"What are you going to do, call Matt and say, 'Hi, sexy, the person you're looking for casts magic that wipes out emotions and, hey, let's have sex?'"
"So, I'm an anomaly."
"I did find a way to curb your sex drive."
"Maybe it's not the Blade that wants him."
Tricia looked down at her new target's car. A fucking Smart Car. She would have to be a goddamned midget to fit into the back of it. The dark-haired woman looked up at the van parked beside it. It was the only thing working for her right now. As long as the lavender vehicle remained until her target left work. Tricia checked her watch. Something was keeping her next victim late. Hell, at this point, taking the van's owner would do. Whoever it was already helped out, having curtains covering the windows.
As she touched the van's handle, Tricia felt an electrical shock coursed through her. She bit off a string of obscenities as she jumped back. Tricia shook out her hand. The shock had to be a warning to her. There's no way she could believe that someone who cutsied up a cargo van with light purple paint and matching curtains would have an alarm system that shocked would-be thieves. Gingerly, Tricia touched the Smart Car. No shock, just the residual tingles she got from the van. "Well, shit," she muttered.
There had to be a way to get her next sacrifice, she mused. Her car was out of sight several blocks away, waiting for a later pick up once her victim was secure. The plan was to use the target's car. How was she supposed to know her sacrifice was a tree hugger?
Approaching footsteps interrupted Tricia's plotting. She crouched, trying to hide behind the Smart Car. A tiny brunette walked around the front of her van, her keys in her hand. Tricia watched as the newcomer unlocked the van's door. A feral grin grew on to Tricia's face as she pulled her knife from its sheath hidden under the back of her jacket.
Tricia crept forward on the balls of her feet, her black pumps silent on the asphalt of the parking lot. Her new target tossed her purse inside, then grabbed the side of the van as she started to get inside. Silent, Tricia struck, aim true.
Should have been true. Tricia's knife sliced through the air where the girl was. The girl, however, had fallen, had dropped to the asphalt with a speed Tricia hadn't expected. Tricia turned, changing her grip on her knife to plunge it through the girl's back. Not the ideal way, but the manner of death wasn't important; keeping the body was. She let the van door close to get it out of her way.
Tricia brought her arm down hard. Once again, the girl avoided the killing blow. This time, though, Tricia's blade sliced through the brunette's skirt. The denim tore as the girl tried to escape, the knife slicing the fabric easily until reaching the hem. With her free hand, Tricia grabbed the tattered skirt, trying to keep the young woman from escaping. The brown-haired girl twisted around, got on her back. "Get off of me!" the girl yelled. She punctuated her words with a kick that caught Tricia on the side of the head.
Tricia lost her grip on both her knife and the girl. "Fucking bitch!" she snarled. She scanned the ground for her blade. It finished spinning on its quillon under the Smart Car. Tricia reached under to retrieve the knife.
"Yes, I know!" the girl said. Tricia pulled the knife out from underneath, then looked at her victim. The girl seemed to be talking to thin air. Or answering thin air, as she said, "Later, Mom!"
I just had to choose an insane person, Tricia berated herself. She lunged at the crazy girl, knife held out to plunge deep into the brunette, into her heart.
A deep red shaft of light appeared from nowhere in front of Tricia. She heard a metallic clang from the ground in front of her. But all she could focus on was the red light. Tricia backed up, wary. She held up her knife in front of her, ready to use it in defence. However, the knife blade itself was gone except for a half inch of metal, the broken edge still glowing white hot. "What the fuck are you?"
"Just give up, please." The light shaft's colour faded, turning soft white. "I don't want to hurt you." Tricia noticed that the shaft came from the brunette's hand.
"You can't stop me," Tricia said. "Whatever the fuck you are, you cannot stop me." She balled her free hand into a fist. Despite it being her off-hand, she stepped forward, putting her full weight into the punch.
The girl raised the light beam. Tricia tried to pull back, to keep away from the shaft. Her arm grazed it. A second shock, similar to the one when she touched the accursed van, travelled along the appendage. Tricia had to concede. There was no way she could win against this trifle of a girl. She backed away, keeping an eye on the brunette until she got clear of the van.
Brenna watched as her attacker ran off. She dismissed the Blade. Her legs and arms trembled so much she had to lean against her van. With an effort, she walked back to the driver's side door. She opened it, but couldn't climb in; it was all she could do to remain standing.
"Brenna, call the police," her mother urged. "She's getting away." Joni floated down to the back of the van. "I can still see her."
"Mom, wait! Don't go after her."
Joni glared at her daughter. "She's getting away."
"Let her," Brenna said through clenched teeth. "Please."
With one last look at the fleeing assailant, Joni returned to Brenna's side. "Why?"
"Because I don't want to lose you." Brenna reached into the van for her purse. "Not like that."
"Like what?" Joni glanced behind her. "Like in the office?"
Brenna nodded as she dug out her cell phone. "Like that."
"Are you sure, Bren?"
"I don't know. But I know someone who might." Brenna punched a number into her phone. "Come on, Gracie, pick up."
Almost as if by Brenna's bidding, Grace answered, "Hey, Bren."
"Grace, I need you to check something for me. Matt called this morning on the home phone. Can you see if his number's still in the call display, please?"
"Come home and get it yourself. I'm not getting involved in making a booty call for you."
Brenna closed her eyes. "Grace, it's an emergency or else I would come home. And it's not a booty call!"
"Easy, Brenna," her mother cautioned as she floated through the van's side. "It's just the adrenaline. Don't take it out on your sister." She settled down in the passenger's seat.
"Then what is it? You've got the shaggin' wagon, not me."
"Damnit, Grace, get the fucking number for me already!"
There was a long pause before Grace said anything more. "Bren, are you okay? You don't swear."
Brenna took a deep breath to try to calm down. "I was just attacked, okay? Can you get Matt's number, please?"
"Yeah, sure. Sorry, Bren. I didn't know."
Brenna climbed into the driver's seat and closed the door while she waited for Grace to return to the line. She could hear her sister set the wireless handset down in the kitchen. After a minute during which the young brunette got out a pen and a scrap of paper, Grace came back. "Okay, Bren, ready?"
"Ready." Grace read out a ten digit number. Brenna copied it out on the paper, then read it back to make sure she had wrote it down properly.
"Yeah, that's it," Grace confirmed. "Brenna, call 9-1-1. Or do you want me to?"
"I'm fine, Gracie." As the young brunette looked at Matt's phone number, it started to go blurry. Brenna blinked her eyes to try to refocus.
"Do you want me or Dad to go meet you?"
"No, I'm fine, Gracie. Don't tell Dad. He'll just worry."
Joni shook her head. "Brenna, he needs to know you're safe."
"I'll tell him later."
"You better," Grace said. "I'll let you go so you can call Matt. And Bren?"
"Call me if your Matt takes too long getting to you." Grace hung up, breaking the connection.
Brenna looked back at the phone number again. Once again, it had become blurry. Blinking didn't get the numbers readable again. Brenna wiped her eyes, finding tears. "Not now, girl," she told herself. She blinked a few more times until she could make out her handwriting. Brenna dialed the number, waited through two rings before Matt picked up. "Matt, hi, it's Brenna."
"Oh, hi Bren," Matt said. His tone brought a note of cheer to Brenna. "What's up? You're not cancelling, are you?"
"No, no. Matt, I kind of need to see you. Right now."
Concern crept into Matt's tone. "What happened, Brenna?"
"Remember the body yesterday? The one I called in?"
"Yeah? Bren, you didn't find another, did you?"
"No. God, no. But . . . Matt, I think you need to come here. Right now." Tears welled up in Brenna's eyes. "As soon as you can. Please."
"Sure. Where are you?"
Brenna rattled off Dr. Womack's address. "I'm in my van. Please hurry."
"I'm coming, Bren. Don't panic." In the background of the call, Brenna heard Matt's siren come on. "I'm coming."
"Thanks, Matt. I need to hang up. I'm . . . I'm on my cell, you know? Battery and all."
"I understand. Call me if-- no, call 9-1-1 if something happens before I get there, okay?"
Brenna nodded. "Okay, Matt. Bye." She closed off the call. The cell phone fell from numb fingers. Brenna put her head down on the steering wheel. Sobs wracked the tiny woman's body.
Joni tried to hug her distraught daughter. "Bren, you're okay. You did well. You're safe. Nothing is going to hurt you while I'm here."
It took several tries for Brenna to catch her breath to say, "Thanks." She pushed up from the steering wheel. "I bet you never cried like a baby after fighting a ghost."
"You weren't fighting a ghost, Bren. Someone attacked you. This is normal. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
Brenna fought to control her crying. "Thanks." A loud whoop from a siren startled her. She looked out her window. "Matt's here," she said when she noticed the police cruiser park several spots away, its lights flashing. She dabbed at her eyes.
"Better roll down your window."
"Okay." Brenna cranked her window down halfway. As she watched, an officer got out of the cruiser, not Matt. The cop walked over to Brenna's van. "Miss Halliday? Brenna Halliday?"
"Yeah?" She shook her head. "Where is Matt? Officer Larson? Isn't he coming?"
The police officer removed his cap, revealing a head of hair with signs of premature balding. "He's on his way, ma'am."
"Then . . . why?"
"He called for assistance. Is there a problem, Ms Halliday?"
Brenna closed her eyes. "Yes. No. Yes." She took a deep breath. "I was attacked. I need to talk to Matt."
"Brenna," Joni started, "did Dr. Womack give you anything?"
"Attacked how long ago?" the officer asked.
"I don't know. A few minutes. Ten, maybe?"
"Brenna, the doctor?"
"Do you need a doctor?"
"No. She's inside. Her office." Brenna pointed at the plaza. "My doctor's in there."
"Do you need her?" the cop asked.
"No. No, I'm okay."
"I'm going back to my car. I need to call this into dispatch."
Brenna nodded. The officer left her side. She turned to look at her mother. "What?"
"Did Dr. Womack give you anything?" Joni persisted.
"Yeah. In my purse."
Joni pinched the bridge of her nose. "Any medicine you can take right now?"
"Yes, Mom." Brenna's eyes widened as she remembered the pills her doctor gave her. "Crap! I was supposed to take two doses before seeing him!" She dug through her purse to find the Plan B. "I need water."
"Brenna." Joni slipped through the passenger's seat into the back of the van as her daughter tossed papers around. "Brenna, get a grip. Glove compartment."
"Right!" Brenna tore open the glove compartment where she found a half-bottle of water. She raised her head as she heard sirens approach. "Crap crap crap!"
Joni shook her head in dismay. "Brenna, it'll be okay."
"I was supposed to take these an hour before dinner tonight, not minutes before he arrived." Brenna swallowed both pills at once, washing them down with the warm water in the bottle.
A second patrol cruiser pulled into the lot. A few people came out of the plaza to find out the cause of the commotion. Matt got out of the car and walked over to the first officer on the scene. Brenna caught herself gazing at Matt's butt and closed her eyes. "Mom," she moaned.
"You called him," Joni reminded. "Give the pills a chance. Concentrate on telling him what happened."
"All right." Brenna took a deep breath to calm herself. "All right." She looked back out at Matt as he talked. "Why isn't he coming over here? Mom?"
"I don't know, Bren. Some cop thing, probably."
"Can't you go find out?"
Exasperated, Joni threw her hands in the air. "For Christ's sake, Brenna. I am too old and too dead to be a mother to a woman going through her teenage years ten years too late!"
Brenna opened her mouth to answer, but couldn't find the words she wanted. Instead, she mumbled, "Sorry."
"Relax, okay Bren? And here he comes."
"The deal's off."
"Oh, God, Matt, I didn't get you into trouble, did I?"
"Funny running into you again."
"Well, isn't that just ducky."