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Draw One in the Dark: Snippet Fifteen

       Last updated: Friday, August 18, 2006 21:28 EDT



    Edward's mouth was dry. He opened it to say this was entirely Tom's business, but he found himself caught in an odd crux. If Tom had stolen something, then Tom was still alive. Still alive five years after being kicked out of the house. Had he learned something? Had he shaped up? He almost had to, hadn't he, or he would be dead by now? No one could continue going the way Tom had been going and still be alive after five years on their own, could they?

    He swallowed hard. But Tom had stolen something. This seemed to imply he'd learned nothing. He'd not changed.

    He clenched his hands so tightly that his nails bit into his palm. How could Tom still be a problem? How could he? Didn't he know how hard he made it on his father? Didn't he care?

    "I don't know what my son has done," he said, and his voice came out creditably firm. "I haven't seen me in more than five years. You cannot hold me responsible for what he has done."

    "He has stolen the Pearl of Heaven," the dragon rumbled, his eyes half closed and still giving that look of a secret smile.

    "So, he's stolen some jewelry," Edward said. "Get it from him. I don't care."

    Did he care? What if they killed Tom? Edward didn't know. He didn't even know if it would grieve him anymore. It wasn't supposed to be this hard. He'd been saying that since Tom was one. And it hadn't got any easier.

    "It's not that easy," the dragon said. "The Pearl is... dragon magic. Ancient. It was given to us by the Emperor of Heaven. It will not do him any good, but it is the center of our strength. We need it, or we shall fall apart."

    Great. Tom would manage to steal some cultic object. Hell, if he found an idol with an eye made of ruby, he'd dig the ruby out just to see what would happen. And Edward remembered all too well the incident in the Met Museum with Tom and the mummy when Tom was five. Other kids just never thought of this kind of trouble to get into.

    "So get it. From him. I know nothing of it."

    "Ah," the dragon said. And the sound, somehow, managed to convey an impression of disapproval, an impression of denial. "But the child is always the responsibility of the parents, isn't he? Your son has hidden the Pearl of Heaven. It is up to you to find it and give it back to us."

    The or else remained unspoken, hanging mid air, more solid, more certain than anything the dragon had said.

    "I don't even know where he is," Edward said.

    "Goldport, Colorado."

    "Fine," Edward said, nodding and trying to look business like. He scooped up his laptop, picked up his case from the floor, started pushing the laptop into it. "Fine, fine. I'll call tomorrow. I'll make enquiries. I'll try to figure out where he-"

    A many-clawed paw lifted. With unreal, careful precision, it rested atop the briefcase and the laptop and just touched the edge of Edward Ormson's hand. The claw shimmered, like real gold, and ended in an impossibly sharp talon.

    "Not tomorrow," the dragon said. "Now."

    "Now?" Edward blinked, in confusion, looking down at the talon on is hand, the tip of it pressing just enough to leave a mark, but leaving no doubt that it could press hard enough to skewer the hand through sinew and bone. "But it's what? Nine at night? You can't really book flights at this time of night. Well, not anymore. You can't just show up at the airport and book a flight on a whim. With the security measures that simply doesn't happen anymore."

    "No airport," the dragon said, his paw immobile, the pressure of his talon palpable.

    "Driving?" Edward asked, and would have sat down, if he weren't so afraid that some stirring, some careless gesture would make the creature stab his hand with that talon. He didn't know what would happen if he did that. He didn't know how Tom had become a dragon, but if the legends were right, then it was through a bite. Or a clawing. "Driving would take much longer. Why don't I book a flight tomorrow. I'll fly out before twenty four hours. I promise."

    "No driving. I'll take you. Now."

    "You'll take me?"

    The claw withdrew. "Pack your things. Whatever you need to take. I'll take you. Now."

    There really wasn't much choice. Less than ten minutes later, Edward was straddling the huge beast's back, holding on tight, while they stood facing the place where the dragon had broken several panels of glass to get in.

    There was a moment of fear, as the dragon dove through the window, wings closed, and they plunged down towards the busy street.

    A scream caught in Edward's throat. Not for the first time, he wondered why no one else saw these creatures. Was he having really vivid hallucinations while locked up in some madhouse?

    No. No. He was sure other people saw them. But he was also sure they forgot it as soon as they could. He, himself, tried to forget them every time he saw them. Every time. And then they appeared again.

    They plunged dizzily past blind dark offices and fully lit ones, towards the cars on the street below.

    At maybe tenth floor level, the dragon opened his wings, and turned gracefully, gaining height.

    Edward was never sure how they flew. He'd always thought thermals... But these wings were flapping, vigorously, to gain altitude, and he could feel the back muscles ripple beneath his legs.

    He'd put his briefcase's shoulder handle across his chest, bandolier style. And that was good because the dragon's scales were slicker and smoother than they seemed to be, and he had to hold on with both hands to the ridge that ran down the back of the dragon, as the dragon turned almost completely sideways, and gained altitude, flying above the high-rises, above Hudson Bay, circling. Heading out to Colorado. Where Edward was supposed to convince Tom to do something he didn't want to do.

    Oh, hell.



    "What?" Kyrie asked, looking at Rafiel who stood by the windows, frowning at them.

    "This window was broken from the outside," he said. "Something ripped the screen aside, and hammered that window down. From the outside."

    "How do you know?" she asked. She was looking at her patio door and wondering how she was going to be able to pay for all that glass. Safety glass, at that, she was sure. "How could you tell?"

    "The glass fragments are all on the inside," he said. "And scattered pretty far in."

    "The glass fragments for this patio door are pretty much inside, too, but there's a bunch of them outside," she said. "I think you're reading too much into it."

    "No," Rafiel said. "I'm no expert, of course. I could bring the lab here, and they could tell you for sure. But - see, on the patio door, the glass is kicked all the way out there, almost halfway through your backyard."

    "Which isn't very far," Kyrie said.

    "Admittedly," Rafiel said. "But see, the door, I'm sure was kicked from the inside. But the windows weren't. There's some glass that crumbled and just fell on that side, but most of it got pushed in here, all the way to the middle of the carpet."

    Kyrie looked. There were glass pieces all the way through the room, to the foot of the sofa where Tom had slept. There were spots of blood, too, where Tom had walked on the glass, apparently without noticing.

    Suddenly, it was too much for Kyrie, and she sat on the end of the sofa where there was no glass. "How could he?" she asked. "What was he high on, anyway? There was glass everywhere. Why couldn't he feel it? What's wrong with him?"

    Rafiel looked puzzled and started to say "Who-" Then he shook his head. "If you mean Ormson, I think there's a lot more wrong with him than even I could tell you. Though I think I'll do a background check on him tomorrow. His getting that other young punk here worries me. Perhaps he's a dealer? And that guy came by for a hit?"

    Kyrie was about to say that she'd never seen any signs that Tom dealt - but what did she have to go on? She had suspected him of it. He'd said he didn't. And, of course, she would trust him because he was a model of virtue and probity. "What is wrong with me?" she asked.

    And now Rafiel looked even more puzzled and she almost laughed. Which showed how shocked she was, because there really wasn't anything to laugh about.

    The golden eyes gave her the once over, head to toe. "I don't see anything wrong with you."

    For a moment, for just a moment, she could almost smell him, musky and virile like the night before. She got up from the sofa. That was probably what was messing her up. It was all down to pheromones and unconscious reactions and stuff. It was all ... insane.

    She grabbed her right hand with her left, as if afraid what they might do. "Well, that's neither here nor there," she said. "Is it? These windows are going to cost me a fortune, and I will have to work a bunch of overtime to pay for it."

    "I could talk to my dad. He knows- I could get someone to do the job and you could pay for them on credit."

    Kyrie twisted her lips. One thing she had seen, through her growing up years, and that was that families usually went wrong when they started buying things on credit, no matter how necessary it seemed at the time. And since many of the foster families fostered for the money allowance a new kid brought, she had seen a lot of families who had gone financially to the wrong. "No, thank you," she said. "I can take care of myself."

    "But this is wide open," he said. "And there's something killing shifters. What if they come for you? How are you going to defend yourself? I have to protect you. We're partners in solving this crime, remember?"

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