Authors: Odette C. Bell
Tags: #urban fantasy, #urban fantasy detective, #fantasy gods detectives, #mystery fantasy gods, #romance fantasy mythology
I winced, but also shook my head.
“Chaplain will do worse. Plus, I’ll vouch for you. I’ll use
whatever authority I have,” I promised. Which was a hell of a
promise – as I had no authority whatsoever. But I was becoming more
and more certain that this was the only way to go.
This Chaplain guy had warlocks. Larry would
be dead by the end of the day. If I went with him, I’d be dead
“Larry, you were always the kind of guy to
sniff out the best opportunities. And this is the only opportunity
we have left. If life hands you lemons?” I asked, quoting his
“You take a gun to life’s head and demand
more.” He snorted.
I let out a soft laugh, never taking my hand
off his shoulder.
I watched Larry tilt his head to the side
and stare at the magical gun sitting on the passenger seat. He’d
shoved it there after he’d got in.
It was almost as if I could see the cogs
moving in his brain as he desperately tried to come to a
I didn’t push him, just kept my hand on his
Eventually he deflated. Then he took a left
onto the freeway. Not the one that headed out of town – the one
that headed downtown.
I let out a relieved sigh of my own,
sitting back. “It’s the right thing to do.”
He snorted. “It ain’t right, kid. There’s
nothing right about this situation. Vali is gonna….” He shook his
head, clenching his teeth. “But you’re right, whatever he does to
me, it’s gonna be a darn sight better than what those Chaplain men
will do. Plus, I can’t drag you into this,” he added under his
See? There it was – the grain of goodness
buried deep within Larry’s soul. I hadn’t been wrong after all.
I had no means to contact Vali and the rest
of my team to let them know I was on my way. I’d accidentally left
Alice’s phone in the back of the taxi.
So I hoped like hell Vali hadn’t sent out
his men to snuff me out for escaping his clutches.
Just as I hoped that Chaplain’s men weren’t
on our tail.
We made it. Larry pulled up on the opposite
side of the street, double parking.
“Isn’t this a loading zone?” I asked as I
got out of the car.
Larry chuckled darkly. “There’s time for
one last crime, ain’t there?” He shrugged. Then he took his jacket
off and chucked it at me. “You might want to cover your face so we
don’t draw a crowd. You look like you’ve been head-butting a brick
wall,” he said with his usual total lack of sympathy.
I chuckled, grabbing his jacket and trying
to hide underneath it without looking like a complete fool.
For a lingering moment, Larry paused, the
door open as he glanced across at his magical gun.
Larry came to another decision, closed the
door, locked it, and nodded across the street. “Come on. You’re the
one who convinced me to come – so you need to hurry up so you can
claim all the glory.”
I offered him a commiserating smile. “I
don’t want glory, Larry. I only want what’s best for
He sniffed as he jaywalked, waving me
forward when I wasn’t ballsy enough to dart out in front of a
truck. “Your heart is not cut out for this world, kid. You’re too
“This world?” I said, voice muffled as it
filtered through the thick, cologne-soaked layers of Larry’s
baseball jacket. “How do you know about the magical world,
“I’ve been in the game long enough – heard
the stories. Plus, it runs in the family.”
With that, we made it across the other side
of the street. I headed towards the front doors.
Larry grabbed my arm and pulled me to the
side. “Word of advice, Vali will hand you your ass if you walk
through the front door looking like that. He keeps his magic and
his business separate.”
I didn’t protest as Larry led me around
back. There was a green, lawn-covered section down one of the sides
of the building, several park benches and even a few tasteful water
features dotted around. Larry marched right up between them,
heading for an apparently inconspicuous section of wall. As he
looked over one shoulder then the next, he reached out a hand, took
a steeling breath, and knocked on the wall.
“Ah, Larry, what are you
A second later, I got my answer. A door
It opened, and out stepped two apparently
normal security guards. Normal until you saw the shining symbols on
the backs of their hands.
Both of them reached for their guns when
they saw Larry.
I bustled forward. “No, he’s handing
himself in. He’s handing himself in,” I said again in a clear
Both of them darted their direct gazes to
Larry. Larry slowly brought his hands up and spread them wide.
“She’s right. I’ve got no weapons, boys. And apparently no sense,”
he added under his breath. “Now find Vali. The kid’s right – time
to hand myself in.”
I watched the security guards exchange a
calculating look, but when Larry didn’t attack them, they waved us
Even though we’d entered by the side of the
building, somehow we ended up in the middle. Right outside of
Vali’s office, in fact.
I took a step forward, head snapping from
side-to-side as I tried to orient myself.
One of the guards appeared to steel himself
and shifted forward to knock on the door.
It opened and Megan appeared in one of her
perfect pant suits.
Immediately, her gaze darted towards
Before she could say anything or bring up
her hand and cast a spell on him, I ducked forward. “He’s handing
Megan sliced her gaze back to Larry.
“Handing yourself in?”
Larry nodded low. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Very well. Take him to a holding cell,”
“Who’s at the door?” I heard a familiar
voice rumble from inside the room.
“Never mind. Just a low-level perp,” Megan
said as she shot Larry a judgmental look.
I heard Vali shift towards the door.
Instantly, my stomach knotted with nerves.
Nerves that wrapped tighter and tighter
around my gut the closer and closer he got.
He came into view. He looked from Larry
straight to me. Then, pointedly, he frowned at the baseball jacket
I still had pressed over my face.
I’d kinda forgotten about it.
“What are you doing here?” he asked
“Oh. I was… I was on a job. Larry was the…
target,” I said uncomfortably, trying to think of a kinder word,
but incapable of finding one. “I… I convinced him to hand himself
“I see,” Vali said in an uncharacteristic,
quiet tone. Once more, he looked from me to Larry then back to
“She’s right. She convinced me to hand
myself in. She was under the impression that you would look
favorably on that,” Larry added in a strong and yet strangled
“I see,” Vali noted once more, tone
unreadable, expression blank.
“Take him to a holding cell,” Megan
repeated. “Vali doesn’t have time to deal with this right
I shifted around, intending to follow.
“I do not, however, see why you are hiding
behind a crumpled baseball jacket,” Vali added, even though Megan
was trying to usher him back into his office.
Vali reached his arms up and crossed them,
staring at me pointedly.
“Oh.” I dropped the jacket, wincing when I
realized how much blood was covering it. Larry wouldn’t be pleased
– he loved that jacket. I swiveled my head down and glanced at my
shirt – it was now completely red.
I would look like a total wreck.
Vali became rigid. Just for a second – a
flickering, darting second – I swore I saw him: Franklin Saunders.
His brow crumpled in shocked compassion. Then, almost immediately,
it stiffened as he turned his anger on Larry. “What did you do to
her?” he growled.
Larry put his hands up.
“He didn’t do anything,” I said as I
darted forward, ready to bodily protect Larry if I had to. “There
were two warlocks after him. One of them pinned me against a
lamplight and punched me.” I winced at the memory. “Larry saved me.
Then I convinced him to hand himself in. Look, I know I’m probably
stepping out of line, but I promised him I’d do everything to get
him a second chance. He handed himself in,” I emphasized, “that has
to be worth something, right?”
“You don’t get to tell Vali what to do,”
I ignored her and looked entreatingly at
Vali. This morning, all I’d wanted to do was slap him. But right
now I appreciated he was the only person who could keep Larry
I was a lot of things, but I wasn’t about to
let my ego get in the way of saving a friend.
“Look, I can vouch for him. He’s a good
man—” I started.
“It’s all right, kid – you’ve done
enough,” Larry said softly.
I ignored him. “Please, you have to help
him out. I don’t know what you want, but just help him. If you need
to punish someone,” I hesitated for the briefest moment, “Then
punish me. Just—”
“Lilly, it’s all right. I can fight my own
battles,” Larry said louder now, putting a careful hand on my elbow
and pulling me back. “And you don’t have to sacrifice yourself for
I stared at Vali, waiting for him to do the
right thing. Because I needed him to do the right thing. I’d
convinced Larry to give up his freedom on the chance Vali could
More than that, I needed not to be wrong.
When I’d begged Larry to come here, I’d come to a decision about
Vali. I’d convinced myself that somewhere underneath that hardened
exterior was the seed of a good man. Maybe it was buried deep –
buried even deeper than Larry’s seed of hope. But it had to be
My nose started to drip again, and I could
feel a few drops of blood trickle down my cheek and neck.
Vali watched them, gaze shifting slowly as
each droplet traced down my throat.
There was total silence as he stared at
me, before finally he took a breath that pushed his large chest
against his shirt. “Very well. Contract him,” he said to
Megan blinked hard. “Sorry?”
“Contract Larry Benjamin McGregor,” Vali
said slowly in a clear, direct voice that could not be
Though I could tell Megan really wanted to
fight this, she would also clearly never talk back to Vali.
Instead, with a prim sniff, she turned to the guards. “Make the
preparations. I’ll be there in a moment.”
I sighed, releasing all the tension that had
pushed me this far. As soon as I did, I winced as the pain flowed
Christ, my nose hurt. It quite rightly felt
like I’d head butted a brick wall.
I put a hand up and poked at my cheeks. Big
mistake. They were so sensitive, the lightest touch felt like a
“Come with me, Lily-white,” Vali said as
he turned hard on his foot and ushered me into his
Megan darted in behind him before I could
move. “Sir, you’re too busy for this. You need to prepare for
“I am,” Vali said in a quiet, patient
I stood outside his office, unsure whether
to follow him in.
Larry nodded my way as the guards took up
position either side of him and began to hustle him down the
corridor. “Thanks, kid. I guess I’ll be seeing you around.” He
waved at me and then walked away.
He might be saying thanks now, but when he
realized what being indentured to Vali meant, I’m sure he would
take the next opportunity to shout until he went purple in the
“Lily-white,” Vali said, loud voice
carrying out into the corridor.
I made a stupidly pathetic whimpering sound
Megan crossed her arms and turned to me.
As always, I found myself momentarily
overcome by his office. It was the feel of the place. I felt like
it reminded me of something… some long lost memory….
Paying no attention whatsoever, I forgot
about the fact I was still gushing blood, and made no attempt to
stop a few droplets from running down my arm and splashing onto the
seriously expensive rug.
Megan’s eyes widened in indignation. “What
are you doing?” she hissed. “This rug is worth more than you’ll
“Megan, that’s enough. And the blood will
wash out. Now, kindly go and oversee the signing of Larry
“Sir,” Megan turned to him, a few strands
loosening from her bun and waving around her shoulders, “you don’t
have time. The job tonight is too important. We have to take Hank
Chaplain down.” Her voice changed, became tight with real emotion.
An emotion other than indignation, that was.
So far Megan had been nothing but a bitch to
me. Now? Now I took an unsteady breath as I saw how strained her
expression became as she stared at Vali.
“I know the importance of this case,
Megan,” Vali said with a patient tone. “Just as I know you are too
close to it.”
Megan froze. I watched her chest stiffen
against her tight blouse.
Like I said, I didn’t exactly like the woman
– but right now my heart went out to her.
“What are you saying?” she managed after a
“That I won’t be requiring your services
tonight. I know you are eager to see Hank brought to justice. And
trust me when I say he will be.” Vali’s voice became dark. I even
fancied that clouds suddenly massed along the horizon and darkened
the sun momentarily.