Read The Strange Path Online

Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (8 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Whiskey grimaced at him, but didn’t argue.

“You’ve told me you’re eighteen, legal age. That means the child welfare system is closed to you. I know you were in the system in Oregon. You don’t have to worry about someone coming to cart you back there to a foster home or lockup—unless you have a warrant out for your arrest?”

“I don’t. Not that I know of.”

Castillo leaned closer, his hands in his lap. “Give me your name and birth date, Whiskey. I can do some research, find your birth records, and get you that ID. That’ll open the doors for you—library card, Social Security card, GED courses, maybe college. You’re a smart young woman who can do anything if you set your mind to it.” He paused. “Give yourself the chance.”

 Whiskey rubbed her forehead, fingers drifting across the lightly scabbed wound left from Paul and his cronies. No one knew her name here, not even Gin who’d come here with her from Portland. But the padre knew the way of things. In a couple of more years, she’d be too old for the youth services. If she didn’t play her cards right, she’d be one of those bag ladies downtown, wheeling a decrepit shopping cart through the city and sleeping under bridges. Not looking at him, she reached for the notepad and pen. Quickly scribbling the information, she shoved it back onto his desk as if the paper burned her skin.

Castillo just as rapidly snapped it up, not letting her change her mind. “Thank you, Whiskey. I won’t say you won’t regret it.”

Despite her foreboding, Whiskey snorted. She gave him a lopsided grin. “You know me well, Padre.”

He rummaged through his desk, and pulled out a stamped envelope. As he addressed it, he said, “Now take this out to the closest mailbox, and send it. It’ll come back here, and be your proof of address.” He slid the envelope to her. “Once we get your identification, we can get that library card.”

Whiskey took the envelope.
Jenna Davis, c/o Father James Castillo.
“Thanks, Padre. I’ll do that.”

“Jenna Davis. J.D.” Castillo gave her a gentle smile as he made the connection to her nickname. “Jack Daniels?”

She wondered why she had the urge to cry, forcing herself to swallow past the lump in her throat as she nodded.

He sensed her distress. “Need bus tickets? Vouchers?”

The desire to get away surged over her. She shook her head and stood. “No, I’m flush at the moment. Maybe next time.”

Castillo rose, and came around her desk. “Shall we arrange for next Saturday? Same time?”

“Yeah, okay.” Whiskey settled her pack on her shoulders, hoping he wouldn’t insist on another hug. She didn’t know if her brittle emotions could handle the closeness.

He sensed her need for distance. Opening the door for her, he stood beside it, smiling. “I’ll do my best to keep your confidence.”

She focused on him, gauging his words against his demeanor. He meant what he said. “Thanks, Padre. I appreciate that.”
Doesn’t mean he’ll succeed.

“Take care, Whiskey.”

Whiskey nodded, and swept past him. In moments she stood outside, shards of sunlight stabbing her unprotected eyes. She fumbled for her sunglasses, trying to convince herself that the brightness caused her blurred vision.

 

Chapter Nine

Minn’ast.

Whiskey woke with a start, the sharp pain in her right thigh companion to her rousing. Once she waded through the resultant confusion and feelings of loss, she swore. She might eventually sleep through the nightmare, but she didn’t hold out any great hope. The ache faded as she stumbled from the thin mattress toward the mildewed bathroom. She turned on the overhead light. A single bulb glowed in the ceiling, illuminating water stains and yellow drip marks marring the paint above. Discolored and pitted, the counter embraced a sink with rust stains oozing from the perpetual faucet leak. Rough linoleum floor scuffed her feet where innumerable dropped items had gouged the surface. 
Definitely not Fiona’s place.
She focused on her reflection in the spotted mirror.

The cut on her face had completely healed. When she lifted up her T-shirt, unblemished skin met her gaze. Not a single green or yellow discoloration marked where serious bruising had been two days before. She pulled the shirt off to examine the rest of her torso. Nothing. Poking at her abdomen caused no discomfort. The dragon tattoo snaking up her arm appeared completely healed, the scabs flaking away as she’d slept through the afternoon. She rotated the small silver bars piercing her nipples with little resistance. A tingle of arousal spilled through her, and she did it again for good measure.
Whoa. That’s cool.

Taking her shirt, she stepped back into the bedroom. The grubby decor matched the bathroom—nondescript brown carpet, white walls with odd splotches of dingy color here and there, and permanent shelves in place of nightstands and desk. The only true pieces of furniture in the room were the dresser and the bed; the dresser drawers were nailed shut to deter clientele from use of them. The sheets and blanket had been so dirty, Whiskey had used her new sleeping bag on the bed.

She turned on the lamp bolted to the shelf masquerading as a desk, and lit a cigarette. While she smoked, she rummaged through her pack for clothing and toiletries. After speaking with Castillo and mailing the envelope, she’d returned downtown and bought her boots. They’d cost almost two hundred dollars. She’d expected the purchase to raise her spirits, but it had physically hurt when she handed that much money to the clerk. In a wave of guilt at her extravagance, she had stopped at a drugstore to pick up the essentials she’d need for the next week. She also selected a belated birthday card for Gin, stuffing fifty dollars into it as a gift.

Whiskey brushed out her hair, examining the black-streaked tips. She could probably do with a trim and another dye job, and debated the wisdom of spending her dwindling cash supply. Swiping deodorant under her arms, she turned to her clothes and dressed. Not wanting to hide the dragons under cloth, she wore the deep red camisole she’d gotten from Fiona. She sat on the bed to put on her newest pride and joy, shiny black Dr. Marten boots that swept up her calf to her knees. She laced them over the top of her cargo pants.

Standing, she went to the window and opened the curtains. The motel she’d found wasn’t far from where she’d done the majority of her shopping. Few hotels allowed guests to register without identification, so she’d had limited choices. She could have paid the offered hourly rates instead of a full night. Even now she heard the grunts and thumps of someone fucking in a nearby room. Across the street, a car wash gleamed in the twilight. Behind it, the Seattle sky turned a dark blue-gray.

With the night came the doubts. During daylight, thoughts of Fiona and her people faded into the distance. They told bizarre stories to freak and frighten people, nothing more. Just a game they played on unsuspecting marks. All the urgency and fear Whiskey had felt in the dark seemed laughable in sunlight. Vampires weren’t real, therefore neither were Sanguire. Fiona and the rest perpetuated this delusion upon themselves and others around them. Whiskey’s reality revolved around food vouchers, bus tickets and flops. Fiona was nothing but a rich bitch who’d targeted Whiskey for—
For what? A massive joke? A new toy for her friends to tease and torture?

As the sky darkened, the idea of a race of vampires became more plausible, more concrete. Whiskey’s sunlit rationalizations drowned in the spreading shadows.
What if it is true? Why else would I know the word Sanguire?
She knew she’d heard it before Fiona had said it, but she still couldn’t pin down from where. Why did the sound of the word strike such feeling if she’d only read it in a book or on a website?
And where was the joke last night?
Fiona had given Whiskey well over a grand with the gifts, the tattoo and the entertainment. Whiskey had suffered nothing more than Fiona’s malicious teasing, receiving a small fortune for the aggravation. 

A door slammed somewhere below her. Moments later she saw a businessman climb into a sedan. He left alone. A couple of minutes later, another slam, and a woman appeared. She wore a skimpy skirt and high-heel shoes that showed off long legs. Strutting, she walked across the parking lot, and back to the street where she wiggled her ass for traffic. Streetlights had already come on, giving the woman a garish look under the yellow bulbs.

Whiskey studied the street, the traffic, searching.
Where’s Fiona now? What are they doing? Have they targeted someone else tonight? Is this a nightly ritual for them, to find some unsuspecting idiot to fill with lies?
She rubbed the healed dragon tattoo.

What if they told it true?

Another door slammed, and she jumped. Scowling, she turned back to the crappy little room.

 

***

 

After a bento dinner, Whiskey hopped a bus back to the U District. Feeling foolish, she watched for Fiona or one of her people, even here.
They ain’t gonna ride the fucking bus, idiot.
Regardless, she slumped in her seat at the back, warily watching every individual come aboard. She remained on guard after she reached her stop, eyeing traffic for the Lexus, Porsche or motorcycles.

Her mood lightened as she neared Tallulah’s, the heavy bass beat thumping louder and louder. No way would anyone from Fiona’s crew be found here. They partied at Malice or Crucible, upscale clubs more suited to their cash flow. Nothing more than a hole in the wall youth club, Tallulah’s operated without a liquor license, and had little in the way of flashy decor. Arriving late, she paid a two dollar cover charge to a grizzled old man. She ignored his leer as he stamped her hand.

As she pushed inside the all ages club, the music hit her with physical force. She saw the usual crowd—street kids looking for a nighttime haven, local teenagers in search of risk and adventure, and adults either trying to relive their misspent youth or trolling for entertainment. She bypassed the pool tables and snack counter, passing the posturing youths smoking clove cigarettes. Whiskey breathed in through her mouth until she passed the noxious sweet smoke. Entering the bar proper, she looked around for her friend. Strobe lights flashed, illuminating the otherwise dark room. Tables sprouted here and there around a dance floor packed with people.

A handful of teenagers and young adults she recognized lounged in one corner. Most of them wore baggy pants and shirts in the typical skater street style, a striking difference to Whiskey’s punk dress. She easily spotted Ghost among them, a twenty-something albino man sprawled in a chair with Gin in his lap. The fluorescent spotlights made his hair and skin glow like the specter for which he called himself. Gin spotted her. She waved, and then leaned over to say something into Ghost’s ear. Whiskey saw him glance her way, a sour expression on his face. He didn’t argue with Gin, though, just nodded and released her to stand. Gin gave him a kiss, and left his company.

“Hey, Gin. How goes it?”

Gin gave her a welcome hug. “
Hola
,
amiga
! I missed you last night.”

Whiskey saw Ghost scowl at the intimacy, and quickly pulled away. “I know, but something came up. Forgive me?”

“Always,
chica
.” Gin led her to the outskirts of her street family. She sat on a recently vacated chair. “Sit down.”

Grinning, Whiskey dropped her pack, and did so. “So how was the party? Get anything good?”

“Ghost got me some really cool glass. And Lena gave me a teddy bear.”

“Sounds cool. Is it a pipe or a bong?” Whiskey asked, bending over to rummage in her pack.

“Pipe, a little one. But it’s shaped like a dolphin.”

Whiskey winked at her. “You and your dolphins,
amiga
.”

Gin gave her a light punch on the arm. “Better than vampires or werewolves,
chica
!”

Considering her recent meeting with Fiona, Whiskey’s smile faltered. She forced away the desire to glance around the bar for Sanguire.
Don’t be stupid.
She handed Gin the birthday card. “Here. For you. Happy belated birthday.”

With a pleased expression, Gin pushed a stray strand of dark hair behind her ear, and took the envelope. “Thank you!” She made a production of opening it up, calling the attention of a couple of her street family to the proceedings.

Whiskey glanced beyond to see Ghost watching.
Bastard.

“Where’d you get this kind of cash,
chica
?”

She turned her attention back to Gin who held the money in one hand. Behind her a kid craned his neck to see past the others. Whiskey recognized him as one of Ghost’s newbies. He claimed to be sixteen, but didn’t look a day over twelve. His face was partially covered by a large strawberry birthmark—the others called him Spot. “Hit the jackpot last night. Found some rich punks that had money, and wanted to go slumming. That’s the last of it right there.” She stuck out one foot to reveal the boots. “Got these today.” The new leather sparkled in the strobe lights.

More of Gin’s street family paid attention to the conversation, glancing from the boots to the money in Gin’s hand.

“So, you got the boots. Anything else?”

Whiskey nodded, and shed her denim jacket. “Yeah. Check it out.” She removed her sweatshirt, and showed off her dragon.

Several spectators whistled. “Wow. That’s good work.” She took Whiskey’s hand to turn her arm. “How much did it cost?”

“Over seven hundred for the outline and shading. Maybe someday I’ll scrape up enough to have it colored in.”

The spotted kid pushed forward, jarring one of the others. “You just got this last night? It looks like it’s a week old.” The person he shoved aside punched him in the arm, and he glared at the perpetrator.

Whiskey stared at the wine-colored birthmark.
Dominick, that’s his name.
Most of the members of Ghost’s street family were jerks. This brat was fast becoming her least favorite. “I heal fast.”

“You’re a liar.”

The throbbing music followed the same beat as Whiskey’s heart. She didn’t dare look away from Dominick or his challenge, but she didn’t know what to do. The kid was raw—he’d been on the streets a month or so—and had a lot to prove to his street father. She could kick his ass in a fight, but would that cause Ghost to retaliate against her? The politics of the situation were too fragile.

BOOK: The Strange Path
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Wolfen by Alianne Donnelly
Selby Snowbound by Duncan Ball
Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
Chaos Quest by Gill Arbuthnott
3013: FATED by Susan Hayes
Bend by Bailey Bradford
BFF's Brother Makes Nice by Sanchez, Summer