Stacy said, “Third times the charm, right?”
I nodded uncommittedly. “So I have heard,” I said.
Stacy half frowned, half smiled. “But you’re going to tell me that you’re old enough to know that’s bullshit?”
I mirrored her expression. “Why would I want to ruin a good superstition? Let me add another – it is the two of us against the one of him. The odds are in our favor.”
The smile became her dominant expression. “Two pretty angels against pure evil? Yeah, we’ll win this one.”
Nonetheless, I thought, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and saying a prayer to my grandmother.
Jordy Pittman lead us to a grave site in a western corner of the cemetery. It was a much abused plot. Only a few patches of sickly looking grass clung to its surface. The earth beneath was dry and scarred as if someone had stabbed it with sticks and knife blades. Broken bottles and cigarettes, and somewhat incongruously: dead roses, confettied the grave. The headstone was small and unreadable. It was cracked in multiple places and the name had been scratched off. Pittman added a gob of his tobacco juice to the litter.
Pittman said, “She’s buried here. But she ain’t properly dead. Every three, four years some dumb bitch calls up her spirit and she kills again. We’ve had priests and exorcists and preachermen say prayers over this grave every year and it does fuck all to stop her. I lost my brother because of her twenty years ago. I lost a cousin six years back. If you can put her down permanent you’d be giving this town a peace it badly needs.”
Stacy looked at the grave and then smiled sweetly at Pittman. “I’ve heard the stories. Amelie kills out of vengeance. So let’s start with the obvious. What did your brother do to make him worth killing?”
The little girl flashed a gap toothed smile. She patted the fur of the wolf skin. She said, “I killed him myself. Stupid wolfs. He kept trying to eat me. I don’t know why. I sure that squirrels taste better than me. I had bites all over. It hurt. Apa would try to catch him but he was faster and hid better. I gots tired of it. So I ‘cided to chase him. I got fingers. I got smarts. I got swords and knives and axes and clubs and I throws hard and fast. We friend now that he a hat.”
Stacy watched Laurence Poulsbo through the telescope. She yawned. She lifted her head from the device and looked at his apartment with unaided sight. She turned to me and asked, “Why don’t we just kill the fucker? Why wait until he sets his sights on someone else?”
I did not want to admit that I had been considering that course of action. I preferred to play the voice of care and caution. It was not as if I cared about due process of law or a fair hearing for this accused. Even if Poulsbo was not the monster we suspected him of being he was not the sort of person with whom I wished to spend time. He had done nothing to deserve his wealth. He was unpleasant and abusive to his staff. He was cruel and vindictive to those who failed to show him the deference he desired. The world would not miss him.
I realized that Stacy was actually waiting for me to answer her questions. I sighed and shrugged. I said, “We aren’t just going to kill him right now because, here in Manhattan, he is part of a system that will strike us down if it feels that we are a threat. If we wait until he heads for his hunting ground we are more likely to be able to avoid having to deal with the forces of law and order.”
Stacy rolled her eyes. “That’s so fucking safe and practical.”
Following the creature’s progress was simple; the glow from its head made it easy to track even as the underbrush got thicker. That thick underbrush made the act of actually following it progressively more difficult. I could spider into the trees but Stacy, despite her athletic abilities, was earthbound. I lifted her over the densest patches but doing so quietly slowed us. Little Jack’s light became became further and further away.
“You can move faster than me,” she said. “You should just go after him. I’ll be fine.”
I shook my head and then, realizing that she might not have been able to see the action, said, “We need to stick together. Wherever we are, I do not think it is the world you know.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We have been traveling for an hour through this forest, yes? And yet we are in the middle of Detroit? I do not think that is any longer true.”
Rick handed me the police report. The name of the survivor: Tina Dee. Again. I said, “This is the third massacre that Tina has survived.”
Rick nodded. He laid four photographs onto the table. He said, “That is, this is the third massacre that I was able to get a police report for. I’ve got evidence of other incidence that I’m still trying to track down. This is Tina in 1982. This is her in 1983. 1986. 1987. She has the same hair style in all the photos. It’s the same length. The same color. It’s got to have the same amount of hair spray holding it up.”
Stacy clenched her hands together. She said, “I’ve survived more than three massacres.”
Rick nodded again. “I know. I’ve heard of you. You’re not famous, at least not among the mundanes, but in the circles I run, people know your name. This Tina Dee? No one has heard of her. I can’t find a social security number. No phone number. No address. She’s the girl who survives and disappears.”
“I didn’t choose this. It fucking chose me. It killed my family. My mother. My father. My older sister and my little brother. It knew where I was hiding. It looked directly at me and put its finger to its lips and let me live. Maybe that was its idea of a joke. Or maybe it wanted to me to grow up and hunt it down. Hunt down all its kind.”
I said nothing. I had no comforting words. What she needed now was an ear, a listener who knew she was not crazy. Tonight we would drink her beer and scotch. I would make sure she drank enough water to dull the hangover. Tomorrow we would go hunting. She would provide the drive and the anger. I would keep her alive. We were both daughters of spiders. Hers had been a species that parented with evil.
I turned off the lights and the wipers but I left the motor running in order to keep the windows defogged. I hoped the exhaust would not be obvious from a distance. Stacy handed me one of the coffees.
“We called her Sister Blister,” she said. “We called her a lot of other, nastier things too. She carried a ruler up her sleeve. If she thought you were out of line – whack! on the arm or the hand or the leg. She’d pop the thing out and slip it back up so fast you’d never see it. You’d just feel the pain.
She stopped and thought for a moment. She shook her head. She said, “I just realized I started learning to conceal weapons from that bitch.”
“Every city has such predators,” I said. “The bigger the city, the more numerous the predators. And the greater variety. These creatures are new to me.”
The girl gave me a version of look that all the young seem to have for their elders now. She closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply. Eyes still closed she found the shot glass and drained it. Eyes still closed she began to reassemble her pistols. She said, “I don’t care if they’ve been around forever. A few bullets to the head will still kill one. I think they even like it. The last fucker I took down was smiling when I shot out his teeth.
The soldiers raised their rifles and fired. The bullets simply passed through the body as if through traveling through mud.
Clearly understanding that their weapons were useless, they attempted to flee. Xiǎo měinǚ reached out and caught a soldier each liquid hand. I heard the sound of cloth and flesh burning in her acid grasp. She held them only long enough to slam them into the walls of the tomb. She lunged forward again.