Death and Relaxation – Devon Monk

“DELANEY,” MY father whispered. “Wake up.” I reached for the gun under my pillow and pushed the quilt aside. My heart hammered as I searched the shadows of the room for my dad. He wasn’t there. And he shouldn’t be. He’d been dead for a year now. “Dad?” I asked anyway. No reply. I took a few steady breaths until the dual waves of hope and grief that had crashed down over me were gone. The night of his death was still embedded in my mind. My sisters and me responding to the emergency call. His truck crumpled at the bottom of the cliff. Ben Rossi and Jame Wolfe in their firefighting gear, rappelling down the sea cliff to bring his body out of the cab. It hadn’t been raining.

The moon was full and bright enough I had almost forgotten to turn on the headlights of my Jeep. Dry pavement, familiar road. They still didn’t know how it had happened. Still didn’t know why a man who had grown up in this little town on this little stretch of Oregon beach, a man who knew the roads like the beat of his own heart, had driven right off the edge of a cliff. That night had ended what I’d always thought of as a normal life. The very next day I’d stepped up as Dad’s successor as both the chief of police and the eldest Reed in town: the confidant to gods and monsters. I set the gun next to my badge on the wooden stepladder I used as a side table and sighed. I’d need to be at the station in a couple hours to relieve my sister, Jean, from the night shift. By the time I fell back to sleep—if I fell back to sleep—it would be time to get up. I rubbed a hand over my face and scrubbed hot, dry eyes. It was going to take a lot of caffeine to get me through the day. I stood and tugged at the Grateful Dead T-shirt that had belonged to Dad. I hadn’t had the heart to give it to the thrift shop when we went through his things. I thought both my sisters had kept something of his too, probably something of more value. But I liked the comfort of something he’d loved and lounged in.

I rolled my shoulders—a little stiff from yesterday’s run—and bare-footed it through the small living room and into the kitchen. “If you are going to haunt me, Dad, I could use some helpful poltergeist action around here. Fold the laundry. Start the coffee.” I knew Dad wasn’t listening. It was probably just a dream that had brought me awake so fast. But now that I was living alone in the old family home—both sisters moved out, no boyfriend moved in, both Dad and Mom gone—I’d fallen into my childhood habit of talking to myself. “They say talking to yourself is a sign of genius,” I said around a yawn. Or loneliness. Yeah, that too. I pressed the button on the coffee pot I’d pre-loaded only a few hours ago and pulled a Chewbacca mug out of the cupboard. I bit back another yawn and scooped sugar into where Chewbacca’s brains should be. I felt like I hadn’t slept in a year. Taking over as chief of police in Ordinary, Oregon, on the heels of Dad’s death had been hard even with my sisters Myra and Jean right beside me. It might have been easier if Cooper, my oh-so-ex-boyfriend, hadn’t also decided to run off to “find himself” a week after the funeral.

But then, maybe it was better to have my heart broken by both Dad’s death and my boyfriend’s restless urges in such a short span of time. Breaking, that hard that fast, made the rebuilding easier. Right? “Sweet-talking Cooper Clark, the heartbreak hit-and-run I should have seen coming a mile away, you did me a favor by leaving. Life is so much easier without love.” Liar, my heart said. I ignored it, just like I’d been doing for the past year, throwing all my energy into my job as peacekeeper, guardian, and law for all the mortals, creatures, and deities who made Ordinary their home. My job also included dealing with the Rhubarb Rally, Ordinary’s biggest spring tourist draw. The normally quiet, if abnormally quirky, town would be transformed into a bustling little city over the next week or so. If I got more than three hours of sleep between now and Friday when the Rhubarb Regatta sailed to shore for the festival blessing, it’d be a miracle. I believed in a lot of things. I had to. Not only to keep the peace between the mortals and creatures who lived here full time, but also to deal with the gods, goddesses, and deities who used the town as their official getaway vacation destination. Growing up here, I had played spin the bottle with werewolves, crabbed the bay with Poseidon, and smoked my first (and last) cigar with Shiva. But I had yet to see a true miracle. I poured coffee and took it to the little kitchen table in the nook by the window that looked out over the Pacific Ocean.

It was hours from dawn, the landscape bathed in ink. But sitting at this table with coffee was one of my favorite quiet places. And I’d need all the quiet I could get if I were going to survive this week. A wash of ice prickled up the back of my T-shirt. I held my breath, my body taut, instinct clamoring. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. A flash of orange cut through the darkness, burning my vision. Thunder blasted hard, close, loud, rattling the windows and setting off car alarms. “Holy crap.” I ran to the bedroom, shoved on jeans, boots, and jacket, my mind spinning through possibilities. It wasn’t a god thing. Those powers were carefully locked away while the gods vacationed here. It wasn’t a creature thing either. No creature in town could light up half the sky.

Gas main break? Bomb? Aliens? I grabbed for my phone and keys. My cell rang. “Delaney?” It was my sister, Jean. “Explosion. Southeast.” “Got it.” I jogged out the door, not bothering to lock it. “Injuries?” I ran down the thirty steps to my Jeep at the bottom of the hill. “Calls coming in. Hold on.” I ducked into the Jeep. Started the engine. The house lights flashed on at the other three occupied houses tucked against the hill on this dead end overlooking the Pacific. No one could have slept through that. “Delaney?” “Here.

” I thumbed on the speaker and dropped my phone in the coffee holder. “It’s Dan Perkin’s place. Every neighbor within four blocks says the explosion went off in the field behind his shed.” “Fire? Anyone hurt?” “Fire’s on the way. Pearl said Dan is fine. Angry as a snake in a knot, but uninjured. No other injuries reported.” “Copy.” “Delaney? I have a bad feeling about this.” Jean didn’t bring it up much, but her gut instincts were usually dead-on. “Be careful.” “Copy that, sister.” I flipped on the Jeep’s light bar, followed the gravel road down to the cross street, and gunned it out to Highway 101, which cut the town into north/south. “Just don’t anyone be dead,” I muttered as I sped down the mostly empty road. “Everybody stays breathing in my town, on my watch, in the middle of the night.

Ordinary stays ordinary. No killer freak explosions.” I got to Perkin’s place in under a minute and took half a second more to bind my long brown hair back in a ponytail as I stepped out of the Jeep. Not exactly the most professional look, since I was still wearing the Grateful Dead T-shirt and jeans, but it wasn’t the clothes that made me an authority on this scene. I crossed the gravel road to the small crowd of mortal neighbors gathered at the edge of Dan’s front yard. One of the Rossi boys was there, because one of the Rossi boys was always first to arrive at the scene of disasters. This time it was Sven, the very pale, very blond, blue-eyed poker cheat who didn’t look a day over twenty-one in his light gray hoodie, jeans, and Converse. “Chief Reed,” Sven said with a nod. His arms were crossed, hands tucked under his armpits. He’d only been in town for a few years, arriving as the newest “cousin” of the Rossi clan, which was a wide and varied melting pot. Old Rossi, the patriarch of the vampire clan, never turned away a new family member looking for a better life. Not all of the Rossis stayed in town, of course. There were rules, strict rules, and those who broke them were never seen again. Old Rossi made sure of that. Sven was built like he might have been a fisherman, or maybe someone who worked a farm a hundred years ago.

Here, he worked the night shift at Mom’s Bar and Grill, which was more bar than it was grill. He must have just gotten off work. “Sven,” I said. “You here when it happened?” He squinted and tipped his head the way his sort did when they were scenting for blood, fear, and sometimes other things they hungered for. “Nope. I got here right after the blast. Perkin’s furious.” His smile pulled up on one side, revealing a flash of his sharp canines. “Thinks someone wants him dead.” His eyes widened. “Imagine that.” “Yeah, well, you let me know if you hear anything.” Dan Perkin’s voice cut through the night air. “Throw him in jail! Throw that dirty, lying, cowardly, thieving scrap of garbage in jail!” “Sounds like he’s singing your song, chief,” Sven said. “I mean it.

You hear anything…” He nodded. “We’ll bring it to you. Rossi word.” “Good.” Fire, but not ambulance—must have called them off—took the corner, lights flashing, sirens off. I strode past Sven, across the yard, alongside the house to the backyard. Looked like someone had used dynamite to start a bonfire. The fire wasn’t spreading—early May was still too wet for anything to do much more than smolder—but the hole had blown the heck out of the burn pile and a couple nearby tire planters. Dan Perkin stood in front of the fire, cussing. From the dirt on him, he’d either been standing right in front of it when it’d blown, or had fallen on his way to see what the commotion was about. “Hello, chief,” Pearl said from his porch at my right. “Everyone’s all right here.” Pearl was in her early seventies—mortal—and a retired nurse out of Portland. She wore her hair back in a long braid and always carried her emergency kit backpack wherever she went. Dan Perkin was lucky to have her as a neighbor.

“Thanks for coming over, Pearl.” “Couldn’t sleep through this excitement, could I?” she said with a smile. “Hey-up, chief,” a male voice called out behind me. I glanced over my shoulder. Ben Rossi, the angel-faced, pale-haired, slender but incredibly strong chief of the volunteer fire department grinned as he hauled a hose out across the lawn. A lot of the Rossis held jobs in the first-responder and emergency departments. It might seem weird to have a fire department full of vampires, but they were cheerfully immune to human suffering, and their strength and un-aliveness made them solid allies in times of disaster. Building burning down? Send in the guys who don’t need to breathe and can’t die by fire. Stuck in a ditch? A vampire was one of the fastest, surest climbers around. Kitten stuck in a tree? You’ve never seen a scary fanger go gooey and sweet so fast. Turns out vampires loved cats. I wasn’t sure if that was a Rossi thing or a fanger thing, but it was adorable. Jame Wolfe, Ben’s partner both at work and home, strode along behind him, the hose over his shoulder. Built like a wrestler, he had the Wolfe family dark good looks and swagger that pretty much made sure he never went to bed alone. “Boys,” I said.

“Chief Reed,” Jame replied. Jame wasn’t a vampire—he was a werewolf. Big family of them owned the rock quarry south of town. It had been quite the gossip—well, among those who knew about the supernatural inhabitants of the place—when Ben and Jame had moved in together. There had been more than a little speculation as to how the cross-species relationship would be handled. So far, they seemed to be dealing with it just fine: both the gossip and the relationship. “About time you got here!” Dan Perkin yelled at the firefighters. “My whole house could have burned down by the time you showed up.” “He’s not very happy,” Pearl said. Right about then, Dan zeroed in on me. “Chief!” Dan Perkin was a small man—mortal—in his sixties, thin as a plucked feather. He was wearing a baseball hat, dirt-stained jeans, and John Deere jacket. He was also dusty, angry, and pacing the dirt in front of the burn pile. He stopped pacing and stomped right up to me instead. “Cuff him to the wreck at the bottom of the lake and throw away the keys!” he yelled.

“Mr. Perkin.” I put one hand on his upper arm and guided him to the overhang of his back porch. I tried to get him to sit, but he was having none of it. “Can you tell me what happened?” “Canoe dummy wet napkin?” he yelled. “What are you talking about?” “Blast blew his ears,” Pearl said. “You’ll need to speak up.” I raised my voice. “What happened?” “I almost died is what happened! Heard something out here. Came to look. Then: boom! Worse than that, my patch, all of it is gone! Blown to bits.” “Patch?” “My garden. My rhubarb.” He pointed his finger at the sky. “As God is my witness, I’m telling you it was Chris Lagon.

” I was pretty sure that the gods really couldn’t be bothered to stand witness to most of anything Dan claimed to be true. He was always mad at someone, always convinced he’d been cheated, walked over, victimized. Still, someone had just blown up his brush pile. “Chris Lagon blew up your rhubarb?” I asked. “Did you see him?” “No. But he knew I was going to enter the contest this year. Knew I was going to beat him in the drink category. Rhubarb root beer. It’s gonna make me millions.” It was probably terrible, but I nodded and pulled out the notepad I kept in my pocket. I clicked the pen and jotted down Chris’s name. “He threatened me!” “When? What exactly did he say?” “Yesterday. At his place.” “House or business?” “Brewery. Bum sleeps there in the boat.

Did you know that? That must be a health violation.” I knew exactly where Chris slept, and why. Saltwater creatures always stayed near water. “He threatened you at the brewery?” I said in an attempt to derail his next rant.


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Updated: 10 June 2021 — 23:49

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