The Thorns of Magic

 

The Thorns of Magic

Prequel Story for The New Supernatural Agent Series

J.P. Rice

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Jason Paul Rice (J.P. Rice)

All rights reserved.  Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction.  All names are made up and used fictionally.  Any resemblance to real people is completely coincidental.   Any resemblance to real events is only part of the author’s imagination.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

“Could be another dead end.” I mopped a glaze of sweat from my forehead.

“Could be,” Rufus agreed.  “Cain’s rock just doesn’t want to be found.”

I buried the shovel into the ground and tossed the soil aside.  The sun meshed with the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.  The fierce pink skyline streaked with stringy clouds reminded me that we had to hurry.

We had already dug fifteen holes, and with daylight running out, we only had time for about four more.  When hunting relics and artifacts, the locations weren’t always exact.  Land shifts over time.  Water levels change.  Directions in my business were estimates and sometimes resulted in the type of excavation underway here.

It was shocking that something as powerful as this artifact could be buried in a desolate foothill of West Virginia.  My partner and I continued digging in the grassy field.  Our landscaping partners had cleaned up the high grass that came up to our thighs, creating the huge open area we were working in.

“You can feel that though, right?” I asked.

“Yeah.”  Rufus nodded and put his hand over his heart.  “It’s like a thrumming in my chest.”

“It has to be here.  Or something is here.”  I peered around the area, making sure we were still alone.

Rufus and I had been partners for twenty-two years.  The strapping lad was born in Aberdeen, Maryland, raised in Essex, England until he was nineteen, then returned to the U.S. of A.  He still spoke with a faint accent from his upbringing, normally calm and reserved.  But when push came to shove, I knew I could count on him.

My best friend had long dark hair streaked with notes of blond, usually pulled into a pony tail.  His close-cut beard was grey with specks of ivory and his face had become tight and weathered over the past few years.  His lively brown eyes and friendly charm made him a hit with the ladies.  He had an on-again, off-again relationship with a sorceress, and I wasn’t sure what their status was at the moment.

“Daylight’s running thin,” Rufus observed.

“Might have to come back tomorrow.”

“Hope not,” Rufus said and buried his shovel into the soil.

Rufus and I worked for an agency called the Cause.  When human law enforcement couldn’t handle cases involving the supernatural, we stepped in.  We weren’t recognized by any United States law enforcement agencies.  However, we had made plenty of friends in many departments from the local level to the F.B.I.

Some of the agents and cops had difficulty admitting they needed help.  When they had been faced with letting killers roam free because they couldn’t solve a case, they’d eventually broken down and given us a call.  After we’d helped solve a few murder cases that were out of their league, word started to spread that we were legit, and we were called to crime scenes and given information about pending cases.

Some members on the force thought our methods were outside the legal standard and disrespected the members of the Cause.  It came with the territory.  We also tracked down valuable items that could be used for nefarious purposes and put them away for safekeeping.  That’s the reason we’re here.

I pushed the shovel’s head down with the sole of my shoe and hit something solid.  I tapped the area a couple of times and dropped to my knees.  Using my bare hands, I swept the loose dirt off a curved yellow object.  As I cleaned it off some more, I noticed two holes.  For eyes.

I pulled the small gardening shovel out of my back pocket and dug carefully around the skull.  As I worked, I noticed it appeared to be still in one piece.

“Rufus.  Come here.”

My partner lumbered through the emerging darkness and leaned over me.  His sword pommel poked me in the back.  I said, “Easy, big fella.  Watch where you’re sticking that thing.”

“Sorry.”  Rufus backed up a touch and flicked my ear.  “Some of us follow protocol.  You know you should always have your sword on you.  Skull, huh?  Body attached?”

“Doesn’t appear so.  Though there’s something going on with this skull.  It’s almost buzzing with energy,” I said, chiseling away at the dirt where more bones from a full skeleton would be.  I couldn’t find any bones in the area, so I stopped and stood up with the skull.

“Still doesn’t help us find what we need,” Rufus said.

“No.  I’m just hoping this isn’t an ancient burial ground or a sacrificial location.”  I shook the dirt out of the skull and an object the size of a fist fell from the jaw and hit the top of my foot.

“Eureka,” I exclaimed.

My partner bent down and snatched up the plain object.  As he swept the dirt from it, he said, “Looks like we’ve struck gold.  Whoa.  This baby has some serious power.  Here.”

He tossed it to me, and as soon as it struck my palm, a ripple of magic lanced up my arm.  Visually, there was nothing special about the oblong, three-inch thick piece of slate.  The edges were mostly rounded with only a few areas that stuck out.  I didn’t see Abel’s bloodstains on the light grey rock.

“How did he kill Abel with only that?” I asked rhetorically and held it next to Rufus’s head.  “Dedication, it would seem.”

“So much for brotherly love,” Rufus commented.

“I can’t believe we have all the treasures,” I said trying to contain my smile.  “It’s been a long journey.  Forty years in the making.  I never would have thought that liberating the Grand Grimoire out of the Vatican basement safe would culminate here.”

“I’ve only been here for half of them,” Rufus said as we hugged each other in celebration.

“Hang on to this.”  I placed the stone in his hand.  “Time to get back home.”

I turned around to gather my things, and a gentleman holding a handgun emerged from the high grass.  How the hell had someone sneaked up on us?  Draped in all-black clothes including a ski mask, his gun hand was shaking.  That was good and bad.  He was nervous and I could use that to my advantage, but if he became too nervous, his trigger finger could slip.

“Give up the stone and the other items and nobody will get hurt.”  He spoke English with an Eastern European accent.  His hand wavered back and forth, the gun’s barrel shifting from Rufus to me.

“Oh, I’m not worried about getting hurt.  Thank you for the concern,” I replied casually.  Appearing calm, cool and collected with a gun pointed at you could really throw an enemy off balance.

“You should worry about getting dead, buddy.  Give up the stuff.”  He yelled, “Troops.”

“Here,” a call rang out in unison.  It came from all directions, and I circled around to see what we were up against.  About a dozen beings stood up, rising out of the high grass.  They were all dressed in black bank robber gear like the leader.  None of them had guns drawn, but I’d be foolish to assume they weren’t strapped.

“The game is over.  We know what you’ve been collecting.  Don’t be stupid,” uttered the man who seemed to be the leader.

I started to center my will and coalesce the raw energy inside me.  What spell could I use to get out of this?  The man in front of me appeared human, but with all his features cloaked, I couldn’t be sure.  The easiest way to spot a supernatural was looking at their eyes.  Almost all of them had vertical slits for pupils.

However, they could utilize various forms of magic such as glamor to make their eyes appear human.  With the sun disappearing rapidly, I couldn’t tell if there were any supernaturals surrounding us.

“Who you working for?” I asked.

“I hardly think that’s any of your business,” he said with a half snort.

“Why?”  I tried to stall with idle conversation.  “Maybe I like your employer and can help you out.  Never know.”

His eyes widened.  I’d knocked him off balance, but I still didn’t know how to get out of this.  We were in the middle of a big field in the middle of nowhere.  What could I draw on?

“Just…don’t…talk unless you tell me what I want to hear,” he said, flustered.

“You’re pretty.”  I smiled at him.

“What?” he yelled and drew back the hammer on his revolver.

Hmm?  Why didn’t he have a semi-automatic pistol with a magazine?  His weapon choice indicated that he took Rufus and me lightly.  Shame on him.

“I figured that was something you wanted to hear.”  I shrugged my shoulders.  “I mean, who wouldn’t want to be called pretty?  Take off the lovely ski mask and I’ll throw some more compliments your way.”

“What?  Who?  Why?”  The leader paused and sighed in frustration.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Making friendly conversation,” I said, looking casually at my fingernails.  “Your associates aren’t very personable.”

“Well, just don’t.  You should be more like your silent friend here.”  He thumbed at Rufus, then peered around nervously, his neck jerking left and right.  He seemed to be making sure his friends hadn’t left him.  His confidence was waning.

“Okay.  I won’t be friendly,” I said and took off the kid gloves.  “You got a better chance of seeing the devil than you do of seeing any of the treasures.”

“You’ll be sorry,” he warned, but the crack in his voice undermined his tough talk.

“I usually am.”  Dammit.  My sword was near my supply bag behind the armed man.

“I didn’t want it to come to this,” he said and paused, apparently giving me one last chance to come clean.  I crossed my arms over my chest.  The masked man shook his head, and cried out, “Liam.  Unleash the truth spiders.”

The what, now?

A voice sounded from behind me.  Someone was mumbling in a language I didn’t recognize.  I spun in circles, trying to figure out what this individual was setting off.  If the leader with the gun wasn’t confident that he could defeat Rufus and me, it had to be something wicked.

Then it hit me.  They didn’t want us dead.  They needed us to talk.  Killing us would actually be counterproductive to their plan.  I’m sure they had no issue with maiming or torturing us though.

In the burgeoning darkness, a small nebulous figure ballooned up near my foot.  I jumped back in reaction and noticed it was a spider.  The damn thing kept getting bigger and wider until it finally stood taller than my six-three frame.

The giant wolf spider leaned forward and peered at me with all eight of its eyes.  Its menacing fangs wriggled around, little globs of poison dangling from the ends.  Shades of brown merged with the dark fuzz covering its abdomen.  The beast reared back onto four legs and released a ferocious hiss.

Now I was really in the shit.  No sword, and giant spiders were popping up everywhere.  Eight, twelve, fourteen.  I spun around.  Twenty of them, at least.  Most were mammoth wolf spiders but I saw some red ones in the distance that I couldn’t identify.

Someone must have used a combination spell calling upon the arachnids in the area.  He’d said, “Truth spiders.”  I didn’t consider myself a genius, but I’d be willing to bet he had used a spell that would turn the spiders’ poison into a truth serum.  That way, if they captured us, we would be forced to tell them where the other treasures were.

Not on my watch.

The gunman backed away, squeezing between two giant wolf spiders and retreating with the rest of his troops.  They were going to leave it up to their eight-legged friends.  Cowards.  Wait a minute.  Two could play this game.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

“Rufus.  Cover me so I can get my sword.”  We made quick eye contact, and I pointed.  “Straight over there.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to keep your sword on you?” he grunted as two aggressive spiders closed in on him.

“Hopefully, at least one more time, partner,” I replied.

“Let’s go,” Rufus screamed and rushed at a spider taller than he was.

My partner ripped a horizontal stroke that took out four of the spider’s legs just below the patella.  The enormous body crashed to the side and created the small opening I needed.  I dashed to the left of the collapsing spider, slid on my knees and snatched the worn black leather grip of my sword.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that their sword is an extension of their arm.  Mine was much better than that cliched phrase.  The blade was crafted with sapient steel.  It didn’t talk, but it basically had a mind of its own, allowing me to focus on other things.

The sword operated on its own accord and it was up to me to keep up with it.  And it didn’t come to life until it was in my hands.  Crafted like a classic great sword, it required both hands most of the time, but occasionally I could work it with one hand.  The ivory cross hilt and pommel sucked in the dim rays of the setting sun.

I called it the Dream Smasher.

I popped up to my feet, spun around, and spotted a red spider charging at me.  The sword sprang into action and I let it guide me.  Without much time to react, I jabbed at the spider’s fangs with the point of my blade.  It slid right between the closing fangs and the unforgiving blade plunged into its mouth, then out the back of its cephalothorax.

I yanked the sword out as the spider collapsed, its heavy abdomen landing harshly, shaking the ground underfoot.  I wheeled around a few times, surveying the scene.  We were surrounded by about thirty spiders.

Rufus and I were going to have to hack our way out of this and then fight a large group with guns.  My mind raced as I used an overhand strike to split an arachnid’s abdomen in two.  I dodged to the side to avoid the green liquid spurting from the wound.

Wait a damn minute.  I need to fight fire with fire.  Perhaps I could bring some more spiders to the party.  I couldn’t use any spiders on the surface since they’d already been bound to my enemy’s spell.  What about the big, bad, nasty spiders just below the surface?

A combination spell with the Mother of Spiders and…  Was Persephone in Hades right now?  Yes, she should be.  The only spider spirit more powerful than Queen Arachne’s was her mother’s, the Goddess of Spiders.  And with Persephone being underground and wanting to escape, this spell should unearth all the hidden spiders.

I called on spirits to help me in my spellcasting.  Strength in numbers.  My modus operandi used an energy transformation from the sponsor’s spirit to the caster’s body.  In this case, me.

Persephone’s spirit would push up the underground spiders and the Goddess of Spiders would help them grow into big beasts, turning the tide in our favor.

I gathered the spirits of the two women into me and personalized the spell for the current situation.  After only a few seconds, the energy became almost unbearable and needed to escape, so I dropped down and punched the earth.  The magic rushed down my arm and expelled everything inside me.  An eruption of light spider webbed in every direction, illuminating the drab atmosphere.

The spell had obviously worked, and I’d knocked the existing spiders off balance, but no new arachnids were showing up.  I lowered my head and noticed a bunch of earth worms had come up out of the ground.  What the hell?

The only thing I could think of was that the magic field around the stone had screwed up my spell.  The spiritual vibrations I’d received weren’t the ones I’d called on.  What the hell could I do with a thousand tiny worms?  Just about nothing.  Unless?  Wait a minute.  Yeah.  It’s just crazy enough to work.

I went to the tried and true.  A spirit I’d called on many times to get me out of a jam.  I’ve used it in combination with other spells too, so it should work here.  The only problem was that it carried some side effects.  With limited options and the clock ticking, I had to take a chance.

Balor had helped me inject size and strength into many things in the past.  The cycloptic Fomorian’s spirit always came when I called on it.  I’d talked to the giant a few times and a personal connection was beneficial in spellcasting.

I slipped in a little spider goo that was littering the battlefield and hope it wouldn’t soak through my shoe.  My arms felt like they were going to fall off as the Dream Smasher dragged me closer to another spider.  At least it allowed me to concentrate on the spell.

Before I could even begin, the giant abdomen of a spider rammed me from the side and I slammed down to the ground.  The wolf spider I had been engaged with seized on the opportunity and used its eight legs to scurry over to me.  As I scrambled to get to my feet, it swiped horizontally with a long, fuzzy leg and smacked me in the shoulder.

My sword flew from my hand, rendering it useless on its own.  The disgusting creature hovered over me, its fangs moving slowly toward my head.  Without warning, the spider seized up and released a hiss like a velociraptor.  The kind that made the hair on your neck stand up forever because it was too afraid to ever go back down.

I used my feet to scoot back away from the spider, and like a statue, it collapsed to the ground.  Rufus struggled to remove his blade from the thorax and abdomen.  He finally liberated his sword, smiled at me, then went after a dark burgundy spider.

I jumped up and let the Dream Smasher go to work again.  A quick peek around showed that I should be safe to focus on the spell again.

I gathered the spirit of Balor into my body and began to focus the energy into a personal spell for the current situation.  It wasn’t easy fighting off the arachnids and concentrating on the spell at the same time.

I let Balor’s spirit center in my chest, the darker energy buzzing through me.  A swell of power surged in my extremities, which meant it was almost ready.  I took out the two spiders closest to me and focused on the ground.

Through the descending dusk, I zeroed in on a couple of worms wriggling around.  I held an open hand above the little worms and directed my spell at them.  A surge of energy ran down my arm and exited my body through the heel of my hand.

At first, nothing happened, and I went back to recklessly hacking my way out of here.  Why hadn’t it worked?  An instant later, one of the worms distended rapidly, stretching out to about five feet long with a circumference of a telephone pole.  Then it expanded some more.

Seconds later, twenty or thirty more worms swelled to an enormous size.  They would still have trouble with the spiders, but the worms could distract them long enough to make it easy pickens for us.   Considering my arms were numb from the constant sword swinging, any help was welcome.

The worms stood at attention, towering several feet above me.  In the blink of an eye, a swirling white color pattern developed at the top of the worms.  As it took form, it appeared to be an eye.  Balor’s eye.

“Hail, Balor,” I screamed.  “Rufus.”

My partner repeated my words so that the giant worms knew not to harm us.

“We are the only two who have called on Balor,” I clarified, pointing back and forth between Rufus and me.

Several of the worms winked at me in recognition.  Or maybe they blinked.  Hard to tell with only one eye.

The worms sprang into action, looping themselves around the spiders and squeezing the life out of them.  Several worms spat a thick white liquid from their eyes that hit the spiders, who turned and shot silk webbing from their spinnerets in defense.   The milky substance tore through the spider’s abdomens and several of the arachnids began to flee the area, hobbling away.

The tide had turned in our favor in the great Bloated Creature War.

Then a gunshot rang out, loud and clear, reminding me that perhaps we didn’t have the upper hand.  More gunshots caused me to duck and cover my head.  A few seconds later, I got brave and peered around the battlefield.

The cycloptic worms were slaughtering the spiders at such a rapid pace that the bad guys had opened fire on them.  One of the men hidden behind a ski mask approached me with a pistol in his extended hand.  I peered left, and Rufus was locked in battle with one of the spiders.  I was screwed.

I dropped my sword and put up my hands.  A violent hissing from behind sounded like the words, “Get down.”  Without anything to lose, I dropped down into a catcher’s stance.  The liquid sailed over me and I barrel-rolled out of the way, then peeked up.

A steady stream of the white liquid blasted the gunman in the chest and tore into his flesh.  His gun fell harmlessly to the ground as he dropped to his knees.  The man yelped with carnal intensity as he fought against the inevitable.

I refocused.  Rufus was in trouble.  One of the spiders had overpowered him and drove him onto his back.  Rufus used his sword to fend away the beast, but the spider’s fangs widened.  I rushed to help him, but realized I would never make it in time.  Then, a worm slithered with tremendous speed across the field and attacked the hissing spider.

The worm worked its way around the body of the spider, putting the arachnid in a death lock.  The worm squeezed and the spider’s abdomen swelled, then exploded.  Green slime fountained up in the air, then came raining down, half of it landing on Rufus.

The worms had taken care of the spiders and now turned their attention to the group of men.  Some of the men ran, others sprayed bullets across the field, hoping they could slow down my assistants.  I noticed an overweight masked man running away and darted after him.

I caught up quickly and jumped on his back, sending us both crashing to the ground.  Using my knee, I rolled him over and landed two right fists on his left cheek to make sure he knew I meant business.

“Who do you work for?” I demanded.

He shook his head in silence.  I ripped off the ski mask and found a normal looking human sporting a shaggy beard.  He remained quiet so I unleased a few more straight right mitts, splitting his lip.

“Who do you work for?” I screamed.

“Barry, your six,” Rufus yelled from across the field.

I heightened my hearing, drowned out the area noise, and focused on the footsteps coming from behind, thumping toward me.  They were close enough that I didn’t have time to turn and face the opponent.  I rose slightly and uncorked a wicked left elbow.  It crunched into something solid resulting in painful groaning.

I stood up straight and spun around.  Another masked man was holding his face.  As I stalked toward the short, skinny man, the fat guy got up and hustled away.  That’s okay.  I could still beat some information out of his associate.  I pasted a big grin on my face to make him think I was enjoying myself.

The man staggered two steps to his right and took off at a sprint.  I went after him, but he was like a fucking jackrabbit, increasing his lead on me.  Instead of continuing to chase him, I spun around looking for more opponents.  They were gone.  They’d either hightailed it out of there or had fallen victim to the killer worms.

The sun crashed behind the mountains, and all the worms retracted to their normal size.  Thank you, Balor.  As the adrenaline of battle started to wear off, the rotten egg smell and taste attacked me.  Balor was a Fomorian, which meant he had demon blood in his system.  I’d allowed his spirit to pass through me to personalize the spell.

Some of that dark power stuck with me, polluting my insides.  I went down to one knee and threw up.  Still, the gag-inducing flavor persisted.  A chill ran through me and the associated headache had already started to set in.  Using Balor’s spirit carried side effects similar to the flu.

“Barry, I can’t feel my legs.  I can’t feel my fucking legs, man.”

“Relax.  There was probably a paralyzing agent in that goo.  You still have the rock, right?”

“I hope you’re right.  The rock should still be in my pocket.  Reach on in, buddy.”

“The things I do for this job.”  I rolled Rufus onto his back and thankfully I could see the rock in his pocket.  “I hope that bulge isn’t just your excitement.”

“Nope.  No danger boners for me.  I hope.”  He blinked dreamily and thought about it for a second.   “Hey, I just want you to know how much I respect you.  I love you, man.  Not in a sexual way, but you know.”

Apparently that truth serum was legit.  “I appreciate that, Rufus.”

“You all right?” he asked.

“I will be.”

“You called on Balor, didn’t you?” he asked, nodding his head.  “Hey, I can move my head.”

“Had to do something.”  I stood up and forced a grin.  “Knew you weren’t going to do anything.”

“I was in the thick.  With my sword, by the way,” he said, stressing the words.  “You were lucky you weren’t in the shit.  You going to be all right?”

“You know how it goes.  Give me about eight hours.  You’re going to need to drive while I deal with this though.”  As the words escaped my mouth, I realized we would need to wait a while before leaving.  Hopefully Rufus’s body control would return shortly.

“Not a problem once I regain my sea legs.”  Rufus stared off into the sunset.  “Never seen you summon giant worms before.”

“You know how it is,” I responded.  “By any means necessary.  Besides, I didn’t do that on purpose.  I think the magical field around Cain’s rock was messing with my spiritual vibrations.”

“I can see that.  Speaking of vibrations, the only thing I can feel is vibrations in my balls from the rock in my pocket.  Your wife is so hot, by the way,” he said as a lopsided grin developed on his face.  What a strange transition into that last sentence.

“Thank you, I think.”  I was tempted to ask my friend a few more follow up questions but resisted the urge.

“No, it’s a genuine compliment.  You have a wonderful family.”

“Okay, but why don’t we get back to business?” I suggested.

“You think they were following us?”  Before I could answer, he said, “Wait.  Yeah.  I can feel my legs again.  Arms too.  Tingly”

“Good.  I thought I was going to have to drag your ass out of here.”  I reached down and helped hoist him up.  A little goo dripped onto the back of my hand and I wiped it on my pants.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“So you think we were followed?”  Rufus staggered around on unstable legs and swung his arms in tight circles.

“Not sure,” I replied and started to gather our things.  “Looks like it since we’re in the middle of nowhere.  Somebody knew what we were up to.  And they said, ‘All the items.’  They know what is going on.  How?”

“I don’t know.”  Rufus scooped his carrying bag off the ground.  He slung the strap over his shoulder.  “I didn’t recognize any of their voices.  They seemed human, not supernatural.”

“Agreed.  We need to repurpose that stone fast.”

“We should take everything to the depository under Dragon’s Tower as soon as we get back,” he said as he yawned.  “It’s past time for that.”

The repository held the treasures of the deadly sins.  I just used little pieces of each item to fuel my magical goodies.

“We are storing the remnants of the originals in the Tower.  Plus, that’s the beauty of hiding something out in the open,” I explained and cracked a smile.  “I get that Dragon’s Tower is like Fort Knox, but everyone expects valuable things to be kept there.”

“I’m quite certain only a select few even know the location.”

“Like our friends back there.”  I thumbed back toward the battlefield.  “How did they know our location?”

“Valid point.”  He tossed his head from side to side.  “But the Dragon’s Tower is guarded by some of the finest warriors in all the lands.  Your shack is guarded by a threshold and magical wards.”

“Our wards.  And don’t forget about the reaction door,” I reminded him.  “It would take someone or something near the top of the food chain to get past our defenses.  And they would need a human and a supernatural to breach the shack.  Besides, nobody is looking there because it’s out in the open.  And we’ve disguised everything.”

“I just think it will all be safer at the Tower.  You can access them at any time.”

“Duly noted,” I said.  “First thing tomorrow, we’ll take everything to the Tower.”

“Wow.”

“What?”

“I was just expecting you to put up a much longer fight about it.”

“I’m nothing if not a party pleaser.”  I smiled.  “We still need to check in at HQ before heading to Pittsburgh.  If we hurry up, I could be home by dinner tomorrow.”

As we headed back to our vehicle, the side effects of the magic really set in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3

 

My wife circled the table, serving corned beef and cabbage to our young ones.  Danny, Joshua and Anna told her when to stop.  The love of my life, Maria, sat down in between my daughter Caitlan and me.  My oldest son sat to my right.

“Caitlan, put the phone away.  It’s time to pray.”  I waited as my nineteen-year-old daughter rolled her eyes and stuffed her phone in her pants pocket.  “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from all evil.”

I peeked over at my daughter and caught her going for her phone.  “We’re not finished yet, Caitlan.  You know this.”  I waited until she folded her hands and bowed.  I closed my eyes again.  “Bless us, O Lord for these thy gifts and for the bounty which we are about to receive through Christ our lord, amen.”

The family blessed themselves and chanted, “Amen.”

I leaned over and kissed my wife.  “Thank you for dinner and all you do for this family.  I’d be lost without you.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”  Maria passed the dish of roasted potatoes to Caitlan.

The kids began talking loudly, my wife struck up a conversation with my eighteen-year-old son, Ezekiel, and I leaned back at the head of the table, taking it all in.  This was my sanctuary.  I was so peaceful, I didn’t even yell at Caitlan, who was playing with her phone on her thigh.

Maria and I had met randomly in a supermarket when we had both reached for the same loaf of bread.  We had giggled, then chatted and decided to go on a date.  Five kids later, here we are and I couldn’t be any happier about it.

Her long dark hair, parted in the center, glowed like polished onyx.  Her bright blue eyes stole sun from the sky and always held a unique vibrancy.  She had a zest for life that I’d fallen in love with, and over the years, her perky attitude hadn’t slowed down one bit.

I was miserable when I had met her.  Everything had changed when I tried to grab that loaf of Wonder Bread.

I stuffed some corned beef into my mouth, and as I chewed, I stared proudly at Ezekiel.  He had received a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh to play quarterback.  I’d always imagined him going into the family business of fighting supernaturals, but maybe this was a better path for him.

My son had the sacred birthmark, which complicated everything.  He was kissed by dragon flame.  The circular brown mark on his right forearm indicated that he had the innate ability be a top-level magic practitioner.  Even more powerful than me.  Too powerful.

My people were born with magical abilities, but it was dangerous to tap into them until one reached full maturity.  I hadn’t started my training until I was twenty-two.

Emotion had a lot to do with magic.  A pissed off teenager full of angst was a recipe for destruction.  He or she could blow up the entire school because he or she got turned down for the dance.

It broke my heart to admit that I’d been holding my son back.  However, after he almost burned down a tree with a wicked fire spell when he was twelve, I knew I had to keep him away from magic.  He would have killed someone or himself.  So I placed a stagnation spell on him that I could lift at any time.

And now that he had matured enough to start practicing, he would be off to Pitt in the spring.  I didn’t want to mess with that.  Ezekiel had forged his own path, and I was proud of him for that.

Unfortunately for him, he got his looks from his father.  We shared bronze skin, a strong jawline and chin, brown eyes and dark hair.  I wore mine close cropped, and Ezekiel preferred the hair gelled, randomly spiked do.  We both had wide frames and broad shoulders, although it wouldn’t hurt my son to pack on a few pounds.  Or maybe it wouldn’t hurt me to lose a few pounds.

I planned to tell him the truth.  Soon.  It was time to come clean about my family history and let him know how special he was.  Soon.

I wanted all my children to make their own choices in life.  I raised them Catholic because I wanted to instill discipline in the kids.  However, I respected other religions because most of them shared the same core set of beliefs; they were just expressed differently.

With magic, I used assistance from any pantheon or culture that was willing to help.  Greek, Egyptian, Faerie, Fomorian.  I didn’t discriminate.  If a spirit was willing to help me, I accepted it graciously.

So if another religion spoke to one of my children, I would respect it if they chose to follow it.  I’d tried to teach my kids never to turn their noses up at anything different or exotic.  One never knows where help can come from.  The worms from yesterday would be the perfect example.

As I sat back enjoying my favorite meal, the guilt started to set in.  It hurt to lie to my kids.  Maria knew the truth of my background and what I really did for a living.  I told the kids I ran a landscaping company that had many jobs outside the city that would keep me away from home for weeks at a time.

I’d missed many family dinners during the years.  Too many.  If I told the kids about my real life, it could put them in danger.  I couldn’t do that.  Someday, I would come clean to the kids.  Just not now.

We finished eating and the kids dispersed.  I helped my wife clear the table and do the dishes.  Then I gave her a kiss and went out to the shack behind our house.

We lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh that was closer to the rural outskirts than the city.  We had an acre of woods behind our house.  I’d cleared out a little spot and built an outbuilding that I could use for my magic needs.  I walked through the back yard and into the woods.  The clearing with the shack appeared straight ahead.

Normally, I had to break the defense wards around the building and on the door itself, but Rufus was already inside.  I knocked so I wouldn’t startle him and entered the modest structure.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Just about done.  Two more buttons should do it.”  He was sitting on the couch in the open living room.  He had my magical cloak on the coffee table and was securing small pieces of Cain’s stone onto the cloak that would serve as buttons.

The shack consisted of a small kitchen, an open living room, a tiny gallery, a summoning room and a bathroom.  Nothing special.  Just a place where I can separate this side of my life from the family.  I knew Ezekiel spied on me, but I didn’t mind it.  I liked that he had an interest in magic.

I peeked into the closet that served as the Gallery.  It was a nervous habit.  I wanted to be sure everything was still there.  I saw the sword, the flying carpet, the spell book, the athame, the shifter bracelet, and the staff.  Check.

Rufus was right.  Keeping these valuable items here could put my family in jeopardy.  Locking them away in the depository of the Dragon’s Tower was the best move.

“Have you decided what you are going to do?” Rufus asked as he continued working on the cloak.

“You may want to be more specific.”

“About the contract,” he hinted.

“Aahh.”  I’d been trying to forget about it.  “Can’t believe it’s been a hundred years already.”

“If you don’t return, your sisters will assume the crown,” Rufus reminded me.

“I know.  I know.”  I leaned back on the counter in the kitchen and tried to stretch out my tight back.  “I can’t let those blood thirsty vultures take over.  But I can’t leave my family either.”

“You left almost a century ago.  Maybe they’ve softened over the years.”

“I’d bet the blood’s still cold that runs through their arteries.”  I paced around the little kitchen.  “After Patricia died, I didn’t have much reason to stick around there.  Maybe the fact that she couldn’t bear me children was a blessing after all.  I have every reason to stay here and never go back to that land.”

“So you’re staying here?” he asked, looking up from his work.

“Eh.” I shrugged.  “It would be an easy decision if I knew my sisters wouldn’t be cruel leaders.  I almost wish I hadn’t put that stipulation toward the end of the peace contract.  Just let the goblins take rule forever.”

“Don’t kick your own ass.  At that time, you didn’t know you’d be leaving the Grey Kingdom,” Rufus said and went back to work.  “And if the goblins weren’t so stupid, they would have read the entire contract before they signed it.  I’m still surprised the goblin hit squads have ceased in the past decade.”

“They’re stupid,” I agreed.  “But I think they finally realized that if they eliminate me, the crown falls into the hands of my awful sisters.”

“Lesser of two evils.  Ezekiel is the proper heir, though,” Rufus pointed out.

“I am not dragging him into a Faerie war.  My sisters tried to kill me countless times.  If I died, his time as king would be one assassination attempt after another.  I wouldn’t wish that upon him.”

“What if the goblins refuse to turn over power?” he asked.

“The goblins are a great many things.  Mostly awful.  But they will honor the contract, or the rest of the kingdom will band together.  The balance must be maintained.  It would send a message that all contracts can be voided without penalty.  Nobody wants that.  I would be worried that another powerful group will try to usurp the crown should I reassume the crown.”

“The example has been set by the goblins.  But none of it will matter if the prophecy comes true.  If the dragons return, no one will attempt a hostile takeover.”

“If.”  I pointed out the operative word.

“You have to believe,” Rufus said with a smirk.  “The prophecy said they would return in exactly one thousand years.  And it coincides with your peace contract, which expires in three years.  If the prophecy is correct, the dragons will come back three months after that.  So you only need to hold on to the crown for a few months.”

“What have I gotten myself into?” I asked rhetorically as I paced around the open room.

“You weren’t supposed to get attached to the humans.”  Rufus inspected the cloak.  “You knew that.  Dragons aren’t supposed to have feelings.”

“I didn’t.  At least, I thought I didn’t.”  I sighed.  “After Patricia, I never thought I would love again.  Then I met Maria.  And everything changed.”

“Don’t I know it?  I can’t blame you at all for it.  But you have a big decision to make.”

“Just something else hanging over my head.”  Thinking about my sisters reminded me that I had to take care of something.  “I’ve got to go see someone.  Make sure you lock up and set the appropriate defense mechanisms when you leave.”

“Just think.  Tomorrow, you won’t even have to worry about that.  Everything will be tucked away for proper safekeeping.”

“Anything to help you sleep better,” I said and slipped out the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 4

THE PRINCE

 

There was a loud knock on the door.  The Prince sat up straight in his throne-like chair, and yelled, “Enter.”

The door creaked open and his assistant entered.  “Your majesty, it seems we’ve run into a snag.”

“No.  No.  No,” the Prince said, disgusted.  “You are supposed to tell me that everything went off without a hitch and the treasures are on the way.”

“I wish that I could, your majesty.”  His diminutive assistant lowered his head.

“Well, then.  Get on with it.”  The Prince watched his assistant shift his weight uncomfortably from side to side.

The plain chamber contained only one chair for the Prince and something strange attached to the wall.  He preferred to make his audience stand.

“The first team failed,” the assistant reported, and the Prince rapped his fist on the arm of the chair.  “They couldn’t retrieve any of the items, nor could they detain the subjects.”

“I should have known they would fail.”  The Prince’s lips twitched and curled up in one corner.  “Stupid humans.  Send in the cleaners.  Have them eliminate the first team, then carry out our business.”

“Are you sure, my lord?” the assistant asked.  “Their time on earth is limited.  Perhaps we should focus on Baruch.”

“We need them eliminated so there aren’t any loose threads.  We will need one trusted human to go with them to pass through the thresholds.”  The Prince stood up.  “Make sure team two knows that they will be compensated with the bag of cash in the basement and the magical items in the little structure behind their house.  They can sell or barter them however they wish.”

“Are you certain you don’t desire the magical items for yourself?  I’ve heard they are rather useful.”

“We need to use them to provide payment.  They do no good for our current predicament.  We need the treasures, not toys.”

“What if he won’t reveal the locations of the treasures?”

“That’s what the truth serum is for,” the Prince reminded his assistant.  “Drug him, interrogate him, secure the treasures.  It isn’t difficult.”

“And as far as Baruch?” the assistant asked with one eye closed.

“Kill the dragon,” the Prince said void of emotion.  “Once we get what we want, end him.”

“Are we sure team two can handle this?”

“No.”  The Prince knew that he could only trust himself, but certain conditions were preventing him from being able to take part.  “That’s why I want you on standby.”

“Your majesty, I am humbled, but I only have a few minutes of accrued time to spend on earth.”

“You will only be summoned if they are in serious trouble,” the Prince assured him.  “It should only take you a few precious seconds to turn the tide in our favor.”

“Whatever you command, your majesty,” the assistant said and bowed.

“Dismissed.”  The Prince waited for the door to shut.  “First we gather the treasures, then we gather the three sons, and when we get to four, why then we have our fun.”

The Prince left his office and went down a narrow hallway.  He entered an empty room and stared at the lumpy wall.  There was a large male body encased in solid gold attached to the wall.  Openings in the nostrils and mouth allowed for breathing and IV units made sure he would receive enough nourishment and stay alive.

“You shouldn’t have crossed me, old man.  Looks like you might be spending some more time under there.”  Under his breath, the Prince murmured, “Then I can finally kill you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

I pulled up to the Cool Shade Motel, got out and stretched my weary muscles.  The trip had taken just under an hour.  I hated driving.

It was basically a front for a brothel.  I entered the lobby and a competing scent of various incense sticks attacked my nose.  The drab lobby was a tiny area with a check-in desk, a couch.  It branched off to several hallways leading to the rooms.

I approached the desk and said, “I’m looking for a room with Annabelle.”

“Back again.  Just so happens she is free at the moment,” said the “hotel owner,” Paul.  “You want your usual?”

“Yes, please.”  I dug into my back pocket and pulled out my wallet.

“Forty dollars, good sir.”  He slapped an open hand on the counter, and I laid two twenties in his palm.  “And don’t forget to tip.  It is always appreciated.”

The bald man took my money, stuffed it into a makeshift register, and said, “Room 7.  Straight down the hall.  What am I tellin’ you, you know the way.”

I was a regular here.  Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too much longer though.

I knocked on the door with a crooked number 7 on it.

The door opened and the cloying scent of cheap perfume rushed out.  A short, Rubenesque woman in a red nightie with dirty blond hair smiled at me.  She beckoned me in with a welcoming finger and stepped aside as I entered the simple room with a king bed, two nightstands and a table.

“Long time, no see, stranger,” she said and gave me a big hug.  “Thought I might never see you again.”

“Don’t worry about me.  How are things with you?” I asked and handed her an envelope full of cash.

“Okay.”  She turned on another lamp and set the envelope on the nightstand.  “I signed up for those classes like we talked about.  I’m going to show everyone.  I’m going to get back custody of little Johnny.”

“I know you are.”  I leaned back on the cheap oak table.  “One step at a time.  What about Henry?  Is he leaving you alone?”

“Yeah.”  She put on a red terrycloth robe.  “Can’t believe he’s respecting the restraining order.”

I might have had something to do with that.  “Good.  You tell me if he breaks it.  Okay?”

“Of course, Baruch.  I don’t know where I’d be without you.  You’re the only person in this world that’s nice to me.”

I’d met Annabelle a few years back when I was working a case.  Her scumbag boyfriend had tried to run with the big boys and got into some trouble.  During the case, I’d talked to Annabelle and discovered that her boyfriend had been hitting her.

She’d left him under my advice and had fallen on some hard times.  She’d lost custody of her son and started working in this seedy establishment despite my objections.  I tried my best to make sure she wasn’t struggling.

“You staying clean?” I asked, lifting my eyebrow.  “No more candy, right?”

“Yeah,” she said with a sharp nod.  “Wait a sec.  I mean, yeah I’m staying clean and no more candy.  The meetings are kind of a bitch to get to, but I’m sticking to it.  The people are really supportive.”

“Good.  That’s what they are there for,” I said and laughed.  “And remember, you get Johnny back and fail one drug test, it’s all over.  You won’t get a second chance.”

Annabelle’s appearance reminded me of my triplet sisters.  They all looked almost exactly the same but had different colored eyes.  They also shared a burning hatred for me.

My family is the dwindling dynasty of Dragons from the Grey Kingdom.

It is true that the last dragon died almost one thousand years ago.  However, dragons had mated with sidhe and humans before becoming extinct.  They had produced a supernatural race of dragon people.  In the beginning, all my people had strong magical powers and could shift into dragon form easily.

As the years went on, some Dragons were born lacking magic.  Now, only one in five dragons carried strong powers.  We’d ruled the Grey Kingdom for fifteen hundred years, but our dynasty had been weakened.  All the battling races of goblins had banded together and become too powerful.  As King Baruch, I’d signed a contract for peace to save my people, much to the dismay of my sisters, who would have preferred to go down in a blaze of glory.

I’d slipped in a clause where the Dragons would reassume rule in a hundred years and the goblins could never move to usurp the crown ever again.  The greedy bastards had signed it.  I’d thought I was a genius at the time.  Now the crafty move felt like a tightening noose around my neck.

“If you want to stop working here, I can make sure you have enough to support yourself,” I offered, even though I was already giving her a hefty amount.

“I don’t really make a lot here,” Annabelle said and ran her fingers through her stringy hair.  “The guys seem to prefer the other girls, which is fine by me.  I like the security.  I gotta feeling they told Henry to stay the fuck away from me.”

I wanted to tell her it was I who had grabbed Henry by the throat, lifted him off his feet, and told him that if he even thought about going near Annabelle, he’d never walk again.  Maybe I’ll tell her next time.

“Hey.  It was good seeing you again.  Keep taking care of yourself.  Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you take care of Johnny.  And more importantly, you have to love yourself before you are ready to truly love your son.”

“Thanks for everything, Baruch,” she said and wrapped her arms around me.

“Don’t mention it.”

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 6

 

I went to unlock my car door outside the motel, and someone screamed for help.  It was more of a wailing screech.  I stuffed my keys into my pocket and followed the sound.  I sprinted down the sidewalk and rounded the corner when the person yelled again.

It was coming from an alley down the street.  As I hooked a left into the alley, a wave of magic hit me.  Ten feet ahead, three big guys had a little old lady surrounded and were yanking at her purse.

Unfazed by the signals of magic, I yelled, “Let her go.”

“You know what, I think we’ll do that.  Just for you,” a tall man with dark hair said and giggled.

“We’ll let her go and you can get out of here,” a bearded man said, and they backed away from the woman.

Something didn’t seem right.  I sensed magic coming from behind me and wheeled around.  Four humanoid creatures that stood almost as tall as giants blocked the entrance to the alley.  Oh, shit.  I turned back to the old lady.

She was no longer an old lady.  She had shifted into the same size and appearance as her faux attackers.  A quick pirouette showed eight men dressed in tight black gear.  Their graceful movements told me they were probably sidhe.

The sidhe were a supernatural race believed to have come from fallen angels.  They lived in the Faerie Kingdoms and had a great deal of magical ability.  They were master shifters and looked so similar to humans that disguising themselves wasn’t much of a challenge.

One key distinction was the eyes.  The sidhe had the vertical pupils, but masking them came rather easily too.  Who was sending a supernatural squad after me?

“Give up the goods, Baruch,” the man with dark hair said.  “Give them up and nobody will get hurt.”

“More like everybody will get hurt,” I clarified.  “No deal.”

“You’re being very stupid.”

“Not many people have accused me of being smart,” I revealed and started to hatch a plan in my head.  “So that doesn’t exactly hurt my feelings.  Sorry.”

“You think you’re funny.  Are you going to laugh when we skin your children alive?”  He looked around to his friends for reassurance, then continued in a somber tone, “Have you ever watched a flaying before?  It’s not pretty, I can assure you.”

“You’re first, green eyes.”  I pointed directly at his face.

“Excuse me?” he asked through a slight chuckle.

“When the inevitable fight breaks out, I’m going to kill you first.  Is there anyone else that would like to threaten my family?” I asked spinning in a circle.  No takers.  “You got anything else to say, big mouth?”

My stalling techniques were working beautifully, but it still left one question.  Why weren’t they attacking me with magic?  Then it hit me.

I would be of little use to them dead.  Using incapacitation magic at close quarters was dangerous and explained their indecision.  They needed information out of me, so they had to take me alive.  It seemed like I had a slight advantage considering I wouldn’t think twice to kill any of them.

Then, as my confidence swelled, each being in front of me pulled a gun from the back of his waistline.  Wait.  I peeked behind me to confirm, and yes, they were all carrying small caliber pistols.

In the shaded alley, I had to look closely to recognize that they were tranquilizer guns.  Not good.  They were going to hit me with the tranq guns, then inject the truth serum into me.  Hell, they might throw in a bit of torture too.

My offensive options were basically nonexistent.  I was surrounded by eight men with guns.  Ducking and dodging the projectiles seemed too farfetched.  How could I disarm them before they fired?

I moved from side to side in uneven movements, so they didn’t have a stationary target and wondered why nobody was taking a shot.  They had men on either side of me, which meant a miss could result in hitting an ally.

An idea popped into my head.  If I could form a magnetic field that attracted metal, I could pull this off.  I called on the spirit of Thor, asking him to send me lightning from Asgard.  When the lightning travels between the two worlds, it will pick up magnetism in space.  I could harness the lightning and a magnetic field internally and mold them to fit my current situation.

The lightning hit me first, coursing through my body, flashes of electricity pulsing in my chest.  Then the magnetism kicked in.  That wasn’t cool.  It felt like it was stretching my body from the inside.  My organs were under great pressure and threatened to explode as I continued shucking and jiving to avoid the tranquilizers.

A light drizzle started up, and when I peeked up at the sky, a flash of lightning that resembled a hammer appeared.  The spell was ready.  Just in time, as my body was about to explode.

Two men fired at my legs from point-blank range and missed.  A lot of people didn’t understand how inaccurate shooters could be when they were in stressful situations.  It’s hard to hit your target with a shaky hand and an unsteady heart, not to mention that the magnetism I’d called on was probably screwing things up too.

I held my right hand above my head and a sphere of silver lightning formed with little golden particles of Asgardian electricity bouncing around it.  Then I felt a strange pull in my chest.

“What the hell’s going on?” asked one of the men.

The magnetism had kicked in and the guns wanted to come to my hand.  Loose change jumped from two of the men’s pockets and raced toward my hand, hitting the electric ball and bursting into a million pieces of stringy filigree that fountained about fifteen feet high in the air and rained down on my attackers and me.

Three of the guns slipped from the men’s hands and raced toward my ball of lightning.  All three weapons hit the swirling mass in my hand and exploded, with silver and black sparks showering down with the light raindrops.  Several other men unloaded, but their wild firing missed me with every shot.

Two more guns flew through the alley and blew up on impact.  I spun around and realized two men at the entrance of the alley were still holding on to their guns.  One man slid on the asphalt, squeezing the gun with both hands.  He fired, but I was ready and slid to the left, avoiding the dart.

The dart zipped across the alley and lodged itself in an attacker’s belly.  The man clutched at the projectile and dropped to his knees.  I turned back to the gunmen in my Statue of Liberty pose.  The other guy pulled the trigger, and this time, I didn’t have time to dodge it.

The dart headed straight at my nose.  Right before it sank into my flesh, it seemed to bend around my face and whistled past my ear.  It sailed down the ally, missing the men behind me.  The extreme magnetism must have changed its trajectory.  His shot caused him to lose his grip on the gun and the weapon careened through the air, smashing into my field of electricity and erupting into tiny pieces, cluttering the already filthy alley.

Before everyone’s eyes could adjust from the latest glittery explosion, I dissolved the lightning in my hand.  Then, I heightened my vision, located the man with the final pistol and tracked through the lingering smoke toward him.  He moved the gun to his left hand and waved it around aimlessly as he tried to fan away the smoke with his other hand.

I tiptoed to the side and then pounced on him.  I grabbed his right wrist and transitioned quickly into an armbar, making sure the barrel was aimed away from me.  Placing my hand around the pistol, I bent his arm the wrong way and put tremendous pressure on his elbow.  He squealed and let go of the weapon.

The smoke had dissipated enough that I could see two men closing in on me.  Pew, pew.  I hit each one with a dart, stopping them in their tracks.  As they fell, I popped off two more shots, taking out two more men.  Four on one still seemed a bit unfair so I aimed at another guy and pulled the trigger.

An empty pfftt sound told me that the gun was out of ammunition.  I threw it into the open dumpster and took stock of the situation.  Three men were closing off the alley so I couldn’t escape, and one other man stood behind me.  I turned to the side and backed toward one of the buildings.

I didn’t have any weapons on me, so I hoped these bozos didn’t know incapacitation magic.  The fallen men were screaming at the others about what they should do.  The general message was, “Kick his ass, Seabass.”

One man got brave and charged toward me.  Although graceful in movement, he threw a slow right hand that I ducked easily.  As I rose, I clamped onto his extended arm, and using my hip, I flipped him over onto his back.  I adjusted quickly and drove my knee into his elbow, bending it backward.  With a stomach-turning crunch, bone burst through the skin and thick blood gushed from the wound.

The man screamed ferally and the desperate barking echoed off the buildings as he writhed around on the filthy ground.  Down to three on one.  My fearless display seemed to have robbed the remaining men of their confidence.  They just circled around me, no one interested in making a move.

A fireball appeared in one man’s hand, lighting up the grungy alley and grabbing my attention.  I backed away, navigating through the fallen men who were immobile because of the tranquilizers.  The man used a sidearm motion to fling his fireball at my chest.

I threw my body to the side and tried to get as skinny as I could.  The fireball zipped past, barely missing me and setting my shirt ablaze.  As I tore off the burning fabric, the fireball banged into the dumpster, tearing a hole in the green metal.  I tossed my flaming shirt aside and noticed the fireball had set the contents of the dumpster on fire.  That meant those flames were strong as hell since it had erupted immediately, and the rain hadn’t affected it at all.

The hideous smell of burning refuse caused me to cover my nose, but it didn’t provide much relief.  All three men rushed me at the same time.  I crouched down, and the men hesitated momentarily, then continued charging ahead.  This time, they were hunched over to account for my lower stance.

As they closed in on me, I jumped using my strong dragon legs.  I leapt high into the air as the men collided with each other, staggered backward and started cussing at each other.  This was going to be easy.

I landed and waited for Larry, Moe and Curly to regroup.  One of the fallen men said, “Someone needs to call on him or we are done for.  We can’t fail or the Prince will kill us.”

The three remaining men and I had a brief standoff.  They stood in front of me and they all smiled.  False confidence has killed more people than anything.  Fools.  How should I dispatch them?

A green fog entered my field of vision and the three men backed away hastily.  I felt drunk.  The men moved in slow motion as they moonwalked away from me.  My heartbeat slowed to a crawl.  My brain felt heavy.  All I could see was green.  My body numbed.  Then everything faded to black.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 7

Zeke

 

A firm knock pounded against our front door.  I knew who it was without the obvious cop knock.  I wished that I didn’t as I rose slowly out of bed.  By the time I got to the door, the policemen were already talking, and my mother was already bawling.  My body thrummed with sadness, yet my chest felt empty with the confirmation.

I didn’t need to hear the words “almost unidentifiable” or “closed casket” to know that my dad was dead.  The goons who had killed him had come to our house last night looking for him.  At least, I assumed that was how it had gone down.  They’d roughed us up, robbed us and had set out to kill my dad.  Apparently, they’d succeeded.

“You all right, son?” one of the cops asked me.  I assumed he was referencing my black eye and the marks on my face from the beating I’d taken last night.

“Just got into a fight in school,” I lied.  I wasn’t going to expose my father’s secret life.

The cops came in and sat down at the kitchen table with my mom.  They tried asking her if there was anyone who wanted to hurt my father, but she couldn’t stop crying long enough to answer them.  I sat down next to her and hugged her for what seemed like hours, her tears bleeding into the fabric covering my shoulder.

“I can see that this isn’t a good time, ma’am.  You can stop down at the station if anything comes to you that you think might help.  We’re so sorry for your loss.  All of you,” the cop said, referring to me too.

I sat with my mom for a while and decided to go see if there were any clues in the shack behind our house.  I’d already found out that the robbers had taken the suitcase full of cash that my father kept hidden under the floorboards of the basement.  They’d known exactly where it was.  How?

The first thing I noticed was the door to the shack was open.  I approached the doorway and the place had been ransacked worse than our house.  The drawers and cabinets in the kitchen had been cleaned out and tossed everywhere.

The cushions and the back of the couch had been cut open, the interior cotton strewn about haphazardly.  I pushed open the door to my father’s magical gallery.  Empty.  They’d stolen my father’s magical items.  I’d been snooping on my dad long enough to know how much that stuff had meant to him.

The shock of the whole situation had my body in a constant state of panic.  I could barely think straight.  However, I knew one thing.  It might not happen today.  It might not happen tomorrow.  In fact, it might not happen for a long time.

“I’m going to find your stuff and bring it back here someday, dad.  And I promise you, mom and the rest of the family that I’ll find out who did this and serve up some righteous justice.  By any means necessary.”

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this short story prequel for the New Supernatural Agent Series.  Some of the material was purposely vague to leave some mystery but everything in this story will be explored fully in the main series where Ezekiel takes over as the main character.

 

 

Watch for Book 1, Dragged Into Magic, coming this fall.  And if you sign up for my mailing list, you will receive an exclusive sneak peak at Dragged Into Magic.

 

 

I really want to know what you thought about this and if you think it could be improved in any way.  Don’t hold back.  If you would like to submit feedback, please send it to twoheadstwospikes@gmail.com