Kerry Grail left the house that morning with nothing but sweet tea sloshing around in her stomach. She’d had no time to eat, and didn’t really have the appetite anyway.
Auntie Jo never ate in the mornings. She liked her coffee black, and strong enough to stand the teaspoon up in. Her dad liked his coffee like that too, whereas her mother liked her tea unsweetened and weak. A goldfish could have happily lived and survived in her mother’s cups of tea.
Kerry hadn’t had too many clownish nightmares, although that music was still stuck in her head. She was late for college, but hopefully the teacher would be understanding. It wasn’t HER fault that Auntie Jo had left the iron sitting on Kerry’s favourite shirt and burned a hole right through it, thus radically changing her morning routine and forcing her to come out in a shirt with a little crocodile on the front.
It was cold outside. Kerry tugged her fleece more tightly around herself, wishing once again that she’d remembered to wear her gloves.
She saw a head appear briefly from behind a car further up the street. She frowned and looked again, but the head was gone.
Kerry didn’t have time to go back and check for a head she’d probably only imagined anyway. She kept walking stoutly on, towards the bus stop.
Meanwhile, Dorus was peering at the Wraith he’d spotted yesterday from behind a neighbour’s car. It had almost spotted him, but he’d hidden back behind the car again, quick as lightning.
Now it was waiting by the bus stop. It seemed to be approximating the human condition of being worried about turning up late for a lesson. It was doing this by walking around and around the bus stop chewing its nails and occasionally checking its watch.
Dorus grinned. They were so good, these Wraiths. But he wasn’t going to be put off by this one’s casual disregard to being followed, or its child-like disguise. He was going to kill it, and then he would finally be allowed back into the Consortium, and nothing was going to stand in his way.
Hunting and killing Wraiths was what he did. It was his life – or to be more accurate, his lives.
On her way home later on, Kerry Grail stopped at the fish and chip shop, as per her aunt’s directions. There was already a queue, and she sighed and joined the end of it.
A man stepped into the warm and stepped behind her. She glanced back to see who it was, and recognised the performer from the circus.
‘Oh, hi,’ she said.
The man looked up. He wasn’t wearing his sequinned hat today. Now he was wearing jeans and a leather jacket. Normal clothes.
‘It’s, er, Kerry. We talked outside the circus thing yesterday.’
The man nodded. ‘Oh yes, I remember. Ranajay,’ he said, shaking her hand. ‘Did you enjoy the performance?’
Kerry shook her head. ‘I have a fear of clowns.’
Ranajay laughed, and then stopped when he saw Kerry’s face. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. You were serious.’
‘Yes. Were you a performer?’
‘I was, yes.’
‘I don’t think I saw your bit,’ Kerry admitted. ‘I had to duck outside.’
‘Ah, yes. Of course.’ There was a pause. ‘You didn’t miss much anyway.’
‘What was your, er, act?’
‘Drill of Death.’
Kerry grinned. ‘Really?’
‘Well, I wish I’d seen it now. Anyway, hope it went alright. Obviously you didn’t die, so...’
Ranajay coughed. ‘Well, yes. Still alive now, anyway.’
The man in front of Kerry with a dog under one arm and a bag under the other placed his order.
‘Do you live round here then?’ Kerry asked.
‘Er, yes, I do. Temporary accommodation. But my people seemed to like my act, so I may soon be travelling with them.’
Ranajay’s eyes were the same colour as Auntie Jo’s kitchen table. Kerry tried to remember what type of wood it was.
‘Excuse me, love.’
Kerry turned to the man behind the counter. His shirt was greasy in placed and he had a beard.
‘Oh, OK. Er, two value boxes please.’
The man went away again.
‘And where do you live?’ Ranajay asked her. ‘Near here at all?’
‘Yeah, down Gibson Lane. Not too friendly there. It feels like the neighbours are watching you all the time, especially recently.’
‘Really, why?’ asked Ranajay, suddenly interested.
‘Oh, it’s nothing. I saw a head, hiding behind a car this morning. It was a bit weird.’
‘Just a head?’
‘Well, there was probably a person attached to it...’
‘Anything else, love?’
Kerry turned back to the man, who had bagged up her order. ‘No thank you.’
‘What did the head look like?’ Ranajay asked as she paid.
‘Er, dunno. Kind of straw-coloured hair, nose, mouth, you’ve seen heads, they’re much like this.’ She took the plastic bag containing her food off the counter. ‘Well, it was good seeing you again.’
‘Yes. Have a good evening,’ Ranajay said pleasantly. The chips were warm in her arms as she walked back onto the bitingly cold street outside.