Darlene put the gun and a full magazine in her father’s empty plate.
Her aunt added a third place to the table, and said, “I thought the revoltillo could use some salt, but never imagined my eggs also needed bullets.”
“Is this a new Solstice tradition, my daughter?”
“Look at the back of the top bullet, Daddy.”
Her father nudged the magazine with a fork, making the metal screech against the china as he turned the cartridge around the plate until he saw the primer of the exposed bullet. Without moving his head, he glanced at his sister and then focused on his daughter. “You are too intelligent to ever touch a gun again. Or to go anywhere near Guild-marked ammunition,” he said. “Explain.”
Darlene sat down next to her aunt, across from her father. “I gave my word, Daddy. I’ve kept away from firearms and Guild jobs for more than three years.”
Her father placed the fork next to the gun and covered the whole plate with a napkin. “Go on.”
“The man who broke into Quinn’s house last month was gutted a couple of weeks ago. We saw it on the news.” When her father raised an eyebrow, she added, “Not me, Daddy. I know to clean after myself.”
“I’ve raised no slobs,” her aunt said.
Darlene continued. “Quinn has trouble trusting the police. I wanted to give her some reassurance. I went to the man’s place, looking for something that said he had lived and died there.” She crossed her arms. “Little Bear followed me to the house.”
“The Guild has been searching for the youngest of the Vasilescus,” her father said in a low voice.
“Well, they can search their stink-holes for—”
“Darlene Juliana Tapia!”
“Sorry, Auntie.” Darlene rubbed her left temple. “Little Bear greeted me with his gun to my head.” She waited, but neither her father nor her aunt disturbed the silence. “That judge and those lawyers can shove their trespassing and burglary attempt charges down someone else’s throat. That man was paid to rape my boss, Daddy. Quinn couldn’t sleep. I would have taken care of him. But someone got to him before I could. Right now, I’m trying to figure out what The Guild has to do with rape.”
“Rape.” Darlene’s father shook his head. “Are you sure Little Bear wasn’t there after the man?”
“I’m more than sure, Daddy. The man had been dead for almost forty-eight hours. You know that if The Guild had been interested in him in that way, they would’ve learned about his death before the police and the press, and way before me.”
“Lisandro,” Darlene’s aunt said. “Maybe I should accompany you to this year’s winter festivities. Pricking up our ears around the right—”
“I was hoping I could use the invitation, Auntie. Does it still say ‘Tapia plus one’?”
“It does…” Darlene’s aunt turned to face her niece. “One of us should still go with you. With things the way they are, you shouldn’t be around The Guild on your own.”
Her father had been watching her intently. She had been pretending not to notice, but they both knew what he was thinking. “Our Darlene has someone in mind, Juliana.”
“No, she… Oh! Who were you with when you ran into Little Bear Vasilescu?”
Darlene stood up and walked towards the closed blinds. “No one you know. Someone who can watch my back and whose life won’t be over if things go wrong between The Guild and me.”
After brunch with her father and aunt, Darlene picked up Quinn from physical therapy and took her home. Her boss was learning how to dance while wearing prosthetics. The activity was tough on her stumps and left her exhausted. Quinn had bathed, eaten and fallen asleep right away.
Darlene did her usual evening sweep: doubled checked doors and windows in the kitchen and living room, made sure Quinn’s door was left ajar, and then retired to her bedroom.
She leaned against the frame of her bedroom window to look at the moon. Before meeting Luminous, she would have said that it was full. But according to him, the moon stayed full only about one minute between waxing and waning.
Darlene grinned as she typed the text. She hadn’t known the man for long, but thinking of him made her smirk like a lunatic.
Darlene: “I need backup for a surveillance job. Are you free?”
Darlene: “Tomorrow night. Seven thirty.”
Luminous: “Waning gibbous. Can it wait a day?”
Darlene wished it could wait. But after she was kicked out of The Guild her name was removed from all access lists. The winter holiday party would be her only chance to take a good look while everyone was together. She needed to know who wanted her dead, and what The Guild had to do with the man who had tried to hurt Quinn.
Luminous: “Are you still there?”
Darlene: “Here. Just thinking… Are you sure you can’t? It’s really important.”
He took a while to reply. And when the text finally came, Darlene stared at the words.
Luminous: “How much time have we spent talking about me being different?”
Darlene: “A lot… I suppose. But so am I. Who cares?”
Luminous: “The day before and the day after the full moon, I’m even more different.”
Darlene: “Werewolves don’t scare me, lol!”
Luminous: “They should. Myth says they have a hell of a howl and nasty bites to match. But that’s not it.”
Darlene: “Want to tell me?”
Luminous: “I want to show you. Someday.”
Darlene: “Tonight. Quinn is in bed. Text me. I’ll buzz you in.”
Luminous: “Are you sure, Darlene. Maybe we should…”
She didn’t finish reading the text. Just shook her head as if he could see the gesture.
Darlene: “I’m more than sure. ETA?”
Luminous: “5 minutes. I’m nearby. No peeking until we’re face to face. Promise?”
Darlene checked on Quinn on her way to the front door. Her boss slept soundly. There was even some gentle snoring keeping her company. The death of the man who tried to hurt her brought her some needed peace.
She closed the door that separated the foyer from the living room, and sat on a bench to wait for Luminous. She didn’t have to sit for long.
Darlene buzzed him in and began to pace. She had been seeing Luminous every single day since they met, except yesterday. He had visited the house several times. Quinn liked him. Darlene really liked him. She couldn’t think of anything the moon could do to Luminous that would make her think different of him. But there was always such anxiety when they discussed the topic… It’s just his nerves making me nervous.
Her phone vibrated in her hand, and she nearly dropped it.
Darlene opened the door and stared into the eyes of the tall, voluptuous woman in a black and white dress, who stood smiling in front of her. She had Luminous’ tricolored green eyes, his silver gray hair, and breasts and hips as round as Darlene’s.
“Luminous?” she said.
“Luminous?” she said.
“Hey, Darlene,” the woman said, in a feminine tone that sounded exactly like Luminous’ voice. “The Silver Mother’s fullness has a deep changing effect on me.”
Darlene nodded, closing her mouth and wondering if it had been open the entire time.
Part Two: “All Dressed Up in Heels and with No One to Kill”
“Full winter moon and the Chrysler building, New York”