Authors: Nicole Peeler
THE RYU MORGUE
A Jane True Story
Copyright © 2014 by Nicole Peeler.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
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Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Editor: Heather Osborn
Copy Editor: Mackenzie Walton
Cover Artist: Mark Henry
The Ryu Morgue/ Nicole Peeler -- 1st ed.
Dedication: To all of you who asked for more. Thank you.
“I’m not working with her,” Ryu said. “At least not on this.”
Trevor, the North American leader of the Initiative—the supernatural/human coalition formed after a regrettable incident involving marauding dragons—gave Ryu his most reptilian smile. Ryu thought Trevor might have some naga blood somewhere in his ancestry, as the guy’s eyes were cold as a snake’s.
Those cold eyes latched on Ryu as Trevor leaned forward from behind his desk, toward where Ryu sat in one of Trevor’s awful office chairs. “While I am aware you mistrust your human counterparts in the Initiative, you really must get over your hang-ups. Working together, forging bonds—it’s the whole point of the our operation, remember?”
Pain flared in Ryu’s jaw. He was grinding his teeth again—a physical reaction that only Trevor seemed to cause him. Well, Trevor and one other person…
“I am willing to work with Ms. Henderson on other projects. But you’re asking me to take a human into the Court of two of the most ancient, and antiquated, Alfar Monarchs on the planet.” Ryu didn’t add that these two particular Monarchs had tried to whip up support to massacre all of humanity at least twice, the last time occurring quite recently. “They will see this as an act of aggression on the part of humanity, at worst, and as a hostile negotiations tactic, at best. But if you let me approach them on my own...”
“If we let you approach them on your own, what’s the point of the Initiative? We’d be sending the most powerful supes the message that the Initiative doesn’t matter; that they can continue performing business as usual, behind the backs of humanity.” Trevor leaned back, steepling his fingers in front of his face. “If you really insist that you’re incapable of working with Maeve, we can find another operative from your contingent to take your place.”
Ryu resisted the urge to hiss. “It’s not that I’m incapable of working with Maeve. I just don’t think this is the right mission for direct human involvement.”
Trevor laughed, a small, humorless sound that was really an act of dismissal. “That’s the problem with your people, Ryu. You insist you have a choice in this matter.” Trevor lowered his hands, resting them on the arms of his padded leather throne of a chair. “The fact is that humans are a part of all supernatural affairs from now on. We have you under our thumb. Either cooperate or get out of the way.”
And that was the rub, as Ryu well knew. In his own society he was hugely powerful, but here in the Initiative he had to kowtow to a mortal. He knew it was for all the right reasons—that it was better to make everyone comfortable in order to see how things really worked, and that he’d never have that chance if he struck the normally haughty air of a supe interacting with humans. He’d even volunteered for this job, and let himself be placed under Trevor, to earn the man’s trust.
But all Ryu had earned so far was a headache.
Ryu held up his hands. “Fine, but you’re misunderstanding my motivation. I’m not trying to keep you out of any loop. The fact is I can’t guarantee Ms. Henderson’s safety at the Gold Court. If you send her with me and she comes back in tiny pieces, that’s on you. Not me.”
Trevor reached for the phone on his desk. “I’m sure Maeve will be flattered to hear of your concern, but she can take care of herself.” He tapped a few buttons. “Hi Latoya. Will you send Maeve in? Thanks.”
Ryu leaned back, carefully schooling his face as Trevor watched him, smiling a little half-smile. Ryu expected to see a forked tongue emerge from behind Trevor’s lips to taste the air.
A few second later, the door opened and a beautiful redhead walked in the room.
Normally that would have made Ryu’s day. He had a thing for redheads, and especially for redheads like Maeve. She was tall—at least as tall as him in her stocking feet, and a few inches taller in the killer heels she always wore. Her body was long, all legs and slim arms and a delicate marble column for a neck. Her skin was alabaster and her hair a rich, dark red that almost looked unnatural, but didn’t smell of dye to his sharp
Yes, he should have been ecstatic at the presence of such a woman in his life and already making plans to get her into his bed.
But he wasn’t ecstatic or planning anything besides mustering the strength to tolerate Maeve Henderson for the length of their mission. And the reason was plain when Maeve turned, after formally greeting Trevor, to nod a curt hello to Ryu.
Her eyes raked over and past Ryu with the shortest acknowledgment possible in such a situation, like she was being forced to look at an open wound or a steaming pile of sick but didn’t have to like it and didn’t have to linger.
Ryu couldn’t help but sigh. The highest ranked human female operative in the Initiative hated supes with the passion of a thousand suns. A thousand suns with heartburn, which had lost their temper.
“Maeve,” he said, trying not to sound like he was eating glass. It was hard. Maeve really knew how to get under his skin.
“Well, isn’t this nice,” Trevor said, his grin widening into an evil leer. “Already you’re getting along.”
Maeve settled into the chair next to Ryu, her long legs crossing with an elegant grace that made him rue how wasted they were on an uptight, narrow-minded human.
“I’ve already briefed you on the mission. You both know what we need. The Gold Court has to get on our side and recognize the Initiative. They control the entire West Coast and they can’t continue acting like they’re still living pre-Disclosure.”
The Great Disclosure was what the human authorities in the know called what happened after the well-televised attacks by the Red and White. That said, it still wasn’t completely common knowledge that supernaturals existed. Rumors were rampant, but the great thing about humans was that many of them were dumb and all of them chattered. Many humans thought the dragon attacks had been terrorists who put LSD in the water; others believed aliens had come to probe their collective anuses; still others believed it was a stunt pulled by the same government agencies who’d supposedly filmed the moon landing. Both supes and human agencies had let such rumors run amok, not bothering to clarify anything, and very few mortals guessed the real truth. But supes had learned their own unpleasant fact—the highest levels of human governments had known about both their existence and also much of their activities for quite a long while.
In other words, as was usual in politics, everyone was lying their pants off.
“I’ve sent your official packets, including your travel arrangements and your cover story, to your offices. Do you have any further questions?”
Maeve shook her head. “No, sir.”
“I don’t have a question,” Ryu said, “But I want it on record, with Ms. Henderson present to hear, that I can’t guarantee her safety. The Gold Court isn’t friendly to humans, and I have no idea what they’ll do to her.”
Trevor gave Ryu a look like he’d just burped his little speech. Maeve didn’t acknowledge he’d said a word.
“We’ll just keep that in mind, shall we, Ryu?” Trevor said, then fluttered his soft, pencil-pusher hands at the door. “Off to work.”
Maeve shot up from her chair like she’d been coiled there and bolted for the door. Ryu followed at a leisurely pace, hoping she’d continue her forward trajectory and he wouldn’t have to talk with her ‘til they left on their mission.
Instead, she waited for Ryu outside Trevor’s office, in the bustling corridor of the Initiative’s headquarters.
“Don’t you ever undermine me in front of our superiors,” she said, poking a blunt red nail into his chest.
“I wasn’t undermining you,” Ryu said, keeping his voice flat. “It’s the truth. I can’t guarantee these particular Monarchs won’t have you killed on sight.”
“You are not responsible for me, vampire,” she said, spitting the word like one might “pedophile” or “Juggalo.” “I can take care of myself.”
“So I’ve been told,” he said, drily. “That and a flawless ruby will get you killed marginally less painfully in my world.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I know full well you’re all monsters. I don’t need reminded. You and your smartass comments can go fuck yourself.” And with that, she stalked away.
“Nice working with you!” Ryu called, ignoring the stares of people as he went to his own office to get his orders.
And remind himself that he did have to
to protect his new partner, no matter how big a pain in the ass she might be.
Maeve wasn’t about to let herself by intimidated by the vampire at her side.
He didn’t look like the bloodsuckers she’d grown up seeing in human movies. He wasn’t grotesque, like Nosferatu, nor did he sport Gary Oldman’s boob wig or Tom Cruise’s poet shirts. Instead, this vampire looked like a metrosexual sales clerk in a Nordstrom shoe department.
But no amount of perfectly cut, painstakingly mussed hair nor any finely tailored suit could change the fact the thing next to her was a monster.
Even if he does smell good.
She wrinkled her nose at that thought and he cast her a curious glance. She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him.
They were waiting in the Official Reception Hall of the Gold Court, a compound smack dab in the middle of San Francisco. When they’d pulled up earlier in their rental, the signs outside its six-foot walls claimed the Court was a foreign embassy. And yet Maeve couldn’t quite see what country it represented, no matter how hard she squinted or craned her neck at the sign.
“It’s glamoured,” Ryu had explained from the driver’s seat, after noticing her squirm. “You see something that’s not your own country, if you see anything at all.”
She’d glowered at him, hating the fact she’d needed him to explain something to her. He misunderstood her motivation and shrugged.
“Can’t have people turning up for an actual passport,” he’d said with a commiserating grin, but she’d already turned away, uninterested. To make it perfectly clear what she thought of his help, she’d pulled a nail file out of the side pocket of her valise and swiped it around her nails a few times, looking out the opposite window with a bored expression.
Now that they were inside the Court, she didn’t dare pull out her nail file. They hadn’t seen anyone besides the frog-like man who’d escorted them through the side entrance. He’d walked them through a labyrinth of rooms, occasionally giving a melodic bass ribbit that made Maeve startle every time.
“If you will wait here, Ryu Baobhan Sith,” the frog-man said, ribbiting before he could finish his sentence. “And don’t let the human touch anything.” The frog-man turned on his heel, hop-walking toward a set of huge golden doors that he appeared to melt through as if by magic.
Not “as if
,” she reminded herself.
For just a split second she considered getting up and walking out of that palace and away from the Initiative and everything she knew about it. Away from a world of dangerous supernaturals and back to a world that made sense, populated only by humans.