Witch Hunt Free Chapter

Prologue

Day 1

Rose Stone closed her eyes and prayed her surroundings would change. The grogginess she had felt when she first opened her eyes had subsided only to be replaced by a dull headache. The smell didn’t help either. The air was heavy with the smell of manure.
She knew where she was. Not the location exactly but the building she was being kept in. A stable. She had seen it when he dragged her from the car and slung her over his shoulder. An old stable with a brick house next door. The only lights outside were the headlights from the car. As he carried her towards the stable the world faded to black.
Rose sat on a soiled mattress in the far corner of the room. She tugged on the metal cuffs around her wrist. The cuffs were tight and wouldn’t budge. She scooted closer to the wall and leaned back.
A sliver of sunlight came through a gap in the ceiling and illuminated the room. It was sparse. There were two buckets by the door and the soiled mattress.
“Hello?” “Let me out!”
Rose waited for a moment. Silence filled the air. She grabbed the chain connected to her cuffs with both hands and pulled with every ounce of strength she had. Nothing.
“Anyone there?”
She pulled once more before she collapsed against the wall.
“There’s no point in fighting it. There’s no way out,” said a voice on the other side of the wall.
“Who’s there?”
“I’m Waverly. You must be new.”
“I— I’m Rose. Where are we?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s an old barn that was remodeled,” answered Waverly.
“Why are we here?” asked Rose. “Why us?”
“I really don’t know. I’ve been here so many days I’ve lost count. Not that it matters anymore.”
“Why doesn’t it matter?” asked Rose.
“There’s no way out. We’ll die here.”
A chill ran down Rose’s spine. Waverly had said it so plainly, so calmly. There was no fear, no concern, nothing. Her words, void of any emotion.
“Are there more?” asked Rose.
“I think you are number twenty-one.”
Number twenty-one?
“What is going to happen to me?” asked Rose.
Silence.
“Waverly?”
“Waverly?”
Rose repeated her name four more times before she shoved her head into her pillow and screamed. Then she cried.
Keys jangled far away and she lifted her head. Someone was coming. Rose straightened herself up, wiped her face with the back of her sleeve, and listened. She pressed her back against the wall as a key slid into the lock. Her stomach tightened. The knob turned. Her heart pounded in her chest.
The door creaked open.
A man stood in the doorway and smiled. He was thin with light brown hair. He seemed familiar. Like she had seen him somewhere before but she couldn’t place it.
“Nice to see you awake,” he said as he stepped in. He took a tray and set it at her feet.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Oh. I’m hurt. You don’t remember me,” he pouted. “Although I was using a glamour spell every time we were together, so I guess that’s to be expected. Oh well. I’m using one now by the way. Don’t need you getting away and describing me to the police. But I doubt that will happen.”
“I know you?” Perplexed by this new bit of information, Rose began to study his face.
“Oh, come on now. All the dates we had. Why we just had dinner last night. Don’t you remember? Think hard,” he answered.
“Tommy?”
He smiled.
He looked like the man she had been dating for the past few months, but he was different. His voice wasn’t the same and neither were his eyes.
“There you go. Now you know. Kind of anyway,” he said. “Well, I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
Tommy left the room and locked the door behind him.
“Tomorrow,” she whispered.
Rose heard the keys nineteen more times. She heard doors open and close and she heard him talking but only him. His voice was muffled so she couldn’t make out what he was saying. She waited a few moments after the keys stopped before she relaxed against the wall.
“You only get one meal a day,” said Waverly. “You should try stretching it out. Eat slowly. He comes in to change the buckets and leave the food once a day. The shackles and the locks are ananite. Magic won’t work on them, and you can’t use magic while wearing them.”
Rose had learned about ananite in school, but she never thought she would see it up close. He had left her a sandwich, milk, chips, and some fruit. The longer she stared at the yellow tray the more the tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. Threatening to fall.
How could she have been so stupid? No one would know what happened to her or who took her. He didn’t want anyone to know they were dating at first, so she kept it a secret. No one even knew what he looked like, not even her mother. She pounded her fist against the floor. It was all part of his plan. How could she fall for it? Now she was going to die in a stable on manure and straw-covered ground. And it was all her fault.


Day 2

She cried herself to sleep. Woke up and then cried herself to sleep again. With she felt like she had no more tears left in her, she sat up on the mattress and leaned against the wall. The sliver of sunlight had disappeared. Rose padded the floor to the end of the mattress until she felt the tray Tommy had left earlier. She pulled it into her lap and took a bite of the sandwich. Turkey with a slice of cheese and a thin piece of lettuce, and yet it was one of the best things she had ever tasted.
“Are you awake?” Waverly’s voice broke through the silence.
“Just woke up.” Rose chewed her last bite of the sandwich.
“You made it through your first day.”
“Yeah. Maybe I should start keeping count. Scratching it into the floor or something,” said Rose.
“I lost count after forty, so good luck with that.”
“Forty days?”
“Yeah. Some have been here longer. One girl had been here almost a year the last time I talked to her,” answered Waverly.
“The last time?”
“Yeah, he put a spell on her. She can’t speak now,” answered Waverly.
“Why?”
“She was talking too much, I guess. She knew him. The real him without the glamour spells. She was talking about him. She told us his real hair color is black. She even told us his name,” answered Waverly.
“What is it?” Rose scooted closer to the wall.
“Can’t say. None of us can. He… did something to us. We can’t say his name.”
“What did he do?” asked Rose.
“Dark magic,” sighed Waverly.
“How did he do it?”
“He took us behind the stable. We were in chains, so we couldn’t run, and he cast the spell. One by one. He took our blood and wrote something in our mouths. When he was done, he told us if we ever uttered his name without permission again we would die. One of the girls, I never learned her name, didn’t believe him. So, she said it. But before she could finish… It was like… she was choking, you know. She was clawing at her throat as some black substance poured from her mouth. Everyone was screaming. Crying. She died right there in front of us. Now no one talks much. Not that I hear anyway,” explained Waverly.
“What does he do to us?” asked Rose.
“Nothing,” replied Waverly. “Just taunts us and feeds us one meal a day. That’s it.”
Rose noted the complete lack of emotion in Waverly’s voice. She didn’t sound sad or scared. It was like Waverly was completely numb to being trapped in a stable for over forty days. Rose wondered if she would start to feel the same way. She tapped her head against the wall and wished she knew why. He had to be keeping them for some reason. If it was just to kill them then why keep the girls for so long? It didn’t make any sense.
The chain that connected her cuffs was nailed into the ground by a large spike. She pulled at her restraints again. And again, and again. Trying to work the nail out of the ground. Nothing happened, but she kept working on it. She would pull until her arms were sore. Rest and then again until she fell asleep. It was a nice distraction. She had cried until she could barely open her eyes. There was nothing else to do.
Tommy came in a little while after the sun came up to drop off her food for the day. A ham sandwich, fruit, chips, and some milk. She ate it slowly, starting with the fruit and then later in the day the chips and finally when it got dark she ate the sandwich.
To get through the day she had to put home out of her mind. Every time she thought of her mother, her friends she felt hopeless. A gut-wrenching sadness she didn’t want to feel. It was only her second day in the stable, and she had cried six times. A vast improvement from the first day. Rose found that the less she thought about her home, the less she cried. So instead she focused on the spike and releasing her restraints.

Day 10

It moved. Slightly. She heard it. The spike scraped against the cement as it moved from its post. Rose clapped her hands over her mouth to stifle a shriek. It wasn’t much, but it still made her the happiest she had been in the past ten days.
Waverly had told her not to count the days because there was no point. No way out. But Rose couldn’t help it. She marked every time the sun came up by etching a line into the ground with the edge of her cuffs.
Ten days.
Ten days in the darkness except for the few slivers of light that peeked through in the morning. Tommy or whoever he was, came every day to bring them their food. He stopped taunting her around day five. Opting to just drop the tray at the foot of her mattress and change her buckets. The only voice she had heard the past five days was Waverly’s.
They talked about their food, what they had received, and what they wished it was. Rose tried to imagine what outside of the stable looked like and would then describe it to Waverly.
“What are you doing over there?” yawned Waverly.
“Huh. What do you mean?”
“Your chains keep rattling,” answered Waverly.
“I’m just bored. Can’t sleep anymore so I’m trying to stay busy,” replied Rose.
She wanted to tell Waverly what she was doing and how the spike moved but she knew Waverly would discourage her. While Waverly had given up hope, Rose clung to it. Like it was all she had in the world because it was. She had to do something. It was either work on the spike or cry. And she was all out of tears.
“By doing?” inquired Waverly.
“Staying active. Moving around.”
“Okay,” replied Waverly.
Rose waited for Waverly to say something else. To fill in the silence with either her words or the light roar of her snoring.
“What do you look like?” asked Waverly.
“What do I look like?”
“Yes. I haven’t seen anyone except him for a long time. What do you look like? Tell me something about yourself,” replied Waverly.
“Um… I’m twenty-three. I have brown hair and green eyes. Five feet six. Um… Let’s see, I was going to college—”
“What college?” interrupted Waverly.
“College for Others,” answered Rose.
“Me too,” replied Waverly her tone changed from emotionless to perky.
“What was your favorite class?” asked Rose.
“Well, I really liked my Advanced Spells Class and my History of Others Class. You?”
“Astrology. I loved that class,” sighed Rose. “Staring at the stars and trying to decipher their meaning. Some spells work better when certain stars are in the sky. You know, I think the Emerald Stars are coming out this year.”
“Emerald Stars?” asked Waverly.
“They’re supposed to be beautiful. Like little emeralds dancing in the sky and only come out once every thirty years,” answered Rose. “I’ve always wanted to see them.”
“Maybe you will.”
“That sounds like hope,” said Rose.
“It is what it is.”
The rest of the morning was just as slow as all the rest. In between working on getting the spike out of the floor, Tommy came in with her food, changed her buckets, and left again without speaking. Waverly talked and then fell asleep and woke up to ask Rose more questions. All the while Rose focused on the spike. She worked on it until her arms were sore. Then she laid back on the mattress and closed her eyes.
“T? You in there?”
Rose slowly lifted her head from her mattress.
“Hello? T?” the female voice yelled again.
Rose could hear footsteps outside her door.
“Oh, I guess not. Maybe he’s in the house,” said the voice.
“Wait,” whispered Rose. She pulled herself off the floor and inched towards the door. “Help. Help. Help me!”
“Who’s there?” asked the voice.
“Please, help me. Please let me out!” yelled Rose.
“Who are you?” asked the voice from the other side of the door.
“I— I’m Rose Stone. Please let me out.”
The knob twisted and turned but nothing happened. The woman on the other side of the door pushed and banged against it.
“I’ll be right back,” said the woman as she patted the door.
Rose heard the footsteps walking away. “No! Don’t go! Please don’t go!” she pleaded.
“I’ll be right back.”
The voice was further away. Rose got as close to the door as she could manage. She heard more footsteps, rustling, and a scream.
“Son stop!”
Then silence. She heard the door close and then nothing. Rose wanted to say something. To scream. But in the end, she knew it was pointless. No one was coming. The woman was never coming back. And she knew it. And the other women in the cells around her knew it too. That’s why none of them said anything. No one screamed for help. None of them made a sound.
Was it a trick?
“Waverly?” whispered Rose as she moved back towards her mattress.
“You shouldn’t have said anything,” answered Waverly.


Day 26

She grabbed the heavy chains that hung from her wrist and swung with all her might. It had taken her twenty-six days to loosen the spike that nailed her chains to the floor. The chains and the spike slammed against the head of her captor. Tommy fell to the ground. Blood pooled above his brow. Rose bolted towards the wooden door. She closed it behind her, but it wouldn’t lock without a key. Standing on the other side she listened.
In the hallway, there were many doors just like hers that were locked with peepholes. She walked up to the door in front of her and pulled the wooden slat open. She peered through the hole. The room was set up exactly like hers. A soiled mattress on the floor against one wall and two buckets on the floor for the bathroom. A woman was on the mattress face down.
“Hello,” Rose whispered. “Hello?”
The woman didn’t move at the sound of her voice. Rose thought of a spell she could use to undo the lock. She stuck a finger into the keyhole. Nothing happened. She did it again. But again, nothing happened.
“What’s wrong? Why isn’t my magic working?” She whispered to herself. “Oh. That’s right ananite chains.” Her magic wouldn’t work if she had the cuffs around her wrist.
At the end of the hallway, a heavy wooden door was partially open. She moved towards it. With every step, the chains rattled loudly. As she tried removing the cuffs, she heard someone moan. Rose darted for the door. She had to get out.
She pushed the door open and inhaled fresh air for the first time in days. The morning breeze gave her goosebumps. She shivered as she took in her surroundings. She felt as if she could breathe again. There was a house to her left and nothing to her right. Nothing but trees. She couldn’t see a road or even a path through them. She looked towards the trees and started running.
Tree branches clipped her in the face almost knocking her down, but she kept going. She stumbled over fallen branches and rocks. She stopped for a minute to catch her breath when she realized no one was chasing her. Her lungs were on fire while the cuts on her legs bled. She was weak, tired, and hungry, but she had to keep going.
She started running again. In front of her, she could see a building and a clearing. She ran harder.
“No,” she whispered.
She stopped in front of the stable. She had gone in a complete circle and ended up right back where she started. Tommy leaned against the stable doors. He smiled. Rose turned around and ran. She ran in the opposite direction and changed her path by going North.
She came to a clearing in the trees.
The house, the stable, and Tommy were there. Out of breath and bleeding, she spun around and ran. Only to come back to the same place. Was that why Waverly told her there was no hope?
Defeated Rose slumped to the ground and sobbed. She thought she was so close, but it was all a cruel game. There was no way out unless he set her free. She just wanted to go home. To get out of the darkness and see her mother, her friends. To see the sun, rise, and set. The Emerald Stars. Anything. She would rather see anything but the four dark walls of her cell.
“Not time for you to leave just yet,” he said as he walked up to her. “I would put better restraints on you but as you can see there is no point. I don’t need them. But still no more running away.” He shook his finger at her.
Rose sobbed as he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder.
No more running.
It’s pointless after all.

The Last Thing You See Snippet!

“My name is Cynthia, and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi Cynthia,” said the group in unison.

I had seen her here before. She wasn’t hard to miss. Miss Cynthia was a Siren who didn’t want to be a Siren anymore, so she broke away from her people. Then she took to drinking because she was lonely. Extremely lonely. I had seen her in the precinct a few times. I believe once was a DUI.

“It has been a long week already. These urges I feel…I feel like I’m drowning. Oddly enough. Drinking was the only thing that numbed the voices in my head. Without it, it’s a little hard to function. Something in your head constantly telling you to sing or to throw yourself into the sea would make it difficult to deal, right? I’m trying. Like they say, one day at a time, right? But it’s hard. I still feel called to the sea. But I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore. Especially not myself. I’ve been doing the exercises my doctor gave me, and they help, but it’s just a slow process. If the exercises don’t work, they want to put me on medication for schizophrenia. Not sure if that will help. I’m trying to not give up. I really am. Just…taking it day by day.”

Cynthia sat down as the group clapped.

“Anyone else?” asked Thorus.

No one said anything.

“Okay. What is that one thing in your life that could hurt your sobriety?”

There were scattered answers from problems with family to thinking that because you finished the steps you’re cured.

“Loneliness,” I said.

Thorus in an effort to get me to talk pointed to me and said, “Elaborate.”

“Well, I don’t have anything as tragic as a voice in my head telling me to send sailors to their death or kill myself, but I do have a shitty ex-husband and a daughter who won’t speak to me. A tough job where ending up an alcoholic is pretty much expected and no friends to speak of. Loneliness is a killer of sobriety because when you’re drunk or high, you can either be the life of the party or you can take away that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you you’re nothing and unlovable.”

People in the group nodded their heads, especially Cynthia.

“How do you fix that?” asked Thorus.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have to come here.”

 

The Last Thing You See is available on Amazon and is free with Kindle Unlimited! You can find it here.

Why did I do this to myself?

 

When I wrote my first series about Hazel Moondance I knew it was part of a bigger series. I saw it as a collection of novellas that led to a bigger conflict.

And then instead of writing about that bigger conflict, I started writing something else. It wasn’t until I started writing the second book in the Rachel Dixon Series that I realized it was also connected to that bigger conflict and so it was connected to Hazel’s story as well.

I know see Hazel’s story as the setup, the series A Fiery Revolt (yet to be written) the conflict and Rachel Dixon the consequences.

Why am I writing it this way? I have no idea. I guess I haven’t really figured out the middle series yet. Or it’s just not ready to be written. I do have some short stories about some of the characters that will be in that series and you can find them here. But you can read them separately from each other. Well, you can’t read Hazel’s story just because I’m still reworking it. But the first book in Rachel’s story can be found here.

I think you have to write the stories that want to be written. While I had the idea for these stories’ years ago, only two of them are ready to be written. Writing has taught me that you can’t rush things. You can’t rush an idea and if you do you probably won’t be happy with the outcome. I’m trying to not rush A Fiery Revolt but while I was writing the second book in the Rachel Dixon series, I realized I really want to know what happens in that series. Because the characters don’t know so I don’t know. And I am very curious about how the magical world could merge with the human world and none of the magical can remember why. What wiped their memories? Why? And why did the worlds merge?

I have so many questions, but I really look forward to figuring out the answers. I think this is what makes writing so much fun.

2 free chapters!

One

The Collector

 

He wore no mask. No long trench coat with the collar pulled up to hide his face. He wasn’t a shadowy predator stalking his prey in the refuge of midnight. The Collector did not hide. There was never any need. Instead, he strode down the street with ease. Each step calm and purposeful as he moved towards his prey.

The Collector stood outside the front door. Ring the doorbell? Or surprise her?

He loved a good surprise. With the slightest touch of the doorknob, the lock clicked. He gingerly pushed it open and stepped in and just as quietly closed the door behind him.

The foyer was dimly lit, but he wasn’t worried. A lover of research, The Collector was always thorough when he investigated a new acquisition. This time was no different. He knew she was home alone. Her friends wanted to go out, but she declined, and they left without her. He knew her parents wouldn’t be back until morning, and the neighbors on both sides of the brownstone weren’t home. And wouldn’t be home for a long time. Upon entering the living room, The Collector took note of the economics book on the sofa.

He smiled. “She studies so hard,” he said to himself. He picked up the book and sat down in its place.

Nineteen-year-old Riley Green shrugged out of a towel and put on her pajamas. She was a little old to be wearing Hello Kitty pajamas, but she didn’t care. They were cute and reminded her of her childhood, and she still fit them even with the fifteen pounds she gained since she started college. She wrapped her damp auburn hair in a yellow towel and stepped out of the bathroom. She lived in a dorm, but her parents kept her room just as she had left it. And she was thankful for that. It was nice having everything the same. Comforting even. It was like they were telling her no matter where she went in the world, she could always come home. A lot of kids at her college didn’t have that.

Riley towel-dried her hair with one hand and rifled through the books on her desk with the other. “Where is my economics book?” She dropped the towel and continued searching the room. “You left it downstairs idiot.” She sighed. She had left it on the sofa when she had gone upstairs to take a shower. She shook her head as she left the room, went down the stairs and stepped into the living room.

Riley’s heart stopped.

“Hello, Riley.” The Collector stood up. “Pardon my rudeness. I know I shouldn’t have let myself in, but I wanted to surprise you.” He stepped towards her.

“Who—how—” Riley pointed towards the front door. Fear seized her. Her eyes darted around the room. She had to get to the phone.

No! The door! She knew what she had to do. Get away. Runaway. Just move! But her feet wouldn’t obey her. It was like they were glued to that spot, and no matter how much she needed them to, they wouldn’t move. Fear had rendered them useless.

In a matter of seconds, his hand was tight around her throat. His thumb pressed against her windpipe. Riley clawed at his gloved hand. Gasping for air. Tears welling in her eyes.

He squeezed. Riley wrapped both hands around his wrist as he calmly and firmly guided her into the living room. With one hand still squeezing her throat, he used the other to pick his bag off the floor.

He gave her a sweet smile then released her. She fell to her knees. Her hands wrapped around her neck as she coughed, gasping for air. Newfound air burned her throat and lungs as she fought to catch her breath.

“Alright darling, I need you to rest a spell, while I get set up. Don’t want to spoil the surprise.” The Collector smiled as he kicked her twice in the head, sending her body flailing across the room. Her head slammed into the wooden leg of the sofa.

When her eyes closed, he went to work.

 

Riley’s eyes fluttered open as ice-cold water trickled down her forehead. Her skin prickled as the air conditioner clicked on.

“There you are darling. For a second I thought I had lost you.”

The Collector leaned over and gave her a lingering wet kiss above her left eye. The sickening mix of cigarette smoke and cologne trailed behind him as he walked away from her. She blinked. The world slowly came into focus. Her wrists were cuffed to the legs of the wooden table in the dining room. Completely naked and shivering, Riley pulled against her restraints. The chains rattled against the wood. He turned his head and winked.

Riley crossed her legs and tried to pull them closer to her body.

“Riiiiilleyyy. Don’t get modest on me now darling. It’s much too late for that.” The Collector slowly moved to the table. He popped his forefinger out of his mouth and dragged it down her stomach, leaving behind a repulsing trail of saliva.

“Please don’t kill me,” she whimpered.

“If you scream, I will not only hurt you, but I’ll kill anyone that tries to come and help you, and then I’ll prolong this, so you can stay alert and watch me kill your family. The things I’ll do to your little sister will make you wish you would have listened to me. What do you say?”

“They won’t be back for a week—”

The Collector took his fist and plowed it into the right side of her face. “You and I both know they’ll be back from their trip tomorrow. Don’t lie to me again.”

Riley choked back a sob. Her face hot and throbbing. Tears pooling in her eyes.

“Apologize.”

“I-I’m sorry,” she whispered through gritted teeth.

He smiled. A wide, happy, creepy little smile. “All is forgiven. Just don’t let it happen again.” He stroked her face and gingerly tucked a few strands of auburn hair behind her ear. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

He clapped twice before shrugging out of his raincoat to reveal a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and a silver and blue tie. With rheumy eyes, Riley watched him pull a small black bag from the inside pocket of his jacket.

“W-what are you—”

“I’m going to have fun. It’s been too long. Well not too long, but it’s been longer than I would have liked. But that’s a story for another time…” The Collector’s voice trailed off as if he were no longer speaking to her, but to the bag he had placed on the kitchen counter. After a few minutes in silence, he spun around to face her. Scalpel in one hand and his tie in the other. “Now I know you’ll scream.”

“No, I-I won’t. I promise.” Riley shook her head as he inched closer.

“Yes, you will darling. I know you will, you see I’ve done this before. The pain will make you cry out whether you intend to or not.”  He grabbed her by the chin to keep her head still before shoving the tie in her mouth. “Better to be safe than sorry.” He tore off a band of duct tape and pressed it to her lips. “Now where to start?”

 

He started and ended the same way he always had. A single cut from breast to belly button. Followed by more cuts, muffled screams and laughing. When he neared the end of his play date, The Collector looked like a content predator who had just finished a feast. With blood up to his elbows and a grin dancing across his lips, he stared at his game. Fingers slick and sticky with warm blood. He had found his happy place. Magic could have been used, but he liked getting his hands dirty. The Collector had no magic of his own, only that which he had siphoned from others. But he liked how it felt. Peeling the flesh with his fingers. The stickiness of the warm blood. Watching the flesh split open as he sliced through it. Feeling the skin give way. There was never a more glorious feeling known to man. Better than food. Better than sex. Better than love. Carving someone up, holding their life literally in the palm of his hand, was better than anything he had ever experienced. He couldn’t get the same sensations with magic that he could with his bare hands. Magic would come later.

While he was the happy hunter, Riley was the ravaged deer. Slowly dying as the predator finished his meal. She had stopped moving after he had peeled the skin from the palm of her left hand. He checked her pulse every few minutes making sure she didn’t die before he finished. Riley stared blankly at the ceiling. Making no noises, not even a whimper. He had done it enough to know what the silence meant.

“And now your finale.” He stroked her hair and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. “When I finish this, you can die. I just wanted to make sure I was the last thing you’d ever get to see.”

He felt the wetness of her tears as he took his thumb and dug it into her right eye socket. Her breath slowed as he used his thumb to pry the eyeball from its resting place. By the time he had gotten it free and cut through the connective tissue, Riley was gone. Her left eye stared up at him, the green, no longer vibrant but dull and empty.

He took both eyes and stuck them in their new home. A small jar filled with an alcohol solution. There was a bigger one at home in his special room, but the small jar would do for traveling. He had written Riley’s name on the lid the day before, and he knew his collection was eagerly awaiting the new arrival.

He headed towards the kitchen, but something caught his eye, stopping him in his tracks. A bright red umbrella rested next to a chair in the living room. It was hers. He had seen her carrying it the day he met her. The Collector had enjoyed watching her from afar, but a gust of wind came as she was crossing the street and snatched it from her hands. The cherry red umbrella, that had matched her lipstick, landed two feet from him. Ever the gentlemen, he picked it up and handed it to her before walking away.

With the jar in one hand, he walked over and picked it up. It would make the perfect gift for an old friend. More a collector of objects than body parts, he knew his friend would love the umbrella and the story behind it.

The Collector took the jar and the umbrella and sat them on the counter next to his bag. He spun around and stared at her lifeless body. Blood pooling on the floor beneath the table. “Now I can have some real fun.”

 

 

Two

Rachel Dixon

 

In the dark hours of the morning, anxiety had murdered my several attempts at sleep. Butchered it and left no witnesses, except a leaf-shaped ceiling fan that just sat there and watched. My tired eyes flitted open for the millionth time. I glanced at the neon green numbers on the clock next to my bed. It was after six. The sun would be rising soon. Sleep was being an elusive little bi—nope said I was going to stop cursing. An elusive…I couldn’t sleep. Let’s just say that shall we. Since I couldn’t sleep, I figured I should start my day.

The thought sent my heart into overdrive. It became a jackhammer, pounding furiously against my ribs. My stomach twisted in knots. Excitement and anxiety, gladiators fighting in the coliseum known as the pit of my stomach. It was a fight to the death, and by the time I sat up and placed my feet on the cool hardwood floor, anxiety had excitement cowering in a corner, bloody and missing an eye. My suspension had been lifted. Finally.

The pieces of rubble that were my life was finally fitting together again. Like a large dysfunctional puzzle with two pieces missing. My husband and my daughter. My husband in his infinite jackass wisdom decided to divorce me while I was still in rehab.  He could have divorced me before or after, but no. It was better for him to wait until the day after I checked into a rehab facility, so he could look like the better spouse and parent. He was neither. But being an alcoholic and a little too invested in my job didn’t help my case. He got custody of our daughter Miracle because apparently, my job made it difficult for me to spend time with her.

Well, I guess that was true. No. It was true. I would get so consumed by my cases that I neglected my daughter. More concerned with the dead than her. It wasn’t always that way. I can’t say what made it that way. I think I tried to rationalize it. The victims needed me more. If I didn’t speak for them then who would? They needed me more than my family. Their families were counting on me to get justice for them. And that was more important.

It wasn’t more important, and I know that now although I still haven’t figured out what took me so long to realize that. In focusing on the victims of my cases, my Miracle always came last. No wonder when the judge asked her who she wanted to live with, she chose her father. I was never there for her. No wonder she hasn’t spoken to me since. Not even to say hello. And that’s my fault. I should have done better. Tried harder. Made more of an effort to be a mother. After forced rehab and AA meetings, my life was finally getting back on track.

Captain Burge had forgiven me of my past behavior and agreed to give me a second chance, but I wasn’t sure if the rest of the department shared in his forgiveness. Now I was not delusional. Returning from rock bottom was not going to be easy. A lot of work would have to be done before I could gain back their trust. I mean, what else could you do after going into a drunken rage and beating a suspect half to death? I mean really.

I pulled myself out of bed. Before I could do anything else, I had to make up my bed. My father forced me to do this every day when I was younger. I hated it then. I hate it now, but I can’t stop myself. Old habits die hard and all that. I picked up my cell phone from the bedside table and headed downstairs. Coffee would help. Coffee always helped. I fixed a pot of coffee and cracked a couple of eggs for breakfast.

I sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen with a cup of black coffee, an omelet and two pieces of butter and honey toast. I was out of bacon. Breakfast screamed bacon, but it would do. When I finished breakfast and placed the dishes in the sink, I was on my way to take a shower when the phone rang.

“Hello? … Alright, I’m on my way.”

My heart pounded harder. Excitement was in the middle of the coliseum in a pool of blood. Anxiety stood next to it, the proud victor. This was my first case in six months. It was time. I took a quick shower and threw on a pair of black jeans and a black tank top, and a pair of black boots. After tying my more frizzy than curly black hair into a ponytail, I stared at the mirror. Too much black. I looked like I was heading to a funeral. But it was a crime scene, so it couldn’t be anything too bright. I grabbed a long sleeve burgundy shirt and slipped it on over my tank top. Better. I grabbed my purse and headed out.

Mornings in New Orleans were quiet. It was the time of day when New Orleans was in a transition. Night owls were trying to get in before the sunrise, and the rest of us were just waking up, preparing to start our day. This was made even more evident by the blood bank on the corner. There were several scattered around the city.  Some with a crescent moon on the door, and some without. If the blood bank had a crescent moon, it meant it was there specifically for vampires. This was put into effect shortly after the world changed, and magic announced her presence like a pregnant side chick who invited herself to Christmas dinner. Loudly and without an ounce of decorum. The blood bank was emptying out, which meant the sun would be coming up soon.

Regulated by the FDC, these blood banks allowed vampires to feed without killing people, and it made sure they got clean untainted blood.

I pulled up to the crime scene and put the car in park. The morning sun painted the sky a beautiful shade of mauve. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. A drink would settle your nerves. I shoved the thought from my mind. A drink would help. A few drinks would be better. A drink would settle my nerves and relieve my anxiety and make the world feel like a better place. It would also get me fired from the job that I worked so hard to get back. I sighed.

“You can do this,” I said to myself as I opened the car door. You can do this. Pulling myself out of the car and closing the door behind me, I smoothed down my sweater and took several deep breaths.

The scene before me looked like a controlled form of chaos. Residents from the homes around the crime scene had already started pooling onto the street. A black van parked directly in front of the brownstone. Crime scene techs jumped out. They opened the back of the van, grabbed their bags and headed into the house. Uniformed officers framed the area in crime scene tape, keeping the onlookers at bay. Purse in hand and a few deep breaths later, I made my way towards the house. A man in a dark blue suit came out of the house as two crime scene techs were going in. He popped a cigarette in his mouth. He was young, mid-twenties maybe. Thick black hair pulled into a loose top knot; his beard was thick but well-groomed. As he lifted a silver lighter with neon blue letters on it, he glanced up at me and stopped. Eyes so gray they were almost translucent stared back at me and then winked.

“You Detective Dixon?” He tucked the lighter back in his pocket, took the cigarette out of his mouth and stuck it in his other pocket.

I nodded as I walked towards him. “Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Elias Crowe, your new partner.”

We shook hands. A truck backfired, and his head spun towards the direction of the noise. And there it was. His reason for being stuck with me. I knew I was getting a new partner because my last one was forced to retire. I wondered who my new partner would be. Who would be unlucky enough to get stuck with me? Judging by the cut of his ears, I got my answer. Pointy with three piercings going up the sides and the last through the point. Obviously not ashamed of who he is.

Some people in the department felt the same way about Magical Creatures or MCs joining the police force as men did when women joined all those years ago. Or when people of color started joining. They hated it. So much so that some states banned them from having certain jobs. Like being a police officer.

He was stuck with me probably because no one else wanted to work with him, and those same people probably didn’t want to work with me either. Made no difference to me. When the world changed, I hadn’t been born yet. And as a woman of color, it didn’t feel right to discriminate against anyone. I tried to avoid it.

“Nice to meet you,” I said.

He smiled.

“Is the crime scene in there.” I nodded towards the doorway. I moved towards the brownstone steps. His hand darted out in front of me.

“I’ve already examined the scene. I could just tell you about it.”

“That bad?” I nudged his hand out of the way.

Elias glanced towards the house. “Worse.”

I took a deep breath. “Well, I should see it anyway.” I made my way up the stairs. After pulling on the sterilized booties over my boots, I picked up a pair of gloves and stepped inside the house. Elias close behind.  I wiggled on the gloves as I walked through the foyer. I felt eyes on me. People glancing in my direction and then looking away. Ignore them.

My hand grasped the door frame for support. The smell of blood and death hit me like a punch in the gut. It was a smell I had become accustomed to, but it had been a while. The last time I had smelled it I stood over a nine-year-old boy in superhero pajamas.

“Are you okay?” Elias moved in front of me. Blocking the eyes of the pair of uniforms who had stopped what they were doing to watch me.

“Yeah,” I whispered.

The pair of officers snickered as they walked by.

“Is that about you or me?”

“Probably me,” I said. I smiled, and he smiled back.

The scent of death and blood was a difficult smell to describe, but once you smelled it, it would never be forgotten. “Tell me what happened here.”

Elias pulled out his notepad and flipped through a couple of pages. “The victim Riley Green was nineteen. She was home on break from college. Family was out on a weekend trip.”

“Why didn’t she go with them?”

“She had a big test when school started up. She had to study.”

I nodded.

“The family got back this morning and found this.” Elias gestured towards a room on the other side of the living room.

Once I got my bearings, I stepped further into the living room. “Is there a body?”

Elias bit his lip. “Kind of. Some of one. But it’s such a mess in the dining room, it’s difficult to tell. At least to me anyway.”

Two crime scene techs walked by, and I followed them. Through the kitchen and into the horror show that was the dining room. I’ve seen plenty of crime scenes, but this was… puzzling. And disgusting. There was no body.

“Are those—” I pointed to a dark pile in the corner of the room.

“Her organs? Well, yes ma’am, I believe so.”

In the far corner of the room rested the victim’s intestines. In the middle of the room was a wooden table, slick with blood. The blood was thick and dark. It had clearly been there for a while.

“Someone came in and removed her organs,” I asked.

“Seems so,” Elias said. “Don’t understand it though. Why go through all this to kill someone?”

I eyed the room. It was a heinous way to kill someone. “I’m willing to bet you, she was dead before the killer did this.”

“If she was dead already, why go through all of this?”

I looked around the room. It was immaculate. The dining room chairs had been lined up against the wall opposite the organs, perfectly. The chairs were a light gray, and yet there was no blood on them. How did he manage that?  The blood had been contained to the table and the floor. It was nowhere else. “Was there any sign of forced entry?”

Elias shook his head.

“She probably saw his face,” I murmured mostly to myself.

“Okay?”

“Doing this was fun for him. Not just killing her but the way he staged it.”

“Staged?”

I glanced back at him. “Yes, staged. But you picked up on that already.”

He smiled coyly.

“Are you testing me?”

“Sometimes it’s better for an elf to play dumb in the presence of humans.”

“Better for who?” I stared at him. “Me, you or the dead nineteen-year-old whose blood we’re standing in right now? I don’t care that you’re an elf. I do, however, care if you can’t do the job.”

Elias nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” He smiled. “In that case, did you notice how the blood is only in the middle of the room?”

I nodded.

“That’s strange, right? I mean I know this is my first murder case and all, but with this much blood… Although we don’t know how he killed her.”

“That’s true. But— there should still be blood on the walls or the ceiling.”

“What does that mean? That there isn’t any blood anywhere else.”

“I don’t know. The organs are proof there was a body. Look at this.” I gestured to the room. “If those organs weren’t there you could never definitively say that someone is dead. The heart and intestines in the corner let you know someone died in this room.”

“So, the killer wanted us to know that Riley’s not missing, she’s dead?”

I glanced back at Elias who was taking notes in his notepad.

“Yes. And the necromancer can’t reanimate the body if there isn’t a body to reanimate.”

Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding:

Writing fantasy is both fun and difficult at the same time. At least it is for me. 

You are essentially creating your own world and have to think about all the things that go with it. This YA project I am writing is the first project where I have had to create a religion. I had to figure out who my characters would pray, how and what they wanted. While the inhabitants of this world are divided between good and evil the live relatively peacefully until the Thousand Year War. Even though some are good, and some are evil, they basically want some of the same things. Love. To protect their families. To be safe. To find peace and so on. So when I created the deities I made them mirror each other but with slight differences. The deities for good naturally lean towards forgiveness and peace while the ones for evil lean towards vengeance. 

Example: Brother Peacemaker helps those that call on him find peace in their darkest hours.

While Lady of Shadows can help those experiencing anguish, despair, and sorrow find peace. Or she can amplify those feelings and drive a person mad. It all depends on the prayer and the person praying it.

But both sides basically share two deities. The Librarians are twin brothers that reside in the Library of Souls. One is good, the other is evil. When a soul is returned (a person dies) one brother retrieves the soul and logs it. The other brother takes it where it is supposed to go. I think I made them twins because good and evil are linked. I don’t think you can have one without the other. 

Sale

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Riley Green’s parents come home from a weekend trip to find a blood-stained dining room, human organs neatly tucked in the corner and their nineteen-year-old daughter missing. Following a ten-month suspension, forced rehab and a tumultuous divorce, New Orleans Detective Rachel Dixon is finally stitching her life back together when she is called to a strange crime scene. Joined by her new partner, Elias Crowe an intuitive elf dealing with discrimination in the department, Rachel starts the search for Riley’s killer. Soon the investigation leads them to a series of strange murders not just in the city but across the nation. Desperate to find the killer the detectives seek help from an undead blood analyst, a standoffish necromancer, a tree spirit, and a living sculpture. But when the killer seems to have set their eyes on Rachel all the help and magic in the world may not be enough to catch the elusive serial killer.