Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hunting the Shifted

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Shifter" in Mirror Shards.

Barb entered the dimly lit bar and nodded at Ross Mullins who sat at one of the tables while a half dozen other FBI agents scurried around like fleas on a mangy mutt. An agent standing near the door, someone Barb didn't know, turned to stand in front of Barb with his fists on his hips and said, "The bar is closed."

"Don't mind her," said Ross. "She'll be discreet, besides she's done us a favor in the past." The agent at the door let her pass and Barb walked around the edges of this working man's bar. The FBI agents in their crisp suits clashed like mud-flecked plaid on a society girl.

"As I was tellin' ya, I'm sure the girl's the one ya lookin' for," said a man, obviously the bartender, who sat across from Ross.

"How are you so sure?" asked Ross.

"Man, I ain't lost my marbles in my drink. She's been on all the milk cartons and plastered across TV news. Besides, it's kinda unusual for a guy to bring a little girl in here."

"And that's when you called us?" The bartender nodded. "You never recognized the senator?" Someone sneezed and Ross glared at the offending agent.

"Fuckin' chad. Haven't voted since the farce of an election back in 2000. Don't care about those piggies, they never done me any good."

"It doesn't matter if he can't identify the senator," said an agent with a laptop who sat at a nearby table. "I've got a positive match with Sen. Coulter's fingerprints on this glass."

"Okay men, we're done here. Time to bring down the senator," said Ross. Instead of leaving with the other agents, Ross walked over to Barb. "So what brings the vulture here?"

"Not a vulture, a hunter." Barb stood straight like an iron rod, and wished she was a little taller so she didn't have to look up at Ross.

"Okay," Ross smiled, "why is the Hunter here?"

"Looking for Philip Cortez."

"The shape-shifter?"


"Well, good luck," said Ross who followed the other agents out of the bar. Typical man, thought Barb, couldn't put one plus one together if his life depended on it.

The bartender still sat at the table.

Barb smiled at the bartender and asked, "Did the girl drink anything?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Do you mind if I have her glass?" Just like the sun would rise tomorrow morning, Barb expected to find Philip's fingerprints.

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