Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Happy Thursday, everyone!

This weekend marks the second year I’ll be spending Easter at Sakura-Con in Seattle. Last year’s con experience had a direct influence on the brand new Diz and Dee story, “Here, Kitty Kitty,”  I wrote for Fiction River # 1 – Unnatural Worlds.  Who knows what kind of mayhem this year’s con will inspire. 🙂

You’ll be able to purchase Unnatural Worlds beginning next month. I’ve seen the rest of the stories in this volume, and trust me, they’re all kickass. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Fiction River family, and I’ll have some more cool announcements along that line as the year progresses. As they used to say in television land, “stay tuned.”

In the meantime, in honor of the holiday, this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story finds Diz and Dee tracking down Dee’s missing cousin Harold, who has a unique problem with the Easter season. I hope you enjoy “My Cousin, the Rabbit.”

my cousin cover art

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2013 by Annie Reed

I was balancing my morning coffee and a bag of donuts in one hand and fumbling with the key to my office with the other when my cell phone rang.

I’m not a morning person.  I’m also not the world’s greatest cook.  Even though I live in the apartment upstairs from my office, I go out most mornings for coffee and something my mother would not approve of as breakfast food.  So when I recognized the ring tone I’d assigned to my mother — a snazzy little number that sounded like the music from Psycho right about the time Anthony Perkins goes gonzo on Janet Leigh with a knife in the shower — my first reaction was to drop the bag of donuts like a hot potato.

What?  Donuts?  Not me, mom.  I’m going upstairs to fix myself sprouts and granola right this minute.

Not that I had sprouts and granola in my apartment.  I barely had enough food for my cat.

The bag split open when it hit the sidewalk, spilling all that sugary goodness on the wet concrete.  So much for breakfast.  At least I still had my coffee.

I managed to get the office door unlocked and my cell phone out of my pocket before the call rang over to voicemail.

“Your cousin’s missing,” my mother said before I could even croak out a hello.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – My Cousin, the Rabbit

Good morning, internets! How about we celebrate the Thursday before Easter with a brand new Diz and Dee mystery?

This time around our heroes are looking for Dee’s missing cousin, Harold. The Easter season’s been tough on Harold ever since a high school bully and budding wizard turned fifteen-year-old Harold into a six-foot tall white rabbit. The spell only lasted for a week, but the experience left shy, introverted Harold scarred for life.

Is Harold simply hiding out from an overload of bunny-themed holiday advertising? Or does someone have it in for the former rabbit? Someone who could turn Harold into the Easter Bunny for life.

My Cousin, The Rabbit

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright 2010 by Ljupco at iStockphoto.com

 

I was balancing my morning coffee and a bag of donuts in one hand and fumbling with the key to my office with the other when my cell phone rang.

I’m not a morning person.  I’m also not the world’s greatest cook.  Even though I live in the apartment upstairs from my office, I go out most mornings for coffee and something my mother would not approve of as breakfast food.  So when I recognized the ring tone I’d assigned to my mother — a snazzy little number that sounded like the music from Psycho right about the time Anthony Perkins goes gonzo on Janet Leigh with a knife in the shower — my first reaction was to drop the bag of donuts like a hot potato.

What?  Donuts?  Not me, mom.  I’m going upstairs to fix myself sprouts and granola right this minute.

Not that I had sprouts and granola in my apartment.  I barely had enough food for my cat.

The bag split open when it hit the sidewalk, spilling all that sugary goodness on the wet concrete.  So much for breakfast.  At least I still had my coffee.

I managed to get the office door unlocked and my cell phone out of my pocket before the call rang over to voicemail.

“Your cousin’s missing,” my mother said before I could even croak out a hello.

No wonder she was calling me at this ungodly hour.  Along with my partner, I run D & D Investigations, and as the sign on our front window says, Missing Persons Are Our Specialty.  Since my mother was calling me and not the police, I knew which cousin had to be missing.

Unlike a lot of people, I only have two cousins.  My cousin Stacy lives with her perfect husband and two perfect children in a perfect little house in an exclusive — and very expensive — neighborhood on the south end of Marlette Island.  I live across the bay in a dinky one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of my office building, which happens to be located in a not-very-exclusive neighborhood on the mainland side of Moretown Bay.  If perfect Stacy had gone missing, my mother wouldn’t be calling me.  She’d have called out the National Guard.

That left only one cousin.

“Harold?” I asked.

“Harold,” my mother said.  “Gloria’s a mess.”

Gloria is my aunt, my mom’s older sister.  Harold is Aunt Gloria’s son.  He’s ten years older than I am, single like me, but unlike me, he still lives with his mother.

I sighed and settled into my semi-battered executive chair behind my battered wooden desk.  D & D Investigations manages to keep its doors open — barely — but our furnishings are strictly second-hand, garage sale rejects.  Not that I’m complaining.  My chair may have seen better days, but it’s darn comfortable.

I peeled the plastic lid off my coffee and inhaled the aroma, trying not to think about the donuts melting into a gooey mess on the sidewalk thanks to this morning’s misty rain.  Our office building used to house a bakery, and it still smells sugary sweet when it’s damp, like this morning.  Well, like nearly every morning in Moretown Bay.  There’s a reason my hair frizzes more than curls.  Right now the ghostly smell of croissants past was making my stomach grumble, and coffee alone wasn’t going to cut it.

Not if my day was going to be spent chasing my missing cousin.

“Want to tell me what happened?” I asked my mother.

“He didn’t come home from work last night, so Gloria called Mr. Fistler.”

Of Fistler’s Fine Furnishings, where I’d bought my semi-battered executive chair.  The furnishings Frederick Fistler sold weren’t fine in the sense of rare or unique, but more in the sense of they’ll do fine in a pinch.  Old man Fistler had given Harold a job when no one else would, so that made him more than okay in my book.

“Mr. Fistler told Gloria that Harold left at noon yesterday,” my mother said.  “Harold said he had some errands to run and he’d be back late, only he never came back.  Gloria spent the night calling all Harold’s friends, only none of them had seen him all day and no one had any idea what kind of errands he was running.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose.  My mother and my Aunt Gloria tried to maintain the impression that Harold was just fine, that he had friends and a regular social life and ran errands like everyone else.  I knew better.  If Harold had more friends than I could count on the fingers of one hand, I was an elf.

I’m not an elf, by the way.  The elfly half of D & D Investigations is my partner, Diz, and a gorgeous elf at that, if in a grouchy, The Rock kind of way.  I’m a regular old mortal like my mom and my Aunt Gloria and poor, missing Harold.  Well, maybe not exactly like the rest of my family.

“Can’t you do that thing?” my mother asked.

That’s why she was really calling me.  “That thing,” as my mother calls it, is the bit of magic sight that sometimes lets me catch a glimpse of things that are about to happen.  My mother doesn’t have any great confidence in my abilities as a hit-the-streets, work-the-clues kind of detective.  She does, however, think I have a crystal ball inside my skull that lets me see the future.  She believes my ability to predict what’s going to happen as much as she believes in the spiritual advice she gets from her neighbor who reads tarot cards for all the women in Merlin Heights, the subdivision where my mother and father have lived for the last forty years.

No matter how many times I’ve told my mother that my precog ability doesn’t work that way, she still insists on telling people I’m her little fortune teller.

“I’ll make some calls,” I said just as Diz opened the front door.

He raised a cinnamon-hued eyebrow at me.   I mouthed my mother and pointed at my cell phone.  He placed a white paper bag on my desk and tiptoed into the back office.

Not that Diz has to tiptoe, precisely.  For a guy with a bodybuilder’s physique, he’s light on his feet like all elves I’ve ever met.  I’d threaten to make him wear a bell around his neck like the one my cat has on her collar, but have I mentioned that Diz is one strong elf?  I’m not sure why he puts up with me, but the last thing I want to do is rock the boat.  One of the perks of running my own detective agency, besides not having to wear a uniform like I did when I first starting working as a cop, is that Diz is my partner.

“You don’t think… ”  My mother left the rest of the thought unspoken, but I knew what she meant.  While Harold didn’t have many friends, he did have one enemy.

“I’ll check that out, too,” I said.  “Tell Aunt Gloria she should try not to worry.”

My mother let out a humorous laugh.  “What’s to worry about, right?  It’s probably just the time of year.  Harold never did like Easter.”

I suppose if I’d been turned into a six-foot tall white rabbit when I was fifteen years old, I might not like Easter too much either.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Ties That Bind

Happy Thursday, Internets!  It’s April 7th, so you know what that means?  Snow!

Well, just spits of fine little flakes so far.  *knock on wood*  Let’s hope it stays that way.  The daffodils in my yard would appreciate not getting snowed under.

Thursday also means it’s Free Fiction day on my blog.  This week’s story is another Tale from The Shadows, this time about a wizard who works on the right side of the law.

Ties That Bind

Annie Reed

 Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

 

The first hint of trouble came from Gris in Research and Development.

“We’re having a bit of a problem getting the enchantments to stick to the new cuffs,” he said to me in an early morning phone call.

I’ve never done mornings well, but when you’re the wizard in charge of the largest magical enhancements company in the city, and a woman in a man’s profession to boot, whether you do mornings well or not doesn’t matter one damn bit.

I leaned back in my leather chair and gazed out my tenth floor office window at the overcast sky.  The streets below were still wet from last night’s rain. I could almost smell the wet asphalt.  It would probably rain again today.  I pinched the bridge of my nose against an impending headache that wasn’t all sinuses.

“Is it the alloy or the spell?” I asked Gris.

“Can’t tell yet,” he said.  “We’re still testing.  Just thought you should know, Nell.  Considering.”

Yeah.  Considering.

My company had a contract with the city to supply enhanced weapons and restraints to the police department.  Research and Development had been testing redesigned handcuffs.  Lighter-weight with an easy snap-close lock, the new handcuffs were supposed to address problems the cops had with the old handcuff design.  Personally, I thought any set of handcuffs that could keep a changeling in its true shape or prevent a wizard from casting a spell to escape custody were good enough, but my father built this company by supplying our customers with whatever they wanted.  And what the customer I had a meeting with later today wanted was new and better handcuffs.

“Keep me informed,” I said, and I hung up the phone.

I unlocked the bottom drawer in my desk and took out the thick, three-ring binder I kept there under lock and key.  To the uninitiated, the binder looked like nothing more than what a high school student might carry around in a backpack.  But instead of notes on Shakespeare, calculus, and the culture of ancient Rome, this notebook was chock full of page after page of spells and instructions written in a tiny, crabbed hand, all neatly separated into categories by brightly-colored index tabs.  My father had been anal in the extreme.  This was his spellbook.  What he’d built this company with.

And what he’d handed over to his only daughter when he died.

I glanced at my watch.  Eight-fifteen.  I had a little less than two hours before my meeting with the city’s purchasing director.  If the problem was in the enchantment, the answer should be in the spellbook.  I might not be powerful enough to cast the spell myself, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t spot a problem with the enchantment.

I opened the binder and started to read.

* * *

Templeton Rae showed up for our meeting ten minutes early.  Not surprising.  Templeton was a born pencil pusher.  He probably dreamed about numbers in neat, orderly columns that always balanced and never dipped over into the red.  Tall and gaunt-looking with a movie villain mustache, Templeton handled the city’s multi-million dollar purchasing contracts like every penny the city spent came from his own pocket.

I met him in the ninth floor conference room.  Outside of my office, this corner conference room had the best view in the building.  If the sky hadn’t started pouring rain an hour ago, we could have seen the snow-tipped peaks of the mountain range to the east from one set of floor to ceiling windows and across the bay to the exclusive homes on Marlette Island out the other.  The view today wasn’t quite as impressive.  Still, it never hurt to treat Templeton Rae to the best.

He didn’t shake my hand when I came into the conference room, not a good sign.  Still, I smiled my warmest smile and asked him about his family.

“Fine, they’re all fine, but let’s get to the point,” he said as we sat down — on opposite sides of the conference table.  “I’ve received a bid for lightweight, enchanted handcuffs that’s quite a bit lower than yours.”

I tried to keep my face impassive even though my heart rate went through the roof.  Our contracts with the city for the various enhanced items we produce comprised more than half of my company’s annual revenue.  If we lost the handcuff contract, that would just be the start of a long, slow slide into downsizing and maybe even bankruptcy.

(Read the rest of the story here.)