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Friday, September 30, 2022

F³ Conditions

           “What’s your fucking problem?” Kate asked. “I’m offering you money to do your job. And it’s basically free if we don’t have a case for you.”

            “Easy. I can’t stand storm riders. Jack Dailey in particular.”

            “You won’t deal with him. He’s in Europe.”

            We crossed into Meriville, where the buildings started to become more worn, less of the sparkle found in Fairhaven, where the street lamps were farther apart and the foliage around them more wild.

            “The way you people can zip around on lightning, that doesn’t mean much.”

            “Jack is . . . well, he’s one of the biggest assholes on the planet, and I say that as a storm rider who is an asshole. But, come on, we’re dealing with important shit, too. Without your help, Jack and Reilly would have been sidelined. Worse, they could have ended up spreading that curse to the rest of us, and then we’d have a fucking apocalypse.”

            I had never seen any of the stuff that the storm riders had dealt with, but I recognized descriptions of some of the baddies, easily enough. And there was no doubt that they dealt with supernatural stuff.

            I peered into the darkness through Meriville. The shadows here were a little longer, not as bad as the Grind with its haphazard layout and tangled streets that sprang up instead of being planned.

            If I accept the retainer, there are some conditions. One, no Jack Dailey. I don’t talk to him, I don’t interact with him. He can go take a walk around the block whenever the rest of you show up.”

            “Fine by me.”

            “Two, you don’t give out my number.”

            “You’re in the book, you know. You’ve got a damned webpage.”

            “I don’t think most storm riders would even thinking to search out someone like me, so that’s not a big concern.”

            Kate opened her mouth, then nodded. “Yeah, we tend to not do the nerd thing by reading stuff. What else?”

            “I deal with you. Even if it’s not really your thing, you are with every single storm rider.”

            “So you’re saying you want me around. Mr. Allen,” she affected a southern accent. “I do declare you’ll turn my head.”

            “Four, the cost of the retainer just went up.”
            “Deal.” She stuck out her hand.

            I shook her hand. It still felt greasy from the butter.

            Why do I feel like I just made a Faustian bargain?

Friday, September 23, 2022

F³ An Offer

           I finished  my lobster rolls, and ducked out to get the pictures I needed while Kate finished scarfing the rest of it. The fresh, outside air made me realize just how stifling the smell of lobster and melted butter had become in the car. I’d need to empty a bottle of Febreze to get the smell out.

            “Okay, new rule, no more bucket of lobster rolls in my car.”

            Kate belched, “Okay.”

            “Right. Well, I’m done here. You want me to drop you at your hotel?”

            “Hey, I bought dinner, properly wined and dined you, and you’re not going to put out?”

            I gave her a flat look as I pulled out of the neighborhood.

            “Fine. Geez, don’t know what your aversion is to casual sex. You could really stand to get laid more often.”

            I shrugged. “Is there anything else?”

            The storm riders all seemed to embrace very casual relationships, and that was fine. What did I care? But it wasn’t what I was looking for out of life. Besides, since Cassie had come, I didn’t exactly want to have a revolving door of women coming and going.

            “Yeah, I want to put you on retainer?”

            “I’m not a gigolo.”

            “Har har. I’m serious. You know your way around solving this supernatural shit, and we seem to be encountering more and more weird stuff that we don’t have answers for.”

            I looked at her, and she didn’t have her telltale smirk.

            “I’ve never been on retainer, before. I usually take cases as they come. So you want me to just be on-call for the storm riders, whatever their latest screw up is, I solve the problem.”

            “Something like that.”

            “Oh, okay. That makes things easier. Hell, no.”

Friday, September 16, 2022

F³ The Secret

           I put my lobster roll down. “Okay, so obviously you know there’s lots of supernatural stuff out there. I’m sure you’ve encountered horrors that I don’t want to know anything about,” I whispered.

            She nodded. “Yeah.”

            I glanced over my shoulder again, then slowly turned back to her. “What you don’t know is that there are, well, for lack of better terms, librarians, archivists. Their whole deal is to keep knowledge. They’re practically immortal. They don’t age, don’t succumb to disease. They can be killed, but that’s it. And they just live to record knowledge and give it out.”

            “Are serious?”

            “Listen, they’ve almost been wiped out a bunch of times. Witch trials, purges, whatever. For a long time they were considered property of powerful people. They were advisors. Even heard of one that was chained in a special dungeon so the Chinese Emperor could visit and be the only one to receive the knowledge.”

            “Fuck,” she drew the word out.

            “Others hid themselves from people in power, looking to get the knowledge out to everyone. First they migrated as traders, and a lot of them became monks, you know, scribes. They would copy books but also write their own and slip in corrections when things were wrong.

“When the printing press becomes a thing, they finally see a new way out, not just handing things out piecemeal, but preserving knowledge for all time. But they didn’t realize just how much other crap humanity was going to print off, too. So it all gets lost in the mix. Even with the internet, they’re just a tiny voice among the millions. But I was able to pick up on stuff, one who actually is pretending to be a librarian here in the city. Most people just want the usual, every day stuff, but I get special consideration because I’m always asking for the older stuff, the stuff that hasn’t had a chance to get out as much. I don’t know what I’d do if she ever left or got killed or something.”

“Holy shit, that’s amazing!”

“And it’s total BS,” I said, picking my lobster roll back up.

“Wait, what?” Her expression was shock bordering on anger.

Oh well.

“Total BS. Made the whole thing up. I told you. I research this stuff, piecing it together like a puzzle. The wise guy, ancient one, librarian, or even singular book that has all the secrets is a total fabrication. Doesn’t happen.”

“You bastard,” she scowled.

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