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Raise the Strange

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The reap was messy. Another pane of glass fell from a skycraper to shatter upon a hopeful street artist, singing about his unrequited love. Gravelings never seem to tire of that gag.

Not that I’d reaped many souls around Wolfram & Hart. There was something a bit creepy about the law firm. Something which gave even gravelings the jitters.

I held the hand of the dead man, staring along with him at the mangled remains of his body.

“I just wanted her to notice me.” He let out a sigh which was nothing but a force of habit. “Every time she got out of her limo and walked to this building, I’d sing a song just for her. Do you think she noticed me? Maybe just this once?”

I glanced up at the broken window. A leggy brunette in a business suit frowned down upon the gory mess ruining her window view.

I pressed my reap’s arm and told him the truth. “She couldn’t have missed it.”

I turned him away from his indifferent object of affection, away from the skyscraper.

The fountain ahead leaped in a dance of water droplets, transforming into a cascade of lights.

One look at them and I knew his unrequited feelings were forgotten. He started walking toward the fountain, the care leaving his face.

Every sparkling drop gathered around him in a glowing embrace before he disappeared.

The fountain returned to its daily dance of reflected sun, nothing more.

Blue eyes gazed at me from across a barrier of water, widening within a pale face.

It was the girl from the Waffle House. The dark-haired girl with the talking lion. The one Rube didn’t want me to talk to.

The one I’d seen dead outside an elevator in my dream.

For a moment we just stared at each.

“I do not need this shit,” I muttered, backing away and turning in a half-run.

Why was she here? Was she following me? Stalking me? Or was it a coincidence?

Right. And I was a superhero.

A crowd was gathering around the mangled remains of my reap. Best to get away. Far away.

Far above the brunette in the suit still watched. Only she wasn’t looking at the body. Not anymore. She was looking at me.

Too much attention for one day. Way too much attention. I started walking in the direction of the Waffle House. I glanced over my shoulder.

Yes, the dark-hared girl was following me, clutching the lion in her hand.

I stopped. “What do you want?”

“I’m not sure.” The girl shook her head, pressing her free hand to her temple. As if I was the one freaking her out. “No. What I want to know is who you are?” She waved a hand back in the direction of the graveling-induced ‘accident’. “What was all that?”

“George. That's who I am.” Belatedly I realized I’d just given her my real name. “What are you talking about?”

“You know.” Hesitantly she began to inch a little closer to me.

I inched back and stopped myself. Again. “No. I don’t.”

“The lights. The ripple when you touched that man. Right before the window fell upon him.” The girl took another step forward. “The woman in the suit at the broken window, looking at you.”

Shit. Maybe Rube was right. I was getting entirely too much attention.

Only this girl with the talking lion didn’t seem to be the ordinary, living-her life-happily-without-a care-until-reapers-got-careless sort of person. Not considering the inanimate company she kept.

“I mean, I’ve seen some strange shit.” The girl winced as if she’d guessed my thought, tried to smile, and gave up. “That was strange even for me.”

“Lucky you,” I quipped. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

The girl stared at me for a long moment. “Which one?”

Huh. Point. “The first one. What do you want?”

The lion spoke in her hand, “A lone wolf needs her sisters.”

“Stop that!” I flinched. “If your lion does that a lot, strange should be normal. Right?”

“If you take souls or lead the dead into unearthly lights, you’re as strange as me.” The girl took a step closer to me, getting into my personal space. “Just what did you do? *Did* you take that musician’s soul?”

“Quit answering questions with questions.” I took a step back before standing my ground and glowering at her. “I asked you first.”

“Sometimes the only true answer is a question.” For a moment this girl reminded me of Sara. Only she didn’t have the muscles Sara did. Nor the smooth, predatory grace.

What she had was a tiny wrinkle of frustration in her forehead I recognized from the mirror. It didn’t tell a tale of a dangerous and deadly life. It expressed an angry lack of any life.

“All right, I guess we’re both freaking each other out with our strangeness.”
I lifted my hands in offering of peace. “Would you at least tell me your name?”

“Jaye.” She tossed her head back a little. “Jaye Tyler. And while we’re freaking each other out, I’m going to raise the strange with a question.”

She fixed me with one very blue eye, as blue as the woman’s I’d seen on the plane. “Do you have a sister?”

It would have been raising the strange, not to mention out of the blue if her lion didn’t keep bringing it up. A lone wolf and her sisters.

Actually it was kind of cool if it was about me. It meant I was a lone wolf. That was far less pathetic than other things I’d worried I was becoming. If the lion was talking about me.

Maybe this girl didn’t know any more than I did. Maybe she was trying to find out.

All right, time to ease up on snark. “Yeah. I mean yes. I do have a sister.”

“Just one?” Jaye asked, lowering her chin. “You wouldn’t happen to have another?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” I glanced at the lion. “Is there any reason why Rube didn’t want me talking to you, Jaye?”

“Other than I’m a freak? Or thought I might be crazy until I spoke to you?” Jaye smiled a little and shrugged. “No idea. I was actually hoping I'd just met someone as freakish as me. Someone who at least could understand my freakish.”

“Someone who could hear the wax lion talk.” I glanced at it. “Not everyone can hear it.”

“No.” Jaye shook her head vigorously. “They just see me reacting to it. And wonder what to do about the crazy woman in their midst.”

“That blows.” Understatement of the year. “So you’re looking for this lone wolf and her sisters?”

For a moment I visualized Sara, wet and naked, green eyes glistening in the shower. I saw her walking away from me in the Waffle House without a backward glance.

Yeah, she was definitely a lone wolf. A dangerous, but hot lone wolf.

God, I hoped she wasn’t my sister.

“Yeah,” Jaye said with a sigh. “I came all the way from Niagara Falls, chasing a girl.” She blushed a bit at her own words. “I mean, I met a girl in the shop where I work. I thought she might be the lone wolf.”

“You usually chase girls on the lion's say-so? Even when you're not sure if it's talking about them?” I studied the fractured wax face of Destiny’s pimp? Our mutual madness? Maybe both. “Shouldn’t you wait for something more coherent?”

“That's as coherent as it gets. Believe me, waiting doesn’t work. Or ignoring the lion altogether.” Jaye bit her lower lip again. “I’ve tried.”

Sounded a bit like when I'd questioned or tried to ignore a reap. Only to have the gravelings come after me.

I was starting to sympathize with Jaye.

“Well, what did this girl look like?” I asked, wondering at the number of strange women running around lately.

“Like the one in the Waffle House this morning in the jacket, only shorter with very blue eyes. Really pretty.” Jaye blushed again.

The image of the woman on the plane came to me. “You wouldn’t happen to know her name?”

“Kate. Kate Lockley.” Jaye gave me a hopeful look. “You don’t know her, by any chance?”

“No, but I may have seen her.” Even if it was in a dream. What the hell. I decided to share a little more. “I think the dark-haired woman in the jacket this morning is Sara.”

“Either one of them could be the lone wolf. Or her sister.” Jaye tilted her head to the side. “You told me you'd only just noticed Sara at the Waffle House. I wonder what she was doing there?”

“I have no idea.” I backed up a step. “I wouldn’t go back to the Waffle House. My boss doesn’t even want me talking to you.”

“You mean that weird guy who went talking about destiny as if I was somehow getting in its way? Or his way and yours?” Jaye raised her eyebrows. “You can reassure him I’m on destiny’s side. Whether I want to be or not.”

“He’s hard to reassure.” I glanced down at the lion. “Listen. I’ve got to go, but we could meet up later. If you want. I can try and help you find this wolf and her sisters.”

“I’m not sure if you’re not one of them.” Jaye glanced at me from under lowered eyelashes. Something about the look on her face reminded me of Reggie when she’d spotted me out of the corner of her eye. When I’d been careless and shown myself. “One of the wolf’s sisters.”

“Maybe the lion was talking about you?” Time to turn this interrogation back on the interrogator. “Maybe it’s one of your own long-lost sisters the lion has you chasing? Do you have a sister?”

Jaye didn’t smile at my suggestion. “Yes and maybe.”

Maybe the lion’s enigmatic was contagious. Maybe everyone touched by destiny was doomed to become less and less coherent.

Great. One more thing to look forward to.