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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Urban Fantasy

Verena (of Verena’s Whistle, by K. Panikian)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a grad student from Alaska who found out her family has been keeping secrets about their origins and their purpose. She’s here to talk about magic, love, and saving the world from Chernobog’s demonic beasts.


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

Hey guys! My name’s Verena, but my friends call me Very. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska with my parents and my Grandpa Basil. I always knew we had magic, but never why or how. But a few months ago, a meteor struck the ground in Russia and man, I found out some secrets!

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

Hmm, favorite toys? I guess, being from Alaska, I have to say my pond skates? Maybe I should say something sweet and cute, like my dolls, but honestly, I was a tomboy. I was a bossy kid and I’m still pretty take-charge. I liked to play sports and run around in the woods with the kids that lived nearby.

My cousins, Theo and Julian, would come up and visit in the summer and seriously, summertime in Alaska is like, heaven. We’d camp and hike and mess around with our magic.

There are some great magic wielders in my family, people that can launch lightning bolts or create incredible illusions, or people that can see into the future. But my magic never manifested more than a little—like, I could make sparks. Big deal. Everyone was really nice about it, of course, but it was a definitely sore spot for me.

I threw myself into my sword training instead—my family is really big on martial arts training, sword play, that sort of thing. I figured, if I couldn’t do magic, I’d learn other ways to defend myself. And, I have to tell you, I’m really, really good with my sword. Should I just have said my sword? I like my sword—it’s this 1796 light cavalry saber and seriously, it is SWEET.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but you look like you can keep a secret.

So, the people in my family that can do magic? It turns out that we’re descended from those crazy Roman-Vikings guys, the Varangians. Ever heard of them? A thousand or so years ago, the Byzantine emperor sent a cohort of his Varangian Guards to Rus. And when they got there, they vanished, poof, gone from the history books.

What ACTUALLY happened is that a meteor struck their camp and it opened a portal to another world! Can you believe it? I couldn’t believe it, the first time Grandpa Basil told me the story. In the other world, they learned magic and they battled demons. They built a huge citadel and just tried to survive that really hostile place.

Now, about 100 years ago, my great aunts and uncles were out hunting demons in the countryside and they found another portal back to Earth! They went through and ended up in Russia, which, you know, was not a great place to be at that time. They hid and fled and ended up in Alaska. And they kept their origins a secret. Obviously.

But when that meteor struck in Russia in February, they knew someone would have to go and check it, to make sure none of the demons came through. So, I did! I went with Julian and Theo and we kicked some demon ass, let me tell you.

Continue reading “Verena (of Verena’s Whistle, by K. Panikian)”

Robinson Lubank (of Alexander Southerland P.I. series, by Douglas Lumsden)

Dear readers, tonight we revisit the world of Alexander Southerland, P.I., whom we visited before. This time we reprint a magazine interview with his gnomish lawyer, that lovable scamp Rob Lubank. Caution: foul language ahead.


Welcome to Community Outreach. Today’s guest is one of the most well-known defense attorneys in Yerba City. Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Glad to. I’m Robinson Lubank, attorney at law. What th’fuck d’ya wanna know about me?

You’ve been described as someone who has his finger on the pulse of Yerba City. Would you say that this is an accurate assessment?

You kidding me? I’ve got this town by the balls! I’ve got the dirt on every important person in the metropolitan area, and that includes the judges. That’s why I’m the best defense attorney in the city.

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

I’ve always wanted to make a lot of dough, and I figured out pretty early in the game that making it as a mouthpiece would be a hell of a lot less risky than robbing banks. As you can see by my big adorable round ears, I’m a gnome. I don’t pack a lot of muscle into this three-and-a-half-foot body of mine. I’ve got more brains than brawn, and the law is a good racket for a mug like me.

Gnomes are known for their financial success, aren’t they?

Hey, that’s a stereotype! Not all gnomes are rich, but, yeah, a lot of us are. We tend to have good heads for business. When the Dragon Lords stormed out of Hell, they brought trolls and dwarfs along to slap their enemies around on the battlefield. They brought us gnomes along because they needed people with intelligence to build their economic infrastructures. We gnomes prefer to do our fighting across a table in the boardroom, or in the courts.

What was it like growing up in Yerba City?

I had it pretty good. My father was a bank manager. Very fuckin’ respectable. He taught me the value of money, which is something I’ve never forgotten. School was okay. I made some dough helping some of the guys get through it, you know, doing their homework for them and “convincing” some of the teachers to alter their grades.

How did you do that?

Hey, teachers aren’t any cleaner than anyone else. They’ve all got something to hide. Maybe from their spouses, or maybe from their bosses—maybe even from the coppers! Once you’ve ferreted out their little peccadilloes, they become very willing to make deals.

So blackmail is the key to your success?

Watch it, pal! “Blackmail” is such an ugly word. It’s not my fault that so many people have skeletons in their closet, or that I’m so good at discovering them. Once my operation started to grow, I began hiring investigators to get the dirt for me. There’s this hard number named Alex Southerland, for example. He’s done a lot of good work for me. We have a nice copacetic little arrangement. He tends to get himself into a lot of hot water with the boys in blue, and it’s my job to get him out it. For a price, of course. I make sure that I rack up a lot of billable hours keeping him free to operate, and, as a result, he’s into me deep. He pays some of it back by doing investigative work for me, but the poor bastard will probably die owing me money. And the way he operates, that could happen sooner rather than later.

Continue reading “Robinson Lubank (of Alexander Southerland P.I. series, by Douglas Lumsden)”

Hera, Queen of Olympus (of Club Olympus, by James Morley)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the queen goddess of the ancient Greek pantheon, to tell us about adjusting to the world of the Roaring 20’s.


So, you grew up inside your father, Cronus’ stomach. What was that like?

What do you think it was like? It was awful. I spent my childhood uncomfortable, in darkness, with no company but my siblings. We all lived in a stomach with very little to talk about. But that was a long time ago, we’ve all put those dark memories behind us.

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

I grew up in a stomach, and oddly the man who ate his children didn’t also eat toys for us. I would say that my favourite memory or moment was when Cronos swallowed a rock thinking it was Zeus. I knew when that rock fell that I had a sibling out there, it was a hope that made me and the others stronger.

What is it like being married to a mob boss? What do you do to support the family?

I keep prohibition going. I work with the stuffy old women of the anti-prohibition league. I keep the puritans fired up and keep prohibition in law. The last thing any of us want are for legal bars to be able to open up again, there’s too much money to be made in speakeasies. I also clean up Zeus’ messes. My husband has a wandering eye and I make sure there are no accidents that could come back and damage him or the family. Someone has to look after them.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I wouldn’t call having my family subjected to constant attack an adventure. We’ve never been on the defensive before. We straddled the world as colossi for centuries. It’s been a radical change to have to fight to preserve what we have. To be honest the whole series of events is testing us all. We’re having to push past our limits like never before, and I had just got used to a life of relaxation. I guess that’s what immortality is: learning that nothing lasts forever.

Continue reading “Hera, Queen of Olympus (of Club Olympus, by James Morley)”

John Conquer (of Conquer, by Edward M. Erdelac)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a P.I. from 1976 Harlem — the cat you call when your hair stands up, a supernatural brother like no other.


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

I was born in New Orleans but came to New York with my parents when I was seven. We stayed with my Uncle Silas till he passed. I was raised on West 115th in the Foster Projects in Harlem. They call ‘em the MLK Projects now. It was cool growing up. We had the big playground, monkey bars, ball courts…good old PS 170. When my daddy died and my mama got run down by a taxi, I stayed with Consolation Underwood in East Harlem. She was a bookie for King Solomon Keyes, and an Ifa priestess – an Ìyánífá. She taught me divination with the opon Ifa, had me memorize the 256 odu, while other kids were doin’ times tables. Said ‘cause I was born with a caul I ought to learn, maybe become a babalawo some day. She was Mama to just about every orphan in Harlem at one time or another. Always some kid coming or going in her kitchen. Me and her niece, little Phaedra Williams were the ones who stayed the longest. I used to walk Phaedra over to the pool at Marcus Garvey Park in the summer, stand under the monkey bars to catch her if she slipped. That was before ‘Nam.

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

We couldn’t afford much in the way of toys. Played outside most of the time. One of my favorite memories is of sittin’ up late with my Daddy and my Uncle Silas beatin’ on these handmade mahogany Rada drums he had. My uncle taught me to beat the rhythm on the Boula when I was six. My mama would dance till the sweat made her arms shine in the dark.

What do you do now?

I’m a private investigator now, got an office on 33 St. Marks Place. I run down stray husbands and wives mostly, but sometimes folks call me when the hair on the back of their neck stands up, you dig? I got a reputation around town after I took down a rakshasi one night at the Empire Roller Disco in Brooklyn. Brought it in a lot of weird business. Weirder by the day, sometimes I think. Lucky I inherited a library from my godfather, Fish Marmelstein. He used to own a supply company, Brother Hoodoo. My daddy was his top salesman. Anyway, it’s got most everything I need. I got books on Vodoun, Hoodoo, Kabbalah, Hermeticism…you name it. And if I don’t have it, I know where to find it.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I wouldn’t call it an adventure. Adventures are supposed to be enjoyable, right? Where do I start? It’s been an eventful year. I took down a clique of vampires in the Harlem Hospital morgue, helped out my Uncle Silas’…..I don’t know what you call Verbena Mechant, a partner? Husband? Wife? Hell, you call her whatever she wants to be called. I learned that the hard way. Anyway, Auntie Verbena had a boo-hag causin’ problems with her girls in Crown Heights. Let’s see….there was that time Lou Lazzeroni found Genie Jones shrunk and floating in a lava lamp and called me in….there was that thing eatin’ graffiti taggers in the subway. Then there was that other thing running rampant at the Vatican…sorry, that’s what Pope used to call the apartment building where he housed his girls….ugh…sorry, Pope’s the pimp whose ghost haunts my car….eh, that’s a long story. I don’t wanna get into that mess. Let’s see….my last ‘adventure’….finding the dude who shot Preacher dead with an arrow in front of Hekima Books. Preacher, that was Benny Galarza, one of my oldest friends. We started the 167th Street Black Enchanters back in ’69 when we got outta Vietnam see….him and me and Black Adam. It had to do with a butchered gorilla carcass the cops found laying in an intersection in the Bronx. I just got out of the hospital from all that. It was a bad scene. Nearly got my black ass pitched off a roof.

Continue reading “John Conquer (of Conquer, by Edward M. Erdelac)”

Sydney Mason (of Sophie is Scarlet, by Greg Neyman)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a college students, doing normal things — taking classes, dating, thinking about a Masters Degree, helping in her community, and being a witch. She is here to talk about witchcraft, vampires, and fighting tech conglomerates.


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

I spent my entire childhood in Paisley, Scotland. It’s – what do you want me to say. It’s a town. You’ve seen one Boots the Chemist, you’ve seen them all. These days, most people can’t agree where Glasgow ends and Paisley begins. I have some memories of living with my mum and dad in a Council Estate, but then I was able to live with my Gran in her house when I started school, and it was a bit more posh.

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

So not to brag, but when you’re as potent a Sister as myself, you find very few toys that work as expected, all the time. Until you learn to control your Skill, of course. That’s why I loved the old drum set that I got second hand. Nothing that can really go wrong with it. It’s how I got into punk rock. I remember my first Christmas, when I had my hair all blonde, and spikey. You know Christmas is a big thing. But I couldn’t get the Christmas crown to stay on my head! I just had to drench it in hair spray until it stood. And then the turkey just reeked of the spray, I could barely get it past my throat!

What do you do now?

So this was my chance to see something other than Scotland, so I decided to go to a Yank Uni. Apparently the first place to give ladies degrees in the States, so of course you know Sisters soon followed. I getting to meet a lot of new Sisters, and learning to solve people problems without my Gran hovering over my shoulder. And the Uni is on me to pick a major.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

It’s hard to talk about. My everlasting shame. Did you know vampires could go tame? Live a normal life, find willing Meals, that sort of thing? Well, I wish someone told me before I vapourised three of them with a bolt of lightning without so much as a ‘how do you do’.

Continue reading “Sydney Mason (of Sophie is Scarlet, by Greg Neyman)”

Simon Strong and Tristan Montague (of Tombyards & Butterflies, by Orlando A. Sanchez)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview by an author, who went into his protagonists’ world to interview them. These are the owners of Montague & Strong, New York City’s premier supernatural detective agencies.


I’m sitting at a large table in the back of The Last Gasp Brew – a coffee and tea shop located in lower Manhattan when they walk in. Right away you can see the contrast. Simon stands around six foot tall and has a casual air about him. He’s wearing a leather pea-coat, black jeans and a light gray sweater. His bronze complexion is off-set by the shockingly white hair that sits atop his head. He looks around for a few seconds, sees me, gives me a wave and a smile as he approaches. He slides into the chair opposite me.

Behind him glides in Tristan who looks like he just left a martial arts class. His eyes scan the room and he exudes a quiet danger as he enters the shop. He’s wearing what appears to be a black loose-fitting tai-chi uniform. He’s not as tall as Simon, but his presence makes him appear to fill the space around him. His complexion is darker than Simon’s and his hair is a deep black with gray at the temples.

They sit at the table opposite me, both facing the door. Simon and I shake hands, Tristan gives me a curt nod.

Orlando: Thank you both for meeting me here tonight. I know your schedule is usually busy working cases. I really appreciate it. By the way the coffee here is excellent.

Tristan: You only say that because you haven’t tried the tea. It’s our pleasure. Thank you for having us.

I notice that Tristan has a slight English accent while Simon sounds very ‘New York’.

Simon: No one drinks tea anymore.

Tristan: Except maybe most of the civilized world.

Orlando: Thanks again. I didn’t realize how difficult arranging this interview would be. You two must have some of the busiest schedules in the city.

Simon: Well it’s not like we had a choice – what I mean is you are… you know?

Simon makes some gestures I don’t understand with his hands and Tristan sighs.

Tristan: What he means is that he’s happy to be here answering questions. You’ll have to excuse him, sometimes he’s as tactful as a brick.

Simon looks at Tristan and chuckles. He takes off his coat and reclines in the large wing-back chair. His laugh is infectious and I find myself smiling. Tristan responds with a brief smile, but remains mostly serious and vigilant. I get the impression he has assessed everyone in the shop and found no imminent threats.

Simon: What the worst he can do, Monty? He did make me immortal you know. Try and relax.

I look down at my notes and prepare my first question.

Orlando: About that- you’re immortal?

Simon: The technical term is ‘cursed alive’. Apparently Kali-

Orlando: Kali as in the goddess Kali the destroyer? Shiva’s consort?

Simon: Yeah that one. Well I was on this job for Shiva-

Tristan: Which I told him not to take. I distinctly remember advising you against getting involved with those two.

Simon: Anyway- Shiva asked me to get some information, things I’m not at liberty to discuss. Kali found out what I was doing and lost it. She went ballistic and marked me with this.

Simon shows me the back of his left hand. An intricate design is etched into his skin.

Orlando: What is that?

Simon: It’s called an endless knot. She basically stopped me from aging.

Orlando: I’m not seeing the downside. She made you immortal. You don’t age. This may sound odd, but can you die?

Simon: Can you?

Orlando: Well yes, I haven’t been cursed by an angry goddess.

Simon: Well so can I. The problem is that I wont stay dead. Even worse is that I don’t know how I’ll come back. It’s not something I’m eager to test. You know?

Orlando: I can understand your reluctance.

Tristan: His immortality may be conditional, is what he’s trying to say. He could very well die and return as a goat. Which would be an improvement if you ask me.

Simon: He didn’t ask you, Monty.

Continue reading “Simon Strong and Tristan Montague (of Tombyards & Butterflies, by Orlando A. Sanchez)”

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)”

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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