The smallest of Darlene’s throwing blades was out of her corset. Just in case, she thought. Luminous had asked her to stay out of his confrontation with his siblings, but…
They were in a dark alleyway, too close to her father’s house, facing three women whose minds currently resided in the bodies of distractingly muscled identical males. And the blond one seemed to want Luminous’ head separated from his shoulders. Darlene needed Luminous. She couldn’t risk either of them getting hurt; not while her family waited for help.
She was about to step out from behind the shield of Luminous’ body, but reconsidered when the triplet with pale pink hair turned towards the pissed off blond.
“Make amends with Luminous, Ryelord. Or I give you my oath, as the First of the Four, that New York City won’t see a summer in the next three years.”
“I’ve nothing to apologize for,” Ryelord said, crossing his arms and giving his back to Luminous and Darlene. “And you wouldn’t dare steal what’s rightfully mine.”
“You’ve insulted and you’ve meddled. Your childlike—”
“I’m not the whelp who never hears the word no. Not one of you—”
“Leave this place before patience leaves me, Ryelord.”
“No, Cruellest, don’t presume I’ll allow you to command—”
Cruellest did nothing Darlene could see, but Ryelord collapsed.
“Please take him home, Sylvan. Make sure he stays put until after I speak to Luminous and Miss Darlene.” Cruellest sighed. “Do remind him of the power of our words.”
Sylvan laced his fingers through red hair so dark that it resembled curls of blood, and raised his gaze towards the moon. “Is all this truly necessary?”
“It’s distasteful, but there isn’t much time for finesse. Go now.”
“Fine, just come back in time to give this lump of pride a chance to use reason.” Sylvan crouched next to the unconscious Ryelord, placed a hand on his thick neck, and two of Luminous’ three siblings disappeared.
Darlene almost asked for an explanation, but thought, If I can accept Luminous’ moon-induced breasts, then I can believe in his siblings’ abilities to poof away. She took two steps and stood next to Luminous, her throwing blade unsheathed and ready.
Cruellest moved towards Darlene, and said, “I’m Luminous’ oldest sister.” His smiling eyes were on Darlene’s face, his hand extended towards the hand with which Darlene squeezed her blade.
The three of them remained motionless and in complete silence for seconds that mimicked years… Cruellest’s hand waiting for Darlene to shake it, Luminous’ eyes fixed on Darlene’s blade, Darlene’s body aligned for the throw.
After some of the anxiety left her gut, Darlene switched the blade to her left hand, and greeted Cruellest with her right. “A pleasure to meet you,” she said.
Cruellest laughed. “Thanks for the gifts of mirth and politeness, Miss Darlene.”
Luminous crossed his arms under his breasts. “You had something you wanted to say to me, Cruellest?”
“I didn’t mean to delay you, little brother, but G.G. said you’ll need your blood’s help tonight… ‘Or lives and dreams will be lost’. I hoped you would get all three of us, but Ryelord is still seething over his last encounter with your stiletto.”
“He should have never—” Luminous started to say, but something Cruellest pulled out of his jean’s back pocket shut him up.
“Ryelord is upset about this as well.” Cruellest opened his hand, and in the middle of his palm hummed the soft glow of a bejeweled caterpillar. The golden larva sat on a stick studded with green stones, its body partially coated with black and red gems.
“Why do you have The Spark?” Luminous said, reverence coating each word.
“Later,” Cruellest answered, extending the caterpillar towards Darlene.
Darlene leaned forward. The sharpest region of her mind, the bit that kept her safe when danger surprised her, was telling her not to move. But the warm humming of the caterpillar spoke to her and silenced everything else. Closer, it said, closer.
Luminous placed his body between Darlene and Cruellest, and growled. “Big sister?” The word ended on a curled lip.
“Apologies, little brother.” Cruellest closed his fingers over the caterpillar. I’m exhausted. My thinking is muddled by lack of rest.” He switched the caterpillar to his left hand and offered it to Luminous. “You should be the one to introduce them, of course.”
“No,” Luminous said. “Darlene and I are leaving. Thank Grandmother for her generous gift, when you return it.”
“She foresaw blood and death,” Cruellest said, in a soft voice that merged with the night breeze. “Miss Darlene and many others won’t survive without G.G’s help.”
“What are you talking about?” Darlene said.
“There isn’t time, Miss Darlene. That man is volatile. He has been with your father and aunt for some time. I wanted to help,” Cruellest said to Luminous. “But G.G. said further intrusion—”
“Who’s with my father?” Darlene’s voice was calm. Her body relaxed. But anyone who knew her understood that all that serenity meant that someone was going to hurt.
“I’ve only seen him once,” Cruellest said. “Bearded, huge, angry and extremely well-gunned… I followed him here after he ripped the carpet and slashed the walls of the house Luminous has been watching for the last few weeks.”
“The boy?” Luminous said.
“The child is safe. Sylvan moved him before the man entered the house.”
“He’s the brother of the man who threatened us the night we met,” Darlene said to Luminous. “Volatile is the right word to describe him.” She looked up to the window her aunt always kept open. The light wasn’t on. “And he likes cutting people.”
“Let’s go fix this,” Luminous said.
Darlene shook her head. “He’s probably watching the entrance. I need to be seen alone.”
“You can’t do this alone, Miss Darlene. There is something off about that man’s mind. Let us—”
“I don’t need to do it alone, but it must look like I am by myself,” Darlene said. “He’ll expect that.” She turned to face Luminous. “How fast can you get to the window? Can you do what your… can you vanish like your sister did, and appear by the window?”
“Only Sylvan can travel like that.”
“But Cruellest and I can be there in less than a minute.”
“You must give her The Spark, Luminous. It was foretold.”
“Not like this, Cruellest.” Luminous faced Darlene, and said, “We’ll discuss it after this is done. The Spark comes with baggage you might not want. Please trust me on this.”
Darlene didn’t know Luminous’ grandmother, so she couldn’t understand why she wanted the caterpillar, The Spark, this badly. She almost reached for it, but Luminous was looking at her. She trusted the murderous look in his eyes. “Okay, good. It will take me about five minutes to walk around the block and up to the house. You’ll get there first.” She sheathed her blade in her corset. “Do you have a knife with you?” she said to Luminous.
Luminous shook his head.
Cruellest pulled a short gardening knife out of his boot. The handled was made of a pinkish stone and the blade was slightly curved. “My little brother walks in his weapons when the Silver Mother is strong, Miss Darlene. But you can borrow my Bloom. She roots deeply and spreads fast.”
“Thank you.” Darlene pulled a leather strap out of her messenger bag, secured it around her left jean-clad thigh, and placed Cruellest’s blade in the leather sheath. “This man is fast with a firearm, but I’m faster with a blade. Claim his attention for just a second; I will only need a second.”
“How will we know when to distract him?” Luminous said.
“I’ll say your name.” Darlene walked away at a fast pace. And without looking back towards Luminous or Cruellest, she whispered, “Then I’ll kill him.”
Darlene wanted to take the stairs three steps at a time and blades in hands, but she walked up to her father’s house slowly and unarmed. She hadn’t seen any cameras, but there had to be one. Spooking an unstable man was never a good thing.
Aunt Juliana was at the top of the stairs, standing by the door. Her hands were wrapped in kitchen towels, light green around the left and white around the right… red blotches blossoming through both.
“What did he do to your hands?”
“Nothing,” Aunt Juliana said. “He made me do it to myself.”
“Can he hear us?” Darlene had already noticed the small camera taped above the door.
“I can also see you.” His muffled voice sounded amused. “Remove all sharp objects from your body, babe. Quickly, my hand is getting tired of keeping my knife from sawing too deep.”
“I’m doing what you asked,” Darlene said without looking at the camera. She pulled two long blades out of her boots, one out of her corset and Cruellest’s knife out of the thigh holster. She placed everything on the floor. “Can I see my father now?”
“I only see four knifes. Let’s not play games, babe. Drop the fifth.”
Darlene cursed loudly before pulling the second blade she kept in her corset, and adding it to the pile.
“Good babe. Now pick them up and put them in Juliana’s arms.” After Darlene did that, he said, “Come in, you first and then your aunt.”
Darlene pushed the door slowly with a foot, and crossed the threshold. Her aunt followed.
The dining room table, which belonged in the kitchen area, had been unclothed and moved into the living room. Darlene’s father sat at the head of the table. His arms and ankles were tied to the chair with Duct tape. There was tape over his mouth, too. The late Little Bear Vasilescus’ disassembled gun was spread like a meal in front of him. Big Bear Vasilescus, eyes blazing with rage or madness, stood behind Darlene’s father holding a hunting knife to his throat.
“Daddy and Aunt Juliana had nothing to do with what happened to your brother. You and I can—”
“You’ve always thought I was too stupid, babe.” Big Bear shook his head. Darlene thought he was smiling, but couldn’t tell with the beard. “Never good enough for perfect Darlene Tapia or clever enough to figure out that you three ambushed my baby brother, murdered him, and got rid of what was left.”
“Your brother put a gun to my temple.” The man continued shaking his head, and Darlene continued talking. “I had no choice. But I killed him on my own.”
“Don’t lie to me,” he said, in a gentle tone, lowering the knife and slowly slashing Darlene’s father across the chest.
There were other cuts marring Darlene’s father… on his arms, his jaw, his hairline, several slashes had split his pants and bloodied his thighs. He didn’t make a sound when Big Bear cut him again.
“I swear it.” Darlene tried not to look at her father’s face. “I killed him—”
“Don’t lie to me, woman!” He slammed the knife’s pommel into her father’s skull.
Her aunt let out a choked screamed and dropped the blades she had been holding.
“All right,” Darlene said. “I had help.” This time she saw the smile reach all the way to Big Bear’s eyes. Three years ago, he had been the one to accuse her of using Guild resources to work jobs for people who couldn’t pay. It hadn’t been true, but Darlene had no way to prove it. When The Guild decided that a fine would be punishment enough, the older of the Vasilescus brothers leaked the location of two butchered bodies to the press, and told The Guild the kills had been Darlene’s. “I have a partner.”
“Who?” He was pointing at Darlene with the knife, his bloodstained fingers tight around the hilt, his arm shaking.
The kitchen window was at her back, but she had glanced at the closed blinds when she first walked in. Help waited outside. “His name is Luminous,” she said, reaching over her right shoulder and grabbing the handle of the hunting knife she kept in her corset’s spine sheath. But something hot hit her between her breasts before she could pull the knife all the way out. She stumbled, her hands over her chest, her back pressed against the wall. She slid down to the floor, looking at her father lying on his side, still attached to the chair.
Big Bear’ had Aunt Juliana by the neck, his gun under her ear. His mouth was moving fast. He seemed to be yelling, but Darlene couldn’t hear anything.
The wind’s too loud, she thought, and turned her heavy head slowly towards the sound. Cruellest’s gardening knife lay by her feet. Darlene didn’t have enough strength to fight Big Bear, but she had one last throw in her. She tried taking a deep breath, but something stabbed her in the chest. Okay, no breathing then. She laughed inside her head.
Darlene curled her legs towards her body, using her right hand for balance. When the front of her boots pressed against the floor, she pushed forward with her left elbow, her back, her butt and her legs. The momentum flung her to her knees; she picked up Cruellest’s knife on her way up. Her body bobbed back and forth.
She raised eyes full of dark dancing lights, and found Big Bear looking at her from across the room. Smiling.
Her father’s eyes screamed encouragement through the Duct tape. Her aunt lay unconscious under the table.
Darlene willed her body to regain focus. She took a breath that set her chest on fire, aimed for the nasty grin hiding under Big Bear’s beard and threw Cruellest’s knife.
She had seen Big Bear’s gun go up the same moment she had released the knife. The shot got her in the ribs. As she collapsed to the floor, she heard her father’s words in her head, Aim high when you’re low, my Darlene.
“G.G.’s Rekindling Spark” will be next…
If you wish to read the prior installments (or want to reread the yum that came before this one), fly over to my Fiction Page and scrawl down to the Lum and Darlene heading.