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I never asked to be a warlock. Hell, I didn't even know they existed until a perverted demon with a questionable sense of fashion saved my life.
Now I've been exiled to Asia, thrown into the middle of a murder investigation, and forced to lead a team of supernatural strangers who nobody else wanted. There are forces at work that will do whatever it takes to keep me from uncovering their plans for Bangkok.
Too bad my new ally is an expert at cheap shots, low blows, and foul play.
I've been set up to fail, just because of my ancestry, but I'm not rolling over for anyone. In fact, the more my past is revealed, the more determined I am to take control of my future.
Even if it means making a deal with a devil…
Release date: August 29, 2018
Publisher: Crimson Myth Press
Print pages: 274
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John P. Logsdon
I’m just going to come out and say it, Kansas City is bullshit.
The entire Kansas City metro area has problems. It wasn’t bad enough that they had to give the same name to a city in Kansas and Missouri and stick them next to each other. No, they also had to pretend it was one area. It screwed with foreigners and tourists and made giving directions hard. All because someone was too lazy think up another name when someone in Kansas decided to carve out another city. We simplified things by labelling them KCMO and KCK, but it was still weird.
In addition to that, we don’t have a basketball team, the roads were laid out by some kind of drunken lunatic, and all the people on the Kansas side sneak over to Missouri on the weekends because their part is even worse. So yeah, I’ve worked better places.
Officer Roberts, my current partner, and I had just started our shift in the usual way, by grabbing breakfast/dinner from the Steak and Shake drive-thru and killing time eating it in the parking lot.
That’s when a call came in from Alan, our department AI.
Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but we didn’t use cell phones in the Paranormal Police Department, or PPD, as it was commonly known. No, our calls and communications came through implants in our skulls called connectors. As a result, we didn’t get a lot of warning when someone wanted to chat.
“Hey guys!” Alan said, catching me by surprise, yet again.
Something cold ran down the side of my hand. Sure enough, when I looked down I saw I’d clenched my fist, which sent a good amount of my milkshake all over my sleeve and onto my slacks.
It was a good thing we didn’t use normal phones, or mine would probably have been ruined. The connectors were convenient, once you got used to them, but there was etiquette to learn. You didn’t call people to chat when they were off duty, you kept group chats to a minimum, and above all, you concentrated on keeping the volume low.
Alan sucked at that last one.
“What do you need, Alan?” I grumbled, reaching into my bag for napkins to try to clean up the worst of the mess.
I had a set of gym clothes in the trunk of the car, but I’d save those in case something really trashed my outfit.
“Nothing big,” Alan said, continuing with the virtual shouting, “but do you think you could stop by The Stockyard? There’s been another noise complaint. I swear, that bar is just asking for trouble.”
“Volume, Alan,” I replied, subvocalizing my response and trying to keep from shouting back.
“Oh, did I do it again?”
“Yes, Alan, you did. Believe it or not, I only end up wearing my breakfast when you call.”
“Sorry,” Alan said, dropping to a whisper. “I’ll wire you some money to pay for the cleaning.”
I waited a few seconds before responding. After a few HR complaints due to me losing my temper, the PPD psychiatrist suggested I count to ten before responding when I got upset, so I did that.
“Thank you, Alan,” I responded, keeping my tone mostly neutral. “We’ll check out the noise disturbance.”
“Thanks, Mark. You’re a pal.”
With that, I was alone in my head again.
I looked over to Roberts to see if he’d been included in the conversation. He glanced back at me, nodded, and crammed most of the second of six Garlic Double Steakburgers into his mouth.
I couldn’t do that. Not the nodding thing, the burger thing.
It wasn’t because I didn’t have Robert’s ravenous werewolf appetite, though that was part of it. I just couldn’t eat much right after waking up. I especially couldn’t handle dinner food, even if I did work the night shift. It was a shame, because fighting crowds to get some Arthur Bryants burnt ends on my days off was a nightmare.
No, breakfast foods were what my stomach asked for, so that’s what I gave it. The milkshake was the exception, but only because I have a huge sweet tooth.
Ice cream was welcome any time of the day.
I unwrapped my Sausage, Egg ’N Cheese bagel and took a bite as I started the car and entered the address of The Stockyard into the Department’s GPS, which indexed supernatural locations in addition to the normal ones. I’d been there a few times already, but I sucked at finding my way around a city.
In the ten minutes it took me to drive there, I polished off my food and put on my game face.
A lot of being taken seriously as a cop came down to having the right kind of attitude. Too strict and people don’t work with you; too loose and they walk all over you. I’d found a balance that worked for most people and stuck with it.
I pulled into the parking lot and and got ready for some serious by-the-book passive aggressiveness.
The first thing I’d noticed was how dark it was. Usually everything was lit up by a neon sign containing the name of the bar, with horns poking out of either side. I could make out the sign, but the lights were off. It must have been broken.
The Stockyard was an almost clever title, considering it was a bar for werecows and werebulls. They really bought into the whole biker mythology, but were also aware that anything too serious was going to get them kicked out of the Overworld and back to the Netherworld.
Being allowed in the U.S.A., or topside at all, was a privilege.
Calling themselves the Sons of Asterion, or SOA, they spent a lot of time being loud and obnoxious while avoiding actually breaking any laws. They were generally annoying, but not bad people.
Unfortunately, every once in a while they decided to push the limits a bit too far and someone from the PPD got sent out to remind them that we were watching.
I stepped out of the car and into what I hoped was mud.
Another potential form of bullshit.
“Glad I remembered to wear old shoes this time,” I muttered as I wiped my foot on a patch of grass.
I looked back in the car at Roberts, but he just shrugged and pulled another steakburger out of a drive-thru bag.
Hopefully that wouldn’t be an issue with the werecattle I was about to confront.
I closed the door of my car, a mostly functioning 1970 lime-green Ford Falcon, and waved for Roberts to stay put.
He’d already turned on the local country music station and had shoved at least half the burger in his mouth. I was sure that mouthful, along with the other five steakburgers he’d bought, would be a gassy memory by the time I got back to the car and tried to wake him up.
I didn’t take his inattention or laziness personally.
Roberts was a desk jockey who was only out here because we were shorthanded, so I understood why he wasn’t itching to get in the middle of some action. Nothing major ever happened in this city, so when budget time came around last year they decided not to replace some of the retiring officers and kicked Roberts back into the field. I was working for the bare minimum myself and it was strongly hinted that I should be glad to get it.
That was fine.
As long as The Falcon ran, and I could pay my rent, I didn’t complain.
Besides, I was used to getting grunt work. Nobody really liked confronting the SOA, but someone had to do it. Roberts and I were the weakest guys in the department, so we usually got stuck with it, with the excuse being that the other officers had more important work to do.
I put up a token fight, but I didn’t really mind.
This was just the latest of the many PPD branches I’d worked for in the eight years I’d been topside, and I’d learned to go with the flow and keep my head down. I’d probably be working at an even worse branch this time next year, so I didn’t see the point in making trouble. Being almost useless doesn’t do much for the ego, after all. I was about as weak a mage as you’d find in the PPD and I knew it was keeping me from getting promoted anywhere, despite what equal opportunity policies said.
Nobody wanted a chief who couldn’t kick ass when the occasion called for it.
For example, the head of the Kansas City PPD, George Beeler, was a definite ass-kicker. In my orientation he’d frozen a tank into a solid block of ice and then torched my nose hairs from across a basketball court. He’d caught me recording him on my phone, which he kindly allowed me to throw away, rather than melting it in my hands.
As for me? On a good day I could make a fireball that would singe the pubes off a pony, and that was only if I’d already gotten to third base. I’d rather not talk about how I figured that out.
Worse yet, this was after the PPD enhancement that was designed to boost powers to almost ridiculous levels. I hadn’t noticed any change at all, power-wise. I also didn’t receive that horniness bump I was supposed to get during the modifications. On the plus side, at least I didn’t go around screwing anything with the echo of a pulse, like most of my fellow officers.
So, yeah, I was weak.
No big deal.
I knew lots of “regular” people who would give anything to have magic, no matter how little.
It wasn’t great when facing down a perp, but I made do most of the time. I wasn’t worried about dealing with the SOA though. They were low-level trouble, at best.
I walked to the entrance of the bar, trying not to trip on stuff in the dark.
The light in front of the door was also out, which meant I only had the headlights from my car to see by. I guessed I was going to have to add that to the list of things to nag the owners about.
I knocked on the door and summoned a little fire to use as a makeshift lantern. I usually wouldn’t do that, since using magic in front of normal people was a huge problem. If they found out about us they had to either get their memory wiped or be indoctrinated into the “real” world. Either way involved a huge amount of paperwork and pissing off scary people.
But, since the bar was meant for supernaturals, it was set in what we call a ‘null’ area, which meant normals instinctively avoided it. This meant I was free to summon some light and avoid scraping my shins in the dark.
As usual, the murmuring I heard when I used magic was distracting, but manageable. Nobody else ever talked about that aspect of magic, and I wasn’t going to bring it up. No way I was going to give them more reasons to get rid of me.
“This is Officer Mark Vedis of the Kansas City PPD,” I announced. “There’s been a noise complaint called in.”
There was no answer.
I knocked louder.
“Come on guys, let me in so I can yell at you. You can pretend to care for a few minutes, and then we can all go back to killing time while we wait to die.”
There was still no answer.
Something was up.
I turned back to have Roberts call it in, when the door opened, just a crack.
It was dark inside. Not “let’s dim the lights so unfortunate looking people can procreate” dark either.
There was enough light to see with, barely. The glow was coming from the emergency lights, meaning the power had been cut.
I turned up my flame to get a better view and to get ready in case I needed to give someone the magical equivalent of a sunburn.
While I couldn’t see a lot from my position just outside, I did see blood.
I stepped inside and unsnapped the holster to my pistol. I didn’t pull it out though. Not yet.
The blood was everywhere.
On the walls, the jukebox, the pool table, the chairs…well, you get the point.
Next, I saw the bodies.
Most of the regular customers were there. Those I could make out anyway. It was hard to match all the parts, since whatever had happened here had made a mess of them.
I walked to the bar to keep something solid at my back and to take a minute to assess the situation, which was the professional term for ‘don’t piss yourself’.
It was clear that I shouldn’t have come in, especially alone, so I quickly decided to get the hell back out.
With a measured gulp, I reached down to pull out my pistol, just in case something tried to keep me from leaving.
I had no idea what could have done this to the patrons of this shit-kicker sanctuary, but it was safe to say I wasn’t going to be able to handle it on my own. I just hoped the gun would keep whatever it was away long enough for me to get out of there and call for backup.
My weapon was a standard Glock 22. It held fifteen cartridges, which were alternating silver and wood breakers. In theory, that would be enough to take out a were, a vampire, or most things unlucky enough to let me shoot at them for a while. I don’t like guns. Worse, I’d never had to use mine outside of the gun range. That meant I was really just hoping it would be enough to stop whatever had torn these weres apart.
I’m not going to lie. I was terrified. Things like this didn’t happen in Kansas City.
My hand was shaking as the gun caught on its holster.
I looked down for a second, trying to free the damn thing.
That was when something grabbed me and yanked me off my feet.
“Quiet,” a voice whispered as I was pulled to the floor behind the bar. “It’ll hear you.” A hand clamped over my mouth. I looked up to see it belonged to Ezekiel, “Zeke” Johnson, the bar’s owner and only bartender. As usual, he was in half-werebull form. They took the whole minotaur thing seriously here, even selling t-shirts and other merchandise. Most of it had ‘horny’ and other filthy puns and sayings on them. The current best seller had a picture of a winking werecow in a tank top holding beer-steins full of milk. The slogan said “Got Mil(f)K?.”
I had a few at home.
“Whfr’mr yr making bt?” I said, into his hand.
“Huh?” he looked down at his hand and took it away. “Oh, right.”
“What are you talking about,” I asked, keeping my voice quiet. “And what happened here? You guys get mad and break stuff a lot, but nobody’s ever died.”
“Yeah,” Zeke replied. “Not that you know about, anyway.”
“Nothing. Just don’t order a hamburger if you’re picky about the definition of cannibalism.”
I was suddenly glad I’d never checked out the menu here.
Zeke suddenly gripped my arm, looking into my eyes. “Look, we like to party and shit, but this wasn’t us, man.”
“Then who was it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, letting go of me.
“Are you telling me you didn’t see anything?” I asked, finding that hard to believe with the carnage littering the floor out here.
“Yep. I was in the back with Linda, getting a B… beer. Getting lots of beer.” Zeke sniffed. “Also, a blow job.” He must have noticed the look of distaste on my face because he grinned and winked before moving on. Zeke was a douchebag. “Anyway, I heard people making noise and figured I’d come out and get paid for all the shit they broke, like usual.” He shook his head. “That’s how the bar makes most of its money, you know. The fellas like to get a little rowdy and things get destroyed. But they don’t mean any harm. It’s just the way of things. A man needs to let off a little steam sometimes. I call it the three Fs. Fighting, fornicating, and getting fucked up.”
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