Not On My Patch

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Автор Дуэйн Диана

Not On My Patch

Diane Duane

The Badfort Press

County Wicklow, Ireland

This story was written

for the UNICEF 2011 Hallowe’en Pledge Drive

and is copyright 2011 Diane Duane. All rights reserved.

During October 2012,

50% of all proceeds from the sales of this novelette

go to UNICEF. Thanks for helping!

Not On My Patch

Nita Callahan was standing by the dining room table, scowling at it and having second thoughts about the items laid out ready on it for her…especially the big sharp knife.

I don’t know, she thought. I really don’t know if I want to do this. But now that it’s here, I guess I have to.

I guess—

She picked up the knife, toyed with it for a moment, warily tested its edge with her thumb… then looked for about the twentieth time at the thing she was preparing to stab.

The doorbell rang.

“Pff,” she said, rolling her eyes, for this had been happening all afternoon: every time she worked her courage up to do the deed, she got interrupted. Except maybe I think I want to be interrupted where this is involved…

“You want to get that one, honey?” her dad said from somewhere toward the back of the house.

“Yeah, no problem.” Nita headed for the front door, picked up a couple of trick-or-treat bags from the little table her dad had put by the doorway, and opened the door.

There was a tallish young guy standing there in a long plum-colored eighteenth-century frock coat that had with lace spilling out of the sleeves and collar. He was also wearing a tricorn hat jammed down onto a long dreadlocked wig, tight breeches and thigh boots, and carrying a silver plastic cutlass, which he waved at her jauntily. “ARR,” he said.

Nita looked Kit up and down, and finally had to laugh. “The mustache,” she said. “It’s crooked…”

Kit’s eyes widened and he reached up to push the stuck-on mustache back into place. “This thing’s stability,” he said, “leaves a lot to be desired.”

“So do a spell and stick it on that way.”

Kit laughed. “Waste a wizardry on this? Pass,” he said as he headed past Nita into the living room. “I’ve got spirit gum. Somewhere here…” He stuffed the plastic cutlass through his belt and started going through the frock coat’s pockets.

Nita’s big silver-haired dad came out of his bedroom at the back, just finishing the act of pulling on a pulling a sweatshirt decorated with flapping bats. As his head popped out of the neck of it, he ruffled his hair back into place and looked Kit up and down. “Cristoforo Rodriguez the Scourge of Tortuga, huh?”

“Hey, Mr. C. Yeah, more or less.”

“Looks good,” said Nita’s dad. “So how soon can we have this stuff off the table, honey? There are some other things I need to be doing here while I get ready for the slavering hordes.”

Nita sighed. “I’m working on it,” she said, and followed him into the dining room.

“That is one beat up pumpkin,” Kit said, looking at what sat on the table where the newspapers were thickest.

“Yeah,” Nita’s dad said as he went on into the kitchen. “I went over to that pick-your-own place between here and Uniondale: you know the one. I shouldn’t have left it so late, I guess—they’d been cleaned out of the biggest ones. All the pumpkins that were left were either on the small side, or lopsided or dented one way or another. Still,” he said, giving it a glance from the kitchen door, “this one has character.”

Nita was inclined to agree with him. The pumpkin was about a foot and a half across, and had probably been growing somewhere exposed, to judge by the dried-out veining all over the top of it. She ran a hand over the top of it, as she’d already done a bunch of times this afternoon, feeling the crinkly texture and reflecting that it was definitely more interesting than the smooth picture-perfect pumpkins she’d seen a few days ago in the grocery store but had gotten distracted and forgotten to pick up. More avoidance… she thought.

She sighed. “I guess I should get on with this,” she said, and picked up the knife.

The doorbell rang.

“Aaaagh!” Nita said. “This is never going to get done! And everybody’s showing up so early. I thought we were finished with the littlest kids now…” She went off into the living room, picked up the same pair of candy bags she’d picked up before, and opened the door.

Nita found herself staring at a tall gangly black-haired guy wearing a shaggy Alley-Oop style caveman skin over a green-and-white-striped soccer jersey that said SPORTS WORLD in big letters, and in smaller ones, around a little badge on the breast, BRAY WANDERERS F.C. The guy had more splotchy piebald skins bound around his legs and over his Doc Martens, and he was balancing a truly huge caveman club over one shoulder. “Hey, be happy,” he said, “it’s Samhain!”

She laughed at the sight of him. Ronan had purposely grimed himself up and punked his hair out into weird Celto-Goth points with some kind of hair wax that appeared to have the holding power of dried concrete, and he was carrying a rough burlap sack with a very dysfunctional one-eyed Jack-o-Lantern face painted on it. “Come on in,” Nita said. “But why so formal? Thought you were going to just appear out of nothing in the back yard, like normal people.”

“Because I prefer to yank your chain,” Ronan said as he came in, “as is traditional. And speaking of which… get a load of you. That’s a new look…”

Nita grinned, though she found herself blushing at the same time. “Not so new,” she said, brushing at the skirt— if that was the word for it— of her costume. “It was big on Mars, once upon a time.” …if “big’s” the right word to describe something there’s so little of! In its Martian incarnation the costume, heavy on gems and gleaming metal and filmy translucent drapery, could still have been described as fairly minimal—and more so depending on which Mars you were talking about. The wizardly jury was still out on exactly how Edgar Rice Burroughs had come so close to describing what the real First Race of Mars considered decent daywear. Nita had been less concerned about that issue than about how to adjust the design so that she would neither get arrested for indecent exposure or scandalize her Dad. She’d opaqued the long sheer skirt down and added an underskirt, as well as short filmy sleeves and a fair amount of coverage to the bodice, and then had sent the whole designs off to one of the retailers at the Crossings who owed both her and Carmela some large favors. The overall result was satisfying, even though she was still going to want a jacket if the temperature dropped too low.

“I got kind of used to it while I was working up there,” Nita said. She didn’t mention what she thought Ronan might be perfectly able to guess: that Kit had liked it on her, and had been too shy to say as much. “So if anybody asks, I’m an alien princess or something.”

“But as I understand it, you kind of were,” Ronan said, and smiled. It was a less jokey or edgy smile than she usually saw from him, and Nita blushed again. What is the matter with me stop it stop it stop it! she thought, but as usual the blush was ignoring her and would plainly be taking its own sweet time about burning out. Nothing to do but carry on…

“It got better,” Nita said, and grinned at him. “Anyway, why’re we standing here? Come on in…”

He followed her into the living room, where Kit had come out to see who was there. “Hey, look, it’s the Dread Pirate Rodriguez,” he said as the two of them clasped hands overarm. Then Ronan started snickering. “Jeez Louise, Kit! Worst…mustache…ever! Why didn’t you just give it up and grow one?”

“Don’t think he hasn’t been trying,” said a voice from the bathroom at the back of the house.

Kit turned a weary glance on Nita. “Is it all right if I destroy your sister a little?”

“Knock yourself out,” Nita said. “But even the Lone One’s had a run at that and didn’t get far…”

Kit sighed and leaned over the living room candy table, picking up one of the newly filled orange and black paper trick-or-treat packages and peering into it. “The problem is that if you use wizardry to get your beard growing, you’re stuck with it…”

“And you don’t want to start shaving yet. Fair play to you there,” Ronan said, rubbing his own face, which was adorned under the makeup-grime with what looked like about three days’ worth of stubble. “Believe me, I don’t mind having a little holiday from the face scraping every now and then…”

“How did you get here, though?” Nita said, taking the bag away from Kit and putting it back on the candy table. “I thought you’ve still got trouble with doing single teleports out of Ireland, because of all the old spell residue built up in the ground. Did you hitch over with somebody who had an authorized transit?”

“Nope. No problems at all with single transits today,” Ronan said. “Because in the enlightened land in which I dwell, Hallowe’en is an official government holiday… and this being the case, the local senior wizards always open some ‘safe transport’ spots so people celebrating The Day That’s In It can spelljump in and out of the place without too much trouble.” He glanced around. “But speaking of my usual ride, where’s wee Darryl? Thought he’d be here.”

“He had a change of plans,” Kit said. “Decided to stay over in Baldwin this year. It’s not that long really since he finished up his Ordeal, and his folks are still a little freaked out by it all. He doesn’t want to push them too hard on the letting-him-be-out-by-himself issue, so he’s letting them ride herd on him at Halloween this time.”

“Pity,” Ronan said. “And he didn’t want to do one of his be-two-places-at-once tricks?”

Kit shook his head. “Tom and Carl told him to ...