"I need the last sacrifice."Cousin Jack's had a large crowd waiting at the door. Brenna closed her eyes as she felt the glimmering of the Soul Blade's needs. The pill was starting to take effect, but wasn't at full force yet. Brenna backed away, not wanting to risk losing the remains of her control over her own body. She dug out her cell phone and sent a quick text message to her father to let him know she had arrived.
"Just getting rid of the witness."
"I helped her find her way."
"Can I point out that you're talking to someone who just fought a ghost? Weird isn't a problem."
To work off her unwanted desires, Brenna started pacing in the parking lot, away from people coming and going. The fever she felt started to cool, but it took her father three tries to get her attention. Brenna ran over into his arms. "Hi, Daddy."
"Hi, sweetie." Gary hugged her eldest daughter. "Are you okay? You didn't return Amy's call."
"I'm okay, Daddy. Just had to deal with a ghost, that's all. Am I late?"
"We're just about to order dessert." Gary guided Brenna inside. "I'm sure there's some sort of chocolate available." He led his daughter through the crowd to the table where Grace and Amy sat chatting.
Amy looked up. "Hey, Brenna, have a seat."
"Thanks for running out on me, Brenna," Grace said. She pulled out a chair for her sister. "Good work on the kitchen, though."
Brenna sat down. "Sorry. I just needed to get out."
"Girls, no fighting." Gary sat down beside Amy. "Find anything interesting?"
"It all looks so good." Amy brushed back a lock of her red hair.
"Apple pie a la mode," Grace said. She passed her dessert menu to her sister.
"Thanks." Brenna looked through the available selections.
Amy set her menu down. "So, Brenna, your father mentioned that you design clothes and costumes?"
Brenna nodded, not taking her eyes away from the Death by Chocolate description. "Nothing major, just stuff I can wear or sell on the web."
"That is so cool, Brenna. I wish I knew how to sew."
"If you're interested, I could teach you, if you have the free time."
"I'd love that. Do you have photos of your work, too?"
"For most of it, yeah."
Grace rolled her eyes. "She's also wearing a shirt she made herself. You should see her closet. Brenna barely buys clothes any more except for special occasions. And she has albums full of photos of her costumes. Then there's her other art, stuff she practically just gives away."
Brenna felt her cheeks grow warm. "Gracie."
"You know that framed sketch I have of the girls on my desk?" Gary said. "That was done by Brenna."
Amy looked at Brenna. "You drew that? That's amazing! Brenna, you are so talented!"
"That's from a few years ago," Brenna said.
"Brenna is her worst critic," Grace said. "She sees all the problems and doesn't realize that only she sees the flaws. It can be annoying."
"I'm not that good."
Grace leaned closer to Amy. "She got into a fashion design college, so don't listen to her."
"I dropped out of it."
Gary took one of Brenna's hands into his. "For medical reasons, not because you couldn't do the work."
"Medical? Oh, Brenna, I didn't know."
Brenna set down her menu. "It's nothing major, really." She looked over to her sister. "And it's not like what Gracie has done, graduating at the top of her class. She deserves the praise."
The waiter arrived to take the dessert orders. Brenna ordered the Death by Chocolate, hoping it'd live up to the name. Grace and Gary both went with apple pie, Grace asking for ice cream with it. Amy, although tempted by Brenna's order, went with a caramel cake. The waiter left, returning quickly with the order. Brenna took a bite of her dessert, letting the taste of the different chocolates run together in her mouth before she swallowed.
The topic of conversation switched to work, both Gary's and Amy's. Gary had been working on a commercial project, redesigning an three-storey office building to reduce the materiel cost. Amy was lending her expertise in engineering to help him. Brenna nodded as they described the problem for the sisters. Grace asked most of the questions, though Brenna added a few of her own.
Gary paid for the meal, leaving a generous tip. He led the group out of the restaurant to his Challenger. "How do we want to do this? I can take Amy and Grace with me."
"Dad, I can go with Bren," Grace suggested. "I need to talk to her anyway. Sisterly stuff."
Amy shrugged. "I guess. Brenna?"
Brenna glanced at Grace. "Fine with me."
"Good, settled." Grace grabbed her sister's arm and started pulling her to the Savana. "Take your time, Dad."
With her free arm, Brenna waved to her father. "Bye, Daddy, Amy." At the van, she finally shook herself free of her sister's grip. "Grace!"
Grace watched as Amy and Gary got into the black Challenger. "In the van, Brenna."
"Fine." Brenna unlocked the doors to the Savana and climbed inside. She waved as her father's car passed by her. "What is it?"
Grace got in on the passenger side. "Learn to take a compliment, Bren."
"Amy was being nice to you."
Brenna started the van's engine. "I know, Gracie."
"And answer your phone once in a while."
"I was busy."
Grace swiveled in her seat. "Doing what?"
"Sending a ghost off and helping a runaway. I even let her use my phone." Brenna put the van into gear. "That's probably why you never reached me."
"Think she's tied into the murders?"
Brenna shook her head. "No, she's just a scared teenager. She's also a sensitive. I think she's safe for now, though."
Grace sat back in the passenger's seat. "Well, if you've got a good reason for ignoring me. Hey, what about the waiter?"
Brenna backed out of the parking spot. "What about him?"
"Wasn't he hot? Too bad I didn't get his number."
Brenna smirked. "He's gay. He didn't do a thing for me."
"You're just saying that."
Grace narrowed her eyes. "It's the medication, then. It's completely turned your urges off."
"Are you sure?"
Grace sighed. "Well, that sucks." She reached to turn on the radio. "So, a sensitive? Here?"
Brenna shrugged. "It's possible. I think she accidentally triggered the ghost. Might have been ages before anyone would have found it."
"Were you able to help the ghost?"
"Not really. I think I might have cleansed her, but I couldn't just talk her into moving on."
Grace leaned her head on the window. "And the runaway?"
"She's okay. I gave her my number and let her make a phone call to a friend to pick her up."
"You know, Bren, maybe fashion school wasn't the best place for you." Grace smiled. "You're doing more good on your own instead of sitting at some cubicle designing the latest from Milan or Paris."
"Maybe, but I really wanted to be a fashion designer and see my name in magazines."
Tricia arrived at the beach late in the evening. Few people were still around; most of them stayed close to the concession stands still open. Tricia parked her car and observed the area. No uniformed police officers and no marked police cruisers, but that still left the undercover types of both. Still, she had a package to pick up. She stepped out of the car, bringing a briefcase with her. Tricia strode down the sidewalk to the spot where she should be meeting her contact. There was no streetlight overhead; the only light came from the parking lot.
Tricia set her briefcase down. She looked around again. No one seemed to notice her. As time passed, she began to tap her foot. Waiting for others wasn't something she did; people waited for Tricia normally. Still, she knew this wasn't a transaction she could force to hurry.
Her contact arrived at last, easily twenty minutes late. He didn't offer an explanation. All he said was, "You Meadows?"
"Yes," Tricia confirmed. "Do you have the parcel?"
"Do you have the cash?" the contact countered.
"Let's see it."
Tricia opened her briefcase just enough to slip her hand inside. She felt for the thick envelope, pulling it out when her fingers brushed against it. "Here."
Her contact pulled a small case out from his jacket. "Your parcel."
Tricia handed over the envelope, taking the case in return. As her contact started to leave, she said, "Wait. I want to make sure the goods are in here."
"Customer's always right." He stopped.
Tricia opened the case. The dim light reflected off the polished metal of a pistol and a cylinder, both packed in foam inside the case. "And this is untraceable?"
"It belongs to a little old lady in Texas who died a week ago. There's nothing to connect you or me to it."
"Excellent." Tricia slipped the weapon into her briefcase. "Always a pleasure doing business with you."
"It's kind of nice being out of the house now that I've had time back in it."
"The last one is done."
"Come closer, so you may partake in your reward."
"Pity. I did enjoy your mochas."