Thursday, August 31, 2017

(1) When all else is lost the future still remains



“Hey kid, how much is it worth to you to get some food that doesn’t come out of a dumpster?”

Race paused, looking over warily at the man who was talking. “Depends. Who do I have to kill?”

The man chuckled. “No one. I just need you to deliver a message for me.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Fifty.”

“Shit, for that much I’ll deliver ten notes.”

“One’s plenty.” The man pushed off the alley wall, still keeping in the shadows as he beckoned for Race to join him.

Hesitantly Race did, staying well out of the man’s reach.

The man smiled in understanding. Taking out his wallet he pulled out a five bills, folding then in half. Then he took an envelope from his pocket. “The address is on the front,” he said, tossing it and the money on the ground in front of Race.

“How do you know I won’t just take the money and run?”

“I don’t. But if you do, your life won’t be worth jack shit.”

Race considered that for a moment before nodding. “It ain’t much of a life but I’d rather keep it.”

“Figured as much. And if anyone asks you never saw me.” The man moved away to the end of the alley. He watched as Race scooped up the money, putting it in his back pocket, and then looked at the address on the envelope. “It needs to be there within the hour,” the man called back before turning, striding the last few feet onto the sidewalk and disappearing from Race’s view.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 64



“Tell you what,” Norris said, “I’ll teach you better English and you teach me your language.”

The Chupacabra hopped up and down excitedly. ::Yes::

Turing to Daniel and Jared, Norris grinned. “I think we have a kid one here.”

Watching the Chupacabra Jared wondered if that was so. “How old are you?” he asked.

::Am…:: It paused. ::Have thirty years. Am…young::

“So they have that in common with weres. They age slower than humans,” Daniel commented.

“Oh great, so I’m going to be a babysitter,” Norris muttered.

“I think you’ll survive. It’ll give you practice for when you finally find a mate and settle down.”

“I just thought of something,” Jared said. “You’re also going to have to teach him the difference between wild prey and farm animals. He may not want to attack humans but they’ll come looking for him if he kills their livestock or a dog.”

“Very good point.” Norris turned to the Chupacabra. “Where do you sleep? Oh, and what should I call you?”

::I sleep safe. In trees. Call me Ayar-Cachi::

“How bout I just call you Ayar?” Norris thought for a moment before saying, “If you want to you can stay here. It’s not big but it has two rooms. I think the sofa would easily accommodate you.”

Ayar tilted his head. ::Sofa?::

“Come on, I’ll show you.” Norris started towards the cabin, turning back to beckon to Ayar when he didn’t follow. “Afraid?” he asked, partly taunting, partly afraid that the Chupacabra actually might be.

::No fear:: Ayar snapped, hopping after Norris.

Once the pair disappeared into the cabin Jared said, “I think our job here is done Cat Boy. Do you want to hang around for a day or two just to spend time with your brother?”

Daniel considered that and shook his head. “I think he needs to concentrate on Ayar for the time being. Besides, we have to get back and let the Council know what’s going on. Now that I know where he is I can come back any time to visit.”

“Alright. Then let’s say our good-byes and go home.

The End

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 63



“You didn’t try to fight the humans?” Jared asked.

::Had…weapons. We only have mouth, claws. Not stupid us::

Jared had the feeling that if the Chupacabra could have grinned when it said ‘not stupid’ it would have. He looked long and hard at the creature before turning to Norris and Daniel. “My inclination is to let him take refuge here if he swears he won’t attack any of the humans in the area. But that’s really up to you Norris, because we’d put you in charge of monitoring him.”

Norris chuckled. “Gee thanks. But it could work. There’s enough wildlife in the area to support both him and me, and the whole forest is legally off limits to hunters, which is one of the reasons I settled here.”

The Chupacabra obviously had been listening to the conversation because it said ::Promise not to hurt humans if they do not try to hurt me::

“You’d also have to promise not to let them see you,” Jared told him.

It nodded its head. ::Promise. Do not want to be studied like brother::

“Can’t blame you for that,” Daniel said. “I try to avoid that too, even from doctors.”

::Doctors?:: The Chupacabra looked at him quizzically.

“Humans who take care of you if you’re sick or hurt.”

::Ahh. Understand::

“So,” Jared said, getting things back on topic, “assuming the Council agrees and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, you’re welcome to stay here. You will have to check in with Norris,” Jared pointed to him, “on a regular basis, at least for a while.”

The Chupacabra nodded. ::So he knows me behave::

“Yes.”

The Chupacabra turned to Norris. ::We hunt as pair?::

“I suppose we could, sure.”

::And you teach me?:: The Chupacabra seemed to think about what he’d said. ::Not hunting. About this world here::

“I’d be glad to. If you’re going to be living here it would be a good idea for you to know what you’re getting into.”

::And to learn to speak as you do::

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (7)



Vic considered Evan's offer. He felt like hell. Every time he moved, he hurt, although the pills helped somewhat. Safety was also a factor. He had security on both his office and his apartment, but probably not nearly as sophisticated as what Evan had on the house.
Obviously not as good, since those punks grabbed me at my office. Well, as I came out of it, but same difference.
As if he'd read Vic's thoughts, Evan asked, "How did those guys catch you?"
Vic grinned ruefully. "I walked out my office door right into their arms."
"That was stupid."
"No kidding."
"You said, last night, they found you because you made a mistake."
"If I'm right, and I'm pretty certain I am, I said something I shouldn't have to the woman who hired me. We were at a fundraiser, I took her aside to ask if there had been any more messages from the blackmailer and, as best I can figure after the fact, someone must have overheard us talking."
"The blackmailer?" 
"Or somebody working for him—or her."
"Have you narrowed down the field of suspects?"
Vic nodded. "There are four I figure are frontrunners. They all have something to gain if the victim pulls out…" He snapped his mouth shut before he said more than he should. Unfortunately Evan wasn't stupid.
"Pulls out of what? A business deal, a political race?" Evan looked thoughtfully at Vic. "A fundraiser. Pulls out. To me that says he's a politician. Right?"
"You sure you're not a detective as well as a security expert?" Vic replied, not acknowledging whether Evan was correct or not. 
"Nope, but I'm also not dumb. I can put two and two together and come up with four—most of the time." Evan tapped his fingers together. "There are three important primary races for the election that's coming up in two months, the ones for the state legislator from the fourth district, for the secretary of state, and for governor. If I had to choose"—he shot a look at Vic—"I place my bets on the governor's race."

* * * *

"If he's right," Paddy murmured, "someone we know could be very interested in this."
"Who?" Dom asked, his head cocked in question.
"Hal. Do you know how he died?"
Dom nodded. "He was shot. Oh! He took a bullet intended for a politician. A state legislator… here?"
"Yep. Now the man's running for governor."
"And, if he's the one being blackmailed… yeah, Hal would be very interested. But I don't think we should let him know," Dom said. "Samuel would have, if he wanted him to, which obviously he didn't since he gave this assignment to you and me, not him."
"True enough. Okay, let's see how Vic answers Evan's question."

Friday, August 25, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 62



Jared shot Daniel an ‘I told you so’ look that had his partner scowling in response. “If it’s the Chupacabra and he watching us he’s going to think I’m the weak one.”

::Not weak:: A voice echoed in all their heads, followed by a low hissed out chuckle. There was a flurry of movement high above them before something glided down to land a few yards from where they stood. It snapped its beak-like jaws together as it began hopping back and forth in movements resembling those of a kangaroo.

The trio eyed the Chupacabra warily but made no movement to try to capture it just yet. Jared spoke first. “Why don’t you think I’m weak? I’m only a human, not a shifter like they are.”

There was an amused hiss from the Chupacabra. ::Not human. Like me. Blood drinker::

Jared bowed his head in acknowledgement. “I could ask if you are friendly but you’d say yes even if you weren’t. So I guess the question becomes why are you here?”

::Here because it is safe::

“For him maybe, but not the wildlife or potentially the humans,” Daniel pointed out.

Nodding in response to Daniel’s comment Jared then asked the Chupacabra, “Are you on the run, or in hiding?”

The Chupacabra tilted its head as if trying to decide exactly what Jared was asking. Then it clicked its jaw together. ::Hiding from seeker::

“Some one is looking for you other than us?” Jared decided he’d better get their reason for being here out in the open immediately.

Giving a sharp nod of its head the Chupacabra replied ::One who wishes to study me:: It paused then tapped its chest ::Inside. Like my brother::

“Oh shit.” Daniel looked pityingly at the creature. “Do you know if this person followed you here?”

::Yes. Know he has not. Me escaped. Ran. Snuck onto boat. Hid. Got off many days later. Walked. Flew. Hid. Came here::

“From South America I suspect,” Norris said.

The Chupacabra nodded and then spewed out a stream of words in a language none of them understood. It saw their bewilderment and said ::Was telling about home. Trees like here. Good hunting. Safe until humans found us. Took brother:: It snapped its beak angrily.

“How many of you are there?” Jared asked.

Holding up both hands the Chupacabra bent down two claws. ::This many::

“Four of you. Where is the rest of your family? Still there?”

::Brother dead now. Others not family:: It shrugged ::Ran too::

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 61



An hour later the trio was about ready to call it a night. They’d separated and searched the whole area, even crossing the stream to approach the boundaries of the farm, and found no tracks or any other sign of the Chupacabra.

When they regrouped in the glade, Daniel returned to his human form. “I think it’s a lost cause for tonight. Either he’s moved on or he’s gone to ground, maybe because we’re here.”

“Which ever it is we have to find him,” Jared stated. “But you’re right, I think we’d better hang it up and head back to the cabin.”

In a flash they landed at the edge of the clearing surrounding Norris’ home. Norris quickly shifted from jaguar to human, holding up his hand to stop the partners from moving towards the cabin door. “Someone or some thing was here while we were gone,” he said very quietly.

“Some thing,” Daniel replied just a softly after sniffing the air.

Jared nodded in agreement as he visually and mentally searched the area. “It’s still close by,” he told them.

The brothers immediately reverted back to their jaguar forms so that their animal senses came to the forefront. Their ears laid back, noses lifted to catch any scent, they stalked around the cabin. Jared followed a few paces behind, every nerve tense. He could feel the presence of something, he just couldn’t pin-point exactly what it was. Using his mental connection he asked Daniel if he could tell yet.

::It’s not a were, and it’s not human::

::The Chupacabra?:: Jared asked

::Possible. But why would it be here?::

Catching Daniel’s words and understanding their intent, Norris added his two cents worth, telling Daniel, ::If it sensed us while we were searching for it, it could have back-tracked us::

Daniel relayed that thought to Jared, adding ::If so it could be waiting to attack if it can get one of us alone::

::Let’s test that theory. You two go inside::

::Hey now, how come you get to play the stalking goat?::

::Because I’m older and smarter?::

Norris shifted, telling Daniel to as well, which he did. “I’m tired of hearing only parts of the conversation,” Norris muttered.

“Big tough guy there wants us to leave him out here as bait,” Daniel growled.

Norris considered the idea. “It could work.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 60



There was a three-quarter moon lighting the forest, not that the were brothers or the day-walking vampire needed its assistance as they hunted for their prey. Daniel and Norris were in their jaguar forms as they silently streamed between the trees seeking dinner and the Chupacabra. Jared moved just as swiftly behind them, sometimes on the ground, occasionally taking to the air for brief periods of time to get a larger view of the area.

::There, ahead of us:: Daniel told his brother, dropping into a low slinking posture as he crept towards the clearing.

::That should easily feed us both:: Norris agreed as he circled downwind of the large stag.

It was over almost before it began, the stag no match for two hungry jaguars. As they fed Jared moved further afield, his senses alert for any sign of the predator they were seeking.

::Anything?:: Daniel asked as he sat back on his haunches to clean the last of his dinner from his front paws.

::Nada, zilch so far. I opt for doing a jump closer to where Norris found the last victim::

::Okay. We’ll be with you in a second::

“You’re two seconds late,” Jared muttered as the two jags appeared beside him.

::Sue me, himself there wasn’t quite ready:: Daniel told him with a feline version of a laugh. ::Where to, Norris?::

Norris flashed Daniel a picture of the site and as soon as Jared had set a hand on Daniel’s shoulder the three of them transported, landing in a wide glade with a stream running along one side.

Across the stream they could see the silhouette of a farmhouse in the distance, limned by the moon’s light.

“You’re right, Norris, he’s getting too close. I wonder if he’d really attack a human.”

Norris shook his head as he looked up at Jared and then said to Daniel, ::Tell him I suspect it’s probably any animals they have there that he’d go after. Hopefully anyway::

Daniel relayed the message, adding, ::Even that wouldn’t be good. If one of their animals was attacked, they’d start a hunt for a wild predator, probably thinking there was a puma or some such that had gone feral::

“Yep. And that would definitely put your brother in their sights if he was running in jag form and they saw him.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (6)



Vic looked down at the table, drawing circles on the top with one finger. "I'm not a crook. I'm a private investigator." He glanced up at Evan. "A damned good one—usually. This time I made a mistake and it cost me. Not a big one, but one that apparently let someone know I was more interested in them than they liked."
"Some gangster?"
Vic smiled wryly. "It should be so easy. I was hired to find out who was blackmailing… well, let's just say a person whose name you'd probably recognize."
"Isn't stopping that what the cops are for?"
"If you were well known and someone was blackmailing you, would you go to the police? They'd want to know the details and…" Vic spread his hands. "Get the picture?"
Evan nodded. "So instead, he hires you."
"One of his people did, so no one will connect it to him. Supposedly I'm watching this woman's husband because she thinks he's playing around."
"Is he?"
"No. That's just the cover story, with her husband's consent. It gives me a reason to be places he is, since he's one of the blackmail victim's…associates."
Evan shook his head. "I think I'll stick with setting up security for people and let them deal with the consequences if someone tries to breach it. No one's going to beat me up, or worse, for that."
"Probably not," Vic agreed, smiling. He got up at that point, slowly, and limped into the living room.
Evan started to follow him, stopping when Vic returned with the bottle of pills in hand. "If you'd asked, I could have gotten those for you." 
Vic shrugged. "I'm going to owe you a new bottle," he said, popping two pills, washing them down with the last of his milk after he'd retaken his seat.
Evan watched Vic carefully, trying to assess what shape he was in. "You're not planning on working for a while, I hope."
"Do I have a choice?"
"Not really. You're fifty shades of purple and puce; every time you take a deep breath, you wince. You're limping, though you're trying to hide it."
"Not too successfully I take it."
Evan chuckled. "Not at all. So, since you're going to be stuck here for at least a couple of days, let's use the time to figure out how you're going to catch the blackmailer."
"Stuck here?" Vic cocked an eyebrow.
"Obviously the person you're looking for knows who you are, since they sent someone after you. That means they know where your office is, and probably where you live as well. I doubt you could fight off another attack—or escape one."  
Vic frowned. "Unfortunately you're right, but you don't have to put me up. I can… go to a motel."
"I have the spare bedroom that you're welcome to use. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think you should stay so I can make certain there was no internal damage that hasn't shown up yet. Also, you're safer here, since I practice what I preach. No one can get in here without my knowing it."

* * * *

"Bet me," Dom said, chortling.
"I don't think we count," Paddy replied. He studied Vic intently. "No internal damage, but I can't quite reassure him or Evan about that. I wish we knew who sent those men to deal with him."
"I'm sure he does as well."
"He has to have some idea. I could try reading his mind."
Dom shot Paddy a dire look. "That is not allowed except in emergencies and you know it."
"Don't you think keeping him alive is an emergency?"
"Not the way I meant it. The rules say…"
"Rules are meant to be broken." Paddy sighed. "Okay, for now I'll play by them but if Evan can't worm a name out of him…"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 59

“So this is where you’ve been holing up,” Daniel said as he looked around the small cabin. “You realize, now that I know where you are, I can come and bother you ad nauseam.”

Norris chuckled from where he was kneeling next to the fireplace, working on getting a good blaze going. “You can if you don’t mind the lack of amenities, city boy.”

With a laugh Jared told him, “Then you’re safe. He’s spoiled rotten.” 

“And whose fault is that? I was a sweet country boy until I met you.” Daniel nodded vigorously. “Yep, sweet and innocent, unspoiled.”

“Right,” Norris muttered as he got up and went to see what he had to offer them in the way of refreshments. He said over his shoulder to Jared, “He stopped being unspoiled when he was, let’s see, three maybe and father took him to Charles Forte with him for the first time. Damned kid came back loaded down with more stuff, I swear. Well, more stuff is relative of course, since that was in the fifteen hundreds, but still father was spoiling him rotten back then.”

“First and last time,” Daniel said somewhat waspishly. “But that’s past history and I so do not want to revisit it.” He wandered over to where Norris was digging through a cupboard, wrinkling his nose when he saw dried meat in a couple of containers. “How bout we go hunt up some real food. Jared’s going to have to anyway, whether he likes the idea or not.”

“Not really,” Jared interjected. “I dined before we left. I should be all right for at least a week.”

“You’re not helping things here,” Daniel muttered.

“Not trying to,” Jared replied with a grin. “However the idea of hunting has merit other than just getting you some fresh meat. No time like the present to see if we can spot the Chupacabra.”

Daniel looked at his brother, asking, “How far from here was the last kill?”

“Maybe fifty miles as the crow flies, or the were transports. I can get us to the site but, by now, there’s no guarantee that he’ll actually be anywhere close.”

“We’ll start there and fan out, because the last thing we need is for him to wander onto someone's farm. Or worse yet a town, and you said he was heading in that general direction.”

Norris nodded. “Whether by accident or intent he is. From what I read about them they are at least somewhat intelligent. Enough so that they know to change their colors like a chameleon to match the environment, when they think they may have been seen. That could explain why the one I ran into seemed to vanish from sight. There’s also a rumor that they mesmerize their victims much the same way a vampire does.”

“I hadn’t heard that.” Jared tapped a knuckle against his lips. “It would be interesting to see which of us is better at that, if it comes down to it.”

“Unless he’s as old as you, I think you’d have the edge,” Daniel declared.

“In theory, of course, but you know that the universe loves to toss in a kink or two just to make things interesting. Anyway all this talk is getting us no closer to him. Shall we go hunting?”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 58



That piqued the partners’ interest and Daniel quickly finished making his sandwich and came back to the table, asking his brother as he sat down, “How small?”

“There’s a Chupacabra running loose in the wilderness near where I’ve been living.”

“Hardly a ‘small’ problem,” Jared stated, recalling what he knew about the elusive creatures. They were bipedal, standing somewhere between four to five feet tall. One description compared their bodies to those of an erect dinosaur having small arms and hands with three claws each. Their legs were almost reptilian, again with three claws on each foot and there were spinal quills down their backs which they used for flying. The head was somewhat bird-like with red eyes and an elongated jaw with fangs. “How long has it been there?”

“As far as I can tell,” Norris replied, “it showed up about six months ago. I found the remains of a deer with strange bite marks on its body, primarily the stomach area. Then, a few days later I came upon the body of a puma. There were puncture holes straight into the brain that must have killed it instantly, and then some of its internal organs were removed.”

“Why do you think a Chupacabra is involved?

“Because in both cases what blood that had been left in the bodies hadn’t clotted or coagulated. That told me they weren’t killed by any normal predator. And then,” Norris leaned back, smiling almost gleefully at them, “I actually saw it. Only briefly but long enough that I knew it was a Supe. Once I had, I made a trip into town, to the local library, and did a bit of on-line research.”

Jared nodded, his forehead creasing in a frown. “Is it still in the area?”

“It was two days ago. I found the fresh corpse of another deer. It was the fifth in the last month. It might not have bothered me, but that one was much closer to inhabited areas than any of the rest had been.”

“That’s not good,” Daniel stated as he picked up what was left of his sandwich and headed to the computer in the living room.

Norris watched him leave, cocking an eyebrow in question.

“I suspect he’s letting the Council know and telling them we’ll be handling it.”

“What if they want to send someone else besides the two of you?”

“They won’t,” Jared told him with certainty.

He was correct. Daniel returned almost immediately with the news that they were to leave as soon as possible, with the Council’s blessing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 57



“About time you woke up,” Norris said, pulling Daniel into a bear hug.

After hugging his brother back just as hard Daniel grumbled, “If someone who shall remain nameless had let me know you were here, I’d have been up much earlier.”

Stepping apart the brothers looked at each other.

“You’ve changed,” Daniel said after a few moments. “You’re…harder, more dangerous feeling.”

“Living rough will do that. You on the other hand, under that hippie look, seem more adult than the last time I saw you. There’s knowledge in your eyes that wasn’t there before.”

“Knowledge?”

“Maybe not the right word, but your eyes say you’ve seen it all, maybe too much, and have learned how to deal with whatever happens by thinking rather than just jumping pell-mell into the fray.”   

“Okay, you’ve been talking with Jared about me haven’t you? He said the same thing just a day ago.”

“About thinking first?”

Daniel chuckled. “No, about the jumping in.”

Norris looked over to where Jared was standing, raising an eyebrow. “He still does that?”

“On occasion, but he’s gotten a lot better about thinking first than he was when we started working together.”

“You two work together too? Doing what?” Norris sat back down at the table, looking at them.

“We’re enforcers for the Council of the Supernaturals,” Jared replied as he joined him while Daniel began fixing himself something to eat.

“Really?” Norris smiled slightly. “How interesting. I was going to check in with the Council while I was here. Now maybe I’ll just by-pass that and tell you instead.”

Daniel turned to look at him. “Tell us what? Are you in some sort of trouble?”

“Not at all, so don’t worry that pretty little head of yours.” Norris ducked back when his brother took a swipe at him before continuing. “Actually I was going to petition the Council for some help with a small problem.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 56

“Why did you let me drink so much?” Daniel growled as he sat up and then instantly regretted it.

“You’re a big boy, I figured it was your funeral.”

“A funeral’s about what I’m ready for at the moment. Just let me die and bury me in a silk lined coffin.”

“Gods, Daniel,” Jared said, laughing. “I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

“No,” Daniel admitted, smiling a bit. “But you gotta admit it was a dramatic thought.” He started to get out of bed and then stopped, sniffing. “Okay, where is he? And why is he?”

“Why is he?” Jared shook his head in amusement.

“Yeah why is there another male in the apartment, and a were to boot?” Daniel scowled at his partner.

“I wanted a matched pair?”

“Jared, I swear as soon as I can move I’m going to put myself out of my misery and kill you.”

“As I’m already dead I don’t think that will do you much good.”

“Gods, a damned comedian at the crack of…” Daniel cast a look at the clock, “three the hell in the afternoon? Damn.”

“Yep. I’ve been up for hours.”

“Riiight, sure you have. Doing what, entertaining your guest?”

Jared sat down on the edge of the bed, drawing Daniel to him with a smile. Before answering he kissed him gently after pushing his hair back off his face. “You need a shower,” he muttered.

“Don’t try to sidetrack me, mister. I want to know who’s here and why.” Pulling away Daniel glowered at him.

“I think you asked that earlier.”

Gritting his teeth Daniel muttered. “And you didn’t answer then any more than you are now. So give.”

Taking pity on him Jared said, “Someone who came looking for you.” When Daniel looked puzzled and a bit worried he added, “Norris.”

“What the hell, why didn’t you say so. Damn it Jared.” Daniel stood up quickly then grabbed the headboard until the room stopped reeling. “Where is he?”

“In the kitchen the last time I saw him. Slow down, breathe, he’s not going anywhere.”

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (5)

Evan spent most of the day, while Vic slept, on the computer and the phone, staying in touch with the people who worked for him. At this point he was glad he could run his business from the house when necessary. He also checked on Vic at regular intervals. So far, the man had done nothing but sleep, it seemed, although at one point Evan noticed the bottle of pills had been moved.
It was late afternoon when Evan heard movement in the living room. Shutting down the computer, he went in and found Vic was sitting up.
"Bathroom?" Vic said succinctly.
"Upstairs."
"Of course it is." Grimacing in pain, Vic made it to his feet. He staggered, his injured knee obviously protesting.
Evan moved in, putting one arm around Vic's waist. "Lean on me and we'll get you up there." They made it to the top of the stairs and to the bathroom. "Need help?" Evan asked when Vic was inside.
Vic chuckled low. "I think I can deal with the basics on my own."
With a nod, Evan closed the door but waited a few feet away, just in case. He heard Vic flush, then the sound of water running. "Feel free to use the towel and washcloth," he called out.
"Am," Vic replied shortly. "I'd give my right arm for a toothbrush," he added.
"There should be a couple of spares in the medicine cabinet."
There was a brief pause before Vic asked, "Do you have overnight guests a lot?"
Evan laughed. "Nope, I just like to be prepared."
A few moments later the door opened. "I feel like a new man," Vic said. "Or at least a cleaner one."
"Cleaner is good. Are you hungry?"
Vic nodded. "Very, but you don't have to feed me. I really should get out of here, now that I'm mobile." His words were negated when he grabbed the doorframe to stay erect as he started out of the bathroom. "Okay, maybe no so mobile yet," he said wryly.
With Evan's help, Vic made it back downstairs and into the kitchen. He watched while Evan got out the ingredients for supper. "You don't have to go all fancy."
"Lemon swai and vegetables is hardly fancy," Evan replied, setting a skillet on a burner then putting butter, lemon juice, and lemon pepper in it to heat. He cut up the fish while waiting for the mixture in the pan to simmer then added the fish to it. Next, he made instant rice and microwaved cauliflower. When everything was ready, he dished it out onto two plates, setting one down in front of Vic. Once he'd gotten silverware and drinks for both of them, milk for Vic despite his wrinkling his nose, and coffee for himself, Evan sat down.
Vic ate slowly and carefully, which didn't really surprise Evan. He suspected his jaw hurt from the pounding it had taken. It wasn't until they were finished and Evan was cleaning up that he said, "I think it's time you told me what happened."
"The less you know, the better."
"I can't help you if I don't know."
"Why would you want to? For all you know, it was something illegal and I just got on the wrong side of someone."
"I'd say the wrong side is a given. Still, for whatever reason, I don't think you were doing anything illegal. Call it instinct or whatever, but the way I see it, you wouldn't be sitting here now if you had. You'd have taken off as soon as you woke up the first time to take more pills." He chuckled. "And taken them with you. So the question still stands, what happened and who beat you up?"

Friday, August 11, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors – 55



Jared studied the man for a long moment, reading the emotions crossing his face. Finally he said, “You’re Norris.”

“That would be me, which means you know Daniel.” Norris looked him over before chuckling softly, almost to himself. “You’re the vampire he told me about, the one he said was a good friend.”

“I am.” Jared stepped back to let Norris enter. “I’m afraid Daniel’s a bit under the weather at the moment,” he said, pointing to the comatose man sprawled out on the sofa.

“The kid never could hold his liquor if it was the good stuff.” Norris crossed the room to kneel down by the sofa, brushing a strand of hair off Daniel’s face. “He looks older, but I guess that’s not surprising. I haven’t seen him in well over fifty years and then it was just briefly.”

“The time he returned home because your mother had died.”

“Yes. That’s when he mentioned you.” Norris looked up at Jared. “Can I assume the two of you are more than just friends, since you seem to be living here too, if the bathrobe is any indication?”

Jared chuckled. “We could be just roommates.”

“Umm hmm, and I could be Sasquatch. Look, I know my brother’s bi and it doesn’t really bother me. Not like it did the rest of the pack. I figure it’s his business and no one else’s.”

“Well thank you for that,” Jared said a bit dryly. “I know he wasn’t expecting you, so may I ask why you’ve suddenly shown up here after all these years.”

Sitting back on his heels Norris considered the question. “Other than to find him? Would you mind if I wait and tell you both at the same time?”

“Not in the least. Are you staying somewhere close to here?”

“Actually,” Norris admitted, “I was hoping…” He shook his head. “I can’t ask that. Is there somewhere you recommend?”

“Yes. We have a spare bedroom. It’s small but you’re welcome to it, for the time being at least.”

“You’re sure? I mean you don’t even know me.”

“You’re Daniel’s brother, that's enough of a recommendation.” Jared smiled. “Besides, I think if you decided to cause any trouble I’d be quite able to handle it. I’m not as young as I look.” 

Norris chuckled. “Which of us are? All right, I accept your offer with thanks.” After standing up he looked down at his brother and asked, “Are you planning on leaving him here?”

“I was going to, yes, but I guess upon further consideration I probably shouldn’t. He’ll wake up grouchy and sore which is not something either of us want to deal with.”

“Been there, done that with him in the past. Allow me.” Norris hauled Daniel up, tossing him over his shoulder. “Which way?”

Jared led him to the bedroom, where Norris unceremoniously dumped Daniel on the bed, laughing when his brother muttered, “How rude,” before falling back to sleep.

After giving Norris a brief tour of the apartment and helping the were settle into the guestroom, Jared returned to his bedroom. Stretching out next to Daniel he wrapped an arm around him so that his head rested on his shoulder and was soon asleep, despite the low, rumbling snores echoing in his ear.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 54



“I will give Kenton one thing, he has a hell of a wine cellar,” Daniel said when he and Jared finally returned home.

Jared shook his head in amusement. “I noticed you had no problems testing everything he offered, including the special brew for were’s. I’m surprised we made it home and didn’t end up in Canada or somewhere even worse.”

“My finely honed senses.” Daniel nodded hard as he fell back onto the sofa, staring blearily at his partner. “Have I ever, ever landed us anywhere we shouldn’t have been?”

Sitting down beside him Jared pulled Daniel’s feet into his lap so he could take his shoes off, saying, “Well there was the time we ended up in…”

“Okay, other than that. I was thinking dark and eerie, so shoot me.”

“If you weren’t three sheets to the wind there are other things I’d rather do to you.” Leaning over, Jared planted a quick kiss on Daniel's lips before beginning to unbutton his shirt.

Daniel started to protest that he was just fine. Then his eyes closed and he began to snore softly.

With an understanding sigh, Jared stripped Daniel’s shirt off and then went to get a blanket to cover him before going to ready himself for bed. He was about to lay down when there was a knock on the front door. “Now what,” he muttered, pulling on his bathrobe as he went to answer.

When he opened the door a tall, blonde man stood there. He looked at Jared as if expecting to be let inside. Standing his ground Jared asked, “How may I help you?”

“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my brother’s apartment?”

“Actually, this is my apartment, mine and my partner’s. I think you must have the wrong address.”

The man shook his head, taking out a well-worn envelope. He shoved it towards Jared, tapping the return address. “Right apartment.”

Jared had to agree, it was. Then he looked at the address it was sent to. “How long ago did you get this?”

“Umm, ten years ago maybe?” The man frowned. “So right address but wrong person I’m guessing. Sorry man.”

“Not a problem.” Jared hesitated, but he had to know. “Are you family?” Jared was not particularly happy with that idea. Daniel had long since abandoned his family and his pack, unwilling to bow down to its despotic alpha. The only one he had ever tried to stay in touch with was an older brother who had quite literally vanished into the wilderness several years ago. Probably, now that he thought about it, about the time this man had gotten the letter. 

The man growled, not answering Jared’s question as he tried to peer into the apartment. Then he sighed, running one hand through his hair. “I’m looking for my brother. I was hoping he still lived here or that someone would know where he’d gone to.”

Monday, August 7, 2017

Smoke and Mirrors - 53



Slowly the fighters lowered their swords. Daniel, somewhat reluctantly, unclamped his jaws from the arm of the elf that had started the battle, and Jared moved to join his partner, resting his hand on the jaguar’s head.

“What do you mean it’s not necessary?” the battle elf who seemed to be in command asked.

Kenton smiled tightly. “I think that we are allies fighting allies.” When Aidan frowned at his words Kenton explained. “My friends are not as you supposed from the court or connected with it. They truly are here as my protectors. I quite honestly believed the stories that you were are lackey of the court, UrĂºvion. As a result I was very certain you would return with your friends in an attempt to force me to retrieve the wand from its hiding place.”

Aidan nodded. “And I was quite sure that you were being forced somehow to set a trap for me, using the wand as bait, so that I could be captured and returned to our world.” He paused, studying Kenton. “What made you change your mind about me?”

Kenton chuckled. “You forgot to ward yourself against a truth spell, something I suspect never occurred to you would be used. When you said you had no interest in obtaining the wand, I heard the sincerity in your voice and cast the spell, finding that what you said was not a lie.”

“Oops,” Mor said, laughing. “And here I was beginning to think you were above making mistakes Aidan.”

Aidan ran a hand through his hair before smiling slightly. “I’m only…well not human, but still that saying holds true. Even I can slip up sometimes. Rarely, but sometimes.”

Daniel returned to his human form and turned to the elf whose arm he had tried to maul. He asked in concern, “Do you need healing?”

The elf shook his head. “Thank you but no. I’m going to be hurting for a while, but my armor protected me from more than some very bad bruising.”

Aidan reversed his own armoring spell before asking, “Who are these battle elves if not lackeys of the court, as you so mockingly once called me?”

One of them replied before Kenton could. “Expatriates like you and Kenton. We come from an enclave far across the country from here. I’ve known him since he actually did work for the court. We are of a like mind that anyone connected with it cannot be trusted not to try to destroy this world given half a chance. The wand would be just what they want and need.”

Aidan nodded in agreement. “You are quite certain that you’ve hidden it well?” he asked Kenton. “Better than you did before.”

“Absolutely. I took a page from Mor’s book and sent it off to who knows where. Only, unlike her, I did not put a time limit on when it will return.”

“So it’s lost forever,” Mor said mournfully.

“No my dear, not forever. If and when it’s needed it will return.”

“To you?” she asked.

“Or my successor, should anything happen to me. And before you ask, I have not decided who that will be. I hope to live a good long time still, until the end of my life span. When and only when that nears will I make a decision.”

“You do realize if things had gone differently today you might be dead now,” Jared pointed out. “Then the wand would be forever lost.”

“And would that truly be such a bad thing?”

“No,” Jared admitted, “I don’t suppose it would be.”

Mor shook her head in frustrated disagreement but remained silent.