Thursday, November 24, 2011

16480--Similarities to Persons Living or Dead (Ch. 10)

Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.
Similarities to Persons Living or Dead 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.

Chapter 10

Harmony was right when she said that Corvus needed further scrutiny. What she needed, though was a break from looking over her shoulder and maybe even some sleep if she could get it. I took Harmony back to my apartment. Letting Berlin babysit her had to be better than following me onto unknown turf.

My new assistant was adjusting my recently acquired and emptied treasure box on a small pedestal on the far side of the living room. So far, though, the box had seemed to be more of a treasure than the curious contents.

“What happened in here?” I asked as Harmony and I took off our private eye hats and peeled off our private eye trench coats (all standard issue, of course).

“She’s been cleaning, Brick,” Harmony said. “Remember? We talked about this.”

“I don’t think I like it,” I sneered. “It looks…unnatural.”

“Do you have any more souvenirs, Brick?” Jonni asked.

“Souvenirs?” I parroted. “Is that what you think that box is? That thing’s been nothing but a pain in my ass for days. What makes you think I want to keep it around?” I was reminded of the warm plastic square I had in my pocket. My hand drifted there to make sure it was still where I’d put it. It was, which meant it still hadn’t incinerated me and I still had to figure out what to do with it. I sighed. “We got the…whatever it is out of it and we don’t need the stupid box anymore.”

“It’s like a trophy from your adventures,” she said. “It makes a nice decoration. If you have some others, I can rework the whole living room around them. Doesn’t that sound great?”

“She wants a ‘yes’, doesn’t she?” I asked Harmony.

“Brick Stone,” Harmony scowled, “you be nice. She’s trying hard for you.”

“She’s trying alright,” I said. “She’s very trying.”

“Do you think this would look better closed or open?” Jonni asked, stepping up to the leather-trimmed box and quickly opening its lid. “Wha--?”

“I think it would look better out in the alley,” I said. “If there’s anything here that I’ve had more than a week, it’s because it got pulled out of the remains of the war zone that my last apartment turned into. Thanks for the happy memory, though.”

“What’s the matter, Jonni?” Harmony asked, starting to walk toward her.

I was just starting to notice that she was standing still and staring into the box, almost frozen and slack-jawed. She had a more puzzled look than usual on her face.

“I thought you said that this thing was empty,” Jonni said, “and your little card was the only thing--”

“What’re you talking about?” I asked. “Are you saying there’s something else in there? No way! It was empty!”

“Let me see,” Harmony said, craning her neck to see past the box lid as she moved around the furniture.

“Is that a…cooler?” Harmony asked.

“Looks like,” Jonni said, reaching out a hand to it. Before I could say anything to stop her, she lifted the lid on the plastic cooler to find, “It’s full of flats of eggs.”

Green eggs,” Harmony said.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see everyday,” Jonni said. “You know, unless you’re Dr. Seuss.”

“Sounds like something I don’t need to see any day,” I said, walking their way.

“Hand me that glass, would you please?” Jonni asked Harmony as the curious blonde picked up an egg about the shade of broccoli.

Harmony grabbed the tumbler from my squarish dining table behind them and took a couple of hurried steps to hold it out to Jonni. Jonni promptly cracked the eggshell on the rim of the glass and opened the egg over it. The contents of the shell flowed down from her hand as normally as I could’ve expected from any normal egg. In the case of the egg dropping into the glass before us, though, the "white" was mint green and the yolk was deep forest green.

“Wow,” Harmony said, taking a step back with her eyes fixed on the glass.

“This does not bode well,” I said, pulling the idiot plastic card from my pocket. “Where’d those things come from?” I asked it.

>Where’d what come from?

“The green eggs,” I said.

>What green eggs?

I should’ve known better. I honestly didn’t know why I had bothered.

“Oooh, I have got to cook some of these up!” Jonni said with a sudden burst of excitement. She grabbed at the sides of the cooler and lifted it out of the box, looking to me and asking, “Do you have any ham?”

“OK, I don’t think I like where this is going,” I told her, but apparently I was the only one still listening to me. The box lid fell shut again, jostled by Jonni as she dragged the cooler out of the box.

“I’ll be in the kitchen!” Jonni called out as she turned and hurried off.

“I am not eating that!” Confident in my practiced skills of observation, I was certain I’d have noticed the presence of a cooler that nearly filled the box. It wasn’t in there before.

I didn’t notice until too late that Harmony had set the glass back on the table and turned back to the box. She was opening it again before I could ask, “What the Hell?

“Oh, Brick, look,” Harmony said with awe, reaching in and gently picking up what looked like a small spice rack.

“That’s not looking,” I said. “That’s touching. When did you lose your mind?”

“Aren’t they beautiful?” she asked, whispering as she gazed at the several small vials of a faintly glowing turquoise liquid, each stopped by a cork.

“Beautiful? What is it?” I asked. “Never mind. Set it down.” I looked back into the box. Thankfully, there was nothing el…No, there was a small piece of paper. I picked it up and read, “Love Potion: Do not use in combination with prescription medications, country music, or peanut butter."

“Really?” Harmony asked. “Oh, lord! It smells awful!”

“Wha--“ I looked to see that she had removed one of the corks as a noxious odor, similar to burning hog fat, assaulted my nose. “Oh, my--Why did you open it?” I asked as the bottle started to glow brighter, bubble and shake. “Never mind!” I said, taking the vial from her and putting it back in its space on the rack. I quickly picked up the whole rack, put it back into the box and slammed the lid shut. We took a couple of steps back as the box shuddered. Then, I noticed the smell was gone and all was quiet. I could smell eggs cooking in what had been alleged to be my kitchen.

Feeling that the box seemed safe enough to approach, I considered dropping it out my window. Instead, I lifted the lid to see what had happened. For just a second, it felt almost like I was experiencing that moment when one cautiously lifts the seat of a gurgling toilet to see if it was going to overflow.

“Well?" Harmony asked.

“Weird," I said, fully lifting the lid. “It looks like a map."  I had joined the others in Crazytown, obviously. Maybe the map could help me find my way back.

“Is that leather?" Harmony asked, feeling the map as I picked it up to examine.

“Yeah, it’s the skin from something alright,” I said. “Where do you suppose…Ausparlous is?”

“Never heard of it,” she said, pointing at the lower right corner of the map, “but it looks like G.X. Horace managed to find it in 1937.”

“Indeed,” I said, continuing to look over the map of the unknown land. A large arrow pointed upward on the right side of the map, reading "Great Western Shaft to the Upper World." “Hmm…underground, maybe,” I said, handing Harmony the three-foot by two-foot piece of leather. I noticed a ball in the box. I picked up a metal sphere, about the size of a softball, perfectly round and seamless. I wasn’t sure what the metal was, but the surface was smooth, a little cool and had a slight purple tint. From inside, I could hear a rattling sound, as if something smaller was contained within the hollow sphere.

“Hollow?” Harmony asked.

“Sounds like,” I said. “Aha! Another note.” Within the crate was a small piece of wrinkled note paper. Scrawled in faded black ink, it appeared to be part of someone's notes: "...has proven resistant to the steam drill, as well. I held it against the thing until it broke down, but not a scratch is upon it. Tomorrow, must try the hydraulic press... Can any force reveal the contents?"

“Oooh,” Harmony said, grabbing at the metal ball and shaking it. “Spooky weird.”

“We got lucky,“ I said as I closed the box. “There’s obviously a lot more to this box than we thought.”

“Listen to you. You just always expect the worst!“ Harmony said, flipping the box lid back open. “Nothing bad has happ--”

I tried to stop her, but even though I pulled her away from the box, she still managed to get the lid open. I pulled her back just as a hail of arrows came flying out of the box and up into the ceiling. We could hear the sounds of battle--shouting and screaming and crashing metal--from inside the box.

“OK,” Harmony said, “I stand corrected. Does that sound like it’s getting louder to you, Brick?”

“Seriously?” I asked, peeking over the edge of the box top. I actually wasn‘t surprised when I seemed to be looking down on an active battlefield rather than seeing the interior of an empty box. “Like we haven’t been shot at enough today?”

“Sorry,” Harmony said.

I side-stepped around the box and reached out to knock the lid shut. Then, grabbing a blanket from the couch, I opened it and threw it over the box. “No more playing with the box,” I said. “Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Harmony said softly.

Jonni returned from the kitchen with a plate and a fork, already eating as she hurried into a seat at the dining table.

“Berlin! No more messing with the box,” I said. She looked at me curiously, one of her cheeks puffed with food as she chewed. I pointed up at the ceiling. She looked up at the cluster of arrows.

“Got it, boss,” she said, resuming her chewing. “These are great, by the way. Oh, you’re out of ham.”

“Thanks for the update,” I said. “Can we get back to work?”

“Sure,” Jonni said. “Say, where’d you disappear to before?”

“I think I caught a timeslip when some insistent acquaintances magicked me away for a pointless meeting,” I explained. “They were actually interested in this stupid box.”

“Somebody else is after our eggs?” Jonni asked. “We can’t just let them have them! They‘re ours!”

“I’m not sure they knew about the eggs,” I told her. “From my experience, they’re much heartier eaters than that.”

“Who are these people?” she asked.

“They wouldn’t give their names,“ I said. “They were rakaraka…or something.”


“A talking tiger-guy, well, two this time,” I explained.

“A what?” Harmony asked.

“You heard me. He was in a red silk kimono and smoking a pipe.”

“A rakshasa? Two rakshasas? You should stay away from those, Brick,” Jonni insisted. “They’re deadly. You have to know that.”

“You’re telling me? You ever seen them eat?”

“They’re cunning and evil and really tough to kill.”

“Well, so far, they’ve only tried to talk me to death,” I told them. “Oh, and they were with this dwarf wizard, Tillmaren.”

Tillmaren? They were with Tillmaren?” Jonni asked, getting agitated again. “You met Tillmaren?

“Yeah,” I said. “You know him? He‘s somebody special?”

“Who?” Jonni asked. “Just kidding. No,” she said, “I don’t know him, but I’ve heard of him. He‘s a powerful wizard.”

“And they want the box,” Harmony said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess they do.”

“With Tillmaren involved, boss,“ Jonni said, “you may want to consider giving them what they want.”

“I’ll make a note,” I said. “It goes on the back burner for now, though. I’ve got some other bushes to beat first. Make sure she gets some rest.”

“So thoughtful,” Jonni said with an admiring smile. “A good man with such a great heart.”


“Whatever you say, boss,” Jonni said, continuing to work on her plate of green eggs. “Don’t forget the ham.”

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