Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
Jimmy Black and Greg Knightwood investigate a series of assaults plaguing the
alleys of Charlotte, North Carolina. The string
of hate crimes becomes personal when Jimmy’s just-maybe-main-squeeze Detective
Sabrina Law’s cousin is attacked.
Helping a lady out could get
the boys killed when they end up in Faerie. Before long, they’re up to their
butts in trolls, dark fae and a grand battle royale. The odds are against them, but to the boys,
this is just another day on the night shift—if the night shift included a steel
cage match of supernaturals.
A vampire and a cop walk into a bar...
I so wish that was a joke instead of my
agenda for the evening, but we really were pulling into a bar parking lot.
There were a lot of Harleys lined up out front of the club, and while that’s
usually a good sign for me, this wasn’t my usual hangout. My comfort level was
already low—this visit wasn’t my idea, and my escort for the evening was
Detective Sabrina Law, the exceptionally attractive investigator for the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department who had helped me save the world from
plunging into Hell a couple of months ago. And, until today, I hadn’t heard
from her after our bout of hero-for-hire. Not so much as a peep for eight weeks
and four days, not that I was counting.
I looked around the parking lot, taking note of the still-running
limo parked at the front door and the click-click-click of the cooling
Harley engines parked behind it, and pulled my coat tight around me against the
January chill. I didn’t feel the cold—vampires don’t feel cold, but nerves
about whatever mess Sabrina had gotten me into were giving me a chill or two. I
took a deep breath, held out my arm for my "date,” and started across the
asphalt toward our oh-so-sleazy destination.
The strip club formerly known as Heaven on Earth had been renamed
Fallen Angel’s when the last proprietor got his express ticket back to heaven
punched. The apostrophe was in the correct place on the sign, but nobody knew
that outside a select few supernatural types. Phil, the last owner, had really
been a fallen angel, and Lilith, the immortal whatever-she-was who took over
Phil’s business operations when he left, had a wicked sense of humor. And a
wicked sense of everything else.
When Phil had been around, the club had been pretty upscale as
strip clubs went. A strict dress code had meant that Greg Knight, my partner in
Black Knight Investigations, and I’d had to do laundry whenever we were on
surveillance there. Under the previous management there had been more luxury
cars in the parking lot than pickup trucks, and the girls had looked like
they’d stepped off the pages of Playboy. Phil’s attention to detail had
helped set the tone, garnered the "classy” strip club customers.
More than the name changed when Phil left the place in Lilith’s
unwilling hands. Apparently the original "other woman” had lost a bet to Phil,
chaining her to his business interests for five hundred years. I was around
when Lilith figured that out, and she hadn’t been happy. So she had surrounded
herself with people more to her liking, which meant that Fallen Angel’s catered
to a slightly different clientele than it had when it was Heaven on Earth.
I looked at the bar and then the woman who’d be going inside with
me. One of these things is not like the other. Detective Sabrina Law was
going to stick out like a banana in a smokehouse, a fact that I tried to
impress upon her when she showed up in my bedroom, yanking me from a
particularly pleasant and very specific dream featuring her, a case of whipped
cream, and three Daleks. Don’t ask.
She shook me awake and waved her badge in my face, leaving me no
doubt that I’d been talking in my sleep again, and that she’d heard me. She
wasn’t smiling when she looked down at me and said, "I need to see Lilith.
You’re going with.”
I wasn’t really any happier, because my best friend, roommate,
fellow vampire and business partner chose that exact moment to barge in without
so much as a knock on my suddenly revolving bedroom door.
Greg wore kneepads, a gas mask and an apron that said "Bite the
Chef” with little cartoon fangs on a yellow smiley face. He topped off the
outfit with elbow-length welder’s gloves and thick rubber boots. Greg looked at
me, then at Sabrina, held his toilet brush high above his head and announced in
a muffled voice, "Bathroom’s clean! We got a case! Be ready in a jiff!” Then he
turned and waddled off into his bedroom to change out of his haz-mat gear and
into his crime-fighting costume. An actual crime-fighting costume.
I watched my portly partner not close the door behind him and
looked up at Sabrina. "Since you’re obviously not here for a social call, you
wanna wait for me in the den? There’s beer in the fridge.” I grabbed the corner
of my sheet and started to sit up to get dressed.
Sabrina’s eyes widened, and she turned to the door. "I’ll be
waiting. Don’t screw around, this one’s important.”
Like the last one wasn’t? Like a case where we saved Charlotte
from becoming a literal Hell on Earth, wasn’t important? I threw on a pair of
jeans and a faded X-Men T-shirt, and a few minutes later we were rolling to
Greg and I looked over the crime scene photos on the way to the
club, and we agreed with Sabrina’s instincts—it looked like there was a
supernatural baddy running around Charlotte, and the best place to start looking
was with Lilith. I kept trying to talk Sabrina out of coming inside as we
pulled into the parking lot, but for a human, she was really, really obstinate.
I was crammed into the backseat of Greg’s Pontiac GTO and really
looking forward to getting out of the car. "Please don’t stare at anyone, or
anything. Just keep your eyes on the floor, or on the girls. That’s usually
safe. This isn’t like the clubs you’re used to visiting.”
"I don’t frequent many strip clubs, Jimmy, but I think I can
handle myself,” she said.
"No, you probably can’t. Leave the badge and the guns here. Greg
will keep the car running in case we need to make a quick getaway. The back
door is to the left-hand side of the stage. It opens right out onto Morehead
Street. If things get ugly, we hit the back door running. We’ll cross the
bridge on Morehead and meet Greg in the Time Warner building parking lot. You
good with that, partner?”
Greg nodded. "Got it. I don’t like that place.”
"I don’t either, but we gotta talk to Lilith,” I replied. "If
everything goes well, we should be out in fifteen minutes.”
"And if it doesn’t go well?” Greg asked.
"Keep the car running.”
Greg shifted into neutral, and Sabrina and I got out of the car.
She put her Smith & Wesson .40 service weapon in the glove box, along with
a revolver she wore strapped to one ankle. I tossed my Glock 17 into the
backseat, then followed it with a Ruger LCP in an ankle holster of my own. I
reached under my jacket and stripped off a belt with two daggers in it, then
unfastened the Velcro sheaths from my forearms and tossed those knives into the
backseat as well.
I turned to see Sabrina staring at me. "What?”
"Nothing.” She shook her head and turned to go into the club. We
walked across the parking lot, and I watched Greg pull out onto the street. He
turned right at the corner and drove a couple of blocks to the cable company
parking lot. It was about a quarter-mile sprint from the back door of Fallen
Angel’s to the car, and I really hoped we wouldn’t have to test my legs.
A pair of behemoths that looked like former NFL linebackers
flanked the entrance, and one opened the door for Sabrina as we approached.
"Serious bouncers,” she whispered.
"Those weren’t the bouncers,” I said. "Those were just the
doormen. The bouncers are inside.”
We walked down a narrow hallway that was only dark if you were
human. I could see the video cameras following our every move, and the two-way
mirror along one wall. The hallway opened into a largish reception area with a
dark wood desk in the center of the room. A small human woman sat behind it at
a computer, a pretty blonde with not quite enough makeup to hide the bruise on
Sabrina stiffened at the sight of the girl, and I put a hand on
her elbow. I moved past Sabrina and put two twenties on the desk. "James Black
and guest. I believe I’m on the approved list.”
The girl smiled at me and tapped on the keyboard. "You are, sir.
Enjoy your evening.”
"Thank you.” I stepped past the desk and a huge creature came
forward from its hiding spot in the shadows of the room. It was about seven
feet tall, looked to weigh about three hundred pounds of solid, blue-skinned
muscle and had curling ram horns on top of its nominally human-looking face.
"Spread ‘em,” the ogre growled.
I held my arms outstretched obligingly, and it patted me down
professionally. If the TSA hired ogres to do security, not only would they find
anything people tried to smuggle onboard, nobody would ever complain. To their
Sabrina stepped up and looked at the ogre. "Do you have any female
security guards? I’d feel more comfortable with a woman patting me down. You
understand, don’t you?”
I stared at the floor, giving it everything I had to keep from
laughing. The ogre looked down at the smiling detective and growled, "I am female.
Now spread ‘em.”
I failed miserably at holding myself together and cracked up at
the expression on Sabrina’s face. She gave me a look that would have killed a
living man and submitted to the frisking. A few more seconds, and we walked
into the main body of the club.
Lilith had spared no expense in redecorating the club into some
kind of strange blend between a biker bar and an H.R. Giger painting. The comfy
leather couches were still along the walls, and there were several girls in
various stages of undress writhing on men in something resembling time to the
thumping bassline that pounded through the building. But the nice cabaret
tables and chairs scattered throughout the room were gone, replaced by what
looked like vintage Waffle House furnishings.
The clientele had taken a marked shift in focus as well. The
bankers in suits and businessmen entertaining out-of-town clients were gone,
replaced with biker types and burned-out rock n’ roll roadies. But the part
that had Sabrina’s head on a swivel was the collection of monsters on display.
There were ogres, a couple of weres of various species, a lizard-thing that I
didn’t know what the hell it was, and half a dozen variations of human
magic-users, including a skinny dude sitting in a corner with a leather duster
and a glowing staff. I gave him a long look, then turned away before I offended
him. He could pull off the leather duster look. I never managed.
Another ogre stood just inside the door, the universal plain black
T-shirt of bouncers everywhere stretched across the enormous azure landscape of
his chest. He handed me a small sheet of paper.
"House rules,” he grumbled.
I looked at the paper. That’s exactly what was printed across the
top of the page—House Rules. I read through them quickly, just to see if there
was something about interrogating the other patrons on there, but they were
basic strip club rules. Don’t touch the dancers, pay for the dances or have
your arms broken, blood rituals limited to the Champagne Room, no dark magic in
public areas—the kind of thing you see everywhere. I folded it up and put it in
my back pocket.
"Bad idea,” the ogre grumbled.
I looked up at him, not understanding.
"Paper’s magic. Burns up if you take it out of here. Burn your ass
off. Might hurt.”
I nodded and pulled the paper out of my pocket.
I handed it to him. "Why not give this to the next guy, then?”
He nodded and put the sheet back in the stack he was holding.
I led Sabrina to the bar that ran along the far wall of the club.
The bar was the least populated section of the place, unless you count the
strippers taking a break and the token crazy old dude that sits at the end of
every strip club bar in America.
There was a brass rail following the curve of the bar up on the
ceiling, and a slightly overweight girl was walking around the bar, shaking her
shimmy in the zip code of the beat and trying to walk in her ridiculous heels.
I did give her credit for her shoes, which spent a lot of time at eye level.
I’d never seen stripper shoes with actual fish in them before, but she had a
little tiny goldfish swimming around in each heel. She wore a frilly little
miniskirt and a lacy white thong, and one garter full of dollar bills.
I motioned for her to come over, and when she knelt in front of
me, I slowly slid a five into her garter. She leaned in to give me a kiss, and
I shook my head. I leaned up and whispered in her ear, "There’s five bucks. Now
go away. I want to drink.”
Her eyes went wide, then narrowed to slits, and she stood up and
flounced over to the crazy old guy and started giving him all her best moves.
There were two of them—moves, that is. There was a shimmy, and there was a
bounce. Neither of them were terribly impressive, but I’d done my job. She was
out of the way.
The music was thankfully a little lower at the bar, so I could
almost hear myself think as I leaned across the damp wood surface and ordered
two Miller Lites. The bartender was ridiculously hot, as was often the case in
clubs of this nature. The women you most want to see naked are not the women who
take their clothes off for money. This woman was about five-three, maybe a
hundred twenty pounds, with dark brown hair streaked with pink and purple
falling straight halfway down her back. Her shredded Metallica T-shirt was cut
low enough in the cleavage and high enough around the waist that I wondered if
the cuts would meet in the middle and give me a better look at the black bra
playing peekaboo with the night air.
I slid the bartender a twenty and she gave me back eight bucks and
two beers. I slid that over to her and said, "We need to see Lilith.”
"Not for eight bucks.”
"The eight bucks was just to get your attention.”
"My attention costs more than eight bucks, too.” She turned away
and took drink orders from a couple of guys at the other end of the bar.
Sabrina elbowed me and pointed to a skinny redheaded guy at the end of the bar.
The bartender said something to him too quiet for even me to hear, and he
vanished down a hallway. A few minutes later she came back to me and gave me
and Sabrina a long look.
"What’s with the cop?”
"She’s with me. We need to see Lilith.”
"Lil’s not here.”
"Bullshit. If she wasn’t here you wouldn’t have sent a message
back to her with the skinny ginger. You would have played dumb and tried to get
more money out of me. But she told you to send us back without telling you who
we are, and that drives you nuts, because you’re used to knowing what’s going
on, but Lilith doesn’t trust her underlings with shit. Now, you want to keep
playing games, or do you want to get your head out of your ass and maybe save
your job in the process?”
The bartender turned about eight shades of pale, then flushed deep
crimson. "I hate vampires. You bastards can hear a fly fart a mile away.”
"You don’t have to be a vampire, or a detective, to see you sent
Ginger back to the back, sweetie,” Sabrina said. "Now why don’t you go get
Lilith like a good girl, and you and I won’t have to have a conversation about
the vial of coke in your bra.”
I followed Sabrina’s gaze and noticed a little lump in the
bartender’s cleavage that I’d completely overlooked before. I was paying
attention to other things. Like her eyes.
"Lil will kick my ass if I take strangers back there—”
I cut her off. "I know Lilith. And I’ve got a pretty good idea
what she’ll do to you if she ever heard you call her Lil. So be a good girl,
get me another beer, on the house, and tell me which one of those dickweeds
over there is going to take us back to Lilith.”
She reached into the cooler and handed me a brown bottle of beery
goodness, then pointed to the little ginger guy.
I walked over to him, Sabrina in tow, and said, "Let’s go see the
He turned and led us through the Champagne Room, where several
dancers were gyrating in g-strings on humans, ogres, a werewolf in half wolf
form and a couple of creatures that I didn’t recognize. I followed the official
etiquette of strip clubs and didn’t look too closely at another dude’s lap
dance. I kept my eyes on our guide, who I quickly realized had hooves instead
of feet, and a lot of hair poking out of the legs of his jeans.
"Are you a faun?” I asked when we got through the VIP lounge and
he opened an unmarked door to the office area.
He spun around and looked up at me, his face flashing red. "I am
a satyr. These are deer hooves, you city-bred moron, not goat hooves. And I am
not some cuddly little Narnian shithead to be swayed from my queen by an
apple-cheeked human girl. Satyrs are loyal.”
I made a quick mental note to find out if Narnia was real. If it
was, Greg would be thumping around in every closet in North Carolina for the
next hundred years. "Yeah, from what I hear satyrs are loyal to whoever can get
them laid the most.”
"Sounds like human loyalty, then. Come on.” The satyr turned and
led me down a familiar hallway.
The hall ran behind the real VIP rooms, where things the cops
weren’t supposed to know about went on. When Phil ran the place, he kept stuff
pretty above board. I didn’t expect Lilith to follow that tradition. Mr. Tumnus
led us to another unmarked door and knocked.
I looked at Sabrina and said, "Please, let me handle this.”
Of course, her only response was to shove me and Mr. Tumnus out of
the way and open the door, stepping into Lilith’s office without waiting for an
invitation. I shook my head and followed, hoping I’d brought enough ammo.
Lilith was sitting behind the desk facing a wall of video screens.
From what I could tell, there wasn’t an inch of the club except the bathroom
stalls that wasn’t being constantly recorded. The images flickered on and off
the screens almost faster than my eye could follow. Lilith seemed to have no
problem following all the action, yet another indication that she wasn’t quite
human. Well, that and the fact that as Adam’s first wife, she was something
like eleventy bajillion years old.
She stood up when we stepped through the door and turned to face
us. She was dressed in a porno producer’s idea of business casual, a black
miniskirt that was illegal in at least seven states and three Canadian
provinces, a tight white dress shirt unbuttoned to her navel over a lacy black
bra that showed through with every breath, and a pair of thick black-rimmed
secretary glasses. Her jet-black hair was pulled back into a tight bun with a
couple of strands artfully loosened.
Lilith came around the desk and gave me a hug that was as much lap
dance as anything going on in the Champagne Room, a full-body hug that oozed
her lushness all over my body. I put my arms around her and patted her back
awkwardly, trying to minimize contact with the woman who was molding herself to
my every angle like spray insulation. When she decided she had me sufficiently
off my game, she glided past me and wrapped her arms around Sabrina, burying
her fingers in the detective’s brown curls and pulling Sabrina’s face down to
Sabrina shocked me by grabbing the immortal’s bun with one hand
and bending her over backward. My brain shut down as she pressed her lips to
Lilith’s and kissed her thoroughly, wrapping her free arm around the other
woman’s back and pulling Lilith hard to her. They kissed for a long minute,
then Sabrina straightened up, leaving Lilith panting. Sabrina turned and walked
to the bar, poured herself two fingers of scotch and took a seat in one of the
chairs opposite the desk.
I collapsed into the other one, staring at her.
She gave me a little wink and looked up at Lilith. "Nice to see
you again, Lilith. How’ve you been?”
The immortal woman straightened and glared at the ginger satyr,
who was still standing in the open doorway. "Why are you here, idiot?”
He paled and backed out of the door, pulling it closed behind him.
Lilith walked slowly back to her desk chair and sat, then switched
off the monitors with the press of one button and turned to face us. "Lovely to
see you again, Detective Law. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect that level of welcome
from you. But I enjoyed it.” She almost purred the last bit as she leaned
forward on her desk and steepled her fingers.
"Don’t get used to it, Lilith. But I knew you’d play games so I
thought I’d better make my moves early if I was going to stand a chance.”
"And what delicious moves they were, too.”
"Seems to have struck our poor Mr. Black here quite dumb.”
"Nah, I’m just wondering when the pillow fight starts. Or if I
should be somewhere making Jell-O for you girls to wrestle in.” I sipped my
beer to hide my shaking hands, and I kept my legs crossed.
"How quaint. I’m sorry, James. That’s not on the menu for the
evening. But if there was something else you desire of me?” Lilith arched an
eyebrow at me, and her hand traced her neck slowly.
I felt my hands shake a little more, and realized that Greg was
right, I could never drink from her again. I’d done it twice last fall, once to
keep Phil from kicking my ass, and again to fight a demon. But something in her
blood was more powerful than any drug I’d ever tasted. There was an old power
there, maybe a direct line to the Creator, maybe a crazy old-school sex magic.
I wasn’t sure which, or if it was both and something else besides, but it gave
me a rush like the purest coke I’d ever tried and hooked me faster than a West
Virginia high-school kid gets addicted to meth.
Yeah, in the early years I tried every drug I could get my dead
hands on. Coke is awesome for vampires—it makes us even faster than we already
are, and we can go days without feeding. But the crash is god-awful, and that
stuff’s expensive. Most addictive substances don’t have an effect on us, but
Lilith’s blood was different. I could hear it beating in her veins, and I wantedit, but I knew I couldn’t ever drink from her again. If I did, I’d be lost.
Sabrina cleared her throat and I snapped back to reality. She was
watching me with concern.
I waved her off, then wiped the sweat off my forehead. "No thanks,
Lil. I’ll pass on turning into your blood-junkie tonight. We just need
information, and figured since you were now providing lap dances to most of the
supernatural underworld, this would be a good place to start. Loathe what
you’ve done with the place, by the way. Really ruined a crappy thing Phil had
Lilith’s eyes narrowed, and a line appeared between her perfectly
plucked eyebrows, the only wrinkle on an otherwise flawless face. "That bastard
suckered me into five centuries of servitude and then went off to play harps or
some other nonsense. And he left me with a money pit of a bar that was
hemorrhaging cash. Do you have any idea how hard it is to lose money in
a strip club? It’s almost impossible, but that self-righteous prick was doing
"I think nowadays he’s a righteous prick, Lil. What with the whole
un-fallen angel thing and all.” I took a long sip of my beer. Her hypnotic
effect on me was lessened by her shrieking like a harpy.
"Screw you, Black. I had to expand our clientele to keep the doors
open. And keeping his business operations thriving was part of the bet.”
"What did you bet, anyway? What do immortals wager on? The Cubs?
Because even taking the ultimate long view, the Cubbies suck,” I said.
"Nothing so petty. We wagered on body counts. I took Hussein, he
took Pol Pot, and no matter how many sons I tried to add in to the bet, the
little Cambodian still outshone my Iraqis by a good twenty percent. So now I’m
Phil’s bitch for the next half eon. Then he runs off back to Daddy and sticks
me here.” She knocked back the last of her wine and refilled the glass as
Sabrina and I watched her.
Lilith sipped her wine and turned to Sabrina. "So, what was it you
I could see Sabrina push aside the concept of wagering on
thousands of deaths and try to focus on the task at hand. Finally she killed
her scotch, set the glass on Lilith’s desk and started. "There’s been a series
of beatings in the city. I believe something supernatural is behind the
attacks. I want to know what you know about them.”
"Well, that’s direct enough. Who has been attacked?”
"Six young gay men. They were beaten and left for dead in various
places around downtown. What’s so funny?”
Lilith was laughing quietly, then she gestured behind her at the
bank of video monitors. "Should I turn the floor show back on? I think that out
of all the places in Charlotte with loud music and alcohol, this is low on the
list of must-see venues for the city’s gay population. Really, Detective, this
is a strip club. Men, straight men, come here to watch beautiful women take
their clothes off. It’s the last place gay men would be caught dead. Perhaps
you should try Scorpio. I understand that’s more the core clientele there. Or
Chasers, if you could drag your open-minded boyfriend in there.” She gestured
at me, and I sat up a little straighter.
"I’m open-minded,” I protested.
"He’s not my boyfriend,” Sabrina said in exactly the same tone of
"Really?” Lilith purred at us. "Are you open-minded enough to go
to a gay strip club?”
"If I have to for a case, yeah. It’s not high on my list of
Friday night hot spots, but I’ll do what I have to do to catch a bad guy,” I
said, finishing my beer.
"Well, that’s where I would start.”
"I wish you’d start by answering the question,” Sabrina
"Whatever do you mean, Detective?” Lilith actually managed a
surprised and innocent look. I guess with a billion years to practice, she took
an acting class once or twice.
"I didn’t ask if gay men came to your bar. I asked if you knew
anything about monsters beating up people in my city. So let’s try this
again–what do you know about these attacks?”
"Would you believe me if I said I knew nothing?”
"Probably not.” Sabrina said.
"I know nothing, Detective.” Lilith leaned back and crossed one
leg over another in a slow, sultry motion designed to get every male eye in the
room focused on her. It worked.
"Why don’t I believe you?” Sabrina asked.
"Native distrust of those more attractive than yourself?” Lilith
"The day I’m worried about competition from someone who watched
the signing of the Magna Carta, I’ll let you know.” Lilith actually flinched,
just for a second, then her calm smile returned.
"Very good, Detective. You may be worth my attention after all.”
"And you already have mine.” Sabrina gave her a little smile of
her own. I just leaned back in my chair, trying to stay out of the line of
Lilith put her glass down and leaned forward, her elbows on her
desk. "I assure you, Detective, I know nothing about the attacks you’re
investigating. You have my word.”
Sabrina abruptly stood up, and I followed suit, looking from her
to Lilith and back again. "Thanks, Lilith. I appreciate the help.”
"You owe me one, Detective.”
"I’m not going to bring you up to my friends in Vice for all the
things I saw in the Champagne Room that are technically illegal in North
Carolina. I think that makes us even.”
"You know how it is. It’s so hard to get good help nowadays. Pan
will show you out.” She pressed a button under the edge of her desk and turned
back to the monitors. She grabbed a remote that would send Greg into paroxysms
of geek-joy and ignored us completely.
I took the opportunity to raid her bar for another Miller Lite,
then followed the little ginger satyr back out into the main body of the club.
"Don’t suppose you want to just hang for a little while and have a
couple beers?” I asked Sabrina as we passed through the entrance to the
She didn’t even look back at me, just kept walking toward the
door. I killed my beer as I walked, which is my excuse for not seeing the
five-foot gargoyle when it stepped directly into my path.
"Oof!” All the breath went out of me in a rush as I almost ran
over the little guy. I looked down and there was a gray face glaring up at me.
He looked like he’d just flown down off the roof of a building, except there
aren’t any buildings in Charlotte old enough to have gargoyles. His skin was
uniformly gray, with some seriously wicked-looking fangs and claws. His
leathery wings stretched out six feet on either side of him, so just stepping
around him wasn’t an option.
"Sorry, dude. I wasn’t paying attention. Totally my fault. I
apologize.” I tried to step to one side, hoping he’d get the hint and tuck his
wings away. He didn’t. In fact, he stepped to the side to get right in front of
"What are you doing here, bloodsucker?” His voice sounded like
rocks grinding together, and he bared a lot of fang when he talked to me. I
decided I didn’t like the little dude.
"I’m leaving. Or I would be if you’d get out of the way.” Sabrina
had stopped a few feet away and had her cell phone out. I really hoped she was
calling Greg and wasn’t just going to video the beating I was probably about to
"Your kind aren’t welcome here. We don’t like you, and your Master
doesn’t like you coming here. Does he know you’re here?”
"I don’t know what you’re babbling about, Rocky. I’m just trying
to leave before I break anybody.” I let a little menace creep into my voice as
I looked down at the grumpy wall ornament.
"You threatening me?” he rumbled.
I sighed. There was no way I was getting out of this without
punching something. Which was really just fine with me. That meeting with
Lilith had set me a little on edge, and a good scrap seemed like it would be
just what I needed. So I never bothered to answer the gargoyle. I just punched
him in the nose.
His carved-out-of-stone nose. I heard something crack in my
fist, and my knuckles split on his rocky visage. I yelled, he laughed, and a
stone fist rammed into my stomach in a punch that sent me sprawling. The
bouncers didn’t budge as several other patrons came over to join in a rousing
game of vampire piñata. When I rolled over onto my back I looked up at the
gargoyle, a werewolf, what looked like a human except for the pointy ears and a
"This would be a really good time to learn that turning to mist
trick I saw on Buffy,” I said.
Then the kicking started. I actually didn’t mind the kicking,
because other than the gargoyle, they weren’t doing much damage. It hurt, sure,
but they were too close to get a good kick in. But after the gargoyle tagged my
shins for the third time, I figured they weren’t getting tired as fast as I was
getting bruised, so it was time for Plan B.
My Plan B was almost exactly like my Plan A in that it involved
punching things. Except in Plan B I didn’t hit the rock guy in the face with my
bare hand. I rolled over a couple of times, and took cover under a cabaret
table. Then I came up swinging. I smashed the table into the gargoyle’s face,
which had a lot better effect than my first punch. He went down in a crash of
wings and granite dust.
"That went better,” Sabrina said from across the room. She had a
were-rat in a headlock and was punching him in the snout. A couple more short
jabs, and she dropped the furry bugger on his face, out cold.
I turned my attention back to my mob of supernatural chumps and
saw Pointy Ears rushing at me with a knife. I picked him up over my head, threw
him at the werewolf, and they collapsed in a tangle of fur and ears. I turned
to the lizard dude and got slapped across the face with his tail for my
"What do you think this is, a Spider-Man movie?” I yelled. I
grabbed his tail and pulled, intending to swing him around my head and throw
him far, far away, but his tail came off in my hands. I stared at the
lizard-man in shock, and he growled at me.
"Do you have any idea how long it takes to grow that back? Or how
hard it is to balance without it?”
He came at me, and I decided it was only fair to give him his tail
back. So I hit him upside the head with it. A lot. The tail was a good six feet
long, and probably two feet around at the base, so when it connected with his
face, he stopped cold.
"You hit me!” he said.
"Yeah. That happens in bar fights. Are you new at this?” I reared
back and clocked him in the face with his tail again.
"That’s kinda the point. That whole kicking me while I was down
thing didn’t tickle, just, you know, FYI.”
"Oh. Sorry about that. I thought it was... I
dunno, part of the show. Like a lap dance, only violent.”
"No. This is a fight. A real fight. You’re not on Jackassor anything like that.”
"Oh. Well, what am I supposed to do?”
I sighed, spun him around and shoved him at Sabrina. "Please kick
this guy’s ass for me.”
"Not a problem,” she said, planting a foot solidly in the
lizard-man’s groin. He went down like a sack of potatoes, and I turned away,
figuring Sabrina had him handled.
Good thing, since the werewolf and elf (or whatever) had
disentangled themselves and were coming at me from opposite sides. They sprang
at me, so I sprang straight up. It was like something out of a Saturday morning
cartoon. I grabbed a rafter, they smacked into each other and immediately went
at each other’s throats.
I dropped lightly down to the floor and observed the mess they
were making, grabbing bottles off random tables to bash each other with,
knocking over chairs, interrupting commerce, the whole nine yards. A couple of
ogres were finally moving in their direction when I turned back toward the
And ran straight into a fist of stone. The gargoyle had struggled
to his feet and nailed me with an uppercut that almost took my head off. I flew
backward a good ten feet to land flat on my back on the stage. A leggy blonde
with a huge dragon tattoo on her back was spinning around the pole as I slid
underneath her, completely across the stage to land on my hands and knees. I
needed about half a second to get my breath back.
Then the gargoyle landed with both feet right on my shoulder
blades and drove me into the cheap carpet by the stage. I learned a couple of
life lessons in those few seconds. First—gargoyles are really heavy for their
size. Must have something to do with being made of rock. Second—strip clubs
don’t vacuum the floor by the stage nearly as often as you really want them to.
I felt every one of my upper ribs crack under the gargoyle’s feet, and I
screamed like a girl. Fortunately for my manly reputation, I couldn’t be heard
over the screaming of the actual girls.
The gargoyle hopped off my back, and I rolled over. I looked up at
his grinning granite face and found myself laughing.
It had just been that kind of night. I thought I’d be able to help
Sabrina with something simple, spend a little time with her and maybe get a
kiss out of the deal. Instead I ended up flat on my back with a bunch of broken
ribs in the middle of a destroyed strip club with a gargoyle ready to stomp my
"What are you laughing at, asshole?” He reached down and dragged
me to my feet. "Well, at least you’ll die happy.” He pulled back his fist for
one more massive punch, and then his ear disappeared. He dropped me and clapped
one hand to the side of his head, then turned to look for the new attacker.
My partner, Greg Knightwood III, stood six feet away holding his
favorite pistol, a Beretta Px4 Storm with stainless steel slide. The gun
glinted in the flashing lights of the club as he leveled it at the gargoyle’s
head. "Wanna see what else I can shoot off?”
"My ear! You wrecked my ear! You asshole!”
"You wrecked my partner. I think we’re even,” Greg said.
An ogre came up behind him and started to reach for the gun.
Sabrina, newly rearmed by my partner, pressed her Smith & Wesson to his ear
"Now, now. We’re leaving. But you lay a hand on my friend, and
there will be some new stains on this carpet.” She smiled as she said it, and I
think that was the part that really worried the ogre. It sure scared the hell
out of me. I shook my head and headed for the door, leaning on Greg for
support. I hadn’t made it three steps when Lilith appeared in front of me.
"Where the hell do you think you’re going?” she demanded.
"I think I’m going home. I think I’m going to drink about six
pints of blood, then about twelve beers, and then I’m going do like the myths
say and sleep the whole goddamn day away because every rib is busted, I think
one arm is dislocated and I’m pretty sure I broke about eleven bones in my hand
punching that rock-headed son of a bitch back there. Any other questions?”
"Who’s going to pay for all these damages? You wrecked my club,
Black, and that doesn’t come cheap.”
I lost it. That’s the only way I can explain going off on Lilith
like I did, because most days she scares me silly. But I was in pain, a lot of
pain, and my night was not going the way I’d hoped. I was pretty pissed
"I didn’t wreck your club, Lilith. Your asshole patrons wrecked
your club. You know, the ones that started a fight with me. The fight
your bouncers didn’t do anything to stop. The fight you watched on your little
video monitors until it was over and you could come out and make a scene. I
don’t know what kind of beef you guys have with vampires around here, and I
sure don’t know who this Master is y’all keep talking about and I don’t give a
shit. We’re leaving. And if you want to try and stop me, we can find out just
how damn immortal you are right here, right now. So, you wanna get outta my
way, or you wanna dance?”
Lilith looked up at me, mouth hanging open. I guess it had been a
matter of centuries since anyone had really pushed back at her, and she had
forgotten how to handle it.
Then in between eyeblinks, she was pressed against me, looking up
at me with eyes of fire. "Oh, we’ll dance, little vampire. We shall definitely
dance. But not now, and not here. You may leave.
Unmolested... if you like. But you owe me, little vampire.
And I always collect on my debts.” Lilith gave me a smile that started a fire
in my toes and seared me all the way to the top of my head, while
simultaneously sending chills down my spine.
I motioned for Greg to help me walk, and we headed for the exit.
Greg tossed Sabrina his keys, and she went on ahead of us as he half carried me
out of the club.
Once we were out on the sidewalk with no one following us, I said
to Greg "Thanks, pal. I don’t know what I would have done without you in
"Probably died a horrible death. Again.”
"Yeah, probably. Hey, how did you know to shoot the gargoyle’s ear
off to get his attention?” I asked as we walked across the bridge to where
Sabrina waited with the car.
Greg didn’t answer, and didn’t look at me for a long moment.
I pressed. "Come on, buddy. That was really good. I mean it. I
just want to know where you learned about gargoyles and how you knew that you
could shoot off little parts of it even if you couldn’t hurt the body.”
"I didn’t know all that about shooting its ears off.”
"Then why did you shoot its ear off?”
"I was aiming for the back of its head. But an ogre jostled me,
and I missed.”
I opened my mouth to freak out on him, but Sabrina rolled up in
Greg’s car just then. She pulled up alongside us and opened the doors.
"Get in.” She said, moving around to the passenger side. I slid
into the backseat and lay down as best I could. Greg had a towel behind his
seat, because he’s a hoopy frood that way, so I tried to put the bloodiest parts
of me on the towel to save the upholstery.
"What’s up?” Greg asked Sabrina.
"I just got a call while you were in there. There’s been another
attack. It’s just a few blocks away. Let’s go.”
"What’s the rush?” I said as we peeled rubber out of the parking
"The victim. He’s my cousin.”