Amy sez: I just had to get this down for
blackmail posterity. You never know when an account of last week’s events might come in handy.
Ev poked his oversized head into my office. “We should have a Christmas party.”
“Don’t you give enough parties already?” I moaned.
For those of you who haven’t read my previous adventures, I should explain. My boss, Evander Angelich, was a for-real, smelly ogre who owned a personal security business. We provided non-human bodyguards to some of the rich and not-so-famous, as well as others you may have heard of. A few actors come to mind. Anyways, because he ran with the glitz crowd, attending and throwing parties was part-and-parcel of his life. He wasn’t married and whenever not in a relationship, the planning and hostessing fell to me.
“Oh, I don’t mean one of those parties,” he continued. “I was thinking a small one for family. You know, employees, close friends. Maybe over at Cork’s.”
“And when would you want to do this? Christmas is next week!”
Did I forget to mention he’s always coming up with something last-minute? Why I’ve stayed with him for almost ten years is beyond me at times.
“How about Friday night? I’ll bet Cork would like the extra business.”
I grimaced. “That’s less than four days away! How in the hell am I supposed to put something together in that short time? Cork is not hurting for business. I was there last week and the place was full. And don’t you think people might already have plans?”
“I think it would be fun. You, me, Gregory, Sally, Jack, of course; Cassandra and Tommy, Omar, any guards who are in town and between jobs. Call Cork. I’m sure you two can put something together.” His head left my door and I heard him tromp back to his own office.
I sighed then muttered to myself. “Damned ogre. No consideration for anyone else. Thinking I can work miracles.”
“But in his eyes, you have,” I heard in my head. “How many times have you planned last-minute parties for him? He thinks it is normal.”
My familiar, Fudge, may not have been in my office but he was always in my head. It had been a little over a year since my magical powers manifested, which gave me the ability to hear him. I still hadn’t gotten used to someone knowing my every thought, even if he was a cat.
“I heard that. I am much more than my current physical form and you know it.”
“Shut up and let me get to work on his latest idiotic idea,” I thought back as I pushed aside the invoices I’d been working on and picked up the phone to call Cork, the half-giant who owned the corner pub across the street.
“It depends on how many people you think you’ll have,” Cork growled when I explained my predicament. (He wasn’t mad. His voice was so deep and gravelly it just sounded like it.) “My back room is already rented but if it’s a small party, I can put you on one of the terraces.”
The pub was large, as pubs go. It had to be, given it was the only bar in the area that catered to the paranormal crowd, some of whom (like its owner) would fill most places all on their own. It had a main room with the bar in the center and two raised platforms to either side of the door; a second, smaller room with pool tables; and yet a third that was usually closed off except for private parties.
“I’m guessing a dozen, maybe eighteen, so one of the terraces would be fine. With those few people, can we order off the menu or do I need to pick something?”
“You can order off the menu. I have a second cook in for the holidays so that many won’t make any difference. What time?”
I heaved a sigh. This was going to work. We finalized the details (like, six in the evening until closing and have extra stock of Ev’s favorite beer) and hung up. I emailed a note about the party to my assistant, Sally, then picked up the phone to call the rest of the invitees. There was no time for formal invitations.
“You could have had the wizard magic the invitations. He is good with transporting things through the ether.”
Fudge was referring to Gregory, Ev’s driver, bodyguard, and my teacher. His magical affinity was Air and yes, he was good at moving things around. I just didn’t want to go to the trouble of printing the things up. Or waiting for a reply.
“Will you shut up and let me do my job?”
“Just trying to be helpful.” The voice retreated from my head once again. You see what I have to put up with?
Friday evening rolled around. It had been a crazy day because Ev had decided not to come into the office, dumping everything in my lap. Grateful that I lived only three blocks away, I had just enough time to run home and change clothes.
I arrived at the pub nearly breathless. One does not run in snow, one slogs through it. Although the city was really great at plowing the streets, sidewalks were up to the residents and business owners. It had been snowing steadily since about noon and no one had bothered to shovel. So, I had to pause to add my boots to the collection just inside the door and hang my coat on one of the myriad hooks on a nearby wall. That gave me a moment to catch my breath and look around.
Cork had, as always, decorated to the max. There were three fully-festooned, live trees in the place, all of them large enough to tower over even the tallest ogre – or half-giant. I knew Cork had a witch charm every tree so if they were bumped (or fallen into by someone too drunk to walk steadily), they wouldn’t tip over. Want to permanently borrow one of the decorations? Prepare to have your hand singed. Cork took his decorating seriously.
Along with the trees, tinseled garlands draped from the high ceiling everywhere you looked. Amongst all that tinsel hung conspicuous kissing balls – balls of mistletoe and greenery, wrapped in red ribbons. I eyed the ceiling above the terrace reserved for us and vowed to avoid standing under the three balls hung there. Some of our guards could get carried away even when stone-cold sober.
Ev was already there and obviously holding court. Besides the “home-office” folks, we’d had five guards in town and they were all there, taking advantage of free food and booze. One table was occupied by three wives. They sat quietly, watching their guys.
“Amy, so glad you could join us!” Ev waved his almost-full ogre-sized beer mug at me, sloshing some on the head of Alexander, one of our dwarf guards. Alexander didn’t even seem to notice. I wondered how long the party had already been going on.
A waitress nudged me and handed me a glass of my preferred Merlot. Cork really was my favorite bartender.
“Hello, Ev. How long have you been here?”
“Oh, me and the boys got here a few hours ago. You should have joined us.”
Yeah, like I could leave the office whenever I wanted. And a few hours? Oh, joy. It was going to be a long evening. I hoped Cork had a cab company in his pocket.
“Merry Chrissshmassssh, Amy,” Alexander had appeared at my side and was attempting to nudge me sideways. I stood my ground. Two feet to my right and I’d be directly under one of those kissing balls. The top of Alexander’s head was even with my shoulder. Line it all up and guess where he’d try to kiss me. Did I say it was going to be a long night?
“And Happy Holidays right back atcha,” I replied. “Excuse me. I need to tell Sally something before I forget.”
Stepping around the drunk dwarf, I made my way over to the table Sally and Jack had commandeered. I plopped down in one of the chairs and leaned over to Sally. “Look like we’re talking business or something. Alexander is already three sheets.”
Jack unsuccessfully stifled a laugh, which earned him an elbow from his wife. Deadpan, she said, “I’ve always wondered how dwarves and normal-sized people get it on. Be sure to let me know how that works.”
“Thanks so much,” I groaned. “Now I have to get that image out of my head. Thanks for coming, by the way. Cassandra and Tommy had a catering gig tonight so you’re the only other sane people here.”
“Not so,” Jack chided me. “The women are still fairly sober and Gregory’s here. Somewhere.” He craned his neck. “At least I thought I saw him.”
“Oh, he’s around,” I agreed. “But he prefers to keep an eye on Ev from afar when possible.”
Ev’s guffaw was loud enough to draw the attention of nearly the entire pub. I was sure he and the guards were swapping stories about clients. I’d heard enough tales to know not all clients liked to be tucked in by ten o’clock.
“Hey Amy,” Ev shouted. “C’mere.”
I sighed, exchanged rolled eyes with Sally, grabbed my glass and made my way over to where Ev was standing.
Before I could even ask, “What?” Ev enveloped me in an embrace. Never been hugged by an ogre? Avoid it. Even taking a long smell of my wine wasn’t enough to get eau de sewer out of my nose.
“Guys, we all owe Amy a huge thanks,” he said, still holding me tightly to his side. I tried not to breathe. “Without her, your paychecks would never be on time and probably wouldn’t be right, either. We all know I suck at math.”
A loud “Huzzah” from the guards deafened me as I extricated myself from Ev. More heads in the pub turned. Sheesh. You’d think they’d never seen a half-drunk ogre before.
Ev grabbed me and gave me another hug. “Ain’t she just wonderful?”
The same waitress magically appeared and handed me a shot glass full of a clear liquid. “From Cork,” was all she said before disappearing again. I smelled it and privately grinned. It wasn’t for drinking. The strong scent of peppermint schnapps cleared my sinuses. I kept the glass near my face as Ev continued to extol my virtues, the guards loudly agreeing with him.
I finally got a word in edgewise and cut him off. “Ev, I don’t know about you but it’s past dinner time for me. Why don’t we all find places to sit & let the waitresses take some food orders?”
“See? Didn’t I say she was fantastic? Such good ideas she has. Everyone, sit and order. Anything on the menu you want. Amy, come sit by me, huh?”
I couldn’t very well turn my boss down and didn’t want to inflict his odor on Sally and Jack any more than necessary, so dutifully sat across the table from him, hoping for some wizard guards as tablemates. It wasn’t to be. Alexander promptly took one of the vacant chairs and Ev’s longtime ogre friend, Omar, took the other. Lovely. I wasn’t going to be able to taste anything I ate because I’d have to keep sniffing the schnapps.
“Order some shrimp. Or their tuna melt is good.” The problem with having someone in your head is you could hear them clearly, no matter how loud the ambient noise.
“I’ll order whatever I like, which tonight is going to be the Philly cheesesteak and a side of onion rings. Leave me alone or I won’t ask Cork for something for you before I leave.” Pushy cat!
I felt a hand on my shoulder and a familiar voice said, “Alexander, may I switch places with you? It’s much easier to keep an eye on the room from where you’re sitting.”
Alexander’s bleary eyes considered Gregory and finally, he nodded and vacated his seat. Gregory sat and with a smile said, “Good evening, Amy. I think your dinner will be much more pleasant without someone leering at you, am I right?”
“Thank you for that,” I smiled back. “He’s bad enough when he’s sober but drunk is a little much.”
“What are you two talking about?” Ev sobered – just a little – realizing it was a somewhat serious conversation.
Gregory turned to our employer. “Alexander has taken a shine to Amy. You know he likes women as much as you. I thought tonight would be nicer if she didn’t have to zap him.”
“Amy, why didn’t you say anything? If he bothers you, I’ll fire him.”
“It’s nothing I can’t handle, Ev, and he’s a good guard,” I replied. “If he gets troublesome, I’ll deal with it in my own way. But thank you.”
As we were talking, I noticed the odor wafting off Ev and Omar had disappeared. I cocked my head at Gregory and wrinkled my nose like I was sniffing. He winked and nodded his head at the air vent right above Ev’s head. Oh, to be an Air affinity rather than Earth, at least around ogres. I had a feeling he was “blowing” the smell away from us. I’d have to ask about that at a later date. In the meantime, I was able to put my schnapps down.
“Okay,” Ev continued over a silent conversation. “But you let me know if he gets out of hand. Guards I can find. You’re not as easy to replace.”
As much as I complained about my boss, he really could be sweet at times. But Alexander wasn’t the first guy to try to get fresh and probably wouldn’t be the last. It was something females had to deal with. Thanks to my new magical powers (and a few lessons from Gregory), I’d mastered the ability to give a guy an electric shock without even scuffing my shoes on carpeting and then touching him. I just hoped I didn’t have to use that on an employee. It would lead to problems and I had enough of those keeping Ev in line.
The food arrived and the din died down as everyone stuffed their faces and, I hoped, soaked up some alcohol. It might be standard bar food but it was good bar food. The beef in my sandwich was tender and juicy; the onion rings were hot with the thinnest coating of batter imaginable. I would have relished it except for Ev and Omar’s table manners. They almost literally stuffed their food into their mouths, pausing occasionally to wash it down with a swig of beer before taking another huge bite. I tried to avert my eyes as much as possible.
“So, Amy,” Omar said around a mouthful of hamburger, “you still single or seeing anyone?”
I nearly choked. That was not a question I expected out of Ev’s best friend. Pointedly swallowing before speaking, I answered, “Single for the moment. No time, really, for a relationship.”
“Wanna go out?”
This time I did choke. Gregory reached over and slapped my back. At the same time, he was trying not to choke himself because he was silently laughing. Dating an ogre was the last thing on my to-do list.
I took a long drink of water to clear my throat before answering. I’d known Omar almost since the day I started work with Ev and didn’t want to insult him but on the other hand …
“As I said, no time for a relationship. Between work and my studies I barely have time to myself.”
“I wasn’t asking for a relationship. Just, maybe, dinner and a movie?”
“Hey,” Ev interjected. “If anyone’s going to date my lovely assistant, it’s going to be me.”
Gregory and I choked together. Ev was just drunk enough he didn’t notice but kept on.
“I think you’re great, Amy. And we make a good team in the office. So why not out of the office?”
This time I took a swig of wine after the water. What in the hell prompted this?
“I’ll tell both of you,” I said when I could finally speak. “I’m not interested in dating right now. Not at all. No one. And especially not someone from work. Too complicated.”
They both shrugged their shoulders. “It was worth a shot,” Ev said. He and Omar changed the topic from me to a woman Omar had just broken up with, neither of them looking at their conversation partner. Both were scanning the room.
Gregory watched Ev get up from the table and walk toward the bar. He leaned over and quietly said, “You’re off the hook tonight. Look.”
I followed his eyes and saw Ev nudge a couple of guys out of the way, then lean onto the bar to talk to a woman sitting there. I knew most of the regulars and I’d never seen her before. I wouldn’t call her pretty – part-troll women aren’t but then again, Ev wasn’t movie-star material himself. They were of a size and had similar BO problems, so better her than me.
A moment or two later, Ev was flying backward, crashing into the wall and breaking a couple of pieces of paneling. Several people in his path went down underneath him and the bar erupted in pandemonium.
“Shit,” Gregory said as he flew to Ev’s side. (No lie. Up in the air, over the crowd of people. As an Air affinity, he could raise a breeze strong enough to propel himself a few feet.) I knew, as a very short person without that particular talent, I’d never be able to make it through the crowd so stood at the top of the stairs to watch. The rest of our little party crowded the railing, the drunk guards ready to wade into a fight. As much as I hated to do it, I used a little magic to bond their shoes to the wood floor so they couldn’t walk. It wouldn’t do for our guys to exacerbate things.
Once by Ev, I could see red shimmers as Gregory erected a shield. Several people were kneeling by the unfortunates who had been bowled over, ensuring they were okay.
At the same time, Cork reached over the bar and grabbed the woman by her blouse. “Everybody shut up for a minute,” he yelled. Although everyone knew he had a temper, Cork rarely raised his voice. Silence fell over the room like a shroud. His next words were heard by everyone.
“Why did you just throw one of my regulars to the wall?”
Her voice was nearly as deep as Cork’s. “He propositioned me. I didn’t like it.”
“You could have just said no,” came from across the room. Ev sounded petulant. That was good. That meant the only thing hurt was his pride.
“What he said,” Cork rumbled.
“I didn’t think ‘no’ would work.”
“Lady, it does in my pub. Your tab is on me. Get out and don’t come back.” Cork let go of her and we all watched as she gathered her coat and pocketbook and flounced out the door. Perhaps ‘flounced’ isn’t a word you’d associate with someone as ungainly as she was but it fit.
I sighed, said a little prayer of thanks and released all the guards. Two, who knew of my abilities, glared at me. The others just looked confused and turned back to their beer.
“Is everyone okay?” Cork asked. After not hearing any cries for help, he went back to mixing drinks and conversation started back up. Gregory helped Ev to his feet, checked on a couple of people who were still sitting on the floor and then turned back to the broken wall. With a wave of his hand, the chunks and splinters of paneling mended themselves.
“You okay? What a bitch! You should’ve punched her not propositioned her.” Everyone had something to say as Ev came back to our little area.
“You never learn, do you?” I asked.
“Hey, all I did was ask if we could get together. I didn’t even try to feel her up,” he said after draining the two (normal-sized) mugs of beer handed to him. “How was I supposed to know she had magic, too?”
“Nonetheless. You can’t go around hustling any woman who catches your eye. Haven’t you heard of the wine and dine approach? Hell, maybe you should take lessons from Omar. He at least suggested dinner and a movie!”
“So, if that’s what it takes, how about dinner and a movie with me instead of Omar?” There was a leer in his voice and a twinkle in his eye.
“Give it a rest, Ev. You know I won’t ever go out with you and if you keep on, her throwing you against a wall will be a cakewalk compared to what I’d do. Your bodyguard has been giving me lessons, remember? And on that note, I’m going home. I’ve had enough excitement for one night, thanks to you. I’ll see you in the office on Monday.”
Ev grinned, reached out and gave me another ogre-hug. My clothes were definitely going to the dry cleaners in the morning. I said goodnight to everyone else (Sally and Jack had wisely left right after dinner) and started toward the door.
“Don’t forget my treat!”
I stopped mid-stride and detoured to the bar. Fudge knew he had me under his thumb – just like most any other cat.
“Sorry about Ev. Got any fishy leftovers?” I asked when I caught Cork’s attention.
He smiled, reached into one of the coolers and handed me a paper bag. “No worries. Stuff happens occasionally in any pub. I’m just lucky to have magical folks around to repair damage. Saves on insurance, you know?
“Grilled shrimp. Already cut into cat-sized pieces. And added to Ev’s bill. See you tomorrow to settle up.”
I finally made my way to the door, pulled my coat and boots back on and left the pub for my own quiet home. As I trudged through the snow, I thought about the evening. At first, I was pissed. He almost caused a fight. And had the nerve to think I’d go out with him. Then I started laughing. Life with Ev was never dull!
DJ sez: whatever and however you celebrate, I hope you have a marvelous holiday season! Be thankful your boss isn’t an odiferous ogre.