The NERDS ON WHEELS van actually was Matt’s - he’d bought the van from the big box chain that he still worked for, after deciding that it met most if not all of his needs for a vehicle, and he had agreed that he’d repaint it if and when he finally decided to leave. On the side of the white van, a stylized nerd - shocky black hair, thick glasses, wearing a lab coat with a slide rule sticking out of a pocket protector - stood in front of a bulky looking desktop computer, a Spock-like expression on his face.
The funny thing was that I knew a lot of true computer nerds, and not one actually looked like that. Most wore t-shirts from this or that computer trade show, ratty blue jeans, their hair up in pony tails (female and male alike), and many tended to be at least a few pounds overweight. Beards were not uncommon on male nerds, and most of us did where glasses, if only because too many years of staring at a computer screen plays absolute hob with our vision. Most wouldn’t know what to do with a lab coat if they had one, though yes, I think we all keep a slide rule in a drawer somewhere, just for the geekiness value of owning a slide rule.
Still, the stereotype persisted. Once upon a time, back in the mid-1960s, the high priesthood of computers had looked like that, though in fairness so had everyone else. It wasn’t so much that these proto-nerds were unaware of changing trends so much as the fact that they had so many more important things to be thinking about. Keeping the big iron computing machines running. Producing bills, processing claims, keeping the operating system current and adding to its capabilities. Swapping out storage as capacities improved or washing machine-like disk drives failed. It was hard work with long hours, typically underappreciated within the boardrooms of the corporations, and in that kind of environment, the ones that thrived were the hard core nerds, the ones that made keeping these beasts operational their every waking moment.
I climbed into the passenger seat, dropping my bag into the well, then made a big production of putting my seatbelt on. “Shall we?”
Matt nodded, and we pulled out of the parking lot onto 45th St., on our way out to the northbound highway. “Friend of yours?”
I thought about the man who’d left the poisoned card. “Never met him before in my life. Apparently wanted to hire me.”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “Thought you weren’t the corporate type.”
“I’m not. Especially when it’s corporate types that do spooky woojoo.”
“Spooky woojoo?” he laughed.
“Not funny, Matt,” I muttered. “There was something definitely … off about the the guy, like a dealer offering ‘candy’ to kids.”
“You wanna bail?” he said, slowing as we pulled up to the on-ramps.
“No. I’d just as soon vanish for a little while - maybe the candyman will go pick on someone else while we’re gone.”
He nodded, slipping past the turn that would have taken us back to my place and instead continuing to the on-ramp to I5 on its merry way to Vancouver, British Columbia.
“You mind music?” he asked.
“Celtic Rock sounds just the ticket,” I answered, reaching down for my laptop. “You mind if I plug in for a bit?”
“Be my guest.”
Most cars had a cigarette lighter. Matt, in his renovations of the Mystery Van, had swapped that out for a set of grounded taps, had beefed up the battery power under the hood, and had actually rigged it up to additional batteries that ran along the left side of the van, the side without a door. When we’d had a bad storm come through the area a few months ago, he’d used the van as a generator, and generally only needed to run the car for about forty minutes every eight hours or so to recharge them.
I powered Pixel up, though instructed her via a few keystrokes not to put in a physical manifestation. Matt seemed more than a little freaked out that we were going to see a mermaid (to be honest, he wasn’t the only one) and I could see his oh-so-rational brain trying to solve it away. I did do a minor bit of magick, through Pixel, reaching out to the ley line that ran more or less along the I5 corridor, and from there used it to tap into the Internet.
In theory, this shouldn’t be possible. Ley lines are conduits of magical energy, not electronic signals, but magic itself is essentially the transmission of symbols through the operating system of the world. A very clever Blood hacker in San Francisco had made the startling realization that the ley lines were in fact picking up a weird resonance of information from the large trunk communication lines, and that with the right software you could actually transmit and receive packets of information over the ley lines. Of course, that also meant that, once someone figured out it was possible, people began making shadow connections into the ley network using separate communication protocols. These magical sites are accessible from the web if you can tap into a ley line, but doing so isn’t easy - and already there are rumors of dark things being spawned in the information spaces around the ley lines that are sentient … and hungry.
I entered as much information about the card as I could remember into a local database - the symbols used in the spell, guesses as to which families they represented (magickal symbols frequently have a temporal component, and as such are multidimensional, so you often have to have a sequence of such symbols, changing over time, to identify what the exact symbol represents), as well as the writing on the card itself. The card identified a recruiter for one of the many agencies here in the city. I didn’t put much faith in that name or address, since the spell would have caused me to misdial the phone number on the card, leading to the actual number. Unfortunately I realized only after I’d disbursed the spell that this was what it did.
“So what’d you find out about the mermaid?” Matt asked after a bit, and with a guilty start I realized I’d practically forgotten about our mission today.
“The Duwamish and other First Peoples here do have legends about sea spirits - seal-maids or salmon-kin, and you have the legend of Sedna, who was a sea goddess farther north. But most of these are only occasionally represented as being mermaids, and even there none match what we saw last night. If this isn’t a hoax, and I haven’t ruled that out, she’s probably a Merrough. They appear in Cornish legends, with the most famous being the mermaid of Zennor.”
Matt nodded. “She mentioned Zennor in the video.”
“Yeah. Nowaday’s Zennor’s a small coastal village - maybe a couple of dozen buildings overall, on the Cornish coast near Land’s End. There’s a church there that features a pew with carved mermaids on it, and a small inn used primarily by bikers. There’s a small harbour just up the road at St. Ives with a small airstrip, but most of that area’s rural coastland until you get up into Bristol Inlet with Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol. Supposedly very picturesque.”
“And if it’s a hoax?”
“Matt, I know you don’t like to admit it, but you’re actually worth a pretty penny, and your family was famous enough that someone could very well be targeting you as part of a scam. Seems a weird scam, but I’ve seen weirder.”
As she watched the built up surroundings of Seattle give way to the ship yards of Everett, she also reflected that the Blood were not above pulling scams themselves, either. If the woman she saw was in fact a mermaid, that didn’t necessarily rule a scam out, only that there were supernatural elements involved.
She had no problem with there being mermaids. She’d seen mers when she was with Grandmother, swimming off the coastline in the Juan de Fuca Straits, but they were local Blood and very much in the mold of First Nation peoples, and were more like Selkies - seal women - than true mermaids. They were also extraordinarily shy and techno-adverse; she’d had to hide for several hours in the brush along the rocky beaches, becoming one with the background, before the mer-kin came back around to swim with the sea otters, and a single, quiet cough on her part had sent them diving into the sea.
“Matt?” she said after they passed a drydock full of boats - she suspected they’d be turning off shortly.
“Why do you do this? You could walk into your Dad’s company tomorrow and get a job as a senior management, no questions asked.”
“It’s not quite as simple as that,” Matt said after a minute. “First of all, my father sold controlling interest in it, when Mom was dying, even though he kept enough to have a significant say on the board. I didn’t want to inherit his company when he was alive - it just felt too much like nepotism to me. When he died, they approached me, but it wasn’t my company, and I felt if I’d taken it I’d always be seen as Stephen Trewellan’s son. Better it go to someone with real management experience.”
“Tom Bonder’s not exactly been a blazing success,” I remarked. I didn’t play corporate games, but like anyone in tech, I stayed current, and Trewellan’s successor had made misstep after misstep, though the tech press has been remarkably quiet about it (after all, the company still bought lots of ad space).
“If I went in now, Bree,” he said, quietly, “I’d be seen as a threat.”
Said the man who had just stood down a lord of the Unseelie Court without realizing it, Bree thought with sour amusement. Yet, perhaps he was right. She’d known Matt since they were both grad students at the University of Washington. He’d been working towards a masters in information management with a minor in music (she’d always found that hilarious, but now she wondered if she was missing something), while she’s been working towards a PhD in Information Technology. She was a year younger than he was, they’d even dated briefly, but she had decided even then she liked him much better as a friend. He’d always been gawky, uncomfortable in his skin, and had become even more so after his parents had passed away. Still, every so often, there was something within him she sensed trying to break free.
They’d made their way up to to Camano Island, eventually pulling into a marina where a number of houseboats, skiffs and even smaller yachts were tied up. “You own a boat?”
“Don’t tell the guys at the Nerd Shop. I’d never hear the end of it.”
He headed over to the harbormaster to retrieve the keys, then they walked out to one of the piers, where there were several respectably sized skiffs moored, and made his way to the gangplank of one of the larger. A zodiac was stowed along one side. Someone could live aboard this for several weeks at a stretch without much hardship.
“There’s life vests in the storage locker there, help yourself.”
As I rummaged around and pulled out a brightly colored orange vest about the right size for me, Matt came out from the bridge with a small navy blue Captain’s hat.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been out on The Sea Sprite. Normally, Dad would hire a captain for trips of any length, but I spent a lot of time with them, and finally decided to get my ship captain’s license after my father died. At one point I thought about just taking off, spend a year or two traveling, but somehow never quite managed to take the jump. Perhaps I should.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt at that moment. This Matt was alien to me. I usually had enough to pay the rent on my little place, buy clothes at Goodwill, every so often splurge a bit on coffee or a meal at the diner. Matt had enough money to keep a good-sized yacht on constant upkeep waiting as he decided what to do with his life. I quelled the surge of jealousy that threatened to swamp me, and even managed to keep in check the anger I felt that Matt had so much in his life that he could have done something with and didn’t.
“Do you know where she is?” I asked instead, staring pointedly away from him.
“If the coordinates we have are correct, she’s up in the San Juan’s. If not, then we have an interesting afternoon ahead of us. Hope you don’t get sea sick easily.”
I looked out to the west, and even though the sky was clear above us, it was beginning to haze up to the West, always a pretty reliable indication of a soggy day ahead. Matt pointed to the mooring lines on the aft portion of the port side even as he started releasing the same lines to the fore of the ship. I’ve been on ships before, so I’m not a complete landlubber, but even so it took us a bit before we were ready to cast off, especially since the ship normally should have had a crew of at least four.
I stowed my laptop along with my bag and my .45 in another storage locker, hoping I’d not have to use it. I preferred not to rely upon guns - with enough of a mental nudge, a bear or a cougar will usually give way and look for less problematic prey. Still, there were a number of people in the San Juan’s who had played premium for their privacy, and they tended to be trigger happy.
An hour later, the haze which had just begun building now lay like a blanket over the sky, and I was truly glad to having dressed warmly this morning as the wind whipped around us. We were far enough North that I suspected we were technically in Canadian waters, with Vancouver Island to our southwest, and we’d left behind most of the pleasure craft so that there was only one other boat, a yacht larger than ours, on the horizon. Our destination was a small islet off one of the smaller islands in the San Juans, though the coordinates were at the limit of their resolution here, so we were looking for either a natural cave or a man-made structure that was on the shore, or perhaps were looking for the mermaid herself.
Matt had emailed her back - how had a mermaid managed to get an email address in the first place, I wondered - to let her know that we were going to be up here around this time, but she never wrote back, so I figured the chances of us actually finding her were low at best. There were too many questions in my head right now, and too little information to go on.
We were able to get to within about a hundred yards of shore without danger of foundering - the Puget Sound at this point gets deep fast of the islands, which have hardly any beach to speak of. Matt leant me a second pair of binoculars so I could scan the brush and rocky beach while he kept an eye on the sonar to keep from tearing up his ship’s keel. For me the task was made harder by the waves, which had building steadily as the front moved in from the West.
“Let’s give it another half an hour or so, then call it quits” Matt yelled from the wheelhouse. “I don’t like what I’m seeing on radar.”
We rounded one island where the trees came directly up to the waterline, and a much smaller island, perhaps no more than about fifty feet across came into view. As we approached, I swept the binoculars on a particular small stretch of sandy beach, then spotted something irregular at the water’s edge. A largish gray rectangle - about the size of a small suitcase - had been pushed up into a mound of seaweed. About five feet away, I saw what I first took to be an irregularly shaped log, partially submerged, until I realized that a part of the log was moving back and forth in the water as the waves swept it up and down.
“Matt, about ten degrees to port, that little inlet there,” I yelled over the wind. “I think she’s there.”
He kicked the engines up and we headed closer to the island. The wind had picked up to about thirty knots, and was wetter than sea spray by itself could account for. I put the binoculars down, lifting up my legs to work out the cramps in them. As I did so, I glanced back off to the west, and noticed that the boat that we’d seen earlier was closer.
Matt pulled as close as he could to the island and let out the anchor. With the way the winds were blowing, the anchor wouldn’t necessarily keep the boat from drifting, but it would slow it down. Matt started unsecuring the zodiac, and I pitched in.
“We might have visitors - that boat’s been pacing us all afternoon,” I said, pointing to the small white spot in the distance.
“Let’s do this quick then. You think it’s her?”
“Maybe, hard to tell from here. Whoever it is isn’t moving.”
He nodded, his face hard. What had started as a fantasy was beginning to turn grim. We kick the motor on the zodiac into life, then made for the small beach.
When people come to Washington State, they tend to have this bizarre belief that we have broad sandy beaches like California. There’s a couple of places to the south, near Oregon, where there are a few smallish beaches like that, but the waves and wind here usually make short shrift of any kind of sand; most beaches are small, gray, and rocky, fun if you like crawling over driftwood, but not the kind of place to build a sand castle or lay out in the sun (especially in late September, when the winds coming from the Pacific are damned cold). Even in the bulky life vest (and a second jacket I’d slipped on underneath it earlier) I was shivering a little bit.
The Zodiac beached about twenty feet from the “log” I’d seen earlier, and I hopped out onto sand, my medical kit in hand. Grandmother was the First Nation’s primary healer, but she was also a trained nurse, and made sure that while I knew the power of willow bark and various mosses, I also knew how to suture a wound, splint bones, set up an IV and if necessary act as a midwife. I was a little out of practice - I’d been planning on taking an advanced EMT course after I took the basic one last year, but just hadn’t had the bandwidth. I mentally put that back on my To Do Soon list as I came up to the mermaid.
Okay, I’ll admit - I gawked for a moment. She was beautiful. Her hair was the color of moonlight, her face, eyes closed, the essence of young womanhood. She was sprawled out on her side, one arm beneath her, the other, outstretched, her full breasts pressed against the sand. At her waist, her skin became shinier and went from pearl to gold, her hips looking human enough, as if she wore a pair of form fitting gold jeans. Her legs seemed to join mid-thigh, and she had knees (or one unified knee, it was hard to be sure). Below that her lower limbs seemed to be more flexible and longer than I would have expected, as if bone had been replaced by flexible cartilage, at the base of which was a broad tailfin that bore more than a little resemblance to a dolphin’s fluke. She was a mermaid, and she seemed to be dead.
Yet she lay there unmoving, and after a moment’s inspection I turned her over, drawing my breath in as the wound came into view. A gunshot wound had taken her in the upper abdomen, just under the rib cage. My eyes widened as I realized that the wound was still pulsing.
“She’s alive, dammit!” I cried, slapping Matt out of his trance. “Help me turn her over.”
Normally, this would have been a bad idea, I didn’t know how much damage she’d taken, especially as there was no exit wound. This was also not an ideal place to help her. “Matt, do you have a surfboard or something like that we can use as a stretcher? We need to get her out of here, or she’ll die.”
Matt nodded, running back to the zodiac. As he took off for the boat, I cleaned the bullet wound as much as possible, running a couple of cantrips over the bandages to put as much of the wound into stasis as possible. It wasn’t much. The bullets were probably copper jacket, so wouldn’t be as likely to cause the burning pain that pure iron did, but any bullet could be fatal, and given where it was - and the potential for very alien physiology, I didn’t want to take any chances with it.
She gurgled a little, faintly. I didn’t know a lot about marine mammals (I had to assume that she was a mammal, given that she didn’t have any evident gills and had very evident mammary glands), but I knew enough that they had a very slow metabolism compared to other animals their size. I was finally able to get a pulse in her pale, web lined arm, but it was well below human norms, about 40 over 25 and very weak. It was hard to tell how much blood she’d lost, but even with the absorbant sand beneath here there was a noticeable stain.
With the wound wrapped, I stepped back a bit and looked at her a bit more objectively. She was thin, almost gaunt, and her skin was loose around her arms and face. She had been starving. There was a purplish gray bruise along the side of her face, as if he’d been hit there, and her left eye socket showed bruising as well, along with a couple of other bruises on her wrists and arms. I looked down as well, at the golden triangular region where her legs met, and there, nearly hidden, were her sexual organs. They would normally be almost invisible most of the time, perhaps a little farther down the perineum than mine were, but now they looked puffy and bruised. I’d seen too many cases of both physical and sexual abuse when I was working at my Grandmother’s clinic not to recognize the signs, and I had to struggle not to turn the anger I was feeling on Matt when he returned with the zodiac.
“She’s been raped, I think,” I said, before he could say a word, and to his credit, I could see Matt’s expression shift to concern, then a cold determined rage. Until then, I think he’d seen the girl as some kind of fantasy being, but Matt had a sister, and in that moment, the mermaid became real to him as a human being.
“Let’s get her on the boat,” he said tersely, then nodded at the sky that was now turning the greenish gray that usually meant one of the nastier storms in the region was imminent.
We moved her onto the backboard - the boat really did have everything - and transferred her to the Zodiac. Getting her onto the boat was somewhat harder, Matt had secured her to the board with sailcloth and rope, and carefully, once we tied the Zodiac down, we transferred her onto the aft deck and then to one of the bunks in the cabin, just as the rain began to fall in earnest.
Out of the elements, without having to worry about the wind blowing bandages into the dirt, I set up a saline drip (hoping that the steel of the needles didn’t damage her) and unwrapped the dressing. Some of the Blood reacted negatively to iron, but halflings generally were far more tolerant, and I was willing to bet money that the mermaid was not full Blood, but was more like me. The full Blood often looked … alien, their proportions different from those of a human in both limb and face. The selkie I’d seen along the coast could pass for human in poor light, but their eyes were too big with wide irises. The mermaid, on the other hand, looked exotic, but nonetheless human above the hips.
The boat shuddered as the engines kicked in, so presumably Matt had managed to stow the Zodiac and get back to the wheelhouse. I concentrated on my charge, jaw clenched as I pulled the dressing loose and examined the wound in better light. I wasn’t a forensics expert, but I had a suspicion she’d been shot with a rifle from some distance - the wound was ugly, but was actually not as deep as I’d feared, which meant that the bullet had expended a lot of its energy by the time it hit. It had also gone into the serratus muscles of her upper abdomen, which were unusually dense - spending all of her time swimming like a dolphin left her with some serious muscle tone, in to a remarkable dense layer of fat that likely kept her warm in ocean water. Her ribs were bruised but didn’t seem to be broken. There was also a row of small punctures in her arm that looked an awful lot like needle marks.
I sterilized some tweezers - hard plastic ones that I kept handy when dealing with the Blood, and worked the bullet out, staunching the blood that came with it - red blood, it finally registered on me. The High Courts and many of the Wild Fae had blood that was pale pink, green (dryads and others that have chlorophyll mixed in their blood) sometime white, and on rare occasions a pale blue. The blood of Vampyr was purplish blue, except when they’ve gorged, in which case the blood is a lurid red from the cannibalized oxygen in their victim’s blood cells. This last was from the local Van Helsing Society acquaintances I know - I stay clear of vampyr, and they seem content to stay clear of me. However, bright red was a mark of human blood, probably in part on both sides. Fae genetics were … weird to say the least, and something that was not even well understood even by the few fae geneticists out there.
The bullet was flattened and misshaped, and in my mind I began to understand what I was seeing. She wasn’t actually directly hit by the bullet. Instead, it must have ricocheted against a rock and hit her indirectly, losing a lot of its momentum in the process. It was fired by a high powered rifle, given the calibre of the bullet, but fired at enough of a distance - and likely from a swaying ship, that it was just sheer bad luck that she was hit at all. Of course, that likely meant that there was someone out there with some serious firepower.
I re-dressed the wound, and added some not completely legal codeine to the IV drip. Again, I was taking a risk here, given that she wasn’t necessarily human, but I didn’t think it was a major one. Blood was the key. Fairies, even urban faeries, couldn’t tolerate codeine or similar analgesics, and even aspirin caused an adverse reaction, but willowbark, which contain salicin which the human body metabolized as salicylic acid (and was the basis for aspirin) was a veritable wonder drug for them. Of course, most of the winged faeries had, well, wings, insect-like wings specifically, and their biochemistry was a lot weirder than you might expect given that they otherwise look human.
However, our mermaid was warm-blooded, had hemoglobin-based blood, looked to be an air-breather and mammalian, and was also likely not much older than her apparent physical age, which I put at about twenty. I covered her up in the surprisingly comfortable feeling bedsheets and comforter, though I’d made sure there were towels above and below her wound.
I rummaged through the drawers in the small cabin and confirmed a hunch - there were dresses, tops, slacks and women’s underwear in here. Matt’s sister Laura likely used the boat as well, and the couple of times I’d met her, she struck me as the kind of woman who would always make sure she had a spare wardrobe handy. The mermaid might be completely into nudism, but I had a disturbing suspicion that even if that had been the case before, things may have changed, and made sure there was a change of clothes for her. I sat with her a little longer, my hand wrapped gently around her wrist, counting. Warmed, and with the IV drip, her pulse and blood pressure had risen to very low human levels, which I took as a good sign.
I was close to drifting off myself when the boat lurched in the water, and I could feel it shifting direction hard to port. The covers rose and fell in time to the mermaid’s even breathing, so I felt it was probably safe to leave her alone for a few minutes.
I took the stairs (the “ladder”, I corrected myself) up to the state room, and from there into the wheelhouse, my hands reaching out to rails as the boat rocked in the turbulent waters of the Sound. For some reason I had expected to find a great wooden wheel in the wheelhouse, but instead Matt sat comfortably at what looked at first glance like a modern car’s steering wheel and area, with a small steering wheel, radar and sonar displays, and a computer screen for monitoring everything from fuel and oil levels to the degrees of pitch from true.
“Seems to take all the romance out of sailing,” I commented, taking the other chair. Rain lashed at the the windows, and visibility was poorer than I liked.
“My father was never a terribly romantic man. He bought this primarily as a way of entertaining clients, and usually hired a captain and crew to actually keep things afloat. I’m not even sure he knew how to get it started. How’s our guest?”
“Sleeping, I hope. The wound was messy but relatively shallow - I think she caught the bullet on a ricochet. I’ve already bagged it, not that I’m sure there’s actually a court where it could be admitted as evidence.”
My eye fell on the small plastic carrying case; in getting the mermaid to the boat, I’d completely forgotten about it. Matt apparently hadn’t.
“It’s a laptop,” he said, noticing my gaze. “Probably the one she sent her message from. Thing has a heavy data satellite link on it. The box is watertight; we sell lower end versions of that to the nouveau riche yacht club set. At the moment the battery’s drained.”
I worked out the scenario in my head. The mermaid is on board a ship or a boat, owned by someone wealthy enough to have a high end laptop with all the trimmings, normally kept in or near the waterproof case. She’s kept against her will, but an opportunity comes when she’s alone, is able to escape somehow, she grabs the laptop and dives over the side with it. Her captors try to shoot her in the water, and one shot ricochets off a nearby rock and hits her in the side. She dives, finds an island, sends the message, but has lost too much blood and loses consciousness. It was plausible, and explained most of the facts, but if that was the case it also implied some potentially nasty things.
“That boat we saw earlier …” she said.
“They trailed us for a while, until the storm got too heavy. I lost a visual on them about half an hour ago, took a course the long way around to the marina both to avoid some of the rocks it’d be all too easy to founder on and to see if we could shake them. My guess is we may have stepped into some seriously heavy duty crap here.”
I raised my eyebrow.
“I booted up the laptop briefly during a lull in this storm, and was surprised to see it running the Spanish version of Screens. Normal password protected account - hackable, with a bit of work. The user name was Raul Ortiz. I looked him up on the ship’s computer - it also has a satlink. Raul Ortz is the name of a Mexican Cartel drug lord, wanted, for among other things, running guns and drugs, murder, extortion … and piracy. The photographs of him in the news matched the user profile pic on the computer login screen.”
“Well, that’s just peachy.” The track marks on the girl’s arm made sense - he probably kept her drugged. I didn’t have anything in my kit to do any kind of blood work beyond a couple of crude tests for Fae blood types. “So what do we do with her?”
“She’s real, isn’t she?” Matt said quietly, suddenly looking lost and a lot younger than he had moments before. “It’s all real? All the strange voodoo kind of magick that seems to surround you, all the weird things in this town that I’ve written off to being just colorful inhabitants. They’re real?”
“Yeah,” I said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Though the mermaid in your sister’s cabin is actually probably more real than a lot of them. I kind of keep an eye on them, help them try to navigate the human world.”
“Why? Why are they here?” He sounded almost plaintive.
“Matt, they’ve always been here. We’re the invaders. We build up in areas that used to be their home - dryads whose trees have been turned into hardwood floors, trolls that used to live in the hills now forced to live in underpasses because their caves were in the way. Some adapt - have you ever noticed groups of under-dressed girls at Bel Square? They’re mall elves - at least some of them. You don’t see the Fae as such because they’ve learned to blend in, learned to hide their true nature, and because humans just don’t … look very close.”
“So are you human?” he asked, turning to look at her.
“I … I guess you could call me a witch. Not the Elizabeth Montgomery, wrinkle your nose and suddenly your husband is a donkey kind of witch, mind you. I can do some healing, courtesy of my Grandmother’s training, but I mostly specialized in information. Computer magick, scrying, information patterns. I have some Fae blood in me from both sides, but I’m human enough that you’d not be able to tell I wasn’t.” Most of the time, I thought, but didn’t say out loud.
He stared out through the driving rain, ostensibly steering towards the marina just visible in the distance through the downpour, but it was clear that he was also thinking, hard. I’d rocked his world view, rocked it harder than the mermaid downstairs did, and I had a disturbing feeling that he was angry at me for stripping away the illusions.
“There’s a wheelchair in the closet of the master suite - my father bought it for my mother so they could take the boat out after she got sick, but I think its only been used once. If you could get her seated, I’ll drive the boat in. That should keep us from being obvious about what we’re doing.”
It was a suggestion, but it was also clearly a dismissal, and I bristled a bit at that. Matt could be charismatic and compelling, but there were times he also echoed his father’s less savory aspects. The man had reportedly been a tyrant, and sometimes, without meaning to, Matt showed that side of himself as well.
I started to say something but bit my tongue and left in search of the chair, more because I was simply too tired to argue with him right now.