“Oh come on, how was I supposed to know that robbing one bank would lead to all this shit?!” [Link to post.]
“Was that a skeleton?!” I asked my daughter. We ran through the back alley, away from *her*.
“I. Think. So,” she replied between breaths, without turning around. She turned a corner, and I followed. We ran into Alex’s Tattoo Shop and Pizza Parlor. He often tossed us freebies in exchange for letting him practice.
“Crystal! Ryan! Great to see you guys. What’s up?” Alex came from around the counter and gave Crystal a hug, then offered me a firm handshake. Alex was a big man with a big dark beard.
“We need someplace to hide!” Crystal said. The biker gang that frequented Alex’s stood from their table and walked over when they heard the panic in Crystal’s voice. I held my hand up to stop them.
“No. We’re just catching our breath and moving on. I appreciate the help guys, but this is way out of your league.”
“DaaaAD!” My daughter glared at me through her glassy, pale brown eyes. “They can help!” She took a step closer to Alex. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back toward me.
“The woman has horns growing out of her head, and she summoned a FUCKING SKELETON!” A brief look of worry flashed across Alex’s face.
“You guys trippin’ right now?” Alex asked. I shook my head.
“I wish.” I inhaled deeply. “Here’s the quick version. Crystal robbed a bank. Instead of the cops being after us there’s this crazy woman that keeps calling Crystal ‘La Mano’. No idea what it means.” I shrugged. The bell hanging over the door rang, and Alex looked up. A young woman in a purple and gold hoodie walked into the shop. She wore black gloves with gold fingers.
“It’s broad daylight, how’d you rob a bank?” Alex said, quieter. Though, he still didn’t whisper as quiet as I would have preferred.
“I, uh. I kind of have magic powers.” Crystal said. She stared at the ground sheepishly. Alex looked up at me.
“You guys ARE tripping!” He burst out laughing. I met Crystal’s eyes and tilted my head towards Alex. Crystal kicked off her right shoe. She pulled her sock down and placed her foot on one of the benches.
“Yeah. I did that tattoo.” Alex said. The tattoo was his gift to Crystal for her 21st birthday. The tattoo on the top of Crystal’s foot consisted of the number ‘21’ surrounded by crystalline roses.
“Maybe you’re the one with magic powers.” I said. Crystal touched the tattoo and her hand sunk into it, as if it went through her foot. She pulled out one of the loot bags she filled from the bank vault, then handed it to me. I handed it to Alex.
“Thanks for everything, man. I don’t know what this woman’s deal is, but if she finds us there’s a good chance we won’t see you anymore.” He stared at me slackjawed, while his hand hefted the sack. He smiled when he realized how heavy it was.
“We can help you. You guys are like family.” Alex said. He walked toward the counter. He left the moneybag and returned with a shotgun. Again, I shook my head.
“Skeletons man. You can’t help. No one can help. We just gotta keep moving and hope she gets bored.” Crystal had put her shoe back on and I grabbed her hand.
“I can help.” I heard a woman’s voice say. I looked around and saw it was the woman in the purple and gold hoodie.
“I eavesdropped,” she said. “Intentionally.” She pulled her hood back and smiled. Her short, spiky hair glowed with a blue aura, and her eyes twinkled purple.
“Lady, mind your own business. No offense.” I said and turned toward the door, pulling Crystal with me.
“‘La Mano’ is my business,” she said. I heard Alex point the shotgun at the young woman as soon as she said ‘mano’. I turned to face her. She kept her smile in spite of the shotgun.
“What does that even mean?” I asked her. “That other woman kept saying that too.” She sat down on the bench and glanced at Crystal.
“‘La Mano’ is Spanish for ‘The Hand’. Beyond that, your daughter is what’s known as a Unique Soul. The tattoo with her number awakened her powers.” Crystal moved closer to me, away from the blue haired woman. I stepped in front of Crystal, Alex kept the gun trained on the stranger.
“What’s a Unique Soul?” I asked. She shook her head.
“Way too complicated to go into right now. The important part is your daughter is special, and I’m here to invite both of you to a school that can help you learn just how special.” She smiled and a golden ‘46’ appeared on her forehead.
“So this is your scam? One of you corners us and the other gives us a pitch? Leave us alone, we’re fine,” I said. Crystal grabbed my hand and held it tight. The golden ‘46’ disappeared and she stood up slowly.
“No. The woman with the horns isn’t here to give you a pitch. She’s here to kill your daughter. If you two come with me, your daughter *will* be safe. If you don’t,” she paused to glance out the window. “Your daughter *might* be safe.” The front bell rang again and a short blue haired man walked in. His white snakeskin cowboy boots were the only noise in the place as he walked straight toward the blue haired woman. He had full sleeves tattooed up and down his arm. He sported a tattoo of a beer bottle on his hand, with the number 25 on the label. A pair of red dice flanked the bottle. He ignored us and the shotgun.
“She’s coming,” the short man said. “I tried slowing her down, but she’s got a handle on my luck.” The woman nodded and pulled off her gloves. I realized they were fingerless gloves. Her hands appeared to be made of solid gold.
“Time’s up. My friend and I are leaving. You can come with us, or you can hang out and have a chat with the Demon Queen.”
“Demon Queen?” I asked.
“The woman with the horns, that can summon skeletons? Her name is Ballisea the Demon Queen. I’m Jenny, and the shortstack here is Vegas.” Jenny’s hand hovered in the air, and a tiny black dot appeared at the tip of her index finger. The black dot grew into a hole in reality, bigger than Alex. “Vegas and I are from a different universe. You’re invited.” The two of them jumped into the black.