Waking Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 1
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Leira headed for the car, saying a quick hello to a detective coming in the door but she didn’t give him more than a nod and a grunt. Let him think it was about a hot lead.
Hagan was waiting by the Mustang, still fiddling with his tie.
“I’ve been cheating on the Paleo diet for months now without getting caught,” he said with frustration.
Leira handed him the box of doughnuts and unlocked the car, walking around to the other side. “I don’t think that’s how a diet works. Besides, hasn’t Joy notice you haven’t lost any weight?”
“She’s lost a few pounds and is too happy to have noticed my utter failure yet. You know what? I’ll drive today. I’m pulling rank, or age or whatever,” he said. “Throw me the keys. How did you get this sweet ride, again?” He slid the box across the roof toward Leira as she tossed him the keys.
“Just got lucky.”
“That should be your nickname, Berens,” he said, pulling the seatbelt across his belly. “What are you doing?”
Leira was on the ground, taking a quick look under the car to make sure there were no flaming balls of light attached to the bumper. It wasn’t until she stood back up again that it seeped out of the engine, a blue ball of pulsing light, bobbing just under the car.
“Thought I heard a noise earlier. Just making sure there was nothing dragging.”
“Make sure you get the doughnuts,” said Hagan, pointing toward the roof.
“Bringing you doughnuts kind of makes me your food pusher.” Leira got into her seat and put her hand in the box, pulled off another piece, sliding it into her squirming pocket.
Hagan started up the car, glancing over at her. “Can’t help but notice that you’re squirreling away doughnut for later. I do know how to share, somewhat. You can have a whole one, out in the open, wrapped in a napkin if you need to.”
“Where are we headed?”
“Remember that witness for the Leahy case who up and disappeared on us? The one who saw the robbery homicide in the Wag a Bag from behind the rack of Doritos.”
“Yeah, it was a good thing we weren’t in court yet. The prosecutor would have been all over our ass.” Leira settled back into her seat, trying to stay calm and looking around at the scenery. Damn, why didn’t I listen to Bert and leave the troll alon?. This being calm shit is going to kill me.
Hagan turned the corner and glanced at Leira. “What’s up over there? You take up yoga, or some other kind of shit? No offense, but all of that seems outside of a comfort zone you don’t really have. This have something to do with why you brought me doughnuts? You aren’t sick or anything, are you?”
Hagan started to look genuinely concerned.
“My mother’s not crazy,” Leira blurted out, not sure where to start. Damn, that probably wasn’t it.
“Okay,” said Hagan, slowly, pulling up to a red light. “Not crazy at all or not crazy anymore? Spill it. You’re a good detective. Cool under fire and you stick to the facts, so what happened? It’s been, what, over fifteen years since they carted her off. Sorry, locked her up for her own protection.” He was getting himself worked up.
“Not crazy at all.” The full weight of what he said—fifteen years—washed over her. All those missed years. A lot has gone wrong here.
The light turned red but Hagan didn’t move and it wasn’t long before someone started honking.
“Damn tourists,” he said.
In Austin, locals still waved at strangers, even if it was just a couple of fingers peeled off a steering wheel, and no one jumped on the horn right away.
Hagan wasn’t budging.
He leaned over and ran the siren for a moment, sticking his arm out the window and waving everyone around him.
“We have a lead to follow, Hagan. It’s okay, and by that I mean I’m okay. If you’re thinking I’m finally following my mother’s path, that’s not it, exactly.”
“Very comforting, Berens.” He was still waving people around, giving the siren one more short blip and glaring at a driver who was yelling something from the safety of her car. “Look, I can handle the truth. I’ve seen a lot in my years on the force. You can’t shock me, trust me.”
“I’ll lay it all out for you if you start driving. It’s kind of a complicated situation and an intersection isn’t the most conducive place to tell you. Go, I promise.” She tried to reassure him with her usual cold stare.
“Only person I know that can make me feel better with your dead fish look.” He finally moved through the intersection.
“You’re the only one who can say that to me.”
“Well aware, and if you don’t start talking I’m going to stop in traffic again.”
“Not sure where to start…”
“Jump in the middle if you need to. The details will sort themselves out. What makes you think your mother is a normal kind of crazy?”
“I was asked to be a kind of consultant for a murder case. A prince was killed and…”
“Not that Prince. A prince in a kind of… foreign land,” Leira said haltingly. “He was knifed in a robbery. The suspect’s name is Bill Somers, some kind of archaeologist who made off with a rare necklace. Actually, I think the stone in the necklace is the rare part.”
“I take it this has something to do with your PTO. So, you’re answering one of my questions. How does this come around to your mother?”
Leira hesitated, just as the small troll turned over in her pocket. I have to trust someone.
“I know you read the reports about my mother. It’s okay, I would have done the same thing. Get to know your partner, and all.”
“You were a big unknown. Only been on the force the four years and you weren’t good at sharing facts about yourself.”
“Would you be?”
“No, maybe not.”
“My mother, Eireka Berens, was always a little out there. She talked about faeries in the garden and two worlds that came together but only once in thousands of years. She told those same stories for as long as I can remember. She seemed like your average flaky mom who liked to wear flowy skirts and maybe was smoking a little weed when no one was looking. Don’t give me the worried look, Hagan. It’s okay, I’m grown now.”
“That’s the Leira I’m used to.” He shifted in his seat as they turned onto Lakeline Boulevard near the Alamo Drafthouse. The new Alien movie was the headliner on the marquee. Hagan drove past the movie theater and at the end of the block, he pulled into the parking lot of an old brick apartment complex and parked the car near the back. The Mustang tended to attract attention. Not always the best on stakeouts.
“Informant won’t be showing up for a little while. Still at his job asking if people want fries or not. Best to be in position,” he said. It was something Leira had heard him say a thousand times. Get there first, whenever you can. “We have a few minutes.”.
Leira thought about the situation. Her partner was asking for the facts and if she could take the crazy feeling out of it, that was more than doable.
“My mother started talking more and more about elves, dwarves and magic bugs.”
“I remember reading about that.”
“She was even starting to give them all names. There were details that made no sense. Insects that could be controlled by magic or plants that moved when somebody sang to them. The worst was when she told the neighbors that she was visiting this world. This place that, according to her wasn’t exactly Earth.”
“Still not seeing the connection between you freelancing a murder case, which I have all kinds of questions about why you need the side work, and your mother’s stories about flying things.”
“That’s right, she did talk about some kind of flying creatures, didn’t she? Can’t remember what she called those.”
“Did your mom know this archaeologist?”
“No, no,” said Leira, shaking her head. Best to get this part over with. “I’ve been there. It’s called Oriceran. I’ve actually only seen a small part of the planet. The Light Elves, they’re the ones who asked me to help with the investigation. Queen Saria’s son was murdered because someone helped Bill Somers into what’s usually an invisible castle and even worse, into a room that held some kind of relic. A very powerful relic.”
Hagan’s mouth was open slightly, as if he wanted to say something but no sound was coming out. “This isn’t funny, Berens,” he said finally. “You’re killing my sugar buzz, you know.”
“Let me tell you the rest of it, first, then you can call me crazy.”
“I don’t need to hear the rest of it and in fact, it’s better if I don’t. I can’t testify at your hearing that way. Uh, look at what you’ve gone and done,” he said, rubbing his stomach. “Damn that acid reflux.”
“The Light Elves needed me to find Somers because magic won’t work on this side. At least, not well enough. It gets worse.”
“Of course it does.”
“The clock is ticking. There are only a few more days before this thing will release its energy to whoever has it. Somers could get even more powerful than he already is just by having the thing.”
“Great! Help, I’m trapped in a Marvel comic and can’t get out,” said Hagan, holding up his hands. He caught something out of the corner of his eye and started scrambling to get out of the car. “Perfect timing, as usual. There’s our guy. Can you hold off on any more magic stories for the few minutes it’ll take to grab this guy?”
Leira ignored the jab and opened her door, forgetting for the moment about the troll curled up in her pocket.
“Sam Thomas?” Hagan smiled, calling out in a friendly voice to the tall, lanky young man with long dark hair, as he walked quickly toward him. “Just wanted a word… damn! Hate the rabbits!”
Thomas took one long look, first at Hagan and then Leira and bolted, doing a nice one-handed vault over the railing between the apartment buildings to the parking lot on the far side.
“Go around,” Leira shouted to Hagan.
“Was there any doubt?” he said, heading around the tall, neatly-trimmed shrubs.
Leira made the same easy vault, pushing off the flimsy, painted metal railing and hitting the ground running, easily closing the gap. Thomas took a couple of glances backward, his eyes growing wider with panic as Leira pulled up behind him.
“Stop or I tackle you! You know it’s coming,” she shouted.
Thomas seemed to be weighing his choices, slowing his pace. Leira matched it, keeping a short distance between them, waiting to see what he would do next.
She didn’t feel the small troll drop out of her pocket, landing on one knee on the ground. He scampered for a nearby oak tree, scurrying up and into the branches where he could watch what was happening.
Thomas pulled up, breathing hard. “You’re making the right decision, Thomas. You’re not in any trouble. We just want to talk to you about the Leahy murder.” Leira kept her hand near her gun, ready in case things went south.
Things went south way too often.
She saw where Thomas was looking, at a nearby metal pipe lying on the ground.
“Don’t do it, Thomas. I’m faster than you, and I have a gun. Besides, right now, you’re not in any trouble. My partner is coming around that corner and we’re going to have a friendly chat. That’s all. You didn’t have anything to do with that murder, right? Oh shit!”
Thomas lunged for the pipe and Leira drew her gun.
A roar erupted out of the nearby tree just as Hagan rounded the corner, catching everyone off guard and for Leira, time seemed to slow down. The troll leaped from a high branch and as he fell toward the ground he was growing, stretching, reaching eight feet tall.
Thomas grabbed the pipe, raising it over his head, shaking it first at Leira and then at the giant troll.
Leira quickly patted down her pocket, wondering if it was possible that a second troll had made its way to Earth, but no, her pocket was empty. This was her troll, hopping mad.
The troll stomped first one foot and then the other, breaking off a large branch of the tree and beating the ground.
“Fuck! Yum! Fuck! Yum!” The words came out in a low, threatening rumble.
“We really need to work on your vocabulary,” said Leira.
“Fuck! Yum! Fuck! Yum!” said the troll, as it covered the ground between them faster than Leira would have thought possible, grabbing the metal pipe with Thomas still hanging onto the other end. The ground shook as he stomped his feet.
The troll swung the pipe around, pulling Thomas like he was on a carnival ride, his legs flying out behind him, shrieking like a toddler..
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Leira yelled, getting between her partner and the troll. Detective Hagan had his gun raised, looking for a chance to shoot at the troll without hitting Thomas.
Leira turned and looked at the troll and resisted the urge to yell at him. He can grow Mothra big, thought Leira. Need to relax. Now.
She stood still, watching Thomas swing around again and willed herself to be calm. The troll slowed down and looked at her, shrinking, finally dropping Thomas. The pipe clattered to the ground and rolled away. Thomas passed out cold with a wet stain spreading on his pant leg.
Hagan was still pointing his gun at the troll, his arm dropping as the troll shrunk back to its normal size. Leira kept her eyes on the troll, trying to stay calm. The troll ran to her and neatly climbed her pant leg, ending up in her jacket pocket.
“You can put your gun down now, Felix,” Leira, soothingly. She had never used his first name before, but he was pointing his Glock right at her, his mouth agape and his face flushed with sweat.
“What the fuck was that thing?” he said hoarsly, finally put away his gun. “Is Thomas okay?” He went to Thomas, still keeping his eye on Leira’s pocket as he knelt down and felt for a pulse. Thomas groaned and jerked as he slowly came to.
“I wouldn’t mention what just happened to him,” said Leira. “Let him think it was a hallucination. Give me a chance to tell you the whole story. Remember, you said you could handle the truth.”
“Regular truth, Leira. Ordinary kinds of truth.”
“So, you’ll have to change your definition of ordinary. Come on, let’s get him up.”
“How were you able to get that thing to shrink back down? And why does it think you’re home base?”
“All good questions that I will answer.”
“Answer the first one, at least.”
“Okay, okay,” she said. She tapped Thomas’ face, hard, trying to get him to fully conscious. “As far as I can tell, it’s tied to my emotions.”
“You mean it responds to what we feel?” asked Hagan, his eyes getting wider.
“Well, what I feel. It’s tied to me. That’s all I can say till we can back to the car and I can tell you the whole story.”
“Your… feelings?” said Hagan, drawing out each word. “Then, we’re all fucked! Unless anger comes in handy!”
“Very funny.” She gave him the dead fish stare, ignoring that she’d had the same thought earlier that morning. “I can do feelings.”
“Like I said, fucked. This story I cannot wait to hear. What the hell is happening?”
“Like I said, my mother isn’t crazy. That’s what’s happening. That and an entire Wikipedia of magical shit.”
“That’s deep,” said Hagan, straining to pull Thomas up into a seated position. “We need to figure out a way to get her out.”
“First things first. First, I need to find Bill Somers and I only have a few days left to do it before something bad might happen.”
“Bad like what, like large roaring monsters?”
“I don’t exactly know.”
“What the hell,” said Thomas, his eyes opening. There was a trail of spittle on the side of his face, running back into his thick hair. His voice was whiny and sounded hoarse from screaming. “Did you see that?” he asked, looking from Hagan to Leira.
“This is not going to help his credibility as a witness,” Leira observed.
“See what?” Hagan asked, moving to block Thomas’ view of the tree.
“You must have hit your head when I tackled you,” said Leira. “Shouldn’t have gone for the pipe. I told you so.” She helped him to his feet and put the zip ties on him. “Love me some zip ties in the morning!”
They loaded Thomas into the back of the Mustang, still babbling about the monster with the bright green hair, and drove him to the hospital to get checked out, just in case. When the attending in the ER asked about the hallucinations they both shrugged and repeated their theory that he must have hit his head.
“Buy you more coffee?” asked Leira, as they passed the cafeteria. “Still have a few doughnuts left in the car.”
“It’s hospital coffee, but I’ll take it. Have to do in a pinch. You good with Mickey there, in your pocket?” he asked, flapping a hand in the general direction of her jacket.
“Yeah, we’re good, at least for now. I’m not really sure what the rules are for it. It’s called a troll. Why Mickey?”
“That life-size mouse always scared the beejebus out of me. Frozen face, dancing around. Still, it’s trying to be friendly. Seemed to fit.”
They turned into the large open cafeteria with long tables and low, round seats that were permanently connected.
“Reminds me of visiting my mom.” Leira shook her head to clear the thought and made a beeline for the self-serve coffee.
“Reminds me of being in seventh grade,” Hagan countered, making an attempt to lighten the mood. “Don’t say it. Yes, I can remember back that far.”
“I was going to say, yours is probably closer to PTSD.”
“Definitely. Believe it or not, I was a small, nerdish version of myself. It did not go over big.”
“Two large coffees,” said Leira, handing over her debit card. “Come on, we should get going. I’ll tell you what I can in the car on the way to the station. You still want to drive?”
“Nah, let’s get the coffee and you drive. I’ve had enough excitement for the next hour or two. Whew, should sip this slowly. Ooh, hot stuff, hot stuff.”
“There’s no rush, you know.”
“Oh, but it’s coffee,” he said, “and time’s flying by.” They stepped out into the warm winter air that was typical for Austin. The temperature had dipped to just below seventy degrees.
Once they were settled in the front seat, Hagan took a large gulp of his coffee, complaining, “Hot, hot, hot. But good.” Another thing he liked to say all the time.
Leira started up the car. The blue ball stirred in its hiding place, pulsing with yellow light in the very center.
“Tell me everything,” said Hagan.
“You sure? Last chance.”
“If I can handle a giant Mickey jumping out of a tree and using a big-ass tree branch like a toothpick, I can handle whatever truth you got. Bring it on.”
“I was minding my own business when a hole opened up in the universe and these two Light Elves stepped through and asked me for help.”
“That’s only the beginning of this story,” said Leira.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #2! What a great opening to the Oriceran Universe! You guys showed up, read and responded and the feedback has been overwhelmingly good! So, let’s just keep going and dig right in… The first full-length book, WAKING MAGIC, comes out tomorrow (and will be .99 for 24 hours 😉 ) and here’s the next big-giant snippet to tide you over till tomorrow morning. BIG GIANT THANK YOU EVERYONE!
Check out more about Martha Carr’s thriller series at http://wallisjonesseries.com/.
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