Read Taliesin Ascendant (The Children and the Blood) Online
Authors: Megan Joel Peterson,Skye Malone
by Megan Joel Peterson
Copyright 2013 Megan Joel Peterson
Published by Wildflower Isle
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this text and any portions thereof in any manner whatsoever.
This book is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents appearing in this work are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Karri Klawiter
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Across the table in the greasy spoon diner, Harris watched the man who’d introduced himself as Brogan’s employer. Lean-built and dressed in a well-tailored suit, Victor Jamison appeared to be nothing more than a middle-aged business man, and not the leader of a group waging a silent war.
But Harris remembered his first impression of Brogan. The giant had seemed the same, albeit while also appearing to be a human wall.
“What do you want?” Harris asked.
Jamison smiled, as if amused by the question. “Your help, of course.”
Harris tried not to scowl. A month of searching, a million dead-end leads, and he’d gotten exactly nowhere toward finding Ashley, her sister or the boy they’d run away with. Or close to nowhere. He figured briefly catching the little girl and Cole scarcely counted, since with the help of others like Ashley, they’d only managed to escape again, leaving all his contacts with Brogan’s people dead in their wake.
“Detective Harris, you
realize your capture of the boy and the little girl are the closest anyone has come to those children in eight years?” the man continued as though reading Harris’ mind. “Add to that the fact the men who apprehended them with you are all dead and, well,” he smiled again, “you can see how you possess information no one else does.”
“What kind of information, Mr. Jamison?” Harris asked, resisting the urge to glance at his stack of essentially useless notes.
“Names, locations, places they might hide. You may not realize the extent of what you know, but any piece could be valuable. For example, the boy. Cole. Where was he living? Who were his keepers? Do you know where those keepers may go or whether he will seek to rejoin them?”
For a heartbeat, Harris didn’t answer, trying to decide whether to trust the man. He claimed to be Brogan’s employer, but words meant little. The giant never mentioned Victor Jamison. He never even mentioned having a boss. The man could be anybody.
But it didn’t matter, Harris realized. He had to trust the man’s word because he couldn’t confirm Jamison’s identity anyway, owing to the fact that, after hours of trying to reach him, Brogan had yet to answer the phone, and all his other contacts currently occupied the morgue.
He sighed. “The Smiths are gone. I’m not really sure if–”
“Robert and Melissa Smith,” Harris elaborated. “The boy’s parents. They’ve taken off. Nobody’s seen Melissa since yesterday, and Robert’s been missing over a month.”
A touch of hardness came into Jamison’s eyes at Harris’ words, but the man buried it swiftly. “And Cole?”
“He’s disappeared. But I doubt he’ll join back up with them anyway. When I found him, he had a gun pointed at his mother.”
Jamison paused. “Really?”
Harris hesitated before nodding. The man almost sounded pleased.
“And did Cole say anything when you had him with you?” Jamison continued. “Did he talk to you at all?”
Shaking his head, Harris eyed him curiously. “He was focused on the other car. The one with the little girl in it.” He paused. “Why are you so interested in Cole, Mr. Jamison? I thought you and Brogan were trying to save the little girl and catch her sister?”
The man looked down as though deciding what to say. “Cole Jamison – or, as you know him, Cole
,” he said the name like a curse, “is my son.”
Training kept Harris’ face straight despite his surprise.
“Eight years ago, the ‘Smiths’ and their associates stole him from me. Together with others of similar skill to the young lady responsible for nearly killing your partner, they kidnapped him and I have not seen him since.” He grimaced. “Brogan and his men have scoured the country ceaselessly on my behalf, but these ‘wizards’, as they call themselves, have been damnably successful in keeping my son hidden.”
Jamison paused. “And then an unknown young man turned up on a security video in the company of a child whose sister slaughtered over half a dozen people in a single night. And once I learned that young man was Cole, well…” His smile was cold. “For some things, one does not wait for word from others, no matter what the realities of the situation might be.
“I do not know what part my son has been forced to play in the wizards’ game, Detective. But if I know him at all anymore, I can assure you it is not a willing role, whatever the news and the evidence might say. He may be confused and misled, but he is not one of them, and he does not possess the powers they do. He is in danger, as much as that child, and I need any information you have, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to help me find him before the wizards make him disappear again.”
The undercurrent of iron in Jamison’s voice made Harris pause. Studying the man’s face briefly, he ran the conversation, and its ludicrous key points, back through his head.
“Why did they take him from you?”
“A disagreement,” Jamison allowed after a moment. “In which they attempted to gain the upper hand by threatening my son. Wizards are not the nicest of people, Detective, as I am certain you are aware.”
Harris didn’t bother acknowledging the fact. “So how do Brogan and his group fit in? They’re like these others? ‘Wizards’?”
He struggled to keep his voice neutral, though he’d never expected to utter that word in a conversation in his life. In the past month, he couldn’t say he’d become accustomed to living in this ridiculous new reality where people burst into flame or couldn’t be seen by the human eye when it suited them. But it’d started to settle. Actually using words associated with fantasy creatures, on the other hand, was pushing it a bit far.
Jamison seemed to take it in stride, however, and simply shook his head with the same veiled intensity in his eyes. “Brogan and the others are not like them. Neither am I. We call ourselves the Blood, Detective Harris, owing to an unusual history with which I will not take your time. Suffice it to say, we possess comparable powers, but there the similarity ends.”
Face tightening at the unsatisfactory answer, Harris didn’t respond for a moment. “I don’t have much else to tell you, Mr. Jamison,” he said finally. “Last I saw your son, he was running into a forest with the younger girl in tow, while these ‘wizards’ and your men were blowing the hell out of each other with thin air. I attempted pursuit, but the aforementioned blasts of nothing slowed me down. By the time I reached the forest, they’d escaped.”
“Do you know where they might have headed?”
Harris shook his head. “I–”
He cut off as a slender man with a ponytail of graying hair strode into the diner and headed for the table.
“My apologies,” the man said, his attention focused solely on Jamison. “Isabella just called. It’s Brogan. He’s alive, but…”
, Simeon?” Jamison prompted, his voice deadly.
The man grimaced. “It was Ashley, sir. He tried to apprehend her.” Simeon paused. “She brought half a building down on him. Like I said, he’s alive. But Isabella doesn’t know how long she can keep him that way.”
Harris couldn’t see Jamison breathing. But then, he couldn’t tell if he was either. He felt like ice water had replaced his bloodstream while the world had suddenly gone still. A screaming face burned beyond recognition rose before his eyes, bringing with it memories of all that followed.
He’d made himself believe Brogan when the man said finding the little girl would stop her older sister. He’d given so much time and energy to that task, despite his reservations, and despite how much he’d wanted to be out there catching the girl responsible for the mess his and Malden’s lives had become.
And it didn’t matter. He’d failed and she’d done it again. In the time it’d taken him to find – and lose – her sister, Ashley had ruthlessly eliminated another person who’d gotten in her way.
“You will have to excuse me, Detective,” Jamison said with tight civility. “As you can see, there are matters to which I must attend.”
Harris glanced between the men, briefly lost for words.
“But,” Jamison continued, drawing a business card for the Rio Dulce Hotel from his pocket. “Your assistance is still crucial. Please be at this location at one o’clock.”
He placed the card on the table.
“Good day, Detective.”
Without another word, Jamison followed Simeon out of the diner. Harris stared after them, and saw the waitress glance around in confusion as the bell above the door clanged when the two men left.
He exhaled, pulling his gaze from the door. Over their plates of pancakes and hash browns, people were eyeing him surreptitiously with looks ranging from disgust to alarm.
Confusion flickered through him, and then he realized why.
Invisible wizards. Or Blood, or whatever. He cursed internally, but couldn’t really find it in himself to care that, for the past ten minutes, he’d probably looked as though he’d been carrying on a rather elaborate conversation with the air.
Because she’d done it again.
Grimacing darkly, he shook his head. He’d had enough of chasing people several steps removed from the person responsible for this. He couldn’t do it anymore. Because while he understood Jamison wanting to find his son, the girl who presented the real threat to Cole and everyone else in the world was still out there.
And now she’d nearly killed someone. Again.
His gaze dropped to the business card lying on the tabletop. He’d go hear what Jamison had to say, though he was fairly certain it would pertain to continuing pursuit of his son. On Jamison’s list of priorities, Ashley was obviously a far second to Cole.
That was fine. Jamison could keep searching for the kid and the little girl. Harris didn’t mind.
Shoving the card into a pocket, he glanced around the diner again. At his expression, the people at the other tables looked hastily away.
And that was fine too. Everything was absolutely fine.
Because he was going to stop Ashley.
No matter what it took.
Gravel skittering beneath her shoes, Ashe slid to a stop and then ducked behind a rusting dumpster. Bracing herself on the grimy metal, she tossed a quick glance to the blessedly empty rooftops, and then waited a heartbeat more before leaning around the garbage bin.
Three Taliesin wizards pounded up to the alley.
She jerked back. Voices shouted from across the street, revealing the presence of the wizards’ allies, though their words were unclear. Heart pounding, she looked past the other dumpsters to the far end of the alley and then shifted her feet, getting ready to make a run for it.
More wizards rushed by. With a gasp, she retreated farther into the shadows.
She closed her eyes, clutching her gun despite how useless it’d probably be. The wizards were everywhere. On the street corners, on the rooftops. Every wizard who’d survived the apartment building and countless more besides.
And each one of them Taliesin.
Twenty minutes ago, they’d spotted her as she paused at a bus stop to get directions from the sun-bleached map on the wall. A shout had rung out, she’d looked up, and suddenly half a dozen Taliesin were chasing her.
They hadn’t been interested in questions. She’d barely made it out of the bus stop before a blast of magic sent her flying and the tiny depot vanished in a shower of glass and metal shards. Scrambling to her feet, she’d taken off running and hadn’t stopped since.
The wizards left the alley entrance behind, and as their footsteps faded, she let out the breath she’d been holding. Shifting her grip on the gun, she straightened slowly, checking in both directions before rising from the garbage bin’s cover completely. With a final glance to the roof, she pushed away from the dumpster and headed toward the alley’s far end.
Taxis and buses swept by on the busy street. People pushed past one another as they juggled coffee cups, cell phones and briefcases in their hands. In the distance, sirens still howled, attending to the bus stop explosion that she could only hope had been devoid of casualties.
The crowd parted as she walked, shifting to one side of her or the other with little notice of what they were doing. Scanning the road, she hurried toward the intersection. Clarkston Street had to be nearby. Back at the bus stop, she’d been only a few blocks away.