A God for Thieves by Tristan Olson by Tristan Olson - Read Online

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Summary

Jack Severn has a knack for encountering the magical side of reality. When he wakes up from an impromptu communal nap at a favorite Chinese restaurant, he recognizes the signature of a supernatural event. Now he’s in a race against time to find the people responsible before the secretive and powerful god of thieves decides to punish him instead. As he searches for the answers that will save his skin, he’ll be pulled even farther into the Unseen community and realize that meddling with arcane powers can be deadly, though not always to those that have it coming.

Published: Tristan Olson on
ISBN: 9781311101846
List price: $2.99
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A God for Thieves - Tristan Olson

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Copyright © 2016 by Tristan Olson

All rights reserved

This book is provided DRM-free to ensure that buyers are not arbitrarily hindered with restrictions. In order to allow the author to be properly compensated for his work, please ensure you’ve received this copy through a legitimate source.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to existing persons, characters, locations, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

For Elisabeth

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Coming Soon: Blood of the Green Children

About the Author

Chapter One

I woke up with my cheek in a plate of chow mein. My hand was half trapped under my head, the chopsticks I’d been holding having only narrowly missed skewering my left eye. My mouth was still half full of the cabbage I’d been chewing, now tepid and slimy, and during my unplanned nap I’d inhaled a modest amount of hoisin.

The sauce lodged in my nostrils forced me to blow my nose into my napkin, and as I did I looked around the restaurant for clues as to what had happened to me. Other patrons were similarly lifting heads from their tables or picking themselves off the floor, wiping food off faces and laps where unattended hands had dropped chopsticks or, for the less dexterous, forks.

One man woke screaming shrilly. Half his face was an angry, peeling mess and I realized that his meal had been brought to him much more recently than mine and he’d pitched forward into it, burning himself badly. The waitress waking up next to him reacted perhaps a bit too quickly and grabbed a pitcher to splash his burn with ice water, after which they stared at each other in silent shock. She scurried off to the kitchen as the man sobbed quietly from the burn.

A busboy was picking himself up off the ground near my table when I heard him hiss in pain. Some of the dishes in his bin had broken and he’d sliced his hand open as he tried to get up. I grabbed a clean napkin off the next table over and wrapped it around his palm, thankful that King Wok was nice enough to have cloth instead of paper ones. Fortunately for him the cut looked superficial, despite the impressive amount of blood staining the fabric.

People were talking all around me, asking what was going on, what had happened. I was wondering that myself, but I imagined the answers weren’t going to be something the people around me would even believe, much less be able to generate. A quick look at my watch told me we’d been out for no more than five minutes.

Someone was announcing she was going to call 911 when I noticed the old woman at the table in the corner. A flowery handmade sweater covered a back with hunched shoulders, and most of her head was out of view save for a neat crochet hat. She wasn’t getting up like the rest of us. I stood and apprehensively made my way towards her table.

You okay? I asked her, but as the words left my mouth I began to realize that it didn’t matter. Like me she’d ended up face down when we were knocked out. Unlike me, she hadn’t ordered noodles. I awkwardly pulled her up by the sides of her head, getting her face out of the bowl of hot wonton soup, but it was too late. Her face had been cooked. Her burns were worse than Mr. Broccoli Beef, but they were irrelevant given the fact that she wasn’t breathing. Whether the burns would have killed her if she hadn’t drowned in the pork broth was going to be a question for the coroner to answer, not me.

The waitress from before went ashen when she came out of the kitchen and saw the dead woman. I couldn’t blame her. Even for someone as accustomed to death as I was, the sight was pretty horrific. The old woman’s flesh was lobster-red and swollen. Worse yet, a little bit of white was showing in her cheeks, where the skin had been thin enough to slough off entirely and reveal the bone beneath. Facial identification would not be easy. I guess the cops would just have to check her ID, although I didn’t see a purse nearby. No giant old lady bag full of last week’s newspapers and crafts, not even a tiny coin purse hiding a cache of mints.

How was she planning to pay for her meal? Frowning, I checked my back pocket. My wallet was gone. My phone and keys were still in place though. My pulse quickened as I slipped my hand to check the little sheath on the back of my belt, but the two folding knives were thankfully still there. One was steel with a black handle and the other was silver with a white handle. Not only were they custom made, but they were a gift with significant emotional value. All around me, people were discovering with a second shock that their wallets and purses were missing as well.

By the time the cops arrived, the popular theory among patrons of King Wok had changed from brief gas leak to creative robbery.

The authorities were represented by three blue and silver Seattle PD squad cars which took up positions around the front door like wagons defensively circling on the prairie. Their flashing lights were joined by those of two ambulances, lighting up the dark like a rave. The police escorted everyone outside into a cool fall evening, and we all had to huddle together in front of the restaurant while they waited for the tech team to arrive and make sure there wasn’t a gas leak, lingering knock-out vapors, or something else potentially harmful.

The busboy and Mr. Broccoli Beef were led to the ambulances. The busboy’s cut hand was deemed shallow enough to go without stitches and professionally bandaged in the back of one vehicle, but the other ambulance immediately took off towards the nearest available burn unit. That left me and seven other patrons, plus three waitresses, the manager, and the kitchen staff consisting of two guys in the traditional white coats and loose, pin-striped pants.

An unmarked police car arrived and a familiar detective stepped out into the alternating blue and red illumination. She was several inches shorter than my 5’11" and thin-limbed in a steel gray suit. Dark brown hair was pulled back from her heart-shaped face and bound behind her head, where it exploded from its tie in a riot of heavy waves as if relishing the freedom.

She started her inspection of the group of witnesses at the far side from me, and I savored the brief moments before I was noticed. I’d been present at a few too many suspicious events for her to count my existence here as just a coincidence.

Jack Severn, she groaned as her gaze finally landed on me and she walked over. Her eyes were dark brown and locked me in place as effectively as if I were tied there. If not for those hard eyes, you’d think she was younger. Why am I not surprised to find you here?

I’m the proverbial bad penny, Detective Bidarte, I answered with an apologetic smile.

She turned her head away from me and looked at the people she’d skipped to talk to me, maybe hoping one of them would point a finger at me and save her the trouble. When she turned back to glare at me again, her wide mouth was in a familiar position: her jaw shifted to one side in suspicious thought. Do I need to bother asking if you had anything to do with this?

I’m offended at the assumption, I said honestly. But it’s kind of what I’ve come to expect from you.

Her eyes left mine for a moment to sail heavenward before coming back down and locking on me again with renewed intensity. Okay, let’s pretend you’re not involved. Tell me what happened. What did you see?

Chicken chow mein, mostly. She shot me a dirty look and I smiled innocently, holding up my hands. Okay, okay. I’ll talk. Though I really don’t have much to tell. I came in about 8:30, was eating by 8:45. I was halfway done with my food before whatever knocked us all out happened. I checked my watch when I came to at 8:57. I don’t know exactly when we passed out, but we couldn’t have been down for more than five minutes. I went on to summarize my actions post-revival, concluding with the realization that my wallet was stolen.

My story must have been similar enough to the others she’d heard already that she felt no need to ask any follow up questions. Someone will let you know if your wallet is recovered, she said automatically, turning away.

Whoa, come on Bidarte, I said, stopping myself before I actually reached out for her arm.

She stopped to glare at me. "Detective Bidarte," she corrected. She looked more annoyed than angry, her dark eyes rolling. I noticed that the waitress who’d brought Mr. Broccoli Beef the water was almost falling over as she leaned in to eavesdrop on the conversation, and she wasn’t alone. The rest of the kitchen staff and most of the customers were stealing curious looks in my direction.

I raised my hands again in what I hoped was a placating manner. Detective Bidarte, I corrected, any chance you could keep me in the loop on what you find out here?

The look she fixed on me expressed the answer in no uncertain terms, but she went ahead and elaborated anyway to ensure I understood. You are at best an unwelcome interloper in police investigations, but more likely simply a criminal that has thus far avoided charges. I should exercise my right to hold you on suspicion right now.

Come on, I protested. It’s all just coincidence. I’m not that bad. I’ve even given you tips that have helped before. I’ve got a knack for this sort of thing.

Your ‘knack’ is not enough to make me make me feel like commenting on an ongoing police investigation with a suspected criminal.

Ouch. I shouldn’t be surprised—from her perspective, I’d probably have reached the same conclusion. Well, if you start to feel like sharing or want some help, will you call me?

How about I tell you not to leave town and we call that good? The smile she gave me was more like a wolf baring its teeth.

Deal, I answered, grinning as if she’d just bought a timeshare off of me.

Throwing her hands up in exasperation, she went inside where the crime scene techs were taking photos of the spilled food, broken dishes, and the corpse of poor Mrs. Wonton. I watched through the window as they bagged the body and Detective Bidarte poked around the restaurant, presumably looking for clues. The techs used fingerprinting powder on the open cash register and a few other choice locations. Restaurants make a great robbery target because there’s so many people in and out that practically every surface is covered in dozens of different prints. On the other hand, if these criminals were very, very stupid and hadn’t worn gloves when they went for the register, the cops might have a chance of catching them that way.

The reflection on the window from outside was rather faint, dark as it was out there and with the lights on inside, so it made for kind of a ghostly affect as the waitress walked up next to me: in the window she seemed to coalesce out of the ether.

Why didn’t she ask for your contact information? She asked everyone else for theirs. Her voice was soft but confident, like a piece of rebar in a pillow.

Odd first question, I responded quietly, not looking away from the window.

What? she asked.

I turned to meet her eyes. Most of the patrons of King Wok had left after being dismissed by the police, leaving me and the employees. This waitress was nearly as tall as me and quite pretty. She was Chinese and spoke with just a faint accent. Her shiny black hair fell straight past her shoulders, framing a round, tan face. "You listened to our entire