Friday, July 4, 2014

Parentis Draconis

As I was still in a bit of a fantasy mood, I decided to take the challenge about 'Bad Parents' in kind of a fun direction.  Actually my first thought was of a wizard and a succubus, but as I was roughing that out I came up with this instead, and I think this idea works better anyway.

Not much else to say on this one, I think the flow might be a little rough for some of the descriptions, but I couldn't come up with another way of saying it that I liked.  So here it is.

Parentis Draconis
            Lord Renos the Malefic stepped back to admire his work.
            The circle of power all but glowed in the light of the moon, the symbols carved into the earth in front of the mountain.  The mouth of the cavern loomed before him, leading deep into the rock.  In the center of the circle was the virgin sacrifice, slumped against the ropes that bound her tightly to a sturdy post.
            Renos brushed the grime from his robes and lit the torches set around the circle.
            “Unn Koh Eeay Rah,” he chanted.  “Unn Koh Eeay Rah.  Come forward dragon, Beast of Chaos and Pain.”
            Within moments a red glow rose from the depths of the cavern, and a massive gout of flame roared out of the mouth of the cave and into the night sky.
            The head of the great dragon followed, smoke trailing from its nostrils as its horns scraped sparks off the roof of the cave.  Coming forward enough that its shoulders cleared the cavern entrance the beast sat and lowered its head to observe Renos with one massive eye.
            “Really Reginald, are the theatrics necessary?”  She asked.  “This is why you only get custody of Tara every other weekend.”
            “My name is Lord Renos the Malefic,” Reginald huffed.  “I don’t see why that’s so difficult for you to remember, Catryn.”
            “Of course dear,” Catryn said as she ignored him, sweeping her head around to examine the ‘sacrifice’.
            Sniffing she nudged the girl with her beak, “Did you drug her again?”  She asked incredulously, glaring at Reginald.
            He crossed him arms and turned away, “She was being uncooperative, she gets that from you, you know.”
            A hot gust of wind blew his cloak around him.
            “Haven’t I told you,” Catryn’s voice loomed like smoke behind him, “Don’t turn your back on an angry dragon.”
            “Oh my God!” a groan came from the circle.  “Will you two please quit it?”
            Both man and dragon turned to the sound to see Tara struggling against the ropes that held her.
            “Dad!  Stop tying me up, it’s creepy.”  She cursed, shaking dark hair from her face, “And mom, either eat him or roast him, I don’t care which, but stop goading him!”
            “Oh dear,” Catryn raised a claw, “let me help you out of those ropes.”
            “You’ll do no such thing foul beast!” A voice boomed across the valley.
            The family turned to see the source of the shout, and bore witness to a fully-equipped rider bearing down on them.  Lance held high his gleaming plate mail reflected the moonlight and made him stand out in sharp contrast to the shadowed valley.
            “Oh god, not this again.” Tara muttered.
            The rider lowered his lance and charged at both Reginald and Catryn, as much as one can charge a fully grown dragon, both of whom lazily moved out of his path.
            “Ha ha!  Too right!”  The knight cheered as he rode up to Tara, “A moment, fair lady.  I shall set you free so we may ride into the sunset together.”
            “It’s midnight, asshat.”  Tara spat.  “Now go away.”
            The knight seemed taken aback and lifted his visor as his horse pawed nervously at the ground, clearly not enjoying being so near a dragon large enough to eat it whole.
            “But…My Lady,” the knight said, “I’ve come to aid you in your time of need.”
            “What I need,” Tara hissed, “is for helmet brained imbeciles like you to piss off!”
            With her exclamation Tara roared out a blast of fire which, while not nearly as sizable as her mother’s, was more than enough to startle the horse into bucking its rider into the dirt.
            The knight fought to his feet as his horse galloped away, dragging his lance with it.  Undeterred he drew his sword.
            “Clearly this foul sorcerer has cursed you with the essence of his beast.  Fear not, for I shall set you free.”
            Even as he readied his sword to cut the ropes Tara breathed out another stream of flame, burning away the ropes as she directed the fire at the ground beneath the man’s feet.
            As the knight hopped from foot to foot Tara stepped out of the ash and glared at the man, smoke still leaking out from between her teeth in thick wisps.
            “Per- Perhaps I should go retrieve my horse?”  The knight asked, lowering his sword.
            With no answer came beyond the amused huff of the giant dragon the knight turned and fled the circle at what he thought was a controlled march, but came off more as a whimpering scamper.
            Tara blew out a smoke ring, “You two sort your crap out, I’m going to my room.”
            “There’s some leftover cattle in the grotto if you’re hungry dear.”  Catryn called out as Tara disappeared into the darkness of the cave.
            “Thanks mom, good night dad.”
            The parents turned back to each other.
            “You know she’ll never meet a nice boy at this rate.”  Catryn said.
            “Good, no boy is good enough for her.” Reginald said.
            They stood in silence for a moment, listening to the distant sound of the knight calling for his horse.
            “So,” Reginald coughed, “See you in two weeks?”
            “Only because the court ordered it.” Catryn said as she ducked back inside the cave.
            Renos straightened his robes as he walked out into the valley.  His tower was a good distance away and he knew just which horse to steal.
            And just which knight to curse into a toad on the way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Rusty Nail

Aaaaand we're back.  I had a few weeks where things were a bit too busy, then a week where I simply fell off the wagon with my writing.

That being said, I'm back!  Pretty simple premise this week, the challenge was to mash together two fiction genres, I took a look at the list and thought back to this group and decided it would be fun to use them again.  (As always, please read that first if you aren't familiar with this cast...and totally not to boost my page views.)

This is actually the product of two weeks worth of pecking at the keyboard...again, kinda fell out of practice.

The Rusty Nail
The tavern’s sign swung in the rain, water sheeting off the wood.  A cloaked figure ducked inside, shutting the door behind them.
Tossing back the hood revealed a young woman who shook off the rain before making her way through the room.
She wove a quick path between the tables, avoiding the roaring hearth where a few patrons were huddled over their drinks.  She settled into a seat in a shadowed corner where a group of four waited.
A rugged man with the scruff of a beard shadowing his face.  A young woman who sat with a noble posture despite the plain cut of her robes.  A man with his head pillowed in his arms, moaning occasionally.  And a young man leaning back in his chair, tuning the strings of his lute.
“It’s quiet,” Sera said as she took the steaming mug Flynt passed her.  “Not many are out in this rain but everyone is gossiping about the death of the queen, no offence my Lady.”
Queen Valentina, or now simply ‘Tina’, acknowledged Sera’s apology with a nod.  Her golden hair darkened to a dirty brown and tied back in a loose braid doing a great deal to disguise her, she motioned Sera to continue.
“There are no rumors then that we have entered the city?”  She asked.
“No my Lady, but we should be careful,“ Sera said.  "Getting close to Duke Weston will be its own challenge."
"Indeed, you're still rather recognizable Tina," Flynt grinned.  "What do you remember of the Weston’s manor?"
Valentina frowned at Flynt's tone, "Not much of value I fear.  I did not have reason to study his security.  I know the layout of the building, but not much else."
"I can go watch the guards, find out their routine?”  Sera suggested, “It’ll take time but-."
Gibson looked up from the table, "I know their routine."
"How do you know their routine?"  Sera asked.
"I was drinking with them last night," Gibson winced at the light.  "We were playing dice and I got them talking about the manor."
"You're terrible at dice." Sera said.
"Which is exactly why they kept talking, and drinking," Gibson smirked.  "They were complaining about having to take extra shifts, seems the Duke is getting paranoid."
"That'll make sneaking in difficult," Flynt frowned.  "We could try scaling the wall during a shift change.  But with five of us-."
Tristan interrupted with the strum of a low chord, "I believe we're overthinking this."  He turned towards Valentina, "Tell me Majesty, how's your singing voice?"


"This is a terrible plan."  Sera muttered as she crept through the halls of the manor.
"So you've said, repeatedly.  Now be quiet."  Flynt whispered.
They made their way down the halls until they found set of double doors marked with a gold inlay around the frame.
“This is it,” Flynt said as he pulled on the latch but the doors didn’t move.
“Move aside,” Sera tugged a pair of picks from her sleeve.  “Keep an eye out.”
Flynt stepped back to give her space, sweeping his gaze back and forth in the shadowed hallway.  “Make it quick, we’re on a schedule here.” He whispered.
Sera ignored him, twisting the lockpicks around the tumblers until she was met with a satisfying click.  Sliding the doors open she ducked inside, pulling Flynt along behind her.


“Sera and Flynt will sneak in to the manor through the back gardens,” Tristan pointed at the rough sketch Valentina and Sera had produced.  “Lady Valentina and I will provide a distraction here, in the courtyard.  Gibson, once you hear the signal you’ll stage the ‘attack’.”


            Gibson knelt in the shadows of a nearby alley, keeping the manor wall in view as he finished readying his arsenal.
            Tying the last of the sulfur and saltpeter packets to his arrows, he lit a small candle and hid the light behind a barrel, shielding it from the view of any patrolling guards.
            When Queen Valentina’s voice began drifting across the night breeze, Gibson lit the first of the fuses and shot the arrow into the dark sky.
            The bright explosion of color was almost as satisfying as the clamor of alarm bells.


            “Once the Duke thinks he’s under attack he’ll retreat to his chambers.  Gibson will keep the guards busy with more distractions, while you and I sneak away in the confusion.”


            The moment the first arrow detonated in a burst of light that cast the courtyard in sharp relief, Tristan dropped his lute, letting it swing back behind him.  He grabbed Valentina’s hand as the guards all ran to secure the manor gates.
            “Come Majesty, we don’t have much time.”
            Valentina fell into step beside him as they ran to an unmanned doorway.  Ducking inside they found themselves in the servant’s quarters.
            “This way.”  Valentina took the lead, “The kitchen should be down this hall.”
            As they ran down the hall Sera stepped out from behind a corner, “Come on, quick!”


            “Flynt will secure the Duke’s chambers while Sera comes and leads us back.”


            Flynt stood in a corner of the room, hidden behind the door as the Duke stumbled inside.
            “Find them!” He shouted.  “We’re under attack you fools!  Get out there and do your jobs!”
            The portly man slammed the door and turned the lock, as he turned away Flynt slid out from the shadows and grabbed hold of him.  Locking the man’s arms to keep him still and pressing a handkerchief over the Duke’s mouth to keep him silent.
            “Just relax, your Lordship, we’re not going to hurt you.”  Flynt said, turning the man to face the back of the room.
            The not-so-secret servant door slid open, revealing Sera, Tristan and Valentina.  Valentina had donned her crown and looked down her nose at the Duke.
            “Duke Emrys of Westboro, I am disappointed you did not recognize me in the courtyard.”  She settled herself in the chair at the Duke’s desk, lacing her fingers in her lap she leaned forward and said, “I believe we need to have a discussion about your allegiance to the crown.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FFF - Yet Another Don & John, Now with 100% more magic

Yep, I'm using Don and John again.

This week the Terribleminds challenge was to take two words from the given lists &, using them as the title, write a story from that title.  Last time this challenge came up I wrote a pretty fun western (fun to write at least).  As always with the list challenges I randomly generated a few combinations; Dead Boy's Curse, Scarlett Gunslingers, Amaranthine Promise, Junkie's Breakfast.  All of which had great potential but none of them were really speaking to me.

I saw the potential combo of Unlucky Beetle and the idea of Don suffering from bad luck was too entertaining to pass up.  Also I've been wanting to experiment with adding magic to the 'Baugmann & Baugmann' universe, so I used this as an excuse.  If anyone isn't familiar with the past stories/adventures for Don & John You Should Start Here

I'm going to try to not make every Friday story about these two, but since I'm tentatively using them as the basis of my first novel, expect to see more of them in the future.

B & B – The Unlucky Beetle
            “Have you filed a report yet?”  John asked the museum curator.
            “Yes, the officers have already cleared the scene.”  The man shook his head, “I thought to call you because…”
            Don tuned them out, knowing John would get any pertinent info.  Looking around the remains of the exhibit it was hard to tell what had been damaged during the burglary.
            ‘Rather than what Michael’s tromped over.’ Don thought, nudging some broken glass with his shoe.
            The display case had held an entire collection of antique jewelry, apparently notable because no one had been able to nail down exactly where it had come from.  Now all that was left were shards of glass and crumpled ID placards.
Don noticed a gleam of light coming from the far corner of the display.  Reaching out he picked up a small golden beetle, about the size of his thumb.
            ‘Why leave this behind if they took everything else?’ He wondered.  ‘They couldn’t have missed it, the case was picked clean.’
            Holding it up to the light Don tried to get a closer look but hissed when the figurine cut his finger.
            John looked over as the beetle hit the floor.  “You ok?”
            “Damn thing bit me.” Don said, scratching at his hand.
            “It couldn’t have bitten you it’s…”  John trailed off, staring at Don’s hand.
            They both stared as Don’s scratching revealed a black tattoo of the beetle forming on his skin.

Don's curse filled the office as he leapt from his seat.
John looked up from the couch.  "What's wrong?"
"My damn mug broke,” Don said, shaking spilled coffee from his hands, “that's what’s wrong."
John turned back to his books, "It's just a mug Don."
"I don't care about the stupid mug, I care about the hot coffee all over my pants."  Don said.
"I warned you something like this might happen."  John said.
Don scratched at the beetle mark on the back of his hand. "Tell me you've found a way to fix it?"
Shaking his head John said, "Nothing so far."
"You're the one with magic, can't you just wizard this away?"  Don waved an imaginary wand.
John shook his head, "You know it doesn't work that way.  Besides, I'm an empath.  I need time and resources for spells outside my range."
"So spell this damn thing off my hand."  Don held out the beetle mark.
"I don't think I could.”  John sighed.  “We need to get the brooch back to the collection to get rid of the curse."
Don huffed and grabbed a smoke from his pocket.
"Please don't smoke in here." John said reflexively.
"Oh for-“ Don threw his hands up.  “I'm going for a walk!"
He stormed out of the office slamming the door hard enough that the glass cracked.
"God damn it." John heard Don mutter.
As Don stomped down the hall John heard a crash and a thud followed by a terse "God damn it!"

An hour later Don staggered back into the office holding his hand out looking ready to cut it off.
            “Get.  It.  Off.”  He ground out.
            John took in his partner’s appearance; coat torn, tie missing and pants stained with more than just coffee.  Carefully clearing his throat he spoke.
            “I might have an idea.”  He said.  “But you’re not going to like it.”
            “At this point,” Don said, flopping down at his desk. “I don’t care.”
            “Well,” John pointed at an open page, “I think we can track the magic causing your bad luck back to the source.”
            Don glared at the mark, “The beetle is still at the museum.”
            “That’s just it,” John’s eyes lit up the way they always did when he explained magical theory.  “The beetle isn’t the source.  The curse is designed to punish anyone who removed that item from the collection.  It was probably left behind because the original thieves didn’t want to take the risk.”
            Don rolled his eyes, “I’m going to assume there’s a point here?”
            “The collection is the source of the magic, Don.” John said.
            “So you want to use the curse that’s on my hand-“
            “To track the rest of the collection.  Exactly.”
            “What’s the catch?”
            “There’s a…” John hesitated. “There’s a strong chance that this will make your bad luck worse.”
            “Exactly how much worse?”  Don asked.
            “Your curse will feed off my tracking spell, and the closer we get to the collection the stronger my spell will become.”  John explained.
            “The worse my luck will get.”  Don finished.
            As Don sat considering their options, a sharp creak came from his chair before one of the legs gave out and dumped him on the floor.
            “Ok.” His voice floated out from under his desk. “Let’s do it.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction - Don & John...again

I hope no one is getting sick of these two, because I'm certainly not.

This is pretty much a direct continuation of last week's story (found here).  This week I kept it pretty short, the challenge over at Terribleminds went up a bit late so I had to rush this slightly.  I almost added another scene but I wouldn't have had the time to edit it properly.  Anyway, enough rambling.

B & B – Interrogation
            The man rocked back in and forth in his chair, the metal legs clinking softly on the floor with each pass.  He pulled the handcuffs tight, wrists worn red and raw from the pressure.
            “A poetic pattern retains inertia.  A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
            Don stood in the observation room, watching the lunatic through the mirrored glass.
“How long has he been doing that?”
Derek Franklin, the department’s head profiler, shrugged.  “Ever since you and John brought him in.”
Don hid clenched fists in his crossed arms, “Do we even know who he is?”
Derek shook his head, “No I.D. when he came in, and his prints didn’t turn up in any databases.”
“And he hasn’t said anything else?”
“He asked if the tooth fairy would visit.”
Don arched an eyebrow, “Seriously?”
“No.  But you did knock out a tooth when you pistol whipped him.”
“Forgive me for not caring.” Don huffed.
Derek chuckled, “You won’t hear me complain.”
They were cut off when the door to the holding room opened and John stepped inside.  For his part the prisoner didn’t react, continuing to rock and mutter that same phrase.
Don watched as John let the door click shut and crossed the room, he passed within reach of the man and Don tensed, but the prisoner didn’t react.
John sat down across the table and opened the thin folder he’d carried in.
“You’ve been linked to over a dozen murders over the last year.  All young women, all taken from their homes, but no other connection we can see.”
The rocking stilled for a moment.
John laced his fingers together, “We’d like to know why.”
The man resumed rocking his chair, “A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
“Is that why you killed these women?” John asked.  “Fulfilling a pattern?”
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”
John leaned forward, “What does that mean?”
“A poetic pattern-“
“Why did you choose these women?”
The man slammed his hands on the table, “A poetic pattern retains inertia!”
Don leapt for the observation room’s door but Derek held him back.
John hadn’t even twitched, he looked up at the man.
“Sit back down.  You’re not fooling anyone.”
The man didn’t move, “A poetic-“
“Pattern retains inertia.” John cut him off.  “You’re not insane, stop trying so hard.”
The prisoner sat back down, tugging at the handcuff chains.
“Now,” John said, “Why did you kill these women.”
The man smiled, the same damn grin he had in the storage locker, “There’s a pattern.”  He reached out and took the victim photos, laying them out on the table.
“I played my role,” he said, “my job is done.  But my work is not.”
Don can barely see the layout of the photos, and he doesn’t see the connection.  But he can see the look on John’s face.  It’s the same expression his partner gets when he finds the last clues to a case.
As the last photo is laid on the table the door to the observation room bursts open, a panicking rookie cop almost falls into the room.
“Franklin, sir,” he pants, “there’s been another murder.”
From the other side of the soundproof glass the man looks up at John, spreading his hands over the table he grins and points to an empty spot.
“A poetic pattern retains inertia.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Don & John Strike Again

Seriously these two are becoming more than a recurring theme in my works.  First here, then here, and now I'm using them again!  Seriously, if you haven't read their earlier appearances please do.  It will make things clearer her...and I like the attention.

Anyway, the challenge of the week was pretty simple.  Use the theme "We're all human, even when we're not' in the story in some way.  I had a few ideas, some pretty generic things like a werewolf or other monster fighting the curse, etc etc.  But then the image of Don holding a gun to someone's head and having to stop himself from pulling the trigger came to mind and this story grew from there.

Came pretty close to the word limit this week too, I might have done more with this, but it's been a busy week.  I think this piece stands strongly as is.  There are some pretty obvious things I'm trying to convey here and I'll let you figure them out.  But mostly I wanted to have a story where...Well, you'll see.

B & B - Humanity
Don looked up from his desk when a shadow fell across the office door.
It had been a quiet morning.  He and John had been enjoying the downtime between cases to finish some neglected projects.  Well, Don was taking the opportunity to work.  John had spent the morning lounging on the sofa with a cup of tea, ruffling through the morning paper.
The figure hovered outside the door, raising their hand to knock on the frosted glass window only to hesitate and back away.
Don called out, "The door's open."
John tossed him a glare which he returned with a quick mimicking squint as the door cracked open just enough for a young woman to slip in.
"I'm sorry," she said in a quiet voice, face downcast.  "I was hoping- I mean, I'd like to hire you?"
John rose from the couch and led the woman into the office.  He swept the desk clear, ignoring Don's indignant squawk of, "I was working on that!"
"You can work on your jigsaw puzzles later," to the client he added, "I think we can pencil you in."
John took her coat as he settled her in front of the desk, bustling off to make a fresh pot of tea.  Don leaned back in his seat and took a closer look at the client.
'Lank hair, only enough makeup to push color into pale cheeks and lighten shadowed eyes.  Outfit picked in a rush, buttons half-done, coffee stain on skirt.'
Her hands shook as she took the teacup from John with a muted, "Thank you."
They waited as she settled herself.  Don twitched together a few pieces that had escaped John's callous attack, John leaned against the wall as innocent as if he hadn't ruined a morning's progress.
She finished her tea and set the cup down.  Her voice still quiet but no longer as timid she said.
"My name is Rebecca Walker, and someone is trying to kill me."

John's name showed on the ID, Don had his phone open before the first ring finished.
“What’s wrong?”
“I lost her,” John hissed in pain.  “Someone, white, 5'8", black hair, dark hood.  He jumped us.  She ran off as I was fighting him.”
“You alright?”
“I took a hit when he slammed me against a wall. I was disoriented long enough for him to run after her.”
“Don't move, I’m on my way.”
“You don’t even know where I am.”
“Then shut up and tell me.”
“I’ll be fine Don.  You need to find Rebecca.”

Don’s hand shook as he fought the urge to put a bullet in the bastard’s face.
His jaw ached as he ground out, “Where are they?”
The son-of-a-bitch just grinned, teeth stained red from where Don’s pistol had split his lip.
The room stank of decay, fetid and bloated corpses of young women ‘Victims!’ piled in corners.
And the man kept grinning that red-toothed grin.
The storage locker felt more like an animal’s den.  Don kept his aim steady and tried not to breathe too deeply.
“Where.  Are they?”
The grin widened as the eyes flicked to the far end of the room.  The dim light from a single bare bulb only served to highlight the shadows surrounding a covered work bench.
Don edged around the bastard and pinched the sheet, tugging it off the bench.
As the white fabric fell to the floor he held back a fresh swell of rage and bile.
Rebecca lay screaming in fear.  Her torn throat still dripping red.

“I wanted to,” Don’s hands still shook slightly, dropping ash from a lit cigarette he had yet to touch.  "I wanted to."
John set down a pair of teacups, Don couldn’t bring himself to make the usual snark of ‘Tea, again?’  Looking at the cups he saw the chipped rim of the cup Rebecca had used.
He gripped the smooth wood of the kitchen table, looking at anything but the tea.
Don closed his eyes with a sigh, “I wanted to kill him.  I still do.”
John’s warm hand on his wrist made him twitch away but John held firm.
 “But you didn’t.”
John took the cigarette and took a long drag, coughing slightly as he exhaled.
"Give me that," Don said, taking the cigarette from John.  "You smoke like a novice."  He said, finishing the last of it.
John smiled as he sat down and took one of the tea cups and nudging the other towards Don.
Don ignored the tea and lit a fresh smoke, the match steady in his hands.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekly writings

That's right!  I got the story done early again.  As I've said, I'm really just loving having the challenges from Terribleminds.  They're a great way to prompt myself to write more consistently, and it's getting easier the more I do it.

The week the challenge was to take five characters from a list of FIFTY!  I used a random number generator to pick some lists, then mixed & matched those until I ended up with something I liked.  I don't know how much it matters, but the five I ended up using are; The friendly musician, the silent wanderer, the unpredictable hunter who is considered the worst at their job, the aggravated thief in need of a friend, and the mysterious and heroic outlaw.

While I was writing this the first draft was much blander than the final result, I wrote the main structure but then went back in and played with the narrative voice.  I also started thinking about how different tenses can affect the genre.  Anyway, enough rambling.  Here's the story.

Band of Five
A calm stillness filled the forest, broken by the quiet strumming of lute strings.  Tristan let his horse set a steady pace as he tuned the instrument.
“So tell me friend,” he asked his companion, “where are we headed?”
His fellow traveler shrugged, a gloved hand tugging their hood tighter, the dark material of the cloak shrouding their figure and blending with the black stallion.
“Ah, where so ever the road takes us, an excellent way to travel.”
Plucking a few more strings Tristan decided his lute was as tuned as he’d be able to make it for now.  Noting that one of the strings would need replacing soon, he began to strum a casual melody.
“I’m Tristan, by the way, might I at least learn your name, if not the name of our destination?”
His companion kept their silence.
“Perhaps a song then, to pass the time?”
He switched to a jauntier tune.
‘Oh, I once met a girl, she was so sweet.
I met a girl, she swept me off my feet.’
It was a common song, used at many village festivals.
‘I met a girl, she was so fair.
I met a girl, with golden hair.’
Tristan paused, silently prompting his companion for the next verse.
‘We kissed without a care.” A voice floated through the trees.
Tristan stopped playing as they rounded a turn in the path, seeing the source of the voice.  The man in a simple green tunic and tan breeches wasn’t out of the ordinary.
What was unexpected was that he was hanging upside-down, swinging gently in the breeze.
“Hello there.  I don’t suppose you could help me down?” He turned in a slow circle, facing away from them.  “Or at least keep playing?  It’s rather boring up here.”
“Well met friend,” Tristan pulled his horse alongside the hanging man.
He took hold and turned the fellow around putting them, somewhat, eye-to-eye.  The leather strip with the sigil of the Hunter’s Guild not currently necessary to keep the man’s long brown hair out of his eyes.
“Tell me,” Tristan asked, “how does a Hunter fall prey to his own snare?”
“Funny you should ask.  I wasn’t catching much in the woods, so when my friend suggested I try the road I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
“Your friend… told you to put a trap in the road?” Tristan arched a brow.
“Yes,” the man pointed, setting himself turning again, “she’s right behind those bushes.”
“Dammit Gibson!”
Tristan turned to see a small figure stumble from the bushes, her short cloak getting caught in the brambles.  As she pulled free her hood fell back revealing dark hair framing a young face.
 "Hello there friend,” Tristan waved.  “My name is Tristan, travelling musician and performer."  With a short bow he gestured to the other rider, "My friend in the cloak prefers to keep their own counsel.  May I ask who you are?"
"I'm the one robbing you."  She said, drawing a hand crossbow.
She took aim at Tristan as Gibson spoke, "She's Sera."
"God dammit Gibson!"
Sera raised the crossbow a bit higher and fired a bolt into the trees, severing the snare and dropping Gibson, who let out a sharp yelp of surprise.  Tristan tried to support the hunter but the man's flailing dragged them both to the ground.
Standing up Tristan dusted himself off and tried to help Gibson to his feet, but the man had somehow become tangled in his own rope.
"Now then," Sera said as she nocked another bolt. "I believe I was robbing you all."
"My dear lady," Tristan said with a flourish of his cloak that hid the palming of a throwing knife, "I am all I said, a humble musician.  I have nothing worth taking."
"And what about your friend there?" Sera asked, taking aim at the silent rider.  "Don't think I can't see your jewels under that hood."
Tristan glanced back at his companion, still sitting unmoving on their horse, and gave a start when the figure spoke.
"Sera the Wayfarer?"  They asked in a cultured voice.
Sera smirked, "So you've heard of me."
If derision could cut, Tristan wouldn’t need his knife.  "Your reputation is by association only.  I seek your master."
Sera's smirk turned to a snarl and her grip tightened on the crossbow, "I don't-" she was interrupted as Gibson finally stumbled to his feet.
"Oh you mean Flynt."  He said, still shaking himself free of the ropes.
Sera pinched her eyes closed with a grimace, "God.  Dammit.  Gibson!" She ground through clenched teeth.
Taking the opportunity, Tristan let fly the knife.  The blade drove into the body of the crossbow and knocked it from the hand of the distracted thief.
Pleased with himself, Tristan turned to his no longer silent companion.  But his grin slid off his face when Sera pulled out a second crossbow, nocked and ready to fire.
"I don't have a 'master'."  She snarled.
"Indeed!" a deep voice boomed out from the forest canopy.
From the trees a man swung down, letting go of his rope well before the ground he flipped through the air and landed in a kneeling crouch in front of the cloaked rider, his arms spread wide kept his cape flaring dramatically.
"Master is such an ordinary title, I like to think of myself as the brave and heroic leader."  He rose only long enough to perform a swooping bow.  "Flynt of the Forest Steel, at your service."
            The quiet rider reached up and pulled back the hood of the cloak, revealing a woman young of years and yet aged with wisdom and responsibility.  The crest of her circlet identified her as clearly as her long golden hair.
"Sir Francis of Stonewall," she said, "your Queen requires your services as a knight once more."
Flynt, or Francis, chuckled softly.  "So, the rumors are true.  The royal family has been usurped."
"Indeed," said Queen Valentina.  "Although reports of my death are somewhat premature."
Flynt stood straighter, his flamboyancy dropping away as his shoulders settled with responsibility.  It suited him, like a favorite cloak being worn again after a long time.
"Sera, Gibson," Francis called over his shoulder, "go alert the others.  We have ourselves a new patron."
Sera lowered her crossbow in stunned awe while Gibson tripped over the ropes and fell again.
Tristan's fingers twitched for his lute, 'This is going to make an epic ballad.'

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Friday Fiction a day early!

So, two weeks ago Chuck posted the challenge to write the opening line of a story.  The past Friday the challenge was to pick someone's line, and use it to write.  So I did what I normally do, I scanned through & wrote down the ones that stood out to me.  After some brainstorming I ended up with something pretty well I think.

I feel like I'm getting better at writing action, hopefully everyone agrees.  Mostly I just had fun writing a story that gave me an excuse to talk about superpowers.  Enjoy.

I knew I was in trouble when my fingers started smoking.
That's the problem with absorption powers.
Some bruiser with super-strength?  They can just keep hitting.  Sure, a speedster can run out of breath.  But physical powers don’t have a limit.
Mine do.
I dive to catch another blast from Firecracker, letting the force of the fireball drive me back as I suck in the flames.
The block had already been shredded by our fight.  I roll behind an impact crater and punch a loose slab of concrete back at my opponent.
Channeling some kinetic energy makes tossing the fifty pound block easy, I add some thermal to make it a miniature meteor.  But I'm still running hot.
Firecracker dodges aside and tosses a few softball sized bursts at a car some pedestrians are using as cover.  I throw myself in the way and as I take in the excess energy my arms burst into flames, all the energy pouring out of my skin.
I see a blur behind me, Lightspeed must have grabbed the civilians.
See, the problem with fireballs is that they aren’t just heat.  They’re essentially explosions, combustion plus concussive, with a few extras thrown in for good measure.
When I fought Brutus last week, all I had to worry about was the kinetic energy invested in his punches.  But with a blaster type like Firecracker, throwing explosions everywhere, I hit my limit that much faster.
Especially since he likes to target bystanders.
As it stands I have to ignore the sound waves and the light show his blasts give off.
Focus on the essentials.  Make sure no one burns, no one gets blown apart.
Light gives me the signal, for a speedster the son-of-a-bitch took his time clearing the area.
I use the stored power to launch myself at Firecracker, closing the distance before he can dodge.  The sonic boom I give off nearly knocks him over.  I drill a fist into him and blow him through the wall of a parking garage.
As the rubble collapses around him I thrust my hands forward, palms out, and cut loose with all the fire he’d fed me.
The debris soften into tar and slag, entombing the homicidal bastard.
Light skids to a stop next to me.  “…You didn’t kill him did you?”
 “Of course not,” I say.  “He’s immune to heat.”
 “Is he immune to punches?” An arched eyebrow clearly visible through his windshield.  “...Or concrete?”
I just gesture to the sludgy mess as Firecracker claws his way to the surface, gasping for air.
 “Would you do the honors?”
Light shrugs and twirls his arms, generating a small tornado which cools the mess and traps Firecracker with only his head clear.
 “Why not just absorb the heat again?”
 I flex my fingers, working some of the remaining heat out as the adrenaline fades.  “I’ve hit my limit for the time being, I need to have a cool down period or I’ll risk going nuclear.”
 “Wouldn’t you have to absorb nuclear radiation for that?”
 “Technically it’s more of a Big Bang.  But nuclear gets the point across better to most people.”
Light is about to say something more but our comms buzz.  Bank robbery with a getaway car chase already in progress.
Light nods, “I’ve got this one, more my speed anyways.  You mind babysitting until transport gets here?”
I wave him off, active pursuit isn’t my game.  I’m more of a damage control specialist.
Behind me a storefront collapses, filling the street with dust as Light blurs away.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Fiction - The Collector

So for this week the challenge over at TerribleMinds was to write a story that involved Hell in some fashion.  I kicked the idea around, almost went back to Don and John and added some supernatural elements to their story.  But then this came to me.  I'm not going to say anything else, I think it's pretty clear.  But I will warn that suicide and depression are main themes so...

The Collector
He drifted around his mark.  Whenever he came to close his presence left a dark stain on the young boy’s aura.
The cracks in the boy's psyche were clear.  The damage ready to rend his soul to fragments, one final push would be enough to drive the point home and send him over the edge.
He knew some Collectors that would take advantage of those cracks.  Worming through them like oil and taking over the host, turning the pain of suicide into a wrathful strike against the tormentors.
The boy rushed to his room, moving with the hurried walk-not-quite-run of a child trying to hide something.  Holding back the pain of the day as he sank to his bed, shoulders hunching tightly with stress.
He watched the boy reach under his bed for the knife that sat hidden for weeks, only coming out when the pain needed release.
As the boy held the knife in a shaking hand, he drifted closer and whispered a trail of smoke in the youth’s ear.
"Do you know what Hell is child?" He asked.
"Hell is pain, Hell is suffering.  Hell is misery." He said with the crackling hiss of brimstone.  "It is knowing, knowledge burned deep in your soul, that your world will never change.  Never improve."
"So go, kill yourself," he trailed a finger over the blade, the iron burning his ethereal form.  "We're waiting for you."
He caressed the boy’s cheek, "And once we have you, do you know what we'll do?"
The soft touch turned to a harsh grip of the boy's throat.  "We will put you right.  Back.  Here."
"You will live the same day of pain, of torment more exquisite than any fire could burn.  That will be your Hell.  And you will never, never escape it."
He let go of the child’s throat and laid his hand over the boy's own.
"Unless you put the knife down.  Unless you face your pain, now."
He thought of that day, when the knife tore a line of red into his skin, tore a piece of his soul away and cast the broken remains into the fire.

Sometimes you have to let yourself break.  And no, you will never, ever be the same again.  Once you shatter you will never be able to put those broken pieces together.  It is your choice then what to do.  Do you fall?  Do you fall and let the sharp edges tear into you?  Or do you take them, do you use them?  Build them together, not into what they once were, but something else, something new.  A beautiful mosaic that shows the world who you truly are.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Friday Fiction...EARLY!!!

So this week the challenge over at Terribleminds was to write a short story in 10 chapters.  The catch?  Keep the normal 1,000 word limit.  I actually didn't have much of a plan, but Don and John came back to mind.  Maybe because I had just written them, maybe because they write themselves so easily and naturally.

So I pretty much just picked up where their last story left off.  I might keep these guys around, make them a regular thing.

Baugmann & Baugmann - The Skinner

            Don took a long drag of his cigarette, “So,” he said, blowing smoke across the table.  “What do we know?”
            “We know that we don’t know much.”  John said, ignoring the smoke.  The bar had an almost permanent haze, giving it a quality that bordered on the mystical.
            “…Helpful, thank you.”  Don snapped off.
            John shrugged, completely nonplussed by his partner’s moods.

            “Look Sarah,” Don’s fingers twitched longingly for his lighter, “We need something here.  Don’t make me make John beg.”
            From across the room John paused in his examination of the body to hold up one of the victims hands, one finger aimed in Don’s direction.
            Sarah handed Don a thin folder, the Chief Coroner sighed, “This is all we have at the moment.  There were some strange trace elements all over the victim, and your office, but we’ll have to wait for the lab.”
            Don grinned, “I knew I liked you more than Michaels.  I could kiss you.”
            “No one likes Michaels, why don’t you go kiss him.” she smirked.
            “John, go kiss Michaels!”
            John held up the victim’s hand again, this time holding Don’s confiscated cigarettes.
            “Now you’re just being childish.” Don said.

            “Hey Boss,” Jessie’s eyes were more bloodshot than normal.  “I’m-uh…I’m thinking I maybe should lay low for a bit?”
            “Why,” John asked.  “What have you heard?”
            “Nothing.”  Jessie hissed.
            “So why are you worried?”  Don asked.
            “Because it’s not ‘Nothing is happening.’ nothing.  It’s ‘No one is still around to talk.’ nothing.”
            “Let’s get you some food.”  Don suggested.
            “I know a nice diner,” John said.  “It’s right outside of town.”

            DeSarno, flanked by two of his goons, waltzed into the office not as if he owned it, but more like he was deciding whether or not to bother.
            “Well boys, I like what you've done.  Very homey.”
            Don snorted, “You should’ve seen it before, John’s the one with the domestic touch.”
            John tsked at him.  “Just because you don’t appreciate the difference between beige and burgundy doesn't mean other people don’t.”
            “It’s tan, John.”  Don said, “It’s all just tan.”
            “And now it’s ‘tan’ with a stain.”  John gestured at the carpet.
            “So we’ll bill the Skinner for the cleaning.”
            “I was referring to our guests.”
            DeSarno cut in, “If you boys don’t want help with your case perhaps I should leave?”

            “Hey Boss?”  Jessie kept looking out the window.
            “I already gave you all my smokes Jessie.”  Don said.
            “No it’s not that.” Jessie shook his head.  “I mean, thanks for that but…”
            “What is it?”
            “…Be careful.”
            “We’ll be fine Jessie, just get yourself healthy.  For real this time, I’m sick of hearing John bitch about you.”

            The last thing Don saw was the headlights of the truck.

Beep-beep.  Beep-beep.  Beep-beep.
Half-asleep, Don reached for his alarm clock.
The jolt of pain that came with the motion stopped him, jerking him fully awake.
He saw John sitting next to his bed, calmly leafing through the case files.
"...How bad is it?" Don croaked out.
John handed him a glass of water, "Mostly just bruised ribs and a slight concussion, you've had worse."
"The truck was reported stolen, no prints.  I'm going to see what I can get from Michaels."
"Better you than me."
"Shut up," John smiled.  "Get some rest."
"Oh yeah, it'll be a vacation."
"You hate vacations."

'I really hate vacations.'
When Don had fallen asleep he was expecting to wake up still in the hospital.  Maybe with John there letting him know the case was nicely wrapped up.
What he didn't expect was to wake up in an abandoned warehouse, 'Respecting the classics at least.'  Strapped to an operating table, 'Creepy.'  And about to have his face removed, 'Really creepy.'
The Skinner was looming over him, ignoring Don's cutting wit, 'And John says puns are stupid, ha!'
Poised with a scalpel at the ready the Skinner stopped when a rattling clang came from the other end of the building.
Skinner left to investigate, leaving Don alone.

Don leaned against a stack of molding pallets, and followed the voices.
"Who hired you?"  John asked.
"You won't be around long enough to care."
'Oh sure, now he talks.'
Don peeked through some old shelving, he could see John facing someone, gun held in his off hand, right arm hanging limply.  Blood flowing freely from the scalpel stuck in his shoulder.
"I heard talk of a newcomer to the underground, I suppose he hired you to clear us out of his way?"
Don made his way along the shelving, picking up a rusted bar from the floor. 
"I told you it doesn't matter."
"No.  I suppose it wouldn't matter to you.  You just like having an excuse to find more victims."
Ignoring the protests from his aching ribs he got ready to swing.
Rounding the corner he saw Skinner, facing John with another scalpel ready to throw.
Don brought the bar down with as much force as he could.  The dull crack it made against Skinner's skull was more than satisfying as the man collapsed.
John kept his gun trained on Skinner, "Enjoy that?"
Don fought the urge to pass out. "...I'd like to go back to the hospital now."

Coming to Don recognized the hospital ceiling.  John was sitting next to him, reading the paper as if they were simply in the office waiting for a case.
"How's your arm?"
"Fine, just some stitches."  He turned the page.
"I'm fine too, thanks for asking."
"I didn't ask."  John smirked.
"Skinner is in custody, they're confirming the evidence matches.  Shouldn't be too difficult, he's wanted in several states."
"So we're done?"
"Not quite, Michaels is on his way to 'get your testimony.'"
Don struggled upright, "I'm ready to be discharged."
"No you aren't,” John pushed him gently back down.  “Your field trip aggravated your ribs.  You're here for at least a week."
"God dammit I hate Mondays."
John chuckled.
"It actually is Monday."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Make your own Steampunk

The week the writing challenge was to build your own steam punk world, but with a personal spin on it.  If you're not familiar with Steampunk as a genre, Chuck sums it up nicely.

So I was going to use an idea I'd had last time this challenge rolled around, but I was getting stuck on the logistics.  Then I was at work and a song came over the radio and this idea sprang to mind.  (The title still sucks but whatever)  I deliberately left out dialogue this time, I wanted to work on getting more detail instead.

The Sound of Silence
MotherSong was all he could hear, all he wanted to hear.
It filled him, it supported him.  Wave after wave of the glorious verse crashed into him, pulled him down into its warmth, buoyed him up into its love.
All their work was for the song, the machine must be tended.  All the workers moved in perfect harmony with the song, with each other.
The pitch of the song changed, telling him where he was needed next.  He followed the beat and left his work, following the massive flow of hundreds other workers following the same unspoken instructions.
Words were not needed.  The song told them all they needed to know.
            The soothing hum of the MotherSong filled the central hall, a room as vast and beautiful as the love Mother felt for them all.  Gleaming silver walls caught the light and warmed their bodies as the song warmed their souls.
He stood in line for his daily ration, one of the countless lines they all stood in.  He waited for his turn for food, he listened to the song.  Everyone heard the song differently, but all were blessed with the same feeling of peace.
            Movement at the front of the line drew his attention.  The Lord Overseer, glorious in his silver helmet, was announcing that all the days rations had been given out, all workers were to report to their next shift.  The song was all the nourishment he needed, it did not matter that he had not eaten in days.
The line turned as one, in tune with the pulse of MotherSong.  They moved toward the exit when something happened.  A hissing noise filled the air.  A rasping screech that cut into the beauty of the song.
The hissing grew louder, louder and louder until it screamed in his ears.
Then the song stopped.
MotherSong stopped.  He could not hear it!
Why- Why was it not silent?  If MotherSong was not playing, then nothing should be playing.
But something was.  He could hear a humming pulse, a smooth flow of air.  A steady double beat that soothed him.  What song was this?
Something else, something beyond this new song.  The noise…What was causing that noise in his head?!
            It- It was his thoughts.
            His- My thoughts.
            I can hear my thoughts?
            I look around me and see the shining silver of the hall as it really is, a dull steel hull.  I see the other workers, lying on the floor in fear.
            I see the overseer, the faceplate of his helmet open as he calls for reinforcements, waving frantically to protect the piles of unopened rations behind his station.
            I feel my hunger give me strength.

They find me hours later, surrounded by scraps of food.  Covering my ears and screaming, trying to stop the song from taking me again.
I fight them, afraid they’re here to take me back.  It isn’t until they put the headset over my ears that I relax.
I can’t hear the song anymore.
They explain that not everyone can handle being freed.  Many aren’t able to live without the song.  But some fight, some run, as I did.
They ask if I’m willing to join them.  To fight, to free others.  One of them reaches out.
I take his hand.  The headset fills my ears with noise.
I ask what it is.
"We call it music."

Friday, March 14, 2014

The (Again) Return of Flash Fiction

And I'm back!

Yeah, long time without posting...or writing.  No excuses.  Regardless of my lack of ability to stick with continually writing, I did finally manage to sit myself down and dive into one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fictions Challenges.  Found here.

It was one of my favorites prompts, taking items from a list (or two in this case) and using them as story elements.  I've had the idea in my head for awhile of a detective who finds a dead body in his office, so it was easy to adapt that into two characters.  Actually made it easier since they could play off each other.

It's still a bit rough in terms of some grammar issues, but I'm really happy with the general flow and pacing.  And the characters of course.  And with a word limit of 1500 instead of the normal 1000 I got to play with it a bit more.  There are some particular things I was focusing on for each of the characters, but especially for Don and John so I'd love feedback on how they came across.  Enjoy.

B & B - The Skinner

“Ok,” he sighed. “Tell me that’s not what I think it is?”
            Don Baugmann looked around the office confirming that everything was just as he’d left it last night.
            “If you think it’s a dead body then you’re right.  And I think it’s staining the carpet.”
            Everything, that is, except the bloody corpse in the middle of the room.
            “Thank you John, what I meant is why is it here?
            “Most likely to send us a message.  Who have we pissed off recently?” John asked, stepping around the body into the office kitchenette.
            Don closed the office door, the stenciling ‘Baugmann & Baugmann: Private Detectives’ mirrored on the glass, and crossed the room to his desk.
            “Who haven’t we pissed off is the better question.” Dropping into his seat he put his head in his hands and muttered, “God dammit I hate Mondays.”
            He looked up when John handed him a cup of coffee.
            “It’s Thursday.”  John said.
            Don took a long drink before answering, appreciating the burn of the hot caffinee.
“Thursdays are for wrapping up any big projects of the week so that they don’t monopolize your Fridays and, god forbid, spill into the weekend.”  He pointed at the corpse, “We came to work, early no less, and found that little gift waiting for us.  That makes this a Monday!”
“I’ll phone the station and get Michaels and his crew over here to remove it.”  John smiled, “Why don’t you look at our recent leads and see if this doesn’t tie back to anyone.”
Don finished his coffee and began a more thorough examination of the office.  Michaels would be irritated, and irritating, enough just coming this far out from the station, might as well appease the man by doing some of his work for him,
Not that there was much work to do.  Their office was small, partly by choice but mostly by necessity.  Their clients typically paid more in good will than in good credit.  Searching showed no signs of a break-in, the locks on the windows and door hadn’t been tampered with.  The only disturbance to the normal quiet atmosphere of the room was the body itself.
“So we’re dealing with a dead body in a locked room.”  Don muttered as he crouched to examine it.
Face down with a congealed pool of red staining their tan, ‘Beige, it’s beige Don.’ ‘Yes John, thank you!’ carpeting.
Don took photos of the body; male, five foot ten, looks about one-sixty to one-seventy, nondescript clothes, to pass on to Michaels then rolled it face up to take pictures for ID.
‘Huh, that’s a new one.’  “John?”  Don called out.
“Yes?” John looked up from the phone.
“Does it count as face up if the body doesn’t have a face?”

Leaving John behind to handle Michaels, Don went looking for one of their more reliable contacts.  Jessie, frequent snitch and chronic abuser, was exactly where Don expected to find him.  Face down in an alleyway buried under trash.
Don nudged Jessie to wake him up, absolutely not kicking him.
Jessie's answering groan of pain was probably just caused by whatever he was crashing from.
"H-Hey boss."  Jessie sat up, bloodshot eyes blinking away the light.  "What's up?"
"Didn't John set you up with a room in a clinic?"
"Yeah, yeah he set it up."  Jessie trailed off.
"But you weren't interested."
"Did you actually have a question?  Because if you could just step to the left and block the light that'd be great."
Don sighed, pulling Jessie to onto unsteady feet.  "John and I need you to ask around about something."  He explained the situation at the office.  "Let us know if there's been any disappearance, any bodies found killed the same way, or if-"
"Boss, I know how to do my job.  But," Jessie glanced around quickly, "But if you could front me some cash..."
Don pulled a pack of cigs out of his coat.  "How about I get you a cup of coffee, and we go from there."  He said, lighting one and handing the rest of the pack to Jessie.
Confident that Jessie would find at least enough rumors for a solid lead Don headed back to the office.  He could hear the argument from the stairwell.
‘Surprised I couldn’t hear Michaels from the street.’ he thought.
            “This room is a crime scene!  I demand you unlock those files.”  Michaels blustered, red-faced and utterly failing to make an impression on John, who was in front of the filing cabinet in the office corner.  Leaning casually against it as if that was the most comfortable spot in the room.
            Not that there was space to stand anywhere else.  Michaels had brought an entire forensics team with him, who were currently very busy doing anything except watch their Lieutenant lose his composure in front of a couple of P.I.s
“Those are private files regarding our clients, detective.”  John said.  “If anything is missing we’ll inform you.”
“You’ll understand if I don’t take any comfort from the Bagmen Brothers,” deliberately mispronouncing the name. “But you two are persons of interest in my investigation.  How can I trust anything you say?”
            “We’re not brothers.”  Don grumbled as he flicked the butt of his smoke into the potted plant by the door.  Ignoring John’s glare, ‘It’s just a plant John, relax.’ Then the rest of Michaels’ comment sank in.
            “Investigation?”  John eyed the stain where the body had lain, “So there’s been more murders like this one?”
            Michaels drew himself up to all his quivering glory.  “That is Police.  Business.” He hissed the words.
            “And our files for our clients are our business.”  Don crossed the room in a step and filled Michaels’ personal space the way the fat man filled the office.  Staring down at him Don said, “Your team is ready to leave now, aren’t they.”
            It wasn’t a question.
Ten minutes later found the office much calmer and with significantly more elbow room.
“Well?”  Don asked as John got out the cleaning supplies and started on the carpet.
“His main concern was our case files,” John said.  “He barely acknowledged the body.”
“Why do we have to call him?”
“Because he’s the lead detective of the homicide office…Somehow.” 
“Asshole probably placed the body himself.”  Don muttered.
“You know he’s not a crooked cop, we’ve exposed plenty of those.”
“Yeah, he’s just a bad one.”
“Regardless, what’s our plan?”
“Jessie is sniffing rumors for us but I figure we can hit up some of our other sources, see what they cough up.”
“Figuratively I’m sure.”
“To start with.”
John left the cleaning solution to sink into the stain as they locked up. ‘Not that it seems to matter.’
As they were heading down the stairs Don felt his phone vibrate.
The text from Jessie was direct for once.  “Bad news.  6 other kills.  No faces.  Hired nutcase.  Can I get paid now?”
“We need to talk to DeSarno.”  Don said.

“Well hello boys, thank you for coming.”  DeSarno gestured with his cigar, “Please, have a seat.”
Don let himself get shoved into a seat at DeSarno’s booth.  “Well after your goon squad was so gentle patting us down how could we say no.”
“I like that we didn’t need a reservation.”  John smirked.
“It’s almost like we’re VIPs.”
“If I didn’t know better I’d say DeSarno likes us.”
“And if I didn’t know better,” DeSarno cut in with a glare, “I’d say that B & B was a comedy duo.  But I can’t say I’m amused by the P.I.s who’ve damaged my business as much as you have.”
“Hard to avoid that,” John said.  “Seeing as how you bought half the police department.”
“The stupid half.” Don added.
“Be that as it may,” DeSarno ground his teeth. “What brings you here today.”
“We’re curious about a string of rather disturbing murders.”  Don said.
“And the fact that the victims are all being connected to us.”  Said John.
“A bunch of corpses with their faces removed?”
“One being left in our office to boot.”
“So we were just wondering if you might know anything.”
“Since this seems like the work of a professional.”
DeSarno went pale, “Their faces have been removed?”
Don nodded.

“You boys might want to hide,” DeSarno took a long, shaky drag from his cigart.  “It sounds like the Skinner is in town.”