Seth was late. The sky was already the burnt sienna of an LA dawn, and he had to be to work in fifteen minutes.
At the corner of 15th and Webberly, Val carefully eased her car into a parking spot. Parallel parking had come rather late in her life, and she had no intention of a fender bender if she could help it.
As his watched ticked off three minutes after six, Seth was out the door and downing a Styrofoam cup full of hot water and yesterday’s coffee grounds. He took a sip as he ducked through the early morning traffic waiting at the light and scowled. Well, at least it was hot, and that was the important thing.
The morning meter maid was making her way down the sidewalk, scratching out tickets for the overnight parkers. Val fumbled in her pocket for change and came up with a handful—bright copper pennies, the hint of gold from a dollar coin, and a mess of silver. Checking her watch as the meter maid closed in for the kill, Val deposited one silver quarter, enough for ten minutes.
At the corner of 10th Avenue, a four-man fleet of bicycle messengers in diamond formation made a go at running Seth over, but he evaded the four cyclers of the apocalypse by dumping the coffee and diving down an alley, following a shortcut he knew to 15th Street.
Standing outside her car, Val adjusted the somber black suit and cap she was wearing. It was one thing to understand intellectually that times were changing, but she dearly missed her old uniform. Still, the thin black gloves looked very nice. She tossed a knowing wink to the meter maid as the officer passed.
Seth’s path took him through back alleys and loading docks, through the ancient edifice of the Tribune building and the connecting tunnel below Wimberley. The scream to his right was cut off as suddenly as it had started, muffled by an attacker’s hand.
Val’s gaze lingered on the alley as a man in a cheap suit emerged from a back door, just as the would-be rapist’s hand cut off the meter maid’s scream. With approval, she noted the man in the cheap suit attacked the rapist without hesitation. There was a flurry of activity as the two crashed together and struggled with the knife, then a bright spurt of blood and a crack.
The long knife stuck in Seth’s chest was cold and alien, stealing his breath away. He managed a gurgling hiss of pink foam as the meter maid ran away. The rapist’s eyes had already gone glassy, his neck twisted at a horrible angle. As Seth’s own eyes failed, he thought he saw a great black hearse, and a woman…
“Warrior,” said the valkyrie “you are chosen. Come now to the fields of the Einherjar, were you may feast and glory forever in battle.” The ritual words weren’t strictly necessary, but it made Val feel better to say them as she loaded the corpse into the hearse. Just like old times.