As promised, I think, here is the first chapter of Lillim #5, Hardboiled. Enjoy or not.
“Have you ever wanted to deep throat a shotgun? Because that is totally what is going to happen if you keep trying to talk, savvy?” I asked in my best pirate captain voice.
“Mmmph mmph!” replied the creature that looked like someone had spilled a pot of mushy pea soup on an octopus and rolled it in dirty laundry. Bright gobs of goo and thicker bits undulated as it tried to speak.
“Good. Because I’m sure it would be quite difficult to breathe through a mouthful of buckshot.” I grimaced at the creature as I pressed my shotgun against the hole in its face. I wasn’t doing it to be mean or because the thing smelled like rancid pork or even because it had a sock stuck to its ‘forehead.’ No, that would have been shallow of me.
The real reason my shotgun was damn near lodged down its throat was because every single time it opened its noise hole, it let out an earsplitting shriek that woke not only babies, but the dead as well. No, I’m not joking. This thing actually animated skeletons, corpses, stuffed cats, whatever really. That’s why I was trying to keep it from making so much as a whisper. Like a damned Pied Piper, its ‘song’ made the dead walk the earth.
This was also why I, the famed Lillim Callina, was up to my knees in graveyard mud at three o’ clock in the morning on a school night. Okay, maybe not famous, but I’ve slain dragons, fought mythical orcs, staked vampires, and even taken on a fairy princess. I’d like to think I was above stomping off into a graveyard in the middle of the night after a whoziwutsit. But, unfortunately, over the last couple weeks, corpses in the graveyard had unearthed themselves and been found in all sorts of weird, read creepy, positions. I mean, I wasn’t really sure why, or how, the dead would get it on exactly, but I wasn’t really willing to find out either. In any case, a graveyard is one of the places a skeleton is supposed to remain in its closet.
I smoothed my skirt with my left hand and smiled at the shambler. “Now listen very carefully because I am only going to say this once. I am going to pull the gun out of your face hole. If you make so much as a peep I am going to shoot you. I’m not joking. One untoward sound, one yawn and you will get a face full of buckshot. Nod your head if you understand.”
The creature stared at me for a good thirty seconds before nodding its head, at least I think it was its head and it was nodding. I pulled the shotgun free of its gullet with a wet slurp that turned my stomach. The thing sat there working its jaws for the better part of a minute while glancing around all twitchy like.
A bolt of lightning exploded from the cloudless sky, blowing the creature to smithereens and flinging me backward like a ragdoll. My arms flew out to protect my head as I skidded and bounced across the muddy ground. I smacked into a massive granite gargoyle and white hot pain shot through my body. I shook my head a moment later, trying to orient myself to what had just happened as black spots danced across my vision.
“Well, at least I don’t have to figure out what to do with it,” I muttered to myself, trying to ignore the creeping sensation in my stomach. Whatever had blown up the shambler was bad news, and honestly, I wanted no part in it. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to have a choice in the matter. As the gunk covering the front of my shirt could attest to, I was already involved.
“I really need to stop wearing skirts when out monster hunting,” I added because I was a crazy person who liked to talk to myself. Now, because I had worn a skirt, both my legs were covered in mud and scratches.
I sighed, and propped myself into a sitting position against the decrepit gargoyle statue and fished out my cell phone. I punched in Detective Lang’s number and waited as it rang to the tune of Copa Cabana.
Yup, that’s right. The real reason I was trying to find out what was making the dead walk the earth was because I had been contacted by detective Jeffry Lang from the police department. Well, to be honest, he had been looking for my father, Sabastin Callina, and found me tending the shop because my father had been out rescuing a psychic bunny rabbit for an eccentric, read rich, old lady. I’d tried to tell him my dad didn’t actually let me work cases, but Detective Lang had insisted on a meeting. So I got to play grownup detective.
We’d met at the local coffee shop because he’d wanted to meet at a public place. At least that’s what he’d said. Part of me suspected that he didn’t want to be seen entering our tiny office building in the seedy part of town. It probably had something to do with the badly drawn vampire on our front window.
I had been waiting at the coffee shop in my lime green cardigan and navy skirt for over an hour on a Saturday afternoon when he showed up in a stained denim jacket, white button up that had never been ironed, and blue jeans frayed at the bottom and covered in coffee stains. There had been at least two days of stubble on his chin, and his mussed brown hair had probably not been combed in at least as many days. It was one thing to say the meeting was business casual. It was another to, well, break the word casual over your knee and suck out the juices.
He proceeded to grill me on the local graveyard, as though it was my fault, while he sipped one of those caramel mocha concoctions coffee places are known for nowadays. Between him accusing me of being both a witch and a fraud, I learned that not only was I to figure out the problem, stop it, and inform him of it in a way he could easily explain to his superiors, I was also to keep my involvement in this case on the ‘down low’ as it were. Whether that was because I was barely past my seventeenth birthday or because I was a supernatural detective remained unsaid. However, if I was to succeed and be appropriately discreet, I was assured that other cases could come my way.
Now that I had found the shambler, however, I was left with two problems… well maybe three. First, why it was here in the first place? Second, who had destroyed it? Third, think of something plausible to tell Detective Lang because I doubted he was going to tell his boss a monster had been reanimating corpses while singing in the shower.
Admittedly, part of me wanted to call him down here and show him the creature’s remains just in case he didn’t believe me, but I was pretty sure that would dry up any prospective cases that might come my way… and a girl has got to eat, and you know, buy pretty things.
The phone hit his voicemail, and I hung up and called again because it was late at night and if I was up, then he could do me the courtesy of answering the damn phone. It took four tries before he picked up.
“Hello?” a voice on the other end of the phone mumbled.
“Detective Lang?” I asked my cell phone, although I wasn’t really sure it was audible. This graveyard wasn’t known for its cell phone reception… and well, technology typically didn’t work for me anyway. My magic tended to interfere with circuits and stuff. Someone had tried to explain it to me, but it had mostly just sounded like, “blah blah blah technical stuff blah blah.”
Still, my father had insisted I do normal teenage girl things and that included owning a cell phone. Despite being the latest model, it barely worked. Half the time when I pressed the buttons, the thing would just restart itself. It made sending text messages infuriating.
“Yes? This is Lang,” said the sleepy voice from the other end.
“This is Lillim Callina, and I have two kinds of news, good and bad. The good news is I found the problem, and well, you probably won’t have any more reverse grave digging going on,” I said, hitting the buttons to make the volume increase because somehow the thing was at max, and I still couldn’t hear him very well.
“The bad news?” he asked, sounding more alert now. Apparently, my news had awoken the cop brain buried beneath his shroud of sleep. Swell.
“We likely have a bigger problem since the creature was violently destroyed by, and let me be clear here, not me,” I said as a shiver ran down my spine. The smell of ozone and charred flesh still hung heavy in the air as I stared at the blackened patch of earth that we’d be standing in just a few moments ago.
“Oh?” he asked, suspicion lacing his voice. “This isn’t one of your tricks to try and get more money, is it?”
“No, it isn’t. I’m going to try to find out who killed the creature,” I replied, glancing around the graveyard for clues, but nothing obvious jumped out at me. Which, considering I was in a graveyard that had been home to reanimated corpses, wasn’t really that bad. Still, I was worried. Something strong enough to blast the shambler to smithereens was powerful enough not only to be one ginormous pain in my ass, but probably put me in the hospital as well. I really didn’t want to think about what would have happened if the big bad shambler-destroyer had decided to target me instead.
“I don’t have the clearance for you to do that,” Lang said, voice hardening at the thought of paying me for extra hours.
“Sir, you had better get it because things are going to get a lot worse,” I said, getting up and heading back toward my bicycle. I’d tried to get a car, but my father had vetoed that because he was worried it’d stop working mid-drive and kill me. This was ridiculous because I was reasonably sure the chances of that happening were like one in a zillion.
“Before they get better?” Lang asked, and I smirked into the phone.
“No, not really,” I said and hung up on him, which yes, was a bit rude. I was really going to have to work on my phone etiquette. I sighed as I reached my bike and unlocked it. This was going to be a long day, especially since I was supposed to start school tomorrow.
Yes, that’s right. Since we were on Earth now, my father was insisting that I do normal things… like go to high school. I tried to explain that I didn’t need to go to high school since I’d technically graduated from the Dioscuri Academy, but my pleas had carried as much weight as tissue paper.
My father, Sabastin Callina, had just stared at me until I’d squirmed and given in. Now I was forced to go to a high school where I knew no one for my senior year. That sounded like a great time.
A lot of our conversations had ended with him getting his way since we’d left the floating city of Lot, the former home of the Dioscuri, a few weeks ago. It was almost like my father was trying to make up for either not being around or never having been on Earth all at once. It also meant I was not supposed to do “normal seventeen-year-old” girl things. My dad was going to have a conniption when he realized where I’d been all night.
Still, it was better than being out drinking with boys all night, right?
That was exactly what I was going to tell him as he threw open the door before I’d even gotten my key to the lock, but before I could, the look on his face made me stop cold. He stared down at me with angry eyes, one hand on his hip. He was dressed in a white t-shirt and jeans. It seemed odd because I was still getting used to seeing him out of his uniform.
“Where were you?” he growled, and a tremor ran down my spine as I backed away, hands in front of me in the universal I mean you no harm gesture.
“I was working a case,” I said, glancing down at my feet.
“You’re not supposed to be working cases, Lillim! You’re supposed to be doing normal teenage girl things,” he replied, voice so calm that it made me shiver. He took a step forward onto our porch. I knew because I could see his bare feet inches from mine. ““You have school in four hours. You can’t be tired for your first day. We came here so you could be normal, and the first thing you do is go off and work a case?”
“What does it matter anyway?” I snapped, looking up at him, my hands balled into fists. “I was fine down here before you decided to barge into my life, Dad!”
“It matters because you should live a normal life, and normal girls go to school,” he said, but his voice was to calm for it to match his words. He reached out, wrapping one arm around me, pulling me close to his body. He smelled like old pine trees and camp fires. “They do not go out in the middle of the night hunting monsters.”
I thought about pulling away, but it seemed like a petulant thing to do. I knew, deep down, he was just projecting onto me. Ever since mom died a few weeks ago, well, my dad had been extra caring. I knew he felt guilty, but realistically my rival had killed her. If anyone was to blame… it would be me.
“Don’t you even want to hear about what I found?” I asked as he led me into the house.
“No, I want you to get inside and lead a normal life,” he replied, shutting the door and bolting the lock behind us. “Is that too much to ask?”
“We’ll never have a normal life,” I mumbled as he led me toward my room. “It’s just not possible.”
“Not with that attitude,” he replied, hugging me one more time. “Not if you don’t try. Promise me you’ll try, Lillim.”
“Okay,” I said, mostly because I knew it was probably the only way he’d let me go. My father had the annoying habit of hugging me until I agreed to do what he wanted. “I’ll try.”
“Good, now get to bed before I ground you for an eternity.”