Author: Lee Roland
Novel of the Earth Witches #2
Released: June 5, 2012
I rode the bus wasn’t crowded, only a couple of older women and a woman holding a baby. A little boy sat on the seat beside her. I sat behind them on a worn brown vinyl seat with bits of foam thrusting from the separating seams.
I watched the passing shops as they began the decline into blight and wondered what it would be like to live here. A miserable foul-smelling jail cell in New York and the silent halls of Justice had been forced upon me by my own carelessness. But my original home was suburbia, a bright sunny house behind the shop where my mother practiced her gentle magic and sold handmade soaps, oils, and earth-centered jewelry. Daddy’s restaurant was next door. I could picture living nowhere else, at least not by choice.
The little boy turned to watch me. children often start at me, at the scar. They are usually guileless little creatures, innocent of the tyranny of good manners. This boy was different. Something troubled him, and his face was as solemn as a mourner at a funeral. His dark eyes held questions. He slipped out of the seat and came toward me. I judged him to be about six. His clothes were clean ut worn. He stood in the aisle and leaned toward me like a conspirator.
“Did your daddy hurt you?” he asked softly. “Your face.”
“My daddy?” I hid my surprise with a smile. “No. It was an accident.”
His eyes darted around. “My daddy hurt me.”
He lifted his shirt. My mouth dropped open. Burns. Round cigarette burns, and … shit, the monster had heated a knife blade and laid it to this innocent child’s tender skin. I touched it gently with my fingers as if I smooth it away. It felt hot and fevered, as if had occurred only moments ago.
The woman holding the baby realized the boy had left her. She turned to face me. I guess she saw the horror on my face.
“I left the bastard,” she said. Desperation filled her voice. I think she felt the need to explain that she was a good mother. “They arrested him,” she went on, “but he made bail. I have a restraining order, but I think he has people watching me. I should be down here where he is, but I wanted to see my mother. She’s been sick.”
I nodded. I grasped the boy’s shirt and slid it down to cover the scars. I’d seen some of the girls at Justice who had been brutalized like him before they arrived. I kissed him on the forehead. He smiled and went back to his mother.
The bus stopped for another passenger. I didn’t pay attention until the little boy rushed by me toward the back of the bus. The high-pitched keening sound coming from him was of purest terror. He tripped and scrabbled along the floor to crawl under one of the seats behind me, still wailing in mindless panic.
The source of that panic stalked down the aisle toward us, grinning like a demon that had found something to kill. He wore a dirty white T-shirt over low-cut jeans. Several chains hung around his neck, and one thick set of links held a devil’s head – obviously some gang affiliation.
He stopped and towered over the woman. He snatched at the baby. She tried to turn and hunch over it to protect it.
“What are you doing here?” she screamed. I guessed he’d been following her since she boarded the bus. Probably had his friends keeping tabs on her.
“Gimme that little bastard. It ain’t mine, so it belongs in the trash.”
Oh, no. This wouldn’t happen on my watch. I hadn’t spent years training to ignore a bloodthirsty animal like this one. Excitement rose in me. Only two days from Justice and I’d missed my daily exercise in violence. I wanted to do this.
“Hey, asshole.” I got his attention in my usual delicate way.