Viola put the fire extinguisher down and adjusted her black corset. The stays were pushing into her ribs again and the leather tended to chafe under her arms. Oh, the price to hide in plain sight. Papers rustled towards the back of her all night bookstore and she snatched the extinguisher back up. “This time, you’re mine.” Viola walked on her toes, wincing at the pain the stiletto boots were giving her instep. She couldn’t afford the tell tale tapping of the heels, not when it was this close. “Gotcha!” Viola wheeled between the racks and let fly with a stream of foam, which spluttered all over a greasy thug enthusing over a Hustler centerfold. “Hey!" "Sorry, thought you were that damned fire elemental,” Viola said and rested the extinguisher down dejectedly. “You squirted me,” he wiped his hand down his wife beater T-shirt and flung speckles of white foam at her. Viola raised an eyebrow at him. “Send me your dry cleaning bill.” Somebody was tapping the counter bell in an anal retentive rhythm, so she left the thug to his magazine and click clacked up to the front of the store. Standing at the counter was one of the local university professors, if his grey flannel suit and spectacles were any indication. “Yes?” Viola said politely closing her hand over his before he rang the bell again. “Ouch, that’s quite a grip.” She released him. “Cold hands,” he said and smiled. He fiddled with his eye glasses. “Can I help you?” Viola rather doubted it. “I’m looking for the Kama Sutra,” he whispered the last two words. “Aisle three,” she said and jerked her head. Viola slid behind the counter and sat down the velvet covered barstool by the cash register. It was going to be a long night. She took a sip of her drink and kicked her heels as she swiveled on the chair. It felt good to be off her feet. The neon sign for her bookstore lit up the dark street. “The Graveyard” was a twenty-four hour a day adult bookstore. “Um, excuse me, I still can’t find it.” Viola sighed and shifted around the counter. She led the way to aisle three and the professor followed like a puppy. There it was on the shelf, plain as day. She pulled out the special, hard covered edition. “So, is this for a class or are you and the missus trying to spice things up?” “Actually, I’m just recently divorced,” he said from behind her. Viola’s shoulder blades twitched and she sprang out of the way just as the stake plummeted towards the ground. Before he could recover his balance from the downward strike, she thunked him on the head with the Kama Sutra. His skull made a pleasant thud as it bounced once on the concrete floor. “You’re going to be recently deceased,” she told him and grabbed his penny loafers and tugged, dragging him effortlessly down the aisles of the book store to the back office. The thug didn’t even look up from his magazine. “Hey Vi,” Cassandra sat in the break room filing her nails. “Ooh, you brought a snack. Hmm,” she sniffed. “White bread. How dull.” “Bastard tried to stake me.” Viola hefted him up to counter. “That’s going to cost him a few pints.” “Where are the gags?” Viola said, opening and closing drawers. “I think we’re out.” Cassandra said, burbling as she sank her fangs into his wrist. “Why do we even have this requisition list if no one ever uses it?” Viola groused and added “gags” underneath “plastic ware” and “rubber gloves.” “Don’t drain him. I need to ask him who sent him.” Cassandra was too busy enjoying her midnight snack to respond. Viola continued her foraging until she found an empty fast food take out bag in the trash. The day crew must have ordered in. Oh well, it will have to do. She stuffed it in the professor’s slack jaw and tapped Cassandra’s head in warning. “I’m getting the smelling salts. Go watch the front.” Cassandra finished up with a slurping sound. She wiped an arm across her mouth, tugged down on her leather shorts and left the break room. Viola straddled the man and waved the ammonia capsules under his noise. He woke up snorting. His face was pale from his recent donation and he must have seen something in her eyes because he shrank back. She bared her fangs and stared into him. “I am your slave,” he said as her gaze captivated him. “Who sent you?” “The Prophecy of the Eye.” Oh, those assholes. “How did they find out about me?” “My wife, my ex-wife,” he closed his eyes briefly. “She’s headmistress of the Morality Minders and when she was investigating your business she saw you bite someone.” Viola frowned. She never bit anyone in the store. All of her dinner dates were private affairs. “So she called you?” “No, she called my boss. He got the council together and they sent me to take care of you. She’s planning on burning your place down.” “Huh,” Viola said thinking about the elemental. “Is your wife a mage?” “Ex . . . Sorry Mistress, I will not correct you again. No, they worship the devil.” Viola rolled her eyes. “They don’t believe in the devil. Oh, never mind.” “Command me. I only wish to serve.” “What’s your name? “Ralph Morrison.” “OK, Ralphie,” Viola climbed off. “Eat more red meat. You’re going to need to preserve your strength.” He stood up. She smacked a book into his stomach. It was the Kama Sutra. “Read up. You’re going to need that knowledge.” He started flipping through the pages. “But first,” he looked up at her voice. “I’ve got some pallets in the back that need to be broken down.” As they made their way to the warehouse, Viola stopped short. “Do you smell something?” Something like burning paper? It was going to be a long night.
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