Before we get back to Rogue Walker (working title), I want to touch on a couple of things. First, I have a review of The White Pill by Michael Malice up at Victory Girls Blog this morning. Whether you like Malice’s politics or not, I recommend this book. It’s an easy read and presents a lot to think about. Second, as you’ve probably gathered, this is a light blogging week. Nothing’s wrong. I just have a ton of various appointments to deal with this week. So I’ll be posting the snippets but I don’t know if I’ll be doing any other posts. This is, of course, subject to change–not the bit about the snippets but the rest of it. And now on to the snippet. As I’ve said before the others (and you can find the last one here. I’ll set up a tab for them on the blog later), these snippets are in their raw form. They haven’t been edited at all, so there will be changes as we get closer to publication. Also, all copyright protections apply. Now for the next installment.
The heady strains of heavy metal music and incense greeted me as I pushed open the door. As I stepped inside, six heads turned in my direction: four human (or as human as anyone living in this part of town happened to be) and two canine. One of those canines looked at me with surprisingly bright golden eyes. That told me all I needed to know. Not lycan but a shapeshifter of some flavor. Well, I’d leave him alone so long as he left me alone.
One of the “humans” sat on a stool behind the glass case where an ancient cash register rested. Inside the cases rested merchandise celebrating Razor’s Tats and Mods. At his other shops, the meaning would be clear: tattoos and body modifications. Here, however, they took on a different meaning. Razor was a master at crafting spells into amulets, drawings and so many other things most folks would never take a second look at. While some of his spells were offensive, it was his defensive expertise I needed just then.
“He’s expecting you, Sam.” The dark-haired young man behind the counter pushed a lock of hair behind one pointed ear.
I nodded at the elf, trying not to frown. The fact Red let Razor know I was coming only confirmed how worried my boss happened to be.
“Sam, come and tell me what you need.”
Roberto “Razor” Pantoja excused himself from the others and motioned me forward. As he did, I dipped my chin but stayed where I was. I knew him. Too well, some might say. I also knew Aras Silverthorn, the elf manning the cash register. I did not know the other two sitting at the rear of the shop with Razor and I knew pretty much everyone in this zone. With Gemma’s warning to Red fresh in mind, I didn’t plan on taking any chances.
Razor’s eyes narrowed and then widened in sudden understanding. Almost instantly, he drew himself up to his full height of almost five feet six inches. He reached up and smoothed a hand over his dark brown hair. As he did, I winced inwardly, making a mental note not to shake that hand until he wiped all the hair product off of it. Then he motioned for the two men to stand.
“Welcome to my shop, Enforcer. Allow me to introduce you to my cousins, Carlos and Antony Patoja. They have come from their home in Sao Paolo on family business and to pass along information you may be interested in.
“Cousins, this is Tribunal Enforcer, Samantha Walker. You will treat her with respect. She is a friend and is always welcome in my shop.”
Unspoken was the threat that he would deal with them for any perceived insult or threat before I could. Interesting. So was the way he introduced us. I suddenly had a feeling this Monday morning had become even worse—and that was saying something considering the summons to see Gemma.
I nodded to each of them. We didn’t shake hands. That might be an insult in human society but in para society, it was normal. Too much could be told about a person by a touch. Too much could be stolen through the transfer of DNA. The danger of a transferred spell or potion outweighed what normals would view as common courtesy.
“Come, Sam. We can discuss what brings you here this fine morning in my office. Aras will keep my cousins company.”
The elf smiled, making no attempt to hide his very sharp and pointy teeth. That one action revealed exactly what he and Razor wanted. It was a warning he wasn’t one of the gentle elves that would do no harm. Far from it. Aras most closely resembled the Dökkálfar, the dark elves of Norse mythology. More interesting was the fact the warning was aimed at Razor’s cousins. For whatever reason, he didn’t trust them and that set off all sorts of mental alarms.
I made a quick decision, yet another I hoped didn’t backfire on me.
“Gentlemen, you are welcome in the DFW-area zone as long as you obey the rules. I assure you it wouldn’t be wise to go afoul of your cousin.” I nodded respectfully in Razor’s direction. “And trust me, you do not want to run afoul of me.”
The two paled, not easy when one’s complexion is as dark as theirs, before assuring me they understood. Good. I really didn’t have the time or the inclination with two idiots foolish enough to push me. Not this morning.
“Come, Sam, and you can tell me what brings you to my shop this fine morning.” He motioned me inside his office and then closed the door.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt, Razor.”
I watched as his fingers drew a series of sigils in the air. A moment later, I sensed more than felt the slight change in the air I’d learned to recognize. He’d just ensured whatever we said could not be heard beyond the office walls.
“You didn’t interrupt, Sam.” He waved me to a seat and moved to pour out coffee from a carafe resting on his desk. Before handing me one of the heavy earthenware mugs, he waved a hand over it, a look of concentration crossing his expression. Then steam wafted from the mug, the coffee heated to the proper temperature. “I was going to contact you later today, after I made a few calls about why my cousins showed up on my doorstep last night.”
“Trouble?” Nothing else explained his expression or worry darkening his aura.
“Perhaps. If what they had to say is true, most definitely. But I know my cousins.” He gave an almost bitter laugh. “I know my family. There is a reason I left Sao Paulo so long ago.”
“So you’ve said.” He’d never told me why he left home and came north when he was still a teen. But he’d said enough to know he felt he had no other choice and that was enough for me. At least until the reasons impacted our people here. “I take it that concern is why you introduced me as you did.”
He nodded. Then he grinned and spread his hands in front of him. “It was also to warn them not to try to get in your pants. My cousins are, shall we say, rather full of themselves.”
“Unlike you.” I grinned, reminding him of our first meeting when I’d threatened to cut off his dick if he didn’t put it back in his pants.
“Most definitely, my friend. I knew you would cut off my dick and probably try to feed it to me. They wouldn’t and my dear aunt and uncle would be most upset to learn they would never be grandparents. Not that Tio Benício hasn’t threatened to do exactly that more than once after having to bail them out of trouble of their own making.” His hazel eyes sparkled with humor before he sobered. “Now, tell me why you’ve come.”
I’ll post the rest of the scene Friday. For now, forgive any weird formatting artifacts I might have missed. I wound up needing to use Google Docs while writing this section and then downloaded as a DOCX file. I didn’t notice the oddities until I pasted over here. Now to make sure I catch them all on the Word file before moving forward. Gah.
Featured image created using Midjourney AI.