Devil's Playground, p.3Gena D. Lutz
“Wake up,” she cooed at him. “Kris is here.” She gave me a sleepy look and said, “You’re blushing. How cute.”
Her large but still perky breasts swayed, as she laughed at my expense. She knew I wasn’t used to the sexual open-mindedness of most vampires—especially the ancient ones. Needless to say, my face flushed red a lot when I was around them.
My hand fluttered to my neck, and I shook my head.
“It’s a little hot down here.”
“Down here? Or do you mean down there?” she asked, pointing between my legs.
My face flushed hotter. That was the understatement of the century.
The two other brides began to stir, which finally had Devil opening his eyes. He reached up to stretch his bulging arms taut over his head and let out a content purr, much like a sleepy lion would. When he saw me, he smiled through a yawn.
“What brings you down here, into my den of debauchery?”
Did I neglect to mention that the asshole liked to screw around with my head, too?
His brow jumped, as he asked, “Did you blow up my bar again?”
I raised brows back at him. Their sexual proclivities might unsteady me a bit, but I was no pushover.
“If you’re done screwing around with the prudish necromancer, I have something important to tell you.”
The simple fact that I hadn’t joked back with him, per usual, had Devil suddenly more awake. He jumped from his fur pallet, and in a zip stream of motion, he had drawers open, closed, and then his silk shirt off and his slacks and another shirt on. And all of that happened within a blur. I’d probably never get used to how fast a vampire could move.
“Do I need my weapons?” Devil asked, after practically teleporting to a closet at the back of the room.
The door was already open, and he held a long dagger in his right hand.
I shook my head and said, “I just need you upstairs. Are you rested up enough to face the sun?”
I looked over at his lady-kittens, curled up in a well-sated pile, arms and legs still entwined. How he got any rest at all in bed with his brides was a mystery.
“The sun won’t be a problem.”
“Good, because we have a new ghost in the bar, a possible murderer, and a fleet of cop cars that just pulled up out back. I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re dealing with a murder scene.”
Devil cursed and ran his fingers through his dark hair.
The door opened behind us. From the prickles of awareness that ran across my skin, I knew exactly who it was.
“Dev, you’re needed up top.”
Rafe stood in the doorway. His eyes widened, and he smiled when he saw me.
“Hi, Kris. Did you fill Devil in on what’s going down?”
“All that I know of it, anyway. We’re heading up there now.”
Devil turned to his brides and said, “Stay here, my beauties. I’ll be back soon.”
His brides quickly snuggled around one another. Like a pile of content kittens, they practically purred.
Devil then looked at Rafe and said, “Mind keeping an eye on the vamps down here for me? Some of them brought humans with them, and I’d be really happy if all of them left here alive and in one piece. Feel me?”
Rafe smiled at Devil.
“Not a problem, amigo. I’ll keep the humans breathing.”
A short man in a suit and tie was waiting at the bar, as we walked into the room. He had an unopened notepad in one hand and a ballpoint pen in the other. I scanned the bar for Slone, but she and the mystery man were nowhere in sight. Ward was standing behind the bar, nodding his head like a robot, hands fisted and twisting a bar rag into a tight rope. His nervous stare flicked to me.
“Where’s Slone?” I mouthed, so the man questioning him couldn’t hear me.
Ward shrugged at me and walked out from behind the bar, leaving the man hanging mid-sentence. The man’s round face scrunched up, and he gave Ward’s back a perplexed look. Then he saw us.
“I’m looking for the proprietor of this establishment. Perhaps one of you could help me?”
Devil walked over with an extended arm and said, “That would be me. What can I do you for?”
As the two men shook hands, I noticed the extreme difference in size between them. Devil was over six and a half feet tall and built like a mountain. The polite man in the suit, however, couldn’t reach six feet standing on his tiptoes, and the only thing bulging about him was his waistband.
Regardless of the difference, the man didn’t seem intimidated by Devil’s massive size. It was quite the opposite. He gave off an air of authority, like he was used to being taken seriously and rarely had his words questioned. He had to be a detective. He grinned at Devil, flashing white teeth.
“I’m Detective Andrews, and I need to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”
“No, I don’t mind at all. Does this have to do with what’s going on at the back of my building?”
Behind a pair of round silver-framed glasses, the man’s eyes narrowed. He answered Devil’s question with one of his own.
“So you already know something happened back there, then?”
It was like he was purposefully being vague, so Devil would slip up and say something useful or damaging. Andrews was clever. But from my experience with Devil, he was no slouch in the brains department. I mean, come on; he’d have to be crafty in order to successfully juggle three brides. Or at least, he’d need to be really great in bed. My money was on both.
Devil motioned to a booth on the right and said, “I’d prefer it if we kept this conversation private. Let’s take a seat.”
The detective gave a sharp nod and followed Devil over to an out of the way booth.
No more than a second later, I heard Slone’s raised voice coming from the back of the bar. Curiosity pulled me in that direction, as I left the two men to their business and went to find out what was going on. When I got there, I was greeted with a lively scene.
“What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Josh?” Slone said, pacing back and forth in front of the same man she was strangling earlier.
The man, more young than old, was sitting on one of the two cases of beer Slone had left on the floor, when she went to investigate the disturbance. The darker-haired scraggly looking man held a Ziploc baggy full of limes against his left temple. Noticeable blood stains were on his pants, and he had scratches around his wrists. Bruised and beaten, he looked up at the vampire.
“I didn’t do it. I was framed!” he insisted, shaking his head back and forth. “The pretty redhead told me that all I had to do was drop off a woman over at the Days Inn, and then I was to wait there for an hour and drive her back. She promised I’d get a hundred bucks when I was done.” The man, who seemed a little dim in bulb, gave Slone a pleading look. “The lady I was supposed to drop off was asking me for it, too, trying to rub her hands all over me, like she was in heat, or something, but I didn’t touch her. After she got out of the car, a guy escorted her away. Then about 20 minutes later, the same guy came back to the car, but he was carrying her this time. He opened the back door and shoved her in.”
“What did the guy look like?” Slone asked.
Josh switched the hand he was using to hold up the limes and said, “The dude had on a real snazzy suit and wore black sunglasses is all I know. Told me she was sleeping, and that’s all I remember, until I woke up next to a dead lady and a smelly dumpster.”
“So that’s why you panicked and busted into the bar, screaming your head off like that?” He nodded, and Slone crinkled her nose up at him. “I can still smell death on ya, boy. Go and get yourself cleaned up. There’s a sink and some soap around the corner. Feel free to change into one of those white cook outfits hanging up back there, too.”
I walked into the room and said, “Do you think that’s wise? It will ruin all the evidence on him.”
Josh looked at me and then back to Slone.
“Am I washing myself up or not?”
Slone thought about it for a second but then gestured him away, saying, “Go do as I said.”
Josh tossed the limes on the box.
After a sigh, I said, “That wasn’t smart, Slone.”
“He didn’t kill anyone, I can promise you that. I’ve known that boy since he was a young punk, slinging weed in the streets. He’s the type of guy that finds himself in tough spots, but he doesn’t create them.”
The ghost from earlier picked that time to float into the room with us. I tried not to stare, but the raw intensity that rode her transparent features drew my curiosity.
I never could figure out what it was about me that seemed to attract so many spirits. I felt like a flashing beacon, like I had a sign on my head that read, Calling all ghosts! Just in case you’re wondering, I can see and talk to you. Oh, and by the way, I’m a big sucker and can be roped into helping you do just about anything. And let me tell you… it takes a pretty big noggin to carry that message around and sturdy shoulders to haul the weighty repercussions of it.
Her presence swirled around me, causing my flesh to prickle and my body to ache. All the while, the taste of the woman’s stolen life force coated my tongue, thick, like warm tar.
“Hey, Kris,” Slone said. “What’s wrong with you, girl? You heard me, right? It’s best you leave that boy to me. This doesn’t concern you.”
If she only knew how much that screwed-up situation did concern me....
I shook my head, and for the moment, I ignored the impatient woman who was hovering at my side. From the frustrated look on her face, she didn’t like being disregarded, not for a second.
“Hold on,” I whispered with a hiss.
“Pardon me?” Slone said.
She looked as frustrated with me as the ghost did. I needed a lesson or two on how to juggle the living and the dead at the same time. Or in that case, the dead and the undead. Man, that shit was confusing.
“Nothin’, Slone. Go and take care of your friend. And don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone he’s back here. Hell, I’ll even do you one better. I never saw the guy.”
She visibly let out a breath and said, “Thanks, girl.”
“Believe me, it’s no trouble.
I decided to change the subject with, “Are you closing the bar today?”
In a blink, the woman’s shadowy form manifested in front of me. I peered through her, at Slone, who was giving me a peculiar look. I bet she thought I was a nut job. But somehow, I continued to ignore the restless spirit and keep my features semi-neutral.
“With all the commotion out back, it’s safe to say that the boss man will shut us down. Cops are no good for his business,” Slone said.
With a quick nod, I kicked off my heels and then reached into my personal work cubby. There were nine of them—one for each staff member—stacked one on top of the other, like bookshelves, by the door. I switched out the high heels for my leather boots, jamming my bare feet into them. After that, I peeled off my see-through work top and slipped my Devil’s Playground t-shirt over my head. The shirt was black with red lettering and had a sexy red devil-woman posed suggestively around the bar’s moniker on the front. The low V-neck shirt fit around my breasts and waist tightly, still revealing, but not as suggestive as the crochet top I’d been wearing.
I met Slone’s gaze one more time and watched it soften.
“So we’re cool, then?”
She gave me a slow wink and said, “We’re right as rain, girl.”
With a smile, I said, “Good to hear.”
At that point, I had to find out what the troublesome ghost, who was trailing behind me, riding my boot heels like a sharp spiked spur, wanted from me.
As loud sirens soaked through the walls of the ladies’ room, from the alleyway, I looked at the ghost and asked, “Why are you haunting me?”
Her tightened features fell, losing all signs of any former frustration. Her eyes darted around the room and skittered over me. Then she took her time inspecting her own transparent body. She was confused, and her hands clutched each other.
“Please tell me I’m not dead.”
I let out a long sigh.
Bewildered, she peered into the mirror, saying, “I am dead, huh?”
I nodded, as I said, “I’m sorry, but yes, you are.”
Her left eye twitched.
“I’m having a hard time remembering anything. But I have a feeling I was killed. Did someone murder me?”
Something within me awakened to the substantial weight of her anguish. I was born to interact with the dead in ways that couldn’t be measured by importance or easily explained in words. My responsibility to help them was never-ending. That fact wasn’t taught to me; I knew my purpose by instinct. I had accepted it at an early age, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a little begrudging of it. The sorrow and confusion that accompanied the poor souls splintered my heart, each crack aching, leaving a lasting impression. And helping those restless spirits was the only way I knew how to heal the fissures.
I took a deep, calming breath, pushed away anything that resembled a sane or self-serving thought, and committed myself to helping her.
“From what the guy you followed in here told me, you probably were, yes. He didn’t witness your death. He saw you before and after it.”
Her hands dropped to her side, and she swore bitterly.
“Well, I guess that explains why I was compelled to follow him.”
I leaned my back against one of the black partitions that separated the toilets and nodded. That was all part of the process—the stages each spirit went through before they grasped the clarity needed for me to help them. First, they were confused, scared, or both. And they rarely remembered how they died. The more gruesome the death, the more perplexed they seemed to be. Somehow, a friendly chat helped awaken most of their suppressed memories.
“That, and because you were more than likely drawn to the only person who could see and hear you…” I raised my hand. “… me. This isn’t my first rodeo with a ghost; you guys seek me out, sometimes on a daily basis.”
Her gaze never left me. Recognition was growing in her murky blue eyes, a fog of disorientation visibly lifting, and then her voice trembled, as she said, “I remember everything that happened to me.”
Her form blinked in and out, a distortion that I’d come to know well as a sign of anger. To witness it was like watching a television screen fighting for reception. Her anger leapt around the room, thick and potent. Faucets screeched on, water flowing freely from them. The walls began to shake, and I stood in place, waiting for the outburst of rage to pass, because I knew it would. It always did.
Her face crumpled in abject horror.
“They raped me! There were so many that I couldn’t fight them off. They were so strong.” She flowed like a stream of water to her knees. “I… I….” She sobbed into her hands. “They forced me to drink something vile. And then I couldn’t control my own body. I let them torture me, pass me around between them. Why would I do that? I swear, I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to die!”
I took a breath to say something but then hesitated. Empty words wouldn’t make a difference to her. She wanted more than a gentle pat on the back; she wanted and deserved answers.
Instead of the, “I’m sorry,” that had almost fallen from between my lips, I said, “I’ll find these assholes for you, and they will pay.”
She stopped crying dry tears and looked at me with shockingly wide eyes.
“You’d do that for me?”
I nodded, as I said, “I’d do that and more.”
Seeming somewhat relieved but still cautious, she floated back up to a hovering stance.
“But I’m nobody to you. You don’t even know my name.”
“That can be fixed. What’s your name?”
For the first time since I’d laid eyes on her, she smiled. It
“My name is Darcy. Darcy Mae Walker.”
I returned her smile with the same sincerity.
“Nice to meet you, Darcy. I’m Kristina Chase, but most of the people I can stomach call me Kris.”
Twisting her transparent hands, Darcy said, “Is there anything that I can do to help you find the ones who killed me?”
I grinned wide and said, “You can start by telling me everything you remember about your experience with those bastards. And then, Darcy Mae, we will definitely hunt them down and make them pay.”
“Damn,” Devil said, closing the door behind Detective Andrews. “This isn’t cool. The last thing I need is for the police to be busting my damn balls.”
I walked up behind him and asked, “Can you spare a second to talk?”
Looking down at his clenched fists, Devil turned. I noticed how pale his flesh was, light enough to see the blood rise underneath the skin, as he tried to calm down. Vampires weren’t known for their restraint. Maybe it was all that extra blood they took in, all the more fuel to set them aboil.
Darcy was standing next to me with a goofy grin, when she asked, like a giddy school girl, “Who is that?”
I shook my head and didn’t answer her. I learned a long time ago that responding to ghosts when around other people made me look crazy, even if they already knew about my abilities.
She continued, “He’s really hot.”
Oh, dear God!
Devil crossed his arms over his massive chest, before saying, “This had better be important.”
“Believe me, I wouldn’t bother you otherwise.”
He narrowed his eyes on me.
“All right, then. Let’s do this in my office. I need a goddamn drink.”
A drink of what? I wondered. Would the ancient vampire be sipping on a fine scotch, or savoring the sweet taste of blood? My money was on both.
We walked up the steps and entered his office. The last time I was in there, the club had been bombed by vampire hunters. I was injured pretty badly in the blast and needed some recuperation time. Devil had been generous enough to provide a place for that and some pretty strong pain meds. My hip twanged, where I’d taken on the worst of the injuries. My body was all healed, but thinking about it brought back phantom pains.
Devil's Playground by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes