My sailboat lay moored out in the sheltered water by the Club, untouched—or at least unscarred—by the events of the last few days. Stanley motored me over to it from the shore. The late afternoon sun was lazily rolling down the sky to its resting place.
"What happened to the sword thingie?" Stanley asked me casually, looking up and down my body at my burns and bruises.
I shrugged. "What sword?" I said.
"Suit yerself," he said. "No ailment you got that a steady job wouldn't cure."
"What are you, my mother?" I asked.
I tossed my bag up over into the cockpit and leapt out of the skiff to clamber up the ladder, realizing that I wouldn't find Jeeves waiting for me on board. I missed the little dude already. But he wasn't in any real danger in the water, other than his clothes getting ruined by the salt water. I'd see him again, eventually. I heard the skiff puttering away behind me.
And then I came to a screeching halt.
There were two people sitting in the cockpit, waiting for me.
One of those people was Ava.
The other was Calvin. He was wearing dark glasses, a tan swim suit, and flip-flops. Like nothing had changed. Well, except they were my clothes. He must have nicked them from my cabin.
When I looked at him, I felt a sudden irrational urge to deck him. Which made no sense to me at all, because I was supposed to be overjoyed that he was alive. The wrongness of my own feelings made me do a double-take.
And then I saw the brown grocery bag lying at his feet, matching Ava's.
"Oh, Calvin," I moaned, suddenly sitting down on the opposite side of the cockpit. "Oh, dude. I'm so sorry about everything."
"No sweat, man. I wanted you to know that. Well, really Ava wanted you to know that, but I'm cool, really."
I couldn't help but stare at Calvin's bag.
"Why, Calvin? Why—this?"
He shrugged. "It's hard to explain. The Rapture was boring, man, so I came back." He leaned back against the cockpit seat, his hands folded behind his head. And broke out into a soft smile.
Ava shook her head. "You shouldn't joke about such things," she said. "The fact is, it's a mystery why we come back. None of us know. Wait, George, I have something for you." She opened up an equipment box near her feet and pulled out a sword. My father's sword. The blade was clean. Maybe the ocean water had dissolved Omwor-ust's blood.
"I saw it on the bottom beneath the boat," she explained.
"Thank you," I said taking it gently. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
"I found your homunculus, too. He's down below, drying off."
"I got the demon who drowned you," I offered to Calvin.
"Yeah, I know," he said. "I think—I don't remember much about it, but I think I saw it on my way back. It was really, really pissed."
A wry grin crept across my face.
"So, are you guys going to hang out around here, now?" I asked Ava.
But she shook her head.
"The ocean's too warm here for us," Calvin said. "Not a natural habitat. Plus the water tastes like total sewage."
"We're still going to try to get back to Scotland," Ava said.
"Yeah? You ever make a plan on how to get there?"
Calvin shrugged. "Gotta get money. Get her a fake passport or something. All that stuff. May take some work."
"There's something else, George," Ava said. "Once we're gone, you can't see us for another seven years. I don't know why that is, but it's just one of the rules."
I smiled again. "I've never been big on taking the rules seriously."
She held her hand out to me, and I took it. There was no rush of testosterone. Just a warm hand, holding mine. I'd miss her.
Okay, maybe a little testosterone. It goes with the territory.
"Good luck," she said.
"Hang on," I muttered. "I think I have an idea. I might be able to arrange a ride for you guys."
I sat back and drummed my fingers in thought.
A cell phone jammed to my ear, I ambled around the parking lot of the sailing club, pacing in long circles. Dresden's wadded up business card was in my hand.
I was expecting an answering machine to pick up, but a man's voice carried over the line. "Hello?" he said. It was Dresden. Just an hour before, he was still with me on the carcass of the yacht, offering Marcone some final tips on the care and feeding of a subjugated wizard. Now he was home, in Chicago. Holy Scones, I thought, this dude knows how to travel around.
"Dresden?" I said. "This is George, the guy you met on the boat today."
"Yeah? I wasn't expecting your call for a couple of years."
"It's not that call," I said. "I wanted to ask you for a small favor."
"George," he said, a little coldly, "you have no clue what happened to me the last time I did someone a small favor. Is there any way you could have phrased that differently?"
"No, it really is," I said.
"Look, all it is, is there's a couple of selkies trapped here in Miami, and I was hoping that you could escort them back to Edinburgh. After that, they can do the rest."
"Selkies?" Dresden asked. "What's selkies doing in Miami?"
So I told him about Ava and how it all started. He laughed so hard he hexed his own phone.
"I'll put that down as a yes," I told myself.