Maelstrom Extra: Photo Shoot

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 reviews (Comments): 9
“This,” Vic said as he paced the floor, “Is what comes of your ridiculous policy of making us be on time for everything.”

Ricky pulled out his BlackBerry. “Stop that. She’ll be here any minute.”

“I hope so.” Nevin conjured a chair and sat down with a heavy sigh. “This is an ugly place. It’s making me very depressed.”

Ricky glanced at the brick walls, sooty and stained with graffiti. High windows let in yellow shafts of light through their broken panes. A photo shoot in an old factory wasn’t an original idea, but the photographer had sold him on it by assuring him the play of light and shadow at this time of day would be incredible. She was right.

“Well, I just want to get on with it,” Kalila said, kicking a coil of filthy rope. She stepped back and gestured for it to unwind itself, and laughed as it snaked toward the rafters.

“Will you stop that?” Ricky said.

The rope fell back upon itself in a cloud of dust and Kalila turned on him. “Why so cranky? I’m only trying to have a little fun.”

“Can’t you do something normal and human for entertainment?”

“I find those two terms mutually exclusive.” She conjured a Rolling Stone magazine and sat down beside Nevin to wait.

Ricky checked the time on his BlackBerry. Fifteen minutes late. No call, no text. The young woman had seemed reliable; an ambitious, up-and-coming sort, eager to make a name for herself. She didn’t strike him as the sort to bail on them.

He heard footsteps and looked up, but it was only Lazaro lumbering in from a dark hallway at the other end of the abandoned warehouse floor.

“This place sucks,” Lazaro announced.

“Let me see if I can reach her.” Ricky tried to call the photographer but didn’t get an answer. “We’ll wait ten more minutes, and if she still doesn’t show, we’ll leave. Tell Bo, would you?”

Lazaro muttered and stalked back into the darkness.

Ricky accepted a chair from Kalila and sat down. Ten minutes became fifteen. Then twenty. The others looked at him expectantly.

“Fine.” Ricky stood up. “Bo! Lazaro! Come on, we’re leaving.”

Lazaro emerged from the shadows, alone.

“Where’s Bo? Tell him we’re going back to the studio.”

“I don’t know where he is. I’m not some demon’s keeper,” Lazaro said. He brushed past him, heading toward the door.

His mind bursting with a sudden suspicion, Ricky followed the others outside where a car with remarkably steamy windows was parked in the weed-choked lot. He had been wondering if he should call the photographer again, but now there was no need. Ricky put the BlackBerry away. “Let’s go back inside, guys,” he told the others. “I have a feeling we’ll be able to get started soon, and the photographer will be in a very happy mood.”

Maelstrom Extra: The Missing Bottle

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 reviews (Comments): 7
Ricky took the bottle off the cluttered shelf and held it to the light.

“That’ll never do,” Nevin said.

“Why not?” He started to rub off the dust so he could get a better look at the antique silver, but thought better of it. Indiscriminately rubbing lamps and bottles was how he ended up managing a paranormal rock band in the first place. “I’m sure it’s pretty underneath the tarnish.”

“But it’s not strong enough to survive a high-velocity auto accident,” Nevin pointed out. “You know how afraid she is of crashes.”

Ricky put the bottle back on the shelf. For an immortal, Kalila was picky. “This one looks stronger.” He reached for a wrought-iron bottle with decorative inlaid bands of greening copper. “A little polish will fix this right up.”

Nevin shook his head. “Too similar to the one she bought at a market in Vienna in 1832. She became trapped and languished in it for fifteen years. It will bring back bad memories.”

“Fine.” He stepped back and looked at the shelf again. Most of the bottles were glass, ceramic, or of some other breakable material, and the sturdier ones were, for the most part, unattractive. A replacement for Kalila’s missing travel bottle had to be superlative. It had to be strong, roomy, and, if Ricky was any judge of the djinn’s tastes, gaudy. If it didn’t dazzle to blind the beholder and eclipse the sun, she wasn’t interested.

“Are you sure you can’t track her bottle somehow? Or conjure a new one? What’s the point of you being a fairy if you can’t do things like that?” Ricky said.

Nevin gave him a baleful look. “Just because immortals have different abilities doesn’t mean we aren’t subject to rules of our own.” He returned to pondering their choices. “A magically conjured bottle wouldn't suit. Trust me.”

Ricky took out his BlackBerry. “There are five more antique shops within a three block radius.”

“Oh, good.” Nevin brightened. “Perhaps we’ll find something before tonight’s gig, after all.”

“I hope so,” Ricky said, pocketing the BlackBerry and heading toward the door. “Because when she finds out we lost her travel bottle, she’s going to be pissed.”

“Another djinn temper tantrum,” Nevin sighed.

“Yes,” Ricky said, remembering the last one with a shudder. “We’ll find something before tonight. Even if I have to figure out how to make one myself.”

Maelstrom Extra: Design Matters

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 reviews (Comments): 3
Ricky picked up a shirt, shook out the wrinkles and held it out in front of him. “Not bad.” He looked over his shoulder. “What do you think?”

With a sigh, Kalila got up out of her chair and came closer. “I think the guys are going to freak.”

“Do you like one of the other designs better?”

She scanned the sample shirts with narrowed eyes. “The one at the end.”

Ricky shook his head. “That one is fine for regular gigs, but…”

“Yeah, I know. Charity.” She threw herself back into her chair and folded her arms. “I trust your judgment. Whatever you choose will be fine.”

Something about Kalila’s words rang hollow, but if she said the choice was his, then he would decide. He examined again the shirt he liked best: thick, good-quality cotton, the band name featured prominently, and in a design move that was sure to set Vic’s fangs on edge, an array of dogs, cats and bunnies posing with electric guitars. It was a little cutesy, but it was for a pet charity event. Dark and edgy just wouldn’t do.

“We’ll go with this one.” He turned to Kalila for a reaction, but she was gazing into the distance, as if her thoughts had begun to drift. “Kalila?”

She looked up and blinked.

“Last chance to say no.”

“Are you kidding?” She grinned. “I’m already envisioning Vic and Lazaro’s hysterics. And trying to get the werewolves into those shirts ought to be pretty entertaining, too. You’re brave, for a human.”

“Yeah.” Ricky knew these shirts would sell, but sometimes there were other priorities. He returned his attention to the samples and picked up the simple logo-only shirt. Maybe it would do, after all.

Maelstrom Extra: The Invitation

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 reviews (Comments): 6
Late, as usual, for the band meeting, Bo stretched out his long legs and leaned back in his chair. “I’m going to have to cancel on tomorrow’s gig,” he said. “Something else came up.”

Ricky stared in disbelief. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Bo smiled that same lazy incubus grin that he used to disarm the ladies. “Sinister Posse is in town. You know that, right? They’re playing the Arena, and there’s going to be a big party at their hotel after.”

“And you got us invited?” Kalila clapped her hands. “This will be great.”

Bo gave a smug little smirk. “They only invited me, djinna. The rest of you will have to find your own entertainment for the night.”

While the others protested, Ricky waved a hand for silence. “Look, I’m glad you’re making friends with people in big-name bands, and I doubt you can create any trouble for Sinister Posse that they wouldn’t get up to on their own—”

“Don’t bet on it,” Bo said, still with that maddening grin.

“—but your gig at the Ampersand will be over in plenty of time to get to the party. And even if it wasn’t, you’ve been booked for two months. You don’t cancel over things like this. It’s not the human way.”

Bo sat up. “Maybe I’m tired of doing things the human way, ever think of that? Be on time, follow the set list, don’t engage in carnal acts with venue and hotel staff…I joined this band for the good times, not to follow a bunch of silly rules.”

Ricky was about to answer, but Kalila cut him off. “Let me handle this. Go in the other room and wait while I remind Bo about his contract terms.”

Reluctantly, Ricky left the room, shutting the door behind him. As he leaned against the wall, listening to the sounds of mayhem that followed, he wondered how Bo had managed to ingratiate himself with Sinister Posse. The shouts and muffled booms and thumps continued. Bo would be contrite at the end of all this, that was for sure. And maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to get an invitation for all of them.

Maelstrom Extra: Sentimental Notion

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 reviews (Comments): 6
Overcast afternoon, threat of rain in the air. In the doorway, the man sits picking out a tune, guitar case at his feet, along with a few crumpled bills.

Kalila tugs on Ricky’s sleeve and stops, entranced by the music and the luster of polished rosewood. “That’s a fancy guitar for a man who has no home.”

“Economy,” Ricky says.

“It must be the most precious thing he ever owned. The last thing he’ll give up.” She nods in sympathy. “Give him some money.”

“I don’t have any.”

While Kalila ponders, the man looks at her, and with a gleam in his eye, plays a tricky chord progression overlaid with a melody that tests the waters of sadness, skirting the edge of melancholy.

Kalila sighs with pleasure and leans into Ricky’s arms. When the little show is over, she reaches in his pocket and removes a wad of bills that hadn’t been there before. She drops it in the case, then pulls Ricky back onto the sidewalk and resumes walking.

“Where did you get that?” he asks.

“Same place your government does. Nowhere at all.”

“It won’t help in the long run.”

“But it’s another day he won’t have to pawn that guitar.”

The sky darkens with the approaching storm, and under the sodium glare of a streetlight, Ricky takes her hand. “For a djinn, you have some sentimental notions.”

Kalila tips her head back and breathes deeply of the electrically charged air. “Just let it be our secret, okay?”