Read Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. Book 1) Online
Authors: Adam J Wright
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Fantasy, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Sword & Sorcery, #Thriller
© 2016 by Adam J Wright
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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some days when everything goes okay, or at least as well as you could hope. Then there are other days when it would be better to stay in bed and let the hours drift by while you remain hidden under the blankets.
Today had hardly even started but I already longed to crawl back into bed and pretend the sun had never risen.
In fact, the sun hadn’t risen yet. I was standing in my kitchen with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand at five a.m. My lack of sleep and the early hour contributed to my reluctance to face the day ahead but the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach had more to do with location than time.
I peered out through the dark kitchen window. I could just make out the woods looming in the darkness at the end of the yard. Yep, I was in Dearmont, Maine. So the move from Chicago to this middle-of-nowhere small town by order of the Society hadn’t just been a terrible dream.
Here I was, cast away by the Society of Shadows to a quiet town where I “wouldn’t do further damage to the Society’s image”. That was a joke; how could a secret society even have an image to damage?
But the joke was on me because they had banished me to a town where I would be lucky to get a single case. As a preternatural investigator in a world where preternatural beings are hidden from the general population, I hadn’t exactly been overrun with cases in Chicago so I expected to be doing nothing more than sitting on my ass most days in Dearmont.
The problem with that was that the Society wouldn’t put up with me for much longer if my monthly reports said nothing more than “no activity”. I wouldn’t just be sitting on my ass: I would be out on it. And from the rumors I’d heard, nobody left the Society of Shadows and stayed alive for very long afterward.
I took a sip of coffee and grimaced at the bitter taste. Leaning against the sink, I surveyed the kitchen and told myself that this was my home now so I had better get used to it and find a case sooner rather than later.
The house was still unfamiliar to me because the first time I saw it was yesterday after driving here from Bangor airport. The Society had arranged to have my Land Rover transported to Bangor from Chicago, so I could use it as soon as I landed, and they had also had my boxed belongings brought to the new house.
But their insistence on controlling every aspect of the move meant that they had chosen the house I was to live in, as well as the office I was to work out of in town. Sure, they took care of the first three months rent for both places but that was small compensation for having to move into a house I hadn’t chosen myself.
As things had turned out, the house was actually quite nice. Located on a seemingly quiet tree-lined street of fairly large four and five bedroom dwellings, my own four-bedroom home was more than spacious enough, even with my boxes cluttering up the living room and two of the bedrooms.
I hadn’t unpacked anything but the bare essentials yet but I knew that even after I’d emptied all the boxes, the belongings that had filled my two-bedroom apartment in Chicago would be lost in this spacious house. Well, that was the way it was going to have to be. I couldn’t afford new furniture unless I found paying clients.
And in this small town, that might prove to be an impossible task.
I finished the coffee and put the empty cup into the sink. Outside, a gray pre-dawn light was seeping into the sky. Summer was just beginning so I expected the day to get hot later. I cranked up the air in the house so the place would be cool when I returned. If things were as slow as I expected at the office, I might even close up early and come back here this afternoon. No need to put in long hours on my first day on the job.
I’d seen a barbecue in the yard when I’d arrived yesterday. Maybe if I grabbed a few beers at the local store later, along with some burgers, I could treat myself to a quiet house-warming party in the sun.
I went upstairs, showered, and dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. By the time I came back downstairs, the darkness beyond the windows had been replaced by a bright gray. The uppermost branches of the fir and elm trees in the wood had caught a sliver of orange sunlight but the shadows beneath were still dark and mysterious.
I put on my boots, grabbed the keyring that held my house, car, and office keys from a small table near the front door, and went out onto the driveway. There was a slight breeze, cool against my skin and carrying a fresh earthy scent with an overtone of sharp pine. I was a world away from the exhaust-laden air of Chicago.
The other houses on the street were mostly dark. A few lights shone behind closed curtains but most of the houses were dark shapes against the early dawn light.
I climbed into the Land Rover and started the engine. It roared to life, shattering the dawn stillness. A few more lights came on along the street, as the noise awoke the neighbors. I could imagine them peering out from their bedroom windows and cursing “that guy who moved in yesterday”.
Sorry, folks, I don’t intend to get up this early every day. It’s just that trying to sleep in a strange house doesn’t work for me. Once you get to know me, you’ll see I’m really a great guy, a perfect neighbor. I keep myself to myself and never bring my work home with me, which is a good thing since my work involves demons and vampires.
I backed out of the driveway and headed toward town, consulting the map of Dearmont on the passenger seat. The map showed Main Street and my office was circled in red marker. I’d been told the office was located next to a donut shop, so it had that going for it at least.
Ten minutes and two wrong turns later, I found Main Street. It was a long road lined with two and three level buildings housing businesses like the general store, a bookshop, an outdoor store, and a number of restaurants and eating establishments. Only the general store was open at the moment, the rest of the buildings dark and quiet.
I found the donut shop, a place imaginatively called Dearmont Donuts, and spotted a narrow door next to it with the words HARBINGER P.I. printed in black letters on the frosted glass. I frowned when I saw that there was light spilling out through the glass onto the sidewalk. I slowed the Land Rover and bent forward to check the windows above Dearmont Donuts. The lights were on up there too. Maybe someone had left them on by mistake.
I found a parking space around the back of the building and locked the Land Rover before walking around to the door that bore my name. On impulse, I tried the door before using my key.
So not only had someone left the lights burning, they’d also left the door unlocked. Sighing, I stepped inside and found myself in a small foyer with a steep flight of stairs leading up to the next floor. The foyer was empty except for a wooden business card holder on the wall filled with cards. I took one and inspected it.
The card was black and in gold lettering it read ALEC HARBINGER P.I. (PRETERNATURAL INVESTIGATOR) DISCRETION ASSURED. Below that, there was a phone number that I assumed belonged to a phone in the office upstairs.
I ascended the narrow stairs and found myself in a wood-paneled hallway with three doors. Two of the doors had frosted glass panes. The third, the door closest to me, was solid wood and had a gold plaque that said BATHROOM. That was good to know because I intended to be drinking a lot of coffee here.
The door at the far end of the hallway had my name printed in the same lettering as the entrance door downstairs. The other door, situated halfway between the bathroom and my office, intrigued me the most because its glass pane displayed the word ASSISTANT. Not only that, there was a strong smell of coffee and baked goods emanating from the room beyond.
The door was ajar. I pushed it all the way open and was greeted by the sight of a woman fussing around a coffee maker. She wore a white blouse, black pencil skirt, and thick-rimmed glasses. She was slim and tall, her height accentuated by the fact that her dark hair was piled up on top of her head. She turned to face me and I guessed her age to be mid-twenties.
“Mr. Harbinger,” she said, putting down the coffee pot. She had a British accent. “You’re here.”
“I am indeed,” I said. “This is my office after all. You can call me Alec, by the way. And you are?”
“Felicity Lake,” she said, coming forward with her hand outstretched.
We shook. Her hand was warm, her grip light.
“Would you like a coffee?” she asked. “And an apple bake? I have apple bakes. I made them myself this morning.” She returned to the coffee maker and began pouring from the pot into a cup. There was a frenetic energy about her that might come from nervousness or could just be a part of her personality. It was difficult to be sure.
She handed me the cup of coffee. “Cream and one sugar, just the way you like it.”
So the Society had told her how I took my coffee. That was very thorough of them. What else had they told her about me?
“Thanks, Felicity. And I would love to try one of those apple bakes.” I gestured to the plate of golden brown goodies that smelled mouth-wateringly of apple and cinnamon.
“Of course!” She went over to the plate and began transferring some of the bakes onto a smaller dish. As well as my coffee preference, the Society must have told her about my love of sweets and any food that was bad for me.
“I’ll bring these to your office for you,” she offered.
“Thanks,” I said, turning and heading for my office door. Felicity followed, the aroma of the apple bakes filling the hallway.
My office was spacious even with the large dark wood desk sitting by the window. A large leather chair sat behind the desk with two smaller chairs for clients on the opposite side. A computer sat on the desk, as well as an intercom device that I assumed connected to Felicity’s office. The floor had a thick, pale-green carpet and the walls were painted a similar color. A bookshelf ran along one wall with leather-bound grimoires and lore books sitting on it.
“The books are from your old office in Chicago,” Felicity said, placing the dish of apple bakes on my desk. “And that’s your old trash basket too.” She pointed to a wire basket on the floor beneath the window.
I sat in the big chair and swiveled it to face the window and the view of Main Street.
“I’ll get everything ready for your first client,” Felicity said.
“I have a client?” I tried not to sound too surprised but failed miserably.
“Yes,” she said, smoothing down her skirt with her hands. “She’ll be here at nine.” She turned to leave.
“Felicity,” I said, stopping her.
Turning to face me, she asked, “Yes, Alec?”
I looked into her dark eyes and said, “Were you sent here to spy on me?”
he sagged slightly
against the door frame. “Oh dear. I didn’t mean to … I’ve made a mess of this, haven’t I?” She leaned more heavily against the frame and I wondered if she was going to faint. I rushed over to her and took her hand and shoulder, guiding her to one of the client chairs by the desk. Felicity was shaking her head and looking at the floor with tears in her eyes. She kept mumbling, “I can’t believe I’m so stupid.”
“Take a seat,” I said, pushing her gently into the chair. I sat on the edge of the desk. “Would you like a drink of water or something?”
She shook her head, still staring at the green carpet. “I’ll be fine in a minute.” Then she looked up at me with watery eyes and said, “I’m sorry.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. You were just doing what you were told to do. I don’t hold it against you.”
“What gave me away?” she asked.
“Well, first, there’s the fact that I’ve never had an assistant before. I didn’t have one in Chicago, so I doubt the Society would think I’m going to need one working this small town. Then there’s your accent. You’re obviously from England, so that probably means you were sent here from the London headquarters. Why do I warrant an assistant all the way from headquarters? The answer is, I don’t.”
Felicity nodded slowly.
“And another thing,” I said. “Since you’re from London, I’m willing to bet that you were sent here by my father.”
She nodded again. “I was assigned to you by the Inner Circle but I was to report to your father directly, yes.” A tear rolled down her left cheek. When she spoke again, her voice cracked slightly. “This is my first assignment and I’ve ballsed everything up on my first day. The Society will kick me out.” She began to cry softly.
I hate it when people cry in front of me. I never know what to do and that makes me feel uncomfortable and helpless. “Hey, hey, there’s no need to cry,” I said softly. “I’ll find you a tissue.” I left the room and went into Felicity’s office, where I found a box of Kleenex on her desk. When I returned, she had composed herself and was sitting up straight. Her eyes were still leaking, though.
I handed her the box of tissues.
“Thank you, Mr. Harbinger,” she said, dabbing at her eyes. “I’m very sorry to have done this to you. I was only following orders. Now, I must return to London and inform the Inner Circle of my failure to carry out my duties.” She got up and walked toward the door.
“Hey, wait,” I said. “You haven’t done anything to me except give me coffee and apple bakes.” I took a bite of one of the bakes. The sweet apple and cinnamon filling melted on my tongue. I said, “They’re delicious, by the way.”
She smiled, but there was still a look of despair in her eyes.
“Come and sit down,” I suggested. “We can talk about this.”
Slowly, she came back into the office and took a seat. “I really don’t know what there is to talk about, Mr. Harbinger.”
“I told you, call me Alec,” I said. I was going to add that old line, “Mr. Harbinger is my father,” but decided against it, since she knew my father and he was the reason she was in trouble right now.
Felicity threw her arms up in an exaggerated shrug. “It doesn’t really matter anymore, Alec. Our working relationship is over. When the Society finds out I failed to stay undercover, they’ll recall me to London.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But first they have to find out. Besides, there’s no way the Inner Circle could think I wouldn’t figure out that you were here to spy on me. I think this is more a case of them letting me know that they’re watching me, in case I screw up again.”
She frowned at me. “Screw up again?”
“Oh, they didn’t tell you why you were spying on me in the first place? They didn’t mention Paris?”
Her frown deepened. “Paris, France?”
I nodded. “If they didn’t mention it to you, don’t worry about it.” I certainly wasn’t in the mood to go over all that again. I’d spent more than enough time explaining it to the Inner Circle under interrogation a few months ago.
“I don’t know anything about Paris,” she said. “I was just told to come and work for you and send a report to headquarters once a month, or more often, if you behaved strangely.”
I nodded. Yeah, that figured. It seemed to me that the Inner Circle, led by my father, had decided to use Felicity Lake as a pawn in a game that was being played between them and me. Even I didn’t know what that game was. As far as I was concerned, I’d been questioned about the events in Paris and demoted from my office in Chicago to the sleepy town of Dearmont. I thought that was the end of the matter, but the fact they’d sent someone to spy on me suggested otherwise.
“Felicity,” I asked her, “how good of an assistant are you?”
She looked at me with a glint of pride in her moist eyes. “I’m very good. I’ve been through the Society’s three-year course and I was hoping to become an investigator like yourself. As you know, that requires at least a year working with a fully-fledged investigator.”
“Ah,” I said, understanding now. “And that’s how they sold you this job. They told you that the time you spent working with me, and spying on the side, would count toward your time in the field.”
“Here’s the thing,” I said. “Through no fault of your own, you’ve been dragged into this game the Society are playing with me. Now, we both know that your cover has been blown, but the people who sent you here don’t know that. So, if you still want to be my assistant and spend time in the field, that’s fine with me.”
Her eyes widened and a small smile spread across her mouth. “Really? But what about sending reports to your father?”
I shrugged. “Send them as normal. I don’t expect much to happen around here anyhow.”
Felicity’s hand flew to her mouth and her eyes shot to the clock on the wall. “Mrs. Robinson!”
“Mrs. Robinson?” I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Your client. She’ll be here soon. I have to get everything ready.”
I followed her eyes to the clock. It wasn’t even eight yet. “I thought you said she was coming at nine.”
“She is,” she said, getting up.
“So she won’t be here for another hour.”
“Still, I need to prepare the reception area and make more coffee. And fix my makeup.”
“Okay,” I said. I guess I couldn’t blame her for being nervous on her first day. “So you go do that and I’ll hang around in here.”
She nodded and scuttled to the door. Before she went out, she turned back to me and said, “Thank you.”
Before I could reply, she disappeared into the hallway.
I sat in the big leather chair behind the desk and swiveled the seat from side to side a few times, surveying my new office. It would take me some time, but I could probably get used to this place. Rolling the chair over to the window, I peered out at Main Street. The sun was up now and the street was busy with people opening up their businesses or just strolling along the sidewalk. Some of them had rolled newspapers tucked under their arms and takeout coffee in their hands.
Bringing my own coffee and the apple bakes over to the window, I ate breakfast and watched Dearmont come to life. That might be overstating things. Sure, the traffic increased and a few townsfolk wandered along the sidewalk, but this was hardly Chicago. I wondered what preternatural problem Mrs. Robinson could possibly have in a place like this.
Obviously I knew enough not to judge the town by its outward appearance; dark secrets and creatures sometimes lurk in the most innocent looking places. But I can usually sense those things and Dearmont not only looked like a sleepy town, it felt like it to my innermost senses, too. Sure, there could be a haunted house somewhere in the area, maybe even a ghoul or two at the cemetery (those damned things got everywhere), but I had a hunch that Dearmont was a dead zone as far as preternatural activity went.
I really needed to stop trusting in my hunches so much.