Another Selection from Blood Rain

Image Credit Used under a CC licence
Image Credit Used under a CC licence

Here’s a peek at part of chapter seven in Blood Rain.

The set up? The protagonist Suzanne has taken a night off from solving supernatural crimes to attend a high school basketball game with her friends Star and Sarah. Star’s son Josh is playing in the game.

Josh spotted us and waved his arm.  We stood next to them in line.

“Ok, I gotta go in and get changed, get the last-minute pep talk from the coach”

“Good luck, Josh,” I said.

“Yep, break a leg, kiddo,” said Star.

“Ice cream after, but only if you win,” Sarah’s eyes twinkled when she said it.

“Really?”

“No, you get ice cream either way. But remember, losing sucks, winning is better,” she said, grinning.

Josh smiled at his mom, and trotted quickly to the front doors, squeezing past the ticket-takers. After a minute or two, the line to get in started to move quickly toward the door. The pre-game show was loud enough that we could hear some of it; that seemed to energize the people taking tickets as well as the people waiting.

You might be good at football
You might be good at track
But when it comes to basketball
You might as well step back
Might as well step back
Say what?
You might as well step back
Can’t hear you
Might as well step back
Go——————- Pinecones!

 I snickered. “For real, their team is called the Pinecones?”

Sarah shrugged. “Well, you know; Evergreen school—pine cones—it makes sense, right?”

I nodded. “Sure, but it doesn’t really strike fear into the other team, though, does it?”

Star put her arm around Sarah. “I’m just glad it’s not a stupid racist name, like some sports teams have. That’s bad karma.”

We’d reached the front of the line, and Sarah handed over our tickets to the teenager minding the entrance. The girl didn’t say anything, she just popped her gum at us.

We walked down the crowed hallway toward the gym, the sound of the cheerleaders’ chants and clapping getting louder:

Hey — Hey
Hey – Hey–  Are you ready?
Are you ready?
To play
Say go team
Go team
Pinecones all the way!

We entered the gym, one side decorated with dark green bunting and posters that announced “Pinecones all the way!” The cheer quad consisted of 5 girls moving in almost syncopated rhythm. They were loud, but their movements were not coordinated. They wore Evergreen Pinecones jerseys over black bike shorts. The dark green of the jerseys had faded to grey.

The competitor’s side of the gym was somewhat more high tech—they had brought a digital projector and laptop with them, and were projecting images of great moments from their previous games on one wall. Their cheer squad was co-ed, and had more than twice the number of youth. Their yellow and black spandex uniforms glittered as the cheer team moved. Their squad was just completing a human pyramid as we walked in.

“Jeeze,” I whispered to Star, “look at these kids from the other school. They make the Pinecones cheerleaders look like extras from a Nirvana video.”

“Yeah, the Panthers come from Capitol Hill Collegiate. Rich kids’ school.”

The tiny girl at the top of the pyramid jumped from her perch, flipped over once in mid-air, and was caught by two muscular boys. They placed her small feet gently down on the gym floor. She started to dance, and bellowed:

You shoot ‘em
You pass ‘em
You dribble down the floor
Panthers, Panthers
Score! Score! Score!

The rest of the cheer squad dismounted, and formed a line behind their leader. Their movements were synchronized perfectly.

The overhead lights in the gym switched off.  Pools of multi-coloured light from disco balls started to sweep the floor and walls of the gym. Loudspeakers thumped with Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. The cheer squad clapped along to the music, encouraging the crowd to join in. The players for the Panthers ran out onto the court and stood with military attention on their side of the court.

The referee blew his whistle, and tossed the ball in air. The two teams battled on the basketball court. The Panthers were spectacular—fast, fluid, with lightning reflexes.  The Pinecones were clearly demoralized from the very first time a Panther sunk a ball through the Pinecones’ hoop. You could see it in the slump of their shoulders. Ten minutes in, and the game still had not improved.

Star leaned over and said, “The Pinecones are getting spanked”.

I nodded in agreement.

Sarah said, “Looks like Josh’s gonna need two scoops tonight as a consolation prize”.

From the stands, we could see that Josh looked frustrated as he played. He ran as fast as he could, nimble and quick, but it just wasn’t enough to keep up with even the slowest member of the Panthers.  Josh’s teammates looked frustrated, too. The Pinecones’ coach was red in the face, and gesturing to someone on the sidelines.

I overheard the people sitting in the bleachers in front of us say, “ . . . heard a rumour the Panthers coach was giving the team vampire blood to enhance performance”.

I nudged Star and jerked my chin at the couple in front of us so she would join me in eavesdropping.

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