Maelstrom Extra: Get Your Kicks on Route...666?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 reviews (Comments): 9
This is a Three Word Wednesday offering, so be sure to check out Three Word Wednesday for more fun!

Ricky shoved the map across the table in the tour bus’s tiny kitchenette. “I’m telling you, it doesn’t exist.”

“Quit acting like this is just some crazy hunch,” Kalila said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Consult your electronic device if you don’t believe me.”

“Fine.” He pulled the BlackBerry from its leather holster. “But we’re not stopping, even if we do find it. We have barely enough time to get to Flagstaff as it is.”

Kalila watched him press buttons on the tiny keypad. “This is important to us. Vic and Lazaro are very excited, and Bo thinks there’s sure to be at least one good strip club.”

“If this detour was that important to all of you, then you shouldn’t have taken so long getting ready this morning.”

“Demons sleep late. You know that.”

“Sometimes one has to make sacrifices.”

Kalila shrugged in unconcern and glanced out the window. “Hurry up with your research. You know how I hate being out of my travel bottle when the bus is moving.”

By now Ricky had found what he was looking for: US Route 491, formerly Route 666.”

“I’m right, aren’t I?”

Ricky scowled and put the BlackBerry away. “There’s still no reason to get off the Interstate. They renumbered the road you’re looking for. It isn’t Route 666 anymore.”

“But it’s still the Devil’s Highway,” Calvin called from the front of the bus.

Ricky hadn't realized the driver was listening to their conversation, but werewolves had sharp ears. “I don’t care what it’s called. We’re on a schedule. You forced me to be your manager, so let me manage.”

Kalila sucked in her breath and didn’t answer for a long moment. Then she got up from the table, her eyes aglow. “I’ve had quite enough from you, human,” she said in caustic tones. “This is my band, and no one bosses a djinn.” Just before she dissolved into smoke, she called to Calvin, “You’re to follow my instructions, lycanthrope. Let the human whine all he likes.”

Ricky watched her pour herself into her specially reinforced travel bottle. Then he stood up with a sigh and went to the front of the bus.

Calvin glanced at him in the rearview mirror. “Well?”

Ricky gave a resigned shrug. “You heard the lady. Take us to Route 666.”

Maelstrom Extra: Double Dog Dare

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 reviews (Comments): 10
The Labrador jerked on the leash and Ricky stumbled.

Kalila watched with cool curiosity. “Tell me,” she said, “what exactly does one get out of this relationship?”

Ricky started walking, struggling to bring the eager dog under control. “What relationship? Yours and mine?”

She sighed in exasperation. “Humans and dogs.”

“Oh.” The dog stopped to nuzzle an empty takeout container, but Ricky pulled him away. “Friendship.”

“I see,” she said, as the dog dragged Ricky down the street again. “And this is the sort of companionship you enjoy?”

“Not me. My brother. Believe me, as soon as he’s back in town, he can have this animal back. I’m just doing him a favor.”

“But your brother doesn’t like you. Why do him any favors?”

Ricky didn’t have a good answer. Mike’s request had been a little brazen, but Ricky had a soft spot for animals and it wasn’t the dog’s fault he had an arrogant bastard for an owner. “I like to think I’m doing the dog a favor. Shit!” The dog gave a mighty heave and the leash slipped from Ricky’s hand. He ran after the animal, cursing.

In a vacant lot, the dog stopped, panting and defiant. Every time Ricky tried to get close, he let out a happy yip and bounded away.

“This is not a game.” Ricky glanced over his shoulder as Kalila approached, serene and unconcerned. “Can’t you do something to help?”

She raised her eyebrows. “What on earth do you expect me to do?”

“A calming spell, maybe? If he runs away or gets hurt, my brother will kill me.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. You humans have laws against murder, remember?”

Ricky gave her a baleful look.

“Fine.” With a gesture, she conjured a thick porterhouse steak at Ricky’s feet. The dog hesitated only a moment, then fell to.

While the dog ate, Ricky picked up the leash and felt his stomach growl. “Uh, Kalila?”

“What now?”

“Any chance you could conjure another of those when we get home? On the grill, though, not on the ground.”

“Why should I do that?”


“Yours and the dog’s?”

“Yours and mine.”

Kalila offered to hold the leash and hesitantly patted the dog's head. “It’s a bit odd to be friends with an inferior species.”

“You and the dog?”

“No, silly. You and me.”

They started walking. The dog was calm now and trotted at Kalila’s side. Ricky remained silent, not sure what to make of Kalila’s casual insult. Was she teasing him on purpose, or did she really not know she had given offense?

When they got to the house, they turned the dog loose in the back yard. “Do you want that steak now?” she asked.

“Because nothing’s too good for an inferior species?”

Kalila flashed him a mischievous grin and gave him a slow, sultry kiss. Then she clipped the leash to his shirt collar. “Because nothing’s too good for my pet, of course. And my friend.”

Maelstrom Extra: Backstage Demands

Saturday, March 20, 2010 reviews (Comments): 9
“Unacceptable.” Vic threw the plastic bag on the floor.

Ricky cringed, relieved that the bag didn’t burst. “It’s all I could get. Deal with it.”

“It’s plasma.” Vic put his face close to his and bared his fangs. “I need whole blood, human, not this centrifuged crap.”

Ricky glanced around the dressing room, but Bo was adjusting his leather pants, Kalila was leaning into the mirror and doing something with her hair, and Nevin was entranced by a cup of tea. Only Lazaro returned his gaze, and it was with a scowl that Ricky knew meant even bigger trouble than he was in right now.

He turned back to Vic. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get blood products? I’m not a member of the medical profession – I’m just a band manager.”

“Not my problem.” Vic tossed himself into a chair and looked up at him with baleful eyes. “Vampires need fresh blood. It’s in my contract. Get me a girl, if you can’t get what I need in a bag. I don’t like that pre-packaged stuff, anyway. I only tolerate it to indulge your ridiculous human squeamishness.”

Ricky sighed and was about to say something, but the way Lazaro’s eyes bored into him was giving him the creeps. “What’s with you? Don’t tell me you don’t like your catered meal, either.”

“Pig brains are disgusting.”

There was no arguing that point, but as far as Ricky was concerned, the zombie drummer's usual fare was worse. “It’s not like I can just walk into the corner store and buy a human cerebellum, you know.”

“Maybe I should eat yours.”

Ricky sucked in his breath and met Kalila’s eyes in the mirror, pleading silently for help.

Kalila gave a little shrug. “The boys are right. You have obligations, Ricky.”

“But—” he went to stand behind her. “The contract is unreasonable. It holds me to standards no human can meet.”

“So?” She conjured a lipstick and pouted at her reflection. “What do you think of this color? Too much?”

“I think your expectations are too much.” Ricky plucked the lipstick from her hand so he would have her full attention. “You know as well as I do that you conjured my signature on that contract. You can’t hold me accountable to things I never agreed to in the first place.”

Kalila vanished the lipstick with a gesture, then turned her attention back to her mirror. “Too bad. You’re on the hook now, so do something.”

“Do what? Make humans available as food sources for your band members?”

Vic stood up and glanced at the clock on the wall. “Sounds good to me. I’ll go do this set, and when I get back here, you better have a solution waiting. Preferably type O.”

Lazaro nodded and followed Vic toward the door. “She should be a college graduate too,” he said. “Someone with dense neurons.”

Ricky watched them leave. “Well, sure. Just make it sound easy, why don't you? Any other qualifications?”

Bo grabbed his guitar and brushed past him. “Make sure she’s sexy. I could use a snack, myself.”

Ricky fumed and was about to run after them and tell them to get over their ridiculous expectations when Kalila approached and cupped his cheek in her palm.

“You can do it.” Her voice was a siren song on a sultry night. “I have faith in you.”

Her kiss was fire and honey; a hot whiskey glow that burned through Ricky's body and left him weak in the knees. He stared at the empty doorway after she left, his ears straining for the sound of her guitar and his body yearning for her touch.

He would find a way to satisfy her bandmates. It would probably get him arrested, but what the hell, she was a djinn. She could spring him.

Ricky took out his BlackBerry and punched in a number. If he was lucky, the blood bank was open late and would deliver.

Maelstrom Extra: Coming Clean

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 reviews (Comments): 12
Ricky sighed with pleasure as the water beat down on his back. There was nothing like a hot shower after several hours in a smoky club. He scrunched his eyes shut and scrubbed shampoo into his hair.

He felt the change in temperature as the bathroom door opened, and he flailed about in alarm. Could a man defend himself with just a bar of soap and a bottle of baby shampoo?

“Hi, Ricky.”

“We hope we’re not disturbing you.”

Ricky tried to wipe the suds out of his eyes. “Kalila? Nevin?”

“Me, too,” said Bo.

“And me and Lazaro,” Vic added, “If the rest of them will let us in.”

“I got here first,” Nevin said in indignation. “But you can sit with me on the counter.”

“Never mind,” Kalila told them. “I’ll conjure chairs.”

Ricky shoved his wet hair off his forehead and poked his head around the shower curtain. “Wait a minute. This is my bathroom; my alone time. Is nothing sacred?”

Kalila conjured a velvet folding chair and sat down. “I’m a Zoroastrian, remember? Fire is sacred to me, not water. But carry on with what you’re doing, if it’s that important to you.”

“Yes, please continue your water ritual,” Nevin said from his perch on the countertop. “We promise not to take up too much of your time.”

“Take up my time with what?”

“An idea we had,” Bo said, with a leer that suggested he could see through the shower curtain. “Although I’m starting to get some new ideas. This room is a little crowded. Mind if I join you?”

Ricky ducked back behind the shower curtain. “You guys never cease to amaze me. Out. All of you. Now.”

There was a startled silence on the other side of the curtain, then Ricky heard the soft chittering of whispered conversation over the pounding of the water.

“Look, human,” Vic finally said. “We have a brilliant idea and we took time out of a night’s lurking and prowling to come here and discuss it with you, so the least you could do is listen.”

“You really aren’t being very friendly,” Nevin pointed out.

“This isn’t about being friendly, or having ideas, or…” Ricky paused. What good would it to do to explain? “I’m almost done, okay? Wait for me in the living room like normal people, and I’ll be there in a minute. Promise.”

Ricky heard grumbles from Vic and Lazaro and a sniff of annoyance from Kalila as they filed out.

The last set of footsteps paused near the door. “Ricky?”

“Go away, Bo.”

“I just wanted to say, 'nice ass.'”

Ricky grabbed the soap and threw it at him.

Alone again, with the steaming water beating down around him, Ricky tried to regain the sense of peace and relaxation that had been stolen from him, but the moment was gone, as frail and fleeting as a soap bubble.

He rinsed his hair under the water one last time. What did the demons want that was so important? They had an idea? Dear lord, if it was like any of their others, it was probably something ridiculous, illegal, or immoral. Maybe all three.

He reached for the faucet and shut off the water. Well, nothing was impossible. Maybe this time it was something brilliant. He opened the shower curtain to reach for a towel and found Kalila grinning at him. When did she sneak back in? Damnable djinn with her conjuring ways and—

She handed him a warm, fluffy towel.

Okay, so sometimes demons had good ideas.

“You got me,” Ricky said. “Come clean and tell me what you want.”