“Tell me about your family.”
“My wife and daughter died.” her Doctor said, sadness flowing beneath his words. He spoke to her then of his religion, of the role of the Father. She listened, hands stilling on broad shoulders. Curious.
Rajah’s own religion was survival. Her daily prayers said to the Gods of Luck and Fortune. Her libations poured from the tips of fingers stroking skin, the gentle ministrations of her liar’s tongue. She had never known any other faith.
Another hour, another customer. The Yorker’s skin was warm, coat damp beneath her hands. His head nodded to the side as she worked and Rajah stifled a yawn. It was late. So late. She was accustomed to late hours but tonight only wicked things roamed the darkness and she longed to be curled in her warm bed.
The door behind her opened, someone sat on the bench. She turned, stared into the eyes of the Dead Man, and stumbled backwards.
“Can you see him?” she hissed to her customer. Her mother had told her that Desert Djinn could take on any form, and angry ghosts could appear to anyone at all. She made the sign to avert the Evil Eye. “I killed zat man.”
“Yes, yes you did.” the Dead Man rasped. Rajah gulped.
Someone upstairs hissed for quiet and she wanted to scream at them that she could care less about their peaceful slumber when the new life she had dared to begin to build was crashing around her so loudly. She squared her shoulders, bit her tongue and stepped past the Dead Man onto the porch.
“Trouble out here?” her Doctor had appeared, weapon in hand, tall and menacing in the porchlight. She felt a twinge of surprising affection and stomped it down with one split-toe shoe. The last thing she wanted was for the Dead Man to sense her weakness.
“Just ghost from past.” she forced her voice to lighten, gave him a false smile, her specialty. “I’m ok. Thank you.”
“We need to talk.” the Dead Man eyed her Doctor warily.
“Ia.” she wanted to get him away from here. Away from anyone she cared about. “Let’s walk.”
The cocking of the pistol rang loud in her ears. Rajah froze, staring out at the lake in the pre-dawn darkness. The silence stretched, wind whistling across the rain-damp grass. Her skin crawled and she fought the urge to run from the Dead Man behind her. What was taking so long?
“Do it, Coward. I am dead already.” Bitter words.
“I should.” he growled, frustration in his tone. She closed her eyes at that voice. She had covered the old rot with a veneer of false silver and kohl. How easily the mask tore with the resurfacing of old shards.
“I watched you die.”
“I know.” Ice cold. “I saw you watching as I bled out.”
She turned on him then, anger overcoming cowardice. Stepped up to the pistol aimed at her head. “I mourned you. I cried over you, you stupid bastard. They had to pull me off of your body. And you know what they did next? They marched me right down to Auction House and sold me to next caravan heading out of Vegasia.”
The Dead Man blinked, confusion flickering across his face.
The gun wavered.