Here Comes Trouble

I’m going to be doing the Genre Stretch again this year.  I might be using the same characters for them all… I might not.  January’s challenge was Bizzaro Fiction.  I’m not sure how successful I was, but I enjoyed writing the story and I’m pretty happy with it.

**

“According to the reports we’ve been receiving, livestock started going missing about a month ago,” Ruby said, as they drove into the campground.  “Then, just this week, three campers went missing.”

“Hence, why we’re stopping here, rather than one of the local farms,” Konrad said, his voice soft.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  “So, you’re thinking, what?  A dragon?”

“Maybe,” Ruby said, grinning brightly.  She shoved Konrad playfully when he heaved another sigh.  “Come on, Konrad!  Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“Must have left it in my other suit,” he replied.  He shook his head as she pulled the car to a stop.  “Seriously, Agent Montgomery, this is all fun and games for you, but I’ve got four younger siblings that depend on me.  I can’t just get eaten by a dragon.  You know?”

“It shouldn’t surprise you but I’m none to keen about being dragon food either,” Ruby said, chuckling.  She bounced out of the car and grabbed her bag out of the trunk.  She frowned when she noticed that Konrad was staring at his cellular phone.  “You aren’t going to chicken out on me.  Are you?”

“No,” he said, rolling his eyes.  He heaved a sigh and held up the cell phone that she could see it.  “No signal,” he told her.  “We’re in the middle of nowhere, Agent Montgomery!  What if we get into trouble?  What if we need backup?  What if my sister tries to call me?  What if my brother has a flare up?”

“Stop already,” Ruby said, rolling her eyes.  She tossed Konrad his bag and then headed towards the cabin they would be sharing.  “There’s a landline from the cabin.  We can use that for emergencies.”  Glancing back at her partner, she added, “If it makes you feel better, call the house and give Markus the number for the cabin.”

“I may do that,” Konrad said, as he shouldered his bag and followed her towards the cabin.

 

It was quiet until darkness fell.  They were just settling down to have dinner and discuss the case when Konrad tensed.  “What?” Ruby asked.  “What’s wrong, Konrad?”

He shook his head and stepped over to the window.  Sliding it open, he put his finger to his lips, silently telling her to be quiet.  From outside, they heard a horrible screeching sound.  It reminded Ruby of nails on a chalkboard.  It was definitely not the sort of sound you expected to here from the forest in the middle of the night.

Shutting the window, Konrad met her gaze.  “That’s no dragon,” he said, his voice soft.

“No,” she agreed, moving to her feet.  She shook her head.  “What was it, though?  Do you have any idea?”

“I’d like to use a lifeline,” Konrad said, smirking.  “I’m phoning a friend.”  Before Ruby could say anything, he had grabbed the handset off the telephone cradle.  He dialed a number and then waited a moment.  Just when Ruby was about to ask who he was calling, he said, “Hey, Johannes, can you listen to something for me?”

He nodded and slid the window opened once again.  He held the handset out the opening for a moment, just as the screeching sound came again.  He eased the window closed and then said, “Any idea what’s making that racket?”

Ruby watched as Konrad’s expression turned grim.  He nodded and she was about to speak, but he held up his hand, silently asking her to wait.  Finally, he nodded again.  “All right, then,” he said.  “Thanks, Hansel.  We’ll keep that in mind.”

Replacing the handset, Konrad smirked at Ruby.  “That’s a demon,” he said, his voice soft.  When she gasped, he said, “We need to go out there and take care of it, before it kills someone else.”

“How are we supposed to fight a demon?” Ruby asked, as she followed Konrad towards the doorway.  “Seriously, Konrad.  Dragons are pretty straightforward.  They aren’t easy, but their straightforward.  Demons are something else altogether.  We’re not holy people, you know?”

“You fight a demon the same way you would any other beast,” Konrad said, as he headed out the door.  He looked out towards the trees and added, “You just have to bear in mind that a demon won’t be content to simply eat you.  It wasn’t to corrupt your soul.”

As they left the cabin, there was the distinctive sound of a large sword being drawn from its scabbard.  Then, Konrad was holding his zweihander.  “Let’s go hunt up a demon,” Konrad said, his voice soft.

As he spoke, the horrible screeching sound echoed through the trees.  “At least it won’t be hard to find,” Ruby murmured, falling into step behind her partner.  In spite of her growing fear, some part of her was excited.  She knew that she could do this.

 

Through the trees, Ruby spotted a flickering red glow.  She quickened her pace, her eyes widening in anticipation.  Somewhere between fear and excitement, she entered the clearing.  Gilbert was just behind her.  There, before them, stood a monster that looked like a demon out of classical artwork.  It turned to face them as Ruby stood, staring at it.

“Begone, fell creature,” Konrad said, leveling his sword at it.

The demon made a sound that might have been laughter, even as Ruby looked at Konrad.  His gaze was locked on the chuckling demon.  “Really?” she said, arching her brow.

“Really,” Konrad said, smirking.  Then, the demon launched itself at them. Konrad shoved Ruby to one side and he dodges to the other.  “Do it, Ruby,” he called, as he swung the sword up to block the demon’s claws from reaching him.

Ruby swallowed thickly and then began singing.  Her voice was a clear, rich alto that rang across the clearing.  The demon faltered and turned to her, screeching in rage.

Konrad used the moment of distraction to his advantage.  He swung his huge sword in an arch and brought it down on the demon’s shoulder.  Thick blood flowed from the wound as the demon turned back to Konrad.

Eyes wide, Ruby continued her song.  She kept back from where the demon and Konrad were taking swings at each other.  She could tell that her song was having an effect on the monster.  It’s attacks were slower than they should have been.  However, it was still very strong.

Ruby nearly faltered in her singing when the demon knocked Konrad off his feet.  His sword went crashing into the underbrush.  Even if she could have found it, she knew it was too heavy for her to lift easily.  Besides, that wouldn’t help Konrad.  She grabbed a stout branch and swung it, clocking the demon on the shoulder.

There was the sound of a sword being drawn and the demon jerked.  It made an odd gurgling sound and Konrad shoved it away.  As the demon fell back against the ground, she could see that Konrad had run it through with his sword.  “Keep singing, Ruby,” he said, as he moved to his feet.  As she finished her song, the demon dissolved in a shower of gold light.

“Are you all right?” Ruby asked, rushing to Konrad’s side.  He nodded and she ruffled a hand through her hair.  “So… now what?”

Konrad gave her a weak smile.  “Let’s get back to the cabin,” he said.  “Our work here is done.  We just need to clean up and write our reports… maybe get a good night’s sleep before we head back to the office tomorrow.”

Nodding, Ruby moved back towards the cabin.  “Did your little brother say where a demon like that would have come from?” she asked.

For a moment, Konrad was silent.  Then, in a tense voice, he said, “According to Johannes… a demon like that would have had to be summoned.”  When she looked at him in surprise, he shook his head.  “Whomever it was, they’re long gone now.”

“It’s not over then,” Ruby said, her voice faint.  “Not by a long shot.”  She didn’t have to look at her partner to know that he agreed with her words.  They hadn’t seen the last of this case.

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