Frost Moon - By Anthony Francis

1. DAKOTA FROST

I first started wearing a Mohawk to repel low-lifes—barflies, vampires, Republicans, and so on—but when I found my true profession my hairstyle turned into an ad. People’s eyes are drawn by it—no longer a true Mohawk, but a big, unruly deathhawk—a stripe of feathered black, purple and white streaks climbing down the center of my head—but their gazes linger on the tattoos, which start as tribal vines in the shaved spaces on either side of the ‘hawk, and then cascade down my throat to my shoulders, flowering into roses and jewels and butterflies.

Their colors are so vivid, their details so sharp many people mistake them for body paint, or assume that they can’t have been done in the States. Yes, they’re real; no, they’re not Japanese—they’re all, with a few exceptions, done by my own hand, right here in Atlanta at the Rogue Unicorn in Little Five Points. Drop by—I’ll ink you. Ask for Dakota Frost.

To attract the more… perceptive… eye, I started wearing a sleeveless, ankle-length leather coat-vest that shows off the intricate designs on my arms, and a cutoff top and low-rider jeans that show off a tribal yin-yang symbol on my midriff. Tying it all together is the black tail of something big, curling up the left side of my neck, looping around the yin-yang, and arcing through the leaves on my right shoulder. Most people think it’s the tail of a dragon, and they wouldn’t be wrong; in case anyone misses the point, I even have the design sewn into the back of a few of my vests.

Those who live on the edge might notice a little more detail: magical runes woven into the tribal designs, working charms woven into the flowers, and, if you look real close at the tail of the dragon, the slow movement of a symbolic familiar. Yes, it did move; and yes, that’s real magic. Drop by the Rogue Unicorn—-you’re still asking for the one-and-only Dakota Frost, the best magical tattooist in the Southeast.

The downside to being a walking ad, of course, is that some of the folks you want to attract start to see you as a scary low-life. We all know that vampires can turn out to be quite decent folk, but so can clean-cut young Republicans looking for their first tattoo to impress their tree-hugger girlfriends. As for barflies, well, they’re still barflies; but unfortunately I find the more tats I show the greater the chance that the cops will throw me into the back of the van, too, if a bar fight breaks out.

So I couldn’t help being nervous as two officers marched me into City Hall East.

City Hall East is in the old Sears building on Ponce de Leon, a great brick fortress squeezed between the empty parking lot that used to serve the Masquerade dance club and the full one that serves the Borders bookstore. Once it buzzed with activity, but now, in 2006, it’s like a tomb, soon to be demolished and turned into yet another mixed-use development as part of the new Belt Line project. Even the snack shop has closed. This is the last year of the grand old building’s spooky incarnation as a kind of lonely government outpost. All that’s left here are a few Atlanta Police Department offices, more offices for the Feds, and some for permits and land planning.

And lots of police officers, more than I expected for that time of night, most of them scowling. Lots of them, muttering: Look at her? What’s she in for? Is she a stripper? If she’s under arrest, why isn’t she cuffed? The two officers escorting me—one black, one white, both wearing identical buzz cuts—had no answers, for them, or for me. Just: The police need to see you, Miss Frost. No, you’re not under arrest, but it is urgent. Please come with us.

Our footsteps echoed hollowly as we walked through a canyon of white tile and glass walls towards the metal detectors. There had briefly been a gallery and shops on this floor, but now empty offices surrounded us like cages, only a few showing signs of life.

We paused before the metal detectors, where a fat female officer sat, right hand pumping on her mouse in what could only be Minesweeper. “Anything to declare, Miss Frost?” she asked.

“Frost?” Beyond the barrier, a sharply dressed, Kojak-bald black plainclothes officer perked up at the sound of my name: Andre Rand, my dad’s best friend. “Dakota Frost?”

“No, I’ve nothing to declare,” I said,

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