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“Chickie chickie?” – Scattering the Hounds – Unexpected Violence – Sanctuary –

“Chickie chickie?” says Jo, laughing.

“Shut up,” mutters Christian, tugging a bottle off his thumb. He tosses it up the sidewalk, spinning sideways. It smashes against the doorstop of a diner. “Would have worked. Would have scared the fuck out of you, you didn’t know me.”

“Christian, man,” says the girl with the mohawk, digging her toe into the groove of a trolley track.

“Shut up, Mel,” says Christian.

“You know these people?” says Ysabel. She’s looking up toward the bridge over the highway, back down the street toward the unseen river.

“I know Chris,” says Jo.

“Christian,” he says, throwing the last bottle down the street to pop against the curb.

“Jo,” says Ysabel.

“How long’s it been?” says Jo. “Almost a year?”

“What are we doing here? Huh?” says the tall boy in tight black jeans.

“More than a year,” says Christian. “Not since the trip to Sauvie’s Island. Last August. How you been?”

“About,” Jo starts to say.

“Come on, Christian,” says the girl with the mohawk.

“Shut up, Mel,” he says.

“About the same,” Jo’s saying. “Still working. Christian? What the hell are you doing?”

“Scaring you,” says Christian. “Boo!”

“This ain’t right,” says the man in grey and black camo. “I ain’t letting your friend put me wrong with the neighbors.”

“Yeah,” says the tall boy. He chops the air with one hand.

“Fuck that,” snarls Christian. “The neighbors want to go at each other, trust me. Twenty bucks ain’t enough to stand in the middle of that.”

“Twenty?” says the tall boy.

“We said we’d do something,” says the man in camo. “We got to make that right.”

“Jo,” says Ysabel, tugging at her arm. “We really – ”

“Boo!” yells Christian, throwing his arms wide. Ysabel flinches. “We said we’d scare them,” says Christian to the man in camo. “We tried. We failed. Fuck it.”

“I didn’t get twenty,” says the tall boy.

“Jo,” says Ysabel, grabbing Jo’s arm. Tugging her back up the street toward the bridge over the highway. “We really should go.”

“But,” says Jo.

“Now,” says Ysabel.

“The apartment,” Jo starts to say, pulling back against Ysabel.

“We’re not going back there,” says Ysabel. “Over the bridge. We’re going back to my mother’s house.”

“Ysabel?” says Jo. Frowning. Taking another step after her up toward the bridge. “These guys, they don’t – ”

“These guys aren’t the only ones here,” says Ysabel.


The word bells out around them in a loud clear voice. The man in camo throws up his hands. The tall boy yelps and runs away down the street. “Shit!” says the girl with the mohawk. Ysabel turns. On the bridge over the highway stands a slim figure in the shadows between the pinkish orange streetlights. Dressed in a blue black skirt, a white shirt, holding to one side a Japanese sword pointed lazily at the street.

“Too late,” says Ysabel. “Too late.”

“Run, hounds!” cries the figure. Walking toward them, slowly, raising the sword. “Flee! And pray we do not find you when our business here is done!”

“Fuck you!” yells Christian, stumbling after the man in camo.

“He’s got a sword,” says Jo.

“I see that,” says Ysabel.

“He’s got a fucking sword.”

“I see that. Jo.” Ysabel tugs on Jo’s arm.

“Right,” says Jo. They’re backing away together, turning, walking quickly, breaking into a jog, Jo’s boots thumping, Ysabel’s sandals flip-flapping. Ysabel pulls them out across the street toward the corner under the big Danmoore Hotel neon sign. “If we get across Burnside,” Ysabel’s saying.

“Hold, my lady!”

This voice is deeper, though not so loud. In the middle of the street before them as they turn the corner is a man in a pale linen suit. A long black portfolio tube is slung from one shoulder. “There is no need to run,” he says. “We will keep you safe.” Three blocks behind him, traffic rolls quietly up and down the cross street.

“I was in no danger,” says Ysabel. There under the buzzing hotel sign she takes Jo’s hand. “I have my guardian. Go now, with my thanks.” Jo’s looking back and forth, up Morrison, along 12th, the man in the linen suit before them, the figure in the blue-black skirt still stalking towards them, the sword now held in both hands. “Ysabel,” she hisses.

“It would seem your guardian, my lady, is not up to the task,” says the man in the linen suit. He unshoulders his portfolio tube and rests the butt end on the pavement. “There’s no telling what else might beset you.”

“Like you, perhaps?” says Ysabel, loudly. “You think you will lay hands on your Princess? Call off the Mooncalfe, Stirrup.” The figure in the blue-black skirt has made it to the sidewalk on their side of the street. He crouches and takes long slow steps so that his head and shoulders and arms and sword remain smooth and steady. His feet are bare.

“Where the hell is everybody?” says Jo.

“My lady,” the man in the linen suit is saying, “it need not come to that – ”

“Call him off, Gaveston!” snaps Ysabel.

The Stirrup flinches. “Hold a moment, Orlando.” He lifts his chin, scowling, so that he can loosen his red tie. “You’re frightening our Princess.” He unbuttons the top button of his shirt, then blots his brow with his forearm. The Mooncalfe glides to a stop, still in his crouch, his sword angling to point directly at them. A couple of blocks away, unseen, a trolley hoots.

“They’re here,” Ysabel murmurs to Jo.

“What?” says Jo.

“They’re here. So we aren’t exactly there, anymore.”

Jo frowns. “I, um,” she says.

“All we ask is that you come with us a moment, my lady.” The Stirrup unzips the top of his portfolio. “Our master would have words with you.”

“Do you have any ideas?” says Ysabel quietly to Jo. “At all?”

Jo, looking at the Stirrup, at the Mooncalfe, at the two empty streets, shrugs. “Scream,” she says, out of the corner of her mouth.

“Scream?” says Ysabel.

“Hope it rattles them? Gives us a head start?” She glares at Ysabel. “Jesus. I don’t know.”

“Well?” says the Stirrup. “My lady?”

Ysabel squeezes Jo’s hand. “What if,” she says, and she swallows, “I didn’t want to have words with your master?”

“I would be sorry to hear that, lady,” says the Stirrup. He leans against the portfolio. “Truly sorry.”

“In that case,” says Ysabel, and she screams.

“Oh, fuck,” says Jo, turning and starting to run, dragging Ysabel after her. The Stirrup flips back the unzipped top of the portfolio and frees the pommel and hilt of a sword. There’s a scrape of metal as he draws it. The portfolio and the scabbard hidden inside drop with a clatter. “Orlando!” he bellows. “Tommy!”

Along 12th, crossing Morrison, Jo’s boots clomping, Ysabel gasping, hand in hand. The Mooncalfe leans into a run at them, his feet slapping, but they’re past him, across the street, hitting the sidewalk, running past the long blank wall of windows, posters advertising gold bank cards and low mortgage rates. He curls into their wake. The Stirrup huffing and puffing follows after. Barrelling around the corner ahead of them a short thick man with long hair roaring, long arms spread to catch them up in a crushing hug, his face broken by a hideous snarling grin. “Gotcha!” He howls, throwing his hands into the air. Ysabel lets go of Jo’s hand and staggering with her momentum turns her head jerking to look behind at the Mooncalfe half a block away bowed low at a dead run sword swept up and back, at the Stirrup behind him, his sword like a baseball bat up over his head. Ysabel calls, “Jo, we – ”

But Jo put her head down when Ysabel let go of her hand and arms pumping boots stomping runs straight at the short thick man with the eyes suddenly going wide as he tries to sidestep. Jo’s shoulder her arm up slams into his chest sending the air whoofing out of him and he takes a stumbling step backwards and then another, those long arms waving for balance as Jo headlong running loses her footing and tumbles to the ground rolling. The short thick man sits down heavily, gasping. Retches up a cough. Jo sits up hands scraped tights ruined ripped around one bloody knee. Ysabel hands up over her mouth her eyes wide stands still in the middle of the sidewalk. The Mooncalfe stands upright waiting his sword held out away from his body, head cocked, alert. The Stirrup slowing lets his arms relax, his sword point drop. Tommy leans back on one elbow, holding his chest, noisily sucking air.

“Ysabel!” says Jo, reaching out.

And Ysabel takes a step and then another, past Tommy, faster, as Jo kicks herself to her feet catching Ysabel’s hand. They’re running. They’re at the end of the block. They’re pelting across the next street. The Mooncalfe patters after them, crouching low again, his sword up and back again, past Tommy without looking back. The Stirrup, his sword on his shoulder, jogs up to Tommy. Bends over. Slaps his shoulder, chuckling. “You okay?”

“Bitch,” says Tommy, gasping. “Bitch knocked the breath. Out of me.”

“Well,” says the Stirrup. “You’re getting it back. Come on!”

Tommy glares. The Stirrup helps him to his feet.

“The parking lot!” says Jo, pointing, and halfway across the street she jags left tugging Ysabel after her. Past a shuttered Indian food cart the parking attendant’s booth is lit up, empty, a small chunk of bright indoor light trapped behind glass. They run past the far side of it. Jo winces as she slows, peering down the long dark rows of cars anonymous in the dim pink and orange streetlights. “Damn,” she says. They have just come through the only entrance to the lot, which stays level as the street rises past it. Its far end is a wall chest-high with a railing above it. Behind them the rapid fluttering shuffle of the Mooncalfe’s feet, the loudly hollow tocking of the Stirrup’s shoes. Tommy, growling, huffing and puffing behind them.

The Mooncalfe stops suddenly beside the empty attendant’s booth, struck by the spill of white fluorescent light. He closes his eyes and the city around him grows quiet. The rolling surf of tires on pavement fades. No horns honk. No alarms shrill. No puling compact engines accelerating away from stop lights, no deep-throated rumbles of idling trucks, the brakes of the busses blocks away don’t hiss and sigh as they stop. No one shouts. No music leaks from open windows. The white noise of rooftop ventilation fans washes away, and the wind doesn’t toss the leaves of the trees before the church across the street. His sword dips and points slowly toward one aisle of parked cars. He takes a deep breath, and turns, slowly, pointing now toward the next aisle of cars.

“Well?” says the Stirrup, standing behind him.

Sighing, the Mooncalfe lifts his sword. “Be quiet,” he says.

“We should,” Tommy starts to say.

“Be quiet,” says the Mooncalfe.

“It fell apart,” says Tommy. “We should cut and run.”

“It has gotten a little out of hand,” says the Stirrup.

“We told the Duke we’d deliver a Bride,” says the Mooncalfe. “We will do just that.” He closes his eyes again, and levels his sword. “Now shut. Up.”

Tommy glares at the Stirrup, who shrugs. He holds his sword lightly in one hand, resting on his shoulder, where the blade rumples the collar of his jacket. There’s a scrape of gravel as someone deep within the parking lot shifts weight, and the Mooncalfe leaps suddenly onto the hood of the hatchback parked in front of them, his blade sweeping back, his bare feet slapping as he takes two steps and then over to the sedan and then to the Jeep, from hood to roof and hood again. Aggrieved car alarms whoop to life. A third of the way from the far end of the lot Jo’s running out from behind a minivan, Ysabel ahead of her. “Go!” yells Jo, looking back over her shoulder at the Mooncalfe leaping lightly toward them, the cars left rocking and wailing in his wake.

The wall at the end is too high. Ysabel jumps up her blue-jeaned legs kicking to grab the railing, but she can’t pull herself up and she loses her grip and falls back to her feet. She’s calling out to Jo shaking her head as Jo runs up to her and hoists herself with both hands onto the back of a parked pickup truck and from there bounces once and catches the railing of the sidewalk above. She kicks the wall with her boots as she worms her way under the lowest rail.

“The church,” Ysabel says, gasping.

“Come on!” says Jo, still on her belly, reaching back under the railing for Ysabel’s hand. Ysabel shakes her head, saying somewhere under the yowling alarms, “I’m just in the way. Go on. Get out,” as Jo’s yelling over that “Come on, goddammit! Get up here!” Jo catches Ysabel’s hand. “Step up on the bumper!” The Mooncalfe leaps from the curved roof of an Audi to delicately step along the top of a convertible’s windshield once, twice, and from there up to the roof of the minivan. Ysabel’s wincing her feet kicking as the bare skin between her top and her jeans scrapes against the top of the wall. Jo squirms around and plants a boot against the railing pulling. Rolling over on her back Ysabel hunches over the edge of the wall and Jo pulls her through onto the sidewalk. A leather thong sandal kicked loose falls from Ysabel’s foot as the Mooncalfe’s blade strikes sparks from the concrete behind them.

“The church!” Ysabel says again, pointing.

Across the street is the bulk of an old stone church. The side door is tucked into a neat little porch blocked off by a metal gate. Jo helps Ysabel to her feet. Tommy’s rounding the corner coming at them at a run. The Stirrup’s pounding down the aisle of parked cars headed for the wall. The Mooncalfe steps lightly from the roof of the pickup truck. On the ground he takes four quick steps back away from the wall as leaning on each other Jo and Ysabel limp quickly across the street to the steps of the church. As Tommy slows to a walk looking up and down the empty street, as the Stirrup runs up behind, as Jo grabs the bars of the side-door gate, rattling the sign that says No Loitering Church Business Only Police Enforced, the Mooncalfe squats.

Then he jumps.

Jo turns in time to see him floating in the air, arms holding his sword up above his head, his blue-black skirt flapping, his half-opened white shirt billowing as one foot brushes the top of the metal railing. He lands crouching at the edge of the street.

“Don’t let go of the gate,” says Ysabel. Who has not climbed the steps after Jo. Who stands at the bottom, hugging herself tightly. “Leave her alone!” she cries.

“Ysabel?” says Jo.

“Leave her out of this,” says Ysabel. “If you let her go unharmed, I will go with you wherever you wish.”

“My lady,” says the Stirrup, still in the parking lot. “We have no intention of harming either of you.” He drops his sword ringing on top of the wall and pulls himself laboriously up after it.

“I want your word,” says Ysabel. “As knights. As gentry.” The Mooncalfe putting a foot forward stops at that, and does not take his step.

“Ysabel!” says Jo.

“Don’t,” says Ysabel, turning to look up at Jo. There at the top of the stairs, holding onto the gate, one knee an angry red behind the sagging tatters of her ripped tights, her black T-shirt leering its red devil’s grin. “Don’t let go of the gate,” says Ysabel, quietly.

“My lady,” says the Stirrup. Bowing his head. “As gentry, we cannot but honor your request.” He holds out his hand.

“Halt!” someone cries, and they all turn.

A man in a green track suit with silver stripes is running up the street. His yellow jagged sunglasses shine weirdly in the dim light, and in one hand he holds a long sword with a heavy golden pommel.

“Roland,” says Ysabel, and she closes her eyes and sags in on herself. She smiles, just a little, as she takes a deep breath.

“The Chariot!” yells the Stirrup, and he scrambles for his sword.

“Oh, shit,” says Jo.

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