It was a typical day in the secluded La Fortunata area in Eureka, California—the sun beating down as if to smite all the evil that permeates every corner of the land, sirens constantly wailing in their pursuit of an endless supply of criminals, and the usual plateau of sounds as everyday civilians carried on with their daily routines.
I fall under the latter category.
My name is Erik Ashendale and people stared at me as I strode toward the elementary school some twenty blocks from my office.
Maybe it was the black trench coat. Maybe it was the sword handle that poked out now and then from under the side of the coat. It was placed horizontally across my lower back after all, for quick reach. Maybe it was the clank of metal as people noticed my twin pistols with the fear usually reserved for notorious gang members.
But mostly it was my reputation: Erik the Wizard, Erik the Creep, Erik who gets rid of supernatural nasties while everybody else prays to whatever deity they believe in. They all knew what I did for a living. They all poked their heads into my office window, hoping to catch a glimpse of me performing some ritual which summoned forth some ancient demonic entity. All they saw was my extensive collection of trinkets and, occasionally, my cat licking itself.
The stuff of tabloids, indeed.
I arrived at my destination and noted that the entire street was littered with police cars. It seemed that every police officer on the entire Pacific Coast had run here to point their gun at a mediocre school building.
I turned around and was face-to-face with a young blonde police officer in plainclothes.
“Fashionably so,” I replied.
Detective Roland March shifted his stance, clearly under stress, and fumbled in his jacket pocket for a pack of cigarettes. “Well, now you’re here. That’s good. I didn’t know who else to call. Inspector is on my back and I have no idea what to do. We’ve shot at them, but bullets don’t stop them.” Roland’s voice dripped in fear and awe. He was at a loss about what to do. “And,” he continued, his eyes now wide open, “they aren’t human. I swear, Erik, they looked like giant geckos on hind legs. No one wants to admit what they saw, but we all saw it. Looked like it belonged in a cheap sci-fi flick.” He sucked deeply on his cigarette, forcing himself not to panic in the vicinity of his subordinates.
“Lizards? Long necks, elongated snouts, tail thrashing about? Looked ready to eat every single one of you without a moment’s notice?”
“Yes!” Roland yelped. “Exactly like that. There are at least five in there.” The cigarette was half gone by now.
I smiled happily, much to Roland’s chagrin. “Lizardmen. You found Lizardmen.”
Roland looked at me like I had gone bonkers.
“Lizardmen are like the Big Foot of supernatural zoology. We’ve heard about them but there are few documented sightings. They’re extremely rare. And extremely dangerous.” I couldn’t keep the glee out of my voice. Everyone is a geek about something. I’ve known guys who are completely obsessed with Star Wars, or comic book characters. Heck, I knew a guy in elementary school who just wouldn’t shut up about aircraft. The fact that I get excited about parts of my job is a good thing. God knows there are many horrible and unsightly aspects to it.
“I don’t care if they are the Holy Grail of Voodoo. They can be whatever they want. All I want to know is how to get rid of them and save those poor kids inside,” Roland hissed. He’d lit his second cigarette.
“That’s why you called me. Only I have the necessary tools to get rid of them.”
Roland leaned in close. “You mean magic, right?”
I cringed my nose against the foul smell of his breath. “Yes, magic. I have explained all this to you before.” I yanked the half-finished cigarette from his mouth and with a will of effort I caused the whole thing to burst into flames.
“Hey, I wasn’t done with that!”
“Yes, you were. You already struggled to get all that weed you smoked as a teen out of your system when you enrolled. Do you really want a second addiction?” I asked as I walked with him toward the police cars and closer to the entrance of the school.
“So what’s the plan?”
“You get rid of every camera around here and have the bystanders leave. I will go in and do that voodoo I do so well. When I’m done, I’ll call you, you will collect the kids, and everybody will live happily ever after.”
“You wanna go in alone?”
“Yes. If any of you go in, it’s like providing them with a free lunch. Right now, I have a better chance at surviving them than all of you guys put together,” I said grimly.
Roland raised his hands. “Fine. I’m not gonna argue. I’ll say you’re a negotiator or something. Just call me the second it’s safe for my officers to go in that place. And Erik—” he called after me.
“Don’t screw up.”
I smirked. “When have I ever?” Before Roland could retort with very true accounts of my behavior around his crime scenes, I walked up to the front door. I un-holstered my guns, a pair of identical Berettas, and took a deep breath. I directed my grim thoughts toward the positive side. How my sister would kill to be in my position and be able to see, maybe even capture a fabled Lizardman. Amaymon, too, would have a hissy fit when he realized what he’d missed. After a few seconds of smiling like an idiot, I was ready to confront the horrors that had the entire police force cowering in their boots.
“Let’s go negotiate,” I said.