Episode Three

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Time froze and the world around me ground to a halt, as my best friend Oliver rounded the corner. His usually dark complexion, ashen with fear. It wasn't every day you came face to face with the pissed off side of an ancient demi-demon.

Colby's body immediately changed, relaxed, and the impending sense of danger that was slapping me on the face dissipated.

He skittered around Colby and ran to me. "Teagan, oh baby."

Where Colby had only stood stoically, offered the safety of what he was—Oliver offered comfort. He wrapped me up, all six feet two of him in nothing but a pair of Day-Glo short-shorts and a black cutoff t-shirt emblazoned with a white imitation tuxedo, hugging me as if I was a precious thing.

"She's gone." I said the words for the first time, choking on them as I held tight to my closest and oldest friend.

"I know, I know. Shh now," he whispered against my hair, rocking me gently back and forth as he sang softly in an island language I barely understood.

His spirits or whatever would have told him Nola was dead. But what else would they know?

I pulled back and gazed up at him as the rumble of a motorcycle fired and drowned out the distant howl of police sirens. "Do you know who did it? Can you—"

"No." His lips formed a tight line, but his eyes were sad. "I could try to find out, but the cost—"

I shuddered. The type of magic Oliver practiced was very different than mine. And darker, in a terrifying way. I attributed his often-ostentatious lifestyle choices as his way of balancing the other side.

The roar of Colby's Harley disappeared as Oliver and I stood there, cocooned in the security of our friendship. A reminder that whatever came next, running or facing my new world—I wouldn't do it alone, not so long as Oliver was here.

"What's our story?"

****

Our story was as short as possible. Oliver arrived after I had. Nola was missing, the house was trashed. All my horror and grief summed up into a tiny lie, one that would surely become the snowball that rolled down hill.

Blue lights flashed from the road, bouncing off the vinyl siding and casting an eerie strobe effect on everything around us. How did the cops get used to this? Were they as distracted by the kaleidoscope of colors, flashing like a disco ball, as I was? Probably not, as I doubt they were searching as frantically for a mental escape.

Instead, I was sitting in a plastic lawn chair, stuck in the nightmare of my reality.

"Where the hell is he?" Oliver's inability to be still was evident as he bounced from one sneaker covered foot to the other.

And as if he'd been summoned like one of Oliver's spirits, the he in question strolled through the wall of police vehicles. Stopping long enough to lean into one and shut down the lights.

Bless you, Sean Carmack.

Sean, all six feet plus of muscled local, was the Sheriff's Chief Deputy. He was also one of the few people I trusted—he'd spent his rookie year patrolling our swamp and assisting Nola in anything she thought the mortal world could handle.

Now, instead of advising us that a crime had occurred, or giving Nola tips when there were things happening the humans couldn't quite handle, he was there to question me about the disappearance of my grandmother.

The strange circle of hell my life had become made my stomach twist with pain and a dollop of guilt. Lying to a man who was as inherently good as any I'd ever met felt wrong. Yet, to protect him, the swamp, and Nola—I was going to.

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