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“Excuse me, sir, but your demon appears to be growing.”
I glanced at the harried waitress before looking at Tuzren. Beau Jo’s Pizza was surprisingly packed for the day after the almost Apocalypse. When we arrived, the staff put us on an hour-long waiting list. Other humans and Supernaturals hung out in the bar or stood around us and made idle chatter, totally unaware that the four people who hung out patiently waiting for their name to be called were the same people who saved all of humankind.
We humans are surprisingly resilient creatures, which has served us over millennia, but we also can be totally clueless. There wasn’t even a titter when the server called out my name, Ironspell. It was probably best. I didn’t want to be reminded that even though I stopped a poisonous alchemical gas from killing off all humans, millions had died.
Eventually the waitress seated us at a table which was somewhat in the middle of the room. Which meant just about everyone jostled by us, one way or another. But we were here at Beau Jo’s and, by golly, we were eating the best damn pizza on the planet.
We had just gotten through the first round of pizzas when the waitress noticed a problem with Tuzren. A middle-aged woman with slightly graying brown hair falling down in wisps from her ponytail, she set another large pizza with extra meat in front of my girlfriend, Luna. The waitress had enough tact to not mention Luna’s half-changed state. Luna was a werewolf with a shifting problem—she couldn’t control her transmutations and was more than halfway shifted to her wolf form. “Thanks!” Luna said brightly and smiled at the woman—a simply terrifying expression if one wasn’t familiar with werewolves. The waitress smiled back and left us to our double meat everything.
Now, I studied the object of the waitress’s concern. Damn if Tuzren didn’t appear larger as he chomped merrily into the Beau Jo’s pizza. Right now, he was as large as a Labrador Retriever, whereas just a few hours earlier, he’d ride on my shoulder and I’d hardly notice him. An innocuous demon, as demons go, someone had summoned him to this plane only to abandon him because he was too small for their purposes. I had found him Dumpster-diving near Bonnie Brae Denver and took pity on him.
“Hey, Tuz, what’s the deal? We can’t feed you after midnight or ever get you wet?” I asked.
“Nah, that’s gremlins,” Tuzren said between bites. “Apparently this pizza has magical properties.” He smiled at me with cheesy goo running down his chin. “Don’t worry. It’s not permanent.”
“Good, because I’d have to have you ride in the truck’s bed,” Elryn spoke as she picked at her salad.
“Says the Elf who eats salad at the best damn pizzeria on the planet.” Tuzren pulled another slice and held it out to her between his clawed fingers. “Oh, come on. Live a little and have some.”
Elryn winced. “I’d rather not.”
“Are you a vegan?” Luna asked. “You know they have vegetarian pizza.”
“I know,” Elryn said.
“They have gluten free and dairy free,” Tuzren added. “You know, in case you’re intolerant.”
“I’m fine.” Elryn’s face said she wasn’t.
“What’s wrong, Elryn?” I added another slice to my plate. “You’ve hardly said a word since we got here.”
“I’m all right, really. I just don’t like pizza.”
I gaped. “What? Why didn’t you say something?”
“Are you even alive?” Tuzren asked. The demon had grown to about human height and about twice as wide as a normal human. His Denver Bronco t-shirt looked like a tiny afterthought on him. The chair groaned under his weight. “Everyone loves pizza. You can’t ‘not like’ pizza and be alive. Did a vamp get to you or something?”
“You know, they have pasta.” Luna opened a menu. “If it’s the tomato sauce…”
“I’m fine. Really, I am.” Elryn took a forkful of lettuce and popped it in her mouth. She chewed, making an exaggerated face of enjoyment.
“Honestly, Elryn, you could’ve said something. We could’ve gone anywhere.” I tried to meet her gaze but she looked away.
Tuzren swished his tail and accidentally knocked over two guys wearing cowboy hats who were walking behind our chairs. “Oops,” said Tuzren.
“Hey, watch where you put your tail,” the first guy said. He wore a wife-beater shirt and jeans. He also had at least a hundred pounds on me and about three inches or so in height. Even though it had just turned 11 am, the guy looked half in the tank already. His buddy wore denim that looked stylishly well-worked in. Probably a couple of guys from the resorts around here. Given how over-the-top Western they looked, it was probably for show. I bet if you quizzed them, you’d find they were from California or another urban center. Still, it was better not to piss off the locals.
“Sorry, guys,” I said. “Can we buy you a couple of beers?”
“Is that a demon?” Wife-Beater asked. He cracked his knuckles for emphasis.
“Why yes, I am,” Tuzren said, his voice an octave lower than his normal voice. He turned around and met their gaze solidly. “Is there something wrong with that?”
“Demons and Elves.” Denim-Guy spat. “They don’t belong here.”
Suddenly Beau Jo’s got very quiet. I could feel all eyes on us. I winced as I heard a growl issue from Luna. I stood up slowly, opened the wallet when I kept my badge, and flashed it to the men. “Police officer. Sirs, I don’t think you want any trouble.”
Murmuring went through the restaurant. A few teenagers, probably with fake IDs, tried to melt into their seats. Wife-beater squinted at my ID.
“That doesn’t even look real.” With that, he threw a swing.
I caught his arm in mid-throw, arm-barred it and took him down easily with an added wrist lock. His buddy held up his hands and retreated. “Hey, man, I don’t want no trouble.”
“Get out of here,” I said. Denim-Guy needed no more urging. He left.
I was handcuffing Wife-beater when an Idaho Springs police officer came in. He looked like the clean-cut average officer with the chiseled jaw and crew cut hair. My guess is he was around thirty. “I hear there was an altercation?” He walked up to me.
“Hello Officer…Duncan.” I hesitated and read the name badge. I handed him my badge. “This fellow and his cohort decided to take offense to my friends here. This one took a swing at me.”
“Officer Ironspell?” Duncan said.
Whispers and exclamations ran through the restaurant. I glanced at Elryn, who shrugged. Luna beamed at me and the demon chortled in amusement.
“Well, you’re always welcome in Idaho Springs,” Duncan offered me his hand as he grasped handcuffed Wife-beater. He glanced at the man. “Now, Johnny, how many times do I have to tell you to quit getting drunk and bothering the tourists?” He grinned at me. “A night in the drunk tank will sober him up. He’ll be fine.”
“I’m sorry, Mike,” Johnny muttered.
“I’m going to remove the handcuffs—are you going to behave?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. Me and Jesse were just havin’ fun…”
“Doesn’t sound like fun getting in a fight with a police officer.” Duncan unhandcuffed the man and handed the cuffs back to me. “Thanks, but I’ll take him from here. Enjoy your pizza.”
“Thanks, Officer,” I said. I sat back down and looked at the cooling pizza. I wondered if they even had a microwave to reheat them.
Just as Duncan walked to the door with Johnny, Duncan’s radio went off. “Duncan, we’ve got a situation at the Gold Nugget Mine.”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I listened. The waitress handed me the bill.”
I glanced down. Almost $500 for pizza? I remembered the beer we had. How many had Tuzren drank? I put my credit card down and the waitress promptly scooped it up.
I glanced at Elryn, who was also listening attentively.
“Roger, that. What’s going on?” Duncan keyed the mic.
“We have tourists trapped and possible terrorists in the mine. Elevator stopped working and before communications got cut off, people were screaming and Salazar heard metal banging. He thinks it’s Drow.”
Duncan frowned and then looked at me. He pointed at Johnny. “You wait here.” He walked over to me. “What do you make of that?”
I shrugged. “Tommyknockers, maybe. Could be Hobgoblins. I’d get the Supernatural Unit of the Army involved.” I met Elryn’s gaze. She gave a slight nod.
“Good luck with that,” Duncan muttered. “You see the latest news? The National Guard and military have been called out to calm everyone down. It’ll be a week before they’ll respond. We’re it.”
“We’re? Uh, we were just here after saving the world. I really hadn’t planned on rescuing people today.”
The waitress came back. “Excuse me, sir. But your card’s been declined.”
Silence ensued. I began to stutter, but then I remembered the Hostess snack cakes. Tuzren had stolen my card and maxed it out to bring Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and other snack cakes to distract the troll guards at the Dark Elves’ entrance. I figured he would’ve just given them my name and address, but no. “Uh, I might have another card you can try.” I pulled out my wallet and started rooting through it. I glanced askance at Elryn, who shook her head and I felt my face flush with embarrassment. I guessed I was going to be washing dishes to make up the tab. They clearly stated “NO CHECKS.”
Duncan smiled. “Let me get that tab. I’ll expense it out to the Idaho Spring’s budget.”
I glanced at everyone in my party. Luna was laughing and Tuzren gave me a thumbs up. Elryn rolled her eyes.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go rescue some tourists.”