Fifteen minutes later they were in the Chevy Chase neighborhood and had just passed Christ the King Cathedral. Sanchez pulled into the parking lot of the Kroger and drove past it to a building at the back of the parking lot. The sign on the door said “Miss Tre's Botique.”
“Sergeant, why are we going into a beauty salon?”
“Oh, please. Tell me that you aren't so green that you don't know what this place is.”
“Sarge, I worked the Northside. You ask me about Winburn, or North Limestone, or Castlewood and I can tell you anything you need to know. You ask me about the ritzy areas of town and I don't know squat.”
“Fair enough. What was the most profitable whorehouse on the Northside?”
“That's easy. It was the oriental massage parlor on New Circle.”
“Well, this place makes more money in a week than that place does in a year. If it gets busy, they can do it in one day.”
Dixon hesitated for a second. “Sergeant Sanchez, unless we are going in there to arrest someone, I have no interest in going in that building.”
Sanchez looked at him. “Which is it, married or gay?”
He froze. He wasn't either, but if he answered he would probably run afoul of the Department's diversity and sensitivity regulations. Saying you weren't gay could be construed as saying there was something wrong with being gay. It wasn't usually a problem back in the locker room with the guys in your squad, but he didn't know Sergeant Sanchez well enough to take the chance.
She watched him and her face broke into a giant grin. “Get over yourself, Ducky. The women in here cost more than you make in a year – maybe two. And we aren't arresting anybody either. The lady who runs this place has contacts at the highest levels both in Lexington and in Frankfort. Hell, if she really pushed she could probably bring federal heat down on us too.”
With that, Sanchez turned and pushed the glass door open. Inside, there was a small room with four chairs. Two of them had men reclining in them as their hair was being shampooed by young women wearing nothing but tube tops and micro-minis. Sanchez walked right past them and knocked on a door at the back of the room. A slit in the door opened and a lilting, Southern voice came through. “May I ask who is calling?”
“Knock it off Clara. You know damn well who it is. You've been watching us on video since we pulled up.”
The door clicked and opened to reveal a petite woman with bleached blond hair and not a stitch of clothing. Behind her was a room filled with pillows and young, naked women. Whichever one Dixon looked at was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen – until another woman caught his attention and became the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. The woman at the door spoke. “Why Sergeant Sanchez, what a pleasant surprise. And who is this uniformed fellow you've brought with you? Who are you boy?”
As she spoke, the entirety of Dixon's attention snapped into focus on the woman in the doorway. She continued to speak and Dixon felt himself centering on her with a single minded attention he had never had for any woman, or anything else for that matter. Strangely, he couldn't understand her words, but he could still hear Sanchez's.
“Clara, turn that crap off. He's brand new and he's not used to this sort of thing yet.” When the woman continued to speak to Dixon, Sanchez changed tactics. “Okay. You and your girls have your fun with him. Just turn him back over to me in the morning.” She turned to walk away, then stopped and turned back casually. “Oh, and you should probably know he's a survivor.”
The woman stopped talking and took a step back. Dixon found himself two feet from her. He'd been closer before she stepped away and wasn't exactly sure how he'd gotten across the ten feet of floor from where he'd been standing. He retreated in confusion to his original spot.
“That's better.” Sanchez said. “Ducky, I want you to meet Clara. She's our local siren and all these others,” she pointed to the other women in the room, “are her spawn. None of them live longer than ten days, but best I can tell Clara is immortal.”
Sanchez turned to Clara. “I need you to show him.” When Clara shook her head, Sanchez leaned into her. “Clara, we don't enforce against you ever. In exchange, we expect a certain level of cooperation. Now show the boy so that he can't go back and rationalize your singing away as some sort of male hormone thing.”
Suddenly, the woman in the doorway was gone and a giant fish with scale covered breasts and a head with yellow eyes and green hair stood there. It spat out “Satisfied, Maria?” and a scaly arm reached forward and slammed the door. Sanchez grabbed Dixon's arm, spun him around, and led him out of the beauty salon.
In a few seconds they were back in the car. As they drove away Dixon sat stunned, trying to process what he had just seen. A cheerful voice interrupted his thoughts. “Welcome to the wonderful world of the supernatural, Ducky.”
They made four other stops that morning and Dixon was introduced to a group of dwarves who ran a diamond shop, an elf who was head grounds keeper at the Lexington Country Club, a werecat who ran a pest extermination business, and a sorcerer who was a professor of physics at the University of Kentucky. The next stop was Wheeler Pharmacy. They walked back to the soda fountain and sat at the end of the counter away from the other customers. A young woman served them up a couple burgers and heaping stacks of fries.
“So, why are we here, Sarge? You gonna show me that the pharmacist is a vampire?”
“Heh. Not likely. I'm not sure there are any vampires left. Word is, some guy out of Chicago capped 'em all. Can't decide if he's a genius or a friggin' idiot. Hard to believe one guy can cause so much chaos. Anyway, we're here because I like the food and I trust Maggie and Beatrice not to spit in it because I'm a cop.”
“So no one in here's something other than they appear to be?”
Sanchez mumbled around her mouthful of burger. “Didn't say that. Beatrice is a fate. Don't ever let her tell you something about yourself. Once she says something will happen, it will.”
The second woman working behind the counter, a thin lady in her sixties, walked over in front of the officers. “I also have extremely good hearing. Don't let Sanchez fool you, young man. Free will reigns supreme. I can't make you do anything.”
“No she can't.” Sanchez agreed. “However, once she makes a prediction the circumstances around you become such that you do what she predicted or your life becomes a living Hell.”
“That's closer to the truth. Once I predict something the universe conforms to the prediction as though it has already happened. When it doesn't there's an awful mess. I've spent twenty years trying to fix a free will problem caused by Sergeant Sanchez here saving my bacon. I predicted she would kill a young man who jilted me. It was petty and stupid and I regretted it almost instantly. The only thing that saved me from myself was her free will. She didn't shoot, even after he trolled out on her. Although,” Beatrice smiled, “She did use about a gallon of pepper spray on him.”
“And for my exercise of free will, I got exiled to the CIS. Been in the squad for twenty years now and, despite Beatrice's guilt, I wouldn't trade the last twenty years for nothing.”
“Careful dear, you sound like you're just about to say 'And next week I retire and move to Florida.' We all know what happens after that.”
Sanchez laughed. “Hell Bea, you know better than anyone else that I ain't leaving the job until I go out feet first.”
“Yes, I know. I also know that we've wandered too far into the maudlin. So, let's change the subject. Are you ever going to introduce me to your young man, Maria?”
“He ain't 'my young man.' Ducky here's the newest meat in the squad. I got the joyous duty of babysitting him. Introduce yourself to the lady, Ducky.”
Dixon stood and extended his hand. “Corporal Tavish Dixon, ma'am.”
Beatrice took his hand. “Well, at least she hasn't beaten the politeness out of you yet.” Then her grip tightened and a shocked look hit her face. “You're Tavish Danger Dixon? You're the Survivor! But, it's too early. The probabilities haven't gelled yet. You can't be here yet! It can't be now!”
“Oh, crap!” Sanchez jumped up and chopped their hands apart. “C'mon boy, we need to get you out of here now!” She threw some money on the counter and started to pull him away. Before they could get five feet, Beatrice shook herself and looked around.
Sanchez practically screamed at Dixon. “Move! We've gotta get out of earshot right fucking now!”
The fate turned to the young girl working at the other end of the counter and started speaking in a loud voice. “Margaret Emerald Terrel, I predict that you and Tavish Danger Dixon, the Survivor, shall fall in love, marry, and live long lives together of mutual protection and loving companionship.”
Sanchez stopped pulling him. When he looked at her, she had her face down, covered with her left hand. Then she looked up. "What the Hell are you doing, Bea? You're on probation. You know I have to take you in."
“It doesn't matter. He's Danger Dixon, the Survivor. I had to make sure Maggie was taken care of and I don't have a bit of desire to be out in the world while all this gets sorted. He's at least five years ahead of schedule and that can't be good.”
As she spoke, Beatrice took off her apron and walked out from behind the counter. She held out her hands for cuffs, but Sanchez waved her off. They walked her out of the pharmacy and put her in the back seat of the car. Sanchez pushed a button and the plastic separator behind the front seats began to hum. She looked over at Dixon. “Sound suppressor. From now until we hand her over, we won't hear a word she says. Predictions don't work unless the person involved hears them live.”
Instead of driving to the station, they went a block over to Christ the King Cathedral. The car stopped in the middle of the parking lot and Sanchez switched the dial on her radio to the off position and then spoke into the handset. "Got a pickup at the Cathedral. Probation violation."
Before Sanchez put the receiver down there was a knock on the window on Dixon's side of the car. A man who had not been there a second earlier motioned for Sanchez to release the lock on the back door. As soon as she did, he opened the door and Beatrice stepped out. She walked ahead of him as he escorted her through a door in the side of the church. Then a knock came on the driver's side and another man who hadn't been there a second earlier motioned for Sanchez to roll her window down. She complied.
“Sergeant Maria Katia Sanchez, we have Beatrice in custody and she has been judged guilty. Do you wish to say anything on her behalf?”
“Yes.” Sanchez said. “I believe she acted in a manner which she thought best for her friend and ward Maggie. I do not believe she meant evil by her action.”
“Your statement has been noted and weighed. Beatrice has predicted an outcome which has narrowed reality and threatened free will. This is balanced against her shock of a reality changed improperly around her and her desire to protect Maggie Emerald Terrel and possibly Corporal Tavish Danger Dixon. Her sentence is two years. She will return to this reality after that time. She asked that you know her sentence.”
Sanchez thanked him and started to close the window, but the man stuck his hand in the window and it stopped.
“Sergeant Maria Katia Sanchez, have you reconsidered your decision?”
“No. I am quite happy working for the Lexington Police Department. You can take another crack at recruiting me when I die.”
“We will Sergeant Maria Katia Sanchez. Rest assured.”
With that the man moved his hand and the window closed. Dixon could sense a vague feeling of disappointment in the air and then the man was gone. Dixon spun his head around, but the man just wasn't there.
“Where'd he go? Who are these guys? Are they feds? Homeland Security?”
“They're Michaels. Not sure who they are exactly. Think they're probably angels. All I know is that they guard the unguardable. Think maybe they judge them too, but not sure. Hold on a sec.” She pulled her phone out and started tapping on it. “I have to make sure I calendar Bea's release so I can pick her up.”
“Wait, are you telling me that the Cathedral is a prison?”
“Nope. You and I go through that door and we end up in the church hall. Churches are just the easiest place to contact them. They hold the condemned somewhere else. The supernaturals say it's purgatory, but I've got my doubts.”
“And before you ask, yes, they offered me a position. Ten years ago, I almost died. Wasn't even a supernatural who got me. Was some kid who was drunk and hit my car. Anyway a guy showed up at the hospital and offered me a position. I declined.”
With that Sanchez started the car and drove back to the station. Dixon tried to ask her more questions, but her mood had soured and the most he got were a few uninformative grunts.