Colin slipped between pockets of people sucking up the air in small social circles along with the lagers in their hands. He indulged occasionally– this was Temple Bar District– but tonight the warrior had an appointment in this teeming Dublin pub.
He scanned for the door he needed with an upward gaze. Slouching disguised his enormous build enough not to draw too much attention. The muscles and height he sported were natural to demons like him, but made quite an impression with humans. The tattoo emerging from the collar of his black button-down shirt caressed his throat with wisps of grey smoke and he purposely left a few buttons undone so that if anyone wasn’t intimidated by his size, the sight of his ink might give them warning to keep their distance.
Two walls of the bar were lined with windows providing a view of the canal separating the city, and on a stage set in front of that view a band played a halfhearted version of Sweet Home Alabama.
Colin snorted. The Irish had a strange obsession with American classic rock.
Moonbeams highlighted the musicians and Colin’s lip curled. Eight silver eyes glinted back at him. The drummer smiled, revealing double rows of serrated teeth, and jerked his head to the side where a man nearly Colin’s size stood by a nondescript wooden panel.
The closer Colin got to the stage, the more his nostrils burned with the sickening combination of sugary sweetness and rotten decay. Wendigo were damn disgusting creatures. If the bar wasn’t so busy, Colin might worry he was walking into an ambush. The floor directly in front of the stage was clear, as if the humans sensed the danger the band posed, even if they couldn’t distinguish their twisted features or smell the stink of their flesh.
He approached the guard at the panel and sniffed. Human. Poor guy probably had no idea the creatures he worked for, or that they would one day make a meal of his soul.
The human held open the panel and Colin proceeded down a wooden staircase, the thumping of the crowd above dimming.
The room he entered looked less like a basement and more like Dick Tracy’s office. A green Persian rug covered the floor, but it was threadbare, revealing chipped wooden floorboards beneath. His connection sat in a frayed brown leather chair behind a plain desk with neatly stacked papers and a coffee cup penholder. Even the lighting was muted, straining to reach the shadows from dark glass wall sconces.
Colin rolled his shoulders and sprawled casually in the metal armchair across from the desk. He cast a cool gaze at the sparse décor.
“You figure out who framed Roger Rabbit?”
The wendigo snarled but held up a hand to keep the two henchmen behind him in their place.
“A pleasure as always, warrior.” His polite tone belied the threat in his posture.
“Let’s get to it, then, Marshall,” said Colin, lacing his fingers over his chest where twin daggers were strapped under his shirt. “You were to bring me the formula for the mistletoe serum and in return I promised not to kill you.” He flashed a brilliant smile.
Marshall raised his eyebrows.
“Fine,” Colin sighed, reaching into his breast pocket, “I also agreed to help you pay for this prestigious lounge.”
He snapped the check in the air until the wendigo leaned forward to snatch it from him. Marshall gestured to one of the goons, who retrieved a vile of liquid from his pocket and set it on the desk.
Colin feigned displeasure.
“The deal was for the formula. Not a sample.”
Marshall smiled and although his teeth didn’t appear jagged in ordinary light, Colin was nauseated by knowledge of what he was.
“This was all I could get, warrior. So sorry to disappoint.”
Of all the substances on Earth, mistletoe was the one element that could harm demons. Something to do with Loki’s blood and a hair from his last victim used in their creation. If the warriors had the formula, they could find a way to defend against it.
But words on paper could be modified. A sample of the actual serum would not be. Marshall provided exactly what Colin came for, even if he smugly believed he’d bested him.
Colin scratched his chest thoughtfully.
“You broke the agreement,” he said, smiling inwardly as the wendigo tensed.
“And you think to punish us unarmed?”
“Nah. I’ll use weapons on two of you.”
The wendigo bodyguards lunged with a roar, but Colin had already unsheathed his knives. He kicked off the desk, timing the descent of his chair to angle him precisely at the right angle to behead both attackers as they dove for him.
He rolled over his shoulder, righting himself between the two oily puddles that remained of the wendigo.
Marshall leaped onto the desk with a hiss, his fingers elongating and claws sharpening.
“I promised no weapons for you, didn’t I?” Colin tossed the daggers away. “I always keep my word.”
They leaped at the same time, and Colin’s solid muscle propelled the emaciated creature back from the desk. As they tumbled, Colin scooped up the serum. His other hand tightened around Marshall’s neck. Shouts from upstairs indicated the superior hearing of the wendigo in the bar had picked up on the commotion.
The tattoo on Colin’s chest tingled, heat creeping up his neck until smoke billowed from his mouth.
“You’ve been most helpful.” He let fire heat his words before releasing the breath he held. Flames swallowed Marshall’s screams and Colin was pleased to notice his check lit up as well.
Footsteps pounded from the stairs, and Colin grabbed hold of a ceiling rafter to swing his body feet first through the narrow basement window and onto the Dublin street.
Colin was across the canal and out of Temple Bar by the time the sirens started, the key to saving his race secured in his fist.