Protection of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 3
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Leira rushed to the address the general gave her over the phone. Normally, she was ready to go, already mulling over the facts she knew about a case, putting the beginning of a potential storyline together. But this time was different. The expectations were different.
I’m expected to use magic.
A thread of doubt ran through her. Something she wasn’t used to, ever.
No Hagan beside me, no formal training on this magic shit.
She was adding up all the reasons taking the new job was really a bad idea as she turned onto Newning Avenue in the Travis Heights neighborhood on the South side of Austin. As an Austin homicide detective, it was never hard to find a place once she got a few blocks away. The hive of activity stretched out over a block with yellow police tape and patrol cars taking up room.
But this was different.
The street looked just as quiet as an average workday afternoon. Nothing out of place. Leira found herself glancing at houses as she drove by, looking for the house numbers, counting down till she got to the address. Clusters of short cacti were planted near the curb just in front of a stunted crepe myrtle tree.
The rancher looked like it had been recently remodeled and was well taken care of with new windows and not a single leaf on the front sidewalk. That meant nothing. Plenty of neat people had been known to kill someone, thought Leira.
There was nothing moving in the windows. No sound of anyone stirring. Leira pulled the Mustang in front of the house, taking in her surroundings. What crime happened here?
A black SUV further down the block blinked their lights at her.
“Okay, that makes me feel better. The Feds are still just as obvious as ever.”
She pulled down the street, turning around at the end so she could park right behind them. A door opened but no one got out and after a few seconds Leira took the hint and got out, walking over to the car.
“Get in,” said a man in a dark suit wearing reflective sunglasses. He slid over to make room.
A walking cliche.
“Show me some ID first.”
“Can’t you sense who we are or something?”
Leira gave them a dead fish look, glad she still had a reason to dish it out. The man reached into an inside pocket in his jacket and pulled out a thin wallet, flipping it open to show her an ID.
“Take off the glasses,” she said, looking at the picture and back at him.
“Really?” he said, annoyed. He pulled down the sunglasses to reveal dark brown eyes.
“All the way, so I can see your face. You know what they say about getting in a car and stranger danger.”
“Now you’re just fucking with me for your own amusement.”
“Isn’t that what you’re doing with all of this?” Leira finally slid into the car. She could see the driver smirking in the rear view mirror.
“Hello,” said the driver, turning around to offer his hand to shake. He looked like he was issued the same uniform of dark suit, reflective glasses as the man in the backseat. “Name’s Cohen. We’re your new coworkers. That’s Fischer. He takes a little getting used to but he grows on you over time. So be careful.” Cohen let out a laugh, covering his mouth with his fist.
Fischer grunted, his mouth pulled into a thin line. He was not amused. “As you saw,” he said, putting his ID back in his pocket, “name is Jeff Fischer. That’s Alan Cohen, a regular comedian and my partner, for now,” he said, scowling at the reflection in the mirror. “This your first day?”
“Not even,” said Leira. “I was supposed to start in a few days.”
“We were told to give you this.” Fischer pulled a leather jacket out of a paper bag on the floor. “Real leather, no less.” He snickered as he handed it over. Leira did her dead fish look on him and was tempted to ramp up the magic but it was too early. There would be plenty of time to make him shit his pants.
“What’s so…” She flipped the jacket over and saw the dark red lettering across the back. PDA in large capital letters. “This somebody’s idea of a joke?”
“In over two hundred years the federal government has never been known to have any kind of sense of humor. That stands for Paranormal Defense Agent.”
“They didn’t tell you much, did they?” Cohen twisted in his seat to get a better look at Leira, a wide, crooked smile on his face.
“And apparently you didn’t ask,” snorted Fischer. “You’re an adjunct to the PDF! The Paranormal Defense Force, out of Alexandria, Virginia. Ever heard of the place? No? Not surprising. It’s very hush hush. Don’t want the average Joe walking around to find out someone can abracadabra him into a rabbit.”
“Or can make him hand over all of his money and like it.”
“No, that’s not magic Cohen, that’s your wife.”
They both laughed, Fischer slapping Cohen on the shoulder.
“But they let you two in on it.” Leira rolled her eyes, looking down at the jacket. It was a well-made jacket. She could tell it was hand stitched, lined in silk. PDA, fuck me.
“I can’t tell if it looks like you’re asking for a public display of affection or to keep away.” Fischer was sitting back, still chuckling. Leira looked up, a low-level glow to her eyes.
Might need to back the bozos up early.
Fischer choked on the spit in his mouth, letting out a soft gurgle as he pressed himself against the far door.
“Gaaaawww! Goddammit!” Cohen fumbled for his gun. Leira sent the energy out ahead and gave him a solid shove, his head banging against the window.
“Are we done playing? I have better things to do than listen to you chickenheads. What the hell am I doing here?”
Fischer gasped for air, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish out of its bowl.
“Take a deep breath, Fischer. Go on, you can do it, hold it in for just a second. Now let it out.” Leira spoke to him in a soothing tone. If only to get something out of one of them so she could move on to her first case. “Let’s try this again. Why am I here?”
Fischer gasped but he finally started talking. “There’s a dead body in there. Federal witness. Looks a little too hinky.”
Cohen rubbed the back of his head, his eyes still squeezed shut, wincing. “Doesn’t help that she was the only witness to a big case against some mean drug dealers.”
“So far, sounds very ordinary and unfortunate all the way around,” said Leira, looking out at the quiet street.
“A call came down to have you come take a look. Feel around or something.”
“Because two minutes ago I was a homicide detective. Okay, I can do that.”
“Not just that. The victim was shot in the head but is laid out like she’s a living doll. This isn’t the crime scene. We can’t find a drop of blood or any other kind of clue for that matter.” Fischer tried a nervous smile.
Cohen tsked, “Don’t try to make nice with her. She’ll make your eyes roll back in your head. No offense,” he added quickly, holding up his hands. “You just don’t look like the kind who wants to be friends with everybody. It’s a sort of compliment.”
Leira let out an aggravated sigh. “I get it. Not paranormal necessarily, but not exactly normal. A sociopath mixed in with a drug case.”
“That is the dilemma in front of us. We aren’t even exactly sure if we’re looking at a weird hit on a witness or just bad fucking luck and a serial killer picked our witness for his own sick, twisted reasons.”
“Since the introductions are over, let’s get out of the car and go take a look.” Leira got out and stood on the sidewalk. Perfect first case. Her detective skills were definitely going to come in handy. The only thing that could have made it better was if Hagan was there running slowly just behind her. Not the same without him.
She took in a deep breath and took another look around but this time drawing in the energy from under her feet, just a little. Not enough to light up like a Christmas tree and alert anyone who might be watching from their window. No traces. Either the girl was laid out a while ago or someone knew how to cover their tracks.
Just as she was about to let the energy flow back down into the ground, the tail of something caught her attention. A clear, wide open trail of something that lacked any kind of feeling. Sociopath. It was eerie, like stepping into a black space where everything was observed.
“She’s in this direction.” Leira walked toward the tidy bungalow two houses down. The energy gently pulled her in that direction, seducing her, telling her everything would be alright. It was like being hypnotized. “This must be what it’s like to believe one of these fuckers,” she muttered, letting herself be pulled along by the steady, thin stream.
“Hey, how did you know?” asked Fischer, scrambling out of the car, jogging a little to keep up with her.
“Don’t show how stupid you are,” said Cohen, looking around as he walked faster. Cohen caught up to Leira and jumped in front of her. “Wait! We still need to use protocol going in there. We can’t just barrel in like maintaining a crime scene doesn’t matter anymore. Here,” he said, pulling out blue paper booties and handing Leira a pair. “Take the gloves too but do me a favor, don’t touch anything. We’ll need to search for evidence.”
“No one’s been in there yet?” Leira fit the booties around her favorite black and white Keds.
“Briefly. But they want to come back. The brass didn’t want anything disturbed till you got the chance to do a walk through. It’s all been kept quiet. Neighbors have no idea. We’ll light the place up with tape and the ground troops once you’re done. Something about not clouding the aura. That came straight from the PDF.”
Leira drew her brows together, frowning at Cohen.
“Hey, those guys are like you,” he said, waving a hand in her direction. “You know, magical aliens.”
Leira shoved past him, walking up toward the house. “You have a weird way of welcoming someone to the job. Come on, you guys better hurry up and get off the street unless you want someone wondering why two guys in dark suits with blue booties are hanging around in their neighborhood.”
Fischer tripped up the stairs behind her. “Prepare yourself Agent Berens. Some real freaky-deaky going on in there.”
“Some badass shit,” said Cohen. They both stopped at the door.
“So now you finally stand back,” said Leira, turning to look at them. “Okay, wait here, I’ll go take a look. Will one of you at least go take the back in case there’s someone who’s been watching the place. And no, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. It doesn’t work like that. We still have to do actual work. Go!”
Fischer took off round the back while Cohen stepped just inside the door where he wouldn’t be seen from the street. “She’s just inside the first room on the right,” he said, pointing toward the hallway. He kept an eye on the street as Leira drew her gun, sliding around to the first bedroom on the right.
The room was painted in a deep Superman blue and there was still a Justice League poster taped to the wall. White plastic shades hung across the window, cutting the light in the room making it harder to clearly see the body neatly arranged on the chenille bedspread atop a double bed pushed into a corner of the room. She didn’t want to raise the shades and give a neighbor the chance to see anything. Leira pulled out her pen light to get a better look but she already knew something about the victim.
It was the dead girl she had seen desperately reaching out to her from the world in between. Leira gave off a shudder, the light shaking over the girl, casting shadows on the wall. “Steady Berens. Not your hundredth dead body. This one is even all neat and clean for you.”
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #4! PROTECTION OF MAGIC, Book 3 is just 6 DAYS AWAY! Wednesday, August 30th! Some great stuff gets answered… and of course there’s more YTT! Early morning and up writing. Lois the Wonder Dog is under the weather so quiet day around these parts. This is my favorite time of the day. Still quiet everywhere and an entire day stretches out ahead of me. Hope it’s a peaceful Friday Eve for everyone.