Copyright © 2011 Carolyn Crane
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
I turn to Simon, who’s been unusually quiet, and discover, much to my horror, that he’s aggressively eyeing this new impound lot attendent, who is twice his size. Eyeing him enough so that, simply put, there’s a thing between them now.
“Look,” I say pleasantly, trying to counteract Simon’s insolence. “You have a little gray Jetta out there that’s mine. When this lot was called, there was no record of it. But it’s out there, and I just want to get it back. I have my ID here, and I know it will match the registration, which I know is in the glove compartment, and I also have the keys that go to it.”
“What is this, Cinderella and her glass slipper?” Steve says from behind the window, not taking his hard-assed gaze off Simon. “If there’s an error, we’ll turn it up. We don’t need civilians in restricted areas.”
“We saw my car.”
Simon crosses his arms, gaze boring even harder now into the guy with the moustache. “I think our friends don’t understand who they’re dealing with, Justine.”
I scowl at Simon. He thinks I’m going to play the mayor’s fiancée card?
Simon doesn’t see my scowl; he’s turned his aggressive gaze to Steve. I’m starting to worry; there’s so much heat among the three of them, it’s like a fight’s already started.
“They don’t get who they are dealing with on any level,” Simon amends mysteriously.
“Who would that be?” Steve disappears from the window. The metal door opens and out he stomps. “Who would that be? That we’re dealing with here?” Steve goes to stand by the man with the moustache. Convenient. Simon can antagonize them both at the same time.
Finally, Simon turns to me. “Don’t you think somebody needs attitude adjustment?”
My mouth falls open. Simon wants me to zing my fear into them.
“Don’t like our attitude?” the one with the moustache asks Simon.
“Oh my God,” I say as I come to understand Simon’s plan: he’s going to put himself in danger and force me to zing them. “Ignore my friend!” I command.
Steve and the man with the moustache ignore me instead.
“He’s trying to antagonize you,” I plead. “Don’t fall for it. Look—” I hold up the police report. “This car is out there. How do I get it out? What are the steps? I need your help.”
Steve smirks at Simon. “It’ll be a while.”
“I have an idea, Steve,” Simon says. “How about if I rip off this guy’s moustache and shove it up your ass? Will that expedite things?”
“Stop,” I say to Simon, hand on his chest. I turn to Steve and the other man. “Don’t take the bait.”
The man with the moustache steps forward, orange vest flashing. “Nothing’s stopping you.”
Simon takes a step forward. “The image of you, slobbering like a baby and begging me to lay off is stopping me, actually.” He’s now officially in the man’s face. The men have the fight on; it’s in their eyes. Simon will make them hurt him until I cave. “You’ll be sorry,” I say to Simon under my breath.
“What are you waiting for? You know you want it,” Simon says silkily. Steve and the moustachioed guy think Simon’s talking to them, but he’s talking to me.
Yes. I want it. I want to zing more than anything.
Simon touches two fingers to the man’s orange vest and shoves. “That’s for you, baby.”
“Don’t.” I pull him away.
Too late. The moustachioed man pushes me out of the way and shoves Simon—hard. Simon stumbles and falls backward onto the ground, laughing.
“Stop!” I yell.
“That’s all you got, you pussy?” Simon grabs up a handful of slushy gravel and whips it into the moustachioed man’s face. The man’s vest seems tighter suddenly, like he’s puffed up with rage; I gasp as he lunges for Simon. He yanks Simon up by the collar and punches him square in the nose. The force of the punch sends Simon stumbling backward, back down.
“Don’t!” I grab the man’s arm, but he pulls out of my grip. I could make him back off if I wanted to. One zing from me and he’d run off in fright.
Simon coughs and smiles at the same time, not bothering to wipe away the blood streaming from his nostrils. He’ll let the man hurt him, and he knows I know it. He takes great joy in following through on bluffs. He grins, and then, out of nowhere, he spits at the man.
“Simon!” I say.
The spit doesn’t hit; it doesn’t have to. The moustachioed man’s eyes turn blank. Blind rage. The eyes don’t see, or more, they don’t take in new information.
Steve pipes up now: “Can’t let that shit stand, Hal.”
I grab the moustachioed man’s arm—Hal’s arm—again. His nostrils flare, like he’s readying to attack. I’m touching him now, and automatically—greedily, excitedly—I locate the surface of his energy dimension. All my fear and worry—I could be rid of it. I grip him harder, reminding myself I’ve sworn off zinging.
The man breathes in a snort, like a mad bull.
Simon gazes up at me with velvety blue eyes, nose vivid with red blood. He has the look of a brilliantly-colored tropical bird. A bad bird, staring, waiting, too far gone in recklessness, about to get badly injured. A part of him hates being there, but it’s where he always goes. I know. I do the same thing with fear, careening into the pit of it, over and over.
The man jerks away from me and stalks toward Simon, who starts scrambling backward, laughing, taunting. Simon saw how close I came and he thinks I’ll give in now. He’s the most warped and brilliant student of human nature you will ever see.
One second is all I’d need to unload my fear into Hal; I have enough in me to turn both Hal and Steve into quivering bundles of terror. My fabulous skill, taught to me by Packard during his despot days. The fear builds higher in me—hot, jagged. One zing and I’d be free of it.
Hal hauls Simon up by the jacket sleeve. “You think that’s funny? Spitting at me?”
Bad question. I wince.
“No. I think it’s fucking hilarious.” Simon says.
The man cracks Simon on the side of the head.
“Stop it!” I scream.
Simon’s down again, crawling dazedly on all fours, on fire with his recklessness.
“The spit didn’t even hit you, you jerk!” Oh, I want to zing this guy. I hate myself for it, but that doesn’t stop the wanting. I storm over to him.
Steve’s laughing. “Christ, Hal.”
Simon will go to the hospital. Simon. My friend.
Hal pulls Simon up for more hurt.
“No, you don’t,” I say.
Simon turns his gaze to me. I expect to see a look of triumph, but there’s just pain.
I start stoking my fear higher. It will be wonderful, delicious. We’re both sick. And I’m going to help him. I grip Hal’s shoulder. I can get to his energy dimension through fabric as easily as I can through skin.
A loud honk! honk! stops everything, including Hal, who freezes, fist cocked in the air, like a cartoon man.
A big, shiny, black car screeches to a stop. A back door swings open. A big black boot is planted in the mud. Black velvet pants.