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Trespassers: A Short Story

Trespassers is a short story set between book 2 and 3 of The Red Witch Chronicles, an urban fantasy series containing magic, paranormal adventure, and vampire mayhem along with swearing, violence, and adult situations. 

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Trespassers

December 30th, 7pm, Culver City, Los Angeles, California

“What is a manananggal?” Looking up from his wheelchair, Vic Constantine tossed Red the question like a flyball.

They waited by the pickup counter at the New Delhi Kitchen. A dinner rush was in full swing at the bustling Indian restaurant. Normies talked about holiday family dramas and New Year’s Resolutions, drowning out the hunters’ paranormal chatter.

She furrowed her brow, trying to place the strange name. Once she had asked him to sponsor her in the Hunter’s Challenge to join the Brotherhood, he had taken it as an invitation to toss pop quizzes at random. Usually, she had an answer yet all she could focus on was her stomach growling from the delicious curry smells coming from restaurant tables. “No clue.”

“Bloodsucker from the Philippines. Splits in half. Gotta use garlic and salt on it. Extinct in this dimension.”

“Extinct? Then why le—” Red started to say, then interrupted herself. “This dimension?”

“Science hasn’t caught up to supernatural theory and lore when it comes to multiverses, vortexes, time wobbles, other dimensions. It’s a big scary world out there,” he said dryly, checking his Batman watch. “I’m hoping my samosas are still in this one.”

“Will that be on the test?” Red frowned. The written portion of the Hunter’s Challenge was supposed to be intense but that was next level weird. She had read about those myths but figured most were just that—myths. “Now I think I’m looking forward to the practical more.”

“That should be a cakewalk after my tutelage.” Pausing as if for applause, Vic gestured to the green trucker hat on his shoulder length black mullet, AC/DC shirt and his denim covered legs. He quirked a sardonic eyebrow at her lack of response. “It’d be even easier if you played around with your magic more.”

Red bit her lip to keep in a sigh. Magic only got her in trouble lately. It had been five days since she was sent summons for a Blood Alliance tribunal in late January. A tango with a dark witch left her on the wrong side of a Dark Veil breech. Even banished to hell, Nevaeh Morgan still managed to fuck with Red’s life. Magic for personal gain and twisted desires set Nevaeh on her fatal path. Then add all the fallout at Halloween from Red being a dead ringer for a black magic using courtesan from Victorian times…  It made her leery about her powers.

“I’ll pass the challenge as a hunter, not a witch. I’m better at that, anyway.”

Vic shot her a look that spoke volumes about how much shit he thought she was full of right then. A waitress walking out of the kitchen with a steaming tray of tikka marsala stole his attention until he shook his head. “This isn’t because of Lucas?”

She blinked at him, more confused about this question than the one about the extinct demon. The meaning sunk in. She rolled her eyes.

Her souled vampiric coworker and occasional snuggle bunny, Lucas left for a desert motorcycle trip without much explanation beyond needing to clear his head. Sure, he wasn’t excited about witchcraft, his last relationship with a witch ended with her dying, so it made sense. It hadn’t affected Red’s decision.

“No. I’m a little insulted you’d think that.”

“Well, what is it? You were gungho about it before.” He pitched his voice higher in an impression of her. “My mom might have been a great witch, I need to impress her when we finally meet.”

“One, I don’t sound like that and two, I just saw a different side to the craft. It’s not something to play with,” Red said, walking to the pickup counter, grateful that their order was ready.

They left the New Delhi Kitchen for the chilly sidewalk. It was the day before New Year’s Eve and winter had finally come to Los Angeles. The stunned TV meteorologist hadn’t seemed to believe the forecast when he said they might have rain. She wasn’t looking forward to it. Angelenos couldn’t drive in a drizzle. After walking to the back of the strip mall, they entered the hallway containing a profitable massage therapist and the less profitable Quinn Investigations.

The agency door was open and ready for walk-in clients. They specialized in the supernatural, but it seemed like the demons were hibernating after Christmas. She was cool with it. It gave them time to continue organizing the years of Lucas’s poor filing. He was a better hunter than a secretary.

Quinn Byrnes sat at the front desk by the wide windows to the parking lot. He used a finger on each hand to hen peck type on his keyboard, computer glasses drooping down his nose. The glow of the screen highlighted his pale features, seething over the screen. He pushed the device away with a huff and pulled off his glasses, fangs peeking from his lips. Typically, emotive as a rock, technology could rile him up more than demons.

“What did I say about computers?” Vic asked, rolling past the couch and table for clients to go to Quinn.

“Wait for you.” The vampire rubbed his brown eyes, bowing his spiky blond hair, broad shoulders hunched. He had lived over three hundred years but insisted that this era was the most confusing.

Red would sympathize more, but she was too hungry. She sat down on the couch away from the others to dig into her food. Despite what she said to Vic, she had been practicing with simple exercises to float feathers. She raised one a few inches at midnight and didn’t wake until noon today. It was a good thing she worked nights. Part of why she couldn’t trust her magic. It was unreliable most of the time. When practicing, she ended up churning up her energy and unbalancing herself, pigging out on brownies, with little to show for it.

“And what are we trying to do?” Vic asked Quinn like a teacher addressing a kindergartener.

“Connect a video conference with Cora. She has a job for us.” Quinn grumbled. “It’s telling me that I don’t have a web camera. I do.”

Vic patted his shoulder. “I know you do, dude. More on over.” He started clicking the touchpad and typing quickly.

Red brought over her chicken kebab wrapped in foil and munched behind the guys as they fussed over the laptop.

The video conference app opened and Cora Moon, Supreme Master Vampire of Los Angeles, appeared on the screen. She adjusted a headband covered in yellow crystals on her lush black afro absently and scrolled through a cellphone. The logo for Moon Enterprises, the public face of her operations, was printed on her yoga top.

Quinn’s heavy brow puckered, and he frowned at Vic. “How did you—? I did that same exact thing.”

“Oh, you’re here,” Cora said, putting down her phone. Her cheerful tone grew forced. “You’re all here.”

Red waved her kebab in a sheepish hello as Vic saluted the Supreme. Most master vampires made her want to run, but Cora had a soul and the philanthropic background to match. Still after the trouble with the Black Veil, Red probably wasn’t her favorite human right now.

Thank goodness she was next to Vic.

“So, Cora,” he asked. “You do Hot Yoga. I’ve always wondered, can only hot people go?”

“Every body is beautiful.” The Supreme declared lightly before her tone flattened. “Quinn, I have other business, so I’ll make it quick. I need you to check out a warehouse by the San Bernardino Airport. I’ve already emailed the address. You’ll get a bonus on top of your usual retainer if this can be done tonight. I hope you still have those cop uniforms that I lent you.”

“Fresh from the dry cleaner. What am I looking for?” Quinn asked.

“Michel de Grammont had the warehouse under surveillance before he died, and I want to know why.” Her lip curled. “I’m still discovering the finer details of his betrayal.”

Red took a bite of chicken to avoid adding that Cora was still stamping out the last of his followers. The former public relations czar of the Supreme’s empire, he had tentacles that spread over Los Angeles county and probably further.

Cora continued, “The owners are listed as the Bethesda Group while the cargo seems to come from two overseas firms— Haelyonim LLC and Uriel & Sons Corp. Paper companies and subsidiaries, my researchers haven’t found the source.”

“Unless that building is owned by the video game company, those are pretty biblical for company names,” Vic commented.

Red raised her eyebrow, not understanding the references. They were roommates but when he popped into church on Sundays, she slept in.

“Bethesda is where Jesus healed a guy. It was like the first pool party. Total rager,” Vic explained with a shrug. “Uriel is an angel’s name.”

“Somehow I don’t think we’re dealing with angels,” Cora said shortly. “Take pictures of the inside and send them back. The drive should take longer than the recon.”

“It will be done,” Quinn said.

Cora pressed her hands together and nodded. “Namaste.”

Red waited until the video chat had ended to say, “Sounds pretty simple.”

“Yeah, why isn’t she having one of her minions do it?” Vic asked.

Quinn opened his email inbox on the screen, tapping on the latest message then wrote the warehouse address down on a notepad. “Cora Moon trusts the universe, she doesn’t trust her people.”

Red started wrapping her kebab. “I guess dinner is over.”

“Finish your food,” Quinn said. “We’ll need to wait thirty minutes, or it’ll take an hour longer to get there.”

Vic wheeled himself over to the table with his takeover curry. “Good old LA traffic, it’s as predictable as the weather.”

Later in the front seat of the Millennium Falcon, dressed in a uniform that looked stolen from the LAPD, Red thought about his comment with wry amusement. Dark storm clouds rolled in from the Pacific as they took an offramp near the San Bernardino Airport to check out the warehouse. She figured the weatherman felt validated now, but she wouldn’t believe it until she felt a drop. It had rained more in Arizona.

Quinn drove the black van into a dark warehouse district. His vampiric gaze picked up the block numbers and building details better than she did. Nighttime in Los Angeles was diffused from the city lights reflecting on the smog, leaving an orange haze over the valley. The castoff light helped Red’s poor human vision.

Vic perched in her wheelchair in the back, typing on his laptop, doing a hacker thing that she didn’t quite understand despite his metaphors about digging a tunnel. The warehouse was one of those smart buildings that might as well be controlled by an app. He was picking up where Cora’s people had left off to ensure that the door would be unlocked and security off on arrival. The glow of his screen left a glare on windshield.

Quinn parked on the curb across the street from the mysterious Bethesda Group’s property.

It was a beige building with windows on the second floor and a small front parking lot. Two teens, white boys in sagging pants and hoodies, were happily vandalizing it. The punks tossed rocks at a small awning light above the dark paned glass door, breaking it with hoots and fist bumps as darkness descended on them. They bolted when they noticed Red putting on a cop hat in the van.

“Shit. shit shit,” Vic chanted as he typed and clicked on his laptop’s touchpad. “Oh, never mind, I’m brilliant. I just suppressed the security alarm.”

Red trusted his skills even if he never finished the computer science program at UCLA, but she still froze, waiting for police sirens or guards.

They were promised the place was empty. The passenger side was closer to it, but with a broken light, she could only make out that it was slick and modern. It looked like a fresh construction compared to the other dingy warehouses covered with graffiti. The email from Cora said it was registered as a mixed-use building of offices and storage but only cargo had been unloaded it in so far. Red hoped the intel was right and they wouldn’t wander across a person working late.

Quinn leaned over the wooden hunter’s kit between the front seats to point over her at the second level. “Did you see that in the window? I think I saw a flashlight.”

Red hadn’t but she scanned the area. “Did one of those kids get in?”

The Pacific winds picked up, breaking against the stout warehouses, blowing litter around. A nearby trash can toppled over, releasing a funky smell that somehow penetrated the closed van. Nothing else moved on the block. It was nearly nine at night on the day before New Year’s Eve. The industrial area might as well be a ghost town. Hopefully, it wasn’t ghosts. She had seen enough lately.

Nose wrinkling from the smell, Quinn started to say. “I don’t th—”

“The front is unlocked…” Vic drew out the syllables as he tapped dramatically on his keyboard. “Now!”

The double glass doors automatically separated to reveal a shadowy interior.

“Vic, you’re a gentleman and scholar,” Red said as she reached for the car handle. Intuition, deep in her gut, told her to wait. A security alarm wailed from the Bethesda Group building, echoing off the others, breaking the quiet. Heart leaping in her chest from shock, she glared at him.

“That wasn’t me, I swear!”

Quinn shushed them, gaze locked on the front entrance.

A cop bolted out of the building, taking a right and running around the back, darkness hiding their face.

Quinn texted on his phone, annoyance breaking through his usual stoic expression. “Cora said no cops.”

“Probably sent another team,” Vic grumbled to himself.

Red kept her eyes on the property as the wind howled and the men debated among themselves. Sudden rain pelted the van like a meteorologist’s revenge. The ambient lights of the City of Angels darkened in the downpour. “We got two now.”

A taller cop, different from the one before, appeared from a small alley on the left exterior side. He stared at up the building, walking slowly without a care to the storm.

Then the original officer reemerged from the right side, hat brim low against the rain. Probably female but maybe a small man, the cop was in the same state of confusion, trotting to her partner with glances up at the second floor.

There was something familiar about them.

Red had met a few other cops on Cora’s take like Joe Chang or Aisha Callaway. She’d certainly been at enough crime scenes to start recognizing the ones with the bad luck to be assigned to the spooky cases. Where did she know them from?

The smaller officer darted to the small awning over the front entrance for shelter. She slipped on the slick step, stumbling against the other officer’s board shoulder. He helped her up. The two officers look at each other and at the van, faces in rainy shadows. They darted forward through the small parking lot.

“They’re coming over,” Red said to the guys, opening the passenger door without glancing at it. Bracing herself to pretend to be a cop for real ones, she hoped Quinn would do the talking. At least the rain had slowed to a drizzle.

The officers were gone when she looked back. The block was empty.

There wasn’t a stray cat or another parked car in sight. Even the rain had stopped. The Bethesda building was still closed and silent. Had the cops ducked into an alley or another warehouse? Did they double back?

“Holy shit, where did they go?” Red stuck her head out the door. “You saw that right?”

 Quinn nodded. “I looked away when Cora texted back, but I saw them running here.”

“I can’t see shit back here.” Vic crossed his arms.

“You’re the techie,” Red said. “Just do the computer stuff. Do you have access to their security cameras?”

Vic frowned. “Weirdly enough, that’s the only thing offline.”

“Did Cora send cops?” Red asked.

Quinn shook his head.

“Maybe we have some phantom po-po. I have my cross-o-matic packed around here somewhere for an exorcism,” Vic offered. In spite his handicap, or maybe because of it, he relished going into the field. He would have been the best for an exorcism since spirits hated vampires and Red wasn’t much of a believer.

She wasn’t convinced it was ghosts. Those usually gave her a distinct eerie feeling. The cops looked corporeal. They were probably chasing after those teenagers.

“We’re just here to take pictures,” Quinn said. “Do you see anything unusual? Or any sigils with your third eye, Red?”

She wanted to say that she just saw something unusual. Instead, she opened her spirit gaze, it was her most useful witch trick. Protection sigils were written in spiky calligraphy like neon graffiti on the glass doors of the Bethesda Group building, invisible to regular humans. She recognized one that she had seen before on mystical safes for magical objects. It was to keep the energy inside the box.

“They scribbled some protections on it, but it seems like a passive spell. I can’t feel anything from here.” Red frowned at the realization. She couldn’t help but feel paranormal energies due to her mage blood. It would have been noticeable before they parked. “We’ll want to bring some cold iron to see if they’re cloaking the magic inside the place. Do you smell people in there, Quinn?”

“No. I just smell trash. Its empty. I don’t hear any heart beats.” The boss squinted at the warehouse, his voice unusually hesitant. “We might as well go inside.”

Red sighed, patting the borrowed police utility belt on her waist. It wasn’t her hunter’s kit, but she had packed it with salt and powered cold iron anyway. “I have something for the sigils.” She stepped out of the van.

The earlier wind had completely died, leaving the chilly air feeling heavy and still. She wished she could stay in the van, but Quinn couldn’t be trusted with camera phones even if he was a talented sketch artist. The vampire was all thumbs. Not like Kristoff Novak. She had debated internally on texting him about the mysterious Bethesda Group since the unsouled vampire dealt heavily with real estate. Now, she wished she had.

“Watch the security system, call if we need to run,” Quinn said to Vic before leaving to join Red.

She squared her shoulders and they walked to the entrance. Blowing powdered cold iron on the sigils scribbled in the ether, she felt them wane but not disappear. Hardy buggers. She felt a tingle of energy seep out from behind the door. Neutral, it didn’t make her skin crawl like a demon. Yet she didn’t like how it brushed over her like a texture she couldn’t describe. No auras glowed inside the glass doors to indicate a human or supe. “Something is emitting serious vibes in there. I don’t think it will rip our faces off but don’t hold me to that.”

Quinn tried the door, but it had locked itself again. Red took care with the slippery front step to avoid the female cop’s fate.

After a call to Vic, they were inside the narrow front room. Blank white walls stretched to an open stairwell. A small built-in reception area partially broke up the space. The thick presence of the strange force distracted her from wondering where the officers went. It made the nearly empty room feel full.

Red inspected the curved front desk, but the drawers and top were bare except for dust. There wasn’t even a chair. A haze of ether and energy lingered like fog in the corners. She took a quick picture of the lobby with her phone, blinded by the flash for the moment.

Quinn waved her over to the only interior door. “It’s open.”

He went inside first, shielding her smaller form in case of a surprise jump attack. The wind howled outside but a hush lay over the dark window less storage space.

Documenting their patrol, she used her phone’s camera light as a lantern. Containment sigils on the walls and doors cast a strange glow to her third eye. She shivered. Why so many spells to keep things in? Was this a warehouse or a prison?

Less than a third full, the large room had wide spaces between the makeshift aisles. Cargo bins, boxes, and crates lined the walls and occupied the center. Some were opened to reveal foreign handicrafts— woven baskets, pottery, and other knickknacks. They weren’t new productions. These seemed fragile and old, packed with plenty of cushioning. A stone Olmec head, face carved into the rock, stared out from a crate bigger than her.

Red walked quickly to keep up with Quinn’s long legs, recording a video as they looped around the storeroom. She told herself that video was better than still pictures, but she really just wanted to get out of there quicker. She didn’t know why. Usually, she’d be curious about a mysterious warehouse of historical goodies. The artifacts were spectacular even in the wan light of her phone. Were these high value cultural items smuggled from their homelands?

Nothing was out of ordinary for what seemed to be storage for international upscale imports. Yet weirdly enough, she agreed with the dead asshole, Michel de Grammont—someone should be keeping an eye on the place.

The strange energy didn’t grow as they explored. There were no temperature shifts like a spirit manifesting, and nothing had leapt out with claws.

Yet.

They returned to the lobby after inspecting the empty loading bay. Starting up the stairwell to the second level, Quinn seemed slower than usual, his scrutinizing gaze lingering on every shadow.

It wasn’t the shadows she was worried about.

Power radiated from behind a closed door at the top of the stairs. It was stronger with every step. Spectral flotsam passed her third eye, bobbing like driftwood on invisible currents that were as fluid as rain, persistent as a hurricane, and limitless as the ocean. It wasn’t an aura of a mage, or activity from a spell. She’d never felt anything like it, yet paradoxically it was familiar as if she were experiencing this phenomenon in a different quantity than usual. The difference between having a smear of jam on your toast and being dumped into a vat of it.

Quinn’s hand hovered over the doorknob as if he weren’t sure if he should open it. He pushed it open, locking eyes with her. An unnecessary breath moved his chest. It was never comforting when the dead were nervous.

Nothing jumped out behind him.

Open completely, there were no boxes to break up the empty top floor. Sigils covered the unfinished walls. Faded, they didn’t glow like the one’s downstairs, eroded by the force they imprisoned. Outside streetlamps streamed in from the windows, breaking up the shadows between the support pillars. Her phone was good as a flashlight as she aimed the camera lens to show on the record that there wasn’t a single cubicle in sight. Whatever the city thought, this wasn’t an office.

The light on her device drifted over a marble-white face.

Red nearly dropped her phone, assuming it was a vampire until she realized it was stone. The statue, a bearded man in a cloak and Grecian tunic, was slightly larger than life size. It peeked at her from behind a pillar, only yards from the stairwell as if the movers didn’t want to move it any further. Or couldn’t bare too.

Energy pulsed from it.

She gave the statue space as she circled it a few times to record it from different angles and zoomed in on the details. There weren’t any curses carved into it or painted sigils. To all three eyes, it looked like any other Greek statue. How did it radiate a force that she couldn’t see?

The alarm blared suddenly again, jamming at her eardrums, far shriller inside of the building.

Red jumped and twirled around. She hit stop on the video recording.

“Downstairs,” Quinn ordered, rushing into the stairwell.

She followed, jamming her phone back into her utility belt, every step felt oddly sluggish and evitable. Her gut told her the lobby would be empty before it came into view. The glass doors of the front were open again, but the sirens died.

Who was here? Did those cops or the teens come back? Hopefully, it wasn’t the Bethesda Group. Somehow, she doubted that they just found that statue laying around somewhere.

“Meet me behind the loading bay.” Directing her outside, Quinn rushed into the storeroom. Had he seen something?

Lowering her hat brim, Red ran out, automatic doors closing behind her. There were no cars in the front parking lot, only the black van across the street. She took a right and ran around the side of the building closest to the loading dock. Her ears were too muffled from the alarms to fully hear the wailing wind whipping her cheeks.

Quinn opened a side door by the dock before shrugging in confusion. The back fence of the warehouse was flush against another building. There was no hopping over it unless you climbed over three stories. He sprinted to the left side of the building towards the front.

She sighed. If he had seen something, it was faster than them. She was used to monsters out running her, but Quinn was another story. Rain soaked her suddenly as if the clouds were wringing themselves out. She groaned. Twice in one night? That had to be an LA record. The weatherman would crow about it tomorrow.

Red jogged back to the front entrance, glancing up at the second floor, trying not to think too hard about what was up there. She had the unsettling sensation that it might think back at her.

She met Quinn by the front door, whispering before she reached him. His supernatural hearing would pick it up as good as a yell. “Did you find someone?”

“I heard a car park. Over the alarm, I couldn’t tell if it was in front or back. There was only Vic out there so I figured it must be in the loading bay.”

Mouth open and gaping like an idiot at the top level, she shook herself. Get a grip, it’s raining! Running to the small awning for shelter, she slipped on the wet step and bumped into his big shoulder. “Shit!”

Quinn grabbed her by the waist and steadied her.

“Damn, that slippery,” she muttered. She forgot that the real cop had fell here. In the face of such contained power, she had almost forgotten about them both. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. Where did they go?

Quinn stared down at her, an unsettled realization skittered over his face.

They gawked at Millennium Falcon across the street. It wasn’t the wet uniform that made her shiver. Her own face stared back at them! It was her and Quinn, talking behind the windshield, illuminated by the dash lights and Vic’s laptop. The van door opened.

Red and Quinn raced to the vehicle.

Suddenly their doubles were gone, leaving only the open door behind.

Hauling ass at vampire top speed, he reached the van first.

“How’d the door open?” Vic asked, looking up from his computer.

“We’re leaving,” Quinn said, nearly pushing Red into the passenger seat. Leaping over the hood, he hustled to the driver’s side door almost too fast to see. The engine was on before she had fully closed the door.

She grabbed a bundle of sage from the hunter’s kit between the seats. Lighting it with trembling hands, she waved it around her and Quinn.

The vampire leaned into the smoke, shaking his head like a wet dog, as he broke the speed limit out of the warehouse district.

Growing louder with each word, Vic peppered them with questions. “What happened? Are you okay? Did you see something? Were the cops in there?”

Red ignored him to climb into the back. She striped off the top of her wet uniform down to her undershirt and rummaged through her get-go bag. The statue’s energy lingered on her like secondhand smoke. She pulled on a sweater and discretely changed into jeans out of his view. Taking a blanket with her to the front seat, she wrapped herself in it, still shivering.

“You guys are weirding me out now,” Vic said.

“What was the statue, Quinn?” Red asked.

His expression hadn’t moved much, but he looked more freaked out than she had ever seen him. “Chronos.”

She glowered at the vampire when he didn’t say more. “The Time God? For fuck’s sake, we saw ourselves in the Millennium Falcon! I slipped on the same spot. Then the rain. You can’t tell me that doesn’t just make you go hmmmmm.”

“A time anomaly. Ooo, those are rare.” Vic gasped, eyes lighting up. “Were you guys caught on a loop? How many times did you guys Groundhog’s Day?”

“One time, I think,” she whispered. “It was enough.”

“Tell me what happened!”

“We’re only discussing this once. Don’t interrupt,” Quinn said, deathly serious as he dialed Cora’s number. He explained how they arrived, and how the cops appeared and then disappeared. Distracted by Vic and the smell of rotting garbage, he hadn’t gotten an ID, visual or species, on them.

Red handed her phone to Vic to upload the video for the Supreme. They had enough data on the mobile hotspot to send it now. She wanted it off her device. The instinct was strong and primal like hunger after doing magic.

She added to Quinn’s story by describing the sigils and what she sensed from the force she could feel yet not see. Whatever that statue was, it was leaking power like a cracked nuclear reactor spewing toxic waste. Had the energy sunk into the building warping reality inside and around it? Or was it just a confusion spell?

They both fumbled when it came to describing looking up to see themselves in the van.

Red hoped that after all his years that Quinn had a better explanation of the phenomenon. After studying for the Hunter’s Challenge, she was fresh on the lore, but she was still an intern.

The Fae were said to enjoy tormenting humans by taking them to their realm then returning them after a century had passed in the fairy realm and a minute in the human world or vice versa. Yet all the hunters swore that you’d know if you were kidnapped by Fae. She imagined it would be more dramatic than a patrol through a warehouse.

The human realm had enough possible suspects. There were warlocks, alchemists, necromancers, and empaths among other mages. Some could induce hallucinations or skew your perception. Mind and matter were one thing, but true time manipulation was supposed to be beyond the reach of any mortal or demon.

Some might have seen her job as dealing with paranormal mysteries, but they were always something she could explain by known supernaturals. It was rare that she found something that was truly unexplainable.

Cora listened to their story without objection or explanation, her tone as subdued as Quinn. She promised to take care of it. After ending the call, silence reigned in the van as they fled west on the San Bernardino Freeway.

Sleep alluded Red.

She gave up at dawn and trooped to the living room with a blanket and a book. By the time Vic woke up, she had moved on to attempting origami. Her clammy hands fumbled to create a crane as a TV morning show droned on in front of her. 

“You look like fried ass.” He pronounced with a grunt, rolling from his room, towards the kitchen attached to the living room. “Didn’t sleep?”

Shrugging, she accepted the observation. She had already seen the dark circles under her green eyes when she brushed her teeth.

Upon reaching a kitchen counter, he did a double take back at her. “You didn’t make coffee? Now, I’m concerned. How long have you been decaffeinated?”

“I thought I’d fall asleep by now, but I gave up by the third hour of the Today Show. Maybe I could go bowling? I haven’t been in a while.”

He puttered around to get the java going. “I don’t know if swinging a heavy ball is a good idea when you’re sleep deprived.” 

“It feels like a good day for hobbies until our shift starts. Maybe I can learn to knit. I can pop into the craft store for some yarn.”

“I think your hobby is going to the craft store.” He snorted looking at the stack of origami paper. “Trying to distract yourself, huh?”

“Yeah. Quinn called earlier. Said that Cora went herself before dawn, but the warehouse was cleaned out. Either way, she already wired payment to the agency.”

“That’s a co-inky-dink,” he said sardonically and rolled over. “I was doomscrolling in bed and I saw this.” He showed his phone with an article on the screen. “Breaking news, the warehouse has been upgraded from empty to on fire. Good, huh?”

Red shrugged, resisting the urge to crush her half-made paper crane. “Where did that statue go? I don’t like the idea of anyone having it.”

Vic cringed and smoothed back his sleep tousled hair. “That’s a comforting notion. I’ll make sure to tell Fat Crispin in London, this is something the Brotherhood would want to track.”

The weatherman appeared on the TV screen. “If you were in San Bernardino, you were lucky enough to get a few minutes of rain last night. It was a single downpour, but we certainly need it.”

Red was too confused to keep listening to the forecast. “It rained twice last night. First when we got to the building and later when we ran out.”

Vic raised an eyebrow. “I only remember it happening once.”

Fingers chilling, Red dropped her origami. “Do you think it’s possible? To effect time. Or was that just a spell to fuck with us?”

“I’ve been working this job for a long time.” He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers on his belly like a philosopher. “Every time, I think something is impossible, the world proves me wrong.”

THE RED WITCH CHRONICLES CONTINUES IN WITCH GONE VIRAL.

Hiya, Sami Valentine here, author and matcha latte addict! 🙋‍♀️

If you liked this short side story, sign up for my Fang Gang newsletter! You’ll get access to bonus reads and prequels like the newsletter exclusive Terror in Tahoe. In that novella, Vic thinks he found Red’s dad, but the hunters need to save the man before the homecoming becomes a funeral.

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