“Where are we going?” Natalia said, expecting to head for home. Her stomach growled.
“To work with Grazie and the knives.”
“How long? I’m needing dinner.”
“He will feed us.”
“Typical for guests,” Uri said.
“I guess he does own us a few.”
“We don’t keep count.”
The limo pulled into Sherri’s laneway, but went around to the garage.
Grazie stepped out when the limo stopped.
Natalia slid out with Uri right behind her.
“Evening,” Grazie said. “Come on in. Bonnie, you, too.”
“Evening. How are things going?” Uri said.
He took them through a side door, and they convened in the kitchen. The kitchen was warm, crowded, and smelled of freshly baked bread.
“Hey, Nattie,” Tracy said.
All the other girls waved with big smiles. Aside from them, Pania, and Larsa were also there.
“Sherri’s upstairs having some quiet time with Grace,” Grazie said.
Pania was handing out plates. Natalia was pleased to see the expected slab of raw meat, steamed vegetables, and a slice of bread, heavily buttered. Everyone found counter space.
“Mother can’t hear us that much if we stay in the kitchen,” Tracy said.
“We can talk and not get yelled at,” Zean said.
Natalia noted the kitchen door was shut.
“How was curling?” she said.
“I didn’t win my game, but the others did,” Tracy said. “We had two guys who just wouldn’t focus.”
“An all girls team is the best,” Marian said.
Jaina nodded in agreement.
“That’s our problem, Uri,” Grazie said.
“An all men’s team can’t have girls,” he said.
“Details,” Grazie said with a wave of his hand.
The girls giggled.
“We’re going to be doing some knife throwing in the garage after dinner. I want everyone to stay inside, please,” Grazie said.
“We can’t watch?” Zean said.
“Once Nattie gets better, yes. But for now, your mother would kill me if a stray knife found you.”
“Aww. I bet Nattie’s not that bad.”
“I have spoken,” Grazie said, pretending to be royalty.
All four girls broke into giggles.
“Besides, you have the important role of baking and tasting cookies,” he said. “Be sure to save us some.”
Natalia finished her dinner. Uri and Grazie had finished way before her.
“Ready?” Grazie said.
“Lead on,” she said.
They put their coats on and stepped out into the garage. Grazie shut the door and put a bar on it to keep it from being opened. He also turned on a heater.
“Doesn’t take long to warm things up.”
“Nattie, put a pair of jeans and the shirt on,” Uri said.
Both Grazie and Uri turned their backs on her. She changed quickly because of the chill, even though she stood right next to the heater.
“Okay,” she said.
“We just got the sheaths sewn in today. Where’s your glove?”
“In my purse. I left it in the limo.”
Uri trotted out to get it. Natalia made a mental note to always have it on her person.
He came back with only the glove.
“You can’t work with the throwing knives without this,” he said. “It is a special glove, not just any glove.”
He pulled out the box that she knew had her set of throwing knives. She put on the glove.
“That isn’t your set,” Grazie said, looking surprised.
“She was silently gifted a set,” Uri said.
Uri shook his head showing he wasn’t going to say.
Natalia could see he had his glove on. This was the hand he used to sort through the knives.
“We’ll put these in the sheaths.”
“I don’t even feel the sheaths. You sure they’re there?”
Uri put one of the knives on her thigh and swiped downward. It disappeared.
“Yep, they’re there.”
He repeated this swiping motion for every location of a sheath, ending with the ones on her left sleeve.
“You are now fully armed,” Uri said in a whispered voice.
Natalia couldn’t feel a single knife. She almost didn’t believe him.
Grazie set up a target. It wasn’t a dart board. It was a simple four-by-four sheet of wood hanging on the wall. There were circles drawn on the board in what looked to be a random order.
“We’ll work on the muscle memory. You’ll eventually know where to touch without even thinking,” he said, continuing to use the whispered voice.
Grazie moved behind them and off to the side.
“This is something only I can teach you,” Uri said. “Grazie doesn’t have throwing knives. And never will.”
She nodded, expecting some sort of rebuttal from Grazie, but he remained silent.
“We’re going to touch every knife,” he said.
He stood beside her.
“Follow where I touch.”
He touched six locations on his right thigh.
“Down just a little,” he said, correcting her on the fourth touch.
Then he touched two places on his left thigh. Then four places on his left sleeve.
He had her repeat it until she no longer had to look. During these exercises, she started to feel through the glove. There was a warmth when she touched a knife.
“No...” Uri started to say.
“Hold on,” she said.
She was touching off and on where a knife was.
“I can feel it. It’s warm. I know when I on it and when I’m not.”
She moved a finger without looking.
She touched where there wasn’t a knife.
“Good. Now I want you to look during the first few times you do this. Touch a knife and draw your finger up along the sheath.”
She did so and the hilt of a knife appeared until it was in the palm of her hand. Natalia stared. She slid her finger down and the knife disappeared.
“The glove is magnetic?”
“It’s tuned to the material of the knife,” he said with a smile.
He seemed excited about her seeing this.
She brought her finger up until the knife was in her palm.
“Grab and throw,” Uri said.
Natalia went through the motions a little slow, not watching the knife but her target. The knife hit the middle of a circle.
“Where were you looking?” Grazie said.
“The middle of that circle,” she said.
He seemed impressed.
“You only throw with one hand?” she said.
“Then how did you throw fast enough when the Drivers Guild attacked us?”
Uri moved lightening fast, but he only threw once. There were two thuds on the board and two knives. One landed in the middle of a circle, the other was about six inches away.
“Shit. You can throw two knives at the same time,” she said in amazement.
“Yes,” Uri said. “When they’re positioned side by side on the right thigh. I can’t do it with the others. And the gap between the two knives depends on how far away I am from the target. One knife is thrown at a slight angle away from the other. I can adjust by how I throw where that second knife is in relation to the first. Left, right, up, or down.”
“So one hit the bat and one hit a man behind him?”
“On the first throw. On the second throw, the bat caught one and the second took out the bat man. Do your next throw.”
Natalia touched the next knife. She felt the heat of the blade through her glove. She swiped up and tossed. The knife hit the middle of another circle.
“Is that where you were aiming?” Grazie said.
Natalia smiled and nodded.
“When did she get so good?”
“When she started seeing in the dark,” Uri said.
“I heard she can speak Viperian.”
’Fluently,’ she said to him.
“You have a deadly wife, Uri.”
Uri smiled and nodded. He looked pleased by the remark.
“I want you to throw all the knives since each one is in a different location and requires a slightly different move. Continue to move slow and cautiously as you’ve been doing.”
Natalia managed to feel and find every knife. She threw them all and never missed her target.
She and Uri walked up to the board. He pulled out the knives and gave them to her. She slid a couple into the sheaths.
“What if I miss the sheath when I put them back in?”
“If you miss a sheath, it means you’re not wearing the glove and you just sliced yourself a good one.”
She slid in the last knife.
“No blood. I’m good.”
“She’s so confident. I drew blood the first time I did this,” Uri said.
“Deadly,” Grazie said.
Natalia went through the motions again. She tapped every knife right before she threw it.
“Always go slow at first. A slip up will mean you just cut yourself,” Uri said after her second throw.
She finished throwing the rest of the knives.
“I smell cookies,” Grazie said. “I think that’s all the time we can spend.”
Natalia helped Uri pull the knives from the target and re-sheath them.
“I’m happy,” Uri said.
“She’s doing exceedingly well,” Grazie said.
Natalia put her suit in the tote.
“Here. Let me put that in the car,” Uri said.
He ran out.
Grazie turned the heater off and unbarred the door.
When Uri returned, they headed to the kitchen.
The girls were giggling while they talked and took cookies out of the oven. They seemed to have taken over the kitchen. Pania looked like she was taking it easy.
“Fresh out of the oven is the best,” Zean said as if this was the most important thing to know.
Natalia accepted a warm cookie.
“They are good.”
“You’re going to make Mag mad, Zean. Now, Nattie’s going to want warm cookies,” Uri said, using a fake exasperated voice.
No one seemed to notice that Natalia was dressed differently than when she had eaten dinner.
Tracy offered glasses of sanguine tea.
They ate cookies until they were full.
“We need to head out,” Uri said, stifling a yawn. “It was a long weekend.”
“I’ll walk you out,” Grazie said.
Natalia was surprised that Grazie got in with them. He sat across from them.
“Sherri is acting a little strange,” he said, using a whispered voice.
“When Larsa was first here because Sherri’s milk didn’t come in, she made a big fuss that Larsa was spending too much time with Grace. Despite her complaining, she let it happen and there were long periods of time where she didn’t even seem to want to be with Grace. Now, she seems to be wanting to spend a lot of time with her alone.”
“She’s settled in?”
“I checked with Tia, and she thought it could be normal, but with Sherri, I’m not so sure.”
“I’d go with your gut,” Uri said.
Grazie glanced toward the house, then back to them.
“I’m comfortable if what I think is going to happen will happen. The girls and I get along well. Tia also gets along well with them. They seem much happier when they’re away from their mother. She is so very strict with them.”
“Perhaps that’s just a reflection of what happen to Anna. She feels she should be stricter, so the others don’t get into trouble,” she said.
Grazie shook his head.
“The girls tell me she’s always been strict. They also feel that Anna is the favored daughter. You know there’s got to be one. It happens in large families. Shoot, I see it when I’m with Tia and her children. Her daughter is great, but I feel the pride for my son. I see myself favoring one over the other, but try not to show it.”
“The girls do seem much more comfortable with you,” she said.
“They like you a lot, too,” Grazie said. “Thank you for spending time with them.
“What are you and Tia going to do?”
“That has yet to be determined,” he said.
“Mirren pressed the issue this evening at the jail,” Uri said.
He explained what happened.
“Good to know we can trust Corean and Kareen.”
“Wednesday is going to be interesting,” Uri said.
“I’ve taken up enough of your time. Have a good night.”
“Good night, Grazie,” they both said.
He slid out and shut the door.
Bonnie backed the limo out.
“To me,” she said. “It sounds like Sherri is saying good bye.”
“Because she knows she’s going to jail or because she’s leaving? Leaving all her children behind except the favorite,” he said.
He seemed to have answered his own question.
“Cold,” she said.
The limo went through the gates, leaving Viperia.
“She’s always been a cold one. Very rational. However, of late, I’m not seeing that behavior from her, but then again, she’s been staying home and out of Council business,” he said.
The limo reported a check point. Bonnie approached. Natalia watched out her window since she had the best view.
“They’re waving us around,” she said.
“At least that’s holding true,” he said. “What John said.”
“Let’s hope we can really trust him and Wednesday isn’t really a distraction.”
“That is a good point,” he said.
“Was tonight’s meeting at the jail the work of Mirren?”
“I think so. I wasn’t aware it was to happen.”
“He thinks like you.”
“No, dear. I think like him.”
Uri’s phone rang.
He put it on speaker.
“I heard that Kasseen is alive and well.”
The voice was Moralis.
“Misinformation,” Uri said.
“Well, of course,” Moralis said with a chuckle.
Uri informed him what happened at the jail.
“This should be a Q 5,” Moralis said.
“I haven’t heard.”
There was a vibration of phones.
Moralis chuckled. Uri smiled.
“What?” she said.
“The Q 5 just came through.”
“You better go to bed as soon as we get home. You’re getting no sleep,” she said.
“Where you at? Or been? I see you’re almost home,” Moralis said.
“Went to the jail and then to Sherri’s for some knife practice. Checked on Grazie and gave him a break.”
“He needs it. Five children and Sherri. I’d go crazy.”
“He’s got Tia.”
“If he was warm and cozy with Tia in the evenings, then I would call Tia a comfort. If he’s still chasing her, she’s no comfort.”
“Yes, chasing a woman is hard, but I think he’s caught her. They’re just waiting for the dust to settle.”
“I casually mentioned a new house to Francie. Damn, if she doesn’t already have one picked out. Whoa, woman.”
“We’ll get you a good mortgage. I know a good banker and a good mortgage broker.”
“Good night you two.”
Uri leaned back. She was sure he had fallen asleep. There was too much on her mind to sleep. She gazed out the window. The next thing she knew, the limo was pulling into the garage.
“Home, Uri,” she said, nudging him.
He woke and slid out of the limo.
In the house, he headed straight upstairs.
“We’re going to bed, Mag. No cookies or tea.”
Mag stepped out and nodded.
Natalia followed him up. It was almost a race to see who could get into bed the fastest.
Natalia was surprised that she was the one who woke at three am.
“Call, Uri,” she said.
He stretched, and they went to the room together. His phone lit up at exactly five after three.
“Uri and Nattie, here.”
Everyone else acknowledged their presence.
“Evening, everyone,” Mirren said.
He let everyone know what happened at the jail.
“Mina? Any word on Cora?”
“I can pass this one off to Uri and Nattie,” she said,
“I don’t know Cora that well,” Natalia said.
“Mag and Zena are both good friends with Trina, who is Cora’s maid,” Mina said.
“I see,” Uri said. “This is definitely Nattie’s area.”
“Nattie, check with Mag and Zena. See what you can do to get close to Cora. Then bring in Tia,” Mirren said.
“I will do,” she said, but she didn’t feel that confident, wondering how she was going to do this.
“Anyone have anything else?”
There were five seconds of silence.
“Get some sleep everyone.”
The call ended.
Uri pulled her out and back to bed. He was asleep before her.
Natalia woke when Uri cuddled up to her. He breathed deep into her hair.
“You are so warm and soft,” he said.
“I wish we could snuggle all day, but we have a lot to do.”
She was so comfortable with him snuggled up to her that she almost fell back asleep.
“Time to get up,” he said, and he whipped the covers off of her.
“Glad you had a good night’s rest,” she said.
After their shower, she dressed fast.
“I’m going down. I need to talk with Mag.”
Uri was still working on his tie.
She trotted down the stairs, but went into the kitchen instead of the dining room. Mag and Zena looked surprised.
“I need your help,” Natalia said.
“Of course,” Mag said.
“Both of you know Trina.”
“Trina, who is Cora’s maid?” Mag said.
“Yes. We need to talk to Trina and then see if we can get Cora to talk to us. This is somewhat Council business, but not something the Council wants to do openly, if you understand what I’m saying.”
Mag and Zena looked at each other, then back at Natalia.
“Who told you to do this?” Zena said.
“This isn’t some Uri thing?”
Natalia shook her head.
“This is…” Natalia decided to tell them a little of what was really going on. “Tia is suspecting a jail break. Cora has access to the jail. We fear that she’s being used to help, but doesn’t realize it. We need to talk to her before tomorrow, but we have to be careful.”
“Shit,” Mag said.
“Cora goes to work the same time you do. So after she’s gone is the best time to talk to Trina.”
“I can risk going to work late. I’ll have Uri let the Bank know.”
They heard Uri sit at the dining room table.
“Does Uri know this?” Mag said.
“Yes. He’s leaving it to me since this needs to be handled gently the woman’s way.”
Both Mag and Zena nodded.
“I can have Bonnie take Uri to work and then come back to get you,” Natalia said.
“You can meet us there,” Zena said. “Bonnie knows where. Let her know.”
Natalia joined Uri and they ate in silence.
“Is it all arranged?” he said as they got into the limo.
Natalia suddenly felt nervous. She sent a text to Tia.