Chelsea and the Mole People, Part One

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

As she sipped on perfectly sweetened coffee, Chelsea contemplated her surroundings and current company.

“What’s with the sighing?” Andy placed fluffy scrambled eggs in front of her.

“This keeps happening.” She waved at the breakfast spread, her rented cabin full of drying canvasses, and her enormous mutt, Bentley, snoring on the porch. “My old partner, Keegan, said I was the most domesticated hunter he ever met. And here I am… again.”

Andy laughed as he joined her at the table. “Cooking for me is boring. Cooking for you is fun. And I kind of like the trees.”

“Still…” She trailed off, remembering that conversation. Keegan had been trying to piss her off, to get her angry enough to talk, and he hadn’t been wrong, as usual. So she let her mouth run without checking what would come out. “Maybe I should settle down. Find a city I like, get a part-time job, and just hunt locally.”

“Ugh.” Andy rolled cat-lined eyes at her. “The grass on my side is not as verdant as you think. My money comes in cycles, and there are dry spells. Not to mention, the best pay day is hunting monsters that look human and work in society. Which means that cops get to know you for beating up “humans”, since most of them don’t know about the supernatural.”

“Something to think about.” She ate her breakfast, still considering a trailer in South Dakota, if not an apartment in Pittsburgh.

Andy grinned over his cup of coffee. “I didn’t just stop in to make you a meal.”

“Oh, really? That’s new.” For the last month, Andy had shown up on her door randomly, day and night, cooked for a few days, and then took off back to New York with some of her paintings in tow.

“I found something big.”

Chelsea sat up straighter. “Big enough to trade for my info?”

“Big enough.” He grimaced. “The mole people are back.”

“Mole people?”

He shook his head. “It’s a New York City thing.”

“Gotcha.” She looked around the cabin. “I only have a week left on my rental, anyway.”

Andy sighed. “I’m going to miss this place.”

“Me too. Can I crash with you until this hunt is done?”

“Sounds good.” He rested his feet on her chair and leaned back with a smile. “But we can lounge here a few more days.”

Despite his talk of lounging, Andy spent the week helping her pack up and donate most of her things with a smile and the usual wink. Though he kept all her painting supplies, no matter what she said.

The change from the woods to the concrete jungle of New York City put Chelsea’s teeth on edge. And somehow, the single room at Andy’s haunt felt like a cage, despite being only slightly smaller than her cabin. There definitely wasn’t room for even one easel, no matter what Andy had insisted. She rushed downstairs as soon as possible.

The computers and electronics were shut down today though. Andy’s crew was out, presumably gathering info on these mole people. She weaved through the scattered seats to his room behind the painted bead curtains.

He wore his usual silk pajamas as he read something on his computer. Bentley had already made himself comfortable at Andy’s feet, on the dog bed Andy apparently hadn’t donated like he said. Chelsea snapped a quick picture of him for reference. She done several portraits of him over the summer. One hung over his bed at the other end of the room.

Without looking around, Andy started talking. “So, mole people. Like most demons, they tend to be a cyclical problem. In this case, their cycle has been upended by a disruption to their food chain.”

Chelsea settled on the black leather couch beside the desk. Bentley stretched before sitting at her feet with a whimper. She rubbed at his ear, her chest tightening. Something was up. Andy was too stiff, his normally languid mannerisms cut short. This fight was personal.

Chelsea took a wild shot on finding out why. “What do they eat?”

Andy bared teeth in what may have been an attempt at a smile. “The homeless.”

“Who did they eat?”

He finally met her eye, with a raised eyebrow and a frown. “I was informed that you often missed emotional nuance due to being stuck in your own head.”

She let the cheap shot miss her. Something was bothering her new friend. “All I can say is that everybody should do at least six months on the prairie and get themselves right.”

Andy relaxed as a chuckle escaped him. “I might have to try that. But as to who… it was a long time ago. Call this a standing grudge.”

“As long as we’re the ones standing at the end of the fight.” She locked eyes on his until he nodded.

“This is your kind of thing, too.” He leaned back in his chair, a smirk slashing his face. “It’s just a straight up brawl.”

“Was it Jackson or Amber who’s been telling you all these details?”

Andy sat up, wide-eyed alarm plain on his face.

“See, I hunted quite a bit with Amber, but Jack and I only had one fight together. So he’d have no idea how much I like to brawl.”

Lips twisted in annoyance were belied by the laughter in his dark eyes. “Neither one of them seems to know who the hell they’re dealing with.”

“In their defense, depression is a helluva drug.”

A full belly laugh left Andy and he relaxed into his chair. “Part of why I stay here is get to rid of these fuckers, for good. But I’m not like, suicidal about it. There’s a team and a plan.” He dropped a wink. “And most importantly for you, neither Jack or Amber would question why I told you anything you wanted after you helped with mole people out of cycle.”

Her smile hurt her face. “That’s… goddamned genius. Thank you.”

“You’ll be filling in a hole.” He plucked something black from his desk and handed it to her. “We’ll keep in contact, but you’re with Jess.”

She studied the electronic as her stomach turned. “An earpiece? How sci-fi are we going here?”

Andy rolled his eyes before flouncing over to the divan and throwing an arm around her. “I wish I had gotten to you sooner. You do not need to drive around getting information at bars and using a hatchet.” His hand flashed in the air, stopping her. “It’s not an ax. All of you need to stop that. It’s a hatchet.”

She pulled hers out, thanking Rick for teaching her to do it from a sitting position. “All one piece, custom-molded grip—”

“Hunter’s ax is a term made up by people insecure about the fact that they carry a hatchet as a weapon.” He paused. “And, girl, it’s not even electrified.”

Her eyes popped. “Electrified?”

Andy froze, sucked in a breath, and then let it out slowly. “I know you want to find Amber, but do you have a month to stay here and get caught up on modern monster hunting?”

Ice shuddered down her spine. “In this city? Lord have mercy, no.”

He sighed. “Fine. I’ll educate on the fly.”

“Electrified?”

“Not now.” Andy settled in beside her, arm around her shoulder once more. “We’re doing this tonight, and you’re good with that hatchet.” He beamed at her. “And a kick boxer, right?”

“Once upon a time in Georgia.”

He opened his mouth, paused, and closed it, before holding up a finger. “No, we’re staying on track. You and Jess will be covering an exit.”

She fiddled with the earpiece and tried to tuck it in her ear. “Sounds easy.”

“It’s not. We’re talking sharp, five-inch claws, long, muscular arms, and they’ll be hurt and scared.”

“Hurt?” The stupid earpiece felt odd.

He plucked the electronic from her and tucked it around her ear properly. “Thousands of people live in the tunnels under this city. These fucking things eat them with impunity, snatching them out of the dark. They have amazing hearing, but weak eyes. We drop sonic bombs to take out their ears and use flood lights to blind them. Then we start the fight. The ones that get past us are blind, deaf, and scared. Might be wounded too.”

She fiddled the earpiece, getting it comfortable. “Very dangerous.”

“Exactly.” He sat up. “You’ll leave Bentley here, right?”

The big mutt got to his feet and pushed his way between the two of them.

Chelsea scratched at his ears. “Yeah. I think that’s best.”

“Now, we have one last thing to discuss.”

She waited, tense, wondering what else there could be.

“You’re new to the city, so do you want pizza or a hot dog? Just get them out of the way, right?”

Excitement bloomed. “Pizza, and can we see the Statue of Liberty?”

Andy rolled his eyes. “We don’t have the time to get to that side of the city, or to stand in line.”

***

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