I stood in the doorway for a moment, letting my eyes adjust to the smoky gloom. Low music pulsed from crappy bargain-basement speakers as one of the regulars, I think it was Martha (what they hell kind of name for a stripper is Martha anyway?) strutted her middle-aged stuff for the tiny cluster of oblivious losers scattered at tables near the stage. Colin was there at the bar, grinning like an idiot and wolf-whistling between swigs of Guinness.
“Well, hello there,” I said, plopping onto the worn wooden stool next to him, any trace of stain or paint eradicated by the thousands of asses that had plopped there before me.
Colin trained his bright blue eyes on me and waggled his bushy black eyebrows with a grin. Draining his glass, he called for another, “And a Cosmopolitan for the lady!” before speaking directly to me.
“So ya found me, did ya? Did it take long?”
The lilt of his accent was charming and made him a favorite of any poor woman he chose to train his sights on. You could close your eyes and see the rolling green of Ireland in his every word. If you wanted to fall under his spell, that is. I kept my eyes open.
“Not too long, no. Tried All Stars first but should have known better. You only go there after dark.”
“Aye. Not near as entertaining as this place during the day.”
It was satisfying to see the smile fade from Colin’s face when I thunked the bottle on the bar between us. His eyes narrowed and he leaned away from it. Then he laughed, full and rich, overpowering the music and bringing the gaze of the few patrons our way.
“Now now. Without this, that’s just a worthless bit of glass, idn’t it?”
He twirled his fingers and it appeared in his palm – the stopper for the bottle. A heavy bit of blue glass, small yet vital. By reflex I made a grab for it. Foolish. Colin flicked his fingers and his hand was again empty.
“Uh uh uh!” he teased, melodious laughter licking across my skin once again. “We’ve each been pursuing the other long enough to know it’s not as simple as all that, don’t we?”
“Enough of this, Colin,” I said. “Get back in the bottle where you belong. The Council will hear about this and this time there’ll be no reprieve. They’re tired of your crap. Get in now and I won’t report you.”
“You? Report me to the Council? Hah! As if you’d let them know where you’ve been hiding out. Oh, I don’t think so. It’s been lovely visiting with you, dearest, but I’m afraid I’m not quite ready to give up this luscious freedom. But, do keep after me,” he threw a twenty on the bar as he stood to leave. “I do love a chase.”
He waved his hand with a flourish. I just stared at him, taking a sip of my watered down cosmo. His smile remained in place as he flicked his hand again. Then his smile shifted into sneer territory. Again and again he waved his hands, clapped them, snapped his fingers. I finished my drink.
“What have you done, woman?” he raged, slamming his hands on the bar. The glasses tinkled and clinked. The barkeep eyed us warily but remained silent. The whole place grew quiet.
“Why don’t you just walk out?” I asked, my voice dripping with innocence. “No need to show off.”
With a grunt, Colin stalked to the front door and pulled it open. He stood there for a brief moment, looking at the sidewalk and the thin white trail laying in his path.
“Salt? Really? You think you can keep me contained with a wee circle of salt?” he laughed.
“Seems to be working so far. This is it, Colin. Only one of us is leaving here. And I’m willing to bet it’ll be me.”
Colin laughed loud and long, strolling casually back to stand beside me. Suddenly he clapped his hands with a thunderous sound. I felt the power ooze out of him like oil and looked around. The bartender, the loose knot of patrons, even sad Martha – all were gone.
“Your little trail of salt might be able to keep me in here- momentarily- but it hasn’t curtailed my powers. Not. One. Bit,” he leaned in closer with each word, biting off each syllable.
The magic flared around us, sucking the air from the room. I felt it punch me in the center of my chest and, next thing I knew, I was across the room, sliding down the wall. I rolled away, ignoring the pain blooming in my ribs, and Colin’s next strike flew over my head. An explosion of sparks flew from the stage spot lights. I struck back, feigning a head shot but sending a blow towards Colin’s legs at the same time. He fell for my bluff and I hit him square in the knees.
“Och! Bitch!” he bellowed, hitting the floor hard. “No fair. You’ve been practicing.”
He rolled his hands around in a circle and blasted a fireball at me. It smacked the wall inches from my head, the flames spreading across the old paneling towards the ceiling. Perfect. Now I had to worry about the ceiling caving in as well as battling Colin.
We traded blows, matching almost shot for shot. I was getting tired. I blinked a little too long and Colin caught me off guard. A blow like a hammer hit me in the head and I fell onto my back, dark motes dancing before my eyes. The flames were growing all around us, heat boiling down from the roaring ceiling and walls. I looked across the smoke filled space at my opponent. He seemed oblivious to the fact that his hair was aflame. He simply glowered at me with those bright blue eyes. He was going to kill me. I had only one chance.
As Colin crunched across the smoldering floor towards me I summoned my last ounce of strength. I called to it and it flew across the bar into my outstretched hand. The bottle. I held it up. Colin stopped.
“Now now, love. Let’s not get crazy here,” he pleaded.
I looked at him, smiled. And smashed the bottle on the floor. It shattered with a sound like angels screaming. Or maybe that was Colin. His eyes turned a silvery white and all the color drained from his face. He barked out a short wheeze of a laugh.
“Well color me surprise, dearest. I never thought you had it in you. The Council… the Council will be most… distressed.”
Then the light overtook him. He glowed silver, then blinding white. With a blast of wind that pushed me across the floor to the wall, he was gone. I was alone in this smoking wreck of a place, the flames extinguished by Colin’s departure. I stared at the blackened ceiling for a moment, listening to the aches in my body. I would heal quickly enough, I wasn’t worried about that. But now the real battle would begin. The Council would come for me and my long flight from the Faerie world would be over.
Caty McGill (ne' Nancy Loughlin) is a writer of speculative fiction based on Celtic folklore. Formerly a resident of Nashville, Caty worked as an Associate Producer on numerous entertainment-news television programs. After returning to Florida, she served as a feature writer for "Sunny Scope" (outdoor sports website) and "Aqua Views" (scuba and watersports website). Her short story "Warren's Box" was featured in "Phoenix" literary journal. Caty is currently a student working towards her MFA in Creative Writing.