Monday, January 20, 2014
1st 5 Pages Jan. Workshop Rev 2: Carr
Name: JL Carr
Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy
Title: Rain Dogs
The moment the door creaked open, Bri pressed her foot into the gap and shoved the picture of the werewolf through. "Seen him around?"
"What--" The door jerked, but the man inside recovered fast and let it creak open a few more inches. He peered out at her, and his scowl twisted into a slow smirk. “Well, well. Look who’s back. Not even a smile or a hello, princess?"
She lowered the photo a few inches. Her foot stayed in the doorway just in case. "Hello."
She knew him as Dirty Dan, and he seemed to have aged ten years in the months since she saw him last. His face was jagged angles, thinned by the same drugs he tainted the block with. Dull black hair in sloppy cornrows, ashy skin pocked with sores, yellowed eyes glittering under the streetlight. Familiar. Smug. It made her itch.
The whole neighborhood made her itch, with its boarded-up windows and whiskey stink and the piles of trash hiding wasted, near-feral humans. Made her arms feel heavy and sensitive, as if track marks reacted to memories like some kind of phantom limb ache.
Dan plucked the picture from her hand and gave it a squint-eyed look. It was ratty and a couple years old: wolves didn't usually pose for portraits. She was lucky to have a snapshot at all.
"He's been in the city six months. He was using, and yeah, a wolf, which means he bought from you."
Dan let out a hoarse cough of a laugh. "A hundred people buy from me. A dozen of ‘em are wolves. You think I ask for personal information? I’m not a fuckin' bank."
Bri stared at him, waiting. Not meeting his eyes, not giving away a thing. He thrived on reactions. Always had. The key to dealing with Dan was to become as close to a brick wall as a person could get.
Sure enough, when she didn't respond he peered down at the photo again. "What's his name?"
"Looks familiar. Why the hell you looking for some werewolf? You ain’t shit, girl, but you ain't lowdown enough to be mixing with animals."
She answered through clenched teeth. "He’s missing, D. If you know anything, tell me. If not, stop wasting my time."
Eyebrows raising, Dan slid his gaze up and down her body in lazy challenge. He opened his hand and let the picture flutter to the ground. "I haven’t seen him. And if I did I wouldn’t give two sour shits. I don't make friends with dogs."
She bent to grab the photo and peel it off the damp cement step, then straightened with a glare she couldn't repress. The urge to throw an elbow in his face was strong enough to make her arm clench, but she couldn’t afford to burn any bridges. Not even shitty, smug bridges who had to be riding high on some kind of chemical just to be up and moving around.
Dan met her glower with another smirk. “Fuck off, Brianna. Next time you come by either bring some cash or keep on walking.”
She turned and moved down the uneven steps and to the sidewalk. Her hands dug deep into her pockets for imagined warmth as she left the crumbling duplex. The door slammed shut behind her, but the sound barely carried in the still, stale air.
Bri hadn't ever met Pete Evans. He was legit, living out on Somena in the government housing, working the shit job he'd been officially assigned. He was doing things right, screwed over a hundred ways but suffering it because he had to get money back to his pack. Pete started using, spending his money on drugs to get through the day instead of sending it all home. That made him a disgrace to those traditional Somena wolves, but Bri understood him. Too damned well.
Odds were that Pete sticking needles in his arm had nothing to do with why he was missing, and god knew she was gonna be dragging the slimy feeling of Dan and his neighborhood behind her like a slug trail the rest of the night. But she had to try. Nobody helped the ones who needed it most, and knowing that even the other miserable wolves in the city had written Pete off made a lot of old rage stir up inside of her.
Bri was barely twenty-one years old, and like Dan said she really wasn't shit, but she had more than enough anger to keep her fueled through another long night of useless searching. She sure as hell wasn't gonna look for Pete any less hard than she looked for all the others who'd vanished.
She didn't lift her gaze from the ground until a glow began spilling onto the sidewalk ahead of her. One other place she wanted to check before it got too late, and it meant going uptown.
As soon as she stepped onto Boren, Bri shifted her posture. She forced her chin up, pushed her shoulders back, moved more deliberately. She made this transition a lot lately, but it still took some conscious thought.
Uptown people walked like they had somewhere to be. They made eye contact. They smiled greetings at each other. Trudging in shadows, hunching and avoiding eye contact, that felt more natural to Bri. But she was risking everything just being outside at that hour. She had to fit in with the sweet-smelling masses bustling their way from one place to the next. The idea was to stay as invisible as possible, but invisibility changed a lot from the shadows to the light.
She kept her hands in her pockets, but peered at everyone who passed as the sidewalks got busier. |She practiced her distracted-yet-polite smile at the few who looked back at her, pretending not to notice their reactions to her. Too-skinny black girl, natural hair and dark skin. Worn out clothes, worn out face. She wasn't a threat and she wasn't for sale, so nobody looked at her twice.
The city changed around her in just a couple of blocks. The bright glow of government-erected lighting strips started on the corner of Boren and Broadway and went into the heart of the tourist district, glaring down from dusk until dawn in a crass attempt to bring some fake sun to nighttime. The stillness of the dark neighborhood she left behind was replaced by the growl of traffic and the ripple of cheerful voices speaking without fear.
The only change that didn't make her tense was in the air itself, the clearing of the thick rank odors behind her. The sour smell of dirt and mold, cheap alcohol and the sweat of unwashed bodies. That stink never went away entirely, not in a city big as Seattle. But downtown it was thinned by a breeze of salty harbor air and then covered with layers: perfume, car exhaust, flower stands, hot food. Endless steam from the thousands of coffee cups carried by red-eyed humans pretending it was natural for them to be nocturnal.
She breathed deeper uptown. It was the one part of the transition that she actually enjoyed.
Less than a block off Broadway, where the lights were still patchy and the tourists weren’t clogging up the sidewalks, a sudden scent in the clearing air grabbed at her attention.
Sweat. Human. Different from the stink of athletes or the funk of the soap-deprived. This was a potent sharp sweat all its own, cold and tangy with adrenaline.
She slowed her pace down the sidewalk, curious. It took some focus to filter through the normal stink in the air and radar in on where that smell was coming from.
Fear sweat, cheap cologne...
And near it, under it, the wispy scent of blood.
Not the copper bite of spilled blood, this was a barely-there tickle, old blood but not stale. Digested, trailing from breath and skin the same way humans leaked their food from their pores.
Only one thing in the world smelled like a blood meal.