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Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (7 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
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“Holy shit.” She clumsily thumbed through the bills, not pulling them out of the envelope. She wasn’t sure, but it looked like four hundred dollars or more inside, more money than she’d ever had in her hands in her life. “Jesus!” Her mind immediately went to the things she could purchase without worry—cigarettes, lighter fluid for her empty Zippo, socks. She could get a good pair of boots, some more pens, a portable CD player, and still have money left over for a couple of days of food. Her fingers met with parchment, undermining her elation. This money came from Fiona. Another in the long list of favors she’d use to call Whiskey back to her.

Whiskey pulled the paper out, stuffing the envelope back into her pack. Unfolding the note, she braced herself for what it might contain.

Dearest Whiskey,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to go it alone rather than accept our hospitality. You’ll never know how much this saddens my heart.

Whiskey snorted. “Saddened, my ass.”

I hope this surprise finds you well. Considering your lack of a stable domicile, I took the liberty of doing what I could to assist you. You’re a proud and noble woman, little lamma, much like your predecessor. Please accept the gifts in the spirit they were given.

Again, I reiterate—you have a cellular phone with our numbers. Call for any reason, no matter how slight. At the very least, I urge you to contact your Baruñal, Reynhard Dorst, at the soonest opportunity. He can assist you with the Ñíri Kurám you are about to undergo.

With Heavy Heart,

Fiona

Whiskey reread the note.
Who’s my predecessor? Who do these people think I am?
She turned the paper over, as if expecting answers there. Folding it, she returned it to her pack. She glanced around her, seeing sunlight crawling down the trees across the bay. It was just a matter of time before it breached the cityscape behind her, filling the day with sunshine. More vendors had appeared on the sidewalk. A few hardy customers already dickered over vegetables just inside the covered market area. Her stomach reminded her that she’d been drinking, and a burger and fries didn’t do much with her metabolism.

Keeping the envelope hidden inside her pack, she pulled out two twenties, and pocketed them. The rest remained inside. She secured the pack, and hefted it onto her shoulders.
La Panier
, a restaurant here at the market, remained open twenty-four hours. She’d have some breakfast, and try to make some sense of what had happened to her.

 

Chapter Eight

Whiskey stepped off the bus near the U District Youth Consortium. Her stomach comfortably full of baguettes and coffee, she’d changed back into her ragged cargo pants in the market restroom, carefully tucking the latex ones away. No need to advertise her sudden good fortune, and invite an attack by her peers. The tattoo publicized it enough. The sun beat down upon her, and she readjusted her sunglasses with a grimace. In another hour, the shoe place downtown would open. She’d already spent the better part of an hour staring into the window at the boots on display there. She’d promised Castillo she’d check in with him, else she’d have blown him off to make her purchase. Too many people broke promises these days; she didn’t.

Whenever her mind wandered to the night before, she chastised herself for gullibility. Vampires only existed in books, movies and video games. Whiskey ridiculed the whole concept of a completely different race of beings living off human blood. These vampire wannabes said that to justify their lifestyle. She’d done some reading, heard some things; she must have come across the word Sanguire somewhere else before.

Hefting her pack, she walked the two blocks to the shelter. The sidewalks were crowded with people enjoying the early spring sunshine. Seattle skies were cloudy more often than not—a plus in Whiskey’s book—so people always came out to catch rays on days like today. Her exposed skin stung with sunburn, though she hadn’t been out in it for long. Her body always felt like that to her on sunny days, even as a child. When she arrived at the shelter, she gratefully pushed inside.

She nodded to the two street kids lounging in the day shelter, neither of whom she knew well. The rest of the regulars were probably at the nearest park or the campus, like everyone else. At the registration desk, she slouched out of her pack, and set it on the floor. “I have an appointment with Father Castillo.”

The chunky little woman peered up at her through her bifocals. “Whiskey! How are you?” Her expression belied the welcome tone in her voice. She looked like she stared at a particularly ugly bug in a microscope.

Not put off, Whiskey spoke evenly. “Pretty good, Sister. You?” She mentally recited the nun’s next words, doing her best not to roll her eyes.

“God blesses me in every way.” The nun peered at a clipboard with the same loathing.

Whiskey wondered if she’d always had that look on her face.
Maybe there’s truth to that saying, “Don’t make faces or yours will freeze that way.”

The nun stared at Whiskey’s right arm. “That’s new, isn’t it?”

Whiskey held her arm forward and turned it, showing off the artwork. “Yeah, it is. You like it?” She rubbed the light scabs with one hand, reminding herself to use the ointment again before heading out.

“I’ll let Father know you’re here.”

She chuckled at the nonanswer. “Thanks, Sister.” She moved her pack to a nearby couch. The woman hoisted her bulk out of her chair and waddled down a hall.

“Big score?” one of the other kids asked.

“Kind of.” Whiskey flopped next to her pack. “Got this out of the deal.” She breathed a sigh as the teenager quickly lost interest, glad he’d accepted she had nothing else. She relaxed, her eyes drifted closed of their own volition. She’d use some of the money for a motel room today. With Gin’s boyfriend, Ghost, back in town, she had a fifty-fifty shot whether she’d be allowed to bunk down with his street family. The longer she avoided him, the less jealous he’d act when she did show her face.

“Whiskey?”

She opened her eyes, and grinned. “Hey, Padre, how goes it?” She stood as he approached.

A handsome man with brown skin and black hair and eyes smiled at her. His shoulder length curls extended past his crisp white collar to brush his shoulder blades. A haphazardly trimmed beard adorned his narrow face. Whiskey bet if she ever saw him in civilian clothes, he’d pass easily among the street kids. She’d only ever seen him in the black cassock of his order, with a heavy silver cross at his neck.

He held out his arms for an embrace. “I’m doing well, Whiskey. How about you?”

She stiffened in his arms, unaccustomed to casual displays of affection. Her demeanor remained pleasant, however, as she extricated herself from his arms. “Not bad. Beautiful day out there. Why are you in here instead?”

“And miss seeing my favorite client? Never.” His eyes scanned her, noting the ink on her arm. “Shall we head back to my office?”

“Sure.”

Before she could pick up her belongings, Castillo had her pack in his hands, easily swinging it to one shoulder. A small man, no taller than she, he had a fine bone structure. It amazed her how easily he hoisted her laden pack. “You been working out?” she teased, trailing him through a door past the reception area.

He grinned, and winked at her. “Can’t keep up with you young’uns otherwise.”

She snorted. “You’re not that old, Padre.”

“You’d be surprised.”

A frisson of suspicion whispered through her.
Oh, get over it! You’ll be seeing vampires all over the place at this rate.
They entered his office, the best room in the building. Books lined the walls from floor to ceiling on two sides. A large secretary desk sat adjacent to the high windows along the third wall, and four beat-up file cabinets flanked the door.

Castillo gently set her pack in one of the two chairs across from his desk, and waved her to take a seat. “You want something to drink? I’ve got coffee and sarsaparilla.”

“Still on that root beer kick?” She sank into the chair.

“Nothing finer on a hot spring day.”

She grinned at him. “Sarsaparilla it is then.”

“Fantastic.” He sat down, and rummaged in the small refrigerator underneath the desk, pulling out two bottles of root beer. He cracked one open and handed it to her.

Whiskey took a long draught, scanning the room. Shade trees kept the sun at bay. A bank of high windows helped her cause. For now she was safe. No street kids preying on the loner that walked among them, no police officers busting her for napping on a park bench, or business owners throwing things at her for daring to sit on the sidewalk in front of their establishments. Father Castillo understood her need for this more than any other counselor she’d ever had. He remained silent, waiting for her to take the next step. He never acted too busy for her, never gave the impression that he had more important matters to attend to even when his next appointment waited in the lobby.

Maybe his youth kindled her trust. Whiskey immediately denied the argument. Her faith seldom manifested in anyone these days, and she hung around many people her own age.
Except Reynhard.
The memory of her emotions when meeting Dorst at the club troubled her. Now she thought of him by his first name?
What the fuck is going on with me?

She had to give Castillo credit, though; he had a refreshing approach to dealing with street people. Most priests and ministers spent quite a deal of time bringing the word of God to the downtrodden masses, pounding His holy writ into their heads with zealous intent. Castillo rarely brought up the topic. His goal seemed to be putting street youth into stable shelters and programs, nothing more. He required a prayer only before dishing up meals at the soup kitchen, allowing the homeless to eat their suppers without proselytizing.

“Spent the night in a club?”

Whiskey blinked. “How the—” She barely stopped herself from swearing. “How did you know that?”

Castillo grinned, tapping the side of his nose with one finger. “I smell cigarette smoke, but not cloves. Obviously, not at Tallulah’s last night.”

“I detect a certain...Cora about your person.”

Whiskey pushed away the incongruous recollection. “You’re good, Padre. I partied at Malice last night.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Malice? That’s an adult club. How’d you get in?”

“Don’t give me shit, Padre.” A faint grin contradicted the harshness of her words. “My benefactors slipped me in the main entrance.”

He conceded with a bow of his head. “They give you that, too?” His bottle gestured toward the dragons running up her arm.

“Yeah! Pretty cool, isn’t it?” She rolled up the sleeve of her T-shirt to expose as much of the artwork as possible, turning in her seat.

Castillo stood, and leaned over his desk to get a better look at the tattoo. He gave a low whistle. “Top-notch work. When did you get it done?”

“Last night.”

He stared intently at her. “It looks days old.”

Whiskey swallowed. His expression mirrored one she hadn’t seen since the first time they’d met—a sharp examination giving the impression he measured the breadth and width of her character in mere seconds. “Really? I didn’t know you had a lot of experience with this sort of thing.” Her joke sounded lame even to her. She didn’t want to tell him about the last couple of days. The whole stupid vampire thing—Sanguire, her mind corrected. Besides, priests always fought vampires in the movies and books.

Castillo studied her a moment longer. He smiled without responding, and sat down. “What happened with Sister Rosa?” he asked, referring to a nun he’d introduced Whiskey to some weeks ago.

She busied herself with rolling down her sleeve again, her stomach fluttering with relief at the change of topic. Sister Rosa ran a three-bed girls shelter out of an apartment. Whiskey hadn’t lasted long before leaving. Her biggest problem had been the imposed curfew. “Oh, she’s nice enough and all.” She looked away with a vague gesture. “Sleeping in a bed was pretty cool, but it’s just not my gig.”

Castillo nodded. “She came to the church to ask after you. She was worried you’d gotten hurt or something.”

Whiskey scowled. “Tell her I’m fine, Padre.”

“I will,” he promised. “She has a good heart; don’t let that color your opinion of her. She wishes to help.”

Chagrined, Whiskey nodded.

Castillo took a drink from his bottle. “So, why did you want to see me today?”

Whiskey considered the question. Her initial reasons had been bus tickets and food vouchers, with a side order of visiting with the priest for a while. He wasn’t exactly a friend, but she enjoyed the time they spent together regardless of the occasional rough spots. Flush for a few days, she felt greedy demanding things she didn’t need.

Take more than you give.

For a change, she pushed aside the thought. “I was wondering if I could use the shelter as a permanent address so I can get a library card.”

He leaned back in his chair, teeth gleaming at her. “A library card?”

Smirking, she nodded. “Yeah. It’d be nice to legally take a book out, and finish it sometime, you know?”

“You do realize you have to have state identification for a library card?”

Whiskey’s face fell. “Really?”
Damn.

“It’d be an easy thing to do,” he continued, reaching for a pad and pen. “You’ve told me you don’t know where your birth records are, but I could do a search on your real name.” He slid the items across the desk to her.

She stared at the notepad. After four years in Seattle, she’d had nothing but minor scrapes with the law. No one here knew who she was, only her nickname. Years of foster homes and the fucked-up bureaucracy inherent in them had nurtured a desire to be completely clear of the system.

“We’ve talked about this before. I know you’re allergic to the idea of revealing your identity to the social services,” Castillo said. “But we both know you’ll get nothing but scraps as long as you refuse to take the requisite steps.”

BOOK: The Strange Path
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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