When Cassie awoke, it was late in the morning and someone was shaking her shoulder.

“There’s people here to see you,” Rochelle said.

Cassie opened her eyes, then squinted them closed again. She couldn’t think of anyone she wanted to see except Galahad, and he wouldn’t ask Rochelle to announce him. “Tell whoever it is to go away.”

Rochelle nudged her to sit and handed her a glass of water. “It’s those new friends of yours. The ones who sneak around in black.”

“Thing One and Thing Two?”

“They’ve been waiting an hour already and Doc said to wake you up before they start having sex in the lobby.”

“That would be just like them.”

“So should I send them in here, or do you want to meet them out there?”

Cassie struggled to her feet, her head pounding and every muscle aching. “I’ll go out there. If they come in here, the mattresses might give them ideas.”

Rochelle brought a bowl of water so she could wash her face and smooth her hair. Since Cassie wasn’t ready to face her empty room, she straightened her rumpled clothes as best she could and went to see what the twins wanted.

She found them sitting on the hearth of the fireplace, their weapons at their feet and their clothes just as dirty as Cassie’s own. In the light from the tall windows, their gray and black makeup looked smudged and slept-in, although it was still scary enough that a group of children had stopped playing games in the lobby and sat on a sofa across the room, their feet on the upholstery and knees tucked up to their chests as they stared at the visitors.

The twins got up and walked toward her with their usual cat-like arrogance. But then they paused and looked at each other, doubt written on their faces.

“Thank you for yesterday,” Cassie said, guessing they were hoping for a reward.

Danny gave an embarrassed shrug. “We’re just sorry we got there too late for your friend.”

“We’d seen the Christian Soldiers in our territory before,” Danica explained. “And lately they’ve been coming around more often. But since they always harassed expendables and didn’t take any food, we left them alone. It never occurred to us that after you left May’s shop—”

“You knew we went to May’s?”

“We’ve been staking it out for a long time,” Danny said. “You hadn’t figured that out?”

Cassie ran a hand through her hair. She wasn’t up for this. “Well, thanks again. Would you like some food, or…?” She prodded her sluggish mind for ideas. What would the twins value? A solar oven, maybe? One of Sid’s converted alternators?

Danny shook his head. “That’s not why we’re here.”

“Your food is crap, anyway,” Danica added. “We’re on a different errand. We hope we’re not doing this wrong by coming to you first.”

“Maybe we should’ve gone to Mundo.”

“But we’d seen you with the girl before and we know she was your friend.”

“And we didn’t want to bother your leader if this is a personal or family type of deal.”

Cassie looked from one twin to the other, wishing they would just say what was on their minds. “Well?”

“We brought your friend’s body,” Danica said, as if it were obvious.

“We figured it might be hard for you,” Danny said. “It was messy.”

“Lots of blood,” Danica said with a shudder.

“But don’t worry, we shrouded her up proper and everything.”

Cassie blinked back a sudden urge to cry.

“Oh, God,” Danica said. “Don’t do that. I can’t stand tears any more than I can stand blood.”

Danny slipped an arm around her waist and nuzzled her neck. “You’re starting to make me think you don’t like any bodily fluids.”

“Save that thought for later.” Danica stole a kiss, then turned her attention back to Cassie. “Anyway, we left her in the loading dock, since we see your shuttle is gone for the day. If you’ve got a better place in mind, we can move her. Just say where.”

Cassie had no idea where to put Leila. Hoping a plan would come to her, she followed the twins to the loading dock where a black-wrapped form lay against the wall, still strapped to an improvised stretcher. She stared, wondering why her mind refused to come up with an idea for what to do next. She had buried her parents, teachers, and many friends. Death was almost as routine as brushing her teeth. Why was she confounded by this one?

“How long had you known each other?”

Cassie had forgotten the twins were still there, waiting for her to say something. “Nearly our whole lives. We were neighbors. We weren’t always best friends because we were too different. But we knew we could count on each other.”

“That means a lot,” Danny said. “I’m sorry we don’t have any ideas where you should bury her, but we don’t keep up with which places are full, which places get dug up by dogs and that sort of thing.”

“It’s okay. You’ve done more than enough.” Cassie struggled to come up with a suitable expression of gratitude, but could think of nothing that was adequate. “I owe you. And I hope I’ll have a chance to do you a really big favor someday.”

“So do we,” Danica said with a saucy lift of her chin.

“Favors make the world go ‘round,” Danny agreed. He grabbed Danica from behind and whispered something in her ear that made her giggle.

“Can I see you out?” Cassie asked.

“We’ll find our own way,” Danny said. “After a quick tour of your parking garage.”

“We hope no one minds,” Danica said with a smirk.

“Too bad if they do.” Danny pulled her toward the stairs and yanked open the fire door. With a little wave, they slipped through the doorway and were gone, their laughter echoing in the stairwell.

Cassie shook her head hard. Then after a long moment spent staring at Leila’s shrouded form, she went into the hotel. She had a funeral to plan.




Alice Audrey said...

I'm starting to like Thing One and Thing Two. Does that mean you're planning on killing them? Just wondering. :)

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

They'd be fools to trust me, but that goes for any of my characters.

Alice Audrey said...

Yep, you're a dangerous author.