The tea was dark. It tasted like bitter soap on the back of his tongue. De’Angelo leaned back, kicking one leg up and making the chair creak as his weight shifted to its back legs. The gentle morning breeze ruffled through the overgrowing flowers that crowded around the balcony seating, mostly disguising him. Mostly crowding out his vision.But he could see the crosswalk at Nine and T. And it was seven forty seven.
His pulse jumped. She was late!
But then, a moment later, a bright yellow jacket came around the corner, an upraised middle finger to the clouds that clung close to the mountains. De’Angelo relaxed.
Yellow heels clicked on the pavement. Yellow bag swung against her hip. Yellow lipstick brightened her face. Long yellow nails clicked on the screen of her (yellow case!) smart phone.
She had brown hair though. But, today, it was up, with a yellow rose tucked behind her ear.
De’Angelo smiled. That seemed to clinch it. It was an act. It had to be. Who the hell was she? None of the Vengeful were in the area. There was no way he would have missed that. And if she wasn’t Vengeful, she was either incredibly powerful (in which case, why hadn’t he heard of her?) or incredibly brave (in which case, what was she doing here?).
The woman in yellow crossed the crosswalk and turned along T street, heading toward the ocean. De’Angelo checked the time. Seven forty eight. As always. She’d be back, but not for nine hours. Which was good. Because De’Angelo had other things to do today. Admittedly, those things weren’t as interesting, but they also paid.
And there was nothing like the mounting pressure of student loans to make pay attractive.
De’Angelo turned his attention back to his paper work and his tea. Mrs. and Mr. Iponda’s taxes were done by noon. Mr. Grout’s cat was found by one thirty (easy enough, since De’Angelo and FlufferButt had come to an agreement several mounts ago about how often and for how long FlufferButt would go missing). And by four o’clock De’Angelo had eaten lunch, cleaned the Kennedy windows and helped Sergeant Anderson solve her homicide.
Four forty. De’Angelo walked across the flower laden deck with his teapot and cup and muffin balanced on a plastic tray. Marissa had had it ready for him when he had come in. He was growing to be as predictable as the Lady in Yellow. He listened to the creek of his steps across the old grey boards and settled in to his seat by inches. He poured the tea, taking a deep breath of steam.
Four forty six. De’Angelo craned his neck to get a better angle on the corner she would be coming from, which required pressing his face against the tall wooden slats. Far away, a minute slow, a school bell was buzzing like anger humming between clenched teeth.
The breeze picked up. The flowers began to dance.
The click of high-heels on pavement drifted on the breeze, and then…
Four forty seven. There she was, coming around the corner. Yellow coat thrown over her shoulder to reveal a yellow dress, long yellow gloves, yellow stockings. De’Angelo swallowed his tea and opened his mouth. She was striding by the deck seating-
“Excuse me, ma’am.” De’Angelo said, as smoothly as possible.
Brave then. She didn’t reach for a weapon, or even start. She was looking around, scanning the line of the balcony for the source of the voice. De’Angleo stuck his head out of the flowers, although he couldn’t quite get it through the planking.
She caught his eyes and smiled. “Yes?”
De’Angelo scanned them. None of the Vengeful yellow in them. None of the spark and fire of the mad. Only calm serenity.
“You are one of the Brave?” He asked.
She blinked, in what could only be startled confusion. Or perhaps it was shock at being recognized?
“I was wondering why you were wearing yellow.” All yellow. Flagrantly. Boldly. As if you knew what it meant and what it invited and didn’t care either way.
She smiled again. “Oh, it’s just a good color on me.”
He met her eyes again. Lying. Why? De’Angelo took a slow breath, and felt the sorrow and the determination, and the smelled the whiff of secrets kept so long they were hardly secrets anymore. They had become sacred truths, held without reflection. Unquestioned, for fear they would not stand up to questioning.
“Ma’am,” he said, softly, as the sorrow was still draining out of him. “My mother, too, wore all yellow.” Of course it was his mother he thought of. Sorrow, like wine, made him melancholic. “She hunted the things that come in the night.”
The woman was just staring at him now. Hope was flickering across her face, her shoulders stiffening, her breath stuck in her throat.
“May I invite you up for a cup of something?” De’Angelo asked.
The woman paused. But then her shoulders lowered and she nodded, and walked back toward the other side of the coffee shop. De’Angelo stood, leaving his tea on the table, and went in to meet her at the counter.
The room was quiet. Only a scattering of students and a few work-from-home techie people. Marissa looked up from cleaning the late machine, smiling, and then looked over as the bells on the door rung.
The woman in yellow strode in, her heels clicking. She came right up to him. He held out his hand. “De’Angelo.” He said.
She took it, shook it, “Anahera.” She said, swift and firm.
“What can I get you?” He asked, as if he was Marissa.
A flurry of action. The creaking of the grey boards.
Her heels didn’t click when she walked slowly.
De’Angelo sat down, and refilled his cup from his teapot.
Anahera sat down across from him, the black of her coffee rippling, sending black waves splashing up the sides of the mug. Marissa had given her a yellow one.
“Does that happen a lot?” De’Angelo couldn’t help himself.
Anahera looked at him, confused.
He nodded to the mug.
She smiled, a bit grimly. “All the time.” But then the smile loosened. “No one wants to ruin my color scheme.”
De’Angelo nodded. People were cool like that.
“I’m looking for someone.” She said, all at once. But then she seemed unsure how to go on.
“Yes?” De’Angelo asked. It was a reflex. Many of the Night People he met knew he was good at finding things upon meeting him. Maybe that was why she’d agreed to come up.
“My sister.” Anahera went on. “Awhina. She.” Anahera paused again.
De’Angelo let his focus drift, so that he could listen and hear at the same time, taking a long sip of tea.
“She went missing.”
There were cords, all tangled up, snarled around each other, around other cords. “When?”
“Seven years ago.” Anahera said. “That’s why.” She gestured to herself. “I mean, I. She went missing wearing all yellow. She just started wearing it, a few weeks before that. Changed out her whole wardrobe.” And now that she’d started it came out all at once. “She wouldn’t say why. Just that someone had gone missing, someone she wanted to find. I didn’t, I mean, I tried to get her to explain. She didn’t want to.”
De’Angelo felt his eyes widen. She didn’t know. She was wearing all yellow, day after day, and she didn’t know?
“Did you ever find out why?”
Anahera shook her head. “She just went missing and I started wearing these.”
You could hear the rest of the sentence, almost spoken. Hoping that I might go missing too.
De’Angelo took another sip of tea. “Oh.” He said, voice barely making it over the edge of his tea cup. He let the cords fade. Seven years was a while. He’d need to concentrate.
“Did your mother go missing too?” Anahera asked.
De’Angelo shook his head, then reconsidered. “Well, not exactly.”
Anahera straightened, leaning in.
De’Angelo licked his lips, nervous. “How much do you know about the Night People?” He asked, quietly.
She blinked again, yellow eyelashes flashing across her brown eyes. “I- Nothing, I think, given the way you just said that.”
“Ah. Um.” De’Angelo paused. “Alright.” He took a deep breath. “My mother wore yellow because it attracts the Vengeful. She hunted them and sold the carcasses. She ‘went missing’ because the Vengeful are, well, they live up to their name, and they don’t care to be hunted.”
That might have been a tad blunt. She was blinking again, reassessing. He could see her, pulling inside of herself.
De’Angelo just kept talking. “That doesn’t mean that happened to your sister, or to the person your sister was trying to find. Notice that you’ve been wearing all yellow for seven years and haven’t… ‘gone missing’.” He took another sip of tea, trying to figure out how to wipe the fear, skepticism, and disappointment off of her face. “Look.” He said, “This is a bit outside of normal for you, I can tell. Let me show you.” He put down his cup and looked around.
No one on the streets, and the greenery hid the balcony pretty well anyway. No windows from the coffee shop, except the bathroom one, and that was frosted over.
De’Angelo scooted back his chair, leaned over the old wood of the table, pressed his palms flat on to the rough surface and closed his eyes.
The strings of the world where there, twined under his hands like a net of loose weaving. He ran his fingers across the table, looking for the right ones. In a moment he’d found what he wanted, and he picked them up. The strings bit into the tips of his fingers as he curled his hands around them. De’Angelo tugged, crossing the still thick lines of the splintering table with the quavering, thin strings of the flowers that bloomed in such profusion next to him. Then he pulled. It was hard. They resisted. Like picking up a backpack full of books with just one hand.
His hands rose from the table, shaking. Anahera took in a sudden breath. De’Angelo could smell the blooms under his nose.
He dropped his hands. The pressure of the strings lid off and he opened his eyes. There was a small garden of blossoming morning glories growing out of the table.
He was doused in sweat.
De’Angelo blinked and took a long drink of tea.