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Chapter Six

High Tide 9:33 p.m. EDT

Moonrise 5:27 p.m.

Moonset 2:40 a.m.


Nancy took her cap off, rubbed her sandy-going-to-grey curls, and reseated the cap, never once taking her eyes off the rooster.

I sighed.

“Best I could do.”

Nancy was still staring.

“Come from the Enterprise, too,” she said, voice carefully neutral.

Now, you’re starting to sound like my grandmother,” I said, maybe a little too sharp, because she shifted her gaze to me and turned one hand palm-up to show her lack of intentional insult.

“Sorry. Sorry. It’s just…the Enterprise isn’t exactly trustworthy.”

“So my grandmother also informed me. After the deal was done.”

“Right.” Nancy sighed. Slid a glance at the rooster. Winced.

“My other choice was a horse of doubtful provenance from Painted Pony Pete—who is, for the record, not himself a model citizen.”

“Well, but, Kate, even if the horse didn’t come off the ride he said it did, or whatever, if it was a good wood horse—”

“You can stop there. If there had been any possibility of it being a good wooden horse, I might’ve gone for it. Unfortunately, the line of nonsense Pete threw down makes me suspect a knock-off—and a bad knock-off at that. Plus, he mentioned up-front that it needed repairs, but not what those repairs might be.” I shook my head. “I couldn’t afford a horse that’s gonna break down after two rides. And nobody can afford a horse that might fail and get somebody hurt.”

Nancy stood a long minute, head tipped to one side, then nodded briskly.

“Right you are.” She raised her cap and settled it again, and looked sternly at the rooster.

“Well, let’s get ’er mounted, then.”

* * *

It took both of us to do the deed, after I’d done a thorough inspection, physical and magical. The body was sound, excepting that crack; and neither the land nor my own awesome Ozali powers detected anything more or less than an old and ugly fiberglass rooster in need of cleaning and a paint job.

Once it was in place, I ran the carousel a couple turns to make sure everything was hooked up all tight and proper—which it was. Nancy does good work.

“Well,” said the woman herself, from her lean on the safety rail beside me.

I knew what she meant.

“It does change the tone, doesn’t it? I’ll patch him and paint him tonight; thread in the stirrups. Be as bright as a new penny for tomorrow’s crowds.”

Nancy laughed softly.

“Tomorrow’s epic crowds,” she murmured, and stirred slightly. “Kate?”


“If you don’t mind my asking…” Her voice drifted off.

I turned my head to look at her, but all I got was the side of her face as she gazed determinedly at the carousel.

I looked in that direction myself, deliberately not sighing at the rooster.

“If I mind your asking I’ll say so. Deal?”

“More’n fair.” She paused, then said, her voice too casual. “I’m wondering if you’ve had word of Cap’n Borgan.”

It was a reasonable question, considering. I told myself that, and took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths. In spite of which, the words that came out of my mouth went off on a tangent.

“Finn’s not fishing for you?”

“No, no—he is. Doing a good job. Good enough job. It’s just Ma was wondering after the Cap’n the other night. He used to drop by now and again—visit with her a bit. It’s been six, seven weeks…”

Every bit of six or seven weeks, yeah. I took another nice, deep breath.

“Haven’t seen him,” I said, admiring how level my voice was. “If I do, I’ll pass the message that your mother misses his wit and good looks.”

“’Preciate it. He’s a favorite, see? She doesn’t get out much and—she says he reminds her of the sea.”

Well, of course he reminded her of the sea. I pressed my lips tight and nodded, thoughtfully.

“Well!” Nancy pushed away from the rail. “I’d best be getting on. We’ll settle on shifts solid once you got the greenie lined up.”

“Yeah.” I stood up, too. “I’ll go down and talk to Marilyn about that now—and let her know the happy news.”

* * *

“Hire a summer worker?” Marilyn looked up from behind her desk, eyebrows slightly raised, which for her was an exclamation of shock and surprise. Well, Gran didn’t ever hire a greenie—not that I knew about, anyhow. It might’ve been a fear of what might happen, should one of the prisoners come unruly while she wasn’t by. It could’ve been something else. Something, say, like the Ozali Ramendysis happening by one fine spring day and demanding his property back, or else he’d leave the Beach a smoking heap of slag.

Well, that particular surprise was behind us, and I was confident of the bindings on the remaining five—bindings that had been examined and approved by Gran and by Mr. Ignat’ in his role as Ozali Belignatious.

All that being so—

“Are they all spoken for?” I asked Marilyn. “The greenies.”

She shook herself and glanced down at the top her desk, specifically at a printed list tidily lined up with the edge of the desk calendar.

“We still have several young people who need hours. Will you be needing more than one?”

“Just one should do it,” I said. “Nancy Vois’ll be splitting nights with me, but I can use somebody to cover noon to four.”

Eyes on the list, Marilyn nodded.

“I’ve got one or two whose schedules might accommodate those hours. Let me find out…” She looked up at me. “Is it all right if I send somebody around to talk to you tomorrow night?”

“That’s fine; you know where to find me.”

“All right,” she said, and frowned slightly, as if she expected me to beat a retreat now that our business was done.

Except it wasn’t…exactly…done.

“Wanted to let you know, too,” I said; “that I got in a replacement animal, and we’ll be fully functional as of opening time tomorrow. Thanks for working with me on this, Marilyn.”

It wasn’t the sort of speech Marilyn was used to having from me—and I didn’t blame her one bit for the blink and the moment of silence. Credit where it’s due, though, she made a fast recover and nodded, smiling as much as she ever does.

“Of course, Fun Country was pleased to work with you, Kate. The carousel has been a name ride, and an anchor of this park, for a lot of years, now. If there’s anything else we can do to assist, you only have to let me know.”

As long as it didn’t cost Fun Country one thin dime, or discommode the directors any, but diplomacy counts, as my grandfather would have said, though not exactly in those words. That being so, I summoned up a state smile, inclined my head, and eased out of the office before either one of us ran out of patience.

* * *

It was midnight by the time I’d finished patching, cleaning, painting, and communing with the newest member of the carousel.

On the communing front, all I’d gotten for my trouble and concern was the general feeling that the land didn’t much care for the rooster. I couldn’t get a reading on why this was so. It wasn’t anything so pointed as a repugnance for something that was alien—a Black Dog, say, or a willie-wisp, critters that have from time to time been known to cross the wall between the worlds and run along the shore. Neither one belonged, and the land was right to call foul.

The rooster, though…The rooster produced a sense of…unease; just a little niggle of something so minor I couldn’t even categorize it as worry at the back of my mind. The proximity of the Guardian to the rooster for several hours of cleaning and painting did nothing to increase the unease.

Or decrease it, either.

I finished adjusting the stirrup leathers and sighed in irritation. I’d already inspected the thing three times with varying degrees of thoroughness.

“Which means doing it a fourth time won’t kill you,” I muttered. “And not doing it, might.”

There was that.

I took a deep breath, deliberately setting my irritation aside; and a second, tasting tangy-cool sea air. Fortified, I stepped Sideways, and considered the rooster minutely, one more time.

Seeing Sideways is a lot like looking through infrared glasses. Jikinap glows thick, deep yellow; trenvay glamor is bright green; illusion tends toward the blue-and-silver end of things. If the object of scrutiny is a person, Sideways sight will detect, along with the aforementioned, sincerity, insincerity, pain, love. Rarely will something or someone look exactly the same in Side-Sight as it looks in real sight.

The rooster was that rare thing.

Which, yeah, made me uneasy.

I put every ounce of concentration I had on the seeing, but no matter how hard I stared, the rooster was the rooster, with no glow of jikinap, spell, or trenvay glamor about it.


I stepped fully back into the here-and-now—and shook my head.

The rooster would never be a thing of beauty. It was clean and sharp with new paint, but what it wasn’t, was inviting. Mind you, the batwing horse hadn’t been inviting, particularly, but she had been…challenging. She had appealed to the hidden Batman in some riders’ psyches, and when they dismounted at the end of the ride, they felt not only merry—the usual euphoria brought on by spinning in a circle bathed in carousel music, with the sea air and the scent of Chinese cooking filling head and lungs—but accomplished. To have ridden the batwing, even in her reduced circumstances, was something.

To ride the rooster…I shook my head again. It was easy to see it scaring the kiddies—truth told, the really little kids hadn’t cottoned to the batwing—but it was less easy to see it calling forth somebody’s inner Zorro.

I frowned at it, feeling suddenly warm despite the fact that I’d pushed the storm wall back to let the breeze in. The rooster in all its motley glory filled my vision—grotesque and oh-so-slightly disturbing. If only it were…goofy, instead of grotesque; slightly welcoming instead of subtly off-putting.

The heat intensified, and I recognized the butterscotch tang of jikinap, rising to the will of an Ozali. That ought to have worried me, but I was more concerned with the rooster. I raised my hand, seeing the magic sparkle along my fingertips, and considered the options.

My first thought was to apply something akin to another coat of paint, this one made of inviting goofiness. My second thought was that glamor, like paint, needs to be renewed, and the better thing, by far, would be to anchor the spell inside the fiberglass body.

No sooner had I thought it than the jikinap dancing along my fingers grew sticky with my intent. I stepped Sideways again while I rolled a pinch of the stuff around between my palms like Silly Putty. The ball warmed against my skin and I realized that I was humming the theme song from one of the cartoon shows I used to watch with Mr. Ignat’ on Saturday mornings, when I was a kid.

That should do it, then, I thought, and stepped forward.

I braced one hand on the pole, and pressed the sticky ball of jikinap into the rooster’s chest, watching it sink through the paint and the epoxy that I had used to seal the crack, to lodge, finally and firmly, deep inside the cavity.

Like a heart.

I stepped back, blinking out of Side-Sight.

Before me, the rooster was unchanged—no.

The rooster was—whimsical. Its eye was bold; its disordered feathers indicative of some late comic adventure, the details of which it just might share with someone who chose to ride it.

I let out a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding. Mission accomplished.

It was quick clean-up, then. I put the paints, brushes, and the tarp away in the shed at the back wall, locked up, and made one more round of the carousel, checking the prisoners, to make sure that I hadn’t inadvertently destabilized the binding spells. Everything was as it should be, and I smacked the rooster’s rump before jumping down and jogging over to the storm gate.

* * *

The night was fine, and I stood for a moment on the beach, just breathing in the air, and listening to the waves. Above, the sky was clear; the stars slightly blurred in the mist off the waves. The growing moon was low on the horizon.

My house was a short walk up-beach. Left, and under the Pier; I could be home in under five minutes.

I turned right, angling down toward the water and the firm wet sand that made for easier walking.

Past Fun Country, past Googin Rock and Heath Hill, the shore notches in to make a protected cove. That’s Kinney Harbor, where the working boats of Archers Beach dock. On the far side of the cove is the Kinney Harbor Seafood Exchange—the ’change, according to the locals. At this time of night it was quiet, just the warn-away lamps on the corners of the pier glowing inside the rising mist.

Near to hand was a wooden pier, and it had been my intention to mount it and lean my elbows on the rail, overlooking the harbor and maybe watching Borgan’s pretty little schooner dance at her mooring.

But—Gray Lady was at the pier.

There was a figure on deck, a shadow standing before the lantern. My heart cramped, then lifted, guilt and joy mingled painfully.

“Borgan?” I said, quietly, even as I saw that the shadow was too short, and not nearly broad enough in the shoulder.

Alarm replaced both joy and guilt, and I moved forward until I was at the tie-up.

“You best of any ought to know precisely where Borgan is—Guardian.” The voice was sibilant and low, female, I thought—and then was certain as she came into the pool of the bow lights.

Slim and blonde and perfect, she stared down at me from great black eyes, her entire body expressing distaste, and disdain.

“Actually, I don’t know where he is, exactly,” I said, keeping my voice level. “He was going into the sea to heal, is the last I heard.”

“And there he remains,” the woman on the boat told me. “Nor will he wish to see his murderess when he emerges.”

That hurt, but truth is truth. “I didn’t quite kill him, after all.”

“Was that your intent? I had heard otherwise.”

Wow, was she hard to get along with. I felt my own temper kindling and took a deep breath of sea air, touching the land for…equilibrium, if not comfort.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

She shook her pale hair back from her face, showing cheekbones sharp enough to cut paper.

“No, but you are correct—you ought to know me. My name is Daphne; I serve the Son of the Sea.”

There was, I reminded my temper, serve and serve. And I was damned if I was going to ask Daphne which hers was. Nothing to do with me.

I nodded, easy as I could, and lifted a hand.

“Just let Borgan know that Kate was by, the next time you see him, okay?” I said, calculating the tone for insult.

At least my math skills hadn’t deserted me. She straightened. She hissed.

“And,” I continued, in that same successfully insulting tone, “please tell him that Nancy Vois’ mother misses him. It’s been seven or eight weeks since he’s been by and she’s starting to think he’s avoiding her.”

“These land-bound matters are meaningless to the Son of the Sea. He is of the sea. The sea gives him life, and strength, and purpose. The land gives him nothing.” She leaned forward, long thin fingers gripping the rail so tight I’d’ve sworn I heard the wood crack. “Do you hear me, Guardian?”

I was, truth to tell, getting just a little tired of her throwing my duty around like it was a swear-word.

“Nothing wrong with my hearing,” I said. “You don’t want to pass the message that I was by, that’s fine. But he’ll want to hear about Mrs. Vois—land or no land. So, don’t forget that message. Please.”

Daphne leaned forward over the rail.

“The land does not order the sea—Guardian.”

With that, she turned and vanished below. The deck lights snapped out, leaving me alone in the dark.

Inside my head, the land muttered. I felt a ruffle of tenderness along my nerves; its version of Don’t worry about that harpy, Kate; the Beach loves you.

That was nice.

I stood on the pier for another three deep breaths, savoring the good ocean air.

Then, I turned my back on Gray Lady, and walked away, home.

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