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Chapter Nine

Saturday, June 10

Low Tide 4:38 a.m. EDT

Sunrise 5:00 a.m.

“I mean, look at these! What’re they, code-names?” Peggy Marr drank deep of her Starbucks Vente Strong, and waved a plump, well-manicured hand at the log-book.

“And contact information! What contact information? What’d he do, whistle ’em up the wind?”

It was ’way too early in the morning, and Peggy and I were in the manager’s office, a cramped little room behind The Last Mango Juice Bar.

As instructed, I looked at the log-book, seeing two names right off that I knew. I ran a slow finger down the page, concentrating my attention, and the land’s attention. Yes, good. The land knew almost every name. I had, I thought, suspected as much.

Jens could very well have whistled to them on the wind. Or, more likely, they’d just shown up, when it was time, like they’d done Season after Season after…

Except, this Season, Jens hadn’t called, and when they showed up, as they probably had, on the traditional Set-Up Day before the first Early Season Friday, the gate had been locked and the midway shrouded.

Was Jens trenvay? I let the question seep into the land, but got its equivalent of a puzzled stare for my answer. Well. Gran would know, or Mr. Ignat’. But Jens was a side issue.

I looked up into Peggy Marr’s purple-that-doesn’t-exist-in-nature eyes.

“I think I can help you out,” I told her. “My family—well. This place is called Archers Beach, right? And I’m the Archer, great-great-great-and-etcetera-grand-daughter of the guy who claimed this patch of land, and lucky he was that the local residents didn’t dispute him.”

“So you know everybody worth knowing?”

“Pretty much.” I looked back to the list, tapping the three names that had drawn a blank from the land.

“Manny Perez, Audrey Kruger, Stilton—I don’t have a clue. Could be, it’ll come to me, but right now, assume you’ll be short by these three.”

She leaned over my shoulder; I smelled amber, orange, agar—and espresso, from the cup—and ran her black-enameled forefinger down the page, much as I had done.

“So you think you can get hold of Moss, Vornflee, Felsic…”

“And all the other weird names, but not common old Manny Perez or Audrey Kruger,” I finished, taking her point. “That’s right. I’m guessing that they were traveling through and took pick up work for the summer. Do you want me to pass the word to the folks I’m sure of that they’re wanted?”

“Well, I’d rather have phone numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers and all that foolishness, but you know and I know that I’m over a barrel. I’ve gotta get this thing open, on time, or my ass is grass.”

“After the Jersey bosses screwed with your schedule themselves?”

She straightened with a sigh, and had another chug of high-test.

“The Jersey bosses are nothing if not arbitrary. In fact, Arbitrary and Cruel is the name of the parent firm. I have an assignment. The fact that a subsequent assignment interfered with my timing on the first isn’t really their problem, see?”

“At least it seems consistent,” I said, bracing my hip against Jens’ beat-up Formica-topped metal desk. “I should probably say, before I put out the word—if you need Social Security numbers and home phones and all the rest of it, you might just want to make up a bunch of signs and post ’em around town. Or—” I snapped my fingers as inspiration hit—”Or you can ask Marilyn Michaud—she manages the other side—if she’s got any greenies who need hours.”

She frowned, crossed one arm over her chest and braced the opposite elbow in her palm. Drank coffee.

Drank more coffee, staring at nothing in particular.

I let her stare, leaning across the desk to snag my travel mug from the corner where I’d put it. My perfectly good, brought-from-home brew tasted a little weak, after breathing the fumes from the Starbucks Vente. Also, quarters were a little tight, even with me hugging the desk. The main office was long and shallow and sticky-smelling. The last being a contribution from the juice bar.

Peggy shifted, decisively, and shook her head.

“If I had time to train a new crew—but I don’t. I need experienced people, and I need ’em stat.” Another swallow—it was starting to look like she had a bottomless Vente, there—and a firm, unflinching look into my face.

“Tell me the worst—they need to be paid in cash?”

“They do,” I said, thinking that some on the list might actually possess such things as a home phone, or an address, or even a Social Security number. Some, but not all, and in order not to point up those who didn’t…

“Well, that starts to explain Jens’ system,” she said. She lifted the cup, sighed, and leaned over to put it on the corner of the desk. “All right, I can handle cash payments.”

“Getting that Social Security number might be a little tricky, too,” I said, delicately.

“Also consistent with the Jens system.” She looked grim. “All right. Here’s how we’ll handle it. We get everybody together, fill out the Social Security applications; I’ll send ’em in. They can start working, pending. That’s legal. Plus, Arbitrary and Cruel will have appropriate documentation. My ass will not be grass.” She smiled, tightly, purple eyes glittering.


“Then I put out the word?”

“All of the words, yes. Tell them to come to work—now, today, as soon as they hear. Tell them I’ve got rules I have to stick by, notably from the IRS, that I’ll bend them as much as I can, and that I swear to God I’ll hamper them as little as humanly possible.”

That was a lot more than I was going to pass, but I nodded and slid to my feet, bringing my traveling mug with me.

“I’ll get started, then. If you need me for anything else—local guide, introductions—I’ll be at the carousel, or whoever’s at the carousel can find me.”

She nodded and held out her hand. I took it and we shook.

“Thanks, Kate. I owe you.”

“Let’s see if I can get your crew in, first,” I said.

She snorted. “If not, then I’ll be asking you to hide me, so—either way, right?”

“Right,” I said, and took my leave.

* * *

I figured I’d find her on the beach, working the trashcans by the dunes, but the land pushed me in the opposite direction, across the tracks, across First Street, to Lisa’s Pizza, right there on the corner and already open at eight-oh-five—and there it left me as if my next step should be obvious.

Well, no, not exactly. Here I stood at the corner of Archer and First, the red-and-white tile of the pizza stand three inches from my nose. Immediately on my right was Archer Avenue. Immediately on my left, was…nothing much, really—no, wait. About a dozen steps down First Street was Daddy’s Dance Club. I walked thataway.

The red-and-white tiles of Lisa’s facade changed to greyish barn-siding, pierced by a white utility door that was locked up nice and tight. Just beyond the utility door was a narrow space between the end of Lisa’s building and the start of the dance club’s building.

It wasn’t nearly wide enough to qualify as an alley; it almost failed the walkway test. Breezeway, maybe. Luckily, I’m smallish and not claustrophobic. Also, I only had to walk about two dozen steps before the breezeway opened into a courtyard spacious enough to admit a trash truck, which would surely need access, given that the place was redolent with Dumpsters.

On the ground by the Dumpster nearest the dance club’s back wall were several mismatched and grubby canvas bags. Protruding from the Dumpster was a bony, khaki covered posterior; good, no-slip shoes on her feet, braced on the middle seam.

I set my shoulder against the wall, crossed my arms and waited.

Soda cans arced out of Dumpster and clattered to the asphalt. The posterior wriggled around, one foot alarmingly rose from the seam, and I thought I heard a few pungent curse words.

Twenty-four returnables later, the scavenger turned and jumped down to the ground, landing handily amid her bounty. Immediately, she snatched up one of the bags and began to shove her take into it.

I cleared my throat.

“’Morning, Gaby.”


She threw the bag away from her, soda cans escaping in a wide arc, and slammed her back against the Dumpster she’d just looted, hands up at heart level, face averted, shadowed by the grubby gimme hat.

Not exactly the bravest of toasters, our Gaby.

“Oh, c’mon, Gaby, it’s Kate!”


She turned her head, cautiously, peering at me from beneath the double protection of brim and straw-like hair.

“What’re you doin’ here, Kate? The returnables are mine. By arrangement.”

“Sure they are,” I said, soothingly. “Though it’s a little rude of ’em there at the club not to set ’em out separate. You could get hurt, if you fell into a Dumpster.”

Gaby snorted.

“Badder things come to me than fallin’ in a trash can,” she said derisively, “and I’m none the worse.”

“That’s fine, but there’s no sense pushing your luck,” I said. “I’ll just talk to the manager, okay? Tell her to set the returnables out by themselves. Make it easier on you.”

“That’d be a kindness,” she said.

“No problem. But why I was looking for you…”

“Come lookin’ for me!” she shrieked. “Why?”

“Well, if you’d rest a spell, I’d tell you,” I said, testily.

She gulped and ducked her head. “Beg pardon, Guardian.”

“I need to you pass the word, to Felsic, Moss, Vornflee and all the rest who took work at the midway. There’s a new manager in and she’s eager to accept their service. They’ll have to fill out forms, and give a good address, but she’ll pay in cash, and she needs them for set-up now.”

Gaby shifted from foot to foot, not exactly looking at me, which was Gaby’s way.

“Midway’s been locked up, all spring.”

“Well, now it’s open. Can you pass the message?”

“I can.”

I considered that. Gaby was timid, and she had a certain gratifying respect for my station. But she was, blood and bone, heart and soul—trenvay.

Will you pass the message? To the appropriate folk? Now?”


“Yes, which?”

“Yes, yes, and yes again!” she snapped, stamping her foot.

I’d never seen Gaby do anything as assertive as lose her temper. Truth told, it was because I knew her to be timid and accommodating that I chosen her as my messenger. That and the notion that Gaby was more likely to have personal knowledge of the midway trenvay than, say, Bob, if only because her quest for returnables would have made her a regular at the concession stands’ trash cans.

Still, I hadn’t meant to be rude. As a matter of fact, being rude was the one vice of all those the powerful are likely to fall heir to that Grandfather Aeronymous took the trouble to warn me about.

I inclined my head, gravely.

“Thank you, Gaby, for your service. The land and the Guardian appreciate you.”

She stared at me, mouth open, then closed it with a snap, and straightened inside her patchwork jacket.

“That’s no trouble at all, Guardian. Not a bit o’trouble; glad to serve. Felsic’s the one who can get the others. A word to Felsic, that’s all it needs.”

“Thank you for taking care of it,” I said. As it came about, Grandfather hadn’t set a particular value on thanking people. He’d merely noted that a gracious sovereign tended to receive more willing service from his people, and therefore had to spend less time persuading them, or punishing them. Which freed up time to cruise the other Five Worlds and steal maiden lady Guardians away from their land and their duty.

But never mind that.

In the present case, I was truly grateful to Gaby for taking the task on, therefore, I shouldn’t stint on my thanks.

“I’ll talk to the manager here about that returnables box,” I told her, moving away from the wall. “And now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“No need for excuses from the likes of me! Go, go! I’ll see to Felsic. Leave it to me!”

I nodded once more and left it to her.

* * *

The front door of Daddy’s Dance Club was ajar when I emerged from the breezeway, so I stepped in.

For something calling itself a dance club, Daddy’s was tiny. The bar, such as it was, was crammed into the front corner to the left of the door; a slightly raised stage was similarly crammed into the back right corner, and the rest—was floor—black, somewhat sandy and scruffed-up floor. A white line had been painted about six paces out from the wall, all the way around the room, widening to accommodate the bar and stage areas. I guessed that was where those who were taking a breather, or who were having a drink stood.

“Club ain’t open yet!” a man’s voice greeted me. “Come back later, doll.”

I turned to the right, where a burly, bald-headed guy with a walrus mustache, and wearing a white-and-blue striped muscle shirt, had stepped through the door to what must be the storeroom, a white carton with VODKA printed on it in red letters held on his shoulder as effortlessly as if it was a teddy bear.

“I’m here to talk to the manager.”

He came across the floor and set the box on the bar, dusted his hands, and turned to look at me, hands on hips.

“You’re talking to the manager. I ain’t hiring, and even if I was, you’re too short to see over the bar.”

“I come with my own stool,” I told him, crossing my arms over my chest and leaning against the wall. “But this is your lucky day; I’m not looking for work. I just want to make a friendly request.”

He gave me measuring look, up and down, sighed, and leaned an elbow on the bar.

“Look, doll, I’m restocking here, all right? Come back at closing time, and I’ll maybe be open to a friendly request.”

A man with priorities, by God.

“I’ll bear that in mind. In the meantime, I wonder if you’d mind setting the returnables out in their own box for pick-up.”

He frowned, the mustache taking a threatening turn.

“Why the hell should I?”

“Because you made a deal with somebody that they could have the returnables. When you throw ’em in the Dumpster, you’re making her dive for ’em; you act like you don’t honor your deal; and you put your contractor in danger. Plus,” I added, “Dumpster diving’s illegal, and you’re aiding and abetting.”

His once-over this time was considerably more sour.

“You a cop?”

“Nope. You want I should call one?”

“Got ’em on speed-dial, thanks. So, who are you?”

“Kate Archer. I run the merry-go-round.”

“She’s a friend of yours? The little can freak?”

“She’s somebody I know, and no more a freak than anybody else trying to get by.”

He snorted, averted his gaze, looked back.

“What the hell; no skin off my nose. Sure, we’ll put out a box. No sense having her break her neck.” He glared at me. “I don’t gotta give her nothing.”

“That’s right; you don’t. She threaten you?”

This time, he laughed, hard and short.

“Oh, yeah, she threatened me, all right. Nah. Just…I know some guys, all right? Went away, did a job, come back—well, maybe not all of ’em come all the way back. So, anyhow, one of them does what she does—the cans. Keeps him in smoke money. Charity. I can afford charity. I only give her the soda cans; the liquor bottles and the beer, they gotta go back to the distributor.”

He looked at me hard and I nodded to show I understood.

“I’d just been throwing the soda cans into trash, since I got three sort bins under the bar as it is. I guess I can live with four.” He shrugged and repeated. “No sense having her break her neck.”

“I appreciate it,” I told him. “I’ve known Gaby a long time and I wouldn’t want to see her hurt.”

“Yeah…” Another hard look. “You got everything you wanna say off your chest, now? ’Cause I still gotta restock.”

I pushed away from the wall, turned—and turned back.

“What’s your name?”

He was already half-way back to the stockroom door. Back to me, he raised his hands shoulder high, and shook his head.

“You just call me Daddy, doll. Now get outta here and let a guy work.”

* * *

Mr. Ignat’ was sitting at a picnic bench in Fountain Circle, bent over a newspaper. I sat down across from him.

“Anything interesting?”

“Good morning, Katie.” He looked up with a smile, eyes shadowed by his hat. “It’s all interesting, my dear. Puzzling, but interesting. There is this story, here, however…” He looked down and tapped a column with a long, white forefinger, pushing the paper half across the table toward me.

I leaned close.

Two More Arrested in Drug Bust

It was a short story, but a happy one, if you happen to be the sort of person who rejoices in the tribulations of your enemies. The two referenced were Albert Stilton and Johnny Gagnon—not Joe Nemeier. Still, it was all but certain that they worked for the man; Archers Beach wasn’t big enough to support two drug lords. Nemeier had to be sweating, now. If one of those kiddies actually knew who they worked for, and mentioned it to the—

“Hold it,” I said, coming out of my pleasant daydream and looking down at the paper again. “Albert Stilton?”

“So it states, Katie-dear. Do you know him?”

I shook my head. “No…I was just this morning helping the new midway manager sort out the employee log and one of the names I couldn’t help her with was Stilton. No first name.”

“It’s not impossible that they’re the same person,” Mr. Ignat’ commented.

“No. And it doesn’t matter, I guess. If it’s the same guy, I’m guessing he’s not going to be available for work for the next little while, anyhow.” I looked up.

“Mr. Ignat’, do you remember Jens? He was the midway manager until he got fired at the end of last Season.”

He frowned slightly, and I saw him feeling back among memories that must be nothing more than mist and moonlight. After a long few minutes, he shook his head.

“I don’t have much to do with the midway side, after all, Katie. What do you need to know?”

“Well, I don’t exactly need to know; I just wondered if Jens was trenvay. The land doesn’t seem to remember him, so I’m guessing that’s my answer. Only…”


“Well, he had trenvay working for him—almost exclusively trenvay working in the midway.” With the exception of three names the land didn’t recognize, one of those maybe belonging to somebody who worked the dark side—who worked for the major dark-side provider in this section of the Maine coast.

Well, there’s a Mainer for you—almost all of us hold three and four jobs, side-jobs and sides-of-side-jobs.

I’m kind of a slacker, that way.

“So!” I said brightly. “What’s today’s lesson?”

Mr. Ignat’ folded the paper carefully and put it on the bench next to him.

“Today,” he said, placing his hands, palms up, in the very center of the table. “Today, Pirate Kate, you will learn to trust your power.”

Trust my…

I looked down at those long, white hands lying defenseless and inviting on the rough concrete, and felt my stomach clench in horror.

“No,” I said, and snatched my own hands back, down to the bench, and deliberately tucked them beneath my posterior.

“Come now, Pirate Kate! Will ye be called craven?”

“Yes. Hell, yes! Call me every kind of coward you can think of! You want me to—what? Hold your hands? I’ll kill you!”

“You will only do what you intend to do, Katie. If you intend to kill me, then, then I’ll not dispute you. All I have is yours for the asking; there’s no need to steal.” He wriggled his fingers. “Now, come, and give me a true comrade’s grip.”

I shook my head, shivering with horror, feeling again the crawl of Ramendysis’ power across my skin. Watching my hand rise against my specific desire and direct command that it remain at my side—

“No. I won’t do this.”

Mr. Ignat’ sighed.

“Katie. Do you think I haven’t seen that you’re keeping yourself at arm’s length? That you don’t touch your grandmother, who would surely be glad of your comfort? Or your mother, who needs to be certain of your love? That you won’t touch me—well. There are reasons a-plenty, aren’t there, for you to be shy of touching me? But if you continue down that road, you’ll become isolated, Katie. Just you and your power, solitary and fearful. That is the condition which produces the monster you so fear that you’ll become. Connection and intention—those things matter. Your power does not shape you; you shape your power.”

He lifted his arms, shot his cuffs, and put his hands once more on the table between us, palms up, fingers relaxed.

I stared at them, remembering…Remembering the two of us watching Saturday morning cartoons, laughing at the hapless coyote, falling for the millionth time into the abyss. I remembered the taste of a grilled blueberry muffin, and him smiling at me across the table at Bob’s. I remembered holding his hand as we went outside so that I could explore my very first snow.

I remembered him drawing my enemy’s fire, though it was certain to kill him, to give me time…

To give me time to run.

Kill Mr. Ignat’? I couldn’t kill Mr. Ignat’. It wasn’t in me. Hell, I’d almost gotten myself killed, because I wouldn’t—couldn’t—leave him to be murdered in my stead.

I slipped my hands free and brought them up to hover over the table, and then settled them, gently…affectionately…my palms against his palms.

His skin was warm, maybe a little too warm. He was a Fire Ozali, after all. I curled my fingers around his wrists and closed my eyes.

I could feel his power moving under his skin like blood. I could taste it—not butterscotch. Something…edgier. Dark chocolate and cayenne. I breathed in his power, took it deep into my lungs.

My own store of jikinap…stirred.

Stirred, but didn’t rise. Instead, it seemed to be…interested. More, it seemed to be learning. Like a filtering program, I thought. And remembered that I built some damn’ fine filtering programs.

I don’t know how long I—we—sat there, holding hands in the morning sunshine. All I knew is that I reached a…saturation, a…certainty that I knew this man, that I treasured all that he was; that his power and mine were aligned, and I would never mistake him for an enemy.

I sighed, feeling it shudder through both of us, opened my eyes and looked into his.

He smiled, and nodded, his fingers curled around my wrists, like mine, around his. True comrades.

I felt…peaceful. Calm.

I felt my jikinap curled at the base of my spine, comfortable as a cat.

“There, then.” Mr. Ignat’ said, as we slowly released each other and sat back. “Well done, Pirate Kate. Well done, indeed.”

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