The place Christopher Poutine wanted to take Jack Kinzer was a vacant lot. “It’ll be worth your while,” he had promised. Sure; overgrown grass, dandelions and a broken chain-link fence. Somebody else’s property. He felt a headache coming on as they left their Uber. He had so much work to do back at the office. He thought of the appointment he’d briskly told Harriet to move. Clearly, that had been a mistake.
Christopher stood in front of the gate. Jack eyed him warily. He was whispering something; his lips were moving. Jack strained to hear it. It sounded like a spell, or a chant. It had been so many hours since Jack had last had a beer. He was starting to feel his palms itch. He was about to say something, interrupt, when Christopher spun around.
Only he didn’t look like Christopher. He was no longer the gangly kid with bloodshot eyes and red highlights in his shaggy hair. The air shimmered around him, smelling like cinnamon and roses. The air seemed to grow dark and cold in the space around his body, turning into a shroud of mist. Jack had to blink a few times for the new image to register. His brain didn’t want to catch up to his eyes.
Christopher had giant wings sprouting behind him, and his hands and feet were the paws of a cat. A donkey’s ears flopped as a crown around his red hair. His eyes were bulbous and fiery red. Christopher was markedly larger than Jack, maybe seven feet tall compared to Jack’s five-foot-eight frame.
Jack surprised himself with his reaction. He expected shock would take over. Maybe he would vomit. Maybe he would step backwards in alarm. But he was instead merely curious. Calm and curious. He checked himself. Maybe he was still a little drunk from his midnight binge. That was entirely more real of a possibility than the one that stood before him now, that his client had turned into some kind of mythological creature.
When Christopher finally spoke, it was through some sort of mental connection, not with verbal words.
“Do you recognize me now?” His voice sounded mischievous.
“I— what— no.” Jack didn’t quite know what to say. He felt like he was tongue-tied in court in front of Judge Gallant. But strangely, he was still calm.
Christopher sighed. “It runs very deep, then.” He shook his head, and his donkey ears flopped back and forth as the cinnamon smell intensified, as if with displeasure. “I’m a jinn. Heard of us?”
“I’ve heard of genies,” Jack said. He thought he must be in shock. Around them, the street was empty in this abandoned neighborhood. He wondered, for a split second, if it were really abandoned or if it were secretly… magical. What was he thinking? Shock. Definitely shock. “I don’t see your lamp.”
Christopher laughed, then. In a moment of gallantry, Jack’s client took pity on him and changed back into his human form. The cloud of cinnamon and mist vanished. Back was the young junkie. Jack blinked. It must have been the booze. He really needed to quit drinking.
But then why did his mouth still taste like cinnamon?
Defiant Hemlock continues next Wednesday. Ways to support Denise.