Authors: Lynnie Purcell
“And what did you want me to do?”
Her painted nails pulled out a piece of paper. “There is a house twenty minutes outside town. I have the address here. The man who stole this information from me keeps his valuables in a safe behind a painting of a woman with a red dress. He will be at the opera tonight with a friend. You have between seven and ten to get in and out without being seen. I should tell you that he has cameras at strategic points around the house you should avoid if you want to remain undetected.”
“Why not get it yourself?” I asked suspiciously.
“My friend has safeguards against Watchers. He doesn’t think of humans as a significant risk to his home. They are nothing. I figure you are human enough to get in.”
“How can you safeguard against Watchers?” I asked.
She reached out and touched my necklace. “There are ways.”
I leaned away from her touch. “One more problem…I don’t have a car down here, and twenty
minutes is pretty far to walk.”
She reached into her purse again and pulled out a key. “Red car on the corner of St. Ann Street.”
“You’ll answer my questions once I get this information, right?” I asked, not taking the key.
“Darling, if you get this folder for me I will answer whatever question you want.”
I thought about what she was asking and the possibility of truth my actions would bring. She was offering me something no one else was. My hand circled around the note and key she was
She smiled and clamped her purse together again. “Delightful,” she said. “Come back to Maquis when you are finished. I’ll be waiting.”
She stood and walked away, her heels clicking on the marble floor as she left. I didn’t watch her leave, I didn’t want to. It would just make me mad. Had she been telling the truth about Daniel? I had to know. I had to find him and discover the truth for myself.
I jumped at the angry hiss.
Alex was next to me, her face angry. “What?” I asked.
“Where were you?” she hissed.
“Right here,” I replied. “I haven’t moved.”
“You were disappeared,” Spider said from the pew behind us. “We thought you had ditched us.”
“What happened?” Alex asked.
There here to steal something, I just know it. I’d better tell the Father.
The thoughts were of the woman who managed the front desk. Her lips were pursed tighter than an old man’s wallet, and her eyes were suspicious and scared. She obviously wasn’t as charitable as the mission of the church she worked for.
I took hold of Alex’s arm, knowing it was time to go. We didn’t need any more trouble. “I’ll tell you outside.”
The sunlight was blinding after the candle-lit dimness of the church. After the profound truth-like things Serenity had said to me, the revelations she had forced on my brain, I felt as if I were walking into another world entirely. Had everything changed or was it just my perception that had changed? Squinting from the sunlight, I headed for the corner of St. Ann and told them what I had found out.
Alex was incredulous about my decision to follow through with the robbery. “You’re going to trust her?” she asked. “What if this is a setup?”
“I don’t have a choice. She knows where Daniel is. Where’s Eli?”
“He’s circling the park again. We thought you had left with someone, so he was checking the area out to be sure.”
“Oh…” I said. I stopped walking at the sight in front of me, wondering if Serenity had a twisted sense of humor. Oh!” I repeated.
I pushed the button for the alarm to be sure the car I was seeing was the right red car. The car made a high-pitched beep and lights blinked twice to acknowledge the car was unlocked. I
pushed the button twice more to be sure I hadn’t made a mistake. There was no mistaking it: the red car she had so casually given me the keys to was a sport’s car worth thousands. Thousands upon thousands. It was the kind of sport’s car even Ferris Bueller wouldn’t have taken out on a day trip. Was she out of her mind?
“What ‘oh’?” Alex asked.
“This is our ride,” I said.
Seriously?!” Spider’s hands hovered over the perfect red paint for a moment.
“It’s just a car,” Alex said with a roll of her eyes.
“Yeah, and ‘Real Genius’ is just a movie,” I retorted.
“That’s just mean,” she said, hurt I would insult one of her favorite movies.
“I believe that was my point,” I said. I stepped away from the car, resisting the temptation to get in and go for a joy ride to test the power of the engine. It would just get me in trouble. “We have a while to wait before we’re supposed to go there…all day, in fact.”
“Oh…no. Don’t be a tease, doll,” Spider said.
“Don’t call me ‘doll,’” I said, pushing him to make him walk away from the car.
“I’m going to the movies,” he said grumpily. “I’ll meet you back here.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to spend our money on frivolous things like that?” I asked.
“Who said I was going to pay?” he asked back.
“Right,” I said.
Spider passed Eli on the sidewalk. Spider pointed at us without speaking, his face full of disgust, and disappeared down a narrow street. Eli stopped in front of us and raised an eyebrow in a question.
“You explain,” I told Alex.
I paced away from the car feeling agitated and full of energy as she started telling the story.
Serenity had thrown a lot at me, and I had a lot to digest; not that I wanted to digest it all. The questions she had raised were questions I didn’t want to ask. But they were impossible to get out of my head. Why had Daniel lied? Why pretend? Why show me a world I couldn’t be a part of
the way I wanted to be – why pretend to love me? A lot of what I knew about the world of
Watchers was from Daniel. How much of that could I trust now? Trust…that was my biggest
“You’ll take Spider when you go,” Eli said from behind me when Alex was done talking.
“I know. I can’t break into a safe by myself,” I said.
“I’m going to keep an eye on Serenity’s club,” Eli added. “I’ll wait for you there.”
“Okay,” I said.
He took off down the road.
“Oh, look! A voodoo store!” Alex said, stopping abruptly.
I smiled at her excitement. “You’re irrepressible,” I said.
“Not all of us like to scowl all the time,” she replied. “Come on, let’s go in.”
“What about begging? We still have our part to play for the group,” I said.
“What are they going to do? Make us more homeless?” Alex asked as she held the door open for me.
“They could decide to stop helping us,” I said.
“They won’t do that,” she said. “Nice people don’t just stop being nice. There’s a rule about that somewhere.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Hello, baby,” an old black woman at the counter said to Alex as the last notes from the door chime faded.
“Hi,” Alex replied. Her face flooded with color at the use of the woman’s ‘baby’.
I smiled at the woman and her thoughts, which were kind and full of compassion. It was hot inside but cooler than the outside; a nice reprieve from the sweltering heat. The store had only a couple others among the rows of products. The products themselves were varied and visually interesting, though I doubted the claims they purported to have. I accepted the distraction, curious at the magic surrounding me. Alex marveled at the various trinkets and herbs scattered about, picking up every single item in the store. Most of the items were geared for tourists; the stuff for real practitioners of the faith was kept in back.
As Alex shopped, totally engrossed in the novelty of the products, I flipped through a book on local graveyards and cemeteries. The woman watched us carefully, like any smart owner would when two street kids appeared in their store, but, while cautious, her thoughts remained friendly.
“You been to any of the graveyards, baby?” the woman asked.
“No,” I said, shutting the book and setting it back down on the counter, not wanting her to think I was about to steal it.
The woman smiled mysteriously. “The graveyards here are different than most. They have power
– power that bleeds out into the rest of the city. Some say it’s because of the years of summoning the restless spirits. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know taking a walk in one after dark can be dangerous.”
“The city itself seems dangerous enough without monsters getting in the way,” I said.
“Lord, it can be,” she agreed. “But there is a difference between the dangers of flesh and bone and the dangers of losing a soul. Best not to tempt the spirits…or the soul.”
“Makes sense,” I said.
She reached out and put a hand on mine. “When was the last time you ate, baby?” she asked. Her thoughts were full of sympathy for my situation. She had instantly known I was ‘homeless’
having seen my kind in here more times then she would have liked. Through her eyes I saw my state, registering how truly destitute I appeared. Her compassion was touching.
“This morning,” I assured her.
“You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?” she asked sternly.
“No, Ma’am,” I said.
“All right, then.” She took her hand away and reached under the counter. She pulled out two small bags. “This is a gris-gris, child. I want you and your friend to take one.”
“A gris-gris? What does it do?” I asked taking the bag she offered while Alex crossed the space to take the bag the woman offered her.
“It will protect you from evil,” she replied. “You two take care, hear?”
“We will” we both said.
The woman smiled at us, her eyes lingering on mine for one long second. Her thoughts told me she sensed a presence, a way about me that went beyond normal. She was curious about my
oddity in a way that made me uncomfortable. I turned away before she could get too curious and led the way outside.
As Alex and I stepped back out into the sunlight, the heat did nothing to stop the chills running up and down my spine. ‘It will protect you from evil,’ the woman had said. My hands clutched at the bag. She hadn’t meant the kind of evil I had faced, and would face, but her choice of words resonated through my body. I didn’t know how much good a bag of bones and herbs would do
me, but I wasn’t willing to take any chances. I stuffed the bag into my overloaded pocket, noticing that Alex did the same.
“She was nice…” Alex said after a short pause. “Hey! Let’s go window shopping.”
I sighed as Alex locked my arm in a death grip of looming shopping torture.
“Move over!” Alex shoved at Spider to get him off her lap, his lanky limbs forcing her face into the passenger side window. Serenity’s car was too small for three people, though that hadn’t stopped us from trying. Spider tried to shift over to my side, but there was no room. He knocked into me, pushing my hand off the clutch.
“Watch it!” I yelled.
“Be nice to the only person in the car who can pick locks!” Spider commanded as I pushed him back toward Alex.
“Are we close?” I asked, ignoring him.
Alex examined the map Spider had stolen for us. “Three streets more, then right.”
“Here?” I asked.
“Does this look like three streets?” Alex asked.
“It’s dark. I can’t tell three from two,” I said.
“Turn now! Now!” she said.
“You just said not to turn!” I complained, jerking the wheel to make the sharp right.
“That was a street ago!” she said as she knocked heads with Spider. “Ouch! Here!” she added.
I stomped on the brakes. “I am getting this car,” I said as it jerked to an instant stop.
“Ruin the transmission some more and Serenity will probably give it to you,” Spider grumbled, rubbing at his head.
“Transmissions can be fixed,” I replied.
“You would have to have the whole thing replaced the way you were driving,” he said.
“At least I can drive, kid,” I replied.
“I can drive just fine. Boosted my first car at seven.”
“What was it? A Matchbox?” I asked.
“Hate to ruin this heartwarming moment, but we have a house to break into,” Alex pointed out to get us to stop arguing.
Refocusing, I looked out her window to see what exactly I had gotten myself into. It was
immediately obvious I was in over my head. “She wants us to break into that?” I asked.
The stone house was guarded by a big black fence with harsh spikes on top that made climbing difficult, but not impossible. Large weeping willow trees covered with clinging moss spotted the yard at random intervals, adding shade to the yard. In the trees, and around the trees, I counted ten video cameras; I was assuming there were more. A man with his dog walked past the gate and two Rottweiler dogs ran across the green yard to bark and snarl at the unwelcome guests.
“Serenity must think a lot of you if she expects you to break into this,” Alex said.
“Or she wants you to experience an epic fail. I mean, if a person were going to epically fail, this would be the place to do it,” Spider said.
“Thanks for the confidence vote, Spider. It means a lot.” I went over options. “Forget about the dogs for a minute.”
“Yeah…sure,” Spider said sarcastically.
“If I can get you to the door, you think you could disarm the alarm system? You had any
experience doing that?” I asked.
“Doll, I already told you. Electronics are a piece of cake. Give me something electrical,
mechanical…whatever, and I’ll figure it out before you can get your brain around that face of yours.”
“So…yes,” I said.
“‘Yes’ is such an underrated word. We should all use it more…” Alex said. “I think we should get out and see if the back side is any less guarded.”
“Are you kidding?” Spider asked. “People are paranoid about the places they think of as less guarded, so they guard them more. The front is always the best bet.”
“Unless they’re paranoid about being too paranoid about the less guarded places and over
compensate by guarding the front more,” I said.
“You’re giving me a headache,” Alex said.
“We’ll do it my way. There’s no way to avoid the cameras entirely. Try to stay low and don’t look up,” Spider said.