All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Friday 13 December 2013

Merry December (Again)

As I'm SUPER excited for Christmas in 11 days I wanted to re-post my Atheist Christmas post from last year. In case anyone new wishes to read it.

Welcome to December, the month of yule cheer and Christmas tidings. Knowing that I'm an atheist as many of you do, you'll probably be either confused by this statement or wary, but fear not for I mean it.
I'm not here trying to tear down your holiday. I'm not here trying to demand that Christmas trees be taken out of government sanctioned areas - though I understand the point of those people, I think they're wrong.
I love Christmas, so to all you readers I say this;
Merry Christmas One and All.

As an Atheist I don't celebrate Christmas for the same reasons that Christians do. I don't believe that it was the day that Christ was born, partially because based on the information given in the bible Jesus wasn't born in the winter, but mostly because I don't believe in Christ.
I subscribe to the sentiment of Christmas not the Christian meaning. Kindness, giving, good will to all. This is the Christmas I subscribe to. I have a Christmas tree, I give gifts, and I celebrate family and togetherness.
I don't say grace, go to mass or thank the son of god, who is also god for sacrificing himself to himself.

I believe that Christmas has evolved past its Christian origins just as it evolved past its pagan origins and its Egyptian origins.
I believe that Christmas is a holiday the world over that encompasses a feeling of happiness, a time within the darkest, harshest season of the year that everyone gets together to remind themselves of the good things in their lives. Be it family or friends, a job or a hobby, Americans have thanks giving to figure out what they're thankful for, but for me it's Christmas.

You know I have a routine for Christmas; it's the same routine that me and my family have had for the last 25 years? Probably slightly less.
We go to my aunts for Christmas eve as it’s my cousin’s birthday, then we rush home before midnight, watching for Santa out the car window the whole way. We go to bed and wake up the following morning, rush down to the living room where Santa’s left our stockings (yes we all have stockings, me my mom my dad and my sister. No none of us are under 20) We open up our stockings together, while photos are taken and then (after my dad’s made the mandatory joke about leaving our main gifts until after Christmas dinner and we shoot him down) someone makes coffee and we move onto our main gifts. After we've had our main gifts we all collaborate in making Christmas breakfast. We then go our separate ways, my mother (with occasional help from other family members) prepares a turkey dinner and we all play with our gifts. At two-ish we have Christmas dinner together before retiring to the living room to watch a DVD. Everyone but me falls asleep and I slink away to carry on playing.
At seven we watch Doctor who Christmas special and then go our separate ways until Boxing Day when we spend the whole day at my nans house getting more gifts and enjoying the company of others.

So that's my Christmas tradition, what's yours?

- James

Sunday 8 December 2013

Top 15

So I saw on my facebook that I had a note titled 'top 15 games of all time' and I wanted to have a look, It was an interesting list but I wondered if I did it today if I'd give the same result. I mean, there are a lot of games that have come out since and I'm a very different person.
So here's my new list:

1. Elder Scrolls Oblivion
2. Kingdom Hearts 1 + 2
3. Pokemon Yellow
4. Bioshock
5. Batman Arkham City
6. Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic 1
7. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 1
8. Mass Effects 1 + 2 (only excluding 3 because of how little your choices meant at the end)
9. Day of the Tentacle
10. Ultimate Spiderman
11. Final Fantasy VIII
12. Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2
13. The Secret World
14. Star Wars The Old Republic
15. Borderlands 2

This was my old list:

1. Goldeneye
2. Ocarina of Time
3. Day of the tentacle
5. Kingdom Hearts 1+2
6. Devil May Cry 1
7. Star Wars Galaxies (Pre-Combat 'upgrade')
8. Oblivion Elder Scrolls
9. Fallout 3
10. Command and Conquor Red Alert
11. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 1+2
12. Mass Effect 1+2
13. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
14. Pokemon yellow
15. Dungeon Keeper

So I wrote the new list before posting the old list so I couldn't remember what was there, just incase I cheated off it.
It's interesting that some of them remained (Day of the Tentacle, FFVIII, Oblivion, KOTOR, Mass Effect, and Pokemon Yellow) while the rest vanished, yet looking at the list I still agree with it, they are all amazing games that definitely moulded me into the person I am now.
Goldeneye was one of the best early FPSs, it was great, I spent ridiculous amounts of time on it, but things have moved on since then. I think Modern Warfare 1 is a worthey successor, in my opinion its the pinnacle of FPS games of our time.
Ocarina of Time was great, the first real action adventure game I ever played and every time theres a new console with it I invariably buy it. But The secret World is a massively Multiplayer online game with an amazing level of depth and I it looks incredible.
Devil May Cry 1 was one of the most difficult games I ever played, but I beat it. It had a great story, it had amazing gameplay, Batman Arkham City just happened to be both better and nerdier.
Star Wars Galaxies had one of my favorite set ups, it had the potential to allow the player to have a completely unique character. they didn't need to be a cookie cutter character, but then they changed it, and what they changed it to made no sense. TOR does make sense and it's stories, its worlds, they're all amazing. I feel like my character is alive in TOR and I love it.
Fallout 3 was a great post apocalyptic world, it was huge and felt like you were truly on your own, but Borderlands 2 did the same thing but better. They made me laugh.
Command and Conquer was a great Real Time Strategy game, red alert was probably the pinacle of it's type, but Dragon age made it so that you didn't have to look down at un-named, un-attachable people for real time strategy. it concentrated it into a few and it worked amazingly, making me care and letting me build true relationships.
Jedi Academy was great and it was geeky, but it's gameplay and its story fell behind Ultimate Spiderman, not to mention the humour. Hell, even Ultimate's geek factor out stripped Academy.
Finally Dungeon Keeper. It doesn't really have any corrolation to Bioshock, I just liked Bioshock more. Doesn't mean I wouldn't buy Dungeon keeper again if I saw it.

So yeah, all great games, but its interesting how I've changed since September 2010.
Do you have a 15 favourite games?


Friday 6 December 2013

Welcome to december!

It's the run up to Christmas, so I thought I'd start off this month with a gift, AKA the result of the fan art competition!
As you know we were giving away a copy of Payday 2 to the best piece of fan art of anything I've put up here. We had a lot of good entries, but there was one I just fell in love with by "Akirhen" who drew a picture of Hunter, Will and Amelia.

Will, Jim Hunter, Amelia

Thanks for all the artwork, I'll tink about posting others up for viewing pleasure, but for now, thank you for this great piece, Akirhen, and enjoy your steam copy of Payday 2!

- James

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Nanowrimo wrap up

So I completed Nanowrimo! 150 pages! just over 50k. Could have done better but hey what're you going to do?

thanks for your support, the next 3 chapters:


Sat. 11/10/2011 19:37
‘Isabelle’s Place’ on Broad street

"I know he was a killer and he didn't deserve my pity, but he was still a kid. I should have been able to save him." I explain to Nala, sighing. I dwell for a moment, running the events through my mind again, trying desperately to figure out how I could have done it differently before I look up at Nala, reminding myself that I’m not alone. "Anyway; the fire department showed up almost as soon as the building started coming down. They dragged us out and sent Daniel to a hospital.” I take a deep breath and then look up at her. “I'm sorry, Cookie.” Cookie sounds like such a lame nickname, its just a cutening of her last name. I said it once and it sort of stuck. Really wish I’d gone with something simple like ‘sweetie’ but she got there first. “This is terrible date talk."
She offers me a gentle smile and strokes my wrist in thirteen careful motions. "It's better than you think." She says. "Besides, I asked what was wrong."
“I know, I just...” I sigh. “This is our date night, we should be having fun, not talking about kids I let die.”
“We are having fun, sweetie, and the nights not over yet.” She promises, squeezing my wrist and leaning forward. I consider avoiding eye contact with her cleavage, but I know her well enough by now to know when she wants me to look and when she doesn’t.
I look. She smiles, and I return to her eyes.
“Better?” she asks.
I smirk. “Fine.” I concede. “We are having fun.”
“Good.” She agrees, leaning back again. “So Daniel’s going to be okay?”
“Yeah,” I nod. “He’ll pull through easy, now he’s getting control over his augmentation abilities he’ll be fixed up in days, maybe hours.”
“Thats good. I like Daniel, far less sleazy than…” She looks up at me with an edge of fear in her expression and I realise where she was going. “Nevermind. I like him.”
Far less sleazy than Will. My former best friend and occasional partner on cases. He’d betrayed me to the same government agency that had got my wife and unborn son killed. If not for my daughter, Amelia, I probably wouldn’t have survived. I would have done something stupid and got myself killed or thrown in jail.
Still, sometimes I wish I’d been able to do something to make them pay. I wish I’d been able to take them down, or at least take down the ones who called the shots.
I still don’t know why the criminals I’d helped them capture had been set free and given my name and address… I still don’t know who was responsible… I still want to go after them.
But Amelia needs me. She needed me then, when she was only seven and she needs me now… it’s been ten years, by the fallen; time flies.
I realise that I’ve had a serious expression on my face since she said ‘never mind.’ I don’t think i’ve breathed yet either. I let out a breath and smile. “Yeah, he’s good people.” I say.
She relaxes. The first few weeks after Will betrayed me and Amelia, helping the Special Investigations Service - S.I.S. for short, or Big Sis for conspiracy nuts (are they still nuts if they’re right? Conspiracy aficionados perhaps?) - to blackmail me by taking Amy away from me, I’d been very volatile at his mention. When bad things were said about him, when good things were said about him, hell when things just reminded me of him.
There was one time in the early days that Amelia’s grandfather, Leonidis shaw of the great house that bears his name - my father in law - was threatening to remove Amy from his will if I didnt give her up to his custody and I simply lost it.
I lost it bad.
There was a gun involved.
Point being that Nala was afraid of my reaction to hsi name for a reason and now I feel bad about it.
“It’s still crazy to me that he’s twenty-five and he had no idea that he was an augmenter. Nobody knew, not his family, not his doctors, not his friends or his work colleagues.” Nala continues. “I mean, he was in the army, right? They must have done tests and stuff, yet nobody knew anything, then you came along and figured it out by shaking his hand.”
I nod, smiling at the admiration. “What can I say? I’ve spent a lot of time around elementals I’ve learned a lot.”
“It’s a little more than that, sweetie.” She says, smiling as the waitress comes over with our food. She leans back and smiles at the waitress - who offers little more than a sneer in response. I’d complain but Nala’s not completely comfortable with confrontation, so I don’t.
The waitress leaves us and Nala sits forward again, picking up her cutlery. her hand places over her fork and drums the table thirteen times moment before she grips it tight in an attempt to stop her hand from doing things she hadn’t asked it to.
Nala has OCD, it’s mild for the most part. She drums things, she cuts her pasta to specific measurements, she does things a specific amount of time, depending on random things that happened to her that day - today is brought to you by the number thirteen - and she looks perfect, every time.
Occasionally she has episodes, but since we’ve been dating it’s only happened three times.
She tells me that it’s why she became a medical examiner rather than a doctor, despite being brilliant enough. Her OCD had made her late, it had stopped her from going through proper procedures. She also wasn’t completely comfortable with physical contact and human interaction. She told me that dead people are easier to deal with.
Besides; she’s a damn brilliant Medical Examiner, that’s how I met her. She helped me get to the bottom of a case involving a man who’d been burned to death by an elemental. The cops had it all wrapped up as a gas fire, but I knew there was something wrong. Nala helped me prove it.
“You’re not just a good detective, you’re brilliant. Intellectually.” She says. “Sometimes I wonder why you became a detective. I know about your past, growing up in the slums and wanting to protect people, but you could have been anything… why a detective?”
“Someone has to do the things I do, nobody else seems to be stepping up to the plate.” I start on my food, a large steak with a jacket potato and salad. It’s nice. Not great, but nice.
“True.” She agrees, digging into her pepperoni chicken. “Maybe you could get an assistant? an apprentice to teach who could take over for you.”
I smile and let out a short chuckle. The thought of me as a teacher is a little ridiculous. “I don’t know, I think maybe I should really know what I’m doing first.”
An incredulous expression slides onto her features. “What are you talking about? Who knows more about this than you?”
I shrug, “nobody, I suppose.” I say.
I look up at her and smile. “So; how was work today?”
She rolls her eyes but allows the subject change. “It was fine. all easy cases.” She admits. “Though one high profile.”
“Oh? what’s that?”
She chews and swallows a mouthful of food. “A guard was killed at the national gallery, killed in front of a priceless work of art, on loan from Rissan. His blood ruined the painting so they’re looking to catch the murderer as quickly as possible to avoid an international incident.”
“Wait, the Tendali painting- Signals by starlight?” I ask.
“Yeah. I didn’t know you were an art buff.” She raises an eyebrow.
“I’m not, but Amy is. We were going to go to the National gallery next weekend.” I sigh.
“I’m sorry, sweetie.” She offers, reaching across and squeezing my wrist gently.
I shake my head. “It’s fine. Just kind of sucks. I was looking forward to that. Not the art so much but spending time with Amy. I haven’t seen her much lately. Not since she transferred to her new school.”
“How are things going there?” She asks.
I shrug. “I don’t know. I think well. She’s had high grades so far, but she seems distant. I don’t know.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. It is a much harder curriculum. Maybe she’s just trying to get used to the new workload.” Nala offers.
“Or maybe she’s just acting like a regular teenager.” She cocks her head to the side. “She’s been so perfect up until now, maybe she’s just being normal and you’re so used to perfection it seems out of place to you?”
“Maybe.” I sigh. “I still miss her. I’m just saying; I was looking forward to the gallery.”
“You can still do something else.” Nala reasons. “There’s plenty you could do. You could still go to the Gallery, they just won't have Signals By Starlight”
“True. We could go to the aquarium. Amy used to love that.” I offer.
“That would be nice. You’d enjoy that.”
“You should come aswell.” I add. “You and Amy haven’t really had time to get to know each other.”
She blanches a little. “Really? You want me to come?”
“Do… do you not want to?”
“No- I mean, yes I do. I just…” She sighs, shaking her head. “What if she doesn’t like me?”
I half smile as if the statement is crazy. “Of course she will. She’s going to love you.”
Nala frowns, looking down at her nearly empty plate. she looks up at me with concern. “You think?”
“Of course!” I exclaim, putting down my cutlery. “You’re brilliantly intelligent, you’re beautiful, you’re funny, you are simply amazing, how could she not love you?”
She sighs and motions towards her right hand as it taps continuously, nervously on the table. “I’m not exactly… together.”
“Like anyone is.” I smile. “She’ll love you. Every single bit.”
She smiles. “Lets go.” She decides, sliding two of her fingers up my shirt sleeve and leaning in to kiss my cheek.
“You don’t want dessert?” I ask, grinning.
“I think we’ll be able to find something back at your place.” She purrs.
Yeah. I set her up for that one.


Sun. 12/10/2011 7:29
Hunter’s Alduain Square Apartment

If I woke up, every morning for the rest of my life, to the smell of bacon cooking I still wouldn’t be sick of it. I sit up and let my quilt fall down onto my lap, taking in a deep breath of bacon smell.
I don’t check the bed for Nala, she’s stayed over enough times for me to know that she wakes up at seven in the morning, every morning. It’s another part of her OCD, she has to get up at seven every morning, rain or shine, work or not. At first it was a little frustrating. It made me feel a little like she couldn’t stand to be next to me, but I get it now. she just can’t stay in bed past seven, no matter what time we were up until the previous night.
She doesn’t mind me lying in, she finds things to do in the mean time. She just has to be awake at seven. She doesn’t even have to get up, several times we’ve… well we’ve not gotten up, and she was fine. If i’m not awake though, she always decides to go do something productive.
I yawn and stretch. looking around the room I notice that on her way out of the room, Nala has put all my clothes in the hamper. I also notice that she’s put all her clothes in a pile on the chair by the door. All of them. So what’s she wearing?
If this were a week day I’d be more concerned with what Amy might see, but being the weekend she’s at her grandfather’s villa. I climb out of bed and make it quickly, tucking the quilt and the sheets back down before re-aligning my pillows. Nala doesn’t care if I do it or not, but she does it so I might aswell.
I walk around the bed and grab a towel from the closet beside my en suite bathroom, then head inside for a shower. The shower’s already damp and the rooms a little stuffy so I know that nala’s already had he shower. I want to make it quick so that I can get out there and get some bacon. That and discover what she’s actually wearing.
After a quick wash I throw on some underwear, some jeans a pair of socks and an ironic t-shirt that says ‘On fire and not even an elemental’. Its from a line of clothing designed specifically for us non-magic types.
On my way out of the room I grab my phone and check it for messages and e-mails. A text from Amy and an invoice confirmation from my secretary, Leia for the high school job. I’m tempted to give the money to the boy’s family, but I spent a lot of money on that case, the cheque from the city is barely going to cover my expenses.
Maybe I’ll still send something. I don’t know.
I sigh as I step out onto the landing of my two floor apartment and down the stairs, following the smell of bacon and the sound of my girlfriend humming in the kitchen. I step into the room and take her in.
She’s wearing one of my shirts - I don’t know how she makes it look so sexy - with her long golden hair running down her back.
“Hey sweetie.” she says, without turning around as she flips the bacon over in the frying pan. “Breakfast is almost done. coffee’s in the machine.”
I smile. “You’re a god-send.” I tell her, walking over the the coffee maker adn pouring myself a mug as she smiles over her shoulder.
“Bacon; the best way to con a man into submission.” She exclaims, hooking a spatula under the bacon and flipping it onto a slice of bread.
“You not eating?” I ask as she slaps a second slice on top and cuts it in half.
She shakes her head. “I’ve already had some toast. Wasn’t really feeling bacon this morning.”
“Blaspheme!” I decry, sitting down at the breakfast bar in the middle of the kitchen as she places the sandwich down in front of me.
She laughs and sits down on the stool next to me, hissing at the cold on her apparently naked behind. She stands up and sits back down again, using the base of the shirt as a buffer between her and the cold stool.
“So; you don’t have to go into work today?” she asks.
“Not unless Leia calls with a case. That last one didn’t exactly pay for itself.” I sigh, sipping the coffee and figuring out how to first come at the bacon sandwich.
“I thought you were doing well with cases and what-not?” Nala asks.
I nod my head to the side. “I’m not doing badly enough to risk the apartment or anything, but the last five months haven’t been great.”
“What happened?” She asks.
I think back. “Do you remember the Lady Killer case?” I ask.
She nods. “You ran off during our first date for it.” I blush and open my mouth to apologise. “You’ve apologised enough.” she adds. “What about it?”
“Well...” I sigh. “The case before that I had the son of my employer arrested for killing his brother. Then the Lady Killer turned out to be the son of my employer...”
“People are scared you’ll just implicate their kids?” She asks incredulous.
“The nobility is. They think i’ve got it in for them and they were my main source of income.” I bite into the bacon sandwich - damn it’s good - and look up at Nala. “Plus I let Lucia Dimarco spread the word that I work for her. As legitimate business men and women, they can’t be seen to associate with known criminals.” I say the last in a mock pompous ass hole voice that I perfected listening to my late wife’s father.
“But the police know you weren’t involved. Surely that counts for something?” Nala offers.
“Not to the Nobility.” I say, shaking my head. “Bare in mind that the police are mostly formed of common born citizens. The nobility are a huge bunch of biggots that only trust each other. As far as they’re concerned it’s more likely that the entire police force is corrupt because they’ll work with me rather than me not actually being a criminal.”
“Yeah, you don’t sound at all like you’re prejudiced against them.” She chides.
I smile and then a sobering thought occurs to me. “Probably doesn’t help that I practically tortured Chandler Wessex to find out where his son was holding Cora.” I still feel awful about what I’d done. Worse about what I’d almost done, even in the name of saving my sister.
He had deserved it… but his wife hadn’t… and I shouldn’t have… I didn’t even know I’d had it in me.
“How is Cora?” She asks, sipping at her own cup of coffee.
“She’s good.” I say, returning to more light conversation. “Little Jamie aswell. They’re still down in Old Town but they’re safe and they have my number if they need me.”
“That’s good. we should have them over for dinner some time.” Nala offers. Her eyes widen and her cheeks grow red. “I mean- you should have them over.”
I smile  and put my arm around her, squeezing her tight and kissing her on the cheek. “Maybe.” I offer. “I could cook and you could really get to know them without the whole me being in hospital thing.”
“Only if you’re sure. I don’t- I mean; I’m not trying to push here.”
Weirdly I really don’t mind. I’d like for Nala to get to know my family. One of my biggest regrets with Millenia, my late wife, was that she never got to know my family. By the time I met Lenny my mother was in too much of a state to ever meet Lenny without insulting her and her family.
Don’t get me wrong; I curse Lenny’s family at least twice daily, but it wasn’t something you wanted to hear when bringing your future wife home to meet the parents.
On top of that my sister, Cora had already disappeared into the world of The Old Neighbourhood gangs. I lost her and really didn’t get her back until very recently. She’d been out of my life for years, almost twenty and I only found her again five months ago.
“It’s not that.” I promise her. “It’s just… I’ve only had her back in my life for five months. We’re both agreed we need to try, to move past everything thats happened, but it’s not easy. She’s been through a lot and I have a lot to make up for. We’re starting to see eye to eye, starting to laugh together again but… I don’t know. Maybe bringing her into the family for a meal or something would be good for us.”
“Yeah.” Nala agrees. “And maybe later you could meet my family.”
“I’ve told my parents about you. They’d love to meet you.”
“No pressure, of course.”
What? When did I become a teenager again?
I look down at my hands and around at the kitchen. Nope. still old and wrinkly, still big and shiny. Not a teenager. this is actually happening, and I have no idea why that makes me so nervous.
Not sure why it’s a surprise either. Nala’s only thirty-four, of course her parents are still around. Maybe I didn’t realise we were at that stage? the parents meeting stage?
Of course I’ve been mixing her with my family this whole time… I just don’t have parents to throw at her. It’s just… I don’t…
“I-” My phone rings, saving me from whatever the hell my mouth was about to offer. “Hold that thought.”
She opens her mouth to say something but thinks better of it and nods.
I answer the phone and move it up to my ear. “James Hunter, Hunter Investigations.”
“Oh good, you’re learning to actually say it. I’m glad. It sounds more professional than ‘Hey, what do you want’.” Leia Amber, my administrative assistant says, all business as usual.
“Good morning, Leia. How can I help you today?” I ask. My tone implies that I am frustrated by the interruption but, by the fallen it couldn’t have come at a better time. My heart is racing.
I look over at Nala and mouth ‘I’m sorry about this.’
“You have an appointment in an hour and a half.” Leia tells me.
“Oh? I don’t remember anything in the diary.” I frown, looking down at the half finished bacon, longingly.
“She called yesterday while you were on your date, I decided to book it and leave it until today to call.” Leia explains. “It’s at nine-thirty. Her name is Elizabeth Lemure.”
“Okay.” I sigh, privately relieved. “I’ll be there.”
“See you there, Jim.”
“You know you don’t have to come in on a saturday.” I remind her.
“The office looks more professional with an administrator to let the client in.” She argues.
“I’ll be wearing jeans and a t-shirt I think professionals out.” I tell her.
There’s silence for a moment and then she sighs. “At least wear a blazer and some shoes.”
I smile. “Yes ma’am. It’s even a clean t-shirt and jeans.”
“See you in a few.”
She hangs up and I place the phone down.
“Sounds like you just became busy.” Nala extrapolates.
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” She sighs. “You said if Nala calls you’d have to leave. And she did. And you do. We can do my parents another time.”
Or not at all?
“You’re the best.” I tell her.
“Let me get dressed and you can drop me home on the way.” She offers.
“You can take your time if you’d like. I don’t mind you being here alone.” I offer.
“No, it’s fine. I don’t have my car. I’ll need to get back somehow anyway.” She declines.
“Okay, I’ve got to finish getting ready.” I tell her, finishing the bacon sandwich and downing the coffee. I squeeze her tight and kiss her on the cheek.
She turns into it, pressing her body against mine and moving her lips to meet mine. “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” she tells me after breaking the kiss.
“Er- yeah. Okay.” I say, a little stunned. Damn she’s a good kisser.


Sun. 12/10/2011 9:00
Hunter’s Upper West Office

I pull up in front of my building and stop the car. I sit back in my seat and sigh, still worried about what almost happened. Meeting her parents? I hate to sound like a school boy but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.
I check my watch, nine-oh-nine. I’ve got a little time left before the meeting, I might as well go in and get a drink. I open the car door and step out, grabbing my bag and coat as I go. I slam the door behind me and lock up before turning to my office building and jogging up the steps.
It’s an old building built in the art-deco fashion in the upper west side. A good neighbourhood close enough to the inner city where the nobility works and lives to be convenient for their needs but far enough out that the common born don’t feel too out of place.
I work up on the third floor in the apartment that overlooks the street. I like it. it has a huge window and I have my desk in front of it.
I climb up the stairs rather than taking the elevator - it’s a self image issue - and step right into the waiting room of my office.
The room is more of a corridor than a room. Its perhaps two paces wide and ten paces long with chairs lining the the wall on the left. The room leads to a tall door with frosted glass and the words ‘James Hunter, P.I.’ printed across it at the end, a corridor that leads around to the left where the toilet and a side entrance to my office is and administrative desk with a high backed chair and a sexy librarian.
Okay, she’s not a sexy librarian, but she does look like one.
Leia amber is about a head shorter than me with lovely features and curves in all the right places. For the most part - today included - she keeps her long black hair tied up in a bun with chopsticks piercing it to hold it in place. She wears thin rimmed black glasses and is always dressed for work.
Even when she came to my house drunk in the middle of the night last may, raving about how I’d got her fired from the social services she’d looked fairly smart.
When I’d first met her she was a social worker who had been conned into investigating me by the S.I.S. in an attempt to coerce me into working with them. When I did eventually do what they’d wanted - they managed to manipulate me into doing it, it’s a whole big thing, don’t worry about it - they used a secret from Leia’s past to get her fired.
She needed a new job, I was in need of an administrator, it all just seemed to fit. She’s been working for me ever since. Best administrator I’ve ever had.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
“You’re here, good.” Leia says, standing up from her desk and walking down to meet me, A4 notepad pressed to her chest.
“And raring to go.” I say, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice.
She frowns, indicating that I failed. “Are you okay?” She asks, concern in her tone. As strict as Leia could be sometimes she was also compassionate. That was one of the main reasons I hired her; she cared, and it wasn’t just about the money.
“I’m fine.” I tell her, walking along the room to meet her halfway.
Her frown deepens. “I’m sorry I pulled you away from your day with Miss Cook. You asked me to make any client meetings I can.”
“I know, don’t worry. It’s not that.” I promise her.
“I’m acting like a child, don’t worry about it.”
“Alright.” She says, lowering the notepad to open it and locate todays notes. “The clients name is Elizabeth Lemure, as I told you earlier. She needs you to find someone, but she didn’t say who.”
“Okay, what did she sound like?” I ask as we make our way to my office.
“High born, most likely a lesser noble family; I don’t recognise the name.” Leia explains.
We reach my office door and I push it open. My office is large and spacious. To the left, on this side of the side door is a black three piece leather sofa suite around a small glass coffee table. On the other side is a large book shelf with as many books as I could find in thrift stores and on E-Bay. Most of them are worthless and useless to me in every capacity except filling the shelves.
Opposite the door, below the large window is my desk. A large glass one with a high backed leather chair and a perfectly well organised desk. It used to be a mess of every little thing I'd ever thought of, but since Leia arrived it had been a constant shrine to cleanliness.
Sometimes I miss the chaos. It helped me think.
Of the right side of the room Is my whiteboard where I figure out my cases. A large one with magnets, markers and a cork board filled with pins. next to it, in the middle of the wall is a large filing cabinet, or thats what it looks like. It’s actually a proper chest of drawers set up to look inconspicuous. I keep all of my most basic anti-elemental tools in there - fire extinguishers, rubber gloves, taser, deadly poisons, that sort of thing. In the corner on the right closest to the entrance is a little bar with all the finest alcohols, soft drinks, teas and coffees.
I tend not to drink anything alcoholic from it. If I do get a drink like that it's generally after hours. I have it there because sometimes my clients need a stiff one, and who am I to judge?
all around the top of each wall are framed pieces of paper. Each one is a cheque from a case that I worked. I like to keep souvenirs. Apparently I’m a psychopath that hasn’t killed anyone yet.
Everything in my office - with the exception of my desk, my framed cheques and the second hand books are new, or at least purchased within the
I step inside and cross to my desk, dropping my bag down on the table and knocking several pieces out of place. It’s fine I’ll pick them up later. I throw my coat onto the back of my chair and Leia sighs, walking around the desk, taking my coat and hanging it up on a coat hook that I hadn’t even noticed beside the door.
“When did that turn up?” I ask.
“About a week ago,” she responds, “detective.”
I snort amusement. She’s right; some detective I am that I didn’t even notice new things in my own office that had been there a week.
“Thanks. Did the landlord approve my request?” I ask, pulling my laptop out of my bag and placing it on the table. I pick up the bag and walk it over to the coat hook where I store it.
“He wants to know why you want to fill the sprinkler system with salt.” She responded, exasperation in her voice.
“‘It might stop soakers from manipulating it as easily’ isn't a good enough reason. He suggested not ruining one of his offices a second time by setting off the sprinklers unnecessarily.”
“You mentioned that if I hadn’t a burner would have killed me, right?” I ask, returning to my desk and sitting down.
“Yes, and he told me that he saw the news and argued that if you hadn’t set off the sprinkler then the soaker would not have got your gun away from you.”
“He saw it on the news.” She said, cutting me off.
“Fine.” It doesn’t matter that much, it was more an experiment than anything. Besides I can’t really afford to pay for the repairs salt water’s going to cause to the sprinkler system. “How are you today anyway?” I ask, sitting back as Leia starts towards the door.
“Hm?” She stops turning around to look at me. “Oh, fine. just a little tired.”
“I haven’t been sleeping well.” She sighs. “I think-”
“Hello?” a voice comes from out in the waiting room.
“Ah, this will be your nine-thirty.” she says, happy to change the subject. “Excuse me.”
“Okay.” I say, frowning as she walks to the door. “If you need to talk about… whatever is giving you sleepless nights, you can come to me any time.”
She smiles a little. “Thank you. I will think about it.” She turns and leaves the room, saying “Miss Lemure?” as she steps out into the waiting room.
I open up my laptop and start it up, better to do it now in case I need it than making the client wait for it to load. It starts up quickly, not yet burned out by years of use. I dump bring up my e-mails and wait for Leia to show miss Lemure in.
No really important mails, mostly spam. One of these days I’m going to shut those spam generators down, but for today I just dump it all into the spam folder.
“Mister Hunter,” Leia says, knocking on the door and stepping in. “This is Miss Elizabeth Lemure.” She says, motioning towards the woman in the doorway.
The first thing I notice about miss Elizabeth Lemure is that she is stunning. A tall dark haired woman in her mid to late thirties with high cheekbones and full lips. She has a sharp nose and gorgeous big blue eyes.
Her body is slender at the waist and limbs yet full at the bust, exposed in all the right places by her tight jeans, loose, low cut vest and tight leather jacket.
She walks in like she owns the place, a cute, confident smile on her lips and a predatory gleam in her eyes as she looks around.
I stand up as she crosses the room and sits down. She sits there so casually. She looks like a movie star or a goddess, whichever is more relevant in todays culture.
“Good morning.” She says, peaking her fingers in front of her and resting her elbows on the arms of the chair opposite mine.
it takes a few moments to remember speech. There are few women in the world that I’d describe as literally stunning. This is one of them. “Morning.” I manage. “How may I help you, Miss Lemure. I’m told that you need help finding someone.”
“Something like that.” She says, her voice velvety and suggestive. “Please, call me Elizabeth.”
“Call me Jim. Do you have a name for the person I’m looking for?” I ask.
“No. I don’t know who they are.” I frown and she smiles, a sultry smile that intrigued me before leaning forward and placing her hands on her lap. “I’m going to be honest with you, mister Hunter.” She says.
I frown. conversations that start with ‘I’m going to be honest’ rarely end well. “That would probably be helpful, at least at this early stage.”
“Elizabeth Lemure isn’t my real name.” I raise an eyebrow. “It’s an alias, but not one of my more well known ones. If you watch the news or read the papers you’d more than likely heard of my others.”
“Which are?”
“The Silver Fox. The Shadow Cat. Abigail Dross. and maybe a dozen others, but those are the most well known ones.” She shrugs.
I frown. I do know those names. “You’re a criminal.” I deduce. “A thief.”
“A collector.” she argues, opening her hands in front of her defensively.
“Of things that don’t belong to you.” I respond.
“Oh, mister Hunter. The things I collect - the paintings, the statuettes, the jewellery - it was all stolen before I ever got there.” She explains as I sit back and watch her. “By dictators, by the nobility, by slave traders or slave owners, at some point every piece of art was stolen from someone. How is it wrong for me to steal back something that’s already stolen?”
“So you’re stealing from the rich and giving to the poor?” I ask. “What are you? some kind of woodland hero? you going to change into spandex in a minute?”
“Maybe, you’re pretty cute. When all this is over, maybe you’ll get lucky.” She says, winking at me. I blush a little. What can I say, it’s been ten years of being alone since my wife died and I’ve only been with Nala for a few months.
I get shy.
“And no. I’m not stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Lord no, I’m keeping it or selling it on. being this beautiful isn’t cheap you know.” she adds, motioning to her body and leaning forward so that I can see down her shirt that she’s not wearing a bra.
After I stop staring, my frown deepens and I shake my head. “Why are you telling me all of this?” I ask. “I work with the police, regularly.”
“I understand that.” She agrees. “the reason I’m telling you the truth here is because if I don’t then you’re not going to believe the next thing I tell the truth about.”
I'm quiet for a moment, waiting for her to continue, then add "and the next thing is...?"
“The night before last I attempted to steal Tendali’s ‘Signals by Starlight’. However another group was there first. They killed a guard in front of it, ruining the painting and making it worthless. I saw it happen and then I escaped. I was seen leaving and now I’m the prime suspect in the murder.”
“Okay… so let me see if I understand.” I say, sitting back and looking the woman in the eyes. “You’re telling me that two nights ago you broke into the Xelaren national gallery, with the intention to steal a priceless work of art. I’m assuming; knowing full well that the theft of said work of art would cause huge political backlash from our neighbouring country.” I pause to give her a moment to agree.
“But you didn’t steal it.”
“I did not.”
“Someone else - someone you don’t know - killed the guard on duty making it worthless, so you left.”
“But you got seen leaving and now you’re on the run, under investigation for the crime.”
“And you want me to do, what? Prove your innocence?”
“I’d appreciate it, and I can pay pretty well.” She promised.
I look at her for a long moment. She already thinks I’ve decided to help her. I can see it in her eyes, in the relaxed body language. I can tell by the way she holds herself. She thinks I’m a sap, the kind of guy that’ll do anythign for a pretty face and a flash of cleavage, always looking to protect the damsel in distress.
Fair point, I kind of am, but I’m pretty good at telling the distressed from the distressing and this woman is the latter. I once knew a guy, a burner from the colonies, he was a private detective as well, advertised in the phonebook as ‘Wizard’ despite only having power over fire - and despite wizards not being real - he was hugely into the damsel in distress thing, got him in trouble a lot. All you needed to do to get his help was bring a girl with you, have her tell the story and have her say ‘help me please’ and he was on the case. Great guy, bit of an idiot.
“No.” I say, sitting back in my chair.
She flinches, almost falling out of her chair she’s so surprised. “I- what?” she asks.
“No. I don’t work for or with criminals, despite what the Dimarco’s say.” I tell her. “Even if I did; I don’t help them cover up their crimes.”
“I’m not-”
“Lets say I believe you. Lets say you didn’t kill the guard, you still tried to steal the painting, you’re still a wanted felon. Why aren’t I calling the police?”
“I’m paying you…”
“Not right now you’re not.” I argue, leaning forward and frowning at her. “And I don’t understand why you’d want to be. I mean; you’re a wanted criminal, people all over the world want you in jail and you’ve evaded them this long. Why don’t you just keep doing what you’re doing?”
She stares at me, confusion and annoyance on her face for a long time before she sighs and deflates. “His name was Timothy Crayne.” She says. “He has a wife named Abigail - a curator at the museum of natural history - and two kids, one named Theodore and one named Melissa. He was just a normal guy, trying to make a living. he was failing, but he made sure his kids never wanted for anything… and now he’s dead. I- I didn’t want that. He didn’t deserve to die… He deserves justice.”
I kind of believe her.
“What do you care about justice? You’re a criminal.”
“I’m a thief.” she argued. “I take things. I never hurt anyone, not physically. Search for any news article about me or my aliases. I go in and I get out without a single person getting hurt.”
I look at her for a second, and then another. By the fallen I think I’m actually going to help her.
Not because of her sob story, I don’t care about her. No, Timothy Crayne deserves justice and if i can find the people who did it then I might be able to help with Nala’s international incident.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
“Alright.” I say, picking up a pocket sized leather binder with refillable pages. I’m in the process of transferring all the information over from my pocket note pad. I got to the end of it a couple of cases ago, but there was so much needed information in it that I didn’t want to lose. “What can you tell me about them?”
She smiles, relieved. “Thank you, Jim.”
“Call me Hunter.” I say. I might be helping her, but lets not pretend we’re friends.
She looks up and sighs, nodding. “Hunter. There were three of them. Hellanian I think. Dark hair, canted eyes, a little shorter than an average Galledarian.”
“You just described everyone east of Galledar.” I tell her. “Distinguishing features? Hair length, tattoos, scars… odd clothes?”
“The leader, the one who shot him was wearing suit trousers and a shirt. His sleeves were rolled up and on both of his arms were tattoos of dragons.”
“Like this?” I ask, unfolding my arm and showing her the tattoo of a Hellanian triad dragon fighting a tribal wolf that had been there for a very long time. It wasn’t just a tattoo, it was a gang tattoo, of sorts. I was never in a gang, they never wanted me, though even if I had I never wanted them.
A long time ago I rescued the son of Xiao Teng - the leader of the Hellanian triad’s Xelaren operation - and the daughter of Lucia Dimarco - the leader of the Dimarco crime family - from an upstart gang, looking to make waves. As a thank you they slapped this on me. It means that I’m not a part of either gang, but I’m off limits to all but those two.
Over the years the tattoo’s come in handy, letting me pass in and out of The Old Neighbourhood unmolested, getting me out of plenty of scrapes and getting me into a hand full of places only their inner circles would be allowed to go.
“It looks just like that, the dragon part anyway.” She agreed.
“Damnit.” I curse. “I was hoping Xiao Teng wasn’t involved in this.”
“The mob boss?” She asks, raising an eyebrow.
“How do you know that it’s him? It’s just a tattoo.”
“This dragon is a very special tattoo. Its a Hellanian dragon, only a handful of people have one anything like this. Xiao Teng gives the tattoo to people that are under his protection- well… more like he gives it to people that he wants to kill.”
“‘Wants to kill’ and ‘are under his protection’ are very different things.” She points out.
“He wants it so that only he is allowed to kill or harm them.” I explain. “He’s put it on people he has rewarded and people close to him. His wife, his kids, myself and his closest advisors.”
“So it’s most likely one of them that killed him.” She asks.
“Yes. Which means that it’s most likely him, and I prefer not to go up against major mob bosses when I can help it.” I sigh. “Were there any other distinguishing features about him? Better to narrow down who we’re looking for.”
She shakes her head. “He had ear length hair, wore a black fedora. Very much the party all night type. If I’d seen him anywhere else I’d have thought he was going to a club.”
Sounds like pretty much all of Teng’s sons. None of them are particularly trustworthy, though I wouldn’t expect him to trust any of them with this. It’s possible this was a solo thing but… no, they’d be too afraid of their father to try something without his say so.
“Okay. What about the other two with him.” I ask. “If he has an entourage it’s very possible that he keeps the same company at all times, not just while killing people.”
“One of them was big, not height wise, but muscular, almost comically for his size. He had short black hair. I don’t remember anything else.” She describes a man i’ve never met before. Not the best thing to go on, but maybe it’ll help later. “The other one was thinner, almost skinny. He was bald except for a short mohawk and I think he had a scar across the top of his head, on the right side of his mohawk. It was dark though, it could have been a skin blemish or something. They were both wearing similar clothes to the leader.”
“Alright.” I say. Pretty distinctive, if I see him I’ll likely know him. “So, when did all this go down?” I finish writing out the descriptions and flip over to the next page.
“Friday night. They shot him-”
“They shot him?” I ask, a little surprised. That means they’re probably not elementals. That severely narrows it down when it comes to people within the Xiao family.
“Yes. They shot him. it was at about one-thirty Friday night, Saturday morning.” She explained. “I arrived just as they shot him. they left straight after and I went down to see if I could help him.” She pauses for a moment and looks down as her hands. “I couldn’t.”
“So after you realised that you couldn’t save him, what happened?” I ask.
“I left.”
“You walked out the front door?”
“I crawled back through the air ducts.” She corrected me. “The alarms had gone off and the security bars had all gone down so I had to return the way I’d come.”
“How did the killers get out then?”
“The alarm went off while I was checking on Timothy.” She explains. “They must have set them off on their way out.”
I nod, jotting it all down with estimates on how long each thing would likely take. “It’s impressive that you got out after the alarms were knocked out. You’re an augmenter?”
“No. A breezer.” She responds. "Useful for gathering information, but not much else. My skills as a thief come from hard work and perseverance."
I don't look up at her, it's hard to hide my fear and anger. Not too long ago I'd have said the same thing. I'd have agreed that the amount of air a breezer can manipulate is so inconsequential that it's only useful for hearing conversations at a distance, improving accuracy with a bow or powering another element.
Then I met the lady killer who had learned to suck the air from people's lungs.
Breezers are not harmless. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The only reason I haven't gone public with the knowledge is because my daughter, my sister and my nephew are all air elemental a of some form and I know people. If they knew that the air elementals were so powerful… My family would be killed.
"Fine." I say. "You were seen leaving?"
“I was forced to leave a piece of tech, and I left a piece like it at a job in Kinodell a couple of years ago. the authorities made the connection.” She explains.
“So they don’t even know what you look like?”
“No, just that the silver fox was there.”
I nod and go over the notes. “Okay. I think I’ve got everything that I need.” I say, “I charge seventy-five Crowns an hour or One-Hundred an hour on the weekends. Travel expenses within the city are complementary but I charge expenses if I have to leave, but I’ll keep you informed and you can end our services at any time so long as you pay for the costs you have accrued.”
“That sounds reasonable, under priced if anything.” She smiles. It’s a fantastic smile.
“If you leave your contact details with my administrator I will contact you when I have something.” I tell her, standing up.
She doesn’t move like I expect her to. She frowns at me and shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Hunter, but you misunderstand my intentions.” I raise an eyebrow at her and she continues. “I want to bring these people to justice. I can’t find them on my own so I’ve come to you and I intend to pay you, but I will be accompanying you.”
I frown. “I don’t work that way, miss Lemure. I can’t work with people I don’t trust, and I don’t trust you. Not in any way.” I explain. “On top of that, there’s every chance that I’ll be working other cases simultaneously. You will not be welcome to help on those.”
“I appreciate that, Hunter, but it is still one of my conditions. My only condition in fact, other than the obvious ‘not getting me arrested’.” She tells me. My frown deepens and I shake my head. It’s not worth it. I can’t trust her to have my back if things go south and if I’m going against the triad… things are going to go south. They just are. “I’m willing to pay you four times your reasonable rates, if you meet my requirements and you work exclusively.”
But if they don’t I’ll have a tidy little sum to put away for future expenses….
That said, I could also get a nice amount for turning her in to the police. A master thief like her… “What’s to stop me from just turning you over to the cops?” I ask. “They’d pay me a hefty reward, probably more than you’d be paying.”
“You think you can?” she asks, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve escaped the authorities of ten different countries, three different continents. Task forces made up of all of them. I’ve got in and out of high security military bases without being detected. Once I placed a note on the president of Rissan’s pillow while he was sleeping and they never even suspected anything until I was in another state. You think the only thing they’ve been missing to catch me is you?”
“If you’re so special then why do you need me.”
She shrugs. “I can disappear, but I can’t find things or people that already have. Thats why I have contacts to find the art I acquire.”
“Fine. But we do this my way.” I tell her, pointing my finger at her. “You do exactly what I say when I say it. If I so much as suspect that you’re not on the level at any time then I switch sides or call the cops.”
“Understood, however if at any point you do call the cops or get me arrested in any way I won’t be paying you, and I’ll vanish before you even have a chance to get the cops here.” She explained. “Do we have a deal?”
I stare at her for a long moment, giving her time to realise that I’m not bluffing. She leans forward, wrapping her arms around herself and pushing her breasts up to show off as much skin as possible. I raise an eyebrow, does this usually work on people? “You can put them away. We have a deal.” I tell her, leaning forward and offering her my hand as she releases her breasts, allowing them to sag back down, though not as far as any normal thirty-something year old. She takes my hand and we shake. “And in future: try and understand that I can’t be manipulated by a little flash of skin.”
“I’ll try something a little extra next time.” She offered, a twinkle in her eye.
I roll my eyes and shake my head. I shut down the laptop and open up my desk draw. I draw my gun, a compact nine millimeter, and the hip holster that it goes in before standing up. She stands up aswell, hands idle at her side as she watches me.
“Where are we going?” she asks.
I already have some ideas where to start and I might as well get to it right away. “Er...”
I slip the holster onto my hip and walk around the desk, crossing to the coat hook. I take the suit jacket and pull it on before taking my bag down and carrying it back to the desk, opening it up and dumping it down.
“Xelaren national gallery. I want to have a look around.” I tell her.
I close my laptop but i don't put it in the bag. Instead I cross to the faux-filing cabinet and collect a couple of things that might come in useful if we come up against some elementals.
“You think that’s a good idea?”
“I do. I’ve got to see the scene and find out if anyone saw anything.” I respond idly as I dump my anti-Elemental supplies into the bag.
“Is it not a little bit of a risk with me there?” She asks.
“You can stay behind if you’d like.” I say, looking up at her.
She shakes her head. “No. I just need a moment at my hotel to change.” I nod and swing my sling bag over my head. “Ready?”
“Yes.” I tell her, walking to the office door, thief in my wake. I step out and turn to Leia. “Hey, we’re getting started straight away. Call me if anything comes up but don’t take any new jobs, I’m on an exclusive contract here.”
“Okay.” She agrees, standing up. “Er… is there anything else I can help with?”
“Nope, thats it. thanks for coming in. You can head home if you’d like.” I offer.
“I’ve got a little bit of paperwork to finish off but I will after.” She responds. “Good luck.”
I smile. “Thanks. Talk to you later.” I turn to Miss Lemure. “Alright, lets go. You can give my your hotel address on the way.”
“Alright.” She agrees as I lead her out of the office and down the three flights of stairs to the ground floor. I push the door open but a horrendous gust of wind slams into it and swings it closed on me, knocking me back.
“Damnit-” I curse and the door explodes in fire, throwing Miss Lemure and myself back towards the stairs.


- James