Orpheus For Hire 2.0 chapter two
“I don’t do resurrection jobs, you’re on your own!”
My partner always has a surprise to spring on me tucked away somewhere. This time it wasn’t the words so much as the tone. Katrinee was normally calm and amused at life. This, however, mattered to her. And also:
“Reincarnation actually” I corrected.
She shook her head and tossed her short black hair about. “The same thing. The law of the land is that death cancels all debts, obligations, contracts, accreditation…” She wound down a bit, regaining a measure of her usual calm.
“Sorry, it’s just that I consider it a basic right and it touches close to home.” she stroked the collar of her shirt, just under the knot of her tie.
We were standing around my office which was a second story walk up in the back and above a Toronto strip mall. It was barely large enough to seat a client, a desk, my filing cabinet that doubled as a sock drawer and a couple of locker shaped safes. The prospective client had just left.
“We should do the citizen thing. Can we talk about this?”
“Yes, let’s do it” She said as she moved towards the left hand “locker” and began to enter her combination.
I matched actions with her as I continued the conversation. “In this case I’ve not been given personal information about the person I’m supposed to find nor am I asked to provide any…
From our respective safes we each withdrew a camouflage patterned helmet and a ‘load bearing vest’. Katrinne’s looked odd over top her tailored suit and I suppose I didn’t look much better.
“I don’t care. You shouldn’t have anything to do with such a job.”
From the vest we each took our spare magazines including one that carried bullets tipped with a chunk of silver. She had a point. Just as the of dinosaurs or demons or whatever arriving anywhere altered the world’s defences, so too the legal system needed to come to grips with evidence of an afterlife. The current wisdom was that death closed the book. There would be no returns on inheritances no after death ‘justice’.
From each of our lockers came our weapons. For me this was a nine-millimeter pistol that dated from World War II. For Katrinne this was an assault rifle with a ‘combat’ scope and green furniture.
I looked over at the desk where a stack of bills and a nurse’s “floor watch” sat. “ I can pay the rent this month. As long as it’s not a violation of private information this is a legit case”
Each of us removed the magazines from our guns and worked the actions three times, locking the slide or bolt back in the ‘open’ position.
“Look, this Fedor guy, he just wants to know if his former wife is “Okay” no other information. And no other information given,” I said as we inspected each others weapons for cleanliness and function.
“That’s not good enough for me” She said as we each pulled out our boots. Mine were basic issue while hers were expensive, optional Corcorans.
I reflected on our client. He had been a rather mundane looking fellow. Middle aged, middle weight with a slight belly, dressed in khaki pants and a grey polo shirt. Gave his name as Otto Fedor He seemed very sincere about wanting to only know that his loved one was ‘okay’ wherever she was. Although… his aura smelled a little off, something false about it. But he offered to pay in advance. In the end I took his money and didn’t say no. Thus leading to our current argument.
Last came her medic bag and my bag full of magic implements. We checked our helmets and vests for frayed straps and missing connectors and also that the ceramic plates were intact and in place in the vests.
All the essential gear was checked. In an emergency call up the uniforms we had stowed were optional.
“Done” we told each other. Then Katrinne finished with “If you do this, you’re on your own. I won’t be party to it. Consider me off sick or on holiday or something.”
I growled with frustration. I didn’t like losing my partner even temporarily but the stack of bills on my desk presented an unassailable argument to me.
We started to lock up the weapons and in, Katrinne’s case, the narcotics in her med bag. Well and also the other stuff. It all fit in the ‘lockers’ along with a combat uniform. My partner then straitened her suit, retrieved her hat and, with another nod, left the office.
Now it was just me. Strange, when I moved to this country it had been alone. As one of the few of my kind, the only one in Canada, I expected to be alone. Not having my mysterious whimsical human partner at my back felt… cold.
I shook myself, flattening the ruffles in my fur back down. There was nothing for it now. I went back to my militia locker and took out the large green hip pouch that was commonly known among Canadian troops as a ‘Medicine Bag’, even though it was nothing like the bag Katrinne carried. I roughly cleared off a large section of my desk by sweeping bills and calling cards and letters to support some charity or another all off onto one corner. A magazine turned to the article about Odin’s minions Hugin and Munin being up before the American SEC on insider trading charges fell to the floor.
On the clear section I placed a map of the Greater Toronto Area, the watch and my bag. Sitting down, I slid the simple pendant watch until it was roughly covering my neighbourhood; a block of low-rise residential buildings centered on a small square strip mall. From my ‘medicine bag’, I took three small incense burners and a dried stick of mixed rare herbs and spices that cost more than my hourly rate a gram. Breaking off and lighting a small piece in each burner, I let the burning melange fill my office. It’s strange non-odor blocked out every competing scent around my desk almost like a Faraday cage for smells. Breathing softly and slowly I began.
Humans call it the ‘third eye’, the organ that let’s them see the otherworldly, that let’s them pierce the truth of things. We Kitsune were born with the ability to scent this ‘truth’ as easily as we could the fur of our mothers. Consciously relaxing every muscle in my body, letting go of corporeal sensation, I dropped into the world of scent, a single scent. With the barrier up the only thing I could smell was the faint, age dissipated, bouquet of the soul whose closely held possession this watch had been. I sat there breathing, memorizing the complex sensory melody of a human soul trying to find the constant themes, learn the redolent arpeggios, and absorb it’s entire complexity. Confident that I had done so it was time for step two.
This would require real magic, not just the utilization of a ‘magical nature’. I was still in my world of scent but an outside observer would have noticed the temperature dropping, causing the smoke from the incense to fall and pool in shifting eddies on the floor. Around my body little ‘will-o-the-wisps’ of blue/white fire would appear and hover. Then the map itself would appear to be engulfed in the ‘foxfire’ I was summoning. From my point of view, it would be hard to describe to someone with no nose. I could smell the ‘foxfire’, a unique single note flavour on my tongue almost like ozone. My will was on the scent of the watch trying to find it’s match. Eventually there was a small echo on map. I couldn’t see the map with my eyes closed but I could sense a direction and distance. I reached over and slid the watch across the desk towards the other essence. I smelled them both now. The same soul yes, each with different eddies and swirls of slightly different spices as they were driven by different environments and experiences. But yes, they matched. I slid the watch over until the loci for the two scents merged and I couldn’t tell one from the other. Letting go of my ‘altered state’, I leaned back and opened my eyes.
Thanks to the scale of the map, the watch covered a couple of neighbourhoods. It looked like I would be doing some foot pounding and door knocking in Mississauga.
Taking off my jacket and fedora and hanging them on the wall next to my trenchcoat, I looked at myself in the mirror. The mirror wasn’t the problem it would be with an illusion but in addition to mirrors, illusions didn’t pass CCTVs, dashcams, and of course cell phones. For my disguise I’d have to go with pure shifting. Why a disguise? First off, It’s not in my people’s nature to put all their cards on the table. As the only Kitsune who is also a Canadian citizen I’m easily identified. Second, people can be hostile to a private investigator, literally, sniffing around their property. It was better to have an innocent excuse for being in the area. Third, I wanted to. Why not?
It took a few seconds of letting foxfire ‘burn’ over my body, but soon I was… pretty much the same. Well, no fox nose and ears, the red fur was gone and my three tails were hidden. Oops, right, whiskers too. There I was, a human. A bit on the tall side of average and not particularly ‘cut’ but neither did I have a belly. For my purposes, the white shirt and red tie (a subtle hint at my nature, have to play fair) would suffice. The pants would have to go though, the hole for my tails would make things, awkward.
One pair of khakis, a clipboard and a few pamphlets later, I was out my door and down the stairs to the backside of the mall. Lettered neatly alongside, an ESL school, a chiropractor, and passport photo lab, was my own business name. Makoto Inari and Associates. Nothing else, I had a Private Investigator’s license but I didn’t do divorces and I hated our trade name. ‘Orpheus for hire’ always struck me as bad advertising. Yes we went to the underworld or wherever, but we didn’t fail. We brought something valuable back across the Rip.
One bus, two subway lines and a bus from a completely different transit system later I was deep into the residential blocks of Mississauga, not Toronto but part of the GTA. It was mostly townhouses. Several homes joined together in an ugly block with nothing for yards. And nothing for shopping, not even a corner store. The only thing that wasn’t homes was a church ten city blocks away. In this part of the GTA a car was a necessity.
I started walking down one of the more arterial streets and began sniffing for my prey. For several hours I worked the grid of main roads in a systematic fashion. Then as the sun was clearly headed for the western horizon I got the tiniest whiff of my quarry. It led me first to a bus stop on the street down which I had been walking. Sometime in the early afternoon Otto Fedor’s dead inamorata had stood here for a patient twenty minutes or so. Now I had to try and back track her scent to it’s source. No mean feat in an environment smelling primarily of gasoline. I meant to make a snarky remark about how easy this was going to be, but Katrinne wasn’t there to hear it so I just carried on.
In the end it wasn’t that hard. In addition to the smell of her soul the lady had been wearing a strongly scented underarm deodorant. I followed the odor of ‘Old Spice’ as much as any metaphysical fragrance. It brought me to one particular neighbourhood among the cookie cutter communities of my search zone. Now it was time to put on the act to go with the disguise.
With pamphlets and clipboard firmly in hand I approached the first ‘house’ on the block… there was a barking dog behind the door. It’s barking became more frenzied as I got closer. Dogs and Kitsune don’t mix. I backed away.
The next door down wasn’t as much of a problem.
“Hello Sir! I was wondering if I could talk to you about the God Crom…” I waved my pamphlets which asked about ‘The riddle of steel’. “… you know he only requires that you crush your enemies…”
“Errr… no thank you. I’m happy with errr… what I believe…”
“Very well sir, Crom’s blessing on you anyway.”
And on to the next door, the one I believed to be my destination.
The lady of the house, Mrs Klein, wasn’t the person I for whom I was searching. She was very polite though.
“I’m sorry Mr…”
“Robert” I answered and because I had to push my luck “Howard E. Robert”
“Mr. Robert then, I’m not sure what you mean by “crush my enemies?” “
Before I could explain further we were interrupted by a young man of maybe seventeen coming into the house from the street.
He was dressed in what looked like armoured running pants and a colourful sports jersey. One made all the more colourful by a few splotches of wet blaze orange paint. He carried what looked like a hockey bag full of … sweaty smelling stuff. And his own scent was unmistakable. This was my missing person.
“Welcome home Jonathon, did you have a good time at paintball?”
“SPEEDball Mom, anyone can do paintball.
“Whatever, and remember that your dad wants you to stop using his underarm deodorant…”
“MOM! Company?” the kid waved and raced inside.
“You’ll have to pardon the interruption, Mr. Robert” The mother said with a smile.
“Not at all, he seems a healthy happy young boy…” I said in a leading fashion.
She was willing to be led “…and bright too. He’s athletic enough but he shines at math and sciences. Jonathon’s going to be a physicist or something someday.” She smiled again clearly proud of her son.
I had what I needed. Making a show of squinting at the setting sun I said “My time is actually up here, I can leave you with a pamphlet if you want to know more?” I waved one in her direction and she gingerly took it.
“Thank you Mr. Robert. I’m sure it will be… educational”
With that I headed on my way.
I was nearly halfway back, having cleared Mississauga’s Bus system and re-entered Toronto’s subway when I was interrupted. Just as I pulled into Ossington Station and my cellphone connected with the in station WiFi, I received a Facebook message from Katrinne:
“Get out now! South Entrance”
I barely cleared the doors and hustled up the stairs. Once out on the street I looked around, relying on my eyes for a change because I suspected that I would soon spot…
There it was! A cut down Porsche 911 painted British racing green with an off centre ocher racing stripe, “Giselle”, Katrinne’s car. I started waving for attention hoping she’d realize it was me despite my shaping. She pulled right up to me and shouted.
“Get in, Mach Schnell”
She had the open top car moving before I closed the passenger door and soon was navigating Toronto traffic with reckless abandon. At speed she had us heading back towards Mississauga.
There was something different in her aura. As if sediment from the bottom of a flask had been stirred up to float near the surface. It was an angry, eager, even reckless thing that was reflected in the way she gripped the steering wheel and the partial snarl/smile on her lips. It smelled like… machismo?
“You were followed! You probably didn’t notice because all cars smell like gasoline to you. For someone so observant you can be remarkably blind at times.” She said in a faintly accented voice.
Her lecture continued, “I told you not to take this case. But, I, at least, have no fiduciary responsibility to your employers.”
“What are we going to do about it?” I asked.
“Whatever the situation demands.” and after a pause “I suspect they are trying to resurrect the previous life in this new body. That is a crime and we WILL stop it.”
“Agreed” I said with a snarl of my own. Right and wrong not withstanding, my ego was pricked. The Trickster being tricked, I would not let that stand.
Several drift turns and more traffic violations than I could count later, we where back at the street I had so recently left. Night was fully upon us, but Katrinne switched her headlights off as we reached the end of the block.
“They left their car and a sentry. There were three of them in the car” she noted for me.
I could perceive him. Standing in the shadows of the steps up to the front door my missing person’s house was man in the same grey polo shirt and khaki pants as my erstwhile client. The scent of gun oil and cordite reached my nose before I spotted the sleek, modern, and unfamiliar submachinegun that he was holding down by his leg against the steps.
With a quick flare of foxfire I had a glamour placed on both Katrinne and myself. It would muffle our steps and make us invisible to the mark one eyeball. Carefully, without using the doors, we left the car and crept up to the sentry on foot.
Our Canadian Forces training told us several things we could do in this circumstance. With the glamour to shield us, it was easy to sneak up and slither in behind him against the wall of the house. Quick hand signs conveyed the plan, then together we lunged forward and picked his legs right up off the ground. His face planted hard against the sidewalk and he lost his grip on the submachinegun. I checked to see if he was still conscious while Katrinne ‘made safe’ his weapon and pocketed the ammo. After a bit of puzzlement over the unfamiliar weapon, she managed to break it open and remove the assembly containing the firing pin, which she also put in a pocket.
We were just about to call the cops when a scream came from inside the house. It was hard to tell if it was a man or a woman screaming. Dashing up the steps we found the door ajar and entered the small home.
Lying on the living room floor were a middle aged man and woman, the woman I recognised from my earlier visit, Mrs Klein. They were bound and gagged. Near them lay an opened ‘hockey bag’ with the sleeve of a colourful sports jersey and something that vaguely resembled a gun hanging out. Katrinne locked at it briefly.
“Paintball marker,” then “I’ll check the family and call nine one one. You get upstairs”
I ran up the stairs towards the room the screaming was coming from. There were three people in the small bedroom with paintball competition posters on the wall. One was Jonathon Klein. He was kneeling on the floor and doing the screaming, his hands clutching at a strange headset on his brow.
Second and third were two men in matching grey polos and khakis. The one next to the boy was Otto Fedor. He was holding the strange Aztec looking ‘hat’ on my clients head with one hand and his tied wrists with the other. The final occupant was standing just inside the door with the same kind of firearm as the man outside.
“Halt!” yelled my former client. “You will not stop the return of The Protector…”
The machinegunner turned his weapon towards me and then winced and yelped as there was a series of soft reports and his left knee, crotch, and right hand were suddenly painted blaze orange. Balls that could raise welts at several meters seemed to have hurt him badly from a few feet away as Katrinne charged into the room.
She added injury to insult with a swift kick to the man’s paint splattered groin then grabbed his submachinegun and brought it up into his descending face. A rotation of her hips and shoulders brought the weapon around in a vicious arc to collide with his temple. As he started to fall she reversed the gun and brought the butt down on his head repeatedly and so hard it bent the narrow skeletal metal stock.
My erstwhile client squatted there with his mouth open, stunned by the violence of Katrinne’s attack. I too the opportunity to shift back into my true form and bare my fangs while thrusting my claws up against his neck.
“Take your hands away from the boy” I growled my best growl, letting my fur bristle as I snarled.
Katrinne came up behind me still clutching the battered firearm. Her expression was… odd.
“It’s probably too late but get that filthy thing off him.”
She reached past me with her free hand and yanked the headset free, throwing it against the wall for good measure. My former client stayed still flinching a little from my claws at his throat.
“No! you don’t understand. She will help us get to The Protector…”
“Shut up!” we both said.
The boy was recovering groggily from whatever that thing had been had been doing to him.
“Wh-what… I don’t … help”
Katrinne put down the submachinegun and tsked “I think we are too late…” then to the boy “easy there…” She put a pair of comforting hands on his shoulders. “It’s confusing at first. A whole lifetime of memories to absorb. But you can do it.”
“I … I was woman?” then more firmly “A scientist.”
Katrinne noded “Whatever it was it’s yours to own.” she took a deep breath. “What was done to you was crime. And there are times you are going to curse it. But it also grants a unique perspective. You now have two upbringings, two educations and two received world views from which to examine your life. You are in a unique position to decide who you really are. Remember that when it gets tough” her posture was almost big brotherly. There was a sophisticated masculinity to her vibe.
My client’s victim seemed calmer and Katrinne gave him an avuncular pat on the shoulder. Then she rose and turned with a sinister grace to Mr. Fedor. “Sooo, what do we do with this one?”
In the meantime sirens could be heard outside and getting closer. Katrinne had successfully called the cops while downstairs.
Our prisoner suddenly got a determined look on his face and made a grinding motion with his teeth.
I was immediately assailed with a strong smell of almonds. He turned pale and sweaty almost instantly. Clutching spasmodically at his chest and groaning in pain, he fell over.
“Scheise!” exclaimed Katrinne “Cyanide! What the…” She stopped talking and shoved me aside to lay him flat and start doing CPR. “Dammit we are going need sodium nitrate and sodium thiosulfate. I don’t keep those in my back pocket, get back on the phone and get the ambulance.”
Obediently, I pulled out my phone called for an ambulance and told them what I knew. Below I could hear the police entering the house. “Up here!” I shouted.
The room was suddenly crowded with two extra bodies in the form of the police. One bent to check the pulse of the former submachinegunner. The other went to Katrinne’s side and offered to help with the CPR.
“Get the AED” he ordered his partner.
In the end, when the paramedics came it was too late and he was gone.
“We haven’t heard the last of this” I said to Katrinne.
((so this is my completed first draft. I’m unhappy with parts that were a real struggle there were lines I meant to include. And obviously the Story is not done. Chapter 3 soon I promise..))