Art by Melissa Mead
by T.A. Pratt
T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason series began with novel Blood Engines in 2007, and continued with Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, Spell Games, Broken Mirrors, short prequel novel Bone Shop, and numerous short stories, of which "Shark's Teeth" is the latest. (No prior knowledge of the series is necessary, however; all you need to know is that Marla is a sorcerer who enjoys punching people, and that should be abundantly clear from the text.) For more about Marla, see www.marlamason.net.
Marla Mason, sorcerer in exile, looked over the railing of the balcony, down at the lavish resort hotel's pool with its swim-up bar and tanned, happy people lounging on chairs, and thought, I can't take another day of this.
"I can't take another day of this," she said aloud to her companion, Rondeau, who leaned on the rail popping macadamia nuts into his mouth from a tin. He wore the most outrageous aloha shirt Marla had ever seen--its eye-wrenching pattern included not only parrots and palm trees but also sailboats and sunsets and what appeared to be carnivorous plants--and had the self-satisfied look of someone with more money in the bank than he could spend in even a fairly dissolute lifetime.
"Come on," he said. "It's a beautiful day. Enjoy it."
"We're on Maui. In a resort, no less. Of course it's a beautiful day. So was yesterday. I'll lay even money tomorrow will be, too. I'm bored. I hate being bored."
He shrugged. "So go look for a fight. Break a taboo and see if you can piss off a local god. The exercise would do you good."
She snorted. "I think I'd rather do something useful. I know you embrace your uselessness--"
"Hey, I support the local economy. The massage industry alone is having a great year because of me."
"--but I like doing things," she finished, ignoring him.
"I'm telling you: occult private eye. That's your new gig. I'll rent you some office space. It'll be great. I'll be your silent partner, spoken of in hushed tones, but never seen. When you have to refer to me, you can call me, 'The Mysterious Mr. Cash Machine.' You can, I dunno, disperse ghosts and lift curses and scare away the monsters lurking under little kids' beds. Maybe they'll make a reality show about you."
"Let's call that 'Plan B,"' she said. "I'm going to cast a divination."
"And look for what?"
She shrugged. "Trouble, I guess."
He popped another macadamia nut into his mouth. "Good luck with that. I'm going to hit the pool."
After Rondeau left the suite--which had two bedrooms, and was, essentially, a very nice apartment which happened to be on the top floor of a very nice hotel--Marla went to her leather bag and took out her divination tools. She hadn't needed them for a long time, because in her own city (scratch that, her former city), she'd had a small army of informants and people who did divinations for her. But that didn't mean she didn't have the knack herself.
Marla unrolled a dark blue velvet cloth on the flowered bedspread and opened a small leather drawstring bag, shaking the contents into her palm: A tarnished three-cent silver piece from 1865; a very small diamond with a flaw in the center; an inch-long tooth from a great white shark; a sliver of petrified wood; a scattering of morning glory seeds; and a stone from the head of a toad. She shook the assemblage in her hand for a moment, letting her senses open up wide, and then tossed the items onto the cloth.
Usually the arrangement of such objects formed patterns that, to a sufficiently receptive mind, could provide the answer to a question, or hints of likely futures.
This time, the shark's tooth levitated about nine inches above the rest of the objects, which began to twist around and chase one another counter-clockwise like a whirlpool on the cloth, as the tooth whirled in the opposite direction a few times before stopping and pointing firmly in the general direction of the sea.
"Well that's interesting," Marla said.
Marla found what she was looking for on a typically lovely stretch of beach after a couple of hours of walking. She had the shark's tooth on a string, the string wrapped around her wrist, and the tooth exerted a constant gentle tug, pulling her toward... something.
It was her own fault, probably, for not having a really specific question in mind. Divination worked better when the diviner didn't generalize, but her clearest thought had been, "Find me something interesting," and it would be just her luck if "interesting" in this case turned out to be "unspeakably horrible" or even just boring old "deadly."
The shark's tooth pulled hard enough to tighten the string painfully around her wrist, then sagged, its purpose accomplished.
"Hey," Marla said to the person sitting on the sand.
He was a large Hawai'ian man, aged somewhere between thirty and sixty, naked except for a sort of skirt made of seaweed piled messily around him. He sat in the sand with his feet stretched in front of him, soles just out of reach of the lapping waves. He stared at the water with an expression of infinite loss and, maybe, just a hint of impotent rage.
Since he ignored her, Marla sat down beside him. "Aloha," she said. She didn't think she'd ever said the word "aloha" before in her life, but when in Maui...
Now he glanced at her. "Aloha, haole."
"How-lee?" she said. "Huh. Spell that for me?"
He looked at her more directly, and a bit quizzically, but he complied.
"Ha," she said. "I thought so. Spelled pretty much like 'a-hole,' isn't it? Let me guess. That's the local equivalent of gaijin, gringo, gweilo, muzungu, right? Outsider, foreigner, maybe a little dash of white devil?"
"That's right, wahine."
"I'll assume that's a nicer word. But you can call me Marla."
A moment's hesitation, and a slight nod. "I am... call me Ka'ohu."
She looked out at the water. "Pleased to meet you. As for the other thing you called me... Well, you've got me there. I am an outsider. This isn't my place. I don't even especially want to be here, but my friend has the money, so he picked the destination. I'm a... I don't know what you call them around here. A sorcerer. A witch."
He took this assertion with equanimity, as she'd suspected he would. "We say kahuna," he said. "Keeper of the secrets."
"Good, that's nice. Keeper and maker and taker and trader and occasional abuser of secrets." She looked up at the sky. "I had a whole city of secrets in my keeping. I looked after it, did my best to take care of it, to protect the people there, to make life better for everyone. I risked my life, and more than my life, more times than I can count, in service to that place. And when I made one little mistake... Okay, a few large mistakes... the people there forgot everything I'd done for them, and they cast me out. Exile. So that's what I'm doing here. I'm happy to be an outsider. I'm not even exactly a tourist. I don't want to go native. I'm just here because the place where I'm not an outsider has been lost to me."
He nodded, but didn't take his eyes from the sea.
"So what have you lost?"
"Only myself," he said. "An outsider, with magic. Someone like you. He has taken power from me."
"If you lost something important, then you and I have more in common than I have with the person who took it from you, even if he is an a-hole like me."
Now the man smiled, and Marla saw he was missing most of his teeth. Not all of them, but several, and the remaining teeth were smeared with the blood oozing from his gums.
"You've got to tell me the name of your dentist, so I can make sure I never, ever go to him."
"Do you have sharks where you come from, Marla?" He might have been addressing the waves.
"Sure, my city's on a bay on the east coast of the mainland. Sometimes we get sharks, though not often."
He nodded. "We have many sharks here." He paused. "I am a shark."
Marla mulled this over. She'd known many people who could appear to turn into animals, and at least two people who could actually turn into animals, but never a... "Were-shark?" she said.
"Shark god," he said, with some dignity.
Marla squinted at him, concentrating hard. She had the ability to see well beyond the normal limits of human sight, but using that vision gave her headaches. Still, now that she really looked, she could see: the shape of the world bent around this man, like he was a bowling ball resting on top of a bed, the surface sagging and deforming under his weight. Metaphysically speaking. "I was a goddess myself, once, for a while. I guess I still am, a little. But only by marriage."
He just nodded.
Tough room, Marla thought, but it was just as well. The goddess thing was a long story, and one she didn't feel like telling.
Ka'ohu said, "I am not one of the great gods. There are many shark gods, and many aumakua--ancestral spirits--who manifest as sharks. We are a multitude. But I have some power, including the power to transform myself into a man, and then into a shark again... power which has been stolen from me, trapping me in this form."
"Something to do with those missing teeth, I'd guess?"
"The teeth will grow back, but I fear the magic is stolen forever. Some days ago a man--an a-hole, as you would say--appeared in a small boat. He threw a net over me, and dragged me into the air. I transformed into a man, expecting to terrify him, but he stunned me, somehow, and I lost consciousness, and when I woke, he was ripping out my teeth with a pair of pliers. I tried to transform, and could not, but I managed to leap over the edge of the boat and swim to safety. Since then, however, I have been unable to change."
Marla sighed. "Sounds like you could use an occult detective."
"Never mind. Just me succumbing to the inevitable. Can you describe the guy?"
He shook his head. "You all look alike to me."
"Look closer, then," Marla prodded. "Really look at the memory. Me, if a guy ripped my teeth out, I bet I could draw a picture of him freehand." Someone had ripped her jaw off, once, and she did indeed remember his acne-scarred face very well.
Ka'ohu frowned. "His hair was long and greasy, dark. He was thin, and didn't seem strong enough to haul a shark my size into a boat, but he did it. He wore smoked glasses with round lenses." He shook his head. "That's all."
"Okay," Marla said. "Tell you what. I'll find the guy who stole your teeth, and see what he's doing with them, and, if possible, get them back for you. Deal?"
"Why would you do this for me?"
Boredom, she thought. But she said, "Because I like it when gods owe me a favor."
"If you can do this, then I will owe you a debt." His voice was solemn.
"Then it's a deal." She stood up, then paused. "Wait. Are you one of those shark gods who, I don't know, pretends to be a guy, and lures a pretty girl into the ocean, and then turns into a shark and eats her?"
"No. At least, not since I was a very young god. And we all make mistakes when we are young."
"Some of us just keep on making them. But you've gotta go on living. I'll be in touch, Ka'ohu."
Rondeau followed her out of the elevator, saying, "I'll drive." He trailed her through the lobby, past the tropical plants, and Asian-influenced sculptures, and the koi pond, and--no shit--the little penguin habitat.
"You don't even have to go. I know you've got a lot of drinks with coconut juice or whatever in them ahead of you." They stepped out into the warm late-afternoon air. Marla was well-fortified by a late lunch of Kona coffee and macadamia nut pancakes and slices of fresh pineapple, though she'd never admit how much she'd grown to like the food here.
"It's called milk when it comes from coconuts, Marla. And you know I like a little diversion now and then. Besides, I'm all psychic and stuff. I could be useful"
Rondeau did have an array of psychic abilities, which he mostly used to better understand the minds of men he wanted to sleep with. But he could also summon oracles, agitate ghosts, and do other occasionally useful things, and she did hate driving, so she said, "Okay."
They got into their rental car, a black Ford sedan that Rondeau called "Huff-Juh" because the first three letters on the license plate were HFJ, and drove away from the high-rise resorts and condos and time-shares of Kaanapali on the western shore of the island. They drove south to Lahaina, the nearest town of any size, and found parking downtown easily, since it was still the off-season. (Rondeau, who in his usual way had become friendly with the hotel staff, assured her that in a few weeks, around mid-December, the retired snowbirds would start arriving in droves, something that Marla was willing to get annoyed about in advance.)
They strolled down Front Street, not far from the water, past the profusion of shops and restaurants meant to lure tourists. The weather was mild, as it always seemed to be here, and it made Marla miss home, which would be getting its first good snow right about now. The bastards who'd kicked her out of her job had even taken winter away from her.
"So where are we going?" Rondeau said.
"I did another divination last night, and got pointed in this general direction, though the tooth fairy wannabe we're looking for is trying to keep himself hidden, so I couldn't narrow it down much. Here's where your psychic-ness could come in handy, if you can rouse yourself to look for anything unusual--"
"There." Rondeau pointed at a t-shirt shop next to an art gallery, neither of which was doing bang-up business. "Right there."
She squinted. "What? You see a shirt you want? Those all look too tasteful for you, even the ones with pictures of hula girls riding surfboards."
"No, I'll pick one of those up on the way out. In between, can't you see it? The shimmer?"
Marla was usually good at spotting folded space, the little dimensional tricks sorcerers used to hide their lairs from enemies, or, more pragmatically, to avoid having to pay rent for prime real estate. But she didn't see anything now, which meant the guy hiding it was good. When she tried to use her awesome illusion-piercing vision to look deeper, a bolt of pain lanced through her head--she'd peered beyond the veil too recently, and doing so again would give her a migraine. Not long ago she'd been granted the ability to see through illusions at will by the lord of the underworld, which was a pretty nice gift, but he hadn't explained that it would take a toll on her body every time she used it. Probably because he didn't have a mortal body of his own, and didn't think about stuff like that.
"I'll take your word for it," Marla said. "Show me the way."
"I just love barging into sorcerer's lairs uninvited. That always works out so well for us." But he took her hand and led her toward what appeared to be just a bit of wall separating art from t-shirts, and then led her farther.
They stepped into the folded space, and a door stood closed before them, the words "Rare Books" and "By Appointment Only" in flaking gold and black paint on the glass. Inside, dimly, they could see bookshelves, a counter, and stairs leading up to a second floor. This had been an antiquarian bookseller's shop at some point, apparently, until a sorcerer comandeered it, hid it from ordinary people--and from other sorcerers--and turned it into a sanctum sanctorum.
Marla tried the door, but it was locked. What kind of paranoid nut locked his magically-hidden lair? Well, Marla probably would, in his place, but still.
"I got this." Rondeau placed his hands on the glass and closed his eyes. "Hmm. Or maybe I don't. This'll take more than lockpicks. He's got the door alarmed, magically. I don't think it's anything, you know, offensive, but he'll be alerted if we break in."
"Then we'll have to break in fast." Marla reared back for a kick with one of her steel-toed boots.
"Hold up, maybe... yeah, I think the alarm looks for the owner's mind, sort of examines the shape of it, checks the contours of his mind against some stored template, and I can sense the guy in there, upstairs, let me see if I can..." He grunted. "Got it. Sort of a snapshot of his mind, taken with my mind. Now let me hold it up to the door, like using a severed hand to open a palmprint scanner, only less bloody...." He put his hand on the doorknob, turned it, and the door swung open. Rondeau grinned. "Hot damn, I love this brain of mine." He made an "after you" gesture, and Marla slipped inside.
A quick check of the downstairs revealed three rooms and a few corridors constructed of towering shelves--despite the "rare books" on the door, the shelves mostly held used paperback bestsellers from a few decades ago--with no nasty surprises lurking anywhere. Rondeau was working on opening up the rather ancient cash register, because even though he was rich now from the sale of his nightclub, old habits died hard.
Marla tapped him on the shoulder and pointed upstairs. He nodded, and followed her. The stairs were wooden and probably squeaky, but there was nothing to be done about it except to place her feet as far to the sides of the steps as possible to minimize the creaking. The result was fairly quiet, and soon she reached the top of the flight and peered into the room above.
A man who matched Ka'ohu's description, especially the greasy hair part, was leaning over a wooden desk that was entirely covered by an enormous dead shark. He wore an elaborate cloak covered in red and yellow feathers, which Ka'ohu hadn't mentioned, but you probably wouldn't wear something like that out fishing for gods.
"Hey there," Marla said, stepping into the man's sight. Rondeau lurked farther down the stairs, retaining the element of surprise. He could be smart sometimes. "What's with the big fish?"
The man removed his smoked glasses, revealing rather watery blue eyes, which he blinked at her. "Hmm. You made it inside without my noticing. I didn't know there was any new... talent... on the island."
"I'm a recent arrival." She strolled into the room, looking around. There were lots more shelves--these held books that looked rather more interesting than the ones downstairs--and a couple of closed cabinets and a few windows that looked out over Front Street and toward the ocean. "I'm Marla." She waited a moment, then said, "This is the part where you introduce yourself to me."
"I am Kahuna Mo'i," he said, drawing himself up to his full height, not that it helped much. Marla took note of the club hanging at his belt. She'd seen other weapons like it in one of the little museums nearby. It was a leiomano--a short club studded with shark's teeth--one of the traditional weapons of the islands. She had a feeling she knew where the teeth had come from. "Why are you in my store?"
She ran her finger over a few of the books on his shelf. "I'm new in town. Looking for work. I noticed your little magic shop here, thought it was impressively well-hidden, and knew there had to be a man of power here. Since I don't like waiting tables or selling tchotchkes, I'm looking for a job in the magic trade. That's clearly your business, so I'd like to learn what you're all about, and coming in to talk was easier than subscribing to your newsletter." He preened a bit at the "man of power" comment. Loser. Marla mused. "Kahuna. I know that means sorcerer. What's the other bit mean?"
"Kahuna is more like 'priest' than sorcerer. And Mo'i is... well, to simplify, it means King."
"Kind of a presumptuous name for a haole like you. No offense."
He scowled. "My ancestors may not have come from this island, but I am Hawai'ian in my soul. I have lived here for years, planning, and consolidating my power. I will restore these islands to their ancient glory, and restore honor to the Hawai'ian people. My plan is well underway, and soon, all will hail me as the greatest of ali'i in the islands." He patted the dead shark absentmindedly.
"That restoring honor thing, that's maybe not a bad idea," Marla said. "I've read some of the history, and the Hawai'ans got a raw deal when the US took over. The separatist types have a point, but I don't think they'd welcome the leadership of a pasty white guy from... let's see, I'm crap at accents... Pittsburgh?"
"Sheboygan," he said, with a little shudder.
"Right. Seems like a kind of cultural appropriation thing you're up to, my fellow haole. Not that I blame you. I imagine there's not a ton of good culture to call your own in Sheboygan. But, still, it rubs me the wrong way, so I won't be calling you Kahuna Mo'i. I'm going to call you 'Greaseface' instead. Okay, Greaseface? Or would you prefer 'Featherbrain'? I'm good either way." She walked off a little to the side, so she wouldn't have to jump over the desk if she needed to attack him.
"If this is a job interview," he said, "you're doing a spectacularly poor job as an applicant."
"Oops, I let my subterfuge drop. I'm no good at deception."
"Then why are you really here?"
"Let me answer your question with a question," she said. "Why'd you rip out the shark god's teeth?"
"Who are you?" he said, sounding more bemused than worried, which annoyed her.
"I'm the person who's going to beat you over the head and dump you in the ocean if you don't answer my questions. Why tear out the shark god's teeth? I see they turned back into shark's teeth, and you made them into a little toy club there. So what's it good for?"
"This," he said, snatching the club from his belt and launching himself at her.
Marla grinned. She loved a good fight. He swung the club at her, and she raised her arm to ward off the blow, whispering a spell that gave her flesh the approximate consistency of kevlar--having her skin pierced by the tooth of a shark god couldn't be good for her.
But when the club struck her, it brought with it a wave of transformative magic that drove Marla to her knees. She grunted as her body tried to change, and gritted her teeth--teeth that wanted desperately to elongate and sharpen--as she fought the magic.
Marla was crap at transformations. She wasn't much good at remote viewing, either, or astral projection, or body-switching, or anything that required her to give up her iron grip on her self-image. She didn't have many assets left. The other sorcerers back home had taken her city away, and her weapons, her resources, most of her allies, her money, her apartment, her influence, her minions, her purpose.
But they could never take away her will. Or her sense of self. Nobody could make Marla become something other than what she was. That was her greatest asset as a sorcerer, now that all else was gone.
Still, this magic, once unleashed, had to go somewhere. Preferably into something alive, or that had once been alive, and since Greaseface had danced out of reach, she grabbed the leg of a wooden chair near the desk, and let the magic flow through her.
The desk transformed into a rather small, and very dead, whitetip reef shark.
Marla stood up. She felt a little sharky, but in this case, that meant she felt like doing violence and moving fast, as if she'd die if she stopped. She stepped toward Greaseface, who was staring open-mouthed at the shark (née chair), grabbed his wrist, pulled him toward her as she stepped past him, and tossed him onto the floorboards behind her, neatly plucking the club from his hand as she went by. Aikido was usually too non-brutal for her taste, but sometimes a little elegance was called for.
"Turning people into sharks?" she said, looking down at the club in her hand. "That is a stupid way to kill somebody. Unnecessarily elaborate. Why is this better than a knife in the eye?"
Greaseface groaned and tried to get up. "The symbolism," he said, levering himself up on his elbow. "I have taken the power of a god as my own. That act proves my worth as the ruler of these islands." He paused. "Also, it's a lot more interesting than a knife in the eye. But when all else fails, a knife will suffice." He made it to his feet and attempted to rush her--and, yes, there was a knife in his hand, he'd certainly telegraphed that intention clearly enough--but before he took his second step, Rondeau smacked him on the back of the head with a very large book bound in what appeared to be wood wrapped in leather.
Greaseface hit the floor like a coconut dropping from a palm tree, and Rondeau began tying the sorcerer's hands and ankles together using lengths of cotton clothesline he pulled from his pockets. Marla knew better than to ask why he was carrying lengths of rope around; the things he did for fun with his resort friends were always consensual, even if part of the pleasure was pretending they weren't.
"This must be the guy," Rondeau said. "The sharknapper."
Marla frowned. "You lost me."
"You don't read the papers?"
Marla shrugged. Back home, sure, she'd read the papers. But here... how to explain that places besides her city never felt entirely real to her? And now that her city was forbidden, no place felt entirely real? So she just said, "I guess not."
"People have been disappearing. Like, five of them this week." Rondeau finished the last knot and rose to his feet. "Disappeared without a trace... except in all their places? Someone left behind sharks. Big sharks, recently dead. In people's beds, under their desks, whatever. The cops are totally baffled. Who kidnaps people and, instead of leaving a ransom note, leaves a dead shark? And how do you move big sharks around without anybody noticing? Now we know." Rondeau prodded Greaseface with his foot.
"He's been using the transformative magic he stole from Ka'ohu and turning people into sharks," Marla said, "and just letting them die, drowning in air. The victims are probably sorcerers, or rivals of other kinds. I wonder who the one on the desk used to be?" She shook her head. "I'm glad he did something so incontrovertibly evil. I mean, stealing teeth from a god, it's not like I wouldn't do exactly the same thing, if the circumstances were right. But grisly murder to further your own whacked-out agenda... that kind of crime justifies what I'm going to do to him."
"Which is?" Rondeau said.
She hefted the magical shark's-tooth club. "Simple. Tonight, he sleeps with the fishes."
"You can't do this to me," Greaseface said, struggling against Marla's hold as she marched him toward the waterline. "It's murder!"
"You'd know all about murder," she said. "You know the old saying: If you can't handle the teeth, you shouldn't swim with the sharks." Marla threw him face-down into the sand. The moon was high in a cloudless sky, and the stretch of lonely beach was deserted.
"Marla," Rondeau said. "The water is full of sharks. Only... most of them aren't really sharks. They're ghosts shaped like sharks. Or... other things... that just sort of look like sharks from the angle of mortal perception."
"Good," Marla said, and knelt, and struck the whimpering would-be King of Hawai'i on the back with the shark's-tooth club.
He transformed instantly into a shark. The bonds tying him fell away, since he no longer had limbs, and when he wriggled out of the feathered cloak to swim into the surf--toward probable, if not certain, death at the hands of the shark spirits--she saw he was only about five feet long.
"Dogfish shark," Ka'ohu said, emerging from nowhere in particular in that disconcerting way that gods have--even gods with a little of their magic stolen away. "Venomous. Fins covered in toxins."
"Appropriate for him," Marla said. "What kind of shark do you think I'd turn into? If I was the sort of person who let herself be turned into a shark?"
"Megalodon," Ka'ohu said, without hesitation. "Sixty feet long. Seven-inch teeth. Ate whales. Extinct over a million years."
"The good always die young," Marla said. The water began to froth and churn, and she noticed that Rondeau was very deliberately gazing up at the moon, and not at the terror under the waves.
She held out the club. "I think this is yours."
Ka'ohu nodded. "I thank you for recovering this." He took the weapon and began to pluck the teeth from around its edges. They sort of... disappeared into his hand... which was, on the whole, nicer than watching him shove them back into his gums, especially since he was in a human shape and his teeth weren't. He crouched on the sand, picked up a pale pink curled shell, and held it out to Marla. "For you," he said.
"Magic?" she said, taking it.
He shrugged. "If you ever need me, and you hold it, and you call my name..." Another shrug. "I owe you a debt of honor."
"Got it. If you want to discharge the debt, you can do me a favor. Tell your friends, and the other gods, and ghosts, and any sorcerers you know, that if they have a problem, and need some help, they can find me in an old bookstore in a pocket of folded space on Front Street."
"I will do as you ask, but just talking to people... the task is too simple to cancel so great an obligation."
"Good. I'm sure I'll need bigger and better favors in the future."
Ka'ohu nodded and strolled into the waves, and when he got up to his knees in the water, transformed into a tiger shark nearly twenty feet long and swam off into the depths.
Marla picked up the feathered cloak from the sand and arranged it over her shoulders. She found it surprisingly comfortable. "What do you think?" she said, doing a little twirl in the sand. "Is it me?"
Rondeau tilted his head and looked at her thoughtfully. "Depends. Are you some kind of crazy chicken-lady now?"
"I'll save it for special occasions." She linked arms with Rondeau and began walking away from the water, toward the rental car parked up on the shoulder.
"So that thing you asked the shark god to do back there," Rondeau said. "Spreading the word. Does that mean you're going to open up an occult detective agency like I suggested?"
"I did luck into some primo office space, rent free," Marla said. "It'd be a shame not to use it, and living over a bookstore would suit my temperament better than living in a hotel. My pride doesn't like living off your bankroll, either. I'm not going to work for ordinaries--I don't want random people asking me to track down runaways or spy on their cheating spouses--but if other sorcerers need help... Well. Sorcerers have interesting problems. And they can pay well, often with things better than money."
"And you hope," Rondeau said, "That if you go publicly freelance, eventually someone back home in our former fair city will have a major magical problem, and will have no choice but to hire you, and then you'll be able to show them how stupid they were to get rid of you."
"No fair being psychic at me," Marla said.
"That's the kind of psychic that just comes from knowing you for years and years. Kind of a longshot though, isn't it?"
She shrugged, hoping she did so as expressively as Ka'ohu. "You know I like contingency plans. Take me back to my office, would you? I want to see if Greaseface left any fun toys behind, and get a look at that book collection. And I guess we need to clean the dead shark off my new desk."
As Rondeau drove toward Lahaina, Marla looked out the window at the moon shining on the water. It's not the life I wanted, she thought. But at least it's a living.
This story was first published on Friday, March 11th, 2011
I've been writing for a while about sorcerer Marla Mason (six novels, lots of short stories), but this is the first story set after a sort of "reboot" in the series--Marla is in exile, stripped of most of her resources, and pretty much at loose ends. "Shark's Teeth" needed to introduce her new setting in the Hawai'ian Islands, provide opportunities for punching and banter, set up for future adventures, and provide a satisfying standalone story in and of itself. I hope I succeeded. Special thanks to Cameron "Dawson" Panee for help with the Hawai'ian language and mythology. Anything I did right is to his credit, but anything wrong is my fault alone.
- T.A. Pratt
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6.4 Rocket Dragons Average, 7 Median
6.4 Rocket Dragons Average, 7 Median
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