The next night was the Abernathy’s turn to host. Tresmayne came along after much cajoling from Crystal. Nyota and Jack were expected – and since Jack’s original plan of staying in Crystal’s parent’s good graces most certainly had not changed, he was presentable and on time. Thompkins was excused to be with the Scarlotti’s – one Scarlotti in particular.
Crystal had already brought her parents up to speed. Polite company does not discuss the happenings in the neighbor’s home, conversation was directed at other topics. Mrs Abernathy and Tresmayne fell to discussing their various travels in Europe, he being more widely traveled than what she had done in her youth. Mr. Abernathy and Jack were discussing the SEC. Crystal and Nyota settled for switching back and forth between the two – with intermissions as Crystal attempted to explain American football and just what a first down was.
Jack bailed her out when Crystal got bogged down in why a first down was better than a fourth down. Once he went back to discussing the upcoming SEC championships – more than seven months away – Crystal and Nyota decided to stick to the safer option of listening to a conversation about a continent neither had ever set foot on.
Dinner out of the way and the youth busily attending to the table, the adults adjourned to the parlor. A few minutes passed, mostly with Jack telling bad jokes to Crystal as he washed and she dried, when Mr Abernathy called them into the parlor.
“Jack, your light is on – didn’t know if you knew.” Mr Abernathy informed him.
Jack shrugged, “I sort of have a roommate now – I imagine that’s him. Or one of my brothers borrowing my couch. Or one of my sisters borrowing my bathroom. Or my mother putting my lunch in my fridge. Or maybe my father using my table to assemble something – his workbench is getting a bit full.”
“Sounds like you get a lot of privacy.” Mr Abernathy winked.
Jack chuckled, “It’s an improvement over living at home – at least I usually don’t have four other guys in the room trying to out-snore each other.”
“Your brothers all snore? At their age?” Mrs. Abernathy, retired nurse, asked.
Jack shook his head, “No, they just like to pretend – and then it becomes a contest – and then it becomes a fight – and then we all get out tails worn out and go to bed.”
Everyone chuckled at the joke, except Jack, who smiled even though he was serious, and Tresmayne, who rarely chuckled. He did smile a bit, though.
By the time Crystal and Jack had finished the dishes and returned, Jack’s living room light was out again. It could be seen only because the curtains were open, which was unusual but Mrs Abernathy explained that the mechanism was jammed and she was going to replace the rods anyway this weekend. That probably explained why the Abernathy’s hadn’t ever noticed the frequent goings on in his apartment, Jack surmised to himself. Jack noticed his living room light going on again – and off – and on – several more times. That didn’t bother him in the least – he had always known his family considered his apartment an extension of theirs.
When he saw a shadow jumping up and down, that did make him wonder a bit. But curiosity never got the better of him. Once the light stayed on, he figured Thompkins was back at work on his novel. Maybe a play by play of several weeks wasn’t the best way to do that, Jack conceded to himself.
Amazingly, nothing decided to invade the neighborhood, no one decided to admit they were really a superhero in disguise, the Mistress didn’t show up – they passed a perfectly normal, ho-hum, nothing weird or troublesome, evening. Jack had secured a Saturday outing with Crystal while doing the dishes and settled for yet another handshake goodbye at the door.
He was pretty sure he saw a glint of light out of the girl’s bedroom – Tina, no doubt – but otherwise, he and Tresmayne had the street to themselves and a dozen or so folks wandering through. They parted at the door and went for their respective domiciles.
Thompkins was still up, still typing and still humming. While it didn’t annoy Jack as it had before, it still struck him as strange. However, things might have gone well with Lisa so that might explain it. That thought brought a question to mind that Jack broached after the pleasantries.
“I meant to ask you – you said ‘if you were human’…”
“That I’d propose?” Thompkins looked up from his work, “Yes sir. I suppose I should have said ‘right now’ – I mean, if there’s no objection and she’s agreeable, it is possible.” He sighed, “But not easy, life with a creature. Even a rather benign type like my own, things are difficult and complicated.”
Jack seated himself, “You really – if everything were normal, you’d still…”
“Be in love with Li-li? Oh yes.” He paused, hiding his embarrassment. “Oh, I’m almost done – the first twenty pages are there on the coffee table for you.”
Jack nodded, lifting the stack of papers, “Thanks.” He scanned them absently, “Footnotes? You are thorough.”
“I try to be.” Thompkins seemed pleased by the compliment.
Jack settled down to begin reading. He didn’t get far, “Wait, are these dates right?” He flipped a few more pages, “You met Lisa four and a half weeks ago?”
Thompkins nodded, “That’s right.”
“That little pipsqueak…” Jack continued skimming, “Here it is…”
Thompkins returned to his typing as Jack read. Twenty minutes passed as Jack read the same four pages three more times.
He turned to Thompkins, “Did Vinnie ever say anything about me?”
Thompkins nodded, “That you were a slayer and Li-li’s brother.”
“That’s it? Nothing about my slayer type?”
Thompkins shook his head, “That wasn’t in the dossier, either.”
Jack nodded absently, “Of course not – he found out pretty much the same time I did. That was a rabbit hole.”
“We kept thinking he was interested in me – or the house. But if he didn’t know anything more than that before sending you, it’s just coincidence that we are the same – wait, maybe we AREN’T the same type.” Jack paused, reviewing the events in his head, “Let’s see, several vampires, several werewolves, several ghouls, a faodalh, and that’s about it. Either he just doesn’t know any others, or he can’t command slayers.”
“Do you know if color would matter?” Thomkins asked.
“If color… By golly, you’re right. If color doesn’t matter, he can’t command slayers – I’ll be right back.”
Thompkins resumed humming as Jack left the apartment.
Forty minutes later, Jack returned. He tossed his keys in their cup and locked the door. “You were right.”
“Color matters, but not so much that it can’t be done.” Jack replied, “We had to look it up but there were some records of commander type slayers commanding opposing slayers – enough to stop them occasionally but not something they couldn’t resist at all. If Vinnie were that type, he needed only be close enough to issue a command at the right moment. But he hasn’t done that – he’s avoided being around here. I’ll bet you he is a command type and not a commander type.”
Jack blushed a bit, “Well, that was where I started – but we ended up on the roof with Crystal – she had the right book.” He chuckled as he walked into the kitchen, “I’m going to have to go up there and build a patio or something. I swear, I spend more time with her on rooftops than anywhere else.”
Thompkins chuckled and closed his laptop, “I finished while you were gone – but the printer is out of toner. I will have the pages printed for you when you get home tomorrow, if that’s alright?”
“Sure, that’s fine.” Jack responded, debating with himself between juice and soda as he air conditioned his apartment with the fridge. “Hey, out of curiosity, was that you turning the light on and off so much earlier?”
“Um, partially. I came to get my laptop. Your sister Donna came to use your shower. Your brother Marty came to practice his guitar. Your mom came to bring your lunch – I did offer to do it for her. And your dad assembled a tricycle for Mr. Myers.”
Jack laughed, “I knew it – I just didn’t think it would be all in one night. I wonder who was jumping up and down?”
Thompkins blushed, “Um, that was me, when I came in for the evening. Your parents – things went well, and…”
Jack returned from the kitchen, “Gotcha. Done that a few times myself.” He glanced at the clock which told him what he already knew, “It’s late, I’m hitting the hay. Good night.”
“Good night, Ste… Sir.” Thompkins replied.