Nasty wrapped herself in one of Anne's fuzzy white towels. She padded on bare feet over to the bathroom door. Opening the door a crack, she called, "Anne? Anne, are you there?" Hearing no answer, Nasty opened the door a little more. Fresh clothes awaited on a chair on the other side of the wall. Nasty took the clothes back into the bathroom. Drying herself off, she then got dressed.
No bra, still, Nasty thought. Shirt and sweater should hide that, though. I'd prefer a pair of jeans, but this skirt isn't too bad. Just as long as I don't stand over a grate or anything. First things on my list is underwear. Mom might feel fine being ogled, but not for me. She fingered a strand of hair. Still a mess. Face it, Natasha, you are not a beauty queen and never will be.
A knock at the door startled Nasty. "Still getting cleaned up?" Anne called through the door.
"Just about done," Nasty said. She adjusted her sweater and skirt, then left the bathroom.
"Feeling better?" Anne asked.
"Want to get some brunch while we're out?"
"What time is it?"
"A little after nine. Why?"
"Just wondering." Okay, now the big question. "What day is it?"
That narrowed it down. "Thursday the what?"
"November eighth. Why?"
I've lost a month of my life. "Just wondering. I thought it was earlier for some reason."
"Brunch will help. Are you ready?"
"Not really. No shoes."
"Right. I'm still trying to find some for you that suit the weather. How did you stand being barefoot out there this morning?"
"Better than the shoes I had," Nasty said.
"Would you mind sandals until we can find a shoe store?"
"Sure. It's not like I'm going to walk out of town." Careful, Natasha. That's a little close to the truth.
"I'll go get the sandals." Anne left the room.
Nasty looked around the office. Does she really trust me enough to leave me here alone? Or is she testing me? She studied a painting behind Anne's desk. That's just being paranoid, Natasha. Why would they test you? If they didn't trust you, they wouldn't leave you alone. Nasty turned her attention to Anne's desk and a small statue sitting on it amid the papers. Like I'd want to take anything. I wouldn't know what to do with it if I did, for one. She moved away from the desk to sit at a table near the door. As if it would cross my mind to take anything. Face it, Natasha, you are straight-laced, despite what people think. Maybe now's a good time to build a new image. Gets tiring being feared all the time, and there's no one here who knows of me. I can be Jessica, not Nasty.
Anne returned, a pair of sandals in her hands. "I know they're not the greatest, but these should do until we can find a shoe store."
Nasty took the sandals and put them on. "These are good. Thanks," she said.
"When was the last time you ate?"
"I can't remember." Would you believe October? No wonder I feel so hungry.
"I didn't think so. We'll get breakfast first, okay?"
"What's so special about this girl?" Lashawna asked. "I've looked over her file. She's got a record. No cop is going to listen to her."
"The Coordinator wants her back - that's all I know," Christopher said.
"So she got away. She probably doesn't know where she was or who we are."
"Not our problem."
"You hear what she did to Adam and Karen?" John asked.
"That's why we're going after Thirteen," Christopher said. "We're more durable, and you don't need to get close to her, John."
"Great," Lashawna said. "Chris, the girl's a psycho. She's not going to come quietly, you realize that?"
"It's up to her, really."
"Pity, really," John said. "I've seen her photo."
Lashawna turned away in disgust. "She's seventeen."
"How difficult can a teen be?"
Nasty walked back to Anne's car. "Thanks for breakfast, Anne," she said. "I'll pay you back somehow."
"Don't worry about it, Jessica," Anne said. She opened the passenger door to let Nasty into her car. "My treat."
"Are you sure? I could help out at your home somehow."
"It's okay, Jessica."
Nasty slid into Anne's car. "It's just that -- what's that?"
Anne listened. "Someone yelling?"
Nasty bolted from the car. "Someone needs help," she said. She ran to where she thought the yelling came from.
"Jessica, wait!" Anne called.
Nasty ignored Anne and kept running. She rounded the corner, and saw three men, two about her age and the third an older man. "Hey!" Nasty shouted.
The older man turned and ran. One of the younger men pushed the other down to the ground, then, too, ran. Nasty never broke her stride.
"They've got knives," the man on the ground said as Nasty ran by.
"Jessica!" Anne yelled. "Jessica, leave it to the police!"
"They won't be here in time," Nasty called back. She poured on the speed, trying to catch up to the younger thug. The thug heard Nasty's footsteps and stopped. He turned around, brandishing a knife.
Nasty stopped beyond the thug's arm length. She smiled ferally. "Put the knife down," she ordered.
"Are you gonna make me, girlie?" the thug said.
"If that's what it'll take." Nasty crouched into her fighting stance. She balled her hands into fists. "Whenever you're ready."
The thug feinted a stab with his knife. Nasty took a step back, not wanting to be cut. Careful, Giuliano. He doesn't know your rep. Don't use your power, either. Not now. Nasty stepped forward, wary of the blade. The thug waved his knife in front of him, trying to keep Nasty from getting closer.
"Don't come any closer, bitch."
"Drop the knife," Nasty repeated. She heard sirens in the distance. "You're not going to get away."
The thug lunged at Nasty. She dodged and brought her fist up sharply into the thug's stomach. He doubled over, dropping the knife. Nasty slammed her fist into her opponent's gut several more times before letting him fall. She felt someone tug on her shoulder. Nasty pulled away and spun around, her fist cocked. She stepped back when she saw who she was about to hit.
"Jessica, wait!" Anne said, flinching.
"Sorry," Nasty said. Gotta learn control. God, that was too close. She looked down at the thug. He gasped for breath, his arms clenched around his stomach. Nasty kicked away his knife, and resisted the urge to kick the thug.
"I've called the police. They'll be here soon."
The thug groaned. He turned to get up. Nasty saw the movement out of the corner of her eye. She stepped on the thug's back, pushing him back down to the ground. "Get off me, you bitch," the thug growled.
Nasty pushed down harder with her foot. "What did you call me?"
"Jessica, careful," Anne said. "Let the police handle this."
"I'm not letting this bastard go," Nasty said.
"Just don't hurt him."
"Yeah, or I'll sue you for everything you have," the thug said. He tried to get up.
Nasty pushed down harder. "Count yourself lucky I haven't kicked your f--" she stopped to correct herself -- "your head in. Just shut up." Nasty heard sirens approaching, getting louder. The thug struggled one more time, only to get shoved down roughly.
The police arrived. Anne dashed over to meet the officers as they got out of their cars. One of the officers took the thug from Nasty as Anne explained what happened. Nasty watched, letting Anne handle the situation. She gave a statement to an officer when asked, describing what she saw, then watched as the thug was led away.
"I'm impressed, Jessica," Anne said as the police cruisers left.
"I was stupid," Nasty said. "That guy had a knife. Got me to thinking, though. It's kinda natural for me to help people like that. Maybe too natural, going after someone with a knife like that. I think I want to take up Eagle's offer."
"Are you sure, Jessica?"
Nasty nodded. "As sure as I can be. I don't know if I'll be the perfect Peregrine, but I can give it a shot."
[End Issue 18]
Next Issue: Nasty's biggest challenge yet.