Release of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 2
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
The explosion from the necklace took its toll. Leira still heard a mild buzz in her ears days later. The drive back to Austin was mostly in silence. But somewhere during the long stretch in Oklahoma, Leira finally said what she had been thinking since Somers had managed to incinerate himself.
“I’m thinking I failed this mission. The killer is dead and the necklace is missing. I got there just in time to be a witness and that’s about it.” She looked out at the setting sun across the prairies that ran alongside the highway. The remaining light was throwing purple shadows on the winter ground. The beauty of the scenery was doing nothing for her mood.
“We don’t measure failure the same way on Oriceran,” Correk said tersely. “It’s not about the right or wrong, just the consequences. And by that measure we accomplished half of the assignment.”
“No more killer, I get it. You realize that thanks to erasing the last minutes of that party no one knows exactly what happened to Bill Somers or the dean. It’s going to be a permanent cold case. The dean’s family will never know.”
“Not much to be done about that,” said Correk, “beyond what the Order of the Silver Griffins were willing to do. It was nice of them to hold that little service on Montrose Beach and pour the ashes into Lake Michigan. Someone took the time to remember both of them.”
“Even if we couldn’t tell where Somers ashes ended and Dean Muston’s began.” Leira shook her head. “There has to be some kind of spell that would let us leave the dean’s family at least with a false memory of what happened to him like a heart attack and a nice funeral, even if it’s a lie. Somers only had that odd little friend, Randolph. He looked like an easy mark for a simple spell.”
“We’ve learned the hard way that when we meddle with magic, even with good intentions, other problems pop up,” said Correk. “As for the necklace, it will surface. It’s far too powerful to stay hidden forever.”
“Small comfort. Like knowing someone has an atom bomb somewhere out there and when it goes boom, we’ll know where they were keeping it all along.” Leira watched an old Crown Vic weaving in and out of traffic along the highway, narrowly missing bumpers. “Would love to pull that asshole over,” she mumbled.
“If you continue to take what happened in Chicago personally, it’ll be harder to focus. Let it go, and put your attention on whatever we’re supposed to be doing next.”
“There’s no we at this point, Correk. We have no leads of any kind. You go back to your world and I go back to mine.”
“With a troll.”
“Okay, that’s a sizable wrinkle, but still I got myself into that one. Besides, your life in Oriceran will call you back at some point.”
“Hopefully, not quite so abruptly. But yes, if my king and queen asked me to return, I would oblige. So far, that is not the case.”
Leira gave Correk a sidelong glance, pushing her dark bangs off her face. “They have some other plan already, I take it.”
“I am assuming the same, but I don’t know. Look, that conversation can wait. Are we not going to talk about your mother?”
“Again with the we.” Leira pursed her lips, irritated. A groan went up from the troll, sleeping on the backseat.
“I can be of assistance. There’s still a lot you have to learn. Not only about who you really are, but how to use all of that to the best advantage.”
Leira bit her bottom lip, pulling out from behind an eighteen-wheeler to follow a long line of different colored pickup trucks cruising down the left lane. The silver Dodge truck directly in front of her had a single large star in the back window. It felt good to know they were getting closer to home.
“I lead this investigation,” she said finally. “I call all the shots, and you keep the magic to a minimum so we don’t all end up on some tranquilizer swearing we’re not crazy, right alongside my mother.”
“Agreed,” said Correk. “We’ll find a way to get her out of there.”
“That’s not what has me tied in a knot.” Leira gripped the steering wheel. “It’s what fifteen years in a psych ward has to have done to her.”
“There’s no way you could have known your mother was telling the truth. We’ve noticed your species prefers to believe in what it can see and has been known to react badly to alternate theories. An entirely different world of species that can perform magic could be seen as an enormous threat. If your sci fi movies are to be believed, your government’s first reaction would have included cages and vivisection.”
“Maybe that’s just the over-caffeinated idea of some writer on a deadline,” said Leira. “I keep holding on to the idea that if she’s half Light Elf…”
“Everything says she must be.”
“If she is, her other-worldly DNA helped her out. Maybe she figured out a way to create some kind of life for herself in there. Fifteen years…” Her voice trailed off.
“We’ll figure out the rest of this, some day,” Correk reassured her. “Come on,” he said, holding up his fist and smiling. “Let me do one of those strange handshakes. Don’t leave me hanging.”
“We call it a fist bump.” She returned his smile, despite everything weighing on her mind. “You picked up a lot of lingo from one visit to the bowling alley.”
“That’s more like it. We have any of the Nacho Doritos left?” he asked.
“That’s why you want to stay, isn’t it? Our junk food has sedated many a foe. You’re the only one who would know what’s left in the snack bag over there. I gave up on it back in Southern Illinois. Thought I’d lose a finger going for a Cheez-It.”
“Those things are addictive. I suggest when we get back to Austin one of the first things we do is look for some real food.”
“You mean pizza, don’t you?”
“The waitress assured me it covered every major food group on this planet.”
“Pizza for breakfast again, it is. But this time we’re going to try my favorite.”
“You’ll see, the suspense is worth it.”
Eireka Berens sat at a round wooden table topped with Formica in the dayroom of the Claridge Psychiatric Hospital flipping over cards looking for the ace. Her long brown hair hid her face and she made a point of not making eye contact with anyone.
The small ward had no more than fifteen psychiatric patients at any given time. Ten of them were long-term, like Eireka, and she had learned how to form alliances with each of those patients, if not friendships. The other five were a constantly rotating cast of characters who had tried something stupid to harm themselves, or had just pissed off their family enough with their bad choices that they wanted them gone for a little while.
A tall male orderly dressed in a white uniform right down to his soft-soled white shoes strode into the room and clapped his hands sharply.
“Time for six o’clock medication. Okay everyone, you know the drill. Line up to the right of the window and the nurse will place the medication on your tongue, handing you the glass of water. Swallow the pills, stick out your tongue, lift it so that we can see that the medication is gone and this will all go smoothly.”
He clapped his hands sharply again. Once, twice. “Come on people, dinner tonight’s burritos, everybody’s favorite. We don’t need anyone holding up the line or causing trouble. Ms. Berens, go get in line.”
Eireka got up slowly and shuffled toward the line. She had mastered the look of the drug-induced haze years ago. Her paper slippers made a skitch, skitch noise against the worn-out linoleum floor.
The redheaded girl in front of her was young and looked nervous. She was a new admittance, came in just last night, and she kept looking furtively from left to right, wringing her hands. She was crying hard enough that a sheen of snot glossed her lips. Eireka wanted to reach out and comfort the girl. She figured she had to be about the same age as her own daughter, Leira. But the risk that someone would notice and discover she was faking her torpor was too great.
“Maggie! You’re next!” The orderly was doing his sharp clap again, trying to get the new girl to move forward in line. All it did was make her cry harder, an irritating whimper coming out of her trembling lips.
“Burrito night!” An oversized woman with wiry gray hair sticking out all over her head was stomping her feet in the back of the line. She was also a fairly recent addition to the ward, but Eireka had a good idea that she was just at the start of a very long stretch.
The old woman had had enough and started shoving the people directly in front of her in line, still yelling burrito night at the top of her lungs. Three orderlies immediately rushed her, restraining her and dragging her out of the room.
“Burritos in your room tonight, if you’re awake enough to know they’re there,” one of the orderlies laughed.
Eireka took the opportunity to surreptitiously raise her hand and gently push the crying girl in front of her, moving her forward as if she had no will of her own. Even if it’s the last good thing I can do. It was the one really good thing her mother had given to her, and she had done her best to pass it on to Leira. Never back down from doing the right thing, she thought. Never.
Eireka caught a glimpse of the thin scars that marred the soft, white underside of the girl’s arms.
The rumor was that her parents were wealthy and well-connected. Definitely a tourist, thought Eireka. As soon as her involuntary hold was over they would find her a more comfortable place where they could hide her away.
When Erica got to the top of the line the nurse barked, “Name.”
Eireka opened her mouth and held out her hand for the glass of water. As the nurse handed her the water she let two of her fingers brush against the woman’s skin and whispered one of the few spells she had learned from her mother.
“Invisibilia,” she muttered. She took a sip of the water and then opened her mouth wide, the three capsules still on her tongue clearly showing. The nurse gave a sharp nod and barked “Next!”
Eireka had learned over time that the spell only lasted for a few seconds, and was really only good for creating an illusion on smaller things. She had tried to use it once or twice to make it look as if her bed was occupied, when she was still intent on breaking out. But it never lasted long enough or was big enough to influence people who weren’t in the room when she cast the spell.
It took a few stays in isolation in a padded cell before she decided to stop trying to escape and instead focus on making things better for herself. She still held on to the belief that one day her beautiful, funny and clever daughter would figure things out, and come and get her.
She knew Leira Berens was on the police force, but it had been a few years since she had seen her in person. Leira had come over four years ago to tell her that her own mother, Mara Berens, had disappeared.
The weight of those words had crashed over Eireka, taking her breath away.
“You’re alone!” she had gasped, shocked and alarmed.
Eireka reached out, grasping her daughter’s arm in desperation. She tried to tell her where to look for her grandmother but the second Eireka started to talk about Oriceran again, Leira pulled back. Even stood as if she was ready to go. Determined to go.
Still, Eireka had persisted and tried to tell Leira how to create a doorway, ask the elves for help. The orderlies overheard and dragged her away. They gave her an injection that left her groggy for a week and made it impossible for her to pull off a spell of any kind.
Leira had visited her mother again, months later but Eireka could see the toll it was taking on her daughter and clasped her hand tightly, whispering, “Don’t come back. Get on with your life and forget I’m here.”
Leira had protested, but Eireka had been thinking about what to do for months.
“Invisibilia,” she had whispered, clinging to her daughter’s hand, conjuring the image of an empty space where her mother sat. She held onto the image as hard as she could, knowing the intensity of her feelings would help push the idea further into Leira’s heart.
It wasn’t as if she expected Leira to forget about her, but she knew the spell would help shroud Leira’s feelings for her, and help her only child get on with her life. So far, the spell was working.
Still, Eireka Berens had never given up hope that someday her daughter would be ready and figure out her true heritage in time to free her mother without exposing them both to danger. Then together, they would find out what had become of Mara Berens.
Every day she woke up wondering if today was that day.
“You’re crazy. Thin crust all the way.” Correk folded the slice like he’d seen people doing at the large table next to him, pushing half of it into his mouth.
They were sitting on metal stools at a long, thin stainless-steel counter outside of a low-slung red brick building in Austin. It was a warm winter night, the kind Austin was famous for. Large neon letters over their head spelled out Home Slice Pizza. Correk still had a knit hat pulled down over his ears and his long hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
The waitress gave him a thumbs up as she leaned through the window service and refilled his Dr. Pepper.
“Good call leaving the troll in the car,” he said. “But when he smells the grease he’s going to be pissed. We need to bring a peace offering.”
“I’m the one who said thin crust is better. Till it’s like a cracker. You didn’t seem to mind deep dish back in Chicago,” Leira pointed out.
“That’s before you took me to Home Slice,” he replied, looking around the small restaurant on the south side of Austin. The thin white paper plate in front of him was soaked through with grease.
“Stopping for more pizza before we got back to my place was your idea. Granted, a really good one. I have to admit this is not half bad. This is as close to New York style pizza as you can get here in Austin.”
“Yo phone is bluzzing,” mumbled Correk.
Leira winced, watching the grease run down Correk’s chin.
“Chew with your mouth closed, dude!”
He pointed a greasy finger in the direction of a pile of vibrating small white napkins.
“Swallow, Correk, swallow. Hello? Hagan, slow down, what is it?” Leira leaned toward the small window and waved at the waitress. “We’re going to need the rest to go.”
“What is it?” asked Correk, wiping his hands. “This grease is tenacious.”
“That was my partner. There’s a case. All hands on deck.”
“How does he even know you’re back in town?”
“I called when I went to the bathroom to check in. It’s a cop thing,” she said with a shrug. “I’ll drop you back at my place. The troll’s piece is coming out of your share of the leftovers.”
“Not a chance, on either one, Leira. Okay, he can have my pizza. But if I’m going to stay here on Earth for a while, then I’m going to stay by your side as much as I can.” He held up his hands to stop her from saying anything else. “I understand it’s a police investigation, but I’m not sitting around your tiny house with a troll for hours on end. And no, sitting out at the bar is not much better.”
“Fine, I don’t have time to argue. But we’re still dropping off the troll and you stay back by the car. Under no circumstances do you interfere. I mean it,” she warned, throwing down a few dollars for a tip.
“Do you normally get this agitated at the start of the case?” Correk asked, scooping up the box, as they headed for the car.
“Normally, I make a point of not rushing. That’s the way you miss clues. But these are special circumstances. A child is missing, presumed kidnapped, and one person is already dead. We have a window of just a few hours before this could turn into another homicide. Besides, this is not the moment I want more people to realize magic is a thing, it’s gone local and Siegfried and Roy were really out of this world.”
“Only Siegfried.” Leira scowled at Correk, and slid into the front seat. “But yes, I get your point,” he said, buckling up. Leira turned on the lights and siren.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #1 from RELEASE OF MAGIC coming out AUGUST 14th! Things are really starting to rock and roll for Leira and Correk (Bert’s Elven name but if you’ve gotten this far… you already knew that 😉 ). But what about Leira’s Mom, Eireka Berens? Read on! And continued BIG HEAPINGS OF THANK YOU for all of the warm welcomes for us Oricerans into a Kurtherian Gambit world and for the LEIRA CHRONICLES! Next up will be SOUL STONE MAGE by Sarah Noffke on SEPT 6TH and FAIRHAVEN CHRONICLES by S.M. Boyce on SEPT 8TH – so much magical fun headed your way! Okay, back to work – on PROTECTION OF MAGIC. What will happen next? COMICON! (Of course J) And don’t worry, LOTS MORE TROLL – YTT EVERYBODY!
Check out more about Martha Carr’s thriller series at http://wallisjonesseries.com/
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