The sun had climbed high in the sky by the time I rolled out of bed. With me came four dollars and sixty-two cents in random change, two Soviet era rubles, and a couple of coins with square holes in the middle of them and characters I presumed to be of some Asian variety.
I picked them from the carpet and set them on the end table. Each one made my heart feel heavier.
Part of me wanted to flop back on the bed, close my eyes, and just give up on the day. It was hard, but I pulled myself to my feet. I’d determined to be a coroner, after. There were cases to solve, I reminded myself as I shuffled through my clothes and dressed myself. This was the choice I’m made. I needed to see if it would work.
Everything was going really until I stepped outside and realized I had no idea where I’d left my car. Was it still at the Precinct headquarters? Also, who the hell’s phone had I used last night? Mine was with the birds. Or so I thought I remembered.
At moments like this, I could see how easy it must have been for my stepmonster to convince me that I was insane. Because, seriously, you don’t know where your car is? Do normal people do that? I don’t think so.
Luckily, there was a bus stop not far from the house. Robert was the sort that, when his house was in order, which it was again now that Valentine had removed most of his silver hoard, all the bus schedules were in a little organizer behind the landline phone. Going back inside, I quickly perused the paper brochures and was able to figure out how to get from point “a” to point “b” with the least number of transfers. As I put them back in their places on the rack, I had to thank the powers that be that Robert was a bit of a Luddite. He must also be one of the last people on the planet of our age bracket who actually subscribed to the paper version of the newspaper, and I tossed it into the living room for him as I headed out to try this again.
As I walked to the bus stop, I tried to revel in the mundane. Look at me, world, I told myself as I strolled passed the ticky-tacky post-World War II ranch houses that were nearly indistinguishable from one another. Look at me, being all regular person, taking the bus. Adulting like a pro.
I found the stop and stood waiting in front of the little metro sign. The day promised to be a little cooler than yesterday, at least. A strong wind chased fluffy, storybook clouds across a brilliant blue sky. The air smelled fresh, if a bit ‘farm-ish’ like usual, like no matter that this was the Capitol city it was still a small town surrounded by ranchers.
A few cars passed. We gave each other the ‘small town nod’ of greeting, and I really wished that I’d brought a book or Robert’s newspaper or something, because I was starting to feel weirdly conspicuous standing around.
Finally, the city bus came into sight. I got my change ready. When the bus stopped, I double-checked that it was going the right way. The driver gave me a look like I was a complete moron, but nodded in confirmation. Pierre buses were nothing like Chicago ones. As I slid into the first empty seat that wasn’t right at the very front, I remarked to myself how clean and empty it was. Since I overslept, it was well past rush hour. The only passengers were me, an old lady with several plastic grocery bags at her feet, and… Nana Spider.
She slipped into the seat beside me with a “Oh, hello, dearie.”
As usual, Nana Spider always looked to me like a cotton ball on a stick. Despite the summer warmth, she had on a fluffy pinky winter coat, made round by several layers of down and the addition of the army backpack she always carried. Her skinny legs were wrapped in dark, skin-tight tights and her footwear was mismatched: one cowboy boot and one sneaker.
“You’re not speaking in rhymes?” I asked her.
“Ah, but I am, and I’m growing quite weary,” she sighed. Pulling her backpack off her shoulder, she began to rummage through it for something. She stopped to smell an apple she found. Apparently finding it acceptable, she took a bite and held it in her mouth.
The old woman with her plastic grocery bags at the front rang for her stop. Making a face at us, she gathered up her things.
I waved good-bye to her and she frowned at me, like she was quite affronted by or a little be scared of having had to share the bus with Nana Spider. I had a weird desire to point out that, despite her frizzy, foof of unwashed steely gray hair and general unkemptness, Nana Spider was a good person—a powerful person, even.
Then, I thought about the victims that had been dropped. All of them had been homeless, too. I’d been thinking about this crime in terms of its magical components, but what if it were something simpler, more base? What it the reason all the victims had been homeless was because people generally disliked the homeless, found them to be a nuisance, an eyesore?
Obviously, something magical was still involved, but what if it was operating with a more… human attitude?
“Are there magical creatures who commit hate crimes?” I asked Nana.
Her bulbous eyes blinked at me for so long that I wondered if I should rephrase the question. Maybe Nana didn’t know the term ‘hate crime’ or what I meant by it?
“Witches do,” she said finally, “They’re human, too.”
YOU ARE READING
Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...