Three days later,
she was back in the city. Tommie saw her first in the park, as usual,
alongside Artemis as she spoke earnestly with Tor about some damn Garou
He walked over to them slowly. It was always better to let the werewolves see you coming, than to spring on them in surprise.
"Hello." He said to Artemis.
Her eyes smiled to him, as she turned.
"Greetings, Mr. Gunn! How are you this evening?"
"Well, thank you. Please call me Tommie," he said for the tenth or eleventh time. It was disconcerting to have someone Grandpa's age call him Mr. Gunn. And Artemis had proved to be a friend.
He stayed and made small talk for several minutes. Sappho kept her eyes down, and did not look in his direction.
After a time, she mumbled an excuse and hurried off.
The smell of Jack Daniels lingered in the air after she had gone.
good Gaia these streets 'ud confuse a fuckin ferret.... Sappho thought as she stumbled along a curb somewhere in Hell's Kitchen. She'd taken to coming here more and more often lately. It seemed to be one of the only places in the city that the leeches didn't hunt, and so she didn't have to run into him. Add to that the fact that most Garou didn't - or wouldn't - come here, and it was perfect.
She never noticed the man trailing her until it was too late.
The sharp prick of the blade at her throat broke through her drunken reverie.
There was an arm around her, pulling her backwards, and a hand at her throat.
The stench of whiskey flowed across her shoulder as he sputtered obscenities into her ear.
Why in hell does Gaia want these things protected? she wondered.
Then she turned on the would-be rapist, growing large and terrible, and watched in pleasure as his eyes widened and a wet stain spread on the crotch of his jeans.
He fell to his knees, and then tried to skitter back out of her reach. He couldn't move that quickly. He saw the blow coming, opened his mouth to scream, but all that came out was an impotent squeak.
Sappho smiled, then laughed.
Then she gutted him.
It was over quickly, almost too quickly. She realized she had far more built up rage to spend, and this one death had done almost nothing for her. She stalked into the street, looking for another adversary.
She would bring death tonight. She would make humans tremble in their homes again. She would bring back the memory of why they were afraid of the dark.
She would prey, and it would be GOOD.
Tommie awoke slowly. He stretched in his lazy boy, feeling his muscles loosen again. He lazily reached over and switched on the television, already set to CNN. Then he began his nightly preparations.
First, a shower though, so he headed for his bathroom and turned on the hot water. He listened vaguely to the announcer.
"... so disfigured as to be unrecognizable. Local police are not releasing names until the notification of next of kin. Recapping this story, fifteen found dead in Harlem today, all victims of what police are saying is a particularly violent spree killer. Some of the victims are known to have had ties to the world of drugs and prostitution. Officials are not speculating as to whether organized crime is involved or these latest killings are ... "
Tommie sat down on the edge of the sink, watching the television as he turned off the water. He walked back into his vault, watched more of the news, then finally picked up the phone.
Damn, it's gonna be a long night....
Sappho’s phone rang
and rang. It wasn’t like her, thought Tommie, to ignore her phone.
But then, she was doing lots of things that weren’t like her. And
he wanted to know why. It obviously had something to do with their
discussion, but even that was confusing. His mind kept going back
to one thing she’d said.
“That's my fault. I'll own up to that. And if you want to rip out my heart now, I kinda wouldn't blame you if you did."
He hadn’t asked her what was her fault. At the time, it had seemed as if she’d get to it eventually, but she’d just gotten drunk, and weepy, and then had stormed out into the night, leaving him shaken and missing Boo more than he had since she’d left. Even more than he had missed her when he learned she was dead, and would never come back to him. Maybe it was in the shared mannerisms, maybe the similarity of voice, but somehow, whenever he was around Sappho, he found himself inexplicably thinking of Boo.
And secretly hating her for it, he thought, then stopped himself.
What if she can pick that up…? Sense his … disquiet, his anger? Maybe that’s why she wouldn’t tell you the whole story, Tommie-boy. Maybe she knew.
Tommie replaced the phone in the receiver. He knew she wouldn’t be answering. He had a faint idea where she might be, and he’d need more than a phone to find her.
He stepped to his window, and stood, as if composing himself for a moment, then sent out a summons. It was a cruel trick to use on a friend, but he needed Wolf here, as soon as possible, and he had no other way of finding him.
So he called him, magically, and within five minutes, he heard the familiar sound of bat-wings approaching the open window.
Wolf landed on Tommie’s shoulder, his wings trembling slightly from the forced flight he’d just made, and Tommie set him down gently on the sofa.
Then Wolf finally filled out, came back into being Wolf and not Wolf the bat, and sat perched on the arm of the couch, panting slightly from the exertion.
“What’s up, boss?” he asked, adjusting his jacket and straightening his clothing. Bat form was not the most comfortable way to travel, but it was the quickest.
“We need to find Sappho. I need to talk to her. Now. Tonight.” Tommie frowned for emphasis.
“Well, I can run air recon,” said Wolf. “Do you have any idea where to start looking, though? New York’s a big city.”
“As a matter of fact,” Tommie said seriously, “I do.”
Tommie was still waiting
at the window an hour later when Wolf flew back in. He landed on
the carpet, and stood up a second later. His eyes were wide, mostly
in surprise that Tommie had guessed where, in this whole city, Sappho might
He nodded to Tommie.
“You were right. She’s there. About a hundred yards from the building. Looks like she jumped the fence. She’s sitting on the edge of the cliff.”
Tommie sighed. There were times when he hated being right. This was one of them.
He thanked Wolf, assured him that he was done needing anything from him tonight, and wished him good hunting. Then he called his driver.
“I need to get to Bannerman’s Castle. Yes, tonight. As soon as possible.”
Tommie’s drivers were used to strange calls and stranger locations. This one was no different. He was at the door within five minutes. As he drove across the bridge, Tommie became aware of a niggling feeling within himself.
Maybe I oughta let her do it.
But, in the end, she was kin, and he could not let her go without at least speaking to her about it. Boo would have wanted it that way.
Sappho sat, overlooking
the Hudson River. She idly dragged her finger through the dirt, making
swirls and patterns at random.
And this glyph means honor…
And this one means glory…
And this one, Sappho Spearbreaker, means wisdom…
She remembered her first lesson in glyph carving, the old woman guiding her hand in the pattern as Sappho frowned and concentrated and tried, over and over again, to get them just right, to make her mentor so proud of her.
You try too hard, little one, said Walks-with-the-horses, and Sappho bit her tongue to avoid telling the old one that there was no such thing as trying to hard, that that was the only way she knew how to try at all.
She took another pull from the half-empty bottle, feeling the liquid fire slide down her throat. In a few minutes now, nothing would matter.
She looked down again, over the cliff to the river that swirled and eddied two hundred feet below her perch. She pulled out the gun she’d taken from one of the street punks earlier this afternoon. It was a ‘Wonder Nine’ in the parlance of the streets, but she thought it would do for the job at hand. She carefully held one of the bullets, a silver tipped round, in her hand.
She looked down at the glyphs one more time, then raked a clawed hand over them, until they disappeared. It looked like the marks on her back, on her side.
Glory and honor covered with scars. And what does it matter anyway?
Somewhere, a dog barked, but she ignored the sound. Then another sound came, closer. It sounded like the flapping of enormous bird wings. Sappho peered drunkenly at the sky.
Flap-flap-flap came the sound, closer and closer.
Then she realized it was fabric, someone in a duster walking up the path. The flapping was the sound of the coat being blown against their legs.
She looked down, at Tommie who stood within twenty feet of her.
“You want to die here, Sappho?” he asked, his voice calm though loud over the wind.
She shrugged. He couldn’t stop her, she knew. No matter how fast he could move, she could fall faster.
“I want to hear the rest of your story now, Sappho,” he called to her, moving a step closer and spreading his hands as if to show he held nothing. “I think I know why you thought I’d want to kill you. I want to hear it from your mouth.”
She hesitated, looking back over her shoulder at the river, then glancing at him again.
“You were the one hunting them, Sappho, that’s obvious. But you didn’t kill them, and I think you’re way too good at your job for that to have been an accident. I want to know the story.”
He sat down on the ground then, and waited.
Leech magic, her brain screamed. Do it now!!!
But she turned to him instead, and, taking a deep breath, began to tell the rest of the story.