Originally broadcasted 10/30/07
Gas Station – Dusk
“Cause of death,” the announcer was saying on the radio, “was listed as acute hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver. Senator McCarthy, who was officially censured by the United States Senate three years ago, was forty-eight years of age. He is survived by…”
A young man’s hand twisted the radio dial, and the announcer’s voice gave way to static. After a few moments of dial-twisting, another sound came from the old speaker. A song.
“Please don’t ask me what’s on my mind/I’m a little mixed up, but I’m feelin’ fine,” crooned Elvis Presley. “When I’m near that girl that I love best/My heart beats so it scares me to death!”
With a smile that looked something like a sneer, the young man leaned back. He had stretched out on the floor of the gas station, arms in back of his head. Lips followed the words of the song, but awkwardly.
“She touched my hand what a chill I got/Her lips are like a volcano that’s hot/I’m proud to say she’s my buttercup/I’m in love! I’m all shook up!”
Taking a long drag on a cigarette, the young man looked about as content as he could be. But he frowned as he heard a car pull up outside. He hesitated, then went back to listening.
“My tongue gets tied when I try to speak/My insides shake like a leaf on a tree/There’s only one cure for this body of mine/That’s to have the girl that I love so fine!”
A shadow fell across the young man. He looked up, annoyed. Before and above him stood a tall man in a long coat and broad-brimmed hat, the setting sun behind him. It made the stranger look like a shadow, rather than a man. Certainly his face was completely hidden. “I need fuel,” said a voice from the shadow. It had an accent, one vaguely European. “Now.”
“Okay, okay, just hold your horses,” grumbled the young man. The stranger said nothing, but watched as the young man managed to get up and out of the gas station. Without a word, the stranger moved out of his way, watching him as he headed to the car. Quickly, but with an air of doing a grudging favor, he grabbed the nozzle and began feeding gas into the stranger’s car. It was the car that captured his attention. Beneath the dust, its paint was untarnished and bright. The shape was sleek, even stylish, with its road-hugging width emphasized by the raised fins in back. Naked envy shone on the young man’s face.
He barely seemed to notice as the stranger got into the car. But then he did. Putting the gas nozzle away, he headed over to the driver’s side and was about to quote a price when the stranger startled him. A five dollar bill was thrust into his hand.
“Keep the change.”
“Uh…” He didn’t know how to take this. “Thanks.”
Without looking at him, and with his face still hidden, the stranger asked, “What is your name?”
“Charlie,” was the answer, suspicious.
“What’s wrong with your legs, Charlie?”
At that, Charlie scowled. His lips turned into an open sneer, and his eyes flashed. “Born that way.” He said it like a challenge.
“I don’t reckon that’s none of your business.”
“Birth year then.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Charlie said, “1938.”
“The end of the Depression,” said the voice of the shadowed stranger. “Widespread malnutrition then. Not your fault.”
“Nope.” The word was almost spit out.
When the stranger reached into his pocket, Charlie tensed. But all he took out was what looked like a rock on a chain. A black rock. A strangely shiny, but even more strangely dark, rock, like a big diamond but made maybe of shadow instead of anything solid. Charlie blinked looking at it.
“None of it is your fault,” said the stranger.
Charlie, staring at the rock, nodded. But the nod became a twitch. He started to blink, hard.
“It is them, isn’t it? Holding you back? Getting in your way?”
“Yessir.” Charlie’s voice was lower than usual. His hand reached up and touched his head.
“But, you’ll show them, won’t you? Won’t you?”
“I’ll show’em,” was the muttered reply. “My head hurts.”
“What’s your last name, Charlie?”
“Starkweather – you got some aspirin?”
“No. I don’t carry painkillers, Charlie. But I’ll look for your name, Charlie Starkweather. For years now I’ve been meeting people like you all over the country, and I have all their names. Maybe you’ll be one of the ones I hear about again. Maybe.”
The stranger put the stone away. Charlie shuddered, as if he’d been let go. Both hands on his head, he stood there and whimpered a little as the Cadillac with the fins in back drove away.
From inside the gas station, a new song was playing on the radio.
“Put a spell on you,” crooned Screaming Jay Hawkins in an eerie tone, “Because you’re mine – You’re mine!”
Quietly, Charlie Starkweather began to cry.
Fade to Black
Charter Bus – Morning
Cleveland, Present Day
Placing her hands against the tinted glass of the scarlet and black vehicle, a small dark haired girl, no older than twelve, looked on in wonder at the peaceful shores of Lake Erie. Beside her, a blond-haired boy of similar age sat on the edge of his seat in rapt attention as a girl two rows in front of him concentrated on a pink eraser, which was hovering a foot and half above her seat.
Further up the aisle, other boys and girls chatted animatedly to each other, creating an atmosphere of nervous energy throughout the bus.
“My older sister is a slayer, too,” said a red-headed girl. “She told me that Faith Lehane leaves her in charge sometimes. She’s really important.”
The boy in the row in front of her looked eager as he whispered conspiratorially, “I heard we have to kill a vampire on our first day, or they won’t let us join.” The girl next to him gasped as he continued, “That’s not fair to us watchers. Maybe we just have to tell a slayer to do it.” He looked over at his seatmate. “You’re not a slayer, are you?”
The girl nodded slowly.
“Oh.” The boy looked embarrassed. “Well, just tell them you’re sick or something.” He looked ahead to the front of the bus. “How much longer ’til we get there?”
Watchers Council – Parking Garage – Same Time
With an audible huff, Lorinda slumped against the gray concrete wall of the parking complex. She crossed her arms over her chest and grumbled something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like the word “unfair.”
She stood there for less than a minute before a heavy door to her right opened and Shannon stepped through, looking rather nervous.
The door closed before Shannon noticed Lorinda watching her. Looking like a deer caught in the headlights, Shannon choked out a feeble, “Hey.” She then blurted, “What are you doing?”
“Making a sandwich,” Lorinda challenged with a raised eyebrow. When Shannon frowned, she amended her statement. “Or I’m waiting for the newbies.” She sighed, “Faith asked me to make sure their stuff gets to the dorms.”
“That sucks,” Shannon commiserated, as she leaned against the wall next to Lorinda. “Too bad we don’t have any house elves.”
Shannon sighed. “Sorry. Bad joke.”
An uneasy silence ensued – Lorinda looking ahead at the garage entrance and Shannon staring at her feet.
“So,” Lorinda said, breaking the tension. “What are you doing down here?” Her tone was casual, but the look in her eyes indicated she was indeed curious.
Shannon’s cheeks flushed. “Umm, I’m just meeting someone.”
Before Shannon could answer, the door leading to the garage opened, and Robin stepped out. Both girls stood up away from the wall. He spotted the slayers immediately and issued a friendly smile. “Shannon. Lorinda. No classes?”
The parking garage grew eerily silent as no one spoke for over a minute. As Robin checked his watch, Lorinda mouthed the word “awkward” to Shannon, who nodded while eyeing Robin uncomfortably.
All three sets of eyes shot to the garage entrance as the rev of an engine echoed through the mostly empty space. The Council charter bus pulled through the sunlit opening and eased to a stop in the loading area. The driver killed the engine, and Robin stepped forward, giving him a short wave.
Shannon and Lorinda watched as the bus door opened and Robin stepped on. Lorinda chuckled, “You remember that speech?”
Shannon smiled and quoted sarcastically, “‘Good morning, I’m Mr. Wood’.” They both laughed. “I remember asking Faith why all the boys giggled.”
“What did she say?”
“Nothing,” Shannon shrugged, a big grin on her face. “But she did laugh. For like five minutes.”
Robin stepped off the bus, followed by a line of nervous children. He marched them through the Council entrance, passing Lorinda and Shannon along the way. Several of the new students stared at them in wonder as they passed by.
“Tell me we never looked that young,” Shannon asked, as she watched a tiny brown-haired girl disappear through the doorway.
“Maybe you did,” Lorinda replied as the last of the children exited the garage.
Shannon rolled her eyes and leaned back against the wall.
Lorinda sighed, “Sorry. I’m trying to stop doing that.” Seeing Shannon’s inquisitive look, she elaborated, “Being such a bitch all the time. It doesn’t really help with the whole keeping friends thing.” She dropped back against the wall.
“That’s good to know,” Shannon said. Just then, the rev of another engine drew their attention, though this time from a motorcycle, not a bus.
Shannon smiled as Faith parked her bike in a narrow spot near the door and turned off the engine. Her passenger, who stood a few inches taller than Faith, removed his helmet to reveal a mess of shaggy dark hair.
“I told you we wouldn’t beat the bus,” he said in a teasing tone as he adjusted the duffle on his back.
“Yeah, whatever,” Faith replied as she removed her own helmet. With her free hand, she ruffled his hair. “I still can’t believe this. Robin’s going to be so jealous.”
“Hey Norman,” Shannon called, nervously stepping towards them. “I, uh, how was your trip?”
Norman’s cheeks flushed, “Uh, it uh, it was good.”
“Cool,” she replied.
Faith laughed as she looked between them. “Real smooth, guys.”
Norman shot her a disbelieving look, which only made her grin more.
“Okay, I’ll stop,” Faith said, taking his helmet. “Come find me later.” Her gaze turned to Shannon. “I don’t want to hear that you’re corrupting my only son.” Shannon looked horrified. Having embarrassed them both, Faith smiled and left the garage, muttering “Too easy” under her breath.
“Well I’m off to tote some luggage,” Lorinda called unenthusiastically, pushing off the wall.
“Need any help?” Norman asked, unable to meet Shannon’s eye without blushing.
Lorinda smiled genuinely.
“She’s fine,” Shannon replied before the other slayer could speak. “I’ve got to talk to Ethan real quick on the practice field, and then we can go do something.”
“Uh, sure,” Norman answered. He gave Lorinda an apologetic shrug as Shannon pulled him toward the door. “Bye, Lorinda.”
“See ya,” Lorinda replied, but he was already gone. She moved toward the bus with a sigh.
Fade to Black
End of Teaser