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The Stylish Sphinx

"Oh, not you again." Cara Watt, paranormal investigator, glared at the massive sphinx blocking the women's clothing section of Unnaturally Stylish. Cara's companion, Detective Derek Faraday, closed his eyes and sighed.
The sphinx wore a light blue beret on her oversized human head. Six scarves were tied together to wrap around her broad lion's neck and shoulders. Her tail idly spun a rack of dresses round and round. "What has four legs in the morning--"
"A human," said Cara and Faraday together.
Cara added, "You can't be here, Axura. Go home."
The sphinx's lips peeled back in a snarl. Mirrors flanking the doorway reflected sharp teeth. "It doesn't count if you already know the answer. I shall make you solve a riddle before I grant access to this mercantile space!"
"I've been reading about sphinxes," Faraday murmured. "There's no arguing with them. Once they set down somewhere, they stay until you answer them."
"Someone's been doing his paranormal homework." Cara smirked. "Was this a side project, or are you still trying to figure out what species I might be?"
Faraday blushed. "Both."
"I offer a different riddle," said Axura, drawing their attention back.
"How did you even get in here?" asked Faraday.
"Loading bay, probably," said Cara.
Axura's growl shook the building. Hangers rattled on racks. A mannequin in a green sweater crashed to the floor so hard her arms and legs fell off. Shouts of alarm rose from the other departments.
Cara swallowed. "Ask your riddle. We will answer."
The sphinx gave an indignant sniff. "Very good. Answer correctly, or I will eat you:
"I show what is and yet may be.
My body stands, but does not breathe.
Swathed to tempt, my promises aren't free.
Can you see yourself in me?"
"Easy," said Detective Faraday. "It's a mir--"
Cara elbowed him. "A mannequin."
Axura's claws gouged the tile floor. "How? How could you know?"
Cara pointed to the toppled mannequin. "They have bodies, but don't breathe, and they try to make you see yourself in their clothes so you'll buy them in the future."
Faraday cleared his throat. "You really should stop using riddles whose answers are right next to you."
With a huff, Axura rose. The sphinx's beret brushed the ceiling. "Be careful, investigators," she growled. "There is a new man in Watson Ridge who calls himself the Baron, a man whose stare chills even we creatures of the night. Those who poke their human heads into paranormal affairs might find them... snapped off."
"Is that a threat?" asked Faraday.
"Yes."
The detective cleared his throat. "Great. Just checking."
As the sphinx lumbered past, Cara drew close to Faraday. "We need to look into this Baron. He's come up in too many recent investigations."
"Not today," he said. "The department can't afford overtime this month. Besides, it's Wednesday, and it's my turn to buy you dinner. What are you in the mood for?"
"Eye of newt sounds good."
At Faraday's sharp glance, Cara laughed. "Just keeping you alert, Derek. Spaghetti and meatballs is a little more to my taste."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

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