Someplace to Be Flying [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Charles de Lint
eBook Category: Fantasy
Someplace to Be Flying is set in Newford and environs, and is steeped in corvid (crow family) mythology--a Trickster tale involving Raven and Coyote, and a flock of punky "crow girls" on modern city streets, detailing the effect of their presence on a group of ordinary people. While some of the characters previously introduced in the short stories "Heartfires," "Crow Girls" and "Twa Corbies" make return appearances, most of the cast is new.
"In many hands, the urban fantasy plot involving strange beings just around the corner fails dismally. It does not in the hands of the reliable, the inimitable de Lint. Photojournalist Lily hears rumors of "animal people" living in the slums and goes in search of the truth. That truth is an underground community of the First People (i.e., American Indians)--the trickster, the storyteller, and others. None of them are absolutely human any more (were they ever?), and although some have specific goals, others are just into mischief for the fun of it. Lily is quickly drawn into their various quests, with results as page-turning and intelligent as usual for de Lint, who clearly has no equal as an urban fantasist and very few equals among fantasists as a folklorist. First-rate."
"[D]elightful complexities... an enthralling blend of old European and Native American mythology, seamlessly worked into a modern setting and situation. De Lint’s best so far."
"Charles de Lint has developed a strong and loyal readership for his urban fantasy novels, delivering a reliable cocktail of likeable characters, myth, folklore, and music set against a counter-culture background of one sort or another. Someplace to be Flying, set in the fictional city of Newford, is no exception. The book opens in the Newford slums when Hank, a jazz-loving cab driver, stops to save a woman being violently assaulted in a dark side-street. When her assailant shoots him as he gets out of his cab, the scene changes. In a flurry of darkness and the sound of beating wings, two mysterious young women appear out of nowhere, killing the man and healing Hank’s wound. It is a moment that will change the world for Hank and Lily, the woman he has stopped to save, forever. Slowly they are introduced to a world of magic which has always existed around them, unseen and unknown, one peopled by figures of myth and legend, where trickster Coyote and Raven are real, and where it is possible for a young woman to wish her twin sister out of existence. No brief summary, however, will adequately describe this complicated novel. De Lint introduces his reader to a large, diverse cast of characters plus an entire mythological system he explains only incidentally, and moves those characters across a number of different stages through a number of different times. It’s a story that begins with the birth of daughters to a country woman who has slept with one of the Corbae--sort of animal people who have been around since the creation of the world--and how she and her daughters are treated. It is also the story of how Raven loses the cauldron he used to create the world, and how it must be recovered. And it is the story of how a ragtag group of people living in a violent and rundown world create a community amongst themselves. Charles de Lint’s greatest strength, and also sometimes his greatest weakness, is his obvious love for his characters, and empathy for people generally. The characters in Someplace to be Flying, especially the delightful Crow Girls, are never less than engaging. Sometimes, though, it’s hard not to feel that Newford is a little too clean, and people there are much too good. But then, he is showing us people living up to their potential, rather than down to it. And that is what makes de Lint’s books rewarding."
"In de Lint’s capable hands, modern fantasy becomes something other than escapism. It becomes folk song, the stuff of urban myth."
THE PHOENIX GAZETTE
"A superb storyteller... De Lint has a flair for tales that blur the line between the mundane world and magical reality."
"De Lint is a master of the modern urban folktale."
THE DENVER POST
"Triumphant... [Trader] suggests life is meant to be lived, not merely worn."
TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL
"Charles de Lint will restore your faith in the readability of Canadian writers. Take home some of his magic soon."
ST. JOHN TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
Cover by Hayden Reynolds
eBook Publisher: Charles de Lint
Fictionwise Release Date: January 1998
2 Reader Ratings:
Newford, Late August, 1996
The streets were still wet but the storm clouds had moved on as Hank drove south on Yoors waiting for a fare. Inhabited tenements were on his right, the derelict blight of the Tombs on his left, Miles Davis's muted trumpet snaking around Wayne Shorter's sax on the tape deck. The old Chev four-door didn't look like much; painted a flat gray, it blended into the shadows like the ghost car it was.
It wasn't the kind of cab you flagged down. There was no roof light on top, no meter built into the dash, no license displayed, but if you needed something moved and you had the number of the cell phone, you could do business. Safe business. The windows were bulletproof glass and under the body's flaking paint and dents, there was so much steel it would take a tank to do it any serious damage. Fast business, too. The rebuilt V-8 under the hood, purring as quiet as a contented cat at the moment, could lunge to one hundred miles per hour in seconds. The car didn't offer much in the way of comfort, but the kinds of fares that used a gypsy cab weren't exactly hiring it for its comfort.
When he reached Grasso Street, Hank hung a left and cruised through Chinatown, then past the strip of clubs on the other side of Williamson. The clock on his dash read 3:00 A.M. The look-at-me crowd was gone now with only a few stragglers still wandering the wet streets. The lost and the lonely and the seriously screwed-up. Hank smiled when he stopped at a red light and a muscle-bound guy crossed in front of the cab wearing a T-shirt that read, "Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian." He tapped his horn and the guy gave him a Grasso Street salute in response, middle finger extended, fingernails painted black. When he realized Hank wasn't hassling him, he only shrugged and kept on walking.
A few blocks farther, Hank pulled the cab over to the curb. He keyed the speed-dial on the cell phone and had to wait through a handful of rings before he got a connection.
"You never get tired of that crap, kid?" Moth asked.
Hank turned the tape deck down.
"All I've got left is that six o'clock pickup," he said by way of response. The only thing Moth considered music had to have a serious twang - add in yodeling and it was even better - so there was no point in arguing with him. "Have you got anything to fill in the next couple of hours?"
"A big nada."
Hank nodded. He hated slow nights, but he especially hated them when he was trying to raise some cash.
"Okay," he said. "Guess I'll head over to the club and just wait for Eddie outside."
"Yeah, well, keep your doors locked. I hear those guys that were jacking cars downtown have moved up to Foxville the past couple of nights."
"Eddie told me."
"Did he say anything about his people dealing with it?"
Hank watched as a drunk stumbled over to the doorway of one of the closed clubs and started to take a leak.
"Like he's going to tell me?" he said.
"You got a point. Hey, I hear that kid you like's doing a late set at the Rhatigan."
Hank almost laughed. Under a spotlight, Brandon Cole seemed ageless, especially when he played. Hank put him in his mid-to-late thirties, but he had the kind of build and features that could easily go ten years in either direction. A tall, handsome black man, he seemed to live only for his sax and his music. He was no kid, but to Moth anybody under sixty was a kid.
"What time's it start?" he asked.
He could almost see Moth shrug. "What am I, a press secretary now? All I know is Dayson's got a couple of high rollers in town - jazz freaks like you, kid - and he told me he's taking them by."
"Thanks," Hank said. "Maybe I'll check it out."
He cut the connection and started to work his way across town to where the Rhatigan was nestled on the edge of the Combat Zone. The after-hours bar where Eddie ran his all-night poker games was over in Upper Foxville, but he figured he could take in an hour or so of Cole's music and still make the pickup in plenty of time.
Except it didn't work out that way. He was coming down one of the little dark back streets that ran off Grasso - no more than an alley, really - when his headlights picked out a tall man in a dove-gray suit, beating on some woman.
Hank knew the drill. The first few times he took out the spare car, Moth had stopped him at the junkyard gate and stuck his head in the window to reel it off: "Here's the way it plays, kid. You only stop for money. You don't pick up strays. You never get involved." One, two, three.
But some things you didn't walk away from. This time of night, in this part of town, she was probably a hooker - having some altercation with her pimp, maybe, or she hadn't been paying attention to her radar and got caught up with a john turned ugly - but that still didn't make it right.
He hit the brakes, the Chev skidding for a moment on the slick pavement before he got it back under control. The baseball bat on the seat beside him began to roll forward. A surge of adrenaline put him into motion, quick, not even thinking. He grabbed the bat by its handle, put the car in neutral, foot coming down on the parking brake and locking it into place. Through the windshield he could see the man backhand the woman, turn to face him. As the woman fell to the pavement, Hank popped the door and stepped outside. The baseball bat was a comfortable weight in his hand until the man reached under his jacket.
Hank could almost hear Moth's voice in the back of his head. "You get involved, you get hurt. Plain and simple. And let me tell you, kid. There's no percentage in getting hurt."
It was a little late for advice now.
The man wasn't interested in discussion. He pulled a handgun out from under that tailored dove-gray suit jacket and fired, all in one smooth move. Hank saw the muzzle flash, then something smashed him in the shoulder and spun him around, throwing him against the door of the Chev. The baseball bat dropped out of numbed fingers and went clattering across the pavement. He followed after it, sliding down the side of the Chev and leaving a smear of blood on the cab's paint job.
Moth is going to be pissed about that, he thought.
Then the pain hit him and he blacked out for a moment. He floated in some empty space where only the pain and sound existed. His own rasping breath. The soft murmur of the cab's engine, idling. The faint sound of Miles and Shorter, the last cut on the tape, just ending. The muted scuff of leather-soled shoes on pavement, approaching. When he got his eyes back open, the man was standing over him, looking down.
The man had a flat, dead gaze, eyes as gray as his suit. Hank had seen their kind before. They were the eyes of the men who stood against the wall in the back room of Eddie's bar, watching the action, waiting for Eddie to give them a sign that somebody needed straightening out. They were the eyes of men he'd picked up at the airport and dropped off at some nondescript hotel after a stop at one of the local gunrunners. They were the eyes he'd seen in a feral dog's face one night when it had killed Emma's cat in the yard out behind her apartment, the hard gaze holding his for a long moment before it retreated with its kill.
The man lifted his gun again and now Hank could see it was an automatic, as anonymous as the killer holding it. Behind the weapon, the man's face remained expressionless. There was nothing there. No anger, no pleasure, no regret.
Hank couldn't feel the pain in his shoulder anymore. His mind had gone blank, except for one thing. His entire being seemed to hold its breath and focus on the muzzle of the automatic, waiting for another flash, more pain. But they didn't come.
The man turned away from him, cobra-quick, his weapon now aimed at something on the roof of the cab. It hadn't registered until the man moved, but now Hank realized he'd also heard what had distracted the killer. An unexpected sound. A hollow bang on metal as though someone had jumped onto the roof of the cab.
Jumped from where? His own gaze followed that of his attacker's. One of the fire escapes, he supposed. He knew a momentary sense of relief - someone else was playing Good Samaritan tonight - except there was only a girl standing there on the roof of the cab. A kid. Skinny and monochrome and not much to her: raggedy blue-black hair, dark complexion, black clothes, and combat boots. There seemed to be a cape fluttering up behind her like a sudden spread of black wings, there one moment, gone the next, and then she really was just a kid, standing there, her weight on one leg, a switchblade held casually in a dark hand.
Hank wanted to cry a warning to her. Didn't she see the man had a gun? Before he could open his mouth, the killer stiffened and an expression finally crossed his features: surprise mixed with pain. His gun went off again, loud as a thunderclap at this proximity, the bullet kicking sparks from the fire escape before it went whining off into the darkness. The man fell to his knees, collapsing forward in an ungainly sprawl. Dead. And where he'd been standing...the girl....
Hank blinked, thinking the girl had somehow transported herself magically from the top of the cab to the pavement behind the killer. But the first girl was still standing on the roof of the cab. She jumped to the ground, landing lightly on the balls of her feet. Seeing them together, he realized they were twins.
The second girl knelt down and cleaned her knife on the dead man's pants, leaving a dark stain on the dove-gray material. Closing the blade, she made it disappear up her sleeve and walked away to where the woman Hank had been trying to rescue lay in the glare of the cab's headlights.
"You can get up now," the first girl said, making her own switchblade vanish.
Hank tried to rise but the movement brought a white-hot flare of pain that almost made him black out again. The girl went down on one knee beside him, her face close to his. She put two fingers to her lips and licked them, then pressed them against his shoulder, her touch as light as a whisper, and the pain went away. Just like that, as though she'd flicked a switch.
Leaning back, she offered Hank her hand. Her skin was dry and cool to the touch and she was strong. Effortlessly, she pulled him up into a sitting position. Hank braced himself for a fresh flood of pain, but it was still gone. He reached up to touch his shoulder. There was a hole in his shirt, the fabric sticky and wet with blood. But there was no wound. Unable to take his gaze from the girl, he explored with a finger, found a pucker of skin where the bullet hole had closed, nothing more. The girl grinned at him.
All he could do was look back at her, stumbling to frame a coherent sentence. "What...how did you...?"
"Spit's just as magic as blood," she said. "Didn't you ever know that?"
He shook his head.
"You look so funny," she went on. "The way you're staring at me."
Before he could move, she leaned forward and kissed him, a small tongue darting out to flick against his lips, then she jumped to her feet, leaving behind a faint musky smell.
"You taste good," she said. "You don't have any real meanness in you." She looked solemn now. "But you know all about meanness, don't you?"
Hank nodded. He got the feeling she was able to look right inside him, sifting through the baggage of memories that made up his life as though it were a hard-copy résumé, everything laid out in point form, easy to read. He grabbed hold of the cab's fender and used it to pull himself to his feet. Remembering that first image of her he'd seen through his pain, that impression of dark wings rising up behind her shoulders, he thought she must be some kind of angel.
"Why...why'd you help me?" he asked.
"Why'd you try to help the woman?"
"Because I couldn't not try."
She grinned. "Us, too."
"But you...where did you come from?"
She shrugged and made a sweeping motion with her hand that could have indicated the fire escape above his cab or the whole of the night sky. "We were just passing by - same as you."
He heard a soft scuff of boots on the pavement and then the other girl was there, the two of them as alike as photographs printed from the same exotic negative.
The first girl touched his forearm. "We've got to go."
"Are you...angels?" Hank asked.
The two looked at each other and giggled.
"Do we look like angels?" the second girl asked.
Not like any kind he'd ever seen in pictures, Hank wanted to say, but he thought maybe they were. Maybe this is what angels really looked like, only they were too scruffy for all those high-end Italian and French artists, so they cleaned the image up in their paintings and everybody else bought it.
"I don't know," he said. "I've never seen real angels before tonight."
"Isn't he cute?" the first girl said.
She gave Hank another quick kiss, on the cheek this time, then the two of them sauntered off, hand in hand, like one of them hadn't just healed a gunshot wound, like they weren't leaving a dead body behind. Hank glanced down at the corpse, then looked back up the alley where the girls had been walking. They were gone. He leaned against the cab for a moment, dizzy. His hand rose to touch his shoulder again and his fingers came away tacky with the drying blood. But the wound was still only a puckered scar. The pain was still gone. He'd be ready to believe he'd imagined the whole thing if it weren't for the blood on his shirt, the dead man lying at his feet.
Straightening up, he finally walked around the corpse, crossing the pavement to join the woman he'd stopped to help. She sat on the pavement, back against the brick wall behind her, the lights of the cab holding her like a spotlight. He saw the same dazed expression in her features that he knew were on his own. She looked up at his approach, gaze focusing on him.
Copyright © 1998 by Charles de Lint