EXCERPT: Curse the Dark


Curse the Dark
– buy it from an independent bookstore

“You think P.B.’s going to be okay while we’re gone?”

Sergei finished putting their carry-on luggage in the overhead bin and looked down at his partner.

“Yeah.  I think the obnoxious little walking blanket will be fine.”  He shifted to let another passenger drag his luggage by, and then closed the bin, unlacing and removing his shoes and placing them in their fabric carry-bag, then storing them under the seat in front of their row.  Wren had already kicked off her own shoes, practical and comfortable leather skimmers, and curled up on her own seat.  The only good thing about being short, she thought, was that she got to be sort of almost comfortable in airplane seats.

“And Andre’s check cleared?”

“Cleared before I let you start packing.”

She knew all this.  She just liked hearing Sergei say it again.  His voice was deep and raspy, like a lion’s purr.  It made her feel better.  He could probably be reciting the back ads in the Village Voice and it would still make her feel better.  You’re so astonishingly easy, Valere.

“Passport?”

“In my pocket with all our other papers.”  He was fighting back a smile behind that stern expression, she could tell.  In any other situation it would annoy the hell out of her.  But not right now.  Now she was out of the airport, with all the worried-looking people and loudspeaker announcements and hurry-hurry-wait-wait and all those windows looking out at all those . . . planes.
The fact that she was currently sitting in one of those planes hadn’t escaped her attention.  But somehow being in one was better than looking at and planning on getting in one.

Wren knew it didn’t make any sense.  And thinking about it just emphasized the fact that she was in a plane rather than a weirdly shaped train, or something.  And if she thought that direction too long bad things would start to happen again.

“Emergency rations?”

“Are in your bag, next to the newspaper.  And yes, I packed those disgusting maple nut things.”  He sat down next to her, raising the arm rest between them to put his arm around her more comfortably.  “Wren.  Hush.  It’s going to be okay.”

Easy for him to say, she thought a little resentfully.  He didn’t feel this beast singing beneath him, all filled with electronic devices practically begging to be drained.  What happened if they ran into trouble, and she panicked, and tried to reach for current?  What if —

“You’re thinking too much,” he said.

Guilty as charged, Officer. But he was right.  If she just stopped thinking about it, her instinct for self-preservation —incredibly strong, as she knew from previous close calls —would kick in and keep her from doing anything suicidal in her panic.  Probably.  So.  Change the subject.

“Do you think that Andre wasn’t telling us everything?”

Sergei snorted at that.  “Andre never tells anyone everything.  But no, I think that he was as up front as he’s capable of being on Silence business.”

Oh, that was reassuring.  She felt totally reassured.  Really.

“Did I mention that I’m hating this job already?  Even without the being on this thing I’m not thinking about being on?”

“I don’t like it either, woman.  If you’ve any better ideas, I would love to hear them.”

“Bet Noodles would hire me.”

“Yes, I can see you spending your life as a Chinese food short order cook.  Or a bicycle delivery girl.  If you could Translocate better, maybe.”

“All right, that was low.”  Her recent attempts at Translocation had been done under only extreme duress, once to save their own lives during a job gone bad, and once  to keep a client from getting killed.  But she’d gotten the job done, hadn’t she?  So what was a little vomiting and current-spillover between friends?

“It will all be fine.  Just another job.”  Sergei took out the newspaper and checked to make sure that the business section was intact, then put it away and pulled a burgundy folder from his bag and extracted a sheaf of typewritten pages from it.
“See?  All the information we need, hand-delivered by Andre’s little messenger boy this morning, including names, dates, places and driving directions.  Why don’t you try to sleep, okay?  It’s a long flight, and we’re going to have to hit the ground running when we get there.”

She rested her head against his shoulder, feeling the comforting familiarity of him.  None of the awkwardness or uncomfortableness of recent months, just . . . Sergei.  The thought almost made her cry.  You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone… only it’s not gone.  Still here.  Still Sergei. He was right.  P.B. was a big — well, okay, full-grown demon, he could take care of himself.  And if he did run into trouble, Tree-taller was around, had promised to keep an eye out.  The other Talent had no beef with the fatae, the non-human members of the Cosa Nostradamus, and would listen if P.B. came to him.  And anything Andre hadn’t told them in that packet, they’d figure out on their own.  Wasn’t like they needed the Silence, the Silence needed them.

“Wren?”

“Yeah.  Sleep.  Right.  Okay.  I’ll try.”

Twenty minutes later, the plane pulled away from the gate.  Sergei looked up from the papers he was reading as the safety instructions tape began to play, then down at his companion.  She was still leaning against his shoulder, strands of chestnut hair falling into her eyes, and he could hear the faintest completely unladylike snore coming from her half-open mouth.
“Rest well, Wrenlet,” he whispered.  “Tough job ahead.”

— © 2005 Laura Anne Gilman

Share