I sighed in relief and pulled out the keys to Kelly’s apartment. That was exactly what I needed. It was stupid to think I could go so long without shifting, especially with the first full moon of the year in between. I opened up the door and almost hit my brother, sitting on the floor by the coat stand, leaning against the wall. His head was in his hands. I checked my watch, 6:30 am. Had he been sitting here all night?
He had his riding jacket and boots on and seemed like he was just waiting for me to return so he could leave.
“Bro?” I tentatively asked.
He looked up, and stood, something on his face I couldn’t place. He looked worn and tired and for a second I felt guilty of putting him in this position.
“You good now?” He asked and I nodded, passing over his bike helmet and keys.
“Yeah, thanks. You going already?” Signaling he was, he started to move past me and I grabbed the lapel of his jacket and angrily thrust him against the wall. He smelled like sex and vanilla.
“Dude, I don’t fucking believe you. She’s fucking sick with the flu.”
He glanced down at my hand on him, still clutched in anger. Meeting my eyes, calmly,
“She isn’t sick, it was something else. You were just too out of it, you couldn’t see it.”
“Something with her...condition.”
“And what? You just dick her down and she is magically better?”
Tightening his lips together, he muttered back,
“Something like that. All I know is that the thrumming she had going is gone.”
I thought it through, she had the encounter with the ex and the day after she started to get the sweats.
“Makes sense, I guess,” and let go of my hold on his leather.
He pursed his lips.
“What makes sense?”
“Well, she had a run-in with the ex and got...steamed up over it. Then she got sick the next day” I explained. Will put his hands on his hips and looked down at his boots, shaking his head at some internal monologue he was having.
“She just gets angry when she sees him, I guess,” I added.
He shook his head at his feet a final time before looking up.
“Whatever. What are the plans until you come home in two weeks?”
“Well, she has already given her notice on the apartment and sold everything ready for pick up for the last day in the apartment. Her big defense thing is in a few days, then she said after that we can take it easy while she is doing wrap up stuff with the university.”
Will nodded his head and started to adjust his helmet again, preparing to leave. My heart suddenly went out to my older brother, taking care of everyone, always. Everyone but himself.
“Bro, I don’t know what is running through that head of yours, but if something is going to happen, it should be soon”
His head snapped up to mine. Will knew what I was referring to, I wasn’t going to skirt around his intentions anymore.
“Why? I’ve got a time limit now?”
“No man, but I’ve got a feeling that once Kelly goes back to the coven, those mean-looking elders aren’t going to let her go, you know? Like once she’s in, she’s on a leash.”
Grimacing, he zipped up his jacket.
“You’re probably right, but I don’t think Kelly has ever been the typical Witch.” He sighed again and grabbed my shoulder in parting.
“See you soon, brother,” and closed the door behind him.
Standing up with the other people in the audience to give Kelly a round of applause, I looked around. Everyone seemed very scholarly and wore big smiles as her teacher came to the podium she was behind to announce that she had passed and introduced her as Dr. Kelly Devon Jones. Most of the hour long presentation she had given on her research went over my head, but every now and then, Bec, who was sitting next to me would lean over and explain something.
Kelly’s friends and I were taking up the small front row of seats in the mini auditorium. Her professors were a few rows behind, and in between seemed to be colleagues from other departments and schools. As the applause died, Kelly stepped down and individuals started to leave or come forward to say their congratulations. Bec swiveled to me as we watched Kelly soak it up.
“Kelly deserves a glass of wine.”
“Oh, I absolutely agree.”
Her eyebrows peaked.
“Of course, I personally selected a Merlot I think she will love and have gone to the trouble of buying cheese and crackers. Everything is waiting at the apartment.”
Blond Chuck had joined the conversation when Bec leaned her head back for dramatic effect.
“Jess, a bar is not going to be the end of the world. She will have all her friends with her, surrounding her. I will literally hold her hand while she pees. I have seen my best friend exactly four times in the last 3 weeks, and then she is gone! Poof!” I frowned. I had forgotten that this was probably Kelly’s last week to see any of her friends. Chuck leaned in and added.
“Did you just sit through the same hour lecture on regeneration of salinated soil I did? Give the new Doctor a break, Jess.”
I relented and threw my hands in surrender.
“Okay, a few drinks, at that Irish bar by her apartment.”
Bec and Chuck smiled in unison and Kelly came over, waving goodbye to someone.
“Please tell me I heard my name and the word ‘bar’?”
“One hour, no more. And we do not tell Will or your Gran.”
Kelly nodded enthusiastically. After Will left the other morning, she emerged from her room and sure enough, seemed back to normal health. We didn’t mention Will’s presence nor had we talked about anything else past our upcoming bus ride home. I sensed that she was savoring the last few weeks beyond the reach of her commitment to her family. I got it, I cared enough about her that I wanted her to live it up, just safely.
As to anyone potentially hurting her, since we had been in Seattle, I hadn’t noticed anyone or anything unusual on our normal route to school or the market. Kelly lived in one of the more unsavory neighborhoods around the University, so it wasn’t hard to spot someone who might roll you for your wallet, but not one who would do it because you were a Witch.
After a few pictures at the ceremony, the friends and I walked to the Irish bar a few blocks from the University. For a Thursday lunch time, there were few people in having lunch or a beer, and the trio of friends quickly supplied the first round for Kelly.
At some point after the second round, Chuck put an arm around Kelly’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze, leaning down to whisper in her ear. I drowned out whatever he said by focusing on Bec and Ben’s conversation about what they were going to wear to the graduation ceremony in June. By the time I looked back over to Kelly, she was patting Chuck’s arm and giving him a conciliatory smile. Smiling at my feet at Chuck’s failed attempt, I guessed whatever game the two were playing at, Will still held favor.
After the fourth round of crap beer, I called it. It was still only mid afternoon, but I knew that Kelly hadn’t had any food this morning, fearing she would retch it back up in nervousness. She said she was a light drinker with beer, and she looked stone cold sober, but better to err cautiously when we were so close to going home.
“Alright Indiana, time to get out of here and get some pizza into you,” I announced to the table and started to rise. Kelly lifted her watch to her face and showed it to everyone.
“I called it! One hour and thirty seven minutes before someone made an Indiana Jones joke. Bec, I believe the original bet three years ago was two hours and it was for ten dollars.” Her friend waved the comment away,
“Pssh, I just bought your last two rounds, Doctor Jones.” Kelly frowned.
“Well okay then, Short Round, bring it in for a hug then.” Each of Kelly’s friends gave her congratulations and a hug, Chuck putting down his phone to give her a particularly long one and I turned my head with a shake. Jesus Christ dude, take a fucking clue.
We waved goodbye while the others stayed and started back for home. We had started walking around her building and across the alley way that led to the back of it, when Kelly and I heard her name called. Turning to our left to look down the alley, a man in a sweater vest and jeans was running towards us with his hand raised in the air in greeting.
“Kelly! You forgot something!” The man shouted.
“You know him, Kel?”
She shook her head and frowned.
“Maybe I left something at the bar?” She queried, walking a few steps into the alleyway.
Abruptly, my back cramped up and caused me to spasm into a ball on the ground. I heard the snap of electricity being applied and my leg muscles seized. Fuck! I was being tasered. Kelly screamed next to me and whoever tased me stopped.
I looked up from the ground to find Kelly being dragged by the sweater vest down the alleyway where a white van was now waiting. He had her by her torso and an arm, but seemed like he was trying to drag a 300 pound man, not a size 8 athletic woman. I heard the taser electricity again and my back spasmed once more and I rumpled to the ground where I saw two sets of feet now behind me. I roared into the concrete and pushed myself up off the ground, trying to straighten my muscles against the cramping.
The taser behind me ran out of juice and a boot kicked me in the gut. A second one came from the other side, and I grabbed it and twisted, a man falling to the ground. I looked back up for Kelly, she was still screaming and pulling against him, but they were nearly at the van. I started to run for her, ignoring the men behind me.
“Kelly!” I shouted.
She looked back at me, fear scarring her face, then looked forward and raised her hand in a gun gesture to the man dragging her. They were still about ten meters from it and he was looking at the van, not at her. Almost in slow motion, she pointed the pretend gun to his head and pulled her trigger finger.
Sweater vest suddenly stopped walking, twitched and fell to the ground like his bones were made of water. The white van took off in a screech, whoever was behind the wheel seeing the whole event. I reached Kelly two seconds later, the body on the ground now giving a few full body jerks before finally coming to a rest.
I looked back up the alleyway, the two who were kicking me were gone, but a small crowd had gathered, most likely seeing the attempted abduction. An older lady on the phone called out a moment later that the police were on their way, and I turned back to Kelly. Looking down at the body of the man, she had tears silently falling down her face. I went down to him and pulled his sleeves back on his shirt. On his left forearm was the tattoo that Jess had showed me and tally markers that added up to fifteen. I stood up and wrapped my arms around Kelly’s shoulders while we stared down.
“What happened? I mean, I saw but I don’t understand,” I asked.
Sniffling, tears already pooling, she answered.
“The light bulb trick. I just imagined pushing a lot of energy into his brain. Really fast, just like a gun,” she sniffled again.
“You had to, Kel. Who knows what they would have done to you?” I said without inflection. Secretly, I was brimming with pride for my friend. Fuck, the light bulb trick, she killed one of these Hunters by just pretending to point a gun at him then frying his brain. What else could she do?
The sound of sirens stirred me into action.
“Okay, here is what happened. Someone, unknown, tried to abduct you, total truth. You don’t know why, still pretty close to the truth. They were just about to succeed when, stroke of luck, one of them mysteriously collapses, unknown reason to you. There are clearly witnesses here who will vouch for most of it. Okay?”
Kelly nodded her head in silent agreement, then moved to the side wall of the alley and sat down. Putting her head between her knees and covering the top of her head with her hands. The sirens stopped and police cars came into view on the main road.
I plucked my phone out of my back pocket and speed dialed Will. He answered after two rings.
“I’ve got about thirty seconds til the police are on us. Those fucking Hunters just tried to abduct Kelly. There were four of them and they ambushed us in the alleyway next to her building. Kelly killed one and the rest took off. Though there is nothing that will link her to his death since it looks like a natural, albeit timely, cause. I expect we will be taken to the station a few blocks from here for questioning. Even though she is the victim, there is still a dude dead.”
He was silent for a moment.
“Is she okay?”
I looked down at her, still with her head in her shaking hands.
“She just killed a man and it was upfront and personal.”
“Fuck,” he muttered. From the alleyway, two officers were walking towards us, hands on their revolvers. Behind them, two more officers were speaking with people in the crowd.
“Gotta go,” I whispered and pushed my phone back in my pocket.
The two officers had closed the distance between us, dropping their hands when they saw Kelly on the wall, now crying without care over the first man she ever killed.
Three hours later, Kelly and I were being released from the police station five blocks from her apartment. They had questioned us together and the taser marks and the bruise to my gut had been examined. Kelly, remained quiet and monosyllabic throughout the interview, though the detective seemed to understand this since she was nearly kidnapped. He made comment about the rise in human trafficking in the greater Seattle area and applauded her for fighting him off.
We had both declined to make any calls to family in case anyone was listening to the content. Calling it an act of God for the man’s apparent aneurysm, the detective on the case had said goodbye to Kelly and I, telling us if he needed us, he would call.
Walking down the police station steps, a bike revved from the street for attention, and Will, sitting on his motorcycle came into view. We walked to him and I studied his face. It was drawn and he looked on death’s door, my bro had clearly been through some shit since I last saw him. He handed a leather jacket to Kelly and pulled a helmet out of the saddle bag on the back of the bike.
“Put it on,” he directed her, then turned to me. Kelly took them silently and pulled her hair back into a small ponytail.
“Can you take care of the apartment, and packing her things up and bringing them back?” I nodded, not daring to get into logistics with him. Will was obviously going through a revelation about the woman, and I doubted he cared one way or another. She slipped on the jacket and I recognized it as our mother’s old riding jacket. He gestured to the back of the bike and she turned to me, hugged me around my waist before hopping on behind him wordlessly.
“See you in a few days,” he commented. Then revving the engine he pulled out onto the road, Kelly hugging his waist and leaning her head on his shoulder. She had understandably looked defeated and tired all afternoon, but on the back of Will’s bike, something similar to contentment was in her body languag. I watched the two pull out and into the main traffic flow and heard the bike rev through the streets and out of the city.
Well, shit. I guess Will was going to make something happen after all.