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The Bronx, New York
Sunday 12 November 2006
A chill November breeze blew John Soeder's hair into his face, Mother Nature's reminder to get a haircut in the absence of his actual mother being around to nag him about it. She was back in Ohio where it was safe, and also ten degrees colder than it was here in the Bronx. If Emily Soeder could see her son's shaggy mop of brown hair, she'd make that clicking noise she always made and offer to call to make the haircutting appointment herself.
John loved attending Fordham University for about a thousand reasons, but its considerable distance from his mother numbered high on that list.
He and his roommate, Kevin Bayer, were heading back to their off-campus apartment after a long day in the print shop in the basement of the McKinley Center. They were the coeditors of Fordham's alternative paper and had spent most of the day putting the latest biweekly issue to bed. The files had been e-mailed to the printer, and they would have the issues by Tuesday morning. That was critical, as they had to get it out before The Ram, Fordham's stodgy official student newspaper, especially because of the exclusive they got from the dean.
They were walking quickly through the campus, heading toward the exit at Belmont Avenue by Faculty Memorial Hall. From there it was only a few blocks to their battered, cluttered, tiny—but blissfully cheap—apartment on Cambreleng Avenue.
Once they hit the exit, John brushed his hair out of his face and said, "C'mon, let's motor. I wanna get home and change for theparty."
"Amy's party, remember?"
Kevin winced. "I got an eight-thirty class tomorrow morning, dude, I can't." Shrugging, John said, "Blow it off."
"No way. Dr. Mendez'll have my ass. Seriously, she takes attendance. I already missed three classes 'cause' a production weekends, I can't miss another one."
They had come to the corner of Belmont Avenue and Fordham Road, and had to wait for the light—the traffic was sufficiently heavy, even this late on a Sunday, so they couldn't cross against the light. Prior to senior year, John had lived in the on-campus dorms, which were part of the lush greenery that characterized Fordham's campus, an oasis of academe in the midst of the largest city in the world. Well, not the midst—the Bronx was the northernmost part of New York City, just above Manhattan and Queens, and the only part of the city attached to the mainland. Before visiting Fordham during his senior year of high school, John had always assumed New York to be Manhattan. He had no idea of the outer boroughs, and was thrilled to find himself in a neighborhood that by itself was a more exciting city than Cleveland ever could be.
The transition still messed with his head a little, though. Fordham's campus was all trees and grass and a mix of old and new buildings—some dating back to the university's founding in the nineteenth century, others late twentieth-century additions—and wouldn't have been out of place in a sleepy town somewhere in New England.
But then you stepped through the wrought-iron gates and were hit with a cacophony of cars and buses zipping down Fordham Road—or crawling if it was rush hour—pedestrians, gas stations, fast-food joints, car repair shops, and people. The neighborhood was a mix of Italians who had come in the early twentieth century, Latinos who came in the 1960s, and Albanians who came in the 1980s. Just down the street in one direction was Sears, Fordham Plaza, and the Metro North train; the other way, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Bronx Zoo, and the Botanical Gardens. The "Little Italy" neighborhood still thrived, filled with delis, wine stores, restaurants, bakeries, pasta shops, and the occasional street fair, and John had gained five pounds that semester just by moving closer to a source of canolis.
Of course, on a late Sunday night, there were almost no people on the street, just the cars.
The light changed, and Kevin and John ran across the street, since it was already blinking with the red hand indicating Don't Walk before they made it halfway.
"Why'd you take a Monday morning class anyhow?" John asked. "You knew you'd be up late most Sundays."
"It was the only medieval lit class I could take. Only other one was opposite the Shakespeare seminar, and that's a two-parter that I gotta take part two of next semester."
They turned to walk up Fordham to Cambreleng. "And you're not taking a medieval lit class next semester, why, exactly?"
" 'Cause Dr. Mendez'll be on sabbatical, and that means Father O'Sullivan."
John, who was a history major and therefore had no clue about the English department, scratched his chin—he needed a shave, something else his mother'd be on his ass about were she here—said, "Yeah, and . . . ?"
Kevin's eyes got wide. "Father O'Sullivan's had tenure since, like, the Dark Ages."
"It wasn't the Dark Ages," John said defensively. "They don't call it that anymore, it's called—"
"Dude, the Roman Empire had indoor plumbing. The Holy Roman Empire peed out their windows. It was the Dark Ages."
John gritted his teeth and was about to respond, but Kevin got back to his original topic: "Father O'Sullivan got tenure in, I swear to God, 1946."
They turned onto Cambreleng. "Dude, my father was born in 1946."
"My point. The man's a freakin' fossil. No way am I taking a class with him."
"Whatever." John didn't really care all that much. "You should still come to the party."
"No way, I need my beauty rest."
John grinned. "Ain't enough sleep in the world to make that happen."
"Bite me entirely, dude."
Another breeze gusted, and John had to push the hair out of his face again. The farther they got from Fordham Road, the quieter it became, as Cambreleng was entirely residential. . . .Supernatural: Nevermore. Copyright © by Keith DeCandido. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.