Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Corpse, A Cop and Some Canines - Chapter 7

This is my first experience with a blog hop -- a progressive story in which each chapter appears in a different blog. If you haven't read the other chapters, then click on the links below and read those first:

Chapter 1: Alanna Coca

Chapter 2: Dee Carney

Chapter 3: Juniper Bell

Chapter 4: Ann Marie Gamble

Chapter 5: Barbara Sheridan

Chapter 6: Christopher Daley

Chapter 7: Ray Garton

Chapter 8: Heather Wildman

Chapter 9: Saranna De Wylde

Here's my chapter. When you're done, move on to the next chapter at Heather Wildman's blog by clicking the link below. Enjoy!

Chapter 7

Over the years, many people had told Dexter Manning that he had a drinking problem. He strongly disagreed. He was an alcoholic and he knew he was an alcoholic, and he didn’t have a problem with it. Now, as he stood in the woods peering through bushes and branches, he wondered if his drinking had become a problem, because he wasn’t sure if he was seeing what he thought he was seeing.

He’d been watching these people for a little while. He lived on the other side of this patch of woods in what amounted to little more than a shack. He regularly walked through the woods to go to the Hideaway, a little dive of a bar on this side of the woods. He’d left the bar at dusk and had been weaving and staggering his way home when he heard voices. There was never anyone in these woods besides Dex, so his curiosity won out. He’d found the source of the voices and watched from a safe distance.
He’d seen the body on the ground. What was left of it. And he’d seen a woman appear out of nowhere. Out of nowhere! Now, having followed some of these people a little deeper into the woods, he saw the body that had just been thrown to the ground from a distance, bloody and ripped open.

Dex watched long enough to determine that what he was seeing was real and not the work of Jack Daniels. He had to report this. He couldn’t ignore something like this going on in what he’d come to think of as his woods. He walked away from the strangers as he removed his Jitterbug cell phone from the pocket of his denim jacket and punched 911. He cleared his throat and hoped he didn’t sound as drunk as he felt.
“Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?”

“Well, it’s like this … “

* * *

Anthony watched the little man make his way down the hill. The hound followed him slowly, hanging back as its menacing eyes moved across their faces and scanned the surrounding area.
Xerxes walked with a wobbly sway, like a dwarf. But he wasn’t a dwarf. His father was a leprechaun, his mother an elf. Xerxes himself was the Supervisor. His official title was Boundary Guard Supervisor, sort of like the chief of police, but instead of a gun, a taser and a baton, he was armed with magic. It was the job of Xerxes and the Guard to maintain the Boundary. As high priestess, Matsu had a lot of power in the shifter community, but Xerxes’ jurisdiction included shifters, elves, sprites, sorcerers, vampires, and everything else in realm of the immortal, and his authority trumped Matsu’s. The Boundary was the invisible barrier between them and the mortals with whom they shared the planet. The job of the Guard was to make sure the mortals remained unaware of them, to make sure the Boundary remained intact.

“Your friend gave me some trouble,” Xerxes said to Anthony as he approached. “I’ve had a pretty shitty day, so I’m not in the mood for trouble. Okay?” His voice was a throaty growl. He had a broad face with a nose that ended in a fleshy bulb. His ears tapered to points on each side of the floppy knit cap he wore over his thick rusty hair. “This morning, I had to round up some werewolves who were scaring kids at a petting zoo in Arizona. Then I had to deal with a brawl started by a bunch of drunken trolls at a New Jersey flea market. Some smartass vampires got a little fuzzy on the concept of an all-you-can-eat buffet at a crowded Marie Calendar’s in Toledo. Now I’ve gotta deal with you people.” He looked at them, then his eyes settled on Katherina. “I understand this is your doing.”
“That body?” she said. “I had nothing to do with it.”

“Not the body. Her.” He pointed to Jessica.
“Her?” Katherina said. “She’s a mage.”

“She’s a mortal,” Anthony said. “A dabbler.”
The hell hound moved among them, sniffing, watching. As he neared Katherina, she lowered her head, stiffened her back and hissed.

“And you,” Xerxes said to Katherina, “are messing with the Boundary. It’s not the first time, either. You’ve been cited before, and this time, I’m inclined to take you in.”
The other wolves were moving in slowly, intensely watching the hell hound. A low growl rose from the pack as they circled the small group, their orange eyes glowing in the dark.

It wasn’t typical for a Boundary Guard to be accompanied by one of the hounds. But then, Xerxes was more than just a Guard. Anthony guessed that Xerxes’s day had been as bad as he’d described and he’d decided that having a hound along would be wise. But it wasn’t wise in the presence of a pack of wolves. They did not get along. Bringing the hell hound was an invitation to more trouble.
To the wolves, Xerxes said, “You guys give me any trouble and I’ll have a whole troop of Guards here in seconds and you’ll all face a long detention.”

Katherina yowled piercingly, then hissed. Anthony turned in time to see her swing a paw at the hell hound, which apparently had gotten too close for her comfort. Her claws slashed the hound’s nose. The hound didn’t make a sound, nor did it hesitate. It was on Katherina in half a heartbeat. Its massive jaws closed on her slender neck and it twisted its head with a jerk.
Katherina made a sound like a drain coming unclogged as her head flopped to one side and tumbled to the ground. An arc of arterial spray shot into the air as her body collapsed in a limp heap. The hound walked in a slow circle, licking its bloody snout.

Pointing at Katherina’s body, Xerxes said, “That will go into my report as an act of self-defense. It will also make my report a good deal shorter, I’m happy to say. Now. Anyone else want to eliminate some paperwork for me?”
The growl from the wolf pack rose as they became more agitated.

Anthony turned when he heard another sound. It came from the road. Cars. He walked up toward the edge of the road and saw the red and blue lights of more police cars. The cruisers slowed to a stop, engines were killed and doors opened. By now they’d seen Anthony’s cruiser and knew he was here. He turned to alert Xerxes, but the little man already knew.
Xerxes groaned as he scrubbed a palm down his face. Then he said, “Fuck me with a power tool.”

Heather Wildman is a serious lover of words and wit which led to the birth of Fast Friday. She has several short stories out in one ezine and two anthologies and her novella Ebin's Heart is set to be released through Red Rose Publishing February 25, 2010. She continues our story at her blog with Chapter 8.