Bruce told me he was at the Alexandria waterfront. It was Saturday afternoon and a warm day – I knew it would be busy.
It was. The plaza outside the Torpedo Factory was full of people watching a juggler perform, tossing him coins and notes. Another group were walking their dogs, and half the berths at the marina were empty, sails drifting up and down the river.
I felt like I was on the edge of it all. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives – or perhaps one step above that. Many of these people were, after all, rich. Certainly rich compared to me. Some of them rich compared to most. Not true one percenters, but people who didn’t really have to worry about money.
I saw two men sitting on a bench looking out across the water, and tensed. One of them was Bruce. The other was Mr. Otter.
I stopped for a moment. Seriously, I considered fleeing, or at least hiding until he’d left. I wanted to talk to Bruce, not Mr. Smarmy.
Then I sighed inwardly and headed over towards them. As I arrived, Mr. Otter offered me a cone of chocolate ice cream, which he’d clearly bought seconds before – it was still frozen. I accepted it. “Thanks.”
I supposed he knew I was coming. Well, there was really no way he wouldn’t have known. But I did sit down next to Bruce rather than him. “We’ve got a fairy problem.”
“I heard. I also heard somebody put it down.”
“For a few days, by Thea’s guess.”
“Thea.” Mr. Otter pronounced her name oddly, and with an amused cant. “But, of course, she doesn’t know how to do anything other than stick it with pointy things.”
“Oh, come on. You know her limitations. Or should. She does, at any rate.”
I had to admit he was right. Thea was very much about sticking things with pointy things. So was I, for that matter. “And I know mine. I was hoping Bruce would know an expert.”
“You need a specialist,” Bruce said, a little grimly. “I know one, but you don’t want to trust her.”
“Meaning she’ll do it, but count your fingers afterwards. Almost as bad as dealing with him.” He jerked his elbow towards…where Mr. Otter had been two seconds previously.
“As long as she doesn’t do that, I can deal with her.” I glared at the empty bit of bench. “I didn’t know the two of you knew each other.”
“For my sins. I have no clue what you’ve done to get his attention, but he seems to like you.”
“I have a feeling that’s not a good thing.”
“It depends. Now…I’m going to take you to a witch. Just remember what I said.”
I did and, just in case he meant it literally, tucked my wallet further down into my pocket.