HARLEY FIREBIRD FILES By Taylen Carver
Harley Firebird 5.5
Urban Fantasy Novelette Collection
The first five Harley Firebird urban fantasy novelettes.
Harley von Canmore is a firebird–a rare breed, even among the Old Races. She is also the Chief of Police of Falconer, a tiny town in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Falconer is different, just as Harley is. Everyone in the town is either one of the Old Races—orcs, fae, salamanders, and more—or they are human and waiting for their time to transform.
Follow Harley’s progress from reluctant Old One and newcomer to Falconer, who is stuck in the old way of keeping the peace, through to her emergence as a unique law-keeper, with a very human side to her firebird personality.
Harley Firebird Files is the first collection in the Harley Firebird urban fantasy series, and includes the first five novelettes. The Harley Firebird series is set in the same world as Taylen Carver’s Magorian & Jones series.
The Harley Firebird series:
1.0: The Dragon of Falconer
2.0: The Orc Who Cried
3.0: The Shepherd of Fire
4.0: The Mad Folk of Falconer
5.0: The Badge of Our Tribe
5.5: Harley Firebird Files
…and more to come.
Urban Fantasy Novelette
BARNES & NOBLE
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EXCERPT FROM HARLEY FIREBIRD FILES
COPYRIGHT © TAYLEN CARVER 2021
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Harley refused to take it personally that on the first day of her job as Falconer’s first police chief, someone died. Death calling unexpectedly, usually with gross unfairness, was part of life these days. Only, she was the chief of police. Dealing with a dead body was part of her job.
If this had been an ordinary Canadian town, one of her constables would process the paperwork, but Falconer wasn’t ordinary. Neither was she.
She had precisely two constables, both utterly new to police work. Neither had uniforms, but neither did she. They wore black jeans and black button through shirts, the best Mayor Akicita Frazier could do for now. Both men were currently covered in fifty-year-old dust, cobwebs and grime.
The shopfront Mayor Frazier had acquired for Harley’s police station had been abandoned after Falconer’s last coal mine closed in the 1970s. They had built for endurance back then and the two-story building was still sound, although the furnace clanked and refused to raise the temperature above fifteen centigrade, even though Harley had dialed the thermostat up to twenty-five.
The main floor was all one room, with stairs to the top floor on the right when one came in the door. Getting to the stairs was a challenge, because when the store owner had abandoned the town, he’d left all the fittings in place. The owner now used the building for storage. Harley could just glimpse the walls, which had once been white but were now patchy yellow. Between them was a fossicker’s delight. Old, empty glass counters, mystery boxes with yellow, brittle tape turning up on the edges. A dressmaker’s dummy with a missing leg, leaning drunkenly to one side. Drop cloths that once covered things were moth-eaten and moldy.
There was even a cash register behind the counter, one of the punch and pull-the-handle types which Harley had only ever seen in historical movies.
“Hey, help me here a second,” Bohdan Kask called out, wrestling with a stack of scratched laminated shelves leaning against a stool. He had his gaze fixed on something beyond the shelves, which Harley couldn’t see from her position by the counter.
Bohdan was five ten, in his late twenties, with dark blond hair and a gym-built, but still useful, physique. And dimples. He knew he was good looking, too. His eyes had glittered and his smile held a touch of cheek as he shook Harley’s hand this morning.
She’d been slightly chilly to shut him down. He’d got to work without a shred of resentment, while Harley took a moment to recover from the idea that a human had even sort-of hit on her. It had been a very long time since anyone had looked at her, and not at the wings visible over her shoulders. Or the graduating dots of horny skin following the line of her brows. But Bohdan had stared into her eyes, letting her know that he liked what he saw.
Mojag Bear, her other constable, stepped over boxes and crud to where Bohdan struggled with the shelves. He scooped up three of them with one long arm. He was six-two, but slender, his waist-length midnight black hair tied back with a thong. He was of Akicita Frazier’s Stoney tribe, but lived in the town now. Mojag was strong and smart and genuinely wanted to help Harley make the town safe. He hadn’t turned his nose up at the idea of cleaning out the store, either.
The two of them moved the shelves out of the way and Bohdan dusted off his hands. “Yeah, thought that was what it was.” He glanced at Harley. “Wood stove.”
Mojag glanced out the high window in that wall. “Metal chimney out here, too, boss. Reckon we can fire it up?”
“If it makes this room warmer, knock yourselves out,” Harley told them.
“There’s plenty to burn around here,” Bohdan said. The two shoved everything away from the old iron stove against the wall. The stove was tarnished, scratched and white with disuse. It needed re-blacking. But it had a flat top for a kettle and sat on tiles, with a proper heat shield on the wall behind it. And Bohdan was right—there was plenty of fuel to hand.
The warmth would be welcome. Since she had emerged from her change, just over a year ago, Harley had not enjoyed cold of any variety. So, of course, she had to take a job in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, in December. Not that she’d had any choice. As an official non-person, she couldn’t legally work in Canada anymore, but Akicita Frazier hadn’t given a shit about that. So here Harley was, fighting to stay alert in a building that didn’t want to warm up.
The two constables worked together to scrape out decades-old ash, break up one of the shelves and peel off the laminate, then break up the inner chipboard and load the stove. Old newspapers underneath. There was even a stack of short logs against the wall they could add once the fire got going.
Neither of them could start it though.
Harley bit the inside of her cheeks as the two swore at the stove and at each other, as the tiny flame flickered out once more. Bohdan straightened and brushed off his hands and turned to her.
“You wouldn’t want to…you know, do your thing? Get it going for us?”
Her amusement evaporated. “Excuse me?”
“What the fuck, dude?” Mojag breathed, sounding as shocked as her.
The front door opened, and the little bell over the top tinkled. It was a real bell, not an electronic warble, but Harley barely noticed it. Her heart thudded and her belly swooped sickly as she stared at Bohdan. Had he really said what he’d just said?
Akicita Frazier stepped quietly into the store. Her gaze flickered around the room, sizing up the tension. She was just over five feet tall, but Harley tended to overlook her diminutive stature because she was a force of nature. She had the same long black hair as Mojag, strongly arching brows, a square face and strong chin. She looked like a gorgeous twenty-year-old, but had to be a lot older than that. She’d been mayor of Falconer for nearly ten years. She wore a sheepskin coat and heavy boots and took off her gloves as she assessed the room.
Bohdan swung his gaze to Mojag and back to Harley. His smile faded. “Well…isn’t that something you can do? Light fires? You’re a firebird.”
Mojag’s lips thinned as he glanced at Harley. She saw an apology in his gaze.
“I see you’re blundering around in your size twelve boots again, Bohdan Kask,” Akicita said, her tone crisp.
Bohdan let his gaze shift from one disapproving face to another. “What’s wrong with asking that?”
“For a start,” Mojag said, “it’s dragons who can make fire.”
“They don’t make fire,” Harley said crisply. “They bellow fireballs, and only when they’ve shifted to full dragon, and a full dragon couldn’t fit in here. Even a dragon couldn’t help you get the stove going.”
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Bohdan said, genuinely aghast at his error.
“Don’t worry about it,” Harley said. She turned to Akicita. “Mayor Frazier. What can I do for you?”
“It’s Akicita,” the Mayor said, not for the first time. “I just got a call from one of Falconer’s business people. He tends to keep to himself out on the edges of the town, so he didn’t know we had a police force and a police chief, yet. He wanted to report a dead body.”
Harley straightened, as all the standard questions and procedures rose in her mind. “An accident?”
“Campbell says,” Akicita replied.
“Campbell von Havre?” Mojag clarified.
Von. Harley cleared her throat. “He’s…one of the old races?” she asked delicately, for it was always possible that he was of German descent and had acquired the last name the human way. Only, “Havre” was French, and was most likely a reference to Havre in Montana… Her heart thudded harder.
“He’s a dragon,” Bohdan said flatly. His voice held a note of distaste. It was the first time she’d caught any hint of prejudice against the old races from him and it didn’t match with his touch of flirting this morning.
She would have to deal with that later. She turned to Akicita. “I’ll stop by and find out what happened. We’ll probably have to refer it to the RCMP in Sundre, so the body can be officially processed.”
“Unless it’s one of the old races, too,” Akicita pointed out.
That made Harley pause. She kept forgetting Falconer’s unique characteristics, which Akicita had spelled out for her when she had asked Harley to set up a police station in her town.
Akicita had stopped by the homeless shelter in the heart of Edmonton just after Canadian Thanksgiving and squatted down next to Harley’s ripped sleeping bag. “I’ve spent nearly a month tracking you down, Harley Bernard.”
Harley couldn’t bring herself to stir, let alone sit up. She raised her cheek off her elbow to look at Akicita and hooked her thumb over her shoulder, to point at her wings. “It’s Harley von Canmore, now.”
Akicita nodded. “You kept your human name, and your hometown. That tells me you still care. You’re a decorated Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, a Staff Sergeant. You really want twenty years with the RCMP, your entire honorable career to just dry up on this sleeping bag?”
Harley closed her eyes and put her cheek back on her elbow. “Tell that to the Canadian government. I’m a non-person now.”
“I don’t give a shit what your status is,” Akicita replied, her tone a whiplash. “It’s a symbol. Wordspeak. I do care what you can do for my town.”
Harley didn’t respond. She kept her eyes closed.
“I’m the Mayor of Falconer,” she said. “Akicita Frazier.”
“Meetcha,” Harley murmured.
“Falconer has just over one thousand people, Harley,” Akicita said, apparently not at all discouraged by her lack of enthusiasm. “And unlike the rest of Canada, every single one of them contracted the Tutu virus.” She paused. “Including me.”
Harley couldn’t help it. She opened her eyes. “Everyone?”
“I guess we got lucky.” Akicita’s tone was dry.
Harley lifted her head. “How many have transmuted so far?”
“Three hundred and seven. I’ve got a dozen more phasing as we speak, but that’s not why I’m here. I need a police force, Harley. I don’t have one and the RCMP are out of their depth. You, though…you understand what I’m dealing with. Falconer’s population is booming. We had one thousand people, but now people who used to live there are returning. And there are others, who have already turned, who come there because there are so many others of their kind already there.”
Mayor Frazier had a problem on her hands, for sure. Humans who lived daily with the fear that they would shift to the second phase of the disease and turn into something not human and an official non-person tended to sink into depression or hit out in anger. Old ones newly emerged had morale problems of their own, as well as the challenge of surviving without an income.
A town-wide depression would be the least of Akicita’s challenges. Petty theft, most of it food, clothing and stuff that would keep homeless people sheltered and warm, and other associated crimes would be off the charts. The bigger the population of old ones grew, the more the issues would compound.
“Just what is it you think I can do?” Harley asked her. “You can’t hire me.”
“I can do what the hell I want. I’m the mayor of the town,” Akicita replied. She sat and crossed her legs.
Harley felt a tiny dollop of admiration for the woman’s whiplash determination. “You can’t pay me. I don’t have a bank account.”
“I can pay cash. I pay cash for the doctor who is helping everyone through their phase shift.” She paused. “He’s an orc.”
Harley took in Akicita’s square, stubborn chin and the steel in her jawline. Dawning hope trickled through her. She struggled to sit up, and flipped her wings back behind her, a movement that was now completely unconscious. “Cash,” she repeated wonderingly.
Akicita nodded. “Most of the town runs on cash or trade. Mostly trade, really, but I figure that if we can get everyone working at something, the economy will shift to cash bit by bit.”
“By paying salaries out of your own pocket?”
“Can you think of a better reason to spend one’s money than this?” Akicita said softly.
Harley stared at her. The trickle of hope shifted to a hot flaring in her chest.
Then Akicita smiled. The smile was wicked. “Besides, I’m taking taxes from those who’ve got the money, so they’re underwriting the town, too. And I can’t pay you much—not even close to what you were earning before. But you’ll have a roof over your head and food to eat that you paid for yourself. And if this works, then you’ll get pay raises as the town gets up on its feet.”
It had taken Harley a while to think it over and decide to make the leap. Inertia had mired her. And the cold, for the first snow of the year had fallen early this year. But the dullness of her thoughts and her reluctance to stir off the sleeping bag had decided for her.
A week ago, Harley had used the crisp yellow and brown one hundred dollar note that Akicita had left her to buy a bus ticket to Sundre. She had walked to Falconer from there, for no drivers who saw her wings would stop to give her a lift.