It has a hard-boiled Methodist private investigator, a Wiccan priestess, an evil ex-Wiccan, the Wild Hunt, Raven, a short-but-wide Native American Shaman, St Michael the Archangel, an insurance fraud, two Welsh Corgi spirit warrior dogs, a 35 lb. piranha, a beat up old green Volvo, and a huge African-American police sergeant named Alferd E. Packer. It even has a bar fight. It must, therefore, be the Perfect Urban Fantasy Short Story...unless somebody can think of a trope I left out. (grin)
It is called "Midsummer Nightmare" and will be published in Something Magic This Way Comes edited by Sarah A. Hoyt, and to be published by Tekno Press in November 2007.
Just to whet everybody's whistles, here's the bar fight:
Nobody ever remembered the actual name of the dive George was calling from, because of the painting of the enormous piranha on the wall of the building facing the road, and the marquee sign that said "35 pound piranha" above the door. Depending on the state of the fish's health, there might even be a real piranha in the aquarium at the end of the bar. Harry always believed it was really just a huge oscar, but Dave the bartender insisted on its piranha-hood, and neither Harry nor the fish cared enough to argue.
Today, the place was pretty busy, especially since it wasn't yet five o'clock. It was a famous lie that it always rained in the Pacific
Northwest. The sky was blue, without clouds, and the June day's temperature was in the high seventies. Very nice.
Harry pulled into the dirt and gravel parking lot, turned off the Volvo. He looked south and saw the huge white cloud shrouded shape of Mt. Rainier. Even though it was less than thirty miles away, it was raining and snowing on the huge volcano. No wonder the Native Americans feared and worshiped the mountain as God. Harry could see the big divot on the mountain's side where the last explosion had blown out the side of the volcano, sending a huge wall of superheated mud and stones straight at Puget Sound at a thousand
miles an hour. If it happened again, like right now, Harry reflected, where he was standing might be high enough to escape. Maybe not.
A huge black bird swooped down and landed on the roof of the old Volvo, startling Harry. He looked at Harry, first with one eye, then the other, cocking his head.
"Well, hello, bird," Harry said.
The bird croaked back, as if acknowledging the greeting.
"Nice day," Harry said, "so please don't mess up my car, okay?"
The bird ducked his head, cocked it from side to side, and then croaked softly, as if agreeing.
"Thank you, kind sir," Harry said, lifting his hand in a wave. The bird mantled his feathers, and took off, landing on the very top of the power pole that served the tavern. Harry laughed and went inside. It was dark as sin and smelled of very old beer.
Harry's eyes adjusted to the gloom, and he spotted George Mason.
George was a Muckleshoot. Many of the other Native American tribes, and a lot of local whites still didn't think Muckleshoots were really a tribe, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs had ruled them a real tribe and given them a postage-stamp-sized reservation on the slopes of Mt. Rainier between Puyallup and Tacoma. Mostly, as far as Harry could tell, they used the reservation for a school, a cigarette store and a huge casino and amphitheater, which were making a very large amount of money for the tribe. It was George's oft-stated belief that it was only fair that the Muckleshoots should be fleecing the mostly white and Hispanic gambling crowds since in their turn, they had fleeced the Muckleshoots of their traditional fishing grounds up the Puyallup River.
George, a little over five feet three, and like many West Coast Native Americans, almost as wide, was standing next to an open pool
table way in the back, near the door to the outdoor beer garden. He saw Harry enter and waved his pool cue over his head, causing a stray patron trying to get past him to go out the door to the outside to flinch and duck as the cue swept through the air where his head had just been.
"Sorry, man," George rumbled. The patron was a biker, and looked for a minute like he wanted to discuss the matter further. George's eyes got hard, and the biker noticed that for all his bulk, not much of George was fat.
"Yeah, sure, man," the biker replied nervously, as he headed out the door carrying his beer bottle.
"Heya, Harry!" George greeted him, and motioned him toward a bottle of Pyramid sitting on the other side of the table, sweating with the
"How you been?"
"Could be better, George."
"Yeah, been tough since Sally died, I bet."
George had lost his own wife three years before, and one of his sons to the traditional Native American diseases of drugs and alcohol earlier in the year.
"You know. One day at a time," Harry shrugged. He took off his coat and hung it on the hooks that Dave thoughtfully provided on the walls
all along the pool tables. Harry turned and selected a cue from the rack, picked up a chalk, rubbed it all over the head of the cue, and turned back to face George.
"Sure." George compensated for his short stature by hiking up and cocking his buttock on the side of the table, reached over and shot the
break. The balls scattered, and the six ball went in the corner pocket.
George set up again and shot. This time, he missed.
"Harry, you're up."
Harry went through the motions, waiting patiently for George to get to the reason he had invited him to play pool. They played three games, ate bad bar food, and both went to return their beer to the salmon streams twice before George cleared his throat and began to talk seriously.
"Got a problem, Harry," he began. "There's a disturbance in the Force."
Harry had a mouthful of beer. He sprayed it all over the table, being just able to turn away from giving it to George full in the face.
"Shit, Harry!" George ducked away from the spray. "I didn't mean it to be funny. Honest I didn't."
"Right." Harry was using a bar towel Dave the bartender had nonchalantly chucked at him to blow his nose. "I got beer up my nose,
you damn Muckleshoot idiot!"
"No, listen, Harry, I mean it!" George insisted. "You have to listen. You know that I am a shaman. Well, sort of, because a lot of our
knowledge and traditions were lost when you whites kicked our butts around. And I can't help it that I was a Star Wars junkie when I was a kid!"
Harry finished wiping his face with the beer-flecked towel. He turned to George and stared at him.
"So I call it the Force, okay? But it is real, as real as I am, Harry. Somebody is screwing around doing what he shouldn't, and I need
help to stop it."
Harry continued to stare.
"I can feel this guy, and he's really messin' with stuff he doesn't understand, and it is screwing things up. The tribe's alcohol related
arrests have gone up by 150% in the last three months, Harry. That's becausewe have a lot of people who are sensitive to this kind of stuff and I tell you what we do when this happens, we try to drink it away. The more you drink, the deafer you get to the Force, or whatever you want to call it."
George shut up. He glared almost defiantly at Harry.
"George, I don't know what I can do to help," Harry began.
"I'll tell you what," George said, "You're a detective, you can help me find this idiot and get him to stop what he's doing."
"What is he doing, George?"
"He's trying to summon something from beyond the world. I dunno what, yet, but the feel of it is really wild and uncontained and pretty
"Some kind of demon?" Harry passed a hand over his head, rubbing his thinning hair.
"Lord God Almighty, George, I'm a Methodist. This stuff isn't supposed to happen to Methodists! Heck, my pastor says he isn't even
sure there's a Heaven! I don't know from demons!"
"Well, Mr. Methodist, I thought that you could practice another method: the detective method."
George ducked as Harry threw a mock punch at his shoulder.
Suddenly, from the other end of the bar, they heard the sound of wood breaking.
Harry turned, to come face to face with Darryl Jones, armed with a broken pool cue and three friends.
"Harry, you know these guys?" George asked, backing away and giving himself room.
"Yeah, old fat man," Jones said. "He knows me. What he don't know is who he's messing with. You can't mess with me, you dumb bastard!" He
threw himself at Harry, broken cue at high port.
"Looks like we get to practice another method, Harry," George remarked, as he grabbed a cue, broke it on the bar, motioned to Dave to
call 911 and turned to keep Jones' buddies at bay. He needed quickly to coldcock one, so he picked the one on the left and stumped toward him, like a very large tank advancing on unprotected infantry. He slapped the cue over and over into his large palm. The buddy he picked was wearing a leather jacket, some chains, and hadn't bathed in a few days. George continued to move quickly toward him, and as he did so, a knife appeared in No-Bath's right hand. No-Bath waved it around. George didn't stop, which flummoxed No-Bath. Apparently he thought that a man armed only with a stick would be afraid of a man with a knife. George sideslipped the knife and laid No-Bath out with one blow of the broken cue to the side of his head.
"I hope I didn't kill him," George said to No-Bath's stunned companion, in a conversational tone of voice. "It is so messy, and there
is so much damn paperwork. It's your turn, friend. How do you want it?"
Harry and Jones were really muckling into each other, but despite Jones having twenty years on Harry and being in shape enough to play
football that afternoon, Harry wasn't giving any ground. The third guy faded, turned and walked quickly out of the bar.
No-Bath's other friend was starting to back out of the fight, too. He lowered his arms, hands open and out at his sides and backed. His eyes were wide. Suddenly he looked toward the spot that No-Bath was occupying on the floor. No-Bath had woken up, and was in the process of pulling a pistol.
A shot rang out, and No-Bath suddenly acquired a round hole in the center of his forehead. Suddenly the center of attention, Dave the bartender held his smoking automatic.
"We're all going to stop now," he said. "And we're going to wait for King County's finest, who ought to be wheeling up about now. Until they get here, nobody move."
Harry straightened up.
"That means you, too, Harry, and your buddy George. I don't think you had any hand in starting this, but these guys came in here looking
for you. So we're all gonna just stand here, nice and easy, until the cops get here. Capisce?"
"Yeah, no problem, Dave, no problem," George said, slowly putting the pool cue back on the bar, as the first cops bustled through the
door, nightsticks ready.
The first one through the door recoiled when he saw Dave's pistol.
"You put that down on the bar, and step away from it," he said, drawing his own.
"Sure, officer. No problem." Dave put down the pistol and stepped down the bar toward where George was standing.
The second cop in the door had his own gun out, and noticed No-Bath's buddy trying to fade toward the door to the beer garden.
"I don't think so, friend," the cop said, motioning for stillness. "You get down on the floor and assume the position. Besides, just so you know, Sergeant Packer is out there."
Despite himself, Harry snickered.
"What's that about, friend?" the first cop said, with just a hint of menace.
"Not Sergeant Al Packer?"
"Because that makes it officially old home night at the Piranha Tavern," Harry chortled. "Packer, George here, Dave behind the bar there
and me, we all served together in 'Nam."
Harry raised his voice. "Hey, Cannibal, get in here!"
The beer garden door opened and admitted a huge black man in the uniform of the King County Sherriff's Office, franked with the Maple
Valley Police logo.
"Shit, I should have known it was you two." He looked at Dave. "You three. What else?"
The first cop looked at his sergeant. "You actually know these guys?"
"I know him, him and him," the big black cop said, pointing to Dave, Harry and George in turn. "I don't know him, or him, or the very late
and probably unlamented him, over there on the floor."
"I'm sorry, Al," Dave said, "but he pulled a gun, and I didn't have much choice. He hurried me."
"Well, we can't call it suicide by cop, because you ain't one any more," Packer said, "but suicide by bartender could be misunderstood.
Too bad the dumb git didn't just shoot himself."
"All right. You," he pointed at the first cop, "get these two uglies over to the lockup. Somebody can take them down to the Justice Center in Kent later. You," he pointed to the second cop, "get on the horn and get the coroner's wagon up here. You," he pointed to the third cop, just coming in the door, "get Mr. Mason and Mr. Wilson and Mr. Smith," he pointed at George, Harry and Dave in turn, "to give you statements, then turn 'em loose. I know where to find them if something doesn't check out."
Packer turned and stomped out of the bar.
The first cop muscled Jones and his remaining buddy out of the tavern. The third cop motioned Harry over to where Dave and George were
standing at the bar.
"I'm Officer McDonald. I'll be taking your statements," he said, all formal and professional. Then, "Cannibal? You called the sergeant
Dave guffawed. "Harry, you tell him."
"Do you know the sergeant's full name, officer?"
"Well, I assume it is Alfred Packer."
"You'd assume wrong. You know what 'assume' means, don't you? Well, 'Cannibal' isn't Alfred, he's Alferd. 'Alferd E.' in fact."
McDonald stared at Harry uncomprehendingly.
In a lugubrious voice, George began to chant, "Alferd E. Packer left the Ute Indians camp with a party of six in February of 1874, and came back alone. When the judge sentenced him, the judge said, 'Al Packer, you man-eating sonofabitch, there was only eight Democrats in San Juan county, and you et six of 'em!'"
McDonald shoved his fist into his mouth to keep from laughing out loud at his chief's misfortunate name.