“I’m sorry.” It was almost a whisper, and I couldn’t see her lips move, but I knew she had said it.
“Sorry? Sorry for what? My Choice hasn’t even happened yet. What do you have to be sorry for?” I kneeled on the floor in front of Eve and tried to look her in the face, but she wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“It wasn’t supposed to ever come.” She almost spat. “The whole point was so that you wouldn’t have to choose. That was the deal. Now the bastard goes back on his word after all these years. I should have known he was just saving it up for when it really mattered.”
“Okay, I’m confused. Cain, do you have any idea what she’s talking about?” I stood up and set my Red Bull down on the counter.
“Yeah. I do.” He murmured.
“Well, would you like to explain things, since your mother obviously isn’t capable of it right this second?” I was getting a little loud, and took a deep breath to try and control my volume. Things wouldn’t improve for us if we were reintroduced to New Orleans’ finest.
“Excuse me? What did you say?” I lapsed into the incredulous parent voice. You know the one. The one where the middle name is unstated but understood. The one where the recipient immediately understands that he or she is grounded for the next century if their next answer isn’t completely satisfactory. For the record, the grounding voice loses a great deal of its impact after your child passes his fiftieth millennium.
“I said, no. This is on the list of things that I can’t talk to you about, Dad. And you’re just going to have to take that one how it comes. I know what Mom is saying, and neither of us can tell you about it. It has to do with our Choices, and yours, and we can’t say anything that might sway your decision. It’s one of the few rules the Father enforces directly. This is your free will, Dad. Whatever your Choice is, it’s yours. And nobody, not me, not Mom, not Emily, Lucky, Michael or the man in the moon can stick our nose in. That’s just the deal. So please don’t push. Just come with me into the den and give Mom a second or two to catch her breath. Then we can go down to Lafayette Square, pick up Myra and the assclown angel, and we’ll blow this pop stand.” He handed me my drink, walked me into the den, and sat me down on the couch next to Emily.
She looked up at Cain and said, “Are they gonna be okay in the park all alone? I mean, I’ve heard New Orleans has a crime problem, and Mom hasn’t been in cities very much.” She was obviously worried, and wanted to get going as fast as possible. Cain gave her a lopsided grin and patted her on the top of the head.
“They’ll be fine, kiddo. Remember who Michael was before he came down here slumming.” He said as he ducked into his bedroom to grab a bag.
“Oh yeah, that whole flaming sword thing’s real, isn’t it?” She relaxed a little when she realized that despite his looking like a skinnier James Marsters, he could handle himself. “But will he take care of my Mom?” A little worry crept back into her eyes.
Cain came out of his bedroom wearing a black leather jacket with a duffle over one shoulder. He tucked a pistol in the back waistband of his pants and said, “He’s an angel, punkin. A real one. He could no more let an innocent mortal be hurt in his presence than I could be upstaged by a snotty older brother. It’s just not in our natures.” He shot me a sidelong smirk and I shook my head. I’d let him poke at the scab now and then, it might heal a little messy, but chicks dig scars. I stood up and held out my hand.
“What do you want, Pop?”
“Something tells me that’s not the only equalizer you’ve got floating around this joint, and if you think you need the firepower, you’d better hook me up, too. I prefer something in a 9mm, Italian if you have it.” He went over to the upright piano, opened the bench, and tossed me a Beretta in a paddle holster. I checked the action, chambered a round, and slid it into the small of my back. “You set for ammo?” I asked.
“If he runs short I’ve got us covered,” came Eve’s voice from the kitchen doorway. “I prefer the Glock, but I don’t have the wrist strength that you boys seem to have in abundance. Here, little bit, you should just tote my duffel. If we get into anything ugly, you’ll want what’s inside.” That confirmed my earlier suspicions about the sawed-off shotgun, but Emily shook her head.
“I’m good. I don’t like guns, but I’ve got a pea-shooter in my boot as a last resort.” She then produced a throwing knife from somewhere I never saw and tossed it underhand across the room into a photo Cain had hanging on the far wall. The little knife quivered right between the eyes of the woman in the picture, and Eve looked impressed.
“That doesn’t exactly improve the composition of the photo, Baby Sister.” Cain said as he crossed the room, yanked the knife out of the wall and returned it to Emily.
“Yeah, but sometimes you just have to make a point.” Somehow I always found myself surrounded by women with a point to make. And all too often, I was at the receiving end of those points. I looked around at my little family assault team, and nodded at Cain.
“Let’s roll, son.” I said.
“Lead the way. I’ll lock up.” I didn’t bother mentioning that I thought it was awfully optimistic to be locking doors. After all, the only reason you lock a door after you leave is because you expect to return to whatever you’re leaving behind. And until very recently, my family was not exactly known for returning to things (or people) we’ve left behind.