Wordcount: 2,321 words
Summary: And so it begins…
Please note, this is currently a very rough draft from NaNoWriMo 2007. There will be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, flat out contradictions, and uneven characterization and pacing. (Content is also subject to constant change as I take an editing chainsaw to the story.)
Tricks of the Light
Jon didn’t notice the dog at first. He was too busy focusing on how ungodly hot it was and the fact that he’d only gotten four of the six bushes into the ground and it was already two thirty. The bushes were fluffy ungainly things with prickly leaves that jabbed at him though his work gloves. If he didn’t know better he’d think Sullivan had picked them just for that. But his boss was not that vindictive, Sullivan was focused in on selling house with an almost religious zeal. Taking time out to make Jon’s life just a little more miserable was not worth the effort. Not that he didn’t do a dammed good job at it without trying.
Jon wiped sweat from his forehead with a dirt covered glove and glared at the remaining two bushes. They ignored him with their normal leafy disinterest.
It was at that point that Jon finally noticed the dog lounging under the [species] tree. It was some sort of German Sheppard cross, with the giant ears and the not long not short fur. They stared at each other for a moment than then dog yawned and put its head back down on its paws, watching him unnervingly like a lazy lion.
Jon was tempted to chase it off, construction sites weren’t the safest places for dogs that might (or might not) be someone’s pet. But as the most dangerous object on hand at the moment was Jon’s shovel, he figured it was not worth the effort.
If he’d wanted to he could have simply told the mutt to leave. He has a knack for talking to dogs, a little something extra passed down sporadically from his mother’s side of the family. Some fanciful tale by way of his great great grandmother blamed the gift on her fling with a mysterious gypsy neredowell. Whatever the cause it had given the less then venerable Black family name yet another smudge. Not that it was that impressive of a knack. It was not like the dogs ever talked back and they really only understood very basic concepts. He could communicate that the construction site was dangerous and that the dog should leave, but he could not explain why. In fact he doubted if the dog would even listen to the warning. Most of the time canine would just give him confused looks and continue on about their business. The well trained dogs of those that were desperate for attention would pay more attention, but only if nothing more interesting was available. From the dusty look of the mutt he doubted if it had ever been an indoor pet, or a pet at all.
But sitting here thinking about dogs and knacks was not getting the bushes planted. And after the bushes he had to frame out the new flower bed. Which he liked a little better than moving dirt. Carpentry was always a reward for the more boring work, and Sullivan knew it. Even if the boss though Jon was wasting his potential, it didn’t mean that Sullivan still wouldn’t try and get his money’s worth. With a sigh, Jon shifted the shovel and moved over to the next marked hole to be.
Akela watched the man digging holes and then filling them in again, and not for the first time wondered at how downright strange humans were. Why any being would spend time working on a dwelling and then turn around and abandon it for another made no sense. The fact that none of the men on the jobsite actually lived in the house only made it more futile. But they weren’t her concerns, these strange men and their strange habits. Men were men and as such were beneath her notice.
Or at least they were normally. Now she needed a Huntsman, and she could smell it on him. Just a faint hint, a whiff of diluted blood gift flowing through his veins, watered down by generations of humanity. Not that he needed any. The pack could choose anyone to serve, blood gift or not, but those with a hint of service in their veins made better Huntsmen than those without.
Still, she was not ready to call in the rest of the pack just yet. Their patience was thin enough without bringing home false hope. The long weeks without tether to this world made for rough company. She chewed thoughtfully on a paw as the man cursed creatively as he hit the unexpected remains of a brick patio long ago tossed aside by a previous owner. There was no point in picking someone with bad temperament, they’d only have to kill him later.
The dog left sometime between the last touches of the frame for the flowerbed and quitting time, but Jon was not quite sure when it had actually vanished from its spot beneath the tree. It had been unnerving for the first few hours, with it just sitting there watching him. He’d gone inside for an hour or so to help Roy with the tile work just to get away. The yard felt empty now, and he tossed his tools in the back of the frakencar with a faint sense of unease. Not that he was afraid of a dog, no matter how oddly it had been acting. It was just, well, odd, that was all.
Jon spent the ride home half expecting to see it turn up somewhere along the way, but he arrived at the house without incident. His older sister’s car was in the driveway which meant she’d come home from college for summer break. For a moment he toyed with the idea of just driving past the house and hooking up with Todd or Keith for a few hours. But Todd was probably still out at the shop working, and Keith’s mom had specifically forbade the Quartet of Doom from gathering during weeknights. Keith’s grade had been abysmal the last quarter and as he was the last brave soul still in high school, Jon figured they owed him a little support.
Even if that support meant he’d have to deal with Bethany.
He pulled onto the side grass with a sigh, wincing as the frankencar grumbled to itself as it rumbled over the gravel bed. The frankencar had been a Toyota sedan at some point in the distant past. Now it had at least one part from every manufacturer grafted onto it and a copious amount of duct tape. There had been some debate during sophomore year if it was a MacGyver car or a Frankencar, but it had finally been decided that the poor girl was simply too pathetic to be considered a proper MacGyver.
Trish had already abandoned the house to lurk on the steps up to Jon’s above garage apartment. He raised an eyebrow and her general aura of ‘grump’ intensified to accommodate the arrival of an audience. Someday the seven year old was going to rule the world. Or at least as much of the world as she could reach. God save them is she ever made it on TV.
“Bethys here.” Trish glared out from under overgrown blond bangs, the combination of cute and gloomy reminding Jon of a goth carebear. “I’m living at your house instead.”
Jon declined to comment and fished his tools out of the back of the car, leaning in through one of the side windows (the door had permanently locked about a month ago and he still hadn’t gotten around to taking it down to Todd’s Dad’s shop and getting it fixed). He started heading up the wooden steps to his front door over the garage, but Trish sat stubbornly in the middle of staircase.
“Mom won’t let you.” Jon stepped over his cousin (carefully) and tried to get his keys back out of his pocket without dropping anything.
“Mom’s not here”
“Fine then, Aunt Patricia won’t let you.” He headed in to the Apartment, Trish trailing along behind him. “Besides she is not going to be home for that long.” He headed into his bedroom to change clothes. “It’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, because you live here.” She collapsed dramatically on the well loved soda. Then leaned forward to turn on the game console that was sitting on the coffee table. “Besides they won’t look for me until dinner at least.”
“Only till dinner then,” Jon reemerged in an almost identical set of clothes, only sans the dirt. “It is family night again then?” The Black family gathered twice a week for sinner, which was less impressive than it sounded since all it meant was Jon came down from his apartment and Uncle Tony drove a whopping four minutes from his house. The rule was simple, if family was in the area, they came to dinner. Which meant no going out (unless the whole family came), and no claim of ‘other plans’ would be honored. Jon actually still ate down at the house more nights than not, but as long as Bethany was home, he planned on avoiding it as much as possible.
“You’re not leaving me alone!”
“She is not that bad.”
“She wants me to be a lawyer.” Trish sniffed, as she fended off another wave of incoming alien hordes. “Lawyers are boring.”
“But you like Law and Order.” Not that he was defending Bethany’s drive to make sure her relatives led ‘fulfilling lives’ (her definition of fulfilling of course), but she really did seem to love the legal classes she was taking.
“She is gonna be on Law and Order??”
“Um, no, she is not an actor.”
“But she is gonna be a lawyer.”
“She is still got a lot of college to finish, then law school, then a bunch more years working as a paper pusher, but yeah.”
“I’m gonna be an astronaut when I grow up,” she neatly dispatched another wave of incoming enemy fighters, “and a cat burglar.”
Jon rolled his eyes, made a noncommittal noise, and wondered once again why nature had allowed Aunt Harmony to have kids. Or why the legal system had allowed any theoretically sane adult to change their name to Harmony (when their spouse’s name was already ‘Peace’). But an astronaut cat burglar was slightly better than the vampire bounty hunter that she’d decided on two months ago.
He could not remember what he’d wanted to be when he grew up, but Jon was pretty sure that ‘construction’ probably was not one of the answers. He flopped down into couch and grabbed the other game controller.
[They played video games until dinner, in which Trish kicked Jon’s butt. Repeatedly. Then they all gathered and Jon was forced to listen to his sister point out that he was ‘wasting his talent’ and he could ‘do so much better’ if he only tried. Which was pretty much par for the course.
He retreated as soon as he could to his apartment, and crashed for the night.]
Something woke him, but he was not sure what. For a moment he just lay in bed, still half asleep trying to remember why he’d woken up. It was still dark, so it was not his alarm, and there was not the jolt of terror that normally accompanied nightmares. He was just about to give up and go back to sleep (curiosity rarely won out over REM) when he heard a faint noise from the side yard.
He debated for another moment over whether it was really worth getting out of bed to check, but there had been a string of attempted burglaries over by Todd’s and that was only fifteen minutes away. So he untangled from the sheets, and plodded over to the window, keeping the lights off so as not to alarm any potential criminals. Criminals tended to be armed (or so the new reports kept saying) and he had no real urge to get shot for something as stupid as turning on a light.
He looked out into the darkened yard, noting that the moon was only half full so he could not see as well as normal. He is have to complain again to the city about the streetlight, but since it only helped three houses he figured they’d just ignore him again. Maybe he could fix it himself if he could get up there somehow.
His train of thought was cut off rather abruptly as he noticed the four dogs hanging out beneath the tree in the side yard. Strays were actually pretty common in the area, but he’d never seen them roaming in packs before. But add to that the fact that all four of them were staring up at his window as if they had expected him to appear was rather creepy. They stared at each other for a long moment and then one of them waged its tail in that sort of wary half wag dogs used when they weren’t sure if he could be trusted not to attack.
It was hard to tell in the moonlight, but the dog looked a lot like the one from the construction yard. But the house they were working on was a good half hour away and there was no way the dog had managed to follow him thirty odd miles home. So it had to be a different dog.
There was a shallow bark from one of the dogs, that echoed oddly in the air. Then the pack turned almost in unison and ran towards the back fence. Jon was expecting them to turn, or maybe try and jump it (although it was a good five foot tall) but they just sort of shivered and ran right through.
He stood there for a long moment, starting at the section of fence.