More than Hot Gas
Sometimes the eruption of a volcano is not just a geologic event. Sometimes eruptions are evidence of a conspiracy. Discovering the real story took all the combined talents of the psychic detective team of Riley and Jakup. Hint: Easter Island, the Roman Gods and the warrior gods of Hawaii.
Since their first case together for Witches Local 723 and their success with the troll maiden kidnapping, the two opted to reward themselves for their hard work with a vacation in the islands only to land in the middle of yet another dastardly attempt against the locals.
Riley could not believe his luck when Hillary, a smart and beautiful fugitive from her ex-boyfriend, made a dramatic entrance into his world. She joined the two partners as they tracked the villains.
A gruesome twosome comprising one knee skewering the vital spot of my gut and an accompanying elbow on my neck rousted me out of my comfortable slouch. I’d stocked my rented cabana with several sixes of quality beer to concentrate on my bellybutton mantra. The attacker behind both weapons destroyed any hope I might have had of spending a relaxed day on the beach. With the breath knocked out of me, I had all I could do to sit up.
Figures. Just one more disaster in a string of lousy encounters. Talk about a sucky twenty-four. Today was only one day in a succession of crass crappy days. Until this minute, I didn’t think my day could get worse.
Last weekend, Marnie, my on-again-off-again girlfriend told me to go play with myself. “Consider us over,” she’d said. “If I never set eyes on you again, that’d be too soon. I’m done wasting my time with an idiot who takes off and disappears with no notice and no apology anytime he feels like it. Makes for a good relationship—NOT. Find yourself another girl dumb enough, one not smart enough to consider the fact a guy’s best friend is a bird as a clue for a total turn-off.”
To make sure I didn’t miss her point, she slammed the door when she left. Shut the thing so hard, she scared the stuff out of Peaches. Most days, Peaches, mom’s cat is no scaredy- cat, but when Marnie did her nasty deed, she was with me to take a hit this time because I was cat sitting.
All of which meant my social life with both human and supernatural types sucked big time. What just happened to my groin made it worse.
Ditching me wasn’t Marnie’s fault—exactly—I understand lots of girls and some guys wouldn’t want to spend time with a weirdo. I’m not, but I might appear weird to outsiders because J&R, the detective agency my partner Jakup and I run, handles some strange and outlandish cases. We take on clients with bizarre problems few experience and which other detectives won’t touch.
Before I teamed up with Jakup, I wouldn’t’ve wanted to spend time with a looney-tunes wacko like me either. Not that I’d make the frankly freaky list. Normal dudes, like I used to be, stick with the A-crowd types. My Greek row cred vaporized when I went over to the dark side…well, more like grayish side, supernatural, but not evil per se.
My plan was to give myself a week in Paradise after we closed our last case. Figured I might as well sit back and at least enjoy the scenery considering this might shape up to be a full week of serious babe watching. I opted to play at being normal and pretended I was. I didn’t need to and won’t do it again, but I took the red-eye to the Big Island, which gave me almost seven full days before I needed to head back to the mainland. What the hey, I deserved a break. If my lousy luck continued, when I got back, I’d get stuck on another sucky case with an obnoxious fat dude as a client.
Not much, I could do about it now. Gritting my teeth didn’t help either—Marnie and I were history. Time to shed the funk. “Buck up, Riley Rose,” I told myself.
My plan was to sit back, do nothing, and enjoy my time in Paradise. Now I was wearing the Mai Tai, I’d had in my hand before she’d ruined what remained of the day. The pressure of her leg on my thigh proved the little bit sunblock I’d rubbed on my most vulnerable parts—hadn’t done their job. Well, at least no one had screamed, “Shark!” Score one on the plus side. I was the only one in trouble.
Until a few seconds ago, I’d concentrated on my tan. The beach view earned my overall Superb rating. Blondes, a few redheads, brunettes—all sporting well-built bodies and representing every race. The best part of beach-leering was none of ‘em wore more three or four ounces of cloth. The body language of most on the sand sent the same message “Look-don’t-touch.”
Scrunched back into the shade of the half-ass cabana I’d rented for more money than it’d take to buy a dozen of crappy wannabe pup tents. I got the picture. Hawaiian sun was H O T. I wiggled in the ass-sling they called a beach chair to pull my swim trunks back down. I hate it when I give myself a wedgie.
Just before the blow to my stomach, I’d half-heard of a loud whap-whap outside my little patch of shade. I’d tilted my head, listening and trying to identify the source of the noise. All I got for my trouble was a shower of hot sand. The only thing I spotted was a shadow on the side of the cabana. The real whack to my midsection that followed came close to sending the stuff right out of me. For a minute,
I thought maybe my partner, Jakup, was the guilty party responsible for the racket. Wouldn’t be the first time his wings beating against the canvas ruined my leisure time. When no sharp talons biting into my shoulder followed, I eliminated him from my list of possible perpetrators. We’d been partners for a long time. The fact Jakup is a scrub jay with…uh…-special abilities, limits who’d look up our detective agency. I suspected he enjoyed never executing a landing without drawing blood. Claimed this was just the way scrub jays set down. For once, I had a nearly healed shoulder because he’d taken his week off back in California. Seemed weird not to have him around.
“Uffda,” I grunted when the shape solidified into a sweaty female shape and tripped over my outstretched legs. Her full weight fell on top of me.
Not a bad fall. All in all, a good fall—tall, brunette, D-D-G—and smelling good besides. In full panic mode, the girl didn’t seem to even notice me, but crawled over my belly, kneeing another vulnerable spot, she scooted in high gear toward the back of the cabana.
“What the hell?” I asked. “Since when did I turn into your personal beach blanket?”
“I’m so sorry, but you got to help me,” she said panting. “I can’t let him catch me. This guy … he’ll…He’ll…he’ll kill me—or enslave me. You’ve got to let me hide here. This is the only cabana big enough for two.”
“Get a grip. Guys don’t kill and enslave women these days. Went out with knights and armor. Gender equity and all that stuff all the rage now. Most girls don’t pounce on some stranger, stick a knee in his gut, and talk smack. Why don’t you j calm down and tell me what’s going on?”
“Maybe most guys don’t do stuff like that these days, but my ex doesn’t seem completely human anymore. I’m not even sure he’s even alive since—you’ve got to help me, please. I’m desperate.”
Crap. I’ve just landed in it again. What if she wasn’t 100% certifiable? What kind of supernatural mess am I in now? No doubt a bad one, considering my partner is nowhere around.
“Not human? C’mon. What does he run on four legs- some kind of angry pit-bull? You’re exaggerating, making up metaphors about your psycho boyfriend.”
“For real,—he’s not human anymore, at least I don’t think so. He’s only half Leshy, but he seems to’ve inherited all their bad traits.”
“Never heard of —what’d you call him—Leshy? Just because he’s some ethnic I’ve never heard of doesn’t make him inhuman. Maybe he just drinks too much. Could be that’s your problem.”
“No, not booze. Leshies aren’t an ethnic. They’re…well, something else. They don’t drink—drink alcohol—at least. Most of them still live in the old country--Serbia, Croatia, somewhere in that part of the world,
“Hold on, way too much information,” I started, but she went right on talking, blowing me off.
“When we first met and started dating, Lief seemed like every other guy, you know, like totally full of himself. After he graduated U of M, his mom and dad sprung for him to visit relatives “back home.” When he got back, I didn’t know him anymore. Mean, nasty—and, he’s gotten worse. I don’t know what his relatives did, but since he got back, he’s been spouting über-man ideas, and joined a supremacy cult—not the racial kind—more like, supernatural, I guess. I decided I needed to get away from him. Now he’s followed me and has threatened me with all kinds of nasty things. You have to help me.”
I wasn’t sure if I’d just stepped in it or if my luck had turned and I’d met a girl familiar with the supernatural world—or possibly one who was downright nutso. I hesitated for a nanosecond or so, and then nodded. “Okay, I’ll think about it. For now, let’s blow this popcorn stand.”
Her nose curled and I was afraid I’d came close to using the nerdiest expression ever, but she hugged me anyway. “Thank you, oh, thank you.”
She’d said the last “Thank you” out when a big stump of guy blocked the sun coming into my Cabana. This was one big dude. He put his paw on my shoulder “Get your slimy hands off my girl,” he growled, literally.
Talk about your living dead. I’d never seen a person with such white skin without even a trace of a sunburn. Arms so hairy he seemed to have a pelt, the effect of which was intimidating. He took one-step toward us and pulled off the cabana roof over us with one swift pass of his thick arm. I wanted no part of him and didn’t need further proof he’d be dangerous to my health.
Putting my arms around her, I snuggled her in close sniffing in her perfume. I whipped up a screen I’d invented—well, stole from one of my mom’s witchy books—to become invisible. He stood there, head going from side to side, confused.
Take that a-hole. Rip up my cabana and cost me a deposit, will you?
More growling and sniffing from the guy made the girl shake in my arms. I may -have held her a tad too close, but what the hell. When opportunity knocks, a guy’s gotta answer.