Okay, so we had enlisted the Steel Brigade. I got Arnie from my room and Crystal ‘awakened’ him. He was, according to Crystal, instantly on board with the plan. He expressed his metallic heart’s desire to ‘stick’ the guy that killed Mr. J. He was going to get the chance if I could make this work.
I had stopped feeling silly talking about blades as if they were people. At least most of the time. Crystal told me that Arnie had an ‘affinity’ for me – he liked me because he thought I’d stick him into the vampire. His affinity for Kevin was evidently stronger – partially because he’d been a heirloom gift to Kevin – a continuation of the old man’s love for my younger brother. I guess I understand that. Good enough – since my only real interest in Arnie was whatever help he could be slaying that monster that had killed our friend.
Crystal left the apartment to select good places for the blades to be placed. Tresmayne left with her – he had access to the attic minus going out the fire escape. Thompkins and my sister were polite enough to stop the lovey-dovey stuff and actually talk to me.
I had caught the last bit of their conversation – not intentionally – and had a question about something Thompkins had said. I decided to ask him in private later. For now, we were talking about the relative merits of burglar bars. Thompkins was considering them for his apartment and Lisa knew I’d done more than a few installations.
Explaining the options for emergency clamps – the things that let you get the heck out if need be – it crossed my mind that this was the most normal conversation we’d had in this room in weeks. The only normal one involving the three of us anywhere. I kinda regretted making it take a turn toward our normal weirdness, but that man wanted the best information I could provide.
“You need to consider beefing up the hinges and clamps, however.” I told Thompkins.
I grinned, “They aren’t intended for a lot of use – just to open once in a while for maintenance or emergency. But you may well use them a lot more than that – all things considered.”
He chuckled, “And my mother had such high hopes that I’d outgrow using the windows as doorways.”
I laughed, “So did mine – she’s been disappointed with all nine of her youngsters thus far.”
Lisa stuck her tongue out at me, “I haven’t been on the fire escape since Billy Martin dared you guys to glue those fake spiders to all the windows for Halloween.”
“That was five years ago – wait, you little rat! You’re the one that told Momma!”
Lisa laughed, “I thought you knew – I followed Marty out and Mike put a spider down my shirt. He said it was a boys only thing.”
“That idiot – no wonder you ran to Momma.”
“Poppa, actually – a girl knows crying works better on her Poppa. Momma came in while I was telling him.”
Thompkins was smiling as if he had been there. I think he was enjoying a side of family life he hadn’t had being an only kid.
Lisa evidently concluded the same thing, “So, three point five people pups and a house in the country?” she teased gently.
He smiled but grew more serious, “I’d love that – but not pups if possible. Let’s see if I can achieve – we’ll race. See who gets the goal first – you getting your MD or me achieving.”
Lisa punched him a lot lighter than she ever punched any of us brothers, “No bet – you’ll be there in no time and I still have seven years to go!”
Since it had come up again, I asked, “Sorry, but achieve?”
Lisa looked at me with her ‘my brother is a moron’ look. Thompkins nodded, “Yes, it’s my fondest hope. Now that I have a steward, it’s a real possibility.”
Lisa tossed a pillow at me, “Idiot, honestly, do you read at all? It means gaining a soul.”
I gaped at her, “What? They can do that?”
“Sure – why do you think the Mistress of the Night bothers to keep a pack together? She can summon any night creature any time she pleases – but being in her pack gives the creatures a better chance of achieving. Possession is just one step removed…” Lisa smiled at Thompkins, “and…”
“Whoa, wait, Little Sister. I’ve read seven or eight books in the last few months – I have tried to do my homework – but that’s the first I’ve even heard of that. What’s ‘possession’?” I asked, figuring it couldn’t mean anything like in The Exorcist, not that way they were talking.
It was Lisa’s turn to gape at me, “Are you serious? It’s what you did, Big Brother! You took possession and didn’t know it?” She shook her head, “No, that can’t be it – what did you think you’d done to James?”
I was instantly sober, “Oh, you know about that. So possession is enslavement, huh…” I might have done it, but I didn’t have to be proud of it.
Thompkins blinked at me like I had just turned blue or something. Lisa’s jaw dropped literally, “No, no – oh for pity’s sake!” She jumped up, “Stay right there, I’ll go get the books you need from Momma.” She took a step then changed direction and came to me. Grabbing my arm, she pulled for me to get up, “No, come with me – we need to get you straightened out before you make a fool of yourself. Good grief…”
I followed – she had a death grip on my arm and I wasn’t gonna fight her so there was no choice. As the door closed behind us, I heard Thompkins howl in laughter.
Sometimes I hate being a slayer…