Urban extinction a new a.., p.10
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       Urban Extinction: A New Adult Paranormal Fantasy, p.10

           K.N. Lee
 
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  “Good. I’m taking you home. You’re sitting this one out,” she said.

  “No way,” Livia said through clenched teeth. “I’m going!”

  “You need rest.”

  “No! First off, we both need rest. We’re both exhausted. If we go alone, one of us might miss something. If we’re together with two sets of tired eyes, it’s better than one.”

  Egan’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel. A logic bomb was about to be detonated.

  “Second, I can’t be alone. Can’t. What happens if I have another episode and you’re not there? How will you feel about making me stay home then?”

  Egan’s belly did flip-flops. “Like an ass, Livs, you know that.”

  “Decision made.” Livia brushed her hands together. “Done and done.”

  “Okay, deal.” Egan sighed. “But we make it quick then we head home and get some shut-eye.”

  Zipping along the FDR, she took the ramp toward the Queens Midtown Tunnel, deep in thought.

  “This seems like an odd way to get to Psi-3891.” Livia frowned.

  “We’re not going there.”

  “Where are we going then?” Livia scowled as she studied Egan.

  “To pay a visit to a dear, old friend from the institution—Frank Barker.” Egan’s lips quirked into a wicked smile.

  “Oh, I know who you meant when you said we were going to visit the best person to find someone. I just assumed he still lived at Psi-3891. I wasn’t thinking. It still hasn’t sunk in that it’s a place of good and children live there.”

  “Yeah, that takes some processing, doesn’t it?” Egan gave her a warm smile.

  “Yeah.” Livia fiddled with the collar of her shirt.

  “You know he’s the best at what he does. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before.”

  “Yes. He’s the best. As for why we didn’t think of it before, you know the answer to that question. He’s a real dick.”

  Egan scoffed. “No shit.”

  “But, in the middle of the night?”

  Egan shrugged. “Police business, what can I say?”

  “He’ll be pissed.” Livia’s hand fluttered to her throat.

  “From what I remember, he was always pissed. He was an angry teen. No doubt he grew up to be an even angrier man.” She exited the tunnel, flipped the turn signal, then turned off onto 11th Street. “But, he was the best at channeling divinities and deities. And no one can find a missing person like he can. I’m surprised the 12th precinct didn’t snatch him right up. I’m hoping he can find out who’s fucking with you.”

  They pulled in front of a well-worn house near the Calvary Cemetery. The house, as well as the entire area, had seen better days. Even at night, in the dim glow of street lights, signs of neglect and disrepair were evident in the clapboard home. The siding looked like it was hanging on for its life.

  After exiting the car, they strode along the sidewalk, kicking toys out of the way. A motion sensor light flicked on, illuminating the grungy front stoop. It looked like it sagged in defeat.

  “Ready?” Egan asked.

  Livia nodded.

  Egan rang the doorbell.

  A dog barked inside. Then, a thump-thump followed, like it hurled its body against the door. After that, came the scratching of dog’s nails against wood.

  Livia shrank back and tugged her coat tightly around herself.

  “Damn. That dog’s going to bring the house down.” Egan took a step back.

  A man shouted from inside the house. “Get back. Down, Waldo! Down!”

  Then came a thud followed by a whine.

  The door cracked open and a slice of a man’s face became visible. Even through the slit, his perma-scowl could be seen. He hunched over, gripping the collar of the brown and white Pit Bull named Waldo.

  Egan flashed a side-eye at Livia. It’s him.

  Livia wrapped her arms around her tummy. Yep.

  Waldo’s tongue lolled. The dog grinned and salivated, looking very pleased with himself.

  “Can I help you?” Frank snapped.

  “We’re with the police.” Egan flashed her badge. “We need to ask you some questions.”

  “Shit. Can it wait? I don’t want to wake up the wife and kids.”

  “Frank, is everything okay?” a woman’s voice called.

  “Shit,” he said again. “It’s fine,” he yelled. “Wrong address.” He hissed at Egan and Livia. “Okay, the kids. They need to sleep.”

  A baby’s wail rang out.

  “Fuck it all to hell.” Frank threw open the door. He shoved the dog back to keep it from escaping and slammed the door behind him. Standing in a robe and men’s pajamas, with battered slippers on his feet, he looked like a hen-pecked husband. He took a good long glare at the women before him. As recognition dawned, his face transformed from angry to fury. “What the fuck are you two doing here?”

  Egan expected to see steam shoot from his ears like a cartoon. “Like I said—we need to ask you a few questions. That’s all.”

  Time had not been kind to Frank. Despite being the same age as Egan—thirty-one—his shoulders stooped like an old man’s. His face bore bitter lines and scars, like he’d tussled with a badger and the badger won. Lank, light brown hair fringed his eyes, drooping listlessly, same as the house siding. The only fire left in Frank’s visage seemed to be the rage burning inside, making his brown eyes appear flecked with cinders.

  “You need to leave. That part of my life…that fucking Psi hell hole…that’s behind me. Dead, buried, and decomposed. My wife knows nothing, do you hear me? Nothing. And my kids? God help us all if one of them inherits my crazy-ass abilities. I’ll fucking kill myself and them, too, if that happens.”

  Egan’s eyes grew wide. “That seems a bit extreme, Frank.”

  Livia reached out to touch Egan’s arm. I’ve got this. He always had a soft spot for me.

  “Yes, we got it, Frank. It wasn’t our favorite time, either.” She rested her hand on his forearm.

  He regarded her hand with a scowl, before flicking it from his arm. “If you’re doing that mind thing you do, stop it right now.”

  “I was only offering comfort,” Livia said, looking affronted. “We all came from the same place. We understand.”

  “Yeah, but from the look of you two, you’re faring far better than me.” He put his hand above his eyes, shielding them from the street light, and squinted at Egan’s car. “How is it I live in a shit-hole, drive a beat-up piece of shit sedan, and one of you drives a classy Corvette, huh?”

  “Well,” Egan said slowly. “We actually left Psi-3891 behind. You seem to still live there.” She glanced across the street at the cemetery.

  Frank’s mouth bunched into a tight rosette.

  Livia gave a quick toss of her head, sending her purple tinged hair over her shoulder. “Sure, we still have nightmares…but we’re using our skills for the good of humanity. I think that has allowed us to fare better than others.”

  Frank’s nostrils widened, giving him a bullish appearance. “State your business and get out of here.”

  Egan and Livia glanced at one another.

  Livia shrugged.

  Egan began talking. “We need to find a guy named Renner Müntz. It’s critical that we find him.”

  Frank took a step back. “Isn’t he that the guy who they arrested for drugs recently? And then he escaped prison? I saw it on the news.”

  “That’s the one.” Egan took a step forward.

  Frank flattened himself against the door. “I don’t need no trouble. Get the hell out of here.”

  “He’s not going to do anything to harm you,” Egan stated in her no-nonsense voice.

  “No!” He fingered the door knob behind him.

  “Look,” Egan said, lunging toward him and grabbing the lapel of his robe. “We didn’t come here to start any trouble but we’re not above bringing some your way if the need arises. Livia and her fine skills can sift through your mind in a heartbeat
and find out what dirty deeds you’re still up to. Remember your teenage-self sneaking into the girls’ dorm at night?”

  “Screwing underage girls?” Livia added.

  “I don’t…” His eyes slid left and right.

  “Livia? Is he telling the truth?” Egan asked.

  Livia’s eyelids fluttered shut. After a moment, she opened her eyes and gave Egan a knowing look. “Uh huh. Still a perv.”

  “Stop it! Quit trying to access my private thoughts. All right, I’ll see what I can find.”

  Waldo started whining and scratching the door.

  Frank kicked the door. “Shut up!” He turned his angry gaze back toward them. “So when did you last see him?”

  Egan and Livia side-eyed the other.

  Don’t tell him we were at the prison when he escaped.

  Yeah, or we’ll see a wet mark stain the stoop.

  Egan fought back a giggle. “When he was booked.”

  “Give me your hands. Both of you.”

  Egan and Livia reached out to take his hands. They were surprisingly hot, as if his anger burned as hot as her Pyrokinesis.

  He closed his eyes.

  Standing in their freakish circle near Calvary Cemetery, Egan imagined they looked like a cult auditioning for a horror show flick. She looked at Livia, clenching her teeth and pulling the bottom of her mouth down.

  “Right?” Livia mouthed.

  “Quiet,” Frank hissed.

  Egan peered at him.

  He scrunched up his face. His lips parted. He started panting wildly. Finally, he yanked his hands away from them, extending his arms in the air. “He’s blocking me. The bastard’s blocking me.”

  “How do you know?” Egan asked.

  “What did you see?” Livia said.

  “I just know. It’s him or someone working with him.” He began brushing furiously at his arms with twitching, jittery movements. “He’s somewhere near W. 72nd. That’s all I can tell you.”

  Livia’s thoughts slid into Egan’s brain. That’s near that horrible House of Satan.

  Yes, near where Jason’s body was dumped.

  Frank skittered toward the front door like a frightened rat. “Go away. You won’t get anything else from me.” He swung open the door, kicking Waldo out of the way.

  Egan put her hand on the door so he couldn’t close it.

  Peering through the crack once more, while Waldo barked and howled, Frank hissed, “You need to leave Psi-3891 behind. Let it all go.”

  “We already told you we did. What about you, Frank?”

  Blood spurted from his nose as if he’d been suddenly punched. He swiped it with his free hand and stared at it, his face a mask of horror. “That’s Renner! He’s coming for me.”

  “Frank, honey? Are you okay?” his wife asked from somewhere behind him.

  “I’m fine, sweetheart. Go back to sleep.” He dragged his arm across his bleeding nostrils. “Please. Go away. Don’t ever contact me again. Psi-3891 will ruin you.”

  He slammed the door in their faces.

  Turning to Livia, Egan said, “Well, that went fantastic.”

  “That poor man. He’s haunted,” Livia said.

  “And will be for the rest of his days. Let’s head out and get some shut eye before we face any more demons.” She strode down the sidewalk, aiming for the red ‘Vette.

  “Wow,” she said, as she slid into the front seat.

  “Right? He’s even angrier than before. And the fear in his eyes. That, and the bleeding.” Livia shivered.

  “I know. Something terrible’s going on. I doubt I’ll get those terrified eyes out of my mind anytime soon.”

  She stepped on the gas, eager to get away. Tomorrow they had to hunt down a madman—they had to find Renner Müntz.

  Livia

  After a few restless hours of sleep, Livia and Egan got up at four in the morning and headed toward a strip mall near W. 72nd. As far as they knew, there was only one strip mall in that area—Freaky Pete’s.

  Freaky Pete’s boasted rare and eclectic stores, like Witchy Wanda’s Spells and Talismans, and The Soul Apothecary. There was even an arcade called Funopolis where the outcasts and delinquents gathered. Livia only stepped foot in Freaky Pete’s when she had to—if they were on a case. The entire place had a sinister vibe to it, like it served as a front for fun occult kitsch, but served a darker purpose.

  W. 72nd was a ghost town at that hour. A few homeless people snuggled up against the benches and in bushes overlooking the water. During the day, the pier was overrun with tourists and locals. Now, Livia and Egan were free to investigate without any distractions.

  What Frank had said still left Livia unsettled. Something was terribly wrong. They hadn’t had a case this personal and terrifying in all their career.

  “So,” Livia said, folding her arms across her chest. “What are we supposed to be looking for, exactly?”

  Egan shrugged and led the way from the parking lot to the run-down storefronts that lined the pier. “We’ll know when we see it.”

  Livia followed Egan, scanning their surroundings for anything out of the ordinary. She glanced at a homeless couple huddled together near a small thatch of bushes. A sinking feeling filled her gut and she quickly looked away. That could have easily of been her and Egan years ago, after they’d escaped Psi-3891. Homeless and without hope.

  How they managed to pull themselves up and make something of their lives was still a mystery to her. Perhaps, it was because they had each other. Always had. Always would.

  They strode past Witchy Wanda’s. A lifelike wax figure—supposedly Wanda herself—leered at them from the front window. Her eyes seemed to follow every move.

  Livia shivered and wrapped her sweater tighter.

  A rat skittered out from between the Soul Apothecary and the locked public restroom.

  Livia yelped.

  Egan gave her a stern look. “Pull yourself together, Livia.”

  The light of the moon reflected off something at the corner of the shop ahead—something called Waiting in the Dark, a store for unusual sleepwear. In the dark, it looked like something metallic glinted along the side. She would have ignored it under different circumstances, but it called to her. Beckoned.

  “Egan,” Livia whispered, tiptoeing toward what she made out to be a narrow door. If the moon hadn’t shone on it, it would have blended in with the side of the building.

  “Hey, Liv? Where are you going?” She increased her speed.

  “Come here. Take a look at this.”

  Livia jogged until she stood before the door. Everything within her told her that this was it. What they were looking for.

  She placed her hands against the cool surface, vibrations tingling up and down her arms. She closed her eyes.

  “What is it?”

  Livia licked her lips and gave the door a push. It didn’t budge. She held her palms toward the door. Prickles of electricity tickled her skin. “There is definitely something here. Something supernatural.”

  She grunted and pushed again. The door still didn’t budge. She chewed the corner of her bottom lip and closed her eyes, using her inner sight. Bands of lightning ran up and down the door, illuminating strange symbols she’d never seen before. “I’m pretty sure a spell has been cast, preventing entry.”

  Egan tapped her shoulder.

  “Step aside. I’ve got this. See anybody?” Egan looked right and left.

  “Not a soul. Go for it.” Livia stepped backward and watched as Egan conjured a fire ball.

  She threw it into the door with such force that they were both pushed back. The door exploded open. A gust of wind blew them in the face, the smell of sulfur strong in their nostrils.

  “Impressive,” Livia said under her breath.

  Egan flashed a grin. “I know.” She stuck her head through the opening.

  Livia did the same. “See anything?”

  “Nope. You?”

  “Not really. Should we go inside?”

>   “That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?” Egan shook her head.

  An eerie silence welcomed them as they stepped inside. A narrow corridor led away from the tiny foyer. The walls were too close together, so they had to turn sideways and take their time down the long hallway. For it to be a part of the strip mall, it didn’t lead to any of the shops.

  “Do you think this is a hidden gateway or something?”

  “Yeah,” Egan said. “Let’s hope we aren’t walking to hell.”

  The thought made Livia shiver.

  The hall ended at a square room, about twelve feet by twelve feet. A single light bulb swung from the short ceiling, dangling at about eye level.

  Livia and Egan maneuvered their way around it.

  At the far end of the room stood a door, open wide to another room. Incense wafted through the doorway.

  Livia walked hesitantly toward the fragrant smell.

  Egan’s footfalls fell like water drops against the floor, lending an eeriness to the already spooky sensation in Livia’s belly.

  She paused before the entrance. “You ready?” she whispered.

  Egan nodded.

  Together, they stepped through the entrance.

  A smaller room awaited and to their surprise, so did five bodies sprawled on the floor.

  “Holy shit,” Egan said. “Are they dead?” She pushed past Livia, rushing toward the bodies.

  “Are they alive?” Livia asked, bending down for a better look. “Crap. Look, Egan.” She pointed at the circle of salt surrounding the victims.

  “I see it,” Egan said. “And check that out.” She gestured toward a pentagon drawn on the dark wooden floor. “Fuck,” she muttered. She crouched and shook the shoulders of two of the body.

  “Are they alive?”

  Egan looked up. “I can’t wake them. But, they are still alive. Barely.” She peeled back the shirt of the guy before her. “I don’t see any signs of injury.”

  “Look at this,” Livia said, nodding to three stars inside the pentagram.

  Standing, Egan sucked her teeth. “Witchcraft.”

  Footsteps came from behind, and they both jumped. Egan spun around, drawing her gun.

  In the doorway stood Renner and Alicia.

 
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