You knew your day was not going to go well when it started off with a police officer knocking on your door in the earlier hours of the morning. Even more so when that police officer just happened to be your best friend.
“Abby?” Savannah groaned, as she peered at her friend standing on her doorstep through sleep heavy eyes, “You do realize what time it is, right?”
“Sorry Sav, I wouldn’t have bugged you if this wasn’t important,” Abby pushed her way past Savannah in to the dark room behind her. Savannah rubbed a hand over her face as she turned around and followed her friend in to her apartment.
“Is this a one shot or two shot espresso emergency?” Savannah asked with a yawn as she made her way to the kitchen nook where she kept her coffee maker.
“It’s whatever will keep you going all day emergency,” Abby informed her. Savannah’s feet stopped as she turned around to look at the shadowed silhouette of the person she trust most in this world. Abby was the only one in this new life who knew who and what Savannah was. Until now, she had helped Abby on a couple of cases as a consultant, nothing more. She was usually in and out before anyone even noticed her.
But whatever had Abby on her doorstep in the wee hours of the morning, it was something big. Something that was going to get her noticed. Abby knew exactly how Savannah felt about being noticed, but yet she stood here in front of her asking for help.
“A body was found at the Wall.”
There was only one Wall in Newport. Five years ago, there was a large explosion at the one of the warehouses down at the pier. No one was sure which warehouse exactly or what exactly had happened. All any one knew was that something had gone wrong and half of the pier and about a quarter of the city of Newport was consumed by an impenetrable mist. No one knew what happened to the people who had been in that part of the city. Men, women, children, anyone who happened to be in that area was gone. If they were dead or alive, no one knew. No one could even get near the mist. Anyone who drew too near suddenly developed a case of amnesia. How bad the amnesia was, differed from person to person. Some people forgot the past couple hours. Some forgot the past couple days. But some forgot everything.
About a week after the mist appeared, it was determined that the mist was too dangerous to leave unguarded. So the Witch and Mage council got together and created a wall to separate the rest of the city from the mist.
The Wall had been created to protect people from what was contained within, not to keep out those stupid enough to try and enter. By then the effects and drawing too near to the mist was highly publicized and they figured most people weren’t stupid enough to try and breach the wall. But every now and then, there was some person stupid enough, or high enough to try and enter. Which was why they had the local police force patrolling the wall.
Even after five years, there were still at least one case of some idiot trying to breach the wall every couple of months. Usually they stumbled out of the mist having forgotten the last couple of weeks or months. The police would pick them up and transport them to the local hospital to have them looked over and then discharged to a spouse or a family member.
It was a common enough occurrence that it no longer made the daily new. What most people didn’t know, what that not all who entered returned alive. Over the past year, five bodies were found at the Wall. All were young men in perfect health. None of them had any foreign substances in their blood and had never shown any prior interest in the Wall or what lay behind it. Their families were completely stunned when they’re informed what happened. It just wasn’t normal.
The police had been able to keep the deaths under wrap for now. But whatever had Abby on her doorstep in the middle of the night, made Savannah wondered just how long they were going to be able to keep it that way.
“I’ll go change, go grab Charlie’s carrier, we’re going to need him for this one.”
* * * * * * *
Savannah pulled the scarf tighter around her face as the frigid fall air tried to take a bite out of her. She wrapped her arms tightly around herself as she followed the Abby passed the line of police cars. Blue and red lights flashed around her as cops gathered in groups around the vehicles talking softly to each other.
Some glanced up at them as they passed, but most ignored their presence. After all, Abby was just a street cop. She just patrolled the streets, she just reported the bodies, nothing.
Savannah just snorted through the wool wrapped around half of her face. If they truly knew who Abby was, they definitely wouldn’t look passed her as if she were a nobody. Abby was descended from two of the most powerful lines among the Witches and Mages. Sure she may not have any real power of her own, but the knowledge that she had learned from both sides of her family made up for that. She may not be able to work any magic of her own, but she recognize the magic worked by others, nailing them down to specific families. She was a freaking magic bloodhound. Too bad she was as serious about hiding that fact as Savannah was about hiding her magic.
A plaintive howl came from the black carrier Savannah carried at the crook of her arm. The sound was loud enough to draw the attention of a pair of cops standing besides the open door of one of their vehicles.
Savannah jostled the bag as she hissed, “Quiet! We’re trying not to draw attention to ourselves.”
“Well then you shouldn’t have bothered to drag me along. I would have been happy to remain at home curled up in my blankets then out here freezing my balls off,” a voice replied from within the shadows of the carrier.
Savannah gritted her teeth as she offered the men a nod and continued on her way at a slightly faster pace. She was pretty sure the men hadn’t heard Charlie, but it would be awfully hard to explain what she was doing a crime scene with a talking cat. Sure Witches had familiars, but their familiars were capable of speech. Add to that fact that she was not a Witch, she would have a lot of explaining to do.
“Stop whining, I promised you a pound of sashimi grade tuna for this,” Savannah reminded.
“Should have held our for two. Do you realize how cold it is tonight? The fur coat is doing nothing against the cold,” the bag grumbled.
“I offered to grab your sweater, you refused.”
“I’m not wearing some fruity sweater with a dancing reindeer on it. I refuse to be seen in that horrid thing.”
“That horrid thing was a Christmas gift from Abby’s parents,” Savannah reminded.
“Horrid thing? Did I saw that?” Charlie corrected, “I meant festive. Yes, that festive piece of finery.”
Savannah didn’t even bother hiding the snort, “You’re just saying that because they bake those catnip cookies you love so much.”
An angry mutter from the bag was her only reply. But it wouldn’t have mattered what Charlie said. Abby was totally oblivious to their entire conversation. Her attention was instead directed at a spot further ahead lit by large portable lights. The area was cordoned off with yellow police tape and guarded by two men in uniform with large firearms strapped across their back.
Now those weren’t your normal police officers, Savannah raised a brow as she recognized the cross and sword insignia on the chest of their black uniforms. Interesting, the Necromancer Guild had sent out their guards.
What exactly wasn’t Abby telling her about this body?
“Ugh, it’s the spook squad” Charlie commented as he spotted them too. He had no more love for them then Savannah did. Unfortunately she and Charlie were well known among the Necromancer Guild Guards in Newport. The guards were sort of the police for the Necromancer Guild. It was their duty to keep order and protect their people. Well Guild registered necromancers anyway.
Savannah was not registered with the Guild. She wanted nothing to do with them and they wanted nothing to do with her. She had played by their rules once before and it had done nothing but bite her in the ass. Since they she wanted nothing to do with the Guild and their hypocrisies, she avoided them at all costs.
Unfortunately she had a few run-ins with the Guild. They didn’t like when other people came in and took their jobs. It’s not like Savannah had purposely come in and stolen the job right under their nose. Abby had needed some help on a couple of cases and Savannah had offered to help when she was getting the run around by the local guild assigned liason. The man just wouldn’t make time for the local police, so Savannah had offered to help. The police hadn’t cared that Savannah wasn’t licensed. They actually liked that better since they didn’t have to pay her at Guild rates for a consultation.
The local Guild office had not been happy about Savannah stepping all over their feet. Savannah hadn’t given a crap what they felt. Hell she was far for qualified as a consultant then the low level lackey they had assigned to the police department. The man couldn’t even raise a spirit without at least two hours of preparation and his protections circles were messy and shoddy. He had been lucky so far and Savannah at told the Guild rep who had come to visit her as much. They had definitely not like that coming from a nobody like her.
She had earned herself a black mark in their book. They had tried to prevent the police from hiring her for consultation work, but Chief Summers preferred dealing with Savannah then the pricks at the local Guild office. She recognized that Savannah knew what she was doing and was far more qualified than any of the necromancers the Guild sent. Besides, Savannah charged half the rate the Guild did. On the books it looks much better for them to use her then the Guild.
As they closer to the crime scene, Savannah realized the reason for the Guild Guards. It had been ten years since she last saw him, but there was no way she wouldn’t have recognized the large man leaning over the sheet covered body. The man was quite literally a greek god, it would be hard as hell to not recognize him. Tall, broad shouldered and handsome as sin, the teenage version of the man before her had all the girls and even a few teachers half in love with him. He was ten years older then him and graduated from Woodrose when she was only eight, but even as an eight year old, she recognized that the man was handsome. Back then she had stupidly believed he was a prince. But what did you expect for an eight year old. But she knew better now. The man was a snake, just like his brother and his whole damn family.
A low hiss came from the bag on her arm, “Lukas Stavros.”
“Lukas Stavros?” Abby repeated, her mouth hanging open as she gazed at the man’s back, “That’s Lukas Stavros? The CEO of Acheron, the largest Necromancer Firm in the country? The man who is supposedly one of the most powerful Necromancers in the entire world? The one who was rumored to have called up a hundred spirits in one day? That Lukas Stavros?”
The man in question chose that moment to stand up and turned slightly towards their direction so that Abby got her first good look at the man. Her gasp was audible as her mouth dropped open.
Yes, yes, Greek god. If it hadn’t been Lukas Stavros, Savannah would have been amused by Abby’s reaction. The woman was all work and no play. So seeing her react this way to any man would have normally been highly amusing. But right now Savannah had other things on her mind. The top one being how the hell she was going to get out of here without him seeing her.
Although Abby knew about her past, she didn’t know everything. There were a few tidbits she had kept to herself, like her true name. Abby have never pushed for that information, because she was such a good friend she believe Savannah would eventually tell her everything. How wrong she was. There were just somethings she never planned at telling anyone in her new life. Her true identity just happened to be one of those things.
Savannah was trying to decide just what she should do when the detective standing next to Lukas noticed them. He lifted a hand and gestured them over. Savannah was suddenly glad it was such a cold night. With her beanie covering the top of her head and the scarf covering the lower half of her face, the only thing anyone could really see where her eyes. As striking as her honey brown eyes were, they weren’t uncommon among necromancers.
“Behave,” Savannah warned Charlie as she reluctantly followed Abby forward.
“As much as I would like to take you at your word Mr. Stavros, I think I would like to hear what our consultant has to say first,” Detective Santos said as they drew closer, his words clipped and his brown eyes even more frosty than normal. Detective Mick Santos had no love for supernaturals, but at least he had always treated Savannah with respect. At this moment, he was barely keeping this civil as he looked at the man standing across from him.
“You are just wasting your time and my own Detective Santos,” Lukas’ tone was nearly as frosty as he looked down his nose at the other man. He didn’t even bother to glance in their direction.
“Your consultant,” the words were pratically spat out, “doesn’t have the skill or the training to offer any kind of well-informed opinion. The local guild office has already informed me about the so-called necromancer your chief insists on hiring. The woman isn’t even registered with the Guild. She has had no official training and incapable of offering the service I have already provided.”
“Arrogant much,” Savannah muttered under her breath. Abby shot her a warning look.
“Prick,” Charlie huffed from his carrier.
“I have no problem with the information you have provided, I would just like a second opinion before we make any decision on how to move forward,” Detective Santos informed him curtly.
Savannah missed whatever reply Lukas gave the man as they had drawn close enough that Savannah could clearly see the sheet covered body, but more importantly she could see the dark figure hovering above the body, standing right between the two men.
She ignored the dark looks from the Guild Guards as she quickly ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and sped passed Abby. The carrier on her arm and Charlie nearly forgotten as she moved to stand at the foot of the white sheet covered the body, her entire attention at the dark figure and not the body at her feet.
The figure was nothing really more than a shadow. A figure wrapped in cape and hood made of black smoke that billowed at their feet. The creature, whatever it was, was as insubstantial as fog and seemed to dissapate and reform every second.
Savannah had no idea what it was, but she had seen it once before. Eight years ago when her life changed for good. The day when two of classmates lost their lives and another was stuck in a coma he had yet to wake up from.
The figure said nothing, it just hovered there like it had eight years ago. But it didn’t have to say anything. Savannah knew exactly what she would find under the sheet. Yet it didn’t stop her from whipping away the white cloth to the surprise of both men.
“What the hell?” Lukas cursed as his attention was suddenly on Savannah. His dark gray eyes glaring at her as she knelt at the feet of the still figure.
Without wasting a second, Savannah set Charlie’s carrier on the ground and dug in the pockets of her padded winter jacket and pulled out a stick of chalk. She began to scrawl sigils on the cold concreted around the body of the young man. His sightless blue eyes looked up at the night sky above them. She wondered for a second if that had been the last thing he had seen, or was it the face of the creature that had come to steal his soul.
“What the hell do you think your doing?” Lukas practically snarled as Savannah none to gently moved him out of her path as she continued her line of sigils, curving around the man’s head and shoulders before continuing on down his other side.
“Amateur,” Charlie sniffed as he stuck his head out of the carrier, shivering as the cold air hit his face, “It’s too damn cold for this.”
“Stop complaining and complete the circle,” Savannah ordered as she finished the last line of glyphs.
“Yeah, yeah,” Charlie grumbled as he gracefully jumped out of his carrier and began his trek around the circle, talking the same path as Savannah had. Head held high and tail swinging lazily back and forth he stepped over each chalk sigil Savannah had drawn. Each symbol his small black paws passed, lit up a bright flourscent blue, drawing a gasp from the group around them.
“What kind of magic is this?” Lukas demanded to know as Savannah stepped back and watched Charlie’s progess. When he completed the circle and all the glyphs were lit, Savannah pulled a pocket knife from her jeans pocket flipping open the blade. Pushing the top of her scarf down, she bit the tip of one of the fingers of her wool glove and pulled the glove from her hand. She sliced open the skin on her thumb, a long thin cut that drew blood.
Kneeling down once more, she drew three sigils in blood on the corpse. One on the man’s forehead, and the other two on the palms of his hands. The moment the last sigil was complete, the air in the glowing circle began to hum and the dark figure hovering above the body faded away until not even a whisp of smoke remained.
“Safe,” she leaned back and breathed out a sigh of relief as she pulled out a handkerchief from her back pocket and pressed it against her bleeding finger.
“What the hell was that?” Detective Santos swore as he stared at the space where the shadowy figure had been.
“Death,” Charlie spat out as he sat primly at the corpse’s feet, staring at the same empty space.
“Please tell me I’m not the only one seeing the cat talk,” Detective Santos groaned as his rubbed a hand against his temple as he shut his eyes.
“You’re not,” Lukas informed him flatly as he stared down at Savannah and Charlie. Savannah quickly pulled the scarf back up to cover the bottom half of her face, and shoved her glove in to her jacket pocket.
“I didn’t think familiars could talk,” Santos shook his head.
“They don’t and he’s not a familiar.”
Charlie ignored Lukas and concentrated on cleaning the chalk dust from his paws.
“At this point I don’t even care what he is, what I want to know was what the hell the dark shadowing thing was,” the edge of hysteria had entered the Detective’s voice as he looked from Charlie, to Lukas, and then to Savannah and Abby.
Savannah pulled herself to her feet and turned to the Detective, “Has the deceased been identified yet?”
Detective Santos scowled at his question being ignored but pulled out his notebook from his back pocket, “According to the ID in his pocket, his name is Benjamin Cabot, age 26, resident of Clover Hills.”
“Cabot?” Savannah frowned, Cabot was a well-known Necromancer family. Just like Stavros and Graystone. But the man on the ground was unknown to Savannah. The Cabots were mainly east coast based and usually attended the prestigous Emberly Academy. But even then, the name should have been familiar to her as they were the same age. The necromancer community wasn’t so large that they did not at least know of each other. But the name and face were completely unknown.
“According to his Facebook page, he was in town visiting a old college friend. His girlfriend reported him missing when he didn’t return to their hotel room last night after having dinner the night before with the friend he was visiting, a Walter Smythe.”
Another big necromancer name. Yet, not another oneshe was familiar with.
“Smythe is my man,” Lukas said gruffly, “He was here working for me.”
“Interesting,” Detective Santos muttered to himself as he scribbled down a note in his book.
“When was Mr. Cabot found?” Savannah asked.
“The body was found just after midnight by a couple of teens on a dare to touch the wall.”
“It was called in immediately when the boys ran away screaming drawing the attention of one of our officer’s patrolling the wall. The boys were found and questioned but all they can tell us was they found him exactly like that.”
Shutting his notebook, Detective Santos turned back to Savannah, “Okay, I’ve told your everything I know, time to tell me what thing was and how you knew he was there.”
“I have no idea what that creature was. I knew he was there because I could see him. I’ve only ever encountered him once before, but I don’t believe the creature caused Mr. Cabot’s death. I think Mr. Cabot’s death drew it. I think he was protecting the body,” Savannah frowned.
“Protecting the body? From what?” Lukas scoffed, “He was already dead. What would be the point of protecting the body.”
“From possession,” Charlie said matter of factly as he strolled back to his carrier and slid back through the opening.
“Possession?” Detective Santos spoke the word slowly as if trying to make sense of it, “Possession by what?”
“There are many things out there that would just love a doorway into our world. That’s the reason Necromancers cast protective circles before raising even the weakest spirit. To call forth a spirit is to open a doorway to the other realm. It is not just spirits that inhabit that realm. There are things far more dangerous out there then human spirits. After all, we are not the only ones to exist in this world.”
Detective Santos just stared at her for a long moment. She knew from experience that he wasn’t a fan of magic in any form. So this was definitely a lot for him to take up. Usually all he ever required from Savannah was to raise a spirit or to give her opinion on any incident that involved necromatic magic. He never asked for details or a lengthy explanation. All he ever wanted to know was a simple yes or no answer.
Savannah had given him more information on necromatic magic in one minute then she had in the last five years that she had been working as a consultant for the police department. From the tick in his right eye, it seems she had definitely pushed past some invisible line he kept between himself and anything of supernatural origin.
“How many possessions have your dealt with?” he demanded to know.
“In practice, two,” Savannah admitted. As part of the teaching at Woodrose Academy, they taught all of their students how to deal with possessions. It was an advance level class and taught during their last year of schooling. Savannah had only been halfway through the school year before that Night happened.
She had actually dealt with two real incidents of possession but that was something that she couldn’t bring up. It was something she had never spoken to anyone about before. Charlie knew the horrors, after all, he had been there. But that Night, was the one thing they spoke about. It was one thing they had unspokenly agreed was taboo.
They still had nightmares about that night, and probably still would for the rest of their lives, but never once did they offer the a word of comfort and acknowledgement. Instead they buried themselves under the covers, cried softly until there were no more tears. At least that was what Savannah did. She wasn’t sure what the cat equivalent was. All she knew was that Charlie was a surly beast for days after the nightmares came. He would hide in the hallway closet buried under the clean towels and stay there for days until he decided he was able to deal with the world once more.
Already this night was pushing on both their broken psyches. She knew the next time she closed her eyes would be a long time coming. After what happened tonight, she was sure the nightmares would be soon to follow.
Curling in on herself, she crossed her arms over her chest, trying to fight off the chill that was slowly slipping in to her blood.
“So this,” Detective Santos gestured ot the glowing glyphs on the pavement, “Is a protective circle?”
“Not one I’ve ever seen,” Lukas commented before Savannah could get a word out. His dark gray eyes watched her intently, as if trying to see in to her.
“It is a protect circle of sorts,” Savannah admitted tentatively.
“What does that mean? Of sort?” Santos crossed his arms over his chest as he stared her down.
“The circle does offered protection, but until the protection circle that most necromancers use, the cirlce protects what’s outside of the circle rather than what’s inside. It’s more of a containment circle. The sigils are designed to contain and clense.”
“And the markings you drew on the body in blood?”
“Those are protection marks, to keep out anything that may try to enter,” Savannah explained patiently, all too aware of the ears around them listening to their every word.
“If the circle contains and clenses what is inside, were the protect marks necessary?” Detective Santos frowned.
“Mr. Cabot’s body has basically been turned in to an open gateway, which means that it can be possessed but it also means that it can be used to enter our world. The protections sigils basically slammed and locked the door on our side. But the sigils are temporary and will only last as long as the power in my blood does. That is why it is very important this his family is contact and permission is received to burn the body. Fire is one of the most powerful clensing magics among all of the three supernatural race. It will be enough to close the doorway for good. Without a body, there is no longer a doorway.”
“And how soon should this be done?”
“Immediately,” Savannah stressed the words.
“But the ME still has the process the body. An autopsy has to be done an the reports drawn up. We can’t just burn the body,” Detective Santos shook his head.
“You don’t understand, the moment the body is removed from the circle, the things that go bump in the night will sense it and they will come after it. My protective sigils will only last so long. If something big enough and strong enough breaks through, all hell will break out. Even the Necromancer Guild will not be able to stop what will come through.”
A scoff came from one of the guards behind them. Savannah ignored him. Both men were low level guards. They looked dangerous but in the power factor, they were harmless. They hadn’t even sensed the wrongness with the body that even Abby and Detective Santos had felt. After all, Abby had pulled her out of her warm bed in the wee hours of the morning, when normally she would have waited until at least the sun had risen and the ME had processed the scene and the body.
Detective Santos’ frown turned in to a scowl and he contemplated Savannah words, “Are you completely sure about this?”
Savannah nodded, “The ties between Mr. Cabot’s body and his spirit had been severed. Even in death, he no longer has any claim on this body leaving it open to anything that may wish to enter it.”
“Is such a thing possible?” Detective Santos turned to Lukas who was still watching Savannah with a dark frown on his brows.
“Yes,” Was all Lukas said. No argument from him, which was surprising, but Savannah wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her morning here explaining to the Detective how imperative it was that they burn the body as soon as possible.
The detective let out what sounded like a growl as he pulled his cellphone out of his back pocket and walked away from them to make a phone call. With the other man gone, Lukas turned his full attention on her. She ignored him and wrapped her arms tighter around herself as the chill dug deeper, seeping in to her bones. She needed to get away from her and she needed it to be soon.
Abby stood quietly behind Savannah where she had been the whole time. She knew her friend had questions, but she knew her friend would hold off. She cared too much about her job and her responsibilities to that job to let her personal curiosties distract her. But that didn’t mean the moment she was off the clock she would come hunting for her. But Savannah would deal with her when that time came. Hopefully by then she will have had enough time to repair the walls that kept the memories of that night at bay. Otherwise Savannah wasn’t sure who Abby would find when her friend finally came for her.
Pulling up what remained of her shattered self, she turned to the detective as he headed back in their direction, a deep scowl on his face.
“The Cheif gave the okay. You are to remain here until the ME comes to examine the body and then it will be transportated to the closet mortuary for burning.”
Savannah let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. Relief coursed through her until she met the cold gray eyes of the man standing a mere three feet away from her. He watched her, his face a blank mask, whatever he was thinking at the moment was well hidden, but whatever it was, Savannah knew it wasn’t anything thing good. Not for her anyway.