The Short Stories
The short stories of Judah Lamey,
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
Creatures in the Night
There was an eerie glow on the water that night. The way the moon glistened off the soft waves had me mesmerized and lost in thought. I recalled the events of the past weeks and felt grateful that my animals in my Hobby Farm were returning to normal. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of anger towards the library assistant, Alexandra Peel, for planting the virus in my farm, but as I breathed in the cold, crisp air I decided to let that go. There were more pressing issues at hand.
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud crack of metal on concrete. “Careful!” I yelled at the crane operator who had carelessly dropped the large crate on the dock. I ran over and gently placed a hand on the cool rusted metal while gazing through the small air vents. The creature inside paced back and forth anxiously. Its claws tapped loudly, echoing off the walls. I could barely make out its feathered wings in the dark, but I could tell it was molting from stress.
“Shhhh….there there. Everything’s ok,” I spoke calmly, “You’re safe now. They aren’t going to harm you anymore.”
The Hippogriff’s pacing slowed and I could feel his agitation lifting. I’m not sure how, but ever since I was young I felt like I could understand animals. And they could understand me. Call it magic or just plain crazy, but I’ve always known this was what I was meant to do.
I walked around the crate to look at the large ship rocking back and forth in the dark. Only a few lights from the dock cast their glow. There were still seven more crates that needed to be unloaded, each with a different creature waiting to come back with me to my farm. Behind me waited eight large trucks ready to load the crates and bring the creatures home. Inside I couldn’t quell my excitement. So far I had only a few small magical creatures to care for at my farm, but after hearing that there was a raid on another magical farm and the owner had been accused of neglect, I offered to take in some of the creatures and rehabilitate them.
Just then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I jumped and spun around. “Phoenix, it’s about time you showed up,” I said eyeing my brother up and down, “Where were you?”
“Sorry sis, I just had to make a quick pit stop,” he said shyly his eyes darted from the ground making his curly hair bounce atop his head.
“You were with Blue again, weren’t you?” I asked already knowing the answer. He just gave me a big smile. They had been practically inseparable leaving me shorthanded at the farm.
“You know you have to be careful. She’s been experimenting with some weird stuff lately,” I told him.
“She wasn’t the one who set the virus on the animals,” Phoenix quickly defended her.
“Still….”I started to say but my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a car behind me. I turned just in time to see a black limo pulling onto the dock. The headlights blinded me momentarily, but it quickly turned coming to a stop.
The door swung open and a pair of black leather stilettos clicked on the ground. “Hello, Mayor Lombard,” I said nodding. She gave me a quick smile but her attention was on the large crates around me.
“So they are here?” she asked walking towards the Hippogriff crate. She inched her way towards one of the air vents and peeked inside. The creature gave a loud screech and stomped on the crate floor sending the mayor jumping back in alarm. “Oh my goodness! “ she said composing herself. “Now Ms. Struve, you promised me these creatures weren’t dangerous.”
I was about to say something when Phoenix chimed in, “Mayor Lombard, these creatures have been through a lot. They need proper rehabilitation which my sister and I will give them. Please try to understand….”
The mayor looked suspicious so I decided to give my two cents, “My brother is right. I can assure you these creatures will pose no threat to the people of Quillville.” That seemed to ease her mind a bit when another crate slammed onto the concrete. She jumped, turned around, and screamed.
Breathing down her neck was the snarling grin of a Lycanthrope. His teeth oozed and he licked his long muzzle. A low growl escaped his half-wolf half-human chest. The mayor took a few steps backward and Phoenix jumped in to help her stabilize. Then the werewolf turned to me.
“Ah right on time, Viktor,” I said to the lycanthrope and I extend my hand. He took it in his paw and shook.
“We are all here,” he snarled. I looked behind him and saw a dozen yellow eyes staring back at me, on alert. I smiled and gave them a friendly wave.
“Wonderful, Viktor, thank you. I know I can always count on you guys. Just a few more crates need to be offloaded then we will begin our journey to the farm,” I told him and he growled in agreement. The werewolves and I had always had an understanding. I was the only one in Quillville who knew how to heal a lycanthrope so they always came to me for their bites, cuts, and bruises. In return, they provided my Hobby Farm with protection. And they felt pretty bad about letting the virus get into my farm. So they brought extra backup to see to it that my new creatures made it safely home.
The mayor smoothed her pencil skirt and cleared her throat, “Well, it looks like everything is under control here. Struve, please do see to it that these creatures are handled with extreme care. I want to ensure the safety of all in Quillville.”
I nodded as the mayor got back into her limo and drove off through the dark docks. I turned my attention back to the large ship where one more crate needed to be unloaded, and this one was special.
Phoenix caught the glimmer in my eye and whispered, “Is that the one?” A smile grew wider on my face and Phoenix knew this was the creature I had always wanted to meet. Perhaps the most dangerous, but also the most powerful and loyal.
As the crate was lowered onto the dock I ran to it like a kid getting a puppy for Christmas. But this was not a puppy. Not even close. Perhaps closer to a lion. My stomach folded with excitement and slight fear festered in my chest as claws clacked against the metal crate. The creature’s low rumbling growl made goosebumps crawl across my skin. I peeked through a hole in the crate so close that I could smell its damp, dirty fur like a feral cat. The creature lunged at me letting out a terrific roar swiping its sharp claws against the crate only inches from my face with only the metal shell of the crate keeping me safe. I didn’t flinch but I could hear gasps behind me and the werewolves’ growls growing louder. I knew their nervousness only made the creature more on edge so I put my hand up to calm them.
“What is that thing?” growled Viktor.
Phoenix leaned towards Viktor and whispered, “Nundu.”
“What-du?” Viktor asked puzzled.
Still staring at the creature and trying to show no fear I said calmly, “A Nundu. It’s originally from East Africa. It’s similar to a giant leopard with a thorny neckline that expands to create a roar that can be heard for miles, like a howler monkey. His breath can be toxic but this is an adolescent and he hasn’t developed that yet.”
"Well, why in the name of all that is unholy did you bring it to Quillville?” Viktor growled louder. The Nundu growled back.
“He needed a home. Don’t worry Viktor, I am just going to rehabilitate him and make sure he is healthy, then Phoenix and I will bring him home to Africa before his toxicity can develop,” I say still remaining as calm as possible. “But he is a big part of the reason I need you and all your lycanthropes here. Because if this creature falls into the wrong hands, it could mean big trouble for Quillville.” I continued to stare into the beautiful creature’s crate and was immediately full of love and awe. I put a hand gently on the metal to soothe the Nundu and his rumbling softened and calmed if only for a brief second.
The creature continued to pace and I knew it was time to hit the road. “Positions everyone!” I turned and called. The crates were loaded onto the trucks, the werewolves scattered themselves around, some in front of the trucks, some behind, and some on either side racing gracefully across the rooftops.
Phoenix turned to me and read off his checklist, “Hippogriff, Mooncalf, Erumpent, Thunderbird, Unicorn, Graphorn, Wampus Cat, and….gulp….Nundu.”
I smiled, “Looks like they are all here. Let’s go to the farm!”
Engines roared, the werewolves howled, and the creatures shifted in their crates as the trucks began to move. Phoenix drove behind us and I hopped a ride on the truck carrying the Nundu. Before I closed the heavy door, my Kneazle, Arrow, leaped gracefully onto my lap. Her large tufted ears pointed at full attention and she swirled in a circle and plopped on my legs. I gently stroked her soft brown fur as she relaxed and drifted to sleep like an extra-large cat.
The trucks roared along the streets of Quillville. I remembered to never assume that people would be sleeping in the middle of the night in a town of writers. There was always someone getting up to some sort of mischief. I looked out my window and watched the werewolves leap from rooftop to rooftop quickly and silently. When I looked to the sky I saw three broomsticks and what looked like witches flying on them. I thought to myself that it was strange, even for Quillville. We hadn’t seen witches in these parts for ages. I shrugged it off and thought about all of my wonderful new creatures, dreaming about rehabilitating each and bringing them into a loving home.
As we drove by the old worship house where the town Mediator set up shop, I noticed a figure standing in front suspiciously. I took note but found it’s best not to meddle in other people’s business.
We were just going by the Good Ideas Bookstore when a loud bang hit the truck. The driver swerved, trying to steady the truck as the impact of whatever made the sound was strong enough to jolt the whole vehicle. Arrow screeched and leaped up from my lap, hairs standing up on the back of her neck.
“What was that?” I asked the driver but he just shook his head. I looked in the side mirror just in time to see three dark figures leap from the rooftop onto the moving truck.
“What the….!” I yelled as I struggled to unbuckle my seatbelt. Glint had warned me. He had heard from the Red Quill that the Goth Gang in town were up to something, and they heard whispers that it had to do with me and my creatures. I just didn’t think it would be this.
I snapped off my seatbelt and threw the door open. Wind as cold as ice smacked me in the face and whipped my black hair around. Arrow was already ahead of me and had leaped from the door to the hood of the truck and then up onto the crate.
The driver looked at me dumbfounded. “Keep driving and don’t stop for anything!” I yelled over the loud wind and with a small smile, I followed Arrow and climbed onto the top of the truck.
The three figures were on the crate, dressed in all black, but the spikes on their jacket and boots gave them away. I could hear the loud roar of the Nundu as he tried to swipe at them, but they weren’t phased. They were busy latching metal hooks into the holes on top of the crate.
The truck swayed with the road beneath me as I tried to keep my balance. Arrow joined me by my side. Just then, Phoenix drove up next to me in his white pick up truck and rolled down the window. “Hey sis, need this?” he yelled and he launched a sword straight at my face from below. It was a perfect aim but the truck hit a bump and I missed the sword. It bounced in front of me and I leaped to grab it landing on the crate hard.
With the sword handle in one hand, I heard a loud rumble below me and looked into the crate to see the Nundu snarling right in my face. It was a good thing he didn’t have his toxic breath yet.
But this ungraceful maneuver grabbed the attention of the Goth Gang members and they jumped up to face me. “Get away from my creature,” I said slowly standing up with the sword in my hand. Their black spiky hair barely moved in the wind from all the hair gel and I felt like I was facing off with the band Kiss, but they all had swords too. As we stood there staring at each other I noticed something big coming from the rooftop to my left. My eyes shifted in that direction and the full moon was so bright, they saw that simple shift and looked too, just in time for them to dodge the attack of two werewolves. But the Goth Gang was prepared and one of them grabbed something that was on his back and fired it at the werewolves. It was a net that wrapped itself around its target and made the werewolves’ fur burn. A silver net. The werewolves howled in pain. “No!” I yelled and as I ran to try to help them the other Goth swung his sword at me. I countered and parried each blow. But he was strong and fast. Behind me I saw more werewolves jump onto the crate to defend my creature but each time they too were wrapped in a silver net. While I fought off the one Goth, the other was continuing to tie hooks to the crate, while the other defended against the werewolves.
The werewolves quickly caught on to their net tactic and one leapt from behind and he and the Goth fell from the truck. Arrow stood behind me at the ready and I called, “Arrow attack!” She bounded into action and started attacking the Goth with the ropes, scratching and biting him. Kneazles were quite ferocious if were not on their good side. I steadied myself, gathered my strength and began my own attack slicing at the Goth with my sword. The metal of the swords clanked, the wind blew, and the Nudu growled. Werewolves fought Goths on the rooftops. I had almost gotten the Goth to where I wanted him when the truck screeched to a halt. We all went flying. I managed to grab onto one of the holes in the crate, but I dropped my sword. Thankfully, Arrow used her claws to hold on too, but the Goth I was fighting wasn’t so lucky and flew off the truck. Then overhead I heard the loud beating of a helicopter. I stood up and sure enough, there it was hovering above us. Its bright lights blinded me and the wind made it almost impossible to keep my eyes open. I looked down and in front of the truck was a barricade made of old metal and concrete blocks manned by twenty of the Goth Gang members. A rope lowered from the helicopter and the Goth on top of the crate grabbed hold and it pulled him up along with the ropes he had attached to the crate.
A familiar face looked down at me from the helicopter and called out, “Hey thanks for the awesome creature, Struve!”
“Anna Mocikat! I should’ve known you’d be behind this!” I yelled back.
“Oh, it’s nothing personal. It’s just a job,” she called.
“Who hired you?” I needed answers.
“Sorry, client confidentiality! Gotta run Struve!” she said and the helicopter pulled up. The ropes attached to the crate tightened and the whole thing started to lift. Arrow jumped off onto the top of the truck but I held on. Phoenix pulled up next to me again.
“Jump off!” he yelled at me. I didn’t want to let go of my Nundu. I couldn’t let him go. “Struve let go!” he called again.
I held on tight but a sudden gust of wind blew dust into my eyes and I unwillingly let go. I landed hard on the top of the truck and wiped my eyes in time to see my cherished creature being flown away. I could hear his loud roars seeming to call to me. My stomach tightened.
Viktor ran up next to me as I hopped off the truck. “I’m sorry we couldn’t defend them. They had silver armor and….” I stopped him.
“It’s ok, Viktor. Thank you for everything you did,” I said solemnly.
The Goth Gang had ditched the barricade and scattered leaving us by ourselves. Phoenix ran up and gave me a hug.
“Where was the Red Quill when we needed her?” he said.
“Get me Glint. We need him,” I said.
by Angelique Migliore @AngeliqueJots
Welcome to a day in the life of my Quillville. It’s a big town or a small city. You decide.
Either way, it’s full of imagination, innovation, and creativity. That’s the thing about small cities:
everyone thinks they know each other, but I’m here to tell you, they don’t.
Yet I do.
I’m Angelique. I’m the town’s mediator. I offer suggestions to help the people of
Quillville settle their disputes. Person to person, business to business, I handle it all. The legal
way, with a warm smile on my face. Not like that vigilante Red Quill. I actually believe people
deserve a second chance, or a third. On the fourth try, I just might call in Red Quill myself
though. Even mediators have their limits of redemption.
I smile to myself as I walk carefully down the streets of our little city—historic
cobblestones and the new heels of my knee-high, navy blue boots don’t mix well. Neither do the
people of this city. But what would you expect from a town full of writers? They all lie for a
Lucky for me, the walk from the Romance Sector to my office isn’t far, although the
scenery drastically changes from flowers and herbs to sticky sidewalks strewn with cigarette
butts and old, unread dueling rags within just a few blocks.
The bright sun and gentle cool breeze of this early morning also belie the happenings of
the past few weeks: animal viruses, sabotaged exhibits, and stolen manuscripts, just to name a
few. These citizens behave like there are no consequences tied to their actions, as if all mysteries
aren’t solved in the end. The full moon really brought out the crazy in everyone this month. Or
like we say around here, just another Tuesday. I like to walk to work early and give our fair
citizens time to wake up and get angry.
I stop at the Tempest Tea Room on my stroll in and pick up my usual drink: a matcha
green tea latte with coconut milk and just a hint of Mexican vanilla. Creamy and spicy, just like
me. AJL always sprinkles something extra on top that sparkles, but I don’t ask what. It’s just
better that way around here, but I tip her well, and she winks at me as I leave.
Three more blocks and I reach my office. I set up shop in the oldest worship house in
town. It had been abandoned for about twenty-five years before I moved in and restored it. I kept
the buttresses of the building, the floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows, and the double wooden
doors. I wanted the same feel of the old hallowed house, even if people were abandoning their
religions by the hour these days; they’ve seen their faiths used as weapons for far too long, I
When residents got to the point that they needed my help, they were angry. Really angry.
But when most walk into a house of worship, even if it’s been repurposed, they calm down.
Their voices drop a decibel or two in the acoustics. They switch from talking to listening. They
become reverent and pensive. Old habits die hard, I guess, so I use it to my advantage. Because
let’s face it: no one likes to compromise. Everybody loses in a compromise because no one gets
I don’t even make it up three steps to my double-wooden doors when I notice it: a note.
Someone has nailed a scroll-sized notice to my business doors in a Luther-esque sort of style.
I freeze and call Leumas right away.
My mind races while I wait on his car to screech to a halt right beside me.
He slams his car door shut and makes his way over to me. His voice is low, but
threatening. “I know you think I’m a joke, but let me assure you I’m not at your beck and call—”
My gloved finger on his lips halts his words, and before his nostrils can flare completely,
I point to the note with the same finger.
His line of sight follows my finger. “What is that? What does it say?”
I shrug my shoulders. “I’ve no idea, but it looks ominous, so I called you. Because I don’t
think you are a joke. I know what you’re capable of. I’m not behind on any of my bills, and
that’s no way to send a girl a love letter, therefore, it must be a threat of some sort.”
“You called me with an emergency before you even bothered to read it? What if it’s
nothing more than a grocery list from your lover?”
I blink at him several times hoping he would hear the ridiculousness of his own question.
“If I had a lover, do you think I would be walking to work at 0700? I would be busy right now.
And you know very well why I can’t call the Constable.”
Leumas hangs his head because he does know.
In addition to being the town’s mediator, I run a smaller, let’s say boutique, business on
the side. I’m the town’s match-maker. It’s a one-off, but it uses my same range of talents. My
clients require [pay for] the highest form of discretion, and I wouldn’t dare expose any of them.
Including Leumas. “I got close enough to that letter to tell you two things: it’s written in bright-
red ink, and it reeks of coffee and last night’s whisky. Like you.”
Bad Luck in the Morning
by K. Daniels
The morning should have started off like any other morning for K Daniels.
But it didn’t.
K opened their front door to the sight of a dead black rabbit laying across their doormat.
K froze looking down at the poor creature. Sweat beaded up on K’s hands as they took in the glassy eyes. Air seemed to get trapped in their lungs the longer they stared down at the open mouth - a silent scream.
One thought consumed K: They've been found.
“K? Everything alright?” J’s voice echoed from the kitchen, forcing K back into action.
“Yeah babe, just taking in the view,” K lied, taking a quick peek to make sure J stayed in the kitchen. K didn’t want J to see the dead bunny. “Are you going to stop by the shop today?”
“Maybe,” J sighed, coming out of the kitchen. K subtly closed the door a fraction to keep the tragedy out of sight. “I was going to stop by the community center or something to see if they had job postings. Or you can ask Mayor Lombard if she stops in for coffee!”
“Perhaps, but she’s a bit of a night owl and she’s a very busy woman.”
“C’mon sweetheart, I would love to be the city historian! Or what about a history teacher! I would be a good teacher!”
A real smile was brought to K’s lips, “Yes, you’d be an excellent teacher. But the shop is doing well! You could actually start that alternative history novel you’ve been wanting to write…”
“Perhaps,” J mimicked in a playful tone.
“Think about it, and stop by later if you can. I love you.” With their goodbye out of the way, K backed out of the door to hide the macabre scene outside.
When the door was firmly shut, K silently swore as adrenaline started up again. K had to get rid of the rabbit and J must never know about it. J would think it was their fault and then try to fix the situation. But that’s how they ended up in Quillville.
K stooped down to pick up the animal but the sight of a red ribbon tied around it’s throat made them stop.
There were familiar symbols written on it.
K swore again.
Looking around, K saw the shovel from the garden leaning against the garage. Swiftly, K grabbed the shovel and tried to scooped up the rabbit. But, when the metal of the shovel came into contact with the fur, it sparked. The charge caused a buzzing heat to travel through the handle into K’s hands.
“You can’t be serious!” K growled, the shock made K drop the shovel and the rabbit into the grass. More angry than scared now, K jogged into the garage and grabbed rubber gloves from the messy work table.
Before attempting to pick up the shovel or the rabbit again, K put the gloves on. This time, K didn't feel the sharp shock when they picked up the shovel handle. A crackling sound still emitted from the rabbit as K moved quickly to the truck bed. Unceremoniously, K dumped the rabbit into the back of the truck and covered it with a moving blanket.
K peeled off the gloves as they hopped into the cab of the truck and backed out of the driveway.
K and J only moved to Quillville a couple of months ago but didn't waste time. In their first week, they set up The Good Ideas Bookstore and The Bad Decisions Coffee Bar. Both were surprised how well it was received by the community, but K couldn’t have been happier with the shop.
Half of the shop was a bookstore. They stocked the shelves with books written by the local and Indie authors. The other half of the shop was primarily a coffee bar. But they did serve a small menu of food items.
In the back of the shop was a small fenced in patio that was more like a jungle. It held private seating areas along the fence line - some of which were hammocks. In the center was a small round stage for readings, open mic nights, and live music. J found a clever way to hang fairy lights around and above the patio for a whimsical ambience. Both K and J were excited to see how it would look in the fast approaching fall.
But K couldn’t think about their wonderful little shop at the moment.
They had a dead, cursed, black rabbit in the back of their truck to worry about.
K’s drive into the city was a quick one. To save valuable parking spaces for coffee-loving and book-worshiping patrons, K parked the truck in the alley behind the patio.
After digging the keys out of their pocket, K unlocked the patio door, half hidden by ivy.
Many of the citizens were surprised by how well things grew around the shop and would ask
K what their secret was. K would always shrug and say “I have good plant juju.”
K made their way through the patio flora and unlocked the back door to the shop.
On any other morning, K would turn on the machines and lights and the stove as they walked through the shop. But this morning, K walked straight to the old school rotary phone hanging behind the counter. K pulled out the Quillville phone directory and found the number they needed.
K dialed the numbers slowing. With each round of numbers, the ancient phone emitted a heavy ticking sound. K would normally find that sound comforting. But the sound only delivered a growing sense of dream with each tick.
The phone rang twice before a gruff voice answered, “Glint,”
“Glint, it’s K from the Choices Shop, you know, Good Ideas Bookstore -”
“Bad Decisions Coffee, yeah K. Why are you calling? Shouldn’t you be open by now?” His voice was even, but didn’t quite hide the curiosity in it.
“Yeah, I’m opening in a moment. I was running late because a present was left on my doorstep this morning.”
“Doesn’t sound like a good present.”
“It wasn’t,” K pinched the bridge of their nose with a sudden exhaustion. “Could you stop by the shop this morning? Feel free to bring Monty.”
“I’ll see you soon, K.”
“Thanks Glint,” K hung up the phone.
K turned and looked around the shop, still dark. A new ticking caught their attention. K's eyes floated up to the giant clock across from the counter. It read 5:45.
K swore for a third time that day.
Like a whirlwind, K set to work getting the shop ready to open. First turning on all the coffee machines, espresso maker, the steamers, the stove. Then taking chairs down off tables and making sure the napkin dispensers were filled. It took some coaxing to get the computer and cash register awake. The last thing K did was say good morning to all the books.
When K flipped the sign on the glass door to open, there was a small line waiting - the 6am Writers Club. The writers tried to convince K to open the shop at 5am so they could be the 5am Writers Club. Yet, to everyone's surprise, K was not a morning person. J was the only reason K made it to work on time. J was the morning person in their relationship.
“Running late this morning?” they jested as they joined some of the tables together for their group.
K politely laughed, “Yeah, J made me breakfast in bed,” K gave them a hardy wink that sent them into giggles. “Do y’all want the usual? A kettle of green tea, two black coffees, and an Irish Coffee made with the good stuff.”
Irish Coffee was a lovely older woman with twinkly brown eyes, “Yes dear, that would be lovely.”
K nodded and set to work on their orders.
It was when K was filling up a tea strainer with a custom blend of green tea, did the chimes on the door rang their alert. K glanced up. A tall figure casually glided through the shop with a confidence you'd see in a Noir film.
“Good Morning, Deputy Mayor Glint,” K faked the brightness in their voice. “I’ll be right with you.”
"You don't need to call me by my title, K." Glint said as he strode the length of the counter and perched at one of the far bar stools.
K waved of the comment as they completed the orders and called the writers to enjoy their drinks.
Before going over to Glint, who was also a Private Investigator, K went to the rail display of alcohol. After a moment, K grabbed the same whiskey used for Irish Coffee's order.
What could K say? The woman had good taste.
Bottle in hand, K moved back to the other end of the counter where Glint waited. Along the way, K picked up two handmade mugs, a small espresso cup, and three small spice jars.
K placed one of the mugs and the espresso cup in front of Glint.
Uncorking the whiskey, K gestured to the cup in front of him.
Glint waved a declining hand.
"Don't mind if I do, then," K muttered and splashed a healthy pour of whiskey into the second mug.
K held up a finger before turning around to the wall of jars filled with various coffee beans. K settled on a strong but seasonal one. They scooped the beans into the grinder. Before hitting the blend button, K added a pinch from each of the spice jars: cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Satisfied with the custom blend, K hit the button.
With the noise as a cover up, K leaned over to Glint and quickly said, “I need your help. Someone left a dead rabbit on our doorstep this morning and the red ribbon around its neck has a curse on it.”
The grinder stopped and Glint stared at K. Unsure if he was in shock or completely unfazed by the situation, K went back to the grinder, put the grounds into a coffee maker, and jabbed the brew button. When K turned back to the PI, he said in a low voice, “Why don’t you start from the beginning,”
K nodded towards the 6am Writers Club.
Glint glanced over and saw that Black Coffee #2 and Kettle of Green tea were watching them.
"Follow my lead unless you want this conversation to be story fuel," K whispered.
Glint sat back and K took that as acceptance.
K called out to the writing group, “My lovely writers, can you man the fort for me? Just for a quick minute? Deputy Mayor Glint here wants to check out the patio. He’s thinking of renting
it out for a party.”
Black Coffee #1 saluted K. “Aye Aye Captain!”
“Thanks, it’ll just be a minute!”
K walked out from behind the bar and Glint followed.
When they were both in the safety of the patio, Glint coughed, “Nice lie,”
“Well you could rent the patio for a night,”
Glint ignored the statement. “So why would someone leave a dead rabbit on your doorstep?”
“How much do you know about J and I?”
K watched the gears turn behind Glint’s eyes. “Honestly not much. You two bought that quaint fixer upper on the edge of the city, opened this joint up fast, and you make a great cup of coffee. You have a good book selection too.”
K nodded and felt the frown deepening into their features. “Well to make a long story short, we had to leave our old town.”
“And why did you have to leave,” the tone of his voice indicated he didn’t like where this was going.
“We uncovered some shady business with a coven of witches while I was helping J research the town history. They didn’t like that we knew what they were up to and were afraid we’d publish our findings.”
“So you ducked out of town?”
“Pretty much, we left everything behind - our house, our jobs, our lives, even our names…”
Glint raised an eyebrow.
“Names have power,” K shrugged.
“So that’s why you go by K and J goes by J.”
“Yeah,” K nodded, “We made a deal with a powerful wizard to erase our names from history.”
“So the rabbit this morning…”
“A message from the coven. They found us and I don’t know how. I kept it from J, I didn’t want them to worry.” K paused and looked at the back gate, “It’s in the back of my truck bed if you want to check it out for yourself. Just don’t touch it, it’ll shock you.”
“Shock me because it’s so eviscerated?”
“No, it will actually shock you with an electrical charge. I do have rubber gloves in the cab if you want to pick it up. Do you think Blue over at the science museum would know who how discharge a rabbit?”
“I have to say K, this is one hell of a thing to drop on me this early in the morning.”
K twisted the simple silver band on their ring finger. They didn’t want to leave town again, they were building a home here, a future here. K looked up at Glint, determined. “I know, but I don't need much. If you could put me in contact with anyone that could help, the Red Quill or even a friendly werewolf, that would be fine. I know you are busy, especially with the
Animal Crackers suspect.”
"Right, I'll need more coffee for this. Also are we talking about, taking care of them." Glint gave a slow wink. "Or actually taking care of the situation and coming to some peaceful outcome? I'm down for both, just working out the bill in my head."
K managed a bark-like laugh. “Honestly I don’t know how I want this to end. But I know I want it to end and I will do whatever is necessary to protect my family and the life we are building here.”
“Whatever is necessary? You sure you want to go down that road?”
“C’mon Glint, let’s get you that coffee,” K turned and walked back into the shop.
Fire with Fire is a Serialized story by Judah Lamey, set in his world of Aleta.
It is not part of Quillville.
You can find Fire with Fire Part:1 Here
Fire With Fire Part 2:
Daniel Rickman had been very careful in laying out his plans to catch his thief. It was like trapping a sparrow with your bare hands, it took time and patience, and it was impossible unless you found a way to lure them to you. Stopping in front of a small window that displayed a chaotic pile of fabrics, Daniel did one last mental check and ran over his pitch. He doubted that there could be two thieves in Midura that would fit his need, he had to make this work.
Stepping into the shop, Daniel made small adjustments to his bearing to make himself more intimidating. A trick he had perfected over years. Winding his way around tables piled high with rolls of fabric he made his way to the back where an older, but far from frail man stood behind a wooden table smoothed and polished from years of use. A chip of chalk stuck out from behind the man’s ear, and he fingered a pair of long sheers. This was not the best part of town, and more than likely he would have had more than one chance to use those sheers to scare off street vultures looking for an easy coin.
“What can I do for you good sir?”
Daniel dropped his voice as he answered, “I pulled you aside the other night and asked you a few questions. Asked you to keep your eye out for a friend of mine. Just wanted to see if you had any luck with that.”
The shopkeep’s eyes flashed in recognition, but his tone was calm, “Didn’t recognize you in the light of day without your hood up.”
Daniel resisted the urge to smile, he liked people who had the guts to mock a threat. Instead he glared and waited.
Seeing he was not going to get any reaction from that, the old man leaned forward across the table and smiled, “Haven’t seen or heard a whisper from ‘em.” That smile did not touch his defiant eyes.
Cracking his knuckles Daniel leaned forward as well, “I suggest for your health, that you keep a sharper eye, old man.” A bland and vague threat would be expected. Now to throw him off a little. “This, is so you remember me next time.” Daniel laid down a pair of coins on the table that would match what this shop could make in a week. Then he turned on his heels and left behind a very confused shop keeper.
Daniel hated threatening people. If he ever caught any of his guards pulling what he had just done they would never set foot in the city again. They would be lucky to get out of the city unscathed. However, today it was his only choice. He had been asking after his thief around the city and they had to know he was looking for them. Until now however, no one he had asked could have recognized him. He had just plucked a strand of a spiders web, it wouldn’t be long now.
Walking slowly down the street, he made no effort in the least to hide. To that end the store was barely out of sight when he noticed that he was being followed. A pair of gutter children, doing a surprisingly good job of it too. Maybe he should make room on his Shadow Hunters for a few of those. They went everywhere, and were overlooked by most. There was, of course, the glaring down side of them being able to be bought off with a few hot meals. Two more blocks, and he heard the sound of small feet pattering across the street, now abandoning all stealth.
Had he mis-judged his thief? Where one of those children sent to stab him in the back? Suddenly a swarm of thoughts sprang into his head, filling him with doubts. What if instead of sending word to the thief that the man looking for him was about, the shopkeeper had given the coins to a pair of gutter snipes if they knifed him in the street. Spinning, he put his hands out, he would not draw his blades on a child. It was a young girl that ran at him, her hair tied back with a scarf and wearing rolled up pants. She held no weapon, but her face was intent. What was she doing? Daniel stepped up snapping his hands out to catch her arms. The girl slid around his grasp like smoke, leaping to the side she kicked off the wheel of a cart and launched herself back at him, Daniel tried to spin, but she was already in the air behind him her elbow connecting with his ear.
Curses and profanities did their best to escape his lips as Daniel spun around again, one eye squinting as he fought back the pain. She disappeared down an ally, and Daniel gave chase ignoring both the pain, and laughter of the few that had seen his embarrassment. The homes and buildings in this part of town had been built and expanded in erratic styles and fashion, and the alleyway twisted and turned twice in twenty running paces. However the second turn showed him a dead end. There had been no off shoots, where had he missed the girl? Some bolt hole to slide into? It wouldn’t have been hard he hadn’t seen her again after she disappeared into the alley. If he caught that little wisp of a thing, he would…Well he wasn’t sure what he would do, shake her till her teeth rattled, or offer her a job, it really could go ether way.
Her disappearing however was a moot point, because this dead end was a sprung trap. Thus it was also exactly where he wanted to be, but it still irked him that he had lost the girl so quickly. Walking to the dead end he turned to look back the way he had come.
Standing between him and the way out was a masked figure. Its clothes were black, and held tight to its skin with cloth wrappings. The tattered ends of which blew in the wind. The thief was so thin as to look like a corpse wrapped in a black shroud for its burial. Thin, yes, but Daniel had experience in sizing up opponents, and there was a lean muscular build under that skeletal appearance. Completing the disconcerting appertain was the mask. It was smooth and black, removing all form or detail from the face, all but a jagged white painted smile. Long black hair blew out around the mask in the wind.
Without a word the figured reached behind its back and brought out a black rod two handspans long with a wicked hook on one end and a large ring on the other. Then the figure started forward, Daniel had hoped this confrontation would not start with a fight, but he had figured it might. One did not ask questions and threaten people in the criminal underworld long without repercussions.
Reaching under his cloak he went for his two knives. Except, they were not there. A laugh burst from him. That little gutter rat.
“I guess that gives a new definition to a bump and lift.” Daniel rubbed at his ear. The masked figure hesitated, and Daniel continued, “I might still have it in me to beat you bare handed, but if it’s all the same to you I would rather not find out. I am truly sorry about threatening that friend of yours. I left him enough coin to compensate the fright. You see, I’ve been trying to find you, and this was the only way I could think of. This part of town is surprisingly loyal to you.”
The figure didn’t advance or relax. It stood as silent and steady as a statue, only it’s hair and the tattered ends of its wrappings rustled about it.
“My name is Daniel Rickman, I am the captain of the City Guard.”
With a whistle the figure jerked its head toward the mouth of the ally and the young girl darted into sight and then back down the ally, carrying Daniel’s knives.
“You’re Grin.” With a wry smile Daniel added, “I can’t imagine where that came from.”
Grin tilted their head slightly.
“I am here to recruit you. I have looked into you, going over every scrap of information that this city has. There were a lot of pieces to put together, and it took me quite awhile.” He lowered his voice, “I know who you are Jack.”
At that, Grin jerked back as if burned, his head whipping around to look and see if anyone had been close enough to hear.
Daniel continued, “More than that, I know why it is that you do what you do, and how you pick your targets.” Grin reached up with his free hand and pulled off his mask. His face was beaded with sweat, apparently that mask was not the coolest of attire. “This city needs you, I won’t threaten you I am not bribing or blackmailing you. This can only work if you come to it willingly. There are too many that think themselves gods in this city, that think of themselves as untouchable. You are among them, but not one of them, and for that I need you. The City Guard does nothing but walk the streets and put on a show, I am the first to admit it. We need the ability to look into crimes, to hunt those responsible. We need to bring justice, not just say we stand for it. We need to do what you wanted us to do all those years ago when you came to us. You asked us for help and we said no. For that I am sorry. I am putting together a new guard, one that will give the evil in this city no place to hide.”
Grin looked him in the eye for a long, silent moment. “You can do this?”
Daniel nodded, “With you and few others help I can.”
Then Grin flicked his hand forward and Daniel heard a clink by his boot, he looked down and saw a small black stone, reaching down and picking it up, he turned it to see that on the other side was painted into a likeness of Grin’s mask. Unsurprisingly the thief was gone when he looked back up.
Slowly a genuine, joy filled smile started to spread across his face. He had his thief, and his new guard was officially begun. Now for the hardest of the three, to recruit an honorable murderer.
The Red Quill
Clutching the scrap of paper in hand, I watched the raven vanish from sight as clouds obscured the half-moon. One note was still attached to the bird’s leg; a message for M. Damon Baker, most likely. Glint likes to keep things on the up and up with the law. Unfortunately for this Lockjaw character, I got the message first. But I’m sure the arm of the law will shed no tears over this case.
“Looks like the other crazies in this town will have to wait, Loki.” I dug a eucalyptus leaf out of my pocket and held it up to the grey ball of fur on my shoulder. Grazing my fingertips with his nails, the koala took it, munching quietly in my ear. Normally, I prefer to work alone, but when a koala turned up on my doorsteps two weeks ago, I couldn’t resist taking him in.
“Alright.” I struck a match and watched the message burn. “We’ve got a thief to catch.”
I cracked my knuckles and we made our way across the rooftops toward Glint’s office. It’s safer this way. Night and day people are up in Quillville. But, writers are always looking down at their laptops or notebooks. They rarely catch a glimpse of me.
Loud talking and the sound of music drifted up from that new comedy club that just opened about two weeks ago. I forget the guy’s name; Lucius? Luminous? It doesn’t really matter. Incidentally, that was about the same time Loki showed up.
A long line crowded the entrance, making me hurry away. Too many people. That and the smell of burnt hamburgers and eucalyptus; worst combination ever. As the clouds clear, moonlight lit the streets below and I finally caught sight of the guy. Of course he was heading for the dark alley leading into the horror district. That’s where all the real trouble has been coming from. I just can’t prove it yet.
No matter. I cracked my knuckles and noiselessly creep down the ladder. “Here, Loki,” I whispered, transferred him to the ladder. “This won’t take long.”
Loki clung to the ladder with one paw, munching away and looking unbothered by the whole scenario. I left him there, running down the cobblestones into darkness.
Lockjaw looked fifty shades of ridiculous as he waddled at top speed, trying to make it to the secret entrance—a manhole at the end of the alley. It would have been fun to watch him try to squeeze into it, but my time was running out.
“Well, well. What do we have here?”
Lockjaw froze and whirled around, sweat streaking down his face and soaking his shirt. “You’re the…” That’s all he got out.
“The Red Quill? And you were expecting the peace keeper.” I held up my hands, shrugging in mock apology. “Sorry. You must be Lockjaw. Although, I doubt that’s your real name. A little too on the lines of Taser Face, isn’t it?”
Lockjaw didn’t answer this time, but took a step back.
“Ah-ah.” I whipped out my secret weapon; a red, feather pen gifted to me by an old friend. “Tell me what I want to know and things might go easier for you.”
Lockjaw’s mouth formed a hard line and I began to think maybe this is where he got his name. His hand moved astonishingly quickly for someone his size. But not quick enough. I ducked and the knife sailed over my head, falling with a clatter on the stones behind me.
“Not smart.” I shook my head and began writing on the ground. Red ink spilled from the pen’s tip, glowing as the words flowed in neat, cursive coils across the stone. I glared up at him. “I’m afraid your story ends here, Lockjaw. I’m writing you out of Quillville. So how’s it going to be? Long and painful, quick and neat…or creative?”
His face twisted in horror as I tapped the pen on my lips pretending to think it over. “I think I’ll go with creative. It’s my personal favorite.”
Before the scream escaped his lips, I had already written what I needed. Lockjaw vanished and with him all evidence of his less than courageous encounter with an agitated kangaroo. The only thing that remained were two blotchy words for the police to find; The End.
I sighed, somewhat disappointed as I tucked my pen away and went back to find Loki. “So much for finding out who is behind the villain infestation.”
I was sure someone was watching me and glanced back down the alley. Nothing. There never was. Whoever was letting nasty things loose in the city was clever and always kept in the shadows. But they would trip up one day and I would be waiting.
Loki tilted his head, looking hungry. I scooped him up, placed him on my shoulder and gave him another handful of eucalyptus leaves. “I guess my work is done for the night,” I mumbled. I doubted anyone would look too closely into what happened to that guy. I climbed back on the roof and started home, curbing my disappointment by thinking of Lockjaw attempting to spar with a beefed-up kangaroo. My chuckle was a little on the villainous side, I admit. But the guy was trying to pass off someone else’s work as his own. A thief of words should never have come to Quillville.
About the Author:
If you liked this story by Anna Bowman (@AEBowman3) her debut novel Black Recluse is out now. Check it out HERE
Glint: Private Eye
Odds are, if you have found your way here into this rambling narrative of a story, that you have heard of me. For the few of you who may be new around here, the name is Glint and as the peeling paint on the frosted glass of my office door behind you so boldly announces, I am a private eye. Somehow, through means that I am still not entirely sure of, I wound up the assistant mayor of our fine city here. If we are being entirely honest, I am not sure it wasn’t a plot of Mayor Lombard to keep a closer eye on me.
How about I stop breaking the fourth wall here, and you can have a seat and watch my story unfold, besides I need to moodily stare into the curling smoke of my pipe while appearing deep in thought. Most of the time, this is just to give a good impression to potential clients, but today I actually have a good amount of deep thoughts to be mulled over.
There is that old adage, or perhaps it is an axiom I never knew the difference, that it never rains but it pours. It is patently untrue, but somehow it survives the turning of the calendar pages year after year, and is muttered with a shake of the head like a useless emotional bandaid. My particular reason for reviving the age thin adage would be that last month I didn’t have as much as a missing cat case, but at the moment I was wearing holes in my shoes working on two rather large cases.
The first one, and perhaps the most nefarious would be the sabotage of the Science Center. The owner Blue had nothing to gain from the sabotage, and everything to lose so more often than not this would exempt her from the suspect list. Now I say more often than not, because there is more going on at that Science Center than meets they eye, and Blue is hiding something. My initial interview with her was less than enlightening, it was unusually formal, and more than a little awkward. At first I took her poor eye contact as evasion, but came to the conclusion it was just a conversational style, at least when she was dealing with private eyes. It was when I was strategically steered away from the idea of exploring the Museum for clues, and then also casually dissuaded from getting my hands on the security camera footage that I started to be more than a little suspicious of Blue.
Which leads us to my second case, perhaps not very nefarious, but still more than a little disconcerting. Someone broke into Struve’s Hobby Farm and released a virus that infected the animals, temporarily giving them surprisingly accurate faces of Quillville citizens. Personally I found myself staring back from a goat, which surprised me more because it wasn’t a donkey. I thought for sure I would have been a jack ass, but maybe I am not so bad as I think, that or I shouldn’t take life affirmations from virus infected animals.
My pipe smoke swirled rhythmically as my thoughts traced the outline of my two mysteries. Until, with a bang, the door to my office slammed open, and an overly large man forced his way inside, wiping sweat from his brow with the back of one hand.
“My name is Lockjaw, and I’m here to hire you.”
Looking over the intruder of my thoughts with a practiced eye I made more than a few deductions, and I disliked him immediately, and not just because he sounded like a B list villain from a Disney movie. Though the necessity of keeping the coffee bean jar full meant I needed to take cases from people I didn’t like every now and then. Though if he wanted me to find puppies for a coat I was out.
“What can I do for you Lockjaw.” I said, setting down my pipe.
In what I guessed was an attempt at a power play to keep me off balance, he picked my styrofoam coffee cup off the desk and smirked at me, as if daring me to say something about it.
“First, that’s rude, second that’s not coffee.”
He looked at the cup with confusion, in time for an iridescent red Mantis Shrimp claw to burst through the side of the mug. Lockjaw gingerly set the cup back on the desk, and as the arm retracted a small eye filled the hole, looking over the sweaty man with distain.
With a smile I gesture to the cup, “That is a witness for one of my cases, they are helping me out a bit. But you didn’t come here to get assaulted by crustaceans.”
To his credit Lockjaw gathered himself and clearing his throat, he pulled a folded sheaf of papers from his back pocket and handed them across to me. “This is my book, I just finished it last month, and already their is someone out there trying to claim it is their own.”
Flipping through the pages, I read excerpts at random getting a feel for the book.
“And you want me to figure out who they are?”
“I know who it is.” Lockjaw handed me another piece of paper, this one with a photo and a name. As Assistant Mayor I find myself out walking the streets of Quillville quite often, and as odds would have it the smile in the picture was not unknown to me.
“So, what exactly do you need me for then?” I flipped through the pages with a bit more determination.
Lockjaw gave a small cough and then slid a manila envelope with a suspiciously cash like bulge in it, “You are going to persuade them to stop making a fuss about this book, drop their claims and walk away.”
Nodding toward the envelope I ask, “And that is for?”
The grin he gives me is lop sided and more a smirk than a smile. “Consider that a bonus just for hearing me out.”
His grin falters a little as I pick the envelope up, open it and pull out the money. Apparently he was hoping for a little more cloak and dagger, or perhaps a little more appreciation from me.
While I thumb through the stack of bills I turn partially toward my open office window and give a loud, shrill whistle. Lockjaw balks at the noise and I can see him beginning to frown at my lack of respect for him and his sweaty money. I smile up at him and this apparently was not what he was hoping for.
His grin vanishes as he attempts to lean ominously over my desk. “You listen here you…”
Whatever insult he was about to try out is abruptly silenced by the arrival of a raven landing on the window sill with a less than delicate crunch of wood.
I quickly jot down two very similar notes on ripped off pieces of paper while Lockjaw is attempting to regain his mental balance and process the arrival of a raven, who at the moment appears to be studying him quite intently. Another short whistle gets the raven’s attention and with a hop it is on the edge of my desk, begrudgingly letting me tie the notes onto its legs. Scratching the bird behind its head I whisper a few words to it before letting it go.
“Lockjaw, you have made a few mistakes here today, and I’m not going to lie, they are going to have unpleasant ramifications. See first off, you didn’t do nearly enough homework on me, second you brought a copy of this book here.” Standing up I look him square in the eye as I hold out my arm and let fly my raven. With a practiced motion the raven flaps once into air, and then folds its wings diving out the window. With my other hand I held the picture he had brought in.
“See, I know this person, I have talked to them before, and oddly enough I have talked to them about the book they were writing. The book they took years of their life writing.”
Lockjaw tried to stammer out something indignant but I didn’t give him the chance.
“Okay fair is fair, in skimming the book here I saw a particularly noticeable cliffhanger. No author would forget one of their own cleverly constructed cliffhangers, so finish the sentence for me. Tiffany stood looking down at the smoldering wreckage of the car and knew…”
His mouth opened and closed a few times, not too dissimilar to a fish caught out of water. No doubt his thoughts were also quite similar to aforementioned doomed fish.
I continued. “Being assistant mayor has taught me a thing or two, and one of those things is delegation. Even the occasional necessity of delegating things you yourself want to do. See my raven there just left on a mission to find two individuals. One is a rather shady peace keeper by the name of M. Damon Baker, who upon hearing your crime, may leave their badge in the car in exchange for a sock full of nickels when they catch up to you. Second is Quillville’s very own Red Quill, who’s punishment style is a little more…” I paused as if searching for the perfect word. “creative. Now nothing would give me more pleasure than to take you outside and demonstrate for you the nuances of a proper curb stomp, however I do have quite a lot to do, and not a lot of time, so if I were you…”
Reaching a hand out, Lockjaw attempted to grab back the money. With a smile I pulled it out of his range, “You clearly said this was bonus for hearing you out, which I did. Payment for services rendered and all that.”
Bravery and cowardice warred inside him, but not for as long as one might think, apparently the troops on the bravery side of that fight were few and far between. Turning he bolted for the door, leaving me with my quiet contemplations once again.
Settling back into my chair I relit my pipe and after a few puffs had a suitable cloud for staring into. While Blue was in the overall scheme of things proving more suspicious than helpful, there was one lead that she had let slip. The virus would take a week to show its effects, and would have had to be passed on from other animals. Counting back the days gave me a rough idea of when it would have had to be administered. To get away with such a villainous act, would require a substantial distraction. I made a few phone calls, and ran into some dead ends before a thought struck me, what about the shindig at Helmkamp’s? There was a huge turn out, and it would have been later at night, so if I were going to choose a time to sneak through town, that would have been it.
Rummaging through my desk I produced a map of Quillville and spread it out on my desk. Grabbing a pencil I marked Helmkamp’s Whiskey Bar on the map, and then also the Hobby Farm. The shindig at the Whiskey Bar had been a wonderful chaos, turning into a bit of a spontaneous follow train sort of party. Anyone seen on the street, was pulled into the festivities. So our culprit would have wanted to stay out of sight, that meant ether the subterranean tunnels, or the rooftops. The tunnels were, in my opinion cooler, but far harder to hide in, which really only left the rooftops.
There were two possibilities for witnesses if this were the case, one of them was The Red Quill, who at the moment was probably chasing down a particularly sweaty quarry. Closing my eyes I did my best to piece together the sounds and smells of Helmkamp’s, skimming through my memories for who I had seen. Red Quill had indeed been there, in her civilian identity. So that really only left me one option for who to check with. After donning my hat and coat, I pull a book from my shelf revealing a pair of gleaming brass knuckles that had been hidden behind it. Pocketing them the thought crossed my mind, would they still be considered brass knuckles if they were made out of pure silver?
“Come on Monty, we are going to see a person about a dog. Or in this case, perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are going to see a dog about a person.”
The Lycanthropes of Quillville spend the daylight hours in a seedy underground bar waiting for night to descend before heading out to roam the rooftops. They are mostly a good sort if a little on the rough and tumble side. As I walk into the bar with the less than subtle handle of “The Lair” every head turns, and every conversation stops. It is impossible to tell who is a werewolf while in human form but it is a pretty good bet that most or all of them are.
“Good afternoon, I’m here to ask you all a few questions.”
One particularly large individual snorts at this, and another gives a low chuckle.
It starts almost as a ripple, a shiver rolling through the dozen or so individuals gathered in the bar. Most all of them start to roll their necks or shoulders, as the transformation takes them. The one who had snorted at me holds my eyes, as he sits stock still, unmoving. One hand over the back of their chair, the other holding a sweating bottle of beer on the table. Hair slithers out of his skin, as their mouth and nose elongate into a vicious looking muzzle, teeth pulling at their lips. Without so much as a twitch his transformation takes completely, and only then does he raise the bottle to his now wolfish face and take another drink. Licking his lips the werewolf sets their beer down and smiles at me.
“I am not going to lie, that is quite impressive, and not a little intimidating. But I wouldn’t have come down here if I didn’t have an offer.”
Gesturing with their bottle the apparent leader of the wolves allows me to continue.
“How about this, If I can knock one of you out with one hit then you tell me what I want to know. If I can’t you all get one free hit on me.”
There was a collective rasping laugh that rolled through the dim bar, and for the first time the leader spoke, “One hit each?”
“That is the deal, not in the face, and you have to leave me living at the end, but it won’t come to that anyway.”
“Deal.” The leader then barked a few words and another werewolf rose from a table to the side. I looked over, and blinked, it was apparent that the leader may not have been the largest of the wolves after all. The beast who approached me, was immense. Coarse hair coated a chest and arms thick with rippling muscle. Even the wooden floor groaned at the presence of this nightmare made flesh. With a grin across it’s scarred muzzle the beast reached out to flex and curl their elongated and claw tipped fingers. Mocking me, the creature even leaned down a bit, turning its head to present me with the side of its massive jaw. This elicited another round of chuckles from the pack.
Cracking my neck, I shook out my shoulders and brought my firsts up in front of my face. Without preamble I snapped a right jab out to the side of the wolfs face, but instead of connecting, I simply turned my fist over and opened my hand. Shimmering in all of its iridescent beauty was my temporary companion Monty. In that flash of a moment I could have swore I saw it smile. There was a sound not dissimilar to breaking a handful of sticks over ones knee, followed by a rather large thud, and then an all consuming silence
“Now, before you gather up your friends teeth and try to bring them around back into the land of the conscious. I have a few questions.”
The leader gave another booming laugh, and with a shake of their head their wolf form melted away. Monty was an instant celebrity, and the leader gladly answered my questions. It turns out that they were indeed out wandering the rooftops on the night in question, but none of them had seen anything out of the ordinary, they hadn’t even smelled anyone, or even the trail of anyone.
At first I thought I was on the wrong lead entirely, until one of the younger lycanthropes piped up. “It could have been that Bines fellow.”
The other wolves growled slightly at this, then went on to explain to me that one of the teachers at the Quillville high school, a one Marcus Bines, had suddenly stopped having a scent altogether. They had noticed this because their sense of smell was as sharp or sharper than their eyesight, meaning any discrepancy between the two stood out like flair on a moonless night.
The unconscious and largely forgotten body on the floor gave a groan, and I decided that it might be best if Monty and I were gone by the time they came fully around. As I walked the gas lit streets of Quillville I mulled over this potential new lead. Marcus Bines was not an unfamiliar name to me, as he was currently being considered for Education Minister. He was a good sort, and I would have never pegged him for the type to cause such trouble, but this was a city of writers, and well, we are far from an easy crew to draw a bead on. Laughter and music drifted out of the The Good Ideas Bookstore & Bad Decisions Coffee Bar as I walked by, and for a moment I was tempted to stop in, but I really did need to get on with my task. Then the cup in my hand gave a shudder. Reaching down I popped off the lid and looked in on Monty. The mantis shrimp had one of its eyes to the hole it had made and was tapping the side of the cup with one of its claws. Knowing I must look like a mad man I seemingly consulted my coffee and then slowly took a step closer to the open coffee shop.
Inside one of the laughing patrons turned in their seat and Monty went ridged, their claw starting to drag down the inside of the cup, grooving the styrofoam. Making a mental note, I slipped the lid back on the cup and continued on my way. Very interesting, it seemed that bringing Monty along had turned out to be a good idea for more than one reason now. Looks like I have a lead on Blue’s case as well, but first things first.
On the horizon the sun was just beginning to flirt with the landscape when I made it to outside Bines office, it was on the ground floor and had a beautiful view of a small park. I watched for a moment until he stepped out, before hurrying through the park and to his window. Monty twitched excitedly in the cup, the little guy had gotten the taste for destruction fast.
“Subtle has its place to Monty.” I muttered to the cup as I slid a small shim from within my jacket and proceeded to jimmy the window lock with a practiced motion. I wasn’t always a mayor after all.
When Bines returned with a steaming mug in his hand, he gave a small start at seeing me sitting at his desk, smiling. To his credit, he recovered quickly and merely reached up to adjust his glasses before speaking.
“Mayor Glint! What a surprise to see you in my office, at my chair. I just stepped out for something to drink, would you like some?”
“Assistant Mayor, and that’s not the reason I am here today, have a seat.” I gesture to one of the chairs across from Bines’s desk.
He gave a snort of amusement, before playing along with a shrug. There was something in his slight smirk that made me like the fellow even more. I enjoyed pulling this stunt on suspects, it usually threw them off kilter. They would get angry or scared, but they would let something slip. Bines just seemed amused. Odds are you didn’t get to be in line for the job of Education Minister without having a high tolerance for putting up with shenanigans.
“I am here to ask you some questions about the events surrounding Struve’s Hobby Farm and the virus outbreak. Whoever pulled that caper was very clever and very careful. However, I am kind of good at what I do, and the trail led me here to your door.”
I gave a small shrug and a smile but left the conversational ball in his court.
Adjusting his glasses again he smiled, “To be honest, I have heard a little talk around town that you were behind that, I mean Glint may be your first name, but we all know your last name. Though if you are here, it is unlikely that rumor is true. So what exactly led you here?”
“It seems there was a good chance that the perpetrator used the rooftops to get across town on the night in question, and while the lycanthropes were out in force howling at the moon as they do, they didn’t smell anything, oddly enough there was almost a suspicious lack of scents. Something that reminded them of you.
Bines shook his head and laughed. “I said there was talk around the town that suspected you, but personally I had my own suspicions. There is a student of mine that I used to teach back in my Quillville High days, and they were a well known prankster then. Used to let down the air in the principal’s tires, that sort of thing. Also, they did seem more than a little keen in my scent masking formula a couple weeks ago.”
Standing from behind his desk I tipped my hat to Bines, “Well then, have a great evening, I am off to…” I left the sentence hang, an unasked question. Bines smiled and gave me a name, one that I was quite familiar with, and perhaps one that should have been higher on my suspect list. I bid him farewell and assured him, that even with all this, he had my vote for Education Minister.
I had to hurry across town to catch up to my prey, unfortunately this meant borrowing a penny farthing from my friend Susan Waters, why on earth she had a soft spot for these deathtraps was beyond me, they didn’t even have cupholders. Balancing precariously on a very small seat atop a very large wheel with Monty’s cup clenched in my teeth I rattled my way as quickly as I could across town, cursing Susan’s taste with every one of the, what had to be millions, of bumps along the way. I nearly crashed the thing out of spite when I finally pulled up to the end of my journey. It took my a solid minute to calm Monty down, and sort my hat and coat back into place. Hard to look like a hardboiled detective while riding one of those things.
Walking down the street through the gas lit fog brought a smile to my face, this was my favorite time of day, and it couldn’t be beat for theatrics. A figure resolved itself through the fog, their back to me as they locked a pair of large double doors. When they turned and made eye contact with me, be it my smile, or my very presence here, I could see them put the pieces together. I knew I had the right person.
“Good Evening Alexandra Peel, we need to have a talk.”
Welcome to Quillville, an entire city created by writers, for writers.
If you are new to the City of Quillville, you can swing over and check out the introductory post HERE
If you want more stories, you can check out the Opening Day of the Science Museum by @AspienBlue
Our amazing cover art is by @Bernade99148377
Author Anonymous (For Now)
From up here, the City of Quillville looked like any other. I wouldn't say the streets were mean, just a little shabby round the edges. The City Planner; some dame called Carlson, had strange ideas about road layout – she wasn't from around here originally – but there again who was?
Music drifted up from Helmkamp's Whiskey Bar. It was a pleasant evening and many of the clientèle had drifted onto the street to mingle. I spotted two figures seemingly in close conversation. Looks like Valencia Stokes; judging by the fedora, and who's she with? Ah yes, our Deputy Mayor. The fine, upstanding Mister Glint. I'll give him and Mayor Lombard one thing, they run a tight ship. But there's something amiss in our bright, shiny town. A little secret they're trying to hush up and Stokes, I think, is onto it. Well after tonight, everybody will know.
A scrape on the slates behind me. I can smell rankness, wet fur. Hear the click of nails tap-tapping along. The lycanthropes are out tonight; I assume the others will be on the move too; some weird Goth kids. Earlier today there was a fire in the north end of town. Lombard believes they did it - has her eye on the gangs, got them doing community service, if you can believe that! I keep low and still. One of the teachers at the local high school, Bines, made me up this scent camouflage – if Lombard or Glint find out the guy could lose his job – Marcus Bines is up for Education Minister. The werewolf passes, doesn't
smell me, thanks teach!
An engine roar getting louder draws my eyes. A little red corvette squeals up to the bar; wheels spinning, dust flying, people coughing. I see a petite brunette step out. Despite the lack of sun, she's wearing huge sunglasses. Little Lacie Waldon, Quillville's Head of Light Entertainment, or something, saunters across the pavement, greeted by handshakes, kisses and hugs – oh they love their hugs in Quillville! The BBQ Whiskey Bar is throwing some kind of celebration, because the town's Hostess du supreme organized a charabanc for the whole place. Had to get the mad scientists involved to enable us all to fit into a handful of cars – at least I got to drive. Just along the way, Daniels and Zaychta of the Bad Decision Coffee Bar
and Tempest Tea Rooms, respectively, are closing up, coming to join the celebrations. Fire Chief Hawke has allowed for a firework display later on – lots of noise, lots of distraction!
So while they're all busy at Helmkamp's, I can get on with my business. I run lightly (for my age) across the roof of the Quillville National Enquirer. Maggie Cannon's probably working late, so I've got my soft soles on. Someone has placed a ladder across the alley gap. I pull up short. Hunker beside the advertising board and check around. There's been a red-clad figure about town recently, Red Quill or Red Claw she calls herself – Bowman is an authorised vigilante. Can you believe that shit?
There's no-one around, that I can see. But Bowman's smart. Small, light-footed and quick. I'll bet she put this ladder here for her own use – or as a trap! I decide to skirt around the obvious route, clamber down the drainpipe and dash across to the Post Office building. All locked up for the day, Amara Coulson; Post Mistress, will be at the celebrations too, I assume. The bag on my back seems to be getting heavier, but I'll make my destination before the wriggling gets too awkward.
Half an hour later, and I stand before a large pair of gates. Across the top are the words, City of Quillville Hobby Farm. The wall is easy to climb, Struve, the founder-owner, created it to keep her oddities in, not people out. In the shadow of a tree, I unfasten my bag and set the cargo free. Aspien Blue is going to be famous – possibly, maybe. Blue, the Director of Quillville Science Centre conducted a genome splicing experiment, went all Frankenstein and had an accident with electrostatic energy discharge; lucky to be alive, silly sod. But the knock-on effect was interesting! The lab mice, rats and mosquitoes were all affected, couldn't do anything with them, but they seemed to have, unbelievably, absorbed the essence of
the writing community. They went through physical changes that no-one could have predicted. On my tour at the grand opening, I had snuck in to the 'staff only' area and discovered their little secret. Transient Metamorphic Cranium Shifting – at least that's what I call it. Ever seen a mouse or a fly with another's face'? Here we go then. Most of the accidents were terminated, but enough were left to have some fun with. My Metamorphic critters ran amok amongst the animals – taking a nip here, or being consumed, either way, the TMCS virus was transmitted.
A week later, and the effects became apparent. A group of visitors were touring our fine city; prospective business folks and writers. A posse of school kids on a day trip wandered around the Hobby Farm, and writers who should have been hard at work on their manuscripts sat around on the grass sipping lattes and some god-awful green tea from see-through cups – jeez, don't these people know it's a trendy marketing hype to squeeze dosh from their, already, threadbare pockets?! And then it happened,
"Ew!" One child pointed at the two-headed goat. "Miss, miss! It's got a face!"
Others started to laugh, a couple screamed as the giant tortoise raised it's head. Showing it's new 'face'.
"Miss! This one looks like Brian!"
...You get the picture. I watched from atop the library as, first the Fire Department, then the Head of PTA, security and finally the Mayor and her Deputy arrived. It was all I could do to hang onto my perch as I chuckled away at the mayhem.
"Who has done this?" Lombard demanded.
The Director of the Science Centre was called.
"Explain this." Glint said.
But of course, Blue couldn't.
Visitors, staff and authorities stood around admiring my handiwork. And my handiwork looked back. All the animals now sported faces of members of the community. Of course mine was in there too. I thought I looked good as a zebra!
The effects will wear off, eventually. The best bit about the Transient Metamorphosis, is the way the faces shift. So the tortoise might look like Maggie Cannon, the Editor of the National Enquirer one moment, and her rival journalist, Valencia Stokes the next! The two-headed goat was best though. It wore the faces of our Mayor and deputy, each shifting and alternating between one and the other. Now, I need to go and move books from the Self Help section to Fantasy. Till next time, be seeing you.
What is going on in the City of Quillville this week? Well it looks like something is afoot over at the Science Museum. Let's all look in on what a day in the life looks like for Blue.
If you are new to the City of Quillville, you can swing over and check out the introductory post HERE
Science Museum Opening Day
Becca was hardly surprised by the boys’ enthusiastic response when she asked if they wanted to go to the science museum’s grand opening in the morning. She smiled to herself as they raced wildly around the house, screeching with excitement about dinosaurs, volcanoes, meteorites, and the virtual rainforest they couldn’t wait to see. Perhaps, she thought, I should have told them tomorrow. I don’t think anyone’s going to sleep tonight…
The bustling City of Quillville was abuzz on the eve of the long-awaited unveiling of its crowning jewel. Several exciting years of planning, design, public comment, groundbreaking, and construction were followed by an invisible scuffle within for nearly 18 months. The inner workings of the museum were little more than speculative snippets fired off by the local rags. Rumours rippled through the cafes, ranging from the fantastical to downright disparaging, leaving the townsfolk salivating to see the truth themselves.
Becca and the boys were among the very few residents of Quillville with any insight into the wonders waiting behind the astonishing twisting glass façade. The museum’s director, Blue, was their reclusive neighbor and one of Becca’s cherished friends. While most of the town grew ever more suspicious and damning of how Blue was purportedly spending their tax dollars, Becca knew her friend was both prudent and pragmatic, perhaps a little eccentric and certainly socially awkward, but driven by an altruistic desire to create a monument to learning, exploration, discovery, and experience.
Saturday morning dawned bright and crisp, a few leaves along Main Street starting to turn and a hint of fall in the air. A long line was coalescing at the museum’s front entry and beginning to snake around the corner. Becca and the boys stepped off the Number 42 bus with a crush of other young families twittering excitedly about the spectacles they hoped awaited inside. She firmly held their tiny hands and walked to the end of the line against their protests that Blue would surely let them enter first.
“We can’t take advantage of our friendship with Blue, sweethearts, she’s going to have her hands full enough as it is today without generating any bad press by playing favorites,” she admonished her boys gently.
At the stroke of 9 o’clock, the giant gears looming above the entrance groaned into animation, pulling cables, swinging the front doors wide, and pumping life into the magical array of fountains hemming the museum. A cheer went up from the surging throng, accompanied by unusual but beautiful music that seemed to emanate from the building itself. Becca scanned the signage along the path as they moved slowly forward, reading that the gears, fountains, and music were integral parts of the infrastructure, powered by the sun and gravity. Impressive start…
Excitement crescendoed as they crept to the front of the line, where Becca saw her exhausted friend personally welcoming each visitor into the museum. She gave Blue a little hug and asked softly if she could grab a coffee for her, “looks like you could really use one.” Blue gratefully rattled her stainless steel mug, “yeah, I think I’m going to need a few more today. Just tell Chris it’s for me, he’ll put it on my tab. Knows my order too, no worries…” Blue turned to the next folks in line and continued with her warm greetings, but Becca spied something in her friend’s eyes that belied the strain she was feeling.
Becca’s concern for her friend blinded her momentarily to the extraordinary space she was stepping into, but with Blue’s mug in hand, she looked around and marveled at the wonder of it. Two grand open staircases spiralled around each other, a five-storey double-helix stretching away above them, each step painted and labelled in sequences of ATCG, the code of life. The boys’ squeals of delight and excitement joined the chorus of astonished children and their slightly more restrained carers as they darted about like excited gas molecules in a heated container. Where should they start first? Dinosaurs! No, from the bottom to the top! No, race you to the top and wind our way down!!
Eager to help her friend and placate her boys, Becca spied the virtual rainforest next to the cafe and reminded them how excited they were for this experience. “Nothing like it on Earth, well except for the actual rainforest…” Blue explained to them months ago. But this was even more thrilling, and perhaps more chilling, than delving into the Amazon because visitors control the fate of species and the entire ecosystem by feeding decisions into accelerated feedback systems. “You’ll see just how devastating the loss of a single organism is…” Blue warned them ominously. After helping Max and Leo don their VR gear and understand the rules of the game, Becca slipped out to take her place in yet another lengthy line.
She sighed and resigned herself to scrolling through her news feeds to assess the initial public reactions. Her friends were posting selfies and checking in to the museum across all social media platforms. The check-in numbers for the museum were already in the hundreds within the first hour. As she was about to check herself in to join the fun, a vicious headline popped up in her news alerts: Science Museum Scandal! Taxpayers Hard Earned Dollars Squandered on Frivolous Amusement Park Oh no, this is exactly what Blue was afraid of. Bad press before anyone’s even made it through a single exhibit. She nibbled her nail pensively wondering whether to read the libelous statements within or just avoid the click-bait altogether. The National Enquirer was notorious for these games, in spite of their insistence that they only report “the cold hard truth”, and she usually just ignored it, but this felt personal.
Thankfully her turn to place an order was up before she had a chance to give into the temptation. “Good morning! What can I get’cha?” the tall, svelte barista, with neatly trimmed facial hair and bright blue eyes rimmed by dark frames, beamed at her. A quick glance at his name tag confirmed this handsome man was indeed Chris. “Hi Chris, Blue’s in desperate need of refueling…” “No problemo!” he winked grabbing the mug from her hand, the accidental brush of his long beautiful fingers sending a jolt of electricity up her spine, “one triple shot almond cappuccino coming right up for our heroic boss!”
Feeling slightly dazed by her visceral reaction to a perfect stranger, Becca moved cautiously to the pick-up counter and smirked to herself about the notion of picking up something other than a coffee here.
“You’re friends with Blue?” a bubbly Midwestern voice behind her inquired. Becca turned to the friendly woman and tried to recall where she’d seen her before.
“Yes, quite good friends. You know her too?” Becca’s legal acumen snapped to the fore, cautioning her against revealing too much in case the mousy blond was a blood-sucking reporter.
“Oh, you must be Rebecca! She always talks about you and your boys…” her wide sparkling eyes scanned the room around them, “are they here too?”
“Yes…” Becca responded cautiously, increasingly uneasy about this exuberant woman who knew far too much about her, “what did you say your name was?”
“Oh, gosh! Sorry ‘bout that! I always assume anyone with kids and half a brain in their head knows me! I’m S.J.,” she stuck out her hand to shake Becca’s, “librarian extraordinaire, at your service!”
“Of course,” now beaming back, Becca shook S.J.’s hand enthusiastically, “I knew you looked familiar, but I just couldn’t place you! Yes, right, Blue talks about you too. Always mumbling something about how she’d love to have us both over for dinner if she could just find the time. That woman is the biggest work-a-holic I’ve ever met, but my goodness, isn’t this magnificent place a testament to that!”
“Oh, I know, it’s just incredible! She convinced me to promote Science Week at the library as a big lead up for the school kids and donated dozens of fantastic books to support the cause. Asked me to recommend all the titles they’re carrying in the gift shop too.”
“Your drinks ladies,” Chris’s mellow tenor brought them back to the reason they were here. “Enjoy your day and don’t be strangers!” he said with a wink that sent a collective shudder through Blue’s friends.
“Oh, my, gawd,” panted S.J, once they were out of the cafe. “It’s he simply divine? I know he’s a bit young, but I think our Blue deserves a bit of that, at least so we can live vicariously through her! Ha-ha!”
Becca could only laugh and nod in agreement as they moved through the foyer swarming with bodies. Her knee-jerk reaction was that Chris was exactly the shot in the arm Blue needed to help her relax a little after being wound so tightly the past few years and that she would personally enjoy hearing tales of their escapades. On deeper reflection, as they passed by a display case holding a replica of the world’s largest Beryl crystal and a tribute to the space program its Beryllium facilitated, she reasoned that wasn’t what Blue would want at all. Her friend was nothing if not cautious and guarded about intimacy. It had taken Becca ages to simply give her a hug without eliciting a sharp stiffening. No, she and S.J. would just have to keep their little fantasy world to themselves.
“Here you are, my dear,” Becca slipped quietly next to Blue, who was looking even more haggard than before. “Don’t drink that rocket fuel all at once.” Blue blanched at her and Becca quickly corrected her mistake explaining it was just a figure of speech. While Blue took a few desperate sips, Becca and S.J. filled in as unofficial greeters to let their friend catch her breath. “Why don’t you go take a breather for a minute, it looks like you really need it. S.J. and I are more than capable of welcoming people to your temple of science.”
Blue took another deep swig and shook her head frantically, “no, it’s OK. You guys are amazing, but it’s not right, you don’t work here. I don’t need anything else generating bad press. Sorry, not you, I know you’d be great, better than me, but I’m already catching flack and don’t want to break under fire.”
“OK, if you insist. But we’re here for you, alright? It looks like the line’s starting to thin a bit at the back, so maybe you’ll catch a break in a few. We’ll circle back after I go check on the boys. You’re a superstar, you know that?” She wanted to give Blue a big supportive hug, but could tell by the way she shrunk away from the compliment that now was not the time. Even though they were nearly the same age, something about Blue always brought out her fiercest mothering instincts.
“So…” S.J. began with uncharacteristic, from what Becca had recently gleaned, caution, “do you mind if I tag along with you today? My kids are too old to want to be seen within 50 yards of me, thank goodness this place is big enough for the three of us! But it would be nice to enjoy it with someone…”
Becca concurred and they made their way back towards the virtual rainforest, stopping to marvel at the robots greeting visitors and giving detailed and interactive orations about the Tarbosaurus skeleton beneath which they were stationed. The juxtaposition of a 70 million year old apex predator with the engaging futuristic docents was highly effective, and just so Blue. “Look at those kids,” S.J. nudged her, “could they be any more rapt? They’re hanging on every word. Usually kids come to these places and just run around crazily because it’s all so exciting, but she’s found a way to really make them stop and learn. She’s an absolute genius, I tell you.”
The boys were ready to move on shortly after the mothers arrived, looking downcast and uncomfortable. “What’s the matter darlings?” Becca asked as she encircled her sons in a warm embrace, “wasn’t that fun?” They nodded then dithered, explaining as best they could the things they were struggling to understand, their little hearts clearly very heavy.
“Leo stepped on some bugs and I caught a bird,” Max started. “It was really fun, but then the forest started changing. It got quieter because there weren’t as many birds around, and then some of the trees started dying and other things too. It was really sad.”
Becca tried to comfort the boys, but she knew that was the point of the exhibit. Blue wanted people to have a deep emotional reaction to seemingly innocuous actions. She wanted to show that the innocent things they did to their environment had insidious and sometimes catastrophic effects. It was, like the robot docents, highly effective, but Becca couldn’t help wondering if maybe it needed to be tempered for younger audiences. She could hear her friend’s inevitably logical and emotionally detached counter arguments already echoing through her mind and decided to let it rest before the discussion even started.
The foursome was so deeply engaged exploring the water world leading down into the basement filled with weird and wonderful marine creatures before taking the “Rocket”, as Leo described it, up to the top floor space exhibit, that they completely lost track of time. Only their rumbling stomachs notified them to stop for lunch. S.J. checked in with her kids over the phone and was assured they were, “just fine without you, mom!” She looked down at Becca’s boys and couldn’t help but sigh wistfully. She caught her new friend’s eye and said, “enjoy it while it lasts…” Becca squeezed her hand and gave her a gracious smile.
Unsurprisingly, the museum cafe was absolutely packed. The day had turned blessedly warm and the outdoor area boasted ample picnic benches and a delightful children’s playground. As they waited in line to collect their veggie wraps and fried tempeh sticks, Becca noticed a separate section of the cafe under a sign proclaiming: Experts’ Lounge. “Wha’dya think that’s about?” she asked, nudging S.J. and indicating with her head.
“Oh, I think that’s Blue’s response to all the ‘obscenely incorrect scientific information circulating through popular media’”, S.J. giggled at her dead-pan impression of their friend’s professorial manner of speech. “It’s a place for writers and other creative types to meet casually with scientists and engineers to flesh out details in their work. Journalists can also pop in to get the scoop on the latest discoveries and break-throughs.”
Just like Blue, Becca mused to herself as they searched for a place they could bask in the autumnal sun whilst keeping an eye on the kids, always looking for the intersections of the minds and every possible opportunity to educate the masses.
Inside, Science World was packed to the gills. At 10:47, they’d started turning away patrons with the consolation of free tickets for the following day as the building was at capacity. Blue knew the Fire Chief, DB, would have no qualms with crushing her dreams if they were so much as one body beyond the limit. It was agonizing to watch parents trying to soothe their disappointed children as they walked back down the pathway, shooting withering looks at her over their shoulders. She knew they read her face as impassive and unfeeling, but her heart was breaking.
She looked down and noticed her hands were shaking. Her watch showed it was 11:36. How did two and a half hours go by so quickly? Further analysis of her internal state registered the following: low blood sugar (4.38 hours since last meal), excessive caffeine intake (twice normal), coupled with sleep deprivation (≤4.5 hours per night for the past six nights, and only a few fitful hours last night), and general anxiety (so much riding on today…) resulting in sub-optimal mental and physical performance. I should eat something. Blue radioed to the volunteer channel requesting someone relieve her for lunch.
“Wow!” Carly exclaimed breathlessly as she rushed up to Blue’s post. “Have you really been here since 9? I mean, no bathroom breaks or anything?! You’re a machine!”
Blue held up her coffee mug, “my friends brought me rocket fuel, so I was able to maintain my post. I felt it my duty as director to personally welcome all patrons to our grand opening. As we are currently at capacity, you will have to continue with the unfortunate task of turning away any new visitors until someone leaves. Please provide complimentary tickets for tomorrow as a sign of our sincere regret for their inconvenience.”
Carly watched Blue with a mix of astonishment and tempered admiration as she walked away. She really is as dedicated and weird as everyone says. I wonder who those “friends” of hers are…
Blue could scarcely register the delighted faces and excited conversations swirling around her as she moved determinedly through the ground floor exhibition spaces, down the water way to the calming undersea environment. I’ll just watch the jellyfish for a few minutes to ground myself. She was walking past the Mantis Shrimp enclosure when a loud crack snapped her focus back to the present. At first, she reasoned that the sound was just the punch of her little friend saying hello in his aggressive manner, but the sound was wrong. That sound shouldn’t carry like that… she whirled around anxiously to see the long slender finger of a crack shooting across the inner glass wall of Monty’s aquarium. Oh shit. That’s going to fail… Blue reached for her radio as everything faded to black.
“IF THERE IS A MEDICAL DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, PLEASE REPORT TO THE INFORMATION DESK.”
The call over the intercom was loud enough to catch the attention of everyone enjoying their lunch in the sunshine. Becca and S.J. looked at each other and immediately shared a very bad feeling. S.J. dialed her kids who launched into frantic descriptions of a fainting woman and “imploding” water tank. It was difficult to calm them enough to elicit a coherent description of where, exactly, they were and the status of the unfortunate woman. Pulling together the fragments of excited ramblings, they were able to deduce the incident occurred in the basement and that the “victim” was a museum employee. Becca’s heart lurched. Blue wasn’t looking good when they’d left her hours ago. They forgot to check back in before lunch. What were the chances she hadn’t eaten anything and was running on caffeine, stress, and vapours? Very, very high.
“We need to check on Blue, I’ll get the boys,” Becca said as she swept their things into her bag and rushed towards the playground.
S.J. was up in an instant, “my thoughts exactly, I’m going straight down. I’ll catch you down there.”
“Sorry ma’am, but we’ve had to secure this area and I’m afraid I can’t let anyone access this exhibit at this time.” S.J. was trying fruitlessly to convince the frazzled looking security guard that she really needed to go downstairs when Becca arrived with the boys.
“Is it Blue needing medical treatment?” Becca asked, wasting no time mincing words.
“I’m sorry ma’am,” the security officer rubbed the back of his neck and looked away sheepishly, “but I’m not at liberty to share any information about the situation with the public.”
“That’s OK,” she offered reassuringly, your body language told me everything I need to know. “I’m Blue’s lawyer and her ‘in case of emergency’ person, you’ll need to let me through.”
The officer looked startled, then shook his head. “Well, um… OK, you can go, but not the other three, we can’t have all these extra people down there.”
Becca turned frantically to S.J. who waved her on and said she’d watch after the boys just as her own kids rushed up to hug her. “We’ll be fine, you just go take care of Blue!”
Rushing down the water way, Becca was torn between the wail of Max behind her pleading for Blue to be OK, and the near hysterical cry of Blue from below yelling, “I’m fine, don’t touch me!” She pushed through the cluster of staff, security, and the doctor who responded to the call to get to her friend’s side.
“Everyone take a step back, now,” she ordered in her most intimidating don’t-mess-with-mama-bear voice. “Anyone who doesn’t absolutely have to be here, leave. Which means most of you.” The huddle quickly moved away and then dwindled to the deputy director, a different security guard, and the doctor. “It’s OK, Blue,” Becca cooed softly, “almost everyone is gone now. You’re safe…”
“No. I mean, thank you, but we’re not. The tank, ohmygod the tank, we have to get Manty out of there before the second wall goes…” Blue was rocking back and forth violently, grabbing her hair and muttering nonsense. Becca had seen Blue in some dark moods before, but nothing like this. It’s was, honestly, rather frightening and she could tell by the looks on the other faces she wasn’t alone in her fear.
She reached into her bag and pulled out an oatmeal raisin cookie, “here, I’m guessing you haven’t eaten. I’m sorry I didn’t bring you something before we had lunch, I guess we got so caught up in this amazing place you’ve created we clean forgot. I’m really sorry.”
Blue took the offering gingerly, shaking her head and whimpering about the tank as she took a few nibbles. “Water,” she rasped hoarsely. The message was interpreted as a request for a drink and relayed up the ramp before someone came running with a cup of water. Blue stared at it blankly for a few moments before taking a sip and another bite of food. “The Mantis Shrimp’s inner tank is gone. If he punches the second glass, it’s over.”
Everyone finally understood what she was ranting about that whole time. They looked in horror at the massive tank next to them, filled with 2,000 gallons of water, an arsenal of shattered glass, and one mean looking, beady-eyed shrimp. “That was bulletproof glass!” Darren, the deputy director, exclaimed. “How the hell did he break that?!”
“He couldn’t have. It’s a physical impossibility. It had to be sabotage,” Blue intoned in a shaky monotone.
“What do we do now?!” Darren wailed, making clear to everyone present why he was deputy director.
“Get him the hell out of there. Drain the tank. And call the police.” With that final command, Blue curled up in the fetal position and was out again.
About the Author:
Blue is a thinker of too many thoughts and a doer of too many things. She is a scientist by training, a science educator by vocation, and a writer quite by accident after stumbling into her autism diagnosis on the brink of 40. She is a mother of two vivacious girls, a grumpy cat, and a backyard full of chickens, bees, echidnas, and the occasional kangaroo. She sometimes forgets whether she’s supposed to be writing in American or Australian English, but she’s almost always writing about mental health, autism, or creating the books she wishes she had when she was younger.
Her stories of trauma, healing, and recentering are on her blog: HERE
Connect on Twitter: @AspienBlue
Or find her articles on The Aspergian
Let’s take a walk down winding cobblestone streets, filled with the aromas of coffee and tea, and have a little talk.
What is Quillville? It is a city populated entirely by writers of the #WritingCommunity. Not to be confused with their characters, we want this city to still be standing in a month after all. A city of writers all finding their place, carving out their niche. Take a look around, we always have room for more.
What all do we have? Well for starters on our walk here, what you may have assumed was a city park on the left, is actually Little-Hobbiton. Much like Chinatown or Little Italy in New York City. Little-Hobbiton is a lovely subterranean community of stores and homes. We also have a number of coffee shops, each with a unique twist. We have a fire chief, who is actually a nun hiding their true identity. And, well, If I get into all of what we have now, we will be on this tour forever.
So, what’s next? Glint of Mischief here, is proud to announce they will be the official home of the “Stories of Quillville” a weekly short story from the #WritingCommunity about a day in the life of their corner of our wonderful little city.
If you want to get connected and find out more, search the hashtags:
And if you want to hear the official city meeting notes, stop by and see our Mayor @LombardEmma or follow the hashtag #MayorofQuillville
If you are interested in having your story of Quillville hosted, you can contact me by DMing @GlintofMischief
As far as guidelines for the stories, one of the goals is to showcase your skills as a writer so make sure you take a look over them and give them a little polish.
Don't step on other writers ideas and creations.
Also I apologize if it puts a cramp in your style, but we are keeping things pg-13 and part of that would be no sexual content.
Fire With Fire Part 1: The Leader
Theron, a sprawling country laying across the land like a child napping after a brisk adventure, and a warm meal. To the north the border was as crisp a line as could exist. The constant strain with its bordering country of Ruthrien kept Theron in check. However, to the south the land simply grew harsher and colder to the point where no one had been able to find out what lay beyond the snows bite. Just out of the reach of this white desert lay the city of Midura.
Built almost from the first stone to be a beautiful city. Designed all in curves and graceful lines. The lord’s home was nestled in with the mansions of the wealthy merchants, surrounded by a wall of smooth and polished stone. Impossible to defend against any but the most slovenly of attackers. Adorned with vines, and flowing flowers, small trees grew from artfully crafted nooks. On the outside of this less than daunting defense spread the homes of the comfortable folk. Men and women who had worked their way out of the streets, who still had to keep a shrewd eye on their coins, but who rarely wanted for much. Their homes stood, less ornamented but mirroring the beauty of Midura none the less. These homes acted as a shield of wood and stone, protecting the wealthy from the assault of the third section of town, the market district.
There was nowhere you could go to be truly free of those aiming to sell you something, but the market district is where the song of coin reached its crescendo. Midura was a very successful quarrying town, or that is how it had made it’s start. The merchants started the town, and it was the worst kept secret that they had ruled it ever sense. However, the city had not really made its mark on the maps until the artisans moved in. They were drawn from all over the realm. And one could see at least two aspiring artist hawking creations from nearly any point in the market district. Over the years, of the names revered in the artisan community, at least two in three lived for a time in Midura.
And so, through merchants and artisans, money had come to Midura. And like a mold growing in the dark recessed of a beautiful home, crime began to grow in the shadows of this beautiful city. But, as shadows grow, so do the few lights.
Hunching his shoulders, Daniel Rickman, did his best to hide his imposing frame. He tried not to march down the street, feeling somehow naked without his uniform. Today, unlike most, he did not wear the green and silver that would have marked him as a City Guard, nor did his sword hang on his hip, that was the herald of his station as Captain of the Guard. No, today he had donned the stained leathers of a common workman, a cloak across his shoulders. More than a disguise, the cloak also concealed a pair of long bladed knives that were tucked into the back of his belt. His shuffling gate, and slumping posture further concealed his identity, he had even left off his morning shave. It was hard not to itch at the stubble.
Daniel Rickman was after a fashion both on and off duty today. He answered only to the lord of the city, Gregory Stint, the supposed leader of Midura. Stint did not see the merit of, nor did he encourage the pursuit of Daniel’s goals today. Though his station as captain over the city guard demanded of him to do his duty, and guard this city. For he loved Midura, like a sailor loves the sea. No matter how fickle, or treacherous, it was his life, pure and simple.
These thoughts, led him to take a moment and stop and observe his city, to truly see it, smell it, and feel it. His attention was drawn to an elderly woman standing behind a table laden with fruit, calling out that her sweet cherries were the finest around. Walking over he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket and thumbed over what she was asking without barter. She said nothing, but he noticed the twitch at her lips and eyebrow that told him he had overpaid, to her surprise and joy. However, as he watched he saw her toss out a few bad cherries as she gathered his into a small woven bowl, and his smile was genuine as he thanked her and continued on his way, briefly scratching at the stubble on his chin.
Popping one of the dark red fruits into his mouth he bit into its meat and had to admit they were very good. He spit the seed into the gutter, and tossed another into his mouth. Daniel let his mind wander as he walked and ate, and unsurprisingly it drifted back to what brought him out today.
Nearly half a year back, he had been standing over the body of a murdered man, barely more than a boy. His throat cut, and everything in his rented rooms gone. Leaving his men to send for the grave diggers, Daniel had gone straight to Gregory Stint’s door, interrupting the lords dinner much to the dismay of the doorman. Daniel had barely held his temper in check as he nearly demanded time and resources to hunt down those responsible. Stint had set his dinner down, picking up his goblet and had begun a long winded and well rehearsed speech, with small breaks to sip at his wine.
Crime would be stopped with vigilance. Focus not on the past, and those things that can not be changed, focus instead on the future. Walk the streets and keep a keen eye. Other such meaningless drivel that all meant the same thing. Daniel had been dismissed with a pat on the back, his fury smothered under hopelessness.
To hunt down criminals would stir up interest, and on some level it would be admitting there was crime in Midura. As if ignoring it could somehow keep it at bay. Ignore the wolf in your bedroom before sleep, and you would never wake. Daniel would not stand for it. If the city guard were the shield of the city, it was time for a knife. A new guard that in many ways would have to be as hidden as the criminals they would hunt. He had told his idea to a good friend over a mug of ale, and his friend, being a wide eyed dramatic, had insisted the group be named the Shadow Hunters. It had a ring to it, and Daniel had nothing better to call them, so the idea had been formed, and named.
Time had passed, and Daniel had watched and listened, waiting, and today was the day all his waiting would pay off. His Shadow Hunters would have to be few to keep from coming to the attention of Stint.
There was a bit of risk to his plan. In order for it to work he would need people who knew the mind of the criminals they would hunt. Hunters who knew where to ask the right questions, and how things were done in the shadows of Midura. He had combed the ranks of his men, and found none that would fit his needs, he had found one that would fit A purpose, but that was for later. For now, Daniel found himself in need of a trustworthy thief.
Part 2: The Thief if now live. Read it HERE
Here you will find a growing collection of my Short Stories. From pieces I wrote for competitions, to some of my world building stories. Some of the longer ones, will be broken down and released as Chapters.