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?)
To Luke’s surprise, Sally put a hand on his arm as he went to get out of the car, stilling him. Her hand was warm, and there was a not entirely friendly electricity to her touch that unnerved him. She was revved up and ready to rock and roll.
“Luke,” she said, “I think you’d better stay in the car.”
His brow furrowed, and his own stubbornness stirred to match hers. “I’m sorry, what? Maybe you had better stay in the car. You’re here to accuse him, I’m here to hear his side of it.”
“That’s exactly why you should both stay here,” Charlie said. “Luke’s ready to defend this guy, Sally’s ready to condemn him. Which speaks pretty fully of both your personalities.”
“Hey,” Sally said, a warning sharpness like a switchblade coming into her voice.
Charlie tipped his head toward her in deference. “I once promised you I would always tell you the truth, even when it was not what you wanted to hear.”
Sally slumped in her seat and crossed her arms, glaring out the windshield. “You have a plan?”
Charlie nodded. “You guys and Allison stay in the car. I’ll go talk to him first. Allison, if you see trouble coming on, you’re the next one on the front line. Now, if he attacks me, I expect you all to come out with guns blazing. My devil form may be scary, but let’s face it: I’m a computer tech from Austin, and this is my first rodeo.”
“Sounds good to me,” Luke said.
“Call me real quick, mute it, and keep your cell phone on,” Sally said, “so we can hear Brent’s side of it. I’ll put it on speaker so we can hear.”
Charlie did as she instructed, clipped his cell-serving-as-microphone to his belt, and approached the house.
It was eerie, watching the conversation on Brent’s front steps and listening to it from Sally’s phone. Brent crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame, casual but cross. The magical power difference between the two throbbed in the air, Brent bristling and intimidating, Charlie holding his ground impassively. They were parked far enough away, in a neighbor’s driveway, that Brent had not glanced in their direction. It felt intrusive to Luke, dishonest, to listen in.
“Can I help you? I’m real busy,” he drawled. “And I’d thank you to take a few steps back from my threshold.” His accent was deeper South than Texas—Louisiana, or maybe Georgia. Luke only noticed it now that he was paying rapt attention to Brent’s voice.
Charlie politely backed a few feet away from the bottom of the stairs. “I’m one of the myth-folk from Austin called in to help with the situation with the chupacabras and trolls,” he said. Technically not a lie. “I wanted to offer you our support in pursuing justice against those who imprisoned you, and make you aware of the resources available for your recovery.” Charlie’s voice had hardly any accent at all, just a soft touch of roundness to his vowels that betrayed his Texan roots. Luke liked listening to him talk. He wondered briefly how much of his growing warmth toward Charlie was empathy and how much originated in his own heart.
“I’m fine,” Brent said. “Most of the trolls involved are dead now anyway, right? Orson destroyed Alan’s troll-self, Allison shot another—that just leaves the one Jeff took into custody, right? The senior, the one that tried to kill Luke.”
Charlie shook his head. “It’s more widespread than that, and moreover, the magic that the satyr unleashed is going to target a lot of people who were only peripherally involved. Whether or not he knew that is still under investigation. So we want to take everyone involved into custody, not only to uncover the truth—which tends to out one way or another—but for their own protection.” Something about Charlie’s stance changed, and the slight young man looked suddenly predatory. “I, for one, wouldn’t want to wake up with a chupacabra at the end of my bed.”
Brent shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know anything.”
“Then why did the trolls kidnap you?”
“Hell if I know!”
“I think you do know, Mr. Parrings. And if you don’t come willingly now, there will be little I can do for you later. You don’t have to tell me anything. But do let us try to protect you until this blows over. Enough myth-folk have already died.”
“Only three, Glenn and the trolls!”
“I think that’s quite enough to warrant caution for the rest of us. With the unpredictable magic being thrown around, who knows who else might be targeted, or even possessed?”
Brent’s pale, freckled face turned splotchy and ugly; he shifted from one foot to the other. Behind him, Luke heard Allison unbuckle her seatbelt. “That’s just stupid, the trolls can’t possess anyone else anymore, can they?”
Charlie took a half step forward, ducking his head sharply in an ‘aha.’ “Now Brent, just how did you know that?”
A frozen moment passed between them, in which Brent seemed to realize he’d been caught. Luke saw the realization written all over his face, even from that distance. A beat later, Brent whipped a gun out from the small of his back and fired. Charlie had only a few seconds to backpedal, and fell backward onto the dirt path, the force of the shot lifting him off his feet before dropping him. Sally leaped out of the car, with Luke and Allison on her heels. Brent slammed the door.
Sally ran to where Charlie lay sprawled on the ground. Allison drew a gun from the shoulder rig she wore and watched the windows, covering them. Luke hovered over Sally, wanting to haul her up off the ground and drag her back to the car, wanting to fall to his knees alongside her, wanting to charge in and throttle Brent with both hands—
Then Charlie sat up. He moaned piteously and pulled his T-shirt down to look at his chest. There was a light bulletproof vest beneath it. “Oh my God,” he said, “I did not know how much that would hurt.”
Luke huffed out a heavy breath, relief battling the adrenaline in his blood. “Shit,” he said, “where did that come from?”
“Sally’s father’s closet.”
“Daddy’s been holding out on me,” Sally said.
“Pity it wouldn’t have fit you,” Charlie said, “what with the boobs and all.”
“Personally, I’m glad it was on you,” Sally said. “Stand up, kid, back to the car and its illusion of cover.”
They got Charlie into the backseat of the car, and Luke pulled the vest off of him. His heart ached as he saw the bruises already blossoming across Charlie’s chest. The vest had stopped the bullet, but it could do nothing about the sheer amount of force a nearly point-blank shot delivered. Charlie would be lucky if his ribs weren’t broken. If Brent had been using anything other than a dinky little pistol, he might have died anyway, just from internal damage. Luke cupped Charlie’s cheek.
“Are you going to be all right?”
Charlie winced. “I think I’m done for the day,” he said. He managed a small, reassuring smile through the pain. “But I strongly suspect I will be breathing when you come back.”
Luke kissed him on the forehead. “Stay low, stay safe.”
Charlie gave him an impertinent smirk. “I take a bullet, and I get a kiss on the forehead?”
If he could joke, he was going to be all right. Luke smiled down at him, and kissed his mouth. He felt so different from Sally, stronger and more needful. Charlie opened his mouth, a small sound shaking in his throat, and Luke pressed into him, touching lips and teeth and tongue. Charlie still tasted just a little like the blackberry jam they’d had on their biscuits at breakfast. And bacon. The satyr in Luke wanted to ignore the incredible danger of the situation, straddle the injured young man and… experience him. Behind him, he heard Sally take a deep breath and felt the mirrored stir in her. They needed a room.
It was Allison who jabbed Luke in the side with her shoe. “Hello, not the time, stop being a goddamn satyr, we have a bad guy! You are convinced he’s a bad guy now?”
Luke felt a deep pang of regret. His eagerness to defend Brent might have easily killed Charlie. “Yes. Charlie, I’m so sor—”
“No, never mind, no apologies in war. Go kick his ass.”
Luke stood up. “Now that, I can do.”
Allison was already moving around the mobile home. “Luke!” she called. “He’s gone out the back door.” Two gunshots. “Shit he’s fast!”
Sally took off to join her. Luke closed the car door with a pang of regret and ran after Sally and Allison. He reflected later that running toward gunshots was perhaps not the best move.
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.