Waking Magic, The Leira Chronicle Book 1
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Going to Lavender Rock turned up nothing except a lot of suspicious stares and gave her a mild headache and a humming in her ears that lasted the rest of the day.
“Something weird there. Too many people just hanging out near a giant rock. Will have to save that for a return trip. Fuck Monday mornings,” Leira grumbled. She sat up on her old couch and stretched her back.
Suddenly, a small green streak of hair zipped past her.
“No, no, no! I’ve got to get to work!” Leira lunged for the small troll, chasing it around the room. Small, like five-inches small and almost nothing to grab onto, especially when it was moving in a hurry.
The tiny creature was always in a hurry. One long weekend of trying to keep that fidgety pain in the ass in a cardboard shoe box. It was less than a day until the box was in shreds—along with the washcloth blanket.
Leira lunged but came up empty, her fingertips just brushing the wild tuft of green hair.
The troll did a neat bounce, and a tuck and roll off her old couch, landing on its feet. It zipped into the kitchen, leaving her impressed for a split second.
“Well, damn,” she mused, her eyes narrowing. “Fuck!” she yelled, as the frustration returned.
“Fuck!” chirped the five-inch creature, followed by a trail of laughter as Leira scrambled to move her ass into the kitchen.
“Great, your first Earth word,” she mumbled, as drawers and doors slammed shut. She got to the kitchen just in time to see a green streak slide neatly into her silverware drawer and slam it shut.
“I have to get to work, you little green P.I.T.A.!” she said in her best detective voice, heart pounding from chasing the troll.
It had been a long weekend, and not in a good way. Longer than anyone would believe, if Leira tried to tell them, but she had no plans to do anything like that.
“Double fuck Monday mornings.” She jerked the silverware drawer open. The troll stopped biting one of her spoons, looked up at her, jumped to the counter and banged headfirst into her honey pot shaped cookie jar. It shook its head, dazed, teetering on one foot.
Leira glanced at the time flashing on the microwave. “This is why I don’t have a pet.” She ran to her bedroom for a suitable shoe box.
Maybe she could contain the troll long enough to get to work.
“Hagan’s coming back,” she pleaded with the troll. “We need to be on time. Wasn’t your behavior last night bad enough?”
She had spent the day checking on Hagan, back home after only one night in the hospital. Leira told him to take a few days off until she realized she was only raising his blood pressure.
“It’s just a goddamn flesh wound,” he yelled.
“Passed right through some auxiliary flesh,” said his wife, patting his arm.
He grumbled but smiled. “She means fat,” he said. “I’ll be at my desk tomorrow, ready to go. Cleared by a doctor, no less. A pile of paperwork awaits.”
Leira was worn out by the time she got home. Her mind was buzzing with everything that had happened in the past few days. She only made it as far as the couch, drifting off to sleep with the troll snoring happily from inside of her pocket, dreaming about magical kingdoms that floated in mid-air or plants that moved to the sound of your voice.
But Leira was a light sleeper and the sound of loud rustling in her closet, or her trash can tipping over ripped her out of a dream and she leaped up from the couch to go find the troll, again.
It wasn’t until about five a.m. when he finally fell asleep.
She found him in the recesses of her underwear drawer, turning in circles before settling down pile of cotton underwear.
She was tempted to reach out and pet the little guy as it shut its eyes and smacked its lips, satisfied to have finally found a nest.
She remembered the sharp, pointed teeth and how fast the troll grew into an oversized version of a dog when someone had casually knocked on her door.
Nope, better to keep my hand to myself, she thought, and went back to the couch, her gun nearby.
She grabbed a couple of hours of sleep before her alarm went off, startling both herself and the troll who angrily banged against the walls of her dresser before taking off to explore the kitchen.
Apparently, this magical creature didn’t like to get up early.
Her heart was still racing as the troll leaped behind her coffee maker, pushing it toward the edge of the counter.
“Not the coffee!” she yelled. She lunged for the glass carafe, catching it just in time. “That’s messing with my lifeblood. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She ran a hand through her short, dark hair and wished she had time to throw some water on her face.
Trying to catch a five-inch troll was a sonofabitch. She put her hand on her gun.
The troll crawled into a bag of stale popcorn, happily munching its way to the bottom, scattering kernels everywhere.
“Okay, that’s probably a little dramatic,” Leira said, taking her hand back off her gun and putting the carafe back on the counter. “Not by much because its coffee, but probably not worth shooting you over it.” She took a deep breath, rethinking her strategy.
As she let out the breath, she saw the troll suddenly appear at the top of the popcorn bag. He let himself relax, dropping his shoulders, sighing contentedly. He smacked his lips and rubbed his belly, lazily looking up at her.
“Oh no,” she said, as a thought came over her. “You’re connected to me?” She bit her bottom lip trying to come up with a way to prove her theory.
“Now!” she roared, stomping her foot on the linoleum floor, glaring at the troll. She let herself think of Prince Rolim, the Light Elf, as the knife went deeper into his body and his eyes widened in shock and pain.
The anguish on Queen Saria’s face flashed in Leira’s mind as she balled her hands into fists at her side and her anger grew at the thought of such a senseless death. Worse, the killer had gotten away and was somewhere here on Earth.
“Dammit,” she hissed.
A surge of anger flowed through the troll and he stood up straighter and leaped nimbly from the drawer to the floor, getting larger at an alarming rate, till his head was brushing the ceiling.
He let out a growl, baring his teeth, and stomped the floor in a pretty good imitation of Leira.
“Then, it’s true! You feel what I feel! This is not good,” Leira said slowly. The troll’s head brushed against the oversized brass lamp that hung in the center of the room, sending it swinging and raining dust down on the floor.
“Gross,” she exclaimed, covering her face with her hands. She shook her short dark hair, trying to keep the dust from landing on her.
“Who knew there was so much crap up there?” She reached for a dish towel to wipe her mouth, trying to ignore the gritty taste.
The troll growled again, a low rumble that rattled the dishes in the sink.
“That was intense.” Leira collected herself, keeping eye contact with the troll. She was never one to back away from danger and frankly, though he looked terrifying, he didn’t seem upset with her because he was looking around for something to be angry at.
What had that Light Elf told her? Trolls bond with beings that help them. Bonding had to be a good thing and she saved his life.
It was a good thing, right? Great, now she was busy questioning her motives for instinctive reactions.
She sighed and tried to think of her happy place.
“Oh crap,” she said. “What is it? Hanging out at the bar. No, not really. Going for a run. Maybe. Damn, why has this never come up before?”
The troll seemed to feel her growing anxiety and screwed up its face to roar again. He turned in a circle, stomping his feet, and bumped into Leira, making her stumble into the lavender quartz countertop.
“Okay, okay, I admit it. My happy place is running someone down. A nice tackle and the sound the handcuffs make. There, you happy?” she said, trying to calm down again.
The troll stopped stomping and trilled at her, cocking its head to the side as it towered over her.
“Looking over a murder scene with Hagan, knowing someone is lying in an interrogation. These are a few of my favorite things.”
The troll started to shrink, shaking all over like a dog. Leira reached down and put out her hand. The troll leaped on, fitting neatly in the palm of her hand and promptly curled up into a ball.
“That wore you out,” she murmured as she watched him get comfortable. “Interesting. Thank goodness you don’t say much besides fuck yet, and can’t tell the world I’m happiest in the middle of mayhem.”
She sighed and the troll opened one eye and looked up at her. He trilled again, softly and closed his eye.
She looked around the mostly clean kitchen. “This is going to be an interesting day at work. And, it’s only Monday.” She slid the sleeping troll into the roomy pocket of her favorite black jacket. The troll’s head popped out of the pocket and he looked around at the room, stretching his arms.
.“Hang on!” she said and she went to grab a pair of her underwear. She stuffed them carefully into the pocket, tucking the edges around the troll. “Those can be yours now,” she told it, adding under her breath. “Absolutely no need to give them back.”
The troll closed his eyes and settled back down.
She shook her head. “Well, at least we know your happy place now. Curled up in my underwear in a small, dark place. Turns out, the first word you learned was appropriate after all,” she said quietly.
“Because I am truly fucked. Feelings are not exactly my strong point. That is, unless anger counts. I wonder what I could pull off with that one.”
She changed into another pair of black pants and a shirt suitable enough for work and slipped on her favorite blue and orange running shoes. She brushed her teeth twice trying to get rid of the gritty taste from the dust shower in the kitchen, and gargled for good measure. The entire time she was making herself take slow, deep breaths, occasionally checking on the troll..
She slid carefully into her jacket, and felt the troll squirm around for a moment, adjusting in his sleep. Nah, that won’t attract attention, she thought as she watched her pocket move.
She scooped up her keys out of the pinch bowl she made in the second grade, headed out the door of the guesthouse, and across the quiet patio of the bar. Estelle’s wouldn’t be hopping again until happy hour.
Leira went through the gate marked private. All the regulars knew that gate was reserved for Leira.
They were the closest thing to family that Leira had left. The mornings were the hardest time of day for Leira. Wide awake with a full day ahead and nothing to distract her. It was too easy to think about everyone missing from her life.
“Crazy mother, safely locked away, check. Missing grandmother, doublecheck.” The troll grew restless in her pocket.
“It’s my routine, okay? Some people drink coffee to get their blood going. I do this.”
The gate let out a loud creak and Leira made a mental note for the hundredth time to get something to fix that.
“Only problem is, mother may not be so crazy.” She shut the wooden gate behind her, till the latch caught.
She slid into the driver’s seat of the Mustang and started it up, grateful for her leather jacket in the chilly morning air of what passed for winter in Austin, Texas.
“Mom, you’ll have to wait just a little longer. First, we look for Bill Somers and that necklace. Clock is ticking.”
She adjusted the seat belt carefully around the small bulge in her pocket and pulled out onto the street, already teeming with people heading for a breakfast taco at the other end of the block. She never noticed the ball of light hovering just under her back fender, easily keeping up with her car as she headed to the precinct, keeping track of all her movements.
“Need to make one stop.” She turned onto sixth street, and got lucky. There was a parking spot right in front of Voodoo Doughnuts. It was nothing new for Leira. Lucky moments like that were always happening to her. Kind of made up for all the really bad things that seemed to fall her way, too.
She checked the glove compartment, rummaging around till she found the twenty-dollar bill she kept tucked in there for just these moments. “Have to make sure I replace that.”
Voodoo Doughnuts might be open every day, all day long, but they only took cash, no exceptions.
“Don’t suppose you could stay in the car?” she whispered, looking in her pocket. She slid the troll out carefully, still curled in her underwear, and rested him on the driver’s seat. “I’ll only be a minute, and there’s a doughnut in it for you.”
Leira glanced up at the oversized plastic American flag that stretched from floor to ceiling across one wall as she passed the donut-tree sculpture and the colorfully painted columns and stood behind a guy whose spiky hair looked like it had lived through a rough night.
“S’up sweetie?” he said in a deep voice, his eyes only half open. He smiled, revealing tobacco-stained teeth.
Leira gave him her best dead fish look and he turned back around, muttering something under his breath. She wasn’t much of a talker even under the best of circumstances and morning was never in that category.
“Two Old Dirty Bastards, a No Name, a Grape Ape, three Maple Bars, three Raspberry Romeos, and two Mexican Hot Chocolate doughnuts.” It was her usual order. “Two large coffees,” she added, holding up her fingers. She fished in her pocket for the twenty.
“It’ll be a minute on the coffee. Just started another batch,” the short, stocky man behind the long counter replied. Leira liked him. He was always polite but never smiled at her in the morning and never asked how she was doing. It was the perfect exchange.
She sat down at one of the tables and started to read the newspaper clippings that were decoupaged on the tops. All of them were obituaries. Leira liked the ones that gave away something about the personality. He took off to study birds in the Amazon at eighteen. Another one said, had her own radio show that was heard across five states all through the forties and fifties.
That’s a good obituary, thought Leira. It’s about their life, not their death.
She glanced up at her car and was relieved. Nothing was moving.
“Leira Berens? Your order is ready.”
She went to the counter, lost in thought, carefully balancing the box and the coffee. It took a moment to register that a people were gasping behind her.
“What the hell is that?”
It was the dude who had been standing in front of her in line. He was eating a plain cake doughnut in front of the plate glass window, looking at Leira’s car. “What?” he asked, his mouth full of doughnut.
“No, no, no, no,” whispered Leira. She hurried toward the door, zigzagging around the tables and the other customers who were turning to look.
She rushed toward her car watching the troll get larger, his face pressed against the window. He was baring his teeth and looking straight at the man in the window.
“Deep breath, deep breath,” she chanted, resting the doughnuts and coffee on the roof and fumbling with the keys. “Happy places. How about think about arresting that guy.” She looked up to see a panicked expression on his face. His mouth hung open and half chewed bits of doughnut were dropping out.
Leira smiled at that and got her door open, just as the troll shrunk down enough to disappear from view. She wrapped him back in the underwear and tucked him back into her pocket before resting the box on the passenger seat.
“Plain cake doughnut. Says a lot.” She smiled as she pulled away, daydreaming about arresting sweetie-man. The troll trilled softly.
She pulled into the back lot behind the low-slung Region Two substation, a newly built, two-story building of red brick atop white Texas stone.
She briefly considered and rejected the idea of leaving the troll in the car. “Nope, not gonna try it. My luck, you’ll bust out of the car and have a SWAT team on your tail with reports of a yeti. This town and that green hair though, someone might mistake you for a musician. Maybe. Hey, what the hell?”
Leira caught a glimpse of the yellow ball of light as it bounced against the ground for a moment and zipped under her car.
She got down on her hands and knees and scanned under the car, seeing the light recede into her engine.
“I know it’s you Bert!” she yelled, wondering if the Light Elf who had been her guide in Oriceran could somehow see her. Her pocket started to wiggle. “Dammit! Deep breath! Deep breath!” She shook her head. “You put a damn tracker on my car. Way to trust, dude. Pull back or I’m off the case.” She looked under the car again and the light bobbed down where she could see it, then disappeared in a small cloud of sparks.
“Thank you!” She got up and leaned into her car to grab the box of doughnuts and coffee, still talking to elves that were nowhere to be seen. “Pull me all the way over to another world, another world! Ask me, no tell me, to work a damn case with a timer of less than a week on it, then don’t trust me enough to just let me do my job!”
Leira startled and bounced her head against the roof of her car. “Ow!” She squeezed her eyes shut. Her pocket began to jiggle furiously and was stretching to its limits. The voice was coming from directly behind her.
“Detective Berens, right? Something I can help you with?”
Leira picked up the doughnuts and coffee and pulled her head out of the car, turning her right side away from whoever it was, holding the box there, hoping it would hide the jerking, pulling and wiggling that was going on inside of her jacket. At the last second, she noticed her underwear was hanging halfway out of her pocket, but it was too late to do anything about it.
“Officer Carlton, right?” She did her best to sound nonchalant. He had been a year behind her in the academy where he earned the nickname Booger. Hard to get rid of him once he was on something. Served him well on cases, but he couldn’t take a hint. “How’s things,” she said, hooking her heel around the car door behind her, pushing it shut.
“Things are good,” said the officer, smiling at the pink Voodoo doughnut box. “Trouble in your world? Hauled into doughnut court? What are you making amends for, Berens? You forget to search somebody? Voodoo Doughnuts, no less.”
“Just a goodwill gesture.” She slid along the car till she could turn toward the building.
“Yeah, sure, that’s why anyone gets up early to slog their way through the traffic on Sixth Street and find a place to park. What’d you do, run the siren to get a good spot?”
“Didn’t need to, Carlton, spot opened up right in front.”
“Like magic, huh? You have the best luck of anyone I know, Berens.” She turned away from him and picked up the pace, walking toward the building.
“Happy places, geez, I’m running dry. How about if I hum something,” she said, looking down at her pocket. She started humming something she remembered from Kev Bev and the Woodland Creatures, a local band that had played at Estelle’s more than once. Their music drifted back to the guesthouse and she’d dance in the kitchen, sometimes even getting drawn back out to the patio to sit with the regulars.
“That is what my spirit needs,” she sang, “I got something to celebrate, cuz God knows all my bills are paid…mmmmm,” she hummed, hearing the music in her head as a trill came out of her pocket. “Workin’ real hard just to get by. Where is my social life,” she sang, doing a little two-step. “That could be my theme song,” she said looking down at her pocket, the start of a smile on her face.
“Little bit of joy in the middle of trying to save the world, right?” Just as she got to the door, someone coming out held it open for her.
“Hey Berens, what’d you do? Paying penance with Voodoo! You must have cocked it up good.”
Leira ignored the ribbing and kept going, plowing down the hall with her eyes forward, to the detectives’ room and her desk.
Detectives were grouped by division and housed in different parts of the city. A few were at the Main, like Homicide and Robbery, along with all the top brass on what was referred to as the Fifth Floor.
The rooms were classic government fare with green cubicles, ugly metal desks, ugly grey carpet with small maroon diamonds, tech sprinkled here and there.
Most of the detectives worked elsewhere. Internal affairs, special investigations unit, organized crime and narcotics were in over on the northeast side, off Rutherford. The Motorola building over by interstate 183 housed more of detectives and support teams.
Initially, Leira had been offered, a sector detective spot to work minor cases that didn’t end up with other teams, like assaults that weren’t family violence or robberies. A way to get to know the job before picking a specialty. She’d only seen a sector detective once in the five years she had been there. Most of them worked on call during the overnight hours.
It didn’t matter, anyway. She was already set on homicide from the day she showed up at the academy.
She kept moving down the hall, ignoring the gauntlet of hoots and inquiries, and carefully slid the box onto her partner, Detective Hagan’s desk. He was swearing under his breath and typing on a keyboard with two fingers, filling out an incident report.
“What are those for?” he asked, as she slid into her seat. “I know you never pull a boner so this has to be about a favor. No? Hmmm, then it’s to say something I won’t like. My least favorite kind of doughnut-offering.” He took out one of the Maple Bars. Leira knew he would reach for that one first. The Grape Ape would be saved for last.
“They’re for the patient.” Leira tried a smile.
“No patient here,” he retorted. “But I’ll take them off your hands, anyway.”
“You do the weirdest thank yous, Hagan.” Leira steeled herself and blurted it out. “I’m gonna ask for a few weeks off. Take all of my PTO at once.”
Another detective lifted the lid on the Voodoo box. “Yum, Maple Bars,” he said, before Hagan slapped his hand and slid the box out of reach. “Never touch another man’s Maple Bars without permission,” he said. There was already a little icing in his graying moustache.
A ripple of laughter went around the squad room. Leira tried to rub the outside of her jacket in an effort to keep the troll happy without looking like she was a little too into leather.
“You mean the vacation time you’ve never touched?” asked Hagan. “You’re going to take it all at once?” He gave her a sidelong glance and he bit hard into the middle of the Maple Bar. “You’re not the tropical kind of vacationer. Too pale. Hell, your ability to spend time not working a case is limited to sleeping, eating, a little bowling and the occasional beer.” He stopped chewing and tapped the side of his head, rocking back in the metal desk chair. “That’s what it is, isn’t it? What are you up to Berens? Working a cold case without me? Seems kind of rude.” He fished for another doughnut and pulled out the No Name, pausing long enough to swill down some of his coffee.
“Have to admit, your tactics are solid,” he said. “Fill me in. What are you up to, Berens? Come on, we’re a team.”
“Mmmmmmm.” The sound came from her pocket.
“What the hell was that? Was that you?” he asked, eyeing her.
Leira hesitated, wondering if she could share this with her forty-eight-year-old partner. Another realm, portals between worlds, magical creatures. This might be over the line.
Hagan narrowed his eyes and stared at her. Leira stood stock still.
“This is serious, isn’t it? Let’s head out and you can tell me in the car. Come on, grab the doughnuts,” he said, licking his fingers.
Detective Hagan stood up, brushing off the crumbs, leaving a maple smudge on his tie. “Aw come on, this is how the wife finds out these things. Not good.” He licked a napkin and rubbed the spot as he headed for the door.
Leira took a quick look around to make sure no one was watching and lifted the lid of the doughnut box just high enough to tear off a piece and slip it into her pocket. Two small, hairy hands grabbed her fingers and held on tight, devouring the morsel. She could feel the edges of his claws but he was being careful enough not to press too hard.
“Yum,” said the troll.
Leira scooped up the box and her coffee. “So, you can learn English, but one-syllable words at a time. Good to know. You should have all of my favorite swear words down by end of shift,” she said, and realized the Captain was approaching her desk.
He was the one responsible for talking Leira into becoming a detective at what was her first opportunity, after just four years as a patrolman.
She proved to be good at standardized tests and knocked the civil service exam out of the park. It moved her up the line for a promotion.
The Captain knew her grandmother’s cold case was what drove her and had cautioned her more than once to not let it consume her., With no leads to follow that had been easy.
Maybe all of that was changing. First, though, she had to find this archaeologist and turn him over to the Light Elves. Her simple, orderly life was getting more complicated.
“Sir,” she said. “Headed out with Hagan.” She turned, her hand gently pressing against her pocket, making herself act normally.
“Urp!” A loud belch erupted from the troll. Fortunately, Leira had her back to Captain Napora. She turned, red-faced, determined to look him in the eye. “Ate too fast, you know how it is.”
He seemed more amused than anything as Leira gave him one last nod, ready walk as fast as she could to the car.
“Uh, Captain,” she said, looking back. “Do you have some time open later this afternoon? There’s something I need to discuss with you.”
“Yeah, sure, check with me after three. I’m sure I can find some. Slow down on the doughnuts, Berens. Voodoo can always make more,” he said, arching an eyebrow.
Check out Martha Carr’s other books at http://www.marthacarr.com/
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