"I don't want to hurt you.""Now?" Brenna adjusted her t-shirt and tossed a few strewn papers on to the passenger's seat.
"Grace, it's an emergency or else I would come home."
"Matt, I kind of need to see you. Right now."
"I am too old and too dead to be a mother to a woman going through her teenaged years ten years too late!"
Joni raised an eyebrow. "You shirt is going to stretch out like that."
Matt stopped beside Brenna's door. "And hello to you, too."
"Matt, sorry, hi." Brenna felt her cheeks grow warm.
Matt smiled. "You sounded scared when you called. Officer Lopez said you said you were attacked."
Brenna nodded. "Yeah. Some woman. She tried to cut me with a knife."
"Are you okay? Do you want an ambulance."
"No. No, Matt, she missed. Can . . . can I come out?"
"Please." Matt moved aside to give Brenna room to open her door.
The young brunette slipped out of the van. "I was here, about to get in, when she attacked me. I fell, so she tried again but she somehow grabbed my skirt instead." She looked down, finally noticing the long tear in the back of her jean skirt. "Great. My favorite skirt."
"Are you sure this woman didn't hurt you?"
"I'm sure, Matt. I kicked her and she dropped her knife." Brenna hesitated; the next part involved the Soul Blade. "It must have broke, so she ran off. That's when I called you."
"Me." Matt shook his head. "Bren, you should have called 9-1-1."
"Why is everyone telling me that?"
"Because that's what you should have done, Brenna. And who is everyone?"
"You and Gracie." Brenna point vaguely at Officer Lopez. "Him."
"Why didn't you call emergency?"
"Because I think she's related to the body."
Matt took his cap off. "How do you know that?"
"I . . .." Brenna blinked. She shrugged. "A hunch?"
Brenna shrunk in on herself. "There's a knife around here. Maybe it was used on that poor woman."
Matt rubbed a hand through his short hair. "Bren, I broke procedure to get here. Lopez there is senior to me."
"Oh, God, Matt, I didn't get you into trouble, did I? I didn't think--"
"It's okay, Bren. I'll deal with it. Hang on." Matt turned to his fellow officer. "Hey, Lopez! There's supposed to be a knife or a knife blade around here." Officer Lopez waved an acknowledgement, then went off to start crowd control.
"I am so sorry, Matt."
"Bren, it's okay." He looked around, checking to see if anyone was watching. "Do you really think that the attack on you is related to you finding the body? You don't think that she was trying to mug you?"
"Not a mugging. She just went for me. I didn't hear her. Almost." Brenna tried not to rush her correction. "Almost didn't hear her." Like she could tell him her mother shouted a warning to her.
Matt regarded her for a moment. "Okay, I'll call Kirk and McCoy in. They're going to want to talk to you at the office."
Brenna grimaced. "So much for dinner, huh?"
"Unless you don't mind something really late."
"I don't mind." Brenna smiled up at Matt. "Not a bit." Matt started to walk back to his cruiser. "Oh, Matt? She might not have been after me."
The young officer looked back over his shoulder. "No?"
"I wasn't supposed to be here. My doctor squeezed me in."
"I'll let the detectives know." Matt continued to his car.
Brenna stepped back a bit. Her mind whirled. Part of her just wanted to focus on Matt and being in his strong arms as he bent her back to kiss her, to pick her up, to carry her-- Brenna clenched her hand into a fist, driving her nails into her palms. She focused on the pain to bring her back to the reality of the moment.
"How are you doing, sweetie?" Joni asked.
Brenna turned away from watching Matt. Last thing she wanted to do was have him think she was crazy, talking to herself or, worse, an imaginary person. "Fine," she mumbled.
"Good girl. I knew you could do it."
Matt and Officer Lopez set up yellow "Do Not Cross" tape around Brenna's Savana and the yellow Smart Car, keeping the growing crowd. Another police cruiser arrived, its occupant getting out and handling crowd control. Brenna wandered towards Matt's car. She brushed a glove hand along its fender, tempted to remove her glove so she could see what Matt did during the day.
"What's going on?" Brenna looked over at the commotion. "You can't do that to my car!" Dr. Womack's receptionist pointed at the Smart Car as she berated Officer Lopez. "I need to go home!"
"Ma'am, your car is part of a crime scene," Lopez explained. "We can't move it until the forensics techs are finished."
"When will that be?"
"They can tell you that when they get here, ma'am."
"Of course they're not here yet. Figures."
Lopez led the distraught woman to Matt. "Officer Larson will get your details and call you a cab if you want."
"I want my car," the receptionist persisted.
"I know, ma'am," Matt said. "But we'll make sure that you get home and that nothing happens to your car. Where did you buy it? I haven't seen many of them on the road."
As Matt used small talk to calm the angry receptionist, Brenna pushed away from his cruiser to go sit on the curb. She remembered the times he tried talking to her in high school, when she was so shy, she might as well have had a turtle shell around her. His gentleness had improved since then; his manner far more soothing than it was at Kearny. Brenna sighed. The medication her doctor had given must have been working. Her wistfulness wasn't an effect of the Blade. Instead, it was from her own isolation, her want for company that conflicted with her want to hide from the world. And, she had to admit, he had a nice ass.
Another car arrived, unmarked but with a cherry light on the dashboard. Detectives Kirk and McCoy got out, almost as mirror reflections of each other, as a van with police markings arrived. Matt broke away from Tina to greet the detectives. After a short discussion, the detectives separated. Detective Kirk walked over to talk with Dr. Womack's receptionist. McCoy spotted Brenna immediately and made his way to her.
"Funny running into you again," he said. He sat down beside the young brunette. "Officer Larson said you called him after you were attacked."
"Yes, sir. I did."
"Stop calling me 'sir'. You're making me feel like I'm my father's age."
"Sorry s--" Brenna cut off her apology. "Sorry."
"Better." McCoy stretched out his legs. "Tell me what happened."
Brenna repeated the story she told Matt, once again hiding the involvement of her mother and the Soul Blade. McCoy listened patiently, not taking any notes, not interrupting with questions. Without prompting, Brenna continued with her idea that the attack was related to the murder yesterday. "But," she admitted, "it's just a hunch."
McCoy nodded. "And you don't think yesterday's death was a one-time murder?"
"That's what I was told." Brenna looked at parking lot across the road. "Matt said that there were other bodies, too. And you and Detective Kirk got here quickly."
"I see. You're quite observant, aren't you?"
"This is the second time I've met you because of one of your hunches."
"Sir?" Brenna caught herself. "Sorry."
"Have you ever heard the saying, 'Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action'?"
"No, s-- No."
McCoy got Brenna to pay attention to him. "Brenna. May I call you Brenna?"
"Brenna, I need to know that you're not the killer I'm looking for." As Brenna started to protest, McCoy held up his hands. "Hear me out, Brenna. You may be innocent. Officer Larson believes you are. He even told me how you were a vegetarian in high school because you didn't want animals to die so you could eat."
"I still am, s-- Detective McCoy."
McCoy smiled. "I need to ask you a few questions to put my mind at ease. I'd like to take you to the station, though, so we have some privacy. You're not under arrest, Brenna. But I need to know your answers."
"Sure, if it'll help you."
"Great." McCoy stood up and waved to his partner. "Got everything?"
"I think so." Kirk smiled at Tina and passed her a business card.
McCoy shook his head. "Figures. Okay, Brenna. Wait for me at the car. I'm going to check with the lab techs then we'll go."
Tricia stormed in through her front door, slamming it behind her. The adrenaline from the fight still coursed through her veins. Her anger simmered, waiting for the appropriate target to be unleashed on. Not bothering to take off her shoes or change into appropriate attire, Tricia stomped upstairs and into her spare bedroom. She took care in setting out the tarp. No need for her anger to risk opening her to being possessed or worse. The smoke portal opened once again.
The man with the ash face took in Tricia's clothes. "How unexpected," he intoned.
"The deal's off."
"The deal cannot be broken, my dear."
"Like hell it can't. You lied to me!"
"How so?" The ashen man tilted his head.
Tricia kept the urge to pace at bay. "You told me that I was the most powerful mage in San Diego!"
"You are. And you will be once our deal is completed."
"Then explain the bitch with the lightsabre!"
Confused, the ashen man took a step back on his side of the portal. "The who with the what?"
"The woman I was going to use as your latest sacrifice fought back. Not a problem, really. Bitchcakes was tiny. But then she produced this lightsabre out of nowhere."
"What, pray tell, is a lightsabre?"
Tricia shook her head. "A sword of light." She held up her arm so the ashen man could see the mark left by the graze. "It did this to me."
The ashen man examined the injury. "This cannot be. Your arm, how does it feel? Does it still work?"
"Yes, no thanks to that fucking bitch." Tricia lowered her arm. "She even sliced my knife." She held out the remains of her blade.
"That woman is no wizard."
"Then what the fuck is she? There's no way in hell she could have heard me coming, but she did. There's no way I could have missed her, but I did. There's no way she should have seen me coming, not while yelling at an imaginary friend, but she did."
"She is the Bladekeeper."
Tricia glowered. "That's nice. Answers my question but avoids telling me anything. What am I supposed to do to this Bladekeeper, kill her?"
"No!" The ashen man stepped close to the portal. "Do not kill her. Lock her away if you must, but killing her will just make things complicated."
"Well, isn't that just ducky."
"You would do well to heed my warning. The Bladekeeper holds the Soul Blade, a blade of energy that is dedicated to protecting you and your kind from the supernatural. It is entreated to a line of women who ensure the world is safe from predators."
"Predators like us. How many of them do I have to watch out for?"
"There is only one Bladekeeper at a time; but, when one dies, another receives it right away."
"Then I'll just have to not pick any of them to sacrifice to you. And now I know there's a sheep dog among the sheep."
"Then how did you know where to find her."
"And did a ghost tell you that the murderer I'm looking for was the person who attacked you?"
"You're not as shy as you used to be."
"I just don't want to ruin your evening."