How to Hunt a Menacing Magical Shadow
That is, until he's framed for murder. Now, he's running for his life.
With the entire city chasing after him, Adrian is hunted by a menacing shadow obsessed with killing him and haunted by a mysterious voice playing games in his head. When a group of unlikely strangers takes him in, he learns the truth about his magic, things he never thought were possible. As the mysteries and lies continue to surface, Adrian uncovers a disturbing secret from his past that throws his future into uncertainty. Will he ever find out the truth? How far is he willing to go to become the hero he's always wanted to be?
Release date: June 17, 2020
Publisher: Christine Schulz
Print pages: 285
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
How to Hunt a Menacing Magical Shadow
No one ever prepares for the guilt that weighs down on the soul when responsible for the death of an innocent victim. The thought still haunts me every day.
Two years ago, I was on my way to becoming a model police officer, following in the footsteps of my father. I envisioned myself the brilliant mind behind cracking the case of the century, busting down doors and yelling “Police!” while I performed unbelievable, epic movie stunts to apprehend the bad guy with just enough time left to stop a bomb from going off and killing thousands of people. I had everything all planned out. I’d bring the perp into the station, and I’d be welcomed with a standing ovation, a line of back slaps from my team, and a thunderous round of applause from a parade of officers congratulating me on a job well done.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly how it played out.
My training partner, Officer Alex Gibson, and I jumped out of the cruiser, chasing after a thief responsible for robbing a bank. Alex’s fingertips grazed the back of the thief’s shirt, seconds away from taking him down, when a bullet punched through his upper arm instead.
“Keep going, I’m fine.” I remember him saying to me. For a brief moment I hesitated, but quickly ran off in pursuit of the criminal, pushing my rookie legs as quickly as they’d go.
The clever thief had led me to the center of a crowded park. Pedestrians scrambled in every direction, running for their lives.
“Everyone clear the area!” I barked at them, but it was useless. On top of the panicked screaming, fear had completely taken them over.
The criminal watched me with murderous eyes before he grabbed a passerby and shoved the barrel of his pistol directly up against the head of the trembling woman. I’ll never forget her horrified expression in that exact moment. A stream of tears rolled down her cheeks, soaking into her long blonde hair strewn across her face. Her fingers dug into the forearm crushing her neck. Her baby blue eyes blinked rapidly, right at me.
“Please, help me!” She rasped out, crying underneath her trembling voice. It was those three words that still haunt me to this day.
All I could do was stand there shaking like the pathetic coward I was, aiming my gun at the sick bastard before me. He knew I was too weak to pull the trigger, but I knew he wouldn’t hesitate to pull his. I tucked the gun back into my holster, holding up my hands in surrender.
“Please, let the woman go. You don’t want to hurt anyone.”
I started to slowly creep toward him, thinking maybe I could disarm him. This was my chance to be a hero, the rookie who saved the day!
That potential moment of glory quickly fled my mind when he turned the gun on me. Panicking, I swiped a magic energy bomb from my belt and launched it directly at his chest. It was only supposed to give him a small jolt, just enough to paralyze him for a few minutes while I arrested him and freed the woman.
Instead, a deafening explosion rang out through the park, the ground shaking underneath me. It happened so fast. All I remember was a powerful force that threw me backward, heat scorching my face, and the world disappearing as my head bounced against the stone pathway. Shaking off the confusion, I rebounded immediately, gun in hand. Scanning the area, the only sound I heard was a high-pitched ring piercing my ears.
The adrenaline pulsing through my veins suddenly vanished at the sight of the gruesome scene before me. A lifeless female body lay in a pool of blood, her face frozen in that terrified expression she had given me only minutes before. The thief was long gone, likely unaffected by the blast thanks to his human shield.
While the area had been mostly cleared, there was one other causality in my sight. The blue uniform he was wearing sent an uneasy shiver down my spine.
I stumbled over to the mangled body wrapped around a tree. Officer Gibson responded in a series of grunts. A mask of blood blended with dirt layered on his face, the smell so strong it coated the air with a metallic, earthy taste. Alex was still alive, but I was certain his limbs weren’t supposed to bend in the directions they were.
It had turned out my training partner recovered and followed to assist me, only to be caught in the same blast of magic that killed the innocent woman I was trying to save. The severe injuries later required multiple surgeries, countless medications, and a lifetime of lasting pain. He was lucky he could still walk, but there was no way he’d ever be able to return to the police force.
That was the day I learned that magic and I didn’t get along so well. The coroner deemed a faulty magic item the cause of her death, but deep down I knew my actions were responsible for everything. If I hadn’t used that magic spell bomb, if I hadn’t hesitated to shoot the man before things got out of hand, that woman might still be alive, and my training partner would still have a job. Every other cop also came to that same conclusion.
“You’re in my way, idiot.” I blinked out of my trance and turned to see a boxy woman standing with her arms folded tightly across her chest, ferociously staring at me as I ripped open a sugar packet and poured it into my coffee. Her uniform was flawlessly ironed, from her dark blue button-down shirt to matching navy dress pants. Even her oxfords were nicely polished.
“Good afternoon, Officer Foster!” I replied in an overly enthusiastic voice. “Just a second…”
I picked up another sugar packet and meticulously tore it open, tapping the packet and sprinkling it into my coffee one sugar crystal at a time. She expressed her frustration with a loud exhale, and I couldn’t help but give a satisfying smirk as I paraded toward the door with my coffee in one hand and red velvet cupcake in the other. She mumbled something unpleasant under her breath.
“Have a fabulous day!” I flashed her a cheap grin and raised a toast with my coffee cup as I exited the break room. The second she was out of sight, my shoulders slouched and my smile faded.
In the long hallway that led into the bullpen was a line of portraits of our fallen comrades. I passed them every day, and every day I stopped to look at the picture of my father, standing proud in his blue uniform, cropped brown hair, and eyes burning with determination.
“I knew your father well.” An older man with greying hair and a wrinkled face stopped beside me and folded his arms across his chest. He would have been around the same age as my father if he were still alive.
“Oh yeah?” I questioned, expecting him to reminisce about some heartfelt story when my father saved his life.
“Yeah. I was there when he took down the Black Mark. The criminal organization was terrorizing the city, the drugs and weapons they were distributing no longer making this city a safe place to live. He led the team that captured their leader, Bobby Bones, and put an end to their rein. He was methodical, talented, quick thinking, and never hesitated to put others before him. That’s not you, rookie. You’re an abomination to his legacy.”
He stormed off down the hallway and into the breakroom.
“One day I’ll show you what I’m capable of,” I muttered under my breath.
The bullpen was always a busy place, no matter what time of day it was. Officers sat at their desks, constantly yelling on their phones. Others ran back and forth from the different departments, looking for evidence or to interrogate witnesses and suspects. I shuffled down the aisle of cookie cutter metal desks, each officer stopping to glower at me like I was a dead man walking.
“Why are you staring? Is there something on my face?” With a coffee in one hand and cupcake in the other, I shrugged my shoulder, pretending to wipe something off my chin. I was met with an assembly line of eye rolls until I reached my desk in the back corner of the open room.
The cheap rolling chair groaned under my weight, the loose screws keeping the seat attached a few cupcakes away from completely falling out.
A few crumbs dropped into my lap, and I brushed them away onto the floor. My uniform was not as flawless as Officer Foster’s. I brushed my hands down my shirt to flatten out some wrinkles. A brownish red stain was prominent across the front breast pocket of my button-down shirt from ketchup that squirted out of my burger last week.
I sighed at the mountain of paperwork on my tiny office desk, piled so high it was like a paper fortress surrounding me. Picking up one of the folders, I began reading the details inside on the latest criminal activity that needed to be logged into the system.
“It seems that magic technicians are being kidnapped around the city,” I heard a voice off to my side having a conversation with another officer. “Intel suggests the Black Mark has regrouped after all those years with a new leader. If Lieutenant Cotter was here, and not his deliquiate son, maybe we have more information by now.”
Ignoring their deliberate rant, I moved some files around and placed the file folder back on my desk, clearing a small space to place my coffee cup next to my computer keyboard. Just as I turned on my computer to start entering in the paperwork, another folder was thrown carelessly on top of the pile.
My paper fortress came crashing down, my coffee cup a casualty of the invasion. Piping hot liquid cascaded onto the keyboard and raced its way to claim the folders next to it. I glanced up to see a potbellied man who’d consumed one too many donuts retreating from me, twisting his bald head around to say something.
“Get those done today.” The officer shoved half a donut in his mouth and stormed off to his own desk across the room.
I raked my hand through my messy hair and pulled on the ends of my curls in frustration. “Keep it up and the only Captain title you’ll ever get is Cap’n Crunch,” I mumbled softly to myself, then took some napkins from my desk drawer to sop up the mess. I leaned back in my chair and rubbed my eyes, sticky and heavy from lack of sleep. Almost lunch time. Maybe I could go find a locker to shove myself into and take a nap.
“Attention, everyone!” The entire office instantly fell silent. In unison, everyone froze in place and locked their eyes on the captain trotting down the stairs from his office. He stopped on the last step to give himself some extra height. Even on the stairs, the only thing that stood out from the back of the room was his overly gelled, spiky blonde hair sticking up over the sea of people standing around their desks.
His voice erupted, overwhelming the room with his dominating tone.
“Arcane Enterprises is holding their annual MagiCon event next week, and it’s all hands on deck for security patrol. As you know, these events draw tens of thousands of magic technicians and organizations from around the world. With this many people in one place, security is of utmost importance. We need to make sure the event stays organized and we keep everyone safe at all times. All officers are to be on high alert and fully aware of their responsibilities during this event. Further details on assignments will be sent to your email.”
There was a brief pause when he stopped talking, then the noise picked up again as the busy officers carried on with their work. The captain was storming his way down the aisle.
“Officer Cotter, with me.” He slammed his hand down on the corner of my desk, not bothering to even look at me as he passed right on by. I got up and followed him, entered an open office, and shut the door.
“Have a seat.” He motioned to the padded metal folding chair in front of him while he sat down on the other side behind the desk in an elaborate leather office chair, leaning back while tenting his fingers.
“Something wrong, Captain Fletcher?” It was usually the only reason he ever spoke to me.
“Adrian, I’m going to get right to the point. We are short staffed as it is, and this event is big for us. I’m aware you haven’t been assigned to work security like this after… that incident… but I’m putting you on patrol for this event. I need to know you’re up for this and you won’t cause any problems.” He wasn’t really asking so much as demanding. The darkness laced in his voice made the warning clear.
“Of course, Captain Fletcher. I’m ready to assist the team in any way I can.”
He nodded, got up, and left me sitting there by myself. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I pressed my lips together and made a discreet fist pump to celebrate before heading back to my desk. It wasn’t the most exciting job out there, but most of my time was spent in the office doing paperwork. It’d be nice to get out and do something different for a chance.
“Pssssst.” I glanced up to see Nolan peering down at me from over the second-floor railing. He waved his hand, gesturing for me to follow. As I reached the top of the stairs, my shoulder collided with a six-pack of brick walls rounding the corner, causing me to stumble backwards.
“Watch where you’re going, dickhead,” a raspy voice scolded me, his nicotine-laced breath burning my eyes.
My short temper wasn’t exactly a secret around here. It didn’t take much for that bubble of anger to burst and explode with a nuclear bomb of rage. “Oh, that’s all my fault. I didn’t realize your head was so far up your ass you couldn’t see where you were going.”
Thankfully, there was no such thing as magic laser beam contact lenses or his turd-colored eyes would have made s’mores with my melted face. His sausage fingers reached out and grabbed my shirt collar, throwing me up me against the wall. He leaned in, his pointed nose inches away from my face, his grip so tight I could barely breathe.
“What did you just say to me?” he grunted in a low voice.
My legs went limp, my heels slightly lifting off the floor. The air slowly escaped my lungs. Let it go, I told myself.
“Hmph. That’s what I thought. Don’t go picking fights you can’t finish, pussy.”
“I’d rather be a pussy than an ass like you.” I huffed out, deciding I wouldn’t let it go.
I thought it was rather funny. He unfortunately didn’t. He squeezed his grip tighter around my collar, the scratchy fabric burning through the back of my neck. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about it, but his brazen laugh and the intense urge to punch his face was all that swarmed my brain. Suddenly, the officer relaxed his grip and slowly I breathed life back into my lungs. I stumbled on my feet as he let go and gave me a shove into the concrete wall.
“Lieutenant Daley,” the captain nodded as he passed by.
“Captain Fletcher,” he returned the nod.
The captain glared at me, the unenthused expression in his eyes seeming to suggest that whatever was going on, it wasn’t any of his business.
My head snapped back to Lieutenant Daley after the captain disappeared down the stairs. He made a fist, pointing his index finger at me, and jammed it into my chest.
“Do everyone a favor and stay out of the way. You’re only here out of respect for your father.”
I tugged on the bottom of my shirt to flatten it out and continued on my way to Nolan’s lab. Picking a fight with anyone here would be like watching a fragile butterfly take down a grizzly bear. I was half the size of most these men, both in height and muscle. Words, though, could be sharper than any knife and more powerful than any punch.
“What’s up?” I entered the room to see Nolan tidying up the mess that was his lab.
“What was that about, my friend?” He picked up a bunch of paperwork with his gloved hands and threw it into the trash.
“Oh, you know. Just a friendly conversation with a fellow co-worker. Would you believe he invited me out for drinks later with the guys?”
Nolan snorted at the sarcasm, then walked over to a spot in the corner of the room, his white lab coat swaying as he did.
“Where is that damn thing?” he muttered to himself.
He searched the perimeter of the lab, equipment and paperwork scattered haphazardly everywhere. He then turned to the center of the room where a large metal table with tall shelving stored jars of chemicals. His silver eyes darted back and forth while he ran a hand through his speckled salt and pepper hair. His mad scientist look was very fitting for our Director of Forensics, which also included magic.
“Ah, here it is! Check this out.” Nolan grinned excitedly. “It’s the new MP-Vanquisher, the first magic pistol soon to be issued to law enforcement officers. This one’s actually a prototype, and thanks to the magic bullets, it can be used with multiple types of spells. There’s an air bullet that could knock someone off their feet, while a magic energy bullet could act like a stun gun and paralyze your culprit. You can even shoot a car or a person with a tracking spell and track that magic energy output through our system to find a specific location. Here, have a look.” Nolan, salivating like a hungry dog, lifted a shiny pistol out of its case with such care you'd think it would combust, and extended it towards me.
I hesitated, then accepted the gun from his hands.
“Wow… I can’t believe how far magic as come in the past few years. This… this is amazing. It’s going to be a game changer for law enforcement.” I cautiously gripped the pistol, flipping it left to right, up and down, inspecting every inch. For the most part, it looked like your typical police issued handgun. However, on the plate of the magazine was the etched word used to activate a particular set of magic bullets.
“Yes, but there’s still have a long way to go. New magic needs to be tested for reliability. One small mistake in the spell could result in disaster.”
I sighed at his statement. Magic objects and I got along about as well as toothpaste and orange juice. Very rarely did they ever work at all for me, and I never could figure out why.
“I bet my mom could have figured it out.” The words poured out of my mouth before I even realized I said them. “Did you know she was the one who actually discovered that magic is so unreliable because it reacts to each individual differently? Although she didn’t live long enough to figure out why it did, or how to counter it.”
Nolan sighed at me. While my father was a hero in the police force, my mother had been a genius magic technician whose research pioneered the way to new magic discoveries. She was revered in the magic industry, and Nolan knew her name and research better than anyone.
“Perhaps she would have. Why don’t we have some fun with it? I hope you don’t mind, but you’ll need to cancel your date with Lieutenant Daley. Let’s head out of here after lunch.” Nolan retrieved the gun from my hands and carefully placed it back into its protective case.
“Nah, I can’t… I’m exhausted—” He gave me a firm slap on the back.
“No excuses, my friend. You need some training.”
I thought about it for a moment, then gave in. “All right. Let’s do it.”
After heading back to my desk, I typed away at my computer to get as much paperwork done as I could before leaving. A few hours later, I scrambled to pack up my things, slinging my backpack over my shoulder as I pushed in my chair.
There was nothing overly exciting about this particular police station. Everything was boring and falling apart. Our equipment was ancient, the desk chairs were dented and ripped, and no one really knew what the original color of the floor used to be. But as I passed through the hallway and headed toward the lobby, I took one last glimpse of my father’s photo hanging on the wall in a thin silver frame.
A smile tugged at my lips. I may have sucked at my job, but I was still proud of what I was doing. I had to believe my parents would have been too, and I continued to believe that one day I’d be a hero, proving to everyone I wasn’t the incompetent idiot they made me out to be.
It was a beautiful late fall afternoon in the city of Lorith. The sun was warm against my skin, but not too hot that it was uncomfortable. A gentle breeze ruffled my hair, the scent of car fumes laced in it. I hopped on the train, men and women stuffing themselves inside tighter than a Thanksgiving turkey.
There were several shooting ranges closer to the station, but Nolan insisted we head a little farther out to a different one, right outside the city. This time of day there were only a few shooters practicing, and no other police officers in sight. Passing through the lobby, I headed toward the outdoor range.
“You’re late. I thought you bailed on me for your new best friend. You ready to give this bad boy a try, my friend?” A curved grin slipped across his face, and I reciprocated.
“I still can’t believe you got your hands on this. We finally have a better way to use our magic spell bombs rather than just chucking them at people. We’ll be able to shoot them longer distances and more accurately, now.”
I reached for the U-shaped safety band, a special spelled magic object for head and sound protection currently being tested by law enforcement, and secured it around my neck.
“Let’s try an air bullet,” Nolan suggested. “That should be one of the… uhh… safer ones to use. It’s this one.” Nolan pointed to a loaded magazine he left on the counter. “The bullet works like a regular magic spell bomb. Say the word to activate the magic inside, and the gun will do the rest. Remember, we are outside. You have to fight nature’s wind with the magic wind.”
I slumped my shoulders and glowered at him, my lips dropping into a frown and eyes drooping with defeat. His encouraging smile tried to be confident for me, but I had my doubts.
“It’ll become much easier after you test it out and get the hang of it,” he reassured.
“Yeah, easy for you, maybe. You know how hard this is for me.” Magic spells had a habit of not doing what they should when I used them. At times they were too powerful, other times they didn’t work at all. Hell, sometimes they did something completely different than expected. It was like playing a game of Russian roulette with magic.
I inhaled a deep breath to relax and readied myself in firing position, tilting my head and raising my arms until level with my sight. I focused, listening to the sound of leaves rustling in the distance. The feeling of crisp fall air swept against my skin, gently lifting the hair off my forehead. There was no one else out here but me and Nolan.
“Ventus!” I shouted. Excitement overcame me, filling my stomach with a spike of adrenaline. Yelling it out louder didn’t make the spell more powerful, but it made me feel empowered. The spell activated, and the warmth of the flowing magic absorbed into my hands, connecting them as one with the gun shining a faint orange glow as it powered up.
Squinting my eyes, I aligned the rear sight with my target twenty-five feet away. I sucked in another deep breath, convincing myself the bullet was going to rip through the atmosphere in a perfectly straight line right through the red dot on the target’s head. I braced myself for an epic unveiling of magic exploding through the gun… then it let out a slight breeze with no more power than a gust of air from a paper fan. I let out farts more powerful than that.
Nolan stood behind me, pacing like a drill sergeant with his hands clasped behind his back trying not to laugh. “Don’t get discouraged. This is a totally new weapon. You won’t get it right away.”
Embarrassed by my first attempt, I stiffened my hands around the grip and imagined the target being ripped apart until nothing was left of it, the tiny pieces of thick paper incinerating on impact. Nolan had told me once that a skilled user could enhance the magic ability of an item by visualizing what they wanted to happen. I never understood how anyone could ever concentrate like that. It wasn’t like a burglar would just stop and wait for you to get your shit together.
“Keep practicing, my friend,” Nolan encouraged as though he could read my thoughts. “The more you do it, the more magic will feel like a part of you. Everything will become instinct.”
My finger squeezed the trigger again. A blast of heat burned my skin as the magic exploded from the gun like a bomb. I rocked right off my feet, the force sending me crashing directly into Nolan standing behind me. My hand was still holding the gun facing the sky—that I could now see through the gaping hole I just made in the wooden canopy above us.
“Okay, that was a bit too much…” Nolan’s words trailed off as he clutched his hand to his chest.
“Neat trick, huh?” I chuckled, grasping the wooden shelf as I hoisted myself up. “I used the air bullet to propel myself and knock the wind right out of your lungs.”
“Hilarious, my friend,” Nolan said dryly as he rose to his feet.
I put the gun down for a moment, shaking out my hands and feet to clear my mind. My short, spiraled brown curls bounced right above my eyebrows with the movement of my head.
Nolan’s phone buzzed. “I gotta take this. Work stuff. Keep going, my friend. I’ll be right back.” Nolan scampered off to the main building, searching for a more private location to take the call.
Moments later, I heard the faint sound of two familiar voices chattering louder as they drew closer. Both officers locked their eyes on me.
“Hey, that looks like the new MP-Vanquisher people keep talking about. How the hell did you get your hands on that?”
I wasn’t sure Nolan was supposed to have it, let alone fire it at a shooting range, so I left out some important details.
“It belongs to a friend. Borrowing it for some practice.” I turned away, not in the mood for causing a scene.
“You don’t have friends. Besides, you shouldn’t be using a weapon like that. Those are for real police officers,” one of them scoffed, puffing out his chest to make him appear tougher than he probably was. The other one let out a cheeky laugh.
“Well, you shouldn’t be parading around with that ugly meat face of yours scaring little kids, but we can’t all get what we want, can we?”
He widened his eyes and let out a grunt. I braced for impact, but he shoved me aside and moved along.
Determined to fire off at least one successful shot, I continued on, trying different spelled bullets. Too much power, too little power, bullets that fizzled out mid-air, bullets that hit the ground instead of the target. I’d probably have better luck hitting the target by throwing the damn gun at it with my bare hands.
“Agh!” I screeched, looking around to see if anyone had noticed. A few others had joined me outside, but kept focus on their own practice.
I did eventually hit something… myself. A forceful blast of energy came out the wrong end of the gun. I’d guess that’s what you’d call a magic gun jam. Thankfully, the magic shield protected my head, but the burning sensation on my hands felt like I had been rubbing them raw against sandpaper for hours.
“Oops. I wasn’t expecting that.” I turned to Nolan, expecting him to reprimand me for almost destroying his precious magic weapon, except he wasn’t there. He never came back.
Nearly landing myself a trip to the hospital, I decided I had enough for the day. The sun was setting behind the trees, casting long, dark shadows across the field, and I needed to get home. I packed up the gun in its black carrying case and set off to locate Nolan. Eventually, I found him wandering around the hallway by the bathroom.
“Ah, there you are, my friend. Sorry about that. You know how work stuff can be. All set?” He pointed to the gun case I was carrying at my side.
“Uh, yeah. I nearly blew my hand off with it. Figured I rather like that part of my body and would prefer to keep it attached, so I quit while I was ahead.” I handed over the case and gave him an unspoken thank you with a head nod.
“Okay, well, see you Monday then.”
I pulled out my phone to check the time. It was later than I thought.
“Yeah, see ya Monday.”
I made my way back home, hopping off the train and into the crisp autumn wind nipping through my lightweight jacket. The streetlights buzzed, illuminating the busy sidewalks lined by crowds of people hitting the bars after a long work week.
Envy wrapped around my bones. Nolan was the closest person I knew who could be considered a friend. Occasionally, we’d grab a beer together after work. He’d always invite me into his lab to let me play with some cool new magic gadgets or make me feel useful by asking questions about a case. I had known him since I started working on the force, a little over two years ago. In a weird way, he reminded me of my mom. Although I couldn’t recall much from my early childhood, I remembered sitting in her lab as she worked, teaching me about magic just like Nolan would.
I punched in my code to open the main apartment complex door, then lazily dragged my tired feet up to the fourth floor of the small five story building. After searching every pocket for my keys, I finally managed to unlock the door. I flipped on the light switch and carefully maneuvered my way around piles of clothes, pizza boxes, empty beer bottles, and other questionable substances on the floor. The place was trashed… but every time I thought about cleaning up, fatigue had other ideas.
My backpack dropped onto the floor with a thud, and I slid off my sneakers next to it. Making my way into the kitchen, I rummaged through my empty cabinets and grabbed a box of stale cereal. A quick whiff of the milk container caused me to wrinkle my nose in the other direction, so did without it. When I finished, I piled the empty bowl on top of the mountain of dishes overflowing from the sink and did a little happy dance on my way to bed. I was going to MagiCon!
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...