Storm Chasers – Entry #2

by syaffolee

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.)

* * *

The trail went cold at a bus stop near Granville Island. The shedu Taj had been tracking had either managed to disguise itself and get on one of the buses or it had found a host. Both possibilities made her job much harder.

She shook her head in frustration and decided to head to the Granville market to grab something to eat before figuring out what to do next. Back at the museum, she and Ru had discovered that the statue had held seven demons and not just one. And all seven of them were loose somewhere in the city. With just the two of them, they decided to split up to find two of them at a time.

Locals and tourists crowded the market, mostly humans unaware of the other beings watching and possibly preying on them. Taj had little interest in them as she made her way through the throng and toward the pier. Only the dead and dying had anything to fear from her. Once at the pier, it only took her a moment to spot the small stand at the edge of the food court. Jess, one of Taj’s numerous cousins, owned “Three Point Sweets” along with her business partners Ed and Amy.

Today, all three of them were dressed like time travelers from the 1950s. Taj spotted Ed at the back of the stand stirring a large bowl of dough for the next batch of pastries. His homage to the Fonz was spoiled by the fact that he had on an orange apron over his costume. Amy, busy restocking the display case, wore a bright blue poodle skirt. Jess manned the cash register wearing a delightfully retro black and white strappy dress. Her cousin’s caramel curls were pulled back into a ponytail which bounced every time she gave a customer a red-lipped smile. Taj could tell that her cousin was working her mojo to lure the customers in—Jess fairly glowed like dark fire in the afternoon light.

As she neared the stand, she heard the latest customer in line—a young human male with baggy jeans and a baseball cap facing the wrong way—brashly ask Jess for her phone number. Jess simply grinned and chirped “Of course!” before reeling off a string of numbers which he dutifully punched into his mobile. Taj’s lips involuntarily twitched. She recognized the phone number. It was for the local feminist intervention hotline.

A moment later, Jess looked up and waved her over. “Taj! Just the person I wanted to see! Hey Amy, could you take over for a sec?”

“Sure thing,” replied her business partner.

Taj met Jess on the other side of the counter where her cousin promptly shoved a paper plate containing four triangles of baklava layered meticulously with filo, nuts, and honey into her hands. “Eat,” Jess commanded.

“Is that all?” she replied, amused. She popped one piece of baklava into her mouth and slowly chewed. Jess and her partners viewed Taj as the perfect guinea pig due to her cast iron stomach. Nothing fazed her, not even evil souls. Taj, on the other hand, was perfectly fine with bumming off free delicious food from her relatives and friends. “Pistachio,” she finally said after swallowing. “And something flowery. It’s good.”

“Ed added in some rosewater,” Jess explained. “People will think it’s extra fancy so we can do a markup.”

“Mercenary.”

“Exactly. We were also planning to make some for Auntie Bastet’s birthday party this Saturday.” But then Jess leaned closer as she ate another pastry. “So, what brings you here before lunch time? You almost never visit us before noon.”

“A case.” Taj glanced around to see if any of the humans were paying attention to them. They weren’t, but she didn’t take any chances. She lowered her voice to frequencies below human hearing and briefly summarized the situation with the shedu. “I lost the trail near here. I suspect it probably hopped on a bus to hide its tracks, but there’s a possibility it’s here in the market, too. If you see or sense anything weird, call me.”

Jess nodded. “I’ll call if there’s anything weird at the market. But if worse comes to worse, Ed, Amy, and I can take down a tank if we need to.”

“Jess, I’m not kidding. These are demons, not tanks. You’ll be foolish to think that…” Taj’s phone buzzed, interrupting her. She glanced down at the screen and involuntarily let out a sigh.

“Who is it?” her cousin asked. “Is it your boss, Mrs. Long? Does she have more information about the case?”

“No. It’s…my partner. Apparently he has more luck than I do. I need to go meet him to check out the latest lead.”

“Partner?” said Jess, confused. “I thought you worked alone.”

“I did. Mrs. Long put us both on the case.” She shoved her phone back into her jacket pocket. “Look, I’ve got to go. Your new baklava recipe has my approval. And before you ask, yes, I’ll be at Auntie Bastet’s birthday party if the city isn’t being wrecked by a bunch of homicidal demons in the meantime. I hope you don’t have any more questions.”

“Nope,” Jess smiled. “Just have fun and kick some demon butt!”

Taj only gave her cousin a tight smile in return. Judging from the text message that Ru sent her, fun was going to be the last thing she would be having.

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