She only went back to Dinah’s the next night because she knew Aster wasn’t supposed to be working, so of course Aster was standing directly in front of her before the door could even close. It was early, yet, and there were only a few people scattered around the tables and the bar, watching a man in a MTA uniform growl his way through “Dancing in the Dark.”
“You’re not supposed…what the fuck are you wearing?”
Aster had once told Peggy the look they were going for was ‘Ziggy Stardust moonlighting as a librarian.’ Lots of slacks and button down shirts and sweater vests and suspenders, but always in bright colors. Topped with their ‘signature’ pale purple hair and a full face of makeup. Now, Aster was standing in front of her wearing head to toe black, including goth-like makeup and their hair hidden under a black beanie.
Peggy crossed her arms. “You very pointedly told me once that wearing all black was only for judges and mimes.”
“And I was wrong,” Aster said. “It’s for judges, mimes, and ass-kicking. Which is what we’re about to do.”
Peggy tried to walk around Aster. “I told you, that’s not something I can do.”
Aster grabbed her arm. “I asked around. I know where she is. Right now. We can find her, and we can stop her before she hurts anyone else.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Peggy said, pulling her arm back. “You’re going to get yourself noticed by dangerous people.”
Peggy started to walk to the bar, knowing she hadn’t actually won.
“You know I almost died last night,” Aster said, following. “That kind of got lost in the shuffle of, you know, finding out your grandmother-”
Peggy turned on her heels and closed in on Aster, trying to get them to stop yelling. They did, but they didn’t stop talking.
“-is a god, and that gods are a thing, and that vampires are a thing. But I realized it when I got home last night. I almost died. If you had come out just a few seconds later, that thing would have killed me and left my body in an alley. And that scares me. But what terrifies me is that she’s still out there. And she’s going to do it to somebody else. And I can’t live with myself if I don’t do something about it. So, I’m going out to find her. You can come, or you can cry about it, but I’m not just going to pretend everything is fine.”
With nothing more than a last glare in her direction, Aster turned around and headed out the front door. Peggy chewed her thumbnail. What were the chances Aster was lying, and wasn’t about to throw themselves face first into a vampire they didn’t know a thing about fighting?
She caught up with them halfway down the block.
“Since when have you been this righteous?”
Aster tried and failed to hide a smirk. “I’ve always been this righteous, you just don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
It was Wednesday night, so the streets were fairly quiet. It was that in-between time, when the shops have closed but the bars hadn’t filled up with all their regulars quite yet. Besides the sound of the trolley chugging down the street next to them and the usual background city noises, the only sound was their footsteps.
“Well?” Peggy asked. “Where is she?”
“Her name is Kristina, with a K,” Aster said with a scoff. “She’s been hanging out in the neighborhood for a few months now, bouncing between bars. But her favorite is the Thorny Crown.”
“That metal bar? I guess that explains the hair and the jeans.”
The Thorny Crown was only a couple blocks over from Dinah’s. It was in its own building, sharing a parking lot with a closed hairdresser’s. The spaces in the lot were almost entirely filled with motorcycles, with just a few junkers to break up the monotony. They stopped across the street, scanning the few people standing outside the door smoking. None of them were Kristina.
“What’s the plan?” Peggy asked.
Aster stopped fiddling with their jacket and looked at her. “I thought you would have the plan.”
“What? Why? Why on earth would I have a plan, I didn’t even want to do this in the first place.”
“Okay, okay, okay, stop,” Aster said, talking over her. “I just figured you would, since you’ve done this before.”
“I haven’t done this before! I can’t even remember the last time I was in a fight.”
“You were in one last night.”
“That wasn’t a real fight. I was just trying to get her to give up and leave, I wasn’t trying to ki-”
Peggy cut off as a young couple walked by them on the sidewalk. Peggy and Aster smiled and waved and wished them a good night as they walked by, giving them increasingly weird and suspicious looks. When they had gotten far enough away, Peggy sighed.
“Do you even have a weapon? Something that will kill…them,” Peggy said, glancing around. If there was one vampire here, there might have been more.
Aster grinned at her, and reached into their jacket. What they pulled out looked like it had once been part of a staircase railing. The top of it, which Aster wiggled under Peggy’s nose, had been filed down to a sharp point.
“Wow,” Peggy said, taking it in her hand. “This is…this is actually really good. Where did you get this?”
“Let’s just say I am currently avoiding my landlord.”
Peggy bounced the stake in her hand, feeling the weight as she thought. “If I go in, she might get pissed to see me again and follow me out. On the other hand, she might run.”
“But if I go in, she should just follow me,” Aster said. She patted her neck where the gauze was hidden under a dark scarf. “Try to take another crack at me, or something.”
“I’ll stick to the corners, make sure she doesn’t see me, and-”
“No way. Like you said, she might run. I go in by myself and draw her out the back. You just be ready.”
“Fuck off, I’m not leaving you alone.”
“Yes, you are. But just for a few minutes. And if I don’t come out in, like, five minutes you come find me. And you had better be out there, because if she kills me I’m going to haunt you. Wait, are ghosts a thing?”
“Groovy. Let’s do this.”