The Stray Dogs
In mage society, there are laws and those willing to break them. When laws can no longer be enforced, when there’s no hope—there’s only one answer.
The Treadwell Supernatural Directive.
Unofficially known as The Stray Dogs—Sebastian Treadwell and his group of operatives, will step into the dark corners of the magical underworld, dealing with those who believe themselves untouchable.
When a young mage is killed by Umbra—an organization of dark mages intent on stripping mages of their power, The Stray Dogs are the only group willing to stand against them.
Now, Sebastian together with the Directive, will step into a world other mages fear to face. They will uncover the darkness that feeds off the corruption of power, exposing it to the light, and the jaws of justice.
Once the Stray Dogs are on a mission, they are relentless.
Even if the cost is their life.
Release date: September 17, 2023
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 273
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The Stray Dogs
Orlando A. Sanchez
THE STRAY DOGS
I looked at my second-in-command.
Tiger stared back at me with rage and anguish in her eyes, before looking away into the night.
“This was not your fault,” I said, trying to console her. “How could you have known?”
“I was just like her at her age,” Tiger replied, the rage and anguish crushing the words in her chest. “That could’ve easily been me.”
There were no words to answer her. Tiger would forever see herself in every abandoned child, every broken victim. It was what made her, her. There was no changing that, so I had learned to accept it, and her, as she was.
It didn’t matter that she wielded an immense amount of power, or that she had over the years become one of the most fearsome mages ever to walk the streets of this, or any city, striking fear in her enemies at the mere mention of her name.
A part of her would always be that hungry and lost little girl who nearly died on the streets.
I glanced around the deserted street as the city thrummed around us, uncaring and unfeeling. East Harlem was rarely quiet at night, but this street was unnaturally silent. Despite the hardness of the city, the block we stood on felt subdued, as if paying its silent respects to the young woman who lay broken and lifeless before us.
I crouched down to get a better look at the victim.
Her dead eyes stared up at me.
She was beautiful in an innocent sort of way--the way all young people possess the inner beauty of youth with the promise of a life ahead of them.
Not for her, though.
Her life had been snuffed out and stolen.
The anger rose in my chest.
I took a deep breath and composed myself. It would serve no purpose to lose control. No, the control must be maintained, until it was time to unleash death.
“Who found her?” I asked, keeping my voice even for Tiger. “Is this the original crime scene?”
The absence of any authorities struck me as odd.
“Doubt it,” Tiger said. “She was discovered by one, NYTF Officer Andrews. Rookie’s first night out on patrol.”
“Rough first night,” I said, looking around. “Why are we here alone? Why isn't this scene crawling with NYTF or at the very least, some kind of forensics personnel?”
“Someone with influence tagged her ELP,” she said an edge of rage in her voice. “Ramirez disagreed and called me. I called you. This is so far off the books, it doesn’t exist.”
ELP—Expendable Low Priority, it was the classification used to make someone disappear with minimal involvement from the authorities. At some point tonight, an unmarked vehicle would come and collect the body, storing it in the morgue and labeling it as another Jane Doe. She would effectively disappear in a sea of bureaucracy, her real identity lost, just another victim of the cold city.
By Ramirez calling us, he had effectively prevented her from disappearing. He knew we wouldn’t let this go. He knew we would find out who she was, and bring justice to those responsible, no matter how high up the food chain they were.
We were treading into dangerous territory.
“Call Ox and get a vehicle to pick her up.”
“Already en route,” Tiger said. “Ten minutes.”
I nodded, still looking at the woman.
“She’s too well-dressed to be homeless,” I said, examining her designer clothing. “Escort?”
“Sent the fingerprints to the Church,” Tiger said. “Rat is working up a profile, but I don’t think so.”
“They left her prints,” I said, noticing her fingers were intact. “That was either sloppy or a message.”
“I’m leaning toward message,” she said. “They think they’re untouchable. I’m going to show them how wrong they are.”
“One thing at a time,” I said, keeping calm. “There will be plenty of time for wholesale slaughter later. Right now we don’t even know who the players are.”
“But you’re going to see into it, aren’t you?”
I nodded. She knew me too well.
“And the officer in question--this Officer Andrews?” I asked. “Where is he, currently?”
“Out on sick leave for the foreseeable future,” she said. “He can’t be reached, and mysteriously, no one knows where he is.”
“Not even Ramirez?”
“No one,” she said. “It’s like he’s on leave on another planet.”
“If he’s still alive, that is,” I said. “Someone is eager to make this appear like something it isn’t.”
“Why not dispose of the body?” Tiger asked. “Makes no sense to leave her here like this. Like trash in the street.”
“Same reason they left the prints.”
“That doesn’t make sense either,” she said. “Explain it to me, using small words.”
“Makes perfect sense when you think about it,” I answered, getting to my feet. “Disposing of the body is an unspoken admission of guilt, so is dissolving her prints. This way, it looks like this young woman wandered into the wrong area at the wrong time, and met an unfortunate end from the locals. Plausible deniability.”
“That’s bullshit,” she spat. “She was murdered.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“You have proof of this?”
“Look at her,” Tiger said, pointing at the woman.
“I don’t see any signs of struggle or wounds,” I said, gazing down at the unfortunate woman. “What was the cause of death?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” she asked. “Look at her.”
I removed my glasses and humored her, partly because I was curious and partly because there was no rationalizing with her when she was in this state. I learned long ago how to pick my battles with Tiger. This was not a fight I could or would win. She wanted blood, and she would get it one way or another.
I would either help her find out who was responsible for this woman’s death, or I would have to get out of her way.
I removed my glasses and looked at the woman.
Once I removed my glasses, my inner sight exploded with trails of energy. I looked down at the woman’s body and realized immediately that Tiger was right. The body was devoid of an energy signature. She had been completely drained of life-force.
“You’re right,” I said, my voice grim. “She’s been—”
“Siphoned,” Tiger finished. “Someone or something siphoned her dry, which means she was—”
I really hoped it was a ‘someone’, but I kept that thought to myself.
“She was a mage,” I said, now seeing some of the pieces of this puzzle fall into place. “Do we know which affiliation, if any?”
“Don’t know yet,” Tiger said, frustration clear in her voice. “We’re reaching out to the Councils to see if they know anything.”
“If she belonged to either of the Councils, they’d be here. She must have been ronin—unaffiliated,” I said. “That’s a risky status to hold these days. Seems like she crossed someone dangerous and powerful. Do we know anyone with a siphoning ability?”
“Inherently or through the use of external devices?”
“Inherently--all the mages who possess the ability to siphon life-force are out of the country,” she said. “Those who possess an external device or weapon that facilitates a siphon have been located, and a list compiled.”
“How many are on that list?”
“Six so far,” she said. “We’re still working on it.”
“Anyone we know on that list?”
“Two,” she said. “Strong, and Stryder the Night Warden. Both possess blades capable of doing this.”
“I don’t see either of them doing this,” I said. “They may have the means, but lack the motive. Narrow down the list to individuals in our world. Search the shadows. Someone knows something; we just have to ask the wrong people the right questions. Start in the Dungeon.”
“No time like the present,” I said, looking at my watch. “They should be open by now. If you hurry, you can catch Char before the evening rush.”
The sooner I got her away from the scene, the sooner I could locate who transported the body to this location.
“You know I hate talking with her.”
“She’s the best information broker in the city,” I said. “The only reason you two don’t get along is because you’re so similar.”
A low growl escaped Tiger’s throat. It was my thin ice and cracking warning.
“If you compare me to that dragon again, you’ll be walking funny for a month.”
“Understood,” I said, raising a hand in surrender. “Go speak to Char, and try to refrain from violence. If anyone knows anything, Char knows which tree to shake.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Me? I’m going to find out where she died and see where that takes me.”
“You call me first, before taking any action,” she said. “I’m serious, Seb. Do not engage whoever did this, without me present.”
I hated when she called me that and she knew it, which was probably why she did it regularly.
“I’ll do my best,” I said. “As soon as I find anything of worth, I’ll let you know. Call me as soon as you’re done with Char. Try not to antagonize her.”
“I make no promises,” Tiger said. “She can be a right bitch when she wants to be.”
“You mean, ‘Dragon’?” I said. “It comes with the territory. It’s not like you can’t hold your own against her.”
It was a terrible and frightening thing to see.
“Try not to get dead.”
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