Terminal City Nightfall

Here is my offering for Chuck Wendig’s Ten Little Chapters challenge on Terrible Minds. It’s a little scattered, but was fun, and will serve as a rough outline for a novel I’d like to write. You know, when I get around to finishing something longer than 1,500 words.

One

      I hadn’t been in the office long enough for my overcoat to drip before the door opened and she came in. She looked like some ancient princess, with jet black hair, pale skin and lots of eyeliner around a set of peepers that made my mouth dry. Not a drop of rain on her. She stood at my desk and looked me in the eyes.

“What should I call you?” she asked. I gulped.

“Just call me Vik,” I said.

“How odd,” she said, then shrugged and sat. She needed me to find something very important . I told her everything is important to someone. I gave her the boilerplate–$25 a day plus expenses. She leaned in close. I smelled gardenias and the world fell away.

“Vik,” she said, “If you find this for me I’ll double your rates.”

“Lady,” I said, “You’ve got yourself a private eye.”

Two

      Double rates or not, people weren’t talking. Every fence and two-bit second story man I talked to clammed up when I mentioned an obsidian jackal statue. They knew, though. Some looked like they wanted to shut me out of a deal and some looked like they would wet their drawers. A couple flat-out warned me to forget about the statue if I was concerned about my health. This seemed like good advice. I went to my office to think.

The building was ablaze. I joined a crowd watching it burn in spite of the downpour, then headed home, where I’d feel more secure.

That’s when the zombies attacked.

They came in through the kitchen window. I had some warning, as these lunkheads had to bash the glass a few times before they got through. They were big guys, in plaid shirts and wool pants with blank stares and bloody fingers. I may not be big, but I keep a Louisville Slugger by the door and I beaned one with the sweet spot. He went down hard. The other hit me running, knocked me down and tried to eat my face. I twisted around and he bit a chunk out of my arm instead. Something hit him and he fell out of my sight, but so did everything else. I passed out.

Three

     I heard a voice call my name. I must have been dreaming.

“Viktoria…can you hear me?” asked the voice. I tried to reply, but only groaned.

“Viktoria, I need to do something to help you, something you might not agree to if you were awake,” the voice said. “Do you want to live?” I tried to nod, but all I got was another groan. I must have got my point across because I felt a sharp bite above my heart, followed by a coppery tang across my lips. The dream receded, and I rested.

Four

     I awoke in my bed. The pale princess sat across from me and a hawk-nosed man with skin like oiled teak looked out the window, standing by suspicious lumps wrapped in unfamiliar rugs. I pulled the bedsheet over my breasts and backed against the wall as I remembered the attackers and the dream bites.

“So what now?” I asked. “I’ve seen horror movies. Those were zombies and you’re a vampire? Am I dead, or just your servant?” She smiled.

“No, my detective,” she said. “Those were simply men, magically compelled to kill you, and I am not a vampire, at least not like in films. Blood is powerful, though, and my blood is ancient. I healed you, that is all. If our blood mingled again we would be connected, and you would have some of my strength, but would not be my servant.” I looked under the sheet. No bites on my arm or chest.

“Unless you wished to be.”

Five

     Nobody had spilled about the statue, but apparently I’d shaken the right branches. The Princess and her hired gun, Shep, had some leads and needed muscle with local knowledge. The statue was being held by a group of ritual magicians, and we were going to hit them hard. These weren’t dusty old ladies with Ouija boards, but the real things, with real power. I was curious how their power would match up to three feet of white ash.

Six

     “If you do well in this you could set yourself up for a comfortable life,” Shep said , looking down his nose as he lit a smelly brown cigarette. “I’m tired. After this I will no longer serve the lady. You take over and you can be who you really are.” I considered that.

“Sounds good,” I said, “but I’m already being who I really am.”

Seven

     The raid seemed too easy. We kicked in a big wooden door to find a red velvet room full of fat businessmen in ceremonial robes. They stopped chanting, and two mousey guys with spears fell over themselves getting out of our way. The statue was on a dais in the middle of the room and I went for it, then everything went pear-shaped.

Eight

     They weren’t all fat, mousey businessmen. One guy raised his hand and I flew backwards and felt one of the spears go through me between the shoulder blades. I went down, but saw the Princess on top of this guy, tearing at him like a hyena.

Nine

     I had enough strength to open my eyes and see Shep hand Her Highness the statue. She smiled and kissed him on the forehead. His knees buckled, he closed his eyes and he crumbled into a pile of white ash. I passed out.

Ten

     I lived, thanks to the princess giving me another nibble, then some of her own blood. That made the difference between an unmarked grave and a month of slow recovery under her care. I won’t die for a long time. Now I travel with the princess and do her daylight business. I wear nicer suits, and sometimes roll up the cuffs and walk on the beach in the morning, letting the surf roll over my toes.

I don’t miss the rain.

 

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