She never wanted a damn partner...
Meet Piper Shaw. She's one of the Netherworld Paranormal Police Department's toughest. She's also an immortal, and she's got one hell of a chip on her shoulder.
Meet Reaper Payne. He's an actual reaper. Yes, one of those guys who ferries the dead. Unfortunately, he broke a rule of his order, and it was a doozy. His punishment is to dwell alongside the living for one hundred years.
They're both Retrievers in the PPD. Essentially, they hunt in the Overworld to bring back supernaturals who have overstayed their welcome.
Piper is clear about one thing: She does not want a partner.
They just became partners.
Gallien Cross is an escaped prisoner. He's been turning normals in the Overworld into vampire zombies. His goal is to build an army that will keep him from going back to prison.
Piper and Reaper must put aside their differences as they battle through tough goons, vampire zombies, and Cross himself.
Release date: January 24, 2018
Publisher: Crimson Myth Press
Print pages: 160
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John P. Logsdon
I’d faced down vampires and werewolves and everything else over my time as a Retriever in the Netherworld PPD, but this was the first time I’d been saddled with a rookie.
His name was Reaper Payne and he was tall, lanky, had glowing eyes, and a perpetual five-o-clock shadow. He also wore a long black coat and a leather cowboy hat. He looked a bit out of place, truth be told.
Unfortunately, that was all the information I had on him because Chief Carter pushed the guy off on me seconds before a Retriever call came in.
“He’s inside,” I said, pointing at the Apollo Marine Specialties building on Lesseps Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. We were standing across the road, hidden in the shadows. “Get your gun ready.”
“I don’t have a gun,” he replied, glancing over at me.
I looked at him in disbelief.
“So you’re a cop with no gun?” I shook my head, thinking about how the chief and I were going to have to have a talk about things. “Okay, rookie, first rule of law enforcement is that when you’re chasing the bad guys, you bring a gun.”
“I use magic,” he deadpanned.
“You’re a mage?”
“No, I’m a reaper.”
I squinted with one eye while raising my opposite eyebrow.
“You mean one of the guys who brings the dead to the…whatever you call it?”
A sound came from inside the building. Something had fallen. It was obvious that our rogue vampire was fishing around in there. We hadn’t tipped our hand with him yet, so he couldn’t have known we were after him.
“Did you get laid off or something?” I asked as I pulled out my spare gun and went to hand it to him.
“Again, Ms. Shaw, I don’t use guns,” he said, looking down at it. “They’re an abomination.”
“So is being shredded by a vampire,” I replied. Then I grimaced at the “Ms. Shaw” reference. “And don’t call me that. It makes me feel like I’m an old maid.”
“Officer Shaw, then,” he started again, “I do not use guns because—”
“Just call me Piper,” I interrupted. “I’ll call you Reap.”
“I would prefer ‘Officer Payne.’”
I laughed. “Yeah, like I’m going to run around calling you Officer Payne.”
The image of me arresting some poor old wizard who had accidentally missed his return trip to the Netherworld came to mind. ‘Sorry, sir, but you’ll have to come with us, and don’t make things difficult or I’ll send Officer Payne to teach you a lesson!’
“I’m going to stick with Reap or Payne or whatever else strikes my mood.” That’s when a thought hit me. “Wait a second,” I said as I stuck the spare gun back in its holster, “are you telling me that you’re a reaper whose name is Reaper?”
“Are all reapers named Reaper or are you just the least creative of the bunch?”
His eyes glowed a little brighter.
“We don’t have names in the same fashion as you do, Offic…Piper,” he replied evenly. “We merely sense each other as unique.”
“Sounds lovely,” I replied. “Of course there is the matter of your last name.”
“Yes, I have been in the Netherworld for quite some time. One has to acclimate, so I adopted a last name.”
“And you chose ‘Payne?’” There was no response to that. “Anyway, how about turning down your headlights there a bit so our fun-loving vampire doesn’t spot us?”
His eyes dimmed. “Nobody has ever mentioned the brightness of my eyes being a problem.”
“That’s because everyone is too worried about being politically correct,” I scoffed. “You’ll soon find out that I’m not one who buys into that crap. If you’re doing something stupid that might get us in trouble, I’ll tell you.”
“And my eyes are stupid?”
“When they’re glowing like the sun while we’re sneaking around, yeah.”
There was one more thing bugging me about him. Shouldn’t a reaper have some type of archaic speech patterns? My assumption was that he’d also gotten up to speed with that over his years living here.
There was a crack from inside the building.
It was time to move.
“All right,” I said in a commanding voice, “here’s how it’s going to work. You’re going to go that way,”—I pointed—“and I’m going to cut straight across. You’re acting as backup, got it?”
“If there’s any trouble, just cast a lightning bolt or something at the guy…” I stopped. “Assuming I haven’t already shot him, I mean.”
“I don’t cast lightning bolts.”
“An ice barrage, then,” I said, not really caring.
“Can’t do that either,” he replied while looking at his feet.
I took a step toward the building but paused and looked back.
He nodded. “That, I can do.”
I hid the gun behind my back and casually crossed the street, just a little to the left of the entryway. I also made it look like I was planning to walk down and away from the building.
As soon as I got to the other side, though, I pinned my back to the wall beside the door and got ready for a fight.
Reaper was heading toward me, his eyes glowing like a couple of car lights. If the chief stuck him with me for the long haul—something I planned to argue against—I was going to have to get him some shades.
Sinking down, I peered through the open door and spotted a body. She was lying only a few feet inside.
Our vampire was feeding.
Well, that was fun. It meant he had additional strength and agility. I looked at my gun, thinking it was nothing a Death Nail couldn’t stop, but seeing that Reaper was against the use of guns, I’d have to make sure the vampire didn’t get hold of him.
“Eyes,” I hissed as Reaper got to the other side of the door.
And here came the part of the job that I felt was incredibly stupid. Unfortunately, it was a highly recommended practice for each Retriever. It was supposed to protect us from a countersuit in the event the perp we were arresting got injured while apprehending. I didn’t do it all the time, but seeing that Reaper was new, I thought it a smart move.
I sighed and then called out, “Gallien Cross, by order of the Netherworld Retrievers, I, Piper Shaw, and my partner, Reaper Payne, hereby place you under arrest, and we shall transport you back to the Netherworld and present you before the Tribunal for sentencing.”
Usually the response to this was one of three things. The most common was the runner yelling “Fuck you!” before attacking me. The second was a sobbing sound followed by a long diatribe explaining why they had run in the first place. And the last was resignation to the fact that they weren’t getting out of this, meaning that they’d just walk out with their hands up.
Gallien’s response was new, though.
An Empiric came flying out the door, landing directly between me and Reaper.
“Oh, shit,” I said as I dived as far away as possible.
The explosion was deadened pretty heavily, which was odd.
An Empiric was essentially a magical grenade. It was shaped like a disc that was about an inch high with a two-inch circumference. They were made of a black alloy that popped open when activated, revealing a blue light that spun in on itself until throwing out a massive magical shockwave, killing pretty much anything in its path.
Anything not immortal anyway. Fortunately—or maybe not, depending on the day, I was immortal. So getting hit by an Empiric wouldn’t kill me, but it’d still hurt like hell, hence why I dived away.
But not feeling anything from one was odd. There should have at least been a concussive “boom.”
“Ouch,” I heard Reaper say, and I pushed myself up and turned around.
He was lying on top of the Empiric and his long coat did not look happy about it.
“What the fuck?” I breathed as I darted over and pushed him onto his back. “Are you okay?”
“That hurt a fair bit,” he replied, swallowing, “but I’ll be okay. Just need a minute to heal.”
I didn’t see any holes in his chest, but his shirt was completely destroyed. There were some burn marks, too, but they seemed to be healing already. That just meant he still had his reaper immortality, regardless of his new position in the Netherworld.
“Why would you throw yourself on an Empiric, Reap?” I asked. “That’s just insane.”
“I was trying to protect you and the people in the area,” he answered.
That made my eye twitch. Was he thinking of me as some kind of damsel in distress? If so, I’d have to kick him in the nuts a few times to demonstrate that I was more than capable of taking care of myself.
I cracked my neck from side to side.
“So the big man has to protect the little woman? Is that what you’re telling me?”
My foot was ready to swing.
“Not at all,” he replied, his glowing eyes meeting my non-glowing ones. “I was assigned as your partner. If you were a man, I would have done the same thing.”
I held my foot back.
“Okay, then.” My angst lowered. “Well, thanks, but that was stupid.”
“You’re welcome.” He pushed himself up with some effort.
“And that brings us to rule number two of retrieving runners,” I said as I glanced into the building. “Do you remember rule number one?”
“Bring a gun,” he replied with a sigh.
I tilted my head at him. “Good. Rule number two is that you don’t throw yourself on a fucking Empiric.” I grew pedantic. “Now, I know they don’t point these things out in cop school, so learn from my experience.”
“What happens if we let an Empiric explode unabated, Piper?” he asked as he rubbed his chest.
“It makes a big boom and kills a bunch…” I looked around and noticed there were a few normals milling about on the streets. “Okay, I see your point, but there are better ways to destroy an Empiric.”
“In less than three seconds?”
He had me there. “Well, no, but that’s not the point.”
“What is the point, then?”
“Just that you shouldn’t throw yourself on an Empiric,” I replied, and then I stepped inside the building while keeping my gun up. “It’s moronic.”
The room was clear, except for the woman’s body I’d seen before Gallien’s attack.
“By the way,” I said as Reaper knelt beside the woman, “that’s rule number three: Don’t be a moron.”
He rolled his eyes at me, which was only obvious because his pupils were slightly brighter than the rest of his eyes.
“Just so you’re aware,” he said, “I have seen more death in one day than you’ll see in a lifetime.”
“Well, I’m an immortal, so don’t get too high on yourself.”
“And how long have you been alive, exactly?”
“Twenty-seven years, but—”
“Right, so you’re still very young. I’ve been a reaper for millennia and seeing death is nonstop. It kind of goes with the job.”
He focused his attention back on the body on the floor.
I stuck my tongue out at him and then flipped over my left arm and tapped the tattoo on my wrist. It was shaped like two sets of horns that were connected at the base in the middle, slanting slightly away from each other. There were lines from the outer horns that angled into the centers of the inner horns as well. By placing the fingers of my right hand in various locations, and using specific sequences, I could trigger a ton of functions that would appear in my field of vision. I could also control the tattoo with my mind if I had to, but it wasn’t easy and it required going into a light trance.
The tracking system showed that Gallien had crossed the train tracks and was heading into a building by the Mississippi.
On the one hand, it wasn’t like he’d get out of our sight anytime soon because we could track him; on the other hand, he’d clearly killed one normal already, so we needed to stop him before he did it again.
“Dead?” I asked as I came back to Reaper and the body.
“Technically, I’m neither dead nor alive,” Reaper replied.
“Not you, bozo,” I said, frowning. “I’m talking about her.”
“Oh, right. Not yet.” He had his left hand on her forehead while making various gestures with his right. “I’m putting her in stasis and will send her to Dr. Hale’s office for healing.” He looked up. “Assuming it’s not too late.”
I nodded. If anyone could revive the woman, it’d be the good doctor in the Netherworld PPD.
The interesting bit, though, was that Reaper was putting the lady in stasis. That could be pretty useful. There were countless times I could recall when a normal had been down and out due to a werewolf bite or a mage firing an energy bolt through them. They usually lasted a few minutes before giving up the ghost. Reaper’s little trick could extend that quite a bit.
That made me look at Reaper again. If anyone knew about giving up the ghost, I guessed it’d be him.
“How long is it going to take?” I asked. “I’m tracking Gallien, but it’d be better if he didn’t strike again.”
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