Whenever Kate bolted back into town, her words, not mine, she always invited me to lunch. On the one hand, this was good. I got a free meal out of it, and got to learn a little bit more about these storm riders and other elementals.
“So I’ve noticed,” I started, trying to make my tone light, “that the storm riders seem to have a largish appetite.” I popped a wonton into my mouth.
“Fucking insane appetite,” Kate clarified. She gestured to the mountain of entrees and appetizers surrounding it, bowing in homage.
“I didn’t want to insult.”
“Why would that be an insult? You’ve seen me. I’ve got a rocking bod.” She ran hands down her sides. “Supermodels hate me, look at what I’m eating.”
She shrugged. “We use up a lot of energy. This is the only way to get it back. Not like we come with some kind of magical storage organ in our bodies. We need food like anyone else, just loads more.”
“I guess. So what brings you back to town?”
She paused in her onslaught on the food, then reached into a pocket, pulling out and passing over yellowed, folded papers. “When we do our thing, we occasionally run into people who were deliberately trying to do the bad thing because they think it will get them power. Found this in someone’s, well, I guess you’d call it a lair.”
I took the papers reluctantly. “A lair. What, is he a Bond villain?”
“Not anymore.” She went back to attacking her sesame chicken.
I took her meaning. Sometimes those kinds of people didn’t leave a choice.
I unfolded the yellowed papers, turning them this way and that, then flipping through them.
“So, what do you make of them?”
I shrugged. “I have no clue.”
“Aren’t you supposed to know this shit?”
“I investigate this stuff. Doesn’t mean I come with encyclopedic knowledge over everything. It takes research and time and. . . .”
That symbol looks familiar.
“Earth to Matt. Hello? What, you recognize something?”
“Maybe. This here. It looks like a stylized cross.”
“I don’t know. Lots of crosses have been used throughout Europe: Religion, kingdoms, heraldic crests, everything. Doesn’t help that this is just in regular ink. If it were illuminated with colors I might have more to go on.”
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s the difference. Do you need this back?”
Kate shook her head. “No. None of us knows how to investigate this shit. It’s all you.”
“Well, I can look into it. Won’t be quick, though. Free translation software takes forever to get anywhere, especially if this is from Medieval Europe.”
“Hire a translator,” she said.
“That takes money.”
“Right. Money. That’s a tricky one.” She put a crumpled envelope in front of me.
“There’s no way that’s flush with cash,” I said, taking it. I opened it, but instead of cash, there were several smaller envelopes. I picked one at random and opened it, my eyes goggling at what I saw. I quickly closed the envelope.
I looked at her, whispering, “Are these real.”
“Yup. I know a guy. Hothead who I bang every now and again. He has a knack for finding gemstones in volcanic regions. Guess this makes you my bitch.”
“It’s called putting me on retainer.”
“Like I said, my bitch.”