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Draw One in the Dark: Snippet Fourteen

       Last updated: Thursday, August 3, 2006 22:50 EDT



    And he turned in the direction of the steps to see Kyrie look at him, her mouth open in shock, her eyes wide, her face suddenly drained of color.

    Keith was still doing fake kung-foo moves in the direction of the utterly broken windows. But Kyrie stood in the middle of the room, gulping air.

    Behind her, stood the policeman lion, golden eyes and immaculate linen clothes, all in a vague tawny color. And he looked... disgusted.

    Tom summoned all his thought, all his ability to speak, and came out with the best excuse he could craft. "It wasn't me," he said. "It was the dragons."



    Kyrie stood in the middle of her demolished sunroom. The windows were all broken. As was the sliding door. And there was Tom - and he looked very odd.

    Tottery and... just strange. And there was another guy - his neighbor, she thought, from the apartment.

    "I'm sorry," Tom said, again. "It was the dragons." He pointed at the backyard. "They were attacking."

    His voice sounded odd. Normally it was raspy, but now it sounded like it was coming out through one of those distorters that kids used to do alien voices. And there had to be something wrong with him. He was walking barefoot on shards of glass. It had to hurt. In fact, she could see little pinpricks of blood on the indifferent beige carpet. But he didn't seem to be in pain.

    "Tom are you all right?" she asked. But by then she was close enough to look in his eyes. His pupils were huge, crowding the blue iris almost completely out of his eyes.

    Kyrie took a deep breath. Damn, damn, damn, damn. She knew better, didn't she? Once a junkie always a junkie. And Tom was... Hell, she knew what he was. Shifter or not, someone with his upbringing wouldn't have fallen as low as he had without some major work on his part. He had to be totally out of control. He had to be.

    But she'd almost believed. She'd almost trusted. She remembered how she'd felt bad about telling Rafiel on him. She remembered how she felt so relieved it wasn't a dragon's teeth on that man's body.

    Hell, she still felt happy the man hadn't died by dragon. That meant she didn't have to keep Tom close until she figured out what to do about it. She just didn't have to. She was through with him.

    "You're high," she said, and it sounded odd, because she hadn't meant to say it, hadn't meant to call attention to the fact, just in case Rafiel hadn't noticed it. But it didn't matter, did it? If Tom was this out of control, he was going to be arrested, sooner or later.

    Tom shook his head, his dark eyebrows knit over his eyes in complete surprise. "Me?" he said. "No. Keith is high. He was talking about the Mother ship. I mean, clear as day it was just Two dragons."

    Kyrie didn't know whether to laugh and cry. All these years she had kept away from dangerous men. She'd laughed at the sort of woman who let herself get head over heels with some bundle of muscles and no brain. And now she'd got involved with ... this. Okay, so not involved, although if she told herself the truth, she had been interested in Tom. Or at least appreciative of his buff and sculpted body. She hadn't done anything even remotely sexual or physical to him, though.

    Not that it mattered. She'd let him into her house. She'd let him stay here alone... And he'd got his buddy over, hadn't he? And they'd... what? Shot up? There didn't seem to be any smell of pot in the air, and besides she doubted that pot would cause this kind of trip. Of course, she knew drugs could also be swallowed or... And that wasn't the point. He'd gotten high and destroyed her property.

    She looked around at the devastation in her sunroom, and wondered how she was going to pay for this mess. The landlord would demand payment. But she had no more than a couple of hundred in the bank, and that had to last for food and all till the end of the month. And she needed rent.

    She took another deep breath. She was going to have to ask Frank for more hours. And even then, she might not make it.

    Tom was looking at her, as though trying to interpret her expression, as if it were very hard to read - something he couldn't understand. "Uh," he said. "I'll leave now?"

    Part of Kyrie wanted to tell him no. After all, well, he was still barefoot. And bleeding. And he was high. She should tell him to say. She should...

    But no, she definitely should not. She'd kept him overnight, so he would be better off leaving in the morning. And now, what? He'd just caused more damage.

    "Yes," she said. She heard her voice so cold it could have formed icicles on contact. "Yeah. I think it would be best if you left and took your friend."

    Tom nodded, and tugged on the shoulder of the other guy's sweater, even as he started inching past Kyrie, in an oddly skittish movement. It reminded her of a cat, in a house where she'd stayed for a few months. A very skittish cat, who ran away if you so much as looked at her.

    As far as Kyrie could tell, no one had ever hurt the cat. But she skidded past people, as though afraid of being kicked.

    Now Tom edged past her the same way, while dragging his friend, who looked at Kyrie, blank and confused, and said, "It was aliens, you know. Just like... you know. Aliens."

    She heard them cross the house, towards the front door. She didn't remember the guy's car on the driveway, but it wasn't her problem if they were on foot. In fact, it might be safer in the state they were. And she didn't care, she told herself, as she listened for the front door to close.

    "Kyrie," Rafiel said. He stood by the windows, frowning, puzzled. "Something was here."



    They'd been walking for a while, aimlessly, down the street, when Tom because aware of three things - first, that he was walking around in a neighborhood he didn't know; second, that he was barefoot; third that his feet hurt like living hell.

    He sat down on the nearest law, and looked at his feet, which were cut, all over, by a bunch of glass.

    This realization seemed to have hit Keith at the same time, which was weird. As Tom was looking in dismay at the blood covering the soles of his feet, Keith said, "Shit. You're bleeding."

    Tom looked up. He remembered seeing Keith's eyes, the pupil dilated and odd. But Keith looked perfectly normal now, even if a little puzzled. "What happened?" he said. And frowned, as if remembering some thing that didn't make any sense whatsoever. "What happened to us back there. What..."

    Tom shook his head. He knew what Keith's eyes looked like. And Tom had some idea what mind altering substances could do to your mind and your senses. Hell, for a while there he was shooting everything that came his way. Heroin by choice, but he'd have done drain opener if he had any reason to suspect that it would prevent him from shifting into a dragon. He suspected, in fact, that he had shot up baking soda in solution more than a few times. And who knew what else? It was miraculous enough he'd survived all those years. But nothing, nothing, equaled the trip he'd just gone through, back there.

    He put his face in his hands, and heard himself groan. He'd messed it up for good an all. Not that there had ever been any hope that Kyrie would see him as anything other than a mess. Not considering what he'd done the night before. The... corpse. And then his being so totally helpless. There was no way he had a chance with Kyrie. Not any way. But...

    But now she thought him a drug addict. And the policeman had been with her.

    "I'm going to get my car," Keith said. "Do you have any idea which way we came?"

    "You have a car?"

    "Yeah," Keith said. "I parked just a couple of blocks from... your girl's..." It seemed to hit him, belatedly, that perhaps Kyrie was no longer Tom's girl. Not after what they'd done to her sunroom. "Do you have any idea which way we came?"

    There was something to the dragon. Perhaps seeing the city from above so many times, Tom had memorized it like one memorizes a map, or a favorite picture. Or perhaps being a dragon came with a sense of direction. Who knew?

    But by concentrating, he could just figure out which way Kyrie's house was. He wondered if the policeman would arrest them for even coming near.

    Standing up, unsteadily, he said, "Come on." He winced at the pain in his feet. "Come on. It's this way, up the road here two blocks, then up ten blocks, and then to the left another five, and you should see her house."

    Keith took a step back. "Whoa, dude," he said. "You've gone all pale, just standing up. Sit down. I'll go get the car. You're sure of the way?"

    Tom nodded. He wanted to say he would go with Keith, but he could tell he would only slow Keith down. He sat down on the grass, again, with some relief. "Sure," he said. "Sure. You should see it. If not... come back."

    He put his face in his hands, again, sitting there. He didn't know how long he and Keith had been fighting the... dragons? He was sure they were dragons, but there was a feeling of strangeness, his memory kept giving him images of a big, horned toe. No. A tooth. No...

    He sighed. He was never going to remember. And he had no idea what had got him so high. And Keith too. For all his attitude with the girls, the one thing Tom had never suspected Keith of doing was getting involved in drugs. In fact, he would bet his neighbor had never got high before.

    So... How had they got high?

    The sugar. It had to be the sugar. He'd drunk nothing but the coffee. None, absolutely no one would put drugs in eggs or bacon. So, it had to be the sugar. He'd put three spoons in the coffee. Kyrie. Kyrie kept drugs in the house.

    He blinked in amazement. Okay, so he'd stolen the- He'd stolen it - he forced his mind away from what it was - so he could give up drugs. There had been one too many times of waking up choking on his own vomit, struggling for every breath and not sure he was going to make it to the morning. There had also been the ever present fear of being arrested, of shifting in a jail cell. Of eating a bunch of people.

    So, he'd stolen it and tried to use it to control his shifts, so that he would stop waking up in the middle of the day dreaming he had eaten someone the night before and not being sure if it was true or not. The drugs weren't working so well for that, anyway. Or to make him stop hurting.

    But, even with the... object in his possession he hadn't been able to give up on drugs, not entirely, until he'd started working at the diner, and he'd been... He'd seen Kyrie, and he'd seen the way she looked at him. And ... he chuckled to himself. He'd tried to change. He'd really tried to change his ways to impress her. And all the time, all this time, she was doing drugs, too. Perhaps all shifters did them, to control the shift? Or perhaps she disapproved of him for other reasons. But, clearly, a straight arrow she was not.

    "Are you okay?" Keith asked. He'd stopped the car - a beat up golden Toyota of late eighties vintage - in front of Tom and rolled down the window.

    Tom realized he was laughing so hard that there were tears pouring down his face. He controlled with an effort. "Oh, I'm fine. I am perfectly fine."

    He had, in fact, been an idiot. But not anymore.



    When the office was empty like this, late at night, and Edward Ormson was the only one still at his desk, sometimes he wondered what it would be like to have someone to go home to.

    He hadn't remarried because... Well, because his marriage had blown up so explosively, and Sylvia had taken herself such a long way away that he thought there was no point trying again.

    No. He was wrong. He was lying to himself again. What had made him give up on family and home wasn't Sylvia. It was Tom.

    He looked up from the laptop open on his broad mahogany desk, and past the glass-door of his private office at the rest of the office - where normally his secretaries and his clerks worked. This late, it was all gloom, with here and there a faint light where someone's computer had turned on to run the automated processes, or where someone had forgotten a desk lamp on.

    He probably should make a complaint about the waste of energy, but the truth was he liked those small lapses. It made the office feel more homey - and the office was practically the only home Ormson had.

    The wind whistled behind him, around the corner of the office, where giant panel of window glass met giant panel of window glass. The wind always whistled out here. When you're on the thirtieth floor of an office building there's always a certain amount of wind.

    Only it seemed to Ormson that there was an echo of wings unfolding in the wind. He shivered and glowered at the screen, at the message one of his clerks had sent him, with research details for one of his upcoming trials. Even with the screen turned on, he could still see a reflection of himself in it - salt-and-pepper hair that had once been dark, and blue eyes, shaped exactly like Tom's.

    He wondered if Tom was still alive and where he was. Damn it. It shouldn't be this difficult. None of this should be so difficult. He'd made partner, he'd gotten married, he'd had a son. By now, Tom was supposed to be in Yale, or if he absolutely had to rebel, in Harvard, working on his law degree. Tom was supposed to be his son. Not the constant annoyance of a thorn on the side, a burr under the saddle.

    But Tom had been trouble from the first step he'd taken - when he'd held onto the side table and toppled Sylvia's favorite Ming vase. And it hadn't got any better when it had progressed to petty car theft, to pot smoking, to the school complaining he was sexually harassing girls. It just kept getting harder and harder and harder.

    He thought he heard a tinkle of glass far off and stopped breathing, listening. But no sound followed and, through the glass door, he saw no movement in the darkened office. There was nothing. He was imagining things, because he had thought of Tom.

    Hell, even Sylvia hadn't wanted Tom. She'd started having an affair with another doctor at the hospital and taken off with her boyfriend to Florida and married him, and set about having a family, and she'd never, never again even bothered to send Tom a birthday card. Not after that first year. And then Tom...

    This time the noise was more definite, closer by.

    Edward rose from his desk, his fingertips touching the desktop, as if for support. He told himself there were no such thing as dragons. He told himself people didn't shift into dragons and back again.

    Every time he told himself that. Every time. And it didn't make any difference. There were still... Tom had still...

    No sound from the office, and he drew in a deep breath and started to sit down. He'd turn off the computer, pack up and go... well, not home. His condo wasn't a home. But he'd go back to the condo, and have a drink and call one of the suitably long list of arm candy who'd been vying to be Mrs. Ormson for the last few months, and see if she wanted to go to dinner somewhere nice. If he was lucky, he wouldn't have to sleep alone.


    His office door had opened, noiselessly, and through it whistled the sort of breeze that hit the thirtieth floor when one of the windows had been broken. It was more of a wind. He could hear paper rustling, tumbling about, a roaring of wind, and a tinkle as someone's lamp or monitor fell over.

    And the head pushing through the door was huge, reptilian, armed with many teeth that glimmered even in the scant light. Edward had seen it only once. He'd seen... other dragons. Tom not the least of them. But he hadn't seen this dragon. Not more than once. That had been when Edward had hired to defend a triad member accused - and guilty - of a particularly gruesome and pointless murder.

    This creature had appeared, shortly after Edward had gotten his client paroled, and while Edward was trying to convince him to go away for a while and not to pursue a bloody course of revenge that would have torn the triad apart - and, incidentally, got him dead or back in jail.

    This dragon - they called it the great something dragon? - had flapped down from the sky and- Edward remembered his client's body falling from a great height, the two pieces of it tumbling down to the asphalt. And the blood. The blood.

    He swallowed bile, hastily, and stood fully again. Stood. Ready to run. Which was foolish, because the thing blocked his office door, and its huge, many-fanged head rested on its massive paws. There was nowhere Edward could run.

    The dragon blinked huge, green eyes at him, and, as with a cat's secretly satisfied expression, it gave the impression of smiling. A long forked tongue licked at the lipless mouth. "Ormson," it said, still somehow managing to give the impression that the word was composed mostly of sibilants.

    "Yes?" Edward asked, and found his voice wavering and uncertain. "How may I help you?"

    "Your whelp has stolen something of mine," the dragon said. Its voice was only part noise. The other part was a feeling, like an itch at the back of the brain. It made you want to flip up your cranium and scratch.


    "Your son. Thomas. He's stolen the Pearl of Heaven."

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