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June 17, 2024

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 06

By Lydia Manx

"Delilah, avoid all contact with Ruby and come back as soon as you take care of the trolls. I can replace her." His implication was that I wasn't like her and as easily substituted. It was true, but he made it more of a slam than a compliment. I don't think he fully approved of my kind any more than Ruby's sort. Arch was of the opinion he was the perfect creature. I didn't bother to try to change his mind. Silk purse out of sow's ear and all -- he was truly a pig at times.

"What about Sam?" I was compelled to ask.

"Nothing for you to worry about. He'll turn up, I imagine. Send me your report once you get rid of that troll situation." He made it sound distasteful and a minor distraction to his busy life. "I know there is an outbreak between the worlds, and activity and sightings of fairies and trolls seem to be making the rounds. We've sent an agent to investigate." He quickly hung up, leaving me with an ear ache from pressing my phone tightly to my face and a slight headache.

I left the bedroom oddly disturbed by the call. Sam was missing and Arch was now my supervisor. I didn't recall stepping on a crack much less breaking a mirror but I felt like I'd broken open some hard core curse. Ruby was hovering a few feet from the doorway making me wonder if she'd been eavesdropping on my call.

"You need a ride to the police station?" Ruby pretended she wasn't concerned while being helpful, confirming that she had in fact been listening by the door to my call.

"I don't meet up with them until after seven tonight. I was going to call for a rental car. Enterprise still picks folks up according to their commercials." I flashed her a grin.

She smiled back and said, "No need. I'll loan you mine. But if it'd make you feel better I could tag along."

It was a nice offer but there was no way I'd take her up on it. I rarely used partners with my troll hunting. They were just liabilities or victims. Either way with the vampire blood tagging her for detection by any stray vamps in this town I wasn't going to risk it. Vermilion Dynasty didn't have any alliances in San Diego and Ruby wasn't a vampire but just a blood bound fool. I resisted shaking my head. I thanked her for the offer of help and accepted the use of her car. It'd make it easier for me, and keep her from following without being bitchy about it. I didn't know how the vampire blood still inside her would make her react.

So we spent the rest of the late afternoon time we had speaking of inconsequential things and she filled me in on her corner of the world and the associated gossip. Her stories were laced with humor and her trademark wit. I couldn't find anything 'off' about her except for the part of her glowing pink. That was not normal.

At six-thirty I called the phone number Sam had given me the night before, and eventually I was connected with the proper desk and got directions along with the location of a place to park in the downtown area. I thanked Ruby for the car and headed out slowly. The freeway was nearly at a crawl the entire trip to the downtown area. I would have assumed people would have been heading away from the city that late, but that wasn't true. The downtown area had picked up some lavish condos and upscale dwellings during their construction of the stadium. The local baseball team had the state of the art field complete with jumbotron screens and the park within the park -- a green grass area where fans could picnic while watching baseball games. I wasn't a fan of baseball and didn't know if their team was winning or losing but I was pretty sure the traffic wasn't related to the baseball games. It was fall and I knew that at least meant it was football season. I stopped at a light and glanced around the urban landscape.

I observed all the normal signs of the local urban youths -- spray-painted words on sides of buildings and windows. Of course all of it was punctuated by kids hanging out with their pants hanging off their asses and pouting, looking sullen not scary -- typical of most the cities landscapes except here and there I noticed they actually smiled. I think it was hard to maintain a tough gangster façade with the sun shining and pristine blue skies. The area before the police station wasn't as pretty as the gangster-painted houses but it was definitely a cop shop. I'd noticed that the cars by the houses were worn as well as the buildings next to them. The police station was the usual government cinder block structure and surrounded by bars of wrought iron on windows, and the liquid-dispensing kind for the cops and the criminals.

It took me a few minutes to explain what I needed and the desk sergeant seemed skeptical at best. I think he wasn't very pleased to see me; that usually meant that my reputation had again preceded me. The local cops ended up calling us when everything went south in a hurry and they didn't know what to do. Typically it was some young cop who was still starry-eyed and willing to think he did more than act as the humans' garbage collectors. Going to pick up the pieces, clean up the mess and let everyone have the illusion that the thin blue line was some sort of protection from the things that went bump in the night. When things went thump in the night they started reaching for the 'what ifs' and the psychics. We showed up after the psychics. And I was nearly always was snuck in after hours or through a back door -- I rarely ended up going in during normal business hours.

The man who'd made the appointment with Sam showed up, looking frazzled and less than happy. Trolls rarely did much good in my experience, but than admittedly I was a bit biased. The cop introduced himself as Sergeant Dale. I wasn't sure if it was his first or last name and given the grim look in his eyes I didn't see that it mattered either way.

He led me through the building while saying, "Thank you for coming, Miss Monroe. I am not going to go with you all the way. Once I check you in with the security, I'll give you to that department. They aren't very happy with me for calling you, and telling them all the rules Sam Fortuna from the Amber Consulting Firm said you'd need. I'm not very popular at the moment in the holding area, but there is just something wrong about the whole thing and I know we can't handle it. I heard about you guys and figured I'd give it a shot."

His voice was matter-of-fact but I could hear a slight bit of fear. Whoever had told him about us had spilled more than we were just good at helping with the bizarre. He knew of a case. How he'd figured out it was a troll I didn't want to ask, figuring that Sam had already covered that. It dawned on me that nobody necessarily had the notes from Sam ... that could make things tough.

"Sir, how is it you heard of us?" I had more questions I'd follow up with but thought it was basic enough to prime the pump.

"My cousin out in New Mexico is a cop."

I tried to suppress a growl. Seemed every time I turned around I was hearing about New Mexico. "And?" I waited. "He was part of the select group of cops who were called in to help with some disappearances. And instead of simply accepting the party line spilled out about a tragic plane crash down in Colorado Springs he headed over to the local reservations with some follow up questions. From there he'd heard mysterious stories and he was a witness to some elaborate shuffling of paperwork. He did some research on his own and found your company, Amber Consulting Firm. From there he dug around some of the past reports and heard more rumors and stories." He looked pale so I knew he wasn't kidding. He'd heard about us.

He handed me off once we got to the desk of another cop and I smiled kindly and shook his hand. Officer Dale then ran like I'd lit his tail on fire. Yeah, it was going to be ugly.

The desk cop led me to another cop sitting by a desk near a steel door and handed me off like I'd had the plague. Whatever they had was making everyone very nervous. I appreciated the layers of protection, but I was also highly conscious of the potential for a high human body count. Trolls came in many flavors and nobody'd said what exactly they thought they had. Even Sam didn't volunteer what kind of troll was possibly being held there. That wasn't a good sign, either. I checked my bag, I'd noticed that nobody asked me what was in my handbag, and it was still on my shoulder. I didn't say anything to the new cop but simply followed. We came to a long corridor and he unlocked the gate saying, "You need to find Lenny down at the end of the hallway." With that he locked me inside without another word.

Yeah, it was a confidence builder.

I continued down the hall, hearing my feet hitting the worn yellowed linoleum with each step. For only being a little after seven in the evening it was pretty quiet. There weren't any prisoners in the cells lining the walkway. That was odd, but if they had a troll it was a good idea. I hit the corner and turned to the archway at the end of the hall. I looked over and shoved a growl back inside my throat. I had no choice now, I had to head inside. The bag reminded me what my job was. Biting the inside of my cheek I tried to stiffen my backbone and appear more in charge. It rarely worked. Most times I had to keep from being defensive about what I did. Being a troll hunter with a supernatural bounty-hunting firm tended to bring out the sneers and jeers pretty damn fast. The police were the worst, because they couldn't accept anything but black and white as a rule. They needed the safety of being on the front line and always in control. They didn't know that they never had any control but the illusions of their delusions. This job sucked some nights.

"He's locked up?" I asked the officer with the name tag Lenny on his chest. His last name appeared to have been of Polish or Slovakian extraction that I wasn't even going to try to say. I had my pride and he didn't look like he'd take kindly to me mangling it either.

The large man filled out his uniform above and beyond regulations. He looked to me like he could quite easily be a wrestler on pay-per-view in his spare time. The veins in his neck pulsed and his eyes stared over my head refusing to look at my face. I loved it when they tried not to look at me. I could tell that the man was afraid of me. Hopefully it didn't interfere with him doing his job, or I'd be screwed. Again. Lenny finally allowed his gaze to drop to the top of my head and he indicated the secure steel door behind him with a jerk of his rather large closely shaved skull. I looked over and saw that it wasn't the standard cage and barred action but an actual isolation room. That could be a double-edged sword. Time would tell.

Still not meeting my face, he began talking, "A set of standard police issued handcuffs is threaded through a hook in the center of the table. We've put on the leg irons, and the fully charged Taser you requested is on the back counter within easy reach of your chair." With a slight sneer he added, "Everything was set up precisely like your 'firm' instructed." His tone wasn't respectful or even civil. Old country Lenny had some issues with us.

To be continued...

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-10-20
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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