Daughter from the Dark - Sergey Page 0,1

for her, and she didn’t want to go with him. The usual scenario. Domestic squabbles. Preteen issues.

The reasons didn’t concern him.

“All right,” he said firmly. “Either you come with me, or . . . you can stay here. So, what’ll it be?”

The girl watched him silently, her eyes round and blue, like those of a child on a greeting card.

“I am going,” Aspirin said with relief. “Family problems are not my forte.”

He pointed his flashlight onto the cracked pavement and moved toward the street. Stars glimmered above his head. How wonderful that I don’t have children, Aspirin thought, looking up at the clear summer sky. How wonderful that I didn’t marry Lucy back then, he thought, turning into a courtyard. How wonderful that I—

His reverie was cut short. A group of teenagers, drunk or high—or both—sat underneath a dying linden tree in the corner of a playground. Of course it was a playground, a perfect place for them to congregate.

He actually wasn’t sure they were high. He wasn’t even sure they were teenagers. It was hard to see in the dark, hard to count the glowing ends of their cigarettes, hard to ask for their IDs.

It wasn’t hard to know he wanted nothing to do with them.

“Hey, you! Come here!”

It was a young voice, but insistent. It sounded like it was used to getting what it wanted, despite having nothing to back up that bravado. Aspirin moved his flashlight over the group. About half a dozen kids, one girl. And what’s worse, one pit bull.

“Drop your flashlight, shithead!”

Aspirin heard a low growl.

He switched off the flashlight and stepped back into the street. Couldn’t they just leave him alone?

No such luck. He was destined to be accosted by the young this evening.

“Come here! Better for you if you do!”

“What do you need, children?” Aspirin inquired in a businesslike tone. “I am DJ Aspirin.”

The group sniggered. Either these kids didn’t believe him, or they never listened to the radio.

“Aspirin, Oxycontin—got a light?” the only girl in the group asked cheerfully.

He took a few steps back, watching the dog. One of his buddies had a dog like that. That dog once bit off his owner’s finger.

“Keep your dog on the leash,” he suggested coolly.

They laughed, the girl louder than the rest. Such an unpleasant combination, Aspirin thought, that broad and her dog.

“Abel, get ’im! Get his balls!”

That was all he needed to hear.

Aspirin turned and ran. A stick, please, a metal bar, an iron one, or a shiv. There’s not enough time to find a brick, it’s too dark . . .

And as he sprinted away, he cursed the fact that the pepper spray he normally kept in his bag was now safely tucked away in the trunk of his car back in the garage.

A streetlight came to life by the entrance to the courtyard. Its dim glow was just enough for Aspirin to avoid crashing into a trash barrel. He sidestepped at the last moment and glanced back to see the pit bull that resembled a pale stuffed sausage fly across the courtyard, followed by eight legs stomping, eight arms flapping in the air, four mouths shrieking something unintelligible . . .

Only now did Aspirin think of the girl who was likely to still be standing there, in that very archway, clutching her teddy bear to her chest.

He picked up a broken brick and threw it at the dog, almost hitting it. The animal slowed down, but only for a brief moment.

“What are you doing, you asshole?” the broad screamed. “Abel, get him!”

Wasn’t he already trying to get me?

Aspirin dived into a concrete archway illuminated by the streetlight. Despite Aspirin’s hopes, the girl had not run away; she pressed herself against the wall, listening to the screaming, stomping, and growling.

Aspirin grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the courtyard. Considering that even without such ballast Aspirin ran more slowly than a short-legged dog, it was probably a mistake.

The archway ended. The girl pulled her hand out of Aspirin’s, turned around, and tossed her teddy bear back into the archway, toward the shadows dancing on the walls.

He cursed, thinking she’d ask him to go back for the bear, but instead she just stood there, waiting. He was going to ask her what her problem was when he heard the scream—nothing like the wild, raucous yells of teens having a lark. No, this was a shriek, a wail.

It sounded like the kind of scream that ripped apart someone’s vocal cords.

A second later he