Keeper of the Moon - By Harley Jane Kozak
It’s the first or last hour of sunlight, when the day is opening or closing up shop, an event so commonplace that only certain breeds of humans notice it—movie people, for instance, who treasure the footage shot in those fleeting moments for the way it can render an aging star young, a dull actor luminous and a plain landscape...enchanted.
Sailor Ann Gryffald loved magic hour, especially sunset, loved to end her seven-mile run on a downhill slope as the sky turned red and the canyon faded to black. The name itself was a kind of incantation to her, like all movie terms. She’d been around film sets most of her life and couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t known the meaning of “magic hour” and “second meal” and “martini shot.”
But Sailor wasn’t only an actress, so she knew that magic hour had other meanings lying just under the surface, the way L.A. itself could hide under a veil of smog. The moments separating the worlds of day and night were when portals opened, shapes shifted with little effort, and even the most unimaginative human might stumble upon signs of the Otherworld.
Sailor was part of that Otherworld. She was a Keeper, a human born with a distinctive birthmark, and the mandate to guard and protect a particular species. In her case, the birthmark was a tree and the species were the Elven. These were not the tiny elves of popular culture in green jackets and felt hats, but tall, intensely physical creatures whose element was earth, whose beauty was legendary, whose powers included healing, telepathy and teleportation. The Elven loved Hollywood, and Hollywood reciprocated, rewarding and occasionally worshipping their charisma and physical beauty. Of course, most humans had no knowledge of Others, had no belief in, and thus no perception of, the extraordinary qualities and abilities their neighbors possessed. It was Sailor’s job to preserve that. A Keeper’s first obligation was to keep secret the very existence of the species, the Elven and vampires, the were-creatures, shifters, leprechauns and ogres whose natures the “real” world could not accept.
Sailor was new to the actual job, had taken it over from her father only months earlier, and found it something of a yawn. But with her birthmark came a fraction of the Elven powers and their beauty, so all in all, not a bad gig. She also had a strong sixth sense that told her things, like...
There was something in the air right now.
Sailor slowed her pace. She was a mile into her run, heading west on Mulholland at a good clip, shoes pounding the dusty road. It wasn’t darkness she felt; the sun wouldn’t set for another hour or more, and the moon was already out. It was a heaviness, making her want to look behind her, making the hair on the back of her neck—
“Hey!” a man yelled.
She turned and spotted him at the end of a driveway, waving his arms as if she were a taxi.
“Hey, what?” she called back, squinting. Did she know him? Were they friends?
“You’re breaking the law,” the man yelled. “Your dog’s off-leash.” He was dressed in a suit, standing alongside a Porsche in front of a small mansion.
Figures that he’d drive a Porsche, she thought.
“He’s not a problem,” she called back.
“He’s a problem if he pisses in my yard.”
The man’s yard was as dressed up as he was, a flawless green lawn accessorized with white rosebushes, more suited to Beverly Hills than the canyons.
“He’s not going to piss in your yard.” Sailor jogged in place and snapped her fingers. Jonquil, a huge, fierce-faced mutt with the temperament of a rabbit, loped over to her. “We’re thirty feet from your yard.”
“There are leash laws,” the man retorted. “You’re not supposed to let your dog urinate at will.”
She laughed. “What are you, the pee police? There are jackrabbits, deer, coyotes, all urinating at will, rattlesnakes, bobcats, possums—”
The man gave her the finger and moved into the house.
Sailor lowered her voice. “Go ahead and pee, Jonquil.” But the big mutt stared at her and inexplicably began to whine.
A rush of wind hit Sailor, so cold she thought, There must be some mistake. I must be dreaming, followed by a flutelike sound blowing in her ear, a flapping of a wing next to her cheek, striking her face. She swatted at it wildly, but something sharp sliced right down the middle of her chest, ripping through her shirt. Man, that’s going to hurt in a minute, she thought.