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“Fab Moon Rising” by Lee Waverly and Madison Thorne

Fab Moon Rising

by Lee Waverly and Madison Thorne

 

Suzanne let her bicycle coast as she looked for the Clinton Street address she’d been given at the office. She was a little surprised that it led to a business, a kosher deli named “O Tannenbaum’s.” Ah, Portland.

In fact, the whole block was nothing but storefronts. Maybe the address referred to an apartment on the second floor? As  she secured her bike to the rack, a man came around from the back of the building, dragging a recycling bin toward the curb. His expression suggested that life was hard, and someone else was to blame.

Spotting her staring at the deli uncertainly, he set down the bin and said, “Can I help you?” It was more challenge than offer, which heightened her sense of uncertainty.

“I’m Suzanne Watts,” she said, “from Child–”

“Child Protective Services,” he finished. “I know. I’m Gabe Tannenbaum. I’m the one who called you.”

He shook her hand perfunctorily, then pointed a finger at the business next to his. “That’s the place, right there.” He paused, as though expecting her to charge in without delay.

Feeling as though she’d walked into a movie mid-scene, Suzanne hesitated. When no further information seemed forthcoming, she said, “Your complaint seemed to be  accusing your neighbors of child abuse?”

“That’s right,” Gabe said, nodding vigorously. “There’s a continuous stream of weirdos coming and going in there. You wouldn’t believe it.”

“Sir,” Suzanne said as politely as possible, “this is Portland. Can you be more specific?”

“You gotta see it for yourself. It defies description.”

Sighing discreetly, Suzanne persisted. “I’m not clear on how having a diverse clientele constitutes child abuse?”

Scowling, which made his bushy eyebrows meet as though plotting their next move, Gabe became more animated. “They got at least one kid in there. A little one, four or five, maybe.”

“Okaay…” she said, prompting for further detail.

Shifting his weight and folding his arms, Gabe visibly fumed and eyed her slyly, before saying, “I think… he’s working in the restaurant.”

Suzanne was young and fairly new to her job, but even she knew an accusation made up on the spot when she heard one. Glancing at the two businesses, she saw one or two customers in the deli, while the cafe next door, “Just Like Home,” was bustling. This had every sign of a business owner seeking to make trouble for a more successful rival.

Still, the complaint had to be investigated. She thanked Gabe and walked into Just Like Home.

It was a charming little place, cheerful and inviting. There were homey curtains on the big windows, checkered tablecloths, and bouquets of wildflowers on every table. A counter with old-fashioned swivel stools accommodated those who couldn’t get tables, which were mostly full.

Two servers buzzed around the room, tending to customers. She was standing at the Please Wait To Be Seated sign, figuring it was her best chance to get someone’s attention, but twice they zoomed by, holding up one finger and flashing apologetic smiles. After the second round of this, Suzanne starting thrusting out her business card in hopes of getting someone to stop and talk to her.

One of the servers, a woman of perhaps nineteen, stopped then, looking at the card without taking it. Suzanne had the impression she didn’t know what to make of it. The girl smiled uncertainly and pointed Suzanne toward the counter.

“Uncle Jorgie,” she said. Suzanne couldn’t place the accent. “He will help you.”

She made her way to the counter. An older man with thick black hair, most likely Uncle Jorgie, was chatting up the customers, who were laughing and clearly enjoying themselves.

“I can’t believe you’re going clubbing in that,” a middle-aged woman with long graying hair said to the man next to her.

“What?” the young man said, pulling at his flamboyant Hawaiian shirt. It was at least two sizes too large. “It’s not like I won’t grow into it.” He laughed uproariously. Uncle Jorgie and a man sitting on the other side of the long-haired woman joined him. The woman herself simply rolled her eyes.

Leaning forward to speak around the long-haired woman, the guy in the Hawaiian shirt said, “Tibor, I really think you should come with me. I guarantee you’d find someone to hook up with. Last week, I met the most fabulous boy.”

Tibor, who looked like the Incredible Hulk’s uglier, whiter cousin, looked doubtful. “You know I’m not looking for a boy, right, Jack?”

With an airy wave, Jack said, “Whatever. My advice still applies. There are plenty of girls looking for a ‘big’ man, if you get my drift.”

The long-haired woman snorted. “Maybe, but what happens when he takes her back to his place under the Morrison Bridge?”

Tibor’s head drooped. Jack retorted, “Well, at least we know he won’t melt if he gets wet.”

Flashing Jack a nasty look, the woman slid off the stool. “I’m outta here. I’m meeting Darren on Mt. Tabor. Full moon and all, you know.”

“No, really?” Jack replied, feigning shock. The sarcasm seemed out of place to Suzanne. She hadn’t realized it was a full moon tonight.

The long-haired woman headed out. “Thanks, Jorgie.”

“Bye-bye, Ruth.” Jorgie waved.

Jack slid over to the now-unoccupied seat next to Tibor. “So, have you seen her new boyfriend? Oh, my God! He’s to die for!”

“Wow, really?”

“I know, right? Who’d have thought a witch like her could reel in a hottie?”

Suzanne cleared her throat ostentatiously, drawing the attention of the Uncle Jorgie. He smiled broadly and came toward her.

“Yes, ma’am! I get you something?”

He spoke with the same accent as the server. Suzanne still couldn’t quite recognize it. She smiled back and handed him her card. Squinting, he spent a long enough time looking at the card for Suzanne to get the uncomfortable feeling he couldn’t read English. Just as she was about to say something, he leaned over the counter to show the card to Jack.

“Child protective services,” Jack explained in an uncharacteristically discreet tone. “It’s a government agency that shows up to make sure nobody’s hurting the kids. Why on earth are you here?” he said, addressing Suzanne. “I mean, these are good people. And they make these incredible protein shakes.” He held up a glass of what appeared to be a strawberry smoothie.

“Give her a taste,” Tibor suggested.

Jack looked at Suzanne, sniffed, then said, “I really think she’d prefer the vanilla.”

Feeling very uncomfortable, Suzanne said, “I’m sorry, I really need to discuss this matter with the family of the child in question.”

“Okay, sure,” Jack said. “Uncle Jorgie here is part of the boy’s family.”

Uncle Jorgie had been following the exchange with a look of confusion mixed with concern. Suzanne moved further down the counter, beside one of the few empty seats, for a modicum of privacy. “I’m investigating a claim that you have a four-year-old child working in the restaurant.”

“Yes.” Uncle Jorgie nodded cooperatively.

“Are you saying you have a four-year-old working here?”

“Yes!” Uncle Jorgie nodded harder, smiling. He seemed very happy with his answer.

Confused by his enthusiasm for admitting to violating child labor laws, Suzanne asked, “Where is the child now?” She didn’t see a young child working. Maybe he was in the kitchen?

His smile broadening, Uncle Jorgie pointed to a booth in the corner of the restaurant, where a little boy sat coloring with crayons.

“I thought you said he was working here.”

“Yes! Working on picture. Draws good! You see.” Uncle Jorgie came around the counter and took Suzanne by the elbow, guiding her to the boy’s booth. “Joe, show lady picture. See? Good, yes?”

Not prepared to become an art critic, Suzanne smiled at Joe, then turned to Uncle Jorgie. “Could I speak to Joe’s parents?” When the man’s smile turned uncertain, she said, “His mother? His father?”

“He’s not here,” Joe said, continuing with his drawing.

“The mother, then,” Suzanne said. When Uncle Jorgie still hesitated, she resorted to the kind of behavior she’d always detested in English-speakers when dealing with immigrants–speaking louder and slower to make herself understood. “The mother. I need to speak to the mother.

“The mother,” Uncle Jorgie repeated, suddenly smiling again. “Okay. I get. You need something?”

“No, thank you, I’m fine. I’ll wait here.” As Uncle Jorgie hurried off, Suzanne sat down in the booth opposite Joe. “Hi, Joe. I’m Suzanne.”

“Hi.” He was a slight child, with the same thick, dark hair as his uncle, and large brown eyes that were too interested in his coloring to meet hers.

“Coloring, huh?”

With the undiluted contempt that only a preschooler can get away with, Joe corrected her. “No. Drawing.”

“Oh, right. I wonder what this is,” pointing to a figure in the drawing. “I see you used a lot of brown in this part.”

“That’s my pet brother, Hank.”

“Your… pet brother?” Suzanne smiled, stifling a chuckle. Either Joe was expressing feelings of displacement toward a little brother, or had been hoping for a puppy instead.

“Hello,” said a voice beside her. Suzanne looked up into the delicate features of the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen outside of a magazine. She was tall and slender, wearing a shawl of woven silk , which somehow looked like a queen’s robe. But her smile was warm and bathed Suzanne in a sense of security and contentment. “I’m Daphne Celeste. Jorgie said you were asking for me? No, please don’t get up.” She ruffled Joe’s hair as she sat regally in the booth beside him.

Clearing her throat because it was as close as she could come to physically clearing her head, Suzanne nodded and started to hand Daphne her card.

“No, I have the one Jorgie gave me,” Daphne told her, producing it from beneath the shawl and glancing at it. “But I’m at a loss for why Child Protective Services would want to see me.” Her hazel eyes looked into Suzanne’s, calm but puzzled.

Suzanne looked from Daphne to Joe and back again, confused. Taking this in, Daphne suddenly said, “Oh, I see! You think I’m Joe’s mother. I’m his godmother, actually. Jorgie was confused. His English is somewhat lacking outside of restaurant operations.”

“Oh,” Suzanne responded lamely. This visit was becoming more and more complicated. “So, where is his mother? I really need to speak directly with her.”

“Of course,” Daphne said, smiling and standing. “I’ll go tell her you’re here.” She rose with exquisite grace and glided away.

Suzanne turned back to Joe. Might as well try to get a feel for the boy’s perception of his home life. She pointed back to the same blob they’d talked about before. “So this is your puppy-brother?”

“Hank. See? This is me. I’m taking him for a walk.” Using his finger to trace a wobbly line between himself and Hank, Joe added, “See? This is the leash.”

Knowing the love Portlanders have for their dogs, Suzanne realized the boy was describing a pet that probably seemed more like a brother to him. “So you and Hank hang out a lot?”

Getting back to drawing, Joe nodded. “Sometimes I get to feed him.”

“Wow, that’s a big responsibility.”

“Yeah. Sometimes I spill.” He dropped the crayon to grab the collar of his t-shirt, pointing out some old stains that looked like chocolate.

Suzanne wondered what kind of dog food would leave stains like that. “What happens when you spill?”

“Mama teaches me how to do it right.” Joe’s earnest eyes looked down guiltily. “Sometimes I still do it wrong, though.”

Suzanne knew that old blood stains could be confused for chocolate. She also knew that a bloody nose might leave stains in much the same place on Joe’s shirt. A distant alarm bell sounded in her head.

“I’m sorry,” Daphne said, startling Suzanne. The godmother seemed a little more tense than when she left. “Mathilde–Joe’s mother–is too busy to come talk to you right now. Maybe she could call you at another time?”

Standing, Suzanne said, “I’m afraid I really have to insist on seeing her now. I can go to her if she’s too busy to come here. She’s in the building, right?”

“Yes, she’s in the basement,” Daphne said, biting her gorgeous lip. “It’s a little… unpleasant. She’s–”

“She’s milking the pig,” Joe said, still coloring.

Both women looked to him in surprise, then Daphne laughed uncomfortably. “It’s not exactly what it sounds like.”

“Okay,” Suzanne said, waiting.

With a sigh of resignation, Daphne said, “Very well. Come with me. Joe, you stay here.”

“‘Kay.” The boy didn’t even look up.

Suzanne followed Daphne past and around the counter, where Jorgie watched in obvious trepidation. Daphne patted his arm as she passed, leading Suzanne through the kitchen to a tiny vestibule. To their left was a door that led to the street; to the right, a staircase leading up to the second floor. Directly in front was another door, to which Daphne went, pausing with her hand on the knob. “Now, I must warn you about the smell–”

From up the stairs, an elderly female voice called, “Daphne? Tea, please! Daphne? ”

Clearly torn, Daphne looked toward the stairs, then back to Suzanne. “That’s Joe’s great-grandmother. The family has an apartment upstairs.”

“You can take care of her,” Suzanne said, more confidently than she felt. “I’ll go on downstairs.”

Daphne hesitated, then started moving toward the stairs. “All right. FYI, Mathilde’s English isn’t a lot better than Jorgie’s. If you need a translator, I’ll be right upstairs.” She didn’t climb the stairs so much as ascend them. Suzanne noticed that the back of the shawl bulged oddly, and there were the tips of very expensive costume wings just peeking beneath the hem. Suzanne wouldn’t have taken the queenly woman for a cosplayer, but Portland had geeks from all walks of life.

Taking a deep breath, Suzanne turned the knob and headed down to the basement. She was nostalgic for that breath once it was time to take the next one, because the stench was almost other-worldly.  As she got to the bottom of the stairs, she was surprised to see that the smell was from just a single animal–the largest pig Suzanne had ever seen.

The pig was ignoring her from within a pen of chain link, staring off in another direction. A banging sound simultaneously startled her and disclosed the object of the pig’s fascination, as Suzanne moved further into the basement to see a short, stocky woman slapping the side of an overworked air purifier, cursing in some foreign tongue. As she straightened, she caught sight of Suzanne and smiled sheepishly.

“Not working,” she said. “Sorry for smell.”

Looking at the air purifier, Suzanne absently traced its electrical cord to the place where its plug lay next to an orange extension cord. The extension cord was plugged into the wall, but had become disconnected from the purifier.

Following Suzanne’s gaze, Mathilde barked a short exclamation and hurried over to plug the two together. Beaming her thanks to Suzanne, she returned to her original task: feeding the pig.

“Um, Ms…” Suzanne realized she didn’t know the family’s last name. “You’re Joe’s mother, right?”

“Yes, right. Joe’s mother.” Mathilde was pouring kibble from a bag of something called Flying Pig Hog Chow.

“Well, I’m Suzanne Watts from the office of Child Protective Services. I’m responding to a complaint that Joe might be working in the cafe.”

“Yes,” Mathilde said, “he’s working.” She was patting the pig, who had come instantly to the fence as the food was poured.

Keeping the frustration out of her voice, Suzanne tried again. “So, are you saying that you have Joe working as part of the cafe’s staff?”

Mathilde was engrossed in what she was doing with the pig, which seemed to involve an object embedded in his (her?) neck. Mathilde brandished an impressively large syringe and carefully poked it into what was apparently an IV port. The syringe began to fill up with the pig’s blood.

Suzanne put more authority into her tone. “Mathilde, this is very important. Is Joe working in the restaurant?”

Frowning, Mathilde said, “Yes. He works on drawing upstairs.”

“I’m not talking about the drawing!” Suzanne shouted, then stopped herself, mortified. It was unprofessional to yell at parents during an investigation. She rubbed her forehead. Maybe the stench was getting to her. That had to be it. She apologized to Mathilde and added, “Maybe I could talk to your husband?”

Mathilde merely cocked her head to one side, clearly not understanding. Maybe she hadn’t married the boy’s father.

“The father? Could I speak to the father?”

“No father.”

Suzanne was reluctant to go back to Daphne, who seemed not to be a blood relation. “Um… Could I talk to the… person in charge? The head of the family?”

Mathilde brightened. “Head of family, yes! Upstairs. You come.”

She ushered Suzanne toward the stairs and followed as they went up. Suzanne was unendingly grateful to be heading toward fresh air. “You know, I really don’t think it’s legal to keep a pig in the basement.”

“Yes, pig in basement.”

Deciding that was a battle to fight later, Suzanne said no more about the pig. Once the basement door was closed behind them, she followed Mathilde as she hurried up the stairs to the second floor.

The apartment was small and cluttered with furniture and strange decor. There were shelves on the walls filled with odd knickknacks that were clearly very old; winged creatures that seemed more appropriate to a fantasy shop than a family sitting room and figures that Suzanne could only describe as nightmarish. Fascinated, she was admiring the intricate detail of a hawk with bat wings when she detected movement in her peripheral vision. Staring at the blocky figurine that had seemed to move, it occurred to her that it bore more than a passing resemblance to the man at the cafe counter, Tibor. That thought fled her mind when a faint breeze on her cheek took her attention back to the bat-hawk.

“Oh, you’re still here.” Daphne’s voice drew Suzanne back to the business at hand. The regal woman pushed a wheelchair, in which was seated an old woman. Her hair was less thick than her relatives’ and shot through with white strands, but the resemblance was unmistakable, as was the broad smile. She sat stiffly, as though strapped into the chair under the heavy crocheted throw draped around her.

“This is head of family,” Mathilde said, “my…” She closed her eyes in concentration. “Grandmother. My grandmother, Sasha.” She then said something to Sasha in their language, finishing with Suzanne’s name.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Suzanne said, awkwardly. She didn’t extend her hand or a card, since it seemed obvious the woman was paralyzed.

Sasha said, very carefully in heavily accented English, “Welcome to our home.” It sounded as though she had memorized the greeting syllable by syllable. Sasha then simply smiled, her eyes moving first to Mathilde and then to Daphne. Suzanne thought she was probably as confused as everyone else seemed to be.

“Did you get everything sorted out?” Daphne asked.

“Not really,” Suzanne replied. She guessed it was time to bring Daphne into it, since no one else seemed able to answer questions. “I’m here to investigate a complaint that Joe has been working in the restaurant.”

“Yes, Joe working downstairs,” Mathilde said proudly. Sasha beamed.

“Uh, no,” Daphne said gently. “I think what Suzanne means is that we’ve been making Joe do restaurant work. Cooking, cleaning, waiting tables. That sort of thing.”

Mathilde processed this, then looked aghast. “No! Joe no work restaurant!” She shot an accusing look at Suzanne. “You say such thing! Not true. Not true!”

“I didn’t say it,” Suzanne corrected. “Someone else reported it.”

“You say just now!”

“No, I was…” Suzanne looked helplessly toward Daphne.

Daphne said something in the native tongue. Mathilde wasn’t assuaged, rattling off more words in response. Daphne said to Suzanne, “She wants to know what filthy, um… rat dared to make such an accusation. I’m paraphrasing.”

“I can’t disclose that, I’m afraid. But I–”

She was interrupted by a small voice. Or more accurately, a very loud voice from a very young child, coming from the kitchen. “Mama, shake now! Shake now!”

Mathilde looked toward the kitchen, then back toward Suzanne.

“You have another child?” Suzanne asked.

Mathilde nodded. “Hungry.”

Daphne put a hand to Mathilde’s shoulder. “Go ahead and feed him.”

Mathilde glanced again at Suzanne, then hurried into the kitchen.

“So, Suzanne,” Daphne said, “I hope we’ve demonstrated that the complaint about Joe is baseless. I mean, you’ve seen that he’s not working in the restaurant.”

“Joe,” said Sasha proudly. Daphne stroked her hair and smiled.

“Yes, I believe that the child labor laws aren’t being violated here,” Suzanne said. “I’m a little concerned about keeping a pig in the building. However, the initial complaint that brought me here seems unfounded.”

Daphne sighed. Somehow, she did it more beautifully than anyone else. “I’m so glad. You’re welcome to have dinner in the cafe before you go. On the house.”

“Oh, thank you, but I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules. However, I do need to look in on the other child before I go.” She walked past Sasha and Daphne toward the kitchen. She didn’t want to drag this out unnecessarily. It was getting late, and she didn’t want to ride back in total darkness.

The scene in the kitchen surprised her, which, given everything that had happened, was in itself surprising. Mathilde was at the sink preparing a bottle, and in the middle of the kitchen floor was a large dog crate. Inside the crate was a boy of about two years, repetitively shouting, “Shake, Mama! Shake now!”

“Coming, Hank,” Mathilde said soothingly. “Mama’s coming.”

Suzanne had tried to weather this entire call with as much calm professionalism as she could muster. Her mustering failed her now. “What the hell? You can’t keep your kid in a dog crate!”

Spinning around, startled, Mathilde spilled some of syringe’s contents as she was filling the bottle. Dark red droplets dotted the pitted vinyl of the kitchen floor.

Blood. She was putting blood into the bottle for her baby. The baby she kept in the dog crate. Suzanne’s mind was suddenly playing back Joe’s voice. “That’s Hank, my pet brother. See the leash?”

Hank was demanding his “shake” ever more stridently, and Mathilde finished adding the blood. As she shook it up to mix all the contents, Suzanne struggled to formulate a plan. The original complaint wasn’t valid, but it was clear she had to get the kids out of this house. She started to run through the steps needed, the calls she needed to make.

But it was really hard to concentrate after all of the things that had happened and with little Hank screaming, “Shake, Mama! Shake now! Shake, Yip! Yip yip! Yip, yip! Yip!”

Jerking her eyes back toward the crate, Suzanne struggled to process what she was seeing. Where Hank had been before, there was now a creature that looked a lot like him, but had fur on its face, arms, and legs; pointed ears; and a doglike snout. Mathilde rushed to affix the bottle–which had a long metal spout instead of a nipple–to the side of the crate, where the creature promptly began to lap from it greedily.

Suzanne felt her heart begin to hammer against her sternum. Backing up in horror, she stopped worrying about professionalism. “Oh, my God! Is that Hank? What happened to him? Oh, my God!”

“I’m so sorry, it’s an early moon tonight,” Daphne said, from behind her.

Suzanne whirled around wildly. All thoughts of protocols and phone calls had fled her mind, which was now intent only on escaping the apartment. She moved to shoulder past Daphne, who tried to stop her with a hand on her arm. “Wait, please. We can explain.”

Desperate and terrified, Suzanne pulled away, knocking the elegant shawl from Daphne’s shoulders. The wings she had glimpsed earlier sprung free, wafting with eerily realistic motion. As Suzanne moved to get around Daphne, one of the wings brushed her cheek. It felt like touching an electric dragonfly.

Suzanne shrieked. More than once.

In the kitchen, she heard Hank start to howl. Mathilde tried to calm him, but the agitation in her tone just couldn’t get the job done. It didn’t do much to calm Suzanne, either.

Daphne was reaching out to her now, trying desperately to get Suzanne to listen to her, but all Suzanne cared about was getting the hell out. She darted toward the door, but Daphne stepped into her path. “Please, just let me tell you–”

Suzanne gave her a shove. Daphne lost her balance, starting to fall, but saved herself by flapping those terrifyingly beautiful wings. For a moment, Suzanne was rooted to the spot watching them, right up to the point where one of the wings accidentally slapped Sasha on the side of the head. Her head not only turned with the slap, but fell to one side. It took Suzanne a few seconds to realize that the head was dangling from some sort of strapped contraption that kept it upright… atop the neck of what appeared to be a mannequin.

“Daphne!” Sasha’s head was crying. “Help! Fall! Daphne!”

Suzanne proved that the earlier shrieks were merely warm-ups as she lumbered toward the apartment door. She had a vague sense of being glared at, scolded, and generally disapproved of by the knickknacks as she crashed through the door. All the way down the stairs, Suzanne heard herself chanting, “Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod, ohgod.” When she reached the bottom, she discovered that the door to the street was locked (or maybe she was just too panicked to operate the knob), so she bolted through the door to the cafe’s kitchen.

Some part of her noted that the kitchen staff turned their heads in alarm before they had seen her, which told her she was still screaming. Well, screw professionalism. This was about survival.

Uncle Jorgie looked up as she barreled into the back of the counter area. Incongruously, he was smiling as though she were a clearly happy camper. “Everything okay?” he said. “You want shake now? Very good for your hair.”

With a fresh wail, she backed away from him, feeling her way around the counter. When she cleared it, she spun to make a break for the outside door, but slammed into a faceful of Hawaiian shirt. Stunned, she stared into the chest, noting that it was now much more filled out.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jack said.

His voice sounded different. She looked up into a face that was recognizably Jack’s, but with a lot more hair, and a jaw distended to accommodate his wolf-like snout.

“Oh, my God! You too?”

“Yeah, early moon,” he said. “Hate when that happens.”

Suzanne had been terrified enough when she’d thought that the weirdness was confined to the family. Now, she whipped her head from side to side, scanning the cafe patrons (who were now staring at her as though she were the weirdo). A pale girl at a nearby table smiled at her. Weren’t those canines just a bit too long? And did that man by the window just scoop something off his plate with his tongue… without lowering his head?

Her eyes landed on Tibor, who ducked his head and shrugged apologetically. “Troll.”

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no…” Suzanne’s feet propelled her to the door as though they had bypassed her conscious mind entirely.

“Wait, come back!” Jack called after her. “I don’t bite… women.”

 

Suzanne was already at the door, but something was wrong. She pulled and pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. This was their plan! They’d trapped her in this chamber of horrors! What would they do to her? Who at the office even knew she was coming here? Would it be too late when they sent someone to–

Her thoughts were cut short by a huge hand as Tibor reached out… and gave the door a push.

“Doors open out,” he said. “Fire laws.”

Shoving her way out, Suzanne dashed to the bike rack, fumbling with the key to her lock. The door from the apartment vestibule opened and Daphne hurried out. Suzanne noticed that she was elegant even in panic, which seemed just really unfair.

“Wait, please,” Daphne said. She kept her distance and her hands out, palms up in a supplicating posture. “Just tell me–what will you say in your report?”

Suzanne wasn’t buying the harmless act. The bitch had wings. Holding a hand in a gesture of stay right there, she said, “Unfounded! He obviously isn’t working in the restaurant.”

“Yes, but, what about the rest?”

Suzanne had finally gotten the lock open. There wasn’t time to attach it to the bike, so she just tossed it to the sidewalk. “Nothing. Nothing at all. I didn’t see a thing.”

She hauled herself onto the saddle and pushed off. It was a wobbly start, but just as she steadied the bike, Gabe Tannenbaum stepped into her path.

“What do you mean, you didn’t see a thing? They’re a bunch of freakin’ weirdos! Don’t tell me you’re just going to turn your head? Plus, I know they’ve got a pig in there somewhere!”

He looked at Daphne, who remained where she’d stopped, covered again in her elegant shawl, hands clasped in worry. Turning back to Suzanne, Gabe said, “You’ve seen what these people are like. They’re scaring away all my customers. If you don’t do something about it, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.”

Suzanne laughed, despite herself. “Yeah, good luck with that, Gabe.”

Steering the front wheel to the left of him, Suzanne pushed off again and pedaled for all she was worth. As she put distance between herself and the cafe, she noted a big, lovely full moon visible against the fading light of the evening sky.

“Early moon,” she muttered. She started to giggle. She couldn’t seem to stop .

© 2014 Lee Waverly and Madison Thorne

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