Hearing Maggie’s voice actually cheered me up a little in a way I hadn’t expected it would.  I wasn’t lonely, exactly, although Doloise wasn’t the usual kind of company I had over.  I couldn’t explain it, quite.  Doloise didn’t tease me, but she also didn’t laugh at my jokes.  Doloise would be my guide and guardian.  Maggie I could trust only if she gave me her word, and she certainly wouldn’t volunteer to walk into the lion’s den with me.  Or the Dragon’s.  Or whatever those Chinese lion-Dragon things were, for that matter, even if all I really remembered about them is that they liked lettuce.

I really shouldn’t compare the two.  At the same time, how do you avoid it?  They’re the most recent experience with the fairer sex I really have to focus on, and I feel the usual amount of compulsion to have someone of that gender as a companion.   No, really I blamed it on Maggie.  I had the feeling that Doloise wouldn’t complain if I made a move, but it wasn’t right.  To me, Doloise was something that probably had a foreign phrase attached to it – a dangerous infant or something.  Too new to the world, too dangerous to be left alone in it…for the world’s sake, if nothing else.   Not like a daughter or a sister, but still something precious.

She wanted me to save her.  That put her in that funny pedestal place, I guess.  She was sexy if I tried to not think about it.  Maggie was sexy all the time – she moved across a room like it was some personal samba she was performing.  Her dark eyes and wide lips were advertisements that drilled straight into my animal brain.  At the same time, you knew it was deliberate, which could also be kind of off-putting.  On the other hand, if I asked Maggie, she’d say no.

Wait, did she say it “could be” a blind date?  What was she doing?

It wouldn’t be the first time Maggie had tried to set me up with someone.  She had interesting tastes in that regard.

I set Doloise up with some Animal Planet and went into the bedroom.  I had to wear something that balanced impressing Maggie with the cool casual nature of not wanting to put effort into it because of her.  Yeah, right.  I spent some time shaving carefully and reminded myself that I’d have to do laundry tomorrow.  I had a pair of decent black jeans still folded in the drawer.  I found one of my black button-up shirts and a vest that went with it pretty well.  I slicked back my hair and put on a couple of rings.

Doloise looked at me, distracted by my movement from the TV show she was watching.  She made a strange noise.


She shook her head and went back to watching a meerkat soap opera.

I got myself a tall glass of soda and checked my e-mail and a few torrents that had finished.   I examined the rings – one of them had been enchanted by a friend a while back to grow somewhat warm in the presence of, for lack of a better term, vulgar magic.  Nothing quite on the level of a Chernobyl leakage of a spell, but when something is sloppy it would pick up the ambient background level and use it to transmit a mild heat.  I liked it because it was witchmoss agate with natural hints that kind of looked like a skull.

I started picking up.  After the order Doloise imposed on my shelves, I spent some time getting my other books to match.   Doloise asked me a few questions about fleas.  I looked them up on the internet.  I did the dishes.  I didn’t kill time, but I fired an opening salvo in its direction.

I parked in all-night pay lot.  I pointed out some gargoyles to Doloise.  Most weren’t sentient, but there’s always a few in every city.  We made it to the bus station just as the last rays of sunlight painted their golden-red lances through the windows.  The mall was cloaked with the blue-ash shadows of the buildings.  The nocturnal forces were waking up although they had yet to have their coffee.

I waved Maggie and the two girls with her over to where Doloise and I sat on a bench, people-watching.