True Slayers: Heroes

It was getting late and I was beginning to wonder if this was going to work. It should – I didn’t think Vinnie had the humility to walk away from a total loss. I’d heard and read the accounts from both Thompkins and Chambers – Vinnie wasn’t the kind that could admit defeat or let go. He should show up.

Well, in truth, showing up would be stupid – if he had any brains he’d simply start over somewhere else. Yeah, he had brains but I was betting his pride would overrule them. Steep bet on a guy I’d never met but you work with what you’ve got.

Crystal was on the rooftop of the adjoining building by now. I couldn’t see her face, just the outline out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t taking my eyes off that street.

Chambers was just barely in view from where I was. Tresmayne had him covered from the top of Crystal’s building now. He’d jumped from mine – I won’t be trying that anytime soon.

The alleys were covered by various slayers. Thompkins had window duty from my apartment. If Vinnie showed, Chambers wouldn’t be in any danger. If.

If Vinnie was watching from somewhere, he had to be suspicious. Chambers had sat there forlornly for hours now – staying on the street instead of going to his apartment. Maybe Vinnie had more brains than I thought. Maybe.

Or maybe he was waiting for the neighborhood to be asleep – at least as asleep as a New York neighborhood gets. That seemed more likely and even if not, there was nothing to do now but wait.

I went deer hunting with a distant cousin when I was fourteen. It was the most boring thing I’d ever done in my life. My cousin got a small buck and was ecstatic all the way home. But for me, the excitement of the kill didn’t begin to make up for the hours of extreme boredom just waiting for the unsuspecting deer to show itself. That, and I admit I’d seen Bambi once too often with my sisters – it just wasn’t my thing.

But now I was beginning to understand what my cousin had tried to explain. Where I was bored past tears, he was on fire, every nerve and muscle at the ready, all his concentration centered on that instant when he had a good clear shot. I was feeling that now.

Hard to describe – I knew that street like the back of my hand but now I was perceiving it as if under a microscope. Every line, every crack, every tiny movement – it was as clear as a HDTV image in freeze frame. I knew it was late, knew time was passing but I didn’t feel the passage of time, other than as it related to whether or not Vinnie would show himself. I stood on that rooftop feeling like a perched hawk, watching and waiting for dinner to walk by.

Eclectic slayer – I guess that’s why I hadn’t even bothered to bring a weapon, not even a bat. Whatever came to hand would be fine – strange way to feel about the possibility of being involved in a fight with a guy who wants me dead, but there it is. That wasn’t the plan – I wasn’t expecting to need to fight – but good strategy considers all the known possibilities along with the wild cards. Yet I hadn’t brought a weapon. Either it’s an eclectic slayer thing or I’d done something stupid. I mentally put that on the long list of things to ask the Mistress about someday.

The street felt wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on why at first then I realized that despite the hour it still looked like daytime. Oh, it was dark enough, but curtains and drapes that normally closed after dark were still open. Lights that would normally be out were still on. Most lights were out – it wasn’t something a passerby would notice – but the wrong ones were still on. It was like no one had gone to bed.

Maybe they hadn’t – there had been a lot of fuss of late and especially tonight. Maybe in my hyper-aware mode I was noticing lights more than I would normally. But I didn’t think so – I knew this street and the people on it. Mrs. Kelly across the street to the left of Crystal’s building, and third floor up had never had a light on after nine pm in my living memory but there was a little lamp glowing in one of her windows.

I noticed but strangely didn’t care. I was still concentrating on Vinnie – still very much the hawk waiting for his prey. Nothing else really mattered – although I saw incredible detail, I only cared about the one detail I didn’t see – Vinnie.

Half bidden, the thought crossed my mind that Chambers, unlike Thompkins, would be feeling the cold. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t adjusted his jacket. He was like the professional actor that pretends the other guy hadn’t flubbed his lines and the set didn’t just fall on his head – he just keeps acting. Had to respect that – later. For now, it was merely noted in the back of my brain.

I sensed a vampire but that didn’t bother me. After a moment, I knew why, Mertyn had joined Tresmayne for whatever reason. He wasn’t a threat and I didn’t care until I had to.

Time kept passing. It was weird – like looking at a clock, knowing time is going on normally, but feeling like time had stopped. Like looking at the passage of time through a window – seeing it but not being part of it. I knew it was past midnight now but didn’t feel like it had been the five hours that had actually passed. Impassively, yet keenly aware, I continued to watch.

A shadow moved where it shouldn’t at the end of the next block. A passerby? Maybe. It grew closer, shapes blending from shadow to form. By the time it was ready to cross the street to our block, I had it in perfect view. A man, 6′ 2″, long coat, collar up, hat low. Nothing surprising, it was cold even if I couldn’t feel it. My brain said ‘passerby’ but my gut was screaming something else.

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