In Warm Blood is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in 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. For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
IN WARM BLOOD
Several blocks past the back side of the central courthouse, just past the elevated train tracks that ran about seventy feet overhead, there were lots of little brick and mortar buildings only a few stories tall. They weren’t much to look at, sitting in the shadows of dozens of taller structures. Some of those buildings had apartments or restaurants or music studios or little shops inside. We found a parking spot two blocks away from the building we were after and then went down another alley to an unmarked steel door. It was an out-of-the-way spot. The owner found that to be useful as some of his clients were especially guarded about their privacy.
“I really don’t see it,” Homer said, looking at our surroundings with curious frustration. “You’re going to try to sell us on a museum being down in this rat hole?”
“I never called it a museum,” I reminded him. “You did.”
“There are lots of small galleries,” Overknight said, “displaying--”
“It’s not a gallery either,” I explained as we went inside, “but Declan is an artist.”
“Such flattery is unusual from you, Stone,” Declan sounded off, looking up from his workbench. “Nevertheless, it still won’t get you a discount.”
“I wouldn’t even think of asking,” I assured him. Declan Forester was an artist. He was precise and painstaking in his pursuit of elegance. The products of his art varied from those of most artists because his were created solely for practical uses. Dedicated only to the perfection of his art, he held less concern over who used his creations or how than that he continued to strive toward some personal ideal of elegance.
“You bringing me new customers?” Declan asked even as he returned his attention to his delicate tools. “It’s unlike you to keep such…well, any company.”
“Hi. Jennifer Overknight,” she said. “He said you were the best and we just had to see your stuff.”
“Yeah, hi. Homer DeBrave, big fan,” Homer said, eyeing a bunch of hardware on one of the walls. “That is a beautiful bow. Is that a Mongolian design?”
“Sarmatian,” Declan replied. “A laminated composite of sinew, bone and wood.”
“May I?” Homer asked with a hopeful gleam in his eye.
“You may,” Declan said with a smile.
He was always happy to have someone appreciate his work.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this excited,” Overknight said as her partner reached out for the ornately crafted bow.
“Oooh,” Homer oooh-ed. “This is super-light. Is it enchanted?”
“You tell me,” Declan challenged him with a smile.
Homer ran his fingertips lightly across the intricately carved bone handle and the curve of the bow. “You a hunter or just an archer, Homer?”
“A little history buff and a lapsed target shooter,” he said, test-drawing the bow. “I don’t recognize the symbols carved in it, but the draw…is almost effortless. It doesn’t feel like it’s more than a few pounds. It must be enchanted.”
Declan smiled and said, “It only gives ten pounds of resistance at full draw, but it will fire an arrow over half a mile.”
“Very impressive,” Homer said, replacing the bow carefully on its hangers. “A skilled archer could do a lot with that.”
“Speaking of snipers,” I said.
“Subtle as your name, Brick,” Overknight said.
“Isn’t he, though?” Homer chimed in.
“Speaking of snipers, Declan,” I began again, “who’ve you had in the market for accuser rounds lately?”
“C’mon, Stone,” he said, finally sitting up straight from whatever he was working on under his magnifying glasses. “As with your own, many of my clients value the privacy I afford them. Would you want everyone to know you buy your bullets from me?”
“I’ll sing it from the rooftops and leave a business card on every corpse if you like,” I told him. “Hey, kids, Declan here makes gold and silver bullets for me.”
“Wow,” Homer said. “Astonishing.”
“That must be expensive,” Overknight said, “but I’m sure they’re worth it. He seems to be quite the meticulous craftsman.”
“Not all my clientele require privacy,” Declan said, “but many do and--”
“Do I need to just hunt through your customer list, Declan? You know that’s gonna be bad for business,” I explained, “me bothering all those people, not to mention the ones I have to blow holes in.”
“Stone, be reasonable,” Declan said. “My art is my life.”
“I don’t want to interfere with your art,” I assured him. “I really don’t even want to disrupt your business.” I reached into one of my pockets and fished out what felt like a decently sized diamond. I tossed it to him and said, “I can’t imagine you’ve had too much call for rifle bullets with an accuser enchantment in the last…three days. I’m only looking for one name.”
“For this?” Declan asked, eyeing the gem under bright light and magnification. “It’s beautiful work: flawless round brilliant cut, dazzling clarity…blue-white and, I’d say, just over three carats.”
“That’s got to be enough to pay for a name,” I said, “and any guilt.”
“That rock? That should buy…a lot,” Overknight said, her eyes fixed on the sparkling gem the way a dog watches you eat a steak.
“In all fairness,” Declan said with a sigh, “I’d say a bit north of 1200 sovereigns.”
“Oh, mama,” Homer said.
Better than a few weeks of work. “Throw in some bullets and I’ll be out of your hair.”
“Hmmm,” Declan hummed, his eyes lighting up. “You have some of those gold and silver bullets with you?”
“About a dozen of each,” I told him. “Why?”
“I’ve been toying with an idea,” he said, tossing me a heavy copper-jacketed bullet. “The slug is my own blend of electrum. With a generous mix of gold and silver, plus the right etchings and blessing for that extra kick, it‘s perfect for a wide variety of evils and you only have to carry one type of bullet. The power of the magnum load is more than enough propulsion to penetrate anything you should run into.”
“Sounds pricey for the average goon,” I said. “I’m going to have to start shooting higher class scum.”
“If you’re sitting on anymore of these sparklers,” Declan said, “I’d bet you can afford it. Think you can get by with just lead for a couple of days? I‘ll have…sixty ready for you, two hundred grains each, by Monday.”
“Glad I could help you fund your research,” I told him, “and ease the burden of your conscience at the same time.”