Skeleton Crew

A Novel by Gre7g Luterman

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Werewolf, Bleak November
Ley Lines by Gre7g Luterman
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When we had finished our shower, I asked her what we should do next. Suddenly, I felt much more enthusiastic about learning to be a mage.

Shadow grabbed her ragged clothes out of the dryer and pulled them on over her soft skin. “Well, first thing we’re gonna’ do is go to a sandwich shop.” She caressed the soft denim of her jeans and sniffed her shirt with a smile. It was as if she had never worn clean clothes before. It hurt me to see her in those rags.

“You can’t be still hungry, can you?” I asked. I thought about my empty refrigerator and the pound of greasy bacon she had for breakfast.

Shadow just smiled. “Grab your sketch pad and pencils. We’ll be less conspicuous if it looks like you’re drawing the customers.”

I drove the two of us to the nearest sandwich shop. She spent the trip with her head out the window, enjoying the cool wind.

Shadow sat us down at one of the tables near where customers ordered their food.

The teenager behind the counter gave us weird looks for not ordering anything. Had it been a mom and pop shop he probably would have given us grief, but after a moment of staring he relaxed, seemingly glad enough that he didn’t have to actually get up and do something.

Despite what Shadow had said, I felt horribly conspicuous. It was before the lunch rush and we were the only ones in the store. I pulled out my pad and began to sketch what I saw.

Shadow pulled her chair up close to my own so she could see me work. I didn’t care about the drawing and it didn’t bother me to have her see it.

The guy behind the counter noticed me drawing and tried to fix his hair for the picture.

The sketch was going along pretty good, although it looked more like an architectural drawing than ‘art’. Two point perspective, very straight lines, dull, dull, dull.

Shadow jabbed me with an elbow and made a small gesture toward a fat woman in a green dress who was looking up at the menu. I hadn’t noticed her come in.

I shrugged, ignoring the woman, and started erasing the mark my pencil had made when she elbowed me.

“I bet she wants a corned beef on rye, just like the one you gave me when we first met,” she whispered in my ear. I nodded absently as I drew.

“What do you think she’s going to order?” Shadow asked me.

I shrugged, not really paying attention.

Shadow pinched my arm and I turned to look at her face. Again she asked me the question, slower, but in the same hushed tones.

I was confused, but it passed in a moment. She wanted me to practice using my magick. I turned back toward the woman and stared at her, letting myself look at her thoughts.

At first I felt dirty, as if I were looking through her clothes with X-ray glasses, but then I realized that what she was going to order was in the front of her mind. It was what she was thinking about right then. I didn’t have to peer down into her soul to see it.

“A vegetarian… a whole one, on wheat,” I whispered back to Shadow, stunned that I knew, stunned that it had been so easy. “She wants extra mayonnaise too.”

I didn’t even bat an eye when I heard her order it. I just sat there, my sketching forgotten.

Shadow giggled happily and put her arm around my waist. I barely even noticed.

A group of three businessmen in suits must have come in while I was staring off into space, wondering how I could have read that woman’s mind. Shadow nudged me again and I mumbled, “Half a BLT on white, half a meatball sandwich, and whatever the lunch special is.”

Shadow smiled and I stared at her lovely, dark eyes. “It’s really easy for you, isn’t it?” she asked.

I closed my eyes and listened to them place their orders one by one. The words they said were the words they were rehearsing in their heads, tasting the sounds as if trying to decide whether they would be good to eat.

I opened my eyes and Shadow’s face was still there in front of my own. I nodded slowly. “It’s what they’re thinking about right now,” I whispered. “It’s like I can hear it before they say it just by trying to.”

Shadow grinned and nodded back at the woman in the green dress. She was sitting at a nearby table, unwrapping her sandwich. “What’s she thinking about now?”

I looked at the woman and again it was easy. Her mind wasn’t blank, it was just filled with dull and trivial things. “She doesn’t like her sandwich,” I whispered. “She’s sick of this diet and she has to eat fast if she is going to run a few errands before going back to work.”

I heard the lovely werewolf whispering in my ear. “She’s wearing a wedding ring… what’s her husband’s name?”

I looked over at Shadow and then back at the lady in green. She wasn’t thinking about her husband right now. I could feel the web of her thoughts, all crisscrossing tighter and tighter as I looked deeper. Some of her thoughts felt sticky and as I tried to push them aside they stuck to me and started to stretch and tear.

Suddenly, Shadow grabbed my arm tight and I noticed that the woman in green had one hand to her head. Her face was wrenched up as if she was in pain and my heart began to race. What had I done?

I tried to stand and rush to the woman’s side, but Shadow’s strong arm pulled me back down into my seat. “Listen to her thoughts,” she said as she stood.

“Are you okay, ma’am?” she asked. The woman just smiled and pulled a bottle of aspirin from her purse. Her face relaxed like the pain had passed. “Do you want me to call someone?” Shadow asked and the woman shook her head.

“No, I’m fine,” she said and washed a couple of pills down with her diet soda.

Shadow nodded and sat back down beside me. “Did you get it?” she asked me.

“What?!?” I hissed at her. “I could have really hurt her!”

Shadow looked at me with a gravely serious expression. “You are far more dangerous if you do not learn control. Trust me on this one. What would happen if you weren’t paying attention? Or if you were angry?”

I saw what she meant. She relaxed a bit.

“Remember what you did, what you felt, and try not to do it again. Okay?”

I nodded slowly.

“Did you get it?” she asked again.

“Her husband’s name is Jerry. He’s a hypochondriac. She’s afraid that if he found out she had a migraine, he would insist she go see a doctor and have a million tests done.”

“You got all that?”

“When you asked her if you should call someone, she immediately thought about him,” I explained.

Shadow nodded. “So if you get them thinking about something by asking them a question…”

I shuddered and felt dirty again. Now it felt more like poking my nose into someone else’s business. “Yeah, I suppose.”


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