True Slayers: Reckoning, Part Three

Jack spent a lot of the next day talking to Mr. Myers, Mr. Ethan, Tresmayne and even another conversation with Finley, which was the only one I was privy to. He’d just wanted to know if Finley had ever sensed that familiar or any familiar in the building. The real answer was yes, but narrowing the timeline and excluding the Myers familiars, there hadn’t been any in the building in a few years.

I gave Jack the details – it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one that didn’t always phrase questions well – and scooted back to my own building. Daddy had several business acquaintances coming for dinner and Mama needed my help. I talked to Jack a couple more times on the phone – none of which had much to do with slaying, much to my delight – but since he was supposedly convalescing, he couldn’t join us for dinner and I had to be home, so I didn’t see him again until the next morning.

I came over fairly early the next day – stopping by before heading to campus to meet with the gals. He and James were messing with computers, both smiling like Cheshire cats. From what they said, the ‘social media investigation’ had gone better than expected. They found an old profile of James’ that likely explained how Vinnie knew where to find him – and it had a picture of James, which I thought was probably why Vinnie wanted him in the first place. If you’re going to send a Lothario, he best look the part.

Jack agreed, saying he hadn’t considered that himself. Then they explained how they had found both of the werewolves the vampire had been controlling and even Ayami, who’s creature version of Instagram had thousands of pictures of her, her surroundings, her projects, her school, – evidently, Ayami took pictures of almost everything she laid eyes on. If you need a creature with mechanical skills, one that built her own solar shower, installed her parent’s bathtub and re-built a furnace as her spring project in tech school is definitely the creature for you.

Jack said they had found pictures of Kagome and some of the other girls but they hadn’t seen one of me – not surprising since we hadn’t met officially, yet. And while Ayami posted virtually everything, most of her tags were disorganized and the majority were in Japanese. I didn’t ask how they knew the tags were disorganized – plenty of translation software online, assuming James didn’t have something more robust, which I thought was a bad assumption – but I did get Jack to explain why he seemed so relieved about it. He said that if I wasn’t tagged anywhere and the rest of the stuff was disorganized and in Japanese, the odds were that Vinnie hadn’t known I knew Ayami’s cousin.

He went on to say it wasn’t likely Vinnie knew – if he had, there were much nastier things he could have done with that knowledge. Straight up murder attempts weren’t really this creep’s style if he had something nastier available, in Jack’s opinion. I accepted the premise – and made a mental note to never, ever ask what Jack thought would be ‘nastier’ than trying to kill someone.

It was a relief that I wasn’t being followed about, however. That had concerned me – I have family and friends to protect, too. Now that I thought about it, it seemed strange. I was an experienced slayer and they certainly knew I was around but I seemed to be an afterthought. Jack said he’d considered the same thing, but Vinnie’s purpose had never been to wipe out slayers, just to stir up a hornet’s nest and make sure not to get stung. Only when Jack proved he could command creatures under Vinnie’s control did Vinnie need to step up his measures to get rid of that nuisance – Jack.

Anyway, I left them to their social media – evidently, Jack is a fan of ‘two can play that game’. I had no idea why but they were compiling profiles that they considered of interest. I decided to go find something less complicated to occupy myself with and a lot more fun – girl talk!

I admit, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed in some ways, but I had made sure of who all to expect. Although I hadn’t asked the details, Jessica had said that Kimberly and Kagome were coming but Ayami had already started classes – Welding 101, if you can believe it. So I was more than a little surprised when Ayami was sitting with her cousin in the cafeteria where we were scheduled to meet. I was about to duck back out the door when Monica spotted me and hollered like a twit.

That did not go well. I was merely surprised – Ayami was terror stricken. Of course, she couldn’t very well run – Kagome had a hold of her hand and I was blocking the closest door. And she couldn’t very well explain that she was about to be killed by her cousin’s friend, either.

Much, much later, I found a reference in the Chronicles about how to use your presence to reassure a creature of your non-violent intentions. I even learned how – but that did me no earthly good at the moment. I decided to go for it – whatever it was.

“Hey! What a coincidence! I didn’t expect you to be here, Ayami – are you related to Kagome and Fujiyama?” Kagome already thought I was an idiot – might as well make the most of it.

“Er, I, yes…” She stuttered. Be fair here – she was scared to death and I was making no sense at all.

Kagome laughed pleasantly, “No, Crystal, this is my cousin, Fujiyama Ayami. I forget you don’t speak Japanese – I apologize, I introduce myself in the American way but I think I told you my cousin’s name in the Japanese manner.”

“Oh? So her name isn’t Fujiyama?” I acted confused – which wasn’t very hard at the moment.

“Fujiyama is her family name. Her given name is Ayami.” Kagome explained.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry – I’ve been so rude…” I sat in the spot Kimberly cleared for me.

“Not at all.” Kagome assured me. “But now, tell me, how is it you’ve met?”

“She had a project she was helping a friend of mine with.” I explained. “Or, they were letting her work on – I didn’t get the details. It involved being in a dank basement with a messy furnace – I’m afraid that’s not my cup of tea…” I turned and smiled at Ayami, “My friend spoke highly of your work. You have a real future in furnaces.”

She nodded slowly. At first, I was afraid she hadn’t understood – her English was no where near as polished as Kagome’s – heck, neither is mine, for that matter – but the light dawned and she smiled in relief. You don’t discuss the future with someone who doesn’t have one. Ayami now knew she had nothing to fear from me.

Conversation progressed wonderfully. Ayami had simply changed her schedule – she would be taking welding on Monday, Wednesday and Friday instead of her original Tuesday Thursday schedule. Although not as talkative as Kagome, once we got her started, Ayami fit right in. I grew up on a farm and had a working knowledge of tools, having often fetched them for Daddy. Jessica was a tomboy’s tomboy – and totally jealous of Ayami’s career choice. And once we got off of various things we’d all like to build or have built, Ayami proved as capable of discussing clothing and boy’s as any girl her age.

I’d looked up werecats when we realized she was Kagome’s cousin. I’d already known what they were but didn’t recall a lot of detail. Werecats are a strange combination – they could be either born or infected. Kagome wasn’t a creature so that meant infected was the more likely cause. Werecats can be fierce but are usually more of a danger to young, handsome men.

I can’t sense color although I get a sense of okay/not okay. Ayami had always read okay to me. As she talked about boys, I got an idea of why she had wanted to study in the States. Ayami wasn’t particularly attracted to foreigners – in this case, Americans. For a werecat, a country full of guys you are perfectly happy to leave alone is ideal. Even Koreans – her next stop – weren’t particularly attractive, she confided in us.

I had to give it to her, she was a smart cookie. She used my technique to assure me that despite being a werecat, she had no intention of victimizing young men, as her creature kind normally did. I didn’t know if she understood that, being possessed, she didn’t have to worry about that anymore – Jack had already forbidden her to do harm. Or maybe, I decided, she just wanted me to know it had never been her intention.

I didn’t have to tell Jack I’d run into Ayami that night – she’d already posted pictures and had tagged me several times. To her credit, she made no mention that I was a slayer. James made sure – by that time they’d found her blog, her Pinterest and her Thyspace accounts. If it was remotely ‘social media’ Ayami evidently had an account.

We’d finished dinner at his parent’s and were gathered in his apartment – this becoming the norm for our little band – when Jack got a call. I knew who it was from when he told the called that I’d told him and he knew it wasn’t her fault. I kicked him lightly with my foot.

Jack paused the call and looked at me, “Yes?”

“I forgot to tell you – she’s taking welding as one of her classes.”

“What school?”

“Patterson.”

“Really?” Getting a nod from me, Jack went back to the call.

Honestly, I just thought he might be able to help her or something. When he got off the call, he turned to me, “That’s brilliant – now I have a reason to be in touch. Give me a sec…”

Jack made another call, this time to one of his instructors. From his side of the conversation, he was offering to help with something. Evidently he got the go ahead, because he was grinning when he finished.

We were now officially in hurry up and wait – tomorrow was when the wheels were supposed to begin to grind – I did not ask what exactly that meant, having a feeling I knew. Anyway, we were all tired of talking shop. Lisa and James retired to the kitchen and Jack and I stayed in the living room. There was a lot of talking – none of it about shop.