Chapter 52

Steve skipped up the steps from the Rail station, her backpack slung over one shoulder. She hurried down the street while humming a tune, a slight nervous edge to her gait.

“Thursday Thursday Thursday,” she sung tunelessly.

Steve was preoccupied enough as she moved that she failed to notice the homeless woman sitting by the side of the road.

“Just a moment, dearie,” the woman called.

Steve froze, caught off-guard.

“You’ve got something you’re looking forward to tonight, haven’t you?” the woman said. “Old Aggie knows.”

Steve turned toward the old homeless woman, instantly angry. “I don’t need this, you crazy old bitch,” she said, her jaw tight.

“But you’re nervous,” the old woman replied. “Is that because this is your first time doing this sort of thing? Or perhaps you know something, deep down…”

“Shut up,” Steve said, advancing on the old woman. “Shut up. If I see you again I’m going to call the cops on you.”

“Yer a strong-willed, capable woman,” the old woman said, her dark eyes fixed firmly on Steve. “You deserve somebody who’s the same. Think you’ve found him?”

Steve and Aggie glared at each other for a few moments.

“G’wan ta work now,” Aggie said.

Steve wheeled and strode away as fast as she could go.

“Pull!” To’mas shouted.

Zap hurled the jar high into the air, then threw another upward. He then broke into a run toward the other side of the loading dock.

To’mas reached for his hip, drew his pistol and fired. The first jar burst into pieces with a sharp report. To’mas fired again, then a third time. The first shot went wide, but the second found its mark; soon Zap was being pelted with the falling bits of both jars.

“Nice!” Steve said, her hands in her pockets.

“Hope I take to the rifle like that,” To’mas said. “So far my training’s a little bit rocky.”

“You’re not doing the cram track for your cert, are you?” Zap asked from the lower area of the dock.

“No,” To’mas said. “So I’ve got time. My practice registration has gone through, and I’m going to go to the range tonight. Does anybody want to come with?”

“Can’t,” Steve said with a smile. “I’m going to meet Mike’s parents tonight.”

Both To’mas and Zap failed to look happy for Steve.

“I’m going to go see a certified Path Seer,” Zap said. “It’s actually a requirement for school.”

“Why?” Steve said, stepping up to the edge of the dock’s lip.

“I think that it’s one of those precautions to make sure they’re not producing evil wizards and stuff.” Zap replied. As he spoke, Zap went to the empty jar pile and took a jar from it.

“Does it ever actually detect any?” Steve said. “Oh, I want to do three jars.”

Zap blinked. “Three?” he asked.

“Have you seen me shoot lately?” Steve asked.

“Ok, three,” Zap said. “And yes, actually; there was a big to-do a few years ago when all of the Path Seers said that they’d found the reincarnation of Baba Yaga and that she’d doom us all if she got certified. Unfortunately, her parents were pretty influential, and they got pretty upset when they refused to certify her.”

“That’s messy,” Steve said.

“No kidding, lawsuits all over the place,” Zap said. He walked toward the red X on the floor of the dock, which was now surrounded by plastic shards. “I’m a little nervous about it. I don’t want to be declared unfit for certification just because of something one of my past lives apparently might have done. If there are past lives.”

“I went to a Path Seer once,” Steve said. “My parents took me.”

“Yeah?” Zap said as he shifted the jars in his hands, preparing to throw one.

“Yeah,” Steve replied. “They actually got a trace on my soul, they said. Not sure I believe it.”

“Who were you?”

“Some woman,” she said. “I don’t remember her name. Pull!

Zap hurled each jar into the air, one after the other. Steve drew her pistol neatly and shattered them all with three precise, measured shots.