by Natalie McKay
The day wore on with nothing eventful happening. A few customers, mostly regulars though every now and again a human with some curiosity would make their way down the ally and into the shop for a peak. As shop girl, it was Alia’s job to make sure the wondering humans didn’t get their hands on anything too dangerous. Between customers Alia kept an ear for any disturbance from down below, she wondered how long Maalik would have to keep the mummy in his living room-office. Even with a slap of concrete between them, the wolf sense inside of Alia could still pick up the dark aura. It never changed, never left, but was just constantly there nagging at all of her senses.
The clock struck 6 and gave out the melody chime, indicating it was closing time. With a wave of relieve, Alia locked the front door and began emptying the cash register and finished recording the sales of the day. It was Friday night and she would have her apartment all to herself, there were no lingering cases for her to work on, it was her first night off in four months and looking forward to it. Already she had a plan of picking up her favourite dish on the way home, planting herself on the cushioned sofa and stare into the new idiot’s box Matt had bought. Alia didn’t watch much TV to begin with but living with Matt she began to learn more about movies, shows and other entertainment values it contained.
She locked the cash in the safe under the service desk, and was just gathering her jacket and bag when a knock on the door echoed around her. Immediately Alia tensed, several different thoughts when through her mind, was it the Order? Had Kleio ratted them out? Or was it just the customer looking for Maalik? Or even worse, what if it was some rival, wanting to steal the mummy under Maalik’s nose?
Alia instinctively reached beneath the counter to pull out her dagger. A silver-iron blade with a wooden handle, wrapped with leather, with old celtic marks around the hilt and along the blade’s clean, smooth surface. The dagger had been given to her upon her hundredth birthday from the Old Hag, it was a sentimental piece, the only possession left that linked her with her past and where she came from. She gripped the hilt with her right hand as she made her way towards the door. Angling her body to her left, she hid the blade by her right thigh to look through the glass window at the figure on the other side.
A man stood in the gathering darkness. He wore a dark grey fedora hat, and a long black coat that covered the expensive looking suit underneath. Alia paused at the window, the man had been looking to his left, at the staircase leading down to the basement and had not noticed her arrival at the door. When he did look back, Alia saw a pair of crystal blue eyes, a long sharp nose and chiseled chin with the start of a scruffy beard. If he was startled to see her, he didn’t show it. He was a mask of calmness.
“We’re closed.” Alia said through the glass.
“I’m picking up a parcel.” He replied. “From the troll?”
Alia didn’t sense a disguise about him, making him a wizard or a human, but Maalik would never sell anything so precious and sacred to a mere human. A wizard he must be. The she-wolf looked at the man more closely, her grip on the blade tightened for a brief second. There was still a chance he was lying, but even on her side of the glass and she couldn’t sense anything that would be considered deceitful in his words. The man didn’t seemed to be disturbed at all, so relaxed as if he was just picking up a book, or a jar of dragon scales.
After some deliberation on her part, Alia unlocked the emerald-green door and stepped out into the alley. “He’s downstairs.” She said. The man stepped aside, making her lead him to the darkened door frame at the bottom of the stone steps.
“What’s your name?” She asked, before opening the door to Maalik.
“Narx.” He replied.
“Wait here.” Alia said as she slipped through the door, waiting for it to close tightly behind her before she spoke again. “Maalik, there’s a man out here looking for you.”
“Name?” Maalik asked from the far side of the room where he had his office set up. He taken off the disguise charm off, revealing his true form. He was well over six feet tall, had a greenish, yellow skin colour. Large pointed ears at either side of his very round face, with an oversized pointed nose in the dead centre.
“Calls himself Narx.” Alia answered back. “Is that mummy finally leaving?”
“Send him in.” Maalik said in his gruff voice, but didn’t answer her question.
“The shop’s closed, I’m heading out.” Alia then said turning back to the door.
“Stay. I want you here until that mummy is out of my sight.” Maalik ordered, Alia sighed. So much for night off. Alia returned to the door and opened it wide for the man to enter.
“Narx?” Maalik said, coming out of the shadows to meet the man. He held out his thick hand to the stranger, almost twice the size of Narx’s.
“Yes, and you must be Maalik? I assume the shipment arrived without incident?” Narx answered, not flinching at the appearance of troll before him nor the hand shake between the two. He ignored everything else around him and as soon as he saw the wooden crate and the golden lid within it, he didn’t look at anyone or anything else. It was as if he was under a spell.
“Yes. Everything went smoothly.” Maalik said. “I would like to get this settled quickly and have this crate leave my office tonight.” He added, with more intensity.
“Of course.” Narx replied, pealing his eyes away from the golden lid and back at the small beady red ones of Maalik. He moved his hand into his cloak, Alia quickly poised herself with her dagger, a reaction nothing more. Maalik saw her tense movements and slowly moved his head back and forth, settling Alia’s nerves but only slightly.
“That girl your body-guard?” Narx asked, turning to catch a look at Alia before setting a black bag on the nearby table. An echo of coins moving against coins filled Alia’s ears.
“My employee.” Maalik spoke sparingly. He took the bag and opened it up, satisfied with the exchange, he nodded to the wizard and waved his hand as if to say the mummy was now his.
“Right. If you would please open the door, Miss Employee. I will take my artifact and leave.” With a wave of his hand, the crate lifted a few feet into the air, confirming Alia’s suspicions of his magical lineage. Opening the door, Narx; with his magic; moved the crate by himself through the door and up the stairs. She gave Maalik one last look, but he was already nose deep in the payment to pay her any attention.
“You’re not going to float that around the city?” Alia asked carefully, following the wizard up the steps. There was no car or truck around that she could see.
“My own employees will be here in a few minutes with the truck.” He answered back then turned his head curiously to look at her. “Pretty concerned about those mundane laws for someone who works for a smuggler.”
“Maalik likes to cover his tracks, that’s all.” Alia answered back, feeling the hairs on the back of her neck stand at being confronted like that. Or, at least that was what she thought. She had her hand on the shop’s doorknob when a shadow passed just out of her vision and she felt the hairs rise a second time.
“Are those your employees?” She asked Narx carefully, her eyes following the shadow movement behind one of the far dumpsters. Then there was another above them from the fire escape. Shadow Reapers? Here? What the hell?
Alia turned her head back to Narx who seemed not to be listening to her, but talking on a cell phone, oblivious to the movements around him. Some wizard. A movement caught her attention again, the Shadow Reaper on the fire escaped made it’s move. Emerging out of the shadows it held out some twisted blade directed towards Narx. Acting before thinking, Alia ran and tackled Narx to the ground just as the Shadow Reaper plunged it’s black blade into the cement ground.
“What the fuck!” Narx shouted. His phone and fallen from his hand and shattered upon impact, his concentration on the levitating crate was also disrupted as it too smashed onto the ground. He pushed Alia off of him roughly, his blue eyes ice-cold, then he stared past her and at the Shadow Reaper and it’s twisted blade.
“Damn.” He whispered.