Home > Night Stalker (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #2)(3)

Night Stalker (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #2)(3)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“No problem,” Trevor answered, “we like to share. Why don’t you pour me some of that, too.” He laid his keys on the bar, signaling that he didn’t plan to drive.

“Have any of you had anything to eat?” I asked.

Jolene shook her head, her long auburn hair swinging back and forth. “This morning. Puked it all up.”

I went back to the kitchen.

“Steve,” I said to Steve Dworkin, the wizard of a cook on the evening shift, “what can you fix up for three queasy stomachs? Josh and Trevor and Jolene are out there trying to get hammered on empty stomachs.”

He blinked at me, cocked his head to the side, and asked, “Huh?”

“They had a job to find a kid, but he was dead when they found him.”

I saw understanding hit him. “Bad, huh? Yeah, I can fix something. There’s also a potion for that.”

He led me back out behind the bar to the small refrigerator that held various potions his witchy-apothecary wife sold through the bar. Pulling out three small vials, he said, “Give them these, and I’ll fix some food for them.”

I set the potions down in front of the three bedraggled heroes and said, “Drink this. I’m adding it to your tab.”

“What is it?” Josh asked, eyeing his vial distrustfully.

“It’s for your stomach, so that you can keep down the food Dworkin is fixing you,” I said.

About that time, raised voices over in the corner near the dart boards caught my attention. A large biker-shifter was standing face-to-face with a smaller guy and they were yelling at each other. I reached under the bar, grabbing the magic-infused sawed-off baseball bat that Sam kept there, and headed toward the trouble.

When I reached them, it became apparent that the smaller guy looked small simply because the shifter was so large. The small guy was several inches taller than I was, and solidly built.

“Hey!” I shouted, trying to get their attention. That didn’t work, so I waved the bat between them. “Hey! Calm down! You’re disturbing the peace!”

The shifter gave me a glance out of the corner of his eye, but the other guy didn’t acknowledge my presence. I knew better than to get between two antagonists in a bar fight, so I just waved the bat more vigorously.

“Hey! Shut it down! What the hell is going on?” I shouted again.

“He’s cheating,” the shifter said, not taking his eyes off his opponent. “He’s using magic to aim his darts.”

I shot a glance at the dart board, and saw five darts in the bullseye. The shifter certainly seemed to have a case.

“Okay,” I said, turning to the other man. “No more darts for you. Return your winnings, and we’ll call it all even.”

That didn’t sit well with either one. The shifter wanted to beat the guy’s brains out, and the cheater didn’t want to return the money. Both turned on me and told me to butt out.

I took a deep breath, pulled in ley line energy, dropped the bat, then grabbed both of them by the belt and lifted them off the floor. Things didn’t work exactly as I planned. For some reason, I thought they’d stay upright, but they didn’t. It was very awkward and unbalanced, and both wheeled in the air, spinning around and hitting the floor with their heads.

Whoops! I felt my face burn with embarrassment.

Voices around me reacted. “Whoa!” “Wow!” “Yikes!” and similar exclamations, not all of them printable—and then the bar grew silent.

Bending down and picking up the bat, I said, “You boys need to listen better. I said to stop, and I mean it. One more damned word from either of you, and I’m banning you. You got it?”

The shifter gave me a dazed look, nodded, and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

I bent closer to the mage. “You understand? Play nice or don’t play. Now cough up the money.”

The guy opened his mouth, but I didn’t like the defiant look on his face. I shoved the bat at him and bumped him in the shoulder. He jumped, and his eyes widened. That was the reaction everyone had the first time they touched that bat. I didn’t know what kind of spell Sam had used, but the damned thing was scary. Sam showed it to me the first time when I asked if he employed a bouncer.

“Yeah. Okay,” the guy said. He edged away from me and managed to sit up, holding himself with one hand on the floor and rubbing his head with his other hand. I waited. It took him about a minute to take the hint, then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of money. He counted off some of it and tossed it at the shifter.

“What about the rest of us?” a voice behind me said. “He’s been winning all night.”

I gave Mr. Big Winner a tight smile, which in my past had signaled that someone was going to die, waved the bat a little, and said, “The rest of it.”

He blanched, obviously understanding the smile, and peeled off most of the rest of his wad. He handed it to me, and I parceled it out to the half-dozen people trying to claim it.

When I finished, I went back behind the bar, put the bat away, and poured myself another shot. It was not a good night. Jenny and Emily, the waitresses working that evening, were standing behind the bar near the kitchen door. That was the safest place to be if a bar fight erupted, and also kept anyone from going behind the bar and pilfering while I was away.

“Thanks,” I told them.

Jenny gave me a wink. “Not a problem.”

“Who is that guy?” I asked Jenny, meaning the darts cheater.

“Dunno. New in town, I think.”

About that time, one of the guys from the kitchen came out and set bowls of rice with some fruit and bread down in front of my friends with the rebellious stomachs. Then Jenny and Emily gave me a couple of drink orders, and the evening returned to as normal as Rosie’s ever got.

Chapter 3

The next morning, my friend Lizzy picked me up at my apartment. We had a standing date for Sunday brunch with friends of hers from high school and college. The usual gawkers came out from their apartments to stare at her when she arrived in the parking lot.

Lizzy’s pink Mini-Cooper matched her hair, which she didn’t dye, as well as most of her outfit. Josh called her the ‘pink popsicle’ for her tendency to dress in pink-and-white emo style, and for her hair. Some of the people at the bar called her Dizzy Lizzy, but it was partly an act. She was working on her PhD in astrophysics at the university.

Lizzy was half-Fae, a seer, and I had met her mother once. While Lizzy’s blunt-cut jaw-length hair looked like a pink mop on her head, her mom’s electric-pink butt-length hair formed a dense cloud that followed her around like a cape.

“You look like shit,” she greeted me. “Bad night?”

“Thanks,” I said, scowling at her. “Yeah, bad night. I’m a little hung over, and I didn’t sleep very well.”

I was glad I hadn’t seen what Jolene had. The images my subconscious manufactured were bad enough, and my dreams were anything but restful.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

Lizzy had been shot and come close to dying only a couple of weeks before. Although her mother was a healer of incredible power and had saved her life, she had suffered major trauma.

“Feeling better,” Lizzy said. “I still get tired quickly, but Mom says that’s normal and that I should be completely healthy by Solstice.”

She tossed me a lump wrapped in a leaf. Unwrapping it, I found a clear crystal about the size of my thumbnail.

“It’s candy,” she said. “My mom makes it. Suck on it and you’ll feel better.”

Lizzy was the gentlest, kindest person I knew, so I popped it in my mouth. It was sweet, but not as sweet as sugar, and it tasted like cherries. As we drove west toward the bay, I did start feeling better, and by the time we reached the restaurant, the candy had completely dissolved, and I felt better than I had in days.

With a bright smile, Lizzy bounced out of the car and said, “Better?”

“Yeah. Much better. Thanks.”

Most of her friends were normal humans, so we didn’t talk about Rosie’s or the shifter kid. I enjoyed the brunches because it was my one contact with the normal world. The girls chatted about men, their jobs, movies they’d seen or books they’d read, and everything was light and happy.

Afterward, Lizzy and I and a girl named Kathy, who was a witch, strolled down to the boardwalk and watched the waves roll in. There was a decided nip in the air, and the leaden skies that would have promised rain earlier in the year made me wonder if it would snow.

Kathy laughed when I mentioned it. “If it snows, you’ll see this city shut down. It snows up in the mountains but very rarely down here on the coast.”

I told them about the shifter kid, and both grew very quiet. After a while, Kathy said, “You hear about things like that sometimes, but it’s always somewhere else. I hate to think about that happening in Westport.”

“Are demons real?” I asked.

Lizzy shrugged. “I guess it depends on how you define a demon. Some of the Fae might qualify if you’re talking about ugly and malevolent. Liches, bain sidhe, boggles, kelpies, that sort of thing. But creatures from Hell? Naw. Angels and demons are religious inventions, and religions aren’t real.”

“Could you summon and capture a Fae?” Kathy asked.

Lizzy laughed. “You mean, could you draw a circle, chant some mumbo-jumbo, and summon my mom? I don’t think so, and if you did, she’d kick your ass.”

Her mom looked a little like a pink Jessica Rabbit from the Disney movie, only about four-and-a-half feet tall. Despite that, she was one of the scariest people I had ever met.

Sam O’Grady had inherited the bar from his mother almost seventy years before I met him. Considering that he looked to be around fifty years old, I had no idea of his real age. He was a powerful aeromancer and a knowledgeable spell caster who had taught me some useful magic. He also had contacts in the magical world all over North America.

When I went into work Sunday afternoon, I told him about the shifter kid and asked him about demons.

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