Saturday, June 3, 2017

Case 7 - Ep. 1: Heaven's Blind Spots

Trapped and Bloody by Beki Yopek
Nia slid a fresh Moloch and Coke in front of me and leaned in close, the scents of her perfume and feathers rising on the bar’s humid air. “I thought you were supposed to be writing tonight, Ava.”

Mellow chills slid along my tongue as I downed half the drink. My eyes slid sideways onto The Reaper’s grinning visage. “What does it look like we’re doing?” I indicated the file folders, papers, and the pen on the bar, then waved behind us with a wing. “It’s midnight on a Sunday. You think we came here to shoot darts?”

Behind Nia, The Down South Lounge’s neon liquor shelves and flatscreen TVs backlit her vanilla wings and dark hair. She tilted her halo at me. “You look so bushed I doubt you could throw a joke or a dart.”

I pointed a wing claw at her pink spaghetti strap shirt. “And you look like neapolitan ice cream.”

She slumped in fake disappointment and talked over the wingball game on TV. “Oh, that’s cold.”

Lacking a drum set, I slapped the bar once, twice, then clanged a wing claw against the metal barstool. “You’re a cheeseball angel, you know that?”

“Forgive Avaline,” The Reaper rasped, adjusting his barstool. “We worked three hours of overtime today. There are some things that can only be laid bare over drinks.”

A lascivious grin quirked Nia’s lips. “Ooh, I can’t wait to hear The Reaper’s juicy secrets. The only confessions I get are the tipsy kind that involve more boob contact than eye contact.”

I snorted mid-sip and Moloch and Coke spurted out my nose. Coughing, I said, “You just heard how he fired me back in the day. What else do you want?”

“Nothing,” Nia squeaked with an innocent look up at the ceiling. “Seeing you dribble on yourself in front of The Reaper will make a good bar story.” She glanced toward the arcade section near the back of the Lounge and added, “Shawn won’t believe it when I tell him.”

I sipped the Moloch and Coke more carefully while Reap pointed Seversoul at the lone figure among the plethora of game booths. “You mean that demon there? I have seen him before. We do not need anyone else listening to what Avaline is writing for me.”

One glance at the blue-clad demon pounding on the pinball machine and I blurted, “He’s scared shitless of you, Reap. Ran like a pansy last time you were here.”

“Exactly,” Nia said. “Maybe he’ll open up a little if I can convince him The Reaper’s not terrifying.”

Memories of the day I’d approached Reap after the Voracity incident flashed in my thoughts. “Yeah,” I scoffed. “He was cute and cuddly when he re-hired me too. I had to earn my spot back with his scary self.”

Reap laid Seversoul on the bar and crossed his arm bones. “Niariel, You care about your patrons and employees. That is what makes this difficult. I need a new bodyguard, whether temporary or permanent. I had hoped to borrow your bouncer until we can make more permanent arrangements.”

Nia’s eyes narrowed. “Was it Contressa or Prudence?”

I chugged my drink like it was a painkiller. “Prudy fell this week. Might be working with the Pneuma Coalition now, but we don’t know where she is.”

The Reaper’s whisper was an icicle. “Motes will become scarce until we get a new bodyguard into our rotation. Tell us if you hear anything regarding her and Avarice.”

Nia nodded once, tucked her wings in and stood on her tiptoes. She cupped her hands over her mouth and called, “Hey Hildy. C’mere a second.”

From the glass entrance doors, Hildariel strode in and moved behind the bar. She’d re-dyed her hair to a wispy blonde, and it fell in a ponytail between her butter-yellow wings. “Mister Reaper,” she said. “When did you become a regular here?”

“I’m the regular,” I said, “and he’s the recruiter.”

Reap steepled his fingers, the bones clacking together. “I have need of a temporary bodyguard who knows Heaven Law and is practiced in combat and magic.”

Hildariel brushed her hands down her black and gold track suit, where numerous weapon-shaped bulges stood out. “I wasn’t aware this would be a formal interview. Are you sure you want a demonstration right here?”

Nia snapped her wings up and one of them smacked into the flatscreen behind her. “Outside please. I like my liquor shelves intact and not in pieces.”

“In the morning,” The Reaper said pointedly. If he had eyebrows, I knew they’d be raised. “What Circle do you live in?”

Pointing up with a wing, Hildariel replied, “Heaven. River Gihon, just downwind from that employment agency.”

“Bring your brimstone and your haloxite weaponry. Contressa Vexus will escort you from the Gihon hell divides to my office. Five-thirty.”

The bouncer peered sideways at Nia. “You writing a new schedule for your bouncers, boss?”

Nia eyed her as though over invisible glasses. “That will be easier than training as The Reaper’s bodyguard. And weren’t you looking for an excuse to blow up some crap?”

Hildariel beamed, and it hit me as more sinister than sincere. “Thanks, Nia. I’ll feed my explosion jones while I train, then you’ll see me here nights.”

“Great, now Ava and The Reaper have work to do. Finish your shift outside, please.”

Turning on her heel, the bouncer marched right back out the glass entrance doors and stood sentinel. Odors of sulfur and deep fried food whirled inside and I breathed it deep, then spun on my stool and faced The Reaper. “What case we working on this time?”

He sat straight up and towered over me and Nia, tilting his ram’s horns forward. “Seattle during The Great Depression on Earth.”

I brightened and slid my empty glass toward Nia, then picked up the pen. “Oh, yeah. The easiest time we ever had harvesting souls. I don’t think we ever made more motes than we did during that era.”

The Reaper leveled his dark skull at me. “I was referring to Jack Te-Konos and Apathy.”

Grinding my teeth, I muttered, “Great. That shitstorm.”

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