Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Ten. Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
Luke had vaguely hoped that in short order, August would be happily packed up and shunted off as far northeast as he could go without running into the ocean. But his hopes were dashed. The headless horseman was still hanging around three weeks later, followed everywhere he went by impressed female gazes (and the occasional appreciative male gaze) and an ominous black horse.
And Cormick, apparently. Luke met them at Whataburger at Cormick’s request to talk about, as Cormick put it, their “pointy pest problem.” When Luke had argued, Cormick offered to treat. Luke acquiesced.
It was more jarring than usual, standing in the winding line before the single Whataburger cashier, to be in the company of a headless horseman who carried his skull (which looked like a motorcycle helmet to the normals) under his arm and the myth-community mayor, with his pointed ears and distinctly glittery aura. Luke stamped his hoof. He ought to be used to such juxtapositions.
“What do you want, August? OK. Number two with a Coke. Luke? Yeah, make that two.” Cormick looked at the menu as if he hadn’t had ten minutes in line to consider his options. “I’ll have the number seven deluxe with cheese, no pickles or onions, dry. A Dr. Pepper with no ice, please.” He paid, their food appeared shortly, and they went to their table.
As Cormick distributed the food he said, “August’s been compiling a lot of information lately, and I’ve been helping out as best I can. I mean, I’m not the investigator on the case.”
“I’m not a detective,” August said. “I’m just a hunter.”
“Right. But you’ve still got quite a mind for intelligence.”
August shrugged, but he seemed pleased.
“So what we’ve come up with is mostly more of what August talked to us all about the night you were attacked. Who it might have been, motives, means, and such. It’s complicated as hell. There aren’t that many myth-folk around here who don’t like you, and those who don’t like you don’t have the means to do what it would take to get a chupacabra here. Because I don’t know if you know this, but those bastards are really hard to get. See, they don’t have two appearances like we do. They look like themselves to any and everybody. You know why? Get this. Because there are enough people in the world who believe in them that they don’t have to wear a disguise. In fact, they can’t! Fascinating stuff. Son of a bitch, pickles and ice. I’ll be right back.” Cormick broke off his monologue to storm the front counter and demand his food fixed.
August smiled at Cormick’s back. “He’s quite a character.”
Luke laughed. “Yeah, you got that right. He’s touchy, but he’s good at what he does. Even if he offends half the town when doing it.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Sometimes I think he’s so grouchy because he doesn’t like it here much. I think he’d be a lot happier in a big city, like where you are. But he’s too independently minded to get much closer to National.”
He heard Cormick telling the teenage counter clerk, “It’s already cold when it comes out of the soda machine. Ice just makes it watered down and flat. I don’t want ice.”
August raised an eyebrow. “There’s more to New York than New York City, you know. I live adjacent to a national park. You think I could keep that horse in the city? He’d go nuts, and so would I.”
Luke sniffed. “And here I took you for a city boy. Can I ask, what’s with the black?”
“Hard to mismatch black. I’m color-blind.”
“Ha!” Luke laughed. “Imagine that.”
From the counter, he overheard, “But there’s pickle juice on it already. Whole other sandwich, please. I can taste the juice!” Luke and August both laughed.
“Bet you’ll be ready to see this place in your rearview,” Luke said.
August was quiet for a moment. “It’s not the place so much I mind. I just don’t like having my character judged by my looks. Up north I’m not nearly so unusual looking. It’s disconcerting, being stared at.”
Luke had the decency to feel abashed. He reminded himself that his dislike of August had less to do with the man’s looks and more to do with how Sally liked those looks.
August must have been eavesdropping on Luke’s internal monologue, because he said, “By the way, what exactly is Sally? It’s readily apparent she’s a big bird, but she doesn’t look like a Roc or a Firebird. Air elemental?”
“You know, I never asked. I think she explained once at a party, but I don’t remember now. I figure if she wants to talk about it she’ll bring it up.”
“You’re not curious?”
Luke shrugged. “I like to think of it as respectful.”
“I swear,” Cormick said as he sat back down, unwrapping his much improved burger and taking a sip of his iceless drink, “you’d think I was being unreasonable.”
“Not unreasonable,” Luke said, winking at August. “Just… prissy.”
“Iamnotprissy!” Cormick hissed. “I am not flaming, or feminine, or delightfully quirky. I just like things how I like them, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
“We wouldn’t expect any less of you, princess.” Luke grinned.
“Luke, I….” He looked up at the ceiling, composing himself, and smiled thin and vicious. “Cut it out, goat-boy. You’re baiting me.”
“I am. Sorry, my liege.”
Cormick gave August an apologetic look. “It’s not easy being the reincarnation of a fairy princess around these assholes.”
“I can imagine,” August said with notable restraint. He looked at Cormick and asked, “Are you gay?”
“What?” Cormick said.
“Are you gay? Just curious.”
“What would make you think I am?”
“A lot of myth-folk who have been incarnated as both males and females are more inclined toward experimentation, or at least are more open minded, having known what it’s like on the other side of things.”
“No! Having once been a woman does not make me gay!” The conversations around them stopped as people strained to listen to what Cormick was saying. His face flushed, and he dropped his voice to a whisper. “I am not gay. I wish people would stop jumping to that conclusion!”
“Sorry. You sound like you have something against gay people,” August observed.
“I’m sorry to interrupt this fantastic conversation,” Luke said, “but can we talk about me now? Or more specifically, why you asked me here? You guys can flirt later.”
August smiled significantly, and Cormick growled. “Fine,” Cormick said. “We asked you here to make sure you don’t have any enemies we don’t know about. Look. We made a list of all the people who theoretically could have done this. We mixed those names up with a bunch of people who couldn’t, just so you don’t end up with a list of names of people you would like to take out.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Luke muttered.
“We want you to take a look at the list and see if any names pop out at you.”
Luke nodded and took the piece of paper August handed over. He scanned the list. “Joe Tabor… Max Cunningham… Sarah Lenny… I dated Sarah in high school, but she dumped me for a trumpet player. I heard she’s got four kids now, that true?”
“Five,” Cormick corrected.
“Good grief. All right then, Hank Richardson… I hit his car two years ago outside the hardware store. He’s a cranky soul, but surely not that cranky. I mean, my insurance paid it, and we haven’t seen each other since, except on council nights. Paula Mitchells and my mom hate each other’s guts. Something about their Brownie troops. Who the hell knows. She’s a nice lady otherwise, though. She waves to me when I pass her house and she’s outside. Alice Harding… Neil McKenzie… Michelle Trents, she’s the bell choir director, you got balls even putting her on this list. Surprised she didn’t drop dead of embarrassment in the supermarket without ever knowing quite why. Oooh, Brent can do something like this? That shit, he never told me about it.”
“You guys get on OK?” Cormick said.
“Oh yeah, we’re all right. He had a thing for Sally a few years back. She got real creeped out by him, and we stopped hanging out so much, on account of Sally usually being with me. But I see him at work; he’s on the same team with me now. Good fellow, decent carpenter. We’ve got an ongoing game of chess in the boss’s trailer on site. I think he’s gonna win.”
Cormick raised his eyebrows. “You play chess?”
“A guy can’t have layers? I was on my high school team. Look, Cormick, I can excuse August thinking that because I’ve got a nearly incomprehensible southern accent, I’m also stupid. But you? You ought to know better. You know I got a degree from A&M, much good as it does me in construction. You seen me and Orson work out shit all the time, building and fixing things. Why’re you still surprised when I demonstrate I got brains?”
Cormick looked a little sad. “Sorry, Luke. I think it’s because… you don’t always use them.”
“I know you’re smart. Hell, you’re smarter than me. So what the heck are you doing in Fox Pass? Get the hell out, man! Sell the house, sell the animals, take your dog, and run and never look back. Go put your horticulture degree to work. What are you staying for?”
Luke stared across the table, and after a moment Cormick slumped and said, “OK. I know.”
August said, “I’m missing something, and I think I’m happier that way.”
Luke nodded. “You are.” He stood and passed them the paper. “I got no kill-worthy beef with anyone on that list. Sorry.” He looked down at Cormick. “So if it’s so bad, what are you still doing here?”
Cormick smiled sadly. “I have my own anchors too. See you, man.”
“Yeah. See you.” Luke walked out to his truck.
* * *
About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She 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.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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