A Drink and a Smile

p1000146

A tale of Clifford Engram, Paranormal Investigator

“Two fingers, Gin, neat.”

I hate Gin. I never drink the stuff unless I am going to talk to a Dweller-in-the-Darkness. They hate it more. I discovered this quite by accident, but I never let it get far from my thoughts when I am about to make a deal with the devil.

The pub he wanted me to meet him in was just shy of a complete dive. You know the place, a redneck bar where everyone is wearing plaid shirts, blue jeans, shit-kicker boots and every third person shaves their head close, wears white tee-shirts and swastika tattoos. A place I wouldn’t normally want to be caught dead in.

Considering my Black face, it’s the kind of place I might only be caught dead in.

There are fifteen people in the place. The bartender called it a slow night when I got here an hour ago. The people seem amiable enough, they drink their drinks, they hit on the waitresses, they flirt with the local girls who are here trying too find someone to spirit them from this one horse town called Desolation, Oklahoma.

Why does he want to meet here, you ask? Something about a nexus of pure evil that runs through this town making it easier for him to manifest. Whatever. The sooner I get out of here the sooner I get back on my case.

I get up from the bar and stretch, noting the quick but covert glances from at least three of the biker types who came in earlier. My cane is propped against the bar, but I don’t actually need it anymore. My injuries were completely recovered. I could move my right hand and left leg easily. I could still feel the enhanced strength in the binding sigils in my right hand and left leg. With them running down my back, my strength was twice what it had been in the past.

If he didn’t get here soon, a fight was liable to break out just because it would improve their evening.

I could see the patterns. They were circling me, sizing me up. Two of them had already walked behind me to see if I would respond to their presence. The third was coordinating two others who were “smoking” out front.

I feigned being overheated and took off my long coat draping it across my seat. No need to get blood on everything I was wearing.

I make eye contact with the barkeep. “Another, and keep ’em coming.”

The gin slid down the bar and down my throat with equal facility. I stretched in preparation. I was looking forward to this.

We were all poised to begin our dance when a woman wearing a skin-tight red dress walked into the bar. She looked and smelled like every sexual dream you’ve ever had. Her movement was fluid, rhythmic, her eyes, green and luminous, lit up even darkest corners of the room. Everyone turned to see her.

Every eye that met hers felt the come hither electrical attraction. Until she got to me. I got nothing. No energy, no electricity. Only the stench of the grave. She walked up to me and kissed me on both cheeks before waiting for me to pull her stool out for her. I obliged, noting her arrival seemed to, at least for a moment defuse what was surely going to be a brawl to remember.

“Scratch.”

“Ingram. Are you going to buy me a drink?” Her voice was a breathy contralto, with a soft country burr. She might have been from around here, but not for a long time.

“You know that’s not my name.” I noticed the intonation on the “i” instead of the “e”.

“I know you don’t like me to use it.” She batted her eyelashes as if to say make me stop.

“Bartender, a gin for the lady. Neat.”

“No need to be rude, Clifford.”

“Tell me what you know and I may find it in my heart to buy you something more palatable.”

“How about that tall one over there, with the swastika on his forehead?

“Once I’m gone. Knock yourself out.”

“Why so hush-hush? You know you can trust me…”

Only as far as I could throw her…

“Nicolas, less flirting, more talking. Or I may forget our arrangement.”

She pouted. A lovely turning out of that luscious lower lip. “In this body, please call me Natasha. As for your inquiry, They’ve been here. They’ve been through town time several times. Each time to take on a small group of renegades and their human flunkies and disappear before sunrise.”

“Renegades?”

“You know all of us are not created equal. Some of us are naturally beautiful, like moi, others of us are gifted with other capabilities. Renegades have a gift for…violence, shall we say. They also have a knack for not following orders, so no one wants to work with them. They are beyond the standard level of violence for my kind, branding themselves renegades from The Cause.”

“Your people are still trying to take over the world? Have you learned nothing from the beat-downs the Agency have delivered on you decade after decade?”

“We are ever hopeful, ever watchful and know you’re all quite mortal. Where you have been diligent, your descendants might not be. Probing the defenses from time to time is how our operatives maintain their edge.”

“And how you get rid of the chaff and undesirables you don’t want or need to be feeding.”

A quick hair flip, she turns and leans in. “You have been quite rude this evening. What’s come over you? We used to be so good together. I remember when you were so friendly a decade or two ago. Now you treat me like a spurned mistress. What could have changed you that much?”

She leans in and sniffs my neckline. “Clifford, is that a woman, a human woman, I smell on you?” Another sniff. I don’t bother to push her away, if she doesn’t want to go, I would have to get supernatural to move her. “Hmmm. I smell nature and plants, she’s older than you. Magical, too. Strong magic. Voudoun, I am guessing. Is that a thigh I smell on your cheek?”

She smiles and leans back into her drink, taking the poison in one strong gulp. “And to think I went out of my way to find something special for you.”

“Where are they, Natasha?”

“They haven’t gone far. They would have come here tonight to deal with this group, but I decided I would handle them myself. They are waiting for you in town. Be careful, Clifford. Demonic cars don’t escape Repossession for long, but while they are free, they raise Hell on Earth. He also has a young man working with him.”

“Have they already made a Pact?” A blood pact would make them only about ten times more dangerous than a lone demon car.

She leaned forward onto the bar, breaking the final bonds with her human host. A pool of inky darkness formed beneath her chair. It undulated barely perceptible to the human eye.

“Yes, but I wouldn’t be too hasty. I think you might be able to turn them, if you’re nice enough. Like you used to be. Now go. I will take care of the riff-raff here.”

“No waitresses, no bartender, I know they’re clean.”

“But they have murder in their hearts.”

I looked at the bartender and his two waitresses. What she said was true. They were capable of murder and considered it on more than one occasion. Working in Desolation, Oklahoma, who wouldn’t? “Thinking of murder and being a murderer are two different things. Do what you want with the rest, but if I come back and find anything but a happy establishment, there will be hell to pay. Got it.”

“Party-pooper.” The inky darkness started to spread.

“What’s wrong with her,” the bartender asked, curious.

I reach into her purse and pull out a roll of cash, nothing but hundreds. I throw it to the barkeep. “Get out and take your girls with you. Don’t come back till sunrise. As a matter of fact, don’t even look back now. OUT!” The waitresses run to the bar and the barkeep grabs a shotgun on the way out. I like a prudent man.

I stand up and put on my jacket. “They’re all yours.”

“Bye, Clifford, come around more often. I miss you.”

I walked past the pool table and the large fellow with the swastika on forehead swung his pool cue with lethal force. I put up my right arm and let my connection to Fenrir loose. The cue shatters into toothpicks, some of which fly back into his face penetrating his flesh deeply. Unpleasantly.

He screamed and jelly from his eyes, along with copious amounts of blood splashed behind his hands. He never saw the spear of darkness that penetrated his upper torso and pinned him to the wall. Spears of darkness whirled around chair legs chasing the rest of the less savory fellows who weren’t quite sure what was happening yet. The more aggressive drew weapons, knives and the poorly cared for things they called guns. One fellow even got off a shot missing due to his terror of the black tendril coming right at him.

I didn’t even have to bother deflecting his bullet. The two from outside rushed in and before I could do anything stepped right into Natasha’s shadows. One fellow, he was a bit quicker on the draw than the other managed to get a cross out his pocket.

Unfortunately for him, he fumbled and dropped it. It landed on the ground and the darkness spread around it without touching it, like a drop of soap in a oily sink of water. Dwellers hate those things.

It was the closest anyone came to a victory tonight. I hope he enjoyed it. Because when Natasha’s done, he’ll wish I had just snapped his neck.

Now I have two problems to contend with in this town. Renegades and a demon car already in Pact mode. Normally I would let them take care of each other but that isn’t possible without a lot of collateral damage. While Desolation is a nexus of unrepentant evil, there are still plenty of good people caught in the crossfire.

That is, besides Natasha and her clan. They’re an evil I can manage.

I’m so glad I stopped dating her.

A Drink and a Smile – Fenrir and Phoenix © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy

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