Authors: Ce Murphy,Faith Hunter
|Murphy, CE Hunter, Faith
|Bella Rosa Books (2012)
A Jane Yellowrock
Walker Papers Crossover<
(fan fiction by the authors themselves)
& C.E. Murphy
Copyright (c) 2011 by Faith Hunter & C.E. Murphy
All Rights Reserved
Cover Art: Mike Pruette:
I think it’s safe to say this one’s for the fans.
All of them, including us!
I’d like to say this crossover novella is entirely Faith’s fault. I read the first two Jane Yellowrock books back to back, and in a fit of utter, total fanboy glee, wrote this silly little fan fiction “Jane and Joanne meet!” story introduction. Faith said it was okay for me to post it publicly, and then we got to talking and started to think that it could really be a lot of fun to actually go ahead and write the story.
We spent most of a year (working on and off) writing “Easy Pickings”, and had a ridiculously good time doing so. We hope you enjoy it was much as we have.
Please do note: this really is fan fiction by the authors themselves. It Didn’t Happen, in the Walker Papers universe.
… but if it had (which it didn’t), it would happen after MOUNTAIN ECHOES, the 8th book in the Walker Papers series. So if it happens (but it won’t!), you’re getting a glimpse into Joanne’s future … :-)
Yeah—Ditto. What she said. :-) This has been a blast.
And though this story didn’t happen in Jane’s universe either, if it did, it would have happened between RAVEN CURSED and DEATH’S RIVAL. But I promise, no spoilers. This is a standalone in every way.
And hey, keep an eye out. Jane and Jo might meet again sometime. Maybe in Seattle … Just sayin’.
There was something weird about crossing the city lines into New Orleans. Not just that the Big Easy was by anybody’s standards—in fiction, anyway—the center of all things supernatural in the States. It was bigger than that, a nasty jolt that wrenched everything a couple steps to the left. Even the city’s aura looked different from inside than it had from a few miles out, and I had absolutely no clue why.
The exciting thing about my life was that I’d probably find out.
For all my traveling around as a kid, I’d never gone through New Orleans. N’awlins, the way the natives said it. I loved that sound, like it was a word to be rolled around in and licked off the skin. So I did what any tourist would do upon arriving in the heartland of American Weird.
I hit the French Quarter.
Three days before Mardi Gras, the Quarter was hopping. It was probably the worst time of year to visit if I actually wanted to see New Orleans, but it was the best time if I wanted to throw myself eyeball-deep into beads, streamers, costumes, half-naked girls—Gary was going to deeply regret not having come along—parades, parties, obscene amounts of incredibly good food, and bourbon. I’d never actually tried bourbon and was kind of looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t indulge right away, because the fish-hook sensation in my belly, the one that had been hauling me around ever since my shamanic powers had awakened, was getting tighter and more uncomfortable the deeper I got into the Quarter. I didn’t think my magic would give me an even break—let me heal up from a hangover, in other words—if I ignored it in favor of tying one on.
The city was a veritable teeming mass of humanity. Scent bombarded me from every direction: booze, perfume, pot, food, oh, God, the food, and the pervasive stink of sweat that no amount of deodorant or cologne was going to drown. Voices rose and fell in shrieks of laughter, joy, dismay; shouting was the only way to be heard, even if you were talking to the guy standing next to you. Everyone was beautiful in that flush-of-life way, though here in the heart of the city, so close to Mardi Gras, there were an unnatural number of genuinely beautiful people. They ran the color spectrum from rich blue-black all the way through to translucent white, with me thrown in on the whiter end, though when one of those really white girls stumbled into my arms, the skin tone comparison made me look rich and gold beside her. It was only back in Qualla Boundary, surrounded by others of Cherokee descent, that I felt stand-out pale. I pushed the girl to her feet and watched her totter drunkenly away.
Maybe it was thinking about North Carolina and the life I’d left behind there that made me notice her. There were too many people to explain it otherwise, though the fish-hooks in my gut pulled so hard and sharp that they might’ve been an explanation on their own. It didn’t matter: she was half a block away and visible for about five seconds through a break in the crowd. She wore black leather damned near head to toe, all of it so snug against her body it had to be custom-made. Silver sparkled all over it, zippers and guns and blades and silver stakes in her hair like an Oriental fan of death. She wore a gold nugget on a doubled chain around her neck and she looked hot, both literally and figuratively. I thought the reason I’d glimpsed her at all was everybody else thought so too, and was backing up to get a better look at her.
She had to be at least my height, just a hair under six feet tall, even without the shit-stomping combat-style motorcycle boots she wore. And speaking of hair, if you took my crop cut and her four foot braid and divvied them out, we would both end up with what society considered a normal amount of hair for a woman. She was even built a lot like I was, rangy long limbs, though I thought I carried more muscle across the chest and shoulder from years of working on my car. Her skin tones were darker than mine, more pure Indian, but if somebody’d told me we were sisters, I’d have been inclined to believe them.
Particularly when she glanced my way and a flash of light caught the color of her amber eyes.
In my world, yellow eyes meant magic user. I should know: my own eyes were probably gold as sunrise just then, as the Sight kicked in to study one of the most complex, gorgeous auras I’d ever seen. Earthy colors tangled with something absolutely inhuman: dark, sleek, sentient and dangerous. A hunter, sharing body and soul with a human, and just ever so slightly bubbling with resentment over it.
I sure as hell knew what had brought me to New Orleans, now.
Something was wrong with the city. It wasn’t all the extra people in town for Mardi Gras. It wasn’t the reek of body odor—though my Beast was rising close to the surface, taking that in, her pelt abrading the inside of my skin like sandpaper, her claws kneading my mind painfully. It wasn’t even the wild energies I felt on the air with so many magic users in town to play. New Orleans smelled different. It felt different. Something had happened.
I had felt it an hour ago, while on the edge of the forest in the New Orleans City Park, Beast’s fangs buried in a rabbit’s throat. A ripple in … it felt stupid even remembering what I’d thought I’d felt. A ripple in reality. A shift in the way light worked. In the pull of the moon. Followed by Beast’s awareness that the smells were subtly different. I had wanted to shift back to human from my puma concolor form, but Beast had held on until she finished the freaking rabbit before she allowed me to take back over. Then I’d shifted back to human, pulled on my loose cotton clothes and raced my bastard Harley back to the French Quarter to eat a fast meal and pull on my fighting clothes. Whatever had happened, I wanted to be weaponed up.
Now, walking the city, I was carrying more weapons than a Special Forces soldier, my Benelli M4 across my back and four holstered handguns under my leathers, a half dozen silver-plated vamp-killer blades sheathed in my clothes, and a dozen wood and silver stakes in my hair. But the weapons weren’t enough. I was still on edge, smelling and feeling a weird energy dance along my skin. Something was wrong. Really wrong.
I reached the Royal Mojo Blues Company, a blues and rock and roll club I frequented when I needed to let off steam and dance. And the name of the bar was different.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise, a low growl caught in my throat. I knew my eyes were glowing yellow with Beast and I couldn’t force her back down, couldn’t hang on totally to humanity. I had been here last week, danced here last week. It had still been the RMBC.
Businesses changed hands, closed and reopened under new management so often in this town that it wasn’t impossible the bar had been sold. But the sign was old and faded. Now it was the Vamp Mojo. And it smelled—no it reeked—of vamp and human blood. In four days—four short, totally impossible days—it had become a vamp-blood bar. Crap. I stood in the shadows, pulling scents in over my tongue and through my nose in a soft scree of sound.
Leo was inside. But a drunk and well fed Leo. A … a passive Leo. One without the energies I’d come to associate with the Master of the City. I smelled Katie, of Katie’s Ladies, and some vamp who scented of power like I had never known in a vamp before. And sex. Lots of sex.
I almost went in, when something else caught my attention. A woman. Just ahead. She was the reason things were different, though how I knew that, I wasn’t certain. But I did. I turned and walked away from the bar. Toward her.
She was tall like me, but with more muscle. Hair cut short, skin paler than my Cherokee, but dang. We might have been sisters. Beast stood in the forefront of my mind and studied her. I could see the energies in her, not pouring off her, but contained, restrained, like high water behind a dam.