Jack and I did that cop thing where we parked the car in the shade for a couple of hours while we filled out the paperwork for the crime scene. Then, I had him drop me off at home. As we pulled up to the curb, I saw the “for rent” sign Robert had put up earlier.
“You think you could get Sarah Jane and her friends to poop all over that?” I asked, jerking my thumb in the direction of the posted notice.
Jack laughed, but in true nerd fashion felt he needed to explain, “Birds can’t really control their sphincters, but I can ask her to perch on it for you.”
“That’d do.” I said. I figured that for the average ordinarium seeing a bunch of crow-like birds hanging around a property could be a deterrent. If nothing else maybe the place would seem spooky and weird. God knows the bird crap would make Robert spare, as Jack might say. The mess would drive Robert crazy; he was such a neat freak.
I thanked Jack and got out of the car, feeling bone tired.
It’d been an insane day. It started with werewolves at the diner and had ended with centaur road kill. Somewhere in the middle I’d been arrested and hauled off to a golden prison, had a jailbreak, AND, possibly most awful of all, had a conversation with my step-monster.
All and all, this was the kind of day, where all I wanted now that I was at the end of it, was a nice, long soak in the tub and a glass or two of wine.
I walked along the paved walk that went around the side of Robert’s one-story ranch house. In the space between the house and the walk grew a garden full of cheerfully colored zinnias and Shasta daisies. Robert had such a green thumb. In the spring, I’d watched him take a big bowl of mixed seeds and toss handfuls of them onto prepared soil. He didn’t do much beyond covering the seeds so they wouldn’t blow away and watering and this riot of beauty had sprung up.
It was its own kind of magic, for sure.
I wondered, would the two demon Internal Affairs agents categorize garden witchery as natural or unnatural? Being of the earth, one would assume natural, but gardening acted on the world. You didn’t just leave things alone to do their own thing--you had to prepare soil, pull weeds, water, and kill pests. When you added that last one gardening was kind of nasty. Aphids were natural, right? So, who were you to spray the poor things with poison just because you liked the flowers better than the animals?
As I came to the back door, I decided that this was ultimately what I disliked about the natural/unnatural dichotomy. Gardening was a good thing. Without it, people would starve. Killing aphids in your garden meant that pretty things could thrive. To classify anything that ‘pushed against the flow’ as unnatural, cast it in this light that made it seem evil and wrong.
When, really, it was just another mode of being--a mode that people had been adopting since the first hunter and the first farmer. Thinking of it that way, unnatural seemed very ‘natural’ to humanity and, moreover, deeply powerful and spiritual.
Even though it was technically still my house, I knocked once I reached the back door. “Robert? Are you home?”
I was pretty sure he must be, since the heavier storm door was propped wide and the screen window was down to let in fresh air.
Coming out of the living room in shorts and a t-shirt, Robert gave me a funny look as he opened the door for me, “Why didn’t you just come in?”
“Because,” I said, walking up the concrete steps and kicking off my shoes in the cramped mudroom, “We’ve been fighting and I just—I don’t know. I don’t want to screw anything more up today.”
“Valentine packed up all the doo-dads,” Robert said, pointing to the now starkly bare kitchen. Robert had obviously taken the time to polish all the surfaces and tidy up in general, but the kitchen was so white that it seemed blank now, almost lifeless. Robert seemed to realize this, too, as he added, “I hate to say this, but I kind of miss the clutter now.”
I could have said ‘I told you so,’ but I’d been serious about not wanting any more fights today. I just nodded tiredly. “Yeah.”
Robert went straight to the fridge and pulled out a beer. “You look like you had a shit day.”
I laughed in that way that was nearly hysterical and could turn into tears in a second, if I wasn’t careful. Taking the beer, I pulled myself together. “Yeah, it’s… um. Wow. Let’s see,” I ticked off the crazy on my fingers, “I gave one of my best friends a concussion, almost killed a bird, ended up in a weird prison full of gold, and found out that I’m not entirely human.”
To his credit, Robert only snorted a little bit of his beer. “And here I was feeling bad because I took a half-day off work to wallow in self-pity and play World of Orc Quest.”
I smiled at him, loving him kind of intensely at that moment for not making a big deal out of any of the weird shit I’d just said. “Yeah, how is the guild?”
“You should play with us,” he offered. “It’s been a long time.”
“I played yesterday!”
He gave me a sad look. Very puppy-dog. “Yeah, but not like we used to.”
“You mean, like, for hours on end while drinking too much Mountain Dew and eating junk?” I teased him.
“Look,” Robert sniffed. “Maybe that’s how you rolled in your sad little Chicago apartment, but I’ve laid in canapés and beer.”
“Canapés and beer?” I repeated. “Has anyone told you that you’re awesome?”
“Not,” he smiled, “often enough.”
“Well,” I said, following him into the living room where we had our game console, “You’re awesome. Move over and give me a controller.”
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'...