Serenity Clay - Karma

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Karma is a short novella introducing Serenity Clay and the team.

Ever since rogues kidnapped her and her little sister leaving everyone else dead, Serenity Clay has dreamed of revenge. Intelligent and highly trained as an assassin, Serenity has her chance, but to go against the rogues would mean signing her sister’s death warrant. That is until she is arrested by the Bureau of Supernatural Defence. In an attempt to avoid the death penalty she agrees to a deal - to work for the Bureau and help them eliminate the rogue race entirely. But the deal with the Director of the Bureau doesn't sit well with the rest of the team. So on top of not being listened to and putting up with a partner who hates her she has to search for a woman and her eight-year-old son who they believe have been missing for a few hours but turns out has been missing for days.

Demons the novel is coming in June 2012

 

He was standing in full view, smoking a cigar, his shirtless body glistening in the moonlight. His face wasn’t anything special, but the rest of him wasn’t bad. He was ripped with a six pack and had shoulders like a wrestler, though I haven’t faced a half-naked werewolf yet that didn’t look like that. I turned my attention to the front door as his present company opened it and stepped out.  She looked barely legal, but also a lot older than what I knew he preferred. She was wearing a skanky black mini dress that showed half her arse with matching six-inch heels, a steady stream of tears were running down her face mixing with the blood dripping from her lip. Typical foreplay for Shaun Buckley. I shook my head.  If only she knew how lucky she was. The last girl he smacked around ended up in the morgue.

I waited until the clicking sound of her heels on the sidewalk faded into the night then reached for my 9mil. I slid from the driver’s seat and shoved my gun down the front of my jeans, making sure my shirt covered the butt as I moved across the road toward his Brownstone. I focused my energy on masking my scent and as I climbed the stairs, I popped a few buttons revealing some cleavage. The door opened before I could even knock. He stood in front of me, the cigar still hanging from the left side of his mouth. His nostrils flared, taking in my new perfumed scent. And just like I wanted, his eyes fell to my chest. With one swift movement, I shifted behind him, had my gun out and squeezed off two in his back. It wouldn’t kill him, just keep him down long enough for me to tie him up with silver.

I dragged his limp body inside and shut the door.  The last thing I needed was someone calling the Bureau. Then I waited...And waited...And waited. I started to think maybe I’d made a mistake and actually killed the bastard prematurely when a groan bubbled from his mouth. His eyelids flew open and after a couple of blinks, he was giving me his full attention.

“The rogues have been keeping an eye on you.”

 Fear came over him.

“Seems you’ve been a lucky boy at the track, Buckley. What they want to know is why you haven’t taken the initiative to settle your debt?”

I bent down towards him. He flinched just a little. It made me smile.

“I’m here to collect.”

He said nothing, which pissed me off. Patience isn’t exactly one of my virtues. I trained my thoughts onto the two bullets that were still lodged into his body. I envisioned them moving, continuing on their path through his flesh. I let the vision fall away when I realized his womanly screams would probably get me in trouble. The sweat was beading across his forehead. His eyes were wide. I was pretty sure he was now more scared of me then the rogues.

“Do you need more persuasion?”

He quickly shook his head.

“In the safe, upstairs, my office,” he whispered.

“And?”

“876492.” He bowed his head in defeat.

I ran up the stairs taking two at a time and just like he said, in his office was the safe. Mind you, it wasn’t exactly hidden. It was behind a portrait of himself, if you can believe it. After putting in the code, I grabbed the large duffel bag stuffed inside. I opened it and smiled at the many Benjamin Franklin’s looking back at me. I zipped it up and threw the strap over my shoulder, ready to head down and finish the job.

Downstairs, the wolf was sitting up. His body had expelled the two bullets and he was starting to heal, starting to get his strength back. I couldn’t let that happen. Werewolves are most feared around the full moon, but even without it, they can still lift a couple of cars. He’d definitely be able to break me in half, that’s for sure. The only thing stopping that from happening now was the silver wrapped around his wrists.

“Fucking bitch,” he spat. “I’m gonna enjoy making you pay.”

He got himself onto his knees, but couldn’t do much else.

“You know,” I walked behind him. He couldn’t see that I’d bent down and grabbed my ankle gun, the one with the bullets full of mercury. His body tensed, though, so he knew something was coming. “If you were going to live past today, I’d have believed you.”

I stepped back, the nozzle only inches away, squeezed, and watched as the bullet ripped its way into the back of his head. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

 

***

 

Later that evening, after delivering the bag, I found myself at the Diamond, a small bar a couple of blocks from my house. I nodded at Jonsey, the bouncer, as I walked in and headed straight for the bar. Louie slid me a Corona with a nod of his head and a wink. I gratefully accepted, then advanced toward my partially hidden table in the back corner. Perfect for seeing, but not being seen.

I slid into my seat and breathed deep, taking in the scents of male sweat and cigarette smoke. The Jukebox was playing that Pina Colada song, but was almost drowned out by a group of rowdy drunks trying to shoot pool straight, all roaring with laughter when someone missed or propelled a ball off the table.

It wasn’t always like this, but it was Friday night, Louie’s busiest. The rest of the time, he had a good steady stream of regular faces, most of them from the neighbourhood, like me.

I took a long, much deserved, pull of my beer and that familiar feeling followed, that relaxing cold sensation as the liquid slides down your throat. Nothing beats it. I think I sat for about ten minutes enjoying the momentary release of tension when Jonsey sat down opposite me.

“Word on the street is the Bureau’s lookin’ for ya.”

I sighed. “When are they not?”

“You gotta take this more seriously, girl. When Nigel and his team find evidence against you, there’ll be no comin’ back from that.”

“They have to find some first,” I grinned.

He shook his head. “Any word on Jasmine?”

His face fell just a little. “Not yet.”

After all these years, it still stung. I wouldn’t give up, though, and as long as I needed him, I knew Jonsey would help me. He was good like that. He had a big heart, which was a rare quality in a mercenary and even rarer still in a lyciri.

I skulled the rest of my beer, no relaxation this time, just a bitter aftertaste.

“We’ll keep looking,” he assured me.

I nodded. “I know.”

I slid from the booth. “Just promise me that if I get caught for more than just questioning, you’ll get her out when you find her.”

“I promise.” I turned to walk away.

“Serenity,” I faced him, “Just be careful and keep me posted, yeah?”

“I will.”

I signalled to Louie and left.

Once outside, the breeze was whipping loose strands of hair in my face, which would usually annoy me, but tonight I needed the fresh air. While walking, I grabbed out my gun.  Home was only a couple of blocks away, but still I wasn’t willing to take chances. Rogues hunted for trouble at this time of night and I had no intention of becoming dinner. The Bureau should focus more on them than me. They’re the ones that are evil. You wouldn’t see rogues at any of the blood banks, that’s for sure.

Being paranoid of anything and everything was drummed into my head as a kid and after my parents and my sister were killed, the habit kind of turned into an obsessive compulsion. So the gun and the stealthy movements up to my front door were, in my opinion, necessary.  When inside, my guard dropped just a little. Bullet ran up to me giving me his usual woofy welcome. I dropped to one knee returning his attention. His tail was wagging viciously and his mouth was shaped into a grin, all of which changed within a blink of an eye.

One minute, I was giving my dog some affection and the next I was crouching behind my sofa lounge with my gun back in my hands. It was Bullet’s hair standing up and his demeanour change that tipped me off that someone or something was headed for the house.  I closed my eyes to shift myself out of there, but my energy was too low. Teleporting after the hit I’d pulled on Shaun Buckley tonight was not turning out to be the best idea. Instead, I imagined a force field of energy to stop the door from opening. Fat lot of good that did me. My energy must have been even lower than I thought.

A splintered part of my door hit the wall behind me.  The bastard kicked it in. Blindly, I fired off two rounds toward where I thought they might be standing, a grunt and a mumbled “shit” told me I’d hit him.

A few minutes passed and the only thing I could hear was Bullet’s menacing growl echoing through the room. His body was low to the ground. He was waiting for my signal to attack, but instead I peered around the couch. The lyciri was a good twenty feet away just standing there. I knew who he was, one of the Bureau’s best, built like a brick shithouse and eyes that looked cut directly from an emerald. Kenzie Morris, with that famous penetrating gaze and looks that should be illegal.

“You may as well come out.” His voice was clipped with irritation. “There’s nowhere to go.”

“Is this the part where you say ‘we have you surrounded’?” I laughed.

“Don’t be a smart arse, Serenity. We just have some questions.”

“Bullshit.” I fired back. “Do you always break down the doors of people you just want to question?”

I stood up, levelling my gun at his chest. I’d have used Bullet as a distraction, but the size of Kenzie’s biceps are as round as my thighs so I’m guessing he could break my dog like a toothpick. I started to back my way down the hall, but he called my bluff. He knew I wasn’t going to shoot him a second time. As it was, the sleeve of his shirt started to soak with blood. He made his move and dove for me, knocking the gun from my hand. My head hit the timber floor with a thump. Pain exploded, but I pushed it back. We rolled around trading blows until I found my chance. I channelled every ounce of strength and telekinetic energy I had and pinned him, then introduced my knee to his family jewels. It’d only buy me a couple of minutes, but that’s all I needed.

I jumped up and didn’t look back, just picked up my Beretta and ran for the back door. I swung it open and came face to face with the barrel of a gun held by Teddi Franks, the Bureau’s brains. I could have shot her, even pistol whip her, but those big brown innocent eyes and soft curly hazelnut hair reminded me of Jasmine. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I let my 9 drop to the floor, then slowly went to my knees. I laced my fingers together resting them on top of my head, all the while staring into her eyes imagining what it would be like to look in Jasmine’s again.

It was Kenzie’s vice-like grip on my upper arm hauling me to my feet that snapped me out of it. He didn’t bother with the cuffs, just dragged my surrendering body to their car and chucked me in. If I had to guess, I would say he didn’t like me very much. Actually, I think it had just escalated to hate.

Kenzie was waiting in the front seat. I could hear Teddi on the phone, probably getting a couple of the others to come and board my front door up. Not that it mattered, Bullet wouldn’t run away. I settled in my seat and before long, the car was moving. I couldn’t really see anything since all the windows were blacked out, but I didn’t need to. I knew where we were going.

Forty-five minutes later, the wheels started to crunch gravel. Kenzie stopped at the huge iron gate and spoke through a video intercom. Moments later, it started to open and the goose bumps broke out over me. It happens every time I’m around spells. The spells around here are to ward off anyone that isn’t invited in; quite powerful, too. The car moved further down the driveway when the mansion came into view.

It was beautiful. I might be starting to get sick of being questioned, but I’ll never get sick of coming here. It was full of rich history. You could tell just by looking that it had to be built in the 1800s, maybe earlier.

The car rolled to a stop in line with many other identical black Escalades. I would’ve jumped out myself and walked with them, but of course, Kenzie, like the arse he is, had to put the cuffs on me. He pulled me along, bruising me in the process and didn’t let go ‘til we were inside.

I’ve only ever been on the first floor, which hasn’t changed. The foyer walls were intrinsically carved with the faces of cherubs and in the multiple large archways hung red velvet drapes neatly halved and tied so people could walk through. If I remember correctly, the archway left of the stairs went through to the kitchen, the archway right of them went through to the cells.  But if I were to turn left before the stairs, that would take me to Nigel’s office and the case room where the other desks are set up. Kenzie, of course, turned right before the stairs. He was taking me to their interrogation room. I seriously didn’t know why they bother. They knew I’d never talk. Before we stepped inside, Kenzie bent down and grabbed my second gun, my most dangerous gun that I’d only ever use on supernaturals that deserved to die.

“I’m surprised you didn’t take it back at the house. Losing your touch, aye, Kenzie?” It was never a good idea to antagonize him, but I just couldn’t help it.

He looked at me, his steely stare flaring that familiar hormonal spark low inside me. He was attracted to me, too. I could feel it. But his hatred of who I am and what I do overpowered his ability to notice. They all thought I was working as an assassin for the Rogues and essentially they were right. They didn’t know the reason why, though. Maybe today, if they finally had evidence against me, I’ll tell them the truth.

He shoved me into the room with my hands still cuffed behind my back.

“I don’t suppose you might want to remove these.” I turned showing the cuffs.

I looked back just in time to see him shutting the door.

Now the waiting began. I knew the routine, leave me in here for long periods of time, forcing me to stew on what they may or may not have on me. It was a highly effective technique. I sat down on the uncomfortable wooden chair, not able to sit back all the way so I rested my head on the rectangular table instead. My eyes started getting heavier. The sun was probably coming up. My thoughts became less focused and more uncontrollable, then slowly I began to dream.

He handed me a seven-inch blade.

Let’s see how good you are fighting a werewolf,” he snickered.

The rogue’s name was Hamilton, the object of all my hatred. Every time I looked into that ugly, evil face, I fantasized about all the different ways I could kill him.

He led me through to the arena, the familiar stench of blood and death coated the air. The grandstands all around me were full of supernaturals; rogues, opiri, werewolves, even some witches. They were all cheering and whistling. I spotted Jasmine, Marius and Hunter. They were making them watch. They knew it would be a huge distraction for me. So I cleared my head and detached myself from all my emotions and my conscious as best I could. It was getting a lot easier to do in a hell like this. The werewolf I was fighting sauntered out. As my eyes locked onto hers, she snarled at me such an inhuman, animal sound that had fear grip the insides of my stomach. There was no spell attached to her so I knew she had to be a willing participant. They had made sure the spell on me would be strong enough to stop me from using my powers.

I tried to loosen my muscles by rolling my neck around on my shoulders. I took three deep breathes and waited for the siren to sound. She, of course, was bouncing around like a rabbit on crack, loving the attention of the idiots chanting her name.

Nicola, Nicola, Nicola,” they yelled.

The siren vibrated through me. I closed my eyes and pushed the nervous, sick feeling in my stomach aside then waited for her. I made no attempt to move. I don’t know if it was fear or tactic freezing me in place. Either way, I waited until she realized I wasn’t meeting her halfway. She got closer, swinging the blade in her hand, trying to frighten me with her impressive knife wielding skills. She stopped a couple of inches away and one twitch of her hand had me ducking. Lucky, too, she would have cut open my face if I hadn’t.

It all got a little blurred after that. The fact that she missed me enraged her. Blow after blow, I blocked. I tried to kick out her legs, but she was relentless, backing me further and further into the wall. I had slashes on my upper arm, across the palms of my hands and down my neck. I could feel the steady stream of warmness coming from my wounds. I was getting tired of trying to defend myself so when I saw the opening, I sliced across her stomach. She let out this fierce battle cry like something out of a war movie. Her body started to shake uncontrollably. Her skin turned a pasty white and sweat broke out across her forehead. She looked at me with human eyes for the last time. I was no longer fighting a 70-pound red head, now I was confronted with 200 pounds of red wolf.

You can do this,” Marius yelled.

His voice startled me and I made the mistake of turning my head. That’s when she launched herself at me. All I could see when I turned back was a mouth full of razor sharp teeth coming for me. Instinctively, I crouched. I brought the knife up quickly and effortlessly slamming it into her throat. She yelped, but it was gurgled and sounded weird. Her animal self lay on its side panting frantically, yet her yellow eyes still looked at me with hatred. I bent down to her and not so gently yanked the knife out, watching as the blood gushed from the hole just under her jaw.

I got up to walk out, but all of a sudden, everything was different. There was no one chanting, or yelling in the grandstands anymore, just Jasmine screaming at me over and over again.

What did you do? What did you do?”

Her eyes were on the ground behind me. I spun around, then collapsed. What did I do? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’d killed a wolf, yet it wasn’t its body there anymore. It was Sadie. I’d just stabbed my sister. I threw the knife, then looked down at my hands. They were covered in her blood. Great racking sobs shook my body as I gathered her limp frame in my arms. I screamed and even to my own ears the sound was foreign.

The screaming in my dream woke me up. A man about the same height as me came bursting in, eyes wide looking around the room.

“Relax,” I said, “was just a dream.”

He blew out a breath. “Some dream,” he said and sat down.

This guy was new. I’d never seen him before. But that wasn’t what caught my attention.

“What is Nigel doing hiring a human?” I asked, mildly amused. “Didn’t think the old man had it in him to break the rules.”

“The council knows about me,” he said matter-of-factly.

I shrugged. “What’s your name?”

“Randall, but people usually call me Rocky.”

This guy was hanging around Kenzie too much. He had the same steely gaze and masked expressions.

“Well, Rocky, care to tell me why I’m here again?”

“You know why you’re here.”

“I do, don’t I,” I smiled. “So what have you got? DNA? A witness?”

“Video, actually. No sound, but we don’t need sound to present you to the council. And after seeing you in action, we were finally able to answer the question of what you are, which, if I’m not mistaken is the death penalty.”

I sighed. How did I make that mistake? Shaun Buckley was an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. He wasn’t paranoid, unless he had a hidden cam for his sexual exploits. That had to be it.

“If you have video, then you’ll see what an upstanding citizen Buckley really was.  And why haven’t I just been sent to the island already?”

“There was nothing else on the video except you and I don’t know why.” He paused. “Is it true? 53 supes and five humans.”

“Actually, it’s 45 supes and one human.” I corrected. “Can you take these cuffs off now?”

Saying nothing, he got up and took the cuffs off. I put my elbows on the table and rubbed both my wrists.

“So you admit to being the rogue’s hired gun?”

“Might as well.”

His whole demeanour changed and for the first time in my life, I felt a heavy obligation to explain myself. The man across from me was looking at me with an expression no longer masked. The contempt and disgust made me feel...ashamed.

“When I was 12, just after the sun went down, my home was invaded by rogues. We were living in Philly at the time, in the human realm, trying to keep a low profile.” I paused and closed my eyes as I remembered.

After a brief moment, I continued. “Sadie, my older sister, was standing next to me arguing with my mother in the kitchen. It was over something stupid. It all happened so fast after that. Mom ran to the front door, but they grabbed her before she was able to do any real damage to them. Next thing I knew, a rogue was feeding from Sadie. He drained her then just let her body flop to the floor.” I shook my head.

“There was nothing I could’ve done, but to this day, watching her life being sucked from her and her dead accusatory eyes staring at me from the floor still haunts me. Anyway, long story short. They slit the throats of my parents, drank from them like a bunch of savages and took me and my little sister Jasmine to a horrible place that became our home for the next 6 years. Jasmine didn’t have my abilities so they just used her to make me cooperate. Every couple of weeks, I get sent proof of life, which they made clear would change if I didn’t continue to do what they want.”

“Why haven’t you ever told The Bureau this?  Nigel would find her.”

“Firstly, that would’ve required me admitting to my crimes and secondly, don’t you think I’ve been looking for her already? They have her hidden extremely well, otherwise I would’ve gotten her out years ago.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what that must be like.” The contempt and disgust was now gone. “But that still doesn’t change the innocent lives you’ve taken.”

I snorted. “They were hardly innocent.”

His eyebrows rose. “Oh?”

“Some of the contracts were, but I was able to get them to the human realm.  And the others, well, they deserved what they got.”

“Shaun Buckley?” He leaned on the table. “As I understand it, he was very highly regarded in his pack, a paramedic, too.”

I barked out a laugh. “Buckley owed the rogues two and a half mil. He was buying girls usually around 12 to 14 years old.” He looked sceptical. I sighed. “In my house is a laptop with everything; photos, names, dates, how much they owed and why they owed it.”

 He sat back. “So you’re not as heartless as people think you are.”

I grinned. “No, I’m not heartless, but don’t for one second think I’m harmless.” I warned.

He smiled back at me. “I won’t make that mistake, that I can assure you.”

Just as we were getting somewhere, the door swung open.

“Come with me,” Nigel motioned for me. His voice was low yet commanding. I did as I was told. The energy that radiated from this man was old and powerful. No one ever crossed Nigel. Well, no one younger than him anyway. He was lyciri and even though he looked to be mid thirties, he was actually hundreds of years old.

He led the way back through to the entrance foyer and toward the kitchen where we stopped at an elevator. He took me to the third floor where we stepped onto plush black carpet. Paintings hung from the walls and photographs, some of Kenzie and the team, others of people I’d never seen before. Vases sprouting green plants decorated the hallway until we came to the end where we entered a dimly lit room full of rows upon rows of dusty old books. The library, I thought.

I watched as Nigel went behind a small bar in the corner. He was pouring two scotches. At this point, confusion couldn’t begin to explain what was in my head.

“Please sit,” he said, handing me one of the glasses.

I sat down on the long sofa. He settled into a large brown leather arm chair across from me. I sipped the brown liquid, welcoming the burning as it slid into my stomach. I made a point of looking around trying to ignore the awkwardness that settled in the room with us.

“I want you to work for me.” Subtly was never Nigel’s strong suit.

I gulped down the rest of my drink, shaking off the scorching sensation down my trachea, and set the empty glass on the round mahogany coffee table.

“I have been aware about you from the beginning,” he continued, “what the rogues did to your family. I was only an agent back then, but working your case, nonetheless. Perhaps it is my obsession with wanting to stop the rogues, why I have continued to deny the council access to you. But my lack of evidence explanations are wearing thin.”

“So you want me to work for you to, what, dissuade them?”

“Yes. I think that will work. As you may have already noticed, the people of Sanctum have been somewhat modernizing to mimic the human realm. This new development is beyond the council. However, they all agree that this new civilized path is working.”

He crossed his legs, such a feminine gesture coming from a manly looking guy like him, it was odd, to say the least. “If I report to them that, in exchange for your confession, you have agreed to provide all the information and necessary services in order to put an end to the rogue race, they may well just allow you to keep your life.”

“And what about the little detail of me being a sensitive?” I asked. I was curious to see if he knew.

“That will not leave these walls.” Of course, he knew. “It is the whole purpose of your confession. The video will then be destroyed.”

I started biting the inside of my lower lip. I tend to do that in impossible situations. Resolved, I stood up shaking my head. “I can’t. I’m sorry, but I just can’t risk my sister’s life.”

 “I don’t think you grasp the situation, Serenity. This is your only option, the only one I’m willing to offer. If you do not accept this invitation, then your life is forfeit. What will happen to your sister then?” 

“So this really isn’t a choice. It’s an ultimatum. Work for me or die?”

“Perhaps, or maybe you could look at this as a win-win. Working for me would give you access to Teddi and the vast resources The Bureau has at its disposal, which is a lot more than you had before; do you agree?”

I nodded.

“And I would assume we would have a better chance of finding her than just you and a couple of mercenaries.”

I hated to admit it, but he was right.

“Fine but my sister is my priority.”

“Good then.”

He stood up still holding onto his glass.

“There’s no time to show you around. The others can do that later. I will need you in the conference room in 15 minutes.”

I started to walk out, but stopped and asked, “What about my stuff?”

“Ah, right,” he paused. “I will send Randall for them in a moment.”

I nodded, then left.

 

***

 

The conference room, as it turned out, was actually the case room. In the front was a white board the length of the wall. The rest of the space was taken up by desks which were coupled together. There was a single aisle up the middle and the small room off to the left was a kitchenette with a stocked mini fridge and a coffee machine that was sitting in all its brewed glory just waiting for me to pour a cup.

I stood at the small counter sipping at my mug when Rocky walked in.

“Welcome to the team.” He said with a grin.

I sighed. “If only everyone will react like you,” I said, smiling back.

“You talking about Kenzie?”

I nodded.

“Yeah, you might want to stay clear from him for a while.  He’s not too pleased.”

“Figures.”

“Well, I’m off to get your stuff. Anything specific you want?”

“They’ll be two suitcases under my bed already packed for emergencies and Bullet.”

“Bullet?”

My lips curled up. “My pit-bull.”

“Oh, shit.” He started walking off. “It better not bite me.”

I was still smiling minutes after he left. I liked him. He had this air of ease about him. He’s the one in the team that lightens the mood and makes the day seem bearable. I didn’t have to wait long. My mug was still warm when Nigel walked in. I left the kitchen and stood awkwardly to one side.

“This,” he pointed, “is your desk.”

I sat down. The computer was powered up, there was a phone, stationary and, oddly enough, a Glock and a badge.

“I have my own gun,” I said. “And is it really necessary for me to carry a badge?”

“Your own gun isn’t 40 calibres, and this is standard issue.” He stopped writing on the white board and turned to face me. “And yes, it is necessary for you to have a badge. Your ID card will be ready in an hour or two.”

“It all just seems so –“

“Human,” he finished.

I nodded. “Very.”

“That is the idea.” He turned back to the whiteboard.

We both fell silent and I slipped into my thoughts. I think I needed to process everything. Less than eight hours ago, I was killing a paedophile werewolf and now I’m sitting behind a desk, a badge and soon an ID card will identify me as the newest agent for the Bureau of Supernatural Defence. Was this really happening? I was having the urge to shift out of here. It was that feeling when your decision just starts to dawn on you and you start to second-guess everything and everyone. The fact that I also know Nigel isn’t being exactly forthcoming with the information doesn’t make the feeling any better either. There’s something about all this that’s just too easy. He’s definitely not telling me something.

“Hey.” I looked up to the sound of snapping fingers to see Teddi standing in front of me. “Never thought I’d see the day you’d be sitting in here,” she said.

“Yeah, neither did I.”

I looked straight into her narrowed eyes. She didn’t trust me and I couldn’t blame her.

“We have a good thing going here.”

“And I’m not here to mess that up,” I said.

She nodded her head a few times. “We’ll see.”

She walked to the opposite side of the room. Her desk was decorated nicely with pictures of the team, none of anyone else, though. I looked back at my computer screen and what do you know? The desk coupled with mine was Kenzie’s. He was sitting there scowling at me. Rocky was right. He was pissed. I smiled, then turned my attention to Nigel.

“You both have become acquainted with Serenity Clay, and everyone has been notified about the deal she has made. I do not have to remind you about the level of professionalism that I will expect from here on out.” His eyes focused on Kenzie and then the real briefing began. “A couple of hours ago, we got a call from Colin Billings. His wife Leanne and son Keal are missing. I have Curtis, Sniper and Julio canvassing the neighbourhood.”

He put pictures up on the white board. Keal was a beautiful boy. Blue eyes, blonde hair and a wide smile that lit up his whole face. He was a spitting image of his mother whose blonde hair looked to be as long and straight as mine. “Kenzie, you and Serenity are taking lead on this.”

“With all due respect, boss, I don’t think Serenity should be lead on any case, especially not this one. She’s not qualified enough.” His voice was careful, but the note of disgust in his tone was not lost on me.

“She is most certainly qualified for this case or did you forget the story of her own kidnapping and that of her sister’s? See past your prejudices, Kenzie.” He started to walk out. “And as for other cases, with you as her partner, I’m sure she will learn quickly enough.”

Kenzie’s face was enraged. He jumped up and started to follow Nigel to his office, leaving me with Teddi and the remaining tension.

“Well,” I said, “I guess we should talk to Colin Billings.”

“We?” She asked.

“Don’t you handle the forensics and evidence?”

“Yeah, but I can’t go outside until nightfall. I’m opiri, remember?”

“Right.” I said getting up. “If there’s evidence to be collected, I will bag it and bring it back with me.”

I attached the holster to my belt and picked up the Glock. I checked the clip, which was full. There was also a bullet in the chamber. After I made sure the safety was on, I holstered it and slid my badge into my back pocket.

“Are you going to tell Kenzie where you’re going?”

I turned on her. “If you want to, be my guest. But the first 48 hours are the most crucial and we need to talk to the husband while his memory is fresh. We haven’t got time for childish behaviour,” I said, knowing full well she would repeat it.

 I walked out and, just like I suspected, she loyally waited outside Nigel’s door.

I hesitated as the sun hit my face. It’s been a while since I felt the full force of daylight. Sanctum works differently than in the human realm. Daylight is for sleeping and night time is for school, work, etc., unless, of course, you are a lyciri, witch or werewolf, then you can be up anytime you like. I jumped into the driver’s side of one of the many Escalades and just as I seen earlier, the keys were left in the ignition. By the time I had the engine purring, Kenzie was sliding in next to me. He never said a word and neither did I.

Colin Billings lived in Sanctum’s equivalent of Beverly Hills. Every home was a mansion, every garden was immaculate and the chances of you seeing a woman dressed to the nine’s leading around a perfectly puffed pooch was very high. I turned into his driveway and had to speak into a video intercom. It’s the new trend for people with money. After allowing the gate to open, I drove in and parked next to a bright red corvette. We both got out and walked to the front door. It was answered by a tall, lanky man with white wiry hair. A witch, I thought.

“Please come in, Mr. Billings is in the study.”

We followed him down an abnormally long hallway, until only one door was left. He let us inside where Colin and, judging by the resemblance, his brother were sitting. The usual sophisticated, businessman facade Colin regularly portrayed on TV was gone. In his place was a guy that looked withdrawn and sleep-deprived, the sun being up would not be helping either.

“Mr. Billings,” I said stepping toward the sofa, “I’m Serenity Clay with the BSD, this is my partner, Kenzie Morris.” I motioned in his direction. “I need you to tell me everything from the moment you got home. Can you do that?”

He looked up at me. His eyes were rimmed red and full of unshed tears. “I got home about an hour before the sun came up. When I realized Leanne and Keal weren’t here, I knew something was wrong. Leanne would never risk staying out so close to daybreak.”

“And where were you coming home from?” I questioned.

“I’ve been gone on business in the human realm. I haven’t been home for a week.” His voice was flat, almost uninterested, only he wasn’t. He was exhausted and probably in shock.

“Would there be any reason why your wife may have wanted to leave?”

He shook his head and began to cry. His hand was over his mouth. And before he answered, he swiped at the tears. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we loved each other.”

I believed him.

“Do you think this could be a warning to you? Not everyone likes the initiative you’re taking in becoming more like the human realm.”

“It could be.”

“Have you had any threatening letters or calls lately?”

“All the time.” He turned to the other man on the sofa, the one that looked related. “Can you give them the box before they go?” The man nodded.

“What’s your name, sir?”

He got up quickly and held out his hand. “Bruce Billings, Colin’s brother.” I shook it.

“Is there anything else we may need to know?” I asked.

Colin just shook his head.

“I’d like to take a look at both their rooms, if I could?”

His head was bowed. “Maddox will show you.”

Maddox, the witch, took us upstairs. We looked in Colin and Leanne’s room first. Nothing had been touched. The floral bedspread was neatly pulled over the pillows, and everything was freakishly in order. Next, we looked in Keal’s room where Kenzie started to lose patience.

 “What’s this have to do with anything?”

I talked while still looking around. “Because they didn’t go missing today.” The evidence to support my theory was spread across Keal’s desk. “Look.” He came closer. “This is Keal’s Monday night’s homework. If we call the school, I’m willing to bet he hasn’t been back since.”

I moved toward his bookcase. The majority of his reading material was university level. There was nothing in his room a normal kid would have. There was no model airplanes, remote control race cars, not even video games. “I need your cell.” I held out my hand.

Surprisingly, he gave it to me. I scrolled through the contacts until I got to Rocky then dialled.

“You haven’t killed her, have you,” is how he answered.

I rolled my eyes at Kenzie who, I know, heard. “Like he could.”

“Oh, shit. Sorry, Serenity. Wasn’t expecting to hear your voice.”

I laughed. “It’s fine. Are you canvassing with the others yet?”

“Got here about 10 minutes ago. We are just about ready to finish up. Why?”

“I need to know when the neighbours last saw Leanne or Keal.”

 

“Hold on.” I heard him ask the others. “Both sides and across the road all say they haven’t seen them since about three hours before sunrise on Tuesday.”

“That’s what I needed, thanks.” I hit end, then under armed it back to Kenzie. “You heard all that?”

He nodded. “I assume we let Mr. Billings know.”

“Not yet. We should talk to Bruce, get the surveillance around the house and go back to the Bureau and look through those letters.”

“Colin Billings is one of the richest men in Sanctum, if he finds out that we’re hiding important information--”

I cut him off. “We’re not hiding anything. We’re just not telling. And does he look like he’s in any state to hear his wife and son went missing days ago?”

Kenzie blew out a long breath and walked out. He knew I was right, of course, which was probably what irked him.

 

***

 

We met Bruce in the front foyer. He was holding onto a box, the type that usually holds files. “The DVDs are in there as well,” he said, passing the heavy weight to Kenzie.

I eyed the man that looked so much like his brother, but appearance-wise was so different. His clothing wasn’t branded, his hair oily and the watch on his right wrist looked about as expensive as my shampoo. It was obvious he wasn’t successful like his sibling, nor did he look like he cared to be. His eyes weren’t envious or full of jealousy. He didn’t act like he couldn’t stand to be here and his feelings for Colin seemed genuine.

“Do you have a theory about what’s happened?” I asked him.

He ran his hand through his hair. “Honestly?” He shook his head. “Not a clue.” He went to say something else, but stopped.

“It’s okay. Whatever it is, we need to hear it,” I encouraged.

“They did love each other, it’s true, but Colin travels to the human realm so much he wouldn’t know if she had it in her to leave or not. And believe me, the last time I spoke to her on the phone, she had it in her.”

“And what day was that?”

“Monday night.”

“What was the conversation about?” Kenzie interjected.

“She was fed up, sick of being mated for life, but never actually seeing her mate. To her, it wasn’t much of a life. Her words, not mine.”

“Does she usually come to you with her marital problems?” Kenzie asked.

He nodded. “We’re friends.”

“Okay, Mr. Billings,” I said. “Thank you for your help. If you remember anything else, please let us know as soon as possible.”

We shook hands. “I will.”

We left without another word. The sun was now high in the sky. The blistering heat promised death to Rogues and nasty burns for opiri, but me, it just made thirsty and tired. Kenzie looked like he wasn’t affected at all, even on the way back to the Bureau. While I greedily gulped down a bottle of water and mopped the sweat from my skin with a towel, he drove in silent comfort.

That’s yet another downfall of Sanctum. It’s not like the human realm where you can travel to different countries or states and experience a variety of climate changes. We get two varying degrees, very hot or very cold and it could be either one or the other at any time of the year, month or week.

Back at the Bureau, I decided it would be a good idea to take ten minutes for a shower. The sweat and lack of deodorant was not a nice combination. I followed the directions Rocky gave me; elevator, second floor, room number six. I walked the hallway and, just like the third floor, the black plush carpet softened with my steps. I passed six doors before mine, all opposite one another like a hotel, evens on one side odds on the other and there was another six after mine. Nigel had a real hostel thing going.

 

I opened the door to my room and stepped in. After the place I’ve been living in for the past few years, this was a nice change. The room, like the hallway, was much like being in an expensive hotel. The colour combination wasn’t really my style, reds and gold, but, hey, it could be worse. It could have been retro or limes or, god forbid, pinks. I was facing the lounge room which had two red velvet sofa chairs, a coffee table and LCD television. I didn’t have time to have a good look. I needed to get back and help with the letters so I opened the double sliding doors to the bedroom, I walked past my two suitcases and then I entered the adjoining bathroom. It was big and beautiful. Black and white tiles lined the floor and the shower would probably fit ten people, at least. I stripped off my clothes, then jumped in.

I stood under the water, letting the cool spray hit me in my face. I grabbed the strawberry scenting shampoo that was on the caddy and started lathering my hair into a ball of soapy foam. Satisfied my hair and, lastly, my body was clean, I got out, dried myself and walked naked into the room where I picked out the first lot of clothes my hands touched, a black tank top and jeans. I tied my hair into a single ponytail, applied a smidgen of clear lip gloss and strapped on my weapons; knife to my left ankle, merc gun to the right and my Glock attached to my belt on my hip.

There’s something about the freshness in showers that makes you feel re-energized, which is what I felt right now. I got off the elevator on the first floor and went to the case room where Kenzie, Teddi, Rocky and a couple of the other big lyciri were sorting through letters. They all looked up when I came in.  And leave it to the guys to give me the once over, by the look on their faces, I think I passed their inspection. As soon as I opened my mouth, though, their guard went up.

“Anything yet?” I asked.

Rocky answered. “Not yet.”

I turned to Teddi. “What about the DVD? Was there anything suspicious?”

“Not that I could see.”

The box full of letters was on Kenzie’s desk. I grabbed a handful, sat down then started reading.

 

Stop trying to change our world. Its fine the way it is. If you keep trying to mimic the humans, we will make you pay!

 

You’re an idiot Billings. Fuck off to the human realm if you love em’ so much!

 

HUMAN WHORE…FUCK OFF.

 

They were all pretty much like that, until –

 

Our world is full of supernaturals, Mr. Billings. We are not supposed to be on the same level as humans. We are not supposed to copy their laws, or their way of life. We are superior in every way, but it is you who continues to demean us. However, it is quite clear that a letter will do nothing to persuade you. The home in which you inhabit is proof of how successful your endeavours are so maybe I will have to come up with something a little more creative to help you see the error of your ways.

 

It was signed MK.

 

“I’ve got something,” I said and passed the note to Rocky.

“I read worse than that. It’s nothing,” said the guy with the shaved head.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Sniper.”

“Well, Sniper, it’s worth just checking it out, don’t you agree?” I turned to Teddi. “Would you be able to find who wrote this?”

She shrugged. “I guess. He probably had it mailed or delivered by a messenger. Either way, I could track it.”

“Okay, good. Could you do that, please?”

Before she nodded, I watched as she looked at Kenzie. He moved his head slightly, just enough to let her know to do it. I pretended I didn’t see, but the gesture simmered my blood. I could smell the fresh coffee wafting from the kitchen and felt it was a good idea to go get a cup.

I returned with the comfort of heat in my hands. I was tired and hungry and getting a little fed up with my hostile environment.

“We all know who’s behind this. I thought that’s the reason Nigel wanted you here.” I presumed this one was Julio because of his brown skin and slight Latino accent.

“It’s not the rogues, if that’s what you mean by who.”

“Why not?” And this must be Curtis.

“Because it’s not the way they do things. They take kids, sure. But never the parents, ever.” I sipped my coffee.

“I think you just don’t want us suspecting them.” He crossed his arms over his chest, making his upper body look even bigger.

I shook my head. “Think what you like--”

Before I could finish my sentence, I heard a familiar ring. Rocky passed me my phone. “It was on your nightstand. I forgot to give it to you.”

“Thanks.” I flipped it open. “Hello.”

“Heard you got pinched.” It was Jonsey.

“That I did. Any luck with Jasmine?” I walked out of hearing range from the others.

“Sorry, girl, I wish there was. I was ringin’ for something else.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“I also heard you made a deal with Nigel and you’re workin’ the Billings’ kidnapping.”

“You got something for me?”

“One of the boys stumbled on a woman tied to a chair in the warehouse district, number 63. He didn’t go further and didn’t touch anything. He’s pretty sure she’s dead.”

“How long ago?”

“Like, 10 minutes, if that.”

“Thanks, Jonsey, I owe you one.”

I contemplated going after the lead on my own, but realized that would just sour them all the more. So like the nice person I am, I went back in and relayed my information.

I rode shotgun, with Kenzie driving and Rocky in the back. The others followed in another car.

It was getting on in the afternoon now. The sun was no longer high in the sky. It was still humid, though, and the promise of a storm was about. We drove through the streets of Sanctum. I could see what all those angry letters meant. It was more and more like the human realm every day. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, mostly because I come from Philadelphia. But I can understand why some people wouldn’t, especially the old ones. There were pubs, cafés, shopping malls and movie theatres and that’s just downtown.

Kenzie turned left onto 23rd street. We were getting closer. I knew because it’s the part of Sanctum that no one really cared about. It was for storage only. So why keep it looking pretty, right?

 He parked the car out front of warehouse 63 and the three of us made our way inside. The door was unlocked and the inside dark. I turned the light on. There were boxes stacked everywhere, but I wasn’t too focused on them at the moment. Leanne Billings was slumped in a chair right in front of me. Her wrists were tied with silver to the arm rests and as I got closer, I could see her mouth was taped with electrical tape.

I knelt down in front of the woman we’d been looking for and thought the chances of her son being alive just decreased. I touched her arm to begin untying her when her head slowly responded. She was struggling and I realized why as soon as I looked into her eyes.

“It’s okay,” I said, as I carefully folded back the tape from her mouth, “I’m with the Bureau.”

“My son,” she whispered. “He…has…him.”

“Who? Who has him?”

She wasn’t able to respond. Her jaw started to clench and her body seized. It’s why she was struggling to lift her head. She’d been injected with mercury. For her to be experiencing this, she would have been injected an hour ago, maybe two. She was minutes away from losing her mind completely. I was actually surprised she hadn’t already. I held her until her tensed muscles relaxed. She slowly lifted her head again. Her face was soaked in sweat and her shirt stained with blood. Her face must have coped a beating before she was injected because she was able to heal most of it.

“Shoot…me…please,” was all she was able to get out before her brain started to turn to mush.

I got up. I knew I had to. I couldn’t leave her like this. The mercury wouldn’t kill her for another few hours, but I couldn’t just let her suffer. I unclipped my gun and pointed at her. My hand shook a little, not at what I had to do, but because of the memory I had of me having to do this very same thing when I was sixteen.

I was about to put her out of her misery when my arm was jerked back and my body spun around.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Kenzie half yelled, half growled. His eyes were no longer emerald green, but yellow, his wolf eyes.

“She’s been shot up with mercury. The madness has got her. What else is left?” I didn’t care how mad he was. I was furious and I wasn’t backing down.

“You can’t just shoot her!”

His hand was painfully still gripping my arm.  “Let me go or I will be shooting you.” My eyes stared into his. He held onto me for as long as it took for his eyes to go back normal. Then, he let me go. If we were in any other situation than the one we’re in right now, I would’ve thought he liked being that close to me.

“Fine. Do what needs to be done.”

The others were just standing beyond the entrance watching everything go down. It didn’t look like they’d even attempted to search the warehouse yet.

“What are you waiting for?” My voice echoed. “Check for the boy,” I said, annoyed.

Kenzie stood exactly where he was before. His hands were crossed and face sour. I lifted my gun back in line with Leanne Billings’ chest and squeezed off three rounds. Boom, boom, boom. Her body went limp as my bullets shredded her heart.

We walked the boxed obstacle and came to where the others were all standing. Their faces were part anger, part sadness. It’s how I knew, before even seeing the little boy’s feet, that they’d found his body. I squeezed my eyes shut to stop the tears from spilling and when I opened them, I ignored everyone else standing around and went to my knees.

His eyes were closed and half his body was covered with the remains of a box. I lifted one of his eyelids up and confirmed what I’d suspected. There was petechial haemorrhaging, deep red covering the white’s of his eyeball and there was maroon coloured bruising around his neck, not in the form of a rope. So possibly from someone’s hands?

I stood up and just looked at his small eight-year-old body. His hands had been placed over his chest and the look on his face was free of any expression, just like it would if he’d been sleeping. I just couldn’t understand why someone would kill him. He was eight, for god’s sake. He was an opiri fledgling, which made him both innocent and vulnerable, just as much as a human would be. One thing I knew for certain, the rogues were definitely not involved in this. I said as much to the guys before leaving the scene. They followed me outside.

“You really don’t want it to be the rogues, do you?” Sniper remarked.

“Shut up. Just let her talk.” Julio was sticking up for me? Hmm, weird.

“Leanne was tortured. She was beaten, then injected with mercury, which is a deliberate way to cause an opiri to have the worst death possible.” I crossed my arms. “She said ‘he took him’ not they and I know for a fact rogues don’t go solo. The biggest indicator, though,” I said as I walked to the car., “was the boy. The rogues don’t have a single ounce of feeling in their body. They wouldn’t have strangled him. They wouldn’t have partially covered his body. They would’ve snacked on him and left him where he fell. This was personal. The person we’re looking for cared about him, but hated Leanne. And Bruce Billings did say Leanne was planning on leaving Colin.”

“You’re blaming the husband?” Kenzie asked.

I shrugged. “Can’t rule him out.”

He got in the driver’s seat and mumbled. “Of course not.”

 

***

 

By the time we got back to the Bureau, the only thing left behind of the day was the remnants of the sun’s shine. We’d been on the case under 12 hours and even if I thought we had a promising suspect, no one else agreed with me.

I don’t know where the others went, but I had a pooch to see. He’d been left out back, which probably drove him nuts. Bullet’s an inside dog and he’s gotten used to a certain way of life, none of this kennel crap.

I sat out with him for a good thirty minutes and watched as star after star began to sparkle in the sky. I was going over everything from today in my head. It was on a serious loop; every expression I noticed, every face that was pulled. I had no idea if it was going to get better, if they’d learn to accept me. But deal or no deal, I wasn’t going to put up with shit. I was being respectful to them because of what I am and what I was pushed to do by the rogues. But sooner or later they’d just have to harden up and get used to it.

On that thought, Rocky, the only one that’s treated me normally, popped his head out. “We’re all sitting down for breakfast,” he said.

“It’s okay. I’ll get something later,” I replied.

“You can’t.” He gave me a ‘sorry’ face. “It’s Nigel’s rule. We’re all supposed to eat together.”

That’s just great, I thought. I would have to eat with a room full of people who hated me and, for Nigel’s benefit, would probably paste on fake smiles, use manners and try and include me in idle chit chat. Gag!

I drew in a deep breath and blew it out nice and slow. I made sure I gave Bullet a proper goodbye and followed Rocky to the third floor where Nigel’s library was located, except this time went in the opposite direction. I could hear laughter as I walked toward this new room that I hadn’t seen yet. And just like a scene from a movie, I walked in and it all stopped.  Silence.

Nigel stood up with a warm smile and, like the gentlemen that he was, pulled a chair out from the royally long table. I thanked him and sat down, not realizing until I was looking right at him, that, again, I was in another position of sitting across from Kenzie.

“Did you get a chance to properly meet Sniper, Julio and Curtis?” Nigel asked, pointing at each one of them.

I grinned. “Yes, I did.” It was a little white lie. I actually didn’t meet them at all. I think Sniper was the only one. I guessed the others.

“Good.”

Everyone began their conversations again. I just said nothing. Who was I going to talk to anyway? I didn’t belong here. And as I sat watching all of them, the way they trusted each other, the way they spoke to each other, it was becoming increasingly obvious that I never would. Its funny how things work, though, isn’t it? The one time in my life where I wanted something to work, where I wanted to get to know other people and it was never going to happen. I hated this feeling. It was like a black hole of nothingness. I wished I could just wind the clock back a couple of days and go back to the way things were. I was fine on my own.

My thoughts we’re interrupted by an older woman. She sat a plate of bacon, eggs and tomato in front of me. She offered me orange juice, too, which I gratefully accepted, then went on to serve everyone else. When she was done, she sat the trolley to one side and sat herself down next to Nigel. At first, I thought that maybe she was his wife, but their body language was all wrong and she didn’t look like his type. She acted more sisterly or motherly, but I knew it couldn’t be his mother or an actual sister. She was small, and the lines etched in her face put her at least in her forties, if she was human, that is. As a witch, she could be hundreds of years old.

 After being introduced to her, I asked them how they met.

Nigel dove into a long tail that lasted long after I finished the most incredible meal I’ve had in ages. He told me about Salem and the witch trials, how everyone was being accused back then, that the humans were mostly killing each other than being successful in killing a real witch. He described the horror and violence that these people were inflicting on one another all because of the possibility of being different. He then got to the part where they were about to hang Abigail. They’d just finished with her human best friend Mary Parker. He’d been too late for her, he said. But Abigail, he got to. He turned into his wolf and spread a new fear throughout the town. Abigail knew he was lyciri - part wolf part opiri, so as soon as she was able to free herself, she jumped on his back and he ran to the nearest portal.

“-- And she’s been by my side ever since,” he finished.

 I smiled. “It must be nice to have someone like that in your life.”

“If you learn to trust, you will find out just how nice it is,” Abigail answered for him.

“Somehow, I don’t think my


Submitted: April 15, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Samme Wilson. All rights reserved.

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