Snippet #4 from Quest for Magic – Book Zero in the Liera Chronicles!
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
The patio was already filling up with people getting a head start on this evening’s good buzz.
“Hey, Liera.” A regular lifted a cold Shiner Bock in a salute. Liera waved back but kept moving. “On a case?” he called out, but Liera ignored him, barely offering him a wave of her hand. She wanted to get to her small sanctuary and figure out what the hell was happening to her mind.
She slid the key in, and turned her door handle, sliding her purse off her shoulder to drop it on the red velvet easy chair to her left. Her grandmother’s favorite reading chair.
“Home, sweet home,” said Liera, as she closed the door behind her, reaching over to shut the wooden blinds that overlooked the patio.
Liera took in a long, deep breath, still pressing her back against the door.
“Can’t be happening,” she whispered, staring into the darkened room. She bit her lower lip, willing herself to get it together.
Liera went and picked up the framed photo of a younger Liera with her mother and grandmother. Everyone with the same dark green eyes, smiling at the camera.
“How can everyone call me ‘Lucky Liera’ with a family like this?” she asked, tracing the image of her mother with her finger. “One locked away, one disappeared without a trace and then there’s just me.”
Liera let out a sigh and caught herself, slapping her hand hard against the wall.
“Enough! Damn, Berens, sentimental much? Okay,” she said, carefully putting back the picture.
“I could use a drink, she said, as she turned on a small lamp with seashells around the base that sat next to the easy chair. Another relic of her grandmother’s.
Liera took a look at herself in the mirror by the door.
“Another shirt ruined,” she said, pulling off the button-down shirt streaked with dirt and a little of her partner’s blood. She touched the damp, bright red spot in the middle of the shirt.
“Damn,” she murmured, “rough day at the office.”
She went to her small bedroom at the back of the cottage. The entire cottage was shaped like a small square with the living room taking up the largest area. The kitchen was just big enough to fit a round table and four chairs in the center with a few feet of clearance on every side.
The bedroom was even smaller but Liera liked it. Big enough for a bed and a dresser.
She slid between the wall and the bed, making her way to the hamper just inside of the small closet on the far side of the room.
She took one more look at the shirt and dropped it into the hamper, pulling out her phone.
‘You survive the chewing out?’ she texted Felix. Three bouncing dots appeared almost immediately.
‘By the skin of my teeth,’ he texted back. ‘Go enjoy your evening, Berens. I’m good. Going to watch reruns of Golden Girls on this broke-ass TV and fall asleep.’
‘I’ll bring coffee in the morning’, she texted back.
‘And a crawler. But don’t let Rose see it.’
Liera gave her usual crooked smile with one side of her mouth and pocketed her phone.
She stepped back and unholstered her gun, pressing the combination on the grey metal lock box on top of her childhood wooden dresser. She placed the gun inside and firmly shut the lid, listening to the solid ‘click’.
Another of Estelle’s rules. No guns on the patio. No exceptions. Texas law made sure of that in any area that served more alcohol than food. The large patio that only consisted of chairs, tables and a long, wooden bar rarely saw even an order for appetizers, and mixed nuts didn’t count.
Open carry was permitted in the restaurant inside. Hell, even Estelle was known to wear her .45 openly when seating people for brunch.
But anyone caught with their gun still on them on the patio was bounced from the establishment for good and their picture posted prominently by the cash register.
A rogue’s gallery of dumb-asses.
Estelle ran a tight ship and didn’t take any shit from anyone.
Liera went back to the large oval mirror hanging by the door and leaned in to get a better look. Not bad for someone who never wore makeup, she thought, then rolled her eyes. Or at least, good enough.
She looked down, straightening her favorite Wonder Woman t-shirt, feeling some relief. No blood stains seeped through. That’s something else to be grateful for, she thought as she walked to the front door.
She opened the door and paused on the threshold, waiting for the usual greetings. She liked the ritual more than she was willing to admit.
“Liera!” called out a woman just coming onto the patio from the main room of the bar. Several other patrons turned their heads to look and did the same. A chorus went up.
“Liera!” they shouted. She stepped down and shut her door, not bothering to lock it. No one who knew her would be dumb enough to try breaking into Liera’s place. Anyone who didn’t know her would get stopped a dozen different ways by as many people before they got the door all the way open.
“Come sit by me,” said a regular, Mike, who patted the seat next to him. He was sitting at the long wooden bar, weathered and faded. Old, battered license plates from Estelle’s travels decorated the sides of the bar. Clusters of tiny white lights were in bunches above the bar.
Liera grabbed a stool as the bartender popped the top off of a tall-neck and sat it in front of her.
“Boone River lager,” said a man in a coat and tie on the next bar stool over. Liera didn’t recognize him. Not a regular to Estelle’s. “Little lady has taste,” he said, giving her a wink as he held up his glass.
Liera frowned, sizing him up before turning her back. Not in the mood, she thought.
“Aw, come on, don’t be like that. It’s Friday! It’s even happy hour. Let me buy you a drink.” He scraped his bar stool closer to her.
Liera knew his type. Relentless. She turned back around and scowled at him. “Look asshole, this isn’t Match.com. You’re not going to score here. You’re in the wrong bar. Try Rodeo Pete’s on 6th Street. You’ll have a lot better luck with the tourists,” she said, as she turned back to say something to Mike.
There was a heavy tap-tap on her shoulder. She looked down to see a long, well-manicured finger tap her again. A gun-metal gray Rolex on his wrist.
“Seriously,” she said, as people turned around, some of them moving their chairs closer. Ready to jump in and help Liera if that became necessary.
Liera felt the air grow tense. Time to help everyone ease out of this and calm down.
“Look, dude,” said Liera, “you’re in the wrong establishment,” she said, scooting up her t-shirt just high enough to show him her gold shield. “Last time I’m telling you, nicely or otherwise. Try Rodeo Pete’s but dial it back a little. Even beer goggles won’t help your approach. I don’t care how much you try and wallet-slap the honeys.”
“Feisty, I like it. Come on, one drink,” he said, smiling, dimples appearing in his cheeks, holding up his hands as if he was trying to surrender. He stood up and waved to the bartender, holding up two fingers, but the bartender looked at Liera to see what she wanted him to do. She shook her head, no.
“Okay, I get it. This is your place,” he said, sitting back on his stool. “Look, I’ll buy your beer and you don’t even have to give me your name,” he said, dimples appearing again. “I’ll be right over here, minding my own business, Officer.” He tilted his head to the side.
Liera frowned. “Suit yourself,” she said, turning back around as she took a sip of her beer. First few sips of a cold beer on a hot Austin night were always the best.
Mike leaned in and whispered, “I think that’s called harmless flirting.”
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #4! Liera has had a rough day. Can a girl just drink a cold beer on a hot night? I’m a fan of the hard cider myself. Nothing like that sweet, cold fizz on a Texas summer day. Worked out beats for Book Two with Michael Anderle and it’s looking like another fun story coming your way! Hang on, two books to read before that one comes out – but it’s all coming out and soon!
Check out Martha Carr’s other books at http://www.marthacarr.com/