April 21st

Posted on by

It was time to ‘press the flesh,’ as Dene’s ex-girlfriend Esther had called it. She’d already marked out the places she had to go on her map of Vancouver and was checking over construction and road closures on her phone to decide where to go first.

Her last stops, she decided, were the two tradeshops within walking distance of her apartment so that she could get some exercise after driving around town all day.

Her first stop was the police station. Esther had told her, during a phonecall with many long silences, which one it was Dene should go to, to make herself known. Next were a few more shops to leave her business card, and the university to visit their Esoteric department.

She stretched. Her arms were sore from fighting against the stairs the day before, and the night sleeping on her towel and some clothes on the floor hadn’t helped. She checked herself in the mirror to make sure she was presentable, fluffing up her bangs (and only hair) and wiping her large dark eyes of sleep.

“Okay, this’ll do. This’ll do,” she said as she grabbed a tank top, strapped on her estoc, and bolted out. The faster she went, the less psyched out she’d be by the stairs.

She got lost twice on the way to the police station. She hadn’t been to Vancouver since she was twelve, and then her parents had done all the driving.

She asked for Officer Silver at the front desk. The receptionist had asked her name, checked her computer, and then told Dene to go right in.

“Your name’s Surma? Where in Africa is that from?” said the receptionist.

“Poland, actually,” said Dene as she went in to seek out Silver. Esther had told her that the good officer had hair to match his name and a mustache you could strain soup in. She spotted him quickly.

“Hello, sir,” said Dene. She was a few inches taller than him. She hoped he wasn’t the kind of guy who got pissy at have to look up at a woman, because she had decided years ago she did not have the time for that kind of crap.

“Ah! Miss Morales told me you’d come to see me. Said I’d know you when I saw you. The woman who could walk in with a sword in plain sight,” said Silver, pumping Dene’s hand in greeting. “Esther Morales got a real professional to make that blade for you, didn’t she?”

“Yeah,” said Dene. “Esther’s always been great at parting gifts. The receptionist didn’t even look at it.”

“Great. Great. Hate to have your day offering your services as the city’s new dragonslayer start with a tasering,” said Silver with an apologetic ‘yes that really would have happened’ look. “Sword’s hard to look at for me, and I’ve got a helluva sixth sense. So. Miss Morales told me that you’re good at what you do.”

“I hope so. She trained me, she’s got an investment in me making her look good. You have many dragonslayers in town? I guess so, the place is huge,” said Dene. She rooted through her pocket for her card. It simply said her name, her occupation (dragonslayer, private eye) and how to contact her. She had no sense for graphic design so her only hope for catching the eye was the dragonslayer part.

“Here,” she said and passed it over.

Officer Silver looked it over. “Dene Surma. You’re not from one of the families that does this, then?”

“No, sir. My parents are professors.”

“Just as well. They get all squirrely about professional secrets, if you ask me. And no, Vancouver’s actually got kind of a famine of monster-solving professionals right now. It wouldn’t be a problem, ‘cept we’ve been getting more weird calls lately. Missing pets. Missing elderly. Usual stuff that our department can handle, but it’s good to have a specialist handy. So glad to have you here. I may have work for you soon. You want some coffee?” said Silver as he filed away her card.

“No, sir. I’ve actually got a few more places to go before the work day’s over. But thank you,” said Dene.

Silver nodded. “Well, good to meet you. See you soon.”

Dene waved and left the bullpen. Esther had gotten an expert to work the estoc’s ‘don’t notice me’ effect; only one detective except Silver had looked at her in surprise and that may just have been because her pants were her most garish pair with flames on them.

The magic shops went well. Some of them were just your usual fortune tellers, some were new age crystal sellers, some turned out to be goth fashion shops with a tarot card section, but all of them agreed to take some of her business cards in case someone came in with a problem that fit the bill. She thanked them profusely, especially the ones who thought dragonslayer was presumably a polite euphemism for ‘will beat up your stalker for a fee’, paired up with ‘private detective.’ At least, that’s what Dene gathered from their questions. She didn’t bother correcting them. She wouldn’t mind that kind of work.

She’d mentally calculated how much taking down an abusive ex would cost as a service. She decided she’d do it for a cup of coffee.

When she got to the university, the head of the Esoteric Department was absent, but they were able to supply her with a grad student to show her around.

The student was named Barnabus Bigbear, and he was like talking to an overgrown puppy whose favourite part of folklore was when it got bloody.

“So you’ve seen this stuff? You’ve really really seen it?” said Barnabus, walking beside Dene. He had to walk fast, Dene’s legs were longer than his, and she was a great deal thinner. Bigbear was an apt last name for Barnabus.

“I’ve seen some. You major in this stuff and you haven’t actually experienced any of it? What kinda career do you get out of this, anyway?”

“Eh,” said Barnabus. “You could say the same about Professor Jackson over in Ethics. He hasn’t seen an Ethic since the sixties. And there aren’t any jobs, really. Just researching. Sometimes finding something you can sell to an interested party – not that I’d do that, that’s totally unethical. You can’t even enroll in this track without being invited.”

Dene paused to look at a glass case holding books published by professors in the department. There was a huge tome on Krampus, another on soothingsaying techniques throughout history. She waited for Barnabus to continue.

“My folklore teacher, he was so impressed by the extra research I did he told me that I should come check out this building. We all thought it was for storing gym equipment! So are you sticking around or what?” said Barnabus, looking especially hopeful at the end.

“Esther Morales sent me. Your supervising professor used to work with a friend of hers, and had an open offer of help around here,” said Dene. “I’m just here to introduce myself and let you know I’m available.”

“Yeah, Silvia left a note about you,” said Barnabus, looking let down that Dene wouldn’t be a regular feature. “Normally you’d have to be a student to get access, but she said I should just let you in. Uh. We’re not like, a weapons shop or anything. We just have a ton of books. And stuff. Stuff. Um. I mean, if you need that stuff to fight… whatever’s out there.”

Confessing they’d had no magic weapons like something out of a videogame had deflated Barnabus.

“That’s fine. Research is great. When you use the internet, you usually end up with people arguing which vampire novel had it ‘right’ and zombie survival plans.”

“Are zombies real?” asked Barnabus.

“I’ve never seen one,” replied Dene.

Her last stops were two shops facing eachother on a street near her house. The Fairy Ring and Milk and Magick.

They were like night and day. The Fairy Ring looked like something out of a nineties fantasy novel, covered in airbrushed fairies that wouldn’t have been out of place on a van, and a giant squiggly sign on top that declared its name, with two flying fairies on either side. Neon paint on the corner of the left window declared ‘fortunes told here!’ And on the other window, ‘supplies!’

Dene let herself in. Sitting at the counter reading a book was an older woman, with long silver hair and soft brown skin. Dene’s heart gave a little leap. Her own age was more her speed, but she knew beauty when she saw it.

“Hello, ma’am?” said Dene.

The woman set down her book and smiled at Dene. “Sorry,” she said in that particular First Nation’s accent, “I didn’t hear you come in. How can I help you?”

“I’m just here about seeing if you guys would let me leave my business card,” said Dene. She held them up as evidence that this was the truth.

“Let me see?” said the woman, leaning over the counter and taking the pile. “Dragonslayer?”

“I uh, solve problems. A lot of different kinds of problems.”

“This sounds like something you should talk to my boss about,” said the lady, with a short laugh. “This is the sort of thing he’s all over.”

“Is he here or coming soon? ‘cause I wouldn’t mind sticking around,” said Dene, leaning on the counter.

The woman handed the cards back. “He’s busy. Could you come back tomorrow? I won’t be here, but tell him you talked to Melody Bell. Are you just advertising at all the shops around here?”

“Sorta. I mean, the new phonebook isn’t out for a while now,” said Dene. “Do people even still use those?”

“I do,” said Melody. “I’m a traditionalist. Aren’t you a little young to be a private detective?”

“We all start one day, ma’am,” said Dene, tipping an invisible hat. “But if you mean do I actually have a license, I sure do.”

“Lots of standing around and spying in windows, I expect.” There was, Dene detected, a note of disapproval in Melody’s voice.

“Not your window,” said Dene. “Unless you asked me.”

“Well, that’s something,” said Melody. “Like I said, Evan won’t be here until tomorrow. So come back then. Be careful what you talk to him about, if you mention fairies he’ll talk your ear off. He believes in them, you know.” Melody shook her head.

“How about that,” said Dene. “Thanks for your time, beautiful.”

Melody laughed again. “Good luck at the other stores.”

“Thanks!” called Dene as she left.

Milk and Magick, unfortunately, turned out to be closed ‘due to unexpected exorcism’, according to the sign.

Dene went home. Before she went up the stairs, she procrastinated by pinning one of her cards to the apartment noticeboard.


NEXT: April 22nd

PREVIOUS: April 20th