(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Tommy was written by Audra Brown.)
The octagonal cage was set up in a large cave, surrounded by rows of classic muscle cars in various states of repair, and illuminated by an undulating red-orange light that emerged from the complex pattern of lines that ran across the smooth ceiling and walls. Characters from the slew of worlds and stories by Audra Brown were about to be placed inside to vie for the chance to represent the group in an interview.
Cass Elkins, the most concrete and complete of the crew had been ported from a delicate situation involving two cougars and the interrogation of a traitor. She was in a mood, hatless, covered in cougar guts, and holding a large bowie knife.
Josey Jackson came in holding a glass of Scotch in one hand and her magical light-whip in the other. It was assumed that the vampire head that rolled across the floor came in with her.
Axel Nightblade and her arm-length dragon had obviously been in the middle of a meal. They were both chewing the meat off a greasy bone and the smell of burnt flesh, fermented grain, and a proto-plumbing civilization accompanied their arrival.
Myra Belle Murdock, her sword Chuck, and her revolver, Harry, were all dripping zombie ichor and in the middle of a three-way argument regarding whether a slingshot or a toilet seat was a better zombie killing tool.
Erik Wolf dropped out of a faculty meeting and immediately found a corner where he could stare at the more conspicuously battle-ready in fear. His sweater-vest was red or he really would have looked out of place.
A few more characters, slightly less defined, still appearing as broad-brushstrokes, continued to arrive until it became clear that it was a good thing the ring was far larger than regulation. A Las Vegas Vampire-Hunter, a corporate magician from another earth, a good ‘ol boy Brand Inspector, cold-as-ice getaway driver just out of the joint, and a passel of other troublemakers who were itching to have their story written.
Just outside the chaos, a soft, southern drawl commented, “Just like a bunch of protagonists, always in the middle of some conflict, terribly unreliable, their plans just never work out.”
Thomas Jefferson Lee, ante-bellum anti-hero, bowed slightly and held out a repurposed vehicular bucket seat for the Muse. “Welcome to the subterranean car collection and lair of Josey Jackson, the pyromaniac’s pyromaniac.” He looked like the sandy-haired, blue-eyed, wannabe gunslinger in many an old Western movie—the one that usually died. “Would you be interested in any sort of snack or beverage? I personally find that watching a battle such as this inevitably brings about a certain thirst.” His fangs flashed in a roguish smile and he politely waited for her answer.
Kelly took in her surroundings. Her own character, the assassin Vixen, was intrigued by the fighting and wanted a part of it, but Kelly refused to allow her to accompany her. Maybe next time. Instead, this time, Kelly sat next to Tommy and shook her head at his question. “I”m fine, thank you.” She smiled at him. “So…what are you all? Vampires? Or what exactly?”
Tommy seated himself and shrugged. “I’m a vampire, my dear Josey is mage possessed of the fiery magics. Mages tend to think of themselves as the main players. In all honesty, most vamps are not nearly as interesting or well-adjusted as me–explains why Josey hasn’t tried to kill me lately.” Tommy scratched his smooth chin. “But this world is full of monsters, human-ish and otherwise.”
Kelly nodded, grasping a bit of this world. “So when exactly were you turned?”
Tommy’s expression remained the same, but his eyes seemed to pale, losing color and warmth. “Before the war. I made the mistake of out-shooting someone significantly older. Neither of us took it well.”
Kelly noted the subtle change in his eyes but pressed on. “Which war? I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of wars.”
His eyes cleared a little. “The war between the states.”
She nodded and smiled. “See? There’s been plenty of wars between now and then. So, what was life like before you turned?” Then she added, “And I’m sorry if my questions make you feel uncomfortable, but…just yesterday in another interview I made this big bad guy cry, so….take with it what you will, but I promise to try and be nice.” She smiled at him.
Tommy smiled. “Life was hard, of course, but I was quite suited to the times. To be quite honest, I was a killer. Fast with a gun, and fast to seize an opportunity to demonstrate.”
“But did you have any siblings? What of your parents?” Kelly raised her brows as she settled back in her chair, relaxing into the conversation.
“I suppose. My inclinations and talents caused me to depart at what would now be deemed a tender age. My mother and father were farmers, I think. It was very slow and very boring. I recall four younger siblings, all quite plain. Don’t remember what they were called.”
“Interesting.” Kelly mused. She could tell he wasn’t being open to her, and that was okay. She’d let him take things at his own pace, but she continued with the questions. “So, when was the first time you met a vampire….or a mage and such?”
He laughed and it was hard to tell what specific emotion it conveyed, but it was not generous. “When i killed him, the vampire, not that I knew that name back then. He took it far too personally, came back for me, killed me.” Tommy’s eyes turned cold again. “And made a wager that my soul was dark enough to take on the curse.” Tommy realized that he was probably looking a bit feral and took a breath. “My first mage was a ornery red named Dragonne who helped me kill the bastard who had the gall to not die when I shot him.”
Kelly had to laugh. “It’s really annoying when dead people just don’t stay dead, isn’t it?” She chuckled, shaking her head but became serious once more. “So how was your transition from human into vampire?”
“Painful, I’m sure. But after the requisite fumbling around, not knowing what the hell was happening, I took to it quite well. It takes a certain kind of soul to fall to the curse at all, a devil inside. Some don’t know their own darkness before they are turned.” An expression of smugness crossed his face. “I was already quite the good friend with my darker side. As the one who made me said before he died, I was well-suited to be a vampire.” He shrugged. “The term was new, but at that point, a label meant little..”
Interesting take on this, but Kelly had to tilt her head to a side and furrow her brows, curiously. “You keep mentioning your darker side. Yes, you’ve seen war and such, but what made you so dark before you were even a vampire?”
“Well, back then, a man had his reputation. Mine was as an unrepentant, but quite accomplished gun-fighter. It’s not all like the movies either. I certainly enjoyed a good contest of shooting skill, but I killed for money, for favors, and for my own amusement. I was good at killing and who doesn’t like doing something that they do well?”
Kelly nodded at this. It made sense. “So, you’re good at killing. Do any of the kills ever stick with you? Or do you just kill and forget?” She observed him as she asked this.
He smiled, tight-lipped, and his eyes remained the same cold blue. “You want to know if I have any regrets. No, I don’t regret a soul I killed, but I’m not the devil himself. There were times…” He glanced away, into the past. “Women, children, folks who weren’t a challenge or a job, but the victims of pointless ravaging. There were times when it seemed like they shouldn’t have suffered. I remember those rare sheep that struck me and inclined me to get them some revenge on the men who did them in.”
Tommy looked at the Muse. “I doubt that I cared, but I liked getting them their revenge.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “And who are you today?”
“I don’t know. That’s the fun of the moment. I’m still a bastard, I’m sure.” He gestured to the cave of cars. “I like automobiles and I keep busy with mercenary work–and I watch the plans of men and mages go awry, sometimes I even help them along in that respect.”
“And how did you meet Josey Jackson?” Kelly lifted her brows and glimpsed back at the fighting still going on before looking back at Tommy.
Tommy chuckled, ignoring the increasingly brutal brawl as he recollected. “I met the woman when she tried to kill me the first time.” There was a smugness as he told the story, but also a respect, a reservation. “Luckily, we were interrupted.”
“Sounds like a lot of people try to kill you. What did you do to warrant her wrath?” Kelly had to smile.
“Nothing personal. Someone put a number on my head and she took the contract. I’m a vampire, she had no qualms about collecting.”
“So…” Kelly folded her arms and looked at Tommy. “Who’s Harry “Iceman” Claibourne?” And she watched him for his reaction.
Tommy’s eyes lost all color and he hissed. Recovering momentarily, he said, “Excuse me for a moment, ma’am.” There was a blurred sound as Tommy disappeared with unnatural speed for a few seconds. He returned a moment later holding a green glass bottle full of dark liquid.
“A ruthless, lying bastard who should’ve stayed dead.”
With a casual backhand, he knocked the neck off the bottle and drank the blood. “The Iceman is perhaps the man I’d love to kill most in this world, but at the moment..” He punctuated his vehemence by throwing the bottle against the cage wire where it disintegrated in to a spray of tiny shards. “…it is not an opportunity available to me.”
Kelly observed him but had to tilt her head to a side. “Yet another person who should have stayed dead?” For killing people as an occupation, Tommy’s kills didn’t seem to stay dead. That much complicate things, but Kelly didn’t want to go into that. Instead, she focused on the subject. “So why is he on the top of your To-Kill list?”
Tommy seemed reluctant to answer, clamming up almost as fast as he’d come unglued. But after a a furtive glance at one of the cage combatants, he shrugged and said, “I suppose it has to do with his utter betrayal of more than one generation of my friends—and my own trust. Or perhaps he just rubs me the wrong way. Probably both.”
“And he killed Jack Dragonne,” Kelly pointed out, not backing down when Tommy glared at her. She nodded and leaned forward. “Who was Jack to you?”
“Jack was my responsibly—and curse that devious son-of-a-bitch—he grew up to be interesting, powerful, and fun to be around.”
Kelly wasn’t sure if he was talking about Jack or Iceman, but unfortunately she didn’t have time to dig much deeper. She merely smiled at Tommy. “Our time’s about up, so I’ll be leaving you alone soon. You won’t have to put up with my pestering questions anymore, but you seem to take Jack’s death so personally, and you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who cares too much about others–at least not on the surface. So why do you feel responsible for Jack?”
“I don’t have many friends, never have. Jack’s father helped me kill the one who killed me. In return, I promised to keep an eye on Jack. My word is one thing I don’t take lightly.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “I’m sorry your word was forced to be broken, but I’m certain you’ll get your revenge soon enough. Now though, my time is up. Thank you for this chat.” She rose to her feet then offered him a smile. “And thanks for answering my questions.”
Tommy rose and almost bowed, gentlemen of the past that he was. “I cannot say it was a pleasure, Ma’am, but it was amusing. Adios.”
“Goodbye.” And Kelly bowed her head to him before straightening and leaving. That was an interesting conversation.
The eBook of Audra Brown’s novel, 429 to Yuma – Fire-for-Hire Episode 1, is scheduled to be released this week on November 12th. The paperback won’t be released until sometime in December. Be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!
Publisher’s site: 2epublishing.com (for signed copies, wholesale inquiries, etc…)
Social Media Links:
Author Website: www.al-brown.com
Twitter Handle: https://twitter.com/thegreenninja24
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