Last Friday, you got the first half of a Christmas short featuring our favorite werewolf hitman, Tony Giodone. What happens next? Read on...
I wish we could be together tonight. Church bells filled the air again, and I stumbled as I was suddenly in a different place, thinking different thoughts than my own. I was looking out of a hotel window, staring up at the brightly lit Eiffel tower. The image my “eyes” were seeing was from a different angle and closer than the one a moment ago. I knew Sue was in Paris, but hadn’t known exactly where. She was also working for the police now, doing bookkeeping. The new chief of the agency known as Wolven, Lucas Santiago, must have put her up at the Hilton Paris, considering the opulence of the room when we turned away from the window. She didn’t know we were connected . . . not yet. That happens sometimes near the full moon. One of us is just suddenly inside the other and we have to struggle to free ourselves. I pulled out and pushed shut an imaginary door to separate us. I’m still learning that trick, so it wasn’t easy.
A bird in a gilded cage. It was the last thought to slip across my mind as I separated us, and I realized that she wasn’t having much fun here. Initially, the thought of traveling to France and doing useful things had appealed to her, but now reality had set in. She didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and those who lived here would be with friends and family today and tomorrow. I’d been in Paris during the holidays often enough in my career to know that it’s not very tourist friendly. The events are mostly religious in nature, with a few scattered concerts and parties . . . if you know where to go, and have an invitation. There was probably something going on in the hotel for the guests, but Sue’s not exactly outgoing. She’s getting better, but it hasn’t been that long since she was constantly depressed. In fact, we met because she wanted to commit suicide.
A car pulled up at the curb near the store where Ramsey was just exiting. I moved as close as I dared to watch. An excited child’s voice shouted, “Papa! Papa! Happy Christmas!” The small girl, not more than five or six, raced toward him laughing, smelling of citrus happiness and melon shampoo. Ramsey was forced to lift up the packages so she didn’t collide face first with the largest bag. She wrapped arms tightly around his thigh and he lifted it as well, balancing nicely on one leg. She squealed happily, releasing a puff of steam that smelled of bubble gum before sliding around to the back of the leg. She dropped off to land on the sidewalk on her tush. It apparently was a frequent game by his chuckle. He stepped over her and she stood and ran back around to face him, white knit beret askew.
“Happy Christmas to you too, poppet.” It was the first time I’d heard Ramsey speak. I’d expected a more eastern European accent, considering where the murders were committed. But his voice was pure upper crust British, with a slightly Scottish rolling of the ‘r’s. “I was just on my way home to drop off these packages before leaving.”
The girl’s face fell and her disappointment was so thick it rode over the mist. “Oh, must you go, Papa? Can’t you please stay for Christmas morning? Mama’s making crepes—the ones you like, with strawberries.” She motioned to the car and I noticed a slim blonde driving that was obviously the mother of the girl.
“—and complimentary strawberries, mais ouis. May I bring you anything else, Madame Giodone?” I nearly dropped to my knees from the force of the space shift to Sue’s head inside the hotel. I heard—and felt—her weighty sigh as she accepted the tiny magnum of champagne and bowl of strawberries dipped in thick dark chocolate from the uniformed French waiter.
“No. No, that’s fine. Nothing else.” She shut the door after passing across a hefty tip and I felt a heavy sensation in my chest as she sighed and took a bite of strawberry. The need to be there with her, feeding her that strawberry, was so intense I could barely stop myself from racing into the darkness.
It’s a mating thing. Sazis can’t seem to stand their mates being in pain. Me, I have a hard time when she’s depressed. I do better with things like wounds. A knife cut or bullet hole—that’s a pure, clean sort of pain and unless it’s life threatening to her, I have no problem with Sue hurting. But sorrow, anguish, sadness . . . those I struggle with. It’s better than it was when we first mated, but I don’t like to feel her hurting.
Ramsey abruptly dropped the packages and reached for the girl, lifting her into his arms to hold her tight. The jaw-tightening worchestershire sauce scent of fear made an odd combination with the sugar cookie scent of love. “I wish I could, Beatrice. I truly do. But I don’t dare risk it . . . don’t dare risk you and Mama.”
So, he knew he was being hunted and worried that I’d take out his family. No, even in the old days, working for the Mob, I wouldn’t take down a man’s family. Innocents got a free pass unless they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Technically speaking, Beatrice and her mom were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but geez . . . it’s Christmas Eve.
I was probably going to wind up spending the next week working for free and have a strip of skin ripped off my body by Lucas for failing to finish the job when I had the chance. But call me a softy. I stepped out from the shadows and walked toward Ramsey and his daughter. His nose lifted into the air and he turned suddenly, clutching the girl to his chest with such fierce intensity that she began to struggle.
My shrug and non-threatening scent must have taken him by surprise, because his brow furrowed. As I walked toward him on the sidewalk, I deliberately spun the cylinder on the Taurus, knowing his ears would pick it up. “Seventy-two hours, Ramsey.” I said quietly enough that his daughter probably wouldn’t hear, and kept talking as I passed him by. “Have your crepes and play with your kid. But then I’m coming after you. I have no choice. The Sazi council’s signed your death sentence.”
The shock of surprised scent turned to lemon and oranges delight. He suddenly hugged Beatrice even tighter and spun around while she laughed. “Very well then, little scamp. If you insist, I will stay home for crepes with you and Mama. But make no mistake. I must leave on Friday. Yes?”
My head turned to watch as I crossed the street. The girl was jumping up and down on the sidewalk while shouting her joy, and the young woman ran around the car to hug Ramsey. I nearly couldn’t make out the few quietly said words over the bells of Notre Dame. “Happy Christmas then, Wolven. And thank you.”
I turned up the collar of my jacket and started making my way toward the Hilton. Maybe I could pick up a present in the hotel gift shop, or maybe I’d settle for feeding my wife chocolate strawberries and strolling hand in hand under the Christmas lights . And maybe I’d stay in the hotel longer than three days. We’d see. But either way, it was going to be happy Christmas indeed.