When are you hitting the road, Chelsea Childing?

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

***
In honor of returning to one of my favorite story settings, I want to introduce readers to my main source of Steel City inspiration, Dave Dicello. Dave takes amazing photographs and has been hit hard by the pandemic. He had to close his gallery this spring. However, his prints are available online for purchase. I’ll be adding them to story-links for this chapter.
Now, here’s your story.

***

Chelsea ran her fingers through Morgan’s messy brown curls. Soft and loose, they tended to stick up at the least provocation. Morgan didn’t wake as Chelsea pulled at one, watching it boing back.

They had barely left their bed the past two days, and the relative inactivity was catching up with Chelsea. She didn’t actually want to get out of bed. The past few weeks of tension were gone, and she could just enjoy Morgan’s company. She’d never been one just to sit around, though.

Luckily, Bentley took the decision out of her hands. The big mutt whined softly at the door. Chelsea slipped on some clothes and grabbed his leash. The neighborhood was bright and loud in the early afternoon. For a monster hunter this was dawn, and indeed Chelsea felt a moment of early morning disorientation at the people going happily about their day.

Once Bentley had finished his business, she grabbed a cup of coffee at the local Seattle ripoff. She drowned it in sugar to cover the bitterness and headed to the park. Morgan was the only draw in the tiny basement apartment, and her hunting partner was even less of a morning person than Chelsea.

So instead she tossed a ball for Bentley and considered her next step. She’d been enjoying Pittsburgh and Morgan, but she’d come here for a reason: to find a lead on Amber Neill. To date, her ex-girlfriend had remained hidden. But Chelsea had also been relying on strangers. She did have resources.

Sighing, she checked the time again. Time zones made shit weird. It would only be midmorning for Keegan, though, so she dialed his number.

He answered on the third ring, a crying baby in the background. “Kate’s teething. I’m frazzled. What’s up?”

“You said you saw Amber post on message boards. What website and what’s her screen name?”

Keegan snorted. “You finally ready to admit you’re in love with her and Jackson Hawk.”

Anger sparked her reply. “You ever gonna tell your sister you’re asexual?”

“This isn’t about my family.”

Chelsea swallowed. “I can’t admit what I don’t know. Hell, I’m shacking with someone here in Pittsburgh.”

Keegan chuckled. “Would I like them?”

“Morgan is literally just as moody and messed up as I am… so yes.”

This time Keegan’s laughter startled the crying baby silent. “Oh, Jesus. You two must be fun at parties.”

“We have fun avoiding them silently, together.” Chelsea smiled at the phone. “Bentley adores Morgan, if that helps you understand.”

“Glad you aren’t alone.” Kate started to wail again, and Keegan sighed. “But there’s really on one message board for hunters and you’re already on it. Amber goes by ‘Rez0n97’.”

Chelsea swallowed. “Thank you.”

“Any time, princess.”

“You asshole.” She laughed. “I love you.”

“Love you too. Wish me luck.

“My dad swore by whiskey rubbed on the gums.”

Keegan laughed as he hung up. Chelsea wished she felt as easy as she sounded. She had a way to look for Amber now, beyond whatever method Rita was using. But that didn’t mean she was looking forward to finding the woman. She whistled over to Bentley, pocketed his slimy ball, and they headed back to the apartment.

The shower announced Morgan’s return to the waking world. Chelsea opened the fridge. Still filled with leftovers from Rita’s haunt, she pulled out half a pizza, grabbed a slice for herself, and put the rest on the counter. Breakfast taken care, she opened her phone once more. 

A simple search showed that Amber hadn’t posted anything for three months, and that had been for a job in New York. She’d accepted the job, but there was no follow up post showing that she’d completed it.

Frowning slightly, Chelsea favorited the whole thing. Luckily, a wet and naked Morgan exited the bathroom. A grin spread across Chelsea’s face. Here was a perfect distraction.

Quite a bit later, Morgan was once again napping, but Chelsea couldn’t sleep. She ate more pizza and contemplated her phone. A hand slipped around her, pulling her close. “You okay?”

Chelsea shrugged. “As much as I am enjoying you, I need something to hunt.”

Morgan’s chuckle gently shook them both. “Sounds good to me too.”

“Found some local stuff, a dybbuk.” Chelsea leaned into Morgan. “You down?”

“Always.”

An hour later, they were showered, full of leftovers, and on their way to a payday. The dybbuk was holed up in Squirrel Hill. The house was up for sale and therefore locked up and empty of people.

The dybbuk had built a nest in the attic. A type of vampire, it was mostly nocturnal and bird-like, and they found it still asleep in the early evening. With an exchanged glance and a nod, they had a game plan. Chelsea stood taller, but Morgan weighed more. So Morgan tackled the sleeping monster. Once the dybbuk was pinned, Chelsea lopped its head off. They stood up, brushed themselves off, and snapped a picture of the dybbuk.

As they headed to Rita’s, the sense of accomplishment faded for Chelsea. She could stay here with Morgan, hunting and hanging out at Rita’s forever. But it didn’t help her find what she was looking for.

They grabbed beers and headed for their normal table, as far away from the rest of the crowd as they could be. They sat for a while in comfortable silence, no need to talk. 

Morgan’s warm hand trapped Chelsea’s. “So when do you hit the road again?”

Shock ran down her spine. “Hm?”

Morgan laughed. “You stuck around for me. And I appreciate it. But, even a newbie hunter like me can see you are getting restless.”

Chelsea shrugged. “A few more days, at the very least. I don’t know where I’m going yet, exactly.” She squeezed Morgan’s hand. “And I’m in no hurry to leave you.”

Morgan squeezed back. “That Jackson dude?”

“No.” Not yet.

Morgan smiled and leaned back, beer in hand. “So, who are you chasing? It’s not a monster.”

“How do you know that?”

“You would have told me all about it. Instead, you’re being cagey.”

Chelsea shrugged. “I’ve been enjoying your company. I needed that.”

Morgan smiled, wide and happy. “Glad I could help. I did owe you something.”

Chelsea beamed at her partner. It felt nice to be leaving someone and somewhere on good terms. “You owe me nothing.”

***

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