It was finally over. We had the chairs folded and in the hall in seconds. The ladies tended to the kitchen while we guys fetched my living room furniture from the Jenkins’ apartment. Sofa, love seat and chair along with the coffee table and end tables were all back where they belonged in less than twenty minutes. The ladies already had the kitchen spotless by the time we got the sofa down the stair.
The good nights took longer than the moving. Crystal was still laughing about the bee story – I’d have told her that one weeks ago if I’d known she’d like it so much – when we finally finished our good night. Tresmayne left last, heading for the attic. I closed the door and was alone at last.
Forget the bed, I flopped on the couch. I’m pretty sure I was asleep before I finished falling.
Gino didn’t say anything the next day. He stopped me once from welding the fence to the ladder but otherwise, he didn’t mention just how much I resembled ten miles of bad road. We got the finials finished – correctly – despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I was asleep at least once. I bought Gino lunch and explained about the town hall in my apartment – without saying what it was really about. He took it better than he should have – being that sleepy at work is not remotely okay.
I unloaded the truck myself. I owed Gino that much – and he had his daughter’s recital that evening. Bernie kept me company – I think he was making sure the crazy human didn’t do anything crazier than usual. I washed my face a couple times to wake up while putting the torches and gas canisters away. Otherwise, it was just tools to unload, sort and put away. Mr. Salvador likes a neat shop.
I was feeling crappy – mostly mad with myself for not getting enough sleep the night before. It was my fault – yes, the meeting was a great idea and things went terrific but doing it on a week night was dumb. I knew better, knew we had to be offsite and said yes anyway. Dumb.
I felt it a second before Bernie started to growl. I turned to the outer doors and watched two werewolves emerge from the growing gloom. I was not in the mood.
I also didn’t want to have to fix anything tonight. I grabbed a couple lengths of rebar. If that gets damaged, it’s no big thing. We seldom make things with it – usually we’re cutting it for DIYers to use in their projects. We keep a good bit on hand since we sell quite a bit that way.
I also didn’t want them in the shop – knocking things over would mean I’d be here all night straightening it all back up and I had definite plans for eight hours of quality time with my bed. I went out the door into the parking lot, closing the door behind me. Inside the shop, Bernie started barking like crazy.
They were big. Not as big as Tresmayne, but not the little ones I’d fought out here before. They were also edgy. Neither seemed over eager to approach. They kept a slow, steady pace but there was something hesitant about it.
That made me suspicious. Sensing things is both a power and a skill – sort of. It’s a power you’d best develop skillfully as Momma put it. I tried – I guess you’d call it reaching – out, trying to sense what was behind them.
Bingo, vampire. There is a clump of trees behind the parking lot and a small storage building before the lot lets into the street. It was back there, hiding.
These wolves didn’t want to be here. The vampire didn’t want to be seen. Got it. More fun with Dick and Jane.
I didn’t know if the vampire knew I knew about it or not but decided to pretend I didn’t.
“Hey, either of you able to talk?” I asked the werewolves. Well, ‘asked’ isn’t the right word. I put more into it than that – kind of a command. I didn’t have the hang of it, of course, but I already had ideas about how to use this ability.
“I can, slayer.” the one on the right answered.
“Pseudo-modern?” From the grotesque form, and having seen pictures, I already knew. It didn’t have to know that.
“Why are you here?” That came out as intended – a command.
“To die, slayer.”
I admit, I hadn’t expected brutal honesty from an evil werewolf. Which instantly bugged me – why send your creatures on suicide missions. Dang, I didn’t honestly know what color they were. I sensed threat -it was real enough. But that would feel the same regardless, since they were obviously under command.
“Come here.” I ordered, really putting oomph into it.
They trotted up like puppies.
The street lights were just coming on. They were big, ugly and sitting there like dogs. I folded my arms, pretending to consider. I still sensed the vampire – I wanted to know what it would do.
“Why the heck do you want to die?” I asked. Of course I knew they didn’t – they were on a suicide mission because they were commanded to be. But I didn’t want to show my cards yet.
“We don’t, slayer.”
“Then why come?”
“A slayer commanded us to obey that vampire.”
I felt the vampire leaving – fast. Bingo.
“The one in the trees, slayer.”
“Go get it.” I ordered.
I should have said ‘sic ’em’. It had the same effect – they whirled and dove for the woods.
Not three minutes later, they came back. They only had the thing’s coat and part of its pants’ leg to show for the attempt. From the feel of it — and all the growling — they had done their best to bring me the whole enchilada.
Forty-five minutes later, Crystal arrived with Tresmayne. I had the shop cleaned and closed up and was sitting on the pony wall of the parking lot chewing the fat with the one werewolf that could talk. Bernie had settled down long since – as long as they didn’t set foot in the shop, he didn’t care what I did with them.
Crystal pegged them as grays. Tresmayne agreed. Great, just what I always wanted, more pet werewolves. We got the job done – they were fairly happy about it since they were expecting to be killed instead. I was fairly ticked off at myself. Yeah, on some nights, they are big, monstrous wolves – but most of the time they are people, people in a world of hurt.
Books and movies make the lives of creatures seem almost glamorous – it’s not like that. They gain power at a heavy cost. There’s a reason most can’t go near anything sacred – they lose their souls.
Thompkins and those born as creatures simply don’t have souls to begin with. They have powerful spirits but it’s not a good trade off. Souls are eternal – spirits aren’t. Not their kind, anyway. Yeah, they can live incredibly long and they have incredible power – but most would trade it in a heart beat to get their souls back.
These poor things live only in the here and now. There is no real future for them – odd as that sounds, eternity, not temporality, is what matters. Eventually, they lose the power that sustained them – or run afoul of a slayer – and they cease to exist. They don’t have any hope of heaven – or hell. For them, only nothingness awaits. Foam on the water, like the little mermaid in Grimm’s fairy tales.
But I couldn’t let them loose on New York, either. I sent them home with orders not to obey anyone but the Mistress or me. I swear, they were wagging their tails as they trotted off. I felt like a heel.
Thompkins was on the phone when I finally got home. We’d decided he’d stay with me until this was over – he had already found an apartment and was doing freelance work again. He smiled at me and threw up a hand. I nodded in acknowledgement and headed for the kitchen while he finished his call.
He joined me while I finished the cannoli my mother had brought over for me, Thompkins having eaten with my family earlier. He caught me up on the goings on – basically, he had been up and down the fire escapes and now had some pretty sophisticated video surveillance in place. Phase one was a go so far.
I needed to talk to Crystal but bed was no longer optional. I cleared the dishes and said good night. I thought I heard him on the phone again as I hit the pillow. After that, I didn’t hear anything as sleep and I got reacquainted.