This week’s challenge was to go to the “They Fight Crime” site, get a pair of characters, and write a short story about them. I got “He’s a fiendish arachnophobic cop who hangs with the wrong crowd. She’s a provocative hypochondriac queen of the dead from a different time and place.” Mine don’t actually fight crime, but they meet up to possibly take out some baddies, so same thing? Anyway, hope you like it.

Detective Rhodes sat slumped in a rickety wooden chair, wrists cuffed behind him, sweat dripping off his lank hair. He could hear the wind whistling through cracked widows in the abandoned warehouse, could smell the mixture of rusty metal and rotting wood. His whole body felt like one giant bruise, but the stab wound to his gut hurt worse. In some corner of his mind he knew if he didn’t get medical help soon it would begin to fester, but the only people who knew where he was were the ones who did this to him.

“Detective. I have been looking for you for a long, long time.” A woman’s voice, with a strange accent he couldn’t place; then a pair of dusty black boots. Fighting nausea, he slowly lifted his head. She was exquisite, with long raven hair that reached her waist, caramel skin, and almond-shaped eyes that contained the whole universe in their depths. She wore a skin-tight red gown, stained and torn at the hem, which brushed the tops of her thighs. He tried to speak, but could only cough, a hoarse, wracking sound that made him spit blood.

“You do not look good, detective. You’re…you’re not sick are you?” She took a step back.

“No,” he choked out. “Just beaten up.” He coughed again, then smiled, blood trickling down the corners of his mouth. “I don’t know why you were looking for me, sweetheart, but here I am. Although, as you can guess, I’m not really…in the mood. And I’m a little short on cash.”

“You think I’m a whore?”

“Well, honey,” he drawled, then coughed again, spitting more blood. “If the dress fits…”

“I am no whore! I am a queen. And I’ve come to retrieve you.” She flicked her wrist and the handcuffs binding Rhodes’ hands sprang open, clattering to the floor. He brought his hands around, rubbing the red spots where the cuffs chaffed his skin raw.

“Retrieve me? For what?”

“Why, to take you to the land of the dead. You have been a very naughty boy, haven’t you?” The woman crossed her arms across her chest, her ample breasts threatening to spill out the top of her dress. “Gambling, taking bribes, consorting with gang members. It appears that your indiscretions have finally caught up with you.”

“Motherfucker,” he swore, staggering to his feet. “You’re the queen of the dead.”

“I am. How do you know of me?”

“I have my ways.” Smirking, he tried to step towards her but his knee buckled, and he toppled to the floor.

“Are you certain you do not have any…illness I should know about?”

“No goddamn it,” he spat. “I was fit as a fuckin’ fiddle this morning.”

“Very well,” she replied, crouching down in front of him and placing her slender fingers on his head. They were cool, but delivered a welcome warmth which travelled over his body, healing his bruises and stitching his torn flesh. He took a deep breath and sat up as she rose and stepped away.

“Thanks, darlin’.”

“I am known by many names, none of them ‘darlin’. You may call me Imala.”

“What do you mean, known by many names?” Rhodes slowly stood up and stretched, testing his body, but it was completely healed. He eyed Imala warily.

“I am not of this time or place. I was first born long ago, in the country you now call India. The centuries have passed; I have been reborn many times, and known by many names. This is my current iteration.” She paced around the detective as she talked.

“But if I’m going to die anyway, why did you heal me?” He asked, frowning. Suddenly he jumped back with a shriek, knocking the chair behind him to the floor. “Did you just see that?”

“See what?” Imala looked around the dusty floor, but couldn’t see anything.

“That!” He pointed at a small ball of dirt. “Is that a…spider? I hate spiders.” Imala crouched down, spotting the small critter crawling across the wood. She caught it in her hand before it could escape between the floor boards, then she straightened up and walked towards Rhodes, hand outstretched.

“This little thing? It will not harm you. Unlike all the diseases you people seem to carry.”

“Ugh, get it away!” He swatted her hand, sending the tiny spider flying across the warehouse. “I don’t have any diseases. And even if I did, you said yourself that you were sending me to the land of the dead.” He grasped her wrist, bringing her closer to him, smirking. “That is, unless I can convince you to spare me?”

She stepped towards him, leaning forward and bringing her full, red lips to his ear. “And what would you have to offer me, in exchange for your life?”

“Some of my…associates are bound to be on your hit list. I happen to know that you won’t be able to find them on your own.” He released Imala’s hand and snaked his hands around her waist, drawing her even closer. “I can bring them to you,” he breathed, pressing his lips to her throat. She jerked back, wiping her neck, looking disgusted.

“Ugh, what do you think you are doing? Do you know how many germs are in your mouth?”

“But I thought…” he stammered.

“Ick. No.” She shook her head, taking a couple more steps back. “It is true that a couple of your more unsavory friends are among those I’m bound to collect,” she said, “and I have been having some difficulty locating them.” Then she narrowed her eyes. “Wait. How did you know?”

“Because I’m the one that cast the cloaking spell on them, my dear. You shouldn’t have been able to find me, except I must have lost too much blood and broke the spell.”

“What?” She brought herself up to full height, planting her hands on her hips. “You…fiend!”

“I help you find my buddies, and I get to live. That’s the deal.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets so Imara couldn’t tell they were trembling. He couldn’t afford to have her call his bluff.

Imara took a deep breath and relaxed her stance. She blinked slowly, trying to quell her annoyance. “As long as you behave yourself,” she began, straightening her dress and giving him a sidelong gaze, “you will have a full, long life. I can only hope it will be a miserable one.”

“Well, it sounds like a win-win for both of us.” His thin lips stretched into a smile that did not reach his narrowed eyes.

“Very well,” she replied, stalking towards the entrance to the warehouse, her boots thumping on the floor. “We start immediately.”