Sie sind auf Seite 1von 28

Word Count: 79.

J. C. Long


J. C. Long

The bass thrummed through the abandoned warehouse-turned-nightclub, so deep it made

the windows of the cars in the parking lot rattle. A crowd of people in their twenties filled the
converted club in various degrees of undress. The more show-off prone guys had removed their
shirts, losing them somewhere in the crowd, if theyd even worn them. If Thomas White had to
guess hed say there wasnt a girl in there wearing anything that reached even halfway to their
knees or halfway up their breasts.
Thomas was leaning against the bar, a plain coke in hand as he watched the crowd of
writhing people. There was so much life and energy, not to mention drugs, flowing through the
room he all but tasted it. The tight shirt he wore pulled snug around his wiry frame as he reached
to the side to place his untouched drink on the bar. Part of him longed to be out there enjoying
the night like all these other people. The DJ was good. More than good. Thomas hated the music
in clubs, for the most part, but this was much better than the typical bland variety of electronica
or dub stepit had a life all its own. The DJ was pouring his soul into what he was feeding into
the atmosphere and Thomas appreciated that. That was why there were so many people at the
club on a Sunday night.
It didnt hurt that the DJ was sexy; tall, chiseled jaw, perfect amount of stubble, white

shirt damp enough from sweat to hint at what lay beneath, not throwing it out there like the
shirtless guys. This guy was testament to the old saying that sometimes the guessing is better
than the knowing.
Are you going to move from the bar at all? Lucy White came stalking up to the bar,
her every movement sensual. She was almost as tall as her brother, wearing a dark red tank top
and a pair of black leather pants shed bought two days prior. A pair of what Thomas liked to call
stripper heels completed the ensemble. Her hair was long and blonde, flowing free around her
shoulders tonight. Subtle makeup accented her delicate features, green eyes dancing playfully as
she regarded her brother. Her skin had the faintest sheen; shed worked up a sweat dancing with
those two Irish guys.
This isnt a night on the town, Luce, Thomas replied, raising his voice to be heard as
Lucy ordered her third whiskey and coke. Theyd been there barely over one hour. The music
wasnt so conducive to conversation, , but by the bar it wasnt as bad. Were working,
remember? The words lacked ire. Thomas could never be mad at Lucy, no matter how much he
thought he should be sometimes.
No reason we cant work and have fun, she countered, turning around to join in
Thomass observation of the crowd of writhing people.
Well, I should do two times the work tonight, I guess, since you seem to be having two
times the fun, Thomas grinned with a jerk of his head towards where the two Irish guys were
waiting, eyes glued to her. They were hot, he thought, not that he would admit it to Lucy.
Thomas noticed he was getting a few dirty looks from them, too; he was no stunner like his
sister, but he was very attractive, lanky but fit with hair the same hue as his sisters that hung in a
meticulously placed arrangement that said I-just-ran-my-hands-through-my-hair-no-big-deal.
This wasnt the first time hed been on the receiving in of a death stare from guys interested in
Lucy, though he how they could not see the family resemblance was beyond him.
Lucy received her whiskey and coke from the bartender and raised it in her brothers

direction. To you always being the responsible one so I can make the bad life decisions. She
smiled at the Irish boys over her drink. Cause let me tell you, these bad life decisions are fun.
Thomas gave the Irish boys another discreet once-over, deciding that yeah, they would
be fun. Shit, most of the guys there would be fun. If they didnt have a job to do then he would
have been out there on the floor dancing like his sister and drawing his own slew of boys. But
she was right; one of them needed to be the responsible one, and he didnt mind that it was him.
It always was.
Thomas checked his watch. Its after midnight. If the tip we got from her friend is true,
Emily Dane should be in here by now.
Lucy finished her drink with a smack of her bright red lips, placing the glass on the bar.
You ready to work the tracking spell?
Thomas cast nervous eyes to either side to make sure that no one overheard her, thankful
for the driving noise of the DJs music. He was very cautious about his magic, being he wasnt a
licensed practitioner and the government frowned upon those without licenses working magic.
They say they want to protect people from getting in over their head with powers they dont
understand and cannot control. Thomas knew better. The strict magic regulations, like the
regulations placed on all things officially labeled Inhumansuch as werewolves, vampires,
elves, shifters, goblins, faeries, trollswere to maintain control over a population they feared
posed a danger to them.
Ever since knowledge of Inhumans entered the mainstream with Darwins On Species of
a Higher Order humanity thought of itself in terms of capitals: Humans versus Inhumans.
Relax, Lucy said, catching his nervous look. No one is listening to us. Is it going to
take long?
Thomas shook his head. I worked most of it back at the house; all I have to do is put it
on the item were using as a tracer and say the spell. Lucy looked at him expectantly and he
rolled his eyes. I cant do it here.
Oh. Duh. Okay then, come on. I can get us a nice, isolated booth.
Lucy took Thomass hand and led him through the crowd, earning quite a few double-

and triple-takes as she passed. Thomas was pleased to note he too received a few looks from both
genders. It was always nice to have your attractiveness reaffirmed.
They reached an area of booths and made a beeline for one where two guys were sitting.
Lucy bent over the table, saying something to them that Thomas didnt catch. Whatever it was it
worked; they both jumped to their feet and hurried to the bar.
What did you say? Thomas inquired as she motioned for him to sit in the booth. Lucy
made a puzzled face. He shook his head to show it didnt matter.
The music was louder than Thomas thought possible here, drowning out all else.
Thomas was certain that his brain was rattling in his skull and he loved it. The music ensured no
one would overhear the incantation he was about to cast unless they were sitting right next to
him. Thomas took a minute to let the music wash through him before scooting to the corner that
was darkest, removing a small pendulum crystal from his pocket. He held out his hand to Lucy
and she passed him a Ziploc baggy and a small phial from her purse, knowing hed ask for the
A true witch had to be born with the ability to interact with the primal magics of the
world, and not many were. Of that number few survived for long, playing with the forces at their
disposal. Magic wasnt free. There was always a cost to pay, both for the working and for other
things that you sometimes didnt factor in until too late. Magic played with cosmic forces to bend
Reality to the will of the one was working the spells, and Reality did not appreciate being bent.
Most witches werent able to pull off something any more advanced than a simple levitation
without helphelp that often came in the form of rituals. Intention was a key element in magic,
because your intention had to be ironclad to move Reality to your will.
Because of how inelastic Reality was many witches attempted to Bind inter-planar
beingsspirits of dead loved ones and so onto gain more power, to have a direct channel into
the magics of existence to pull upon. This sometimes went badly for the witch; as one might
imagine, creatures rarely consented to the arrangement.

Thomas was a magical prodigy, or so he always heard; the magical energies of the world
just came to him with little difficulty. He had the ability to cast a tracking spell without the need
of the ritual and incantation, but it would take more time and much more energy. He preferred to
do it this way.
The ritual was simple since he prepared the ingredients at home. He placed the
pendulum crystal on the table, opening the baggy and took up a handful of the sea salt within,
painstakingly forming a circle with the crystal at its center.
You need to be fast about this, Lucy said in his ear. I dont know how long it will take
those guys to get the drink I ordered. Are gin fizzes hard to make?
Thomas nodded his understanding, opening the phial. The acerbic smell of the mixtures
ingredients wafted out to him. He poured the mixture over the pendulum in a counter clockwise
motion, muttering the incantation as he did. Ego autem non quaero quod. Lead me to that
which I seek.
There was a dull flash of light and a small puff of metallic-scented smoke rose from the
pendulum crystal. As the spell took effect he felt the power flow into and then out of him like
waves crashing on a beach. There was a fleeting sensation of being watched, as if someone
somewhere nearby was focusing all of their attention upon him; he felt their eyes boring into
him. In a heartbeat it vanished, leaving him to wonder if hed imagined it.
Its done, he told his sister.
Great, so how will this work?
Thomas hefted it. It should pull me towards her and glow as we get closer. He glanced
up. Dont look now, here comes your newest fans. Lucy followed his nod and grimaced. The
two guys from the booth were returning, carrying her drink.
What do you think are the chances one of them is gay and I can pawn them off on
My guess is zero.
Thomas exited the booth, already being drawn by the spell hed worked on the
pendulum. That was a good sign; the spell had a small radius, so that meant she was in the

teeming mass of people somewhere.

He followed the pull, Lucy right behind him. As she passed the guys she took the gin
fizz and gave them both her most winning smile before continuing on.
He pushed through the throng of people, moving as close to the center of the warehouse
as he could get. That was the center of the dance floor.
The music was louder now, more fast-paced. All around Thomas dancers moved their
bodies to the beat; the only thing that existed for them was the music. Thomas concentrated on
the pull of the stone, shaking off the occasional inviting hand that found its way to his body.
Lucy stuck close, but she let the music move through her, using her as an outlet.
It took a few minutes but at last he got an idea of where the pull was strongest and made
his way through the crowd. This was the reason they were there. He wouldnt let himself get
attracted by a wink or a sexy smile thrown his way. The job came first.
The pendulum gave off a faint glow. He cupped it in his hand, hoping that anyone that
saw it would think it was just a glow stick or else a hallucination induced by whatever drugs
theyd taken.
Over there, Lucy said in his ear, pointing over his shoulder. A girl, no older than
twenty, leaned against the wall near the bathrooms. She was skinny with dark, mussed hair and
bags under her eyes that stood out against her pale skin. I dont think life on the run from daddy
has been too nice to her, either.
Thomas grunted his agreement and made a beeline for her. At first he didnt know how
to approach her without freaking her out, but Lucy took the lead. She placed her now empty gin
fizz glass on an empty table and moved to stand next to her.
Is this the line for the bathroom?
The girl seemed startled for a moment, eyes narrowing in suspicion. No. I think that
is. The line of girls she indicated was at least 5 people long.
God damn it. The lines are always so long. Why dont guys have long lines, I wonder?
Thomas watched as his sister did what she did best. She was good with people, always had been.
An unknown quality about her put them at ease, which he never quite managed to do. It might

have helped that she was a genuinely warm person while Thomas was far more acerbic. In that
they were polar opposites.
After a moment the two of them had struck up a small conversation. For her part, the girl
was still a little cautious, but Lucys charms were working.
Lucy gave her brother a subtle nod and he counted to ten before walking over to join
them. There you are, he said in mock relief. You should have told me where you were going. I
thought you ditched me. Again.
I told you not to bring that up anymore. It was one time, Thomas. Let it go. Lucy
turned to the girl. This is my brother, Thomas. Thomas, this is she trailed off. Im sorry, I
didnt get your name yet, did I?
There was a beat where Thomas was afraid the girl wouldnt give them her name and
then she said, Im Emily. Look, its great to meet you two and all, but Im craving a smoke right
now. She dug a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of her pocket and displayed them, making
her way towards the front door.
Thomas started after her but Lucy grabbed his arm. If we go out right behind her its
just going to spook her and maybe make her run. Im not wearing the shoes for a chase tonight.
Thomas snorted. And whose fault is that?
I would have stood out if I had worn them, she said defensively. Okay, that should be
enough time. Lets go. Maybe we can catch her off guard.
The two made their way to the door, getting their hands marked for free reentry and
exited. It was early May and the evening was pleasant, though carried a slight chill. The parking
lot was full of cars; Thomas guessed there were at least two hundred people in the club.
There she is, said Lucy, and the two of them started towards where Emily was
smoking, a little ways away from the door, half concealed by the shadow of the warehouse.
Hey, Emily, Lucy called, not wanting to scare her.
Emily turned, startled. What are you two doing out here?
Were just about to head back home, replied Thomas, voice as jovial as he could make
it. Want to catch a ride back with us?
Caught off guard by the offer, Emily took one last drag off her cigarette and dropped it

to the ground, putting it out with her heel. Excuse me?

Listen, its late and Im sure youre keen to head backtoo long here will get your
head pounding, you know? Thomas took the slightest step closer to Emily so he was between
her and the door with Lucy between her and the parking lot.
Besides, said Thomas, dropping the friendly facade, Im sure its past your curfew
and your fathers worried sick about you.
The blood drained from Emilys face. Get away from me.
We cant do that, Emily, said Lucy, voice still soothing, her warm smile still painted
on her face. Your father wants you back home, and hes willing to pay quite a bit of money to
get you back. Beautiful clothes like these dont pay for themselves, you know? We have to make
a living.
Get away from me, Emily repeated, taking several steps back. Ill scream for help.
Its so loud inside no one would notice, Thomas informed her, pushing his hands into
his pockets. Once we get you back home feel free to run away againwe dont care. Its just
that we have to get you home this time. So be a good girl and lets go.
Chad! Emily screamed then, arms thrown out towards Lucy and Thomas to warn them
back. Chad!
I told you no one could hear you, Thomas said, taking a step towards her.
Thomas, watch out! Lucy cried and he turned to see something big and dark blurring
towards him. It slammed right into his middle, tossing him back several feet where he landed
with a grunt of pain.
All semblance of friendliness or warmth Lucy had exhibited earlier was replaced by a
cold and efficient professionalism despite the amount of alcohol shed had. Her body was tense,
muscles ready, eyes sharp as they took in the scene before her. Standing between her and Emily
now was a big hulking figure, body semi-contorted, fur sprouting over muscle, face slightly
elongated but still bearing a resemblance to a human male.
Well, Thomas, she called towards her brother, glancing quickly to be sure he was
okay. Relief washed through her when he sat up, rubbing the back of his head. Mister Dane
didnt tell us the no good thug his daughter ran away with was a shifter. The man in question

growled deep in his throat but Lucy didnt even flinch.

You two tell my father something for me, Emily hissed, more confident now that her
protector was there. Tell him to go fuck himself.
Youll be telling him that yourself, Lucy said, one hand dropping into her purse and
emerging moments later with what looked like brass knuckles. Im not scared of dogs, even big
Chad lunged for Lucy then, but shed read his movements moments before he did and
she lashed out with her right foot in a roundhouse kick. The blow caught him off guard. When he
went for her again she punched him with the now-knuckled hand. Though Lucy was a tiny girl
the blow sent him sprawling.
See these? Lucy brandished the knuckles. Pure silver. Perfect for disciplining bad
Chad was on his feet again and Emily bolted past Lucy.
Climbing to his feet Thomas fingered the small ring on his right ring finger, tapping into
the magical energy hed already poured into it. He threw his hand out and said the required
incantationRigscunt! Freeze. He felt the ring burn like ice for a moment as the magic
drained from it and Emily stopped mid-run, no longer able to control her locomotive skills.
Chad, who had been gauging Lucy without attacking, saw this and took action, throwing
his arm out, using his superior strength to shove Lucy backwards. She slammed into the drivers
side door of an already beat up Honda civic, leaving a large dent in it and rattling her teeth.
You didnt need to make this so difficult, you know, Thomas was saying to Emily,
who was glaring at him. He heard Chads approach and turned, pulling an enchanted penny out
of his pocket. Percute! The penny shot from Thomass palm then as if hed fired it from a gun.
It hit the shifter with enough force to send him crashing against the side of the warehouse.
Thomas doubted the people inside even noticed.
Still, they needed to wrap this up before it caught someones attention and law
enforcement got involved; Mister Dane had the money to ensure that any kidnapping charges got
dropped but he would be powerless when it came to Thomass practicing without a license.

Chad was on his feet once more but so was a pissed off Lucy. She held a container of
mace pointed right at Chad, who hunched over as if to complete his shifting.
Ah, ah, ah, I wouldnt do that if I were you, Lucy warned, her voice cold as ice. This
isnt pepper spray, Chad. Its a compound my father created including tiny particles of silver. If I
spray you with this youll be in much more pain than if it were normal mace. And if you shift
that will just make the pain worse. Thomas, call Mr. Danes people and tell them we got the girl.
Thomas pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number they were given. Weve got
her. The location was correct. Right, shes not going anywhere.
Hey, whats going on over here? A flashlight shined in their direction from the
doorway, the bouncer finally taking notice of the ruckus. Lucy shot her brother a worried look,
and that gave Chad the opening he was looking for. He barreled into Lucys legs, knocking them
out from under her and sending the pepper spray flying to the side. He completed his shifting,
now a larger-than-normal wolf, whose angry green eyes stared right at Thomas. One of its paws
pressed against Lucys chest just hard enough to hurt.
Holy shit! The bouncer turned away, running back towards the club when he saw the
wolf come forth. Most norms would act that way around an Inhumannobody wanted to get
into a fight with a shifter.
Thomas was sweating now; they were losing control of the situation fast, and he hadnt
prepped enough spells for the job, but he met the wolfs gaze steadily. When a shifter finished
their transformation they maintained their human eye color, which was unnerving for people not
used to it.
Undo your spell on her, the wolf hissed in its strange voice. When Thomas did not
move he pressed hard on Lucys chest, and he heard her gasps of pain. Undo the spell, witch, or
I kill your sister.
Thomas knew he had no choice; he had no other spell prepared that could take on a
shifter and didnt have the time to draw up the magic necessary to cast one unprepared. The girl
had them outmaneuvered here. He did what Chad asked. Emily collapsed to the ground with a

There. Now get the hell off my sister.
The wolf lifted its weight and Thomas heard Lucy draw in deep, greedy breaths. Chad
hurried past Thomas, using its heavy tail to bat him hard to the ground before crouching low near
Emily, who gripped his fur and climbed onto his back. Emily gave the siblings one last look
before Chad bounded away with their target.
Thomas scurried to his sister to make sure she was okay, but she was tough as steel;
already she was sitting up, cursing vehemently. She resisted Thomass efforts to look her over.
Im fine, Im fine. Come on, that bouncer probably called the police. We need to get out of
Mister Dane is not going to be happy, Thomas said dolefully, and Lucy nodded her
agreement as the black car Dane had sent to pick up Emily arrived. The two started towards the
car to spread the bad news.
Hey, Thomas? Do you think this means we arent getting paid?

The next day came quicker than either of them liked. Thomass alarm went off at eight.
He fought the desire to rip his alarm clock right out of the wall and toss it out the window of the
small two bedroom apartment he shared with Lucy. He sat up, wincing from general all-over
aching. Lucy was grumbling in her room next door. He was glad she was up; getting her awake
in the mornings could be a nightmare, and he did not want to deal with that headache today.
Clad only in a white undershirt and gym shorts he lumbered out into the main area of the
apartment. It seemed almost Spartan, with a television, a couch, a beat up coffee table and two
old chairs in the living room area and nothing more. The dining room area was Thomass
workstation, where he could prepare his spells and whatever else they might need. The dining
room table could not be seen, covered as it was in bottles, bowls and jars of varying sizes with
varying things inside them. Some of the contents were normal, like herbs, some downright
strange, like snake venom and pigs tongue. Thomass bookshelf dominated one wall by the
workstation, cluttered with so many books the shelves looked like they would snap under the
weight of it all.
Thomas made his way to the kitchen, where the first thing he did was prepare a pot of
coffee. The shower come on in the bathroom and Thomas sighed. Looks like Im taking a cold
shower again, he said to the coffeemaker that seemed to take its time brewing.

Thomas dressed in a simple blue polo shirt selected to draw attention to his eyes and a
pair of stylish dark jeans. By the time the coffee finished Lucy emerged from the shower. She
was wearing a white blouse with similar dark jeans, a light leather jacket and elegant flats. She
had her damp hair tied back in a ponytail and her face was clear of makeup.
Heres coffee, Thomas said, offering her a mug.
My everything hurts, she complained, taking the mug in both hands and holding it,
enjoying its warmth. Isnt it bad enough I got my ass handed to me, my leather pants got
scuffed and Mister Dane chewed us out for an hour before ending our employment without
paying us? Do I have to get a hangover, too?
Thomas gave her a sympathetic pat on the arm. I told you to go easy on the drinking.
Lucy made an ugly face at him. Youre supposed to comfort me, not make me own up
to the consequences of my actions. What would Dad say?
Im almost positive hed say What the hell were you doing drinking on the job?, but
thats just me.
Maybe to you, but not to me because I was his favorite. Hed say Oh, you poor thing
and then give me money to buy pretty things.
Thomas shook his head. And thats why youre like this now.
What? You mean perfect?
Thomas groaned.
After a breakfast comprising toasted bagels the two set out on the short journey to the
small office they inherited from their father after his death. It was a nice if overcast morning and
they enjoyed it as they walked the three blocks. The shop, like the apartment, belonged to their
father. Hed rented them while the neighborhood still promised to be the next up-and-coming
part of the city, a promise it hadnt fulfilled. Over the course of Thomas and Lucys lifetime
theyd seen dozens of businesses open and close down. Several apartment complexes now stood
abandoned and boarded up or else played host to the more unpleasant element of the city.
Neither of them ever understood why their father didnt move from the neighborhood
once it began its downward spiral, but he hadnt; hed been there right until his death, and now
his children were there, too.

Their fathers office space was on the second floor above what used to be a deli before
becoming a bakery. At some point the previous year it became the ramshackle office for an
ambulance chasing attorney theyd never met.
On the way Lucy stopped and pointed to a newspaper display. On the right side of the
front page was a story about a grave being robbed a few days ago. Still no leads in robbery of
war hero Roger Atkins, laid to rest last Sunday, Lucy read. Thats gross.
Probably someone trying to raise a zombie to fight, Thomas surmised, not paying
much attention to the story. Cock fights, dog fights, zombie fights. People will try to make a
buck with violence using just about anything.
Morbid, Lucy sighed, but they continued on down the street. While it wasnt the most
common crime on the books now and then one saw a story about a grave being robbed. Reasons
included anything from zombie fights to attempting to harvest body parts to sell on the black
Oh great, look, Lucy muttered under her breath as they came close to the office.
Dressed in a shoddy and frayed gray pinstripe suit, an old-fashioned hat on his head to cover up
his bald spot was Walter Torrance. He stood in front of their office like a scarecrow. As the
landlord of the office property they had also inherited him from their father.
Thomas frowned. What day is it?
The fifth. Lucy had been dreading this for a while. We cant pay him, Thomas. We
didnt collect last night, and
Last night would have only been about half anyway, Thomas said. It doesnt matter.
Either way we wouldnt be able to pay. Heres hoping we can charm our way out of this.
Lucy patted his shoulder. Maybe I should do the talking, then.
Thomas scowled at her, crossing the street. Mister Torrance!
Torrance looked up at them, his face expressionless as always. The three of them making
their way inside and up the creaking stairs to the door marked with their dads name:
Adept in Matters both Human and Inhuman
Office Hours 8:00am to 5:00pm
Shouldnt a business keep to their office hours, Mister White? Torrances voice was

perpetually phlegmy and his eyes watery. He seemed to always be fighting off a sickness of some
sort, and yet he somehow worked a chastising tone into that quivery voice and Thomas felt
Those were our fathers office hours, Mister Torrance, Lucy said politely. Well
change them when we get around to changing the door.
Thomas let them into the office, mouthing Thank you to Lucy as she walked by. The
office had nicebut datedfurnishings. It was as their father left it; they hadnt the heart to
redecorate, not yet. A couch sat near the door, floral patterned, of all things. Next to the door
leading the office their father had once occupied was a secretarys desk with two uncomfortable
chairs in front of it. Next to the office was the filing room, a cluttered room overflowing with
documents, papers and historical records. In the back of the records room a locked door led to
the place where their father stored any magical relics or cursed objects he came across in his
If youre thinking about changing the door, I imagine you have enough money to pay
your rent, now? Torrance looked around the room, eyes turning sad for the briefest moment
when they lingered on the door to their fathers office.
Thomas took a deep breath. Well, Mister Torrance, Im afraid we dont have it yet.
Business has been slow since our father died, as Im sure youre aware
Your father had a long list of clients, Torrance pointed out, disappointment clear in his
Built from decades of work, Thomas pointed out patiently. This isnt a business
where you see many repeat clients, Mister Torrance. Were not a dry cleaner or a bakery. Our
father built a reputation that brought clients to him. While we worked with our father for most of
our lives we lack that right now. We need time to build something similar.
Torrance sighed heavily. I understand the pitfalls and perils of business, Mister White.
However, I too am a businessman, and I have to look after my own interests. I cant have this
space not collecting rent, I rely on it quite a bit.

Thomas nodded his understanding, but on the inside he was cringing. It would be
impossible to do the work he and his sister did from their own apartment; no one would take
them seriously. If they were having a hard time finding clients now it would be impossible if they
lost the office.
Torrance sighed. I will give you five more days to come up with one months rent, he
announced. I will forgo the previous two, because your father once did a great service to my
Mister Torrance, it would be impossible for us to do this in five days, Lucy cried, but
their landlord just shook his head.
Five days is all I can allow, Miss White.
Of course its not!
Thomas understood. It is. After five days he can give us the fifteen day notice to vacate
and still have five days to fill the vacancy in the office. That was it, then. There was no chance
for them.
I am a businessman, Torrance repeated as if it were an apology and explanation rolled
into one.
All three of them jumped in surprise. They turned to see a tall woman, late thirties,
dressed in a moderately priced maroon pant suit, standing in the door. She looked at them with
that uncomfortable look of someone whod just walked in on something they shouldnt have
Thankful for a way out of the conversation Thomas turned to Torrance. If youll excuse
us, he said, polite but firm, weve got a client.
Torrance started to say something and then stopped himself, striding to the doorthe
maroon dressed woman stepped to the side, allowing him to pass. Torrances parting words were
Five days, and then the door shut behind him. Thomas stood there motionless for a moment,
listening to the sound of the landlord descending the steps until they faded.
Hello, Lucy said pleasantly, crossing to shake the womans hand. What can we do for

Im Detective Elena Martinez, she said, removing a badge and flashing it at them. Her
tone was all business; there would be no pleasantries exchanged.
Uh, I think you want the attorneys office downstairs, Thomas said, eying her badge
with some trepidation.
Im not looking for a lawyer. Im with the ITF. Thomas and Lucy shared a startled
look. The ITF was the Inhuman Task Force, a branch of the local police department that
specialized in crimes and situations involving Inhumans. Detective Martinezs presence could
bring nothing good their way. Im looking for Philip White.
It was like a punch in the gut, hearing their fathers name, even now, and Thomas placed
a hand on Lucys shoulder. Im his son, Thomas and this is my sister, Lucy. Our father passed
away. A hard, burning lump grew in Thomass throat.
Detective Martinez looked stunned, running a hand through her shoulder length auburn
hair. He he died? Im sorry; I didnt... when didwhen?
It was Lucy who answered. Four months ago, in a car accident. No one saw it coming.
Detective Martinez pulled herself together. Im very sorry for your loss.
Thank you.
I take it you two have taken over the business? Martinez looked around. Everything
looks the same.
Yes, weve taken over, said Thomas, motioning for her to have a seat on the couch.
He dragged the two chairs from the secretarys desk over for him and Lucy.
I dont know if you know this, but your father did some consulting work with the ITF,
when we needed his expertise. He was a huge help then. That was a surprise to Thomas; his
father had never mentioned doing any sort of work with law enforcement. I can see by your
faces youre surprised. His last case was around fifteen years ago.
We were ten, Lucy said out loud, the words heavy with meaning for Thomas. Ten
years old was around the time that Thomas started showing signs of his magical talent. Now it
made sense.
Yes, said Martinez, somehow guessing the meaning behind Lucys words, much to
their dismay. Your father stopped because he did not want to have the ITF too close to you two,

especially you, she turned to Thomas.

So, you know? Thomas kept his voice even, praying he wasnt about to get arrested;
that was the last thing he needed. They didnt have bail money.
Martinez nodded. Your father and I were good friends. He explained what was going
on. He helped me out more than I could ever tell you, so I was happy to keep his secret. I care
youre not licensedthe law is the law, after allbut I am willing to overlook it for your
fathers sake.
The tension flowed out of Thomas and he sighed with relief.
If our father ended the consulting relationship fifteen years ago, what brought you here
today? Lucy asked, watching Martinez carefully. She was sometimes too trusting of people
Thomas and their father had said that many timesbut when it came to her brother her
overprotective instincts kicked in. They were all one another had; she would do whatever it took
to keep him safe.
I didnt want to come here, but the case Im working now, its its a rough one. I
hoped that your father would help me out, for old times sake. Martinez shook her head, face
sad. I never imagined hed be gone. We kept in contact, you know. Called each other a few
times a year, met up around Christmas time. Last time I spoke to him was New Years Day. I
never expected this. She looked so distraught that Thomas patted her hand comfortingly. It was
an awkward gesture, but she gave him a grateful, tear-filled smile.
The thing is, Im desperate here, the detective went on, her brusque mask returning
with some effort. I need expert eyes on this case, and there was no one else in the city I trusted
more than your father. If youre doing his work now, I take it he trained you in the business,
Wait a minute, said Thomas, catching on to her meaning. Lucy and I have never
worked a real case by ourselves, nothing beyond poltergeist in my attic or find my runaway
And we werent even good at that last one, Lucy added.
A consulting job with the ITF? Theres no way we could handle that.

You have so much confidence in your skills and your fathers teachings, Martinez
observed dryly. Youre in the building stages of your business. Imagine what a successful job
for the ITF could do for your reputation! If you do this and do it well, youll have jobs pouring
in. Id hate to see
Hate to see what? Lucy interrupted. Hate to see my brother dragged off to prison on a
charge of practicing without a license? How dare you come in here and
Your father meant more to me than you could imagine, snapped Martinez coldly. Red
patches of anger appeared on her cheeks, her eyes flashing with an inner fire that quelled even
Lucy. Your brothers secret is safe until the day I die. That was an agreement I made with your
father and its one I intend to keep. I appreciate how protective you feel towards your brother, but
you dont know me, so dont presume to judge.
She took a breath before continuing. As I was saying, I would hate to see Philips
children lose his office space, when it was working for the ITF that got him the money for it to
begin with. I overheard your discussion with your landlord. If you agree to work this case with
uswith meyoull get a retainer, and Ill make sure it is the amount of your rent and then
some. And youll get it by midnight.
Lucy gritted her teeth, looking at Thomas to let him know that she would follow his lead
on this one. She had them by the shorthairs, Lucy knew; they needed that rent.
Whats the job? Thomas asked, but Martinez shook her head.
I cant release details of an ongoing investigation until youve agreed to take the case.
Liability issues, you understand.
Thomas threw his hands up in exasperation. We dont have much choice then, do we?
Martinez clucked her tongue. There is always a choice, Mister White. Choosing to do
this with the ITF is the fastest route you can take, but its not the only. You can reject the job,
lose this place, do the hard work it will take to build it back up, get a name for yourselves that
way. Either path is available. Which you take is up to you.
Despite Martinezs words, it wasnt much of a decision. We want the retainer in
writing, he said in a voice that brooked no compromise. The Detective pulled a manila folder

out of her bag and handed it to him.

Write in the amount of two months rent, Martinez instructed, and Thomas did that,
signing it and passing it to Lucy. When all three of them signed it Martinez stood up.
Okay, boys and girls, get your coats. Were going on a field trip.

Martinez drove them into the seedier part of the city. Thomas tracked their progress
based on the buildings as they drove past them. First the sleek modern buildings with their
unique shapes and forms gave way to older more traditional buildings. Those then gave way to
buildings that were similar but bore their ages with less dignity. From there they changed to
buildings marked by graffiti and gang signs, windows missing and bullet holes evident.
Where first there had been plenty of people out going about their day, here the
pedestrians were few. The people contented themselves with passing the day whilst peeking
through their blinds, if they wanted to look at all.
They drove in a car bearing the police seal and the ITF name. The looks and gestures
they got from the people in this area were hateful, full of distrust. Martinez didnt seem to pay it
any attention, no doubt used to it by now. Thomas, though, found himself second guessing the
decision to work with the police. He did not like having that negativity directed towards him. It
brought back too many memories, too many insecurities.
Martinez pulled the car into the parking lot of a grimy pay by the hour motel called the
Spotlight Motel with a sign up that read We Cash Checks. A few cars, beat-up and rusty, sat in
the parking lot on the far side, and a whole swath of police cars near the front. A faded and rusty
sign pointing to the office directed them to the first door on their left as they pulled in. Martinez

bypassed it, driving out to the other cop cars and stopping.
This has got to be the worst motel on the planet, Lucy observed as they climbed out of
the car. I bet it doesnt even have cable.
Im not sure the people who stay here are hoping to watch HBO for their
entertainment, Thomas told her, getting antsy with all of these police officers around.
This way, Martinez called back in her brusque voice from halfway up the staircase
leading to the second level where police crowded around the open door to room 207. A steady
stream of traffic went in and out. Thomas noted that many of the people who stepped out had a
queasy expressions on their faces.
At the top of the stairs Martinez stopped them. Okay, listen, whats inside this room is a
little intense. Even our seasoned officers are having a hard time dealing with it. If you cant
handle whats in the room, fine, step out for a moment, but dont lose control. It is very important
that the officers here see you as professionals. You fuck up in there and you have no consulting
job and you have no rent.
Lucy glared at her. We understand whats at stake, detective. Martinez raised an
eyebrow like she had something to say to that but didnt. Instead she turned and motioned them
with her.
An officer in a standard uniform except for the ITF printed beneath the word police
was standing by the door. As they approached he eyed Thomas and Lucy, lingering much longer
on Lucy than her brother. These the experts you went to get, detective?
You do your job, Officer Gupta and let me worry about mine, okay?
Yes maam, Officer Gupta replied with a slight blush, though it was hard to tell on his
dusky skin. As they walked past him into the room Lucy gave him a flirty little half smile and his
blush deepened; Thomas rolled his eyes.
The smell reached them at the top of the stairs, metallic and heavy, but now as they
stepped into the room it was overwhelming; Lucy felt her stomach turn rebelliously. It was the
odor of blood and gore. Once she was in the room she understood why.
From the bed to the bathroom door there was not an inch of ground or surface not

smeared with blood or worse. It started on the bed before leading into the bathroom. Lucy noted
a handprint on the doorframe of the bathroom; the victim had struggled there, resisting whatever
was happening. Impressive, considering how much blood there was in that front room.
It gets worse in the bathroom, Martinez warned with a gesture that said Go ahead.
Lucy let Thomas take the lead. Everyone said Thomas was stronger than she was, no doubt
because of the whole hes male and shes female thing, and she was comfortable with that
dynamic. She let people assume that because they always ended up underestimating them
individually and as a pair. Lucy was fine with Thomas taking the lead and the responsibility
because it gave her more freedom.
Lucy realized it was bad when Thomas reached the door and stopped cold. She saw his
shoulders tense and placed a hand on his back to let him know she was right there. Taking a deep
breath she stepped up beside him and see what it was he saw.
The bathroom was way worse than the front, no contest. In the center of the bathroom
floor was a pile of what had once been a person though that was hard to tell anymore. Entrails
and organs lay in messy piles, bloody patches of hair flung around the room. Glancing around
Lucy fought for control of her stomach. What appeared to be pieces of the victims small
intestines were hanging from the showerhead. All four torn off limbs were in the shower itself,
and what Lucy figured to be lungs rested in a puddle of blood atop the porcelain toilet seat.
Remember what Martinez said, Lucy reminded herself, careful to keep her face placid.
Shes a complete bitch but shes right about this, and we need this job.
Thomas turned away first, clearing his throat. To a stranger he would seem wellcomposed but Lucy could read him with little effort. She had no trouble noting the tightness in
his jaw, the pull at his lips and the almost shell-shocked glaze in his eyes. The scene disturbed
him deeply.
Well? Martinez approached them, hands on her hips. What do you think?
What do we think? Lucy repeated, voice tight. Thats some sick shit in there, thats
what I think! Im going to need to shower a hundred times before I wash this scent away and will

definitely have to burn these clothes. Lucy peered down at her clothes in dismay. I liked these
You werent brought here to tell me things I already knew, Miss White, Martinez
snapped. I brought you here because you profess an expertise in matters of an Inhuman sort.
You assume this horror show is the work of an Inhuman? Lucy asked.
It has to be, Thomas answered for Martinez. The limbs in the bathtubthey werent
cut off, they were torn off; look at how the bone had broken and the muscles were torn. No
Human has the strength to do that.
Martinez nodded, impressed. Precisely. Now, this place isnt far from the territory of
the citys vampire prince, which has most of the boys calling vampire.
Not likely, theres too much blood left behind, Lucy said, wrinkling her nose as she
glanced to the bed where the blood had soaked into the blankets and sheets.
Not all vampire killings are about food.
No, but a vampire wouldnt be stupid enough to do this Lucy gestured around her
emphatically near their own territory. The prince wouldnt allow it.
Lucys right, Thomas said before Martinez could argue. From what we hear the
prince has tight control on the vampires around here.
Doesnt rule out the possibility of a rogue vampire, Martinez insisted, but it her eyes
made it clear she didnt buy that theory. I know its a long shot, but it is a possibility we have to
examine. Ive seen a few vampire crimes, and they dont look like this, for the most part. But
where does that point us? A garou?
Thomas shook his head. Not a werewolf; there was no full moon last night. Might be a
shifter though. He hoped not, remembering his run-in with the wolf shifter the night before.
Vampire, shifter, any other Inhuman you can come up with that might be capable of
this? Martinez asked, and she sounded almost desperate to Lucys ears. For a moment Lucy
sympathized with her. Dealing with the vampires and shifters out there had become a political
mess. Both groups were deadly and both had their unique sense of pride and their own rules.
They liked to police their own, trusting to their own laws and rules. They did not take kindly to
Human law enforcement getting involved in what they deemed to be their private matters.

There are a few things out there strong enough to do this, Thomas replied. Theres
ghouls. Ghouls have to be directed by magic, though, and are mindless. Elves arent that much
stronger than humans, but theyre strong enough to do this. They are vindictive and can be
violent, but this this is a little tasteless for an elf. As for anything else, Id have to do a little
Do we know anything about the victim? Lucy asked, willing herself not to glance
back towards the bathroom. Name? Age? Sex? Do we even know if they were Human?
The medical examiner will be here soon to find those things out. Ive sent officers to
collect surveillance camera footage, but this place is known for being, well, discreet. The guy
working the office said he wasnt here last night when whoever was in this room checked in, and
they dont keep written record. Ill send someone to find this guy as soon as the medical
examiner arrives.
What about the neighbors? Anyone ask them what they heard or saw? suggested
Martinez snorted. We already have. The rooms near here are all unoccupied, and
anyone who might have been in them before last night is gone. We dont have a way to track
them down. The people that are still here from last night wont talk about seeing or hearing
anything, even if they did.
Martinez checked to see if anyone was nearby and leaned in close to the siblings. I was
wondering, is there anything you could do here that we cant? She gestured between herself and
Thomas tilted his head as he thought. There might be a spell that would work, if I get it
worked soon enough, yes.
No, no, no! Lucy protested loudly before she caught herself and lower her voice. Its
way too risky! What if you get caught?
This is why I hired you two, Miss White, Martinez reminded Lucy coolly. Ill be with
him here, so getting caught wont be a concern.
With all due respect, detective, you wont be the one going to jail if this blows up!

Lucys glare would melt ice right then. Thomas resisted the urge to put himself between the two
women. Hed learned at a young age that getting in Lucys way was not always smart.
Working in law enforcement Martinez had come face to face with worse than Lucy, and
she didnt miss a beat. What, you think that I wont lose my job when it comes out Ive had
knowledge of an unlicensed practitioner for fifteen years, never reporting it? And then turned
around and hired said practitioner? You think youre the only one on the line here, Miss White?
Enough, Thomas interrupted, noticing officers at the door glancing in towards them.
Lucy, its got to be done. Its no different than doing it for every other case weve worked, or
when we worked with Dad. He turned to Martinez before Lucy had the chance to argue. I cant
do it now; Ive got to prepare, and its better when worked at midnight, or as close to it as
Martinez nodded. Midnight is good. The crime scene techs should be done by then. Ill
pick you two up from your office around eleven thirty.
Maybe drive a less conspicuous car then, yea? Lucy quipped. Martinez ignored her.
Detective Martinez? The three of them turned as Officer Gupta stood in the door,
watching them. He only poked his head in as far as he had to, and he kept his eyes fixed on
Detective Martinez. It was obvious to Lucy that he was holding his breath. Not that she could
blame him; it was taking every ounce of her willpower not to run from the room and gulp down
fresher air.
What is it, Officer Gupta?
The medical examiner just arrived. Hes on his way up.
Thanks. Were done here, anyway. Remember, eleven thirty, she added to the siblings
before leading them to the front door. Officer Gupta, would you be so kind as to drive our
consultants back to their office? They can offer directions.
Oh, of course, Detective, Gupta replied, surprised by the request. Right, right this
Lucy walked up next to Thomas Did we get dismissed? She just dismissed us, didnt

Thomas turned his gaze to Martinez over his shoulder, attempting to gauge her expression but
failing. It would appear so, Luce. Makes me wonder what we got ourselves into.