Elaine Goodgulf, tall and slender with high cheekbones, her long white-blond hair tied in a loose bun, sat on the couch with Anne and nodded. "Rossiya yedinoroga," she said. "The Russian Unicorn. And they are in danger of becoming extinct." She looked at us. "That's why we need your help."
"Anne and I are both animal lovers," I said, sitting on a small stool facing the two women and trying not to pay any attention to the whaling harpoon on the wall just above my desk. "Of course we'll help."
Elaine and Anne were old high school buddies and had kept in touch while they were both away to college. Three days ago, Elaine had called the house asking to talk about a grave matter. We had agreed.
And now: saving the Russian Unicorn.
"You must get the word out to the people," said Elaine. "They have to know. It's imperative!"
"What about the WWF?" said Anne. "Can't they help out?"
"Yes," I said. "I've heard Vince McMahon is an animal lover."
"Not the World Wrestling Federation," said Elaine. "The World Wildlife Federation. And no. They won't help. They won't even give me the time of day."
"That's insane!" said Anne. "You're the one of the world's leading biologists not to mention an expert in evolutionary biology. And from Harvard, no less. Why won't they listen to you?"
Elaine harrumphed. "Those bastards think there's no such thing as a Russian Unicorn. But I know there is. I've seen it."
"You have?" I asked. "Incredible!"
"Well, I've spoken to those who have," Elaine replied. "Evenks from Tura, in the Evenkiysky District of the Krasnoyarsk Krai Federal District. Northern Russia. Several folks claimed to have seen a large one-horned creature out in the taiga. I spoke to three of the witnesses. They report at least three to five of the animals being seen. They think there may even be more."
"Evenks?" I asked, pulling out my small moleskine notebook and jotting notes.
"One of the indigenous peoples of northern Russian," said Elaine. "But the WWF idiots keep telling me it's a sham. One of their blowhards pointed out they might be imagining it, that it's probably left over from Evenk legends of the Elasmotherium."
"Which blowhard was that?" I said
"Thornton Chugwell," said Elaine. "I have his phone number. You can talk to him."
"I will," I said, writing the name down in my moleskine.
"Wait--" said Anne. "Elasmotherium?"
"Didn't Willy Ley write about that in his book Exotic Zoology?" Anne said.
"A great Trap Door Spider, was Willy," I said.
"Ley did," said Elaine. "Chugwell mentioned that, too. Then the pox-ridden slimebag had the balls to refer me to Karl Shuker at the Centre for Fortean Zoology." Her eyes blazed. "Hah! The nerve of the man!"
"I know about Shuker," I said. "A cryptozoologist and John Joseph Adams lookalike wannabe."
Anne turned to me. "Is he that Mongolian Death Worm Guy?"
"Yep," I nodded. "And a bad movie, too. Damn roaring worms. Arrakeen sandworms would have them for breakfast."
Anne nodded. "Poor poor Sean Patrick Flannery."
"Forget him!" I said. "Poor Vicki Pratt. I hope they do a Cleopatra 2525 reunion show."
"Mutant X!" Anne shot back, wagging a finger at me. "Mutant X!"
"Can we get back to the crisis at hand?" said Elaine.
Anne and I nodded. This was definitely a crisis. I wondered on the best way to deal with the situation. Perhaps hiring mercenaries to go into Russia to capture them? Take them somewhere where they'd be safe? No no. Too risky. And Elaine did say she wanted to get the word out first.
I decided to ask.
"How do we want to handle this?" I said. "Get the word out, right?"
"Yes," said Elaine. "We must make their existence known to the world."
"Makes sense," I said. "Exposure is an excellent thing. I'm thinking 10,000 words. Feature article. Do some history. Eyewitness accounts. Maybe talk about any work you've done for and about them."
Elaine nodded. "Sounds perfect."
"I'll call my editor at The Oblivious Plethora. They're a widely read magazine that caters to an elite crowd who'd probably be more than happy to help this cause. We should get pictures, too."
"Call Nardy," said Anne. "He's well-seasoned now."
"Nardy?" said Elaine.
"Nardo Bones. Photographer for the Plethora. Helluva nice guy. Likes zoot suits for some reason. But a crack photographer. Marinated. Hard-core. Very tactical. We'll need that for this story, I think. And we'll have to go to Russia."
"I'll get our passports and make some calls," said Anne.
"Call Jones first," I said to her and turned to Elaine. "My editor at Plethora. Milton Seth Jones. Great guy. He can probably grease some palms for us. They grow taller with grease. Bigger fronds, too. Yessir. Exposure is vital."
"Agreed," said Elaine. "It is very vital. And by doing so, we will fuel the auric energies that will bring the Dark Elders back into this realm."
Anne and I sprang from our seats.
"Auric energies?" I exclaimed. "You're planning to siphon off from Gamma Flight?"
"Forget that!" cried Anne, jabbing a finger at Elaine. "Did you just say 'Dark Elders'?"
"No, I didn't," said Elaine, looking between us, worry creasing her features. "Why--why would I mention my masters in the netherrealms--" She went saucer-eyed and clapped a hand over her mouth.
Anne backed away. "You're with them, aren't you."
Sweet Mother of Judas! Anne was right.
I stepped back, too, and picked up the stool. "You dare enter our domicile, minion of darkness?"
Elaine exploded from the couch into a low fighting stance. "You will be devoured in the everlasting fires of destruction."
"Jericho!" Anne called out.
I turned and caught the cutlass she tossed to me.
She'd also grabbed one.
We faced Elaine, swords at the ready. Elaine wasn't just an evolutionary biologist. She was also a Dark Elder Minion. And that wouldn't stand. Not with us.
I may be just a Professional. I may be just a Rogue Journalist.
But I was also a Warrior for Goodness and Light. And so was Anne.
I leveled the cutlass at Elaine. "Time to meet your masters, you abomination."
"Kiss my ass, Hack Boy," snarled Elaine.
"Don't you know who we really are?" I said. "We are members of the Order of the Three Dragons."
Elaine's eyes went side. "The Chan-Hung-Biao? The dreaded Tactical Thespians?"
"That's right!" said Anne. "The Warrior-Actors. So bring it on, bitch!"
We lunged at her, our blades spinning and twirling.
Elaine evaded effortlessly, bobbing, weaving, knitting, and I quickly recognized the knitwun-purltu evasive manuever.
She was well trained.
"My master will see you suffer in torment!" Elaine rasped, her voice raspy. Long, curved talons ending in razor-sharp claws popped from her fingertips. She swiped at us.
"And who might your master be?" I said, dancing back out of range.
Elaine pressed forward. "The Destructor," she said. "In his human guise, he's already started his work in subduing you."
"What human guise?" said Anne.
"As Michael Bublé," said Elaine and lunged, swinging.
Anne cackled, feinting and riposting. "That Harry Connick, Jr. wannabe? At least Harry teamed up with Lonestar and Agent J. What did your Mikey do?"
"X-Files, you pathetic cow," Elaine shot back.
"Hah!" I said, parrying. "Two measly episodes! Uncredited!"
"He was in Duets with Paltrow!" she growled. Then she leaped back with preternatural speed, executing a backflip that sent her flying toward the front windows. She landed on all fours, Spidey-on-the-wall-style, and her eyes blazed blood-red. She bared teeth and spittle dripped from the corners of her mouth. "The Destructor is only the beginning. He will pave the way for the Dark Overlord. The Great Father Oomaumau who is also called Kali Ma."
"What's happening to you, Elaine?" said Anne.
"Puny humans!" she rasped. "Elaine Goodgulf was only my corporeal vessel. I am H'kk'tuuee. Leader of the Sh'boig'ans. Shock troops of the Dark Elders. This world will soon be ours. First we will overrun the Muslims. Then the Hebrew god will fall. And then the Christian god will be cast down and forgotten. Soon Kali Ma will rule the world."
"You're going back to Kali," I intoned.
"To Kali," Anne agreed.
"Kali," I repeated. "You're going back to Kali."
"Uh-uh," Elaine replied. "I don't think so."
"Then prepare to meet Kali," Anne and I chorused. "In HELL!"
Elaine whirled and hurled herself through the front windows.
Thank goodness they were already open.
By the time we reached the windows, Elaine/H'kk'tuuee/whatever was gone.
A cold breeze blew into the house, and the curtains billowed around us.
"This could get ugly," said Anne, her expression grim.
"We'll be ready," I said.
First, we had to save everyone from Michael Bublé. Then get to the Russian Unicorns before Elaine/H'kk'tuuee/yaddayadda could. It wasn't going to be easy. But we knew people who could help.
Plus, I was a Professional. And so was Anne.
Time to bring it.
Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.