Falling Into Friday Night – a fantasy flash story

booze“I should have known the plan of a demon would be terrible.” The angel Eleanarus, resplendent in golden armour with glowing wings tucked behind her back, glared at the costumed humans filling the bar.

“How else could we meet on neutral ground?” Detective Shadowvalt downed a shot of tequila and set the empty glass to spinning on his horn. He quite liked Eleanarus, heaven’s leading criminal investigator, but watching an angel squirm still put him in a good mood. “Halloween is the one night when we’ll both blend in on Earth.”

“We could have met in a cave,” Eleanarus said, staring suspiciously at her cocktail. “What sort of creature can shelter beneath such an umbrella?”

“Sometimes our investigations involve humans,” Shadowvalt said. “You need to get used to being around them.”

“A subject I was happy to meet and discuss, but this…” Eleanarus sipped her drink, smiled, and then frowned. “Is that alcohol? Are you trying to corrupt me?”

“Communion wine includes alcohol. I hardly think-”

“Hi there!” A man in a pirate outfit approached them with the sloppy smile of the inebriated. He barely acknowledged Shadowvalt, his attention fixed on Eleanarus. “That’s one hell of a costume you’ve got there – strong yet stunningly sexy. It’s all I can do to resist the obvious line.”

“Obvious line?” Eleanarus looked baffled.

“About whether it hurt to fall from Heaven,” the man said. “You know, because you’re-”

“I am not of the fallen!” Eleanarus said indignantly, hand reaching for her sword. “How dare you insinuate that-”

“He’s just trying to be friendly.” Shadowvalt put a restraining hand on her forearm and gave the man a knowing smile. “Aren’t you?”

“Very friendly.” The man winked. “Awesome mask, dude.”

“Thank you.” Out of the corner of his eye, Shadowvalt saw Eleanarus take a wary step back, her gaze flitting towards the door. If she bolted then he wouldn’t have another chance like this all year. He needed to move the situation into her comfort zone. “Can we ask you a question?”

“Sure thing,” the man said. “Ask away.”

“How do you think investigators can better understand people?” Shadowvalt asked. “We’re what you might call community service officers.”

“You’re police?” The man took a step back. “I’ve just remembered, I left my drink over there, and…”

“This is useless,” Eleanarus said. “I should go.”

“Wait!” Shadowvalt said. “Listen, Long John Booze-fuelled, we’re not on duty.”

“So?” the human asked suspiciously.

“Whatever you do, we won’t arrest you.” Shadowvalt glanced at Eleanarus. “I swear, right now we’re not working for any police force on Earth. You can ask her, she’s very honest.”

“That true?” the guy asked, face brightening with optimism as he looked at the angel.

“It is,” she said.

“Alright then.” The man relaxed, his smile returning. “Then I guess I’d say you should spend time with the people you’re policing. Hang out, get to know them better. Maybe buy them a drink…” He gestured to himself, to the bar, then back to himself again. “Even join them and their buddies on a bar crawl.”

Eleanarus narrowed her eyes and pointed at Shadowvalt. “Did this creature tell you to say that?”

“I’ve never even met him!” the human said. “Swear to God.”

“That is good enough for me.” Eleanarus turned and grabbed the nearest barman by the arm. His annoyance faded as he looked into her glowing eyes, and he smiled.

“Give me the drinks for a bar crawl,” she said.

“Coming right up.” The barman started filling glasses.

Eleanarus downed her cocktail and reached for another. As the human waved his friends over, she leaned in close to Shadowvalt.

“Maybe your idea was not so bad,” she said, smiling. “Once we are done gaining understanding from these humans, you must tell me who the tiny umbrella is for.”

Shadowvalt smiled. It was going to be a very entertaining night.

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I know the seasonal element’s all wrong on this one, but it didn’t start out as a Halloween story. That emerged from my attempts to get Shadowvalt and an angel into a human bar. As for what follows… Well, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Shadowvalt, I doubt it’ll be the last.

If you enjoyed this then you might also like By Sword, Stave or Stylus, my collection of fantasy short stories, available as an Amazon ebook. Or you can sign up to my mailing list for a free e-book and short stories straight to your inbox every Friday.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

I think we can all agree that cocktails are a good thing, right?Last Call Tasty booze plus comedy names plus an element of craftsmanship equals a fun night of drinking. I’ve certainly had good times with cocktail parties and cocktail inventing bar crawls, one of which ended in my losing a whole city.

But that’s a story for another time. For now, let’s look at a story about magical cocktails – Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger.

This is a fun urban fantasy book whose central premise is that bartenders have two jobs – providing tasty booze and protecting the world from dark forces bent on devouring humans like so many tequila slammers at happy hour. Correctly mixed cocktails can give the drinker temporary superpowers, with their effect depending on the drink. Would sir like ice and telekinesis with that?

Krueger is working well within the comfort zone of modern urban fantasy, and the story openly reflects its antecedents. We’ve got the Chicago setting of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. We’ve got the smart young graduate stumbling across the supernatural while looking for a career, like in Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guides. We’ve got Scott Pilgrim style oddball fights. And of course we’ve got references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the urban fantasy show people who’ve never heard of urban fantasy rave about.

The result is like drinking a long island ice tea made in a high-class bar – it’s enjoyable, it’s well crafted, but it’s not going to surprise you. It’s a fun, frothy book that avoids taking itself or its likeable characters too seriously. Those characters are nicely brought to life and include a good mix of gender, ethnicity and sexuality without making that an issue.

I was wary of this one at first, not sure Krueger had successfully combined the mundane and supernatural elements. But in the end, clear action and fun characterisation won through. It was the perfect palette cleanser after Kim Stanley Robinson’s bleakly substantial Aurora. If you’re looking for something fun, I totally recommend this.


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Disclaimer: I got this book for free after being contacted by its publicist. The opinion above is still my real opinion – as I’ve said before, if I don’t like something I’ll usually just shut up about it.