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May 29, 2023

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 15

By Lydia Manx

"Will do. Hey, you okay?" He looked at me with concerned eyes. He didn't know me from Adam much less Eve, but he was quick to figure out who would be leaving the tip. He automatically refilled my water glass, adding more ice and a slice of lemon which I appreciated. He did have bar tending skills after all. The first glass Bobby had plopped on the bar in front of me had ice and water but no lemon. This time he wiped down the drops of water on the wood while replacing the paper cardboard coasters beneath both of the wine glasses -- mine and Ruby's -- and slid one under my water.

The imprint of a popular beer I'd never sampled let me know where the coasters had come from for their use in the bar. Marketing was big in bars, since it didn't cost nearly as much as a commercial on television, and was constantly under the patrons' glasses; the names tended to get stuck in their brains.

"Good enough. Thanks." I sipped the water and nodded my thanks at the flavor and wondered why I was lying. Bobby smiled and went to put our appetizer order into the kitchen.

All I really wanted to do was to scream and yell at the injustice of it all. Also I only could think was how soon I could be back in a damn jail again if Archie didn't do his job. Worst part was that then I would be told again to write down what had happened. I figured I would do my tale in Latin again. I mean why not? The committee would like a report far more in depth than what I had given the cops. But that report had to be spotless and I had to thoroughly tell everything. They wouldn't be happy if I missed anything that had actually happened between me and the now-dead troll. Since there hadn't been any cameras that I knew of in the cell, it made my report critical. I knew that the committee would use other methods to double check my tale, and if it varied I'd be in trouble. They had some talented seers that would be happy to fact-check my account and would relish my downfall. I wasn't a favorite around the office where Archie set up his shop.

From the librarian gal's side of the bar I heard a clatter of silverware, and the fork that she'd been using to pick up the French fries served with her sandwich had somehow miraculously fallen over the lip of the bar and jumped clean past the drainage area that ran below the counter and even cleared the sink and liquor bottles beneath the counter top and landed noisily on the floor midway between her and Bobby. Naturally Bobby had been punching in our order for the appetizers on the computer screen near her when the 'accident' happened. Ruby's eyes blazed, and I heard her mumbling softly beneath her breath. Bobby hustled to snap up the fork from the floor when all of a sudden, there was a noisy ripping sound. Just like that I was able to tell that Bobby went commando and recently had some personal grooming done. Way too much information for me, but Ruby smiled in sinful pleasure.

Not missing a beat, he twirled his serving apron around his stomach easily covering his over-exposed ass while not looking in the least embarrassed by the mishap. I should have said, the 'magically assisted' mishap. From the slight smirk that flashed on and off Ruby's face once Bobby covered himself I didn't need to ask if she'd assisted the threads in spontaneously flying apart.

He retrieved another set of utensils and bowed while handing them to the librarian gal. She'd pretended to be shocked by her clumsiness, but I found it rather obvious. Ruby snarled slightly and said, "Well, Delilah, what does she have that I don't?"

"His attention," I was still exhausted so I didn't filter the words but automatically replied. My face went pale as she spun towards me with her eyes flashing.

Then the absurdity of it all hit her and thankfully, she actually laughed, "Yeah, for at least an hour or three. He's a bit faster than he looks."

Arching an eyebrow at her I waited for her to figure out what she'd said.

Laughing louder she went, "Well, I mean really, Lilah, either way!"

Her laughter was light and melodic and more than a few bar flies glanced over at her with interest. Even Bobby turned away from another customer long enough to smile at Ruby. Ruby laughed louder and turned away from Bobby and began to chat with me. She told me lighthearted stories about some of her good experiences in New Mexico before her unexpected departure. Bobby tended slowly to the growing bar crowd and when he wasn't looking, Ruby would automatically refill our drinks, making sure nobody was watching. I saw that the bar had an eye-in-the-sky camera set up but it was facing the two cash registers not the clientele. During her visits here Ruby must have scoped out the camera angles before 'pouring' for us, but she was over-served, and I wasn't one hundred percent sure on that until I'd seen it for myself.

Bobby brought over the platter of appetizers and two small plates with a flourish. "Here you lovely ladies go. So, are you both ready for refills?" I was, but Ruby had just magically liberated her own libation and Bobby looked shocked. Yeah, I could see that. He filled my glass and refreshed my iced water then ran back to attend the clumsy librarian -- or whatever it was that she did during daylight -- if she even went out during the day. I still wasn't sure what she was, and if she was even human. There was a tingle but nothing concrete.

Casually looking around, I wasn't finding any other possible non-humans in the bar, but then I wasn't precisely using all of my hunter talents. With my past few days, just being aware of my surroundings was pretty important in my world. I wondered where the hell Sam was, and if Archibald even had bothered to look for him.

Ruby started sucking down the food while I nibbled on a well-stuffed potato skin. It was basic bar food but I enjoyed the bits I ate. Soon the platter was cleared off. Ruby wasn't as drunk as she'd been an hour ago, but she still had that reckless gleam in her eyes. Librarian had crept out when I wasn't looking, and from the utterly dismayed look on Bobby's face, he hadn't seen her simply put cash on the bar and flee. He still worked the crowd, but I could see his interest had been caught by the missing gal.

I lifted my head slightly, and allowed the alcohol-laden air to float into my nose, and then I figured she'd been cloaked while seated on the other side of the bar from us. The sugary odor coupled with a vague tugging in my heart, and I knew perfectly well she was something vicious and deadly. I wasn't going to name the nasty, but I was happy she'd ignored us.

Soon Ruby was exhausted and getting drunker as the alcohol was going down her throat far too quickly. I called for the check and paid it despite her half-hearted protesting. I wasn't thrilled, but it was paid by me with cash not a credit card, so at least it wasn't going to be picked up by Archie and friends.

There were a few taxi cabs beside the street with their dome lights on, letting folks know they were available for hire. Seeing how Ruby wasn't one hundred percent, I started walking us toward the curb where the taxis were waiting and the drivers were idling with their windows rolled down listening to talk radio or salsa music. I had to love the taxi drivers in SoCal, they were a different group than most states.

It took Ruby a minute to figure out where I was heading. She hissed, "What the fuck? I can walk home. Just watch me." She jerked her arm that I'd been supporting with mine while wobbling her away from the bar and Bobby.

Once freed of me she stumbled smack dab into a trashcan. She hit the concrete container full on and fell back onto her ass with a loud screech. Tears welled up in her eyes and she said, "Well, that wasn't supposed to happen."

Her tone was self-deprecating and she held up her slightly skinned palm for me to help her up. I froze for no more than a millisecond and was glad she didn't seem to even notice. I lifted her from the ground supporting her forearm, and avoiding her grazed bleeding palm. I really hated myself for the fear, but given that Ruby had drunk of the blood of Aster Star recently, and that vampire was well lined up for greatness or complete destruction in her world. Yeah, the jury was still out on that one in both the Vermilion Court as well as our own hunter type of folks. I was pretty sure that the Vermilion Court had been hunted by other clans of vampires looking for weakness and vulnerabilities. Yet I figured my 'side' was busy sitting back in the comfort of the committee offices and pondering on how to render their own brand of justice. Once she was on her feet she shimmied -- Ruby was fond of shimmying -- and I heard her mutter a bit and whisper a spell under her breath. The effect was immediate. She looked more focused and her palm was blemish-free, without any signs of blood.

She already had attracted the attention of diners along the window of the restaurant that we were standing in front of near the taxis lined up along the street. "Okay, let's take a cab." Ruby graciously gave in, knowing that she'd been noticed, and saw no reason to cause more of a scene. Apparently seeing all the twenty-somethings holding their 'smart' phones up pointed towards her had sunk in finally. Ruby must have heard about You-Tube, Facebook and Twitter not to mention all the other sites on the edges of the web that shared comical interludes of folks doing stupid ass things in public.

Thankfully it didn't take the taxi driver more than ten minutes to get us to her house. I allowed Ruby to pay the driver since I would have been capable of walking the distance.

As the cab sped off, Ruby turned to me before we went inside the house and put a hand on my arm, making me stop on the walkway to her home near the curb. Looking at me she said in a near whisper, "Thank you, Lilah, you are a true friend."

I was still puzzling over that when I saw a small pin-sized red dot on Ruby's throat. Without uttering a sound, I dove towards Ruby and threw her to the ground behind the small shrubs that lined the pathway to her front door. Whoever was aiming for Ruby wasted a bullet that tore through the space where she'd been, and it harmlessly slammed in and through a corner of the garage that was behind us both. A puff of air and the flying bits from her home were the only signs that the shot had been made. So whoever was out there had a rifle that had a suppressor, and a nice laser site with that pretty little red dot that spelled out trouble. That I had lightning-fast reflexes probably was the only reason Ruby wasn't dead yet.

I growled, not happy at all, "Ruby, do you have the juice to pull some of that marine layer over here? We need some fog fast."

Buried beneath me, Ruby said, "Let me get a breath and I'll do something."

I shifted off her with my back blocking her from the street, and she began to chant and weave a spell. I could feel the energy roaring off her, quickly surrounding us with a layer of protection, and with the fog drifting in rapidly, the visibility dropped on the street to maybe two feet.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-01-26
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