The crows murder, p.14
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       The Crow’s Murder, p.14

         Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
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  The little chime of the call ending rang out through the silent house, and my knees turned to jelly. I crashed to the kitchen floor and began sobbing. First Wesley, now Jonathan? No... surely this was some cruel joke.

  “Go; I’ve got this,” Vali murmured in a quiet voice, but my distraught brain didn’t compute what he was saying until the air pressure shifted with the distinctive shift of portal magic. Austin must have gone to join the guys. And left me behind again.

  I wanted to yell and scream, demand that they come back and take me to Omega, but I couldn’t even move. My body had stopped obeying any commands I gave it.

  Instead, I just lay there on the cold kitchen floor, crying more tears than the human body should ever be able to produce. All the while, Vali sat with me, stroking my hair and murmuring to me in Romanian.



  Director Pierre had really stepped up the security at Omega since we’d left. Either that or there were mages on site who were blocking our portals. I really hoped it was the former, or we were going to need to take disciplinary steps against our people.

  As it was, my portal dropped us on the perimeter of the grounds, and the three of us needed to sprint across the expansive lawns to reach the administration building where the director’s office was.

  About a hundred yards from the front steps, I stopped abruptly and waved at the boys to stop too.

  “What is it?” River asked, his eyes glued on our destination.

  “Something is wrong here. Since when has Omega been totally unguarded? We just appeared out of thin air, then sprinted across the lawn under spotlights, but no one has come out to detain us or even check our IDs.” I looked around us, peering at the spots where I knew there were security points. Or where there were usually security points.

  “You’re right,” River murmured, looking around more cautiously.

  “Vixen was right; something bad is going down here.” Cole jerked his head toward the administration building. “Let’s get in there and find Director Pierre.”

  “Stay alert,” River cautioned, and the three of us continued across the grass. It was just as we started up the steps that the unmistakable sound of a gunshot rang out through the silence.

  “Quick,” Cole barked, yanking the doors open and halfway off their hinges. Dragons.

  We’d made it maybe fifty feet down the hallway when we hit a wall. Literally hit a wall and bounced off it, sprawling on the ground.

  “Caleb?” River demanded, and I stepped closer to the barrier, testing the invisible obstruction with my fingertips.

  “Whoever is here, they have mages working for them.” I scowled, feeling the threads of magic that made up the wall.

  “I thought you had that shit locked down?” Cole muttered, standing beside me and glaring through the invisible barrier. “Didn’t you and Austin do some voodoo ritual that made them all do what you say?”

  “I thought we had too,” I admitted. “That was only a fraction of the mages of the world, though. They were supposed to be all the coven heads so the magic would transfer down from them. If a coven didn’t attend...” I trailed off and shrugged, still examining the wall. “We were sort of rushing things and didn’t do any kind of roll-call. I’d planned on following up later. As for this, I can break it; it’s not very strong. Stand back.”

  Waving them back a few feet, I flicked my pocket knife out and cut a small slice through my inner arm. So often in movies it showed people cutting their palms for blood magic, but that just made no sense to me. Unless you could heal like Kit, then you’ve just disabled your hand. Seemed stupid, so I only went for inner arm, or in a hurry—and for dramatic flair—thumb pads.

  With deft movements, I smeared my blood on the invisible wall in the pattern of a couple of runes that would explode the magic. It wasn’t the most subtle way to do it, but it was effective and would leave the original caster with a nasty headache.

  When I completed the third rune, the wall shattered, sending glowing, whip-like tendrils snapping through the hallway that narrowly missed River’s head.

  “Let’s go,” I urged them, stepping through the fading mess of magic and hurrying along to Jonathan’s office.

  The door was ajar when we arrived, and River took the lead, drawing his gun and indicating for Cole to take the other side of the door. It was an easy transition for us to slip into business mode, and when River kicked the door open further, we were all inside in a matter of seconds.

  Cole and River still had their guns on them, as they’d been fine-tuning the target range at home, but I was weaponless. Except for my magic, that was.

  As soon as I could see the contents of the room, I threw out a web of magic that ensnared every occupant as sure as if they’d been dipped in cement. Cole and River trained their guns on the one person we knew was responsible.

  “Simon,” I spat with disgust, glaring at the dirty, decaying man standing over the director’s corpse. He sneered back at me, but was trapped in my web just as surely as his men were. One of them was curled in a ball, clutching at his head in pain, which meant he was probably the mage responsible for the barrier.

  “Shit,” Cole cursed, moving closer to check the director’s lifeless body, then over to Simon’s frozen form. “What are we going to do with this piece of crap?”

  “Kill him, once and for all,” I suggested. “I’m sick of this asshole slipping away like a damn cockroach. I say we kill him properly this time. I’ll need to dispose of these three as well.” I nodded to three of the five men who had been assisting Simon in his mission. It appeared as if they were searching for something... perhaps whatever Pierre had been deleting from his hard drive while he talked to Kit.

  The three mages, obvious for the light shimmer of magic around them, were not men I recognized. But given we’d been in charge for all of a hot second, that didn’t surprise me.

  Footsteps rang out down the corridor, and both Cole and River swung their guns to the door.

  “Woah.” Austin skidded to a halt as he rounded the corner and gave their guns a pointed look. “Ah shit.” He spotted the director at Simon’s feet and rushed over to check his vitals. The bullet hole in the middle of his forehead and the pool of blood beneath him sort of spelled things out though.

  “We need to take Simon back to Kit for judgement,” River said quietly, scowling at the walking dead-man. “This is her kill; we can’t take that away from her.”

  “Bullshit,” Cole snarled. “I’m not letting this garbage heap anywhere near her.”

  “Sorry, mate,” River sighed. “In this case you don’t have a say. Kit will need the closure of seeing him die with her own eyes.”

  “We should check the rest of the building for any more of these fuckers,” I suggested, kicking one of the frozen mages in the leg.

  Cole nodded and looked to Austin. “We’ll go? That way you can do you’re magic thing if we find anyone.”

  “Sure,” Austin agreed. “Not like you couldn’t just dragon blast them, but whatever. Let’s be quick; I don’t want Kit left for too long.”

  River made a noise in his throat. “How was she when you left?”

  “After seeing her dad get shot in the head by someone she used to trust?” Austin grimaced. “How do you think she was?”

  River nodded a few times, and my guts churned. My poor Kitty Kat, she must be a mess. We owed it to her to clean this shit up fast and get back to her. Killing Simon wouldn’t bring Director Pierre back, but it would provide a little closure. If that was the best we could offer her, then so be it.

  “Can you keep this lot secure while I grab supplies?” River asked me, and I nodded. Keeping this lot trapped in my web was no strain, but I wouldn’t be able to transport them like this. They needed to be restrained.

  While I waited for River to come back, I ignored the stares of my prisoners and carefully stepped around the director’s desk, avoiding his blood. I clicked his mouse a couple of times to bring up the display,
but it was on a lock screen requiring a password.

  Chewing my lip, I debated taking the hard drive, but remembered he’d said something to Kit about wiping all the files. Besides, without Wesley we had no way of hacking into it anyway.

  “Got them!” River announced, returning to the office with a handful of zipties. “Is it safe to touch them?”

  Nodding, I waved a hand at the incapacitated men. “Go for it. I’m thinking they must have cast a few more spells on their way in here. Otherwise, where the hell are all the agents?”

  “I was thinking the same thing,” he agreed. “The electronic locks on all the doors were open too.”

  He handed me some zip ties, and I helped him secure our prisoners, moving their limbs like they were made of clay. “I think we should deal with this lot, then come back to sweep for stray spells,” I suggested.

  “Probably best.” River finished securing Simon, then sighed, crouching down to look at the body of Kit’s dad. “This could crush her.”

  “It could,” I murmured. “But it won’t. She’s stronger than we give her credit for.”

  River said nothing in response, just reached out and closed Jonathan’s eyes so they weren’t staring lifelessly at us.

  “Aus and I need to deal with these three,” I said quietly, indicating to the three mages. “They’ve violated the orders we laid out. Even if their coven head didn’t attend our town hall, they’re still in violation. We have to deal justice accordingly.”

  “Understood,” River replied in a clipped tone. “Cole and I can take care of things here if it will be a quick thing.”

  I checked my watch for the time, then ran through what we needed to do. Austin was better prepared for this shit than I was, and once again I found myself cursing my lack of interest in Yoshi’s teachings.

  “Yeah, should only be an hour at most. I think.” I shrugged. “I can bind Simon and the other two tighter so it’ll last until we get back, and we can block the office door.”

  “Good. Do that then. We can deal with things here and be back to Kit ASAP.” River gave Simon’s frozen form a look of disgust. “At least we arrived in time to catch this bastard.”

  Austin and Cole appeared back in the doorway, and Cole shook his head.

  “All clear throughout the admin building,” he informed us.

  “We’re assuming this snake’s hired help has spelled this building and the security only. Why would they bother with the residences? And it’s too late for anyone else to be on base.” Austin rubbed at his eyes, then grabbed one of the bound mages by his wrists. “Let’s go and sort these three out, Cal. The sooner the better.”

  He was absolutely fucking right. I may not have listened all that much in Yoshi’s lessons all those years ago, but a few things stood out clearly in my mind. The first of which was a mage must never disobey the ruling Mages. Secondly, the punishment for disobedience was ritualistic death.

  It was a law we both hoped to relax on, but an indiscretion as serious as this so soon after our meeting? It was a direct challenge to our authority and not one we could afford to let slide. Not with an impending war on the horizon.

  Earlier in the week Austin and I had briefly discussed the possibility that some of our people were involved with the shifters, so we knew we had no choice here. We’d gather the necessary witnesses and cut these bastards’ hearts out.

  I was just thankful Kitty Kat wouldn’t witness it.

  “You’ve got your thinking face on,” Austin commented as we portaled in to the ceremonial chambers below Yoshi’s old tattoo shop. It had been years since I’d stepped foot inside that room, but it was the most appropriate place for what we needed to do.

  “You’re not flaking out on me, are you?” my twin needled, hauling one of our captive mages up by the arm and depositing him in the middle of the room with the other two. “You kind of have a pretty important role in this ritual.”

  “I know, and I’m not flaking.” I headed over to the ceremonial altar and opened the hidden compartment that contained all the standard tools of our trade. From it, I pulled out a chalice and three lumps of crystal. “I’m just…” I sighed, rubbing my face. “This whole thing, Bridget and then the bracelet taking Kit’s magic, it’s my fault.”

  Austin huffed a noise as he filled the chalice with water from the natural spring in the corner, then quickly ran through the ritual to summon our required witnesses—the Mage Council.

  “Kinda, yeah,” he responded when the spell was done.

  “Gee, thanks,” I muttered, feeling even more guilty than I already was.

  He rolled his eyes. “Yes, you were instrumental, but do you honestly think she wouldn’t have found another way? If she really wanted to block Christina’s powers, she would have found a way with or without you. Don’t forget I checked that bracelet over too and saw nothing wrong with it.”

  “Good point. So you’re equally to blame here,” I teased, and he scowled at me.

  “Not equally. Not even close. But dwelling on the past doesn’t help now. Let’s get this shit over and done with so we can get back and help the boys with Simon.” Austin dug in one of the concealed drawers and pulled out a hand-carved, metal-tipped quill pen that had belonged to Yoshi and the last Ink Mage before him and so on and so forth.

  Any further discussion was cut short as the council started appearing within portals of their own, each looking grim. The spell Austin had used to summon them would have clued them in to what was going on.

  “An execution so early in your tenure,” Emerald, one of the oldest council members, commented as she arrived, tossing her green dreads over her shoulder. “Where’s your girl?”

  “Not here,” Austin snapped, and Emerald raised her pierced brows at me.

  “It’s been a rough few weeks,” I explained, giving her a little headshake to tell her to drop it.

  She gave a small shrug. “That’s cool. I liked her, though. It’d be nice to see her again. Have you given these three their last right of appeal?”

  “Not yet,” I replied. “You can do it if you want. We’re in a bit of a hurry.”

  She nodded, walked over to the three zip-tied mages, and tore the duct tape from their mouths one at a time. The brutal sting was the least of what they deserved. “Speak.”

  Laden with so much magic, that one word made the chalice in front of me tremble. I fought down a smirk when the three prisoners each visibly lost the air of cocky arrogance they’d been maintaining the whole time we’d held them captive.

  “Anton,” one of the men blurted. “Everything we did was under his orders. He’s the head of our coven, and we had no choice but to obey.”

  “Well, that was easy. Of course, it’s also a big old steaming pile of bullshit considering if you’d come to your Mages and confessed, they would have protected you.” Emerald turned back to us with a broad grin. “I’ll go pick Anton up. I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear hard evidence against that worm once and for all.”

  She flickered out in a portal, was gone barely long enough for the remaining four council members to arrive, and then was back with her hand wrapped around the slimy, duplicitous necromancer’s neck—that very same piece of shit who had supplied golems to Simon and challenged us during our initiation.

  I rolled my eyes internally. Somehow, I’d known he would be involved.

  “Thank you for coming,” I greeted the council with Austin at my side. “I hope you don’t mind, but we will make this quick; we still have more to deal with tonight.”

  “Please verify guilt for youselves,” Austin invited, waving a hand to our now four prisoners, and the council did as asked. Each one of them approached the men and repeated the same spell, one which caused any party guilty of crimes against the ruling Mages to glow green.

  When each council member was satisfied, we made quick work of the ritual. Austin used his quill to draw a simple line of ink down each man’s chest. The spelled ink made a messy task easier, slicing through flesh and b
one to expose the still beating heart while the guilty mage screamed soundlessly.

  Grinding his teeth loud enough for me to hear, Austin reached inside each open chest cavity, removing their hearts with his bare hand and placing them on a silver platter… which he then presented to me.

  My stomach twisted, but not with disgust. With hunger. These men—especially Anton, the necromancer—they were not weak in magic. I could smell it in their blood, and my fangs descended with ease.

  Tension thrummed through my body as I raised the first heart to my lips and bit into it. I wasn’t a cannibal; that was just revolting. Nor did I eat flesh. But touching my fangs directly to the heart blood was akin to sending a mass email to all mages under our command. They would know of each one of these deaths and understand that when we made a law, we stood by it. Anyone who disobeyed would be punished.

  It took all of my self-control not to actually consume the magic-laden blood, and by the time I was done with all four hearts, I wanted to vomit or scream or… something.

  But it was a small price to pay if it meant no other mages would try and harm my Kitty Kat.



  “Hello?” My voice echoed through the heavy fog as I looked all around me. Wherever I was, it looked similar to my unrefined dreamscape, but still somehow different. More substantial somehow.

  Shadowy figures appeared somewhere in the distance, and my heart pumped a little faster. Definitely not my dreamscape, then.

  “Hello?” I called out to the figures. “Can you hear me?”

  “Of course we can hear you,” a middle-aged woman scolded as she came into clearer view with the fog parting around her and her young companion. “You’re bellowing out here loud enough for the heavens to hear you.”

  “Sorry,” I replied with a sheepish smile, feeling my cheeks heat with embarrassment. “I was just a bit… confused. Can you tell me where we are?”

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