crystal hopped on her favorite ottoman and began honing Grace.

As she worked, she mulled over Jack’s odd behavior. She didn’t really know why but it bothered her that Jack had refused to answer her question, even if he did say he’d tell her tomorrow. There was something in the way he had looked at her for just a split second. Anger, mistrust, maybe?

Crystal dabbed oil on a cloth. Grace was already humming in anticipation – she loved to be rubbed down. Crystal began wiping mechanically. Maybe she was reading too much into it but she was beginning to have her doubts. She loved being around Jack – he was kind, witty, urbane and strong but he was also really, really smart. Much smarter than Crystal herself and that was the problem, wasn’t it? It wouldn’t be long and her experience as a slayer wouldn’t matter – he was already catching up to her in knowledge at a phenomenal rate. Eventually he’d notice, if he hadn’t already, how dumb she was.

Maybe he likes dumb girls? That thought was summarily dismissed. He was too smart for that. He caught on to things Crystal barely understood – how could someone that smart stay interested in someone with whom they couldn’t have intelligent conversations? Crystal didn’t like the answer.

Finishing up, Crystal decided that bed was the best place for her to be. Kissing her mother’s cheek, she took Grace back to her bedroom and turned in. She’d had enough thinking for now.

Crystal was instantly awake. She tossed the covers and grabbed Gwen. Two vampires and way too close. This was crazy – creatures shouldn’t be getting this close to slayers on a regular basis. This time they were on her side of the street. What the heck? Whatever it was, Crystal wasn’t in the mood to be nice about it – two vampires were about to go down very hard. Crystal gritted her teeth as she hit the back door running.

Jack woke still slumped over his desk where he’d fallen asleep. Two somethings were across the street. He grabbed his ball bat and ran for the door.

Jack left the bat in the hallway and went as quietly as he could while still running into his parent’s apartment. He went into his old bedroom without knocking and shook Tim awake. A couple of terse whispers passed between the brothers and Jack turned to leave. Tim tossed Jack one of their walkie talkies. Jack caught it and left fast.

Jack hit the outside door at full tilt, ball bat in hand. Tim would protect the family – at least long enough for Jack to get back if need be. Tresmayne wouldn’t need to be called assuming he was close enough. He should be more than smart enough to see through such a ridiculously obvious rouse. But Crystal might not. Tactics weren’t her thing and she obviously wasn’t used to playing this game as a chess game. Jack cursed himself as he made it to the fire escape on Crystal’s home; this was something he should have warned her about.

Then again, maybe not, Jack thought as he reached the roof. He couldn’t yet see them but one of the creatures had just died. That he didn’t need to see to know. Likewise, he sensed the other creature getting further away. He ran as quickly as he could on the unfamiliar rooftop. He cursed himself again – he was definitely getting a cell phone. Having to catch up like this was stupid.

Crystal had found them easily enough and the first had been no trouble to take out. Actually, it had been too easy – it was obviously newly undead. Crystal didn’t need to be a genius tactician when the other one turned and fled. Even she knew it was a set up. But that didn’t mean she had to let it get away, Crystal told herself grimly as she gave chase.

In the early morning chill, both slayers ran after their prey. Crystal had no intention of repeating her earlier defeat. Jack had no intention of letting her go it alone. But with every step, Jack realized they were fast becoming the hunted instead of the hunters.