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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

The protagonist (of Merchant Magician, by John Champaign)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man known by many — usually unflattering — nicknames. He’s here to tell us about trading mystical goods and services, about meeting mermaids in San Francisco, Midwestern leprechauns, Icelandic dwarves and the girl of his dreams, who happens to be a cultist.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born right here in the U.S.  I had friends who would tease me and call our house a mansion, but it wasn’t really.  No servants or anything like that.  We’d traveled for vacations, which was always fun, and helped prepare me for all the travelling I ended up doing.  My dad was always getting my sister and me ready to work for the family business.  Looking back, I’d say I really “grew up” during my adventures after my 23rd birthday, which is where the book I wrote begins.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I always loved Transformers.  I had a vintage “Soundwave”, he was the one that turned from a robot into a microcassette recorder and had the cassettes that also transformed!  When I was eight, some nymphs who my dad was doing business with gave me a magic sword, but my parents took it away from me when they caught me cutting a boulder in two in our backyard.  I was angry at the time, but they were totally right – that was no toy for an eight year old to be playing with.  It’s like in that old Christmas Story movie when everyone is telling him he’s going shoot out his eye.  “You’re going to chop off your own leg, kid” is what I’d say to an eight year old with a magic sword today.

What do you do now?

Busy setting up deals and trying to build my business.  My expectation was that running my own shop would give me tons of freedom, but it’s just been putting out one fire after another.  Just arranging the fair dealing guidelines with the demons has been almost impossible.  Things with the dwarves have been going smoothly, but it’s obviously very time consuming.  Financing the vampire hunters has probably been the easiest project, but smoothing over the strong personalities is a bit of a pain in the ass.  I haven’t been having nightmares about the mermaids since we started dealing with one another over Zoom, so that’s been a big improvement with them.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I saved reality as we know it and no one gives me the slightest bit of credit for it.  I wasn’t expecting parades or anything, but my father was more proud about the deal with the dwarves.  Your blog has been the first press I’ve gotten!  No other interviews!!!  It’s as bad as people ignoring information about the supernatural, except even supernatural beings themselves act awkward and change the subject whenever I bring up saving reality.

My big advice to anyone on a quest to save reality is:  Do it.  If reality needs saving, you gotta do it.  But don’t expect any accolades at the end.

Continue reading “The protagonist (of Merchant Magician, by John Champaign)”

Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man leading a revolution. He’s here to talk about cybernetic implants and fighting immortal dragons.


Beryl? Can you hear me, Beryl?

What? Ow. Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on a train. I used my implant, and… I don’t remember. Ow. My head.

It’s all right. The confusion will pass. It’s normal in these situations.

I don’t know normal. And what is this situation?  Who are you?

Just the one asking the questions. You want to answer my questions, don’t you?

I… for some reason, I do. That’s weird. Will you answer my questions?

Not really. Tell us a little about the city of Viridia. What is it like there?

I hate it. I’ve hated it all my life. No one’s really happy here. The green dragon rules over everything. His soldiers and draconics impose his will. If you’re not useful to him, you’re dead. I know that better than most.

Sounds like you really hate the dragon.

Of course I do! I want to kill him. And the other five dragons. They’ve ruled over the cities for too long.

Do you have any cherished memories from childhood? Surely something must have been worthwhile in your early life.

I… don’t like to talk about my childhood. My parents. I didn’t have a good relationship with them after… No, I’m not talking about that. You can’t make me. And they’re dead now, anyway.

Dead? What happened?

An accident. The same one that crippled me. I wouldn’t be able to even walk now if my friend Loden hadn’t given me a cybernetic implant to control my legs.

Interesting. Does this implant do anything else?

I can use it to give extra boosts of energy to my legs. Run faster, jump higher. Wait. Why am I telling you this? It’s forbidden technology!

Continue reading “Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)”

Ammo (of A Voice That Thunders, by Cully Mack)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man, an Acquisitioner — a mortal who loves taking risks and chances, but lives by a code. He’s here to tell us about immortals conquering as gods and a tiny band of rebels preparing to take back their world.


Tell me a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I spent my early years on the island of Mallach.  It’s a paradise tainted by my father and his thieving cutthroats.  As ya can imagine, it has the usual sweat reeking beerhouses like this one, and houses of pleasure to keep the men entertained.  Fortresses govern the hilltops, piers rule the docks, and impenetrable defences stand sentry beneath the waves.   

Keeping with tradition, I was born at sea.  The night of my mother’s anguish was the only time my father released her from her cell.  Ya see, she was the one person he couldn’t control, a Chashmalim, a mind speaker, so he’d locked her away.  

From the moment my legs held my weight, I began learning the Acquisitioners trade.  I can see by ya expression ya have heard of em.  Then ya know we take pride in knowing our enemy. 

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Are ya serious?  I just told ya, he locked my mother away. 

Apologies, I never set the questions.

Well, I cut my teeth on a dagger handle if ya want to call that a toy. I did have a dog for a while.  My father said it made me soft.  I ain’t cherished nothing since.

As for memories, after several failed attempts to free my mother, and swearing I’d never give up, my father killed her as well.  The flare in his eye as he waited for my rage is something I’ll never forget.  

That’s quite a history.  So how did you end up working for Meciel and what is it like?

Meciel wanted an Acquisitioner, and everyone knows I’m the best.  We don’t always see eye to eye, and before ya ask, it ain’t coz the old hermit says he’s immortal.  Who cares if he’s crazy, believing he and others like him came from another realm?  He required an army. I knew where to recruit men.  He needed ships. I knew how to build em. 

He pays well, better than I’d make on the hostage racket.  So I put up with his talk of impending war and everything else… Makes me wonder though.  Have you seen the empires they’re building and the size of their gigantic sons?  Maybe they are gods, though Meciel denies it. 

Truth is, he ain’t keen on my sideshows.  He insists I focus on his tasks and nothing else, but I got a reputation to uphold.  Life ain’t only about silver.  I’m the best Acquisitioner on the seas for a reason, and doing the jobs nobody else will keeps me at the top.

What can you tell me about this latest adventure?

I can tell ya one thing, Sojin is excited.  All he wants is to kill the god who murdered his mother.  The way he sees it, we’re finally heading in the right direction.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s got skills, trained him myself, so I know how good he is, but he ain’t ready.  Anyway, we just met Meciel in Lithanos and picked up the one he’s chosen to lead his army. 

Continue reading “Ammo (of A Voice That Thunders, by Cully Mack)”

Effie Tsiragakis (of Bloodsucking Bogans, by Tabitha Ormiston-Smith)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a library assistant. She is here to talk about her policewoman friend investigating a plague of dead rats and finding something quite else.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Oh, I’ve always been a Dingo Flats girl. Same old. Out of the three of us, me and my two BFFs Sam and Shanna, only Sam left, to go to the Police Academy, and now she’s back too. It’s not a bad place for a Western suburb. There’s a big library, that’s where I work. And of course there’s the Vet Hospital. One pub and a nightclub, and a river runs along the edge of town, so it’s nice for picnics and that.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Cherished memories, umm… yeah nah I reckon my best memory hasn’t happened yet, but one of the most fun things I’ve done was staking out that hot vet, Gordon Somerville. It was just like being a real detective. Sam was real cross about it – she reckons only cops should do that kinda stuff, but hey. It all worked out for the best. It was for her benefit, anyway. A good deed is its own reward, right?

What do you do now?

I work in the Dingo Flats library. It’s what I wanted to do. I stuck out school all the way to Year 12 to qualify for it. I mean, I was sooooo tempted to leave when Shanna did, she got an apprenticeship at Scissors ya know, and all of a sudden there she is working and earning money and that, and here’s me and Sam still kids at school having to ask our Dads for our pocket money. It was hard. But I made the sacrifice and I love my job. I get to read everything, and even better, I get to know what everyone else is reading. I mean, not many people would guess that Mrs Peabody reads hot steamy fireman porn, right?

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

OMG. The last few months’ve been so epic. Sam came back, she got a posting at the nick back here, so it was wonderful just for a start, the three of us all together again. Me and Shanna had a ball giving her a makeover. Sam’s such a dag. ‘Makeup doesn’t go with the uniform,’ she reckons. OMG and you should hear her get started on drink driving. She’s always taking our keys off me and Shanna. But the most fun thing this year was when Sam investigated how all the dead rats kept appearing outside the shops down the main drag, and you won’t believe what she found out! It’s totally awesome!

Continue reading “Effie Tsiragakis (of Bloodsucking Bogans, by Tabitha Ormiston-Smith)”

Luna (of Pink, Not Fanged, by Paige Etheridge)

Dear readers, tonight we interview a young woman who found herself at the clashing point of science and the supernatural. She is here to talk about anxiety, the dangers of the Amazon river, and were-dolphins.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I lived in Narragansett,  Rhode Island until I was eighteen. A beach town known as Gansett by locals. Being in New England, it’s cold much of the year. Despite this I walked along the beach all the time, whether it was returning home from school or just to wander while looking at the ocean. Narragansett is also known for it’s Witch’s Altar and Druid’s Chair. Joseph Peace Hazard built the Druid styled burial site for his family. Even though it’s located in a rich and considerably safe neighborhood, I was always too scared to go there. It wasn’t just because of my conflicts over the paranormal at the time. I was terrified I’d run into classmates doing crazy stuff there. It’s the perfect place to have sent my anxiety through the roof. I hated parties and drugs. Add illegal trespassing and satanic rituals? I’m staying as far away as possible. 

So do you believe in ghosts, spirits, the paranormal?

I tried not to for a long time. It scared me too much and anything which spiked my anxiety was something I always ran away from. The science I long studied didn’t give such things much value. Yet this didn’t comfort me. Somehow I knew science didn’t have the real answers for any of this. Answers about the mysterious  woman and Amazon River Dolphins I dreamed about. Answers about the power from the Dolphin tooth I found. Spending years being haunted by the ghost of a Weredolphin and finally having the paranormal literally staring you in the face changed that. I didn’t start to believe, I started to know it’s real.

Do you know how you got your name?

I don’t actually. Yet for years of my life, I very much felt like the moon. Watching others from afar. Living in my own space far from others. Not known well by most. Most of the time people passed me without a thought. Occasionally I would be stared at and it would terrify me. I found comfort being isolated and alone. But overtime, I learned to illuminate through my own light. 

Did you have any favourite things as a child? Any cherished memories?

There were glow in the dark stars on my ceiling I loved looking at when I couldn’t go outside to look at the real stars. I didn’t have things I was attached to as a child. I loved stargazing. It’s one of the few things which calmed me as a kid. I still take much comfort in it now, even if the constellations visible to me have changed. I don’t remember my family much. We were all ghosts to each other. Barley seeing or interacting with one another. 

Do you have thoughts on Astrology/Astronomy? 

Both are of equal value to me now that I know what I know. But there is still much I need to learn about both. Looking to the stars teaches you a lot, but not everything. There is still much I need to do in order to better understand the Cosmos. But there are also things I won’t understand even in my new life. Yet I can still gaze in awe. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I was in combat training with a Werejaguar. The first Jaguar I ever encountered nearly killed me. Training with a Werejaguar, who can take on both Jaguar and Humanoid form, has given me the advantages I need to survive in the wilderness. I have scars to prove it and I’m proud of them. 

Continue reading “Luna (of Pink, Not Fanged, by Paige Etheridge)”

Jie Yan (of Thorn of the Night Blossoms, by JC Kang)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with an half-elf member of anb imperial assassin clan.


It’s early in the afternoon in a empty tea house in the corner of the Floating World. I beckon to a young courtesan and her half-elf apprentice, who approach with sensual grace.

Though they appear demure—well, the courtesan does—I know they’re members of the imperial spy clan.

I swallow hard. Even though I outweigh both of them combined, either could probably kill me with a pinkie.

It’s the latter I’m here to question, since she’s head of the cell embedded in the Floating World. They don’t know who I am or what I already know, just that their clan has ordered them to answer all of my questions.  At my invitation, they bow their heads and take a seat.

Greetings, Miss Jie. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. Please, have  a seat.

<looks around> The clan commanded I give you my full cooperation. Still, this is highly irregular.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My father abandoned me at the Black Lotus Temple when I was just a baby. He probably thought, just like you are thinking now, that they train the best accountants and scribes in the realm.

I shouldn’t be telling you this, but here’s a little secret: we’re actually the emperor’s secret spies and assassins. So yes, we did learn reading, writing, and accounting, but we also trained in stealth, acrobatics, and combat. There were nights I just wanted to die: my muscles ached from stretching, every nerve fired torture resistance training, I was vomiting my guts out from testing poisons, or my head hurt from trying to remember eighty-nine items.

It sounds harsh, but my fellow clan sisters and brothers were family. We had time for fun, like dodge blades or pin the knife in the traitor.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

YES! Every initiate’s most treasured memory is receiving their first real throwing star.

What do you do now?

Utterly wasting my talents. You see, while some of us go on dangerous missions to safeguard the realm, the most beautiful of us get assigned to the Floating World to entertain rich men and learn their secrets. My cover, as the only known half-elf in the world, is as a courtesan-in-training. The deployment was supposed to last just two years, but it’s now going on four, because Floating World conventions dictate a Blossom can’t be Plucked until the flower with Heaven’s Dew.

Yeah, I don’t like all that flowery language, either. Thankfully, my best friends Lilian and Wen are here, and we train in secret with other clan sisters almost every day.

Continue reading “Jie Yan (of Thorn of the Night Blossoms, by JC Kang)”

Thya (of Illusional Reality, by Karina Kantas)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a marketing exec turned heir to a magical kingdom. She’s here to tell us about power and destiny.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Well, I’m from the UK, at least I thought I was. Turned out I was adopted and was born in Tsinia a magical land on Enumac.  My adopted parents were amazing and gave me love and everything I needed.  Thanks to them, I went to college and studied hard and then got a position in a prestigious Marketing firm and worked my way up before becoming an executive.

I was happy in my own way. I lived by myself in a converted loft in the centre of town and was single and I thought my life path was set. But little did I know that everything I thought was real was just an illusion  and everything I knew as truth, was, in fact, a lie,

What do you do now?

Now I’m Queen of Tsinia, my real home. Guardians to the Changlins (the sacred stones.) When I found out who I was, it took a lot to finally accept my rightful destiny.  I was very stubborn, well I still am. But I refused to take the crown and demanded they send me back home. Especially when I found out what they had planned for me. Can you imagine, waking up in a  strange land, being told you are the heir and you have magical powers and that you’re to marry an evil warlord’s son, which it was said, he was the one who slew my parents, the rulers of Tsinia (the Ganties.)

I didn’t know these Tsinians and yet their govern committee decided that an alliance between the two lands, Senx and Tsinia would create peace and I was supposed to be the cement. So stubborn me refused their plans and to meet with Darthorn and my decision caused death and destruction. Knowing what I do, If I could have gone back, I would have done things a lot differently.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The first adventure was bittersweet and there are some things I don’t want to speak about. Eventually, I agreed to meet with Darthorn but I refused the marriage to Kovon, Darthorn’s son. I had it in my head that we could create peace without a union. Hey, I was young and stubborn and didn’t know any better. Let’s just say the meeting didn’t go well. 

I was being tutored in the Tsinian code by Pertuis and Alkazar was my tutor in my gifts ( as we like to call them) but it was his duty to teach me how to use my powers and control them. As a Gantie, I had the gift of Mynd, where I could make things move with my mind. I turned out I was a special Gantie where only one other ever existed with the added power to control the five elements.

Then something surprising happened and I was once again asked to speak to the Warlord of Senx. I was trained in my gifts and could use them if needed. But Alkazar spoke of another will that was fighting to get control of me. I didn’t know what he was referring to, but I remember blacking out several times and not remembering what happened. Alkazar and I tried to fight our feelings about each other. Just after the announcement that we were going to both return to Earth and get married, reality came crashing down and I lost my love.  I went back to Earth hoping never to return to Tsinia, however, I gave them my word that should they require their princess, to call for me at once. These Tsinians were my kinsmen and I refused to let them down again.

Continue reading “Thya (of Illusional Reality, by Karina Kantas)”

Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mermaid princess, desperately trying to avert war — even if it means transitioning into a human.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

This might come as a shock to most people who haven’t met me, but I wasn’t always a land-walking human. I used to be a Mermaid, living in the Channel between Overcliff and the mainland. The mer-kingdom is called Undersea, and it was once much shallower, I’m told, back when the humans, the fairies, and the Merfolk all engaged in trade with one another. That ended, and instead of building taller as the years went on, the Merfolk dug deeper to build their towers, until the “floor” of our city lay deep in the shadows of the ocean. We didn’t venture much higher than the tallest Watchtower at the center of the city, and the only humans we ever saw were the drowned ones that fell with their wrecked ships. It was only by a miracle that I was ever able to not only reach the surface, but be able to exchange my tail for legs and walk among the humans, to breathe air and live as they do.

Do you have any cherished memories from your childhood? What was the one thing you wanted more than anything else when you were young?

Well, I suppose the two are sort of related; they both have to do with my mother. You see, when I was still very young, my mother disappeared, tangled in the net of a fishing boat passing through the Channel–at least, that’s as much as anyone knows. I have vague memories of her, looking up into her kind face as she held me in her arms, sitting in her throne next to the King, my father. More than anything else, I would want to see her again. Her disappearance is what stoked my father’s anger against the humans, such that he would use my magical Gift of Song to sway the minds of his councilors to bend to his will. More than anything I just want my family to be whole again, so that I don’t have to be afraid of what might happen as a result of too many rash decisions!

What do you mean by “Gift of Song”?

I mentioned before about the humans, the Merfolk, and the fairies living in harmony with one another. Back in the days of old, the Merfolk and the humans would trade with one another, and every Great Moon, the fairies would come and bestow gifts upon humans and merfolk alike. They chose infants to gift, since each fairy only had one Gift to give, and there weren’t as many of them. That ended when the human King seemed to arbitrarily decide that the fairies were no longer welcome among them, and they set up gates of iron and other repellants to drive the fairies away and ensure that they couldn’t ever come back. (I have since learned that the human King’s decision was not arbitrary, but borne of great tragedy, similar to my father’s own decision to go to war) At the next Great Moon Rising, a few fairies came to bestow Gifts on some Mer-children, and to tell us that this would be the last time they would come. I was the last infant born before that time, so I received the last fairy Gift: the Gift of Song.

According to my godmother, the fairy who gave the Gift spoke thus: “May the music of your voice bring comfort to the heavy heart, courage to the fearful heart, wisdom to the foolish one, and truth to the hearts darkened by falsehood. May those whose hearts are noble be drawn by the sound of your Gift.”

It followed that whenever I sang or even spoke, my voice would compel all who heard it to listen. Unfortunately, after my mother disappeared, my songs would only remind my father of her disappearance, and he constantly refused to listen to me, barely letting me speak in his presence, much less sing at all, except on the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance, when he would be too distraught to protest. When he decided that he wanted war against the humans, though, he met opposition from several wiser councilors–so instead of heeding them, he found a use for me, bidding me to sing for the councils, so that they would comply with whatever he said. My “Gift” became something horrible to me, something that others used for their own purposes, because I could never use it for the purpose I really wanted: to comfort my father, and help him see reason in all the hurt and bitterness he carried.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I became human because I wanted to prove to my father that they weren’t malicious and just biding their time, waiting for a chance to send down their best divers with giant nets and sweep us all up for food like so many sturgeon. Honestly, when I first learned about the potion that would make me human for a day, the first thing I wanted to do was acquire two doses of it, so that my father could come with me and we could just be humans for a day and find out what they were really like. I suppose a part of me thought that sharing a moment like that could pave the way for more of a discussion between us of the best course of action, rather than letting him shove me in front of the council and then ignore me when he got what he wanted. 

Well, imagine my surprise when the very next day, a human suddenly drops from the surface right next to me! I caved to my first instinct and pulled him back to the surface–but after that moment, I just wanted to find him again. I didn’t even care that only one dose of potion was ready. 

Little did I know, the situation on the surface would change my life forever.

Continue reading “Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)”

Alexander Southerland (of A Troll Walks into a Bar, by Douglas Lumsden)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a bar, pretending to be the bartender for a private investigator and summoner of elementals.

He’s here to tell us about trolls and shape-shifters, witches and femmes fatales, and murder investigations that take him from dangerous dark alleys to the dazzling lights of downtown Yerba City.


What’ll it be, buddy?

Whiskey. Neat. Leave the bottle.

Here you go.

Thanks. Slow night?

It’s early. It’ll get busy later.

Got time to grab a glass and join me for a drink? Today’s my thirtieth birthday, and I’m in the mood for a party.

Thanks, I believe I will. Here’s mud in your eye! …. I’ve seen you in here before. You’re a private dick, right?

That’s me. Alexander Southerland, P.I. Call me Alex.

Sounds like an interesting racket, Alex.  Is that something you always wanted to do?

What’s with all the fuckin’ curiosity, pal?

Hey, it’s a party, remember? And you’re the guest of honor. I’m just being sociable.

Yeah, yeah. Okay, pour me another glass and I’ll tell you my life story. This shit is pretty good. Hits the spot. Anyway, to answer your question, no, being a P.I. isn’t something I ever imagined I’d be doing back when I was a kid. I grew up in a working class neighborhood, the kind of place you spend your life trying to get away from. My old man was a factory worker. When he worked at all, that is. My mother stayed home and did her best to keep me out of trouble. Turns out that I had a special talent. Since before I can remember I’ve been able to summon and command air elementals. Nothing big. No hurricanes or tornadoes or anything like that. Just little funnels of air. I used them to find out things I wasn’t supposed to know about. Still do. I also used them to annoy all the other neighborhood kids. That led to a lot of fights. I liked fighting. I got to be really good at it. Anyway, I was an only child, and as far as my parents were concerned, I was one child too many. I guess I was quite a handful. 

Sounds like a rough childhood.

Not really. I got nothing to whine about. My parents weren’t going to win any prizes, but they weren’t any worse than most. The only thing my old man ever taught me was that after the fourth drink they all taste pretty much the same. And the only good advice I ever got from my mother was to stay away from my old man after he’d had that fourth drink. 

Seems like good advice. 

Yeah. I didn’t always take it, though. When my old man was soused he used to beat me silly! But I kept getting bigger, and one day I ended up bouncing him off the walls. After that he stopped bothering with me. Stopped talking to me, too. That was fine. I learned to get by on my own.

What happened after that?

I quit school and joined the army. Gave three years of my life to the state of Tolanica. All hail Lord Ketz-Alkwat! And so on and so forth. I did some time up-country in the Borderland, mixing it up with the Qusco insurgents. 

That would have been, what, about ten years ago?

Thereabouts.

What unit were you in?

The 27th.

I was in the 33rd about the same time. I heard about this wild-ass sergeant with the 27th named Southerland. They say he was a stone-cold killer, but you could count on him when the pressure was on.

You shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Those stories tend to take on a life of their own. Anyway, after spending the better part of two years fighting for the cause, I was rotated into the military police, and a year later I was discharged and sent home. Problem was, I didn’t really have a home.

So how did you become a P.I.?

I bummed around a little, and then I went to see the grandmother of a buddy of mine who didn’t make it out of the Borderland. She was a well-heeled old dame named Mrs. Colby, and she owns a lot of commercial rental property, including some units here in Yerba City. Anyway, she had a rental app from a joe that she had a funny feeling about, and she asked me if I would do a little snooping. I dug around a bit and found out that the guy was a were-rat. Mrs. Colby was impressed with my work, and she not only helped me set up a business, but she rented me an office with some living quarters on the second floor. I’ve been working as an investigator ever since.

A were-rat?  Wow! Those guys give me the creeps! They say that they’re all a little nuts!

Yeah, that’s mostly true. But this guy had trained himself to put a lid on his baser instincts. Turns out he’s a pretty fun fellow. Mrs. Colby went ahead and rented him some commercial space and he turned it into a nice business. I invited him to lunch one day and we’ve been friends ever since. He helps me out sometimes. Rats can go pretty much anywhere, and they see and hear everything. And he’s mostly stable, although he’s hinted at some dark shit in his past that I’m probably better off not knowing about. 

Your racket must be exciting.

It can be. It’s usually fairly routine, and the cash flow is far from steady. I do a lot of background checks, and I find missing people and missing items. I do a lot of investigative work for attorneys and occasionally for big corporations. Some of the cases can get a little intense. Like this one about a year ago when a gorgeous doll asked me to find her little sister.

What happened?

There were three problems with that case. First, the client was trying to use me for her own purposes. I couldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. The dame didn’t even give me her real name! Second, some extremely corrupt sons of bitches in the Yerba City Police Department didn’t want me anywhere near the case. This one detective–a seven-foot tall, five-hundred pound troll–tried to get me to lay off it. I probably should have listened, but I didn’t like the way he asked. So I stuck my nose in, and the troll decided to get physical. Actually, he fucked me up pretty good!

A troll? You’re lucky you’re still breathing!

It could have been worse. But, yeah, he rearranged my face a little and threatened to rip out my eye with an icepick. But I’m better off today than he is. I still have nightmares about that troll, though.

You said that there was a third problem with that case?

That’s right. The third problem was that my client was an adaro.

One of those water nymphs from the Nihhonese Ocean?

Yeah, the ones that the government herds into the refugee settlement in the northern part of the city. You probably know that female adaros are extremely attractive to men. It’s part of their evolution, something that stems from the fact that female adaros outnumber the males by about ten to one. And we’re not just talking about physical attributes. They emit powerful pheromones that make lugs like you and me want to get down on our knees and beg for table scraps. It wasn’t easy being in the same room with my client. It was hard not to believe her lies. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a lot of willpower. Or maybe I’m just fuckin’ stubborn. In the end, I guess it amounts to the same thing. I still dream about her, too.

How’d that case go?

It was a clusterfuck from beginning to end. I got myself mixed up in a turf war between two drug-running street gangs up in Placid Point. I met my client’s charming but homicidal sister, and I somehow got my hands on a mysterious locked box that a lot of powerful people wanted. The mayor’s own private fixer threatened to frame me for murder if I didn’t sell the box to him. And, of course, I was tortured by a troll. 

What was in the box?

I’m not at liberty to say, and you don’t want to know. Get me?

Gotcha! So what can you tell me about your most recent case? I hear that you were working for the Barbary Coast Bruja.

You hear a lot of things.

I’m a bartender. It comes with the job.

Yeah, I was hired by Madame Cuapa herself, the most powerful witch in western Tolanica. She told me that she had murdered a man, but that he wasn’t dead. 

Come again?

I know. It’s complicated. Anyway, someone had managed to put a compulsion spell on the witch and turn her into a deadly weapon. And when I say deadly, I mean lethal enough to end all life on this planet! That was the only case in which my own client tried to kill me.

The witch tried to kill you?

Twice. The first time, I wound up shooting her in the chest. It didn’t bother her all that much, though. The second time was really weird. I remember following a giant shadowy dog with no eyes right up to the gates of the Azteca realm of the dead. It was a near thing! In fact, lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I actually died. In any case, Madame Cuapa brought me back.

She brought you back? Didn’t you say that she was the one who tried to kill you?

It’s complicated. But that wasn’t even the scariest thing that happened to me on that case. That scariest thing was when another witch tried to sacrifice me to a giant hummingbird.

A…. Sorry, did you say hummingbird?

Well, some kind of spirit in the shape of a winged man with a bright green hummingbird’s head complete with a three-foot beak that was sharp as a spear. Believe me, it was no joke! 

I guess not. Hey, do you want me to break open another bottle? This seems like a lonely way to spend your birthday. 

Sure, let’s drink up. Don’t worry about me. It’s not that I don’t have friends. It’s just that I’m not in the mood for them tonight. Besides, they’re busy with their own shit. Take Lubank, for example. He and I get along fine, but he’s a real pain in the ass. He’s a buck-toothed gnome with the world’s most obvious hairpiece. He’s my lawyer and I do a lot of investigative work for him. Mostly to dig up dirt for his blackmail files. In return, he comes to my rescue when the cops drag me to their downtown clubhouse and cuff me to the iron tables in their sweatboxes. For my money, Lubank is the most corrupt attorney in the city. But his human wife, Gracie, is a treat! She’s an outrageous flirt who will have you howling at the moon if you’re not careful.

Did you and she ever….

Don’t be ridiculous. She may talk a big game, but she’s devoted to her husband. I don’t know what she sees in the slimy rat, but he’s nuts about her, too. They’re an odd couple, but they make it work. 

They sound like a unique pair. Any other women in your life?

Not in the way you’re suggesting. In my last case I became friends with a homicide detective named Laurel Kalama. And before you ask, she’s also happily married. But she proved herself to be a real standup partner when the shit came down. She’s seen it all and isn’t fazed by any of it. She’s rock solid and good with a gat. Too bad she doesn’t have a sister.

Sounds like all the dames you know are married.

Well, there was this one doll I ran into in the bruja case. Cindy Shipper. Looks like an angel, but she’s hard as nails. My kind of sweetheart. The heat between us was real, and if circumstances had been different we might have had some fun fanning those flames. But she may have been involved in the murder of her husband and her stepson. That kind of put a damper on things. Still, you never know.

You sure run into some interesting people. 

Yeah, I do. I haven’t even mentioned the two rock-addicted were-snakes. I hope they’re still alive, but I wouldn’t want to go all in with that hand. And then there’s Cody and his pet manticore. 

Manticore?

Think two-hundred pound flying jungle cat with huge bat wings and a scorpion’s tail. He and Cody have this strange mental link. You’d know Cody if you saw him. Six five, solid muscle. Likes to dress in skin-tight leather with purple trim. He’s training to be a butler. 

Well, it’s been interesting, but I need to get ready for the evening crowd. Are you working on anything currently?

Not yet, but do you see that troll back over there in the corner booth? The one in the suit that would cost you three-month’s salary and tips? He’s been following me all day. I suspect that he’ll follow me when I leave. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I have a hunch it might have something to do with the supposed suicide of that good-looking nightclub torcher, the one who called herself Zyanya. The scuttlebutt is that the canary had something goin’ on with our own Mayor Teague. Looks like I might have to miss out on poker night with the boys. 

Best of luck to you, buddy.

Thanks, pal. Finish off the bottle. You’re a right gee in my book.


Dr. Douglas Lumsden is a former history professor and private school teacher. He lives in Monterey, California, with his wife, Rita, and his cat, Cinderella.

You can fix Alex Southerland on the pages of his first case A Troll Walks into a Bar, and his next case, A Witch Steps into My Office.

Join us next week to hear from a tattoo artist from a dystopian, cybernetic near-future. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

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