Saturday, 25 February 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 5

The next time I opened my eyes I was weaker still. I tried to move but my body refused to listen.
There was a stirring next to me and a young man’s worried face swam into my vision. I blinked and his features became clearer. His straight blond hair was pulled back from his face and his eyes where the colour of a restless sea, blue on grey. His eyes probed mine and I found myself unable to look away.
His voice was deep and rough, not the voice I had expected to come from that face. He had the face of a man who has never had to work hard a day in his life. He wasn’t overweight but that leanness I had come to know in men was missing.
“Crystal.” He said my name again but this time slid a hand under my head and held a glass of water to my lips.
I drank greedily but he pulled it back before my thirst was quenched. I reached a trembling hand to the glass and he smiled.
“Not too much at once. Let that settle and you can have more.”
“Who... who are you?” My voice cracked with every word.
“I’m Dante Brook.”
The man I had been sent to find, the one whom the envelope belonged to.
“What happened?”
“The fever came back two days ago. You almost didn’t make it.” Dante touched my forehead and I shrank back from his touch.
How dare he touch me? He was a perfect stranger and he had no right. He pulled his hand back and smiled in apology.
“Sorry. The fever broke last night and we knew you were going to make it.”
“A fever would never have stopped me.” I barely got the words out. Already I was so tired.”
Dante laughed at that. “No, it wouldn’t have. The doctor was most surprised when he came this morning and found you still alive.”
There was a rustling on the other side of the bed and with great effort I turned my head. The maid that had been with me when I first awoke sat up on the window seat. Covering a yawn with her hand she stared at me.
“Oh, Mr. Dante. What are you doing here?” The maid nearly tumbled to the floor in her hurry to get off the window seat. “Miss Crystal, you’re alright.”
“It’s alright, Elise. I came to see if I could do anything and I found you asleep in the chair. You deserved the sleep. You haven’t slept since Crystal’s fever came back. And as you can see the fever broke and she is fine.”
Elise bobbed a curtsey and came to the bed. Sitting down she gently took one of my hands in hers. She pressed a hand to my forehead and smiled. “Completely gone. Shall I find you something to eat?”
I nodded. She smiled again and after bobbing another curtsey left the room.
“She’s a good girl. Elise will see that you have everything you need. I have some things that need attending too.”
Dante stood and sketched a quick bow. The door closed behind him and I was left alone. I struggled to keep my eyes opened but to no avail. I was so tired.

Elise was beside me when I awoke. I felt a little stronger.
“Do you think you can sit up?” Elise asked.
I shrugged and even that took most of my energy.
“Well, no matter. We have plenty of pillows.”
With quick, gently hands Elise arranged two more pillows behind my back. Propped up as I was I was able to see more of the room. My time up before had been brief. I hadn’t noticed much beyond the number of drawers in the furniture.
While Elise warmed something up over the fire crackling in the stone fireplace, I looked around at the room.
The walls were a pale blue and trimmed in white. Everywhere I looked I saw an abundance of pillows. Every chair in the room held one. And the pillows were all different sizes. Some were round, others square and some were shaped like hearts. The couch and chairs arranged around the fireplace were dark blue like the canopy on the bed. A table made of some sort of dark wood sat in the middle of them.
I was still admiring the elegance when Elise came back with a bowl in her hand.
“Now, let’s see if we can get some of this broth down you.”
She held a spoonful to my mouth and I swallowed. I felt silly being fed like a baby but I couldn’t lift my hand farther than a few centimetres off the blankets.
“Never mind about that, Miss Crystal,” Elise said when she saw me struggling. “You’ve been sick a long time and the doctor said you were pretty torn up inside. It will be awhile before you are back to your old self.”
I swallowed some more broth. Then asked the question that had been burning in my brain for awhile. “Has anyone been to check on my family?”
“Don’t you worry about them,” Elise said cheerily. “A Patrol Justice came by just after you came here. We told him that you were on the mend. He’s been back a few times. He brought a letter from your family yesterday.”
I smiled. They hadn’t forgotten about me. “How long has it been?”
“Just over three weeks, Miss.” Elise fed me more broth. “Patrol Justice said that they were doing just fine. So don’t worry about them. We’ll just concentrate on getting you better.”
I nodded and allowed her to lay me back down. I would get better and then go home. Home where I belonged. I began to make plans but soon found myself drifting away.
The door opened and the smell of wet dog assailed my nose. Truscott cuddled up beside me and I curled into his warmth. A soft growl echoed in the back of his throat and I heard Elise sigh. I didn’t mind that he was wet. Truscott was still with me, I wasn’t totally alone.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 4

Fire burned through me, pulsing through my veins, racing towards my heart. I writhed as the heat coursed along my limbs. Cooling hands touched my skin, a tender voice penetrated through the fire. I couldn’t make out the words but I knew that they meant to help me.
I sank back into graceful oblivion, away from the fire and pain.

Sunlight hit my face as I rolled over. I opened my eyes and squinted in the bright light.
Where was I?
I pushed myself up with my arms. But they shook as they tried to hold my body weight.
What was wrong with me?
I collapsed back on my pillows. Pillows? I twisted my head and studied my bed. Or whoever’s bed this was. It defiantly was not mine.
The four posters where made from some dark wood and stretched up towards the ceiling. Blue cloth hung from each post, covering my view of the ceiling. Curtains were tied back around the scroll worked posts. I felt behind me and tried to count the pillows. At least five from what I could feel.
I swallowed and felt the dryness of my throat. I tried again to sit up.
“Easy, miss, let me help you.”
The maid that I had first seen came into my view.
“What...” I swallowed and tried again. “What happened to me?”
“Why, miss, don’t you remember?” The maid helped me sit up and held a glass of water to my lips.
I took a sip. “Not really.”
“You came here with a bullet inside of you. You’d been shot.”
I closed my eyes and laid back on the pillow. Slowly the memories came back to me. The running, the message, the music, the shots, the men.
“Truscott.” I twisted my head trying to spot my faithful dog. “Where is he?”
“He’s down in the kitchen, charming the cook. He’s gotten fat. But every day he comes up here and sits with you for hours. The first few days he wouldn’t let anyone touch you. We had to get a couple of the gardeners to come up and take him away so the surgeon could work on you. Even then he paced outside your door, growling at everyone. Oh, look at me babbling on. I’m tiring you. Here, let’s get you settled back and when you wake up again I’ll help you to the bath.”
“Wait, who are you?” I stretched out my hand to her.
“Oh, how silly of me. I’m Elise. And you’re Crystal.”
“How do you know?”
“The envelope we found in your backpack, it gave us all your information.”
“Where am I?”
Had I fallen among thieves and robbers? But I couldn’t of. The music had been coming from this house. I had heard it. And just as I was about to speak I heard it again. That music, I had heard it before. That song, but it wasn’t the same player, it wasn’t as sweet.
“Who is that? Who is that playing?”
“Why, that’s Miss Savannah,” Elise said. “Now you lie back down and sleep. You need more rest.”
I allowed her to tuck me back in. I was tired. How long had I been here? Was my family okay? Did they know where I was?
But my body betrayed me and slipped back towards the darkness. I heard the click of nails on the floor and then a wet nose pressed against my neck. I smiled and rolled towards the comforting warmth of Truscott.
The next time I opened my eyes a girl with blond hair curled into ringlets sat in the chair beside my bed.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Savannah Brooke.”
“You’re the one who was playing that music,” I murmured.
“Music? What music? I was playing the piano.”
“The day I came here, I followed the sounds of your music. You were playing that day, weren’t you?”
“The day you came here no one was playing. At least I wasn’t.”
“Grandpa told me to follow the music. It led me to you. Does a man named Dante live here?”
Savannah looked at me in surprise and wiped my brow with a soft, white cloth. “Dante’s my brother. Don’t worry; the envelope from your grandfather is safe in his hands. Are you thirsty?”
I nodded and watched as she glided gracefully across the room. Her dress was long and form fitting. Something like they would have worn back during the civil war, minus a few petticoats and the corset. It was a dark pink and it swished as Savannah walked back towards me.
She returned with a glass and helped me sit up. I took the glass from her hand and drank half of it with one gulp.
Savannah raised an eyebrow.
“What?” I looked from the glass to her and back again.
“Nothing, nothing.”
I gulp the rest of the water down and handed the glass back. I settled against the pillows and studied Savannah. Her eyes where blue like the cobalt blue bottle Quincy had. Her hair was golden like ripe wheat.
She tipped her head sideways and I could tell that her perfect skin wasn’t natural. She obviously used make up and a lot of it. I touched my skin, roughened by the wind and sun, freckled but still smooth.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Savannah asked. “Is there something wrong?”
I pushed the blankets down and swung my legs over the side of the bed.
“What are you doing?” Savannah stood up, backing away from the bed.
“Getting up. What does it look like I’m doing? I’m fine. I need to go home. Thank you for everything. I’ll get the money back to you somehow.”
“What do you mean you’re going home? This is your home now.” Savannah took a step towards me.
I snorted and began to search for my clothes. This place had a million drawers. There were two dressers, each with six drawers. The wardrobe thing had three and another table with a mirror had some too. But none of the drawers revealed my clothes.
I turned to Savannah and propped my hands on my hips. My legs had begun to shake and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold on to this charade much longer.
“Are you okay?” Savannah asked.
“Yes, of course.” I was not going to admit to this perfect person that I was in pain and that this wound was much worse then I wanted to admit. “Where are my clothes?”
“What? Those old rags you were wearing? We threw them out.” Savannah took my arm and tried to draw me back to the bed. “Come on, you need to rest.”
“Those where my best pair of jeans and my favourite sweater. You shouldn’t have done that. I need those clothes.”
I was scared now. My family wouldn’t be able to do much longer without me. How long had I been here?
“How long has it been since I came here?” I allowed Savannah to lead me back to the bed.
“It’s been three weeks.”
I turned to her, my knees weak. I sank to the bed and stared at her. “What? Three weeks. I have to get out of here.”
“Why?” Savannah sat back in the chair. “Why do you want to leave?”
“I have to get home. I need to get back to my job and make money to help pay for things.”
“This is your home now, Crystal.”
I shook my head. “My home is in the east slums on East Third Street. Not this place. Seriously, I’m not kidding. I’m going home.”


Saturday, 11 February 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 3

I jogged down the street. There was no one out at this time of day. Most people where still at work or searching the garbage for something worth finding.
I looked up at the sky. It was a dull grey now. The clouds had rolled in and covered the blue. November had been unseasonable warm this year and I prayed that it would stay that way until I got home.
I slowed as I hit the harbour area. This place was dangerous. People went into it and never came out. But all my life I had been taught to survive. Still, there was no need to go rushing head long into danger.
Truscott tensed as we began to pick our way through the streets. I had only been out this way a couple of times. The buildings looked familiar. They were the same as the ones we lived around.
The farther I got into the harbour area the danker the air became. The smell of fish and oil filled the air. I could hear the shouts and sounds of the sailors as they docked their ships. The cranes creaked and groaned. The thuds of loads landing on the docks accompanied me as I slipped through shadows.
I kept the noise of the harbour on my right side. Eventually the noise faded and I could hear the sounds of men’s voices. The workers were finished for the day. I paused for a moment searching the crowds from the shadow of an old office building.
Why I kept looking for him, I didn’t know. He had been gone for nine years now. There was no way he would show up again. I had seen him after the accident, had held my mother as we stared at his lifeless body. That was when things went wrong for us.
I shook the memories away. I had a job to do and dwelling on the past was no help at all. I had to look to the future; that was where my path lay.
The rain began to fall and I drew the hood of my sweater up. I hadn’t changed and now I was glad. The black hoodie was warm and would camouflage me in the darkness.
It wasn’t a hard rain, but it was steady. In under an hour I was soaked to the bone. I began to look for a shelter for the night. I had no clue how far I had to go yet, but there was no sense in continuing in the rain.
A building loomed up before me. It was dark and menacing looking but I went in anyway. A staircase swept up to the second floor. Railings, once beautiful, hung in ragged rows, looking like rotten teeth in the mouth of a junkie.
I turned around in the front room and studied the place. A desk covered in dust and all manner of animal scat graced one wall. Doors that once swung on shiny hinges now drooped, heavy with memories. I shuddered. What had happened to this place?
“Well, that’s a silly question, isn’t it, Truscott?” I patted my dog on his brown head. “The same thing that happened to the rest of the world. War.”
Just the word made me cringe. By the time I was born the last war had been over for almost six decades. My grandfather had been just a young man when the last gun sounded. But the repercussions of that war had never left our world. The people who had survived had to start over again from scratch. We lived day by day. There was no guarantee that you would survive to see another birthday. If you made it past forty you were considered lucky. If the work or starvation didn’t drive you to an early grave something else would.
I found a dry corner and curled up beside Truscott. At least we could stay a little warm before we set off again.
I didn’t dare light a fire. Who knew who was lurking outside? A fire only drew trouble my grandfather always said. If a person was alone then a fire should be left alone. I shivered and blew on my hands. It was cold now. The wind had picked up and blew relentlessly through the room.
Opening my backpack I pulled out an apple and bit into it. The juice danced on my tongue and I smiled. It was tart and sweet at the same time. I bit off a piece for Truscott and he gobbled it up greedily. Within five minutes we had devoured the apple. I drank a little of the water Quincy had sent with me. Truscott lapped some from my hand.
I tucked my hands into my sweater pocket and sank against Truscott. We would stay here for a few hours and then when the rain petered off we would continue.

I woke to the sound of voices. For a minute I didn’t know where I was. I looked around at the strange place. In the early morning light it was spookier then last night. Beside me Truscott stiffened. I peered out of the corner and saw three men standing by the desk. I couldn’t make out the words but the tone of the conversation I could understand. Something had gone wrong and they were angry. I eased back into the shadows. I would just have to stay here until they left.
Truscott pressed against my leg and I inched farther back. My hand hit a piece of wood and it crashed to the floor. I cringed. There was no hiding now.
So I did the only thing I could. I ran.
“Hey, stop! Who are you?”
The shouts echoed behind me but I didn’t stop. Truscott growled low in his throat as he headed to the nearest exit. I followed him and jumped as a bullet slammed into the door frame beside me.
“Seriously?” I shook my head.
I burst out of the building and straight into the arms of a man in the uniform of a patrol. I stumbled back and spun around. They were all around me. I twisted, ducking swinging arms and slipping out of grasping hands. I felt like a mouse, caught by playful cats. They pushed me form one to the other.
“Hey, look who we have here.” A man with bright red hair and missing teeth grasped my arm. “Aren’t you pretty.”
“Ken, pass her here.”
Ken shoved me towards another man. My eyes filled with tears as his foul smell hit me. I coughed and he laughed.
“Just where do you think you are going, young lady?”
I looked up into the ice blue eyes of a tall man. I swallowed. He didn’t look like he was one to let girls go.
“I’m visiting a friend,” I said. It was only a half lie. After all I was visiting. “They’re expecting me.”
“Oh, and who are you visiting?” the man asked taking my chin in his fingers.
I stared back at him. I wasn’t going to say anything else. Beside me Truscott growled again.
“Shut up!” the first man yelled.
Truscott pressed closer to me, his hackles standing straight up on his back.
“Easy, boy,” I whispered.
“You’re from the east slums, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, what of it?” I shook my hair in defiance.
“I’ve heard the girls are pretty easy over there,” the ice man said.
“Well, you heard wrong.”  I spat on his foot.
I knew it was a mistake the minute I did it. His hand whipped up and descended on my cheek. I winced. My cheek stung and I felt more tears come.
“Well, lookie here, the east slum girls aren’t all that tough!” Ken sneered.
“Come here, darling. Let me have a good look at you.” Ken yanked me away from Smelly and ran his hand down my side.
His hand crept around my leg. I stomped on his foot. He shrieked and relaxed his grip on my arm. I yanked away from him and broke through the circle. Shouts and curses followed me. I pushed forward. I had to get as far away as possible. Truscott ran beside me still growling.
I heard the sharp report of a gun as the bullet lodged into the building beside me. Two more hit the concrete behind me. I was gasping for breath now, panic surging up my throat. I had to get away.
Pain radiated across my lower back. I screamed. My knees hit the sidewalk. I reached behind me and when I pulled my hand back it was covered in blood. Black spots danced before me but I struggled back to my feet. I couldn’t give up now. If I stopped those men would get me and I’d be dead. The pain was excruciating, worse than anything I had experienced before.
I had been shot twice in the past three years, but this was the worst. I limped into the shadow of a building. Truscott pressed his nose into my arm and whined.
“Ssh, boy, hush.” I touched his nose and he quieted.
I leaned my head against the wall. What could I do? I couldn’t stay here but moving on seemed almost impossible. Blood ran down my back soaking my sweater and pants. I reached into my backpack and pulled out a t-shirt. Pulling out my jack knife I cut it apart. I gritted my teeth and pressed against the wound. There was no exit wound, the bullet was still in me somewhere. I knew I couldn’t tie it too tight. The bullet might move around and cause more damage. But I had to stop the bleeding.
I was feeling light headed again. I braced myself against the wall. “Come on, Crystal, you can do this, girl.”
My hands shook as I tied the remainder of the t-shirt around my waist. I pulled my hoodie down and took a deep breath. Okay, I was going to make. I placed a hand on Truscott’s head.
“Let’s go, boy.”
The rain was falling again. I stepped into a puddle and felt the water seep through my shoe. I stumbled forward and Truscott woofed in alarm.
“It’s alright, Truscott. I’m fine.”
Maybe Truscott believed me, but I sure didn’t. I was anything but fine.
“Follow the music.”
My grandfather’s words echoed in my head. Behind me shouts sounded. They had spotted me. I clenched my jaws and began to run. The pain spread but I did my best to ignore it. Tears streamed down my cheeks, mingling with the rain. I slipped and slid my way through the streets.
The buildings where beginning to thin out when I finally allowed myself to pause. My lungs heaved, trying to draw in enough air. I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I was numb. With fear, pain.
Then I heard it. A faint sound. I moved towards it. It was music, pure and beautiful.
“Follow the music,” I whispered. “Follow the music.”
I strained to hear the song. There, to my left. I turned down the street. It was becoming clearer now. I ignored the pain in my back and moved towards the sound. The shouts behind me faded. I knew they were close but all I could hear was that tune.
I turned another corner and skidded to a stop. There among the dilapidated buildings and fallen trees stood a house seemingly untouched by the evil that possessed everything. Three storeys of light brown stone it spanned two blocks and stood in defiance to the battering rain. I was back in this world and the song was being hidden by the angry shouts of that group of men. Truscott wiggled through the fence as I climbed over the wrought iron bars. I hurried up white stone laid drive and marble steps craning my neck to see the top of the house. Columns and scroll work climbed to the highest peak of the red tiled roof.
Tall windows framed the double oak doors. Peering inside I could see the elegance of the foyer. Black and white tiles covered the floor. A red carpet rolled softly down the sweeping stairs. Brass vases held grasses and flowers and from somewhere beyond the stairs I could hear the music.
I lifted my hand and grasped the brass knocker. Then I stopped and looked down at myself. I couldn’t go in this way. My shoes where soaked through and one had blood on it.
I eased off the front stairs and made my way around the house. Another surprise hit me as I saw the vast lawn that stretched far beyond my eyesight. Small groves of trees, flower beds, gazebos and more where scatter in an organized disaster around the grass. I tiptoed up a cobblestoned path.
A glass door stood partially opened and I slipped inside. I sank to the floor, clutching my side. The pain was so bad. Black and white spots danced before my eyes. I crawled towards the hall, Truscott whining beside me. My backpack slid to one arm and I dragged it with me.
Someone screamed as I reached the hall. I looked up into the face of a young woman.
“Help,” I whispered. “Please help.”
She dropped to her knees beside me. “Miss, what happened to you?”
“Shot, they shot me.” I groaned as the pain spread. “Please.”
“Mr. Dante!” the girl shouted. “Mr. Dominique!”
I heard pounding feet coming from somewhere.
“Elise, what is it?”
The darkness descended slowly and I felt Truscott press his nose to my hand.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass part 2

I burst into the house, Lance and Trinity at my heels.
 “Quincy, is he okay?”
Lance and Trinity’s mother looked up from the table where she was feeding Macy. She shook her head. I patted the toddler on her head and dropped a kiss on Quincy’s head.
I paused in the bedroom door. My grandfather lay in his bed, face towards the window watching the sun move across the sky.
“Grandpa,” I said slowly walking to his bed. “I hear you decided to take some time off.”
“Crystal.” He held out a hand towards me and I took it in mine. “Sit. I need to talk to you.”
I sat on the side of the bed. “Grandpa, what did the doctor say?”
“He said I’m an old man who needs to take it easy for the next few weeks.”
“Did he give you anything?”
“He said he couldn’t until he got money.” Grandpa turned to me and I saw the pallor of his face.
“Grandpa, tell me the truth. It’s bad isn’t it?” I forced him to look at me.
He sighed. “It’s bad, Crystal.”
He flipped back the blankets and I gasped. The bandage across his stomach was soaked. I reached out with one hand and touched the blood.
“Grandpa, what happened?” I grabbed a wad of the cotton the doctor had left on the bedside table.
“I got shot, Crystal. Look, I need you to do something for me.”
I continued layer the wound with cotton, pressing down to stop the bleeding. He grabbed my hand and stopped me.
“Grandpa, you have to let me help you.”
The tone was one that was not to be disobeyed. I raised my head and looked him in the eyes.
“Honey, you have to do something for me.”
“Anything, Grandpa, anything.” I stroked his face and tried to smile but the tears where forming.
This was the man who had raised me since I was seven, the man who had taken Pete and Quincy and they’re family in off the streets. And now he was lying here bleeding and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.
“Crystal, I need you to take something to some people.”
“Can you not be any more cryptic?” I slipped onto the floor and knelt beside the bed.
He laughed a little. “Sorry, but I can’t say much more. There’s an envelope in my end table. Take it west.”
“West, what’s there?” I opened the drawer and peered inside. There, lying in the bottom was an unmarked yellow envelope. I pulled it out and felt it. It was thick and bendy. Papers were my best guess.
“Go west, follow the music and they’ll tell you what to do. Listen to them, trust them, do what they say.”
“Who’s ‘they’? Grandpa, you’re confusing me. How far west? I’ve been west. There’s nothing out there but the harbour and more slums.”
“Farther west then that, Crystal. Go farther west then you have ever gone and follow the music from there.”
“What music?” I fingered the flap but his hands stopped me.
“Don’t open it. Only he can. Just do what I say. Give it to Dante. He knows what to do.”
I frowned. “This is ridiculous. I’m not going.”
I crossed my arms and stared him down. Or tried to. No one ever stared my grandfather down. No one defied him either. What he told you to do, you did. That’s just the way it was.
“Crystal, I can’t tell you anything. It’s too dangerous. Once you get this to Dante tell him to tell you everything. He can’t leave a thing out.”
“Who’s Dante?” I fingered the flap on the envelope again.
“He’s a friend. Crystal, you have to do this. To protect Robyn and Macy. This will help them get more out of life then they would.”
I sighed. It wasn’t fair, him pulling the ‘protect Robyn and Macy’ card. Everyone knew that was just what got me moving and doing things. And just like always I found myself nodding.
“I’ll go find this allusive Dante and deliver this mysterious envelope.” I stood up and kissed him. “
“That’s my girl. Go now and you can get there by morning.”
I waved at him and headed to the kitchen. Quincy was cleaning up Macy and she reached out for me.
“Hey, Macy.” I took my baby in my arms and danced her around the room. “How are you?”
“Mommy, me happy.”
“So am I, Macy. Now you go play. I have to talk to Aunt Quincy.” I set her on her feet and gave her a small tap.
“Quincy, I have to go away for the rest of the day. Give Pete this money and ask him to pay off the doctor and get some more medicine for Grandpa.”
Quincy took the money and tucked it into a canister in the pantry. “I’ll get you some food.”
“And make sure you use some of that money to get food for you and the kids. You need it, Quincy.” I nodded towards her stomach and she rubbed a hand over her unborn baby.
“Crystal, I can take care of myself. I’ve had four kids already. I know what I’m doing. Having one doesn’t make you an expert.” She patted my face and handed me a water bottle and a small paper bag. “Go. We’ll take care of things here.”
I kissed her cheek and ran up the stairs. I hurried into the bedroom I shared with Robyn, Macy and Trinity. Robyn sat on her small bed playing with a few toys.
“Where are you going, Crystal?” She clambered out of her bed and came to stand by me.
“Why do you think I’m going somewhere?” I shoved my head into the small closet and yanked out my back pack. “You should be in bed. That fall yesterday wasn’t a walk in the park.”
“Crystal, I’m fine.” She bounced up and down on my bed and then held a hand to her head.
“Oh, you’re really fine.” I led her back to her bed and tucked her in. “Now, you stay here until your mom says you can get out. Stay.”
“I’m not Truscott.” Robyn rolled her eyes but laid back down on the pillow.
“Speaking of Truscott, where are the dogs?” I looked around for my faithful hound.
“Mom locked them in the back yard. They were making too much noise.”
I blew her a kiss and tossed my back pack over my shoulder. “I’ll be back soon. Tell you dad and Alex I love them. You can share the bed with Trinity tonight.”
I ran down the stairs and out the back door. Truscott jumped to his feet and bounded over to me, his tail wagging, a doggy grin on his face.
“Hey, boy, how’s it going?” I rubbed his ears and planted a kiss on his head. “Shall we go for a run?”
Buddy and Anne, the other two dogs came over and I stroked them before sending them back inside. Through the screen I could see Buddy run up the stairs and Anne head straight for Macy. My girls would be fine without me for a few days.
Grandpa had said I could get there by tomorrow morning but I was going into unknown territory. Who knew how long it would take? Another thought kicked in. He never said when I would be able to get back home. If I made it there by morning and then spent an hour, two tops with this Dante I would be home before eight tomorrow. That would be just over a day gone. They would be okay without me.
Quincy appeared at the back door, Macy in her arms, Anne at her side. In the upstairs window Robyn and Buddy peered down at me. I waved at them and smiled. My heart was pounding again. This was not like what I had done this morning. There was no routine with this one. It was entirely new.
I opened the doors to the underground cellar. The few weapons we had were stored in the cool, darkness of the underground cavern. I made my way down the shaky wooden steps. A lantern sat on a shelf and I shook it. Oil sloshed in the base and I struck a match on the rock we used as a step stool. The wick flared to life and I made my way down the room.
There at the end was a cupboard, locked with a padlock. The key was under a jar of pickles that had sat on the shelf for years. I don’t think anyone dared open it.
The padlock groaned as I turned the key in it but it opened. Laying the padlock and key on the shelf I swung back the door. Inside was the shotgun and pistol we had managed to find. A box of cartridges sat beside each gun. A collection of throwing and fighting knives sat on another shelf and there on the top shelf was my favourite, my father’s bow.
Taking it down, I bent it and attached the string. Giving it a feel practice tugs I nodded. It was still good. Unstringing the bow I reached up for the quiver. Ten arrows knocked against each other. I sighed. I still hadn’t had the chance to make more to replace the ones I’d used up hunting. I usually managed to save them afterwards but the last trip had been hard and I had lost a good dozen. Well, I would just have to be extra careful and make each shot count. Not that I was expecting a fight. But it was good to be prepared. There was no reason to die needlessly, like my father had.
I swung my backpack to the ground and pushed the bow into its holder. A few years ago my grandfather and I had modified my backpack to make it work for hunting. Two straps held the bow onto the side. We had used tie strings to make it easy to grab. Another string held the quiver to the other side. I hurriedly attached both the bow and quiver and then reached up to gather a few knives.
I tucked a knife into either side of my jacket. I could throw with both hands. A knife went into each of my combat boots and a fifth was shoved into a sheath in my backpack. I already had a small jackknife attached to my belt.
I straightened and locking the cupboard left the cellar. Lance and Trinity waited for me at the top of the stairs, arms crossed before them.
“Whatever you two want the answer is no.” I shut the doors.
I snapped my fingers and Truscott bounded over.  I rubbed his head and headed to the house.
“Crystal, we want to come with.” Trinity touched my arm.
I sighed. “I know. But you can’t. I’m going into unknown territory and I can’t be worrying about you two the whole time.”
“We can take care of ourselves,” Lance protested. “Come on, Crystal. We want to help.”
“You’ll help by taking care of everyone here. Lance, can you take a message to Bone, Jacker and Justice? Tell them I’ll be gone for a few days. If you need something you can ask them for help.”
“You know Mom doesn’t like us talking to them. She thinks they’re a bad influence.” Trinity twisted a black curl around her finger.
“Well, bad influence or not, they do help keep us from starving,” I said opening the back door. “Look, I need to know that some around here can protect Robyn and Macy from harm. And your mom. You two can fight and so can Alex. Your dad is a good shot but he’s gone most of the day. Robyn and Macy can’t protect themselves.”
I knew that pulling the ‘Robyn and Macy need protecting’ card would work. Lance shrugged and Trinity hugged me.
“Be careful,” she whispered. “I’ll look after the girls.”
Macy toddled into the hall. I scooped her up and breathed in her sweet baby scent.
“Mommy loves you, Macy,” I said. “But I have to go away for awhile. Aunt Trinity will take care of you. You be a good girl.”
Macy leaned back in my arms and studied my face. Her blue eyes were so much like mine but her blond hair was her father’s. And those blue eyes were much too serious for a two year old. “Okay. I wuv you. I be good.”
“I know you will.” I gave Macy another squeeze and handed her to Trinity. “I’ll see you late tomorrow or early Thursday. If I’m not back by then tell Patrol Justice and tell him I went west beyond the harbour district. He’ll find me.”
I peeked into my grandfather’s room and found him sleeping, albeit restlessly. I scooped up the envelope and added it to my backpack. I went back into the kitchen. Quincy handed me a few apples and another water bottle. I tucked them all into my pack and then smiled at them. It was best not to let them know that this scared me. I had to remain strong for them.
One last kiss for Macy, a quick hug for Trinity and Quincy, a squeeze for Lance and I opened the front door and went down the steps. Without looking back I took off down the street, Truscott loping happily beside me.