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
It was still a dark and stormy night. The portal had opened into an alley across the street. No sooner had we stepped to the sidewalk than we were accosted by a hustler. The rain couldn’t wash everything off the streets.
“Come on, man,” he pleaded, following us as we crossed the street to get to the train station. “Two sovereigns! Just two! You won’t get a fresher batch of magic beans anywhere in town for that price. Two sovereigns!” he insisted, grabbing the coat sleeve of one of my escorting gangsters who promptly threw the overly forward hustler to the ground, beans and all.
“Hey, give me my gun back,” I said, as we started up the steps to the station entrance, “and I’ll shoot him myself.”
“Quiet, Stone,” Muttonchops said. “Get inside.”
I shook some of the extra water off my private eye trench coat (standard issue) as we stepped out of the rain and into the South Riverside Train Station. By the big clock up on the wall, it was way past my bedtime. It must‘ve been past bedtime for a lot of people, since the station looked to be pretty much deserted. All things considered, though, I was feeling good. I was feeling focused and determined. I figured I probably had about ten minutes left to figure out how to use that to my advantage. Otherwise, I was just going to be very alert when a train came to park on my head. “Why does it take four of you guys to handle one of me?” I asked.
“You been tough to kill,” the one with my gun said, apparently the leader since he had my gun. “Boss wants to make sure it gets done right this time.”
“He don’t look so tough t’me,” Muttonchops said.
That one probably thought he should be the field trip leader instead. I could work with that. “Are we there yet?”
“Shut up, smart guy,” Muttonchops ordered. “He’s drivin’ me friggin’ nuts. See how funny he is when we get to the express track.”
“Calm down,” New Suit said. “We’ll be down there in a minute.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” I said. “I’ve gotta pee like a racehorse.”
“Nobody cares, Stone!” Muttonchops barked. “Shut up already!”
“Now, that’s just mean,” I said. “We’re all guys here. How can you just not care?”
“Man, at least your boss was polite about all this,” I said. “You could really stand to learn some better manners from him and your buddies here.”
“I don’t care what nobody else says,” Muttonchops replied. “You’re goin’ down, tough guy! You wanna piss? Piss on yourself!”
“See? That’s just rude,” I pointed out to the other uglies. “It shouldn’t be too big a surprise, I guess. If he doesn’t even care about how the boss does things, he’s not gonna care about what I have to say.”
“Damn right,” he said.
“I’d watch this guy,” I said to the head goon. “He’ll probably come after you next, then Ferrari. Or maybe he‘s gonna do it the other way around and make you--”
“Shut up, you!” Muttonchops barked as we reached the train platform.
He took a swing at my head, but I was watching for it and ducked his punch. “Uh-oh, looks like I touched a nerve. It’s like they say: watch out for the threats from inside.” I had no idea who said things like that, but I figured it sounded ominous enough to worry them.
“I’ve had enough of you, Stone!” Muttonchops shouted as he charged. “I’ll shut your mouth for you!”
“Hey, calm down!” Comb-over said, wrestling with Muttonchops to hold him back. “You’re gonna get us pinched.”
“What’s the matter, Donny?” New Suit asked him. “Did he say something he shouldn’t have? You making some big plans to go with the big talk you’re always spoutin’ off?”
“What?” Muttonchops asked. “You ain’t actually gonna listen to this punk are you?”
“I don’t know. Should I? You’re the one always sayin’ how you got better ideas for how to do things,” he said, grabbing at the other guy‘s coat. “Maybe you’re thinking this trial coming up is your big shot.”
Or maybe it was mine. Three of them were tied up fighting with each other and the fourth one was paying more attention to them than to me. I was pretty sure I was the only one who had noticed the sound of the approaching train. I knew I had to act fast, so I grabbed Slouchy by the collar and smashed my elbow into his face. With him stunned, I grabbed his pistol from its shoulder holster and shoved him into the other three. The stooges fell, stumbling and shouting. New Suit was trying to keep his balance, but his head was at just the right height to present an irresistible target for my foot. He went down hard, as Muttonchops was getting up and trying to charge at me. Him I grabbed by the arm and collar as I side-stepped. With a little helpful steering, his own power carried him face-first into the side of the passing express train. “Oooh! That looked so very painful,” I said with a wince as the dumbass was tossed away from the speeding train and collapsed like a rag doll onto the station platform.
Suddenly, I heard a roar and a scream behind me. I spun toward the sounds with the feel of an electric current shooting up my spine. I was wrestling the pistol from my pocket as I watched the hulking figure kneeling between the other two goons. It was wearing some kind of a red silk robe, which I supposed was convenient considering all the splattered blood. The giant was…some kind of tiger-man. Its right hand…paw was buried in the neck of one guy. The left paw had torn the other one’s head off completely. The blood pouring from the bodies was making a spreading pool around the three of them.
“Relax, Mr. Stone,” the gravel-voiced hulk said, looking up at me. “These four will be more than enough to feed upon and the gun wouldn’t have helped you had I come for you, anyway.”
“Figures,” I said, shoving it back into my pocket. “Don’t know why they even make damn .38s in the first place.”
“You’ll want your weapon back from…that fellow,” he said, “if you’re going to attend to your other business.”
“I knew you were rooting for me,” I said, shaking a finger at him as I moved over to New Suit to get my magnum back.
“I thought you might require assistance, but it seems you are indeed quite formidable despite my potent venom.”
“Yeah, strong as a bull and eager for action.” Retrieving my gun, I also found enough cash for cab fare that he wouldn‘t be needing anymore as I asked, “You have a name?”
“My kind do not share our names,” the response came.
“Right…never heard of you. Live and learn,” I said, making sure the .44 was loaded before I slipped it back into its holster. “What’s your interest in me, Tony?”
“You’re a virtuous man who’s being watched,” he said. “Ferrari, on the other hand, is a fool.”
“This is about the box, isn’t it?”
“Did I say anything about a box?”
“Yeah,” I said, “back outside the hospital.” Something he was apparently hoping I’d forgotten.
“You’ll want to use your element of surprise for the short window of time that it still exists,” he recommended, redirecting the conversation.
“Right,” I said, turning to leave the way I came in. “Hey, as long as you’re being so helpful, do you know what ‘SOC’ means?”
“When is murder not homicide?”
“When people annoy me. I’ve heard this one already.”
“Then you should go.”
“I don’t suppose anyone’s going to find any trace of this…mess.”
“That would be unlikely,” Tony said.
“Well, thoughtful of you to tidy up, I suppose.”
“Tosh, old chap. No bother at all.”
“Good that you…enjoy your work.”
“Well, you can’t have a slaughter without laughter.”
“Right,” I said. “OK, I’m out of here.”
In the distance, on the stairs, I saw a woman in a private eye trench coat (standard issue) and a private eye hat (also, standard issue). I caught a glimpse of long, black hair and a semi-automatic pistol as she turned and ran up the stairs. I couldn’t blame her. She did what anyone in a right frame of mind should’ve done. I was still carrying a lot of anger and I didn’t want to keep Ferrari waiting too long. It was time to go make a mess in his penthouse. Meanwhile, I would be being watched. That would have to keep till another day.