Hungover Peacekeeper Tiff is running late for work when she trips over her next job
|Tiff scratched at the fleas doing their good-morning brake-dance jive on her scalp and tried to concentrate on getting down her front steps hungover and pre-coffee. Since she hadn’t paid the rent, the stairs were not making the descent easy, bucking and vanishing underfoot.
She tripped over the victim, sprawled on the scratched concrete wailing. It took a few repeats on slow to work out what the kid was shouting. Tiff’s brain didn’t work well before her third shot of vodka.
“Yes.” The victim wrung her hands in dismay. “Can you help me?”
“Not like I have a choice now,” Tiff huffed. “You shouting your business up and down the street like that.” She checked her weapon, squinting down the dark, crooked street hopefully. “Maybe someone borrowed it?”
“He pushed me over.” The victim pointed at the ground helpfully. “By the time I got up, he was driving off.”
“Why were you parked here?”
“I was at the store getting breakfast...”
Tiff squinted at the sidewalk. The packet of bread and salad were salvageable. The smashed eggs and broken mayonnaise was not.
“Looks like lunch to me.”
The girl blinked in confusion.
“Does it matter?”
“Only if you’re lying.” Tiff folded her arms, trying to look wise and competent. It would have worked better if she wasn’t wearing mismatched boots, the uneven tread listing her to one side.
“You’re a Peacekeeper, right miss?”
“Right.” Tiff admitted. Since she was wearing full uniform and kit, it was a hard thing to deny.
“Can you help me?”
Tiff let out a long-suffering sigh. The Mayor had put a lot of pressure on her Department to be less predatory and more community-minded. Helping sweet school girls in crisis was probably exactly what he had been snarling on about. Tiff studied the conveniently located crime scene and wondered if this was a test.
She plastered on a big smile. The girl flinched.
“Sure!” Tiff beamed. “Problem is, perp could be anywhere.”
“There’s a kill-switch in the car. It won’t go far.”
“Then why are you here, yowling?”
“Nan said I wasn’t allowed to confront villains alone. She said if I was ever involved in a violent crime, I should contact a Peacekeeper.”
“Car-theft is not exactly a violent crime.”
“I fell over.” The girl pointed. “And it drew blood, see?”
She displayed a skinned knee. Tiff grunted.
“He went that way.” The girl pointed.
Tiff cussed and grumbled into a lumbering run. The girl followed, jogging lightly. They rounded a corner and slowed, partly because twenty-three and a half running steps was the exact distance Tiff’s smoke-damaged lungs would sustain and mostly because a pole was wrapped around a car just ahead.
“Got some neat shields on that car,” Tiff squinted.
The car was completely undamaged, but the self-defense-style shield on the bumper had left the lamp post a twisted, mangled mess. Not that the locals around here would whinge about an extra dark and shadowy street corner.
The car thief was a buckled, twisted mess in the middle of the street. He hadn’t been thrown clear. Despite the mess the pole was in, the car hadn’t hit that hard.
“Got some drama mixed in with that shield,” Tiff noted.
“Mum always said if someone hits her, she’ll hit them back twice as hard,” the girl explained brightly. “She also said if you’re going to leave a mark, make a crater.”
Since the perp was out of the car, he must have sensed the kill-switch. Not that running had helped his situation. Tiff winced at the ghastly twist of broken meat and splintered bones.
“Thank you, miss.”
Tiff gave the sweet little girl a second look.
“If you knew there was a kill-switch, why bother bringing me?”
“Cause he has a resurrection ward, miss.”
Tiff flinched as the corpse twitched and unwound, bones cracking and twitching back into place. “He’s a very dangerous man, miss.”
“Dangerous...” Tiff blinked, than rummaged through her fanny pack. “Damn it. Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“You should shoot him miss.”
Tiff wrinkled her nose.
“I’ve hit my monthly limit for arrest-related deaths. I have a stun spell in here somewhere.” Tiff swayed off balance as she dug about. She needed to stop using stun-spells to escape her one night stands. Taking a moment to refresh her kit before bolting out of the station to make five o’clock drinks would also help.
She gave the girl a look:
“You left your car unlocked, didn’t you?”
“And you’re all dressed up like a peppy school girl on a Saturday morning for a reason?”
“Yes miss.” The girl gave her wide eyes.
“He’s a serial thief, miss. Steals cars and scooters and carpets and personal jump mats. Preys on the weak, miss.”
The man was writhing and cracking as his spine unkinked. His eyes had unpopped so he could now glare at them balefully. Once his lungs inflated, he was able to speak:
“Kill you, skanky beetch...”
“You’ve met him before?”
“Pushed my Nan over last week,” the girl explained. “Broke her hip and stole her bag and dread spells.”
“Yes miss. But they didn’t chase him down, miss. They pushed me over and told me to stay out of the way. To leave the work for professionals, miss.”
“Ah, yeah,” Tiff started patting pockets as the thief cracked and popped himself upright. When he was in one piece he was tall, towering over her listing, alcohol-fumed five feet five. It looked like the kill-switch spell had broken every bone in his body. He looked plenty pissed.
“Would you like a stun-spell, miss?”
“Ah, yeah, do you...?” Tiff hesitated as the girl tossed a small green ball at the sneering car-thief. His sneer froze, his body skimmed with a temporary protective fall shield and he keeled over backward like a falling tree, gaze fixed.
“No drama in that spell,” she noted. “No pain or suffering either?”
“Stun-spells come with our uniforms, miss. In case we get accosted.”
Tiff realised she could stop patting pockets. She plucked out a note-book. People stopped griping when she had a note-book in hand and looked thoughtful.
“Right. That’s you’re hover?”
“My Nan’s miss.”
“She lets you drive it?”
“Broken hip, miss.”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. Any chance you could help me lug this thug to the station?”
They grabbed handfuls of greasy nastiness and hauled the thug to the boot. The fact the boot was marked with freshly-painted anti-spell wards that made Tiff’s skin crawl did not surprise her. They grunted and cussed and heaved the man’s limp, stinking weight into the boot.
“Don’t you have weightless-ness wards, miss?”
“Ran out,” Tiff winced, recalling that particular one-night stand. Fun.
The girl slammed the lid enthusiastically a few times, then they paused to rearrange the man so his head wasn’t in the way.
“You do nice work, kid.”
“How does a nice girl like you get spells like that? Shield spells that break things and kill-spells that make a mess like that?”
“I sold bits of me, miss.”
Tiff circled to the driver’s seat, recalled the kill-switch and kept circling. The kid followed her cue as they circled the car awkwardly, kid sliding in behind the wheel. The inside of the car looked like old lady but smelt like unwashed creep.
“Hair. A bit of blood.” The girl fidgeted, flashing Tiff a wary look. “Don’t tell my Nan. She says you should do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“You do stuff like this often?”
“Sometimes. At school.”
Tiff gave the girl a wry look.
“My dad’s a hero,” the girl explained. “My mum’s a villain. It comes out funny in us half-breeds, Nan reckons.”
Tiff slid down the seat. It was nice to be sitting down. One of her boots were giving her blisters. She had no idea who it belonged to, or where hers was.
“You gonna be a Peacekeeper when you grow up?”
“Na, miss. Nan wants me to get a real job.”
“Your Nan sounds like a wise lady. Reckon we can stop for coffee on the way to the station?”