It was a Thursday morning. I was sitting in my office looking over some documents that had just been presented to me. Across from me in the opposite chair sat an elf in an expensive blue gray suit. He had blonde hair, cut just above the shoulder and blue green eyes like the sea. Like most elves, his face was long and had angular features.
Behind him stood two black suited bodyguards. I could hear and smell two more just outside my office door. I laid the files down on my desk and leaned back in my chair. “I understand your plight, Senator Ravens, but I am not a bodyguard. If you wish for me to find out who’s out to get you I can do, Protect your daughter is a completely different matter.”
“Bodyguards are good for protecting you in the moment Mr. Moore. I have looked you up. You have an excellent track record for going above and beyond. That’s what I’m looking for in a protector for my daughter.”
“Senator, not that I do not want the work. You could have a small army watching over your child, why a fairly cheap investigator?”
“My daughter is a strong willed, stubborn genius. Do you think she would tolerate that much invasion of privacy?”
“I would guess not. How long will this engagement be for?”
“You would be with her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week until after the election. I will insist that you work no other cases during this period. To make up for any potential loss in clients, I am willing to pay double your normal rate.”
“That is a difficult bargain to pass up,” I told him exhaling a long breath. “Very well, inform your daughter that I will be at your residence to retrieve her shortly. I will take her to the location you have provided in this file. Is there anything I should know about your daughter? Allergies? Quirks? Needs?”
A look of relief briefly flashed across the senator’s face. He rose from his chair and placed his black top hat back on his head. “She is honest about everything and rarely doesn’t say whatever comes to mind.”
“Very well sir. I will gather some provisions and retrieve my charge shortly.”
“Good, Mr. Moore. You have no idea how grateful I am.”
Escorted by his bodyguards the senator exited my office. I gathered up the files he had left me and stashed them away in my file cabinet. I reached into the second drawer of the cabinet and withdrew my Charleston revolver. I had kept the gun after I quit the police force. It had always been a trusted friend. I pulled out the shoulder rig for the gun and put it on over my red vest. I checked the wheel and holstered the weapon. I put on my brown jacket and exited my office locking it behind me. Leaving that day, I did not know I was going to have one of the longest weeks of my life. I ventured downstairs and out into the morning air of Luimere.
It was sunny out for a change, and the air was warm. I got into my Athena and drove home. I parked in my designated spot and ventured up to my top floor apartment. I gathered some clothes, ammunition and some non-perishable food, and then I returned to my vehicle and made my way to the Midas Quarter.
The Midas Quarter was where the modest homes and skyscrapers of the city became the lavish and expensive mansions of high society. I have had a few clients from the Midas Quarter and I still felt uncomfortable every time I ventured there. I stopped at the booth by the entrance and verified my identity with the guards. This portion of the city was actually walled off from the rest separating the rich from the commoners. The guard verified my admittance and I made my way down Golden Avenue. Leave to the rich to name their streets after gems and precious metals.
It took another twenty minutes before I reached the gate of the Ravens’ mansion. It was another five-minute drive up the long driveway to the elaborate structure that somehow constituted a single family home. The place was as big as four of my apartment buildings combined. I pulled up to the front of the house and a valet opened my door. He took my keys without a word and parked my car in a spot not ten feet away from where I stood. I shook my head in disbelief; I turned and headed up the stairs toward the front door.
The door opened and an elderly human butler greeted me warmly. “Good morning sir, I am Winthrop, the Ravens’ family butler. If you would please, I will escort you to the mistress.”
“Nice to meet you, Winthrop.” I said removing my hat as I entered the house. “Please lead the way.”
We walked through what could have been confused as a museum. The house was filled with priceless or extremely pricey works of art. Paintings, sculptures, even half-finished sketches, many if not all from famous artists both dead and living. Winthrop lead me into what I assumed was a study turned workshop. Lying across maroon colored velvet sheets was a pair of females, an elf and a human. They were bare as the day they were born and laid perfectly still intertwined in one another.
Behind a large canvas stood a three and a half foot tall gnome in a painter’s smock. Her hair was tied up with paintbrushes and her pale blond hair had splotches of various colors in it. Her hands were moving smoothly across the canvas layering the paint, creating dynamic shadows.
“Pardon me, my lady.” Winthrop said. “The private investigator, the master hired has arrived.”
In a regal voice much in contrast with her appearance and stature Mrs. Ravens said. “Come forth, Mister Moore.”
I did as I was told and walked into the room; there were rows upon rows of books across the walls. The room was fashioned with wooden furniture all carved with floral patterns. The cushions and silk wallpaper were of a similar crimson red with golden inlaid floral patterns as well. I stood just behind Mrs. Ravens, purposely obscuring my view of the tantalizing sight of her models. Not that the painting did not catch the image most perfectly.
“That is a beautiful piece, Ma’am,” I said.
“Thank you. Like every artist, it is nice to be appreciated. Mr. Moore I wanted to speak with you before you run off with my daughter. I wanted you to know that you were not my husband’s choice. You were mine.”
I raised an eyebrow, though she could not see it. “I’m not sure I understand,” I muttered.
“Veronica Chambers recommended you to me. She insisted that anyone who went through the trouble of finding her husband and not only find him, but saved him from the clutches of a mad magus single-handedly; would be the right man to place my faith in. I only ask that you place as much effort in protecting my daughter.”
“You have my word. I don’t do anything by half measures.” I reassured her.
“That is good to hear, keep her safe and return her to me unharmed.” She added some more color to shadows, “this painting once it is completed will be a gift to you.”
“I am honored,” I said. “ Your daughter will be in good hands.”
“This way, Mr. Moore.” The butler Winthrop called.
I bowed a small bow to Mrs. Ravens though she had never turned from her painting during the entire conversation. We headed down another hallway and up a flight of spiral stairs. Winthrop opened the door at the top of the stairs into a room the size of three of my apartments. The room was littered with gadgets, machine parts, and magical spell components. The air was saturated with various chemical smells that made me slightly dizzy and nauseous. The first thought to come to mind was that, this is not a child’s room. Amongst the mounds of random parts and components sat a little girl just over four feet tall, I guessed. Her back was to me and she was hunched over something at her workbench.
Her blond hair was pulled back into two high ponytails that fell close to the middle of her back. She was wearing a peach colored blouse with the sleeves rolled up and tan slacks. I could see the strap of a pair of goggles I presumed she was wearing. Winthrop walked forward and introduced me. “Mistress Lucy, your escort has arrived.”
“I told them I don’t need a bloody babysitter.” She exclaimed.
“Yes, I recall the argument, Mistress Lucy. However your father is concerned with your well-being. He knows you will not allow the bodyguards to watch over you. Your mother has insisted that Mr. Moore here, watch over you. It is only for a week,” the butler said.
“A week is a long time away, Winny,” she pouted. She turned around and that was the first time I saw her. Richie stopped cutting a piece of blue and gray pinstriped material.
He looked up at me with a slight frown on his cherub-like face. “Oh you are not about to stop right there. This is artist gold. Keep talking handsome; give me the passion, the drama, and the action.”
I looked over to Lucy as to say, “Should I?” Her blank facial express did not change she instead shrugged her shoulders and continued sipping her tea. I sighed deeply and continued recounted our first meeting. She looked much the same then as she does now. She was extremely cute with no makeup. She looked me up and down like a buyer analyzing a new requisition.
“Tall, lean, muscular, attractive. My mother has good taste. He will at least be something to look at.”
“I’m sorry this arrangement displeases you. I however do have a job to do,” I said.
“Blah, Blah, Blah. They picked you because my father doesn’t even trust his own guards. Your weapon let me see it.”
“My gun is not a child’s toy.”
She laughed “Silly man. I’m twenty-six years old. If you didn’t notice by my mother, father has a thing for gnomes. He’s a bit of a pedophile, I think.” She laughed again. “He gets so angry when I say that. So don’t let my size or cute appearance deceive you. Now before I go anywhere with you let me see your gun.”
I sighed deeply and withdrew my weapon from the shoulder holster. I opened the wheel and emptied the six bullets into my palm. After closing the wheel, I handed the weapon to her handle first. She took it in her tiny hands and flipped it over and over checking the barrel and construction.
“Charleston police issue revolver. This is a very fine weapon and well taken care of. I’ve used this model for my current experiment. How do you like it?”
“Best gun I have owned and second best weapon. My father’s single hand sword was handcrafted, you see. You always get a bit more from a weapon made from someone’s hands.”
“That is a good answer. We may get along after all.” She said.
Her facial expression never changed throughout the conversation; it was blank and unreadable. I swear Lucy only has three facial expressions. She handed my weapon back to me and began gathering things from around the room. She chucked them into a burlap bag that Winthrop held opened for her. She pulled out a packed suitcase and headed for the door, “Well Mister Moore, shall we?”
I nodded and followed her out. Winthrop led us back through the mansion. Mrs. Ravens met us at the front door. She was still wearing the painter’s smock with paintbrushes keeping her hair in place. She possessed a regal face and rose-colored cheeks. Her eyes were larger than average like all gnomes and they were a vibrant shade of aquamarine. There were splotches of paint on her cheeks. She hugged Lucy and kissed her on both cheeks.
“Take care sweetheart. You’ll be home soon,” She said.
“Yes mama, I’ll do as you wish. Hopefully tall dark and handsome here is as good as you say he is.”
“Hopefully, this will all have been unnecessary,” Her mother said with a heavy sigh.
Winthrop led us outside and the Ravens’ valet had my car waiting for us. We loaded Lucy’s bags into the trunk and shortly thereafter was on our way. The senator had made us reservations at The Ritz under a false name. The Ritz was one of the nicest hotels in the city and was nestled into the heart of downtown Luimere.
We rode in silence to the hotel. I took my time and keep an eye out for a tail. The day was unusually clear and the sun was shining brightly overhead. You could see several dirigibles flying to and fro. After a few minutes Lucy withdrew a pistol from her satchel similar to my own.
There were notable differences such as attached to each side of the hammer were two tiny vials that contained a green liquid. The barrel had bronze glyphs etched into it on both sides. The cylinder had very fine writing etched outside each chamber. “That is a beautiful weapon.” I commented breaking the dull silence.
“This is my life’s work, the first of many ideas. I’m sure I am not the first Technomagus to attempt it. I however intend to be the first to succeed,” she said admiring the weapon.
“What makes it so special?”
“This gun will shoot spells.”
“Really?” I asked with real interest.
“Yep, the gun is designed to fire standard ammunition and special rounds enchanted to cast magic spells. You could fire three tier two fire spells in rapid succession and not suffer exhaustion from the feat. Non-magic using officers can stand toe to toe with renegade Magus or jay random guys could quell his penis envy with a gun that can perform the magic he could not.”
“Are we talking any kind of spell or purely destructive ones?”
“When it’s done any of them. It will be in the hands of the magus that enchants the bullets.”
“That is amazing!” I told her.
“Yes, I know it is. I’m hoping this field trip does not prevent me from completing it,” she said placing the revolver back in her satchel and staring out the window into the distance.
I pulled off the highway and into the morning traffic of downtown. We weaved in and out of traffic toward The Ritz. I could see the building once we reached its street. The Ritz stood thirty-two stories high with just over one thousand rooms. The design of the building was a merger of art deco and industrial style. The borders featured various plant-like designs as well as gears of varying sizes. There were what looked like clockwork gargoyles on the corners of the building every eighth story up.
We pulled up to the front and like at Senator Ravens’ home a valet took my keys, another removed our luggage and placed it on a cart. I tipped the first valet and walked into the Ritz with Lucy at my side. The inside was as beautiful as the outside; there was gold everywhere in the lobby. The walls were covered in dark blue silk wallpaper and all of the wooden trim was fashioned from plant life and painted gold. The floors were covered in a light brown carpet and felt soft underfoot even through my shoes. We walked up to the front counter, “Reservation for Alvin Strong.”
The small half-elf clerk looked at her records. Her finger stopped on the name I presented.
“Ah yes, Mr. Strong, we have you right here. We have prepared room 703 for you. Here is your key and Simmons will take you to you room.”
She rang a little bell and the orc bellhop carted our belongings over. He looked at me with a toothy smile and extended his hand toward me. I handed him the key, he read the number to himself and headed towards the lifts. I had never ridden a lift that was purely mechanical and I would have not known this one was if were not for Lucy pointing it out.
Simmons led us down a carpeted hallway to our room. The suite could not even be considered a room it was more like a fully furnished apartment complete with couch, chairs, a small kitchen with an icebox, and a reading area with nearly fifty books on its shelves. The bedroom was a separate room with a full bathroom attached. There was a single king size canopy bed with matching dresser and end tables.
Lucy entered the room like she was accustomed to this sort of place. Which I assumed she was. The Bellhop placed our belongings in the entranceway of the room, I tipped him a few sovereigns and sent him on his way. I picked up our bags and carried them into the room; I dropped my things off by the door and carried Lucy’s into the bedroom.
“Afraid I might bite?” she chided me as she spread out her implements and tools over the dining table.
“Not particularly, I can see the door from here and be between said door and you within seconds.”
“How very professional of you.”
“This is a job, ma’am” I said putting her things down.
I came back out of the bedroom and began to set up camp. I pulled out a string of bells and a pair of nails. I walked over to the door and mounted the string so that if the door opened half a foot the bells would chime. I removed a small rolled mat from the bag and I unrolled it revealing fifty; one inch long nails, and then placed it just outside of the sweep of the door.
“Interesting way to create an alarm system with no gadgets or magic.”
“I have not the money nor the natural talent for either. I do have my natural ability and my wits.” Lucy nodded in consent and went to work on her pistol.
The first few days went by uneventfully. We never left the room; I watched Lucy quietly and read the books provided by the hotel. We would order room service; Lucy would convince me to try new things. Foods I would have never eaten on my own. I can say we started to develop a bit of a friendship. That peace ended the night before the senator’s big election.
Lucy was asleep in the bedroom. I had just turned off the lights and lied back in my spot on the couch. I heard the whirring sound of an airship’s propellers, but shrugged it off as nothing; since the sound was common place that high up. Then the smell of gun oil and leather reached my nostrils. I sniffed the air more deliberately; the scent was coming from outside the door. I rolled quietly off the couch and grabbed my Charleston off the coffee table. I crept across the room on bare feet to the bedroom; quietly I eased the door open and whispered for Lucy. She stirred but did not get up, I cursed and aimed my gun at the front door.
The strike was professional. Just before the door was opened, a crash came from the front room window. A small sphere like device rolled across the floor, I turned away immediately and shielded my eyes. I heard the device detonate and that was the last thing I heard during the altercation. I looked up to see the first two attackers fall to the floor clutching at their feet. The scent of fresh blood mingles with the gun oil, coal, and leather already in the air. I fired two rounds, one in each invader. I knew not their intentions, I had no plans to wait and find out. I felt Lucy’s tiny form press up against my back. She yelled something at me with fear filled her large aquamarine colored eyes.
“Stay close!” I yelled.
I don’t know what she said as my ears were still ringing from the grenade. We moved quickly toward the exit, my gun ready. A bolt of lightning flashed from the window and struck my left shoulder causing me to spin around. Searing hot electricity coursed through my body nearly blinding me from the intensity, the pain was unbelievable. As the strike forced me to turn around I blindly fired two shots out the window toward a hovering dirigible.
The Magus dodged the first shot but took the second in the right arm. He retaliated with a powerful gust of wind that sent my gun flying. It flew across the room and there was such force behind the spell that the weapon flew through the wall. I swore again turning and swooping Lucy up in my arms and I bolted for the door. As I ran pass the dining room table Lucy managed to grab her satchel. She withdrew a wand from the bag and pointed it over my shoulder. From the corner of my eye I could see her say something. A wave of heat flashed from behind and everything grew brighter.
I did not look back. I hopped over the two down men and dashed into the hallway. There were two more attackers preparing to enter. I sank low with Lucy still in my arms and plowed my unwounded shoulder into the nearest one. The strike hit him hard launching him off his feet and through the door of room across the hall. He landed hard a moment later in a shower of splintered wood.
The other who was less than a foot away was confronted with the barrel of Lucy’s arcane pistol. The little vials of green liquid bubble furiously. My ears were still ringing. Lucy said something to the man and he backed away pressing his back to the wall. I wasn’t taking any chances. I decked him and he fell slump unconscious to the floor.
Still carrying Lucy who was in nothing but a silk nightgown, I ran down the hall toward the fire exit. I leaped down entire flights of stairs. My hearing slowly started coming back to me and I could hear Lucy demanding that I put her down.
“Not yet!” I screamed back to her.
I bolted to the parking garage and found the nearest valet. The young half-elf looked at us with wide eyes. I couldn’t imagine was going through his mind, there I was wounded, in tattered clothes and bare feet carrying, what a first glance was a kid in a nightgown. I told him there were twenty-five sovereigns in his future if he got my car to me in less than a minute. The kid ran like the wind and was back with my car with time to spare. In haste, I dumped Lucy’s tiny form into the passenger seat; I gave the kid the sovereigns as I nearly dived into the driver’s side and rushed out of the garage. The car roared into the streets of Luimere’s nightlife. I could see above us, the airship retreating from the scene a swell of flame blazing from its port side. I weaved in and out of traffic keeping a sharp eye out for pursuers.
After a half an hour of driving I concluded that our attackers did not plan on a car pursuit, I drove to the highway and headed to midtown. Lucy shook noticeably as she sat there in the passenger’s seat. She was breathing heavily and her cheeks were flush. I placed a reassuring hand on hers; she squeezed it tightly not saying a word. A half an hour later, I pulled up in front of my apartment and parked in my designated spot. I got out of the car and assisted Lucy to the front door. We walked inside and up the three flights of stairs. We entered my modest apartment and I locked the bolts behind us.
“It’s not the Ritz, but it’s safe and non-disclosed.” I said.
“Thank you, Marcus. You saved my life,” She was still breathing heavily and I could hear her heart beating rapidly.
“I just did my job.” I said with a shrug.
She walked slowly toward me. Her eyes were longing, she nibbled on her lower lip, her breathing was heavy, and she smelled amazing.
“I don’t’ know if it’s the fear or adrenaline. But… I… just want… to thank you.”
She pressed herself against me and shivered as if she was cold. I wrapped my arms around her holding her close. Lucy reached up and pulled my torn and burned shirt towards her, forcing me down to her level. She kissed me deeply and I kissed her back with the same amount of longing. In my head I knew I was probably a bad idea, but I was in the moment as well. Surviving an attack like that cause adrenaline to course through your system and any number of emotions will bombard your brain. We did not even make it to the bedroom. We awoke wrapped in one another bare on my mother’s rug. Lucy remained there with her head resting on my fuzzy chest. She absentmindedly swirled her finger around my sternum.
“Tell me something; what is so important that people with that much money would be after you?” I asked her.
“They aren’t after me per say. My father is next in line to be head chair of the senate. There are some lobbyists that don’t want this to happen. They have threatened the lives of my mother and myself if he doesn’t resign, or at the very least forfeit candidacy.”
“I take it long as you are safe he has no intention of backing down.”
“Exactly. Looks like you truly were the best choice. I don’t think any of my father’s men could have survived a direct hit from a tier two lighting spell.” She paused mid-sentence and her already wide eyes grew wider. “Hey! Your shoulder.” She slid off of me to look at my wounded shoulder.
“The Fates! It’s already mostly healed. That’s not possible.”
“I’m a special case.” I said smiling.
“Like plowing that guy through a solid door with a shove or leaping down entire flights of stairs while carrying me and not missing a beat.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Very special” I continued grinning.
Lucy smiled, an action I could tell she was not accustomed too. She reached over me and dug in her satchel, she withdrew her arcane pistol. She also pulled out a handful of bullets; each round had a sigil beautifully etched into them.
“You lost your gun back there, I know how much you liked it. I want you to have this one, it’s fully functional now.”
“Lucy I couldn’t, it’s you life’s work.”
“It’s a life’s work,” she emphasized. “A life you saved.” She placed the weapon in my hand. “Here we’ll call it Lucy so you’ll always have me with you.”
“I was not that cheesy” Lucy interrupted.
“I’m telling it how I remember it,” I said.
Richie laughed, “It is okay we can stop there. I am done.”
There was no question to Richie’s talent. He pressed a button on the base of the pedestal and a set of tall mirrors rose from thin slits in the carpet. The suit was immaculate; he had fashioned a double-breasted jacket with a long tail and folded cuffs. The suit had a matching collared vest of the same material. The Master tailor had paired the jacket and vest with a powder blue button-down shirt and a solid blue tie. My slacks were of light ash gray and I was fitted with a pair of spats of the same material as the jacket and vest. Strapped on my left arm against my normal attire was decorative steam-powered armor. The hardened leather armor complete with gauntlet, bracer, arm guard and pauldron fit perfect. Each piece was dyed a deep dark blue and featured gears, tubes and wires of bronze, copper, and gold.
On my head was a finely crafted top hat of gray material similar to the gray of my pants. My Lucy made goggles rested on top of the hats brim and were adjusted to the pair of blue lenses. I was also fitted with a custom made Brown leather belt that featured interlocking gears on brass treads and clasped with a blue gem. The belt also featured gun holster perfect for Lucy. Richie hit the button once more, lowering the mirrors and hit another causing the pedestal to slowly spin again. He and Lucy once again stood next to one another enjoying the view. I hopped off the rotating platform before I got dizzy.
“Fantastic work!” I said excitedly. “I’m afraid to ask how much this is going to cost me.”
“Marcus, you know well enough that I’m just going to add it to your bill.” Lucy said coolly.
“I really am starting to feel like a sex slave.” I told her.
Richie laughed, “If you ever want a change of pace gorgeous, you can give Richie a summons.”
“I… um… I’m not sure what to say to that. Thank very much for the fine suit, Richie.”
“Thank you for the fine tale. Maybe Lucy will bring you back around for another one. Then you can tell me how it ends. Anyway you go ahead and rest over there. I need to put something together for Lucy.” He said. “Lucy, tell me the details he left out about your first sexual encounter” Richie laughed wholeheartedly as he stripped Lucy down to her under garments and began his work.