Home > The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(6)

The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(6)
Author: Susan Dennard

“That was my first thought too.” Winnie follows him, and when he grabs the table, she grabs the other end. They roll it to the four-wheeler. “But the marks on these feet aren’t consistent with vampira. Just open the bag and you’ll see!”

Mario doesn’t answer, but Winnie can see he’s mulling her words. He always chews louder and blows more bubbles when his scientist mind is whirring. Pop-pop-pop!

Winnie helps him load the first non body onto the table’s lowest shelf. It’s an older woman, her eyes turned to stone in what was clearly an unfortunate basilisk encounter. Then they load the manticores onto the middle shelf. Next, the sylphid (which Mario excitedly “oohs” over), and lastly, the halfer onto the top shelf.

“Definitely vampira,” Mario says after a cursory examination. “But I do like your theory, Winnie. It’s very…” He pauses as he does every week when Winnie offers her latest out-there idea.

“Inspired,” she finishes for him. She can’t keep the disappointment out of her voice. She really thought she’d gotten it right this time. A werewolf would have explained Jay’s weird assessment of the clearing, and she had even heard all that howling at dawn.

Mario gives her an apologetic grin. “We make quite the pair, don’t we? But I do like how your mind works.”

Winnie shoves at her glasses. Her thumb smushes a fingerprint onto the left lens. “Did Aunt Rachel tell you they took down a vampira horde?”

“No,” he admits. “The Wednesdays haven’t turned in their kill coordinates yet, but I will bet you a week’s supply of coffee that it wasn’t a werewolf.”

This is also what Mario does every week: he bets a week’s worth of coffee that her hypothesis is wrong. And of course, whenever he’s the one with the kooky theories, Winnie wagers the same.

Winnie studies the halfer again. Sunlight glares on the plastic. The grocery bag with the feet now rests below the shredded ankles. Yes, it does look like a vampira horde did this … but then why were they eating the feet? According to the Compendium, the vampira don’t eat feet. They just remove them.

Winnie sets her jaw. There’s more to this than what she’s seeing. Even Jay noticed that.

“Okay.” She shoots her gaze to Mario. He’s writing on a clipboard that swings from the table’s edge. “A week’s supply of coffee.”

He pauses his scribbling. “Huh?”

“A week’s supply,” she repeats, and she thrusts out a hand. Then she remembers she hasn’t washed it yet and hastily withdraws. “I accept your wager. Shall we say coffee from Joe Squared?”

“You’re that confident?” Mario squints at the bag of feet. Pop-pop-pop! Neither of them has ever actually gone through with a wager before. “You’re even willing to pay for the expensive stuff? All right.” He shrugs. “It’s your funeral. If that turns out to be a werewolf kill, I’ll buy you a week’s supply of coffee from Joe Squared—or if you prefer, I’ll make it a meal for you and a friend at the Revenant’s Daughter.”

You and a friend. As if Winnie has any of those. “I’ll take the coffee,” she replies.

He doffs an invisible hat. “And I’ll email you when I hear from the Wednesdays.”

“Excellent.” She doffs a hat right back, then hops once more onto the four-wheeler. Spring wind bites against her. The smudge on her glasses distorts the day. Downtown, the bells in the Council building toll eight o’clock, meaning she has an hour until school begins.

School always starts late in Hemlock Falls, to accommodate corpse duty or last night’s hunters.

“Get ready to lose, Mario!” Winnie hollers as she drives away. Mario’s popping bubbles chase after her.

 

 

CHAPTER

6

 


The Revenant’s Daughter is part bar, part diner, all grease. Winnie doesn’t normally stop by the restaurant before school, but her mom made her pinkie-swear the night before. “It’s your birthday. I want to see you on your birthday morning.” So now Winnie is here.

She parks the four-wheeler beside the dumpster out back, in the alley between Falls’ Finest, Joe Squared, and the Wednesday-owned grocery store that price-gouges everything because it’s the only one around, so they can do that.

The smell of hot oil melts over Winnie. Both disgusting and mouthwatering. Nothing at the Revenant’s Daughter is particularly good or gourmet, but it’s battered and fried so deeply, you don’t really notice. Plus, ketchup. The restaurant goes through a lot of ketchup.

Winnie clicks her front teeth in triple time as she marches toward the heavy back door propped open with a rock. Greasy heat billows into the morning. She wishes she had time for some breakfast.

“What’s wrong?” Francesca Wednesday asks the instant Winnie steps into the steamy kitchen. Her mom is in the middle of sliding two plates of hash browns onto a tray that’s already overloaded with eggs and toast and coffee. Archie Friday, meanwhile, cooks more of those hash browns and doesn’t look up from the griddle. He’s a man of few words and mostly grunts.

“You look like something is wrong.” Mom frowns, the lines between her eyebrows slicing deep. The yellow undertones of her skin look almost sickly in the kitchen’s light. “Did corpse duty not go well?”

Winnie gulps. She’s not a very good liar. Even the simplest of white lies is impossible for her to conjure. For example, she has never successfully convinced her brother Darian that she really did like the mustache he had last year. And when it comes to the big stuff … Well, she has only managed to hide her plans for the hunter trials by avoiding her mom.

Fortunately, as she stretches her brain for an answer, she zips up … and zips down the leather jacket. Mom’s dark eyes laser onto it. “Where did you get that?” She strides over to Winnie, her tray balanced on one shoulder, and scrutinizes the leather with a hunter’s trained eye. “Did you steal it?”

Winnie laughs. A feeble sound that only makes her mom look that much more suspicious.

“No, Mom. Emma and Bretta Wednesday gave it to me.”

“Oh.” Mom blinks. “Wow.” Her cheeks flush. She glances toward the back of the kitchen, to where a yellow gift bag waits beside the industrial coffee machines. “Well, you’re, uh … you’re going to be disappointed by my gift, then. But go ahead.” She dips her head toward it. “Open it, and I’ll be right back.”

Mom shoves into the dining room, handling the tray with a lot more grace than she had four years ago, when the Luminaries first cast her out and she had to pick up two jobs to pay the bills. Winnie had never appreciated how comfortably they’d lived with Mom’s hunter salary—until it was gone.

While the swinging door pauses at the height of its opening, the already buzzing drone of voices hyped up on cholesterol and caffeine crashes over Winnie. She catches a glimpse of the nearest booth, which houses Imran and Xavier Saturday (seniors, popular, not related), Marisol Sunday (junior, popular), Casey Tuesday (sophomore, popular), and Erica Thursday.

Erica’s eyes, almost russet against her warm, amber skin, catch on Winnie’s. Then they lurch away as quickly as Winnie’s do. The door swings shut. Archie barks, “Order up!” And Winnie makes a beeline for the coffee machines. Her heart is thundering. Her teeth are clicking.

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