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
I didn’t expect Heliopolis would be easy to penetrate. Her killer deserved as much of a chance as he’d given to Whitney: to not see me coming at him. I needed time to plan how I was going after White. Home seemed like the best place for that, even with the kiddie cops. Despite his name, Homer got lost three times on the drive. We stopped for some take-out and I drove us back to my building. I parked in the underground garage.
“Why are we parking down here, Brick?” Homer asked.
“I don’t like being bothered with getting in and out of here usually, but this way we have a better chance of not being seen.”
“Increased odds of making it to sunrise sounds good to me,” Overknight offered. “Homer, if you go on ahead and make sure it’s clear, we’ll follow with the pizzas.”
“I’ll send the elevator back down,” Homer said.
“You getting cautious in your old age?” I asked.
“DeBrave goes by-the-book. If you want to reach old age,” she said, “just let us do our job, Brick.”
“I’m not stopping you,” I said. “Ferrari signed on with the forces of evil a long time ago. Bombs and mayhem are the man’s style. They’re what he knows. On the up side, it makes him predictable.”
“Yeah, but he’s known for car bombs, Brick,” Overknight said. “He’s got a guy who specializes in it.”
“How nice that must be for him. Some people just drift, never knowing where their true talents lie.” The elevator didn’t take long to come back down, so we started the ride up to meet Homer. About halfway up to my floor, there was a thunderous rumble. The elevator shuddered and the lights flickered. Overknight and I looked at each other. I reached for my gun.
“We’ve got to stop the elevator, Brick!” she shouted, dropping the pizzas and lunging for the control panel. “I’ve got to get you out of here!”
“No way,” I told her, blocking the panel of buttons. “We can’t just leave Homer behind, especially not when we‘re already on the way up.”
“Our job is to protect you,” she demanded. “He knew the job was dangerous when he took it, remember? You’re supposed to be cooperating, remember?”
“Not with the bad guys,” I told her. “If you want to protect me, get your gun out and clear your head because I’m going to check on your partner.”
“Don’t try talking me out of it,” I said. “Dinner’s already a bust. Now I’ve got an appetite for action.”
“Fine,” she said, staring coldly at the doors as she pulled her pistol. “Just don’t be a wuss and die on me.”
The look in her eyes, on her face, said that she was ready to kill. We were about to hit my floor when I asked, “You sure you’re ready to rumble?”
“Fine time to ask,” she said. “Yeah, I‘m ready, Brick. Let‘s bring the pain.”
“Anytime.“ The doors slid open. Sprinklers were pouring their icy rain down into the smoky hallway. Emergency lights and flickering flames were our only help as we kept low and approached my apartment. Alarm bells rang in the distance as I told her, “Stay low and sharp.”
“I know my job!” she snapped back. “You’re not my first dance partner, Brick.”
We reached the flaming hole that used to be my new door. We also saw what was left of Homer amongst the charred rubble.
“Bastards! Alright,” Overknight said, grabbing my coat sleeve, “Homer’s beyond help and we need to get out of here. You have any neighbors we need to help get out?”
“My neighbors? No, they’ve learned to keep their heads down when the loud noises start.”
“Which way are the stairs?” she asked.
Ironically, the stairwell door opened just then and a goon squad started pouring into the hall with guns blazing. “Down!” I told Overknight, knocking her to the floor as I returned fire. She started shooting back along with me, but it was pretty clear that we were outgunned.
“Give it up, Stone! Make it easy on yourselves!”
I couldn‘t fault their strong negotiating position, just their logic. “Forget it, punk!” I snapped back at him. “Cowardice sickens me and I don’t even know how to surrender. Brick Stone is not French!”
“You’re going down!” someone else shouted, opening fire from the opposite end of the hallway.
Through the smoke, I saw one of the walls rippling like water as men with guns charged through it and into the hall. We had been outflanked with another shadow portal, just like in the alley. Then Overknight took a bullet in the shoulder and dropped her gun. As she picked up the gun with her left hand, I hit her with a tackle that sent us tumbling to the floor just inside my apartment. Another second and the weakened floor collapsed, dropping us into the apartment below what was left of mine. Whoever’s it was, it looked like they had just become as homeless as I had. Above us, the sounds of shooting continued.
“Ow,” Overknight moaned. “Not sure what hurt worse: getting shot, tackled or the fall. Is the building collapsing?”
“Just a little. Some fun, huh?” I asked her. “I don’t think they’ve realized they’re shooting at their own guys yet.”
“What’s your next brilliant move?” she asked me.
“Well, salvaging my security deposit’s a lost cause, so I get you to the hospital,” I told her, helping her to her feet. “Hold your hand over that hole and try not to go into shock.” She was losing a lot of blood. We had to move fast.
“Somebody has to watch your back,” she said as we staggered to the elevator. “Ferrari’s obviously gotten desperate.”
“Don’t worry about me,” I told her. “I’m fine. You’re the one who’s leaking. People who hang around me have a nasty habit of having bad things happen to them.”
“Yeah, me, too, but we knew the job was dangerous--”
“No, I’m going to go share the misfortune with Ferrari,” I said. “After I take care of you, I’m going to go find him and watch bad things happen to him.”
“What?” she asked as we started back down to the garage in the elevator.
“Oh, no, your hearing’s going. I said--”
“No, Brick,” she insisted. “You were right: you can‘t just go after Ferrari! It’s suicide!”
“Overknight…Jen, what happened to all that fire and spunk? I can take care of myself…and Ferrari, too.”
“Let Cross handle it, Brick,” she said weakly. “It’s too dangerous.”
“One little scratch and you start sounding all wussy,” I told her. “I’d watch that if I were you. You’ll make people start to wonder if you’re just all talk.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “You mean, they might confuse me for you?”
“You should be so lucky.” She hadn’t lost her sense of humor, but that wasn’t keeping her from getting as pale as Whitney. By the time I got her to my car, she was barely conscious. The Charger’s tires screamed and the engine roared as we sped back out into the city streets.