I stopped at an ATM for more cash in case I needed to bribe the motel desk clerk, but it turned out to be unnecessary. As I parked next to one of the palm trees wrapped in twinkling Christmas lights, a cab pulled up and deposited my mystery man. He hurried to his room and I rushed out of my car. “Hey, Vizzini!”
“How did you find me?” His pretty face hardened into a mask of anger and fear.
“I asked around.” Someone else was looking for him, I remembered. Not a friend, was my guess, based on his reaction.
He grabbed my arm and pulled me to his door. “Who do you work for?”
This guy must have been in serious trouble. “Turntable Magazine.”
He drew his brows together, his expression lightening. “For real?”
I nodded. “I write for Turntable.”
“What’s your name?”
“No shit!” A bright smile split his face. “I love your work.”
“Really?” I tried not to let it get to me, but hearing someone compliment my writing both never got old and didn’t happen often enough.
“I’ve been a subscriber for years. You’re one of my favorites. I make it a point to always read anything with your byline.”
“That’s so great! Thank you.”
“That Amy Winehouse profile you did. Great stuff.”
I beamed. “My first cover story.”
“And the Wade Sheppard profile, after his comeback as a songwriter.”
“That one was fun. He’s my favorite country artist.”
“And that last big profile you did, Samira. Love her music.”
“She was so much cooler and more relaxed than I was expecting, considering what a massive star she is.”
“That’s a hell of a job you’ve got there.”
I was afraid if we kept talking about my job, we’d never talk about his sparkling, so I tried to figure out the best way to move forward. Being honest seemed the way to go. “Look, I don’t mean to freak you out. It’s just that I saw you at a club a few nights ago. And then I found your picture in the Turntable archives. I’m slowly working on getting the old issues digitized. So there was this pic of you, from the Nineties. And you look like you haven’t aged. Not that you’ve aged really well, but like you haven’t aged at all.”
He said nothing, but his brows were back together and his mouth was set in a thin, hard line.
“So I thought you were a vampire. But obviously you’re not, what with being out in the sun and all. Plus you sparkle, and vampires, they don’t do that.”
“I’m not a vampire,” he murmured.
“So what are you? Look, it’s not like I’m going to write about you.” Okay, that was a total lie. More like, no reputable publication would touch anything I wrote about the supernatural. “I’ve had a couple of encounters with the supernatural, and I’m really curious about you. That’s all.”
He ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck. I waited for him to make up his mind. He said, “You mentioned coffee?”
I smiled. My spook meter was off the charts, but I had no sense of danger. Maybe that was because I had no sense, period, but I wanted to see how this played out. And I wanted to know who and what this guy was.
Larry didn’t sparkle under the unflattering light of the coffee shop a block over, which was a relief, but until our order was filled and we could speak in private, it weighed heavily on my thoughts. If he wasn’t a vampire, then what the hell was he? And how did this obviously supernatural being wind up with a name like Larry?
Armed with caffeine, we returned to the relative privacy of the street and headed toward the beach. I examined him carefully but the sparkle still hadn’t returned.
“I’m waiting for you to ask.” He grinned. “That is what you do, isn’t it? Ask questions.”
Maybe he was right – maybe the best thing to do was act like this was a regular interview. “What’s with the sparkling? Why isn’t it visible all the time? You turned it off deliberately, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, well, you caught me by surprise.” He sipped his coffee. “I slipped up because I was tired. Am tired. That’s why you were able to see through the dust to what I really look like.”
“Dust? It looked more like glitter.”
“Would you believe me if I told you it was pixie dust?”
I stopped in the middle of a crosswalk, mouth hanging open. My brain was still trying to catch up to the idea that there was more out there than just vampires. But pixie dust…I mean, really, pixie dust? “So, you’re like, a fairy?”
He gestured at the traffic light. “You might want to get out of the street. And I prefer elf.”
I hustled to keep up with him. “You mean like Legolas?”
He gave me a baleful look. “See a bow and arrow anywhere?”
“Look, I’m playing catch-up here. Give me a break, okay?”
“Frankly, I thought you’d handle this better. You sounded pretty sure about the existence of vampires, so I thought you were, you know, in the know.”
“I know plenty. I know how to kill vampires.”
He raised his arms to indicate the daylight. “As I said, I’m not a vampire.”
“No. You’re an elf.” I tried to wrap my head around this, and the best way to do it was to get into journalist mode and ask questions. “Can you prove it?”
Larry the elf nodded then steered me toward a park bench in a strip of grass at the edge of the beach. We sat on the far side, facing the ocean. Waves lapped gently at the shore. Early morning joggers filled the sidewalk that skirted the sand. I took a sip of my now lukewarm coffee and nearly spit it out when I realized I’d forgotten to put sugar and creamer in it.
“I’m not sure if you’ll accept this as proof, but here you go.” He glanced around then reached for my hand, pausing to ask for permission with a look. I nodded and let him take my hand. He held it palm up in his left hand. With the forefinger of his right hand, he traced the lines on my skin, as if he was going to read my palm. Heat transferred from his skin to mine, along with a faint electric charge. He moved the tip of his finger in spirals and whirls. A glittery blue line appeared on my palm.
I gasped softly. Heat sank into my flesh everywhere the color touched. Circles and zig-zags and curlicues, until my hand glowed a watery blue and tingled with warmth. Sunlight turned my palm into a mini twinkling disco ball. Something underneath the warmth slid into my skin and worked its way deep into my flesh, a sensation strange and otherworldly.
A sensation that made my blood sing.
“What is that?” It came out a whisper.
“Magic,” said the elf. “Pure, undiluted magic.” He grinned. “It’s also pixie dust. Some people call it that, anyway. It’s elvish magic, and I use it to look human.” He shrugged. “No big deal.”
I didn’t even know what questions to ask, so I just stared at my palm. The glittery blue spread through my veins, lighting them up from the inside as the magic traveled up my arm. Soon my whole body felt warmer, oddly lighter, and full of something I didn’t know how to describe.
Larry took his hand away from mine. Gradually the warmth dissipated, but that strange sensation lingered. I flexed my hand, almost disappointed that the blue was now gone. “Tell me about elves,” I said.
“That’s a bit too broad a topic, don’t you think? About like trying to explain all of the mortal race in a few sentences.”
He had a point. “Okay, tell me about yourself. Are you immortal?”
“You ask that in such a matter of fact way.”
“I guess it’s just kind of cool to be around a supernatural person and not be terrified they’re going to kill me.” But then, what did I know about elves? Not a thing. “You’re not going to try to kill me, are you?” I tried to make it sound light-hearted but truthfully, I was nervous.
He ducked his head, and the action seemed designed more to bring attention to his Cheshire Cat smile than hide it. “Don’t worry. I’m a lover, not a killer. I am intrigued by your casual acceptance of things that would send most people running away screaming.”
“I can’t get answers if I run away screaming.”
“Curious one, are you?”
I shrugged. “I’m a writer. Curiosity is my fatal flaw. I want to know things, understand things. Understand people.”
“And elves, too.” It wasn’t a question.
He turned to face the ocean, watching the waves in silence for several minutes. Sometimes waiting patiently was the best way to get an interview subject to talk. I took in the view and the morning air and did my best to relax.
“I love mortal music,” he said. “There’s an immediacy to it, a kind of passion that only manifests in people who know they have a short time to live. Elvish music has its own serene beauty, but it can’t compete with what’s created here, on this side.”
I would have liked three days to unpack that and craft coherent follow-up questions. “Do you visit often?”
“As often as I can, which isn’t nearly often enough.” Melancholy tinged his voice.
“Okay, I.” I tapped my hands on the bench on either side of my lap. “I have so many questions, but I don’t know how much time you’re willing to give me. What you’re willing to talk about. Why you’re willing to speak to me. When I interview music business people, there’s usually some parameters set beforehand. What’s off-limits, what in particular the subject wants to focus on first. I can talk to Grammy winners and roadies, but I still don’t know how to talk to, uh.”
“Yeah.” A good question for myself was, did I want to make this a habit, the whole talking to supernaturals thing? It didn’t seem like a smart idea. A safe idea. But then, I’d chosen the life of a writer, of all things, so what did I know about smart or safe or practical or any of those things we’re supposed to grow up to be?
The elf lapsed into a long period of quiet again, while I did my best not to fidget.
“I won’t share secrets about my world, or how to get there,” he said. “I won’t tell you anything that could identify me.” He gave me a significant look. “Like you said, you’re a writer. So let’s not pretend you’re not going to write about this.”
Embarrassment flamed my cheeks. “I can guarantee Turntable won’t touch anything I write about this kind of stuff.” Maybe it was wrong not to mention my little blog that nobody read, but I kept quiet about it anyway. “Is there anything you’re willing to share about elves, in a general sense?”
“We love music. Love to dance.” He cocked an eyebrow. “What can I say? Some stereotypes are true.”
“So you come here for the music? How long have you been doing that?”
“I saw Paganini at La Scala in 1813.”
“Oh, my God. Tell me everything.” I laughed, excitement bubbling in me like I’d drunk too much soda.
“I’ll make you a deal.” He cocked an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you some of my stories if you tell me some of yours.”
“You want to know about working at Turntable?”
“Hey, I’m out in the audience. The dance floor. And that’s great, I love it. But you.” He leveled his forefinger at me. “You’ve got a backstage pass.”
That left me taken aback. It didn’t seem like an adequate trade, my few years of stories versus his two hundred. He seemed genuinely keen to hear about modern music, too. I held out my hand. “You’ve got a deal.” We shook, and then dived right into talking.
Shit. I mean, seriously, shit. Two hundred years. I didn’t know which to be more impressed with, his lifespan or all the music he might have had a front row seat for in that time. Our conversation flowed easily as he told me about his favorite concerts, musicians he’d met, and his more recent affection for the festival circuit. He loved it all: classical, jazz, blues, rock and pop and disco and punk. I took notes as best I could but mostly I just listened.
And yawned. Exhaustion was catching up with me and I needed sleep. We made plans to meet for dinner, where I promised to share behind the scenes details from some of my favorite articles and profiles I’d written. Then I drove home in a bleary haze.
An elf. Elves were real, which was a damn sight better than finding out vampires were real. Even better, he had a two hundred year history of being a music fan, and he was willing to share his stories with me.