The next piece of the story is ready. I hope you enjoy.
Skywise makes a call, Cutter talks to a bird, and Bearclaw makes a friend...sort of.
Part Eight – A bite to eat?
He felt tired, weary, and just plain out of gas. Skywise sat on the edge of the bed rubbing his eyes trying to force them open, which usually worked, but not this time. His orbs felt like two large stones resting in gravel pits. It was going to take a lot to get up and moving this morning, and he had no time to waste, not after going dry showing the sketch in all the places you might find a beautiful elf.
And a few you might not want to.
No one at the Mimosa had seen her or remembered her pretty face. The usual suspects at Mike’s and Tommy’s didn’t have a recollection of her stopping in, and with lips like that they would have they laughed. He went to the automat where all the aspiring actresses had lunch hoping to catch the eye of some director or producer or big whig with the Djun studios. No one had seen the elf and none knew her name. Skywise stood up, swaying just a little, while smiling at the memory of the old timers cackling. He sure wished he remembered what happened that night with those lips and all the places they might have touched. All the places he might have touched and ran his hands over. Skywise felt a tug and looked down to notice he hadn’t come to this party alone.
“Well good morning to you too.”
The dingy drapes barely held back the rising sun or morning breeze as Skywise decided it was time to get this train moving. He was still neck deep in some serious dung and the only way out was to find out who the girl was.
He needed a name…he needed to know why she chose him.
The sun rose a little more, a calm breeze blew through the slightly open window, and the P.I. stood contemplating his next move. Since no one in the usual places knew the elf there was only one other way to find her. There was an underbelly to the city, dark alleys and streets few elves ventured. He’d have to dig in spots he’d rather not and these were the kind of spots and places that if you asked the right question to the wrong person you’d end up in a pair of cement shoes…just like Joey Styles.
A horn blared outside as the morning rush hour started up, a cavalcade of cars and pedestrians storming into the city headed toward parking decks all ready full and jobs they really didn’t want to work. Skywise was trying to think and finding it impossible between the noises outside and his perky ‘friend’. He sighed knowing all ready what had to be done, what always had to be done. So, looking like a three armed sword fighter with no one to fight, he hoped into the shower and turned on the cold water letting the shock hit him like a rock. All at once his arousal was gone and his head was clear, like a piece of crystal from the Palace. He shut off the water and stood in the basin just a minute as out of that clarity came a name, the name of one who could help.
It’d be a bad call. The elf might tell him to take a flying leap…but he was the only one who knew the places he needed to go and the people he needed to talk with.
Skywise shook his head tossing his silver mane with a snap sending water everywhere in a spray. It was his only choice he thought stepping out of the shower and dressing in a flash. He slipped his forty-five into the shoulder holster and ran out the door headed for the lobby with a dash. He needed to use the phone at the front desk to make a few calls.
Moe had worked the front desk behind the cage at The Flora motel for the last ten years sitting in his old swivel chair greeting each customer and client with the same short grunt and greased stained t-shirt that bulged with his ample stomach. And during those glorious ten years of servitude to this place he lovingly called a ‘life-sucking bitch’ Moe had heard more than his share of funny, whimsical sayings about the motel while putting on fifty extra pounds. There was ‘why do it on the Flora when you can do it on the bed’, obviously coined by some of the men who hired the working girls outside for an hour at lunch. Then there was the girls response, ‘I’d rather do it on the Flora cause the sheets ain’t been washed.”. Yeah, that one was a real rib tickler, but not the best. No, that trophy went to a pair of young humans, probably not old enough to get drunk, who rented a room for the night with a certain glee just a week or two ago.
“Hey pal, you know what?” The young kid had said as he dropped the usual five on the desk. The boy was at least six foot six and weighed all of 90 pounds wet. A doctor would have had to use a microscope to find a single muscle on him while a mechanic could lube a car with all the grease in his brown hair.
“No kid, what?” Moe grunted taking the five and getting a key for a room off the hook.
“I’m gonna have Dora in the Flora, if you know what I mean!”
“Frankie!” The girl squealed then giggled uncontrollably. Dora had bad pockmarked skin, crooked teeth, and an obvious low standard in men. Moe expected to see her around a lot as time went by.
“Good morning Moe,” a chipper voice called out from the stairs.
The human looked over to see that pest P.I. come strolling up still wet from a shower with a wide smile on his face. Why me this morning Moe thought as he grumbled. “What’s so good about it?”
“Any day above ground Moe,” Skywise winked before reaching into the cage and taking the telephone before Moe could stop him.
“Hey, no long distance calls you hear?” Moe snapped pointing a chubby finger.
“And who would I call long distance?” Skywise smirked.
Moe flopped down in his swivel chair with a plop. “Yeah, you got a point.”
The P.I. smiled putting the phone to his ear before pulling it away with a horrified look pointing to a large sticky brown stain. “Is this steak sauce on the phone?”
Moe just shrugged. “Maybe…why, you hungry or something?”
Skywise shriveled his nose in disgust at Moe’s new low before reaching inside the cage and taking a napkin off the desk. He wiped the whole phone down, top and bottom, before dialing the number he had memorized, the eight numerals burned into his brain. Skywise waited tapping his slender fingers on the rotting wood of the motel cage as the receiver on the other end of the wire rang out shrilly. On the third one someone picked up and the gruff voice on the other end brought back a set of memories Skywise had buried years before.
When the greeting was done he spoke quick and calmly. “It’s me. We need to talk.”
Moe noticed the phone went dead for a second or two, then the gruff voiced said something that didn’t sit well with the P.I. “Listen, I need your help and I’m asking nicely…”
The voice shot something back that Moe couldn’t make out. He saw Skywise’s jaw tighten before answering and figured it didn’t sit well with the elf. “Then I stop asking nicely.”
The lobby got real quiet then, a depth Moe had never experienced before. It was like the outside world just stopped moving at the threat. He licked his lips nervously and then the voice spoke up again and Moe sighed when a horn outside echoed.
“Yeah, normal table at Korilla’s in an hour.”
The voice gave a one word reply then Skywise put the phone down and slid it back inside the cage. “Do yourself a favor Moe and wash that phone before you give someone a disease no one can cure.”
Moe huffed as Skywise walked out the large double doors of the motel. “Who the heck washes a phone?”
The noise of someone dropping a shoe woke Cutter and when he looked up after moving the pillow he saw the room and the three elves in it all getting ready. He sat up confused and a little wanting, as in wanting a warm body next to his. “What are you three doing?”
Leetah looked into the mirror of her vanity and spoke while checking her hair. “Don’t you remember, I’m going with Joyleaf to check on Bearclaw then to the studio for some re-takes.”
“No, I don’t remember because you forgot to tell me and now you’re just going to slip out without waking me.” Cutter remarked wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“I think I remember her telling you last night after we went to bed.” Nightfall offered setting her hair under a bush hat. Her green shirt contrasted well with the brown work pants and boots.
“Did we talk after going to bed Redlance?” Cutter asked scratching his head and sliding his feet over the side of the bed.
“Not that I remember,” He commented getting his clothes on.
“Thank you treeshaper!” Cutter exclaimed throwing up his hands.
“We were busy with other things.” Leetah smiled seductively turning away from the mirror.
“I remember that part.” Cutter miffed as Nightfall walked over.
“We’re sorry my chief. We didn’t want to wake you.” She giggled rubbing his shoulder.
“Where are you going?”
“My job at the Zoo,” Nightfall said checking her clothes one last time, “we’re moving some animals today and they need some extra help.”
Cutter huffed more than a little miffed at the idea of being alone. He turned to see the treeshaper dressed and ready to go. “Are the bushes and trees calling for you at the nursery?” He teased.
“Sorry, but there’s a large order for some new housing developments and the Mayor’s pet project downtown that needs my attention. I should be done by this afternoon.” Redlance explained trying to console.
The leader of the elves just shook his head. “No, its okay, you three are too busy.”
“We’ll be back soon my love to keep you warm.” Leetah whispered kissing his forehead.
“Yes we will.” Nightfall smiled kissing his cheek.
“Will you wake me this time?” Cutter snipped.
Redlance smiled then looked at his watch and called out. “Oh, we’re late! I’ll see you tonight my chief!” he yelled running out the door.
Nightfall and Leetah ran out behind him and as the pair walked down the hallway there was one last word from his lifemate. “Have a nice day my love!”
“Don’t worry about me…I’ll find something to do…I mean I waited ten thousand years for you to come back so I should be able to find something to do for one day.”
Then the bedroom was quiet…and still…and quiet. Cutter looked around absently noting his clothes were folded neatly in the chair. An abrupt happy chirp just outside the sliding glass door caught his attention and he turned to see a large blue jay bouncing around on the outside patio.
“Yeah, what’s so good about the morning?”
The bird stopped, looked at him, and chirped twice more.
“What, who am I? Well, I use to be a chief of this tribe called the Wolfriders-“
“No, really, I was in charge. Everyone listened to me, I was the chief.”
“I led the tribe across the desert to Sorrow’s End and I helped win the war to get the Palace back from the mountain trolls and I brought all the elves together.”
“What do you mean what have I done lately?”
The bird cocked its head to the side then suddenly flew off as Nonna appeared in the doorway with a bright smile. “I have some coffee on Cutter, would you like a cup?”
“Yes Nonna,” he told his friend before shaking his head, “and if you find my worth lying around just add it in with the sugar.”
“I’ll take a look. Maybe it’s between the cushions on the couch in the den.” Nonna giggled while walking away.
Cutter looked at the door with a sour face. “Not helping Nonna…not helping!”
Bearclaw looked down at the bowl of oatmeal and played in it with his spoon. He was on his third wish the gruel would turn into a steak…it wasn’t working. After waking up, and putting on some old gray sweats with a sweat top and an ‘A’ shirt that Cam left for him, Bearclaw had walked through the food line at the mission. Now sitting at a long table with the other less fortunate of the city staring down into the bland bowl of oats he was wishing he had just left well enough alone. He started to try and force a bite down, got the spoon up and an inch from his mouth, when a voice stopped him cold.
“Can I have some more Momma?”
He looked down the table to see a human boy, maybe twelve and far too small for that age, sitting with a human woman and a little girl. The lady looked tired and worn, like she had slept on one of those hard cots in the mission yet not really slept, but still pretty with short black hair and an expression on her face that gave her children hope when there wasn’t much of it to go around. The little girl clutched a blond haired doll fussing with one its ponytails each time after taking a bite of oatmeal. The woman looked to her son and smiled motherly.
“No Sam, we can only go through the line once. Here, you can have mine.”
The little girl gasped abruptly and grabbed her mom’s hand with a quick snatch. “No Momma!”
“It’s all right Lilly, I’m not hungry and Sam is so he can have mine.” The mother smiled patting her daughter’s hand.
“But you haven’t eaten anything Momma, not for at least a day.” Sam the little boy whined looking worried.
“I’ll be fine Sam. I don’t need as much as you. I’m not a growing boy.” The lady smiled pushing her bowl over.
The boy looked down at bowl of oatmeal hungry wanting to devour it, yet he moved as slow as a snail to take it. Something in him suddenly didn’t want to touch a single speck of the gruel. It was the guilt, and every spoonful of the oatmeal would be thick with it, but Sam was hungry and that was stronger than guilt. He took the bowl with about as much enthusiasm as someone grabbing a snake and looked down in it.
“Eat Sam, go on now.” His mother ordered.
The little boy was hesitant to start eating, his hand trembling as he picked up his spoon. Bearclaw looked down into his bowl and it wasn’t hard to decide. He looked over to the young human and spoke up. “Here fella, you can have mine.”
The boy’s eyes lit up as the bowl slid down to him. “Really? Thanks. You can have yours back Momma!”
“Oh no sir,” the lady started to protest with a raised hand, “I can’t let you go hungry.”
“Ma’am, letting your boy eat my oatmeal is doing me a favor.” Bearclaw smiled.
Lilly laughed and the lady smiled taking her bowl back. She was fighting back tears Bearclaw could see as the little girl let her curiosity take over. “Are you an elf?”
“I didn’t buy these on the street.” Bearclaw answered pointing to his ears.
The girl giggled taking another bite of her oatmeal. The lady finally took a bite of hers and it made the old wolf feel better to see it. He was watching her intently for some reason, he wasn’t sure why, when the boy asked a question with a mouthful of food.
“I thought all the elves lived up on the hill in that big old house.”
“Most of them do.”
“Then why don’t you?” Sam asked quickly in the way all children do.
“Sam, don’t be impolite.” His mother ordered.
Bearclaw shrugged his shoulders and put his hands in the pockets of the gray sweatshirt. “I like it here in the city, more things to do.”
“Momma use to work for the studios, but then they fried her.” The girl said in a child’s matter of fact way fussing with the ponytail more.
“Lilly, he doesn’t want to hear about us or our problems.” The lady told her daughter, a tinge of red on her cheeks now from embarrassment.
“And its ‘fired’, not ‘fried’.” Sam teased causing Lilly to stick out her tongue at him.
“Sam, eat!” The lady ordered with a tone that said try me, just once.
I’ve been there Bearclaw thought, tossed out like trash feeling like no one wanted or needed you anymore. His hand brushed a folded piece of paper and he remembered the twenty dollars Cam gave him. It was from some heavy who was looking for him the street preacher explained, a real mean looking dude with a meaner look. Use it to get away Cam had whispered, use it to get somewhere safe and clear of all this mess with the TMPD, but there was no way that was going to work the old wolf thought. It seemed trouble always found him, no matter how deep the den he hid in.
He stood up and handed the twenty dollars over to the lady. She held up her hand a second time shaking her head. “No sir, I don’t want to take your-.”
“Go down to 5th and Elm, there on the corner is a restaurant run by a nice elf named Korilla. She’s probably got some job you can do for money, just tell her Bearclaw sent you.” He said cutting off her objections.
“No, I can’t take-“She started again, but the old wolf just cut her off again.
“Use the twenty at the motel across the street to get a room. It’s run by a nice old couple who can look after the little ones while you work. Do Not say my name there or you might get slapped.” Bearclaw smiled putting the money in her hand.
Those tears the lady was holding back started to come, slow at first as she stammered trying to get her words together. “I…don’t know what…why?”
“Don’t ask why, just do. Sometimes in life you take what you’re given and thank the stars at night when they come out.” Bearclaw grinned taking his hand back.
The lady only nodded putting a hand over her mouth. Bearclaw turned and started for the doors of the mission ready to get out of this place. He took a few steps when the boy called out for him. “Will we see you again Mr. Bearclaw?”
The old wolf just smiled. “Maybe, I’m all over the place these days.”
The boy smiled and waved, which Bearclaw returned with his own, before he left out into the day. The morning sun was bright and warm, but not enough to walk around in just an ‘A’ shirt so Bearclaw pulled up the zipper on the hooded sweat top and began to walk down the street thinking he was broke and hungry once again. He started to cross the street with some other pedestrians thinking he might see if the motel he was staying at had any of his stuff. The chance they saved something was slim, but they might have. Bearclaw reached the other side thinking his old friend Bobby at the diner might let him sleep in the back store room for a night or two till he found a more ‘accpeting’ place, which was getting harder to find every time he got tossed. He didn’t want to stay at Cam’s again, not if the-
“Morning Mr. Bearclaw.”
The greeting stopped him cold and when Bearclaw caught site of who said it he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. There were four men by a black Cadillac, two really large leg breakers by the front and two semi-mean looking humans by the back. They were standing outside the car, leaning up against it waiting for him, just standing and waiting.
“It is Mr. Bearclaw, right?” The one who looked like he was in charge asked. He was dressed in a nice suit, handmade, while the other three looked like their clothes come out of a shop somewhere and screamed underling.
“My name’s Djun, Angrif Djun.” The one with the handmade suit answered with a smile that had all the warmth of an ice cube.
“Djun, as in Grohmul Djun, the man who runs the Studios and bathes in a gold tub full of money.” Bearclaw asked back with a little poke to see what the humans would do.
Angrif just smiled though and blinked. “Oh, that’s just a lie someone started. He only sleeps on a mound of money.”
“Uh-huh, and why does such an important person as your father want to know who I am?
“My father would like to invite you to lunch, talk about your fight days.” Angrif explained still smooth as glass and cold as ice.
Bearclaw looked to the two leg breakers at the front of the car then back to the younger Djun. “Talk about my fight days huh?”
“Oh yeah, he’s a real fan of yours, saw you fight professionally…and in the pits. My father’s a real blood and guts kind of guy.”
“Uh-huh…and what if I have plans all ready?”
“The trunk’s not as comfortable to ride in.” The other semi-mean looking human stated rather proudly. He looked like the heavy Cam described that dropped by looking for him last night.
The younger Djun looked over to his cohort and ordered him quiet like any good dog handler will when a mutt gets out of hand. “Carl, no need for the trunk, right Mr. Bearclaw?”
“I’m not convinced you four could put me in that trunk Angrif and the hospital down here in the slums isn’t as clean as the ones your use to.” Bearclaw stated with his own cold icy stare. The threat was more like a promise coming from the old wolf.
The two leg breakers started to walk forward, but then the younger Djun held up his hand and stopped them. He opened the door to the Cadillac while talking. “I know you have no plans and no place to go Mr. Bearclaw. You might as well get a bite to eat, my dad puts out a real nice spread.”
The open door…looked like a trap…felt like a trap. So why Bearclaw climbed in was anyone’s guess, maybe he was hungry. Maybe he just wanted to see what all the fuss was over him? If he had looked up he would have seen a sedan pull up to the doors of the mission and two pretty elves step out.
Joyleaf had an excited smile on her face for some reason.