Raw Power: An Urban Fantasy Novel (Demon-Hearted Book 1)

BOOK: Raw Power: An Urban Fantasy Novel (Demon-Hearted Book 1)
10.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Cover

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Thank You For Reading!

Raw Power

An Urban Fantasy Novel

By Ambrose Ibsen

Copyright © 2016 Ambrose Ibsen

All rights reserved.

This one's for Iggy, James, Ron and Scott.

ONE

I tell you, there's no finer sound than that of breaking bones. Music to my ears.

I don't mean to make myself out to be some sort of hardass, I really mean it. Ever taken a nutcracker to a handful of walnuts that are still in the shell? You know that sound they make, just as the shell is giving way? That cracking sound that tells your brain: “Hell yeah, you're about to enjoy some walnut-flavored goodness”? It's kind of like that; the sound of a humerus snapping, of a jaw cracking, is a subconscious cue that reminds me I'm about to get paid. The breaking of a man's nose after a hard left jab may as well sound like the ringing of a cash register as far as I'm concerned.

We were out in an alley just then, after a brief but heavy rain had left Detroit awash in a humid haze scented with motor oil. I remember it well; the Dali I'd been hired to recover was propped against the wall of the alley like something reserved for the weekly garbage pickup. The asshole who'd put it there, one of two swarthy pricks dressed in cheap black suits, had set it down and approached me with his hands up, hoping that we could talk things through. Maybe, he thought, he could pay me, get me off of their case with a few greenbacks. He'd started sweet-talking me with an accent too tinged in the hues of central Europe for me to understand.

And, anyway, the client wasn't paying me to
talk
.

The meter was running and that painting had already been gone too long from its private collection. It was one of the lesser-known works in Dali's oeuvre, a handsome little piece called “The Burning Giraffe”. I'd always admired it, with its curious, drawer-filled figures, masterful usage of blues and greens, and the image of the burning giraffe in the background. As zany and thought-provoking as any work of art has ever been. When I was through with these guys, I'd allow myself a nice, thorough look at the thing before returning it to Mr. Amundsen.

Eager to wrap things up, I met this first fella's attempts at diplomacy with an elbow to the face.

His partner, all too happy to stand back and feel out the situation up to this point, was spurred into action. He pulled out a hell of a knife, definitely not within legal limits for concealed carry, and started running at me with his big, sharp teeth bared. They glowed white in the darkness of the alley as he loosed a great shout.

I love it when they give me a target.

Half of those pretty teeth were out of his mouth before he managed his first clumsy thrust of the knife, owed to a surprise kick. I wheeled around after delivering that kick, not a little amazed that he'd stayed upright, and buried a fist in his ribs as he staggered towards me for another slash. He caught nothing but air and then collapsed, the knife clattering to the ground and his face going pale. His buddy, with a nose that looked all kinds of busted, backed against the wall and pleaded through the swelling.

Gently, I kicked the second thug's knife into a nearby sewer and then paid the first gent a visit. He was real twitchy, had a look on his face like I was going to kill him outright. And, to be fair, his fears weren't completely unfounded, except that killing wasn't really my style. I'd lay into him, though; make it so that he wouldn't be able to leave till he'd had a nice, long sit. Maybe he'd have the time to consider a new career, something other than stealing precious paintings.

Pressing his back against the rain-soaked bricks, his suit torn at the shoulders and thoroughly dampened, he looked like he wanted to squeeze himself into a little ball, to shrink down and disappear into the grooves in the wall.

Wasn't going to happen.

With my heel, I stomped on his right hand, giving it a little turn till I heard the jumble of fingers creak, groan, then snap.

There it was, that excellent sound of bones being broken.

 
Almost payday,
I thought.

Tears were running down his face as I kicked him in the gut. He was out of commission after that, slumping over and heaving what looked like chow mein onto the ground. Had I been a little slower, I might've ended up wearing it myself.

 
With the two thieves incapacitated, I waltzed on over to the paper-wrapped bundle against the alley wall. It was the right size and shape; slipping a finger into one of the seams and partially unwrapping it, I glanced over the thing briefly and found that it was indeed “The Burning Giraffe”. I got a little thrill at having such a great work so close at hand. In school, I'd written more than a few papers on Dali. Seeing his work in a museum was one thing; recovering it from a few art thieves in a dark alley and holding it in my own hands was quite another.
Exhilarating
isn't strong enough a word.

 
Oh, I guess you're probably wondering how it is that a brawler like me knows so much about art, eh? It's true that most hired muscle out there can't tell a Dali from a Van Gogh; a Titian from a Monet. That's where I'm different. I might beat the shit out of people for a living, but I bring a little class to the job.
Just try
and find a gang-banger who knows something about Renaissance art, who can tell the Honjo Masamune from a fake. Here's a spoiler:
you won't.

I guess it all really started about six or seven years back before this particular incident in the alley. That was when I started college. I had friends and family telling me back then that an advanced degree in Art History wouldn't do me a whole lot of good in the real world, that the material didn't have any value outside of a museum or classroom. They said I'd never land a paying job with it.

 
Ha! If they could only see me
now
!

Of course, this line of work wasn't really what I had in mind when I graduated, but if bashing heads in and recovering stolen masterpieces gave me an opportunity to put my art know-how to use, then that was good enough. Plus, none of the local museums were hiring curators, so it was either take jobs like this one or seek a dead-end alternative. When the student loan bills started showing up, the choice was clear. You can only defer those suckers for so long. These are tough times we're living in, folks, and in this economy you have to do what you can to get by.

Some people might seek out a job at McDonald's. Some people might work at a laundromat or clean toilets for a living. Nothing wrong with that. Not a damn thing.

But me?

I started off small. Signed on with an agency that recovered debts of all kinds. We were repo-men, sort of, operating in a legal gray-zone. Technically, we were only supposed to hound people to repay their debts, but when you live in a city like Detroit, so rundown and so short on cops, it's real easy to take things a little further than that. Turns out that people are really friendly and willing to negotiate payment plans when you kick in their doors at 3AM and threaten 'em with a knife.

Ahem. But, I digress.

 
I was bringing in a lot of money for the agency, and my name got around. I got to be a little bit of a celebrity, I guess, because before I know it I'm getting offers from these rich old guys, asking me to track down thieves and return stolen goods. It started with jewelry and electronics, but when word of my degree got out, even
richer
dudes started asking me to find artwork that'd been stolen or smuggled out of private collections.

 
What can I say? I was living the American dream. Self-employed and
mostly
loving it.

“The Burning Giraffe” was the latest in a string of recoveries I'd made for Mr. Amundsen. I knew the guy was insanely loaded; I'd been outside his house a few times and had seen more than a couple imported cars with unpronounceable names in his winding driveway. He'd taken a real liking to me, and had hired me several times now to handle jobs like this one for him and his friends. I was loving the money, and the client knew a good deal about art, so we hit it off pretty well.

With “The Burning Giraffe” tucked safely under my arm, I straightened out my clothing, rolled my shoulders to dissolve the tension of the chase, and proceeded to empty out the wallets of the two unconscious thieves before sauntering to my car and whistling a tune.

Waste not, want not, right? Didn't make sense to waste that low-hanging fruit.

When I got to my car, I had a good look at “The Burning Giraffe”, then buckled it into the front passenger's seat, using the seatbelt. Then, I quickly roared onto the main drag, heading straight for Mr. Amundsen's place. He lived a few miles out of Detroit, in a small, affluent suburb. The drive would take me fifteen minutes if the traffic was good.

Cranking up the stereo, I turned on a little John Coltrane and hit the AC.

The thickness of my wallet was such that I was sitting a little lopsided. Those thieves had been carrying enough cash on them to stage an escape from the country. That's probably what they'd been planning on, though how they'd have gotten the pilfered painting through customs was a mystery. Didn't matter, of course. I'd gotten the thing back, out-thieved the thieves. It felt good.

The little pile of money pressing into my ass-cheek made the potholes in the shitty Detroit roads that much easier to tolerate.

***

“Lucian, it's great to see you,” said Amundsen, stepping through the monumental gate outside his property with a pair of bodyguards. He took hold of my hand and shook it like he was genuinely happy to see me-- and not just because I had his precious painting under my arm. “I take it you didn't encounter any trouble?”

I shook my head. Hadn't been a spot of trouble about the whole thing, unless you count the dull ache in my elbow, from knocking that guy in the nose. Hazards of the job. “Nah,” I replied. “Got her back safe and sound. A real beautiful piece, too. I hope you don't mind that I had a little peek.” I handed over the parcel.

The client, dressed in a long black jacket, gave a hearty laugh. “Not at all. Seeing a work of this caliber up-close is a real treat for a man who knows his art.” One of the gorilla-looking bodyguards accepted the painting from him and carried it through the gate, up into the property. Amundsen dismissed the other, so that it was just me and him standing outside the gate in the warm night. The air here smelt crisper than it had in Detroit. No oil or piss-stench to be found, just fresh suburban air. I thought just then that it'd be a fine way to live, settling down in some gated property where the riff-raff of the city couldn't get at you.

When the guards had left, Amundsen fished his wallet from his back pocket and handed over a fat wad of cash. He didn't even bother counting it, but simply folded it over as best he could and presented it with a smile. “I can't thank you enough,” he said. “That painting means the world to me. You're really the best I've ever met in this profession, Lucian.”

BOOK: Raw Power: An Urban Fantasy Novel (Demon-Hearted Book 1)
10.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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