Some of y’all might remember the excerpt from this that I posted back in April for M of the Alphabet Challenge. Well, here’s the beginning of that story, in which you’re officially introduced to the main characters and the setting and what’s going on. Enjoy. :)
Genevieve was startled by a sudden knock on her door. She closed her book and set it on a side table before rising and opening the front door to see a familiar face.
“Gen, I need your help.”
She rolled her eyes. “You always need my help.” She let in her visitor nonetheless, giving him shelter from the rain and whatever other trouble he’d gotten into. She closed the door behind him and took a seat in the chair by the window where she’d been sitting before he arrived. “What is it this time?”
“Do you have any food?”
“Ever the polite one, aren’t you, Reyce?” She paused a moment, looking at her bedraggled friend, before nodding towards the kitchen, exasperation written all over her expression.
He hurried into the kitchen and she picked her book back up. She’d only gotten past a couple of sentences before he returned and sat down with a heaping plate of food. He didn’t bother waiting until his mouth was empty to speak. “I’m running away.”
“No surprise there.” Gen didn’t look up from her book.
“I need to talk to Charlotte.”
Gen’s eyes darted up to find his. She slowly set her book aside. “You’d take a risk, alerting her of your presence.”
“You know it’s not a risk I would take unnecessarily.”
“Yeah, maybe,” she muttered. Louder she added, “Why do you need to talk to her?”
“I need her… services.”
“And why is that?”
“The thing chasing me isn’t anything I’ve ever seen before. Not anything you’ve seen before either.” Gen raised an eyebrow, but he continued as if he didn’t notice. “Charlotte might know what they are.”
“And why would she know better than I would? I’ve seen everything this side of the Rush.”
“But she has more experience with the… paranormal.”
“Paranormal?” Gen almost laughed. “Yeah, you could say that. What the heck could be following you that would be considered ‘paranormal’?”
Reyce’s expression was entirely serious. “You’d understand if you saw it, but I hope you never do.”
Gen hesitated. If he would be willing to say that even she didn’t want to encounter one of these things, and with a completely straight face, that gave her pause.
“So can you get me to see Charlotte?”
Gen nodded slowly. “Yeah, I think I can.”
“Good. You should come with me. Your expertise might be helpful, too.”
Great, I’m an afterthought. She didn’t give voice to her thoughts, just nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll go see her and then I’ll come back if she says she’ll see you.”
Reyce nodded. “That’s how it always works.”
“Just making sure you remember. It’s been a surprisingly long time since you came running to me.”
Reyce shrugged. “I’ve been making my own trouble. Didn’t need any help.”
Gen laughed. “I’ll believe that. It’s a bit harder to believe you didn’t need bailing out in that whole six months.”
“Maybe I found someone else to bail me out.”
“No one else would be willing to help you out. You’re a chronic troublemaker. You’re lucky I’ve put up with you for so long.”
“Aw, you know you love me.”
Gen rolled her eyes.
He took a bite of the food on his plate – mostly junk food like a couple of two-day-old refrigerated slices of pizza and potato chips – and started talking with his mouth full again. “Shouldn’t you be heading over to Charlotte’s place now?”
“Shouldn’t you be learning how to take care of yourself by now?” Despite her retort, she stood and headed into her bedroom, grabbing her twin pistol holster – with both slots filled, of course – from between her mattress and the bedframe and fastening it around her hips before taking her rifle from its place behind the headboard and placing it across her back, tightening the strap just a hair so that it was loose enough to grab easily but not so loose as to cause problems.
Her dark hair was already tied up in its usual ponytail, and her black combat boots were already on, concealing a handful of knives that lightly stabbed her feet as she walked. It was a feeling she was long used to, and she’d feel bare without it.
She headed back out into living room, where Reyce was already finishing up his food.
“Looking just as fierce as always,” he commented, his mouth full of pizza.
Gen rolled her eyes and grabbed her long coat on the way out and slipped it on, hiding the rifle and her holsters, though everyone who knew her knew she was well armed. As she passed through the dusty streets everyone she passed gave her a polite nod, which she returned each time. Passing skyscraper after skyscraper, the upper levels long since abandoned, she finally reached one whose cracked sign read: “Mercy’s Textiles.” She turned here and headed around the building to the large shed behind it. It had once stored materials, but now it housed the city’s strangest citizen.
Gen knocked on the door and was greeted with a quiet, almost inaudible through the door, “come in.” She entered and saw Charlotte, as usual, sitting at her table with several books spread out in front of her. She never seemed to read them, just studied their covers as if the covers alone would tell her the story they held tucked in their pages. The girl herself was small and oddly young, seventeen at most. Gen remembered when the girl was born. She had fair hair, curled and silky, and her eyes…
“Welcome, Genevieve,” she said, in an impossibly old voice for the body it escaped.
“Thank you, Charlotte.”
“Is it Reyce again?”
Gen nodded, though Charlotte’s attention was still absorbed in her covers. “He says there’s something hunting him. He wanted to come see you.”
“Of course he did. He always does. There’s always something.” Though her words may have seemed almost bitter coming from any other mouth, Charlotte’s tone was entirely indifferent, as if nothing anyone did made any difference in anything.
“May I bring him?”
“Do I ever turn him away?”
“You haven’t yet.”
“Then you have your answer. I’ll be available at midnight tonight.”
Gen nodded. “I’ll bring him, then.” She turned to leave, but Charlotte stopped her with a simple “Wait” in that same indifferent tone. Gen turned to see the girl’s pale lavender eyes focused right on her. She held herself stiff so as not to shiver. Those eyes…
“Tell him to bring the cat.” The words were almost casual, but the tone in which they were spoken was entirely serious, even urgent.
“I will.” Gen had no idea what Charlotte meant, but she had no intention of dismissing the girl’s request and silliness. Everything she said had meaning.