Archives for posts with tag: fantasy

30

I rock ‘n’ roll back to Berkeley the supersonic way: on a city street. Forget the gridlocked, fume-polluted freeway. Telegraph Avenue is a straight shot of normal stop-and-go from uptown Oakland to downtown Berkeley. Not only is my chosen route more scenic, less obnoxious, and a hell of a lot quicker, but I can stop at Whole Foods at the corner of Ashby and go on a serious shopping spree.

My Abracadabra check is on its way. Yes!

Organic strawberries find their way into my cart before I swoon from the fragrance of the fruit. Spring mix and salad fixings. Vegenaise and cage-free eggs. Whole wheat linguine and nine-grain bread. Crunchy peanut butter and three kinds of jam. More spring water, milk and yogurt, an expensive Cakebread chardonnay, and I’m almost done.

I stop at the meat counter. “Half a pound of ground beef,” I tell the ruddy-faced butcher. “It’s for my piranhas. They won’t eat anything else.”

“Know what you mean,” the butcher says, scooping out the meat. “My Beth and Billy are just like that.”

One last stop at Prepared Foods where I splurge on a sinful pound of citrus salmon. Now I’m done.

I swing out onto the Av, drive four blocks to Derby, and negotiate the sharp right that takes me onto Mirage Way. I stable Heigh-Ho Silver in Garage Number One, unload my grocery bags, and padlock the doors.

I’m toting the bags to my patio door when I hear the shouting.

“Just what do you think you’re doing to the Master’s car?”

“Admiring your awesome paint job.”

“I don’t think so. I think you’re trying to pick the lock. Car thief, car thief! Begone, before I call Nine One One.”

I thump the bags down on the café table and sprint to the parking lot.

A lanky, goateed guy in a T and jeans kneels at the flame-licked door of the Rolls Royce. He jams a device that looks very much like a high-tech can of spray paint into what I now recognize as a blue plastic evidence kit. He shoves the kit in a scruffy canvas shoulder bag, the kind of bag students like to beat around, and grins sheepishly.

An FBI operative searching for fingerprints? He’s got to be.

The Odd Person stands scowling over him, hands cocked on his whale-sized hips. He/she is striking today in a flowing orange dashiki and matching orange turban, orange Birkenstocks, and a collection of copper rings and bracelets. In the revealing light of day, I still can’t quite reconcile his/her eyeliner and pouty orange lipstick with the hint of stubble beneath the pancake makeup on his/her chin.

In the revealing light of day, the Odd Person is out and about. Which means the Odd Person isn’t a vampire, but a human servant of Scorpio Rising. Which also means the Odd Person is my go-to person when it comes to overdue rent, breaches of leases, city code violations, and selling alcohol to minors. Not to mention if the police come to arrest the vampires for murder.

It’s good to cozy up to go-to people. I smile my best award-winning smile. “What’s the trouble?”

“This person is trying to steal the Master’s car,” the Odd Person sniffs. “Where are the police when I need them?”

“I’m not, I swear,” the guy says, scrambling to his feet. “I’m an art student at Cal. I just wanted a closer look at your paint job. Honest.” He coaxes awe into his eyes. “It’s bitchin’.”

“Darling, you cannot see the parking lot from the street. How could you have seen our paint job?”

The guy hems and haws, and I jump in.

“Everyone’s seen the Rolls around town.” It doesn’t quite follow that the guy would know where the Rolls is parked, but I let Hollywood logic work its magic.

The Odd Person harrumphs, unlocks the door, and wedges his/her hulk behind the steering wheel. I politely close the door. The Odd Person backs the Rolls out of its slot and navigates out of the parking lot, snout held high in righteous indignation.

The guy and I trade looks, then a laugh.

“Wow, is that a DESI?” I say.

“Sure is. The latest and greatest in fingerprint tech.” He pulls the evidence kit from the shoulder bag, the DESI from the kit. “See, we spray an area with an electrically charged mix of methanol and water. The charged droplets contact the surface of the print and form a liquid film. The film is sucked into a spectrometer”–he points to one side of the device–”which chemically IDs the molecules collected. It all happens in less than a second. Like magic.” He snaps his fingers. “Very cool.”

“Very, very cool. You need to invent a magic detector that works on the same principle. Some electrically changed mixture gloms onto bits of residual magic, which can be collected and identified.”

“Kovac said you mentioned that idea to him yesterday afternoon. He was impressed.”

“Then you know I’m Abby Teller?”

“I figured. Kovac described you to a T. I’m Ben Lofland.”

Now I’m intrigued. “How did he describe me, Ben?”

“Nope. I’ll let him do the honors.”

“Oh, go on. I’m having a rough day. Give me a hint.”

“‘The doll in the white dress.’”

I glow with more satisfaction than is strictly necessary. I can still feel Kovac’s lips pressing on my forehead. I want those lips lower. “Kovac sent you? You mean he actually listened to me?”

“Of course. Even if Scorpio Rising didn’t do Tilden Park, he’s hoping to score a cold hit on other unsolved vampire murders. We’ve got more vampire unsolveds than you care to know.” Lofland tucks the DESI in the evidence kit. “Honestly, Abby, I doubt if I lifted anything off the door handles. The Incredible Hulkster must polish them daily.”

“One of his duties as butler to the undead.”

I like and trust Ben Lofland at once and sense from his voice his respect and affection for Kovac. I’m sorely tempted to ask him what happened to Kovac. What injured the man so grievously. Why he grimaces in pain one day, but not the next.

Before I can cobble up a not-too-nosy way to ask, Lofland hands me his business card, urges me to call anytime, and strides down the driveway.

Leaving me pondering the mystery of Jack Kovac.

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

Kovac parks in his slot on Level Four. We climb down the concrete stairwell to Level One and my Mustang. While he watches, I take out the key to the trunk. With midcentury cars, you need two keys, one for the doors and ignition, another for the trunk. I lock my handbag with its devilish secret in legal concealment, still far from happy.

I’m aware Kovac is lingering, taking his time, not sprinting off to what surely must be vital business at Supernatural Crimes.

“So, bye-bye, Jack. It was swell stumbling on a grisly murder scene with you.”

“Abby, wait.” He neither smiles nor frowns, but holds himself in reserve. A disturbing reserve.

“What’s on your mind?”

“I’m worried about the power Brand thrust in you when you were unaware. That’s what compelled you, you know.”

“To go hiking in Tilden Park? To follow the crows?”

“Yeah. You must have felt it.”

My unease that morning. The certainty someone or something was following me. The unnerving flicker behind my left shoulder, the poke of pain.

Now that Kovac mentions it, the dead sorcerer’s magic jitters through me like the first symptoms of a fever. The ache behind your eyes, the soreness in your throat, the pains in your joints before the full blast of contagion slams you on your ass.

Kovac strides around my Mustang, grips my shoulders. “Abby, you just turned pale.”

“I don’t feel too well.” I’m dizzy, falling. I seize his waist, steadying myself.

“I know how to take his power out of you, but I’ll need to touch your face. Is that going to be all right?”

I nod and wait for his touch.

He cups my face in both his hands, and I instinctively tip my chin up and grasp his wrists, holding on. He presses his open lips against my forehead, between and just above my eyebrows. Gently at first, then firm, firmer, he takes a breath, inhaling, sucking on my skin.

I groan. I can feel the grimy little ball of alien power lodged at the base of my spine. As Kovac inhales, the power dislodges, rolls all the way up my spine, climbs through the nape of my neck, and careens across the dome of my skull. The power skitters across my forehead like an insect crawling behind my eyes.

Kovac sucks harder. The power struggles through my skin, skittering out of me, and pops into his mouth.

He whips his mouth away, presses my face away, and spits.

A grimy little power bounces on the garage floor like a Ping-Pong ball from hell. It bounces, bounces, bounces, then lies still.

Then the thing starts to move, rolling aimlessly around.

Now the power pauses and speeds purposefully toward me. The power jumps up on the toe of my pump, rolls across my instep, rolls up my ankle. The power pries at my pantyhose, digging and twisting, tearing at the nylon.

I know what it wants. It wants to pierce my skin and thrust inside me again.

“No!” I scream.

Kovac stoops and punches the alien power off my ankle with his right fist. His hand of power. He stamps on the thing with his right foot, grinding the toe of his leather shoe against the concrete, pulverizing the thing.

I hate the little scream it utters, but the noise isn’t human. Isn’t animal.

Kovac scrapes his shoe away, and a greasy iridescent stain flickers on the concrete, fading to nothing.

We stand, stunned, looking at the fading stain, then at each other. Before I know what I’m doing, I’m wrapping my arms around his neck, he folds his arms around my waist, and we embrace, quick and hard, with the joy of having just survived something very bad.

He feels so right in my arms. A perfect fit. As if he was always meant to be there. My power reaches out to his, and his magic flows all around me, electric, electrifying. But respectful, refusing to thrust into me, unbidden.

No, he’s not Brand.

I love the feeling of his arms around me, powerful and protective.

He whispers, “I’m on duty, Abby. I’ve got an official responsibility toward you. I shouldn’t be doing this.”

“I shouldn’t do lots of things, but sometimes I do, anyway.”

“It’s against the rules. I believe in the rules. I have to.”

“There are other rules besides the official ones. Those are the rules I believe in.”

I ease away from him, smiling up at his stricken face.

“Thanks for the magic, Jack.”

“Any time, my lady magician.”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

29

Kovac swings onto I-80 southbound, heading back to Oakland, and slams to a halt at the parking lot of bumpers of the early-flex after-work crowd. We roll up our windows and grit our teeth in the slow-and-go.

“Can we strike Barb and her knitting needles off the list of suspects?”

“I’ll reserve final judgment till Doc Eve establishes the time of death but, now that I’ve seen her setup, yeah, I think so.” Kovac glances at me. “You going to be all right, Abby? Want to speak with a counselor?”

“I thought I’d have nightmares after Brand and the girls, but so far, I’m good. I’ll let you know if I can’t sleep.”

“You do that, doll.”

Whoa! I glance at him, searching for more meaning behind that, but he’s busy studying the road. I can’t help but smile, anyway. I’m such a soft touch. “I’m troubled by Brand’s little black book. Where is it?”

“I told Valdez to be on the lookout. The place was a disaster zone. Don’t worry, they’ll probably find it.”

I try to feel good about that. “If Barb’s killer is this scumbag connected with Brand’s drug-smuggling scheme, he’s got no business with me, right?”

Kovac nods, but in his cagey way. “If that’s who did her, he’s got no reason to get curious about you.”

“Even if he got his hands on the little black book?”

“He knows all about Brand and his ladies. You’re just a name and a number.” The gridlock surges forward, and Kovac surges with it. He rubs his thumb along his jaw where the scar meets bone, an unconscious gesture I’m beginning to recognize as a sign the man is cogitating. “However.”

“However?”

“It’s possible he could have hacked our database, located the crime scene log. Intercepted phone calls, I don’t know. Felons learn a lot of useful skills in prison.”

My heart falls. “He could wonder whether Brand told me some juicy tidbit while we were riding in my car?”

“Did he?”

“It was just small talk about magic.”

“Small talk about magic,” Kovac says. Wistfully, I think. “Listen, Abby. Brand’s buddy, Mike the Pike Peters, is a hard-core badass who may or may not know about you and your ride with Brand. And he’s out there somewhere. So is whoever did Brand and the girls. Till the Berkeley P.D. lassos Mike the Pike and we solve Tilden Park, you can’t afford to roam the range unarmed.”

“I’ll be fine,” I say with more bravado than I feel. “I’m learning Real Magic.”

“Uh-huh. Real Magic is excellent, but you also need the hardware to back it up. Have you got a dollar?” He stretches out his hand.

“Have I got a what?”

“A dollar. I just need a dollar.”

I root around in the bottom of my handbag and pull out a crumpled bill. “What, are you panhandling me?

“Could be. Give it to me.”

I slap the bill in the palm of his hand.

We grind to another standstill, and he reaches across my knees, punches open the glove box, and pulls out the devilish thing. He’s even got the nerve to drop it in my lap.

“What is that?”

“That, my lady magician, is a Beretta. Nice gun. I hate to part with it, but I’ve got others.”

“No, no, no, I don’t want a Beretta.”

“Too bad. You just bought yourself a prime gun in a private transaction and you don’t even have to fill out the forms. If you stick up a Seven-Eleven, I’m prepared to take full responsibility. If you cap Mike the Pike, you’ll walk on self-defense. Same for the Horde. And Scorpio Rising.”

That gets my attention. “You can kill a vampire with an ordinary gun? I thought you needed a silver bullet.”

“If you’re a good shot and a quick shot and you blow his freaking brains into dog chow, of course you can. However.”

“Another however?”

“Some vampires can catch ordinary bullets in midair. And an ordinary bullet striking any other part of an undead body besides the head won’t do much damage.”

Still I recoil from the devilish thing, a dead weight lying in my lap. “No, no, no. Thanks, Jack, but no thanks. The Horde’s not on to me, not yet anyway. Same for Mike the Pike. And I can handle Scorpio Rising.”

“Don’t be too sure about any of those assumptions. I’m officially advising you against wishful thinking. Put the gun in your handbag. Do it, Abby. I won’t take no for an answer.”

I shove the devilish thing in my handbag, far from happy.

“When we get to your Pony car, put your handbag in the trunk and lock it.”

“Great idea. Then I can’t cap Mike the Pike.”

“Not while you’re driving. You also won’t get arrested for carrying concealed if you should get pulled over for speeding or running a red light.”

“As if I would ever.”

“It’s a legal technicality you should be aware of, now that you’re the proud new owner of a Beretta.”

“Jack, I don’t know the first thing about shooting a gun.”

“That’s why you’re meeting me tomorrow at the Marin shooting range for a lesson.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

“Call it a tryst, schoolgirl. What’s your schedule?”

“My schedule.” Never in my life have I lived one day at a time so mindfully the way I’m living each day since I arrived in Berkeley. “As the super, I’m always on call. And I’ve got a class at three with Professor Bonwitch. We’re working our way through the First Fundamental of Real Magic.” I roll my eyes. “Know Thyself.”

“And do you know yourself?”

“Ever since I got to Berkeley, I’m not so sure.”

“Outstanding.”

“What’s outstanding about that?”

“Self knowledge is a lifelong quest. Pythagoras would be proud of you.”

I raise my eyebrows. Jack Kovac knows about Pythagoras? I too know about Pythagoras. Researching my essay on “Know Thyself,” I discovered the Greek philosopher and wizard who coined the adage “Know Thyself” and plumbed the Real Magic of numbers. Numbers that rule our society to this day, two thousand five hundred years after Pythagoras lived and died. Numbers that people lie about and manipulate and cover up but always, in the end, tell their own truth.

“Gosh, you’re pretty profound for an FBI agent.”

“Thanks, I try. Is ten-thirty good for you?”

“Ten-thirty or so, depending on the gridlock.”

“I’ll wait. Take I-80 over the San Rafael Bridge. The range is to your right just after you exit the bridge.”

“I’ll find it.” I study Kovac while he studies the road–braking, accelerating, darting from lane to lane, gaining momentum in spite of the gridlock. Driving expertly. Driving superbly.

And you know what? I feel at peace riding in the passenger seat when Jack Kovac is at the wheel.

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

Valdez remains behind in Barb’s apartment, supervising the crime scene, while Kovac, Malaky, and I clatter up a flight of concrete stairs held precariously in place by two rusting steel girders. Kovac raps his fist on the door. Silence. He tries the doorknob. Locked. He plucks a pick from his jacket pocket and jimmies the lock in less than ten seconds.

“Those FBI guys,” Malaky says. “Crookeder than the crooks.”

“So I see.” I smile at the sour little cop, hoping to appease him with my award-winning charm. But the lieutenant isn’t buying charm today. At least not mine.

Kovac pushes the door open with the lock pick, and we stride into the hushed apartment. Odors linger—mold and wood rot, pot smoke and take-out fries. But no coppery stench of spoiled meat. Death hasn’t touched this place. Two thin mattresses lie in the living-dining on more of that bruise-blue carpet. A tangle of bath towels, blankets, panties, crushed cigarette packets, and limp pillows lie scattered on the sheets. The rest of the apartment is empty except for two rickety lawn chairs planted in front of a tiny TV and a cardboard box.

The interior decoration is so desolate, the occupants could have been squatting here, ready to skip out at a moment’s notice.

Kovac lifts the lid off the box and spills out the detritus of two squandered lives. A dozen photographs, check stubs from Stella’s Saloon, receipts from Acme check-cashing service, two Social Security cards, a Fresh Strawberry lipstick, and hand-scrawled letters from Mom.

One photo shows the two girls laughing, pink spikes and Vampira black, their reedy tattooed arms slung around each other’s shoulders.

“Poor little Trish and Zarah,” I say.

“Poor little Trish and Zarah,” Kovac agrees.

“Dumb-ass punks,” Malaky says.

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

28

Drawers have been yanked out, the contents spilled. Cupboards flung open and dishes swept out, the broken pieces of mismatched porcelain littering the kitchenette floor. Closet doors pulled ajar, and coats and clothes ripped off their hangers and strewn around. Everything is turned upside-down and inside-out. The sort of frenzied ransacking that screams of a rampage for drugs or money or both.

Or something else? What else?

“I’m probably missing something, Jack, but I don’t see Brand’s little black book.”

“You don’t have to. The investigators will find it.”

The wreckage of ruined things speaks of discount stores and garage sales, haggles and bargains, the discards of a world wealthier than Barb’s. Her lethal-looking knitting needles, the ball of homely gray yarn, and the nearly-finished man’s sweater lie abandoned in a wicker basket in a corner of the living-dining. The end of the affair, at last.

“Touch nothing.” Kovac gives me his handkerchief. “You all right, Abby? Watch your dress.”

I nod, unable to speak. I press the handkerchief over my nose and mouth. It doesn’t help.

Barb sprawls on her back where her killer left her, arms and legs flung akimbo. Her skin is bluish-gray, her face contorted in rigor mortis. Jagged slashes have ripped away her clothes and ripped through her skin, exposing layers of raw-beef-colored muscle and yellowish fat. Blood pools around her body in stinking little lakes of scarlet Jell-O and spatters the bruise-blue carpet in rusty arcs.

In a corner of the asbestos-spackled ceiling whirls a forlorn little whorl of light, one of the most disconsolate spirits I’ve ever seen. Barb’s soul, it’s got to be, lingering over the scene of her horrific death.

But no unnatural fear lingers, thick and clinging. No dangerous magic, ageless and devouring.

“I see her,” I whisper, pointing at the ceiling. “Just there. Do you see her?”

“No, I’m not a medium,” Kovac says so curtly, I turn to look at him. Cold anger grooves his face. He hates this brutality against a defenseless woman as much as I do. I suddenly feel better about the gun in his shoulder holster.

Footsteps pound into the town house and uniforms surround us: Emeryville police, Berkeley police. Valdez seizes my arm and tries to pull me out of the room. I resist her and stand my ground.

“I’m coping, thanks, Detective Valdez.”

“No, you’re not, Ms. Teller, and you sure as hell don’t belong here. How,” she snaps at Kovac, “could you allow a civilian?” She shouts at the uniforms, “Secure the scene!” and an officer strings yellow crime-scene tape across the door.

If Kovac is a different man today, Valdez is a different woman. Not the warm, sympathetic detective. Not the fawning, jealous ex-lover, either. A cool professional, all cop steel.

I’m all steel, too. “Detective, I can identify the victim. She’s Barb, Brand’s ex-girlfriend. There are her knitting needles.” I pry my arm away. “I wanted to be here. Don’t blame Jack.”

“Don’t. Blame. Jack. Who else. Is there. To blame?” She aims at furious glance at Kovac, at me, at Kovac. He looks away, frowning. I wish I could tell Valdez her anger will never repair the damage between them.

Her voice, her speech patterns, her behavior make no sense. And then they do.

Does Valdez possess some power, after all? The receptive, unconscious power of a channeler? Is she channeling Barb? Another woman who, like Valdez, desired a man of magic she couldn’t have?

I suspect so. And I suspect she doesn’t know a thing about it.

The cop with the pouchy eyes strides in. “Why is it, Ms. Teller,” Lieutenant Malaky says, “you’re always around when bodies are on the ground?”

“Just lucky, I guess.”

“Stow it, Malaky,” Kovac snaps. “Ms. Teller gave her statement at my office this afternoon. She graciously agreed to assist me in finding Brand’s ex, taking her valuable time away from her job and school. We found her.”

“Not soon enough.” Malaky stoops to examine the corpse. “What do you make of it, Kovac?”

“Burglary gone wrong, maybe, but I’m betting Brand owed money or dope or both to one of his connections. The connection figured Barb had the goods. Either that, or she was the snitch who busted their racket, and the connection wanted payback.”

“It’ll interest you to know Mike the Pike got out of the Q last week.”

“A real sweetheart,” Kovac says, “and Brand’s good buddy. Too bad Berkeley P.D. can’t make anything stick to him worse than minor drug-dealing and bubblegum.”

“Maybe we just got lucky.”

“Maybe you did. Put an APB out on him, ASAP.”

“It’s done, Jack,” Valdez says, her voice trembling.

Too bad. I was starting to like her impersonation of Barb.

Now the cap of silver curls belonging to Doc Eve ducks under the tape. Her extraordinary crystalline eyes peer up at me through the thick lenses of her steel-rimmed spectacles. “I’m happy to see you again, Abby. And I’m sorry to see you again–like this.”

“My sentiments, exactly.”

She glances up at the forlorn little whorl of light before she even looks down at the corpse, catches me watching her, and nods. We both see the soul. She sets her blue toolbox down and pulls on her latex gloves. “Got a take, Abby?”

“Knife wounds inflicted with psychotic savagery, but nothing like the wounds on Brand and the girls. Nothing like vampire bites. Nothing,” I add carefully, as Malaky stares at me, “supernatural. I sense no evil magic here like in Tilden Park. Just evil. Human evil.”

“Agreed,” Kovac says.

“Supernatural Crimes ought to consult with her, Jack,” Doc Eve says, grunting as she stoops to examine the corpse, her knees cracking. “She’s got the knack.”

“I’m considering making her an offer,” Kovac says.

Valdez swivels around from the blood spatter she’s examining, face tight.

Kovac shakes his head. Tough guy, but I can see why. Valdez needs to move on with her life for her own sake.

“We’re through here, Abby. Let’s take a look upstairs.”

“What’s upstairs?” Malaky says. “You two running off for a quickie?”

Kovac strides to Malaky and confronts him, towering over the paunchy cop. His power radiates off him in a tangible pulse. “You’re going to apologize to Ms. Teller. Then you’re going to apologize to me.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I said apologize.”

“So sue me for being an asshole.”

“I said apologize.” Kovac’s power thrusts out from his solar plexus, two translucent hands that throttle Malaky’s throat.

Everyone in the room turns to watch, in spite of their professional duties to process the murder scene. Can they see the translucent hands as clearly as I do? I don’t know, but they sure as hell see something.

I watch, too, fascinated. It’s the first time I’ve seen Kovac use his power so boldly. And in public before an audience of law enforcement staff. What will he do next?

Malaky backs down. “Sorry, Ms. Teller. Sorry, ya freakin’ supernatural creep. And I’m not sorry I said that. Back off.”

Kovac still stands over him, his ocean-blues icy with power.

Malaky thrusts a finger in the collar of his uniform and pulls, loosening the cloth. “So what’s upstairs, anyway?”

“Barb told Ms. Teller the girls lived there.”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

Glossy condo complexes boasting killer bay views and glossier shopping malls boasting every high-end franchise I’ve ever heard of crowd Bay Street on the Emeryville waterfront.

I widen my eyes. “This can’t be the same place.”

Kovac flicks his gaze over the mall, unimpressed. “Oh, it is. Your typical metro boomtown plagued with pockets of urban blight just around the corner from the Apple Store and Williams-Sonoma. I know which neighborhoods you mean. Hold on.”

Kovac heads south on San Pablo Avenue, turns right, turns left, turns right. Now we cruise through run-down neighborhoods, past miles of shabby little town houses and weeds thrusting up through cracked concrete. Some of the stucco structures are war housing left over from World War Two shipbuilding industries, others Great Society subsidies. We cruise up one avenue and down another, turning at San Pablo at the up end, Seventh Street at the down.

I cup my hand to my mouth and stifle a yawn. Who knew sleuthing for Supernatural Crimes could be such a bore? By contrast, my job as the super of the Garden of Abracadabra is a fireworks show. And magic lessons? A thrill a minute.

Then there it is. There it is. The lurid obscenities. The weird leering faces. And–the piece de resistance–the monstrous red eyeball weeping tears of blood.

I whoop, and Kovac swerves over to the curb in the bus zone, slams on the brakes. He kills the ignition and springs out, impossibly spry.

I spring out myself–and nearly gag.

That unmistakable stench of rotten meat and tarnished copper pools around the town house in a gut-churning miasma.

“Get in the car, Abby.”

I get in, and Kovac reaches over my knees, punching open the glove box, pulling out a big, bad handgun.

I recoil. “My God.”

“Something wrong?”

“I don’t like guns. I’m, ah, kind of afraid of guns.” At his frown, I add, “I do support our right to bear arms under the Constitution. I’ve just never exercised that right, myself.”

“Get over it.” Kovac flips his jacket back, revealing a shoulder holster strapped over his black T. He thrusts in the gun. Then he seizes my hand, pulls me out of the passenger seat and around to the driver’s side. He sits me down behind the wheel, reaches across me, and thrusts his key in the ignition. “Drive down a block and call Valdez. Got her number?”

“I’ve got her business card in my handbag.”

“Good. Call her, then take the car back to Oakland.”

“No way. I’m going in there with you.”

“You can’t. It’s a crime scene.”

“Jack, I’m not going back to Oakland without you.”

“Trust me, you don’t want to see what’s in there.”

“If it’s Barb, I need to identify her, now don’t I?”

He blows out an exasperated breath. “All right. Call Valdez and sit tight till I give you the all-clear. If you see anything or hear anything strange, get out the hell of here fast. Got it?”

“Got it.”

Kovac moves to the town-house door, his stride vigorously strong and steady. He pulls a handkerchief out of his jacket pocket, tries the doorknob. The door swings open. He draws his gun and cautiously steps inside.

I paw through my handbag for my cell and Valdez’s card. My hands are shaking, true, but not nearly as badly as yesterday morning. Is this progress? Progress definitely. I don’t even drop the phone. I punch in the number and Valdez answers at once.

“It stinks like murder,” I tell her.

5.19.15.TGOA.CVR.TINY

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a  title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

Your participation really matters.
Thank you for your readership!

26

An elevator chimes in the lobby of One Hundred Eighty Grand Avenue, a mirrored midcentury high-rise in booming uptown Oakland and home to the Bay Area offices of the FBI. Jack Kovac strides out between mirrored elevator doors, a different man.

He looks and acts like such a different man, I have to blink. Who is this man? An identical twin brother who covers for Kovac when he calls in sick?

Or maybe it’s just me. Research suggests that people who imbibe strong caffeinated drinks may be prone to seeing pink elephants and other hallucinations. I’ve got an adrenaline buzz that won’t quit as much from the Sumatra Extra-bold I’ve been guzzling all morning as my eagerness to give my statement. I’ve got a million questions of my own for Kovac about Tilden Park.

Jack Kovac is no pink elephant.

He’s smiling, keenly alert but relaxed, and awesomely dapper in an ivory linen suit over a black T, Miami Vice style. The planes and angles of his face are taut, not pinched with pain, and the scar from his eye to his jaw has nearly disappeared. The haunted sorrow in his ocean-blues is subdued, almost invisible but not quite, and glossed over by a take-care-of-business mix of professional courtesy and cop steel. And, if I’m not mistaken, lit by a delighted gleam at the sight of me.

Jack Kovac, delighted?

After pitying his painful hobble yesterday, I have to raise my eyebrows at his soccer-star stride today. He doesn’t lean on the cane. He doesn’t carry the cane at all. And the angry red aura from knee to toe? I can’t see it. Not a trace. Just space. Or rather, the usual sort of space surrounding inanimate objects, objects with no life-force of their own. It’s the aura of ivory linen trousers, a polished black leather shoe.

Only the mystery of his left leg ties the man I met yesterday with the man I greet today.

I’ve already gone through Security and walked through the scanner at the door. All Kovac has to do is lead me to the elevators. We enter one, he punches the button for the eighth floor, and the elevator whooshes up.

“Thanks for keeping our appointment, Abby.”

“Did I have a choice, Mr. Kovac?”

“No, but you’d be surprised how many people think they do. And it’s Jack, please.”

“I think I’ll stick with Mr. Kovac.”

He raises his eyebrows. “Are you angry with me?”

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic horror story and the Spencer Tracy film is, I think, the best of the lot, but I really don’t care for the story in real life, thanks just the same.”

“I sincerely apologize for last night. I don’t like acting too personal around the police. They know I’ve got power. Now they know you do, too.”

“I think you don’t like acting too personal with me around Detective Valdez.”

He laughs and ignores my observation. He’s good at that, ignoring remarks he doesn’t want to respond to and changing the subject. “How did your hot date with the movers go?”

“It was a dream date. The truck rolled up right on time. The guys didn’t scratch my furniture and rearranged the living room and the dining room three times. I won’t know till I unpack all those infernal boxes whether anything got broken.”

“Glad to hear it. Moving your household is way up there on the top-ten list of life’s most stressful events.”

“Way up there along with the death of a parent, the death of a beloved spouse, or a major personal injury.” He doesn’t respond to my “major injury” comment so I hold out my hands, sporting a brand-new set of scratches and ragged fingernails, courtesy of a box of clothes and shoes I couldn’t wait to tear open. “And, unlike death or major injury, hell on your manicure.”

“You need to talk to Valdez. She swears by Linda’s Nails in Albany.”

“You’re pretty tough on Valdez.” Oops, there I go, shooting my mouth off about things that are none of my business.

Kovac stiffens. “We’ve got to work together sometimes but, when it comes to her and me, it’s over. You’ve got to be tough when it’s over.”

“No kidding.” I think about Daniel’s phone call at dawn yesterday. His emails that I deleted, unread. Am I being tough? Or cowardly? Or do I still care a little for the man I left behind in Buckeye Heights? Am I still attached to a longtime relationship I bailed out of during the hazy aftermath of my mother’s death?

“It’s over,” he continues, “because she insists on pitying me.”

“Why does she pity you?” I hope I don’t sound as prying and disingenuous as I feel. Or naïve. It’s only obvious why anyone would pity Jack Kovac.

“She’s a pitying kind of woman.” Cagey Kovac.

“For what it’s worth,” I say. “I think Valdez wants to take care of you and help you manage things.”

“You know what, Abby? I can take care of myself and manage things just fine.”

I take a chance, playing Dear Abby. “Taking care of someone and helping him manage things is part of my definition of love.”

He snorts, unimpressed with my platitude. “Valdez needs to find someone else to take care of and manage things for. A better man than me.”

“A man who doesn’t possess power like you. Isn’t that what you really mean?”

Oops, again. It’s one of those I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know kind of games. A game Brand played with me. From his disapproving frown, Kovac doesn’t like the game any more than I did, but he does get the message.

“Tracking down and capturing humans and unhumans who commit heinous crimes with their supernatural powers is my life’s work. I don’t need magic in my personal life.”

“I stand corrected, Mr. Kovac.”

“I’m not correcting you, Abby, and it’s Jack, please.” The elevator slides to a stop. “After you give your statement, I want to discuss some things with you that neither Valdez nor Malaky could understand.”

“Because they’ve got no power.”

He shoots me an exasperated look, which I coolly return. The elevator doors whoosh open and we step into a hushed hallway.

“That’s right. Malaky and Valdez know just about everything there is to know about human evil, but when it comes to evil magic, they’re at a disadvantage. That’s why Supernatural Crimes was called in on this case, though we each have our independent authority. The U.C. police are helping us out, too, asking around town about the girls. A crime like this up on the hill from campus doesn’t look good for the University. Or for Magical Arts and Crafts.”

“Who were they, Trish and Zarah?”

“We don’t know yet. No one has filed a missing persons report. The girls carried no IDs. They’ve got no criminal records, never served in the military or worked for the government so their fingerprints drew a blank in the database.”

“What about Brand? Are those really mug shots?”

“I’ll catch you up on Brand after the interview. To your left, please.”

Kovac guides me through another security checkpoint at the door to Supernatural Crimes, through a din of chiming telephones and clacking computers, to a conference room.

At the expansive picture window, I admire the meandering jogging path around Lake Merritt and the sparkling lake with its ducks and geese and long-legged water birds striding through the shallows. Seagulls perch atop the ornate amber lamps of the Necklace of Lights. The lush woods of Lakeside Park spread out on the shore opposite the high-rises of the Kaiser Center.

Kovac lowers the Venetian blinds and turns on a digital camera mounted in a corner of the conference room. He pulls out a chair in front of a humming computer set up on the conference table, toggles the Pause button, and the screen lights up. He pulls out a chair on the opposite side of the table and gestures for me to sit.

“Please note that I’m going to film our interview. The film will be stored in the archives of Supernatural Crimes and distributed to the Berkeley P.D. and the U.C. police.”

Oh, joy. My interview is going to be filmed? Did Kovac ask my permission to use my visual image? I don’t remember hearing him ask. I’m an innocent citizen, not charged with any crime, and I don’t like being entered into a police record. Am I starting to sympathize with Jake and Scorpio Rising? Not really, but I don’t like this.

Anyway, I’m glad I’m wearing my churchgoing white linen dress, pantyhose, and sensible white pumps. A Lady in White. Innocence Incarnate. I set my handbag on the table, finger-comb my hair, and wave at the camera. “What’s my motivation, Mr. deMille?”

Kovac smiles. When he isn’t wracked with pain or acting like a pain in the ass, he has a skip-a-beat-of-my-heart marvelous smile. A dimple nestles fetchingly below his right cheekbone. “To clear your reputation, miss, and do battle against the forces of darkness. Now. Please state your name.”

I recite my vital statistics and tell of the hitchhiker and the on-ramp on I-80 outside Sacramento.

“Why did you give him a ride?”

“I don’t know. My mother recently died. I broke up with my fiancé of three years. I put the house I grew up in for sale. I was. . . .I guess you could say I was lonely.”

How’s that for spilling my life story inside of five minutes? Kovac mm-hmms and I glance at him. He’s  in full FBI Agent mode, but something interesting moves in his ocean-blues.

Encouraged, I continue. “Brand was a sorcerer of considerable natural power. Maybe he enchanted me from afar before he even got in the car.”

“Where did you drop him off?”

I continue the narrative of my crazy, wild night. Sparring with Barb and her knitting needles, her psychotic jealousy over Brand. Landing the job as super of the Garden of Abracadabra. Collecting rent checks from Esmeralda and Scorpio Rising. The insane vampire party in Twenty-seven. The coincidence of running into Brand and the girls in the lobby on their way to some parties upstairs. Barb calling me later, saying she found my number in his little black book and she was on her way to the Garden of Abracadabra to confront him.

“She said, and I quote, ‘I’m comin’ over to cut out his cheatin’ heart. Cut up those girls, too.’”

Kovac taps notes into the computer without comment. “Why did you go hiking in Tilden Park?”

“Like I told Detective Valdez, I needed to stretch my legs after my long road trip. And no, there’s no earthly rhyme or reason why I went to Tilden Park or took the route I took.” I describe the geezer with the spear, the three crows, finding the bodies.

Finally, thankfully, Kovac declares the interview over. He turns off the camera. “You did fine, Abby. Thanks again for coming in and have a nice day.”

Have a nice day? He’s not getting rid of me that easily. Now it’s my turn. “What did Hernandez and Montego turn up in their door-to-door?”

He strides around the room, turning things off, and opens up the window blinds. “They made the rounds till dawn.” He resumes his seat. “Not everyone was home or answering the door.”

“And?”

“And your tenants at the Garden of Abracadabra, the ones they did speak to, are weird.”

“No. My tenants are weird?”

“Hah.”

“How many parties were there at the building that night?”

“Hey, me Interrogator, you Interrogatee.”

There he goes again, acting like a pain in the ass.

“You know something, Jack? It’s my building now and my business as the super.” I stride around the table, pull out a chair, and sit beside him, facing him. “I need to solve this, too.” I count the reasons on my fingers. “One. If Malaky even breathes a word I had anything to do with it, I need to clear the air. Two. If one of my tenants did do it, I need to have the perpetrator apprehended and removed from the premises. And three, it’s like you said last night, Jack. If one of my tenants didn’t do it, I need vindication of them all, however weird. Even Scorpio Rising. Because who is going to rent a pricey apartment in a building where a mass murderer lived?”

Am I starting to think like a superintendent or what? I reach out and touch Kovac’s arm to emphasize my point. Not much of a touch, not even on his bare skin. And BOOM! My power ricochets off his in an explosion of sensation and light.

The touch of a power with a power–electric, electrifying–crackles through me, igniting me with a sultry heat. Only this time I’m the initiator. I like that.

We both heave huge pleasured sighs. He regards me intently, another new expression in his eyes I haven’t seen before and can’t quite identify.

“Showoff.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“You just couldn’t help yourself, right?”

“Jack,” I say, low and urgent, “let me help.”

“All right.” He leans forward so suddenly, so conspiratorially close that for a moment I think he’s going to kiss me.

“How many parties?” I whisper, leaning into the moment, allowing the “p” of the parties to purse my lips.

But this isn’t the time or the place—for what? Hell if I know, but this isn’t just about Tilden Park anymore. Tension coils between us, a palpable presence.

Kovac abruptly leans back and swivels the monitor toward me. He opens a file, his professional façade firmly back in place. “Seven, including Scorpio Rising’s.”

I don’t yet know all my tenants, and the apartment numbers, the names, the faces captured on Officer Montego’s cell are a blur and a bewilderment. Except for Esmeralda and Scorpio Rising, there’s only one other tenant I recognize. Recognize instantly. His face is unforgettable, as is his name emblazoned beneath the photo in the file.

“Prince Lastor? And his cousins are the Princesses Hoshanna, Bridolette, and Elvaun?” I look at Kovac. “Are you serious? He really is royalty?”

“So he claims.”

“Royalty is living in my building? Where do they reign? Why are they living in Berkeley, of all places? And why rent an apartment?” I recall the map of the building and the floor plans Twitch left for me, which I studied last night. “It’s a beautiful big apartment, a palace in the sky, sure, but still. Royalty owns castles and estates and horse farms in the country. Royalty doesn’t rent apartments.”

“Not always. Circumstances change.” Kovac closes the file. “We’re not sure who Lastor is other than he gave a party on the night of the murders. Told Hernandez and Montego he never heard of Brand or the girls. He wasn’t under oath, so we don’t have to believe him. But we’ve got no reason to doubt him, either.”

LasTOR, Prince of SpanDEX. My, my, this gives me a whole new view of the soft-core fantasy superhero. And I, Abby Teller, am invited to his Revel. Tonight’s the night! I decide not to mention my precipitous rise in social status. If Mr. FBI’s personal life is none of my business, mine is none of his.

“He’s got no motive I can see,” Kovac continues, “and seems harmless enough. Except that he’s very weird.”

“No. Lastor is very weird?”

“Have you met him?”

“You said all my tenants are weird.” I’m no good at lying, so I change the subject. “Why didn’t you or Valdez secure a search warrant before we went to question Scorpio Rising?”

“Oh, I tried. Insufficient cause. No one has filed criminal charges. You didn’t see Brand and the girls at their party. The bodies were found miles away from the Garden of Abracadabra.”

“Jake had a right to get up on his hind legs?”

“‘Fraid so. I was hoping they’d cooperate out of their own self-interest.”

“And you wanted their saliva samples for the DNA? Do vampires have DNA?”

“Vampires were once human. Doc Eve and her team have put half a dozen other stiffs on deeper ice just to scrape out every one of those puncture wounds on Brand and the girls for any trace of saliva.”

Vampires were once human. It’s an eerie echo of Lastor’s remark. I shudder, recalling the young man with Flame, his skin slick with spit and blood, his chest and thighs riddled with the twin puncture wounds of a vampire bite. “That should be easy, with so many wounds.”

“You would think. So far, Eve hasn’t had any luck. She’s ordered toxicology and serology tests, too, of course but those tests take time. The time factor worries me. If Scorpio Rising has acquired or rekindled a taste for killing, and we don’t shut them down, they could do it again, and soon. Go on a spree.”

“My God.”

“Yeah.”

“What about fingerprints? Do vampires have fingerprints? Never mind, I get it. Vampires were once human. Is it possible to find fingerprints on the corpses?”

“Brand and the girls were wearing belt buckles, jewelry, leather. Firm surfaces that could hold a print, so, yes, it’s possible. Now that we’ve got a fantastic new fingerprint tech, we can even disentangle overlapping prints.”

“Prints of Brand buckling up his belt from, say, prints of the murderer unbuckling his belt?” I recall the unwelcome image I had that night of Brand lying with Flame.

“Exactly. That’s what desorption electrospray ionization, or DESI, does best.” Kovac clears his throat, and I wonder if he’s picked up on my unwelcome image. That would make him a telepath. What fun. “Prints on the bodies won’t help us, though, if Scorpio Rising has no prints in the database.”

“Is it possible to find prints on a car door handle?”

“Difficult, but possible.”

“Scorpio Rising’s Rolls Royce, you know the one on that antique cover of The Black Album? It’s parked in the lot behind the Garden of Abracadabra. Maybe your team can pick a print off a handle.”

“Worth a try.” Kovac keys a note in the file. He eyes me. “Great idea, Abby.”

“Well, thank you. Now, about Brand.”

“Let’s talk about Brand.” Kovac opens another file and there they are: the mug shots of the man I knew as Brand. Kovac orders a printout, takes the page when the printer spits it out, and hands it to me.

“Robert Brett Rand is way, way in our database. Drug smuggler. Just got out of prison when you gave him a ride.”

“I wondered. I suspected. But I should have known. I should have known. And I didn’t.” I slump in the chair, disgusted with myself and my lack of commonsense. Where was my intuition when I needed it?

“Longtime hoodie, but strictly smalltime rackets, if that makes you feel any better. Kept pigeon coops on the rooftop of a foreclosed house in L.A. where he squatted for nearly two years. Couple times a month he packed pigeons in the side doors of a Cadillac Seville and took a cruise down to Tijuana. Pigeons are like that. Poor dummies will put up with anything.”

“Poor dummies climbed up the shirtsleeves of old-timey stage magicians. The stage magicians didn’t make them disappear, they crushed them to death.” I think of Jackal and her little sister’s Easter bunnies. “I hate magicians who kill animals for power.”

“Brand didn’t kill the pigeons, if that makes you feel any better. Police dogs never scented a thing. They were birds, just birds. And not exotic birds. Nothing illegal.”

“Let me guess. They weren’t just pigeons, they were homing pigeons.”

“Bingo. Brand and his dealer in Tijuana packed vials with prime H, strapped the vials on the pigeons’ gams, and set ‘em loose in the dead of night. Birds hightailed it to their coops in L.A., dependable as the rising sun. Our buddy Brand cruised back across the border, no problem, and took in the sights along the Pacific Coast Highway. Had himself a party in La Jolla, a party in San Diego, a party in Malibu. A party here, a party there, a party everywhere. A real roadrunner, that guy.”

“Some folks have all the fun.”

“It wasn’t a lot of dope, nowhere near what the gangs smuggle. He never hit any juicy jackpot. But it was a sweet little scheme he could have go on with till he was ready to quit. And party with, using his sex magic. That,” Kovac says, fixing me with his frank, appraising gaze, “is mostly what he used his power for. Some of his lady friends have records. Holding, petty theft, prostitution, that kind of racket. Many more are just ladies looking for a good time. We haven’t scared up a thing on the ex-girlfriend in Emeryville. No ID, nothing. If she’s the killer, it would be her first offense. Crimes of passion typically are.”

I shake my head. “You know what? I feel just like a pigeon. A pigeon in a pigeon-drop scam. I actually wondered whether I wanted to see him again because, hey, he had crazy, wild power. You’re right, Jack. I don’t need magic in my personal life, either.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Abby.” Kovac shuts the computer down. “Someone snitched. L.A.P.D. got a hot anonymous tip. Police chopper snagged YouTube moments of the rooftop, Brand, and his birds. He served three years at San Quentin. Model prisoner. Very popular with the guards. I can guess why.”

I don’t want to guess why. “L.A.P.D. confiscated the Cadillac?”

“Of course.”

“So that’s why an able-bodied man his age didn’t drive his own car. Why he was hitchhiking.” Suspicion is twenty-twenty. Too bad I don’t always act on mine.

Kovac shuts the power strip off. “Brand’s got a huge record of power in the Yonder. Larger than his police records in our database. Abby, may I make a suggestion?”

“I’m all ears.”

“When you first learn about the Yonder, you’ll be tempted to poke around on your own. But the Yonder isn’t as simple as It appears. Some records have powers, strange powers of their own. My suggestion is that you wait till you’ve been properly trained at Magical Arts and Crafts before you try summoning on your own. Okay?”

“Sure.” Now that he’s lectured me against it, I can’t wait to try summoning on my own.

“Good. Have patience, my lady magician, you’ll learn. You’ve seen for yourself how power can be difficult to trace. It’ll take us weeks, maybe months or even years to sort through and analyze Brand’s records.”

“What about the Horde? Could they have been after Brand?”

“I’m not ruling it out.”

“But why would the Horde murder a smalltime drug smuggler and his party girls? Unless they’ve seen him and me in the Yonder and want to scare the hell out of me. Is that possible?”

“I’m not ruling that out, either.” Kovac reaches for a laptop on the windowsill. “Tell me again how you dropped Brand off in Emeryville.”

The lavender-and-orange sunset. The promise of my new life. My new job. My new school. Magic thrumming through Berkeley like runaway electricity.

“I took the University Avenue exit, westbound. Brand gave directions. Turn left, turn right, turn left. I’d been on the road for four days. I’d driven all day that day. I was beat! I’d never seen the place before. It was all new and strange.”

“No street names or numbers you’d remember? Landmarks or buildings?”

“No, they were lousy little town houses. All looked the same. Bus benches. Weeds in cracked concrete.” I rub my forehead. “I should have paid more attention, shouldn’t I?”

“It isn’t always easy to know what to do. Go on.”

“Like I told you. Barb poked me with her knitting needles. Later that night, she called me.” I recall the buzz of talk, raucous laughter, a jukebox blaring “Tumblin’ Dice.” “From the background noise, she must have called me from a bar.”

Kovac taps on his laptop. “Good, that’s a start. We can trace a reverse off your phone.”

I close my eyes, recalling that night. Recalling. “She accused me of being with him. I told her I’d seen him at the Garden of Abracadabra, and he was off to have his fun, but not with me.” My memory clears. “Jack, she knew those girls.” Barb’s three-pack-a-day smoker’s rasp echoes in my ears. Treacherous bitches. I’ve got it. “Neighb-whores, she called them. Lived in the unit upstairs from her.”

Kovac’s fingers fly over the keyboard. “Excellent. Then when we find Barb, we should be able to identify Trish and Zarah.”

“And we need to question Barb about the murders, too, right? How big of a place is Emeryville? I mean, to cruise around?”

“Bigger than Albany, smaller than Berkeley. What’ve you got in mind?”

“They were lousy little town houses, all looked the same. Except for one thing. One thing I’d recognize in a heartbeat.”

“What’s that?”

“A monstrous red eyeball weeping tears of blood.”

********

Enjoy the book here for free!

Or buy it at the links below. Or donate if and when you wish, whatever you wish, at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/lisamasonthewriter/

The choice is yours!

The Garden of Abracadabra is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra
is also on Amazon.com in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

Copyright © 2012–2016 by Lisa Mason.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, and more!

And on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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