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Tail and Trouble

Tail and Trouble

Vorschau lesen

Tail and Trouble

Länge:
258 Seiten
17 Stunden
Freigegeben:
May 10, 2016
ISBN:
9781533760869
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

When Gabriel’s witch girlfriend doesn’t return from her latest trip, he gets on the road and heads out to find her. Sheila's coven is secretive and distrustful of Gabriel, so the only help he has is Sheila's familiar, a bulldog named Orson, who is psychically linked to both of them.

In Florida, they walk right into an elaborate plan to steal Orson. A mysterious wizard named Yareth is behind the plot, and he may also know where Sheila is.

Gabriel and Orson will have to fight for their lives as they navigate around all the magical roadblocks to force Yareth’s hand. They won’t give up until Sheila is safe.

Freigegeben:
May 10, 2016
ISBN:
9781533760869
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and their adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, light designer, and production manager. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles.


Buchvorschau

Tail and Trouble - Victor Catano

ONE

I inched my red Ford Galaxie forward. Orson lay in the passenger seat, splayed out, with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He had dozed off as if he hadn’t a care in the world. The barely there AC wheezed and whimpered, harmonizing with Orson’s snoring.

The road to Charleston was clogged with midday commuters and early weekend traffic. Ahead were flashing emergency lights. We weren’t going anywhere, and we had places to be. Annoyed, I started to drum my fingers on the wheel. That didn’t last long, as the vinyl was so hot I was afraid my hand would get stuck to it.

The fan blew hot air in my face. I checked the temperature gauge. The arrow was creeping up to the red. I sighed. The last thing I needed was to overheat on the highway.

I tapped Orson on his furry brown leg. He opened his eyes and favored me with a disdainful stare.

I motioned to the traffic jam. Little help?

Orson yawned, scratched behind one ear with a back paw, then gave his privates a lick just to make sure they were still there. Finally, he glanced up at the road. He barked once, a spark flaring in his eyes.

The police lights went off as the accident got cleared over to the shoulder. The traffic began to move. As our speed got back above thirty, the engine cooled a bit.

Happy? Too hot. Let me sleep.

I felt the thought in my head, gruff and growling. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I patted him on the head. Thanks, Orson.

He grunted and was back asleep in under a minute. The way the bulldog’s hindquarters were twitching, he was probably dreaming about violating an uptight poodle. I smiled. Orson had a way with the ladies, human and canine.

The thermometer was still too close to the red for my liking, so I decided to pull off the freeway to give the car a rest. The next exit was for Myrtle Beach. Sheila had always been a beach person. She loved to sit on the hot sand and watch the waves; I loved to see her in a swimsuit. When I flipped on my turn signal, Orson’s eyes popped open, and he sat up in the seat. He whined pitifully. He liked beaches, too. And he missed his mama. We had been on the road for over eight hours, trying to find her trail.

We had to circle around for a minute, but we finally got a spot in an ideal location, close to both a hot dog stand and the beach. After Orson and I had walked along the shore line and splashed our feet in the bathtub-warm surf, I bought us lunch: a plain hot dog for Orson, chili cheese for me. Orson wanted chili, but I said no. Maybe if he didn’t sleep with his butt in my face, I would reconsider. Orson wolfed his down in a minute. I leaned against the car and ate mine, the thirteen-year-old part of my brain snickering at a gift shop called the Gay Dolphin. I was sure there was an innocent reason for the name, but I couldn’t help imagining a dolphin on rollerblades.

The groups of college kids gave us a wide berth. Even though there were plenty of No Dogs Allowed signs, no one bothered us. People didn’t really notice Orson unless he wanted to be noticed.

And he definitely wanted those two blond sorority girls in bikinis to notice him. I mentally dubbed them Muffy and Buffy.

Oooh, he’s adorable! Muffy squealed. I love bulldogs!

Can I pet him? Buffy cooed.

Orson was already rubbing his head against her leg, the gold flecks in his brown eyes flashing. Muffy and Buffy didn’t wait for an answer. Both bikini-clad girls bent over and petted his back. Orson bobbed his head up, pressing it against their breasts.

He’s so funny! Muffy said. He thinks he’s people!

If you only knew.

Orson rolled onto his back, and the girls cooed as they rubbed his belly.

You dirty dog.

Orson grinned. Don’t hate the player.

Two frat boys jogged up. Their build and their attitude told me they were probably football players. Since they were both under six feet and a little thick around the waist, I guessed they were small college, big enough to be irritating but small enough that they had to prove how tough they were every chance they got.

Hey, what’s going on? one asked.

What you doing with our ladies, brah? the other one added.

Sigh. "I’m not doing anything, brah. Your ladies asked to pet my dog."

Orson twitched ecstatically as the two girls continued to scratch his belly.

The first one took a step closer. Well, they can stop.

I gestured at the petting-fest. No one’s forcing them. That was mostly true. Orson couldn’t force people to do anything completely against their will. But everybody wanted to pet Orson.

The second one waved at the girls. Yo, Kylee, come on.

Yeah, let’s go, Buffy, the first one added.

Huh. Her name really was Buffy. The two girls ignored the guys and continued to coo over Orson, getting dangerously close to breaking whatever animal husbandry laws South Carolina might have had.

Chad and Biff moved closer to me and puffed out their chests, glaring.

What the fuck, man? Biff said.

Yeah, what the fuck? Chad echoed.

Like I said, no one is forcing your ladies to pet my dog. If they would rather pet him than talk to you, can you blame them? Orson is a lot more charming than the two of you.

They furrowed their unibrows. After a second, their eyes popped wide. I thought I even heard them growl. I knew I shouldn’t goad them. Sheila was always telling me I would insult the wrong person one day. Not that I was worried about a fight. The day I couldn’t handle two stupid frat boys was the day they could put me in a home to eat lime Jell-O and watch Law & Order reruns. I wasn’t huge and my army training hadn’t given me bulging muscles, so a lot of idiots who were bigger than I was thought they could push me around. They didn’t try that more than once.

Biff glared at me. What did you say, brah?

Oh well. In for a penny. I spread out against the hood of the car, my left hand resting near the antenna. I shifted my weight, so I’d be ready to move. "What, are you deaf and stupid?"

Chad’s nostrils flared, and he lunged at me. I snapped off the antenna and whipped it at him. Whap! A cut opened up under his eye. He clapped a hand over the wound and fell back. Before Biff could react—whap!—he screamed and grabbed his face. Chad swung blindly at me. I sidestepped then gave him a straight palm to his nose. Blood flowed from his face, and he crumpled into a heap.

The two girls were still purring at Orson. Someone else would probably notice the bloodied frat boys, though. I picked up Orson and dumped him in the passenger seat. I slid in beside him and drove off.

Hey! We were having a moment! Go play with your friends some more.

I checked the rear view mirror. The girls were still bent over where Orson had been. They kind of shook themselves awake, then they noticed their boyfriends rolling around on the sidewalk. I could hear them scream from two blocks away.

TWO

We got back on the highway and headed out of town. Once we were a safe distance away, I glared at Orson. Well, you were no help at all back there.

Sorry. Too busy having fun. Try it sometime.

Yeah. Well, your fun nearly got us in trouble.

Really? You took them in five seconds. What is trouble? Ten?

Just because you can’t resist a tummy rub.

Orson grinned, his tongue lolling dangerously far out of his mouth. Maybe if I had a chili dog, I wouldn’t have noticed them.

I should just get you neutered.

Orson growled, and I grinned. I would never do that to Orson. Sheila would kill me if I did anything to him, even something recommended by Bob Barker. Still, it helped to remind him that I could, especially when he tried to be too cute.

Sheila would never say that.

I frowned. Sheila’s not here.

Don’t I know it.

It had been two weeks since we’d seen Sheila. Her coven had been asking her to do more and more for them, and she wasn’t always comfortable with her assigned tasks. That had caused tension between us. I would tell her that she didn’t have to do everything they wanted, especially if they were pressuring her, and she’d sigh and say it wasn’t that easy. But there had been nothing to indicate that she would leave me, and even if the fights had gotten to that point, she would never have left without Orson.

Orson was her dog. That was how we met. Orson had been chasing after some piece of tail in the park. Sheila ran after him, her long dark hair whipping behind her, and she didn’t see the handsome man stepping into her path until she ran into him. That handsome guy being me.

Three years later, Orson still wouldn’t admit if he had arranged the meeting on purpose. He claimed that he had caught the scent of a Weimaraner, but I didn’t remember seeing any other dogs in the park that day.

Orson also claimed not to know where Sheila was. The infuriating thing was that I believed him. They were linked. If Sheila wanted us to find her, Orson would know, provided she was still alive. I was certain Orson would feel it if she wasn’t, and I was sure he would tell me. Well, pretty sure.

I opened the glove box and pulled out the Snausage bag. Sorry, pal. That was too far.

Orson hoovered up the treats then chuffed. Me too.

I miss her, you know.

Me too.

Mmm-Mama. Orson whined and barked the words out loud.

Yes, Orson. Mama, indeed. I sighed and scratched that spot behind his ear. He rolled onto his back for more.

Turn on the radio.

Shut up.

After another four hours in my hotbox of a car, we stopped at a 7-Eleven for radiator coolant. I picked up some taquitos for Orson. They weren’t fit for human consumption, but Orson drooled with anticipation. No accounting for taste.

The sun was setting, making the night a little cooler. I sat on the hood of the Galaxie, ate a Lunchable, and thought about Sheila.

She had been distracted and distant for a while. Something was obviously on her mind, but she wouldn’t tell me what was going on. Orson wouldn’t, either. There weren’t two people closer than she and I, except maybe for her and Orson.

She had left the apartment to get the Sunday New York Times, and that was the last I had seen of her.

Orson and I scoured the streets around our New York apartment on the Upper West Side, then we drove from Battery Park up to Yonkers. We searched Riverside Park, the Cloisters, and the Sheep’s Meadow, all of her favorite places, but she wasn’t there. Usually, Orson could talk to her and sense her presence, but he couldn’t get a bead on her. After two weeks with no word from her, we became desperate. So with reluctance, I checked in with her friends at the coven.

I had never really gotten along with the witches of Sheila’s coven. I tolerated them because they were important to her, and they did the same for me, for the most part. When I entered the backroom of the New-Age bookstore where they held their meetings, I could feel the chill as twelve sets of eyes glared at me.

She was destined for great things, Ramona said. The High Priestess shook her long black hair. But she was getting distracted. She was putting other things ahead of the Order.

I know you’ve never cared for me, but Sheila’s missing. I haven’t heard from her in two weeks.

Just like a man. Maureen sniffed. Always thinking it’s about him. She had never liked me. Sheila had once taken me to a coven Solstice party, and Maureen got all huffy that a man had violated their circle.

What are you worried about? Ramona asked. She’s been away before.

Sheila did sometimes travel on business and business. She sold supplies to new-age stores across the country, and she also hunted for esoterica and historical items for the coven. But she always left me a note. Sometimes, the messages were a sudden and a little vague, but they were always there. Once, she and Orson had disappeared after leaving behind only a Post-It that read BRB: Off to Cheyenne! I woke up a week later to find the two of them in bed next to me and a pair of incredible black boots on the floor. I wore those boots all the time after that.

Yes, but not this long. Not without calling. Is she out on a job for you?

Ramona smiled mockingly. I can’t say. I don’t like to discuss our affairs with outsiders. Besides, if she is missing, how do we know you didn’t do something to her?

It took every ounce of willpower I had not to throttle her smug little neck. Orson barked.

Lisa looked down at him. She was Sheila’s closest friend in the coven. When someone called a woman handsome, Lisa was the person they had in mind. She had a pleasant bearing and attitude, but her eyes had aged with worry lines.

I’ve heard reports of witches being harassed all over the place, Ramona continued. How do we know you aren’t trying to cover your tracks by pretending to search for her?

Stop it! Lisa yelled. Do you think Orson would be with him if he did anything to Sheila?

A murmur rose from the others.

I glared at them. Please, if you know something, tell me. She’s never been gone for so long without letting us know where she is.

No one responded. Lisa shifted her gaze between Ramona and me. She opened her mouth as if to say something then closed it. There was nothing left to do. I walked out of the backroom and was at the back door when Lisa ran after me.

Gabriel, wait! She put her hand on my shoulder. I’m sorry about Ramona.

Can you help? I asked in a rush, hoping that she would respond better separated from the rest of the witches. Do you have any idea where Sheila might have gone? She’d been in a bad mood ever since she got back from the last trip she went on for you. What did she get?

It’s hard to explain.

Lisa, please. I’m begging you. It’s been weeks. I’m desperate. Why would she leave without Orson? What could have happened?

I don’t know. When she came back, she didn’t have what we asked her to find. She wouldn’t talk about it, either.

Where did you send her?

She hesitated. I’m really not supposed to say. It was coven business.

I tried not to roll my eyes. The coven was worse than the mafia with their omerta bullshit. If it was coven business, it was going to be shrouded in secrecy, even though it was probably something monumentally petty. Ramona could be extremely demanding and bossy, and Sheila sometimes got fed up with her.

Once Sheila had been sworn to secrecy about some coven business when she had to go out of state to find something. It turned out to be a case of Moxie soda for Ramona’s birthday. When I asked her why that was such a big secret, Sheila said that the coven had powerful enemies, and if they knew what kind of drinks Ramona liked, anything could happen. She kept a straight face for three seconds then fell back on the bed, laughing, her gold-flecked hazel eyes twinkling.

I had chuckled with her. Moxie tastes so bad, how could you tell if it was poisoned?

Sheila tried to answer, but she was laughing too hard. I wasn’t laughing anymore.

I narrowed my eyes at Lisa. Sheila says Ramona’s always talking about how witches still face persecution. What if something happened to her?

Lisa was trying to stammer out an excuse when Orson let out a doleful whine. He gave Lisa the sad puppy eyes. Mama, he woofed.

I pointed at the dog. Think of Orson! How can he function without her?

Lisa sighed. I can’t tell you what she went to find.

Come on, Lisa!

Lisa had been friends with Sheila since high school. They had double-dated to prom. Sheila had even helped Lisa get out of a bad relationship with a really abusive man.

I have to get back. She glanced toward her desk, near the front of the store. You know, I really should clean up around here a little more. I leave so much stuff just lying around. Receipts. Travel itineraries. Anyone could just walk over and take that blue folder.

She spun and headed back to the meeting room. I went over to the desk, grabbed the blue folder, and trotted out of the store. In the car, I sifted through the papers. I found a receipt for a plane ticket to Jacksonville with Sheila’s name on it. Orson and I had headed south.

I was pulled out of my reverie by Orson snuffling gleefully as he wolfed down the taquitos. I checked the fuel gauge. The Galaxie got about eighteen miles to the gallon, brand new. It was not brand new. And when it was new, gas had cost about sixty cents a gallon, not five times that. The beast was hungrier than Orson and had much more expensive tastes.

I pulled up to the pump and put in the nozzle. The display asked for a credit card. Orson?

Orson barked, and his eyes glowed in the dark. The display changed to Approved, and I filled up the tank. A bunch of my friends had died liberating oil from Iraq. I considered the theft as getting a little payback.

Orson rolled over in the passenger seat and burped loudly. He was smelly, but he did have his good side.

Not long afterward on I-95, we passed a friendly billboard.

WELCOME TO FLORIDA!

ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU CAME?

We were almost there. I hoped.

THREE

At nine o’clock, we pulled off the highway north of Jacksonville and found a cheap motel. After driving all day, I was exhausted. But I still spent a few hours staring at the water-stained ceiling until I

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