Act 1, Scene 1

D.J. and Arsenic

Port Neches, Texas

"What the hell are you doing, Damocles?" Arsenic demanded. He stuck his head out of the window and pulled off his welding goggles. He had characteristically Scottish hair which should have been cut months ago. The way it stuck out in all directions made him look even more like a mad scientist, albeit one who had traded his lab coat for a ZZ Top t-shirt with the sleeves torn off. A cloud of acrid-smelling smoke billowed up all around him, but he did not seem to notice it.

D.J. glanced up at his brother as he untied his boat from the dock. "I ought to ask you the same question," he replied. "You think we don't have enough shit in the air with all the refineries down here?"

Arsenic wrinkled his nose. He sniffed the air, and his eyes widened as he realized that something behind him was on fire. He slammed the window down, and his departure was followed by the sound of something being knocked to the floor and broken.

D.J. chuckled as his brother panicked. He was only going out to check on his jug line anyway. It had been several weeks since the Taylor boys had shot at him, and Arsenic still worried every time he left the house. His little brother was turning into an old woman.

"I'm going fishing, Arsenic," D.J. shouted. "And you ain't going to stop me."

Arsenic came running back to the window. His entire face was blackened, except where his welding goggles had been, giving him a sort of reverse raccoon mask. "It's not safe!" He protested.

"It's safe as it's ever going to be," D.J. rolled his eyes. "You never would have made it in my business, brother. You worry too much about dying."

"If you get yourself killed, I'm calling Friday," Arsenic replied.

"You better not," D.J. snorted. "I'll haunt you forever," he vowed, although he suspected that his brother would not consider that much of a threat. "Look, I've told you a thousand times. If Ricky Taylor does shoot me, call an ambulance. Don't even think about going to Friday. You can't afford that kind of magic. Not for my sake."

Friday was the human lackey of the local dragon, Amat Nur, who lived in the cypress swamp. As old as the swamp itself or maybe even older, Amat put any mortal magic-user to shame, and was probably perfectly capable of raising the dead. It was the price of her services that D.J. didn't want to think about.

"I'll be careful," he promised, and Arsenic sighed in defeat.

Hunting sorcerers was dangerous business, and D.J. did not miss it at all. Coming home to Texas was the smartest thing he'd ever done. To be sure, living with his brother at age fifty was not something he had not envisioned himself doing, but there was a certain rhythm to life on the river. He did not find himself nervously reaching for his gun whenever someone spoke his name.

The only thing he missed about working for the Nox Sanguinem in New Orleans was the women. Working for vampires was always nerve racking, but they had the best girls. True, those girls were bloodbound ghouls with no more thought in their heads than a bunch of cabbages, but they were beautiful, they didn't talk too much, and they wouldn't take all your money in a messy divorce.

D.J. sighed heavily. He started the motor in his boat and slowly pulled away from the dock.

The sun had risen a few hours ago, and it would have been better for him to go out earlier, but he never started his day without a cup of coffee, and Arsenic had been monopolizing their little two-burner stove all night. What he was doing, D.J. couldn't fathom, but his brother did earn most of the money the two of them lived on. If Arsenic said he was working, D.J. tried to stay out of his way. Fortunately, living right on the river gave him plenty of places to go.

There was a cane marsh surrouding La Maison Jackson, a good bit of camoflague that deterred solicitors, press, and D.J.'s former business associates, three groups of people that D.J. had no desire to associate with. His brother's thamaturgic experiments spooked the neighbors, who were understandibly suspicious of anything that seemed to be magic.

Thamaturgy wasn't really magic, or at very least it wasn't sorcery. All kinds of things had some magic in them. Drawing a certain pattern with chalk drew out the inherent power in the earth. The person who worked the spell was good at geometry, but not necessarily gifted.

Arsenic wished he was gifted. That was no secret to D.J., but one did not simply become a sorcerer through willpower alone. Power was bred into people. They were born with it, and some had a lot more than others. Some had far too much.

D.J. had heard tell that there were some old gods living near Cododrie Bayou. While that wasn't too close to his home, it wasn't nearly far enough away for him to be comfortable with the idea.

He reached his first jug and tugged on the line. Nothing, but that wasn't unusual. D.J. went a little further into the cane and tugged on his second jug. A big, fat blue catfish was on the line, probably forty inches long. D.J. heaved the catfish into his boat, and watched as it gasped and flopped helplessly. Truthfully, he didn't like killing, which was why he'd turned down the Nox Sanguinem's offer of an eternal position, but he did have something of a fascination with death.

Any number of times, that could have been me, he considered, staring at the fish.

It was a sobering thought.

D.J. took a long swig of bourbon and cut a line down the fish's belly to bleed it out. Cleaning a catfish was messy work, but all the skinning and filleting could be done back at the trailer.

It was better for the meat, and it seemed more fair to him, that the fish should at least have the dignity of dying somewhere close to where it wanted to be.