I set out onto this mission brazen and filled with hubris. It was destiny, or perhaps obligation, that pushed me into this endeavor. I did not expect the pushback, at least not to the degree in which I was met. The seas soften some, though the waves remain choppy. I sail on still, trusting that the destination will be worth the sun that beats my brow and the brine that stings my eyes.
I land upon familiar shores and find them tossed about. Hastily tied rafts lie stagnant in the sand, weather worn bags of broken pottery strung lazily atop the rotting wood. I lift a faded vase into the burning sun. Its engravings strike me with dark nostalgia. I think momentarily to return to the merchant cities I was so eager to leave. They were a place where I could forego the trappings of my youth but their vapid, alien ways led me to crave the warmth of the sands on which I'd grown. I did not expect the granules to burn my feet or fractured shells to slice through my calloused heels. In all my lofty fantasies, had I forgotten why I left?
I roam along the coastline until I reach the beginnings of a cliffside lining the Eastern shore. I spot an opening in the rocky face that calls to me with the low hum of memory neglected. I seem to hear familiar notes pouring from the jagged entryway, but they are carried along the shifting breeze and melt into the rustling of the trees. A siren song for tepid dreams. I fish a torch and match from my sack, and float into the cave, a sense of duty swelling within my chest.
The cave is cold and damp. A curious thing for an island so warm, though I find a suspicious sense of intimacy in each descending step. The distant dripping of stalactites grows louder, and I emerge into a vast room shaped patiently by the hands of forces greater than I. I peer into the reflections of water pooling on the cavern floor and find that my once youthful face has aged during my quest. My cheeks have sunken and grown gaunt, and subtle lines have crept beneath my dimming eyes. My once ample lips, revered by my lovers in tender, softer moments are now dry and pale. Clotted blood fills every painful crack and my resting smile has fallen into a gentle frown. I study my visage for a few more moments, then forcefully break my concentration. The elements have taken their toll. I cannot change this. Fixation is a dangerous distraction. There is more to be found, should I continue to look.
I step gently between the stalagmites, trekking further into the labyrinth. My pathway splits in two. Unthinking, I follow the path to the left. I stumble through the tunnel and emerge to face a hidden grotto. I raise my torch and try to take assessment of my surroundings. I am met with a myriad of glimmering lights bouncing back from within the darkness of the cave. As I move further into the room, I trip and fall onto the damp cavern floor. My torch remains lit, and I move it closer to the ground so I can identify my saboteur. Bits of cream and brown display lazily in the dwindling firelight. I reach out, grabbing brazenly for the unknown assailant. I pull my hand back into the light, and am met with the empty eyes of a skull staring blankly into mine. I scan the torch across the ground and find more of the same. Complete skeletons lie undisturbed, each frozen in the position that was to be their last. The glimmers begin to bounce once more. I set the skull onto the slick rock and carefully rise to my feet to follow the nearest glimmer. The twinkling in my eye begins to blind, but still I crouch to get a closer look. A skeletal hand clings desperately to a chain. Hanging from the chain sits a sapphire set in gold engraved with symbols I have not seen since my youth. Dark nostalgia strikes once more. I pry the chain from its bony cage and set it gently in my satchel.
I step over the other skeletons, losing interest in the sparkling jewels adorning nearly every corpse. Bags of pottery, like the ones on the rafts, lay strewn about the bodies. Before I realize it, I have come to the edge of the room and am faced with strange scrawling on the wall. A waterlogged notebook lies at my feet, nearly destroyed by its environment. I pick it up tenderly, and attempt to go through its pages. There is little I can make out and the coarseness of my fingers tears at the fragile pages. I pull a cloth from my bag, gently wrap the book up and place it with my rest of my items. I turn my attention back to the markings on the wall. They are crude but legible, written in a broken form of the language spoken on the island for generations. The words tell of a tragic story, of a people unprepared for the will of the gods. A storm approached, arrived more quickly than expected and ravaged the entirety of our villages. Those who tried to escape on the rafts were taken by the elements. Those who survived, took all they had left and sought refuge in the grotto. Fearful of the angered spirits, they remained in the caverns, forever unsure of how they'd failed their deities.
I stand at the grotto's edge and scan the scene before me. Did they know that the storm had come to its end? Did they realize the place they spent their last desperate moments would one day be a curious trek into the past of a traveler weary of the world? There was no thought that they could begin again, and so their hoarder's den became a hermit's refuge. A place for the waves to crash and then release. Violence, then peace. I take comfort in the cycles that have no need to be broken. I am forced to honor the ones that do. My torch begins to flicker. Though I have more matches to be lit, I take this as a sign to depart. I look over the room once more, and mourn the desperation of my ancestors. There was a time when I believed wisdom to be the lack of foolish, fearful behavior. I realize now that the two are always present- one simply takes lead of the other.
I chose to leave in happier times, eager to see the world that lay beyond the beaches. I was so young when I took off into the murky seas, ignorant toward the ways my people would suffer. My elders sent me off somberly, with no more than food, drink, and wise quotes from our holy books. There was no anger, no enthusiasm. Simply quiet understanding and unspoken concern. It was wanderlust that pushed me along, and exhaustion that brought me home. But home was not the same, and it had not been for many years. It is likely I will return one day, perhaps at a time where the visions of today begin to fade.
I emerge into the familiar sun, unsure of how long I'd been in the depths. It appears as if time is still on my side, so I decide to set out onto the waters once more. There is little for me here, even less than I could have fathomed. I spot the vase I discovered upon my landing lying solemnly in the sand. I pick it back up, grateful for the warmth it absorbed while I traversed the dank cavernous system. I place it in my bag alongside the necklace and ailing notebook. I drag my boat onto the packed, watery sands and step inside. I kick my oar into the shallow water and allow the current to pull me into the easy waters. A voice within tells me to release the anxiousness of the journey ahead; there is no need to fear the storms.
"The creature’s spine, shattered again.
Vultures take note. It tries to crawl
across golden sands,
stagnancy is the overseer.
It writhes and curls in pain,
lifeless burlap clings to fur.
with such great haste,
for a fractured frame.
How long will I lie here,
braying into dust and heat?
The vultures circle,
I am not yet dead.
Bone pickers have patience."
Dr. Subtain removed his glasses and sat them on the endtable.
"Are you the camel, Ree?"
Kairee shifted uncomfortably in her seat, refusing to make eye contact with the well meaning psychiatrist. The doctor continued, knowing he would not receive an answer.
"The creative writing instructor brought this to me this morning. She was rather concerned about the tone of your poem. With your discharge scheduled for tomorrow, I have to say I share her concern. Out of the weeks I've come to know you, you haven't shared much. Though your pain is evident."
"I've been in contact with your aunt. I understand she and your uncle cared for you for most of your formative years. She filled in some gaps for me. About you. Your mother. She also mentioned a close friend of yours that's been inquiring about your status. They're all very excited to have you home."
The young woman shifted once more, this time to face the doctor. She pulled her sleeves down to cover her arms and looked him meekly in the eye.
"Kairee, you are not your mother. And I'm afraid that your fears of following in her footsteps are becoming somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are valid in your fear and in your heartbreak. Most who come through these doors are also facing fear and heartbreak. But you, Ree, have what many others do not. You have a group of people who love you, want to see the best for you, and will do whatever they can to keep you safe. Do not for think for one second that you are in this world alone. You wouldn't be here if you were. "
Ree watched as the doctors pushed out her chair and reached into a drawer in his desk. He pulled out a bright blue file folder thick with documents, opened it and began to speak once more.
"I want to discuss what discharge looks like for you. This by no means implies that this is the end of your care, but we want for you to be able to take the time to heal in your own environment. Here's a list of medications I'm going to send you off wi...."
The doctor's voice faded out as Ree's thoughts began to drift. Her eyes darted between the stark white paper and the psychiatrist's lips, but his words did not register. Home, she thought. Where her uncle assessed the cost of repairs in a water damaged bathroom. Where her aunt scrubbed at the crimson stains left in guest towels and favorite shirts. Kind smiles were not enough to absolve Kairee's guilt. The remnants of her damage lingered about.
I knew it was you. Your eyes are always the same. The color changes, as does the shape. You...do not.
How many times must we play these games? The potential of destiny fulfilled moves me. It is all I can do to keep my resolve. I found you at the library. I almost didn't go. I set out for the market, but turned the corner instead. I drifted off along the broken sidewalks and found myself at the mouth of the glass behemoth. I wandered in, floating through the aisles until I felt your pull. Non-fiction. World Studies. Where else would you have been?
"Is that a book on Jordan?"
"Oh, yeah. I had this wild dream last night. I just knew that's where I was...fell asleep watching the History Channel. Probably has something to do with it."
"Possibly. The mind is curious. It is a very beautiful country."
"Have you been?"
"Once. I spent much time in Petra. Some call it the Rose City."
Must I be so coy?
"Rose City..." Your eyes lingered on mine. "I'm Thomas."
"So Kida...you come to the library just to educate strangers on faraway lands?"
There you are. You never stay buried for long.
I smirked. "Every once in a while."
"Well, this is all I came for...you don't have any books to check out?"
"Nothing piqued my interest."
"Why come then?"
"Seemed like the thing to do."
"I see...I've got some time today. If you want to educate me somewhere else...like the coffeeshop a block over."
"I think I can find the time."
Our dance begins again.
Inspiration can come from obvious sources, like stories and characters we love that resonate with us and want to make us create an equally impactful world of our own. But I find this to be more of a motivator than a true source of inspiration. Sometimes it's helpful to revisit the stories you love when you're feeling uninspired to remind you of why you fell in love with your craft. Though in my opinion, the best place to find an idea is in the real world- but filtered through a different lens.
Dreaming in the shower of what you coulda/should/woulda done in a situation? Make it into a story. Looking at the news and thinking "Oh, god...it's the end of the world..."? Well, what would happen if it was? What if [insert historical figure here] was in the modern day? One thought can lead to another thought and then another until you have a brain tickling concept that usually turns out to be a very different beast than the train of thought that inspired it.
Brainstorming is one of the first steps to writing. You write out some ideas and do your best to flesh them out in a tangible way. Daydreaming is the more fluid precursor to brainstorming. The idea isn't on paper, it's just floating about on our brainwaves, cruising along on a current of thought and seeing what happens. We're told for one reason or another not to let our thoughts wander and to force ourselves into linear focus. To follow a 1-2-3 process. To write for X amount of minutes a day. To meet this deadline. To fulfill this word count. Daydreaming is free of all of this, and can often feel counterintuitive and unproductive for that very reason. It's okay to just let your thoughts drift off for a bit. I feel as if a lot of creative people don't give themselves the space to truly ebb and flow.
Admittedly, you can't daydream forever. At some point, you have to allow the seed you've planted to take root and then put in the work to nurture it into a full composition. And the way you choose to nurture that is up to you. Some work best giving their creation constant attention. Others work best by working in bursts and stepping away until they're ready to revisit with fresh eyes. Both are equally valid. A piece taking longer than expected to complete doesn't make you or the work a failure. I personally believe that there are times when trying to complete a piece is so difficult because there's more you have to learn, intellectually or emotionally, to bring it to fruition.
Stolen from Frasier
Heartbreak is a state of sadness caused by the grief that sprouts from the death of the life you thought you were going to have.
Papa was a large, towering man. He would trudge through the house with heavy boots and overalls, hymns flowing from the lips concealed by his white bushy beard. Buttermilk flowed thick into the sky-blue translucent plastic cup. He'd finish his verse, sit in an armchair, and take a sip of his drink. Thick liquid melted into the yellowed strands of his mustache as he flipped through the thin pages of his worn Bible. It wasn't Sunday. Just another day. But a new day was a good enough reason for worship.
I learned to play Amazing Grace on the recorder. It was one of the more difficult songs, but it was familiar and I was enthusiastic about learning it. It took some effort, but I picked it up quickly, singing the words in my head as I smashed each of my fingers onto the plastic holes, determined to avoid empty notes. My determination left red rings on the pads on my tiny fingers, but it was a marker of success. I grew sad when they would start to fade. My fifth grade music class had a challenge called "Recorder Karate", and I got my "brown belt" for managing to master the song. I don't recall playing it for Papa.
I seldom went to church, but I learned most of the songs they'd sing on Sunday mornings from my grandfather's voice bouncing through the narrow hallway in the early afternoon. The times I did go, I'd perk up when they asked us to turn to page 43. I couldn't read the notes, at least not anymore, but I knew the tune well. The pews vibrated with the low hum of a hundred voices singing along, and it was one of the few times I didn't stumble through the lyrics. Papa never went with me- he'd written off Edgewood Church of Christ many years before. His relationship with his creator was his own to determine. I would soon follow suit.
In the last weeks of Papa's life, I stayed up with him reflecting on the decades prior. He was slipping into an illness induced delirium, but present enough to finally allow his vulnerability. He began to sing, and my mother stepped in the room to join us. We sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, but it was a moment filled with Grace all the same.
As I tucked a small ceramic angel into the breast pocket of the suit he was to be buried in, Papa's Greatest Hits accompanied a slideshow playing on a TV mounted in the corner of the room. My aunt and uncles mused over the familiarity of the songs, and his surviving siblings commented on the significance of each tune. I sat quietly nearby, reckoning with my private conclusions.
When I am lost and blinded by my pain, I find myself returning to the same memories. They are warm and rife with perspective, even though they've become less perfect as I grow older. As I type this, I am sitting at the table where Papa would teach me riddles, humming the melody since the words have since become so murky. I am not religious and despite my upbringing, I never really have been. Still, I cannot deny the swelling of my heart when certain notes begin to play. Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. It was Grace that brought me safe thus far, and Grace that leads me home.
The Flip Side
It's easy to have a bleak outlook on the future of humans. Based on the statistics, it would be unrealistic to not have a sense of pessimism. Hell, based on personal experience, it's hard not to place any sense of optimism on the shelf.
That said, there are movements that push against the decline of society, whatever that may mean to you. There is a strong movement to return to the nuclear family, or at least an updated version of it. I don't foresee people having as many kids as they did in the past for a multitude of reasons but parents are making more of an effort to have stronger and healthier relationships with the children that they do have. To raise their children in a way that is different than how they were raised so that they can go into the world with more self-awareness and understanding. Parents may only have a few children due to whatever circumstances befall them, but that doesn't mean that their children will follow the same path, especially if they are given a different outlook and a better future.
Medicine is always improving, as is our knowledge on health, nutrition, and fitness. There are those who protest against these advancements, but they are a vocal minority. We have more interest and access to what's in our food and how it affects us and can make better decisions based on this. A sharper lens has been placed on reproductive health and how we can create longer, healthier, and happier lives. As those in my generation get older, we see the struggles of the previous generations and seek to break those cycles for ourselves. I hate to sound so harsh, but those who are complacent against such things are likely going to die off sooner, and will leave behind those who take their lifestyle more seriously. Those who take it seriously are likely to spread those values to others in their life.
With social media, it's easier than ever to find information to better yourself, to better the world around you, to even be made aware that there are elements of the self and society that are in desperate need of changing. Admittedly, this is a double edged sword as many of the people who promise to have answers are hurt people preaching to hurt people and this only contributes to the mess. But empty, easily debunked messages have short shelf lives and in the age of information, are prone to lose support through a sharp and swift downfall. Some realize what's happening, jump ship, and move on while others go down with it. To make another harsh statement, those who go down with the ship are also likely to die off before the rest- though in this sense, I mean that mostly metaphorically. They too, serve as a warning to others who may have walked their path but still have the time to re-evaluate.
We are all tired of misinformation, lies, and deceit and have turned a sharper eye onto it, demanding more from the people we choose to invest our time and energy in. We are pickier when it comes to partners and friendships. Some people are absolutely unrealistic in this regard, but I think learning to set stronger boundaries and standards begets better long term relationships, romantic or otherwise. Younger generations are doing this en masse. They may struggle to understand themselves and others, but they are not unwilling to learn as the alternative causes an undeniable strife. It's not that we don't want meaningful relationships, it's that we don't have much clear guidance on how. Emotional growth is a slow process, but it is still a work in progress all the same.
Humans put themselves in a very sticky situation, but we are not ignorant to this. Everyone wants to see better (though some people really do just want to watch the world burn) but have different ideas on how to get there which is where I think much of our struggle lies. Despite the doom and gloom pushed to us in the media, and the hysterical voices of the loudest ones in the room, I see the landscape shifting. Will it be the same? No. Are we doomed? I don't believe so. Different is not a death sentence, though we very well may need a moment of intense healing before we can see desired trends moving in an upward direction. These trends didn't decline for no good reason. Society doesn't go off the deep end spontaneously- it is a direct response to the trends of the past and our ability/inability to view them with honesty and perspective.
This is all anecdotal, of course. Based purely on personal observation. My beliefs push against the hard numbers and I recognize that. But I see social, political, and cultural trends that I believe will cause those hard numbers to change in the coming decades. Humans are not endangered. The downfall of humanity has been preached for a very long time, and yet we've managed to ebb and flow for centuries. We're figuring out what doesn't work and how to change it. Growing pains are inevitable.
Justice Pt. 2 (The Crime Scene)
"Xyra. I was beginning to think you wouldn't make it." Captain Hale greeted the fortune teller with a warm and boyish smirk.
"Apologies, Captain. Took a little longer to get here than expected."
"Take the wrong train?"
"Walked?! Jeez Xyra, that's gotta be close to ten miles."
"I don't care for public transportation."
"Ah. Can't say I blame you. Well, now that I've got you here, this is the High Life Hotel and Casino," the Captain said, gesturing to the building in front of them. "Starsun City staple. Haunt for the currently rich and powerful, and popular stop for those eager to become rich and powerful. I'm surprised you don't know it."
"I don't travel far from the shop. Where's the Lieutenant?"
"He's inside questioning some of the employees we couldn't get ahold of this morning. Management was kind enough to round up any members of the staff that were there when the murder occurred. The man's got no tact, but he knows how to get answers...I think you gathered that already."
Xyra responded with a slight, short-lived smirk. Her almond shaped eyes scanned the brick exterior of the casino. "If this place is so popular, where are all the patrons?"
"They're using the front entrance. We were asked- in no uncertain terms- to use the back door. " Captain Hale thrust out an arm, plopped his hand onto a dingy handle and dramatically swung open the metal door. He gestured gentlemanly toward the staircase inside.
"After you. Service elevator is to the left."
The pair stepped into a dimly lit stairwell and took a sharp turn toward the elevator. The captain pressed the upward facing arrow and waited for the doors to open. The mechanism responded with a unenthusiastic ding as the doors parted reluctantly. Xyra and Hale inspected the inside of the elevator, exchanged a look of uncertainty and hesitantly stepped into the questionable metal box. Captain Hale pressed a button for the thirteenth floor. The elevator shut as reluctantly as it had opened and slowly ascended.
"You'd think a place with a reputation like this would have better maintenance." Hale mused.
"They likely do. In the places guests can see." Xyra responded.
The captain scoffed. "Yeah, I guess so. How much you think they pay here?"
"Enough to keep them from leaving. Not enough to make them happy about staying."
Hale chuckled. "Perceptive observation."
"That's what I get paid to do."
The elevator announced their arrival with yet another dull ding. The doors opened with their familiar uneager pace and the two stepped out into a dimly lit stairwell identical to the last. The captain pushed on the bar of a door marked with a faded red '13' and the two were greeted by a opulent hallway. Captain Hale silently led the way and Xyra followed dutifully behind, taking in the indulgent luxury that surrounded her. Lush, forest green carpet gave softly beneath their feet. An endless row of gilded mirrors lined the walls as a stream of delicate watercolor paintings weaved between the ornate framework of the glass. Marbled wallpaper drifted lazily in the background, bits of gold leaf glinting in the ambient light. Each door was the same as the one before, their only difference found in the climbing numbers nailed to the front of each entryway. Hale turned a corner and stopped at a room marked 1303. The door was already ajar, so he pushed it open gently and stepped inside.
The metallic sting of blood sat heavy in the air. Pheromones and sweat. Fear and lust. Fight or flight. These were the final moments of Davey Simms. Xyra's stomach turned. The life of humans was so bleak, so chaotic. She thought of her mother, her parting words. The captain's booming voice pulled Xyra from her quiet crisis.
"Okay, Randy. Care to fill our friend in here?"
Lieutenant Ellis' eyes darted over at Xyra somewhat nervously. "Uh, yeah. So here's where the cleaning lady found the body. She said Simms was in his underwear, covered in cuts and bruises. Wallet was over there on the table. Two suitcases, both open. One filled with clothes, toiletries. The other empty. Found a receipt for one, the other looks like he's had it for a while."
"Anything new come up with the employees?" Hale inquired.
"Guy working the desk said he didn't see much. A couple of the folks working the casino said Simms had a pretty lucky streak but called the night early. Figured he wanted to quit while he was ahead. Room service said he had some bottles sent up. Everyone saw him at least once, and apparently he was set to check out at eleven today. No one knows anything more than that."
"Where are the suitcases?" Xyra asked.
"Over here. That's the new one, this is the old one."
Xyra crouched down by the newer of the suitcases and ran a gloved finger across the interior. "Did he buy any new clothes?"
"Not that we could tell."
Xyra lifted her fingers to her nostrils. "How much did he win?"
Randy flipped through his notepad. "About ten grand."
"This suitcase smells like money. I don't see any here."
Xyra walked over to the older suitcase and began to inspect its contents. She noticed a black, diamond shaped item nestled between Davey's crumpled collared shirts.
"Captain, Lieutenant. You might like to see this." Hale and Ellis walked over to the crouched Xyra.
"What the hell is that? Looks like a scale. Lieutenant, grab an evidence bag."
"I've never seen a scale this thick. Not even on an Aqturian. Captain, would you mind waiting a moment to bag this?"
Xyra reached a gloved hand into the suitcase, tenderly picking up the mysterious item. She placed it gently to the side and removed one of her ornate, studded gloves. With her still concealed hand, she picked the item back up, took a deep breath and hesitantly dropped the mysterious object into her nude palm. Xyra's eyes rolled into the back of her head and her legs gave out, knocking her forcefully onto her backside. She quickly dropped the item onto the floor, and Lieutenant Ellis rushed to grab the object and place in it the evidence bag.
"Not a scale...claw....demon..."
"A demon claw? Randy, get that thing down to the lab. I want you to run it against all the registered Demonkin in the city. We'll meet you back at the station."
"Yes, sir." Ellis glanced briefly over at Xyra, shoved the evidence bag in his pocket and rushed out of the hotel room.
"Need some help?"
Captain Hale leaned over and picked Xyra's glove up from the floor. He handed it over to her gently, and she slowly slipped it back onto her slender hand. Hale extended his hand and helped Xyra to her feet.
"I'd like for you to come back to the station with me. Get you some coffee, something to eat."
"I don't need charity, Captain. I'm used to this."
"Don't think of it as charity. Think of it as...compensation. I've got a feeling we'll have questions only you can answer. No interrogations. Promise."
Xyra's eyes lingered on the Captain for me moment. She nodded, he flashed her a brief smile, and gestured toward the door.
"By the way, my daughter texted me. Said she wants to do dinner tonight. Plans to invite her friend Rachel."
"Have you met Rachel?"
"I have not."
"She's cute. You'll like her."
Black & Mild
thick curling smoke that drifted
from between my parted lips
and left aftertastes of charred vanilla
nestling coyly on my pointed tongue
Could I go back,
I would have recounted
my affair with the cigar
for the look you gave
when I could not describe the flavor
burns a hole in me
even on this cold and distant day
Xyra limped hastily across the patchy vermilion carpet of her studio. She was two hours away from opening, but an insistent banging had pulled her from her sleep. It was just as well. She'd grown weary of the gruesome imagery that haunted her dreams. Living it once was torture enough.
She hadn't the time to properly grease the rusting gears of her leg, but the rapid fire knocking on her door suggested she put a hold on her morning ritual. The smell of sweat and cheap cologne pierced her nostrils. Humans. They can be so demanding. That's what made them her best customers.
'Shit. My gloves. Where are my gloves?' Xyra mused. No time. She swung open the door to see two suited men standing expectantly in the early morning sun. The taller, broader of the two began to speak with a booming, but gentle voice.
"I'm Captain Leon Hale. Head of the Special Populations Division. This is Lieutenant Randy Ellis. Is this your business card?
Captain Hale unfurled a clear plastic bag and thrust it in Xyra's direction. Xyra recognized the contents of the bag immediately. Gilded lettering glinted in the sun, shining her name back at her.
XYRA'S FATES AND FORTUNE: WHERE DARKNESS MEETS THE LIGHT
She stared at it for a moment, tucked a loose dreadlock behind her pointed ear, and stepped back from the doorway, silently offering the men a pathway indoors. As the officers crossed the steps into the psychic's studio, Xyra scanned the room for her gloves.
"May I ask what this is about?"
The captain's piercing voice broke Xyra's concentration. "Well, Miss Heddingbone-"
"...Xyra. A human male was found beaten to death in one of the executive suites at The High Life Hotel and Casino. Twenty six years old, name was Davey Simms. He's from a small town in the countryside, one of the few all-human communities left. Here's a picture of him in happier days. My guess is that he wanted to come to the big city, take a walk on the wild side. We found cards for various...alternative interests in his wallet. One for you, the Succuclub and one that only reads 'Demonatrix'. Apparently he never made it to the club, and we can’t get a lead on the Demonatrix. So as far as we’re concerned, you’re the last person to have seen him alive. And given the nature of the evidence, that makes it our case."
Xyra let out a hesitant exhale as her golden irises scanned the picture. "I remember him. Squirrelly. His reading told of money and mistakes. "
"Money and mistakes? That's it?"
"I keep it vague. Especially with humans. Humans don't want the full truth. The truth is scary. Less profitable. I tell them they’ll come into money in Vegas. I don’t tell them about the sticky-fingered hooker that’s going to rob them blind later that night. I'd rather not know about the sticky-fingered hooker to begin to with. So I've found ways to block the information. I end up in interrogation rooms otherwise."
From the corner of her eye, Xyra spotted a set of spindly fingers reaching for the deck of cards sitting on the table nearby. She jumped to swat them away, making contact with the Lieutenant's bony hand. Xyra gasped, clutched her chest, caught herself on a bookshelf and began to mumble under her breath.
"Randy...Human Homicide...they've filled the spot...Disher..."
"Disher?! God, that guy is such a tool-"
"Human Homicide...Randy? You're trying to leave Special Pops? Do you not realize how short-staffed we ar.." Captain Hale peered at Xyra curiously. "Xyra. How did you know that?"
Xyra responded cooly. "It's a gift. Of sorts."
"Say, are you of any relation to the Heddingbones of the Third Circle?" Ellis inquired intrusively.
"I knew it! You look human but I knew there was something off about you...you know what it is? Fingernails and cheekbones. You just look like, FIERCE, you know what I mean? Man, those Heddingbones were some real nasty motherfu-"
"Lieutenant. That's enough. Xyra. Seeing as you are the last person to see Mr. Simms alive, I'd say you're the best lead we have. We could use your assistance."
"Oh and hey, we won't tell anyone about the whole part-demon thing." Ellis added unhelpfully.
"Anyone who needs to know already does. I can show you my papers if you'd like."
"That won't be necessary, Xyra. Lieutenant, I suggest you'd step outside. You've said enough for today. " Lieutenant Ellis shot the Captain a defeated look, grimaced and stepped outside.
"Will you be needing anything more from me, Captain?"
"Well. If you're feeling up to it...I'd like for you to join us at the crime scene."
"I'd have to close the shop for the day."
"I can chat with the higher-ups. See what we can do to make it worth your while. Maybe even keep you out of the interrogation room."
"I need time to prepare. You've interrupted my routine."
"Take all the time you need. And Xyra, I have a request. Feel free to say no." The captain extended a meaty hand. "It's about my daughter."
Xyra momentarily scanned the captain's hand. Finally, she took a deep breath, braced herself and placed her slender hand on top of the captain's.
"The boy is of no harm. Your daughter has...other interests."
"Other interests. Care to elaborate?"
"No. It's best if she does that on her own. Captain...I have a request from you as well."
"Anything you need."
"Help me find my gloves. They were a gift from my mother."