Sara pulled off her motorcycle helmet as she dismounted, and shook her dark brown hair loose. With a critical eye, she took a moment to assess the antique shop from across the street. “Nash & Ellenstein” was boldly proclaimed on the glass in classic gold type. It certainly didn’t look like anything unusual. The word she’d gotten, though, was that strange things had a way of happening around this shop. Gabriel, who’d been doing research on the Witchblade for her, had insisted that this was where she needed to go. He claimed he’d been directed there by an anonymous e-mail sent to his web site, where he had a standing request for additional information on any unique items used as talismans.
Almost unconsciously, she glanced at her right wrist, which was encircled by a deceptively simple silver and garnet bracelet. From past experience, she knew that the stone glowed, grew warm, and throbbed on her wrist whenever there was danger or when the Witchblade, as the bracelet was known, wanted to show her something. Sometimes the warmth and throbbing was accompanied by a babble of voices in the back of her mind or images or both. The bracelet could transform into body armor if it sensed danger to its wielder. It steadfastly remained dormant, though. If she ever had any doubt it had a will of its own, it was at times like this, when she wanted some insight but wasn’t getting so much as a flash of some past memory. A cynical half-chuckle escaped her lips and, after pausing to strap her helmet to her motorcycle, she crossed the street.
A bell jingled softly as she opened the door and stepped into what, at first glance, appeared to be a random and eclectic collection of furniture, accessories, weapons, and assorted other antiques. A second look, however, told her that someone had arranged the various items into mini-groupings that invited the browser to investigate further. Enough room had been left for ample aisle space. The shop had the air of something familiar, and she breathed deeply.
Without warning, she saw a battlefield, its once lush forest now polluted with the stench of gunfire and the dying and the dead. The corpses of two Confederate soldiers barred the path beaten through the woods. She heard the sound of a horse being eased around the barrier, saw a female hand on the reins, the glint of a familiar bracelet on the rider’s wrist, and then the vision ended as abruptly as it had begun.
“Hello, I’m Rachel,” a pleasant voice shook her out of her reverie. “May I help you?”
Startled, Sara turned to see a blonde, slender, fifty-something woman standing beside her, looking faintly concerned. Strength, self-confidence, and maturity radiated from her in a completely non-threatening way. Sara knew instinctively that Rachel was not someone you pushed. She might be someone’s grandmother, but she was a grandmother who looked like she could still run after a wayward child or two.
Sara smiled. “I hope so,” she told her. “I was told someone here might be able to tell me more about this bracelet.” She showed the woman the Witchblade.
“It’s very unusual,” Rachel commented, and Sara noted that her diction spoke of a good education. The two-piece coatdress Rachel wore wasn’t the kind Sara found shopping at the local Wal-Mart; it looked more like something out of one of the upscale malls. Sara wondered just how well the antique business paid. “I’m afraid I don’t recognize it. Mr. Nash, my partner, is much better at jewelry than I am, but he’s out of the store at the moment. Perhaps you’d like to leave your name and number where you can be reached, and I’ll have Mr. Nash contact you?”
“I assume,” Rachel put in with a gentle smile, “that you won’t want to leave it here. Would you mind if I took a picture of it so we won’t be relying on an old woman’s memory?”
“You don’t look like someone who’d forget something like this,” Sara commented mildly, quirking one eyebrow at her. “Besides, I don’t think there’s another one like it in the world.”
Rachel smiled. “So I’ve often heard about many things.” Calmly, she met Sara’s stare. “But, if you’d rather not have Mr. Nash’s assistance, that’s your choice. Might I interest you in something else? Perhaps a silver and carnelian ring we just acquired? It would go quite well with your bracelet, I think.”
Sara shook her head. “Thanks, I’ll pass.” She headed for the door, and felt the Witchblade briefly come to life, urging her back. Reluctantly, she dug out her badge, and pulled out a business card. “Would you give this to Mr. Nash when he comes in? He can reach me on my cell phone.”
Rachel noticed the badge. “This isn’t police business, is it?” she asked carefully as she took the card.
“No,” Sara said flatly. “This one is for me.”
Disclaimer: Top Cow Productions owns the Witchblade characters, Panzer/Davis, the Highlander ones.
Notes: This takes place shortly before Sara undergoes the Periculum and is based more on the TV show than the comic series, though elements from both have been integrated. Also, the atrocity known as Endgame didn’t happen.
Dedicated to Dan Frotscher and Marissa Byrum. Sometimes, the best accidents are when co-workers become close friends. I’m glad that happened with you.
Though I don’t often have my work team read, a host of people helped out along the way during the many months it took me to write this. Alpha read by the 2001 VidCon writers’ workshop panel (with special thanks to Judy Darnell, Rebec, Belea, Deb Hicks, Michele Lellouche, and Kim de la Fuente) and beta read by Rhiannon Shaw, Misha, and Cinel. Thanks, everyone, for your invaluable assistance.