The shelter director took in the kitchen situation. “Will lunch be ready on time?”
The problem was Elspath. She stood beside a metal bowel swimming with chicken livers. With a spatula, Elspath turned onions in butter for a pâtè. Next to the skillet, a saucepan boiled.
The woman at the front of the line, her wrinkled face rivaling Elspath’s for age not wisdom, always had the same question. “When will my daughter visit?” She offered up a liver.
Slimey, it roiled in broth. Elspath said, “Remember, she called.”
The woman’s face brightened. “Yes.”
Elspath said. “She’ll be here for lunch.”
They were headed for the south pasture. Turning hairy faces to each other, they rode horses alongside the herd.
Eyes searching, one pointed a claw. “He’s over there, my boy. I can smell him. See that movement. At the edge of the trees.”
“He’s left?” A concerned look.
“Didn’t come back from the last prowl.”
“Like so many of ‘em.”
They both looked down. They remembered staying home from school when the moon turned full. They tasted fear at the thought of werewolf hunters.
“Wolf packs, they’re more accepting.”
“Probably. But who’s going to take over when we’re gone?”
Willie seemed embarrassed. “Mrs. Winkie’s suggestion. Some kaffeeklatsch nonsense.”
Several curious dads shifted on their barstools. “The neon yellow nightgown? Their idea?”
“Yeah. Said the kids would pay attention. I came up with the lantern and stopping in here afterwards.”
“So you don’t go all through the town.” The guy speaking had bags under his eyes.
“ Nah, that’s an exaggeration. Just my street.” Willie took a sip from his beer.
“Do the kids get into bed by eight?” Same guy. Seemed hopeful.
“Yeah, absolutely. Everything’s quiet when I get home.” Willie warmed to his subject. “And it’s cured my insomnia.”
With minutes left, Mädchen found the crook’s password. “Bingo, Rumplestiltskin.” Using his name, she cast a cheater’s spell to bind his Alchemist Account.
Once she had access to his vault, she could see his transactions. Straw to silver, straw to gold, gold to straw; all typed in neat rows alongside the names of infamous drug lords and traffickers.
Mädchen sniffed brimstone in the air.
The wizard stood in front of her, hand outstretched. “The gold.”
“I don’t have it.”
He grabbed her. Once they touched, she ensnared him and worked a shrinking spell. His soul evaporated until nothing was left.
“She won’t wake up.” A harried looking Queen sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed while the royal physician poked, prodded and tested the Princess.
“Anything unusual to report,” he asked.
“Her birthday. Yesterday. She had a lie down after she’d opened her presents.”
“I see.” He peered at the child’s finger. “Something sharp, a sewing kit? Knitting needles?”
“She got a spindle from her godmother. And merino wool.”
“Tried it right away?”
The queen nodded.
“A witch practitioner is what you need.”
The queen frowned. “Magic, what kind of medicine is that?”
“Only a spell cures a spell.”
Sherlock Wolff tracked the notorious hacker, Lorelei, to the Rhine Club. Concealing himself at the back, he scoped out the exits. She sang. Too late, he noticed his cocoa turning wolfsbane blue. The arrest warrant in his hand wavered like a timepiece in a Dali painting. He found himself on stage.
Instead of serving the warrant, he was served. Instead of arresting Lorelei, she handcuffed him. Wolff’s supervisor appeared. “Good work, Detective Wolff.” He shook Lorelei’s hand.
Wolff couldn’t find his tongue.
He woke up in a Bavarian jail. The woodcutter in the next cell said, “Don’t I know you?”
“Sherlock Wolff, ma’am. National Narrative Crimes.” He held a promotional photo. “Have you seen this blond chanteuse?”
Mrs. Bear dried her paws . “Lorelei’s gone, I’m afraid.”
“Did she leave anything?”
“ A mess.” Mrs. Bear ushered the detective in.
“We’re looking for a first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and a laptop. Seen anything?”
Mrs. Bear shook her head. She called her son in.
Babyface said, “Lori’s not a reader.”
“She’s a hacker. Breaking into physical books, shortening them, changing plots. Her ex-boyfriend reported her.”
“She told me about him. The beast.”
Detective Wolff said, “He’s a wolf. There’s a difference.”
Bavarian Boots had a storied history. Now the elves wanted to change the company name to Iberian Soles.
“We’ve voted to relocate to the Canary Islands.” The elf twisted his beard into a white knot that rested on his collar.
Shoemaker’s father had been right. What a mistake to encourage a union. First it was holidays, then four weeks vacation. Now this. “I’ll consider it,” Shoemaker said.
“When you’re two centuries old, you’ll want a warm place to live,” the elf said. “Visit. You’ll see.”
Shoemaker booked a trip for three days. A month later, the relocation plan was complete.
The shoemaker claimed that elves made his wares. It might have been true. Even his wife never saw him working. He gabbed and napped the day away, but all night he cut and stitched. After a television personality interviewed him, business soared.
Success cured him of insomnia. He worked afternoons and into the night, falling asleep before finishing his orders. Still, every shoe was ready in the morning. Puzzled, he kept himself awake drinking coffee and pinching himself when his eyes drooped. Just when he couldn’t keep from nodding, his wife sneaked in.
“It was you,” he said.
I had the worst week.
My boyfriend dumped me. So Goldie, my cousin, got me a house sitting gig. For a hot minute, I had some breathing space.
It got worse.
Spent the better part of my time in toxic negotiations. Absurd things like who owns the Ikea bookshelf. Not that I have a place for it now. He got the rent-controlled apartment. But even Big-Bad-Ex admitted the books are mine. Anyway, he doesn’t need a bookshelf. He’s barely literate. Not even housebroken.
Then, major disaster; the Bears came home early.
What else could I do? I swam for safety.