Loading the last of their equipment into the truck, Jack began to question his sanity for agreeing to this. Crystal made a good point – they did need more information about the slayers in the house – but one huge meeting? And at the last moment? Oh yeah, this was a bad plan, but it was too late now. Someday, Jack would get the hang of listening to what Crystal was saying rather than the music of her voice before saying yes. Probably.
Gino dropped Jack off at the bus station nearest to the shop to let him get a head start on getting home. It was late and they wouldn’t unload this evening anyway. Maybe not tomorrow evening, considering they still had twenty-eight finials to weld on. Jack found a seat far from anyone else on the bus – his coveralls could probably have walked home on their own and the rest of him wasn’t smelling any too sweet, either. He loved welding but if he ever owned his own shop, there would be employee showers onsite.
The former Jenkins apartment was the only one empty – but it was also empty of chairs so it had been nixed as a meeting place. Neither Jack’s apartment nor his parents’ place would accommodate everyone. The basement was out – too dingy and icky. The roof was out for the same reason.
The solution had come from Crystal – the third floor of her building was mostly renovated and still empty. But there was furniture and Crystal had been certain she could get the remaining chairs. From where, Jack didn’t know – just as he had no clue why he agreed to this in the first place -well, besides the lyrical quality of her voice.
Crystal was waiting for him on the stoop outside his building when Jack got there. They were officially onto Plan C – the tile had been set the previous week and was still not dry so they couldn’t use her third floor apartment after all. Never fear, his mother had stepped in, and there had been some re-arranging in Jack’s apartment.
Jack opened his door with a little trepidation. His living room was wall to wall chairs – his small bedroom table was the only piece of his furniture still there. How it had been accomplished was evident when his youngest brother Mike walked by, still grumbling and covered in dust, going into his parent’s apartment without a word to his older and obviously deranged brother.
So, the furniture was in the Jenkins apartment, Jack surmised as he started getting ready. Probably every available male in the building had been drafted into service. Since the chairs all had the name of Crystal’s church stenciled on the back, there was no question where they had come from. His mother had volunteered his place since it had less furniture to move. And thanks to all that, Jack would have to make a trip to the basement laundry as soon as he got dressed – his clothes were way too smelly to be in an apartment full of people, closed trash bag in hamper or not.
As he trotted down the basement stair, it occurred to Jack this wasn’t the weirdest thing that had ever happened to his apartment while he was away. His dad using his living room to rebuild Donna’s transmission took that prize. Ruined five drop cloths as Jack recalled, as well.
It was a miracle his mother hadn’t simply invited everyone to dinner. It would not have been the first time and no, there wouldn’t have been anywhere near enough seating. Jack’s best guess was that his mother didn’t find out until too late to start cooking for so many.
When he got back to the apartment, he found his mother draping a tablecloth over his kitchen table, Crystal, Thompkins and three of his siblings in tow, standing there with trays of finger foods. Two were unfamiliar – Crystal’s mother had supplied cheese straws and a banana pudding, this one dressed formally for a buffet rather than the ‘pass the whipped cream’ version she normally served at home. Jack didn’t even sigh – he started grabbing spoons and napkins from his cabinets.
The cheese straws were pretty good – having his home commandeered granted him a tasting privilege. Jack was hunting for paper cups as he munched on his prize. When he turned around to try somewhere else, cups and plates had materialized, along with Crystal’s mother.
From there, it took only minutes to set up the buffet, grab a few notes and set up his ‘desk’ since he had been volunteered to lead this thing. Everyone cleared out to get ready giving Jack a few minutes to collect his thoughts and set a rather tenuous agenda.
Guests gathered, brought food (it must be a female thing, Jack decided), set up food, talked, wandered around, got food, got seated, talked, got more food (not nearly enough, the table was still straining under the load), got seated again and began to settle in. Jack was waiting for the last straggler – then realized he was actually waiting for Mr J. No building meeting would ever seem complete without the old man, Jack realized.
The youngsters were in parent’s apartment with Tim and Donna. Except for Jo-jo Henderson, who was twelve and seated between his parents. Jack wondered about that – until he glanced at the list Crystal had made for him. Jo-jo’s father was a slayer and Jo-jo was as well, not yet emerged, however.
The meeting went somewhat predictably. Asking about strange (relatively speaking) occurrences got a lot of information about the ones Jack was already aware of. But there were a few new tidbits – creatures sensed by other slayers that had fled before Jack or Crystal had been aware of them.
Most had happened in the two weeks after Mr J’s death. But there was one Jack found more interesting.
“No, I’m sure it was the week before.” Jo-jo was saying. “I was on the fire escape the next day and Mr J yelled at me like he always did. It was before, I’m sure.”
Jack nodded, “Fair enough. What happened?”
“Mom and Dad went to get a pizza. I was working on my homework and I felt something, something weird. I don’t know what kind of creature it was – I stuck my head out the window and something up above on the next door roof top flew or ran away. It was dark, kinda big, but I didn’t get a good enough look at it to tell you if it was shaped like a man or a dog.”
Jo-jo’s father looked at him, “Why didn’t you mention it?”
“I did, remember? I told you there was something on the roof that night – you said I shouldn’t eat anchovies any more. But I told you when you got home.”
“He’s right, Howard. He did say something was up on the roof – I didn’t think he meant, well, you know, a creature, either.” Vera Henderson told her husband. “And he did have a nightmare that night – that was when you started making jokes about anchovies.” Mrs Henderson looked at Jack, “It was five days before Mr Jenkins was killed. Jo-jo had a diorama due on Tuesday – that was the homework he stayed home to finish.”
Jack thanked the Hendersons and kicked himself mentally. Crystal had been right, they should have done this weeks ago. It explained a lot – getting vampires and werewolves to attack a sanctuary wasn’t as simple as giving a command. They were rightly scared of the place and were tentative as heck. It probably wasn’t until they had figured out where Jack’s apartment was and Crystal had gotten used to the new surroundings that they managed to target just the two slayers. Anyone else poking out a head and they ran for it – even commanded they weren’t chancing stirring up the entire hornet’s nest.
Jack didn’t have time to consider the full implications – but he was well aware this didn’t fit his current theory. Of course, calling his list of barely coherent possibilities a theory was a stretch.
Thompkins, the erstwhile secretary was typing madly. Jack could have sworn he heard humming. It got a bit noisy as people started volunteering even more information. For a guy that looked like a well tanned jock Thompkins could type like a pro. He seemed to be keeping up, Lord only knew how. Jack was barely keeping it all straight.
In an instant the entire room fell silent except for Thompkins mad typing. Every slayer – which was all but a handful of people in the room – had their eyes on the door. Jack felt it himself – a presence, powerful like Tresmayne and likewise non-threatening.
There was a tentative knock at the door and Jack’s youngest sister’s voice, “Hey, Jack?”
Okay, that was unexpected. “Yeah, come in, Tina.” Jack responded.
The door opened and his sister poked her head in, “There’s a man here to see you. Mr. Tin.”
The presence was right behind her, Jack was sure of it. Rising to his feet, he answered, “Okay, show him in and skedaddle – Momma told you to get those beds made.”
“I just…” Tina began to protest but thought better of it. She turned to the person in the hallway, “He’s in here, Mr. Tin – the snacks are in the kitchen – you can help yourself.”
A deep Irish brogue responded, “Thank you kindly, Lass.”
With that, Tina departed.
Jack’s mother was already at the door, “Do come in, Master Mertyn!”
It’s just not everyday that your mom invites an ancient modern vampire into your apartment. No one else would have been entertaining a room full of groupies, either.
Jack sat back down and stared as everyone, excepting Tresmayne, Jo-jo and himself, got up to greet the new arrival as if he were a rock star. Jo-jo finally hopped up and headed for the kitchen. Jack followed, deciding that the young slayer-to-be was smarter than the rest of this mixed up crowd.