My Poisonous Friend – Ch.2

Chapter 2: Favor for a Friend

“Mark, could I ask you for a favor?”

I grunted sleepily. My body was draped across Yurilee’s coils, enjoying the cool of her skin in the lazy heat of her bedroom. “Didn’t I just do you one?”

“Do not be crass.”

Yuri shrugged her coils, and I reluctantly slid off her. She hadn’t bitten me this afternoon, so I didn’t collapse in a naked heap. Instead I sat on the carpet and leaned my bare back against her broad tail. “You know I can’t refuse you, Yuri. What do you need?”

I felt her take two long, slow breaths before she curved around to face me. “Do you know where Julian lives?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. He’s not part of the Men’s Quarter.”

“He did not appear for our playtime yesterday. I have not heard from him.”  Her voice carried a melancholy note.

“Do you have his number? Can’t you just call him?”

She looked blankly at me. “I do not own a phone.”

That wasn’t surprising; cellular service was relatively new to the Lamia Islands.

“Could you get a message to him for me?”

“If I happen to run across him, sure, but I don’t know when that would be.”

Yurilee nodded, and looked away. I closed my eyes and waited for the inevitable next question.

When it came, her voice was uncharacteristically shy. “Do you think…you could find him, for me?”

I knew I’d bump into Julian again, eventually – he’d promised me that – but I was in no hurry for the meeting. My answers hadn’t changed, but I didn’t want to hear his questions again. He wouldn’t appreciate me snooping after him, anyway.

“I really wouldn’t know where to begin, Yuri.”

“Madiyan said that you were good at that sort of thing.”

“Oh she did, did she? And when were you talking to her about me?”

Her coils shifted restlessly behind me. “We talk often.”


My head sagged back against her tail, and I sighed, exasperated. I didn’t appreciate Madiyan spreading hints about my former life, and I didn’t like being used to chase after Yurilee’s wayward lovers. Still, Yuri was a kindly soul, and probably the closest thing I had to a friend on the island. “So what am I supposed to tell Julian if I find him?”

“I just want to know…if he is coming back.”

It was a simple, plaintive, and honest request.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Yurilee wrapped her arms around me. “Thank you, Mark,” she whispered against my neck.

“Have you spoken to Julian?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Yurilee poured tea as we lounged after the day’s lesson, adding a dash of clear liquor to her own cup.

“I’ve asked around, but if he lives in the village, nobody seems to know where. Khalil checked in his village, too. Plenty of people have met him, but no one knows much about him. And nobody’s seen him in the past week.”

Yurilee peered distractedly around the library. “I have not heard from him, either.”

“I’m sorry, Yuri. Men do move around the islands, sometimes. But it was rude for him to leave without telling you goodbye.”

My hunch was that “Julian” had completed his assignment, or been recalled by the Company, and had arranged a quick boat out to Athens. Basic OPSEC meant that he wouldn’t tell anyone who wasn’t directly involved in his departure. It was still rude.

She nodded serenely, eyes glistening behind her demilunes. “He does not want to see me anymore. But you are here with me now, and I am happy for that. Thank you for indulging my foolishness.”

I had seen that stoic expression before, in the mirror. It hadn’t convinced me then, either. “I’m surprised that nobody keeps a central directory of addresses, at least to keep track of the men. You don’t have anything like that in the library?”

“No.” She shook her head. “They would have that at the administration center, in town.”

“Then why don’t we just go ask them for Julian’s address?”

The hopeful flicker in Yurilee’s eyes stung me a bit. I knew we probably weren’t going to find Julian on the island. Well, maybe proving he was gone would bring her some comfort, instead of leaving her thinking that her former lover had ditched her and was taking pleasure with other lamia women. I didn’t know if she cared about such things. Maybe I just wanted assurance that I wouldn’t have to talk shop with the man again. That sounded good in my head.

“Mark.” Her eyes were somber green jewels. “Is it shameful that I want to speak with this man again? Do you forgive me for asking these things of you?”

“Yuri, you’re the most gracious person I’ve met since I’ve been here. And as much as I like having you to myself,” I teased, “I can’t tolerate disrespect to a lady. So let’s go to the town hall and see what they can tell us.”

Yurilee visibly brightened. “Yes! We can visit with Madiyan while we are there.”

“Oh, is that where she works? She told me she worked for the government, but she never said where.”

“Oh, yes,” she beamed. “She works directly for the Chairwoman. She is a high-ranking civil serpent.”

I must have made a face, because Yuri cackled at me.

The lamia villages have Krataiic names, of course, and the largest village on the island has a difficult one. For me it was just “town,” a tumble of white brick-and-plaster structures perched on the cliffs above a sheltered blue bay. The walk from Yurilee’s village hadn’t taken us long, but the sun was still high and the onshore breeze felt good against my face.

The municipal buildings were each labelled with a neat wooden sign that I couldn’t read. Yurilee led us confidently through archways and past offices, and finally into a wide, high-windowed hallway. A dozen sharply-dressed lamia glanced up from laptop computers, or paused their quiet conversations, as we entered the room.

A black-scaled and visibly pregnant medusa slid around her desk to meet us, and was immediately caught up in Yurilee’s eager hug. “Madiyan, darling! How are you feeling? This is your first daughter, yes?”

Madiyan pulled herself free, grimacing. “I’m bloated, sore, and wobbly. I feel wonderful. How are you, Yuri?”

The other women in the room returned discreetly to their work, although not without a few lingering glances. I wondered how many of them knew the secret behind Madiyan’s pregnancy. Given the sensitivity of the subject, I guessed that the truth was kept rather close-hold.

Yurilee and Madiyan chatted pleasantly for a moment, then Maddie turned to me. “And how are you, Mr. Temple?”

“It’s just ‘Mark’ now, remember? Unless you’re feeling nostalgic, Miss Madiyan?”

That earned me a familiar glare, and I grinned. As an all-female race, lamia don’t use gendered honorifics for themselves, only for men. A gentle insolence that Yurilee had gleefully taught me.

“Mark, then. You shed names like skins, don’t you?”

“I will give you youngsters a moment to catch up,” Yuri beamed, and swirled away to interrupt some other civil servant. Who didn’t seem to mind, judging from enthusiastic hugs and happy chatter.

“Since when am I a youngster?” I protested. “Hey, is she trying to play matchmaker?”

“Probably,” Madiyan sighed. “She’s incorrigible. So. You’re looking well. How are you healing?”

“Remarkably well, really. Dr. Aemilia had to dig out some fragments, but the rib is knitting well. You do have excellent doctors here.”

“I’m glad. And how are you adapting to life in the islands?”

“It’s been a culture shock, to be sure. But not an unpleasant one.”

Maddie nodded, watching me. “I imagine it’s much more peaceful than your past life.”

“Sure,” I shrugged. “So, what’s your actual job here, anyway?” Even pregnant, she looked very businesslike in a snug blazer and skirt, with her dark plekti gathered neatly in a green headscarf.

“I am the Chairwoman’s Special Assistant for Directed Projects.”

I grinned at her again. “That sounds conveniently vague.”

“It’s supposed to.”

“And all the girls here work for you?”

“They do.”  Madiyan fixed me with thoughtful red eyes. “I’m sure they’d be very happy if you came to work for me, too.”

I shook my head at that. “We’ve had this conversation before. I’m retired from the business.”

She nodded. “I suppose you’ve earned your retirement. Speaking of which,” she said lightly, “I haven’t had the chance to thank you properly for saving my life.”

Which had also saved her mission in America, of course. Well, I wasn’t ashamed of that. “As I remember it, you saved mine immediately afterwards. More than once, perhaps. Maybe I owe you.”

I had wondered once, in a previous life, if Madiyan would be beautiful if she smiled at me. She was.

“Maybe you do. We can settle those debts later, when I’m in a more vigorous condition. In the meantime, I presume that you’re not here just for a social call?”

“No. Yurilee had a favor to ask.”  Hearing her name, Yuri rejoined us as I described Julian’s unexplained absence. Madiyan asked some obvious questions, exchanged a few comments in Krataiic with Yurilee, then returned to her desk to tap at her computer.

I thought she spent a long time reading the results. Then she wrote neatly on a card and handed it to Yurilee. “Here’s his address. It’s here in town. If he’s left the island, he didn’t inform us.”

Yurilee wrapped a careful, coiling embrace around the smaller woman. “Thank you so much, darling. I just want to give him a proper goodbye. I am silly, I know.”

“He owes you that much. And Mark?”


“Please let me know if Julian seems to have gone. Or if you find anything concerning.”

“What sort of ‘concerning’?”

“The wellbeing of our communal husbands is our highest priority, of course.”

It wasn’t an unreasonable request. It also didn’t sound like she was asking for a wellness check. I could read nothing from her cool, red stare.

Well, it wasn’t my business what she wanted with Julian. I was just helping Yuri find her boytoy.

“Of course, Maddie. I’ll let you know.”

I followed Yurilee back out of the maze of buildings, and into the afternoon sunlight.

To be continued…

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