Urban Fiction Holiday
2
 Jan 7, 2017
Rules


This contest is about writing an Urban Fantasy story, that is, the setting has to be a large town or city, and there must be a supernatural element in it. In addition, it needs to involve a holiday, any of them. The supernatural element needs to complicate the holiday (*cough* Gremlins *cough*)

The word limit is set high, and you have a month to do it, so let's see some good yarns.

Oh, and one other twist: You are allowed to include one picture anywhere in the story. You have to create it yourself, any of the deck formats are fine (3D, chop, Illustration, etc). You can save the picture to your album and use the url between image tags to post it.

Hit list: Have I mentioned Gremlins yet? ;)


Contest Rules
* Entry Fee: Free
* Prize: Advanced Trophy
* Level: Advanced
* Character Limits: 1500 to 4000 words
* Submit period: 24 days
* Voting period: 3 days
* All regular Writing Deck Rules apply.
* Multiple entries are allowed in this contest.

The character is Thorn by TheDarkerSideOfArt ;)

Good luck and have fun!
1st place
  7.731

If I get out of this alive, I’m swearing off beautiful, rich dames as clients! I’ll send them all over to Sam Spade’s office. I may not be that bad a gumshoe, but I’m not used to this type of danger. I really suppose I should have quit while I was ahead, but curiosity kills the cat, and maybe now the sleuth.

If this were a comedy, I could say “Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into.” But this isn’t a comedy, and I don’t have a partner to get me out of it. In fact even if I had a partner, I don’t know how he would ever be able to find me, in order to help me, anyway. I mean this is New York City. No one would ever believe what is hiding down here, far below the basement levels of this building, and certainly no one would believe how I got here!

One week ago:

It was a fine day out, regardless of the weather. The whole town was celebrating the Giants 31-0 victory over the Redskins yesterday. I was in such a good mood I even told Wilma to take an extra-long lunch break. “Just remember to bring me back a nice large Reuben.” After all, we had no current clients, and all I was doing was reading all the re-caps about yesterday’s game in the paper.

So when there was a knock on the door, I said “come on in” without even looking up from the paper, figuring it was just another neighbor wanting to chat about the game. Well, the door opened and closed, and no one was shouting, so I did look up, and my jaw dropped. There stood the most beautiful dame I think I had ever seen. Dressed to the nines and with mesmerizing emerald eyes, I don’t even know if I said anything.

She did address me though: “Mr. Whistler? I am in the need of your detecting services.”

Somehow I managed to get hold of myself and found my voice. “Uh, what is it that I can help you with?” I’m sure is what I whispered. It wasn’t just that she was a knockout, but that she had obviously skipped to the end of the Private Investigations list in the Yellow Pages in order to have found her way here.

“I will come straight to the point. My name is Amanda Giro, maybe you’ve heard of me? No matter, what I want done must never be made public, which is why I chose your agency. I am very wealthy, and have had many suitors that were only after my fortune. Currently I am seeing a man, Frank Linge, that I hope does not fall into that category. He has not asked for my hand in marriage yet, but I feel he should be close, if there is not something amiss.

“I don’t believe he knows I have a penthouse suite at the Waldorf, as on the few occasions I have allowed him to see me home, we have gone to a different address that I keep for entertaining. That place is fancy enough that he must realize I have money, but not to what extent.

“I will be out of town for a week, and I would like you to check him out to see if he is the real deal, or if he is in cahoots with someone, or on his own, just to get my money. Normally I can see right through the fakes, but there is just something about him. I really like him, but I must be sure.

“He says he works at Macy’s, so I suppose you could start there? At any rate, I will come back next Monday to see what you have found out. I am willing to pay $1,000 a day plus expenses.” At that she dropped a stack of bills and a photo of Frank Linge onto my desk. “Here’s $7,000. If this isn’t enough, let me know and I will cover the rest Monday.”

Well, my going rate was usually just $100 a day, but this close to Christmas… I would be able to get Janet that engagement ring that keeps getting put off because we have to pay for things like renting this luxurious one room office.

With seven grand, she might even want me to pay her for being my secretary. “That will be fine,” I managed to get out. “Should I bring you what I find to the Waldorf?”

“No, I will stop in here next Monday afternoon for it.” She said with no expression showing on her face. “Say about five?”

“Fine,” I replied. “Hopefully it will be good news.”

She flashed a smile that melted me, said goodbye, and walked out of the office.

I was looking through the White Pages when Janet came back in from lunch. Four Linges, but no Frank or F. She dropped the sack with my Reuben on my desk. “Is something wrong?” She asked. “You look a little flustered.”

I shook myself out of my stupor and smiled. “Nope, everything is just fine,” I answered while unwrapping my sandwich. “It’s just that while you were out, we received a new client.” I filled her in about everything except the money. That I planned on surprising her with for Christmas.

Looking at the photo, Janet said “Well he looks respectable enough. I don’t know what Amanda looks like, since you didn’t keep her around until I got here, but I think she might have herself a nice catch.” Her wink was the only thing keeping me from feeling bad about the lady leaving before introductions could be made.

Finishing my sandwich, I proclaimed “There’s no time like the present to get started. Care to pay a visit to Macy’s?”

“You actually want me to come with you on a case?” She asked, sounding slightly startled, but with a smile.

“Not on the case, per se,” I responded, “but since that’s such a big store, two sets of eyes have a better chance of finding him faster. Once we have located the suspect, you can return here to your office managerial duties.” I said this also with a smile, and got ready for the punch in my arm that I knew was coming.

It turned out to be a lot easier to spot Frank that we could have ever imagined. We didn’t even have to go in Macy’s. When we arrived out front, we joined an already large crowd of onlookers observing some workers in a shop window working on a Christmas display. And there he was, Frank Linge himself, putting up what looked to be a nutcracker engineer at the controls of a Lionel train station.

“Well, I guess I might as well head back to the office,” said Janet.

“Or you could just stay and enjoy the show,” I replied, “while I try to gather more information about him from other employees. Maybe I’ll even be able to get a look in his locker, if he has one. If he looks like he is going to leave the window before I get back, I’m sure you can think up something to talk to him about, to keep him occupied.” I then took off before giving her a chance to say or do anything.

It wasn’t hard finding the employees locker room, there was a big sign over a door at the rear of the cafeteria that said “Employees only.” Walking into a place like that is pretty simple. You drape your coat over your arm and have your hat in hand while holding your tie (loosened) with the other. Anyone looking just assumes you are either late coming in to work (use a sheepish smile), or are in a hurry to leave (use a nice grin).

Walking through the employee’s door, there was no one in attendance. Walking down what I assumed was the main aisle, I glanced into the side rows left and right at the lockers, but could see that they would be no help. No name tags, just numbers. Ah well, it was worth a shot anyway.

When I got to the back though, my luck changed a little. There was the employee’s entrance (I assumed from an alley behind the store), and next to it, a time clock. With no one still around, I went up to it and pulled Frank’s card. “Hmm, he’s only been working here a week?” I thought looking the card over. “Well at least I know about when he should be going home now.” I pulled a couple other cards just to make sure, and sure enough, the other cards were stamped for the whole month up to today.

When I got back to the front of Macy’s Janet was still there watching the display being built. “He’s really good,” she said when I came alongside her.

I glanced at the window and had to agree. “Maybe that’s why they hired him. It seems he’s only been working here a week. If he follows his work routine, he should be packing it in pretty soon though. I’m going to stick around, and when he finishes this window, I’m going to hurry around to the back of the store and follow him when he leaves. You can head on home, and I’ll talk to you later.”

Janet was enjoying the creation in the window too though, so she stuck around as well. And when Frank was done, we also went our separate ways. I found a niche where I could observe the employee’s entrance, but didn’t have long to wait.

Following Frank was a piece of cake. Of course why shouldn’t it be; I mean he wouldn’t be expecting a tail would he? A quick subway ride and a short walk and we arrived at a reasonably priced hotel. I stayed across the street while Frank went in. It wasn’t dark enough out yet to be able to notice lights coming on in the rooms, so I would just have to keep an eye on the lobby, and if he didn’t come back out for a while, I might be able to trick the room number out of the clerk.

Maybe they didn’t allow cooking in the rooms there, or he liked eating out, because Frank had only been in there an hour or so, before he came back out. Sure enough he led me to a little café, where he ordered his dinner. I was glad at this point that I had had that Reuben earlier.

After the meal he didn’t head back to his hotel though. “Where are you going now?” I wondered.

The Copa. Why not, even if it was a week night, that place was always swinging. But it was also expensive, and I didn’t think Macy’s paid that well. At any rate, I should be able to have something to eat there, while managing to keep an eye on him. This is where expenses really come in though.

While they prefer serving dinners at the table, you can get appetizers at the bar, which is where I preferred to stay. Frank on the other hand seemed to be expected. He went straight to a table where a stunning looking brunette allowed him to kiss her on the cheek before he sat with her. I had a beer and a few tiny tacos while I watched them talk, dance and enjoy the show.

I had persuaded a cigarette girl to get me a photo of the couple, and while usually only done for the customers themselves (to commemorate their experience), a nice tip got her to change the policy and get me one. Of course that proved nothing except that he knew another girl in this city.

I was just about to order some more appetizers when they got up from their table and started toward the door, instead of the dance floor. “Where to now, Frank?” I said to myself as I dropped some greenbacks onto the bar and started after them.

It was a disappointing tail, as he took her to her place (I assumed – I would have to check out that address later), kissed her once again on the cheek, said goodnight and led me back to his hotel. She could have been his sister for all the action that had happened that night.

His routine was consistent though, as the following three nights were almost as identical, with the exception of the club, but the same brunette was there every time, which made me think of them more as tourists. And why did he always eat at that little café first, when it was obvious he didn’t worry about the cost of the clubs?

While Frank was at Macy’s on Tuesday, I made contact with his hotel clerk and other employees, to see what else I could find out about him, and on Wednesday (when it appeared his routine would not change), I looked into the brunette. The landlord at her apartment was of no help until I greased his palm, and though that got me into her flat, there was nothing to see there, just a standard poorly-furnished one room with kitchenette and bath, that she was renting by the month. The only thing that might have been important, was that she had only been there for a little over a week and had only paid for one month so far.

I did find out that she regularly left about eight in the morning, and didn’t seem to return until the night. So, it was time for me to tail her, which I tried to do on Thursday and again on Friday, but she had a sixth-sense or something and was able to evade me. The subways aren’t the easiest places to follow someone, but I considered myself good at it, and she still just vanished.

Then on Friday it all changed. Frank took off from work early and met the brunette, waiting for him in the lobby of his hotel. She didn’t head up to his room with him though. She just waited while he went up and changed. “Maybe she IS his sister,” I told myself.

When they left the hotel, they took me on a weekend tour of, if it could be believed, toy shops. It was as though they were spying on the competition or something. It had to be one of the boringest weekends I ever spent on the job. And even though each night was spend at a different hotel, they did not share a room.

So when Monday afternoon came I was not looking forward to apologizing and telling Amanda Giro that Frank, even though spend a lot of time with another girl, she might as well be his sister. If there was a plot, I could not find it.

“Don’t worry,” said Janet, “even the Giants can’t win ‘em all. Look what happened to their game with the Bears yesterday.”

Yeah, that was one thing I didn’t really miss. The giants lost to the Bears 24-14, and their season was over. But even listening to that defeat would have been more enjoyable than touring toy shops. “Ah well,” I sighed.

When Amanda Giro walked in, she saw the photo on my desk, and before I could finish clearing my throat to give her a rundown of things, she picked it up and exclaimed “that witch! You have found the proof. Thank you. This should cover any other expenses,” and she dropped a stack of money on my desk, turned and left. Janet and I just looked at each other. “What was that?” Janet said, “Did I miss something?”

“You got me,” I replied. “I have no idea what just happened, but did you notice that her eyes seemed to turn a bright red?”

“Huh,” She came back with, “I didn’t notice that, I was too busy looking at that money she dumped on your desk, and how she politely called that girl a milder name than she might have meant. But evidently she did recognize her, so she must have had a run-in with her before?

“I guess,” I answered. “But something just doesn’t seem right. Why didn’t she even stay long enough for my report? I hope she isn’t planning on doing something regrettable?”

“Oh my,” came back Janet, “do you think so? Maybe you should warn them?” With that I grabbed up my coat and hat and left, hoping to catch Frank before his work shift ended at Macy’s.

Frank had not been at Macy’s (though he had not clocked out), or at his hotel, the Café, or the brunette’s place (and the landlord said she had not come back since she left in the morning). So I decided to go to the Waldorf, and talk to Amanda if she were there. I dropped a dime to let Janet know of my decision.

The doorman at the Waldorf told me that Madame Giro had indeed come home and he had not seen her depart. Going up to the front desk they even politely called up and informed her that she had a visitor in the lobby. “She said to go right up,” a surprised-looking clerk told me. “Have the elevator operator take you to the third penthouse.”

“Mr. Whistler,” Amanda said when she answered her door, ‘what brings you here? Our business was completed when you presented me with the evidence I needed.”

“I wanted to talk to you about that,” I said. “You didn’t stick around for me to give you my report, and I was afraid you might have taken it the wrong way y just seeing Frank in that picture, and I didn’t want you to do anything rash…”

“Rash?” she blurted. “You have no idea what you stumbled upon. At any rate, you should have not continued to stick your nose in where it does not belong, so now I have no choice. Let me take you to Frank. He will not be my guest for long, but I guess you will be suitable for later.”

Before I knew what was happening, or could even utter a “what?” I found myself here, with Frank pacing a little distance away. “What? Where?” my voice squeaked.

“Oh we are far under the city, in the White Dragon’s lair” Frank said when he noticed he was no longer alone. “Who are you, and what does she want with you? You appear to be a mere human.”

“Human?” my dazed mind responded. “You mean you aren’t? So what are you; who is this White Dragon; and what does she want with you? The last thing I remember was Amanda Giro telling me something…”

“Oh, she IS the White Dragon,” Frank exclaimed. “If one sees her in her true form, I’m afraid that is usually the last thing one sees. I know why she wants me. My race are considered a delicacy, especially tasty if eaten on Christmas Eve. I am an Elf. I was on a scouting mission to the city, and didn’t realize who she was when I first met her either. Stupid of me, but when I figured it out, I got a witch for protection in case she should try anything. I don’t understand how she got on to me. Usually it is easy for us to pass as human.”

“Well,” I started, and then explained what I had been doing the last week. “So I guess I am at least partly to blame for you being in the situation you’re in, but I thought Amanda was really hoping the two of you were meant for a long life together.”

“She blinked me out from Macy’s,” Frank said. “I didn’t realize how powerful her magic is. If I had known, Samantha, that’s my witch friend, would have been at my side twenty four hours a day.

“We’ll just have to hope Samantha can figure out where we are, and send in a rescue team.”

We walked all over the lair, and could find no way out unless we had wings. The only entryway appeared to be a hole in the ceiling, but that was too far above us to even be sure it wasn’t just a deep depression. There was not even any furniture unless one wanted to count the thrones intermingled amongst the piles of gold, jewels, weapons and armor that seemed just dumped any and everywhere.

We didn’t see Amanda, but she magically beamed in food occasionally, which is how I found out why Frank always ate at that little café. It seems elves can tolerate our beer (maybe it has to do with the alcohol content), but their diet runs different than us humans, so they only eat at places that are known to serve non-humans. I guess Frank didn’t think it would hurt telling me these things, since he assumed we were both eventually going to just be food ourselves. For a dragon. “I really need to wake up from this.” Is about the only thing that kept rattling around in my mind.

I have no idea how long we were down there before a new visitor arrived. And sure enough he came through that hole in the ceiling. “Okay, Frank,” he said, “it’s time to get you out of here. Samantha has the dragon occupied, but she won’t be able to stall for long.”

“It’s about time Santa, I thought nobody’d show up and I’d be her dinner soon,” replied Frank.

“Sooner than you knew,” came back Santa. “It’s Christmas Eve today.”

“Ouch,” was all Frank could utter. “Well blink us out of here then.”

“Hold on,” said Santa, looking at me, now. “How much does this human know about us? What all did you tell him?”

“Uh, quite a lot actually,” Frank whispered, “because I didn’t think we’d ever leave here. Alive anyway,”

“Okay then, here is what you need to do human,” and Santa explained how I could fill my pockets with enough of the dragon’s treasure to be able to start a new life far away and across at least some ocean. The dragon could not be punished or forced to leave, since she was just following her nature, and after all, she had been here since before humans ever even graced this place now called New York. She would not however seek me out as long as I never returned.

Santa would beam me to that new location, and would even allow Janet to accompany me, if she wished. It was either that, or I could remain and be the dragon’s New Year’s snack.

Janet was thrilled that we would now be living on an island in the Caribbean. At least I like to think the diamond ring that I picked out for her, from the dragon’s stash, wasn’t the only thing that persuaded her.

Who knows, some day someone may even get to read this, but then they’ll never believe it, and of course I’ll be dead by then, so it’ll never sell like those stories Sam Spade puts out. Ah well…

An Angel and a Demon Walked into the bar. The Bar Tender looked over at me since I was the only other person in the bar at 11am on a Tuesday.
“These guys with you?” He said, as he polished a bar glass.
“Probably.” I said, taking a long swallow of my bourbon and looking over at the two.
One looked to be a boy of about 14 with straggly blond hair, a White Stripes T-shirt, jeans, and Vans skate shoes. The other looked to be a catholic priest of about 110 years of age. What they looked like didn't matter I had the sight and could see further than most, so I wasn't fooled.
I motioned the bar tender to refill my glass of Woodford Reserve as the two approached me at the bar.
“May we speak privately for a moment Mr. Ableson?” The priest asked.
I gestured to a booth in the back and grabbed my glass. The bar was called Lemons, it was a little hole in the wall micro brew joint, but for me they kept a supply of good bourbon. There were three dust covered ceiling fans barely hanging from the tall ceiling , about a half dozen bar tables scattered haphazardly around the room, and a line of booths across the back of the room. They Choose a booth furthest away from the bartender and sat down on the same side. I ambled over behind them, the wood floor creaking under my weight. There were no coasters here, not that kind of bar, so I set the ice sweated glass on an already established white ring and sat down.
When dealing with the supernatural its always best to give them as little information as possible. So I waited on them to start the conversation. Finally the boy reached over and took my glass of bourbon and had a long pull.
“Ah... Good stuff” He said and slid the glass back. I wasn't going to touch that glass ever again.
“I am Michael Messenger, and this” He said gesturing at his friend “is Father Morningstar. You, as we already know, are the Psalmist.”
“We wish to hire you for a relatively small job Mr. Ableson” said Father Morningstar.
I waited a mental count of five in my head and then said, “I am a palm reader. I deal in minor readings. Some location spells... I find lost things etc... I don't do seances, table knocking, crystal balls, voodoo, hoodoo, witchcraft, or love potions. You want a tarot read I am your man, but other than that I don't know how I could possibly be much help to you... or the ones who employee you.”
Father Morningstar reached over and grabbed my glass. The ice instantly melted.
“Come now Mr. Ableson,” He said a smile touched at the corner of his lips “As my young looking friend said, we know who you are. We know just what you are capable of and what you are not, and what we need is a very small favor... Besides its Christmas.” He slid the smoldering glass back.
Well I had just found the stick in this scenario. It was time to find out what the carrot was.
“I don't work for favors,” I said, “there is a matter of a retainer.”
“That shouldn't be a problem.” the Michael Messenger said, and slid over a bank bag.
I reached in the pocket of my winter pea coat and pulled out my gloves. They were nice lamb skins with fur lining, I was going to hate loosing them. Gloves on I opened the bank bag. Inside were 30 silver dollars dated 1900 with lady liberty on the front and bald eagle on the back. The symbolism was not lost on me.
“At roughly $30 to $50 a coin that comes to... between $900 and $1500 depending on the coin dealer.” said Michael, “Furthermore on completion of the job you will receive 30 1oz gold Canadian maple leaves. Those coins are worth roughly $1500 each. So... you do the math.”
That was a big freaking carrot.
“No.” I said, “Find someone else.”
“May I ask why not Mr. Ableson?” said Father Morningstar, his eyes had begun to turn yellow where the whites had been. “I mean you haven't even heard what the job is yet.”
“I don't get involved in matters concerning heaven and hell. It doesn't work out for anyone...” I said, “Look at Job... All his kids dead; he's covered in boils; lost all his money. In fact all he really got was a wife that nagged him everyday telling him to 'curse god and die.' All because of some stupid bet between your two employers... No thanks, I'm out.”
“Look at Job,” Said Father Morningstar ticking off the points on his long nailed fingers,“He got all his money back; He got better kids; and his wife forgave him... Happy wife happy life they all say.”
“Furthermore,” said Michael, as he grabbed the empty glass and raised it filled again to his lips, “Ah... I much prefer Buffalo Trace, but I digress... This is a side job if you will... between Father Morningstar and myself. No Higher ups, or lower down's (as the case may be), are involved. Just us”
“The answer is still no.” I said.
“My Fathers house has many rooms Mr. Ableson. And upon your passing, I can assure you, your name will not be found on any of them.” Said Michael
“Don't worry Ableson... my father has just as many rooms,” Said Father Morningstar, “And after your passing, which will be sooner than you expect... We will find you and place you in one of those...Ah... Rooms”
The Stick just kept getting bigger and bigger with these two.
“I think if you two are acting independently of you respective bosses, then you had better tell me whats going on.”
“The World is passing away Mr. Ableson,” Said the thing that looked like a priest.
“Armageddon is around the corner coming as a thief in the night.” Said the Angel. “and neither I nor my friend here desire that to happen.”
“We just might be able to stop it from happening...” Said the priest, “If you get us what we need.”
“Okay, I'll bite, what do you want for Christmas?” I asked

“Bring us the head of the Baby Jesus.” They answered me in unison.

(2)

The spirit begotten left and I paid Jerry, the bartender, for the whiskey and left him a $20 tip. I left good tips, it was a payment for having to put up with the bad karma that seemed to follow me around like Pigpens dirt cloud.
My office was just across the street. I rented a small room in an old tobacco warehouse that had been converted to a feed and seed company and then converted again to a parts house for forklift equipment. There was an entrance to my office in the front of the building that opened to the abandoned seed store. A raccoon, that lived in the warehouse, had torn through the ceiling tiles to get access to the tastier garbage cans. My office was off to the left of his wreckage. It was part of my business model to leave the mess... so as to not attract the wrong set of clientele. No sense in raising anyone's expectations.
The warehouse was huge and once you left the office and sales areas It was just over an acre in size, larger than the local Walmart. It had natural lights from sky lights that ran sporadically across the metal roof. Forklift equipment covered every square inch of the floor space, from haphazardly stacked masts and forks, to the smallest switches and circuit boards. Located on an off street in the little town of Harrodsburg Kentucky, population just over 8000, it nestled right next to the train tracks which still ran several times every day and night.
The owner Al, and his two son's, ran the forklift operation, taking pictures of parts and listing them on Ebay for resale. As part of my rent I had to help find the lost inventory if it sold. He had a place for everything... and it was all in a one acre warehouse scattered on the floor with no rhyme or reason. To be fair, finding inventory was no problem for me. All I needed, generally, was a part number and a simple location spell, and presto, part found.
The warehouse was always dark, even with the sky lights. Dust floated, illuminated by cloud filtered sunlight, and shadows were cast endlessly in all directions. The Warehouse was never silent, the slightest breeze would send the old building creaking and moaning.
In my office I tucked the bank bag with the silver into the hidden wall safe, said an incantation of protection over it and walked out of my office and into the warehouse.
The two large sliding doors that were used for deliveries were closed. No one was here. Well almost no one. I tossed the glass from Lemons I had pocketed along with the lamb skin gloves into the big metal trash can.
“Incenterante Maximus” I said, gesturing with my left hand at the can. Its contents went up in crystal blue blaze of intense heat. I watched it for a few minutes and uttered “Finite” with a wave of my right hand, and my blue world was cast into dusty sunlight once again.
I coughed, blinked, and stumbled a little. Magic has a cost. To use it you grab a little piece of your soul and twist. The grater the spell the harder the twist. I spit bloody phlegm onto the concrete floor and grabbed hold of my little wooden charm on the leather bracelet of my right hand. After a few moments the world stopped spinning.
I almost never used magic anymore, at least not the hard stuff. Oh sure I would enhance my empathy when doing a palm reading for a client. Or a location spell to find someones lost keys, will, cell phone, or forklift part. Along with slight of hand and neuro linguistic programming that's all part of the job and relatively cost free... incinerating demon/angel residue... that's a whole other ballgame.
“Maria...” I called out as I walked toward the darkest parts of the warehouse. “Maria, I need you.”
I stood in the last ray of sunlight at the head of the ramp that led up to the dock doors.
“Maria” I called out again.
“Seth...” she said as she materialized out of the darkness in front of me, “I have missed you...”
Her once black as pitch hair was now a misty transparent white. Her lips, once soft and pink, were now spider silk in a breeze. And her eyes... they had been a radiant blue, were now a shade of gray, something in between the moon and a midnight sky freckled in starlight. They held a sadness. A sadness for me alone. I missed her too. Even though she had been with me longer than anyone. In life and in death. I missed her every time I saw her.
“I know” I answered, and she smiled, “I need your help... If you can” I continued.
“What has happened....?” She asked.
“I had to make a deal with some unsavory people today. An angel and a demon, working together, they want me to bring them an object.”
“Oh... that is bad, very bad. What do they want?” she asked
“Downtown, at the fort Harrod Baptist church, they have a mechanical nativity scene” I said.
“Mechanical... Nativity scene... I don't understand” She said.
“A nativity scene is a physical depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ. Most scenes are statues of the virgin Mary, Jesus, his father Joseph, three wise men, shepherds, and angels. This particular display is mechanical. It has moving parts.” I answered.
“So like a clockwork?” She asked
“I don't know,” I answered, “Maybe.”
“Oh... I do hope they are clockworks... I do so love clockwork devices.” She said, “and what do they want in particular?”
“They want me to bring them the head of the baby,” I said “An object of great power has been hidden in it. Or so they said. They also said they need this object to stop God from destroying all life on earth as we know it.”
“God wouldn't do that...” she said.
“The Flood?” I answered.
“Oh... How do they plan to use the 'Jesus' head to stop him?”
“They didn't say. They only said they needed it and they couldn't get it themselves because it would leave some sort of spiritual trail leading back to them.” I said.
“What else?”
“Nadda.” I answered.
“Tell them NO...”
“Tried that. They will kill me and send me to Hell.” I said.
“So we go for the head...?” She asked
“I reckon so. I don't like this,” I said, “They aren't telling me everything, and may be even outright lying on all of it, but I don't see what choice I have. Will you go with me?”
I didn't have to ask, I knew she would. Maybe I only ever ask things of Maria to sooth whats left of my conscious. She's my ghost after all she'll do what I tell her.
“We leave at nightfall... Make your self ready.” She said and then evaporated into the shadows.


(3)


I had a long sword, a Japanese katana , enchanted to be unbreakable and ever sharp. It could cut through a man's arm like scissors through a spider web.
Also I put on my charm necklace, in the shape of a feather. It was for stealth, but what it really did was make me not as noticeable... In other words a man with a four foot sword, black hoodie and pea coat, would be seen as a man but nothing out of the ordinary. It was grate for sneaking around town, not as good for hailing a taxi.
I unplugged my shield phone from the wall charger and stuck it in the pocket of my coat. The shield phone was a battery powered magic shield. It could stop a shotgun blast at short range, or deflect small arms fire, but was useless against a dragons breath, frost bolts, or a sniper with a big gun. As phones go it had lousy reception and it could never hold a charge.
I also carried a snub nose 38 revolver in the right pocket of my pea coat. You can't make all your problems magically disappear.
The next few hours I spent going over my grimoire, researching magical spells I might be able to use for tonight's job. Although I really had no idea what to expect. Baptist monks with assault riffles; a balrog from middle earth; a group of pissed off girl scouts.
The hours passed. It was better to try this theft at dark for two reasons. One, Fort Harrod Baptist Church, was right out in the open in downtown Harrodsburg for god and all his angels to see. Two, Maria could not go out in the daylight.
Maria could not effect the physical world very much. She could play music from a toaster and knock small things over, but punching someone in the face was not going to be her strong suite, it would be like being hit with a gentle breeze. What she could do was be my second set of eyes. The plan, grab the baby Jesus and run like hell.
“Are you ready?” Maria asked.
I looked down at my shield phone, 7:07pm. “Ready as I'll ever be.” I said.
I parked four blocks away from the church and exited the truck with Maria. Sword unsheathed in my right hand, cell phone shield in the left. My Hoodie was pulled up tight but the pea coat hung loose. It didn't start getting really cold in Kentucky till about mid January. I stood six feet tall and my beard was starting to gray up a bit, not surprising given my age. All in all if anyone could have noticed me I would have made an imposing figure.
“How does it look so far?” I asked
“Nothing coming but a dog... Greyhoud, man, Greyhoud.” She said. An old joke but it made me smile just the same.
I looked at my watch it was almost 7:30. I wished I had paid closer attention to when the train ran. The train tracks in Harrodsburge ran around the town in a semi circle cutting off the streets in several places. If I began the robbery and train came through I could effectively be boxed in for several minuets.
As I walked the itching from my wooden charm on my wrist began to burn ever so slightly. And then there it was. The nativity scene.
Mary and Joseph stood about five feet tall, heads moving back and forth as if scanning a crowd. The shepherd's were off to the left, there were four of them, they had long heavy staves that moved back and fourth like heavy clubs. The three wise men were a little shorter than Mary, Joseph, and the shepherd's. They had big heavy sacks, filled with frankincense, myrrh, and gold. They were dressed like kings and even had little crowns on their heads. The Angels stood behind the crib. They were larger than all the other statuary and seemed to bounce up and down with slowly moving wings. The halo's above there heads rotated as they moved. The crib held, seven pound nine ounce baby Jesus, who was reaching up with little fingers toward his parents.
I stood there stunned when Maria said, “I'll be damned... They are clockworks.” And I noticed they all had little wind up keys in there backs, and audibly there was a slight multiple ticking noise in the air as if someone had several large grandfather clocks in one room.
I was not going to walk anywhere near this. I jabbed the sword into the soft earth and raised my hand toward the baby Jesus. I was about thirty paces away. Using my best Jedi hand gesture I yelled, “Domai!” and the baby rose up in the air and flew twelve inches my direction and jerked to a stop. He was held down with wires.
That's when Mary looked over at me and screamed in a voice laden with feed back like a Jimmie Hendrix guitar solo, “NO ONE TOUCHES MY BABY!” and they all turned on me.
“Look out!” Maria yelled in my ear. And I just had time to get my phone shield up. The angels had taken off their halo's and thrown them at me like giant ninja throwing stars. They deflected off the shield and buried themselves halfway into the church.
“Your right!” Maria yelled again. And there were the wise men, chanting in Arabic and whirling their sacks like chain maces. I pulled my gun and managed to take out two of them. They exploded into porcelain, springs and gears. The third slammed his sack into my shield and I went flying backwards. I landed on my but on the road in front of the church and felt a brush from Maria, like a gentle nudge. I rolled with it and a shepherd's staff slammed down shattering where my head had been a moment before. He tried to Jab the shattered staff at my face, but my gun was quicker, a spring jumped through the hole in his chest and he crumpled to the road. I was running out of bullets though and had to make it back to my sword.
An angel was reaching for my sword which was still stuck in the ground. I rushed him gun hand outstretched. He shielded himself with his wings and I screamed ,“Disruptavay!” and he blew apart into a million pieces. Sometimes its not what you say but how you say it. I fell to my knees in front of the sword, gasping. Joseph kicked at my head. I got my phone over but not in enough time. The blow glanced off my shield and hit me in the neck and shoulder. I crumpled down.
“Move! Move!” Maria was screaming.
I got my feet underneath me and jump/staggered forward as an angels wing slashed a deep gash across my calf. I rolled on my back and saw Joseph hopping toward me on one foot. The other foot was broken at angle. So I shot him. His head burst into porcelain shards and he fell over on his back.
“Joe!” Mary Gasped “Oh Joe... What have you done?!” She started for me “What did you do to my Joe!”
Two angels were flanking her when she reached me. I was still on my back. Holding out my shield phone I yelled “BLASHFAYMOUS!”
Lightning forked from my from my fingers completely missing her... but bursting the angles into squawking blue flame. She kicked my hand. My phone went flying. I crumpled into a ball in pain from the amount of magic I had used.
“Oh no... Seth!” Maria cried out.
I looked at my hand and my wood charm was gone. Mary stomped at me. I rolled out of the way. But god did I hurt. She had kicked off my wooden bracelet with the phone. My hands were wrinkling and curving with an arthritis grip.
“It's over here.” Maria yelled. She was only a few feet away. I crawled toward her... but Mary was faster.
“You Killed My Man!” She screamed as she kicked me in the shin. I still tried to crawl... was my hair turning white? “You Tried To Steal My Baby?” She asked incredulously. And kicked me in a rib, braking it. “AARGH!” I answered.
Oh God I was almost there... I was almost dead too.
She raised her foot to stomp my head. The bracelet was only a foot away now... but I rolled over and shot Mary in the Gut with my last bullet. “Down Goes Fraiser! Down Goes Frasier!” I screamed. As far as last words, probably not my most dignified. Then I heard a baby scream.
“WHAAAAHHHH!!!”
I could just tip my head up. The remaining clockworks had stopped moving and Jesus flew into the air braking the wire that had held him in place. “WHAAAAHHH!!!” He screamed, and slowly floated toward me five feet in the air. His fingers had sprouted long razor claws. His mouth was gaping open with a nest of fangs. His eyes glowed like hot coals.
“MY NAME IS JESUS! YOU KILLED MY MOTHER... PREPAIR TO DIE!” He said in a voice like thunder.
And as he descended on me all claws, fangs and murderous eyes.... Maria took him.
She poured into his mouth like white Gatorade into an athlete. And just before I passed out I saw his/her red eyes turn blue.



(4)

I woke up and my wooden charm was secured tightly to my arm again. There was rubble and blood all around us. MariaJesus was dancing and singing “If you think that kiss is all in the lip's... You got it all wrong man... And if you think that a dance is all in the hip's... then do the twist.”
“My Head...” I groaned.
“Well I guess you decided to join us sleepy head,” MariaJesus quipped. “I took care of the rest of the clockworks while you rested. Oh and that angel/demon combo showed up too. That arm over there is the angels... I wonder if it will grow back? I'm pretty sure what I took from the priest won't”
“Maria... What happened?”
“You know how they say Jesus is within you?” She asked, “Well guess what... I... am in Jesus...”
“What?” I asked.
“Wake up Geppetto... I'm a REAL BOY NOW!”


THE END.