Don't grapple with a dragon in his territory...
Welcome to the Badlands Paranormal Police Department, where Chief Ezekias ‘Zeke’ Phoenix—a dragon who believes rules are meant to be followed—has accepted his new post.
His job is simple: keep the fragile peace between dragons, hellions, and the denizens of hell. The rules in Infernal City are even simpler: mind your business, watch your back, shoot first, and don’t bother asking questions.
When a dead hellion crashes into his life, Zeke and the Badlands PPD will break all the rules of the City. To find the killer, he’s going to make some powerful enemies who would prefer to see the new dragon chief of the PPD retired…permanently.
If Zeke fails, the Badlands will plunge into a civil war.
But success will stick a target on his back, and his enemies rarely miss...
Release date: December 21, 2018
Publisher: Crimson Myth Press
Print pages: 280
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John P. Logsdon
By Orlando A. Sanchez and John P. Logsdon
No good deed goes unpunished.
“We don’t get many dragons in here,” the troll said, giving me the once over. His bass voice reverberated in the spacious bar. “What’ll it be?”
I looked up at the hulking figure behind the smooth bar counter and paused. Most trolls were large. This one took it to the next level. Contrary to the myths, they didn’t live under bridges, and they were incredibly intelligent. The part about smashing you to a pulp and ripping off your arms was pretty spot on though.
After a day of the mind-numbing paperwork that my new position required, I walked into The Dirty Goblin searching for a moment of peace and a warm glass of good blood ale.
Both of which were usually an impossible find in the Badlands.
“How did you—?” I started when he raised a tree trunk arm and pointed to his eyes. I looked across the bar into the mirror and saw my reflection.
“Shit,” I said, patting my pockets.
I’d forgotten my glasses at PPD Headquarters. A few seconds later, I found my backup pair and put them on, hiding my eyes. The fact that my irises were vertical slits was a clear indicator of what I truly was.
There was a time when dragons went around eating everything and everyone in sight. Dragons didn’t do that anymore—unless provoked. But we still weren’t exactly loved. More loved than hellions, but what wasn’t? Satyrs, I guess, but they took the term ‘love’ a bit more literally.
“New in town?” he asked, his rough voice filled the empty bar, bouncing off the wall. “You don’t look like a tourist.”
“The Badlands don’t get tourists,” I countered.
He nodded and laughed. “Not if they want to stay alive.”
“You carry blood ale?” I asked, parking at the far end of the bar and dropping a pile of papers on the wood counter, worn smooth by years of use. “The real kind, not that commercial energy drink piss.”
“We have home-brewed blood ale and valkyrie rations,” the troll answered. “You want something edible, you’ll need to go elsewhere.”
“You have a valkyrie cook?” I jolted, looking around. “No wonder this place is empty. Did she kill everyone?”
“Only the first handful,” he grunted. “Now it’s mostly food poisoning.”
I shuddered at the thought of V-rations. “Just the blood ale, thanks.”
The troll nodded and placed a tall glass of the deep red ale on the bar. I reached for it and he held the glass in place with one massive hand, while pointing to a sign with the other.
No Weapons-No Trouble
No Compliance-Know Pain
Let Percy keep you and your weapons safe.
Failure to do so will result in extreme ejection from the premises.
“I’ll relieve you of those hand-cannons, please.” Percy pointed to the top of the bar. “Slow.”
The Twins, as I referred to them, Pinky and Butterfly, were custom-made Fossberg 590 Tactical Shockwave shotguns. They were technically firearms since the barrel length was less than eighteen inches and had pistol grips. I just knew they were the perfect conversation enders, especially when bullets were flying my way.
When a troll requests your weapons, it’s usually best to comply. This troll had requested my shotguns before serving the blood ale.
I opened my coat and slowly pulled my lovelies from the shoulder holsters.
“You have sharp eyes.”
“The sharpest,” the troll answered. “Besides, those things aren’t exactly what I would call subtle.”
Trolls dismantled most arguments, usually starting with the person doing the arguing.
In the spirit of diplomacy and keeping my arms attached, I placed my custom-made shotguns slowly on the bar, butt first.
He slid the glass my way without spilling a drop.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here”—I slid my weapons over before grabbing the glass—“Percy?”
He nodded, placing my shotguns behind the bar.
“Owner and operator of this wonderful establishment”—he swept an arm around the bar—“and you are?”
“Ezekias,” I said, raising the glass, taking a sip, and nodding in approval. It was good. “Most call me Zeke.”
Percy must’ve seen my expression. “Good?”
“Excellent, haven’t had home-brewed blood ale since I was home.”
“Didn’t know dragons enjoyed blood ale, usually it’s valkyries drinking it like water.” Percy gave me a friendly smile. Either that or he had gas. It was tough to tell the difference with trolls. “Enjoy,” he added before moving off to the other end of the bar.
I took a long pull of the warm blood ale. The hammer and chisel headache trying to carve out my brain settled down to a dull thudding sensation.
Hazy warmth wrapped itself around me.
I spread out the files and made the counter into a makeshift desk.
My hand reflexively dropped to my side to rest on the butt of my shotgun before I remembered Percy’s ‘no weapons’ policy.
I looked at the files in front of me, cursed my life and my mother. I didn’t dare say her name out loud, though. Valkyries have been known to have exceptional hearing. She’d kick my ass all over the Badlands if I invoked a curse in her name. Hilda the Terror earned her title the old-fashioned way—by the number of dead bodies left in her wake.
I took a long drag of the blood ale and shook my head examining the files.
My team, if you could call it that, consisted of a hellion named Rose, a demonoid, some sort of void/demon hybrid named Graffon; Doe, a faceless, a.k.a. Void; Nimble, a slug; Silk, a dark fae; and a—I rubbed my eyes to make sure I read the file correctly—a malkyrie named Butch?
That last one had to be a typo.
This wasn’t a team.
It was a disaster of epic proportions.
I’d like to meet the genius who thought a dragon chief with a hellion second-in-command was a good idea. That right there was a recipe for assassination. Dragons and hellions weren’t exactly known for getting along.
Hell, the fact was that the Badlands Paranormal Police Department had been built on tape and bubblegum. Three major factions had to be represented. Dragons, hellions, and hell. The dragons and hellions’ part was easy, but hell consisted of many races, from goblins to satyrs to manticores to valkyries…the list went on and on.
The Badlands PPD went through chiefs faster than a dragon devoured normals. Again, they didn’t really do that any more. Not by choice, exactly, but it was still off limits. That was because topside was a big no-no to people living in the Badlands.
After a chief bit the dust, the next in line jumped in on rotation. So, if a hellion died, a representative from hell was the new chief. Once that one got obliterated, a dragon was sworn in. After the dragon, it was back to the hellion, and the wheel started spinning yet again.
The problem was that most of the time the cops just shot each other.
Fastest way to the top, even if it only lasted a couple days.
People living in the Badlands weren’t exactly known for the long view.
I massaged my temples and noted the exits around me. Old habit. At least The Dirty Goblin was quiet and empty. Percy, who was large enough to have his own gravitational field, probably scared anyone who wasn’t suicidal or a regular.
I took another sip of blood ale and sorted the paperwork in front of me. My first gut reaction was to incinerate the paperwork and maybe the bar with it.
We didn’t do that anymore either.
Hilda’s words came back to me.
“You’re a warrior,” she said, sharpening her blade. “This will be good training for you. You need to get out into the world. Learn what it means to lead others in battle.”
“I’m a dragon, not a babysitter. What does a PPD chief do anyway?”
“You’ll bring order to the Badlands.”
“Order to the Badlands? That sentence has so much wrong with it I don’t know where to begin. I’m a warrior, raised by warriors. Not a cop. PPD chiefs do not lead others in battle. They shuffle paper and deal with pains in the ass. There’s nothing glorious in that.”
“You are a colossal pain in my ass, Ezekias. You will take this assignment and do it with honor. Perhaps you will not lead your people in battle, but this is the Badlands. Anything is possible.”
“I still think this is a bad—”
“This conversation is over.”
She placed the blade on the table between us, daring me to contradict her.
I chose a strategic retreat and accepted the position of PPD Chief.
Hilda the Terror wasn’t known for her gentle parenting skills.
Other children received warm cuddles and hugs. Valkyrie children usually got slashes, bruises, and stitches. My first ‘toy’ was a doubled-edged short sword named Gash. I nearly cut off my fingers the first time I used it.
Hilda’s reputation came from her sword skills on the battlefield and the food of her kitchen. She had produced a staggering amount of fatalities in both areas. Her culinary skills left much to be desired, like a swift decapitation or maybe an evisceration. Valkyries weren’t known for their expertise with food. That probably explained the shortage of valkyrie chefs.
The blood ale haze had settled into a comfortable glow.
It was in these moments that the Badlands almost felt peaceful.
If you fell for the illusion, they usually found your body, or what was left of it, in some back alley of Infernal City.
Yes, the Badlands was a voracious mistress. She chewed you up and spat you out, all the while caressing your neck and slitting your throat.
“There’s no place like home,” I mumbled.
At least it was calm and peaceful right now. The only thing that would make it even better would be another mug of homebrew.
I was just about to ask Percy for a refill when a body crashed through the window.
The plate glass window shattered from the impact, sending ballistic shards in every direction, and forcing me to duck. The body that decided to renovate the façade slammed into the bar with a sick thud, sliding down the other side.
Blood and my drink spilled everywhere.
So much for a quiet moment.
“Angry customers?” I asked, wiping off my jacket while looking at Percy.
He pushed the body away with his massive foot.
“All my customers are angry,” Percy answered, grabbing a gun. “Badlands, remember?”
He had a point.
Anyone with half a brain knew this job came with trouble, but I didn’t expect it to greet me on the first day.
I heard the guns cock and dove behind the bar as bullets tore into the wood, shredding the stool I had occupied seconds earlier.
Whoever launched the dead guy into The Dirty Goblin was just warming up. The body was just the start of the conversation. I needed to speak a language they understood.
“I need Pinky,” I hollered over the gunfire. “Give it to me, now.”
“Who?” Percy asked, keeping low as the gunmen shattered bottles above his head. “There’s no one here by that name.”
“My weapon.” I held out my hand. “Hand me Pinky.”
He furrowed his brow at me.
“Pinky,” I barked at him. “Now!”
Like a first year recruit, he jolted and reached under the counter, handing me a shotgun. I fired over the edge of the bar and shook my head.
“That’s Butterfly,” I growled, tossing Percy the shotgun. “Hand me Pinky!”
“There’s a difference?” He handed me the other shotgun. “They look identical to me.”
I fired over the bar and waited a few seconds.
“You probably want to hold on to something,” I warned, bracing myself against the bar. “Make sure you stay down.”
“Why? That one fired just like the last—”
The shockwave thwumped outside of the bar and rushed into The Dirty Goblin, shattering the remaining windows. A wall of flame followed the shockwave, racing over our heads and across the bar.
It was a beautiful sight.
I admired the flames as they roared above us—it’s a dragon thing.
“Dragon rounds,” I said, patting Pinky as more gunfire erupted across the bar. “Pass me Butterfly. I don’t think they’re done.”
I stayed down and fired Butterfly over the bar. For a split second, I thought about going dragon. I must’ve been tired. The broken glass and damage could be repaired. If I went dragon, The Dirty Goblin would become a dirty crater, and I was really enjoying the homebrewed ale. I couldn’t go full dragon anyway. My tattoo stopped that from happening. Still, I could dragon it up enough to ruin Percy’s chance at only dealing with non-structural damage.
I glanced over at the body that had interrupted my drink. If he wasn’t dead on impact, the several bullet holes in him convinced me he was gone now.
“Anyone you know?” I asked, turning him over. “Seems well dressed for this part of the city.”
“Hellion diplomat or businessman,” Percy answered. “Not used to seeing that in this part of town. Probably looking for something hard, fast, and fun.”
“Looks like he found the hard and fast part.” I reached into his pocket and pulled his wallet. “Shit, diplomat from House Mal.”
“House Malevolent?” Percy asked, looking more skittish than a troll ever should. “This is bad.”
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