It's troublesome having a troll, werewolf and witch after you. I mean who'd a thought that a simple little gold bracelet connected to so many different supernatural creatures? I wasn't like totally shocked but still. I mean, hey, like they are working together? So, so totally unfair. My being just a little bit off the radar for humans as a rule usually gave me an edge when I was liberating the pretties left here and there. Popping in and out of phase hurt like unbelievably more than that stupid space show ever said -- yet I liked going boldly where no man or woman had gone before -- at least not in the recent history of the pretties. But my skill set wasn't helping me at all. I popped into the local graveyard thinking it would buy me at least a few hours but the damn troll came up from the canal like it was waiting.
I didn't know how it was I always got in these messes but it seemed to be happening more and more lately. I couldn't blame the moon since it was pitch black and there were barely any stars. The witch was pulling dark magic from the 'dark side' of the moon obviously. She'd sent the damn troll after me, I figured. Unfortunately I hadn't figured a troll into the equation, showing up coming from the riverbed that bracketed one side of the old cemetery. My mistake, I wouldn't make it again but it put the graveyard off of my current dwindling list of safe havens. The witch and were couldn't cross the lines of this particular graveyard that I'd long sanctified and bespelled with my little toys and bad boys. I was just settling in to nap behind a particularly large headstone when the troll ambled for me. The creature roared prematurely giving me time to flip channels and hit the next phase cycle.
Which was how I ended up with no announcement next to Harry in the well-appointed rarity -- a finished basement -- in some house in California. The popping out of phase in Florida over to California cost me something and I was panting as my vision slowly cleared. The wind blew differently on the West Coast than the East Coast and the ocean outside was cold and not as familiar to me as the Atlantic. A chill raced down my spine as I found myself nose to nose with a very much awake Harry.
"You forgot you are three hours ahead of California out in Florida again, didn't you?" Harry asked dryly while sipping from a glass of what possibly could be a very nice vintage of cabernet or a sassy little brunette. I knew better than asking.
"Yes, Uncle Harry," He wasn't really my uncle but the honorific stuck years ago and neither of us bothered to change.
"What'd you steal this time?" He seemed more amused than upset, thankfully.
"I didn't 'steal' anything. I acquired this," I pulled back my long sleeved t-shirt to reveal the gold bracelet.
His hand snapped out and he grabbed my forearm with lightning speed pulling me close to him while looking briefly at the jewelry I sported underneath the black t-shirt. He could have easily crushed my arm but just held it tightly, reminding me why I didn't often pop over to visit Uncle Harry. He liked straight answers and not so much my sarcastic sorts.
"Was the person dead or alive who last had this on their arm before you 'acquired' it?" Harry had yet to touch the bracelet but was watching my face for any sorts of lies.
Sighing and trying to resist pulling from his grasp, I said, "Well, she wasn't protesting any."
I shrugged and said, "Well, like that is all depending on how you look at the afterlife, doesn't it?"
It was his turn to sigh. He released me abruptly saying, "You swore on your mother's headstone that you'd stop robbing from the graves of the dead."
"I had my fingers crossed?" I tried for the doe-eyed innocent look but Harry wasn't buying it.
He shook his head and looked right at me, waiting ... damn vampires could wait without moving really well. I couldn't outstare him or outwait him so I gave in, "She wasn't buried in a coffin or even in a mausoleum, but abandoned in a cave somewhere beneath Kentucky or Tennessee." I wasn't precisely certain of where it had been since the caves switched back and forth between the two states with little in the way of road markers. The cave had been long closed and I'd only chanced upon it after reading some newspapers from fifty years ago talking about the cave-in and lost bodies from an incident that had happened in the previous century. Death had always fascinated me. Who was I kidding? Old stiffs did too.
The loophole was held up for Harry to either agree or disagree if I'd done something wrong. It was on the edge of acceptable, I'd already known that but it wasn't like I'd been able to resist. A stray bit of light from a nearby streetlight caught the gold and it irresistibly gleamed. When I'd popped into the labyrinth of twining and winding paths, I had only wanted to see how many bodies I could find.
Hey, as hobbies go it wasn't bad. I was like some kind of archeologist or anthropologist for the unusual. Given how I'd been raised, it wasn't totally odd. Something of what I was thinking Harry read. I had my mind blocks up but around family -- so to speak -- it didn't always make enough of a difference.
"Sweetie, that's a curious bit to find buried. Ever think to ask why nobody went to find the lady?" Harry was making me work for something.
I ducked my head and said, "Because the body was supposed to be there?"
After the last three days and two nights, I figured that the bracelet wasn't some nice 'antiquey' trinket. Stupid supernatural world -- there were always strings attached. The gold glowed with a luster and warmth that I found hypnotic. That alone should have been a big clue.
"Magpie, you know that feeling in your gut right now?" Harry tucked a finger under my chin making my eyes meet his. That he'd used my childhood nickname wasn't necessarily a good thing. I wasn't a child anymore but I still liked bright and shiny objects. And I really liked the ones that had been 'acquired' better than those freely given.
"Yes, Uncle Harry?" I didn't want to ask but felt compelled. He wasn't using any of his vampiric powers just the strong love for each other we had. He was family in so many ways.
"Darlin', you damn well know that is a cursed object, right?"
"Kinda figured that out after the troll tried to gobble me up." I admitted.
He took that in stride while asking, "What else was following you?"
"The lion, the witch and the war ..." I caught his glare and said, "Okay, just a witch and werewolf."
"And the aforementioned troll?"
"Yeah, that too." I gave up without flinching, much. Harry wasn't happy. Not a good thing, but I didn't have many other choices for escaping the three pursuing me, and Harry always had good ideas and good connections. He stepped away from me and began pacing and tapping his lip.
I sighed. I really needed to work on my timing. Had I popped into Harry's home two hours later he'd been totally asleep and I would have been able to get a few hours undisturbed to plot. As it stood now, Harry wouldn't bother to sleep. He'd push through the automatic vampire slumber hours and like an insomniac be awake for days or in his case nights. I was so screwed.
I'd popped into Harry's basement library, a favorite spot of mine in his homes, and his, too. He finally thought of something and snagged a book from one of the shelves that lined two of the four walls in the room. The stairs that headed up to the exit behind the door that was at the back wall and the fourth wall had a roaring fireplace and some crossed swords above the mantle. They weren't ornamental but useful. I had played with them once and found out that vampires could paddle a kid's ass like nobody's business. The chair had been replaced, the blade sharpened again and my lesson mostly learned. Harry did a good job of being a surrogate parental unit when needed. He hadn't been joking about swearing on my mother's grave. She was buried up in Los Angeles. My father had been slain before I was born. I had plenty of well-meaning social workers trying to 'place' me after mom's death, but Harry had always made sure I was safe. In the foster care world that was gold.
That reminded me, and I glanced down at the bracelet. Harry had a thick, dusty old book in his hands and was showing me an illustration of what suspiciously looked like the bracelet sketched in ink on the page. Tapping it he said, "Well, you certainly know how to pick them don't you?"
Seeing the thick links of gold drawn flatly on an aged page was oddly disconcerting. The bracelet was made up of large gold links with a center medallion that currently rested on my wrist. The figurine etched into the metal was beautiful yet distant.
"Who was she?"
"She 'is' a lost bit of history. Supposedly the link between werewolves and witches."
I was rocked back on my feet. Everyone in the supernatural circle knew that weres and witches didn't mix. But from the look on Harry's face that wasn't necessarily true.
"Why was the troll trying to get me?" I was hoping to dodge any more trouble.
"Because trolls go where the money is, and your disturbing a bit of the earth would have given the troll justification for getting involved without fear of any repercussions." I thought about what Harry was telling me and gulped. I was so screwed.
"Uncle Harry, I sorta have another problem." I looked at him and waited for him to stop reading beneath the picture in the old book. I didn't think he was going to learn much, and I knew what I was going to say would definitely be a bit more pressing.
It was his turn to sigh, "What?" "I can't get it off my arm."
I had to hand it to Harry, he didn't yell at me. Instead he went back to his book and began frantically flipping pages. Whatever he was reading didn't make him happy I knew because his fangs came out and he hissed.
"Dear, you have definitely bitten off more than you can chew." He flashed his fangs, illustrating that he knew he was mocking me a bit. I wasn't fish or fowl in the supernatural world -- not like a werewolf or vampire who were easily recognizable with their own lore and laws -- but something new. I liked to think of myself as a hybrid. The rest of the supes found me an aberration and kill-worthy. Thankfully, Harry just saw me as family.
All of my instincts were to pop out and find a cave in the middle of nowhere, but I shuddered and waited to hear what Harry thought.
"I'm not going to cut your hand off, like this author recommends; instead let's try to do something more logical." Harry went to his fridge and peered inside. Laughing softly at the obvious lack of contents he shut the door then the grunted and whipped out a cell phone.
"Hey, you still like your bacon?" Was how he started the call when a rough male voice answered.
"Good, bring me over a package, I'll buzz you in." I knew that most folks entered Harry's house through the security gates at the end of the driveway but whoever was coming was probably a minion or fledgling. It struck me hard that I'd never known Harry to have either minions or fledglings, but I didn't ask any questions. Harry's world was Harry's, not mine.
We didn't really talk while waiting for the bacon to arrive. I didn't ask him why he wanted bacon, because Harry had his own rules, I'd long ago discovered. While I sat in one of the chairs near the nicely flaming fireplace enjoying the blaze, Harry kept pulling various tomes from the shelves while muttering and tossing me pissed off glances. I didn't blame him, but was happy to have him helping.
Soon a chime dinged in the finished basement and Harry walked to the security system by the door and asked, "Who's there?"
"Big bad wolf." There was laughter on both sides of the intercom and Harry buzzed the person in saying, "Basement okay?"
"Naturally." The gravelly voice answered.
Soon there was a heavy set of footsteps thumping down the staircase and Harry opened the door saying, "Took you long enough!"
A bear of a man pounced into the room thumping on Harry like he was being tenderized. Uncle Harry wasn't exactly a small man so I figured the beast to be at least six and half feet tall and about two fifty. All muscle -- no fat except for the plastic grocery bag with bacon inside. I could smell the meat from across the room.
"Hey, talking about bacon made me hungry." He grinned and handed Harry the bag. I was still puzzled why Harry wanted bacon. He could eat when necessary but I'd never seen him munch down on bacon. Rare beef -- sure -- but bacon??
It was then the creature saw me. He wasn't human but werewolf. A really big werewolf, the sight of me caused his eyes to flicker to feral. That was more than a bit disconcerting, but I'd expected nothing else.
"She's family, Riley, so stop looking at her like that." Harry's tone allowed for no misunderstandings. He'd put some force behind his words. That didn't stop Riley.
"You know who she is??" He was stunned.
Harry stared up at the werewolf and smiled, slight flash of fangs, and said, "Of course I do. Like I said, she's my niece."
Riley nodded and held up a hand, "Let's just stop there. Niece, good. Hi Niece. Don't tell me your current name. I don't like being lied to."
He tried to glare at me and failed.
"Damn, she's as charming as they said. I will just leave you with the bacon and head back out. I don't need to be here when shit hits the fan."
Riley nearly ran out the door while Harry smiled letting him go. I was utterly confused but Harry seemed pleased saying, "Riley's good people. He won't tell anyone you're here."
That was the least of my worries, but I said, "Thanks, Uncle Harry."
Harry went back to the security screen for the intercom and consulted something nodding saying, "He's out. Let me lock up the estate." His fingers flew and the beeps and chirps seemed to mean something to him. Not that such security systems ever worked at keeping me out. It was probably why I never bothered to learn any of Harry's codes.
"Okay, here goes." Harry put the plastic grocery bag on the table and opened up the three packages of bacon the werewolf had brought. He didn't talk but began squishing the fat and meat into a pulpy mess.
Once the three pounds of pork were reduced to little more than an unappetizing pile of pig slop he gestured to me saying, "Come here, honey."
Puzzled, I went over to Harry. He began slathering my forearm with the goop saying, "Work it under the bracelet all around your hand and wrist. I can't touch the piece but obviously you can."
Finally understanding what Harry was thinking, I worked the bacon grease under the bracelet and over my hand. I found that the heat of my body was causing the bacon grease to liquefy more and the bracelet began to slip up and down my forearm and hand. With a quick, slick movement I rolled the bracelet off my hand and onto the coffee table. It hit the mahogany surface with a loud thunk that surprised me. I hadn't realized how heavy it was.
Looking at the gold bracelet covered in gooey fat and bits of uncooked bacon, Harry sighed and said, "Next time could you call before you come over? Whenever you show up unannounced it always ends up bizarre, to say the least."
Nodding, "I got it, not going to show up with no announcement again!" Grinning at the mess I said, "Bye, Uncle Harry."
And I caught the next phase out and popped to another spot where I didn't think I'd be found. Harry'd be fine getting rid of my latest pretty. Looking around the newest cave I grinned. I knew that there were plenty more where that had come from -- it wasn't like just anyone could go where I did.