Hell Bent for Leather, Part Two

Part Two

The address was for a news station, and while they weren’t exceedingly difficult to sneak into, it was still wise to be cautious. Most important of all: make sure you look as if you belong and no one really questions you.

I drove back home to throw on the only suit I owned, and ran the plan by my roommate, Sorren, as well as the price for the job.

“You mean we’ll actually be able to eat something besides Ramen for the first time this month?” he asked, somewhat joking and hopeful.

He was a Half-Fae himself, and since our kind were not looked on with anything but contempt, we tended to congregate amongst ourselves. We formed our own little families since our blood relatives didn’t want us, and if our other half was mortal we tended to outlive that half of our bloodline. Sorren was a couple hundred years older than me. After a while you don’t keep track of the specific number. Essentially, he was the brother I never had.

I punched him lightly on a well-muscled and tanned arm. His handsome face was a shadow of the awe-inspiring beauty some of the Fae possessed, and his hair was the color of night spun into soft curls.

“Yes, hopefully,” I said, and grabbed my purse. He gave me a quick hug, and opened the front door.

“Just be careful,” he replied back, concern lightly coating his tone.

“I’ll be fine.” I threw him a half-smile to reassure him, and got into my car to drive to the news station.

I grabbed two cup holders full of coffee on my way to the station, completely for show. Personally, I hated coffee. Juggling my props as I walked toward the back door, a guy on his smoke break was kind enough to let me in with a swipe of his card. It was always easier to sneak in the back than the front, I’d noticed.

Moving my way toward the dressing rooms, I began my snooping. Whenever someone asked me what I was doing, I feigned confusion, and stammered a different room number, and implied I was an intern of some kind. I’d even snitched some dry cleaning, that I swore I’d return, from a random rack to support the cover. Most rolled their eyes and pointed vaguely toward where I could find the room.

Then I came across a room that made me stop for a moment, wondering. No, it had to be too obvious, right? Sure, Thor’s powers to create thunder and lightning were limiting in concerns to weather, but the jacket was something special.

I had heard a rumor about the jacket a few years ago. It was a gift from Coyote, a well-known Native American trickster god, to Thor, after Thor managed to best him in some game of chance; a game that Coyote was rigging. Coyote was so impressed he presented Thor with the jacket. No one really knows how Thor managed it. I mean, look at how many times Loki, a trickster from Thor’s own pantheon, had gotten the better of him.

Coyote told Thor that the jacket was from Alignak, an Inuit weather and moon god. The word ‘from’ might make it sound like the jacket was a gift or some such. In all likelihood, Coyote stole or tricked it away from Alignak. Coyote told Thor the jacket had a limited version of Alignak’s powers, making Thor more powerful by being able to manipulate and create weather. Augmenting Thor’s powers over lightning and thunder. Thor accepted, and has had it ever since.

Opening the door with the meteorologist’s name on it, there was the jacket hanging on the back of the chair. Interesting concept, I had to admit: a weatherman using Thor’s jacket to help create weather and accurate predictions for his news station.

Slipping the jacket onto a hanger I found in a small closet, I stuck it between two of the dry cleaning outfits and headed out of the room.

Then, of course, my luck ran out.

“Hey! What were you doing in my room?”

When I turned to look, a man was walking hurriedly over to me. He was short, average height and weight, nondescript brown hair set in an atrocious comb-over, eyes to match, and plain features. I could have turned around and forgotten his face seconds later. That was how some gods and goddesses preferred to travel—incognito. Not all of them of course, but since their religions have hit the back burner some of them are attempting to live normal, human lives.

So I made a logic jump.

“Alignak, right? You’re pretty far from the Arctic.”

He stopped a few feet from me, as if someone had jerked him by the back of his shirt. The surprise at hearing his true name caused the illusion of his current form to shimmer, giving me a quick glance at his godly visage. His face was wide with high cheek bones and young. However, a closer inspection showed fine age lines at the corner of his eyes and mouth. Instead of the typical dark brown eye color that borders on black, the eyes that gazed back at me were a light gray. His matte black hair was cut surprisingly short, and his skin was the color of cinnamon.

Once I knew what he was, his aura of power enveloped the immediate area. While it wasn’t imposing, it wouldn’t be easily brushed off, either. There was a tense moment when he was trying to decide what to do about me, when a coworker walked down the hall and hailed him. That broke the staring contest between us, and I relaxed a bit. It wasn’t like I could run off and not cause a scene.

Alignak replied back and said he would be right with them. Turning away from the coworker, he looked back at me, raised an eyebrow, and gestured toward his dressing room; Easy way, or hard way?

I considered my options for a moment, and decided to head into the room like a rational person. It never hurt to be reasonable first and violent later if necessary.

After a few tense moments of sizing each other up, we settled into a hesitant truce. While talking with Alignak, it became clear he wasn’t the one who stole the leather jacket from Thor. In fact, he was just as surprised to see it back in his closet one morning as he had been when it had disappeared from the same closet a few years ago.

Coyote was the one to steal it in the first place, and in spite of Alignak having the jacket for many years and liking it, he didn’t deem an article of clothing worth getting upset over.

“Do you think Coyote gave it back to you to stir up trouble?”

I asked him while sipping on a bottle of water he so generously offered. I was sitting down in a brown fold out chair from the stack against the wall, and he pulled up one not too far from me. If I lunged, it would be just far enough out of my reach to give him time to react. Trusting bunch, supernaturals, weren’t we?

“It is possible—he has been growing bored lately. People just don’t believe in us the way they used to. Even though they’ll shake hands with various supernatural creatures, believing in gods and goddesses is still a little much for them.

“So, the only way for Coyote to get his kicks is by tormenting those who do believe in him—other gods.”

He continued with this line of complaining for a while. There’s nothing like getting someone in the room who believed, and understood, what you were going through. I confirmed a couple of my suspicions, asked to borrow the jacket with a promise to return it, and headed out to see if it was possible to trick a trickster.

****

I called my roommate, running my suspicions and plan by him for the second time that day.

Hearing the sigh on the other end of the line, I couldn’t help a twinge of guilt that twanged in my conscience. What I had planned meant we wouldn’t get paid, and the fridge was running a bit lean while of course the bills were running high. We had recently moved to Jacksonville, so we were still trying to find real jobs while we did these odd jobs in the interim.

“Don’t worry about it, Kella—we’ll get by like we always do,” his deep voice grumbled over the phone line.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about it. Who knows, though, maybe we’ll still get paid,” I said, trying to keep a note of hope in my voice. Judging by the snort I heard on the other end of the line, I hadn’t succeeded in reassuring him.

“I’ll call a few ‘people’ up—just be careful,” he said, hanging up the phone. No goodbyes for us.

I was back at the restaurant where I met the demon Thyla earlier. There were only two other people on the porch this time, both of them older gentleman hunkered behind their newspapers on opposite ends from each other.

Paying them no mind, I settled down with a margarita watching the sky darken as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was sending streamers of oranges, reds, and yellows across the clouds in a last ditch attempt to make sure we’d miss it once it was gone. Fat chance of that, I thought, fanning myself with a menu.

I didn’t have to wait long for my guests of honor to show up, though, and they didn’t look particularly happy with my choice in tablemates. The two of them stopped about seven feet on opposing sides from where I was sitting, and began a staring contest that would have done the Wild West proud. All we needed was a tumble weed rolling behind us on the beach and pistols at their hips. Cowboy attire need not apply—I wasn’t into chaps.

My voice broke the silence that had settled over our little corner of the world, and I had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing as they turned identical annoyed frowns my way.

“Loki, Coyote, will the two of you join me, or does a girl have to dine alone?”

Thyla quirked a pleased smile, and her features dissipated like smoke in the breeze, leaving behind an equally pleased Loki.

Loki was certainly a handsome deity, with the difference between this form and Thyla’s being minimal. Everything was paler, and more masculine and mischievous. One glance at Loki and I could understand where the phrase, ‘roguish looks’, came from.

Falling into a chair on my right and laughing, he slouched into the same position I sat in earlier and gave me his best smile.

“You’re always looking for an excuse to wear women’s clothing, Loki,” I said teasingly.

“Guilty as charged. Plus, you caught us at our game. However did you figure it out?”

“I was suspicious about the job, and it wasn’t too hard to figure out once I phoned your friends over there,” I said, nodding my head in deference to the older gentlemen on the porch. Behind Loki, Odin nodded back with a serious expression on his face, but an amused glint in his one eye.

Meanwhile, the other man, Amotken, was plainly showing us how entertaining he found the situation on his age-lined face. He was a creator god, and having been the one to set Coyote on the world supposedly, I guess I could expect no less. He tilted his head in response to me, and the two elder gods went back to reading their papers.

Coyote sat on my left, across the table from Loki. He was the one I had encountered at the news station, not Alignak, and he had also dropped the illusion of his alternate form. Alignak was the real weatherman at the station.

“I’m assuming you called in the parents to make sure we behaved ourselves?” Coyote asked, with a glint in his eyes to match Loki’s.

“Yes, and to make sure you both leave Alignak alone after this. I gave him his jacket back, by the way,” I said to Loki, who shrugged.

“I was only getting it back for Thor to be honest.”

“And I was getting it back for Alignak, since Loki cheated,” said Coyote, shooting a look to Loki. Whether it was admiring or annoyed, I could not tell; mayhap it was a little of both.

Apparently, when Coyote thought he was playing Thor in a game it was actually Loki in disguise as Thor. Loki had heard about Coyote’s plans and was not pleased that a trickster from another pantheon was meddling in his, so he decided to play a trick of his own. Loki gifted the jacket to the real Thor, but Coyote found out. Coyote then duped the jacket from the real Thor, and Loki hired me in turn get it back; because Coyote would be on the lookout for Loki.

“What made you suspicious?” Coyote asked, curiosity threading through his question.

“Loki coming in demon form did. None of them would ever be caught dead with me, and if they were caught, in all likelihood they would be dead,” I said, giving a small smile to Loki. He just laughed and nodded.

“Ah well, I guess the game had to come to an end. Truce?” Loki held out his hand to Coyote and the two of them shook.

“Will I still be paid?” I asked as I looked over to Loki again, but no one was there. All four of them had vanished like food near a hungry seagull.

I sighed, finished my margarita, and headed to my jeep. It was probably the last little splurge I could do while I waited for another job to come in. Good deeds never go unpunished, especially by the gods.

 

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Hell Bent for Leather, Part One

Hell Bent for Leather, Part One

Part One

The start of a headache pounded behind my eyes, and I looked over at my companion. The sensation was not going away and neither was she.

Graced with a natural, All-American girl beauty that conjured images of a preacher’s daughter, she was average height and slender. She wore jean cut-off shorts, sandals, and a sheer peach tank top with a white bikini top underneath. The outfit cost more than four of my own combined; all to show off a nice, even tan she likely paid too much for. Who pays for a tanning bed when you live in Florida?

She had a heart-shaped face, button-cute nose, deep dimples, and needed almost no excuse to flash a white smile that showed teeth belonging in an orthodontia commercial. To top it off, her hair was a natural golden wheat blonde with just enough curl to give a bouncy appearance, and her eyes were the blue of cornflowers. Just gag me with apple pie now.

We received our fair share of glances from both genders. Correction, she got the appreciative glimpses with a double-take. When they saw me, they likely wondered what this girl was doing hanging around with someone so below her class.

That is not to say I’m hard on the eyes, but compared to what was sitting across from me I’d go out on a limb and say I paled in comparison. Almost in a true sense of the word.

My jeans were a faded dark wash, ragged, and torn in places. Not through design, but work, play, and the lack of caring to go shopping for new ones. Worn flip-flops graced my feet, and a faded black t-shirt that had a few holes advertised a café I frequented. It hung a little loose from my frame, sure, but these days loose consisted of anything not skin-tight.

Where her hair had the blonde that most chased in a bottle, my hair color could not be mistaken for anything but white as the driven snow. It stayed pulled back in a braid to keep it from spazzing out in the humidity, and the tip brushed right between my shoulder blades. Given the chance, and freedom, I could look like a walking dandelion inside of five minutes out my door.

My own tan wasn’t half bad, though I would assume the word golden comes to mind instead of brown. It was a pale gold that echoed the skin color of my human mother. It was the only thing I inherited from her, along with just enough mortal blood to put a target on my back.

I was more athletic than slender, so my body wasn’t soft like hers. My eyes are the same light blue as a husky’s, set in a triangular face that doesn’t smile enough—or so I’ve been told.

However, if people look below the aesthetics for more than a couple minutes, they might be able to sense something wrong with the woman across from me. Of course, that was the whole point in looking the way she did, wasn’t it? People weren’t likely to look beyond the gorgeous exterior. It worked for models. Most of them were some kind of supernatural or another, like Succubi, and no one cared a whit.

The breeze rustled the palm trees not twenty feet away, but didn’t seem to reach the porch of the restaurant. The air sat stagnant around us, as if we were in the swamp instead of a stone’s throw from the beach. Some of the other patrons were fanning themselves with their menus.

A perpetual cloud hung over us, and it left the area in more shadow than anywhere else on the sunny afternoon. The other people were also sitting as far away from us as they could manage, and they likely did it without realizing. Certain supes—supernaturals—tend to have that affect over their surroundings and normal humans. The more powerful the supe, the more powerful the effects. I was betting the lovely girl across from me was one of the nastier kinds.

Her evil aura pushed out anything good for a certain radius, and it was all contained in that cute little unassuming bundle. Once a person knew what to look for, that shining smile had more sneer than cheer, and her bright eyes held a cold sheen of cruelty. Mayhaps Little Miss All-American was a demon. I didn’t run into those too terribly often.

There were two ways a demon came to walk around on Earth: inhabit the body in conjunction with a corrupt soul, (which wasn’t too hard to come by these days), or manifest their own body. I could not sense anything in her that indicated there was a soul hanging about, shoved to the side, so I grudgingly had to admit that she was a powerful one. Only demons of a certain level could manifest their own bodies.

When she spoke, her voice was happy, upbeat, and completely insincere.

“Well aren’t you just the prettiest little half-Fae this side of the Abyss, Kella? Who’d have thought you’d have the looks to go along with all that yummy power? Despite, of course, from what I hear on the grapevine about you being half-human.”

I didn’t even bother glaring at her—it wouldn’t do me any good, and it would only make her happy. However, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes.

“Before you continue your insincere and snarky observations, Thyra—if that’s even your name—keep in mind that you called me here, and I have no qualms walking away.” My voice was calm, unconcerned, and bored as I reclined back in my chair. I crossed my legs at my ankles, and folded my hands across my stomach with my elbows resting on the arms of the chair.

What I said was mostly true; I could just walk away, but of course I was curious. Demons didn’t usually look me up for a couple of reasons. Despite what mainstream media believed, Fae and demons didn’t usually mix. We intermingled about as well as oil and water. For me there was another reason entirely.

Thyra pouted, even sticking out her lower lip for effect.

“You’re just no fun, you know. I thought the half-Fae ballsy enough to lay waste to the Demon King would be more interesting,” she said, leaning forward and putting her chin in her hand. I could see the expectant look in her eyes, as she hoped her words would provoke a reaction. They did, but none I would let her see.

It was a fluke that’d I won out over one of the Demon Kings. He’d been trying to sacrifice me to gain the attention of my father—who couldn’t summon a fatherly feeling toward me if someone held an enchanted object to his head that was capable of killing him. No one was likely to save me, and I wasn’t into the whole damsel in distress thing, so I snagged the knife he was about to use on me. Not thinking me a threat, he’d left it on the table next to me. Who knew that daggers made to kill Fae worked just as well on demons? The only thing that saved me as I escaped, was that no one had believed what I’d done.

I could tell by her words she was a juvenile when it came to her race, and thought she was hot stuff coming to visit me. I was like a bogeyman to young demons. Which was silly—I hadn’t killed any demons before, or since, the King; and all this happened a couple hundred years ago, give or take a decade.

“If you’ve come here to hash out grievances that are older than you, then I really am leaving. If you have actual business, state it.”

I leveled my gaze at her, and kept my face unsmiling. Her pout deepened for a moment and then vanished into a smile that said, ‘geez, I was just kidding’. Mentally shaking my head, I wondered who they were breeding down there to get demons like this.

“Fine, down to brass tacks then. I want you to find Thor’s leather jacket and bring it to me. I have a buyer lined up and ready for the purchase. It disappeared a few days ago, and I’d like to get it before Thor finds it again. I’ve heard you are, at times, willing to…creatively acquire objects.”

It took a second for my brain to catch up, and I did a long blink trying to process the information. She was hiring me for a job. Interesting, and not at all what I was expecting. I generally kept my services on the legal side of the tracks. There were times–when I was broke–that I’d take a little walk on the proverbial dark side.

“Last I heard Thor was spending his time running around with a biker gang in Montana, having a grand ole time. While I don’t mind traveling, that’s a bit outside my range. Is the jacket here in Jacksonville?” I asked, and took a sip of my cold water. The condensation left a thick ring of liquid on the table, and I ran my fingers through it, thinking.

Deities, also known as gods and goddesses, existed in this world. They weren’t as powerful as what ruled above us, but most of them were still fairly spunky for beings that hadn’t been worshiped in a while.

She nodded at my question, tossed me an address written on a piece of paper, and continued to explain.

“When a deity wears a certain article of clothing for a long time, it creates a connection with them. If a person puts on the clothing, they are able to use some of the powers of the deity.”

“So your buyer has a death wish then? I can’t imagine Thor will be happy to know someone has his favorite jacket,” I said, musing aloud.

She only shrugged and glanced away, inspecting her manicure. Demons with manicures. The state of the world really was going down the toilet.

“I don’t care what happens to the client after I get my money and hand off the jacket. That’s their problem. I will, however, take advantage of acquiring it from a less resistant target than Thor himself. Are you going to get it or not?”

“Sure, I’ve got nothing else on my plate right now.” Not to mention, as I said, I was curious and broke. A deadly combination, if any.

“Good, I need it by tonight. Think you can handle that?”

“I’ll try my best, but unless the address is where the jacket currently is I make no promises,” I said, and shrugged.

“That was the last place I heard it was at. If you can’t get it, my buyer walks, and this is an item I’d prefer to sell with discretion. I’ll make it worth your while if you manage to get it.”

We spent a few minutes, haggling on the price. I had a few numbers in mind that included potential hazards to life and limb for the job, as well as the difficulty level. She had a few numbers in mind as well, and of course they were well below my numbers. Once we reached an agreeable amount, in cash, we rose from the table and shook on it.

“Ciao,” she said, tossing her hair back and walking away. I looked down at the address, and wiped the condensation off on my jeans.

Well, this is going to be interesting.

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Hell Bent for Leather, Part II