Excerpt: Dragon Consultant

The phone started ringing out in the main office just as Dane was finishing up with his last client of the day. He had to suppress an eager smile—Dane could only think of one reason for the phone to ring so late—and refocused his attention on his current client. Dane had been expecting the client on the phone to call a week ago; he could wait ten more minutes.

“Mrs. Hempstead, I assure you the pixies are not the ones harming your prized roses. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the pixies are the only reason your roses are still alive, given the extensive damage in your garden.” Dane tried to speak slowly and calmly so the elderly Mrs. Hempstead would understand and hopefully not get angry. It was probably a lost cause, though. She screamed pretentious and arrogant from the large pearl necklace around her wrinkled neck to the expensive mink coat she was wearing on a warm spring evening. She was used to hearing yes to everything she asked, so Dane telling her she was wrong would probably not go over well.

“If it isn’t those disgusting pixies, then what is destroying my roses?” she snapped, her back regally straight and her eyes flashing with anger. Dane was shivering with fear in his chair… not. “You are supposed to be the premier consultant on everything supernatural. I expect results!”

Dane kept his face pleasant through sheer force of will. He had known this reaction was coming, but that didn’t make it any more fun.

“The teeth marks on the bushes were quite distinctive,” Dane continued gamely. “I would suggest that you keep your dog away from that part of your garden if you want your rosebushes to bloom at all this year.”

She gasped, one silk gloved hand flying to her chest as if Dane had uttered the most offensive thing she had ever heard. “Diamond would never do something like that!” The Chihuahua in question chose that moment to fart loudly in its carry-purse on the floor next to her chair, an action Mrs. Hempstead completely ignored.

“I have found the pixie family from your garden a new home where their abilities will be properly appreciated. You shouldn’t be bothered by their presence any longer.”

She sniffed in disdain. “Well, at least you’ve done as I asked. I’m sure my rosebushes will recover nicely now that they’re gone. Contact my solicitor for payment.” She got to her feet smoothly, turned, and walked out of his office without a single word of thanks. Her roses would be dead by the end of the week; he’d bet that damned ankle-biter currently destroying her designer purse would ensure that.

Mrs. Hempstead didn’t dawdle on her way out of the office. Barely thirty seconds later, Dane heard the outer door shut with a click. The phone on his desk lit up and his secretary’s voice sounded through the speaker.

“You have a call on line two. It seems important; he insisted on holding until you were done with your meeting.”

“Thanks, Becky,” Dane replied into the speakerphone. The lights on the phone all vanished as Becky hung up, except for the button blinking for line two. Each line belonged to a different type of client thanks to a nifty spell that made his life so much easier. Mrs. Hempstead would have gone to line three, as an ordinary human. Supernatural creatures lit up line one. Line two was for anything remotely associated with the government.

Dane picked up the phone, hit the button, and held the handset to his ear. He already knew who would be calling and why, but a touch of professionalism never hurt.

“This is Dane, your local supernatural consultant,” Dane said formally. “How may I help you today?”

“Why aren’t you already traveling to the mountain in question?” the voice on the other end snapped.

“Why, hello, Jacobson. So nice to hear from you!” If he was going to give Dane flack, Dane would give it right back. Jacobson was the ignorant fool in charge of the local division of the SupFeds, or the Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, the branch of the federal government that oversaw all supernatural issues that had to do with the police or military. Jacobson was a human without the slightest magical ability. He relied on those like Dane with some power with far too little foresight. He simply didn’t understand just what he was dealing with whenever he called Dane.

If he did, he would be a whole heck of a lot politer.

“You know exactly why I’m calling. The FAA is talking about calling up the Air Force for a strike.”

“All for a dragon harassing a couple of airplanes?” Dane asked, skeptical that things would be so bad for such a little problem.

“How about multiple dragons. We’ve had sightings of at least one red and one blue dragon in the area.” Now that was an interesting fact that hadn’t made the news. “They’ve attacked three planes and forced an additional dozen to turn back. We’re diverting flights right now, but it’s not sustainable. We need those dragons contained as soon as possible. If you don’t step in, we’re going to have to take drastic action. I’ve sent all the information we’ve been able to gather to your email.”

The phone clicked and Jacobson was gone. He had hung up on Dane. What a bastard. One of these days someone was going to eat him and Dane would get a nasty phone call from his successor asking Dane to figure out how, who, and why. Dane occasionally wondered how he would explain that Jacobson was an ignorant dick while still maintaining his professionalism. It really wasn’t a phone call he was looking forward to.

It only took a few clicks of Dane’s email to find the information Jacobson had sent. The laptop whirred loudly as it downloaded the files, which made him frown. It wasn’t exactly a standard-issue laptop. It was top of the line in human technology and magical spells. It was hack proof, spell proof, and near indestructible. The file Jacobson had sent must be huge.

Pictures popped up first, which explained the size of the file. Most of them were grainy, shot through a plane window with a smartphone by a bystander, but there were enough professional-quality shots included in the package that Dane could clearly see three different dragons. The professional shots worried him the most: they meant that the government had taken the time to investigate their potential targets in case they had to be taken out. However, those shots also raised a more peculiar question.

Dragons were generally solitary creatures. They lived and hunted alone in territory that they didn’t share with anyone else. The only exception was when they mated; it took ten years for a dragon to form, lay, and hatch a clutch of eggs that the two parents worked together to keep from harm. Once the kits could manage on their own—which was when they learned how to properly fly—the parents left and the kits happily went to find their own separate territories.

The need to find and protect their territories from all invaders meant that dragons also spent most of their lives living in the wild. It was a rare moment when a dragon got close enough to humans to cause a problem. However, that distance meant that dragons were overwhelmingly ignorant creatures. Dane knew that the dragons couldn’t help their ignorance, but the stigma against them was pervasive. They were considered to be uneducated, unmannered, and generally dislikeable by humans and other magical creatures that participated in normal society’s norms and rules.

So why were three different dragons all living in the same airspace, so close to human cities and towns?

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