Drucillia woke up upside-down on a pile of pillows staring at a spray of stars which slowly resolved into the chandelier hanging from the living room ceiling. The taste of V-8 coated her tongue and the buzzing she thought was in her ears turned out to be Tealight, a twinkle fairy, stuck under the overturned salad bowl. She lifted the bowl to free Tealight when the doorbell rang. I swear, if it’s that Cat Rancher from downstairs again … “Who is it?” Drucillia asked in what was a polite voice … for her anyway.
“Um, hi .. I .. uh .. was told to ask for Drew. <cough> Snowcone sent me” was the response from the intercom.
“Oh, sure, you must be Chuck, come on up, she said you might stop by” Drucillia said as she hit the buzzer. Such great magic these mortals had, hit a button instead of running down five floors to open a door. Why, just last week Drucillia talked to Aspen on the tell-eee-foam and didn’t even have to leave the couch.
Drucillia had just managed to shoo the last pixie through the closet to WINTER when there was a knock at the door. “It is open” she yelled out.
A mortal with roving eyes and slightly disheveled look entered “Uh, thank you but aren’t you worried about leaving your door unlocked?” he asked.
“Not until cats learn about doorknobs. I was just straightening up and unlocked it after you buzzed. We had a baby shower for a friend last night and I did not want to be rude if you knocked and I was busy cleaning. Have a seat, anywhere you like. Would you like a mini quiche? Cameron made them fresh last night. Something to drink perhaps? I have coffee, tea, cocoa, milk, juice, water. So, what do you need that Terri sent you to me?”
“Um, no decaf I guess. That’s okay, thank you. Uh, congratulations to your friend, boy or girl or do they want to be surprised?”
“Oh, it is definitely a surprise to V.S. anyway, can never be too sure what surprises Cameron. I will certainly pass on your well wishes. I can get you some dee calf if you would like but you will have to tell me from where. I am hoping for one of each myself since that way neither Cameron nor V.S. will be left out but we shall see shall we not?”
“Wow, Terri warned me that you were a little hyper but uh, it’s difficult to keep up. Speaking of, I had originally gone to Terri for help but she said she wasn’t able to anymore and directed me to you. I’m investigating a series of disappearances that I believe are connected to … you’ll probably think I’m crazy but hear me out … a bunch of trolls!”
“Okay, I shall endeavor to speak slower. Why would that make you crazy?”
“Just like that? You aren’t just saying that to humor me, are you?”
“Of course not, that would be rude. Trolls are quite capable of making mortals vanish.”
“If I may before we go any further, how exactly do you know about trolls?” Chuck asked, suddenly worried about who or what he was dealing with. Drucillia dropped the glamour and appeared as her normal 13" pixie self. “Now for your end of the bargain, I am going to want a few things up front. For how long depends on how many trolls we are talking about here. Have you ever heard of a place called Salad Works?” Drucillia asked with a gleam in her eye.
- – - – -
Karl was just finishing a final edit on his latest article and already thinking ahead to tonight’s darts match at McGantry’s when his desk phone rang.
“Kolchek, whatcha got?” he said as he sent the final draft off to his editor’s email.
There was a pause from the other end before a female voice said “Oh, sorry I was expecting your voice mail. This is Detective Lee, we met during that unpleasantness at the Delta Delta Gamma Sorority. I was wondering if maybe we could meet for coffee and I could pick your brain a bit? I have a bit of a dilemma that I think you might be able to help me with.”
Lee? Oh yeah, Nordic-Japanese, six foot six tall, blonde hair, ice-green eyes. “Oh sure, Isakine ‘call me Izzy’, right? Just about the only woman I have to quite literally look up to. Hard to forget. I was just about to leave for today and grab a bite, so sure, as long as the coffee’s good and the food’s decent I’m all yours, so pick away.”
“Well, I know a place. Ever hear about a place called The Shop Around The Corner?”
- – - – -
“So that’s my problem in a nutshell, thanks for not laughing by the way.”
Karl sat there for a minute thinking about all she had said while Izzy just stared into her coffee cup. “So this feeling that you’re being watched has only been since your Mormor died?”
“Yes. It means ’mother’s mother’. She was never a granny or grandmama, the thought alone would make her cringe. And now that you mention it, only since I received this necklace of hers.”
Izzy pulled out what at first glance appeared to be a Celtic cross but had extra crossbars almost like an orthodox cross without the bottom one being slanted.
“It can’t be that anyone is after this though, it’s just silver-painted wood. It’s not like it’s valuable as anything other than a remembrance of her.”
Before Karl could respond Kathleen the proprietor set a tray between them with three more coffees and a plate of scones that were many levels above ‘decent’.
“Sorry for the wait folks but these are fresh from the oven. Mind if I join you?” she said as she sat down and picked up the third cup for herself. “Please put that away, dear, it’s making some of the other patrons nervous. Here, use this” as she placed a carved wooden box lined with silk in front of Izzy.
“Where on earth did you ever find a spirit caller in this day and age?”
Feeling almost compelled fill her in, Karl and Izzy took turns doing exactly that for the next ten minutes. After they were done, Kathleen picked up the empty plate and went back behind the counter.
“You know, odd as all that was, this is actually the first time that I don’t feel like I’m being watched” Izzy said.
Karl felt like he should try to make some comment on that but before he could, Drucillia in human guise came rushing into The Shop and ran up to their table.
“Chuck, so glad I finally found you. Those guys you wanted me to folloo…who is your friend? Wait, I know you. You are that law keeper that Chuck was so smitten with on that college thing where those trolls were sporting with those cheerleader trollops. I am Drucillia, but you can call me Dru if you really want. Like Chuck here, his real name is Karl but our friend Terri calls him Chuck. I don’t think he really looks like a Karl though, do you? More of a Ken maybe. I am glad he finally got the nerve to ask you out on a date. This is a date, is it not? What do you think?”
Izzy sat there for a minute just blinking while Karl secretly wished New York would have a minor earthquake so the ground could swallow him up.
“Uh, nice to meet you again, Dru right?” Izzy finally said.
“Yup. Chuck sometimes needs my help tracking down people, places or things. Our friend Terri used to but she can not anymore. Well, she probably could but she definitely should not. Not that she would anyway but it is always best to not upset the Queen and if the Queen believes something to be so, you’re best bet is to make sure that it is. Chuck, why is your face turning purple? So, do you want to hear what I saw or do you have more colors to practice first?”
Izzy stood up and collected her things, putting the wooden box into her satchel bag “I should be going now. Thank you again, Karl. We’ll have to do this again sometime. Nice meeting you again, Dru.” With that Izzy made a rapid exit out the door.
“She seems nice. You should definitely see her again. So, those guys you wanted me to follow ……”
- – - – -
“Hey Chuck, it’s Terri. Just wanted to thank you again for your help with that J-B thing. Real shame about Jacoby, huh? Feds finding his brother with all those conflict diamonds hiding in his ‘Re-elect Jacoby’ HQ. Wonder where exactly they got THAT tip from. So, Drucillia was over yesterday. What’s this I hear about a new lady in your life?”
Oh great, just what he did not need, one more woman trying to pry into his painfully nonexistent social life. All he needed now was Lady Annona popping by for another one of her ‘you know, you really should…’ chats.
“Hey Terri. Yeah, what were the chances, huh? About that, Izzy is just a friend, Dru misunderstood. We’ve worked together on a few things is all, commiserated over the inability to talk about weirdness with others. You understand.”
“Wow, all that and she’s clued in too? Chuck, buddy, you had best get moving on that one before somebody else sweeps her up.”
“Geez, what did Dru do, draw you a picture or something?”
“Nah, drawing is my thing and I’m looking right at her now. She just walked past me in The Park and seems like she is shadowing a group of ….. what in the … Oh no! Gotta go! Call Ivanova, ghouls, send help by Aspen’s tree quick! She’ll know the place” and with that the call ended.
Karl called Lt Ivanova on the landline while he tried repeatedly to get Terri back on his cellphone. After a quick explanation to Lt Ivanova he rushed downstairs to his car hoping to get to the Park in time. The rational part of his brain kept trying to get his attention with thoughts like “in time for what?” and “what good could he do?” but the gibbering panicked part refused to listen.
After what seemed to be hours he finally arrived to the parking lot closest to the general area Terri usually liked to hangout roughly thirty minutes later. The police had a large portion cordoned off near the tree line and one of the bike paths. As he unsuccessfully tried to convince a wide-eyed rookie to let him pass with his press credentials, someone was trying to get his attention. It didn’t register to him until Drucillia actually grabbed his arm and started to forcefully drag him away from the police line that he saw it was Lady Annona.
“You know, you really should pay more attention. I have been trying to get your attention since you almost ran me down in the parking lot. She is okay, a little scuffed around the edges maybe but nothing that will not heal in time.”
“She’s okay? I have to see her, where is she? I don’t see her! Izzy!”
“Izzy? I thought you were looking for Terri. Who is Izzy?”
Drucillia spoke up “She is the Viking Samurai I was telling you about, remember? The one the spirits are all afraid of but can not stay away from. The one the ghouls tricked into following them into the woods. She was doing great before they surrounded her. I wanted to help but the Queen has forbidden …”
“Hush, now. Why do you not go and see if you can aid Terri? Karl will be fine here with me. Aspen, a cool drought if you would? Here, Karl, drink this and sit in the shade, you shall feel much better I promise.” Lady Annona said.
Karl wondered what all the commotion was at the edge of the Park. He really should check it out, it could be news but it felt so nice here in the shade …
- – - – -
“So as far as the report is concerned, you noticed a group of people acting suspicious in the Park. You were about to stop and question them when they suddenly dashed down the bike path and you heard a woman’s scream whereupon you called for backup and cautiously advanced into the woods. You were struck from behind and did not regain consciousness until the EMT’s were working on you. I know it’s not exactly the most flattering report but it covers all the physical evidence and still follows official procedures. My advice to you is get real familiar with the phrase ‘it is all still a bit fuzzy’ especially given the size of that goose egg on your head. Off the record, I think that was some amazing close quarters combat. If you ever want to transfer to the UCU, just let me know. Now if you’re up for it, there is a certain reporter who has threatened to reveal the highest levels of secrets if he doesn’t get to see you right now.” With that, Lt Ivanova left the hospital room.
Isakine Lee closed her eyes for a second when she felt a breeze through the window which she didn’t think actually opened.
“Greetings again, I do not have much time but I was ordered to bring you this. Lady Annona says you must keep this with you from now on.”
Izzy opened her eyes to see Karl’s friend Dru sitting on the railing of her bed holding Mormor’s wooden cross.
They heard Karl’s voice in the hallway “damn straight I can see her now, if you people think you can cover this up …”
“And that is my cue, have to go now” as she literally flew out through the window it dawned on Izzy that Dru had been only a foot tall.
Izzy wondered for the first time exactly how hard had she been hit in the head. What started to bother her was that none of that was really bothering her.
Karl came rushing into her room “Izzy, are you alright? I tried to see you sooner but they kept coming up with all these excuses and then you were unconscious again and then Lady Annona demanded that I run an errand for her and I couldn’t refuse and then …”
Why was Karl talking like Dru? Hmm, Dru was right, he did seem more like a ‘Ken’ … now why had she thought that? “Karl, KARL! I am okay, just got knocked around a bit is all.”
“I’m so glad. I was afraid that I’d called for help too late ‘cuz I was still trying to get Terri back when I finally got through to Ivanova. Why were you alone in the park? Where was your partner? What happened? Don’t worry, it’s not for a story, I just want to know who beat up my friend, honest.”
“It is all still a bit fuzzy …”
- – - – -
“…. And then, Terri made the big one look like Izzy so when the other three came around the bend they jumped on him thinking it was Izzy. The big one must have thought they wanted the bounty for themselves so he grabbed two of them and smashed their heads together but by then the littlest one, amazing they kept him around honestly, had snuck up behind him and slit his throat. You should have seen the look on his face when Terri dropped the glamour and he saw his boss dead at his feet right before she shot him full of thorns … it was like ‘guuhhhhh?’ I am telling you, Miss I-Don’t-Fight-Anymore my diminutive derrière!! Do not believe that for a moment. That was priceless!!”
Drucillia paused for a breath for the first time in the last ten minutes so Karl jumped in while he could “As rousing a story as all that is I think it might be best if we kept it amongst ourselves. Think of it as a surprise attack for unwitting foes?”
Drucillia seemed deep in thought for a moment “Yeah, I guess so but it was epic, really!”
“At least we all know about it, right? Like a special group with a shared secret!”
Karl really hoped Dru didn’t tell too many about what really went down in the park. From what Terri had told him, her getting out and more importantly staying out of Faerie Court affairs was much more than just self preservation even though it seemed to him that someone at least was determined to drag her back. It did not look good from his perspective. Not to mention his own growing desire to keep Izzy from getting involved, a thought that Karl was working very hard to not consciously acknowledge. He could hear Terri’s voice in his head very clearly saying ‘so how’s that working out for you?’