So this week I thought we'd stick with the genie theme from a couple of weeks ago. I also thought I'd play around in the universe of my urban fantasy series. So a couple of years ago I wrote a flash piece for Christmas called "Belize Navidad" featuring Catherine Sharp and Marius on some strange errand for their boss Eris. Today's flash piece comes some six months after or so when we meet the target of that mission. This is a quick and dirty character sketch of sorts where I play with Na'ar al Afrit and the idea of what happens when a genie is out of his bottle.
by Jamie Wyman
Troy McCullough entered the penthouse suite and immediately broke into a sweat. Though it was high summer in Belize, the heat in the room was cranked up to solar. Dehumidifiers placed strategically throughout turned what would be a sauna into a blast furnace.
“So much for a dry heat,” Troy murmured to himself.
A comely creature in a champagne suit appeared at his elbow. The woman's ocher skin was dry, not a single bead of sweat. From the stern expression on her face, she didn't have time for such nonsense as sweat. Her raven hair was pulled up in a severe bun atop her head. “Mr. McCullough,” she said, her voice lilting as a nightingale's. “My employer has been waiting for you.”
“Our employer,” he corrected her.
Though her face did not change, her voice patronized him. “Of course.”
She led him through the penthouse, past the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the jewel-blue ocean, and into a spacious sitting area. The furniture had been rearranged to accommodate a three full-length mirrors, a rack of suits, several bolts of fabric, a tailor and his circular pedestal. The tailor was a small brown man with a black mustache and very little hair left on his head. He knelt, pinning the pants of Troy's boss.
“Ernesto's work is unlike any I've ever found,” said the man on the pedestal.
It was the first time Troy had heard him speak, and he wasn't quite sure he liked the sound. It was the cold, calculating voice of a reptile. It was venom.
“His stitches are intricate to the point of impossibility, and his selection of fabrics....” the voice trailed off as its owner gestured with long fingers to the nearby rack, “well, they're simply divine.”
All of his reflections turned their eyes to the lovely woman as he said, “Margurite, thank you for showing him in. You're free to take the rest of the day off.”
With a nod of gratitude, Margurite smiled. “Thank you, sir. I'll send you the list of tomorrow's appointments.”
Troy watched in the mirrors as three of her walked away. The view was even more impressive than what he'd seen out the massive windows.
“Don't leer, Mr. McCullough. Though she be fair, the lady is more dangerous than you realize.”
Despite himself, Troy smiled. “Maneater, eh?” he asked the reflections.
“Nothing so dainty as that. Please,” he said, indicating the wingback directly behind him, “have a seat.”
Troy sat. He dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief.
“Are you comfortable, Mr. McCullough?”
“It's a little warm in here.”
“Ah, yes. I have a particular preference when it comes to temperature. I sometimes forget that it can be harsh to others. Allow me.”
McCullough wasn't sure what happened, but he blinked and felt cooler. A slight breeze ruffled his hair and brought with it relief. Without any rhyme or reason it was as if the thick heat had been whipped away and replaced with air conditioned perfection.
He studied his boss' reflections. Even with the additional height of the pedestal, the man was incredibly tall. His shoulders and chest were broad as boulders, but his waist and hips narrowed significantly. It made sense that his suits must be tailored, Troy noted. Save for a ponytail perched high on the crown of his head, he was bald. His face was a study in angles. Sharp cheekbones and a steep slope of a nose. A pointed black goatee jutted off of his chin. His smile, like his voice, reminded Troy of a snake.
“Is that better?”
“Yeah,” Troy said dumbly.
“Now, Mr. McCullough, let us discuss why I asked you to join me here. Do you recall your trip to Las Vegas? I believe it was some six or seven months ago?”
Troy jerked in his seat, then thought better of it. Too late, however. The reaction had been seen.
“Yes, Mr. McCullough, I know you went and used company funds. Rest assured, however, that this transgression is the least of your worries.”
“What do you mean?”
“Tell me, do you remember meeting a red-haired woman. Petite?”
“I met few redheads in Vegas, boss,” Troy said with a smug laugh.
The boss's reflections sneered. “I'm not amused, Mr. McCullough. A red-haired woman,” he repeated. “Possibly a man of Mediterranean heritage.”
“That was a while back, though. And you know what they say about things what happen in Vegas.”
The stark lines of his face darkened as the boss man's eyes went completely white, so white they began to glow with a cold fire. A small vortex of sand sprang up from the carpet, whirled in front of Troy for a moment before taking the shape of a hand. That hand lunged for Troy and caught him by the throat with impossible force.
“Think,” his boss said, “and think hard, for your life depends on it. This is the last I'll ask. A red-haired woman.”
Troy tried to remember. Tried to cast his mind back to the trip. Just before Christmas. He'd been at Caesars Palace. A redhead? He'd scored with a blonde and her blue-haired friend....
“I didn't meet a redhead,” Troy sputtered. “I swear, Mr. Afrit. I swear!”
“She and her friend compromised my most secret of vaults, Mr. McCullough, and that vault is under your management. I have it on good authority that she is in Las Vegas and that you are her source of information. Tell me who she is!”
“I don't know!”
With a roar of wind and rage, Afrit sent a wave of power into the hand throttling Troy. The man's neck snapped audibly and his body went limp onto the carpet. The hand dissipated in the same gale that conjured it.
Afrit's eyes lost their glow and he gazed sadly at the ground. “Ernesto, you spoil me. Good help is so hard to find these days.”