A Knowledge of Heather is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first of the CITY OF MAGICK series. Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it.
A KNOWLEDGE OF HEATHER
Chapter 1It was a dark and stormy night as I trudged through the littered city streets. It reminded me of San Francisco. Thinking about San Francisco always made me glad I wasn’t there. Lucky me, The City was my home. I liked to think that all the rain helped clear some of the blood and filth off the streets. Whether it was true or not, there never really seemed to be a shortage of filth that needed attention. Still, it was a magical place that always seemed to draw in the people who thrived on that sort of craziness.
I was making my way back to my office after one of the worst meals of my life. It looked like a collection of all the slop I had refused from the high school cafeteria years ago had been conjured back up to haunt me. My own fault for pissing off the witch that ran the diner. She did look like one of the high school lunch ladies, though. That would explain a lot. Long odds, but it’d make more sense than a lot of what went on back then. Without a doubt, though, living up to being voted “Most Likely to Take a Life” became as much of a sure-thing as a prom date with daddy issues after the weirdness that landed me here. Whether I chose a rough line of work or it chose me was something I left up to the fortune tellers. My biggest concerns were usually just shooting at the right targets and not running out of bullets.
My office was in a five-story stack of bricks. I took the stairs to the third floor, then remembered my office was on the second floor so I went back down. Oh, how I hated magic! Every other day was cleaning day, but the crew management hired didn‘t like carrying their gear above the ground floor. Instead, at night, they shuffled the floors…or the offices or enchanted the stairs or something. Whatever, it was annoying.
Turning the corner brought me to the end of the hall and the door with translucent glass. On the glass in bold gold and black was printed “Brick Stone, Private Eye”, my home away from home. I urged my stomach to settle as I moved to unlock the door. Then, I saw a shadow move across the glass from inside. Garbage for dinner and ambush for dessert. Story of my life.
I reached into my private eye trench coat (standard issue) and pulled my .44 magnum from its snug leather shoulder holster. Shooting through the glass would mean I’d have to pay to replace it and who knew if the walking corpse had any cash in his pockets. It would be more fun to charge in and strike fear into this clown’s heart. I could put a hole in him later.
Bursting into my cluttered office, I leveled my .44 at the intruder. At the windows, very much stricken with fear I noted proudly, a raven-haired beauty stood trembling. Still soaked from the storm, her wet dress clinging to her lithe body and backlit by city lights, I wasn’t going to be able to let anyone under thirteen into my office unless accompanied by an adult. As it was, I was gonna need a few seconds to get my own breathing going again. “I guess I need to invest in a better lock.”
“Mr. Stone?” she said, almost sobbing. “Thank goodness you’re here.”
“Dames,” I said with a sigh. I knew I was gonna regret it, but I holstered my gun and closed the office door. “Rest the waterworks, have a seat,” I told her, dropping into my chair and digging into my desk to find something to help my stomach, “and start telling me why you’re here. And make it quick. My office ain‘t zoned for adult entertainment.”
She was obviously nervous, but she began with, “My name is Heather Morgan and I think somebody’s trying to kill me.”
“And what would make anyone want to ice a head-turner like you?” It was a generous question. In my experience, anyone who spent enough time letting people get to know them could usually rub somebody wrong enough to draw some kind of heat. Curves and moxie added up to sex appeal, but they really weren’t any kind of protection against people with murder in mind. If anything, they usually fanned the flames.
“My husband’s work.”
“And what’s so special about his work?”
“Diamonds,” she responded. “There’s a fortune in diamonds at stake.”
“And so you came to me.”
“Well, you are Brick Stone,” she said.
With an attitude like that, I could probably ignore the booze smell coming off her and put up with her for a little while. Why didn’t I get more clients like this? Why didn’t I get more clients?
She started to pull a folded newspaper from her purse, saying, “I saw you did this sort of--”
That again. “Don’t,” I said, putting my hand to hers. “I’ve seen enough of that damned picture.” Not that I cared about that sort of thing, but it was far from flattering.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, shoving the paper away.
“The story was at least half-wrong,” I said.
“It actually wasn’t even me in the picture,” I said.
“It was a mess. If I never hear about it again--”
“Can you help me, Mr. Stone?” she asked. “Please?”
“I get fifteen sovereigns a day.”
“A-Alright,” she said.
“Plus expenses,” I added quickly. She looked like she was used to having other people pay her way. I’d caught her off guard, but I didn’t care. Whatever world the action was in, the Official Private Eye Handbook (standard issue) was clear about the rules of the trade. One of those major rules was: always get paid.
“Anything you need,” she said softly. “Please, I just need your help.”
That's it for chapter one. Look for more next week or sooner at the links above.
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