True Slayers: Reckoning, Part Six

Jack might have been busy keeping his family sane but the rest of us were busy working. I moved Samantha to Jack’s apartment for a few days before putting her back in the hallway. She never noticed the familiar go near the apartment – but did sense it near the building a few times.

Finley came down to the third floor hallway. He sensed the familiar several times but agreed that it wasn’t interested in Jack’s apartment at all. Jack smiled when I told him – not in a nice way – and muttered ‘cocky jerk’. Even I understood that one – Vinnie had just made a big mistake.

There were still goings on in Jack’s apartment. It would have been strange for his family to stop using it suddenly. Only now we were having to shoo Jane, Tina and Mike out on a regular basis – the girls using it as a consolation prize and Mike scoping out a new gaming site. James was still camping on the couch but had begun moving his things to his new apartment.

Jack had wondered if Vinnie would contact James – he didn’t. ¬†Evidently he had no further use for the faodalh. Even bigger mistake, Jack said. ¬†I could see that. Contacting James would have probably tipped him off that we were up to something, since James was now immune to his commands. Maybe – I could see the possibility but Jack thought it was the biggest weakness in the plan.

But my job was a lot bigger than just talking to the blades. Actually, Mama and I shared the duty. Mama had been meaning to do the ‘meet the neighbors’ thing for a while now but had only met a few. Now, while my classes weren’t yet crazy, we spent each evening dropping by various apartments starting with the building adjacent to Jack’s.

Jack nearly had a cow when he found out about the pies. Hey, we’re Southern ladies – you don’t go meeting the neighbors empty handed! That would never do – besides, even in New York, people open their doors a lot more willingly if they smell fresh baked apple pie!

We met the Fraziers, the Appletons, Ms. Cavendish, the Sullivan children (their mother called on us the next day – oh, man, can she make mincemeat pie!), Mr. Parker and his fiance’ Janice, and the Renoirs, newly citizens of the US and very proud of the fact. That was just the first floor – with two of the apartments currently empty. The building wasn’t a lot larger than Jack’s but the apartments were tiny.

Mrs. Renoir called on us – that woman makes the most heavenly crepes ever! – a few days later. Just us girls in the kitchen – keeping Daddy out once she started cooking was just unfair! – and naturally enough, as new neighbors, we start talking about the neighbors.

Mrs. Renoir was a wealth of information about her building. There were a couple times I felt like I should be taking notes! She narrowed our search considerably – she knew everyone having been in the building three years. Only three of the apartments had new residents in the last year or so – which put those on the top of the list. Also, she knew things like the Andersons both worked nights, Mrs. Peterson was deathly allergic to anything with fur (or so she believed), and the Tifftons were getting divorced and hadn’t been actually living in their apartment in five months.

And, as I mentioned, she makes heavenly crepes. As we were inhaling these strawberry covered delights, she told us about Paris, where she was born, a small farm town I couldn’t pronounce let alone spell where she grew up and that Mr. McGregor spoke French passably well. Mama surprised our guest with her own fluency in the language – Mama had lived in France when she was in college. I surprised no one with my barely passed, let alone remembered high school French, but I did manage to thank her for the crepes without making a total fool of myself.

She was gathering up her ingredients getting ready to depart when she turned to me, “Crystal, perhaps you will know – children talk about such things and you are younger than I – does someone have a pet ferret around here? I’m sure I saw one, several times but surely it cannot be wild?”

Great, first French, now I can’t speak my own language. Mama rescued me before I could ask.

“Ferrets are weasels, dear. I understand they make lovely pets.”

Mrs. Renoir laughed pleasantly, “They do – I had one as a child. I did not know there was more than one word for them in English – I have learned something new as well!”

I love that lady – she was making sure I didn’t feel stupid. I thought about it, or tried to, and answered, “I don’t know of anyone but I can ask the Scarlottis this evening. One of the younger kids might know.”

It dawned on me as she left that we should have done that in the first place – kids know who has what pet. But none of the Scarlotti youngsters knew of one by either name. After dinner, I came home and stopped to make a call before heading for the roof. Sure enough, Jo-jo Henderson knew that the person in the third floor rear apartment in Mrs. Renoir’s building had two ferrets and a number of rats, gerbils, hamsters and mice. He’d helped carry some of the cages when the man moved in five months ago.

After thanking Jo-jo, I hit the roof and traveled several blocks before descending to the street, crossing over and using the rooftops to get back to Jack’s building. I didn’t stay long, just long enough to say hi, tell him what we’d learned and drop off a pie. Back to the rooftops, this time heading south. It didn’t take long and I was right on time.

Slayers sense creatures, obviously. But each creature is different and sometimes the circumstances make a difference. Let me tell you, what feels powerful in a lighted room feels positively overwhelming in the dark. You’d think I’d be used to it, sorta – I mean, I’d been out with Tresmayne several times now, but no, it was still almost frightening. I knew what it was, was expecting it, but Mertyn’s powerful aura was still a shock.

Every True Born – the Master or Mistress of the Night, for example, has their own personality and preferences that get played out in their packs. For example, the Master of the Night has no gargoyles in his pack, none at all. He hates them and doesn’t care how useful they can be. The Mistress of the Night has very, very few witches – all of three – in her pack and isn’t particularly happy that she has the ones she has. Both of those are fairly long stories for another time – but the important part is that Mertyn had to go all the way to Bangladesh just to talk to one of them.

He brought the report back himself – he might use cellphones but he’s not that fond of sending important information electronically. He’s an ancient like Tresmayne – you have to expect a few quirks. Anyway, I managed to not make a fool of myself, get the report, get back to the attic apartment, wake up Tresmayne because Mertyn needed him, drop off the report and got back home in time to be sent to the grocery for eggs.

If this plan of Jack’s didn’t work I promised myself I was going to bonk him with something – probably something non-lethal. Seriously, when did I get to be the group gopher? And on top of that, I had a paper due the next week. So much for the glamorous life of a slayer!

I bet Buffy never ended up playing errand girl on a week night!