General Vignette #2 (2019)

Once, Nica thought, the neighborhood had been a nice area.  A beacon.  A place where women didn’t worry about walking alone day or night.

Those days were long since passed.

Not that she worried.

The last time Psezpolnica, now Nica Radcliffe, had been afraid to walk anywhere alone, this city had not yet been born.  In fact, she added, the country hadn’t been more than a mark on an obscure map drawn by the Northmen.

The faint scrape of a boot sole on concrete brought a smile to her lips as she turned down an alley.

Feeding time.

Nica turned around to the shing of steel leaving a scabbard.

Or not.

A lesser person, or even a lesser shtriga, might have been frozen.  The alley mouth was blocked by a middle aged man illuminated by one of the few working street lights.  He had a good six inches, and sixty pounds, on her, clad in jeans and combat boots.

And in his hands . . .

“What the hell is it with you people and Japanese swords?” Nica said.  “The Nepali kukri and French falchion are perfectly able to separate heads from shoulders.  Even a hardware store machete will do a serviceable job.  So, why the fetish for the katana?”

While she spoke, Nica stretched out with her other senses.  All it took was a few moments to confirm that he was alone.  And that confirmation was all she needed.

It was over in seconds.

Nica continued down the street, licking the last drops of her meal from her lips.  Not a bad night, she thought.  Both a meal and one less hunter of her kind in the world, the only time she ever killed her prey.

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