In preparation for the launch of my serial story Coffee and the Collar on the Nightlight blog on July 24, I am posting the story that introduces its main character, Charlie. He only has a brief appearance here, but a couple paragraphs was all it took to launch a whole serial story!
Here is Treasure Hunt:
Ulysses P. Rathbone slapped his credit card on the counter, snatched the cell phone out of the sales clerk’s hands and started dialing. He still had no idea why those ducks had dive bombed him at the fountain and sent his Blackberry plunging to the depths of the wishing pool, but he’d finally gotten it replaced. Now he just needed to get a hold of Charlie and have him resend the email with the final Super Search clue.
“Hi, Boss!” came the enthusiastic reply from the other end of the line. Charlie was gay as a maypole and twice as chipper, but he was a genius with computers, so Ulysses put up with the sugar shock.
“You sweet talked that guy at the coffee stand into an extra shot again, didn’t you, Charlie?”
“Maaaaybe,” Charlie giggled.
Sorry he’d asked, Ulysses got down to business. “I need you to send me that email again, the one with the Super Search clue.”
“Tiger, tiger burning bright, you’ll find me in the City of Lights? That one?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Zap it over here pronto.” Ulysses glared impatiently at his phone, but before the email could come through a screech blasted through the speaker.
‘Charlie!” Ulysses shouted to be heard over the noise. “What the hell happened? Where’s my clue?”
“Oh, no you DIDN”T,” Charlie accused, his outrage obvious even through the distorted cellular connection.
“Charlie!” Ulysses hollered. “What is going on over there?”
“Computer’s dead, boss,” Charlie snapped. “The bitch just up and died on me.”
“Well, you’re the computer queen, so get it fixed and get me that email!”
Ulysses could hear Charlie fumbling around the desk, and suddenly another scream rocketed through his ears, threatening the integrity of his eardrums.
“Oh, my GOD! There’s a MOUSE!” Charlie started hyperventilating, sending the pitch of his voice into the stratosphere. “There is a MOUSE and it has been EATING the COMPUTER! The computer’s dead!”
Mice eating the computer, ducks drowning his phone – Ulysses decided he must have slipped into some kind of Animal Planet Twilight Zone. At least he had the most important part of the clue. “Fix the computer and get me that email,” he barked at Charlie before jabbing the End button.
Two hours later, wedged into an airplane seat and headed to Paris, Ulysses chuckled to himself. A mouse, a duck . . . Hell, throw in a skunk and a bird or two and you’d have the whole menagerie of his ex girlfriends.
He didn’t have as much magic as some Hunters, but Ulysses could always recognize a Shifter when he saw one. Of course, finding them wasn’t the dangerous part. He bore long, jagged scars on his face, deep enough to be felt even inside his mouth as a reminder of what happens when a Lioness decides you’re little too cavalier with her affections.
He’d learned his lesson, though. Smaller Shifters, they were the key. Take the Partridge he’d dated once, for example. Met her in a pear tree of all places, in her family’s orchard in California. Sweet little thing. Sure, she’d gotten a little huffy when he moved on to the Turtledove twins on the neighboring ranch, but she hadn’t clawed his eyes out or anything.
Ulysses’ Blackberry pinged an email alert as soon as he landed. Tiger, tiger burning bright, you’ll find me in the City of Lights. No Triumph here, sad tale to tell, but you will find La Tour Eiffel. Charlie had come through - just in time for Ulysses to find out he was in the wrong damned city. Stifling a curse, Ulysses headed back to the ticket counter.
The Super Search sign was still posted when Ulysses pulled up to the Mirage. He burst through the hotel’s double doors and skittered to a halt in front of the host. “Have any other teams made it through?”
The host simply smiled and motioned for the woman standing behind him to come forward. Tiny black dress, Cruella De Vil’s big ass white coat, and red stilettos? No mystery there. “Hello, Sylvia,” Ulysses sneered. “What’s a nice Skunk like you doing in a place like this?”
“Ulysses, darling. You’re right on time,” Sylvia beamed.
More girls drifted over to join Sylvia. Patti, Tonya, Tracy . . . Oh boy.
“What is this, some kind of joke?”
“Not a joke, dear boy. A treasure hunt,” Sylvia replied with a tinkling laugh. “You had to find the treasure, and the girls had to stop you. Wasn’t it fun?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ulysses scoffed, “A real blast.” He knew the answer, but forced himself to ask one more question. “So, there’s no treasure, then?”
“Oh, no, Ulysses, there is a treasure,” Sylvia reassured him. “It’s right in front of you.” Her gaze narrowed as she added, “You didn’t recognize the treasure when you had it, and we’re here to remind you that you will never, EVER have it again.”
Remember to read Coffee and the Collar on the Nightlight Blog on July 24th!
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