He’s a thunderbird with an attitude problem. She’s a soul eater with a sweet tooth. They fight supernatural crime!
(I’ve decided to do a series of short urban fantasy vignettes set in an alternate universe Vancouver to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This entry is based on this picture prompt at WriteWorld.)
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As Taj reluctantly contemplated the shedu’s essence, now compressed into a small metal bead between her thumb and index finger, the background music to “My Heart Will Go On” blasted through a pair of crackling speakers. She and Ru had decided to retire to a sushi dive on the east side of Powell Street in order to regroup and plan for the next demon take down. Ru had said something about dinner. Which was easy for him to say. She had to eat a demon.
“Aren’t you going to eat that?” Ru ate a piece of tuna roll as a trio of drunk businessmen at the other end of the dive warbled about their hearts on static-y microphones.
“I don’t normally eat demons. But if this doesn’t give me indigestion, they certainly will,” she replied as one of the businessmen hit a high note. At least they were sitting in a back corner booth so the noise wasn’t so loud. Her ears were still recovering from the encounter with the shedu. She grimaced and then tossed the bead into her mouth. Swallowed. She reached for the sake a second later. The alcohol warmed her throat, but it did nothing to alleviate the heaviness in her stomach. It wouldn’t take long for the demon’s powers to augment her own. “I should have said no.”
“Said no? Said no to what?”
“To your suggestion for coming here,” she said, waving a hand to indicate the sushi joint. “If you really wanted sushi, we could have gone to that new restaurant down on Robson.”
“Too fancy,” he countered. “And too many normal people there. Besides, it would be impossible for us to talk about this.” He took out his phone and started playing the recording of the shedu hissing and roaring. Most of it was drowned out by the bad karaoke, but Taj reached over anyway to stop the playback.
“Don’t be so reckless. It’s a wonder you haven’t landed on the local tabloid before now with the humans writing stories about you having alien babies or something.” She poured herself another cup of sake before finally partaking some real food. She crunched on some shrimp tempura as she took in their surroundings. Dim yellow light lit the dive which consisted of a couple worn tables and booths populated mostly by casually dressed regulars. The only concession to décor was a couple of fake bonsai trees near the entrance. “Besides, I don’t see much difference. There are normal people here, too.”
“Sure, but nobody here will bother eavesdropping on us.”
“Uh huh. Well, what about her?”
Ru turned his head in the direction that Taj had wiggled her chopsticks. A short line of patrons stood against the wall, waiting for their turn at karaoke. One of the people in line was a slim, dark haired woman in a jean jacket and extremely short shorts. At that moment, she was staring in their direction with black eyes. Her skin was pale but with a greenish tinge that marked her as one of the sea people.
He scowled. “What is she doing here?” The light rain outside suddenly became a downpour.
“You know her? Who is she?”
Instead of answering Taj, he turned back to the table and muttered, “We need more sake.”
“No, we don’t. Who is she? Is she an ex-girlfriend?”
At her words, his lips curved into a snarl. “You’re fortunate you had some justification for that incident, even if it was a stupid reason,” he said, referring to the last time they met, before Vivian Long put them on the current case. “She almost killed my brother.”
“Your brother? I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“He’s in a coma thanks to her,” he spat. He gulped down some sake. Thunder rumbled outside and the lights briefly flickered, but none of the humans noticed. “I should have struck her down on the spot when I first found out.”
“Why aren’t you striking her now?”
“Contrary to what you think, I’m not an idiot. She’s a princess. If I struck her down, I’d have the sea gods breathing down my neck for the rest of my life.”
“A princess, huh? Strange that she’s slumming it down here today.” Taj pretended to concentrate on her food, but she was aware that the woman had peeled away from the karaoke line and was heading their way. When she got to their table, she struck a pose with a hand on her hip.
“Well isn’t it a sweet coincidence?” the woman said, her smoky voice forcing them to acknowledge her presence. Her voice had a compulsion to it, similar to the Dragon Queen’s, but it was weaker. Despite the fact that the woman was a siren, Taj found it easy not to fall into her thrall. “Fancy seeing you here, Birdie.” The siren glanced at Taj and then continued with a sniff, “She doesn’t seem like your type. She seems a bit…unconventional.”
Taj merely smiled at the barb and ate another tempura shrimp.
A muscle ticked in his jaw, but his words were cool and controlled. “I’m a regular here. You, however, don’t make it a habit to visit dives. I thought you had more…refined tastes. Did your latest rich boyfriend get tired of you?”
The siren gave a brittle laugh. “Oh, you know Dave. He’s pretty busy. I’m just amusing myself here.” She took a step back and wiggled her fingers in a mock wave. In the dim light, a ring with a large blue stone flashed. Taj found herself staring at the ring. Her fingers itched. “It was so good to see you. By the way, have you found your brother’s soul yet?”
Ru’s eyes glinted. A faint, almost imperceptible sliver of smoke rose from where he clutched his chopsticks. “No.”
“Too bad. It’s such a shame.” She turned and sauntered back to her place in the karaoke line.
“Bitch,” Ru growled.
The trio of businessmen began the final stanza of their song, their voices rising in a crescendo as the background music crackled and swelled from the speakers.
The itch in Taj’s fingers intensified. Instinct had her splaying her fingers. The effects of her demon meal finally revealed themselves. Her normally keen senses jacked up and she briefly lost control of her power which called out to any lost souls in the vicinity. She forced her hands to close back into fists and shoved a lid back on her abilities. But it was too late. Several things shattered inside the dive. A woman screamed. It was the siren, clutching a broken ring.
The humans in the sushi dive went silent for a moment before erupting into cheers. They thought the glass broke because of the power of their operatic voices.
Taj stared down at her hands. Faint bluish wisps gathered into her palm and reformed into a glittering, blue gemstone. “I think I just found your brother’s soul,” she said. She hated the fact that her hands were shaking. The power that she had absorbed from the shedu was far greater than she had expected. She shoved the stone into a pocket before anyone else in the dive could see.
Ru slapped some bills onto the table and scooted out of the booth. “Come on. Let’s go before she realizes the humans didn’t actually do anything.”