Release of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 2
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
There was yellow and black tape around Pick One Up’s parking lot, stretching out to the street. Patrol officers were standing in front of a small crowd on both sides of the minimart, holding back the lookie-loos who had walked over from the nearby cookie-cutter subdivision a block away. The day was turning out to be one of those hot winter days that were pretty typical for Austin.
Leira scanned the crowd as they pulled up and parked behind the short line of black and white Austin police cars. It was her usual practice when first arriving at a crime scene. Never know what kind of clue is sitting right out there in front. The oddest things becomes important later.
She quickly formed a visual map of the area in her head. Behind the blocks of starter home ranchers and two-story houses was a dense patch of woods that was full of homeless people who rarely came out during the day. Leira had cruised past this area many times in the middle of the night, checking on leads and seen the small crowds milling about in the parking lot. Hagan swore they even had a generator to power up stolen cell phones and keep a small refrigerator going.
The taqueria truck in the far corner of the lot would have been buzzing with activity till sunrise. “Guarantee there was a line of hungry people with just enough for a breakfast taco,” she said quietly. “They would be the best witnesses.”
Correk already knew better than to say anything, and got out to stretch his legs but stayed by the Mustang.
Leira looked at the uniforms standing near the door of the mart, quickly spotting Detective Hagan. He was taking notes, nodding his head, rolling his hand, trying to get the two officers in front of him to talk faster.
He was clearly pissed off. He saw Leira as she ducked under the tape, and started waving frantically in her direction. There was a sheen of sweat on his face. Leira recognized all the signs of a case going sour, fast.
“Was there more?” Hagan turned his focus back to the two officers, his eyebrows raised and his pen poised in the air.
“Hey, Detective Berens,” said the younger officer.
“If we’re done with the pleasantries,” Hagan snapped.
“We’re done, Detective,” the officer said.
“Anyone go into the woods to talk to the transients?” Leira turned her attention to the line of woods just a few blocks away. The tops of the older oak trees were visible from where they stood.
“Not yet, no,” Ritchie said.
“Well, then, grab a few more people and see what you can find out,” Hagan said impatiently, waving again, this time at nearby officers.
“Hold on,” said Leira. “Don’t head out just yet. Look, they’re not suspects. They’re possible witnesses. Don’t treat them like suspects. Don’t mess with their belongings. Don’t threaten anyone with anything. Don’t find reasons to arrest anyone. We need them to cooperate and we need them to want to do it, now. Is that understood?” She waited till she got an affirmative from every cop.
“You have an hour to find something,” she said. “If you can do it in less time, that’s better. Don’t edit what you hear, just write it down. Let us decide what’s useful.”
“Now, go. Go!” Hagan ordered. He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and mopped his face and the top of his balding head. “Hate these fucking cases. Only monsters steal kids.”
“Where’s the dead guy?” Leira already knew he must be inside of the store. There was a swarm of technicians in blue booties circling around the front counter, bending down, meticulously retrieving things and dropping their findings into clear evidence bags. Still, she wanted to hear what Hagan had to say about it. Cases involving children always got him wound up, and he had to talk the whole thing out for Leira to get the bits and pieces she really needed. It was a process.
“The owner. He’s behind the counter. Damnable thing. He died on his knees, still propped up. His head is resting on the shelf back there. Near as I can tell, the dumb fucker bent down to get a sawed-off, but never got back up. The gun is still there, under his head. Well, what was left of his head.”
“And the child?”
“His six-year-old niece. A Lucy Kate.” Hagan flipped open his small notebook and read from his notes. He was reluctant to type anything into the department-issued tablet. Everything about him was old school. “According to his daughter… That’s her sitting in the patrol car over there doing her best to pull it together.”
Leira looked over and saw the young woman sitting in the back seat with the door open, resting her head on the seat in front of her. Reality still hasn’t sunk in, she thought.
“According to his daughter, he was babysitting while the mom worked a night shift stocking a Walmart.” Hagan tapped his notebook. He was already chewing on an idea. Leira gave him a moment to put it into words.
“The money from the register is gone,” he said, scowling, “but you should see it in there. Neat and clean. No fuss. Except for the blood splatter from the victim, nothing else is out of order. It’s like the killer waited for the store to be empty. No sign of anyone rushing out, or hiding behind something.”
“Or they let him pass,” said Leira. There was a well-known code among the homeless in the rougher parts of Austin. See nothing, do nothing, say nothing. “And if that’s what happened and whoever this is didn’t shoot any of them…”
“Then this is more personal, and he would have known about the code. Fuck me.” Hagan pushed the palm of his hand against his belly. “Damn heartburn.”
“This gives us a place to start,” said Leira. “Let’s go look inside.”
She glanced back at Correk who was leaning against the Mustang, carefully observing everyone around him. It was a sign of Hagan’s frustration that he didn’t say anything about tall, blonde and handsome waiting for her.
Correk locked eyes with Leira and gave her a nod, his eyes briefly lighting up, glowing from within. He’s itching to use magic.
She turned away, letting the thought go, and pulled on a pair of blue gloves and booties before stepping into the store.
“Found anything yet?” she asked the older technician, Harriet who was carefully picking something up off the ground with tweezers. She was known to be no-nonsense and really didn’t give a shit how someone else was feeling. Leira liked working with her.
“Oh, hey Leira. Nothing definitive. So much useless DNA in this place, including way too much old semen. What are people thinking? The little girl was sleeping back there…” She pointed toward the door behind the counter that was open slightly. “No signs of a struggle or any resistance. She may not have been awake.”
Leira glanced at the food racks closest to the door. Several of them were empty. The same was true of a few of the boxes of candy just underneath the front of the counter. “There were people in here,” she said, pointing.
“You know this because…” he asked.
“Because the shelves that aren’t near the door are all full like they were recently stocked, but everything close to the door is just about picked clean. Easier to grab and go. But there’re no bloody footprints. No one went near the body, including whoever shot him.”
Leira stepped carefully around the counter. “Okay if I go back here?”
“Yep,” said Harriet. “We’re done. I told the coroner to wait till you got a look for yourself. I know how you like to see the crime scene. What’s it saying to you?”
“That they wanted the girl. This guy is collateral damage.” Leira bent down to get a better look at the dead man. His finger was resting on the trigger. He’d been inches from coming out ahead. “Miss is as good as a mile,” Leira whispered.
“The mother came rushing in, hysterical, and had to be dragged off and medicated,” Hagan said. “No father to speak of. Mother swore up and down the father wouldn’t have cared enough to do this.”
“You know, the thing that bothers me the most, is that whoever did this knew not to shoot any of the homeless people standing around. Even if they were all outside, which is unlikely, he would have still been visible but nobody cared.” A warm curl of anger grew inside her, spreading out to her limbs. “This wasn’t personal. It was professional,” she spat.
She glanced down at her hands and saw her fingertips start to glow cherry-red through the thin blue latex gloves. She balled her hands into fists and looked away, unsure whether her eyes were glowing. She needed to get to Correk.
“Excuse me,” she said , stepping carefully back around the counter, keeping her head down.
She hurried out the front door of the Pick One Up, shoving her gloved hands into the pockets of her leather jacket. Correk stood up straighter as she got closer, a look of concern on his face.
“The magic is coming over you, isn’t it?”
“You knew this would happen? Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, exasperated. She pulled out her hands, ripping off the gloves to look at her fingertips. There was still a faint glow.
“How bad is this going to get?”
“There’s still so much to tell you. Volumes. Remember, my original job was not to help a half-elven cousin learn to control her powers. It was to find a killer and a necklace. Take a deep breath,” he said, taking one himself. “Think about the first thing you learned. Feelings control magic. It’s all tied to your DNA, your very cell structure. The more you can focus, the more you can bend and shape the magic and use it purposefully.”
Leira took a step back, shaking her head. “No! No! I’m not using magic to solve a case,” she insisted, pushing her dark hair out of her face. “What are you thinking?”
“That you have a case to solve.”
“What happened to worrying about the Order of the Silver Griffins? Aren’t there still some pretty severe repercussions for playing Bewitched? And how would I explain any of it? I suppose we would do another amnesia spell!” Leira was talking faster and faster, pacing in front of Correk.
“You’re considering it, aren’t you?” Correk was keeping his voice low and measured, trying to calm her down.
“What in the hell are you doing, Leira?” Detective Hagan had stomped his way across the parking lot but Leira, for once, wasn’t paying enough attention to her surroundings.
She shook her head no at Correk.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #2 from RELEASE OF MAGIC coming out AUGUST 14th! Quiet Sunday in the hill country, busy writing… Tomorrow is a week since we unfurled this series! (Yeah, I got the math wrong yesterday – now it’s 6 days – GAH MATH!) Only 8 more days till the next book is in your hands! Till then, enjoy your next snippet… J
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! I hear the KACY CHRONICLES by A.L. Knorr may be headed your way starting SEPT 4TH! Okay, back to work – on PROTECTION OF MAGIC.
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