Chapter 1:


Which Half is the Best?

It was raining when Monika opened her eyes. The sun barely illuminated the small room that contained her bed, dresser, and several stacks of books threatening to spill onto the floor at the slightest breeze. Monika rubbed her eyes, stretched, and yawned as she navigated the maze and went to the bathroom.

The phone rang, halting her progress and causing her to groan as she picked it up. “Hallo?”

“Good morning. Is this Miss Monika Tress? The translator?”

“Speaking. Who’s this?” She scratched her stomach distractedly as she eyed the nearest bookstack. I’m going to have to reorganize soon. I won’t be able to use my favorite dictionaries at this rate. The man coughed, and Monika could hear the telltale sounds of a keyboard and paper crinkling.

“Good morning, Miss Monika. I’m sorry for calling so early, but your business card didn’t give a specific time to reach you, and we’re in a bit of a bind. Is this a good time?”

Monika pulled out a pad with a pen attached, smirking as the stack remained in place. “I’m free to talk now. Who did you say you were, and what kind of job is it?”

“Ah, my apologies! My name is Hector Riction. I’m calling on behalf of Kurzen High School. We were supposed to get a shipment of books for the library. But they sent us the German editions instead of the English. We were going to file a complaint and send them back, but the head of our literature club suggested we contact you instead. I understand you’ve done business with him before?”

“That’s right. Mr. Pugsley is one of my best clients.” Among other things. Monika smiled as she began writing. “How many books are there, what time frame did you have in mind, and how much are you offering, Mr. Riction?”

“Does this mean you’re taking the job?!” Monika almost chuckled as she shifted the phone closer to her ear.

“I’m considering it. Like I said, Mr. Pugsley is one of my best clients, but I need to know the details before I say yes. It helps me with scheduling. I’m sure you understand.” And if he doesn’t, then I’ll simply find another way to spend my day.

“Of course. Of course. The actual shipment was for twenty books, but we’re only asking you to translate four. The rest are mostly reprints to replace some older books, and the time frame is negotiable. We’d like at least two weeks, but we can give you a month. The books are quite popular, and the students are already complaining they can’t read them.”

“They must be pretty popular then.” They’re either just shy of being contraband, or they have pictures featuring the human body in all its glory… “How many pages per book, and how much are you willing to pay?”

“Just a moment, please.” Monika rolled her eyes as the audio became muffled. He probably put his hand over the earpiece. They better not try to shortchange me. Or else Pugsley is going to feel my boot up his backside! “Sorry for the wait. Are you still there, Miss Monika?”

“I’m here. Was that your supervisor?”

“Close enough… I hate to ask, but would you be willing to drive to the school? Mr. Pugsley wants to discuss the details with you in person, and we’ll pay you for your time.” Monika sighed, shaking her head as she wrote, TRAP, on the pad and circled it.

“I suppose I can do that. When should I arrive?” If he thinks I won’t do anything at a school, then he’s in for a rude awakening. Monika could hear Mr. Riction’s relief as he conveyed the final pleasantries.

“The sooner, the better, please. We really need those books translated, and Mr. Pugsley has a teaching assistant so that he can speak with you anytime. Just pull up to the back gate and ask for him. They’ll let you in.”

“Alright, Mr. Riction. I have a couple of appointments, but I’ll try to swing by around noon.”

“Thank you very much, Miss Monika. Have a pleasant day, and we look forward to seeing you!”

“Same to you, Mr. Riction. Same to you. Goodbye!” She hung up the phone and stared at the pad in disgust. Why can’t I have a normal job? I think I’d be happier with a 9 to 5 instead of this nonsense. She shook her head and entered the bathroom, listening as a pile of books crashed to the floor.

She left them there as she hurriedly made breakfast and pulled on her “public outfit.” A tan pair of pants that hugged her legs without restricting movement, followed by a crisp white top with long sleeves, a light blue coat that ended just above the knees, and her favorite pair of black military boots.

Monika pulled her long white hair into a ponytail and put on a pair of thick red glasses to finish the look with a smile. Ok, that should do it. Maybe I’ll get lunch while I’m out. It’s been ages since I’ve had anything decent! Monika gave herself a final lookover in the mirror, grabbed her bag, and drove into town.

Her first appointment detested any form of tardiness, and Monika wasn’t about to disappoint her.

Janice pursed her lips, ignoring the way Monika leaned forward, hands tucked neatly beneath her chin as Janice cut through a dog’s skull. “I suppose you think you’re being clever right now?”

I love her voice. Even when she’s angry, she always sounds so proper and cold! Monika giggled, quickly offering a hammer before Janice could ask for one. The thing that used to be a dog was already starting to smell, yet it didn’t cover Janice’s sweet scent. “Well, you know me, Jan. I only live to please!”

You. Janice shook her head and brought the hammer onto the remains of the face. Bits of bone and tissue flew into the air, forcing Monika to pull back. She looked at Janice with a pout and whined. “Jan! I told you I have to work today. If you want to get me dirty. You have to wait until tonight!”

“You’re walking into a trap. That’s not working.”

“It counts as work if I get paid, and I told you. Pugsley is the one pulling the strings. He’s not going to risk losing me. He even arranged a high school for a meeting place. A high school, can you imagine it?!” I can’t even remember the last time I went to school. God, I feel old! Janice returned the hammer to the tray and sighed.

“Just because he said he liked your butt doesn’t mean he isn’t going to kill you, Monika. And what will happen to me if you die? Do you expect me to go out and collect my own food?” Monika shook her head as Janice removed her hat, letting her vibrant black locks flow down her back and allowing her eyes to shift between gold, red, and black.

It never failed to take Monika’s breath away, which is why Janice did so as she leaned forward to cup Monika’s cheek. “You’re the only one I can count on, Monika. Don’t leave me for some cheap thrills!”

“I’m not leaving for thrills. It’s for work! I have to pretend to be a normal human so I can help take care of you, Janice!” Monika grabbed the hand, kissing it as she lightly growled. I’m doing this all for you. If you’d just move in with me. We could find other ways to feed you… More… fun ways.”

Janice smirked and pinched Monika’s cheek as she moved her face within an inch of Monika’s. “Don’t you growl at me, puppy. You’re the one who said you’d do anything for me, remember? Because you love me so much and only wish to keep me happy?”

She increased the pressure, fascinated as Monika refused to whimper despite her cheek turning different colors between Janice’s fingers. The two stared at each other, Monika being stubbornly defiant and Janice quickly becoming amused. She kissed Monika, chuckling as she hugged her despite being worried about her clothes moments before.

This girl might be more trouble than she’s worth. But at least she’s amusing. Monika panted when Janice released her, fingers shaking as she checked to see if she was still presentable. But Janice grabbed her hands and straightened her shirt. “You’d be lost without me, Monika. Just like when I found you under that bridge in your true form.”

Monika shook her head. “This is my true form… I told you that.”

Janice shrugged, releasing her grip and turning her attention back to the body on the table. “Say whatever you want, my dear. It makes no difference to me that your mother took a werewolf for a lover. I’m just pleased she kept you so we could meet and fall in love!”