Private Investigator, Cross. Reckless Persuasion Death by John Pirillo. In a world of scoundrels you make do or go out fighting.
P.I. Cross Tale.
By John Pirillo.
Call me Crossbones. Everyone else does. Seems like every time I show up somewhere, there's heads rolling, legs torn off, chests burst open and general mayhem and death and dying. Pretty sad situation for a guy who just wants to make a living, even if it is a lousy one. Being made the symbol for everything that's not sugar and nice is just downright frustrating to say the least.
My real name is Cross. Henry Cross. I was born somewhere in California. I forget where because my father moved us around so much as a child I never stuck there long enough to remember any names. Friends were like cold showers. They woke you up, but were gladly forgotten. Most of my friends hated me because I was so honest. If they asked what I thought of their toy. I explained in no uncertain terms exactly what I thought. Parents were afraid to let me into their houses because I would answer and ask questions they didn't want to even consider...like how many heads can dance on the head of a pin, why aren't marshmallows put in the mouths of victims of cannibals, and why do vampires only have two teeth. You know the ordinary kind of questions a young kid asks who's dumber than an outhouse.
Yesterday I hit a new low, or high depending on which end of the pain spectrum you live. I was helping out Mother Darling. She lives about two blocks down the street. I always wave at her when I return from my office at night. She's usually seated on her front porch smoking a torch. That's what I call cigarettes because they scar your mouth, teeth, tongue, throat and lungs...not to mention those ugly stains on the fingers that hold them. "Hey Mom!" I greeted her.
She shook her torch at me. That was her best day with me. Usually she said something like, "Get the hell outta here before I call the cops on you!"
I would answer back. "But I am a cop!"
"Shit you are!" She'd laugh, and then toss her torch at me.
I'd duck it, then head on up the street.
If you get the idea that I live in a tough neighborhood, you wouldn't be wrong. But what makes it worse is that it's not all...you know...like her.
Once past her I had to dodge the alley Troll, he's a bum that lives in the alley next to my block. If you're not quick enough he grabs you and shakes you down for all your cash and if you're not carrying and he's hungry...well then...tough luck. I hadn't been bitten yet, but I had my butt kicked once. Literally. The Troll. His name was Angst, because that's what he gave everyone who had to cross his alley. Angst was in a good mood and when he snatched me on a Good Friday. I had actually made two bucks helping an old lady cross the street. She'd tipped me. He shook me down and instead of biting me he had laughed and just kicked me in the butt. Man that hurt!
But I'm not your average kind of P.I. That's Private Investigator to all you not know-its out there. But the ones in the know also knew that P.I. stood for Paranormal Investigator too. Yeah. I shone on both sides of the grave. And made about as much money. Nada. Zilch. Zero and Kaput. How do I make a living then? Well every once in a great while I stumble into a case that pays off. Literally. The person or thing or being that hires me pays me off. Not to help them but to stay out of their way so someone else can.
How in the world did I get into such a lousy line of business? I blame it all on my Dad. He was a know it all and a do nothing. He did everything. To not do anything and made a great living at it. He dabbled in magic. Lots of magic. He had ways of conjuring up cash that was real until the person who got it turned their back, and then it disappeared back into his pocket for further redistribution as he called it.
I laughed at that thought. The Old Man was still alive. Bitter and well in a high rise he owned. He was filthy rich. I was filthy poor. Never would the two meet. Not that he wouldn't help me. He would in a rabbit's leap, but I had too much pride. That's probably why my girl Sassy Lassie, yeah her real name, hadn't shown me the good times yet. She was waiting for a miracle. Me to grow up and get rich. She wasn't a gold digger, just a beautiful blonde who liked the finer things in life I couldn't finger for her or buy.
"Hey Angst!" I greeted as I passed the alley. He looked up from the trash can he was eating from and belched. "Crossbones. How's it hanging?"
"Not so good." I answered.
"That's great." He replied, and then went back to munching on KFC bones he had found in a tossed family carton.
Times had sure changed. He used to hassle me every time I passed, but lately he'd gotten...well...kind of friendly. Maybe that's because I also practice a little...uh...protection these days. I took my hand off the pentacle coin in my pocket and its soft glow diminished as I let go. It was a ward against evil. At least the kind like Angst. It didn't do much good against Flits, Vamps, Wolves, Invisibles, Ghastlies and Zombs, but not much did unless you fast, lucky and armed with silver. I was. I felt thee comforting pressure of the silver daggers up my right and left sleeves. I never left for anywhere without them and a coat and long sleeves to hide them. Not just silver, but tipped with Holy Water. So I sizzled, sliced and diced anyone stupid enough to try to sip, dip, slick, pick, and slice or dice me with my twins...a name I gave them, since I usually did with them both at the same time.
I also had a string of rosary beads around my neck of pure Sandalwood. Not for the creatures I've already named, but for the ones I have no name for that come from such places as India and China, or Tibet. Yeah. Raving mad monks armed with spear toes and mace fingernails and all that good stuff, as well as flying dragons with bad breath that could make you gag for a week.
"Hey Toots!" I greeted the Fairy who hovered above her balcony, putting up her wash to dry. She blew some fairy dust at me in greetings and I felt my cares lift from me a moment. She also gave me the usual come on with her wings, but I don't do wings, and I don't do Fairies. Too dangerous. They never get tired and they can kill a man with pleasure, that's why so many of them hired out in the Blue Zones of the city. If an occasional unlucky stiff got the happy city kick off from too much loving, well, the police thought at least the stiff got sent off in style. So no crime with them, but definitely high octane dangerous.
I reached my building and stepped up the six flights of stairs to the front door. Each step had an invisible pentagram marked on it, courtesy of the Resident Wizard, who was also the landlord. Wizards, who don't make it to the big colleges, usually powder out into running apartment complexes and Seven -Elevens. They still had power, but not the big bang stuff. Still, I wouldn't want to get on their wrong side. They could curse your underwear pretty good and no one likes that snug a fit!
My Resident Wizard sat on the top step, eyeing me sternly as I reached his level. "Rent!"
I reached into my pocket for cash. He grabbed my arm. "What?"
"Not that money."
Oh crap! He remembered the last ten times I'd stiffed him with vanishing cash. Now I had to use up my bundle. Oh well. I reached into my jacket and pulled out a diamond. A cute gal up on 5th had given it to me from her wedding ring. She didn't want it any more. I had found out her boyfriend was having an affair with a gay vampire and she had given him the boot and her ring thanks to me. Easiest cash I'd earned yet.
And in case you haven't figured it out yet. It was a bad economy. Rotten bad. Sunk into Netherlands of the deepest hell, of which there were many unfortunately. Our last president had gotten us into a war that lasted three decades and finally America had gone Tinkle like a magic crystal ball with too much voodoo on it. Now most Americans were scrambling to pay bills, put food on the table, and figure out some way of sticking it back to the Feds, the banks and the Corporate Magicians who had trotted in with that idiot President to tank our economy and country.
And to remind me how good his memory was my Resident Wizard gave me back a handful of fifty cent pieces. About two bucks worth. I stared at it blankly a moment. He grinned. And to show you there's no hard feelings I'm removing the curse on your goods.
I felt this instant relief in my underwear. The constant inflammation and itch in my crotch and penis had vanished as if they had never been t here. Even the stink which had killed the acquaintance of several customers was gone...just like that. So like I said earlier, never get on the wrong side of any wizard, even a Resident Wizard, they're just nasty!
I gave him a smile of relief and entered the building. It was old wood and plasterboard walls with dingy paintings strung up the staircase I climbed. No elevator. No electricity. No one but the rich used it anymore. If anything, people bottled Tangs and Gnit Flies. Magical creatures that gave off a lot of light if fed properly. You can keep the Gnit Flies though; they're nasty little things that poop just about everywhere. Never let one loose just because you like a lot of life, it ain't worth it!
I reached my door. 666. Yeah. Sign of the Devil and all that good stuff. Oh did I mention that my nearest relative is related to him. Yeah. We have the Devil here too, but he's on down times like the rest of us, his demons beggars on the street corners, promising to give back pieces of souls if everyone behaves and gives them a break. The Devil himself is a likable enough guy. He's nothing like the one portrayed in all the old stories of stripping people of their souls. He never buys them. Just rents those until the person can pay up. If the person doesn't pay up, he rents the souls out to Magicians who need help and that unlucky person gets to work off his debt in service to them. Which could be a bad or a good thing, depending on your sex, and the inclinations of that particular wizard.
"Hey Gant!' I greeted the Ogre who guarded my hallway. He was a tall Shrek looking guy with a nose that hung to the floor. He used his nose to catch people and believe it or not it worked. Great! Trouble was most people had to wait a year for the stench to come off if he made a mistake. Which sometimes he did if you didn't tip him once a month. It was that once a month for me.
I dipped into my pocket for my magic money and he started to twirl his nose. Damn! Everyone is on to me, I thought. I shrugged, gave him my best who me? Smile, then tossed him the fifty cent pieces the Resident Wizard had given me. He smiled, dropped his nose and faded back into his favorite dark corner to eat it. Yeah. Ogres like the taste of money. It feeds their body and soul. Strange world, right? My world though.
I stuck my finger into the keyhole of my apartment door and it shrunk down, took a tiny nip from the tip of it...don't ever lock yourself out, it takes a lot more then...and opened the door for me. I slipped inside, shutting the door before any loose Gnats or Gnits could fit inside. They were great for free light, but who wanted their poop all over the floor. I had enough to do to keep my apartment clean already.
I pulled up my favorite easy chair. No dinner tonight. My stomach grumbled angrily. "Not my fault!" I told it. "So shut up!" It screamed at me, hurting like hell.
I held out and it eventually shut down, which worried me more, because that meant it was going to keep me awake all night. I talk like it's human, but I know my limitations and an empty stomach is the loudest complainer on the damned planet.
I waved my right hand and the TV flicked on, awakened by the spell embedded in my right wrist. I could do that with most of my apartment appliances. A buddy Wizard of mine had installed it for me for a favor. I had tracked down his girlfriend and found out she liked beasties more than him. He wouldn't have minded so much, but the beast turned out to be a white gorilla with a penchant for chocolates. He hated chocolates. He hated gorillas. The idea of sharing his girl with a gorilla was too revolting. I helped him pack her stuff and toss it off the balcony where she found it next morning when she returned home after another fling with her friendly gorilla. Those gorillas get all t he loving I sighed. Ugly as hell but so damned sexual that most gals didn't care about their looks. What a crazy messed up world!
"This is Gorgeous George for Nightly News." Announced a dude with hair that danced on his forehead in shades of red, blue and green. He wore trifocal glasses that changed his eye color every few seconds to match his hair. "Be on the lookout for a Monkey Bite. It has been spotted near Elmhurst and Main. It's a mean one."
I switched off the TV. Nothing but bad news. This was doing that. That was doing this. And none of it was ever a good thing. What happened to the good things? Again, I cursed that idiot President, the banks and the corporations that had caused this depression and sold us out to the Dark Dimension for cash on the dollar.
Yeah. You heard it right. America never had magic until that idiot got us into that war. To pay for it our next Presidents had to make deals with anyone who had cash. Unfortunately, the only ones with cash were just itching to upset our cart with magic. Maybe they originally had good intentions. No one knows, because our American scientists, bright as they are, figured out the magic and turned it on the loaners. They had been vanquished back into the Dark Dimensions, but now the genie was out of the bottle.
"Oh hell!" I muttered as my stomach growled in protest again.
I got up, kicked off my shoes and socks, and then threw myself down on my sofa. Oh did I tell you I had a studio with no bed. Only thing I could afford. No one wonder Miss Sassy Lassie doesn't want to sleep with me. Who would want to sleep with a broke guy who sleeps on a sofa with springs popping out of it. Give you a hernia.
I threw a worn blanket over my clothes, closed my eyes, and waved my right hand and all the lights went out. One more day gone. I wonder if tomorrow will be fun too. Then I was out like a light.