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.
“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.