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Draw One in the Dark: Snippet Eleven

       Last updated: Friday, June 23, 2006 20:35 EDT



    Tom grabbed for the low coffee table in front of the love seat. It was wicker and very unstable, but he struck out with it, hard, at the thing. There was a ... tooth? Fang? Coming towards him, and he batted at it with the table. It made a hissing sound, not at all like a dragon sound. And it was dripping. At least Tom didn’t think it was a dragon sound. He had no idea what he sounded like when he was shape-shifted.

    Keith was kicking something large and green and shimmering.

    “Stop,” Tom yelled. “You can’t kick a dragon. It will blaze you.”

    Keith looked at him, and Keith’s eyes were huge, the pupils so dilated there was almost no iris left. It reminded Tom of something but he couldn’t say what.

    “Mother ship,” Keith said. “The Mother ship has landed. They’re coming for us. I saw a movie.”

    “Really,” Tom said, reaching out. “You shouldn’t kick dragons.”

    Tom had managed to wrench the wooden leg away from the wicker table, and he had some idea he could stab the dragon with it. But one of the dragons was attacking Keith, while the other was... crouching against the glass door. If Tom could attack that one...

    He started to go for the handle to the patio door, but all of a sudden it wavered and changed, in front of him, and it was the door to the Athens, with all the specials painted on. He pulled at it, but it wouldn’t open. So he backed up, and kicked high at it.

    The glass shattered with a sound like hail.

    The big green body leaning against it shuddered and turned. Towards Tom.

    Two toes-with-claws reached for him. A fang probed.

    He had time to think, “Oh, shit.” And then he remembered what Keith’s eyes looked like. They looked like his own, in the mirror, back when he was using.



    The morgue of Goldport was in a low slung, utilitarian-looking brick building. Someone with misconceived ideas of making it look like Southwestern architecture, had put two obviously non functional towers in asymmetrical positions atop the tile roof.

    Rafiel Trall parked in front of the building, and Kyrie parked beside him. There were a couple of other cars and a couple of white panel vans parked in front. The street was the sort of little-traveled downtown street connecting quiet residential streets to the industrial areas with their warehouses and factories.

    Rafiel put sunglasses on as he came out of the car, and Kyrie wondered for a moment if his golden eyes were unusually sensitive to light. It didn’t seem like the most practical eye color to have.

    He saw her staring and smiled at her, as if he thought she was admiring him. Kyrie looked away quickly. The man clearly had an ego as large as his shifted shape.

    But he was quiet as they walked inside the building. Though it was air conditioned, it didn’t have the same feeling of clean cool as the inside of the hotel. Instead, the cold here felt clammy and clinging and there was a barely discernible smell. If Kyrie had been pressed to define it, she would have said that it smelled like her car a day after she’d lost a package of ground turkey in it, last May. It was the stink of spoiled meat, mixed with a faint tinge of urine and feces – what she’d once heard someone call the odor of mortality – but so faint that she couldn’t quite be sure it was there.

    “Have you ever been to this type of place?” Rafiel asked.

    She shook her head.

    “Sensitive stomach?” he asked.

    She shrugged. She truly didn’t know. She remembered the corpse last night and felt a recoiling -- not because she’d been on the edge of losing her lunch over it, but because she remembered all too clearly how appetizing the blood had smelled. Appetizing was far worse than sickening. “I don’t think so,” she said.

    And at that he gave her his bright smile, that seemed to beam rays of warmth through the chilly atmosphere. “Well, any one of our kind has seen dead bodies, right?”

    Kyrie blinked, bereft of an ability to answer. Had she seen dead bodies? Only the one yesterday. What was he telling her? She looked at the bright smile, the calm golden eyes and wondered what hid behind it. Oh, she’d guessed – it wasn’t that hard given his history – that Tom might have done things he was sorry for. There was that edging and shying away behind his silences. And a man like him who didn’t seem totally devoid of interior life and yet ended up on drugs was clearly running away from something.

    But until this moment, Kyrie had allowed herself to believe the something had been a few petty thefts, car joyriding, other things that could well fall under juvenile delinquency. Never... Never murder. She’d never thought of murder, until Rafiel thought that. And now she wondered if the other shifters really had that much trouble controlling themselves in animal form that killing humans was common and accepted. And if it was, what was she doing here? What was the point of murderers investigating murders? If it was normal for shifters to kill humans, how much should the life of a human be worth it to them? How could Rafiel be a policeman? And how could Rafiel talk of it so calmly?

    But she couldn’t ask him. He’d continued ahead of her, down the cool tiled hallway, and she had followed him, without thinking, by instinct, like a child or a dog. And now he stood near a man who sat at a desk, and said, “Hi Joe. I’m here to see last night’s pickup.” He removed his sunglasses and pocketed them.

    Joe, a middle aged man, with a greying comb-over and a desk-job paunch, looked pointedly at Kyrie.

    Rafiel smiled, that dazzling smile that seemed to hide no shadows and no fears. “Girlfriend,” he said. “Kyrie is thinking of joining the force and I told her she should see an autopsy first. Kyrie Smith, this is Joe Martin. You know I’ve talked to you about him. He practically keeps this place running.”

    Kyrie, head spinning at being called someone’s girlfriend, put her hand forward, to have it squeezed in a massive, square-tipped paw. Joe gave her what he probably thought was a friendly smile, but which was at least three quarters leer, and told her in a tone he surely believed was avuncular, “You take good care of our boy, Ms. Smith. He’s been lonely too long. Not that some ladies haven’t tried.”

    And on that auspicious blessing, they walked past Joe and down the hallway, past a row of grey doors with little glass windows.

    They all looked similar to Kyrie, and she had no idea what prompted Rafiel to stop in front one of them. But he stopped, and plunged a hand into his pants pocket, handing her a small notebook. She took it without comment, thought considering the tightness of Rafiel’s pants, she had to wonder what quantum principle allowed him to keep notebooks in there. When he handed her a pen too, from the same provenance, she was even more impressed, because sharp objects there had to hurt.

    “Just take notes,” Rafiel told her. “And no one in there will ask who you are. They’ll assume you’re a new officer I’m training. Goldport has one of the smallest full time forces in the state. To compensate, we have a never-end of part timers, usually either people blowing through town for a few months, or people who took a couple of months of law enforcement courses and decided it wasn’t for them. If they ask, then I’ll tell them you work at the diner and I want your opinion, okay?”

    Kyrie nodded, feeling marginally better about being an apprentice policeman than about pretending to be Rafiel’s girlfriend. A sense of unease about Rafiel built in her mind, even as she nodded and held the notebook and pencil as if she were official. Might as well make some notes, too. Hell. Who knew? She might need them. She was, after all, investigating this herself, wasn’t she?

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