Read The Strange Path Online

Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (6 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

She accepted the bag of french fries. They dined quietly, the drumming trance music a loud accompaniment. She noticed his watchful eyes studying her, and returned the favor. He ate neatly, his paper napkin unfolded across one leather-clad leg. It perched with incongruence next to a knee guard sprouting long metal spikes. The soles of his boots were four inches thick with bright decorative silver plates riveted to them. He wore a leather harness of some sort over his T-shirt. She wondered why. He didn’t look or act like a bondage type, not that she had much experience with those people.

Dorst finished eating first. He tidied himself with his napkin before leaning the chair back, neatly balancing it on two legs, one boot on the edge of the table. When Whiskey completed her meal, she balled up the waste, and stuffed it inside the empty bag.

“So, what do you want?”

“To meet you, get to know you. What are your thoughts on world politics?”

Whiskey grimaced. “I hate politics. It’s just a network of powerful assholes swapping favors and money back and forth. It doesn’t do anybody a damned bit of good.”

“Really?” He intently watched her. “How would you do things differently?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.” He didn’t continue the discussion, expectantly waiting for her to explain herself. “Throw them out and start over. Spread the wealth. Make sure everybody’s taken care of, not just the top ten percent.”

“Very idealistic, but not too practical.”

“What difference does it make? No one gives a shit what a street kid in Seattle thinks anyway.”

Dorst smiled. “One person can change the world.”

“That’s a load of crap.”

He cocked his head. “Do tell.”

Whiskey snorted. “One person is useless without power. It takes other people to give that person power. Besides, all one person can change is their perception of the world. The world remains the same shit heap it’s always been; it’s the person who’s changed.”

“Do you want that kind of power?”

She rolled her eyes. “This is a stupid conversation. Is that why Fiona brought you here?”

Dorst dropped his chair onto all four legs. Placing his elbows above the knee guards, he leaned closer to examine her. “Do you want that kind of power?” he whispered.

Whiskey glared at him, realizing he wouldn’t take silence for an answer. “Fuck no. I’m not insane.”

They stared at one another a full minute before Dorst relaxed his stance. “Not yet.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” His impish grin irritated and confused her. The longer she remained in his presence, the more familiar he became. With the familiarity came the certainty that he meant her no harm. If she wanted to walk out the door, he wouldn’t stop her. “Have we met?” she blurted, automatically negating the question in her mind. She’d have remembered seeing someone like him.

His smile faded, and the keenness returned to his eyes. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “You remind me of somebody, that’s all.”

“Who?” he asked.“An enemy? A friend?” He wiggled nonexistent eyebrows. “A lover?”

Despite herself, she chuckled. “No, not a lover. I’d remember
that
.” She closed her eyes, trying to place him. “I don’t know. Not a friend, exactly. But someone I can—”
trust.
Whiskey snapped her mouth shut before she revealed a potential weakness. How could she trust this garish man whom she’d never met?
Hell, I didn’t even trust Gin this much in our first year together!
She opened her eyes, and they studied one another again.

“You are very like someone I once knew.” She strained to hear his words. “I have been searching for her for some time now. I wonder…”

The emotion in his voice was so poignant, so filled with pain and loss, almost as much as Whiskey felt for her parents. She swallowed a lump in her throat, damning herself for the abrupt desire to be the person for whom this strange man searched.

Several minutes passed and Dorst inhaled deeply, breaking the tableau. He swept to his feet, and bowed again to her. “Thank you so much for dining with me, my dear.”

She blinked as he moved the chair to one side, and headed for the exit. “Wait. That’s it?”

Dorst grinned at her. “We’ll meet again, dear Whiskey. I’m your
Baruñal.

She watched him stalk out of the room into the club beyond. “Wait a minute!” She scrambled after him through the metal curtain. “I don’t understand.”

He turned to face her. “You will, I think.” With a flourish and a sweep of his trench coat, he bowed once more. “I am ever your humble servant, my sweet Whiskey.” He spun about, and walked toward the stairs.

Whiskey stared after him, feeling an unacceptable sense of loss. She clapped her hand to her forehead.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Looking around the club, she saw that it had closed. Fiona and her pack lounged at a table near the dance floor, the only patrons in the vast room. The wait staff counted money, and figured the night’s tips at the bar. Cora approached with a smile on her face. Whiskey looked up as Dorst arrived at the balcony above.

He turned with a flourish, tipped an imaginary hat to her, and disappeared beyond her vision. She smelled the faint gust of fresh air that announced his departure.


Ninsumgal
.” Cora slid into her arms. “Do you feel better now?”

Whiskey resisted the urge to push her away. Cora was Fiona’s whore, the carrot at the end of the stick to keep Whiskey under control. Had Whiskey been interested in one of the men, she had no doubt it’d be one of them sucking up to her instead. It wasn’t Cora’s fault that Whiskey preferred women, and she didn’t deserve to be treated like trash because of circumstance. “Yeah, I do.”

“Are you still hungry? The kitchen remains open. We can order anything you’d like.”

Near the dance floor, Fiona watched them with golden flashing eyes.
Can she hear what I say over the music?
“What time is it?”

“Nearly five in the morning.” Cora glanced back at her pack leader. “We were waiting for you to wake before going home.”

Home.
For years that word had meant nothing. She had no home, and didn’t want one. Somewhere in her distant past she’d had one, and it had been destroyed. It could never be replaced. Afterward home meant a place of pain and neglect, a place where beatings and starvation occurred with dreary regularity. Whiskey lowered her chin, still staring at Fiona across the room. “I’m not going with you.”

Fiona raised her eyebrow, her mocking smile unchanging. With a slight nod, she turned to one of the colored mohawks, giving him an order. Zebediah clambered to his feet and went to the bar.

“The
Sañur Gasum
said you might not want to,” Cora said.

Like the word Sanguire, these words too had meaning for Whiskey, though she didn’t know why. “You mean Dorst?” Somehow the words fit him.

“Yes.” Fiona had crossed the distance between them in seconds. “That’s his title.”

Fast as well as strong.
Whiskey swallowed in sudden dread, wondering if Fiona would put up a struggle. At least one member of the staff here had to be part of this, maybe all of them. She almost lifted her chin in defiance, but remembered Fiona using the same gesture to capitulate. “Thank you for everything, but it’s time I was on my way.”

“I think you’re wrong, little
lamma
.”

Zebediah walked up, and deposited Whiskey’s backpack at her feet.

Whiskey blinked, glancing down and back up at Fiona. In her arms, Cora stiffened, her grip tightening around Whiskey’s waist. Fiona smiled, elongated canines shining in the strobe lights. 

“I had Daniel put it in the car just in case.”

Cora’s response to Fiona’s toothy smile and Whiskey’s instincts suggested a less than congenial send-off. The vision of Fiona using those teeth to tear out her throat flashed across her mind.
Never show weakness.
“Thanks. I guess I’ll see you around.” She disengaged from Cora, and reached for her pack, refusing to take the bait. As Whiskey shouldered her pack, Fiona stepped back to give her room, fangs still showing. What had she read once? If a wolf stalked you, walk away, don’t run or it’ll give chase. With her pack settled, and the hip strap secure, Whiskey paused. She also recalled what Cora had said earlier in the evening.
All we ask is that you remember who assisted you when you needed it most, my Ninsumgal.
Whiskey turned back. “Thank you. I owe you.”

The gesture did what Whiskey expected. Fiona’s eyes darted to Whiskey’s outstretched hand, her feral smile fading to something a little less dangerous. “You’re most welcome, Whiskey.” She took the offered hand.

Whiskey shook Fiona’s hand. Turning to Cora, she leaned forward and whispered, “And thank you.” She received a deep kiss in reward.

“If you should have need of us, little
lamma
.” Fiona held out a cell phone. “All our numbers are there. Don’t hesitate to call.”

“I won’t,” Whiskey lied, taking the phone.

When she reached the top of the steps, she glanced back. Manuel, Bronwyn and Alphonse danced to the music still blaring from the speakers. Zebediah nursed a beer at the bar, and Daniel’s feet were atop the table where he slouched. Most of the employees appeared to have left, leaving the bartender, the bouncer and the DJ in the booth.

“You’ll find Reynhard’s number on the phone as well,” Fiona said, raising her voice to be heard.

Whiskey gave her a sharp nod. Moments later, she stood on the street, inhaling lungfuls of cool, moist Seattle air. Not wanting to hang around and be discovered by Fiona’s crew as they left, she settled her pack on her shoulders, and strode away.

 

Chapter Seven

Whiskey walked ten blocks before slowing, zigzagging through early morning downtown Seattle to throw off any pursuit should Fiona change her mind. The sky grew lighter, wisps of clouds drifting across an otherwise blue sky. It promised to be a day with plenty of sunshine. Whiskey scowled. She’d never been able to tolerate too much sun; it gave her migraines.

Easing down a steep hill, she looked out at the bay spread out before her. Ferries and fishing boats had already motored to their destinations. Someday she’d ride a ferry. She’d always wanted to, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. It would be fun to go to Canada on a ferry, leave the States altogether. No birth certificate meant no state identification, however, let alone the passport required to get across the border these days. She didn’t know where she’d been born. The fatal accident that had orphaned her at five years old had effectively erased her past. All she knew for certain was that her parents had hailed from North Carolina, and died on a road trip in Oregon. As a ward of the state, she knew that Oregon had to have located her birth certificate, but she’d have to tell someone here in authority her real name to get it. One of the first lessons she’d learned in the social welfare system was that the people in charge of her fate didn’t give a rat’s ass about her. She couldn’t trust anyone in authority with her real name. Times were changing, though. Sooner or later she’d need real ID to get along in the world.

The ground before her leveled out onto a small park overlooking the piers. Across the bay sunlight hit the top of the hills. Along the sidewalk, between her and the Pike’s Street Market, vendors had already set up tables and goods in preparation for the weekend tourists and local regulars. Whiskey stopped to get her sunglasses out of her pack, and debate what to do next.

She couldn’t panhandle without being set upon by the old-timers who called downtown Seattle home. The youth club, Tallulah’s, closed at six. She’d never get there in time to meet Gin, even if she had change for the bus. Which brought up another issue—she had thirteen cents to her name. Despite her early morning burger, courtesy of Dorst, her stomach informed her it needed breakfast.

Whiskey laughed aloud, rousting a nearby pigeon. “Got cool clothes and a tat worth hundreds, but didn’t catch any cash. Just my luck,” she told the bird. Deciding she wasn’t a danger, it returned to pecking grit from the sidewalk.

It looked like she’d have to walk back to the U District. Maybe she could bum some money there this morning and grab a latte. She still had several hours before meeting with Castillo at the Youth Consortium. Slipping on her sunglasses, she vowed to ask him for bus tickets and food vouchers. Maybe after that, she’d check the University branch of the public library for that book she’d been reading two days ago.
And check the Internet for those words.

Whiskey opened the main compartment of her pack. The smell of detergent and bleach tickled her nose. Her clothes had been laundered while she’d slept, to include the ones she’d worn when she’d been attacked. Brow furrowed, Whiskey closely examined the rest of her things, not liking that someone had gone through them. From the looks of it, her worn sleeping bag had been replaced with a similar brand, and the thin blanket she kept inside it cleaned. The exterior compartments held the usual amount of clutter—hairbrush, toiletry items picked up from various shelters and services, her journal, lighters, a pocketknife, and other detritus she’d collected over the years. There were other things, too—a slim leather-bound book with strange writing, a fresh carton of cigarettes in her brand, an aluminum travel bottle filled with water, a four-inch sheathed knife, a silver flask that sloshed when she shook it, and an ivory envelope. Whiskey opened the flask and took a sniff, the smell of alcohol burning her nostrils.
Of course, whiskey.
Sealing it, she put it back, and took out the envelope.

The elegant handwriting on the front merely stated her name. An old-fashioned wax seal with a stylized
F
graced the back flap. Whiskey cracked the seal. She held it open only an instant, glimpsing the contents before shutting the envelope with a crackle of paper. Looking around, she verified no one stood within thirty feet of her, and peeked inside again. A stack of twenty-dollar bills, and a folded paper met her gaze.

BOOK: The Strange Path
11.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Bass Wore Scales by Mark Schweizer
Portraits of Celina by Sue Whiting
Against All Enemies by Richard A. Clarke
Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann
Supernatural: One Year Gone by Dessertine, Rebecca
Thinblade by David Wells