First stop was mandatory: Bouncing Goats Espresso Shack. I couldn’t function without my caffeine and BG was the place to get a good latte.
I pulled up to the microphone and was startled to see Gillymack’s face staring at me from the camera. Gillymack was a local celebrity of sorts—infamous rather than famous. He was notorious for raising hell with the Greyhoof boys. Except Gillymack was a Meré who had been cast out from his home after accidentally setting off a hand grenade. He ended up blowing up the underwater lair of his people and the elders didn’t take kindly to that.
The Meré were the merfolk. When not found in lakes, they mostly stayed in the waters around Bedlam Island, though a few dared the coastal waters over by Ocean Shores. Most of the merfolk on this side of the continent sought out lakes and rivers because the Pacific ocean was so wild and dangerous.
They could stay out of water for up to eighteen hours at a time, but then they would rapidly lose their stamina after that, until they went swimming under the water again. It was a lot like our need for sleep. Don’t get enough sleep and it wears on you. Except for the Meré, staying out of water too long would kill them. One day, they could handle. Two days were iffy. Three, and they could easily die. When they came ashore, they lost their tails and fins, much like the selkies transformed into human shape. But the merfolk needed the water even more than the Sealkin.
“Gillymack, what the hell are you doing here?” Everybody knew that he had an allergy to work and basically lived off the begrudged charity of others.
He rolled his eyes. The Meré were tasty to look at, at least in their human forms, but I knew better than ever tangle with one on a romantic level. They were selfish lovers and they also had a nasty tendency to pass along STDs—not the usual kind, either. Fishrot and brine-itch were two of the most common, and both required hefty doses of antibiotics to clear up.
“Sheriff ordered me to pay restitution for a little accident that I had last week. She also made it a condition of my release that I earn the money myself. So I’m stuck with the day-drag for a few weeks until I can make seven hundred dollars to pay off the Hoffmans.”
I tried to suppress a laugh. The Hoffmans owned a beach house down by the shore of Bedlam City Park, a dawn-till-dusk beach park. “What did you do?”
“I might have gotten pie-eyed and crashed, uninvited, at their place for a few hours.” He grinned at me, and his lifeguard good looks gave him a roguish, please-trust-me vibe. “Say, Maddy…you wouldn’t by chance have some work I can do to make my fine in a less…banal way, would you?”