End of an era/arc

Arc 1, Episode 4

“All clear sir.”
“What did you do?”
“I threw a little salt into each corner of the room. That should keep any ghosts out.”
“Wow, man, thanks. I had no idea that something like that would work.”
I shrugged. It probably wouldn’t do anything. And it was also a lie. Elena’s the only ghost I’ve ever met. All I knew was that salt could be used against them. The exhausted guest left the lobby for what I promised him would be restful sleep. Elena appeared by the front desk as Ghillie was leaving to do some gardening.
“I’ve been meaning to ask. Have you spoken with Vivian?”
“Nope.”
Dear Creator, not this shit again.
“She was a good girl, Jean-Pierre.”
I didn’t say anything. To be honest, I didn’t appreciate the reminder. She was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. One too many drinks and the biggest mistake of my life later…she was gone.
Ghillie hadn’t made it to the door yet and her words made him stop.
“Breaking off the courtship with that girl from the Unseelie Court was the best thing you could have done for yourself, JP.”
Elena high-stepped through the desk and stopped just in front of Ghillie. These two loved to argue. I wasn’t in the mood for it tonight, not that I really was any other night.
“And when, Ghillie Dhu, have you ever been in love?”
“I told you a hundred times, it’s Ghillie-D! And I haven’t been in love. I don’t want to end up like you.”
He scurried out of the building knowing that Elena couldn’t follow. Thanks, douche-bag, that means I get to hear about it.
“That stupid, stupid, faerie. He’ll never know true happiness or sadness until his heart is bonded to another.”
I didn’t even glance up from the paperback I was reading. “Sounds like a good reason to stay single to me. One can be happy without being in love. Not everyone is co-dependent.”
She shook her head and gave me a sad smile. For a brief moment, those cold eyes warmed just a little. “Dependency has nothing to do with it.”
She was right of course. Independent people can be just as happy and in love as dependent ones. But I’m not the type to talk about my emotions. I’m not a cold person, kinda the opposite, really. I just hated talking about it. The only thing that outweighed my guilt was my own stubbornness.
Elena didn’t say anything else and that always got my attention. She’s too damn naggy to stay quiet for long. I looked up and she was gone, but came running through the wall a few seconds later.
“What?”
“Pixies in the conference room.”
“Goddammit.”
I ejected myself from my comfortable, cushioned chair, snatched up the closest broom and sprinted for the conference room. Benn the Jinn and his associates used that room for many of their meetings. The local gang of pixies had claimed the territory for their own. I busted through the door. It wasn’t a gang tonight. It was a horde. Fifty of the little bastards were partying in there. I looked around to see the floor littered with the little containers of coffee creamer. They were all empty. These. Little. Mother. Fuckers.
“Hey. I done told you little shit-asses before to stay the fuck out the goddamn creamer. That shit don’t belong to you. It’s for the guests who pay money to stay here.”
The room went deadly silent. They were all staring at me, their little wings fluttering quietly.
“Fuck you, JP,” came a squeaky voice from the back of the room.
“That’s it. I’m teachin’ you fuckers a lesson tonight.”
I looked up at the clock in the room. 2:30 AM. So far, a pretty normal day. I ran through the horde swinging the broom from left to right, slinging one foe after another against the wall. They attacked with their tiny pitchforks and tridents but couldn’t get close enough to strike. After fifteen or so had dropped to the ground, the rest got smart and went for my ankles. I loved hockey.
Slapshot. Slapshot. Slapshot. Each one went through a group of the others like a bowling ball through pins, letting loose angry squeals as once again, I prevailed over the pixies. Most of them were knocked out but all of them were done fighting. At least for a day or two. I returned to the desk, grabbed a couple of trash bags and then stuffed all of them inside. I didn’t tie it, I wasn’t trying to suffocate them, just get them the hell out of here. I opened the back door and tossed all the bags outside, angry squeaks erupting from the bags with each bounce they took down the hill.
Dusting off my hands I came back to the desk and it was quiet for a few hours, just the way I like it. The seconds ticked slowly by and before I knew it, I was over one hundred pages into the book, which turned out to be quite good. Elena had disappeared, Haruto hadn’t shown up at the desk all night, and Ghillie was working. Except for the human guest earlier, everyone else had been as quiet as church mice.
Fifteen more minutes passed before I heard footsteps. Haruto was walking down the hall butt-ass naked and carrying a bottle of wine. He flashed me a sneaky smile and a wink. You would think that my look of disgust would be enough. It wasn’t.
“Like what ya see, sweet pea?”
“No. And what in the fuck are you doin’?”
“The little hobgoblin upstairs ordered coq au vin. So I’m taking the vin and the coq up there personally. Wish me luck.”
“You’re gonna get fired.”
“No, sweet boy, I’m gonna get laid. Don’t be such a prude.”
“I’m not a prude, Haruto. We’re workin’, man. This ain’t a fuckin’ whore house.”
“It is tonight.”
Ghillie walked in as Haruto disappeared around the corner.
“Was he naked?”
“Yeah.”
Ghillie shook his head and headed over to the lobby. I heard the TV cut on and continued to read. Another twenty minutes passed before I felt the temperature drop ten degrees and heard a chilly whisper in my ear.
“Look.”
“What do you want, Elena?”
“The lobby.”
“Ghillie’s watchin’ TV. I know that.”
“No. Look.”
My eyes rose from the novel and swung towards the lobby. I noticed it immediately. The shadows were jumping unnaturally, like the kind that a campfire throws. We didn’t have any fires going on here. It was something a normal person wouldn’t even notice. But I’m not normal. I took a quick look at the computer. 5 AM. Two hours left on my shift. Tonight was starting to get on my nerves.
I stomped into the lobby, grinding my teeth harder with each step. Ghillie followed me with his eyes, confused as to what could be setting me off. How the hell did he not see it? Dude was rumored to be abnormally gifted with magic, even for the fae. I reached into the shadow and grabbed hold. The creature on the other side fought my grip with inhuman strength, but I had caught it by surprise. I gave the form a final yank and the spell exploded, black shards of fabricated shadow flew across the room before sinking back into the carpet and walls.
I dropped her on the ground; she was staring at me with piercing green, wide eyes. Her hair was like fire, her body was a near perfect hourglass form. 5’7 and about a buck-fifty. Thicker than my momma’s gravy. Just the way I like them. The woman’s face was covered in freckles that merged into her hairline and on to her lips. If I didn’t know better, I very well could have become a victim of love at first sight. But this wasn’t my first meeting with her.
“Hello Viv.”
“Hey baby,” said my ex, her lips parting into that sexy smile that drove me insane. “I tried to call you last night. You didn’t answer. I got worried.”
I felt Chris’ tail rattle against my gris gris.

Goddammit.

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The Staff

Arc 1, Episode 3

“Happy one year anniversary, sweet pea,” came the southern Mississippi accent from behind me.
This motherfucker.
“It’s JP, Haruto. Not sweet pea.”
I bent over to pick up my lunch. I remembered how much of a pervert Haruto was only after I had leaned down. The smack on my ass didn’t hurt, hell, it was more of a caress. It was just plain degrading is what it was. I stood as quickly as I could move and felt the heat rush to my face. Haruto was a kitsune. A Japanese fox demon.
He was old enough to remember the fall of Rome like it was yesterday and easily the most flamboyantly gay motherfucker I’d ever met in my life. He had been working for Benn the Jinn for as long as the hotel had been open. Haruto was the graveyard shift bartender, cook, and the unofficial handyman of the Benn-Jinn Inn.
“Dude. What have I told you about sexual harassment? That shit ain’t cool, man. Why don’t you go pick on Ghillie and leave me the fuck alone?”
Haruto looked down at his manicured fingernails and sighed. “I would, but ever since he got into that stupid show, I just can’t stand the way he looks or talks.”
That made sense. Ghillie Dhu was a member of the Seelie Court. The good guys of Faerie, though that really isn’t saying much. Faeries look at good and bad differently than humans do. Ghillie lived in a grove of birch trees behind the hotel. The legends claim that he’s shy. The truth was that he actually had a social anxiety disorder. And it’s bad. For the first three months I worked here, every time I tried to talk to him he shit all over himself. We’re cool now, though…thank Creator.
He had a deal with Benn the Jinn. Ghillie did all of the gardening on the property and in return he could watch as much TV as he wanted to in the lobby. I know it sounds like Ghillie was getting the short end of the stick, but in his defense, it was a really nice TV.
After coming across Jersey Shore, Ghillie Dhu found himself enamored. He chopped off his hair, blew it out, bought some new clothes and a gold chain. He used his magic to spray tan his entire body and lately had even gone so far as to speak with an accent. When the whole thing started, we thought it was good for him. He seemed to get a little more confident. But now we’re pretty sure it’s all a facade.
I entered the hotel and Yvette, the second shift half-angel/half-human, gave me the low down. She was one of those middle aged, “I’ve seen it all, I’ve done it all” types. That was an angel thing. They thought they were awesome. I blame Della Reese.
We had five people in and only one left to check-in. Slow night. Even for us. Of the five rooms currently sold for the evening, there was only one human. Dammit. That meant I had to keep a watchful eye on him or her. Luckily, most non-human people aren’t a threat to humans. There was of course one major exception. Vampires. Sons of bitches loved to fuck shit up. And I have little tolerance for such tomfoolery.
Maybe I’m just biased. I don’t know. But I do know that in my admittedly limited dealings with them, my magic has saved my ass half the time. Silver bullets saved me the other half. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my own issues. I’m forgetful as hell. I have a hard time trusting people. But there are just some things that I absolutely hate.
1. Okra
2. Debt
3. Vampires
4. Major metropolitan areas

Pretty much in that order.

Luckily, Yvette was smart enough to put the human on the first floor and the rest of the people on the floors above. The Inn had fifty seven rooms. Fifteen normal rooms on the first floor. Twenty on the second. The next three were made up of a total of seventeen suites; seven each on the third and fourth floors. The fifth floor was all VIP and only had three rooms: The Presidential Suite, the Penthouse Suite, and the Britney Spears Suite… Benn’s a really weird guy.
Yvette left shortly after I arrived. She always kept a book at the front desk. Usually it was some shitty vampire love story, but it helped to pass the time and I planned on buying a lap top with my raise. My last check-in showed up at 1 AM. I’d been at work for two hours and was now having my first major crisis. Goddammit. The family of four centaurs walked into the hotel with back-packs. They had obviously been hiking and were worn out. The father of the group approached the desk.
“Hi. I’ve got a reservation for Deersmith.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve got the reservation in my computer. But we’ve gotta problem.”
“And what’s the problem?”
I pointed to the sign behind me. Most of the humans that stayed here thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

No pets of any kind. No centaurs, minotaurs, or shifters in animal form. No angels with wings unsheathed. No nudity in the pool area. No exceptions.

“But I’ve been an acquaintance of Benn the Jinn’s for as long as I can remember. He’s the godfather of my oldest child. Would you be so kind as to call him for me?”
Fuck. This centaur seemed like a really nice chap but I hated calling Benn, especially late in the night, when I was almost certain that he was up to shady shenanigans. I sighed and stared at the phone. I started to reach but then hesitated.
“Don’t worry,” said Mr. Deersmith. “Once he knows the nature of your call there won’t be any anger.”
I picked up the phone and dialed. It rang twice.
“If this is about your raise, you little half-Jew shit, we’ll discuss it in the morning.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Benn, I’ve gotta Mr. Deersmith here. He’s a centaur gentleman.”
“Yeah. So. He’s gotta reservation don’t he?”
“Well, yeah, but I just wanted to clarify. Ya know, because of the rules.”
“What rules?”
“Never mind. Have a good night, Benn.”
I hung up the phone and checked Mr. Deersmith into his room. They were in the family suite. Triple the size of the average room at this hotel. Perfect for a family like them. I handed him the room key and paper work.
“Enjoy your stay, Mr. Deersmith. I’m sure you’re aware, but there’s plenty of space out back for the kids to play and graze. The woods are protected.”
“By whom? Benn?”
“No sir. By Ghillie Dhu.”
“Ghillie Dhu? He’s here?”
“Yeah,” I said, pointing towards the lobby. “He’s probably watching TV over there right now.”
The group of four walked into the lobby. After speaking with him for a brief moment, they bowed and headed for their room. I walked into the lobby and sat beside Ghillie, who was polishing his all-white Nikes.
“What was that about?”
“They just came to pay their respects, bro.”
“Centaurs are faeries?”
“Yes sir.”
“You some kinda royalty or somethin’?”
Ghillie looked up from his task and smiled. The fae edition spray tan almost sparkled in the glare off the TV. “Somethin’ like that.”
I heard a scream. The blood-curdling kind. You would be surprised at how often I heard that around here. I took a quick peek at my cell, it was 1:15 AM. The evening seemed to be running right on schedule. A human man, wearing only his boxer shorts and an under shirt, came sprinting down the hall, wide eyed and not paying any attention to his junk being out and flopping around.
“Is somethin’ wrong, sir?”
“Th-th-th-th-there’s a ghost in my room.”
“Sir. There are no such thing as ghosts. I assure you.”
“No. It was real. So real. She touched me. Her hands were as cold as ice.”
“Want me to go take a look for you sir?”
“You some kinda ghost hunter?”
“Nope. Just your friendly neighborhood night auditor. You sit out here in the lobby, relax, maybe tuck your cockles back in, and I’ll go check out your room to make sure there aren’t any ghosts. If there are, then I’ll be happy to give you another room or a full refund.”
“Ok, man. I appreciate it. I’m in room number–”
“I know what room you’re in, sir.”
I headed down the hall. I knew what room he was in because he was the only human in the hotel and the only person on the first floor. Hell, I had even Googled the guy. I like to know as much about the humans that stay here as I can. Their lives and my pay check depend on it. Using my master key, I opened the room and looked inside. The air was definitely cooler in here than it should have been. That guy was not lying about what he saw.
“Elena. I know you’re in here.”
An apparition appeared in front of me. Beautiful, with perfectly maintained blonde hair, a sad but pretty face and petite figure, and eerie blue eyes that gazed right through me. She wore a flowing white dress, as she always did, because…you know, she was a ghost.
“Hello, Jean-Pierre.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop fuckin’ with the guests?”
“I only haunt the single male humans,” said Elena defensively. “They deserve whatever terrible things happen to them.”
“I’m a single male human. Why don’t you just haunt the front desk?”
“Because you don’t fear me.”
“You’re a goddamn ghost. What’re you going to do to the poor guy, nag him to death?”
“My husband used to say that I nagged him too much.”
I nodded my head in affirmation, “You nag. It’s true.”
She started crying. Goddammit. Tact: something else that I’m not so good at. I felt bad for her. Really. That didn’t give her the right to treat every man like they were her husband. Just because one man kills his wife doesn’t make us all assholes. I’m pretty sure I’m not an asshole. Actually…I think that depends on who you ask. I put my hands behind my head and looked at the ceiling. I sure could use some guidance right about now.
“Look, Elena, these people pay money for a comfortable place to sleep at night. It’s my job to protect them. Just come hang out with me at the desk and leave this poor guy alone. Please?”
“Ok, Jean-Pierre. And I’m sorry.”
“Don’t sweat it.”
I left the room, shutting it behind me and trekked back to the lobby.

Anniversary

Arc 1, Episode 2

Bettie was my prized possession, a 1970 flat black Chevy C10 stepside with a 350 bored out and exhaust that rumbled hard enough to shake bones in some and raise a boner for others. I climbed into the cab, fired my girl up, and headed for work. I was a little early but I tended to be a punctual person. Dad taught me that if someone is paying you to work from nine to five then showing up at nine was a waste of your employer’s time and money. Be early. Be ready. For anything. The day I took my current job was the day that I realized just how true those words were.
The entrance to the Benn-Jinn Inn was lined with ornate stone work and a large, black iron gate. The road was two laned but unmarked except for the reflector panels on the side. When the fog rolled in off the Cumberlands late at night it was nearly impossible for human eyes to see the road. The reflectors and the street lights above had saved more than one life. If one was to not pay any attention to the reflectors and drive into the guard rail and then continue on past said guard rail, one would find oneself falling 80 feet straight down…no doubt to one’s own horrid death.
To someone like me, someone who practiced magic, someone who has dealt with non-humans, it didn’t really seem that shady. But to the average Joe, the hotel looked like a place where you would go to die. And yeah, I’ll admit it, it happened. But I tried really hard to make sure it didn’t.

I remembered the day that Benn the Jinn hired me. His true form was of blue smokeless fire, but he preferred to take the shape of a 6’5 black guy with a bald head and a neat goatee. Imagine Keenan Ivory Wayans circa Low Down Dirty Shame on steroids. Kinda like that. But he didn’t scare me. We sat down in the lobby and he stared at me for a few seconds.
“Jean-Pierre Greenberg?”
“Yes sir. That’s me.”
“You lived on the lake long?”
“Most of my life.”
“So you know my name is Benn Jinn?”
“I know your name is Benn and you’re a Jinn if that’s what you’re askin’.”
“If you know what I am then that probably frightens you, don’t it youngblood?”
“No,” I said with a laugh.
“And why not?”
“Faith. Our magic both works on the same principles. There is nothin’ you can do to me.”
“Not with magic, anyway.” Benn the Jinn sat back in his chair and smiled. “I like you, kid. You got some spunk. I need a night auditor. Pays ten an hour. Most hotels around here only start their people off at eight. You do good, I’ll get ya to twelve in a year.”
“Sounds like a plan to me, sir.”
“Ok. You start tomorrow. Com’ere, I need to give you the skinny.”
I followed Benn the Jinn to an enormous closet marked “emergency” in large red letters. He opened it. There were band-aids, ibuprofen, all the shit I expected. And then there were guns. A fuck ton of guns. Along with knives, spears, staffs, magical items with ancient engravings. Honestly, I didn’t know what half the shit was that was in there and I hoped that I wouldn’t have to figure it out too soon. Benn noticed the shock on my face and chuckled.
“Relax. Most of this stuff is for defensive purposes only. But I can tell that you are all ready well protected. Sometimes, my clientele can get a little…irate. You’re allowed one human death per week. Any more than that and your pay will be docked two hundred dollars per death. If it becomes a consistent problem, you’ll be replaced. Still want the gig?”
“Yeah,” I said with a nod. “I’ve been livin’ under my momma’s roof for a long time. My pops lives in D.C. these days and I’m not a fan of big cities. So I need me a job.”

And that was how it all started. One year ago today. I hadn’t seen twelve bucks an hour yet, but Benn told me one year, and here it was. My anniversary. I had started to plan how I was going to spend my raise. The truck needed a little work. I needed some ingredients for magic. I really needed new sneakers and clothes. Normal shit. Might pick up some candles for the lady. Nah. Scratch that. Don’t need those anymore. Like I said before, I’m forgetful.
I pulled into my employee space, put my brown-bag lunch in my mouth, and locked up the truck. The voice behind me nearly made my heart jump out of my chest and my goddamn sandwich hit the ground.

Welcome to the Benn-Jinn Inn

Arc 1, Episode 1

My cell rang in the other room while I was brushing my teeth. Then it suddenly stopped.
“Chris. Did you fuck my cell phone up again?”
There was silence in the next room. I spit my toothpaste out and entered my bedroom to find my week old phone with two identical puncture wounds in the screen and my roommate Chris trying his damndest to look as innocent as possible.
“What the fuck, man? Every goddamn time I get a new phone you do this. Fuckin’ quit all ready.”
Chris stuck his tongue out at me and I rolled my eyes in response. He could be such a stubborn little shit-ass. I picked the four and a half foot long timber rattlesnake up and wrapped him around my neck. He coiled himself around my head. I like to think that he has an interest in how I see the world. Chris can’t talk, hell, he can’t communicate at all, but he can understand me. Snakes are magical beings and having one as a friend is the best kind of luck.
“What am I gonna do with you, huh? You’re always causin’ problems for me. Who was callin’ anyway? Benn? Bobby? Momma?”
Chris just sat on my head and pretended like I wasn’t talking to him. That’s the problem with snakes. Hard headed little buggers. I still had a few hours to kill before work so I flopped down on the ugly brown couch I found at a dumpster down the street. It was comfortable, soft, and didn’t have any noticeable stains until it came into my possession. A little Lysol goes a long way.
I turned on my X-Box. My best friend Bobby wasn’t online, so I threw my head-set on the end table and entertained myself with Team Deathmatch for a while. My snake had been awfully quiet and when that little shit-ass got quiet, he was usually up to no good. I peered down the hall to see him trying to reach the door handle to the spare bed room. There was no doubt in my mind that one of these days he was going to figure out how to open that door.
“Goddammit, Chris, stop it. You know that room is off limits. That magic shit is expensive. You know how much them fuckin’ candles cost? Huh? Do ya? A fuckin’ lot. I don’t even know why I bother, it’s not like you know about money anyway.”
Fuck. I’m talking to a snake. The amulet around my neck grew warm and I managed to calm myself a little. Saint Martin de Porres was always there to comfort me. I may not have a lot of friends, but I had the patron saint of bi-racial people, the Lord, my momma, my snake, and Bobby to help keep me in line and out of trouble. Not that I ever caused any…really. It always came looking for me. Seriously.
I got ready for work. Pants, button down, sneakers, amulet, and gris gris. I made the amulet from bloodstone that I found down on the lake and a medal of Saint Martin. Being the son of a Catholic Voodoo priestess and a Jewish lawyer from New York was not easy, constantly being yanked from one extreme to the other. The gris gris was a gift from my mother on my eighteenth birthday. I have never dared to unravel the tiny package, but I do care for it by dressing it with my protection oil at 5 PM every Sunday evening. Except when I forget.
One thing about being strange is that I live in the perfect place to be extraordinary. Lake Udelida, Tennessee. On one of the major invisible highways that all non-humans are capable of traveling on, this town was a huge fucking rest stop. To them, I wasn’t black, I wasn’t white, just human. Just another hoodoo man. I liked that. And there were some powerful sexy womenfolk in the non-human community…but that’s a story for another time.
I headed out the door but Chris rattled his tail which was a signal that I was forgetting something.
“Thanks bud.”
I grabbed my lunch off the counter and started to walk out of the apartment. Chris rattled again. I turned the TV and my console off and turned to leave once more. Chris rattled again.
“What I forget this time?”
With a quick flash of intense white light, my snake transformed into a belt and lay motionless on the floor.
“My bad, dude.”
I threw the belt around my waist, tucking his rattle in by my gris gris. Chris hated to be left here alone. I walked out of the apartment about as protected as any hoodoo man could get. Not too many people could break through all this magic work. Luckily, I didn’t have many enemies.

But sometimes, it’s your friends that you really need protection from.