I’d walked from my night job to meet my client. The moon was a waxing crescent and by the time I got to the cemetery it was fully up. I hopped the fence and walked to tonight’s designated tree. She hadn’t shown up. For the next twenty minutes, I basked in the white light, sending curses into the heavens before I heard her approach.
“Nice. You showed up. I’d buy you a watch if I had any spare cash but with Zeus being the—whatever you’d like to fill in there, he is, I’m scraping my own pennies out of the fountain, so you’ll have to get your own.” Daddy dearest had decided we kids should get some firsthand mortal experience to make better choices. Now I was stuck in the land of the lost, nearly departed, and forever floundering for the foreseeable future.
I waved a leather-clad hand at her. “Now that you’re here, give me an idea of what you were looking for?”
“Salvation,” she asked timidly, shifting her weight from one knee high army boot to the other. The thigh long kilt and baggy sweater were cute on her. I appreciated the lunar symbol at the base of her throat and the fingernail-sized white crescent thoughtfully tattooed on her cheekbone.
“Oh girl, you are so in the wrong place.” I smiled, but from the size of her brown eyes it didn’t look like she got what I’d intended.
“But I thought you did protection guidance stuff. They told me to come to the crossroads for help…”
“Hold right there, I do protection but not salvation. They are two way different things. You’d better tell me who or what you are running from and what you’ve got as an offering.” I cocked my head sideways honestly interested in what she was digging out of her pocket. Potential clients brought me all kinds of wild stuff. Stranded here in the wilds of Nevada, there were lots of crossroads and a plentiful base of clients needing guidance. When you get far enough from the strip, the moon is glorious.
“I’m not running anymore. I did a thing.”
I dropped my hair over my face to hide my eye-roll which the customers didn’t seem to like.
Speaking in a deep throaty voice, I projected the sound around her head. “Put it back. Get clean and you’ll live.”
She clapped her hands to her eyes and squeaked. Scaring the crap out of mortals was surprisingly easy.
“Time to make your offering.” I stuck out a black leather-coated palm. Generally, I got the offering first, but I had a pretty good idea that Bethany wasn’t here to stop using. I mean, I actually knew why she was here, but it’s good business to wait until they ask.
She pulled out a tin of mints and flipped it open with a chipped black nail.
“Here, is this enough?”
She handed me fifty bucks in folded five-dollar bills and a little baggy of something white. I jammed the bills into my jacket pocket.
“I’ll take the cash, but this, I don’t need and neither do you.” I held the bag up with two fingers and smiled as it disappeared in a flare of blue-white fire.
“Whoah, are you a magician?”
I grinned. “Sure, whatever. I’ll take the key now.”
“Huh? What key?” She closed the tin and looked at me. She really didn’t know.
Releasing a breath, I ran a hand through my hair. The silken black wave fluttered loose about my shoulders.
“My fee is an offering, plus a key. Can be anything.”
“Like a house key?”
“But I only have my—wait, I have my mom’s old house key. Will that do?”
She dropped a dull silver key into my palm.
“Yup, so what’ll be? The meet the dead people gig? Or do you want to see your future?” I laughed, but I wasn’t joking.
“Oh! Future? You can do that?”
“Oh,” her shoulders slumped.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have grandkids. It’ll work out. Who’s the stiff you are pining for?”
“Hang on, I didn’t tell you about him yet?”
“Yeah, well, I’m the real deal. So Burt, he was your step-dad?”
“Whoah.” She took a step back.
“Yeah, I get that a lot. All good. Burt is happy on the other side. He says to tell Alice the banana bread is better than hers.”
Bethany’s eyes were pretty much as big as they could get. I didn’t laugh at her, but it was a tough decision.
“Anything else you want to know?”
“How did he…”
“Big box. That’s all I’m saying because if I tell you the rest there will cops and crap. I don’t do cops. So, next question.” If I told her some gold-toothed weasel had buried Burt on a sideroad off the interstate it would raise questions. I hated bright lights and the station apparently didn’t care about their electric bill.
“Yeah, not coming home.”
She dropped her eyes to the pavement and sniffed. Damn, it was too easy to feel sorry for these humans.
“Hey, Harold’s going to propose tomorrow, so wear the red dress it’ll look good with your boots—and don’t let Glory talk you out of it.”
“Wha…No. Really?” She wiped at her eyes.
“Yeah, congratulations.” Telling her that they’d get divorced in three years wasn’t going to make her leave any faster. At least Harold would get her to stop using. “Are we good? Get your money’s worth?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, thanks,” she stammered playing with the silver crescent at her throat.
“Excellent. Tell the girls at the bar, except Crystal. Don’t tell her.”
“Crys? Why not her?”
“No reason.” I flipped my hair over my shoulder and stuffed the key into my jacket pocket. Crystal had been to see me last week and it hadn’t gone well. I’d ended up using powers on her, but she’d already paid me, so it didn’t sting as much. I don’t like touching human skin. The one thing these mortals had done right was designing clothing made like a second skin, expensive but so comfortable.
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