It’s 20 January, the third Thursday in January. That means it’s time for a story.
Today, newsletter subscribers receive Tommy’s Problem in their inboxes. Tommy first appeared in Midnight Victories and insists on showing up in each book sense then.
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Louis Tomas Phillip Emanuel St. Genevieve, also known as Tommy, stretched his back, twisting to the right and then to the left. The heartbeats of so many young, fit bodies full of blood and life wrapped him in comfort and satisfaction the likes of which he hadn’t felt in over two hundred years. His feet barely touched the street as he bounced off the sidewalk and into the wave of even more bodies weaving up and down Sixth Street on New Year’s Eve. Music roared out of bars, keeping time with the rhythm of youth and hope.
He wove through the masses as they celebrated the coming new year until he reached Fifth Street. He turned right and onto the sidewalk. The crowd thinned. He still meandered in crowds walking toward Sixth Street, but now mixed with the gleeful and hopeful were the beggars and thieves holding out hands, picking up cigarette stubs, and stumbling into the unaware.
Tomas turned into an alley next to the Westin Hotel. Checking that the man behind the dumpster was asleep, he stole a last glance around him and disappeared into the shadows. He leaped from windowsill to windowsill until he reached the roof of the hotel.
The lights of the pool danced along the wall of the cabana and the doors to the elevators. Music from Sixth Street floated up and over the building along with the whispered roar of people waiting with the impatience that only humans can have for another year to check off on their calendars.
With a leap, he jumped to the ledge where Max squatted, watching the city as though it might vanish.
“I like it up here,” Tomas said. “I can take in all the life.”
Max turned his face to meet Tomas. For a moment, the dancing lights of the pool reflected gold and green in the depths of his eyes, dark and clear like time. He raised the side of his mouth in a smirk. “I don’t understand the need to glorify a date. You’re late.”
Tomas laughed. “Can’t goad me tonight, old man. I’m in too good a mood and in my new, lucky shirt.” He sat on the ledge, letting his feet dangle against the wall as he adjusted the cuffs of the red silk sleeves.
Max returned his gaze to the street below. “Cesar told you about the virus spreading in China.” He pointed to the people below him. “They’d do better to shelter now.”
“The youth will always celebrate life,” Tomas said. “It’s their nature. They will celebrate even when death walks among them. Give them tonight.”
The first chords of the countdown drifted over them. They listened.
Tomas sighed. “You didn’t ask me here to talk about the virus. What’s wrong?”
Max stood and looked down at Tomas. “You have a problem,” he said. “Unfinished business.”
Tomas rose, narrowing his eyes and tensing his shoulders. His toes curled, ready to pounce, but Max pointed below them.
“Richard’s in town and looking for you,” said Max.
Tomas turned his gaze to where Max pointed. “Damn him! What does he want?” He didn’t realize he’d said it out loud until Max answered.
Tomas watched as Max’s usual straight, stern face lifted with a smile as fireworks lit the sky, turning his pale face red, and his long, sharp white teeth glistened gold. Tomas returned the grin. “We’re inside the city,” he said. “Could be complicated.”
Max nodded, his own eyebrows raising. “Richard brought friends with him and didn’t ask Cesar’s permission.” He stretched his arms before him and cracked his knuckles. “We have his blessing to deal with all of them.”
Tomas laughed. “We’re going to do this together? People will think you like me.”
Max shook his head and rolled his shoulders. “Clay’s waiting for our call to clean up. Enough talk.” Max stepped off the ledge, dropping the twenty floors to the shadows along the street’s edge.
Still laughing, Tomas followed.
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