Authors: Elliott Kay
Copyright 2016 Elliott Kay
Cover Illustration Copyright 2016 Lee Moyer
Cover Design Copyright 2016 Lee Moyer
Kindle Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Days of High Adventure
Life In Shadows
Poor Man’s Fight
Rich Man’s War
Dead Man’s Debt
contains explicit sex, explicit violence, explicit language, explicit use of implications, open relationships, polyamory, blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy, paganism, sorcery, portrayals of matters divine and demonic bearing little or no resemblance to established religious canon, prejudice, murder, mass murder, singular murder, alley murder, conspiracy to commit murder, regicide, treason, dismemberments, impalement, arson, defenestration, racially charged ‘Nam flashbacks, trash-talking, smuggling, mansplaining, spoiled Christmas surprises, numerous state and Federal firearms violations, organized crime, transnational crime, avian conscription, disturbances of the peace, paranoia, Doomsday preppers, illegal immigration, party fouls, public endangerment, underage drinking, human sacrifice, destruction of cell phones, false identification, consumption of alcohol, mayhem, attempted kidnapping, mass vehicular collisions, reincarnation, conspiracy to commit sexual promiscuity, threesomes, assault and battery, banditry, reverse banditry, eye-gouging, cultural misappropriation, trespassing, lies, innuendo, intrigue, foreplay under false pretenses, bribery, political corruption, spiritual corruption, misuse of military facilities, a blanket fort of ill repute, home invasion, warfare, espionage, mercenary activity, consumption of sentient beings, panhandling, lingerie, cohabitation outside of marriage, missed homework assignments, too much pizza, toxic masculinity, abbreviated sex scenes, fully descriptive sex scenes, romantic sex, casual sex, mild dom/sub play, mystic servitude, stalking, knife-throwing, weaponized alcohol, weaponized furniture, weaponized human remains, drone strikes, slavery, eternal damnation, mind control, carjacking, spitting, biting, vandalism, gossip, sexual objectification, immolations, feminist solidarity, zombie terrorists, pissy ex-boyfriends, too much information from Grandpa, and a flagrant narrative disregard for common standards of decency.
Four Years Ago
“You’re not supposed to be here, but are you more worried about demons or cops?”
“Say what?” asked the jarhead on the other side of the counter.
“Sorry,” Molly said in a tactfully lukewarm tone. “Thinking out loud. Talkin’ to myself, not you.” In any other situation, Molly would have ditched the front counter to talk to the dark-haired girl in the black hoodie and skirt on the other side of the bookstore, but her boss, Elizabeth needed Molly behind the register. That left her trapped in unwanted conversation with the only other customer in sight.
“I’ve got time to listen,” said Aaron. “You seem interesting.” He smiled at her again. She wished he’d stop doing that. She also wished she didn’t already know his name, or that he was home on leave from the Marines, or that he’d just finished his second deployment.
“I’m the girl working the cash register in a bookstore,” Molly replied.
“Pretty interesting bookstore. Pretty girl at the register. You’ve got a great style. You must be real creative.”
Molly shook her head. “No make-up. Ordinary band t-shirt.” She gestured to her spiky, fire-engine red hair. “Picked my hairstyle out of a magazine. Not terribly special. Just a girl workin’ a counter.”
Most business at the bookstore amounted to candles, statuettes, and other little trinkets of minor value. The real goods that Elizabeth sold didn’t get holiday markdowns. Customers who came for them usually went straight to the owner rather than browsing the shelves. Elizabeth had several such customers in the back room behind the counter now. They’d left Aaron out here with Molly, and he’d been trying to chat her up ever since.
“We both know you’re more than that,” said Aaron. “You’re a Practitioner.”
Molly’s eyes met his, though she wasn’t sure what to say. The fact that Elizabeth had pulled his buddies into the back room for a private conversation told her they were all Practitioners. She’d suspected as much of Aaron, but she hadn’t expect him to bring it up. Molly never expected anyone to bring it up.
Aaron attempted to keep his smile humble. He failed. “I’m more than just a Marine,” he said. “Never worried about getting blown away on deployment. I’ve got some tricks for that sort of trouble.” He winked.
Molly held off an eyeroll. “That’s great.”
“So I’m thinking we’ve got at least that in common,” he said.
“It’s not much in common.”
“Seems like a lot to me. But how do you know unless you find out?”
“Not terribly curious,” said Molly.
“Aw c’mon, I’m being friendly. Give it a shot, you might like it. Maybe try smiling a little? Might brighten your day.”
Molly clenched one fist behind the counter. She didn’t know how serious Elizabeth’s business with his companions was. They all looked like they’d come in off a hunting trip in the woods, but back room meetings were only for serious customers. Elizabeth didn’t like offending fellow Practitioners, either. She put a high priority on polite relations and cooperation, if not friendliness.
Though Molly had every right to throw him out of the store, her boss might not appreciate it. She also didn’t know what she’d do if he wouldn’t leave.
“Look, let’s try again,” he said. “Hi, I’m Aaron, and you are…?”
“She’s the cashier.”
Molly and Aaron both blinked. The girl in the hoodie stood nearby, staring at him with big blue eyes.
“Yeah, obviously,” Aaron replied. “Do you need to pay for something?”
“No,” said the girl. Her voice was soft, feminine, and not at all timid. She kept staring.
“Hi,” Molly spoke up, brightening a little with the distraction. “Can I help you find anything?”
“No,” the girl replied.
“So what’s up?” Aaron asked.
“Nothing,” said the girl. She kept staring at him.
Aaron’s lips pursed with a question. For once, he seemed at a loss for words. “No, really, what’s up?”
“Then why are you looking at me like that?”
The girl didn’t speak.
“You’re hella cute underneath that hood and stuff. What’s your name?” Aaron asked with an ingratiating smile.
No response. Aaron’s smile faded.
“Are you gonna stand there and stare all day?” He waited. She said nothing. Aaron turned to Molly. “Can you do something about her?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Molly answered. “She’s not bothering anyone.”
“She’s bothering me.”
He pointed at the girl. “She’s fucking staring at me, obviously.”
“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you not to use that kind of language in the store,” said Molly.
He made a face. “What the fuck?”
“Sir, again, please watch your language. This is a family establishment.”
“It’s a fuckin’ occult bookstore full of books about demons and shit.”
“I’m a minor,” noted the girl in black.
“Yeah, see?” Molly asked. “The language isn’t okay.”
me,” he pressed.
Molly looked from one to the other and shook her head. “I don’t see how.”
?” he fumed, looking at the girl again. “What do you want?”
“I want to see how you handle unwanted attention,” she answered, and kept staring.
“What the hell are you even—is this some kind of joke?” Aaron shifted his attention back to Molly. “Is this how you treat customers?”
“We maintain a welcoming environment for everyone, sir.” Molly gestured to the bookshelves around the floor. “You’re free to browse if you like.”
He pointed to the girl in black. “Don’t you maintain the right to refuse service to anyone?”
“That’s a good point,” said Molly. “Please step outside, sir.”
“What the fuck? Not me, her!” he shouted.
“She’s not doing anything, sir. You’re raising your voice and you’ve ignored my request to curb your language three times now. Please step outside.”
“I’ll leave when my dad and the others come out of there!” Aaron snapped, his finger now pointing to the door behind Molly.
“You can wait for them right outside the door, sir.” She gestured toward the entrance, where tall windows lined either side of the door. Rain fell on the cars parked along the curbside immediately past the glass. “I’m sorry, but you’re making my customers uncomfortable.”
“Deeply,” said the other girl.
“This is bullshit!” He looked to the girl in the hoodie. “Why the fuck are you causing a scene, anyway?”
“I’m causing a scene by standing here?”
Molly thought fast. This wasn’t a situation Elizabeth would want. She couldn’t afford to get into trouble with her boss. Then, as Aaron pointed at the other girl, Molly noticed the globe and anchor tattooed on his wrist…and wondered if he might not have a similar problem.
“Hey, Aaron,” she spoke up thoughtfully, “you said you’re gonna be posted as a recruiter near here, right?”
“So if I talked to some Marines in another recruiting office and asked about a recruiter named Aaron, how hard do you think it’d be for them to figure out who you are?”
Aaron blinked. “What?”
“I’m wondering how much trouble a Marine gets into for harassing a couple of women in a civilian store,” said Molly.
“Or if they want to hear about you being in a store like this one,” noted the other girl.
Molly leaned forward on the counter. “You don’t happen to have a magic spell for dealing with
sort of trouble, do you?”
Aaron worked his jaw as if thinking up a retort, but all he could muster was, “Fine. Bitches.” He stomped to the exit, threw the door open and then turned to slam it shut in his wake. His manly display was thwarted by the pressurized arm on top of the door that ensured a slow, steady closure.
Basking in victory, Molly shared a triumphant grin with the girl in the hoodie—who soon lowered her head and moved back to the bookshelves.
don’t be shy now! C’mon!
She opened her mouth to summon the girl back, but stopped when she heard shouting from the closed door behind her.
“—gonna come crashing down someday soon, and you know it!” came a muffled, male voice. “The only rational thing to do is to prepare, not stick your head in the sand!”
Any reply was too quiet to hear. Elizabeth was like that. Molly knew she wouldn’t be loud. The boss wouldn’t be intimidated, either. Molly pulled her verawood wand from the shelf under the counter. Her heartbeat picked up as she considered what might happen if things got ugly. She wouldn’t let Elizabeth face a fight alone.
Her eyes flicked up toward the lone customer. The girl had her back to Molly, standing at the bookshelves again, but her head was turned sideways as if she was listening.
“You’ve been around since the First World War!” shouted the man. “You’ve seen what’s coming. And you know how to contact the other side! You could help!”
, Leon,” came a faintly accented feminine voice. Molly’s eyes widened. What had he done to get Elizabeth to raise her voice? “You will leave now.”
“We’re not leaving until we—nngh!”
Molly had heard enough. She threw the door open with her wand at the ready. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of lethal weapons held by angry men, but almost as quickly as she recognized the threat, she saw that it was already under control.
Elizabeth stood at the head of the small table. All three of her furious guests sat with pistols drawn—and pointed at one another. Not one of them visibly threatened Molly’s boss.
Though her face showed some wrinkles and other signs of age, Elizabeth looked much younger than Leon’s accusation would indicate. Her hair was brown and rich, and her comfortable green dress kept up with current fashion. Elizabeth held her arms out to either side, arched fingers maintaining her spell without the aid of a wand. Her Belgian accent came through stronger than normal as she asked, “Molly, are you watching the other one?”
“Other?” Molly blinked, then stepped back through the door to look to the window. Aaron stood right outside, puffing away angrily on a cigarette. He looked up. Molly forced herself to stand casually where he could see her. “He’s outside,” she replied. “We’re good.” She wondered if she looked or sounded even remotely convincing. Guns were as far out of her experience as the level of magic Elizabeth now demonstrated.
“You really want it this way?” one of the “guests” asked through gritted teeth. He wore a padded green camouflage coat, a matching ball cap, and mirrored sunglasses. His handlebar mustache twitched angrily as he spoke. “You really wanna be on our bad side when it all comes down?”
“I think I will be fine, Leon,” said Elizabeth. “If you truly understood the nature of divinations, you would know that no Practitioner can predict World War III, or Armageddon, or whatever disaster you and your playmates think is coming.”
“It already came!” protested one of Leon’s companions. His hand shook as he kept his gun trained at Leon’s head. “That’s what I’m tryin’ to tell you!”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “This one is fixated on either the Mayan calendar or Y2K,” she muttered to Molly. “I cannot remember.”
“It’s all connected!” the man asserted.
“Shut up, Dutch,” growled Leon.
Elizabeth sighed. “He is not actually Dutch. I would know.”
“You think this is funny?” Leon snarled.
“I must,” said Elizabeth. “If I do not laugh at your silly paranoia, I will cry. I do not wish to be sad today.”
“What the fuck kinda spell is this?” demanded the third man. “God damn it, let us go! It ain’t right, takin’ control of someone’s body!”
“No, but threatening me with violence is somehow acceptable?” Elizabeth gracefully flicked her wrists. In unison, the three men pressed the magazine releases of their guns, dropping each weapon’s clip onto the table. Not one of them turned his gun from the other in the process.
Elizabeth stood over them looking like a disapproving aunt. “I know enough about guns to remember you each still have one bullet ready to fire. I am also well-versed in self-defense. I have nothing to fear from guns. But should you approach me again with another pathetic threat and harm some innocent along the way, you will pay dearly.
“Listen to me carefully, gentlemen,” she went on. “I will not aid you in your preparations for the end of civilization. I will not side with you against our fellow Practitioners. I will not join in your paranoid quest for power. I will absolutely not help you contact the ‘other side,’ nor should I have to explain what a stupid notion that is. Try these things at your own peril. You may find success in such foolishness is not to your liking. But I shall not be involved.
“Go back to the mountains. You are no longer welcome in my store. Any of you. I will not sell you so much as a pencil. If you or the rest of your circle darken my door again, I will not be this gentle. Do you understand?”