“Hey guys,” I said as I slid into place next Yolanda and planted a kiss on her cheek. “What’s up?”
“We’re discussing the implications of Lizzy being outed as the Composer,” my sister said with surprising bluntness.
I snorted. “She’s not. End of story. Lizzy, the Composer? Ridiculous.”
Jelena shrugged. “Ridiculous or not, that’s what Necessarius is saying.”
“Yes, thank you both for summarizing the last ten minutes,” Pam snapped caustically.
I waved the waitress over—to my surprise, it wasn’t Lily. I had thought she had a shift right now. “Irish coffee, please.” As the giantess sashayed away, I turned my attention back to my friends. “The Big Boss is saying the Paladins personally fought the Composer, but I still can’t believe it.”
Yolanda perked up. “Wait, they were able to identify Lizzy on sight? That must mean they’re people we know! No wonder my uncle has been so tight-lipped…”
But Veda shook her head, ears turned down. “Lizzy’s pretty well known. Recognizing her doesn’t mean much.”
“Well that’s no fun,” my girlfriend said with an adorable pout. “Guessing who they are would’ve been interesting.”
My girlfriend…I was still getting used to that. This was the first relationship I had ever had that lasted more than a couple nights. I kept expecting her to tell me she had had enough, and was leaving.
“But it’s just like you said,” Delphie insisted. “This isn’t some random rumor. The ‘sarians have released multiple statements, all claiming the exact same thing. Butler’s going on the news tonight to confirm it. It just seems too much if they’re anything but a hundred percent sure.”
Our Glasyan started to speak, and I almost jumped out of my seat. Ever since the gargants, she terrified me. We had already assumed the fey could see or hear through her, but that incident had made it clear that they could do much more than that.
Luckily, Jelena didn’t seem to notice. “I think everyone needs to just wait and see. If she’s running, it means she’s guilty of something, right?”
Pam rolled her eyes. “Now you’re just being silly. You know better than that. Someone says they’re going to kill you, you run. Doesn’t matter whether you actual did what they’re accusing you of or not.”
“Let’s change the subject,” Seena said quickly, probably anticipating that the bland baseline was about to fall into another Darwinist rant. “Delphie, didn’t you say your sister’s daughter was coming over?”
“Her son,” the murid corrected. “Leon. He’ll be at my room when I get back.”
“Did you tell Zusa?”
“Ugh, I knew I forgot something…”
“Well, he’s just a kid, right?” Jelena asked. “So when he knocks on your door, she’s not gonna think he’s some kind of pervert and slam the door in his face.”
“But he is a pervert. He’s a worse skirt-chaser than his dad, and he’s still ten.”
Seena drummed her fingers on the table, a thoughtful look on her face. “But…didn’t Theo eventually marry your sister? Before he got killed, I mean.”
“Just engaged, but that’s my point. I have no hope of Leon ever settling down.”
Yolanda looked worried. “Zusa won’t…hurt him, right?”
Delphie thought about it. “I don’t know, normally I’d say no way…but he’s pretty aggressive, and she’s a Nosferatu. She’s got poison in those claws, I’m pretty sure, and he doesn’t have the buffs to survive that.”
“I can’t see her having poison,” Veda put in, as she finally pocketed her phone. “She’ll scratch him up a little, but he’ll be fine. Learn a lesson, too.”
“She has poison,” Kevin said, in a tone that made it clear he wasn’t guessing. “It’s painful, but just paralytic.”
The cherve nodded, her ears twitching. “See? He’ll be fine.”
“Maybe Kevin and I should head back early,” Steve mused, putting his arms behind his head. “Head him off, keep him from doing anything stupid.”
Jelena cocked her head. “I thought we just decided to let it be.”
The big baseline shrugged. “Pervert or not, I don’t think we should let a little kid get hurt if we can help it. How would any of your feel if it was your son?”
The Glasyan adjusted her daygoggles a little haughtily. “My son isn’t a skirt chaser.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it. If you found out one of your kids got hurt, would you care why?”
“Maybe,” I admitted. “Maybe not. But Leon wasn’t raised in an orphanage. His mother knows him.”
Steve looked like he wasn’t sure if I was agreeing with him or not, but continued anyway. “Right. She has more of a connection to him than most parents. She’s liable to kill anyone who tries to hurt him, whether he deserves it or not.”
Jelena sighed and turned to the murid. “Delphie, I met Melanie a grand total of twice. Is she gonna be irrational if Leon gets hurt?”
Delphie winced. “Ah…that depends. Honestly, probably not, but that’s not a chance you want to take.”
Steve stood up and placed some money on the table for his drink. “It’s decided, then. Kevin, let’s go.”
Seena spoke up. “You two are armed, right? Whoever’s responsible, there’s blood on the streets.”
The South-American grabbed his coat off his chair back as he stood. “Yeah, I got my Raaze, and Steve’s got some bigger stuff if we need it. Simon, you coming?”
I waved his question away. “I just got here. I can stay a bit longer.”
Both men shrugged, and headed off to the dorms. I belatedly realized they had forgotten to ask what Leon looked like, but it probably wouldn’t matter.
The conversation strayed to other topics, and eventually Veda started arguing with Jelena about some game Lizzy had helped voice. Something about how Lizzy was pigeonholed into only having parts with her exact personality—sweet and ditzy, mostly.
I was only paying attention with half an ear, but it did get me thinking. I wasn’t close friends with her or anything, but I did feel like I knew Lizzy pretty well. She had come to a couple of my birthday parties, given me some crappy gifts that I loved, but had fallen apart because they were made out of cheap materials.
I smiled a little. Yeah, she made mistakes like that all the time, but she was still a good person. Imagining her as the Composer was completely impossible. It just seemed goofy whenever I pictured it. What would she make the screamers do? Go shopping for her? Nine Hells, I couldn’t even—
My smile turned to a frown as a thought occurred to me.
That couldn’t be right. I mean, it just…
I searched my memory frantically, but couldn’t think of anything. It didn’t mean much, but…
I couldn’t think of a single malicious or selfish thing Elizabeth Greene had ever done. Not one. That was…
Impossible. No one was that perfect.
It was like Lizzy was a character invented by someone who didn’t really understand how complex people were.
I held Yolanda’s arm a little tighter, suddenly cold.
Necessarius’ accusations didn’t seem quite so unlikely after all.
Behind the Scenes (scene 114)
Not completely satisfied with this one, but it came out well enough.