Transcript from the files of the Memphis Flyer, Interview D.(ixie) J.(olene) Admire, June 18. Never run.
So you're wanting an interview with me? Pull up a chair and get your notepad ready, because the old lady has some stories to tell. Everybody ends up with a few stories living on the Nightside of town.
Ah, we're starting off softball, are we? “What book am I reading right now?” The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology. It's woefully inadequate, since the author's not a Nightsider, but there is some good stuff on skyfish and chupacabra. Missed the Grunches entirely ,though. Also kinda short on how to kill things that are trying to eat you.
What do I do to relax? I drink. I know, you want me to say I kick back and catch up on some police procedural or maybe play a few sets of raquetball. Nope. I drink. It lets me forget the crap I see on the Nightside, all the times I find my Missing Person in some state of dead. Ordinary people only know about the “lying in boxes with too much make-up” dead. On the Nightside, death can range from “lying around in itty bitty shreds” to “up and walking and working” to “attending vampiric ward meetings” to “up and trying to tear out the PI's throat when she finds you.” Booze relaxes my muscles on the nights when the scars on my back get to aching and pulling. That happens around May 1 and October 31, when there's a faerie ride. Long, bad story. It lets me sleep without too many nightmares.
What's under my bed? Kid, I ain't that scary am I? I live in this office. Do you see a bed? Actually, I do have one. It's a Murphy bed, pulls out of the wall. Right now, looks like you're under it, sitting there on my sofa. Yeah, scoot a little to your right and that spring won't poke you so much.
The one piece of advice that really stuck with me? Don't arm-wrestle the supernatural. I'm not a dainty gal, and yeah, I got some muscle, but I can't take 'thropes or vamps or most of the Nightsiders. Combat mages? They'll go toe-to-toe with it, but they're crazy. Some of them will even go hand to hand when their spells fail. Not me. I carry and I carry big. A Desert Eagle has enough stopping power for pretty much anything, especially when it's salted, blessed and has silver included in the bullets. Nah, silver bullets are too soft to shoot, but a bit of silver in a regular one is pretty popular among Nightside workers like me.
The worst case I ever had? Brace yourself. Has to be Mad Maudlin. That was ugly. Little kids were dying, being found in their beds with all the flesh stripped from hip to knee. Figured out who was doing it and why. Mad Maudlin had come to town, seeking her Tom O'Bedlam. They're demon lovers, cursed to be eternally apart. She was paying the dark fae in mince meat pies to help her find him. One guess what she was making the pies of. I caught her under the Pyramid, down in the catacombs. I banished her from our plane of existence, but she got the drop on me. The Eagle slowed her down and I got the spell done. Still carry those scars.
The next big thing? I have no idea. It's gonna be whatever walks through that door and sets money on my desk. Might be a succubus trying to find her sister, might be a werewolf with legal trouble. Might be one of my pixie intel-network coming in with something I should know. I like the pixies. They work for sugar. Whatever it is, I think it's gonna be big.
(on a Post-it note: “Investigator Admire was recently involved with the incident at the Pyramid involving the combat mages and demon. Do we run this?” A second person's writing reads, “NO!” with three underlines)
On the Nightside of Memphis, werewolves teach college, zombies load trucks and private investigator D. J. is hard at work, finding missing persons, solving cases and drinking herself into an early grave.
Then Bran walks into her office, asking for her help in destroying the demon Oeilett, and everything changes.
Something about the battered, scarred combat mage ignites all the lusty feelings D. J. thought she had successfully drowned in rum. The mana he exudes weaves a web of desire over her, clouding thought and making the sultry summer even steamier.
Bran’s body and face may be marked by his previous battles, but everything under the black leather kilt works perfectly, and D. J. learns there are more things in Memphis, the hellplanes and her own heart than she had ever imagined.
I moved on to the armbands on his biceps. These were written in runes, basic Futhark by the look of them. Those I could read.
I managed the first four words of the protection charm and looked up at him. “Really? ‘From ghoulies and ghosties’? Really?”
“And long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, may the good Lord deliver us. Aye, ‘twas me gram’s charm and it always worked for her.” He smiled at me and I could almost believe the old rhyme might work.
“Is your whole family mages?” Magic did run in families. I traced out each rune with my finger. He twitched when I got to the soft inside skin.
“Aye. Gram’s been gone twenty years now. Da passed about ten. Mum’s still running her talisman shop at ninety. She gets by on Da’s pension from the Witan. My sibs, they’re all around and we’re all getting up there.”
“Thirteen. Mum and Da went for an even dozen.”
“And you’re the seventh son of a seventh son?”
He laughed at that. “No, I’m the sixth. My baby brother’s the seer. We have healers, and bureaucrats and all. My third sister used to ride with the Latter-Day Boadiceas, the female Celtic combat mages, but she’s old enough to retire. We’re the only two with this calling.”
“Sounds like a motorcycle gang,” I teased and kissed the vambrace on his wrist. All combat mage units sounded like motorcycle gangs. The vambrace was in Ogham, which I couldn’t read.
He chuckled. “Then you weren’t reading the back of my vest. We all have our groups and we all mark them on the armored leather. Anyone with any mana can read it.”
“Not trained, remember?” I kept kissing, too busy for my usual annoyance. I could feel his pulse through the big vein just under the skin of his inner arm and I licked it.
“But when it says ‘Ladies from Hell’ in letters three inches high, I’d think you could see.”
I yanked the vest out from under him and turned it over. I saw spider-thin silver tracery I’d never noticed on the leather. It did indeed say Ladies from Hell. I knew the combat mages had taken up biker culture back in the early sixties, and it amused me to no end that magic users would enjoy something so macho and yet so prosaic. “So why Ladies from Hell? You’re not gay or a drag queen.”
“It was me grandda’s unit in the Great War. The Kaiser and his men called the kilted Highlander regiments that.”
I laughed and went back to his bracers. “I can’t read these. What do they say?”
“Those are rune prayers, one for protection from the Lord and one from the Lady. You’d wear ‘em on opposite arms, like my sis does, Lady on the right.” He stroked my hair and looked serious. “It’s a sad and sorry way this country does its testing. Too many of you slip through the cracks to drink and drug yourselves to death, half trained, tasting power you can’t control.”
He stroked my face some more. “You can’t be human. You aren’t mages. You lose yourselves in the Nightside and try to medicate away the nightmares. I’ve hated it since they sent me here. Who knows, I live through this mission and maybe they’ll let me retire to the Witan. Then I could fix it.”
Angelia and Naomi met in an online role playing game in 2005, and together have produced eight novels, running from dark future truckers to pirates to evil carnivals, and dozens of short stories. Their work can be found at http;//www.brooksandsparrow.com
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