Grace wakes up shivering. Because she’s in cold water. Because she’s in the bathtub in a motel room she doesn’t remember checking into in a city she doesn’t remember driving to. This is not how she likes waking up. She’s not alone in the bathroom. Sprawled out sitting on the toilet like an old geezer who’s fallen sleep in a recliner watching Wheel of Fortune, was a not old man in skinny jeans and no shirt.
Grace doesn’t like this either, although she vaguely recalls asking him to be there. She isn’t sure which feature of that bare chest she likes least, its scrawniness, the weird scattering of uneven hair patches, or the mish-mash of stupid tattoos; magic symbols, corny quotes, crude cave-painting style animals, and Chiquita banana doing obscene things with Colonel Sanders.
Grace remembers that he said his name is Huddie, which is impossible because Huddie isn’t a name. It’s not even a nickname. What would that be a nickname for? Hudbert? That’s not a name either. Grace splashes to her feet out of the chilly water and grabs a towel with one hand. She starts doing just a terrible job of drying herself off because she grabbed an open beer out of the sink with the other hand and drying yourself off is normally a job for two hands. Plus when you’re wearing a sopping wet Offspring t-shirt from the clearance rack at Wal-Mart you’re not going to make a lot of headway regardless of how many hands you employ.
Huddie blinks himself awake “Oh, you’re up, how do you feel?”
Grace drains the dregs of the beer before answering “What happened?”
Huddie holds a hand up with a half-smirk “Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I just took my shirt off so it wouldn’t get wet.”
Grace looks down at him “I’m not wearing panties chief.”
Huddie raises an eyebrow “I noticed, Bulk Underpants Outlet? What is that?”
“It’s pretty obvious by name I’d say, I don’t give a shit about your shirt buddy, what happened to me? Why am I in here?”
Huddie reaches for a beer and sadly finds only empties left in the sink “Water is very symbolic, rebirth and cleansing and renewal and shit like that, even the Christians use it, you know for baptisms and other thing, it helps with stuff like this.”
Grace steps out of the tub, dripping water everywhere, and twirls the now drenched towel into a rope-like shape just in case she needs something to choke Huddie with “Stuff like what? I don’t remember shit, so how about you give me the whole story at once instead of puking it out in drips and drabs.”
Huddie finally lurches to his feet and starts collecting empty beer bottles “The long and the short of it is that you got some black magic mojo on you and since you’re not a black magic person it was messing you up.” He pauses and looks at Grace seriously “You were very far away Grace. I almost wasn’t able to yank you back. You were almost out of reach. You need to be more careful.”
Grace prods him out of the bathroom and follows behind him, padding wetly over to the poorly made rattan chair. It creaks as she sits, and squishes with her wet clothes. I hate that wet clothing sound squish. More than wet clothes maybe.
“Why didn’t my wards protect me?”
Huddie moves to sit on the bed and then stops and leans against the wall when Grace glares at him and flicks her hand back in a “stay away” gesture.
“Your wards are good. But they’re for spells, curses, and ritual magics, they don’t offer protection against pollution like you experienced.” He cocked his head and frowned slightly “Surely you know that.”
Grace looks at him for a moment and then kicks at the nightstand sourly, making the cheap lamp rattle “Buddy, what I don’t know could fill the Bible in there.”