Thursday, February 11, 2010

Excerpt from What happens In Vegas

Another prompt and continuation of a story:

Jessie paused in the open elevator door, glancing carefully in both directions before entering the hallway. The 13th floor corridor was deserted. She looked at her watch. The silver hands pointed to three. I guess I was down stairs watching the demon longer than I meant to be, she thought as she walked to her suite. But this is Vegas, after all. Its early for the corridor to be so quiet. She shrugged. It was not a mystery needing to be solved at the moment. She stopped in front of her hotel room door and looked over her shoulder once more before opening it with the white plastic card Mai-i had given her earlier.

Inside the suite, Jessie smiled.The soft strumming of a six string guitar sweetened the air. If Mai is playing hillybilly music he is more confident than I am of the outcome of this assignment, she thought. Mai's confidence was always a good sign. She recognized the tune as one her daddy used to play on his guitar. She hummed along, the lyrics flowing through her head. “You ain't nuthin but a hound dog, howling all the time. You ain't nuthin but a hound dog howlin all the time. You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine.” She crossed the suite's common area, following the musical notes to the balcony where Mai sat with an Elvis impersonater dressed in a black leather jacket studded in silver, designer jeans, and obviously expensive cowboy boots.

Mai stopped picking and nodded at Jessie. “Sit down, girl,” he said, indicating a wrought iron chair to his right. “This here's my buddy Aaron Elvis Pressley. He's givin' me a few pointers on my playing. Not that I need them, of course from a youngster like him.”He winked and strummed a couple more cords. “No suh. This old dog don't need new tricks from no hillbilly.”

“Well, that's as may be and that picking wasn't half bad,” the Elvis impersonater said, “but that last chord was a little off, old dog. You ain't been practicing much of late, have you, son?”

“Well, son,” Mai-i replied. “I been a mite busy with saving the world of late. Don't leave much time for guitar practice.”

The Elvis sighed. “Don't I just know it,” he agreed. He turned to Jessie. “Old dog here hasn't introduced us,” he said.”He's forgotten his manners again.”

“He does that,” Jessie laughed, “frequently.” She held out her hand. “Anyway, I'm Jessie McNeill. His, um, student.”

The man whistled. “Not the little lady who snatched TinkerBelle from the spider bitch. Pleased to meet you.”

Jessie frowned. “I'm surprised you heard about that. I didnt' think...”

“That a second rate Vegas performer would be up on the latest news?” the man interrupted, raising his right arm to expose a blueish-black Celtic tattoo spiriling around his wrist. “I'm not just an entertainer. I'm a Watchman, little darlin'. We're expected to know those things. Just like I know that your friends Glinnie and Tania are downstairs in the bar keeping track of Morrigan and Glory O'Toole. And just like I know the the demon Azer Roth and his vampire ally are watching your fairy friends.”

Jessie frowned. “Oh, and do you also know the magician who apparently isn't really a magician and who is clearly up to something that might interfere with our mission, Aaron?” She turned to Mai. “I don't trust Gabriel man and I don't care what or who Glinnie says he is. He makes the hair stand up on my arms.”

“Who is she talking about?” Elvis/Aaron asked turning to Mai-i.

“ Gabriel Vann,” Mai-i replied. “He's performing here at the hotel.”

The Watchman nodded. “That so? Been awhile since I've seen him but its good to know he's up to his old...tricks...again.” He scratched one long coal black sideburn. “Don't worry, little darlin', Gabe is okay. He's on the side of light. Just like we are.”

“Well, Jessie shrugged, “Did you know that Glinnie swears he's a vampire hunter who should have been dead two hundred years ago? Not that I believe that, of course.”

“What don't you believe?” Mai-i asked, putting his guitar into a long battered black leather case beside him on the tiled terrace floor. “That Gabriel is a magician or a vampire hunter or that he's a couple hundred years old?”

“He doesn't look a day over forty,” Jessie declared, “No matter what Glinie says. Humans don't live that long. Especially vampire hunters.”

Mai-i laughed. “True enough in most cases, Jess. But Gabriel has been working for the Vatican for centuries. His skills are legendary and many. He may no longer be completely human as you would define it, but he was born one just like you.”

Jessie shrugged.“Well, I just don't know that I buy all the hype about Gabriel Vann. I guess it doesn't matter much in the scheme of things though, whether I believe it or not.” She reached into her pocket and removed an tiny object that looked very much like a single grain of rice. “I brought the device back up here just like you wanted. I sat near enough to Asher and the count to record enough to tell us that we're on the right track as to their agenda at the convention.”

“What is that thing?” asked Aaron?

“Its a digital mini micro- recording stick, “ Jessie replied. “Tink gave it to me before she and Gai left for the Disney world gig.”

“Humph,” Aaron said. “Comin' up with new stuff every day, aren't they? Make you feel like a female oo7, little lady?”

“Except that I almost swallowed it in my sushi,” laughed Jessie. “Bond wouldn't have done that.” Her eyes widened. “Please don't tell me he was real too!”

Aaron chuckled. “Nope, strictly fictional. But, Van Helsing is real and you'll be lucky if he agrees to help you out with the Azer Roth problem.”

“Not buying it. I watched his last show and he isn't even a very good magician. No threat to David Copperfield.”

Mai-i chucked, turning to Aaron. “Notice that she accepted your Watchman status right away,” he said. “She's seen me turn into a coyote and Gai morph into a rabbit without blinking twice, has battled a spider goddess on the astral plane for a pixie she acknowledges as Tinker Belle, and works with a deposed fairy Queen and a witch from Oz. But she doesnt believe Gabriel Vann is a story book hero and a Vatican secret agent. I wonder if those tingles I suspect she feels when he's around aren't something besides dislike, eh? Gabriel was always a...uh...what do they say now....a chick magnet, wasn't he?”

“Oh yes, women love battle scars,” Aaron agreed.

“Oh stop it you two,” Jessie said. “I don't buy the Van Helsing story. If he's human how can he really be hundreds of years old and look sort of like Hugh Jackman?”

“Jessie,” Mai-i said, “you know that the bite of a vampire can kill or turn a human, right?” She nodded.

“Well, the freely given blood of a vampire can bestow the gifts of super healing and a much longer life than you'd imagine.”

“But why would a vampire do that? Give blood to one of their greatest enemies?”

“Because all vampires aren't evil, that's why. Didn't you watch that Buffy show a few years back on Fox?”

“I remember Angel, the vampire with a soul. He was pretty hot. But that's just television fiction that Joss Wedon made up.”

“Stories and legends are based on fact, Jess. Most people don't want to accept that there are things that would shake up the foundations of their hard won beliefs, so they just discount them. But magic is real. So are dragons and fairies and all manner of things that go bump in the night You know that.”

Jessie shrugged. “Okay I'll accept Gabe Vann as Gabriel Van Helsing if you really want me too. But don't tell me Angel was real and he gave Van Helsing his blood.”

“No, not Angel. He was a fictional character as was Buffy although there is a Hell mouth in California. Wedon got that much right. It was Mina Stoker who gave Van Helsing his gift of longevity. He is mortal but with luck will still look middle aged when your grandchildren are old.”

“But he's not a magician.”

Aaron laughed. “Let's say it is more of a hobby with him. But he's good enough. After all, Harry taught him a trick or two, ain't that right Mai-i?”

“Harry Blackstone?”

“No, of course not. Harry Houdini.”

Jessie groaned. “Of course, I should have known. Houdini." She pointed at Aaron. "And of course, you are the real Elvis Pressley and you didn't die and you don't age, either. And Gai is really the Easter bunny.” She ran her fingers through her tangled red hair. “I have a headache.If you two gentlemen don't mind I think I am going to bed before the sun comes up and its time to save the world again.”

“Well, little darlin',” the man in black drawled in a soft Mississippi accent. “Igai Gai is definitely not the easter bunny. Don't ever let her hear you say that. And like Van Helsing, I reckon I have a few skills besides singing and making stupid movies. You ever heard about hiding in plain sight?”

Jessie sighed. “If I am lucky this is all a dream and I'll wake up.”

“Sleep tight,” said the man in black, turning to look out a the distant mountains in the faint pre dawn light. “But, be sure to close the closet door. All the way.”

Ma-i's chuckle followed her into the common room. “It's a full moon tonight but I'll do my best not to howl too much,” he called. “Breakfast meeting at ten o'clock sharp. Be there.”

Jessie glanced at her digital watch which read five am. There's no place like home she thought. What I wouldn't give for a pair of ruby slippers right about now.


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