Friday, 2 December 2016

In Development - R.Hetoric, Occult Detective

Here's the first chapter of my new book, revised for the umpteenth time over the past four years. R.Hetoric, Occult Detective is one of those stories that I keep digging out of mothballs and dusting off for another kick at the can. I'll admit, this is the first revision that has left me hopeful that I might be keen on finishing off the entire story this time...

CHAPTER ONE
1

Rex Hetoric had a few hard and fast rules when it came to demons, and preceding all of them was one word: Don't. Demons of any sort were nasty business. It was best to avoid them and live to fight another day. Don't cross them, don't bargain with them, don't mess with their things, and most of all, whatever you do, don't ever – ever – invite them into your plane of existence.

Somebody really needed to explain the rules to the cult preparing to summon the demon Shog-Noggeroth from the Netherverse. The robed yahoos were under the delusion that their evil master would grant them a life of plenty after they invited him across the pan-dimensional planes. What they failed to grasp was that once the demon appeared, their lives, along with everyone else's on this doomed planet, would last no longer than the time it took to produce a really hearty scream.

Rex followed their trail to this abandoned rock quarry in the middle of nowhere after reports of thefts from a local zoo. Cages containing several varieties of animals, intended as exotic blood sacrifices to their unholy god, were arranged in a row below the rocky outcropping he was using for a vantage.

"Oh, you silly tits," Rex grumbled. A couple of the cultists were tugging on the reins of an obstinate goat, trying to lead it to its death at their altar. The animal was having none of it. Nothing less than a forklift was budging it from its spot. "You plan on sanctifying the shrine to an elder demon with animal blood? Why not just offer him an espresso and a smoke, while you're at it?"

Maybe he was worried for nothing. At the rate they were going, these bumbling Billies would be lucky to summon an imp. The only reason Shog-Noggeroth might make an appearance would be to kick their butts for turning his ritual into such a right cock-up.

The cult numbered in the hundreds, practically filling every inch of the quarry. The remote site featured all the amenities that a demon-worshipping band of reprobates could desire. They had a large altar in the center of the basin, next to a thirty-foot tall statue of the big guy himself. Rex was no art expert, but it struck him as a fair likeness of Shog-Noggeroth, as long as one ignored the fact that the real one was probably twenty times larger and had more tentacles than a calamari festival. 

Positioned around it were smaller shrines for the more fanatic among them to pray and offer donations. Since the demon wasn't a big spender, he guessed their charity was paying for this secular shindig. They had music, chanting, torches, candles, even a barbecue and corn boil. In all, it looked like they were gearing up for a really first-class apocalyptic ritual.

It was almost too bad that he had to spoil their fun.

From his lofty perch, Rex spotted the one reason in all of creation that would force him to be here, spying on an army of cultists as they prepared to unleash demonic Armageddon. His discovery brought a smile to his face. He wasn't smiling at the guy in the horned mask who looked to be hosting this soiree, nor at his axe-wielding bodyguards, Ug and Lee. It also wasn't because he was pleased to see the trio of hooded mystics standing behind them, bobbing their heads in unison as if either sharing the same trance or the same headphones. He was smiling because on a pedestal behind them, he had just found his client's stolen jewel.

Taken just over a week ago from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Eye of Glubglurl was part of an exhibit of rare pieces owned by a private collector with a fondness for mystic relics. When the man contracted the services of an occult detective to recover it, Rex wisely held his tongue upon seeing a picture of the missing gem. It was a sticking point that seemed even more pronounced now that he saw it for real. 

The eight-inch ruby didn't look anything like an eye! Whoever thought otherwise must be as blind as the gem's namesake.

Rex scoped out the terrain, hoping for inspiration to rain down from the heavens. Lacking that, he had no clue how he was going to manage to sneak in there and abscond with the cult's prized possession. He expected a handful of demon worshippers, not the population of a small town. For a minor demon, Shog-Noggeroth had a bigger fan base than he anticipated. He should have checked out the demon's Facebook page before accepting this job. 

"This really must be the end of the world!" a voice startled him. Rex jumped up from the rock he was using for cover and faced the burly figure who managed to creep up behind him.

The cultist pulled back his hood, revealing a bearded, scarred face, with a stern gaze burning with reproach. Rex gulped, realizing his worst nightmare had finally come true.

"Dad?"

"You're the last person I'd expect to find here," Clinton Hetoric growled. "Why aren't you off peeping in someone's window or whatever it is you do?"

Rex sighed. He supposed there had to be other private detectives facing a hard time reconciling their sometimes unsavory career choice with certain members of their family. When your bloodline consists almost exclusively of demon hunters, magic users, and paranormal beings, settling for a job as mundane as a professional gumshoe almost seemed like a slap in the face of tradition. It certainly didn't help that Rex was a buck fifty soaking wet and had the magical aptitude of a garden snail. He could be an astronaut or a world-renowned surgeon and still end up as the black sheep in his family, especially in the eyes of his demon-slaying grizzly of a father.

"This is what I do," Rex reminded him. "Occult detective, remember? Emphasis on occult."

"Occult," Clinton sneered. "What do you know about the occult, boy? Do you even know how the entrails of a Krag demon feel against your bare hand after you run them through with your sword, or the acid burn of a Nadju's blood when you lop off its head?"

"I got a papercut on a mystic tome once," Rex shrugged, feigning indifference to his father's tiresome arguments. "Hurt like a bugger."

Clinton flipped up his hood and turned away. "Go home, boy," he muttered. "Leave the demon slaying to the professionals."

"Happy to!" Rex cried. "If you have a beef with old big and squidly, far be it from me to interfere. I'm just here for the gem."

Clinton stopped in his tracks. "Gem?"

"Glubglurl. Big red jewel. Supposed to be an eye of somesuch, but I have my doubts. You probably saw it, in between jackbooting around down there with the rest of the clan."

Frowning, Clinton gazed down at the security surrounding the cult's prized possession. Once the sun went down and the ritual to summon Shog-Noggeroth went into full swing, placing the gem into the heart of its earthly vessel would serve to ground it to our reality. It was crucial to their ritual. Attempting to steal it from under their noses was nothing less than a fool's errand.

He regarded his youngest son, the perpetually awkward runt of the litter, the stunted fruit of his loins, and his scowl deepened. Whoever hired him had picked the right fool for the job, at least.

"I don't suppose you have a plan, do you?" he confirmed.

Rex looked sideways. "What? Are you kidding? Of course I do!" he lied. "But now that you're here..."

Clinton arched an eyebrow at him.

"Do you, uh, think you could find me a robe in my size?"

His father grunted in disapproval, the deep rumble issuing from his cavernous chest. "Wait here," he uttered, stomping away. "I'll check to see if they have any ladies robes left that might fit you."

Rex bared his teeth at his departing backside. "That's just perfect," he muttered. "A family reunion is precisely what I needed right now. The demon's not even here yet and it's already Hell on Earth."

***

A short while later, Shog-Noggeroth's "welcome home" party included a couple of unexpected crashers. Hetoric senior and junior meandered through the crowd of likewise-robed figures, most of whom were too busy lighting candles or preparing their sacrificial offerings to notice the presence of the interlopers.

Rex trailed behind his father's broad back, his gaze darting constantly to take in the festivities. Though he probably looked like a lost tourist to the casual observer, his senses were on high alert as he evaluated threats and potential escape routes. The boxed-in rock quarry, filled to capacity with cultists, provided an abundance of the former and a worrisome lack of the latter. As daunting as his task seemed from his vantage on the cliff face, squeezing through the crowd below made him now realize the impossibility of successfully pilfering their unholy relic. He'd stand a better chance of stealing the royal crown during the coronation ceremony.

They passed by the large sacrificial altar in the center of the camp, next to the monolithic statue of the cultists' demon master. Rex's eyes were drawn upwards to the massive, sculpted monstrosity towering above them. Lit candles arranged by its tentacle "feet" set its many suckers aglow, thanks to a not-so-subtle application of fluorescent paint. Rex suspected that many of the rocket scientists in attendance probably were of the opinion that their unholy lord's power was the source of the spectral illumination. He further imagined that a firm grasp of reality was likely one of the first things the cult flushed from their heads during the indoctrination process. 

"He's a real beaut, isn't he?" Rex muttered.

The figure marching ahead of him stopped and turned. Rex froze, catching the suspicious glower under the stranger's hood. Somewhere between the sacrificial altar and the salad bar, he must have lost track of his father and started following someone else entirely.

Rex grinned sheepishly and jerked a thumb at the statue. "Uh, good looking guy, huh? Gotta love the whole alien cephalopod theme he's got going on."

The cultist considered the statue as if noticing it for the first time. "Looks like an octopus to me," the hulking man grumbled, before wandering off with nothing more to say on the subject.

"Right," Rex nodded. "Okay."

Apparently, the brain-washing involved when joining the Shog-Noggeroth fan club amounted to a thorough rinse and repeat on the heavy-duty spin cycle.

Rex peered around, scanning the sea of hooded figures for a familiar form. He had less chance of finding his father in this mob than he would have in locating the metaphorical needle. Despite pushing the south end of two centuries old, Clinton Hetoric was still spry enough to wrestle a full grown bear into submission. His father could look after himself. Meanwhile, he had his own problems to contend with; the foremost being the robbery of a seemingly theft-proof treasure.

His gaze settled on the priceless gem perched on its pedestal, amidst the ranks of the cult's upper echelon. Ug and Lee presented a formidable deterrent to his plans, with their deadly axes, Conan the Barbarian physiques, and perma-scowl expressions. Getting past them, he might also run into trouble with the trio of head-bobbing zealots hovering around the ruby. They didn't appear to be much of a threat individually, but together they could detain him long enough for the rest of the cult to exact bloody retribution.

Rex shivered at the thought. He really wished that he had come up with some kind of plan before venturing into their ranks. His experience in investigating all manner of occult and paranormal mysteries didn't normally lend itself to the prerequisite skillset of a competent jewel thief.

"Steady now, Rex. You've been in worse situations than this," he whispered. 

Thing was, no worse situations were immediately coming to mind. He tried not to dwell on it too much.

The guy in the goat mask raised his hands to silence the crowd before addressing them. Rex fell silent and waited for him to speak, hoping that a better opportunity for thievery might present itself once the ritual started in earnest.

"Brothers and sisters!" the Grand Poobah of Shog-Noggery, or whatever his formal title was, shouted at the top of his lungs. His voice carried throughout the ravine, until all eyes turned to the massive, flat-topped boulder upon which their leader stood. "Tonight we stand on the precipice of a momentous occasion – the death of this world and the birth of a new one."

Rex shook his head. At least the deluded fool got the death part right.

"Soon, the great and powerful lord of the demons, Shog-Noggeroth..." 

A nearby titter caught Rex's attention. There was only one person in attendance, besides himself, who knew that Shog-Noggeroth was at most a B-list demon. Though that didn't mitigate the threat to humanity, to many of the powers contained in the Netherverse, Shoggy was the equivalent of the fat kid constantly picked on in gym class.

Rex inched his way through the crowd to his father's side.

"...will rise forth and lay waste to this world of unbelievers and infidels. The only mercy they will find is a quick death as the tentacles of the Great One crush their cities and kingdoms to dust."

Clinton looked over his shoulder as Rex slipped into the space beside him. "There you are!" the heavily-muscled man whispered. "I thought you might've smartened up and decided to run for the hills. Not that the hills would be any safer..."

"Shh!" a nearby cultist shushed him with the annoyance of a perturbed librarian.

"Our terrible lord will pick the bones clean from the rubble of this world. It will become a blank canvas, upon which His loyal servants will construct temples in His honor, where we will worship His glory until the end of time," the Goat King continued.

Clinton snickered at the myopia of their misplaced faith. Rex nudged him silent with an elbow.

"With this..." Their leader turned, holding out his hands to accept the Eye of Glubglurl from one of his brawny henchman. He raised it overhead, and a respectful hush settled in over the onlookers. "...our most prized treasure, delivered into our hands once more from the thieving enemies of Lord Shog-Noggeroth, we will usher in a new age of man – one in which the faithful will become as kings and queens of the Earth, while the unworthy suffer unspeakable torment in the bowels of our great and mighty protector."

Rex barely heard a word he said. His eyes were glued to the flawless giant ruby held up for the crowd. It caught the light of the setting sun, transforming the fanatic's hands into wrist-length, blood-red gloves. Rex licked his lips, picturing his client counting out the sizable reward for its return in fat stacks of bills on his desk.

"Our time is almost at hand, brothers and sisters! When the moon rises to its zenith, we will call forth our mighty lord to smite this unclean world and reshape it in His glorious image. Until then..." He gestured to the back of the assembly, where a variety of animals paced anxiously in their cages. "...let us commence with the sacrifices to our all-powerful god!"

"Stand back," Clinton murmured, reaching under his cloak for the short sword sheathed to his thigh. "You heard the man. It's time to get this party started."

"Don't do anything stupid—" Rex warned him.

"HEAR ME!" his father bellowed, raising his sword overhead. "I AM CLINTON, SON OF GREYFORD HETORIC, AND I WILL SLAY YOU ALL BEFORE ALLOWING THIS TRAVESTY TO CONTINUE!"

Rex palmed his face. "Like that," he sighed.

He unconsciously wilted under the combined glare of over a hundred pairs of eyes, feeling as exposed as a plucked chicken. Clinton, still defiantly brandishing his weapon, was too focused on the cult's leader to pay any mind to the threat completely surrounding them.

"All right," the man in the goat mask chuckled. "Sacrifices later. First, a little entertainment."

"Get behind me, boy," Clinton said. "This is bound to get messy."

"How far behind you would be safe, exactly? I haven't renewed my passport yet."

"Did you think to bring a weapon?"

"Does a Swiss army knife count?"

Clinton grunted in exasperation and turned his attention back to his enemy onstage. "Wonderful," he mumbled. "After I kill everyone, you can scratch their names into their tombstones."

"Execute the infidels!" the cult leader ordered, gesturing towards them while looking over his shoulder at the burly guards.

With grim smiles chiseled on their faces, the pair hopped down off the stone platform and marched through the parting crowd in response to Clinton's challenge. They faced off against their opponents on the other side of a closed ring of onlookers, deftly twirling their axes in anticipation of the upcoming battle. Rex glanced sideways at his father. Clinton's eyes narrowed. His subdued reaction was as close to an appreciation of their enemy's skill that the demon slayer was willing to reveal. Rex gulped. His poker face was still sitting in his desk drawer back in the office, along with a half-empty bottle of liquid courage and a few protection charms that would do exactly nothing to save him from being chopped up like a stack of cordwood.

"This is bad!" Rex muttered, looking around at the bloodthirsty cultists egging on their deadly combat.

"This is nothing," Clinton replied. "I take down demons as big as mountains in the Netherverse. Killing these fanatics will barely make me break a sweat."

"That's okay. I'm sweating enough for the both of us."

The axe-wielding cultists pressed their attack. Clinton easily blocked the blow from his opponent, stopping the downward swing with his blade. The other foe went after Rex. A quick sidestep was all that saved the gangly detective from being sliced in two by a broad swing of the large man's battle axe.

"Fight back!" Clinton howled at his son. "You're a Hetoric, for God's sake! Show some backbone, would you?"

Rex jumped out of the way of another swing that threatened to part his torso from his lower body. "That's precisely what I'm trying to prevent! I like my backbone on the inside, where it belongs!"

Clinton grumbled under his breath and took the fight to his opponent, slashing in a succession of quick arcs intended to chop through the wooden handle of his foe's axe. He was surprised to find that his blows had no effect.

"They're using cursed weapons!" Clinton declared. "In terms of strength, they're on par with my blessed blade. Quick, cast a spell of holy dispersal!"

Rex gaped at him, barely avoiding losing his head in the process. "Huh?"

Clinton sighed. "Oh, forget it! I mistook you for your brother for a moment. You remember him, don't you? The one who's actually able to perform magic?"

"You really want to go there now?" Rex barked, darting out of the way of another devastating swing of his enemy's axe.

"So tell me, detective," Clinton growled, blocking another attack from his foe and almost catching him with a swing of his sword, "what's your typical fighting strategy? Running away?"

"It starts with a little thing called subtlety. If we survive this, I'll be happy to explain it to you." Rex ducked, feeling the wind of the large man's blade slice overhead. "As for the rest..."

In the distance, a strange squeal pierced the night. Rex smiled knowingly at the rising full moon peeking over the quarry. The axe fell again. He spun on his heels, twirling away from the strike and planting a swift kick to his opponent's backside for good measure. The brawny man stumbled forward for a couple of unbalanced steps, caught by surprise by his fleet-footed foe. The reprieve bought Rex enough time to grab the thin, silver whistle he kept fastened around his neck, and blow into it with all of his strength.

Clinton cocked an eyebrow at his son. He didn't see how puffing into a whistle – particularly a broken one, incapable of making the slightest bit of noise – was supposed to help anyone in the heat of battle, but Rex seemed convinced that it was working. He directed a smile towards the moon, as if expecting it to suddenly drop out of the night sky and flatten his enemies into a sticky paste.

The old warrior sighed and focused on dispatching his challenger to the great beyond. He didn't know how he was going to break the news to his wife that her youngest son was as mad as a stink sandwich.

Then the shriek of a large animal cried out again, this time closer. It was such an alarming sound that many of the cultists turned away from the spectacle of the death match and searched the darkness for its source.

"Dad, meet my business partner," Rex grinned.

A massive shadow bounded off the cliff, landing with such a loud clang on the metal cage holding a couple of wolves that the poor animals nearly jumped out of their fur. The beast was larger than a bear, with a rounded back and crown covered in deadly-looking spines. Its eyes were baleful red orbs. Its teeth, bat-like fangs. 

When it raised its claws and wailed at the shocked crowd below, a wave of terror surged through their ranks. Forgetting that their original purpose for being here was to summon something far more horrifying, the cultists fled in all directions, seeking to escape the monstrous apparition.

The sight of hundreds of robed figures scrambling in panic startled the creature. It let out a loud scream and hopped from the wolf cage to a larger one, unnerving the cow trapped inside. The monster's claws slipped on the metal roof, accidentally knocking off the spider monkey cage someone perched on the corner. The trapped primate's enclosure struck the ground with such force that the barred door dislodged on impact. 

The beast threw itself at the wall of the quarry. It scrambled up the rock face with its long claws and disappeared into the dark forest above, leaving no trace of its presence behind, save the memory of its frightening appearance.

"What the hell—?" Clinton said, looking to his son for answers.

But Rex had also disappeared. The pandemonium afforded him the opportunity to pursue his original task. Ignoring his bewildered, axe-wielding foe, the detective dove into the throng of panicked cultists running in all directions, blending effortlessly with the turbulent sea of hoods and cloaks.

Barely able to make himself heard over the frantic wails of his scarpering flock, the guy in the goat mask shouted at the top of his lungs in a vain attempt to restore order. Rex worked his way through the mob and hopped up onstage behind him. 

The trio of old men ignored the detective's presence, continuing to softly hum a shared ballad as they bobbed their heads in unison. Rex waved a hand in front of them. They were so deep in their shared trance that he doubted they'd feel it if he kneed them in the gonads.

"Calm yourselves!" goat guy wailed, oblivious to the detective creeping up on him. "Lord Shog-Noggeroth wills it! Everyone! Wait! Aw, c'mon, you guys! Come back!"

"Sorry, your goatness," Rex uttered behind him. "Looks like the party's over. I'll be taking that stone off your hands now."

The cult leader shifted the gem under his arm, holding it like a quarterback carrying the ball to the end zone. "Over my dead body! Sampson! Ezekiel! I need—" 

He looked over his shoulder to find Clinton laying out the second of his bodyguards with the handle of his sword. The solid blow the swordsman delivered to the back of the big man's skull dropped him alongside his unconscious partner. As a final insult, the slayer sheathed his blade and retrieved their demon-cursed axes. Such weapons were too powerful to fall into the wrong hands. He'd see them destroyed before allowing anyone here to claim them, including his son – presuming Rex was actually strong enough to lift one.

"No need to make this a thing," Rex shrugged. "It's done. You lost. Fork it over, before this gets ugly."

"Never! As long as I have this, Lord Shog-Noggeroth will rise again! When he does—"

"Yeah, yeah," Rex muttered. "I caught your spiel earlier. Save your breath and just hand over the gem, would you? It's been a long day." The detective reached around him, groping for the ruby.

"No!" The man in the goat mask turned away, using his body to protect the treasure from robbery. "I told you! It's mine! Hands... off!"

"Give... me... that!"

Clinton Hetoric shook his head at the two overgrown children playing Keep Away with a priceless mystical artifact. He looked around, hoping that nobody had caught on that he was related to one of these idiots.

"Let go!" the cult leader cried, as his contest against the gangly thief reverted into a game of Tug of War for possession of the gem. Both parties pulled on the stone with all of their pitiful might. "Gruhka Blas!"

"You let go!" Rex countered. "I'm not—"

Three sets of hands clamped down on him, grabbing him by the arms and shoulders, and tugging at his hood. The cultists, revived from their trance by their leader's strange words, pulled him away from the treasure and held him tightly. Rex struggled to escape. Despite their vacant stares, the grips of their gnarled fingers remained as firm as tree roots.

Clinton groaned and palmed his face. Memories of the years wasted trying to teach his clueless child how to handle himself in a fight against demonic creatures far stronger than a trio of old men sprang to mind. The thought left him with a stabbing pain between his eyes.  

The cult leader chuckled as he righted his mask and robe after their girlish scuffle. "Now you watch, infidel, as I summon my Lord to bring about the end of your—"

He didn't get any further with his threat. Rex swung his legs up and kicked the gem from his hands, sending it flying towards the animal cages at the other side of the quarry.

"No!" The cultist ripped off his mask, revealing himself to be a pasty-faced nerd with bottle cap glasses and a hairy mole on his cheek. He followed the ruby's arc as it spiraled through the air, illuminated by the pale moonlight. It hit the ground thirty feet away, where it bounced and rolled a fair distance further, until coming to a stop near a pair of caged, agitated gazelles.

"You were saying?"

The cult leader glared at him, quivering with fury. "I hate you... so much right now!"

He looked around, searching for a single follower among his dwindling ranks who remained clear-headed enough to fetch the treasure for him. Panic consumed everyone. For those who hadn't seen the monster, fear of being trampled by the others swept them up in the frenzied current. A few people even ran in circles, screaming at the top of their lungs, without realizing that this display of wild abandon wasn't part of the ritual to raise their demon lord. No matter how ridiculous they looked, one couldn't fault their devotion to the cause.

Their leader scowled and headed for the edge of the platform to retrieve the gem for himself. He spotted it still gleaming in the dirt where it landed. A second later, he noticed something else that caused his breath to hitch in his lungs. A spider monkey, recently freed from its broken cage, sat on its haunches alongside it. The curious animal prodded the treasure with a tiny digit.

"Get away from that, you stupid ape!" he wailed at the animal, waving his hands in a frantic effort to scare it away.

The monkey screeched at him, apparently not only unimpressed by the robed nerd's threatening posture, but perturbed by his speciesist insult. The minuscule primate grabbed the Eye of Glubglurl in its spindly fingers, and darted off between the legs of the fleeing cultists.

"NO!" Rex and his bespectacled opponent screamed in unison, watching the hairy thief abscond with their treasure.

After the diminutive bundle of fur disappeared in the darkness and the rising dust of the stampede, the head priest eyed Rex. Rex glared back at him. 

"Do you have any idea what you've done?" the zealot wailed. "Lord Shog-Noggeroth is going to be furious!"

"I'm fairly miffed myself. That monkey just cost me days of wasted effort and a huge payday." A thought occurred to him. In a lower voice, he added, "Say, uh... the Eye of Glubglurl. I don't suppose it comes in a matching set, does it?"

The bespectacled man floundered for a retort, his eyes bugging. "I... I'll have you put to death!"

"You won't do anything of the sort," a gruff voice said behind him. Clinton punctuated his threat with a jab in the back from one of the axes he bore. "Granted, the boy's not much to brag about, but he is family. Letting a snot-nosed, amateur devil worshipper like you end his life would only make the rest of us Hetorics look bad."

"Couldn't have that," Rex agreed, deadpan.

"Let him go," Clinton ordered.

The men holding him, apparently under some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion from the cult leader, remained in place until their master nodded his affirmation of Clinton's command. Moving like mindless automatons, they released Rex from their grip and took a step back, where they fell back into their head-bobbing trance while awaiting further instructions.

"You think you've won?" the cultist growled. "Mark my words, we will rise again from the ashes of this night. Our master, the great and powerful Lord Shog-Nog—"

Rex punched him in the jaw. The man who vowed to one day usher in the end of the world crumpled like a soggy napkin.

Clinton arched an eyebrow. "I didn't think you had that in you! Maybe there's hope for you yet, boy."

"Don't read too much into it. I simply don't have the patience for any more monologuing." Rex jumped down off the stone and started wandering off in search of his client's missing jewel. "I have to go," he said, discarding the robes he was wearing as a disguise. "I have a monkey to catch. It's been fun. Let's try not to do this again soon."

Clinton called out after him. "Rex!" 

Rex faced him, looking curious. It was so rare that his father referred to him by name that he couldn't mask his surprise.

"You should call your mother," Clinton advised him with a shrug. "She misses you."

Rex nodded and continued on his way, speeding up in the hopes of catching the diminutive jewel thief. Clinton grunted and watched him leave.

"Occult detective," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Christ on a cracker..."