Jack and I argued the entire way back to Precinct headquarters.
“We don’t know what he was carrying,” I pointed out for the third time. “It could have been anything. The… laundry, even.”
Okay, even I knew I was stretching it with that one.
Jack just gave me a sidelong glance. “You’re making my point, you know,” he said with a grimace. “There could have been anything in that burlap sack.”
“But he flew right over us. Valentine isn’t that stupid.”
“This is your counterpoint? That Valentine is too smart of a criminal mastermind to tip his hand like that?”
As we pulled up in front of the abandoned looking storefront, Jack shook his head. “I seriously worry about you sometimes, I really do.”
I stared out the window at the door to the precinct. It didn’t look like much, of course. It was nothing more than dusty ‘opening soon’ storefront, an illusion to keep the regular public from wandering in, but what I saw as I frowned at it was the worst parts of my history repeating itself. “If you tell them, they’re going to try to bring Valentine in for questioning. He’s not going to take that well.”
The understatement of the year: ‘not take it well.’ But the reality of what it would be like caught in my throat.
A stabbing flash of a memory of Valentine fighting the police who had come to our apartment that night cut through my mind. With a shudder and a pounding heart, I recalled the sound of bones cracking, screaming, and the deep-down, sickening sense that Valentine had been holding back the whole time. I could see it in his eyes when the police finally forced him to the floor. That look that said, ‘I only bow my head because you ask me to.’ I knew. I knew that if I’d wanted, they would have been like nothing to him, he would have left lifeless bodies on the floor in a flash, and we could have escaped.
“It’ll be instinct, to fight,” I continued, my own voice sounding hollow and far away. “Then it will be like before, when the facts stop mattering and everyone just wants to put him away because he’s dangerous.”
At some point Jack came around to my side of the car, because when he opened the door for me I started. “It won’t be like last time,” Jack said. “We know what he is.”
Right, I thought, so it’ll be worse.
I found myself saying things I’d said before, back in Chicago, “He doesn’t mean to be this way.”
Jack took my hand and helped me up out of the car. “What are you saying, love? Of course he means to be this way. He’s a dragon.”
“And just like that you’re judge, jury and executioner, aren’t you?” I snapped, the fear in the pit of my stomach souring into a cold fury. “I’ve seen this happen before, remember? I know what cops are like.”
Lifting his hands in the air in surrender, Jack stepped back, “Whoa, whoa. That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean, then?” My fists settled against my hips.
“Erm, well, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not like your familiar is a kitten. You can’t pretend it’s not in his nature.”
“To be a murderer? Is that what you’re saying?” I was shouting now. My voice cracked with emotion.
Jack took a step back.
Sarah Jane called out from the flat roof of the storefront. Her sharp caw echoed off the buildings. I got the sense she was telling me to back off. Just like Valentine would, if the situations were reversed, I thought. I pointed up at her, noting the irony. “Is she going to attack me? Because that’d be funny. That’s what he was like, you know, just reacting to my emotions, trying to protect me.”
“Are we talking about the bundle we saw?” Jack asked, his hands slowly dropping. “Because this sounds like something else.”
The sun beat down on my head. My heart thudded in my chest. Had I made a mistake? Given Jack more ammunition with which to take down Valentine? But, but… they knew about all that didn’t they? Suddenly, I could remember if I’d imagined the idea that Spenser had gotten my files from the Illinois court system or if I’d just assumed, being cops, that they would have.
I covered my mouth with my hands, but the instinct was like the proverbial barn door, especially when Jack’s thoughtful expression deepened and he asked, “Are you saying that Valentine has some kind of history? This sort of thing has happened before?” Then, his eyes grew wide and accusatory. “Is that why you don’t want me to tell what we saw? Are you covering up for something?”
“No!” I gripped the still open door of Jack’s car like a shield. “No, it’s not like that,” I tried again, forcing calmness into my voice that I didn’t feel. “We had some trouble in the past is all, nothing like this.”
“What kind of trouble?”
I was sure I looked like a skittish rabbit. My eyes darted everywhere, my knuckles turned white where they gripped the steel of the door, and my body shook with the desire to hide or run or both. I tried to breathe, tried to remember that Jack was a good guy. He understood about magic. He wouldn’t be like those cops who asked about my medication the moment I said anything about how my stepmother was a real demon.
But, it was so hard to trust… because any time in the past when I’d opened up to anyone besides Valentine, it had always ended in disaster. Sometimes the mistake was obvious. People would start shouting, “Are you crazy? What kind of bullshit is that?” Other times, eyes would glaze over instantly and there’d be a very patronizing, “Oh, yes. I see. Well, I’m sure that’s how it seems, but have you seen your doctor?” The worst ones, though, were the ones that pretended. They’d nod and say all the right things, even act like they believed. They were the ones who always did the most damage. They’d go behind your back, tell on you, or report you … all while smiling in your face.
I felt something dark swelling up inside me, and before I even really knew what I was doing the curse left my mouth: “Fuck this.”
It was a strong one.
The power of the curse slammed against Jack and Sarah Jane like a gale force wind. It whipped through my hair, cold and strong, as they were knock to the ground. I stood there for a moment, completely caught up in the amazing release of it, like some kind of massively pent up… orgasm. Yes, it was like that… the way my whole body felt the tingling, soaring rush.
Thus, I was pretty sure I was smiling manically when the door to the precinct flew open and the demon agents rushed out, guns drawn.
YOU ARE READING
Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...