Authors: Kate Danley
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Mystery, #funny, #Vampires, #female detective, #Paranormal, #strong female, #bounty hunter, #Los Angeles, #Ghosts, #urban fantasy
Maggie on the Bounty
by Kate Danley
Angels of the Night of Writing Dangerously
& Tyler Wilhelm
week ago, the lives of my mom,
dad, and sister were on the line. I battled a horde of vampires-turned-werewolf
and werewolves-turned-vampire, in the middle of a ghost town filled with
people-turned-ghost. I faced down the biggest, baddest vampire of them all, a
jerk named Vaclav. I also had to kill my employer, a guy named Mr. Smith.
It's okay. He was evil.
It sounds like a pretty
action-packed weekend, but it's kinda turning into how I spend my Saturdays.
My name is Maggie MacKay. I'm a
I live in an alternate dimension
called The Other Side, but have earned enough Frequent Portal Points for all
the jumps I make between The Other Side and Earth to almost qualify for a Dyson.
Whenever monsters decide to invade
Los Angeles, I get the call to haul them back. It's like being the permanent
designated driver for a bunch of asshole frat boys... with fangs...
Mind you, things have been a little
hairier than normal these past few months, and I ain't just talkin'
werewolves. It started with vampires. The werewolves came after. And then
the vampires bit the werewolves and the werewolves bit the vampires and now
I've got a horde of creatures that can only be killed by silver stakes, all
gunning at me.
And that was nothing compared to
the terror in my heart at this moment.
"It is only brunch,"
Killian said to me from the passenger seat of my car.
Since my sister's "family
dinner" had been destroyed last week, you know, because we were mildly
busy saving the world, Mindy called for a do-over. She was pretending it was a
celebration of my dad's retirement. I got the feeling it was more to make sure
no stakings happened on a Sunday. From the tone of her voice, she acted as if
we owed her. You let your sister get possessed one lousy time...
"Think of all the towers of
pastries," Killian encouraged. "You enjoy a good pastry."
The latest employee at MacKay &
MacKay Tracking was a 6'5 blonde elf named Killian. Some get distracted by his
rakish good looks, but once you quit being blinded by his beauty, you usually
just want to punch him. We've been through some pretty big adventures
together, though, so I let him stick around. Okay, truth be told, I more than
just let him stick around, I invited him to be my new partner. We still
haven't picked out stationery logos, but that's what a family brunch is for,
right? Awkward questions about your future and thinly veiled inquiries about
when they are going to hear the pitter-patter of tiny franchise opportunities.
It's enough to make a girl open up a portal and let herself be swallowed up by
Which I could do. I'm able to open
up portals between dimensions like nobody's business. Okay, so my dad is
better than me. What can I say? He's had a bit more practice. But now that
he's retired, the only thing he is going to be opening are tea bags at my mom's
psychic eye tea shop, Leaf It Be, on The Other Side. My completely normal twin
sister, Mindy, lives a completely normal life as an accountant in Pasadena with
a completely normal and totally nice husband, Austin, and a completely normal
dog. Oh, my sister does have a brownie named Pipistrelle, who is so adorable
you might be able to count him as a pet. He was looking for a good excuse to
stick around Earth; she was looking for someone to clean the baseboards.
Pipistrelle LOVES cleaning baseboards.
"You know Pipistrelle can cook
these chefs under the table. I don't see why Mindy decided to have a family
gathering sixty miles from where any family actually lives."
"Really, Maggie, this shall be
a most delightful human experience. Why so ill-tempered?"
I looked at him in disbelief.
"It is 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and we have just spent the past hour
battling it through all the weekend warriors returning from The Other Side to
Earth, not to mention traffic on the 710 Freeway down to Long Beach, all so
that we can eat an omelet. I'm tired. I'm cranky. And I'm wearing a
Killian looked at me and remarked,
"It is a lovely skirt. Black continues to be your color."
"I can't think in a skirt,
"I have difficulty thinking
when you are in a skirt, too."
"Shut up, elf."
So down in Long Beach is this great
big cruise ship built in the 1930's by the same folks who put together the
Titanic. Fortunately, this boat didn't make any claims about unsinkableness
and Murphy's Law didn't feel the need to come out and prove a point.
So, this boat chugged along happily
for a number of years. It was an ocean liner for the rich and famous in the
1930's. Shuttled soldiers across the ocean to fight the bad guys in the
1940's. And then in the 70's, it was sailed through the Panama Canal and
docked in Long Beach, where it was turned into a floating hotel and the best
Sunday brunch you'll find west of the Atlantic Ocean.
"Your mother and father are
meeting us on the ship?" Killian asked.
"Yeah, Mom and Dad stayed with
Mindy last night. Lucky sons of guns."
Killian looked at me. "That
makes no sense. Your mother is a woman."
So, Killian was actually better
than most of his type I've dealt with. Usually these elves are off
gallivanting through the forest, braiding flowers in each other's hair. If
push came to shove, I don't think he'd be above making a daisy chain, but I
know he'd never try to stick it on my head, and I think that's what true
friendship is about.
Elves have their own elfish language,
but Killian was a multicultural Other Side Language studies major in school, so
he can usually hold his own. Usually. I do my best to fill in any educational
gaps whenever I got the chance.
"Fuck it. Hopefully someone
will meet me at the door with a cup full of coffee and we can pretend that this
morning was nothing more than some terrible dream."
We pulled into the parking lot. In
front of us was a massive, white, sun-damaged geodesic dome that once housed
the Spruce Goose, the largest plane that ever flew, albeit for just a couple
seconds. Now it is used for storage or conference space or something. Beyond
it is a cute little half-timbered village that looked a bit like a Renaissance
Festival of abandoned shops. I think there might be a copy place still open,
but I'd be surprised. Beyond the little village is a port, usually filled with
modern cruise ships ready to set sail for three glorious days to the Mexican
Rivera. Today it was empty.
The only boat left was the Empress
Adelaide, her three red smokestacks against the blue sky, sitting proudly in
front of the city of Long Beach in a manmade harbor with a fake little fishing
village and a fake little lighthouse atop a fake hill overlooking a mural of
fake humpback whales all overlooking a fake little island where they processed
garbage. I'm sure it would have been more charming if I had some caffeine in
We parked in the open-air lot. The
sun was shining all cheerfully, like I should be happy to be alive or some such
crap. I went to the trunk of my car and pulled out my gun.
"Now, Maggie. This is
I felt like Killian didn't even
know me. "Right. This is brunch."
I stashed an extra round in my
"Leave the bullets," he
"You ruin everything,
Killian," I said as I pulled them out and put them back.
He shook his head. "And the
I removed a couple from inside my
wristband. "Happy?" I asked.
"All of them."
I sighed and pulled the hidden one
out of the lining of my bag.
"Thank you," he said. He
came and put his arm around my shoulders bracingly, "Just think—a family
meal without being armed to the teeth. I believe you might be setting a
"My dad gets to be
armed," I pointed out.
"Sometimes you must allow the
elders to be in charge," Killian soothed. He looked up at the ship.
"Now, tell me about this place?"
"It is a hotel. It has
brunch. It's haunted—"
Killian. He stopped in the middle of the parking lot. "And your sister
decided this was the ideal spot to gather your family together for a quiet
I could see a flicker of
apprehension cross his face, the big baby.
"Bet you're wishing you had
let me come armed," I said.
"Not when your mother is
around," he replied.
Now that we were off the road and the
diesel-desert-dust in my lungs got shoved aside for a little oxygen and sea air,
I started feeling better about this. The fact that Killian was starting to
squirm was pure icing on the cake. Frosting, even. Buttercream frosting on
fluffy red velvet cake. Haunted, shmaunted—I was hungry.
"They do make a mean
omelet," I admitted.
"I do not understand,"
We walked over to the gold carpet
they have set up for visitors. The carpet leads to an industrial tower
structure of white pipes and corrugated metal built on the outside of the boat.
It houses the elevator that takes you to the various ship levels, then you walk
across a bridge to check out the inside. Mindy and I had been making wishes
and chucking pennies off the outside walkways since we were little. Right now,
I only wished for caffeine.
"What does your mother feel
about this place?"
I shrugged. "She's actually
never seen anyone ghostly on the premises. Swears this is all just a big
tourist trap. Who knows."
The door to the elevator opened,
and standing in front of me was the familiar face of an old Irish priest.
"Father Killarney!" I
His face lit up as he broke out in
his Irish brogue, "Maggie-girl!"
Maybe this brunch wasn't going to
suck as much as I thought it would.
Father Killarney is an old
Irish-Catholic priest and long-time friend of the family. Turns out he knew my
dad and my uncle way back before they even picked out whether to use their
powers for good or evil. Father Killarney also runs a cleanup crew and is on
call whenever I need something sent back to hell.
I hurried inside the elevator and
gave him a great big hug. He reached out and grabbed Killian, bringing him
into our group bear hug, too.
"Hand off my ass, elf," I
muttered under my breath at Killian.
Father Killarney broke away, gazing
at us like we were more miraculous than a Bob Ross painting. He ruffled
Killian's hair. "I see you decided to keep the elf around, did you
Maggie?" said Father Killarney, a bit too delighted.
"We just got him house
trained," I replied.
Killian pinched me.
"Ah! You are such a sight for
sore eyes!" Father Killarney exclaimed, coming back to earth. "So,
how are the two of you doing? You been off battling the forces of darkness
I shrugged as I pressed the
elevator button for the third floor. "Oh, the usual. Foiled Vaclav. Had
a little altercation out in Ghost Town. There was a thing with some werepires
and vampwolves. And that's about it. You?"
"Oh, always one thing if it is
not the other here in this town," he said, shaking his head.
"I didn't know you would be
here," I said. "Isn't Sunday supposed to be kind of a busy day in
the work-schedule for you priests and stuff?"
"I pulled the early shift.
There is a wedding this afternoon, right here on the Empress Adelaide. Worked
it out perfectly so that I could also minister to your family."
The elevator ground to a halt and
we stepped out onto the concrete bridge—not a ship bridge, just a bridge-bridge—and
walked over to the boat.
"Are you sure you're not
ministering to the free breakfast?"
"That is between me and my
Lord. But if your soul needs settling as to the purity of my motivations, I am
more than happy to minister to you now. I noticed you were not in one of my
pews this morning..."
I cut him off. "I will be
worshipping at the holy altar of the dessert station, Father. I hear someone
saw the face of God in a crepe. I'm here to investigate that his permits are
"And I shall be happy to
re-hallow the flan if it proves necessary," Father Killarney laughed. He
then took my elbow and steered me along. He whispered gently as we walked
through the door and into the boat proper, "Maggie-girl, you forgot to
take your neck guard off."
I reached up, felt the Kevlar, and
groaned. Nobody would really care, but it had about as much couth as wearing a
flak jacket to Thanksgiving.
"Killian! I'm going to the
little girls’ room!" I announced as I ditched the boys in the lobby near
the grand ballroom. I walked past two art deco elevators made of chrome and
birds-eye paneling. Parked next to the far elevator was a bored-looking
photographer, snagging guests as they came through to commemorate this trip to
nowhere. I kept walking towards the portholes and turned left before I fell
into the ocean.
Hanging on the wall was a painting
of a lovely old broad dressed in a white flowing gown and sash draped across
the front. The dress was gauzy and flowed about her like the painter had
turned on a fan to capture the sexy. Allure,
eat your heart out. Her grey hair was short and kept in tight curls close to
her head. Perched atop was a delicate little tiara.
"Empress Adelaide I
presume?" I smiled as I passed.
It smiled back.
Now, I know about the whole Mona
Lisa thing, where she semi-smiles at you and her eyes follow you around the
room or whatever, but there's a difference between oil-paint tricks and actual
twitches at the corner of a mouth. I stopped and walked right up to that portrait
and stared it in the eyes.