It's a realm where Imagination has lease...
(a few tenants are paying rent on some extra space in the back)

Dragon M Shadow  I loved The Official Private Eye Handbook. I enjoyed how well you managed to invoke a sense of realism in a story so fantastic as well as your sense of humor. At points when the tension mounts the humor tends to sneak up on you in an almost Britishly dry sort of way. Two thumbs up my friend. And I look forward to rereading it and anything else you may put out.


Chapter 1
After being up all night wrapping a multiple missing persons case, I was lucky enough to end up in an alley not far from my favorite diner. That meant I got to turn a knuckle sandwich appetizer into a killer breakfast. They made me get it to go, but since I‘m a regular and they were giving me the bum‘s rush, it was on the house. Justice wasn’t always its own reward.

Anyway, it was a Friday morning in The City and the foot traffic was as crowded as I had come to expect of any walk from Good Eats Diner back to my office. After my workout stomping a rotting compost arch-demon, though, people were eager to give me some breathing room. Hell, a few hours in the sewers and I wasn’t even noticing the pungent smells of the surface. The nighttime party people had already disappeared for home and, as sunny as it was, I wasn’t expecting to see any trolls or goblins out. That was good, because to see a troll was to smell a troll and nobody wanted that. To see a goblin, meant to expect trouble. Quite frankly, the nature of trouble in the realm of Magick was why I kept my .44 magnum loaded with custom-made, blessed electrum bullets. They were pricey, but one shot could drop a rampaging werewolf or a rabid northern bone sloth at full creep if necessary and that was the sort of thing that helped keep me full of warm fuzzy feelings on dark and stormy nights.

There was an abundance of things to keep me aggravated from day-to-day in The City, but staying on edge kept me on my toes and that really contributed toward keeping me breathing. Staying alive despite my dangerous line of work was something I considered to be no small accomplishment some days. Finding happy moments between aggravations helped to make living in The City tolerable for someone like me, a guy who didn’t indulge in every sensual distraction it readily offered. It was unusual for the happy spots to come too close together. I tried to just appreciate them as they came rather than get all crazy paranoid and suspicious. So, when I saw that familiar pretty face, framed with a short, black haircut, even though she wasn’t dressed quite like herself, I took it in stride. That meant not fighting the smile that forced itself out.
“Imagine Friday, Brick,” she greeted me as I approached.
“Again? Already?” I asked. “Those holidays sneak right up on you.”
“Especially here. Father Craft likes the randomness of letting the moons govern the setting of holidays, I’ve heard.”
“It’s true,” I said, stepping back from her to look her over.
“What’s…? My God, what’s that smell?” she asked, covering her mouth and nose with both hands.
“You’re welcome.”
“What?” she asked.
“Much like your choice of the business suit and haircut, it’s new, though far from improved,” I told her. “On the upside, I do have a decontamination penciled in on my schedule. What’s with your fashion update, Overknight?”
“So you do remember me,” she said sternly.
I’d gotten good at recognizing that tone. It was never a good one to have coming my way. “Of course,” I assured her. “You’re very memorable, doll.”
“But not worth a phone call.”
“I never said that,” I replied. “I also never promised to call. It’s been busy.”
“That explains the smell: you’re an ass.”
“Officially, that’s the city’s ass you’re enjoying,” I said, “that and the despair of eleven tormented ecologists. It was a long night, but the important thing is the case is closed.”
“I suppose,” she said. “Did you come back intact?”
“I brought back all my important parts,” I said, which seemed to comfort her. “You testifying in court or something? I don’t recall ever seeing purple pinstripes in your closet.”
“I’m undercover,” she said.
“Sounds more…subtle than your usual work.”
“Well, you know how short-handed the department’s been since the Southern Stone Druids performed their Summoning of Accursed Ancient Days ritual and created that intra-planar cascade inversion fracture,” Overknight reminded me.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That was a bad weekend for tourists: rainbow stingers on the bounce, water-thief lilies prowling, hordes of Zeng slavers roaming the streets…”
“I got caught in the garment district,” she said. “Ogres and goblins were at each others throats over the sand wombat plague. Apparently, both sides have a visceral natural hatred of them and accused each other of unleashing them.”
“So, lots of dead ogres and goblins,” I said. “What’s the downside?”
“Collateral damage on the upper east side,” Overknight pointed out. “The troll gangs are always happy to let them kill each other off, but the cleanup was a bitch.”
“No one could just call Animal Control or hire some exterminators?” I asked.
“Animal Control can only do so much. The spokesbear for their union has been insisting on sweeter perks. I think exterminators were mentioned, but they couldn’t decide on whose tribe would pay for them so that was just more to fight about,” she said. “Plus, cornered sand wombats charge.”
“Like a chubby fourth-grader with claws,” I laughed.
“Or a fuzzy, hundred-pound bowling ball taking you out at the knee,” she said. “They break bones, Stone. You know how many people they’ve hospitalized?”
“OK, so dangerous enough to deserve a bullet, but they eat the walking lilies,” I said. “That means the wombats are useful until the bears can get caught up. Not only will they get to squeeze some overtime pay out of Animal Control, I’m pretty sure sand wombats are like free-range cheese wheels to bears, anyway, no matter how much they complain.”
“Good point,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of nerve, growling for more perks.”
“I know,” I said. “So how much can you tell me about this undercover work?”
“I’m playing a fixer for the LeTourneau Syndicate.”
“Oh, good,” I smiled. “You’re getting to crack some skulls, then.”
“A few,” she smiled back, letting me know I‘d hit one of her sweet spots, “though I’m officially there just for intel.”
“Gathering intel in a suit and fedora,” I said. “You’re swimming in my pool, babe. I have to say, though, I haven’t seen any of the mobs dressed so sharp this season.”
“The French ones are,” she said, her eyes sparkling as she held open one side of her jacket to show off her leather shoulder holster and the pearl-handled .45 it held. “Three-piece, double-breasted.”
“I really have to take on higher class goons,” I said.
“I’m trying to make a statement.”
“Waste of money,” I told her. “If you want to make a statement, just do it in German. They’ll surrender and you can be home in time for dinner.”
“I’ve got to make it look a little bit hard,” Overknight said, “or they’ll wonder down at headquarters why they’re paying me.”
“Good luck with that. What’s your new name?”
“Manon DeVries. She gets dressy to infiltrate bad guys before busting them up.”
“Yeah, I guess that works.”
“Well, maybe she‘ll work her way onto your RADAR some late night soon and you can sweat some information out of her,” Overknight suggested. “Of course, you’ll have to burn that ensemble you’re wearing first.”
“That‘s crazy talk,” I said. “Tough guys don’t wear ensembles.”
“What‘s that got to do with you?” she asked, feigning a right cross to the side of my chin.
“So, you had some free time and thought you‘d come by and bust my chops?” I asked.
“No, I‘m just taking what I can get,” she said. “I had planned to use my free time defiling you in creative ways, but that was before you ended up smelling like a sewage fire.”
“The price of justice this morning,” I said. “And I do like me some justice appetizer before breakfast.”
“Well, that steep price is costing you dessert, big boy.”
“Yeah,” I said, “the girls at the diner even made me carryout my food.”
“Can‘t say I blame them. Which reminds me,” she said, shoving a cigarette lighter-sized object into my hand, “I need you to keep this safe, just in case.”
“Understood,” I assured her, pocketing the unassuming little prize. “Is that it?”
“That’s plenty,” she told me. “It’s new from the wizards in op-tech. It has a ridiculous amount of memory. Now, as to the personal,” she continued, “did you get my messages?”
“I assume so,” I said. “With Berlin, I get what I get and leave it at that. She has her own way of things.”
“Whatever. I should know better than to think you‘d care either way,” she scowled stalking away from me.
“Hey, that’s not fair,” I said. “You know we both throw ourselves into our work like mob guys throw squealers into wood chippers.”
“Sorry, Stone,” she said, pausing to face me one last time. “I’m just frustrated.”
“Easiest fix for that is one of my favorite things,” I reminded her, “and right at your fingertips.”
“Shoot a French guy,” she smiled sheepishly.
“There you go,” I said. “It’s like you’re reading my mind.”
“Keep the lips warm, Stone. I’ve got to get back to the dark side.”
“Ooh, I hear that’s catered.”
“Absolutely true,” she said, launching back into the flow of the pedestrian crowd.
I watched her until she disappeared around a corner, then I walked back into my office building. Jennifer Overknight was a decent detective and a strong woman. I knew she was trustworthy and she apparently felt the same way about me, having left me with what I assumed was a back-up of her recordings of bad guys. I might’ve pissed her off, but she felt it was safer with me than other police. Sad, but not something I was going to argue.

Passing a dozen or so offices on the second floor, I finally came to mine at the opposite end of the hall from where I‘d left it. I wasn‘t going to let that spoil my mood, though. As long as “Brick Stone, Private Eye” was in bold letters on the glass of the office door it was business as usual. I kicked the door open and entered boldly. My assistant, the dangerously cute and persistently perky Jonni Berlin, was already there, doing whatever it was she did.
“Imagine Friday, Brick,” she said cheerfully.
“Yeah, whatever,” I told her, dropping my boxed breakfast onto my desk. “Say, shouldn’t this be like a holy day for you or something?”
“Ha-ha. Thoughtful, but no,” she said. “Remember, I’m not from Magick anymore than you are.”
“Good point,“ I said.
“Oh, by the great Roc!” she exclaimed, covering her mouth and nose. “What’s that stench? Is that you?”
“That’s the sweet smell of justice,” I said boldly.
“What’s so sweet about it?” she asked.
“Life in The City is that much safer,” I said. “You’re welcome.”
“Did you step in it or roll in it?”
“Both,” I said. “Look, I wish I didn’t smell like the inside of a squid’s ass either, but the important thing is that a surly arch-demon won‘t be dragging anymore pretentious ecologists underground to establish a sewer realm of rot and despair.”
“Uh-huh, wish granted,” she said, waving her hands.
A few sparkles and I was as fresh as stepping out of a dry cleaner. “What--? Oh, that wish,” I said. “Having a genie for an assistant really is worth whatever I‘m paying you sometimes.”
“Shaita-imp, Brick,” she said. “I’m only a half-djinn.”
“Whatever you say. It’s all still magic to me,” I said. “Now, did I miss anything?”
“Phone calls. It was Detective Overknight.”
“Yeah, I know about those. Messages can go on the back burner. I already heard what she thinks of me.”
“Oh, well, poop,” Jonni said, dropping the stack of notes to one side. “All that writing for nothing.”
“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Anything else?”
“Oh, mail,” she smiled, holding up a thick book with bold print across a black cover.
“Is that…?”
“It is,” she assured me, dangling it before me in the air. “You can still smell the new on it.”
“The Official Private Eye Handbook.”
“Standard issue,” I added.
“Well, not exactly standard issue,” she said more solemnly.
“What? Let me see that thing,” I said, reaching out to take the book.
“It‘s says it‘s a special edition, Brick,” she told me, releasing it to float through the air to my hand. “It really looks rather interesting.”
“Blank pages for notes,” I said, “and a special appendix on dealing with magic. ‘Don‘t panic,’ it says. ‘The words before you may help save your life.’”
“That’s a good thing, right?” Jonni probed.
“I thought, for sure, I’d catch some kind of heat over burning my old copy,” I said, leafing through the soft pages of the book. “Instead, I think, Crom is laughing at me.”
“Crom? The old mountain god? I would‘ve thought all his followers were dead and long gone by now,” Jonni said. “A god without fanatics has all the shock and awe of a stage magician without an audience.”
“Bastard’s a publisher now,” I explained.
“A publisher? Weird.”
“Not really. His experience in being inflexible, mysterious, worshipped and accustomed to getting his own way was apparently seen as a roughly lateral transition from deity.”
“Oh. Well, congratulations,” Jonni said. “Next, there’s this,” she went on, holding up a fancy white envelope.
“What about it?”
“It’s an invite to a fancy party,” Jonni explained, “out in Wardenclyffe.”
“Party invite? Why?”
“Who cares? Maybe it’s for Imagine Friday. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to go to the parade. Maybe it’s just an excuse to dance and give us free food. It sounds like fun! And it‘s tonight!”
Tonight? In a walled-off sector of town where mad scientists are allowed to do whatever pops into their heads.”
“If that’s not a way to celebrate an Imagine Friday, I don’t know what is,” Jonni said.
“It sounds like a way to spend one’s last day. Kinda short notice, anyway, isn’t it? Don’t we have any high-priority cases? Lost dog? Stray cat? Stolen bicycle?”

The door burst open. It was an older man and a pretty, well-endowed young woman. It could’ve been a father and his…healthy daughter or they could’ve been a couple. He looked angry and guided her protectively, while her face was showing desperation and confusion. That was the first odd thing about them. Usually, I’d get one partner of a pair, looking to have some investigating done into whatever the other was up to. I had nothing against them. Best of luck to happily-ever-afters and all, but marital bliss was no friend to the private eye game.

“Mr. Stone?” the man said. “My name is Xavier Money. My wife and I need your help.”

Jonni tapped her index finger on her desk. A few sparks flashed from her fingertip, waking her notepad and a pen into action. The two common office items floated to each other over the center of the desk and the black pen began scribbling hastily onto the white paper, making an instant record of everything we said.

“Sit. Spill,” I said, pointing the well-dressed couple at my firm wooden guest chairs. “Miss Berlin, can you get some of your excellent coffee for everyone, please?”

“Sure, Mr. Stone,” Jonni said, eyeing me knowingly as she glided across the office.

“Several pieces of Honey’s jewelry were stolen from her person while she was out a couple of nights ago.”

“And now she’s afraid she’ll have nothing to wear to prom?” I prodded.

“See here, Stone, we’re aware of the difference in our ages,“ Money said, irritated. “We’ve heard it before and know the eyebrows it raises. Now, the police aren’t giving us any assurances and I’d heard you could do more.”

“We should just go, darling,” she said. “This man--”

“No, he’s going to hear us out. This is too important. At first, we thought it might be a simple mugging, but now she’s not sure she hasn’t seen the fellow before. If she’s being stalked, she may still be in danger. I can keep her guarded, but someone with enough persistence can get past guards. So…”

“Where were you, Mrs. Money?”

“Wh-When I was attacked?” she asked nervously. “Walking to my car.”

“What were you out doing?” I asked her.

“It was my weekly women’s pottery and sculpture class. We meet every Wednesday night.”

“You ladies just disperse and hit those mean streets on your own? You don’t believe there’s safety in numbers?”

“Well…I had stayed behind a few minutes to talk with the instructor about my work and…well, the others had gone when I went out.”

“So I’m guessing your teacher…”

“Arthur Craft,” she said.

“Artie didn’t walk you out,” I said. “Thanks, Jonni,” I said as she handed out coffee cups and sat down to her own desk.

“No, he still had to clean up,” Mrs. Money said.

“What’d you lose?” I asked her.

“A diamond and sapphire bracelet, a platinum watch and a white gold necklace with diamond pendant,” she described. “It’s just--”

“Look at what that animal did to her beautiful neck,” Mr. Money said angrily as he drew attention to a reddish-brown abrasion on the left side of her neck about two inches below her ear lobe.

“Brutal,” I said. “Your wrists are OK?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, holding her hands out. “I surrendered the others after that.”

“Did you get the impression that they thought your rings were fake?” I asked, eyeing the matched engagement and wedding rings, each fitted with large sparkling diamonds.

“Now, see here, Stone! I assure you--”

“I can see from here those things are real, Brick,” Jonni said, equally puzzled by my question.

“May I?” I asked, holding out my hand to hers. She held out her left hand to me as I stood and leaned in to examine her rings closely.

“Convinced, Stone?” Mr. Money asked smugly.

“Quite,” I said, “but I never said I thought they were fake. I asked your wife if she had gotten the impression that anyone else had thought they might be.”

“Oh, well, no,” she said.

“Yet they weren’t taken,” I pointed out.

“Well, I normally take them off for class,” Mrs. Money explained. “Fortunately, I didn’t think to put them back on till after…I was back home.”

“And you haven’t been able to get anywhere trying to ID the guy through the police?” I asked.

“No, nothing,” Mr. Money said. “Do you think you can be of any help, Stone?”

“Depends on your point of view, I suppose,” I answered. I paused thoughtfully as I sipped at my coffee.  “You changed this, didn’t you?” I asked Jonni.

“I did,” she smiled. “Less coffee, more chocolate.”

“Nice,” I said. “Mr. Money, I’m going to set my usual fees aside and, for good or ill, clear this whole thing up for…a hundred sovereigns flat.”

“The jewels are worth…Well, that doesn’t matter,” he said. “It sounds like a bargain, sir.”

“Oh, for the service I’m providing, it is,” I assured him.

“Here you are, sir,” the elder man said, pulling five twenty sovereign pieces from his pocket and counting them out onto my desk. “How soon do you think you can resolve this?”

“Oh, right away,” I told him. “Your wife’s been stepping out on you.”

What?” he roared, bolting to his feet. “Now, see here!”

“What? No, I--”

“The mark on her neck’s a hickey,” I said, “and she’s got ink from a door stamp on the back of her right hand that she hasn’t been able to wash off yet. She handed over her jewels to her boyfriend, who I’d say is Arthur Craft. She’s got clay in the crevices of her ring settings that she likely got from his hands. Just being careless, probably, but I doubt those French tips have been molding too much clay. What happened, Honey, did he run a sob story on you about how he needed money and after you gave him the jewels he started to cool things off? That why you’re not sure whether you’ve been scammed or if he really cares about you?”

“I-I…Xavier, I--” she started to sob, the tears flowing freely and her gasping wails growing louder.

“The truth!” I barked, raising the back of my hand to her.

Alright! Alright!” she sobbed into her hands.

“Honey, how could you?” Mr. Money growled. “Why, I’ll…I‘ll--”

“OK, my part’s done, here” I told them. “Thanks for stopping by to play the Feud, now blow. Take the waterworks and the noise outside.”

“Thank you, Stone,” Mr. Money said gruffly, trying to compose himself. “Sorry for…Well, thank you. You’ve opened my eyes, sir. Impressive work.”

He stormed out and she chased him, weeping and wailing.

“That went well,” I said.

“Nice work, boss.” She snapped her fingers and the pen and notepad fell to desk like marionettes with cut strings.

“You like how I got that cash up front?” I asked her.

“That was very smart.”

“Just put a case number on that,” I told her. “It’s not interesting enough to deserve a fancy name.”

“Maybe next time, Brick. Anyway, as I was saying,” Jonni went on smugly, “we’ve got a party to go to.”

“I still don’t know why we’re on the guest list. Whose party is it?”

“A Mr. and Mrs. Abel N. Will--”


“So you do know them.”

“The mister,” I said. “From back in high school.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Jonni said.

“You don’t know my high school.”

“Well, maybe there will or won’t be some other classmates there,” Jonni proposed, “depending on whether that’s good or bad. Abel was a friend?”

“My first client,” I told her, “back before I turned pro.”

“So somebody who doesn’t dislike you, at least?”

“Well, I didn’t have to deliver a beating to him or have him arrested, as I recall.”

“Did you solve his case?”

“Ah, yes, the Case of the Evil Science Fair,” I recalled. “A bit of a mess, but we got through it all and, after years of smart inventing and business building, he’s rich and apparently married.”

“And he’s got a place out at Wardenclyffe?” Jonni asked. “Is he one of the…permanent residents?”

“I don’t know,” I had to admit. “He was always a little odd, but he seemed more stable than…Well, it’s been a few years and you know what mad science can do to people.”

“Yeah, but I want to go see,” she said, starting to bounce with anxiety. “Pleeeeeeease? Please. Please. Please. Please.”

“Alright,” I finally said. “Alright. We’ll go.”

“Yay!” she shouted like a cheerleader. “Oh! We should change!”

“Change? You mean, clothes? I’m perfectly comfortable, thanks,” I told her, “and not trying to impress anybody, especially from high school.”

“Uh-huh,” she said, first shaking her head and gradually the rest of herself.

As Jonni Berlin shook her head, vigorously twisting left and right, her long platinum hair joined in the dance. Her shoulders and arms began to shimmy, her torso started to undulate and her hips sprang to life to join the whole-body gyration. Then, I felt a sort of tickling tingle as her hair changed to wavy, fiery red, the color spilling down her like water breaking free of a dam and crashing down a hillside. Likewise, the wave of change continued its flow down her whole body, her simple coral dress changing into a brown Victorian jacket over a white blouse and a brown skirt that reached down to her ankles…which suddenly appeared to be sporting tall, black leather boots.

“Ta-da!” she sang out. “How you like me now?”

“Captivated with how thoroughly I’m able to forget that you’re half-djinn,” I replied, “until moments like this.”

“I’m freaking you out, aren’t I?” she said, soft sympathy in her voice. “I’m sorry, Brick. I didn‘t mean to overwhelm you.”

“No, no freaking. It was just an observation. Like I said, just surprised at myself. I forget, then you remind me and life goes on. It‘s not like I‘m Darren Stephens popping blood vessels because you twitched your nose to make dinner.”

“OK, if you’re sure,” she said. “Clothes?”

“It’s a stylish outfit,” I assured her. “There’s no doubt about that, but it’s a crime to keep those getaway sticks in the shade, doll.”

“Sweet-talker,” she said, waving a hand at her skirt. “I’ll meet you halfway,” came the decision as the skirt sprouted a split from bottom up to mid-thigh. “Better?”

“Worth the price of admission,” I told her. “You ready to get going?”

“I suppose so,” she smiled. “You like yours?”

“My what?”

“Your new threads, daddio,” she said with a sultry tone and snapping her fingers at me like a drunk beatnik.

“What the Van Helsing?” I asked in astonishment. I guess that explained the tingle I‘d felt. She‘d changed my clothes without my even noticing. “This is just wrong.”

“You don‘t like it?” Jonni asked through pouty lips, obviously crestfallen.

“What is it? Are we vampire hunting?”

“No…well, probably not, but it‘s still regulation,” she insisted. “It‘s an acceptable standard issue variant listed in the clothing chapter in the new handbook: black Inverness cape coat over a red silk tweed vest and topped by a wide-brim, black slouch hat. I think it looks pretty hot on you.”

“I feel like I‘ve ransacked Lamont Cranston‘s closet.”

“It’s not too tight in the chest, is it?” she asked.

“No, it’s a perfect fit.”

“Good. You’ll love this outfit in the rain,” she assured me. “You’ll probably get a quicker draw without coat sleeves to slow you down.”

“Well, OK, that’s a plus,” I conceded, reaching for my magnum under cover of the cape. “Bad guys won’t even see me go for my gun under here.”

“I knew you’d like that part,” Jonni said. “It’s very sexy. I almost feel underdressed now. How‘s this?” she asked as her dress flowed into different forms and colors, settling into black kung fu pajamas with white frog buttons and trim.

“You’re going for Chinese now?”

“Yeah, I think we make a nice contrast of mysteries this way,” she said. “Dressy, but comfy, fun and functional.”

“You’re putting way too much thought into this.”

“I wanted to go with red and black so we’d match better, but I didn’t want to clash with my red hair,” she said, her hand playing with the thick locks of fiery silk, “and I’m not giving that up tonight.”

“OK, great,” I told her. “You’re gorgeous. Can we just go now?”

“You’re just going to have to get used to magic being a part of your life one of these days, y’know,” she said. “I’m not saying you have to use it to solve cases or use it for shortcuts that make you feel lazy or uncomfortable, but sometimes it might be a useful backup for you. You have acquired a few pretty cool, user-friendly items in the time I’ve known you and, remember, we have no idea why or for how long you‘ve been walking around with the Monarch‘s Heart. It‘s part of you and part of your life.”

“I don’t practice magic,” I reminded her, “and I‘m not some sorcerer‘s apprentice. I know enough about it to get through conflicts, not to start pulling rabbits out of hats or even doing card tricks.”

“In this town, that doesn’t necessarily make one stronger,” Jonni pointed out, “but one of the things that makes you exceptional is that you reap benefits from magic, anyway. Even lacking knowledge, your strength of will allows you to use many simple artifacts and stay sane despite magic going on around you, handsome. You don’t get sucked in.”

“Sometimes I just hate it.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t ever touch the stuff. And you know I’ll have your back, Brick.”

Then, the phone rang. Sweet salvation had come.

“I’ll get it,” Jonni said, lunging for the phone. “You’d take a cat-in-a-tree rescue just to get out of going. Hello, Brick Stone Investigations…”

Whatever it was had to be better than--

“We’ll be right there,” Jonni said.

“Let’s hear it,” I said, hair bristling on the back of my neck. “Give me the good word.”

“The good word, Mr. Smarty, is you’re still taking me out,” Jonni said with a stern gaze, pointing her finger at my chest, “and we’re still going to your friend’s at Wardenclyffe.”

“What about the call?”

Jonni sighed, rolled her eyes and said, “Slight change of plans: there’s been a murder.”

“Oh,” I said. “So, it’s a win-win, then.”

“If you say so,” she said, grabbing her tiny purse and the rune-covered metal rod known as the Wayfarer’s Arcanum as she headed for the office door. “Come on.”

“Hold on,” I said, going into my special desk drawer. “If they’ve already started a body count, that must be one wild party. I’m think I’m gonna need a second gun.”

“One more thing,” Jonni said firmly, thumping at the floor with the Wayfarer‘s Arcanum to make sure she had my attention. “Since we’re going into mad science territory, I’m issuing an additional challenge.”

“Oh, this should be good,” I said, loading the chambers on my backup .44 magnum.

“Grab some of your magic stuff out of there, too,” she said. “Get anything you think might give us a useful edge and try to do something impressive with it tonight.”

“I’m not doing a dinner show.”

“No, but you need to open yourself to getting familiar with the magic stuff we’ve got,” she insisted. “It might help us learn more about your big ol’ glow-heart, besides healing really fast when you get shot and stabbed and blown up and stuff. You’re tough, but I don’t like watching you get torn up just to experience some benefit from magic. You need to up your game, boss. Meanwhile, I’ll keep my hands in my pockets as much as possible.”

“That’s gonna make it harder to drag me kicking and screaming toward magic, ain’t it?”

“I guess, that means I’m going to have to be extra charming,” she winked.

“Deal,” I said, though somewhere in the left side of my brain I was trying to remember whether or not I’d left my grenade launcher in the trunk of the Charger.

Brick Stone works in The City, taking each naked story on as it comes his way.  He does his best not to let madness and magic get in the way of doing his job...or a good naked story.  A man's got to have his priorities.

Come for a visit!  See creatures you've only imagined before!  Sample cuisines from eight lost civilizations!  Meet wizards and witches!  Absorb the cultures of more than a dozen different planes!  See the running of the bull barghests or experience the intense combats of the colosseum!  You may never want to go home again...ever.    ~The City Chamber of Commerce


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