Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
Across the aisle of the storage facility, Alan cocked his handgun. It was police issue, and Alan made no secret of his marksmanship with it, but it was the monstrous, hungry eyes narrowed at him over the barrel that really made Luke fearful. Alan would not hesitate to shoot him, and Luke knew what it was to be shot.
Perhaps if he hadn’t so recently gone looking through his past lives, he would not have been so affected, but then, violence leaves its mark, no matter how far removed. Memories, terrible memories from almost seventy years ago, came back to him in a rush. The scalding force of the bullets, flying back to land on his face in mud that was wet not from rain but from blood. He screamed for help, for his long-absent family while his fellow soldiers stepped over him to take his post before he was even really dead. The smell—he would never truly be free of that smell, of blood and rot and filth, all mixed into the great whirlpool that sucked him down into oblivion. His legs gave way beneath Brent’s weight, and he landed on his knees on the concrete. He hardly felt it. He thought of Sally.
“We were so close this time,” he tried to say, but his throat closed up and speech threatened to choke him like a noose.
“You better put down that gun, boy,” Orson said.
All eyes moved to Orson. He stood, casting aside the bolt cutters. He was a tall man, but he stooped, and slumped, and rarely spoke in mixed company. Luke forgot sometimes just how big Orson was. His face reddened, splotchy with anger, his fists clenched and unclenched, but his blue eyes were steady and fierce behind his round wire glasses. He took a few steps toward Alan, giving up any hope of cover from the storage unit. Luke wanted to scream at him to run, to get down, to fear death, but then, death didn’t seem to be a concern for this bull of a man.
“You must know there’s no scenario where you come out on top after this. You and your family have left evidence all over this place; you fire that gun, your cop buddies will be here in minutes. You don’t fire, I kill you.” He held out his hand, his casual demeanor putting Luke in mind of a father telling a small child to surrender a forbidden treasure. “There’s only one move left to you.”
“Keep coming,” Alan said, taking a step back. “You’ll die first.”
“Nope. Kill Brent. Kill Luke. Kill August. But you won’t be killing me, not with that. Ask yourself why I’m not carrying a gun. My shotgun was right over there, and I didn’t go for it. Then consider… just what was it Luke went to Tír na nÓg to get?”
Alan’s eyes went wide and blank. His thoughts were written all over his face; he didn’t know what he was up against anymore. Whether he knew anything about the fae world of Tír na nÓg or not, his imagination could fill in the gaps. What was unknown was always more frightening than what was known. He took a few more steps back and lowered the gun. Luke’s chest unclenched; he could breathe again. He realized he’d broken out in a cold sweat as it trickled down his temples and wet the T-shirt down his spine.
Alan continued backing away, toward the gate. “No police,” he said through a mouthful of bared troll teeth. “We’re myth-folk; we handle our own.”
“No police,” Orson said. “Not yet, anyway. Though the situation smacks of irony. Hey Alan.”
Alan had been about to turn the corner, presumably to get to his car and make his escape. He tilted his head, indicating he was listening.
Orson smiled, full of promise. “I’m coming for you. You and all your family.”
“We’ll be ready for you.”
“No,” Orson said. “You won’t be.”
Alan was gone. Luke shifted Brent’s weight. “C’mon, tinker fae,” he said, “we have an extra life, as it turns out.”
“Motherfucker!” Brent said, his voice high and tight.
“Indeed. Get in the car; let’s scram.”
“Hold on,” August said, lowering his gun but not holstering it. “There’s one more.”
Luke lowered Brent into the passenger seat with a groan. “Crap. We’re already going to be overloaded here.”
August retrieved the bolt cutters and headed down the lane. “We won’t need a seat. The trunk will do.” He looked over his shoulder, a grieving pain on his face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late.”
August cut the lock and raised the door. Glen lay on the floor, recently dead. The room didn’t even smell of death yet. Luke knelt by his small, knobbly-kneed friend and touched his ginger hair. Glen’s goblin-self was not evident at all; his soul was gone. A deep ache opened up in Luke’s heart.
“Oh Glen,” he said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. That seems to be the defense of the day, but really, I didn’t know. You hid it real well.” He rocked back, holding his knees. “Dammit, I’m fixing to cry. I was such a dumbass, never paying him no mind. So he was kind of dim. So what? He was good, and loyal, and a scrapper, and he worked hard. I didn’t give him the credit he deserved.” Luke’s chin threatened to crumple, and he held his breath, trusting to stillness to keep him from breaking over into tears. When it was safe to breathe, he rubbed his face and stood.
Orson clapped him on the shoulder. “It wasn’t just you that dismissed Glen. He was always at the bottom of the pack.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t love you. That fae bitch said he did. As soon as she said it, I knew it was true. Funny how some lightbulb moments are like that. I’d never have known otherwise.”
Orson let his hand fall. “Get in the car. August and I will handle this.”
Luke shook his head. “No, he was my friend, I’ll—”
“This ain’t an Old Yeller moment. You don’t have to prove your manliness or your strength or your devotion by handling a dead body. He doesn’t know any difference now. So let us do this for you, and let’s get back to the house. There will be plenty of time for manual labor later.”
Luke gave in and got into the car, sitting in the middle of the front seat beside Brent. It was only the old sedans that could handle so many passengers. He stared out the front window, thinking about Sally and everyone back at Sally’s parents’ house. As Orson got into the driver’s seat and August squeezed into the back seat with three other people, Luke’s brow knit, a horrible thought occurring to him.
“Hey August? You did the warding at Sally’s, right?”
“Yes I did.”
“Are you sure you didn’t leave loopholes for the trolls, seeing as how you were under their influence?”
August clearly hadn’t thought of that. “I’m… I’m not sure. Warding magic is so very particular. I might have.”
Orson and Luke exchanged a dark look. Orson started the car, and floored it.
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.