In a world where magic is real, Kat is a federal agent who investigates magical crimes.
|Amy watched her husband futz around the room lighting candles. His cheap store-bought robe that contained not one natural fabric was frayed. It tangled around his legs and he paused to free himself.
The room was a mess. Chris had pushed the furniture to the edges of the room in the most haphazard way possible. The area rug she had found a flea market for five bucks was rolled up in the corner where it began to sag in the center like someone who had one too many drinks. In the center of her living room was large, complicated sigil drawn in chalk on the floor-she hoped it was just chalk and that it would all come off or their landlord was going to have a fit. She was pretty sure their landlord would throw a fit if she found out Chris was planning on summoning a demon in the living room regardless of whether the all the chalk came off the floor.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ she asked.
“I told you I studied the ritual, it’ll be a piece of cake,” he replied as he continued to light candles and readjust things on the small side table he had placed at the top of the sigil covered in dark fabric, he had chosen to use as an altar.
Amy readjusted the toddler that was sitter on her hip to her other side. Kat pulled at her mother’s hair and tried to stick her fingers in her mouth, but Amy pushed her daughter’s hands away and said, “Maybe we could at least do on a night where my mom could take the kids?”
“It has to be done on the New Moon.”
“I know, but…” Amy’s voice trailed off.
“But what?” he asked as he continues to arrange various items on the altar.
“But I don’t like the idea of the kids being here for it.”
Chris slammed the lighter he had been using down on the alter hard enough to make Amy jump. He spun around, and Amy saw a flash of something she didn’t recognize in her husband’s eyes. “You want to wait a whole month?”
“I want us to be safe,” she replied.
“We can’t afford to wait a month.”
“We’re not that bad. “
“I can’t believe it!” he said as he stepped around the chalk sigil on the floor careful not smudge it. “You don’t believe I can do it!”
Amy shook her head and readjusted Kat’s weight on her hip again. “That’s not what I said.”
“It’s damn well what you meant,” Christ said as he stalked over to her and shoved his finger in her face.
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Chris. You know I hate when you do that.”
“Then please tell me what you meant,” he said sarcastically.
“I’m not doing this when you’re in this kind of mood,” she replied.
“Do what?” he asked.
She just shook her head and sighed. “Nothing, never mind,” she said. Most of the time it wasn’t worth the fight when Chris got into one of his moods.
“I want to know what you mean?”
“I just meant I don’t think this is the kind of thing the kids should watch,” she replied with a shrug.
“Bullshit! You don’t think I can pull it off,” he said sharply enough the baby started to cry.
Amy tried to soothe the baby and then rolled her eyes at her husband, “Great job.”
His face softened and he reached out and stroked his daughter’s head, “Hey there Kitty Kat, don’t cry. Daddy didn’t mean to yell.” Kat wasn’t placated by her father’s words and continued to cry. “Come on Kitty Kat, look,” Chris then proceeded to cross his eyes and puff out his cheeks. When that didn’t work he went through his repertoire of funny faces until both Kat and Amy were giggling.
Amy and Chris just stared at each other for a moment before Amy said, “I’m just scared.”
Chris cupped his wife’s face in his hands. His fingertips were caked with chalk and he left smudges of it on her cheeks. “I would never let anything happen to you or the kids. I need you to believe in me, Baby. I’m going to take care of you, just like I said I would.”
“I believe in you,” Amy said with a conviction she did not really feel, but at this point, there was no talking Chris out of his plan and it seemed safer if he was confident he could pull it off.
Chris leaned in and kissed her. “Put the kids down and we’ll get started, okay?”
She nodded turned and walked Kat over to the playpen in the corner. Jared was already sleeping, his thumb jammed into his mouth. Amy laid Kat down next to her brother. “Time for sleep,” she said as she kissed her fingers and then lightly brushed them other both of her children’s heads. “Mommy loves you to the moon and back.”
The red and blue lights flashed over the front of the house giving it an eerily glow. Cops ran back and forth keeping neighbors from crossing the perimeter. A few came out of the house and stood taking large gulps of the cool night air trying not to throw up in the bushes after what they had witnessed in the house.
There would be plenty of speculation about what exactly the couple, Christopher and Amy Devlin were doing that night. Only the two of them and whatever had ripped their bodies apart would ever truly know. The biggest question was why did it leave the two children alive?
Kat silently cursed whichever of her co-workers had bought the control top pantyhose that currently felt like they were rearranging her internal organs in unnatural ways. She hadn’t picked out any of the clothing she was currently wearing. Not the skimpy skirt, the tight top or the push-up bra that gave the illusion of a larger chest than she naturally possessed.
She tottered down the street on heels two inches higher than she ever would have worn of her own volition. Her normally auburn hair was hidden under a blonde wig and the tattoos that graced both her forearms were covered in thick makeup
“I hope you’re enjoying the show,” she muttered, knowing the microphone taped to her chest would probably pick it up. She took a deep breath and let it out to settle herself as she reached her destination. It was a small shopfront with relatively large glass windows that advertised it as “Devereaux’s Magical Emporium.”
She pulled the door open and was greeted with the jangle of a bell. The shop was small but crammed with merchandise. Racks in the center of the room held charms, that Kat guessed were already partially enchanted. The perimeter of the room was lined with shelves floor to ceiling, that contained books, bottles, boxes and other potentially magical supplies. Across from the entrance was the counter with a display case that probably held more expensive materials.
The story smelled of incense a woodsy slightly acidic smell. But there was also another smell; something darker underneath. A dank musty smell that Kat couldn’t quite place, but it made her uneasy.
The man behind the counter looked up as Kat crossed the threshold. He was in his mid-sixties with grey hair and neatly trimmed equally grey goatee. He looked like a grandfather with a pair of gold-rimmed glasses perched on his nose and a beige sweater that had leather patches on the elbows.
“Can I help you?” he asked as Kat walked towards him.
“Mr. Devereaux, I presume?” Kate said with a wide smile as she came to lean seductively on the counter.
The man frowned and adjusted his glasses. “Yes, I’m Jacob Deveraux. Do I know you?”
“Oh no, you don’t. I was sent here by a friend. She said that you had the best love charms in town,” Kat said as made a show of looking at the charms in the case.
“Well as you can see we have a large selection of charms.”
“I’m looking for something a little more specific if you know what I mean,” Kat said with a wink.
Deveraux frowned again. “I don’t think that I do. We have charms for general attraction.”
“I don’t really have much problem attracting a man, it’s just getting him to put a ring on it that I’ve been having a problem with, “she said slid her hand down Deveraux’s arm and then wiggled her fingers at him.
He followed her hand with his eyes and then looked up at her. “Love magic aimed at someone specific is illegal.”
“Gale Winters-I mean Gale Taylor said that you were able to give her something that made her Gary pop the question right away.”
“She told you that?”
“I can be very discreet,” she said in a whisper and then placed her index finger to her lips.
“Do you have any idea how long you can go to jail if you’re caught with coercive love magic? How long both of us could go to jail?”
Kat suppressed a smirk and said, “I have an idea. It only matters if we get caught and I don’t plan on that.”
Deveraux seemed to study her for a moment. He looked her up and down as if he was weighing just how likely this woman was to get him sent to prison.
Kat refused to wither under his gaze and instead stood a little straighter. While never been accused of being anything other than average height usually, she was taller than the man behind the counter in the heals and she used it to her advantage to stare down at him.
“Alright,” he said, “I’ll do it for fifteen.”
“Hundred?” Kat said incredulously. “That’s highway robbery. Gale said you charged her seven-fifty.”
“Costs have gone up and I don’t know you,” he said.
“A thousand,” she replied.
The man narrowed his eyes at her, “Twelve hundred.”
Kat smiled. “Deal,” she said as he held out her hand. The man ignored it.
“I’m going to need something of his to use as a focus for the charm. Hair works well,” he said.
“Gale told me,” she said as she pulled a ziplock bag of hair out of her purse and put it on the counter.
He nodded and bent down and began to rummage around underneath the counter. “That’ll do. I’ll need half the cash now and half on delivery.”
Kat would be questioned several times about the events that took place, but she would never be able to pinpoint how she knew something was wrong as Deveraux started to stand up, but she just did and she hit the floor a half second before he brought a sawed-off shotgun to bear and fired.
Kat flattened herself to the floor as rack of charms exploded over her head. Her heart was coming close to beating out her chest as she heard Deveraux fumble to reload the gun. She took this an opportunity to scoot across the floor and put the display racks between her and the crazy man with the gun.
Her wig slipped down over her eyes for a moment. Kat would have laughed had it happened when someone wasn’t trying to kill her. She pulled it off her head and glared at it. Her luck the guy was probably an expert of women’s hair care and noticed the cheap wig and that was what gave her away. She tossed the wig to the side.
“You Pricker bitch!” he screamed as fired again and another rack to Kat’s right exploded. “Why’d you have to pick me?”
“The dealing of illegal magic charms, mostly,” Kat muttered, then called more loudly “Neither one of us needs to get hurt here, Mr. Devereaux. Just put down the weapon and step out with your hands behind your head.”
“Or not,” she muttered again.
Kat knew she only had a few moments before her backup reached the store and she also knew if that happened there was a very real possibility of her getting caught in the crossfire. Deveraux had to know that it was only going this was going to end in him getting killed and he was hellbent on suicide by cop. Kat had no intention of letting him succeed or especially not in him taking her with him.
She took a couple deep breaths and closed her eyes. “Come on, think of something,” she mumbled to herself. She opened her eyes and saw a charm hanging in a package only inches above her head. It was a small purple pouch with a gold sigil embroidered on it. If she focused she could feel the energy coming off of it. Everything in the store was partially enchanted. If she forced them to release their energy all at once she might be able to create a distraction big enough to allow her to subdue Deveraux without any more gunfire.
It was down and dirty magic, but that was the kind of magic Kat was best at. She picked up a splinter of wood lying next to her and jammed it into her left index finger.
“Ow,” she mumbled as she watched the blood well up on the tip of her finger.
It probably wasn’t the best idea to add her own blood to the mix of an already potentially volatile spell but she didn’t exactly have a marker. And she was probably just about due for a tetanus shot anyway.
“Please let work,” she whispered.
She quickly drew a sigil on the floor in her own blood and closed her eyes and poured every ounce of energy and concentration she could muster into the spell. Then she covered her head and pulled her knees to her chest in the fetal position as all the energy in all the charms discharged at the same time.
John Kempner was the first of the agents to reach the magic shop. He was greeted by a door hanging off its hinges the large plate-glass windows were blown out.
He carefully entered the store with his weapon drawn. The store was filled with smoke and bits of paper and other small debris floated in the air. Bent display racks littered the floor as did the former contents of the shelves. Everything that had been made of glass had shattered and glass crunched under his feet.
He slowly made his way to the wreckage of the counter and made his way behind it. There he found Deveraux pinned to the floor. Kat had one knee on Deveraux’s back as she twisted his right arm into a position reminiscent of a chicken wing. Every time the pinned man tried to squirm she would crank his arm and say, “Knock it off.”
She glanced over her shoulder as Kempner reached them. “Welcome to the party, Kempner,” she said.
“We clear,” he asked.
“Yes, he’s the only asshole here.”
Kempner holstered his weapon. “Decided to go out on a bang, I see.”
Kat rolled her eyes at him over. “Very funny, you want to help me cuff this guy or you want to make jokes?”
“I can’t do both?”
Kat lifted her damp ponytail off the back of her neck and twisted it side to side to relieve tension. She almost managed to feel halfway human again after a shower and a cup of coffee. Now she stared at her computer screen trying to type out the report for the incident in the magic shop.
She was at least back in her normal work attire and no longer dressed like a reject from a “Real Housewives,” show. She wore a white cotton blouse with the sleeves securely buttoned at the wrists to keep her tattoos from showing. She preferred no lingering glances at them from her fellow agents, even within the office. Dark grey trousers with a matching jacket, which was currently hanging on the back of her chair. And her gun securely holstered on her hip.
It hadn’t even been her case. She agreed to go undercover when another agent had gotten sick. She tapped her fingers lightly on the edge of the edge of the desk as she thought how to best word the mechanism of the spell she had cast in words even her boss’s bosses could understand.
She glanced up when a man walked over and perched himself on the corner of her desk.
“Should have known you’d go out with a bang,” The man said with a wry smile. Tony Hale was mid-fifties but didn’t look it. He still had dark hair and an athletic build. He looked like the text box G-Man specimen.
He had been the man who recruited Kat into the agency. He was also one of the few people in it that she truly counted as one of her friends despite being her boss.
Kat rolled her chair back and returned the smile, “Well I needed to leave you with something to remember me by.”
“Little chance of forgetting you,” he said as his smile faded, “You did get checked out by medical, right?”
“I’m fine,” Kat replied.
“That didn’t answer my question, Devlin.”
“EMS checked me out at the scene, said I was fine,” she said with a shrug. She held up her finger with a flesh colored band aid, “Unless you think this can get medical leave for a couple weeks. I mean I won’t object to paid vacation.”
Hale ignored her.
“When’s your flight?”
Tony sighed and leaned forward. “I can still put the kibosh on your transfer. Just give me the word.”
Kat smiled and patted Tony on the knee. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“I know you’ve had family,” he paused as if looking for the right word, “issues, but it’s no reason to throw your career away. Take some leave, I’ll approve it.”
“Tony look, I appreciate it. I appreciate everything you’ve ever done for me, but it’s time for me to go home,” She straightened herself up in the chair and pushed herself closer to the desk, “Besides I don’t think transferring to the office with the highest per-capita magical crime rate in the country is throwing away my career.”
“The operative word being, ‘per-capita.’ Those aren’t absolute numbers; the Avalon office is still the smallest office we have outside of Alaska. You will be one of five agents,” he held up five fingers to emphasize this point, “And I know Ed Callahan, he will not put up with stunts like you pulled today.”
Kat turned her head sharply towards Tony. “That wasn’t a stunt. You think I did that to make a show? I was trying to keep both me and the suspect alive, that is my job, right?” She didn’t add that she knew Ed Callahan as well, and he being her direct supervisor was the thing she was most nervous about. She had no idea if he remembered her.
“It is. But you’re going to be careful how you do you job up there. You’re a good agent, Kat. But you also have to know that I protect you from some of the shit that wants to roll downhill onto you, right?”
Kat did know. She also knew that she got splattered with plenty of shit anyway. She was done with DC.
“Stay Kat, you’re liked here. You have people here that have your back.”
Kat laughed out loud at that. “You and maybe Kempner, on his good days. The rest either are scared of me or think I’m only slightly better than the people we put away. I’m always going to be just a Witch to them.”
“You think it’ll be different up there?”
“No,” she said with a sigh, “But at least I’ll be home.”
Tony sighed and stood up and smoothed his suit. “If you change your mind before the flight…” he let his words trail off.
Kat nodded, “I won’t, but thanks.”
He nodded turned and started to walk back to his office, “I want that report on my desk before you leave,” he called back over his shoulder.
“Yes, Sir,” Kat replied with only a slightly sarcastic tone.
“Next stop Avalon-on-the Hudson, next stop Avalon-on-the-Hudson,” the tinny sounding voice announced overhead. Kat had been day-dreaming starring out the window prior to voice’s announcement.
Kat watched the people around her begin to gather up their things. Kat herself made sure she had her purse. Her suitcase lay in the rack above her head and she’d wait until the train stopped to try and grab it.
The train slowed and finally came to a stop. Kat stood and heaved her suitcase out of the rack. It contained clothes for about a week. Her apartment in DC she had decided to sublet, so her furniture remained there, the rest of her belongings were in a truck from DC to a nearby storage facility.
Kat threaded her way through the crush of people trying to exit the train and stepped onto the platform. She took a deep breath, it smelled of diesel exhaust. The sky was overcast and the air felt thick and humid. The tiniest hint of a breeze brushed against her skin, hinting a possible thunderstorm on its way. I’m home, Kat thought to herself.
It hadn’t been that long since she had been in Avalon. It had been less than a year since Diane’s funeral and Kat had been back a few months ago to discuss her plans to transfer back with Jared. But this was the first time since she had gone to the academy that she had been back and not had plans to leave again.
“Aunt Kat, Aunt Kat,” a high-pitched voice called from her left. She turned and saw her niece Maddy running towards her. Her brother was trying to chase after her while balancing Kat’s nephew James on his hip. He called after the girl to stop but she continued towards Kat unabated by her father’s words.
Kat kneeled down and opened her arms, Maddy ran into them. “Hi bug,” Kat said as she squeezed the girl.
“You’re here, you’re here,” Maddy said in a sing-song voice.
“Yep,” Kat released the girl. And stood up. She could swear the girl had grown two inches since she had last seen her. Maddy was tall and lanky for a five-year-old, with ash blonde hair that hung to her shoulders and big bright blue eyes. She grinned ear to ear up at Kat and Kat noticed she had lost a front tooth. She was also wearing a pink shirt with a flower and rather inexplicably a purple tutu.
“Madison Katherine Devlin, I told you not to run away from me in public places,” Jared huffed as he reached Kat and Maddy.
“But I saw Aunt Kat and you’re slow,” Maddy whined she turned towards her father.
“And you should listen to your Dad,” Kat said as she placed a hand on Maddy’s head, “Hi, Red,” Kat said with a smile.
Jared grinned back, “Hi Kit-Kat.”
“Don’t call me that,” they said simultaneously, though Jared’s tone was mocking as Kat stepped closer and hugged her brother. He returned the hug with his free arm and kissed her on the cheek.
“Welcome home, Sis,” he said softly.
“Thanks,” she said as she stepped back slightly, and turned to her nephew. “Can I get a kiss, James?”
“No,” the two-year-old said and turned his head away and buried his face in his father’s neck.
“No? Well then I’m going to have to tickle you then,” She said.
“Tickle him, tickle him,” Maddy chimed in.
Kat made her hands into claws and began to ferociously tickle the boy as he let out high pitched squeals of delight. I’m home.
Kat stood in her brother’s living room looking at the framed pictures hanging on the wall. All of them showed images of a happy family. Parents hugging their children and kids playing. Diane smiled back at her from many of them. Kat had liked Diane. She hadn’t known her particularly well, but she had liked her. She had liked her because Diane had loved Jared. But she still felt a pang of guilt that Kat didn’t know that much about the woman who had given birth to Kat’s niece and nephew.
Diane and Jared had dated since college. They had gotten married and had the kids and had the perfect life until she laid down one day because she had a headache and two hours later Jared hadn’t been able to wake her up. A massive hemorrhagic stroke caused by an undiagnosed aneurysm. That had been not quite a year ago.
Jared had been devastated. Kat knew her brother just wanted to climb into his grief and not come out, but he had to be strong for the kids. James was too young to understand, Maddy still occasionally asked when Mommy was coming home.
Kat took a sip of wine and turned when she heard Jared enter the room.
“Kid’s asleep?” Kat asked.
“Finally,” Jared said with a sigh as he flopped down on the flower printed couch and placed his feet and the coffee table. Kat wondered if Diane had picked the couch out because it was horribly ugly and didn’t at all seem like something Jared would pick.
Kat took a seat next to her brother and mimicked his position.
Kat and Jared barely looked like siblings, let alone twins. Kat was not particularly tall, but she was thin and lanky, often joking that she was built like a twelve-year-old boy with reddish-brown hair and green eyes. Jared was quite tall at six feet three inches and had a muscular build with sandy blonde hair and the same bright blue eyes as Maddy.
Jared plucked Kat’s glass out her hand and took a sip, despite her protest of, “Hey, get your own.” Jared gave her a one-fingered salute in response.
Jared handed the glass back to her and said, “You know I’m glad you’re here, even if it is screwing with the kid’s bedtime routine.”
“Thanks,” Kat said with a laugh and then drank some of her wine. “I feel like there’s a ‘but’ on the end of that sentence.”
Jared sighed and said, “But we’re doing ok, you don’t have to be here.”
“I want to be here.”
“Yes,” Kat glanced at a picture of Diane on the wall, “I want to be here. I saw Diane once or twice a year and now…” her voice trailed off. “I don’t want to miss out Maddy losing any more teeth or James talking more. I don’t want to see you guys once or twice a year. I’m not here because I think you need me, Red. I’m here because I need you.”
“Ah shucks, Sis,” Jared said playfully as he hooked his arm around his sister’s neck pulled her towards him. He planted a kiss on her temple, “But seriously I’m glad you’re here.”
“Seriously, me too."