Gate Shifter #1
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“I, meaning me, Dakota Mayumi Reyes, was running, full-out, for my life…”
Dakota Reyes, a twenty-something private eye who specializes in what she calls “hard-to-prosecute” cases, finds herself in a dark alley one night, about to end up dead at the hands of a young Ted Bundy in training…when a lost, shape-shifting alien named Nihkil rescues her, and inadvertently takes her home with him.
The problem is, his home is in a different dimension, and Dakota has no clue how to get back to Seattle, or Earth, or even her own time period. She finds herself bound to her rescuer, Nihkil, through his “lock,” a quasi-biological structure that controls whether the morph can shape-shift.
As Nik’s new lock-mate, only Dakota can open Nik’s lock now, and he needs the lock open in order to bring Dakota home. Except Dakota has absolutely no idea how to open it…and the longer she spends in Nik’s world, the more that world’s inhabitants begin to align against them.
Prologue: The Beach
I, meaning me, Dakota Mayumi Reyes, was running, full-out, for my life.
It hadn’t happened often in my twenty-six-odd years, so yeah, I wasn’t loving it.
I ran down the fog-wet street, controlling my breaths the way my boxing coach, Becks, taught me. I knew it might be helping me a little, but I also knew I was distracting myself from the fact that I was pretty much screwed regardless, since the psycho was catching up to me.
Bastard was faster than I’d planned for.
That meant he was faster than Irene told me he’d be, too.
In fact, even as I tore down the alleyway in my super-grip boots, I found myself thinking I’d need to have a few words with that girl, as soon as I got back to the office…assuming I got back to the office at all, and didn’t get stabbed or shot when this guy finally caught up with me. That stunt I’d pulled back in his car had been carefully designed to enrage him, of course.
I mean, I needed him to go there, right? Otherwise, how would I get him to show his true colors? So we worked it all out, me and Irene and with input from the client…coming up with a carefully crafted routine guaranteed to push all of his little, sociopathic buttons.
Unfortunately, I’d gotten a little too good at that part of my job.
So yeah, it worked.
I further compounded the problem by hitting the guy in the chest when he tried to pull his trademark “date-rape after multiple, anti-female threats” maneuver… not a real hit, of course, but a regular-old, “hands off me, buddy, or I’ll scream” hit, like any normal girl might do.
The client specifically warned me, more than once, that this douche really didn’t like it when we chicas fought back.
So, yeah, I made a point of breaking that little rule, too.
And then, when he don’t look quite pissed off enough, and kept trying with the bully me into sex bit, I made a point of breaking it again, that time hitting him a little harder.
Oh, yeah…and in the face.
He really didn’t like that. But again, yeah, that was kind of the point.
Anyway, I was on the clock by then, since the whole bar thing took longer than I’d hoped. Hitting him (rather than screaming or begging for mercy or whatever else might eventually annoy him) seemed like the most efficient way to provoke the guy.
Well, at the time.
That part worked like a charm, really…better than I’d expected, even after scoping this dude for a solid three weeks. I’d watched him long enough to have his basic M.O. down pat. Thinking back on it, I probably should have used the car itself as the hot zone…but I knew the cops could be unreliable with any situation that might be construed as a date gone wrong, or worse, a girl tease who changed her mind at the last minute.
Frankly, I hadn’t wanted to take that chance.
Most of the cops I’d worked with in this town were pretty cool, and some even respected what I did for a living. One guy, Frankie, even bought me drinks after a few of my cases panned out with the jerkoffs behind bars.
But yeah, there was a range of sensitivity with the men in blue, just like with all people. Some of them liked to give their girlfriends or wives a good smack now and then, too, so thought I was one of those feminazi dykes for even giving those women an alternative.
And yeah, okay…some thought what I did bordered on illegal.
Some maybe thought it was illegal, in the spirit sense, maybe, since I was pretty careful to toe the line in terms of the letter. After all, I wasn’t a cop. I wasn’t colluding with the cops, either. So while what I did could be construed as a kind of entrapment…it wasn’t actually entrapment, in terms of the kind that could get a case thrown out of court.
But yeah, some of those cops knew me, sure.
Some of the judges in town knew me, too.
Some liked me fine, even approved of what I did, like I said.
Another group, however, would gladly look the other way if they saw me running down a blind alley in the middle of the night…even with a psycho three times my size panting after me, screaming he was going to kill me.
So yeah, I knew if I skirted too close to that line, they might not play ball at all.
Worse, they might refuse to take the guy in.
Because of that and a lot of other reasons, I was careful to only do things any regular girl might do, when trying to get the guy to let me go. I’d never been a cop myself, so I figured I didn’t have to follow every single one of their little rules, especially since I didn’t wear a gun.
The flip side of that, of course, was that I was pretty much risking my ass every time I took on one of these nutjob cases.
Anyway, everything seemed to be going according to plan at first.
Nothing like a good foot chase through dark streets to evoke that whole “serial killer” motif, especially when the guy is built like a linebacker and already has a few wrist slaps for aggravated assault, all of them filed by women.
Then the guy turns out to be some kind of amateur track enthusiast, even after four shots of tequila, and I start to get worried. Truthfully, I’d expected my biggest problem to be keeping him interested long enough to chase me the full five or six blocks.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried.
On the plus side, the street cameras Irene and I scoped along the route that morning should be getting pretty authentic shots of terror on my face as I ran.
All of my sequencing was off now, too, even if I managed to stay ahead of him.
Meaning, at this rate, we’d both arrive early.
If that happened, I’d have to improvise to keep from getting beat up for real…or, better yet, maybe strangled or raped.
I’d estimated a good five or six minutes of chase time, maybe longer if I managed to work a few breathers into the mix before we hit the target area. Instead, only about two minutes had ticked by according to my mental clock, and I had less than one block to go. Really, I’d be lucky to get him there at all before he dragged me to the pavement like a wolf on a lame deer.
So yeah, Plan B was seeming pretty likely.
It might make me look significantly less like a victim, especially if I got too creative with the self-defense moves, but I wasn’t about to take one for the team, either, no matter how much this chick was paying me.
I heard the mark’s breathing growing louder behind me. His footfalls seemed to drum in my head, too, making a sharper, higher noise in the dampness of the concrete. My super-tread boots generally treated me right in these close-quarter gigs, but I hadn’t banked on him running like he wore track shoes, even in his thousand dollar loafers. I’d expected a lot of things to slow him down that hadn’t, though, not only his taste in the douche-y range of footwear, one pair of which probably cost more than most people’s monthly paychecks and got shined every Thursday by some golf cabana boy…if not this guy’s train-wreck of a wife.
Grabbing the edge of the brick wall to fling myself faster around the corner, I let out a short gasp when the guy grabbed at my jacket and almost caught me for real.
Unsurprisingly, I guess, I wore a mini-skirt and tights, and while the material was super stretchy, it might be slowing me down more than I’d really let myself think about when I shimmied into it earlier that evening. But hey, I had to look the part, and this guy didn’t like women in pants, figuratively or literally.
As it was, he’d given a good, hard stare at my boots when I first hopped off that barstool, as if he thought those were a bit too dyke-y even with the pancake makeup and coiffed hair over my sheer and uncomfortably low-cut blouse.
Digging my toes into the concrete at the bottom of the narrow street, I forced out an extra burst of speed to put some distance between us.
Lungs burning in my chest, I fought to pump my arms and legs harder, pounding my way down the street and still counting steps in my head, even though I’d walked the whole route just that morning and knew exactly how far I had yet to go. Feeling him right behind me again, I realized he’d closed the gap a second time and sprinted faster, feeling the first edges of honest to God panic as he paced me.
Hell, he was going to catch me.
I could see the hot zone by then…but it almost didn’t matter.
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