The driver appeared twenty minutes later. Slyphs don’t have an innate sense of direction in the material plane and don’t know how to use the Global Locating System. But I had the telepathic connection. Half-closing my eyes, it appeared to me like a glittering silver cord stretching through the roof into the sky. I gave directions to the driver, who translated them into displacement in the real world. Some ten minutes into our trip, the sylph went static.
Looking through her eyes, I saw him standing outside a shophouse, the third block from the right along a row of shophouses. The walls were dingy and covered in graffiti, the streets lit in blinking neon signs and tired streetlights. Most of the people on the street were male, ambling along the sidewalk. It was a melting pot of races and ethnicities, sizes and shapes. Touts worked the crowd, enticing them into the shops. The rest of the crowd were girls of all races. Girls in backless halters and spray-on hot pants, girls in vinyl bikinis and silver chains, girls in school uniforms with too-low necklines and barely-there skirts and mile-high heels.
Girls too young for the street.
Allondir was looking up at the windows, where whores beckoned. He glanced at the address and checked his scroll. Someone had recommended this place to him. He looked back up. A couple of girls walked out. One had an oversized man’s shirt, the other a pinafore. They were petite, yet broad of shoulder. I thought they were dwarves. Then I paid more attention to the shape of painted faces, their throats, their chests.
They weren’t dwarves.
They were boys.
He patted the one with the pinafore on the head and led him into the shop.
“Khun Cyr, this is bad place,” the driver said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Stop here and wait for me.”
He parked at a street corner two blocks away and let me out. I passed him a roll of bills, with the promise of more later. At least the client was covering my expenses on this job.
Hunching over ever so slightly, I stuck my hands into my pockets and ambled to the street of whores. Streetwalkers accosted me; I let them down with a smile and a shake. Packs of young males roamed the streets or smoked joints against walls, looking for marks. I slipped the folding knife out of my pocket and held it low.
As I headed to the area of operations, a pack of street toughs looked me over, I shifted my vibe ever so slightly, letting them see what I really was for a moment. The leader wisely held them back.
Strolling down the street, I stuck to the shadows and the corners. This time I faded into the background, just some down and out farang wandering the streets. After fending off a wave of whores, they quickly realized I wasn’t interested. Word spread quickly, and the people began to ignore me.
I propped myself against an unoccupied patch of wall and glanced at the brothel. A man stood outside, arms crossed, face set. Boys surrounded him, calling out for customers. No sign of trouble, not yet. I stared at the scroll’s screen and pretended to play with it, in reality looking through the sylph’s eyes. She was inside the shophouse, on the third floor.
Allondir and his whore was inside a cramped room. The boy’s face was smeared with tears and light bruises. He was kneeling on a thin, stained mattress, ass high in the air. Wrists crudely tied to his ankles, legs spread wide apart. Metal gleamed in Allondir’s hands. Allondir was… He…
I shut my eyes. Closed the link. Turned away.
I bit my lip. Locked everything down. Breathed in. Out. In. Out.
Briefly I debated going in and stopping things. It was the right thing to do, but I didn’t want to kill my way out either. Maybe a bribe will do.
It didn’t matter. Shouts erupted from the brothel entrance. Moments later, the door flung open. A pair of toughs dragged a tall man out to the street and tossed him to the ground.
No. Not a man. An elf. Allondir.
As Allondir picked himself up, the dynamic duo kicked him in the ribs. The door guard ambled over, and after a brief conference with his buddies, joined in the booting.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Females screamed, males stared. I thumbed the blade open, then flipped the knife around, holding it reverse grip edge-in. It was a slipjoint knife; it was the only way to hold one without risking it closing on my fingers. Decloaking, I pushed through the crowd, checking for more targets. There were just the three of them.
“Hey!” I yelled.
The door guard looked up. “What you want, farang?”
“He’s with me,” I said. “Whatever he’s done, I can pay. Okay? Just let me take him back to the hotel.”
The door guard snorted. “Pay? He broke our boy. How can you pay for that?”
His buddies kicked his legs apart. One kicked him between the groin. The other laughed, and circled around to his head. The door guard was likely the crew boss, but he didn’t seem interested in controlling his boys. Not good.
“Easy, easy, I have money,” I said, slowly approaching the guard. “How much do you want?”
He snorted. “Ten thousand baht.”
“I can pay,” I said gently. “Just let me get him, okay?”
“No. Stay back. Pay now.”
The bigger goon kicked Allondir in the face. The other stomped his arm. This was getting bad.
“Sure,” I said. “Just tell your friends to stop, okay?”
“You pay…” the door guy narrowed his eyes. “Show me your hands.”
I showed him my empty hand, taking two more steps towards him. “See? Nothing in here, okay?”
“Your other hand.”
“Other hand? What do you mean?” I retracted my hand, grabbing the baton, and took another step.
He glanced down. At my left hand. Looked back up. Shouted something foul.
Red light streamed into him. His muscles bulged out, and he charged.
He was a Melder. He was fast, faster than me. I flicked my knife up, jabbing. Too slow, but he ran his chest into my blade anyway. He didn’t register the stab, instead raising his right hand for a massive punch, gripping my shirt with his left hand. I flicked the knife at his eye.
Screaming, he released me, stepped back and brought his hands to cover his face, buying me time to step away and whip the baton open with a loud SNAP.
“Let him go!” I ordered.
He responded by turning and dropping his weight, going for a bull rush. I stepped out, snapped the baton up to my opposite shoulder and arced it back down, catching him in the head. He went down.
Goon number two tried to blindside me. I scanned, spotting him in time, but he leapt forward, arms outstretched for a bear hug. I stepped back and jerked my blade up into his face. The knife scraped his eye.
He yowled in pain and stumbled away, covering his face. I struck him in the temple, the arm, the knee, and down he went.
Goon three was sneaking up on me. When I turned to engage him, he drew a long black knife from his pants.
Sylph! Dive bomb him!
The construct zapped down from the sky, going for his face. He snarled, bringing both hands up and slashing out. The blade caught the sylph, slicing her in half. She exploded in a burst of mana, brilliant as a dying sun. He flinched away, holding out the knife hand long enough for me to smash it.
His hand crunched, dropping the knife. He swore, cradling his hand. As I closed in, he recovered, flowing into a Muay Thai high roundhouse kick. I stepped back and whipped the baton through a tight ‘C’, striking his leg. He lost his balance, dropping on his ass. I stomped his ankle and looked for more targets.
The door guard was picking himself back up. Shit. He must have used his magic to heal himself. I closed in with an overhead strike. He saw it coming, threw both arms out in an X-block.
Against regular humans the strike would have shattered bones. He amplified his strength, catching and halting the blow.
Opening him up to a groin kick.
He stepped out and I didn’t connect, but he lost his structure and the baton slipped down a couple of inches. I brought my hand knife up, saw that the blade was now parallel to my fist. I worked the tip against his inner right forearm and leveraged the knife open, then sheared down, peeling away his skin and flesh. I followed through, brought the blade to the crook of the elbow and used it as a lever to clear the arm.
The X-block failed. I stepped out and whacked him in the head. His other arm fell, and I clubbed him until he dropped. Broke his ankle for good measure. The red mana passed through him, deflating him, running too hot and too fast for him to control. He curled up and twisted involuntarily, as his muscles, tendons and ligaments contracted at unsynchronised speeds. As I walked away I heard a chorus of snaps and pops. If I were a better man, I’d ground the mana for him. But right now I was too tired to give a shit.
I glared at the spectators, checking that they were staying back. Already more than a few were recording the scene on their phones and scrolls. No magic yet—yet. Keeping my head down I checked on Allondir. He was moaning, lying on the ground.
“Get up,” I said.
“How did you—”
He picked himself up. I tried closing the baton, but the damn thing was crooked. Like it had conformed itself to the shape of the Melder’s skull. I folded up the knife and clipped it to my pocket.
“Can you walk?” I asked.
He coughed. “Yeah.”
I led him out of the street, waving my baton to clear a path. Once we were out of side, I rotated the baton around and held it against my side. Awkward, but it wasn’t as visible.
“How did you…” he asked.
“Microcam outside your room. Sylph above you. I couldn’t leave you alone.”
“Shut it,” I said. “We are catching the first flight out of here.”
“But, but, my work isn’t done here. I—”
“I don’t give a fuck. I am not waiting for the police to arrest us both. We are leaving the country now.”
“Hey, you can go if you need to. I can stay—”
“I signed a contract to protect you for as long as you are in Bangkok. Those assholes I had to put down, they have friends. Do you want to be locked away forever and have a long line of inmates do to you what you did to that boy?”
He flinched and shut up.
We proceeded in silence. I tossed the baton into a storm drain. The knife into another one. There wasn’t any time to sanitize them, but it wasn’t likely the cops could find them. When we were clear, I called the driver over.
Inside the car, Allondir heaved a sigh. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” I glared at him. “You and me, we’re done, you understand? As soon as we’re back in New Haven, we are done.”
“And one more thing,” I said. “Do not ever try to hire me again, you understand?”
“Yeah. I understand.”
The rest of the ride passed in silence.
If you enjoy blending sci fi and fantasy, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.
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