Tattoo: The Books of Glory

a webserial about people who are not like us

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Tattoo Book 6, part 2.2

Posted by harmony0stars on July 7, 2010

Stuart shrugged his acceptance, but he didn’t look happy. Glory showed him to the table, setting the bottle by his seat before trotting upstairs to call the others down. An intercom system probably wouldn’t be a bad investment.

Glory hoped Edgar and Stuart would appreciate the fact that everything had been cooked together for maximum meat flavoring. She swept a loaf of cut bread into a basket and put the roast on the cutting board. Ladling the vegetables onto a platter, she sliced the meat thin and laid it over them in artful ripples. Even if she didn’t appreciate food any more, there was no reason not to make it enticing for everyone else.

Robert was just slouching into the room when she came out, the plate of pot roast in one hand and the basket of French bread in the other. “Hey, Hart,” he said to Stuart, dropping into a chair as if he hadn’t been grousing all day about the visit.

“Hey,” the officer replied. He stared at the ghoul sitting only a few seats away with an expression usually reserved for venomous insects. Ann looked embarrassed by the attention paid to her young charge and glared down at Stuart every so often. Edgar, for his part, peered back at Stuart with blatant curiosity, leaning against the table to get around Ann.

“Stuart, this is Ann. She’s going to be Edgar’s nanny. Ann, Stuart is a…”

“Police officer,” he blurted quickly as if afraid she’d betray his secret. He looked up at Glory. “Does she know what he is?”

“Yes,” Ann replied for herself, eyes narrowed. “He’s a child who’s been terribly abused.”

At least Stuart had the good grace to look guilty. He picked up his glass and took a sip of wine while looking away into empty space. The evening was obviously not going the way he’d hoped. Glory handed the platter to Ann who served Edgar and herself before passing it on to Stuart. He meekly served himself, passing the plate to Robert who passed it back to her. For the rest of the meal, Stuart stole glances at the ghoul but opted to insert food into his mouth rather than his foot.

Glory ate little and slowly. She fussed with her food, trying to make both Phoenix and Robert happy while keeping everyone else in the dark about her lack of appetite. Halfway through the meal, the cat bumped up against her leg and meowed loudly. She was more than happy to offer the remainder of her food to him.

Picking up the platter, she said, “Would anyone like more?”

Edgar looked hopeful, but he’d eaten the majority already. “I think we’ll just go back upstairs,” Ann announced with a sideways glance at Hart. “Edgar’s had more than enough.” With a final glance in Stuart‘s direction, she picked up their plates and carried them into the kitchen. Edgar followed her as naturally as a duckling.

“Yeah, I’m stuffed, too,” Robert added. “And I’m still grounded, right?”

Glory blinked at him feeling very much abandoned. “Yes… would you do me a favor though and clean up dinner before you go up? And throw your notebook in my room when you’re done.”

“Sure,” Robert replied with a nonchalant shrug, probably just relieved to make his escape. He piled up the remaining dishes and beat a hasty retreat. It seemed Stuart had an unforeseen affect on the household. No one wanted to be in the same room with him except for maybe Edgar.

“Wow,” Hart said as he followed her into the living room. “I’ve never seen Robert so agreeable. I usually have to threaten to arrest him to get him to do anything. Does he know…?”

“Yes, everyone knows, even the cat,” Glory snapped.

Stuart ducked his head in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. Really. He was very well behaved. I never imagined they could look so human either. I mean, there are stories, but up until last year, I don’t think any shapeshifters had seen a ghoul in generations.”

“What’s your problem with them anyway?” Glory demanded. “They’re hardly predatory. From what I could tell, they’re scavengers.”

If Stuart had looked embarrassed before, he looked downright mortified now. “A lot of old timers say ghouls are to shapeshifters what Neanderthals are to humans. Not that we’re not human,” he hastened to add, “but it’s like having a deformed uncle in the attic… a dirty little secret we don‘t like to even think about.”

“That’s hardly an excuse for how you’ve been acting,” she replied irritably. “He’s just a baby.”

“Give me a break, okay? It’s how I was raised. And they say a lot worse about them. My grandparents used to say if I didn‘t behave the ghouls would come and take me away. Up until I actually saw one, I thought they were just boogiemen used to scare little kids.”

Glory shook her head. There was probably some truth in the threat. She had a sneaking suspicion that the shapeshifters evolved from changeling ghouls who never went back home, but she wasn’t about to suggest as much to Stuart. He’d probably have conniptions over the idea.

“Well, now you’ve seen two, and neither one has done a thing to you. Edgar would probably be very agreeable to playing blocks if you asked.”

“Yeah,” he said apologetically.

“Look Stuart, I don’t want to insult you with this question. I think you’re a very good cop, and I wouldn’t ask you to compromise your ethics. But I need your advice on how to make Edgar legal. I don’t think a fake ID is going to cut it when social services shows up on my doorstep.”

He sighed. “I wouldn’t worry too much about Robert’s case worker. They’re severely backlogged at social services, have been for decades. With all the attention he got after the Graymalkin Park incident… which I‘d like to hear more about some time?” He raised an eyebrow before continuing, “They probably won‘t look at him cross-eyed unless he gets into trouble again. Considering you‘ve managed to turn the kid into some kind of pod person, I don‘t think they‘ll visit again until he ages out of the system.” He shrugged. “I know it’s not really a fix, but it gives you some breathing room. I wish I could help otherwise, but I’ve never had any cases dealing with false identity, and even if I had, I doubt they’d be inclined to be helpful after I busted them.”

to Book 6, part 2, page 3

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