Monday, April 18, 2011

Fork(ed tongue) in the Road

“Enough, already,” Lamar muttered at the insistent blast of the front doorbell. He opened the door, and swore in Spanish. “Maggie.”

“Lamar,” she purred. “Is that you? It’s been so long. I almost didn’t recognize you on your feet.” She coolly looked him up and down. He had on a short robe that showed off his smooth chest and lovely legs and only just covered the spot where normal males carried their attributes. She took in his flush and tousled dark hair and added, “I hope I’m interrupting.”

“Maggie,” he said again. Somehow he managed to hiss it. “What brings you out of the gutter?”

She tsked. “So testy, and so early in the morning. Failed last night, did we?”

“Lamar? Who’s at the door?” Jamie came in from the bedroom, saw her and froze. His robe covered only a little more skin than Lamar’s. Maggie’s smirk got wider. “Yes, I see we did.”

“What do you want, Maggie?”

“Answers.” She thrust the Friday edition of the Guts and Butts Gazette at his face. “To this.”

“It’s called a newspaper,” Lamar said. “You used to work for one, before you started humping around with Jack Wayne. You hauled yourself out of the Batcave just to show me the society page? Or did he kick you out?”

“Not that, darling. This.” She jabbed the gossip column with a lacquered claw. “That’s not my byline, and that’s not my column. What do you know about it?”

Lamar grinned. “Don’t tell me Nick finally grew a brain and canned you.” He skimmed the print before his eyes. “Hot news, too. He’s set up a trust fund for Zeva? And you missed it? Where were you, at batting practice?”

“Stop playing dumb, Lamar. It suits you, but it’s not becoming. Nick never okayed this. Even he’s not that stupid. Someone snuck into the office after he left and switched columns. Someone with a key, and my computer’s password.” She thinned her eyes at him. “But that’s what snakes do, isn’t it? You take them in, you bring them up from nothing, you grant them the benefits of your knowledge and position, and they turn around and bite you in the ass.”

“You’re loco, honey. I wouldn’t want to bite your skanky ass.” He started to shut the door.

Maggie threw herself against it. Her wiry coyote’s frame had thickened with age, and held the door open nicely. She bared her teeth in his face. “You’ve made a dangerous enemy, you scaly little slut. When I’m done with you, you’ll be roadkill on the highway. Your joke of a job is over with, you – ”

“That’ll do, lady.” Jamie moved up to the door, and to Lamar’s side. “You take your poison and peddle it elsewhere. You’re done here.”

“Well, look at this. The puppy shows his milk teeth. Swish your tail to the side, little boy. This doesn’t concern you.”

Jamie surged forward, right up in her face. Red wolves were smaller than grays, but still bigger than a coyote. And stronger than they looked. The hand that seized her wrist wasn’t coming loose without a jackhammer’s help. “My mama taught me never to raise my hand to a lady. Coyotes don’t count.” He turned her around and gave her a shove. Maggie stumbled onto the sidewalk and only just avoided a fall. The door slammed shut at her back.

“He’ll bite you, too!” she raged at the door. “Sure, he’s all sweetness now, but wait. You’ll wake up one night with his coils around your neck.” Damn spiteful snakes, they could never be trusted. Maggie touched up her hair and marched back to her car.

Jamie watched from the window until he was sure she was gone. “Well,” he said, “that was stupid. You know she’ll run right to Nick. You could lose your job.”

“Some job.” He shrugged carelessly. “Hanging from trees and spying on people. I don’t even get paid. I wasn’t cut out to be a journalist anyway. I’d rather write hot romance novels, now that I’ve got a research partner.”

Jamie picked up the newspaper Maggie had dropped just inside the door. He glanced at the offending column. “So what was this, your resignation?”

“C’mon, chico. I had nothing to do with that.”

“’Course not. You had to go in Friday night just to say hi to Mary. Geez, Lamar. I mean, really. ‘Juicy the Gossip Queen’? Queen? Slap your photo on it, why didn’t you?”

“Okay, maybe that was a bit too blatant. What can I say? I’m loud and I’m proud. Anyway, Maggie had it coming. She’s a bitch.”

“Don’t mean you have to be one too.”

“No, but I do have to be a snake. But maybe not her kind of snake.” He looked thoughtful, in a way Jamie had never seen from him before. “I think I’m better off out from under her. Her brand of journalism just doesn’t appeal to me any more. A leopard can’t change his spots, but a snake can shed his skin.” He flashed one of his brilliant smiles. “How about that, chico? Your innocence has redeemed me.”

“Up yours.”

“In bed, or right here on the rug?”

“Dang it, Lamar!”


Tongson sat before the fire, watching the leap and curl of the flames. One flame in particular took on a more robust shape than its ephemeral fellows. It coiled around the log and hissed in greeting. “Hello, old friend,” Tongson said. “This is a bit far north for you.”

“Dessssperate times.” The spirit known on the mortal plane as Quetzalcoalt settled his fire-form on the log. Little licks of flame stuck out from it like ruffled feathers. “Another hassss joined ussssss. The boa in Talbot’ssssss Peak. Not my doing. Yoursssss?”

“Hardly. I’ve never spoken to the lad.”

“No, not directly. You had the mink call him.”

“Did I? I suppose I did. He and young Daniel were close at one time. I might have suggested Daniel talk to him. Just for closure.”

“Closssssure. Of coursssse.” The serpent-spirit laughed. “You are devioussss. I like that. I think we will win thisssss, you and I.”

“Yes,” Tongson said. “I think we will.”


Rebecca Gillan said...

Yum! Jamie made a believer of of Lamar? That's a plot twist I didn't see comming. Very nice!

Pat C. said...

More like Jamie got Lamar back on track. He was Maggie's protege when he was first introduced.

Didn't Sergei say something about red wolves being more sensitive and spiritual?

Serena Shay said...

Nice move, Jamie! Kicking that coyote to the curb for threatening your sexy snake.

You know, Nick might not like his business coming into the light like it did, but he loves the newspaper game and watching the players work each other over, so he tells me, ruler in hand, "he'll allow it"

Juicy Lamar is welcome back anytime he wants to mess with Maggie! LOL

Savanna Kougar said...

Omy... yeah, good going Jamie! Red Wolves are tough when needed.

Juicy Lamar... I suppose his batting average has been juiced up in several ways.

Wow, how the plot thickens even more, and blazes even higher!

Love this, Pat!

Rebecca Gillan said...

I like the addition of the Quetzalcoalt. That's a really interesting way folks have of talking to Spirit Bear, too.