The Investigators’ Club Episode 3

 

Supernatural Enforcement Agency

 

Subject 48-V

 

Subject is female, approximately 5′ in height, and appears to suffer from albinism though no vision impairment has been noted.

 

Subject was first brought to the agency’s attention due to her involvement with [DATA CORRUPTED] in his capacity as a consultant for the Agency. The Subject has shown remarkable skill in both small arms and unarmed combat and tactics especially when employed against paranormal threats. However, none of this seems to be a result of her vampiric heritage and in fact the only things she seems to have inherited from [CLASSIFIED], her mother, are vampiric weaknesses. Specifically she has shown vulnerability to both sunlight and garlic, though in a weakened capacity for both.

 

Of particular interest is the subject’s internal biology. As is noted elsewhere, vampires have proven very difficult to capture alive. 48-V’s unique heritage could prove a boon to understanding vampire physiology. She could also make an ideal candidate for indoctrination for use as a field agent. Recommend apprehension as soon as possible.

 

Addendum A: [DATA CORRUPTED] has shown considerable resistance to the Agency’s acquiring 48-V. As [DATA CORRUPTED] has proven to be invaluable in the containment of several subjects such as 17-S, 345-D, and [CLASSIFIED] it has been advised that we back off on 48-V, for now.

 

Addendum B: Alan is not the only one that can do what he does. His abilities are rare but not unique and it is our decision that his wishes should not supersede our own. Acquire a replacement for Alan and bring in 48-V. -The Council.

 

 

Alan

My hands shook as I sipped my coffee and glanced at the phone again. It wasn’t picking anything up but then again I’d never been working against my own spells before. I willed my hands to stay still as I looked out the window. A black SUV with tinted windows pulled up across the street and I tensed.

I only relaxed when I saw the top of a white umbrella bob above the SUV’s roof. Flora appeared around the side of the SUV and kept the umbrella between her and the sun.

My breakfast arrived while she was crossing the street and I was trying to remain calm as I poured syrup over my waffles when she came in. I called her over with a little wave and she sat down opposite me with her hands clasped and her head down. She wore a long white coat and white gloves, to block out the sun I guessed, and she smiled faintly when she saw that I had ordered oatmeal and toast for her. We ate in silence for a moment as she sprinkled brown sugar on her oatmeal.

“How’s your week been?” I asked. Since we’d last seen each other three days ago it seemed like a bit of a joke but Flora didn’t show any sign of noticing it.

“Quiet so far. Yours?”

“Uh…” I took a bite of waffle to but myself a bit of time. “Not so great. Not good at all really…”

Her red eyes looked up and met mine. “Do you need my help?”

I couldn’t look her in the eye. Not for this. “Actually you kind of need mine…”

She set down her spoon and looked at me.

“Have I told you that I do consultant work?” I said.

“Corporate?” God, she sounded so interested.

“Some, mostly government.” I looked around, “Have you heard of the Surgery?”

“Nickname for a government agency, right? Some of my instructors mentioned them. Anybody with top secret clearance that looks them up just get a list of operations that have been carried out with no other details. Hence, the surgery. Are they who you’ve been consulting with?”

“Yes. They deal with the supernatural. They’re really called the S.E.A.. I helped them with… well with what I normally help people with.” Now I was the one looking down. “They started asking about you a month back.”

She didn’t speak for a long time. It hurt more than anything she could have said. “What did you do?” she said after what felt like an hour of silence.

I smiled, weakly. “What do I always do? I fucked up. I just told them to back off but kept working for them. Then last night one of them called me up and said that they were through with me and that they were bringing you in. I’ve been on the move ever since.”

Flora stood up abruptly and started walking out.

“Please Flora,” I started following her, “you have to understand.”

She turned back on me. I don’t think I’d ever seen her angry before. “No, you have to understand. You don’t have the skills necessary to evade an organisation like you’re describing for five minutes. You’ve led them right to me.” She grabbed my hand and started dragging me out of the restaurant, shoving a stack of twenties into the hands of a protesting waitress.

She’d left her umbrella behind in the restaurant and her skin turned a bright pink under the sun. She didn’t seem to notice as she dragged me towards her car. We where about half way across the street when we heard the first gunshots.

Some sort of machine gun pounded away at Flora’s car. I saw the windows shatter and the tires burst before she shoved me to the ground. She’d taken a handgun out of her coat and was firing back at what I assumed was the gunner. After a moment the machine gun fire stopped but Flora kept firing while dragging me to my feet.

There’s this thing I read once that the army published. It talked about common things people experience when going into combat. Focusing on insignificant details, the perceived slowing down of time, loss of control of bowels, etcetera. I didn’t get any of that. All that I experienced as Flora dragged me back into the restaurant and threw me to the floor while she took cover behind a booth was a general sensation of blurry terror.

My hands shook and I kept jumping at movement out of the corner of my eye. The rest of the restaurant’s customers and staff started panicking, heading for the door. I crawled on my stomach over to the opposite side of the door from Flora. “They’re just letting them go?”

“Government agency, they don’t want civilian casualties any more than we do.”

“I’m not sure that they represent any one government…”

“Still applies.”

I looked at her. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

She reloaded her gun in a series of fluid motions. “They have to be moving in. Where’s your car?”

“I parked around the back.”

“Let’s go then.”

I followed her into the back of the restaurant. There was an eerie calm about the whole thing, a thin layer on top of the tension. We went through the swiftly deserted kitchen and towards the door to the back alley.

We were almost at the door when it opened. Flora pushed me to the ground again and fired at whoever had come through. I started to scramble away, blind panic taking over. I got my feet under me and ran out of the kitchen and back into the front of the restaurant.

Figures in body armour with face concealing masks were coming through the door, I hit the ground as a trio of bullets smashed into the wall behind where I had been. More gunfire came from the kitchen where I guess Flora was still putting up a fight. In my panic I reached for something, anything, on the table above me.

My hand came back holding my cell phone.

Every S.E.A. agent is equipped with a communicator that has a series of wards that make magical intrusion into their network impossible without an extended effort. It would probably take me anywhere from days to weeks to break into it if I had my computer, much less my dinky little phone.

Or I could break into it in an instant seeing as I was the one that set those wards up in the first place.

A touch of a button and their entire network was flooded with a noise I recorded off of a possessed website that sent whoever looked at it into cardiac arrest. You needed the visuals for the full effect but as it was every agent in the immediate area fell to the ground clutching their heads.

I sprang up and ran back into the kitchen. Flora was there, pointing her gun at the prone agents in the doorway with a confused look on her face.

“Come on!” I said, “They’ll only be down for a few more minutes.”

Flora followed me out the door without asking for an explanation. When you work in the kind of business we do you just kind of learn to take things as they come.

My car was waiting in the back alley. Thankfully the S.E.A. didn’t disable it like they had Flora’s car, but then again I doubt that they could do anything to my car that could make it less likely to run.

My car is a squat brown thing with four doors that was the end result of someone gathering the finest engineering minds in the Soviet Union and then putting them as far away from designing my car as possible.

Flora popped opened the door and sat right on top of the few discarded chip bags I had in there. I noticed one of the S.E.A. agents in the alley start to stir as I got into my car and turned the key.

The engine made a sound like an earthquake in a scrap yard.

“Come on…” I said, looking as the agent got to his knees. I fluttered my foot on the gas pedal and jiggled the key back and forth. I glanced at Flora but she was fixated on the agent.

I started to sweat as I took the key out and tried to start the engine all over again. It made a loud bang that got the agent’s attention. His eye’s met mine and Flora’s. I swore and slammed my foot down on the gas pedal. My car belched a cloud of black smoke out of the back and lurched forwards just as the agent raised his gun and started to fire at my car.

I don’t know what kind of bullets he was using but they only chipped the windshield. Probably something special that would allow them to bring Flora in alive.

I also don’t know what Flora was firing but because it went right through my windshield I guess it was just bullets.

My tires spat up gravel that clinked against the bottom of my car as I sped down the alley towards the agent. He fell as I went past him and I realised that Flora had shot him. I reached the mouth of the alleyway and turned hard. If my engine had had anything approaching power my tires would have squealed. As it was the car just vibrated a little but it always does that when I turn.

“Drive to my apartment.” said Flora as the restaurant disappeared in my rear-view mirror.

I tried to focus on my driving but I stole a glance at Flora. She’d just killed a man, but if she was bothered by it she wasn’t letting it show. “They’re going to look there first thing.”

“I have some defences. Finding my apartment should be difficult for them.”

I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles had gone white. I suppose Flora wouldn’t be too concerned about killing humans, she’d never been concerned about killing vampires.

My cell phone started to ring. I tried to keep looking at the road as I fished it out of my pocket and looked at the caller ID. It was Miranda.

 

Miranda

I was still asleep when someone buzzed my apartment door. For most people this would be a minor annoyance but for me it was a serious problem because I was still a fish from the waist down and underwater. I sat up out of the water and yawned, using the water to change my tail into a pair of legs.

The door buzzed again. I sighed and in a minute had myself towelled off and in my bathrobe. I went to the door and hit the buzzer, “Who is it?”

“Are you Miranda Seaborn?” A gravely man’s voice said over the speaker.

“Yes, who is this?”

“I’m Detective Parkins, I have a few questions for you. May I come up?”

I blinked. A detective? I’d never really run into the police before, not with the kinds of things I dealt with. I mentally looked at my recent clients and their cases but I couldn’t see anything that would involve the police.

“All right, come on up.” I said and buzzed them through.

I’d put on some clothes by the time they knocked on my door. I opened the door to see a balding man who could have been anywhere from his early thirties to late fifties standing there with his badge. “Good morning miss Seaborn, I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“What’s this about?”

“Are you acquainted with a mister Alan Wieckowski and a miss Flora Biancardi?”

Oh lord beneath. If the detective was asking about Oroitz I would assume it was a mistake. But those two? I liked Flora but the sheer amount of illegal weapons she owned characterised her general attitude towards the law, and Alan? He was stupid enough to get involved with just about anything. “I’ve met them. Are they in some kind of trouble?”

“No trouble ma’am.” His tone didn’t match his words at all. “We just need to get in contact with them.” He handed me a card, “If you see them, tell them to get in contact with me.”

“I will,” I lied, “if that’s all…”

“It is ma’am. Good day.” He walked off without saying another word. I closed the door and after a few seconds of staring at it locked it and did up the security chain. Then I grabbed my cell phone off of my kitchen table and called Alan.

He picked up after two rings, “This isn’t the best time Miranda.” he sounded like he was out of breath.

“Does that have anything to do with the detective that just was just at my apartment?” I sat down on my couch and crossed my arms, cradling my phone against my shoulder.

“Detective? What… hold on…” I heard Flora’s voice in the background but couldn’t make out what she was saying. “Flora wants to know what the detective’s name was.”

“Is she with you? Because the detective was looking for her as well. His name was Parkins by the way.”

“She says his name was Parkins… yeah. Ok, Flora says she’s… I’m telling her… no I’m telling her.” I sighed and rubbed my eyes. “No look, Flora… Flora! Here, take it!”

There was some rustling on the line and then Flora’s voice said, “Hello? Miranda?”

“Flora, what is going on?”

“Alan accidently brought us to the attention of a clandestine government agency that handles to supernatural. Now they want to study me to learn more about vampires.”

I stayed quiet for a few moments.

“It’s been an eventful morning.”

“So who was that detective?”

“I’m not familiar with this agency’s tradecraft but I would guess that he was an undercover operative of some variety or another. I was going to check with some of my contacts in the police department.”

“Right,” I grabbed the detective’s card and read off of it. “He said his name was Donald Parkins, do you want his number?”

“Please.”

I gave her the number and said: “What should I do?”

“Nothing.”

“What?”

“The only reason  they would have to approach you like they did is to see if they can get a reaction from you. The way that you can best help us right now is to stay put.”             I stood up and peeked out my window. “You think they’re watching me?”

“Probably. Try to act like everything is normal, and try and get in contact with Oroitz.” Flora hung up the phone without saying anything else. I looked at it for a moment before setting it down. This day was not off to the best start.

 

Alan

I pulled into the parking lot beside Flora’s apartment building. “Think the super will get mad if I park it here?” I said.

Flora didn’t react, I can’t tell if she was mad at me or if the joke was just lame. The sun had also burnt her pretty badly now. She couldn’t have been outside for more than five minutes but her skin was dark red and peeling.

I cleared my throat, “I don’t suppose you can think of a way to get us out of this, can you?”

Flora opened the door and got out of the car, lifting up her coat to cover her head. “You’re the one that knows this organisation, how likely are they to stop?” she said while leading the way into her building.

I followed her, “Well… they’re an organisation of regular humans that have managed to establish themselves as a power in the supernatural community. They haven’t exactly gotten there by giving up.”

Flora nodded, absently scratching at the flaking skin on the side of her face.

“You should really try and leave that alone…”

She stopped scratching immediately and shoved her hands in her coat pockets. She looked down, her gaze flickering over random spots on the ground. I couldn’t tell if she was thinking or just being Flora.

The elevator dinged to a stop and Flora and I walked out. I glanced around a bit, confused. “This isn’t your floor.” I said.

Flora kept walking but said: “I need to check on my defences.” She stopped in front of a door that said 72 on it and knocked. There was a rattle of locks and then an old man with tired eyes behind a hooked nose framed in sagging brown skin peeked through.

“Flora,” he said. His voice sounded vaguely middle-eastern, but the accent sounded faded like he hadn’t been home in a while. A cigarette rolled around in his mouth but something seemed off. After a second of looking at it I realised that while the tip of it glowed there wasn’t a trace of any smoke coming out of it.

“Ismat,” Flora said, meeting his eyes. “How are things?”

Ismat shrugged. “Two men came to the building with ill intent. I had them explore a few of the empty rooms and maintenance closets for a while and then leave.”

Flora frowned, “When was this?”

“About half an hour ago.”

She bowed her head and bit her knuckle. “That was when they attacked us at the diner.”

“Wait,” said Alan, “so they searched for you here when they knew you wouldn’t be here? How does that make sense?”

“They weren’t looking for me, they were probably after my father’s books. Did you tell them about my library?”

I held up my hands, “What library? I didn’t even know your father had a library. I don’t even know who your father is.”

Flora glanced at Ismat, who shrugged. “I sense no attempt at deception.”

“Of course not,” I said, “I wouldn’t lie about this, not now. I let slip that you’re half vampire and that was a mistake but that’s all they know.”

Flora turned to Ismat, “Call me if anyone else turns up”

Ismat nodded, “Be careful Flora.”

Miranda

I’d called Oroitz but had only gotten his voicemail. Apparently he had been called out of town on an emergency in Tibet and wouldn’t be in contact for a few days. I tried to relax and watch a bit of television but whatever I put on just seemed to grate at my nerves. In the end I just ended up sitting in silence, occasionally glancing at the clock.

I nearly had a heart attack when someone knocked at my door.

I peered out the peep hole to see that detective Parkins was there. He’d brought someone with him. She was small and pale with black hair that hung over her eyes. Parkins knocked on the door again.

“I know you’re in there miss Seaborn, and I know that you know that I’m not who I say I am. So let me in and let’s talk about this.”

I walked back into my kitchen and turned on the water in the tap. If he wanted to talk fine, but I’d rather be prepared for anything. I went to the door and opened it but didn’t undo the security chain. “What do you want to talk about?”

“You don’t want me talking about this in your hallway anymore than I do.”

I tilted my head towards the woman behind him. “Who’s she?”

“She’ll stay outside. She’s not your concern.”

“Like hell she isn’t.” I started to close the door.

“She’s a psychic, and my backup. I’m leaving her in the hall as a sign of good faith.”

I shut the door and pulled out my phone to text Flora that the detective was back before undoing the security chain and letting him in. He nodded to me and to his credit the woman did stay in the hallway. She didn’t move to even acknowledge me. I wouldn’t have taken my eyes off of her if the thought of detective Parkins, or whoever he was, behind me wasn’t more unnerving. I closed the door and walked past him into the kitchen to stand by my sink.

He followed me in and pointed at the sink. “Your faucet’s running.”

“I know, what did you wan to talk about?”

“You’ll run up your water bill like that.”

“This place’s rent has utilities included. What do you want to talk about?”

“By now you know that we’re after Flora. There are a number of reasons why you should help us get her.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“Did you know that she killed one of our agents in her escape?”

“You mean that she killed one of your agents when you attacked her?”

He tilted his head. “You don’t even care. It doesn’t even surprise you. Has she killed someone before?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“It really is. I may not actually be a detective but I am a law enforcement official.”

“Look, if Flora has ever killed someone, and I’m not saying that she has, she did it because they left her no other choice.” There was a clatter from my sink and I looked over to see that I’d inadvertently turned a bit of the falling water to ice.

“But that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I do, what we do. You’re saying that any people that Flora’s killed she killed out of necessity. In defence of herself or another? I believe you. Even the agent she killed can be excused. His guns were loaded with non lethal rounds but there was no way she could have known that. We’re after Flora for the same reasons. She could be the key to our understanding of vampire physiology.”

“That’s it? You want to capture Flora and cut her up to understand vampires.” I laughed, “What the hell is the point of that? Stick a stake in their heart and they die, they don’t like garlic or sunlight and don’t cast a reflection. There, I solved your science project for you.”

“But how? How does any of that happen? Why can’t a vampire be killed by bullets, or why doesn’t moonlight hurt them? We know so little and she could be the key to understanding that. She could save more lives for us as a test subject than she ever could on the street.”

I reached behind me and grabbed the icicle that I’d formed out of my tap. Infused with magic, it didn’t melt against my hand as I lunged forwards and pressed the tip of it against Parkins’ throat. “Stay away from her, stay away from any of my friends, and stay away from me.” A bead of blood formed at the tip of the icicle.

“You can’t kill me.” He spoke to me like he was lecturing a small child. “It would violate the treaty.”

I twisted the tip of the icicle. “I violated that treaty a long time ago.”

There was a flash of worry over his face, then the same assured smile as he raised his hand and snapped his fingers.

There was a loud crunch from the door and I looked over just in time to see a two foot long icicle emerge from where the lock had been. Right then Parkins’ hand wrapped around my wrist and tried to twist the icicle out of my hand. With a thought I melted the icicle and punched him with my free hand.

Then something slammed into me in-between my shoulder blades. I fell forwards and landed against the ground with an expelled breath. A solid chunk of ice fell against the ground next to me. I looked up to see the woman from out in the hall walking towards me, her expression blank. She swung her hand and another slab of ice flew at me.

Instinctually I held up a hand to melt it and deflect it back at her. In mid flight the water became an icicle but the woman made a sort of swatting motion and it buried itself in the drywall next to her.

I blanched, “You’re a mermaid?” I asked her, but she didn’t respond. She just walked towards me like a marionette that’d had half of its strings cut, all jerky movements and limpness. She held out her hand and made a twisting motion that was followed by groan from my sink. I turned to see that the water had stopped flowing from the tap and a bit of frost had formed at the tap.

Then Parkins pressed his gun to the back of my head. “13-M there has been with the agency for a while.” despite everything that had happened his voice still maintained the same chit-chat tone.

Flora had told me that you shouldn’t put a gun right up to someone, that someone could swat the gun away before you can fire. I think Flora suffers from some sort of delusion that everyone is exactly like her because I was pretty certain that if I tried that Parkins was going to blow my head off.

“Now,” he said, walking around to stand in front of the other mermaid, what had he called her? 13-M? “You are going to get out that phone of yours and call Flora. You’ll tell her that you need her to come here. Tell her we’re here if you must but nothing more than that, understand?”

I looked at his gun. The barrel of a gun always seems small until its pointed right at you.

I slowly pulled out my phone and said, “She might be a while getting here. She lives across town and people are still driving to work.”

“Don’t make excuses. Just call her.”

“Alright.”

Flora

            I take Alan to one of the rooms that I use to store my library. It’s full of the boxes that I have packed the old leather bound books in my father’s library into. His mouth hangs open as I walk in and grab a box off of the shelf. “Here,” I push the box into his hands, “legal history.” I explain.

Apparently not well enough as Alan gives me a confused look. “All of these books and you want to show me this stuff? Were are the demon summonings? Where are the books on zombie anatomy?”

“Floor two, room twelve and floor five, room three respectively. But those won’t help us. This is the history of magical law.”

“There’s magical law?” Alan looks around and whispers: “Is that something that I should be worried about?”

“Magic law is enforced by the Scorched Circle, a collection of the most powerful magic users in the world, and typically they only concern themselves with people that are too powerful for the regular legal system to deal with. You should be safe.”

Alan looks at me for a long moment before saying, “Ok, putting all that aside, how does this apply to you? You’ve got less magic than I do.”

I look down, not letting him see my eyes. “My father was a member of the Scorched Circle. I’m entitled to a degree of protection.”

Alan starts nodding. “They don’t want people going after their families so they’ll step in to protect you.”

“Maybe, my… lifestyle might make getting help be problematic.”

“What, going out and helping people means you’re just asking for trouble?”

“That… or they may say that allowing me to keep my parents’ money is enough help for a lifetime.”

“Right…” Alan says. He picks up the box of books, “So what am I doing with these?”

“Looking for precedent.” My phone buzzes and I pull it out. There’s a message from Miranda.

 

Parkins is back

 

I put my phone away. “Look through those, Miranda needs my help.”

“Whoa,” Alan puts the box down, “forget that. I’m going with you.”

“Alan, I know that you and Miranda have… something. But I don’t see how you could help her now.”

“Is it the S.E.A.?” Alan looks like he did at the diner, guilty mixed with panic. “I can handle them. I deafened that whole team of them back at the diner.”

“They’ll have adjusted their tactics. You won’t be able to scratch them this time.”

“What are you even going to drive? They shot up your car and I can guarantee you won’t be getting mine to work without me.”

“I’ll take my other car,”

“What other car?” he says, squinting at me.

“I have six, in case one doesn’t work.”

“God, you really are Batman.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

Alan looks at me for a very long time before he shakes his head, “No, not important right now. What is important is that I’m not letting you go after Miranda without backup.”

“I don’t have time to argue.” I let my fingers hover an inch in front of his chest to emphasise my point. I would jab them into his chest, but I don’t like touching people. “I won’t be going after them unprepared this time. I can do this.” He gives me a sceptical look but I ignore it and turn to leave. “Bring the box. You can work on it in my apartment.”

I lead him back to the elevator and up to my apartment where I slap on some sunscreen and grab one of the emergency bags that I leave near the door. “Read through those,” I say pointing at the books before walking through the door and locking it behind me.

 

Alan

I let out a little growl of anger as she shut the door. I paced Flora’s apartment furiously and glared at the box of leather bound books that she’d left me with. I did eventually sit down and crack one of them open at random. I groaned.

It was in freaking Sumerian. I grabbed my phone and booted up the translation software I had in it. I can read a smattering of Sumerian but only enough to get through the occasional ancient magical text. This was going to take hours.

I went to grab something to drink from Flora’s kitchen when I heard a key slide into the lock. Could Flora be back so soon? I checked the time on my phone and saw that she had only been gone for fifteen minutes. I wracked my brain, wondering if she would have called me it there had been a problem. Flora was normally very thorough but little social things like that tended to slip by her.

Without knowing what to do I ended up ducking behind Flora’s kitchen counter as the door swung open. I held my breath as I heard faint footsteps enter the apartment. Whoever it was sounded like they were searching the place, I heard them stop for a long time by where I’d left the books. My heart beating like a jackhammer I peeked over the top of the counter and-

I was in a large canopied bed. Soft perfumes tickled my nose and someone was nibbling my ear. I looked behind me and saw dark green eyes and long black hair framing a smile that promised many many things.

The absolute bastard part of my brain that I’ve trained for these situations started screaming at me. This didn’t make any sense, and I’d seen this woman somewhere before. She’d been clothed then and in a hallway and I’d been going to see Flora…

“Calla!” I blurted out, causing the succubus to jump back in astonishment. “Calla it’s me Alan, Flora’s friend.”

There was a sort of snap and suddenly I was lying on Flora’s sofa. Calla, the succubus that lived across the hall from Flora, was standing above me with a worried expression on her face. “Alan? Are you ok? I didn’t mean to pull you into a dream like that but you startled me and-”

I held up a hand and sat up, “I’m fine Calla.” I rubbed my I eyes and groaned, “Where was that?”

She grinned a bit, flushing, “Versailles, I’d been thinking about it earlier so when I tried to pull you in it just happened to be what was there.”

I nodded. Succubae pull people into memories or fantasies and I knew that wasn’t one of mine.

“What are you doing here anyways?” she asked while picking up some of the books I’d been working on. Most men, and a good chunk of women, can’t really focus in the presence of a succubus, especially when they’re picking things up, but I’d spent a few hours with Calla last month setting up her website and after that long you usually have to stop drooling and get to work.

“It’s a long story. Suffice to say that I need to go through these books and find a legal precedent for the Scorched Circle interceding against a government agency on the behalf of the offspring of one of its senior members’ children.”

Calla blinked, “Can I help?”

“Not unless you can read Sumerian.”

“Fluently,” she said. I looked up at her and she started counting off on her fingers. “I speak Sumerian, English, French, Swedish, Greek (both ancient and modern), Latin, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Aramaic.” She ran out of fingers for the last one and ended up sticking her tongue at me.

I stared at her for a moment before shoving a few of the books her way. “I guess we should get to work.”

 

Miranda

My fingers shook as I hit the buttons on my phone. I dialled Flora’s number from memory, anything to add a bit of time. After I’d hit send on the phone Parkins took it from me and set it on speaker, laying it on the table in front of us.

The phone started ringing and I looked around for a way out. I had to tell Flora it was a trap. I’d texted her earlier, would that be enough? Would she be able to figure it out from just that? I looked over at the mermaid.

I started trying to figure out where she was from. Dark hair, dark eyes, was her skin naturally that pale or had she just been out of the sun for a while? I was guessing that she was either from northern Greenland or southern England. I’d have to see the colour of her fins to be sure. I squinted at the phone and tried to clear my head. I had to let Flora know what was going on somehow.

Flora picked up the phone and said: “I’m driving, call back later.”

I bit my lip and looked at Parkins. His gun sat level with my head. There had to be a way out… “Flora,” I said, “It’s an emergency.” There was a long stretch of silence, “Hello?”

“Sorry, go on.”

I swallowed, what did Parkins want me to say? I looked at him and he gestured towards himself. “It’s that agency you were talking about before. They’re here.” Parkins nodded.

“I understand.” said Flora. I could only hope that she really did. Most people would notice something odd about my behaviour, but you never knew with Flora.

 

Alan

“Damn it!” I slammed the book I was working on closed and shoved it away.

Calla looked up at me from her own book. “What?”

“There’s nothing in here. There’s nothing in any of these books!” I shook my head, “There’s no precedent. As far as I can tell the Scorched Circle has never, not once, interacted with a government agency.” I frowned and looked at the books again. “How well do you know Flora?”

Calla raised an eyebrow, “Pretty well. Why do you ask?”

“How well would you say she knows the content of the books in her library?”

“Well she’s always studying them. When she’s not, you know, ‘out.’”

“Right…” I said as I took a sip from the diet coke I’d taken from Flora’s fridge. “Oh, fuck me.” I said slowly.

“What?” Calla asked but I was already up and moving towards the door.

 

Miranda

Parkins’ phone rang while we were waiting. He glanced at the caller ID and frowned before answering with a crisp, “Hello.” He didn’t feel the need to keep a gun on me anymore but 13-M hadn’t taken her eyes off of me since the fighting had ended. I looked around for an escape while I listened to Parkins take the call, “She did, did she?” He glanced over at me. “Alright…” he set his phone down on the table and flicked on the speaker.

“Miranda?” said Flora’s voice. I was confused for a moment before I remembered that I’d given her Parkins’ number off of his business card.

“Hello?” I said.

“Good. Parkins, this is the plan.”

Alan

Calla had followed me out of the room and managed to get to the elevator before the door closed. “Alan, what is going on with Flora?”

I jammed the button for the ground floor again and said: “Why would she go to the Scorched Circle for help? She admitted that they don’t really like her for keeping all of her parents’ money-”

“What?” Calla looked at me like I was crazy.

“Flora, she kept all of her parent’s money instead of giving it to the Scorched Circle.”

She stared at me for another moment before nodding, “Right, sorry, forgot.”

“But still, why go to them out of every possible choice? She could have gone to her mother’s nest or to that pack of werewolves in the police that she seems to get on with or, hell, she could have gone with you people.”

“Pardon?”

I started counting off on my fingers, “She’s got a succubus, an alchemist, and unless I’m mistaken that’s a djin two floors down.”

“You met Ismat?”

“Off topic.” I held up a hand. “She has all of those resources and she sets us to work on legal precedents? That there’s a good chance she knew didn’t even exist? Why?”

Calla shrugged, “She’s just kind of like that?”

“No,” I gritted my teeth, “she did it as a distraction.”

 

Flora

“It has become apparent to me that you are willing to go through the people I care about in order to secure me for your research.” I say as I pull into the parking lot outside of Miranda’s building.

“It’s nothing personal,” says Parkins, “but you are rather unique specimen.”

“I know.” I get out of my car and unfold my spare umbrella, keeping it between myself and the sun. “That’s why I’m coming in, unarmed.”

“Flora no!” It’s Miranda’s voice this time but she’s quickly cut off.

“I’m coming in but in return I want some things from you.”

Another stretch of silence, “Go on.” says Parkins

 

Alan

I weave my car in and out of traffic. If I had a higher top speed than a go-cart it would probably be dangerous. As it stands a few of the people I cut-off waved at me.

Calla has been gripping her armrests since before the car started. “Why would she do this? What possible advantage does she think she can gain?”

“They don’t want us.” I said as I cut between two minivans to make a turn. “They either have people like us or think that we’re nothing special. But as far as I know she’s the only vampire-human hybrid on the planet. If they get her, we stop being on their radar.”

 

 

Flora (Monday)

The elevator doors open to reveal Parkins, Miranda, and a dark haired pale woman I don’t know. Parkins has his handgun at the small of Miranda’s back. “There was a whole assault team waiting for you to arrive here.” Parkins says. “I think they’ll be disappointed they didn’t get to take you down. You did kill one of them back at the diner.”

I hold up my hands and say, “Let’s go.”

Parkins pushes Miranda forwards and places her on a bench before taking out a pair of handcuffs and securing her there. “Someone will be by to let you out in a bit. But I can’t have you interfering”

“Flora,” Miranda says, “what are you doing?”

I look at the floor, “What I have to.”

“You don’t have to do this Flora. We can help you.”

“No.” I shake my head, “You’ll just end up getting hurt. This is better.”

Parkins pulls my hands down and cuffs my wrists together. “Come on,” he says while giving me a shove. He snaps his fingers behind him and the dark haired woman stops staring at Miranda and starts following us out.

Miranda starts saying something as we leave the lobby but I squint my eyes shut and try to drown her out. Suddenly we’re outside and I hear Parkins yelling. I open up my eyes and see Alan and… oh God. Not her. I swallow and try to look away from Calla. I can’t look at her, not now.

Parkins has his gun drawn and is pointing it at Alan. “That’s close enough, Mr. Wieckowski. We’re mad enough with you as it is.”

Alan’s eyes are wide and his gaze is fixed on the gun, but his voice doesn’t begin to waver. “Let her go Quincy.” I suppose that’s the agent’s real name.

“Your interference has cost my agency millions of dollars and a man’s life. Do not push this.”

I think for a moment that Alan is about to do something stupid, but the sound of boots on pavement behind me draws his attention. I see a group of men dressed similarly to the ones who attacked us at the diner. I look back to Alan to see that he hasn’t moved away but all of the aggression has left his stance.

Calla’s still looking at me but I turn away.

Suddenly I’m in my bed, blinking up at the ceiling. I don’t have to turn to the side to tell who will be next to me. I turn away from her but she wraps an arm around my body. “Why?” she asks.

“I don’t have any choice.” I turn back towards her, our noses are less than an inch apart. “I’m not letting people get hurt, or worse. Not for me.”

Calla smiles and then leans forwards and kisses me. “Moron.”

I pull back, “What?”

“We’re not helping you because you’re here. We’re going to keep trying. I’m going to keep trying, because I’m not letting you get away this easily.”

She kisses me one last time and suddenly I’m on my back on some sort of gurney. Parkins, or Quincy, is above me and talking on a phone. “Hang on, she’s waking up.” he says.

I blink at the light around me and see that I’m in some hybrid of an ambulance and a SWAT van. Armed men in black sit in rows on either side of me while the agent turns away from me so that I can’t hear what he’s saying on the phone.

I can tell that the van is moving, taking us to who knows where. There’s a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me that Calla is right about my friends. My plan didn’t work, it was never going to. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to hold back the tears. I’m seeing my father, dead on the ground in front of me in a burning building. The pile of dust that was my mother is on the other side of the room. A dozen men that tried to capture me are also dead around us.

I pray to whoever is listening that history doesn’t repeat itself.

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