I had to get out of the house. Pulling on whatever was at hand I was able to cover the resulting catalogue of sins against fashion and common decency with my full length leopard print coat. The telephone rang. I ignored it and left, heading for my nearest greasy spoon for breakfast, or since it was now night, dinner of dead animals and burnt fat.
I had just given my order to the harassed waitress, when my mobile started up with its Snapper download of my current favourite Ten Good Reasons To Kick Your Head In when a man in a base-ball cap pulled low over his face and scarf wound tightly around his neck and jaw, slid into the chair opposite me.
“That seat’s taken,” I said.
The peak of the cap raised slightly and a pair of burning orange eyes with what looked like boils around the contours stared into mine. The skin stretched tightly over the nub of a nose was dark with overlapping scales. Whatever else he was, human didn’t begin to cover it.
“I think you’ll want to make an exception for little old me, Rosie darlin’.” The voice was low and guttural, with a strange fluting quality as though there was something else in there straining to get out. He could go and strain elsewhere as far as I was concerned.
“Tell you what Toad, if you don’t leave immediately, I’ll be the one taking exception. That would be bad.”
“Big talk. Let’s see how talkative you are when my employers get through with you if don’t do what you’re told. That goes for those two you were just entertaining in your boudoir earlier. Have a nice little threesy did you?” He, it, whatever the hell it was, hawked and spat on the floor. The waitress gave a gusty sigh and bent down to clean it. He stared at her and the words she was about to utter died in her throat and she backed off and into the kitchen.
“Jealous? I’m willing to bet the only action you ever get is limited to onesy. You,” I said impatiently after he looked blank.
He was about to say something but I held a hand up to cut him off, “Okay, I’m curious. Who are you?”
He lowered the scarf and a lipless mouth was revealed with row upon row of pointed little teeth on show in what I took to be a smile.
He laughed at the revulsion on my face and said, “Me? I’m nobody. Just a messenger you might say. And the message is this: stay away from the Fox twins.”
I was genuinely amused. “Or what? Is this like a double bluff where you really want me to go see the Foxes, because I have to say it’s working.”
The would-be messenger stared at me, incomprehension plain on the lizard-like features and we all know what usually happens in the old messaging business. I leaned over to him and he withdrew by just the merest fraction of an inch, but it was a telling one activating the adrenalin and pitching me into hyper focus like with Ruby earlier, but this one would be more of a challenge.
“I ain’t dead Rose, you can’t mess with my head.”
“It’s your body I want, but then you must get that all the time,” I grabbed him by the neck before he realised what I was doing. Something metallic clanged to the ground and I was betting it was his blade. A quick flick of the eye downward told me I was on the money. Pulling his face closer to mine as though for a kiss, I flicked the blades on my finger-knives to the first setting: a mere half an inch of razor-sharp serrated steel. Enough to penetrate the skin, not enough for internal organs. He had his back to the two other diners and it looked like we were just getting cosy.
“You wouldn’t dare,” he wheezed.
I stroked the scales on his face with the tip of the blade on my index finger, just hard enough to pierce the tough skin along his jaw and down to the jugular.
“Wouldn’t I?” I whispered, lips inches from his and those sharp little teeth. I flicked the second setting on my middle finger and it went a little deeper into the scaled meat just shy of his jugular. He whimpered and bled.
I smiled and went to work.