I waited.

So did Viktor.  We sat in a strange silence, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable.  It was a pending silence, one that wasn’t pressing, but definitely expecting an answer.   Nellie simply sat down, as did Andrei.  Artur went back to brood against the wall, no doubt afraid that it might waver if he didn’t hold it up.

Wait.  Artur was a practitioner?  I tried to lay down my initial doubts because of his age.  I didn’t know what I was, what I could do, then.  Heck, my mom still thinks I dropped out of college to deal drugs simply because of my nickname.  I wondered if he was related to anyone there.  I looked away from Viktor and to Artur’s face for a moment.  I don’t know why – unless it’s blindingly obvious, I could never see family resemblences.

(You know, when people are cooing over a new baby trying to identify its features as if that would determine future traits, I always get it wrong. “No, no, those couldn’t be his father’s eyes.  His father was a madman who died in a fire in the penitentiary.”  So I just go with the, “Cute baby,” unless it’s a complete and total lie, at which point it’s better to just say nothing at all about the current looks, and maybe go with that she’ll be great as an astronaut…or famous chef… or whatever parents hope for their kids’ futures.)

(Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but I don’t understand a lot of the way people behave around kids.  I don’t think you should treat them like little adults, but I think you should understand that they have feelings and goals and the only way they’re going to make it is to learn to communicate with them.  It’s about keeping the connection open for strength.  To express feelings and experiences.   And that starts from day one, to me, not dressing them up like little dolls and making them into any parts of their parents.)

Of couse, I have my own prejudices to get through.

He was looking at Doloise, again.  I was amused.  I couldn’t tell if I wanted to encourage him or to warn him away.  I was sure Doloise could take care of itself, but that was half the problem.

So I sat in silence.

I wondered about their use names.  They had taken the American version of first names, rather than surnames, but when I gave them mine, they didn’t blink an eye.   Of course, it might be common where they were from, but my parents didn’t have their accents.  I don’t know what gave me the impression that they were recent immigrants, probably prejudice I hadn’t predicted.  Then again, who decides ahead of time that they’re going to be a bigoted jerk?

I looked at their clothing.  Viktor was dressed in what could have been a suit jacket if it hadn’t been over a t-shirt and jeans. Perfectly good for dealing with uncertain Colorado weather.  Nellie had on a smart business suit, cut well with the skirt.  Andrei wore slacks and a long sleeved button-up.  Artur wore a black shirt with what I suspected was some kind of band logo, and black jeans.

“Will he do?” Nellie asked.

I was about to complain that I didn’t know the job, when Viktor shook his head.  “America has made you impatient,” he said to her. He didn’t seem entirely annoyed, but there was a bit of an edge to it.

“Viktor was still negotiating,” Andrei said, with a wheezy sort of chuckle.

“We do not have time to do it the old way,” Nellie said.  “Something walks–”

Artur moved from his perch on the wall, uncomfortable.

I started making guesses.  It was something with legs.  “Evil is afoot, because evil does not have wings.”

“It is night,” Nellie said.  “We are surrounded by books.  They will have to read all the words before they can listen.”

Oh, an obsessive-compulsive spirit.  Great.  Like the vampires that have to count all the rice spilled before them before they can move.  I’ve read about them, but never really encountered it.  Of course, for what I did, I didn’t have to know anything about it, as long as I knew what had brought it over and where it needed to go back to… because that’s all I do.

“No exorcisms,” the words got out of my mouth.

“I told you,” Artur said to Nellie.  She looked too young to be his mom.

“It is not like that,” she said.

Viktor hushed her.  “No, we know you by your hands, not your voice.  You are a tailor, not a singer.”

“A doctor, not a performer,” Andrei offered.  It amused but annoyed Viktor – he had a very open face.

Just trot out my failings.  Of course, Andrei could have been offering me a Star Trek reference.  That would have been pretty cool, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up.

“There is no word for you in the tongue of the wise, but if there was, it would be a good one,” Andrei said, as if he had been reading something of my concern.  “We have been talking to others about you.  You will be able to do something for us we cannot do for ourselves.”

Viktor nodded.  “And we will pay.  We have collected a sum from the afflicted.  It is yours if you try.”

Not, if I’m successful.  And money?  It was the best thing I’d heard in days.

I was doomed, wasn’t I?