Let’s plan this hunt, Chelsea Childling

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

Now we’re back to our regular once a month schedule… unless enough people tell me they *want* Chelsea twice a month.

A light rain pattered on the gravel of the parking lot, but the whistling wind promised a storm. Chelsea leaned back in the seat of her car, studying the boarded windows of Boney’s haunt.

She’d been inside a handful of times before she’d decided not to hunt monsters. Dark, dirty, and usually full of surly hunters, it was the natural place to meet and discuss the reaver hunt. Chelsea swallowed her apprehension and headed for the door. She pressed the button by the voice plate. “Um, hey Trish. I’m here to talk to Amber.”

Half expecting every head to turn when she walked in, Chelsea was almost disappointed to find the place practically deserted. Of the five people nursing drinks, only Amber looked round. The large woman bounded across the room with a huge smile on her round face. “There you are.” She waved to the bartender, the eponymous Boney.

The door buzzed, clicked, and then released. She waved to the doorwoman as she walked in. Trish sucked on her ever-present jawbreaker before rolling her eyes. Warmth opened in Chelsea’s stomach at the familiar actions. Trish didn’t like anybody.

Chelsea studied the man as he pulled her a beer. “Shock” barely described her reaction to finding out that Boney was brothers with her friend, Tiggy. The heavy-set beat poet with the afro did not seem a part of Boney’s world. Chelsea had never heard the bald bartender speak. Even their features seemed dissimilar to her. Tiggy was round; squishable cheeks with thick lips and a matching nose. Boney was… well, boney; high cheekbones, pointed chin, with a long nose.

Amber took the beer he offered with a nod, wondering what he’d say to Tiggy about tonight. Tiggy had been fairly blunt about being a hunter before she’d come to the bar. Nothing she hadn’t heard before, exactly. Just a different take.

He thinks hunters are heroes… and that I should break up with Alex if I’m going to do this.

Not wanting to dwell on any part of Tiggy’s advice, she settled at the table trying not to stare at the hunters. Other than Amber, she knew only one other person. She couldn’t remember the man’s name, but he remained as dirty and surly as he had been the first time she walked into this bar.

The other two hunters were utter strangers. An older woman with warm brown eyes and a quick smile and a man about Chelsea’s age with pale skin and dark hair.

Amber pointed around the table, starting with the dirty man. “Scott, Judith, and Keegan. Everybody, this is Chelsea.”

Scott leaned back in his chair. “Yay, she’s here. So, this reaver has been seen four times near the parking garage by the river. It’s most likely nesting in the basement.”<

Judith nodded. “I have contacts with the DoT. I can get us in.”

The dirty man glared at her. “What’s his name?”

A slow, menacing grin spread across Judith’s face, and the tone of her voice promised violence. “Tony.”

Scott grunted and looked away, as Keegan leaned forward. “Anyway, it’s looking like rain tonight. I don’t mean to be a Nervous Nelly—”

“You aren’t.” Amber took a drink. “Wet ground, with rain, wind, and thunder obscuring my hearing; lightning messing with my night vision. No thank you. I’d rather wait until tomorrow.”

Fear shuddered down Chelsea’s spine. “Tomorrow? I have class on Monday.”

Scott rolled his eyes. “You’ll get plenty of sleep since you hunt reavers at daybreak. We were never going out tonight.”

Blood rushed to Chelsea’s face and she took another drink.

Keegan sighed. “God Scott, can you not be a total dick to the new girl?”

The big, filthy man spat on the table. “Meet you all at the garage at four?”

Chelsea found herself nodding with the other hunters as Scott headed to the bar. As he walked away, Keegan leaned over. “Class, huh?”

Amber scooted her chair forward. “Chelsea’s an artist and a damn good one.”

Keegan smiled. “We’ll have to watch her hands then.” He studied her hands for a moment before raking his eyes over her body with a wink.

Chelsea chugged the rest of her beer. “Fucking hunters.”

“C’mon.” Amber’s voice shook with laughter as she headed to the bar. Keegan shrugged and followed Amber. Chelsea took a deep breath. The last thing she needed was to complicate her love life further.

She shook her head and sipped at the fresh beer Boney handed her. One problem at a time. First, she had to deal with this reaver. She’d worry about Alex when it was dead.

Amber leaned over. “What class do you have on Monday?”

“History of Art.” Chelsea grimaced. It was a class she had to repeat after she’d dropped out last semester to hunt a vampire… with Amber. Chelsea lifted her beer to lips and drank deeply. She loved art. Owning a gallery and painting in her spare time had been her dream since childhood.

But hunting monsters called to her. Jackson always said it would.

A ringing cell phone brought her out of her head. She shook away thoughts of Jackson “I didn’t wait to say goodbye in person” Hawk with the rest of her beer, burped, and turned to Amber. “So, what’s the best strategy for groups fighting a reaver?”

Before Amber could answer, a soft, deep voice demanded attention. “What do you mean something’s after you?”

Chelsea’s head snapped round to Boney with the hunters. The bartender’s hands shook as he hit the speaker button, but his voice never wavered. “Where are you?”

Tiggy’s shaking voice came circled the bar. “Warehouses on River Street.”

“Who are you talking to? And what’s wrong?” p>Chelsea’s heart slammed against her chest and her stomach dropped. That was Alex.

“It was a minion, Boney. He saw me mark him. He knew I knew what he was. And just now, I saw a white flash in the rearview mirror.”

Rage replaced fear and Chelsea took herself suddenly able to breathe. A minion meant nightlings. And the “white flash” meant the vampire was letting itself be seen. It was toying with Tiggy.

A hatchet slammed onto the bar before Amber slid it over to Chelsea.

Boney nodded to her. “Help is on the way. Keep driving. Go in a spiral, do figure eights. Have whoever is in the car with you text on the regular. Keep us up to date.”

Unable to stop herself, Chelsea blurted out. “Tell Alex to text me.” She grabbed the hatchet off the bar. “Hold on, Tiggy.”


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