Terri was at ‘her office’ as they called it, her usual spot close to but out of sight from Aspen’s tree. The air had that clean, crisp scent like just after rain even though it hadn’t done so yet. She was going over this morning’s sketches and noticed all but one had at least some portion of Cleopatra’s Needle in the background, not too odd as she had chosen this spot in part because of that view. What was odd was that the only sketch that lacked any image of the landmark was of a young woman in her late teens or early twenties that bore more than a striking resemblance to Susanna. Terri hadn’t realized this at the time, in fact her main focus of that particular sketch had been the group of students walking in the opposite direction but this young woman could easily have been Susanna’s twin. Terri realized that tomorrow would be exactly three years to the day from Susanna’s murder, a fact she was always aware of but tried very hard not to acknowledge. Deciding that she was done for today Terri put the sketch pad into her satchel bag and headed down the path. As no one expected her back this early and not really in the mood to go home yet, Terri decided to go for a walk around the park. She was almost through a wooded section on the far side of one of the lakes when she felt she was being followed. As running was out of the question, and never really her style truthfully, she turned around abruptly to see a man roughly about 10 yards behind her on the path, obviously surprised that she had confronted him. “Can I help you with something?” Terri asked in what she considered a politely neutral tone.
His eyes shifted between Terri and the edge of the trees past her then glanced further back into the woods behind him before mumbling something. Terri noticed that his clothes were wrinkled and could probably do with a washing but not soiled too badly. If he was homeless it was a very recent occurrence. He seemed to be balanced right between begging a handout and demanding a payoff. He looked once more at Terri’s cane then focused on her bag before he cleared his throat with a cough and said “Look, I don’t want no trouble. Just gimme the bag and I promise you won’t get hurt.”
Terri sighed as baser emotions won out again. “I really wish you had chosen to ask for help instead.” She pulled a 12th St Mission card and a Metro token out of her left jacket pocket as she said “Here, if you really want some help, they can help you. I advise you give up the tough guy bit though, Terry has no tolerance for that and the rest of the residents have even less. If you’d rather fight a seemingly disabled woman for a half empty thermos, a sketchbook, some pencils and a menu from Dim Sum be my guest but I’m afraid some things are never quite what they seem. Sometimes, where you see an easy mark, behind the veil may be something scary seeking to lure the foolish” Terri said as she cast a Glamour of “something scary” in the woods just off to his left. She really did not feel like dealing with this, not when it would be so easy to unleash three year’s worth of loss on this unfortunate guy who picked the wrong person on the worst day … Susanna would not have approved.
The guy kept glancing to his left, as if he saw “something” out of the corner of his eye and probably wondering why this wasn’t going like those stupid cop shows on TV portrayed. Sure, they almost always got caught eventually but they also always never believed that that ever could happen to them. Terri was about to just put an end to this when another voice called out behind her “Oh, there you are. We wondered where you had gone off to. HEY, SADIE, I FOUND HER! Who’s your friend?” as a guy in his early to mid twenties walked past Terri holding his hand out as if to shake the would-be mugger’s hand. “Don’t mind Terri, she’s simply horrid at introductions. Hi, I’m Davis …. Davis James. Yeah, yeah, I know, it sounds like my parents got it backwards. Trust me, I’ve heard it all before.”
The guy pulled his right hand, that he had kept in his pocket as if he had a gun, out to to shake hands without thinking. As Terri thought, he had been faking the gun. The absurdity of the whole situation seemed to finally get the better of him. He mumbled “gotta go” and turned to follow the path back into the woods. Davis saw the card and pass still in Terri’s outstretched hand. He grabbed them both and ran up to the guy saying “wait, you forgot these” and pressed both into the guy’s hand. “You really should go see them, trust me. Take care now.” Davis walked back to Terri and said “You’re welcome. No need to thank me” as he made an ‘after you’ flourish.
Terri practically choked. “Thank you? For what? I had it covered. Just who the heck are you, anyways?” as she continued on her way toward the field.
“Is that any way to treat a neighbor and admirer of your artwork? Been meaning to tell you Susanna never looked so happy. I don’t get the dog reference though. I’m guessing maybe it had something to do with whatever work she did with your group. Or should I say your former group. You don’t seem to have much dealings with them anymore. Bad breakup maybe? Or did saving the world just get boring?”
Neighbor and admirer? Just great, Terri thought, this guy was part of Brooklyn House. “What exactly do you want? You obviously tracked me down for a reason. Enough with the banter and get to the point already.”
“Woah, such hostility. They said you hated us but I thought it was just ‘razzing the new guy’ stuff. I’ve stopped by the Art Center a few times and you appeared to be very friendly and outgoing. I’m sorry to have disturbed you. I promise to never do it again” as he quickened his pace to leave Terri behind.
“Wait. I’m sorry, today just isn’t a good day. I don’t hate your group. I did disapprove of the way they treated a friend and felt that that caused her to take big risks to prove herself. To be entirely honest, we probably contributed to the events that led up to her death just as much as you people did.” Terri paused to take a deep breath and let it out. “I want to thank you for your help with that guy. I could have taken him out on my own but with tomorrow being what it is, I’m glad I didn’t have to. Did you know Susanna?”
“Not personally no, I was studying in Cairo when her ashes arrived. Which brings me to why I was looking for you. It’s the third anniversary of her death and three has special meaning for us. We are having a ceremony of sorts for her at Cleopatra’s Needle tomorrow and I thought it would be proper if her friends were there. Sorry for the short notice but I only found out about it last night and I missed you this morning before you left The Brown Forest. Do you have any way of contacting the rest of her friends? Romy and Cam I believe? I never got their last names. Truth be told, if it hadn’t been for the mural and the “watch out for the crazy lady next door out to get us” stories I probably wouldn’t have been able to connect you with Susanna either."
“I’ll let Andromeda know and try to pass word on to Cameron, with her job it’s tough sometimes to get ahold of her. I have to say I’m a bit surprised that Carter and Sadie extended an invitation to us for this. Last time we met was less than cordial, in fact I would classify it as outright hostile. I wouldn’t dream of darkening a remembrance for Susanna if they still felt so.”
“Wow, I can almost see the gloom pass over you when you talk about her. Not to pry but were you more than friends? It’s fine in you were, I’m not judging but there’s no reason to be so sad. The departed are always with us and never really gone you know. As for Sadie and Carter, they’re both overseas and won’t be back for a while.”
“No, I thought of her as a little sister I guess. An annoying, opinionated and at times obstinate little sister but still mine, you know what I mean? As for always with us, I don’t mean to disparage your religion or beliefs but a friend of mine actually sees and talks with the dead. She actually tried to track down Susanna’s ghost, spirit, soul or whatever and she’s just plain gone. A little background for you, I was born and raised in the Nevernever so I know there is more to life than just this” Terri said as she gestured at the world around them “but in this case at least, gone is just gone.”
“As the saying goes, I know just enough to realize exactly how much I don’t know but I think in this case you are wrong. Considering who and what she was, I choose to believe that we’ll see her again, well that you’ll see her again, I will just meet her for the first time. I will continue to believe this right up until the point that it happens just so I can turn to you and say “see, I was right, Nyahh” and you can’t stop me. There, see? You CAN laugh and smile. So, agree to come with me tomorrow and we’ll see if that smile was just a fluke or if, just maybe, the “crazy lady out to get us” was just a story to razz the new guy after all."
Terri had to admit she did feel better, for the first time in three years the thought of tomorrow didn’t feel like a reminder of failure. “So, Mr James, what exactly is your deal? Some kind of Egyptian spirit of hope? Out to rid the former monsters of guilt?”
“Me? Hardly! I just hate to see pretty women so lost in gloomy thoughts that they let bumbling idiots jump them in broad daylight” he said with a quick smile.
“Umm, thanks for the compliment but uhh, I … I’m sort of in a … Well, I used to be … That is, if she’d take me back I hope to … Oh, forget it. Look, in the fifteen minutes that I’ve known you, you seem really nice and you are definitely easy on the eyes as they say but I’m not … I’m just not, okay?” Terri ended in exasperation.
“Hey, relax, I’m not trying to hit on you. Why does everyone confuse humanity’s need for companionship with a desire for sex? I know about you and Dragonfly and I think I know why you’re the one who broke it off. How could a Fae beauty want to be with a scarred mortal, am I right? Yes, I’ve looked into your life, no, I’m not stalking you. My gifts are based in seeing the connections of things, it leads me to want to seek out the WHY’s of it all. Your connections practically cover this city but you see yourself as all alone. You have surrounded yourself with people at your Art Center and The Mission yet you keep apart from them. Don’t you see that they strengthen you as much as you help them?” then he got a mischievous look in his eye and sprinted off yelling over his shoulder “besides, when I could have anyone I want, why should I limit myself to someone who can’t keep up? Remember, Needle at sunrise.”