If the three most important figures of New Haven showed up in front of you that only meant two things, you fucked up or you really fucked up. Right now, I was too tired to figure out which one. My latest job had sent me tracking after a vampire and his band of minions. Of course, they would set up shop in a bayou. My brown skin was speckled with blood and my hair smelt of carrion and swamp water. I didn’t care how they got into my hotel room because all I wanted was a hot shower.
“Whatever you want it can wait until tomorrow. Shut the door on your way out.” I grumbled as I tossed my bag of weapons onto the floor alongside my small bag of charms and kicked off my boots and tossed my now ruined leather jacket into the trash. I had just gotten cleaned from the cleaners too. Pesky vampires.
“Jade we are here for important matters.” Came the voice of Camille LeBeau. She was the current Elder Witch of New Haven’s coven and had been for as long as I could remember. And as usual, Camille was dressed in a rich purple pantsuit and matching high heels. Her black curls framed her heart shaped face and her warm brown skin was set off by her expensive blush and purple lipstick. Next to her stood her sister Olivier. Olivier LeBeau ran The Order, which functioned as a police task force in New Haven. An organization of hunters, ranging from vampires to witches to shifters and merfolk. Olivier still intimidated me even as a child, but she had the kind of strength I wanted. She wore black jeans, combat boots, and the traditional black jacket of The Order with a smaller image of the organization’s logo over her breast. Two long swords that crossed over each other with a shield over the top of them and a crown above it. Olivier was much shorter than her sister with a muscular build, long dreads pulled into a neat ponytail at the back of her head and that same warm brown skin. The last member of the trio was the Master of New Haven, Nasir.
Nasir was the Master of the City and was the only person Camille and Olivier had to answer to. Olivier had no problem working alongside Nasir, Camille on the other hand wished that the coven didn’t have to answer to a vampire. With him standing just a few feet away from me I couldn’t stop the twitch in my fingers that urged me to get up and touch him. Nasir had been my lover, my best friend, my world. I was just didn’t belong in New Haven like he did. Nasir towered over both of the LeBeau sisters, all broad shoulders, thick muscles, full lips, and jet black hair. Amber eyes stared at me underneath thick lashes and his bronze skin reminded me of hot summer days at his home.
“Important matters? As to what? I’m not part of the coven.” I got up from the bed and pegged them with a hard stare. What the hell did they want?
“Your mother’s grave was desecrated. A local gravekeeper informed us this morning. The casket was open and her body was removed.” Camille continued and I laughed. The kind of laughter that’s code for ‘I can’t fucking believe you lost the body of my deceased mother.’ I doubled over and wiped the tears from my eyes as Olivier shook her head.
“No Jade, what we mean is. Your mother’s body was never there. She was never executed.”
If this had been a movie I would’ve expected the sound effect of a record scratching. “What do you mean she wasn’t executed? You mean to tell me that we buried an empty casket? But what does any of this have to do with me? The coven is the one who fucked up.” I shook my head in disbelief and ran my hands over my arms. The array of charms on my bracelet rattled softly from the movement as I stared at Camille. I remembered standing there with my grandparents as they lowered her casket into the ground. My grandmother cried like a baby and my grandfather had to hold her to keep her from falling. Did they know that she hadn’t been executed?
“We think that she’s been responsible for three murders in New Haven. All of the victim’s have your mother’s signature on them, a white lily. We thought that she would have come to see you since you know—“
I held up a hand to cut Camille off and shook my head. “No. I don’t know her. For sixteen years I thought I did. I thought the woman who fed me and clothed me was my mother. I never thought that she was going out to murder seven people right after we sat down to eat dinner together. So no, I don’t know where she is and let me guess, you wanted me to help you.” I scoffed. “It’s your problem not mine. You fucked up. You let her slip through your fingers and look what happened. I’m not about to become some lapdog for the coven. I don’t have to answer to the coven. I’m not sixteen anymore. The three of you thought you could come here and ask me for help to fix up your own fucking mistakes!”
“Jade!” Nasir shouted and I glared at him. Anger boiling in my veins and I looked back over to Camille.
“That woman is not my problem, she’s yours. Dead or alive I don’t give a fuck where she is or what happened to her. I owe none of you. I made my way and I left New Haven and the coven when I was old enough to do so. I’m a hunter and this is my job now. Finding Sonya is yours.” I snapped and Nasir took a step forward.
“I came here-we came here because we know that Sonya has returned to New Haven and we know that a Shadow Witch can only be defeated by another Shadow Witch. You’re the only Shadow Witch that we know and trust. I need your help Jade because I do not want to attend any more funerals. I don’t want to see another parent bury their child. “
My anger subsided and I felt like such an asshole. There were much more important matters than my anger towards my mother. I could sort those feelings out later. “How many so far?”
“Three in less than two months. Each victim had a white lily in their mouth, the signature of your mother.”
“Fuck.” This was a lot to take in and it started to bring up old memories I’d rather forget. It wasn’t easy growing up knowing that the entire city of New Haven thought that I would follow down the path of my mother. It was even harder seeing her face and mine plastered on news stations and magazines. I thought that when the coven executed her that I could finally breathe now it just felt like I had been woken up from a dream. My sense of peace shattered by the truth that my mother had faked her own death and returned to New Haven leaving a trail of bodies behind her. “Alright, I’ll come back with you to New Haven in the morning. You can fill me in tomorrow morning.”
I stopped them as they tried to thank me and Nasir lingered at the door of my hotel room before closing it. I locked it behind them as I got my shower ready and undressed. Stepping under the water I watched the blood wash off my skin and I pressed my forehead against the cool tile. I was sixteen when my mother was arrested for her crimes and now here I stood at twenty-six with her repeating the cycle once again. Fate was such a bitch.
With a piece of toast hanging from my mouth, I grabbed my suitcase and shoved it into the trunk of my black Toyota Camry. Starting up the car I strapped on my seatbelt as Nasir climbed into the passenger side. The three of them had drove up to my tiny hotel together in Olivier’s truck and Nasir wasn’t too keen on driving back with the two LeBeau sisters. Olivier was kind to him but Camille wasn’t happy with the Master of the City sitting in the backseat of her sister’s truck. So, he opted to tag along with me and I followed behind Olivier’s huge truck as we left the parking lot of the hotel. I finished my piece of toast as I drove and licked the sweet strawberry jam from my fingers. I could barely sleep last night but a good cup of coffee had given me just the jolt that I needed.
“Why do you think she came back?” I asked Nasir as we moved along in the early commute. It would take us a few hours to reach New Haven and by the time we got there it would be close to sunset. Which worked perfectly for me as I would need the nighttime to start my magic. A recent crime scene would help me more than one that had been left alone. The chances of this new victim’s spirit still being there was high versus an older crime scene where a spirit might have finally moved on.
Nasir shrugged for a moment, the replied, “I guess she’s come back to finish the job. When The Order and the coven stopped her she had murdered seven people. Who’s to say that she wasn’t aiming for more victims. She laid low for ten years and made us think that she was dead and now she’s come back to finish what she started.” He silent for a moment and I felt him look over to me.
“How are you holding up?”
I groaned and gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. I hated that damn question. I had heard it so much after everything happened. Every teacher and the guidance counselor at the academy, Mrs. Anderson would ask me that same question. I never knew that I could hate five words from the English language. Nevertheless, I knew Nasir and he wasn’t just asking this question to get some mundane answer from me. It was more than a question about my mother, it was his way of testing the waters and seeing if I was ready to talk to him. If I was ready to open up. We hadn’t seen each other in two years but our relationship had fallen apart way before then. I felt suffocated living in New Haven but New Haven was his home. I couldn’t ask him to step down as the Master of the City and he couldn’t ask me to stay when he knew that I felt so trapped within a city that labeled me as a monster’s daughter who would only follow in her footsteps. The split had been amicable but it was still a raw wound for the both of us.
“It’s odd. I feel more at home being on the road and doing hunting jobs than I did working under Camille. I felt more in control of my life. I could say no, I could walk away. I had options. I didn’t have that working under the coven. I had to pretend to be okay while ignoring the stares of the other witches who’d whisper or stare. I had my own life. My own set of rules to follow. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t think of one day coming back…there but I just liked being on my own.” I answered him and felt his fingers brush against my cheek.
“I’m glad that you found some sense of peace Jade. It warms my heart to see you happy. I know we had our fights and we disagreed on a lot of things but just know that your happiness means the world to me. I am sure you can tell me many stories about your hunts. I would love to hear them when we get to New Haven.” Nasir’s lips turned into a soft smile and I felt my throat close up. Nasir had always been so kind and loving. He held me when my nightmares had been too much for me to take and he understood just how my mother’s action impacted every surface of my life. I loved him but was far too afraid to get close to him. His fingers dropped my cheek and I bit down on my lip to stop myself from begging him to keep them there. The rest of the drive was filled with him filling me in on the murders while I entertained him with some of my wild hunting stories. So far, the first three victims were just like the ones from the original case. They were of different ages, genders, and backgrounds. The first victim was Charles Davidson. He worked as a substitute teacher at a local high school and had no magical background. The second victim was Yasmin Garcia who ran her own Mexican restaurant. She was healer in terms of magic and a mother of two boys. The most recent victim was another female. A pretty girl by the name of Lily Yeoh, an exchange student from Hong Kong. She had been on her way to a party and when she didn’t show up her friends called the police who then turned it over to The Order and the coven. Her body had been found off the side of a local hiking trail three days later. I felt bad for Nasir had to visit these families and tell them that their child or loved one had been found dead. Nasir loved New Haven and the deaths of his citizens felt like a crushing blow to him.
We exited off the highway and entered into New Haven. New Haven was made up of three parts, Upper New Haven, Lower New Haven, and the Red Line. Upper New Haven was home to the rich and the filthy rich. Huge mansions and Victorian style homes sat next to one another as well as across from one another. Well-manicured lawns and shiny cars sat out in front of every home. Most of the families here were vampire clans who came from old money, elders who had become reclusive in their old age, and spoiled trust fund babies who wanted to get out from under their parent’s thumbs so they could drink and party the night away. It was also home to gated communities with swimming pools and ritzy shopping districts and fancy cafes that served gluten free and vegan everything.
The huge homes melted away in my rearview mirror and I could smell the greasy smell of French fries and chicken coming from the local fast food joins. Lower New Haven was the hustle and bustle of the city. It had everything the locals wanted and adored about this place. Movie theaters, shopping malls, family own food joints that had their own fair share of weird concoctions that one could only get here in the heart of the city, landmarks that spoke to the history of New Haven, nightclubs, and so much more.
And last but not certainly least, was the Red Line. A place where money could you whatever you needed or wanted. Blood whores walked the streets eager to drink or sell blood, raunchy nightclubs that kept most of the occupants of Lower New Haven away. We all knew that back alley deals went on in places like Onyx and Velvet. Unfortunately, black magic was a big seller in the Red Line with fake charms, glamours, and everything else you wanted were being sold for a high price. The Order and the coven tried to keep a tight leash on the Red Line but there was only show much one could do. But the Red Line had only one rule, mess with the innocent and they’d come after you. I remember seeing on the news that a bus full of school kids had been involved in a bad crash. The residents of the Red Line had found who was responsible and the next day two bloody vampires were tied up and placed outside of The Order’s door with a note attached to them. It read, We handled them for ya. The local news stations had tried so hard to figure out who was responsible but it had made for some great tv.
We arrived at the coven’s main building and even now it looked like an old haunted cathedral. Camille parked her car as she got out and went inside to grab me the necessary files I would need to help me on this case. I had told Camille and her sister that I would investigate the most recent crime scene with Nasir. Her response had been one that I was expecting. A deep frown and glare directed at Nasir. Camille was a fool if she thought that I would work under her. I would’ve loved to work with her sister but I didn’t want to get into the battle of the sisters. I always liked Olivier more and if I worked with her it would only cause problems. I accepted the folders from Camille and said goodbye to her and Olivier as I drove towards the spot where Lily’s body was found. We arrived at the trail thirty minutes later and I parked my car. Nasir followed behind me as I carried a large candle in one hand and a shoved a piece of chalk into my pocket along with a lighter. As we got closer and closer I could sense the tension rolling off him. Nasir hated seeing me used my magic. As a Shadow Witch it left me open to the spirits. A Shadow Witch’s body was basically a portal to the living world. If a pissed off spirit wanted to possess me they could and I would have to be stronger than me to fight it. It was just part of the job. We spoke to the spirits and gave them a voice amongst other things. It was risky and I had heard of many witches becoming possessed and have their bodies taken over by a spirit. There was a lot of danger in using this magic and it never got any easier each time I used it.
I reached behind me and grabbed his hand, squeezing it softly I let go as we finally came across the crime scene. The thicket of greenery was taped off with yellow crime scene tape and brushed away some grass and small rocks as I drew my circle. I placed the candle in the middle of the circle and dug into my pocket to pull out a lighter and lit the wick. Nasir stood a few feet away from me and I exhaled sharply. My breath came out frost and I could feel the sun setting. Closing my eyes, I bowed my head and lifted my hands so that my palms were facing upward. It was time.
“Mama Towai guardian of the spirits and crossroads, I ask to speak to the spirit of Lily Yeoh. I bring her no harm. I am Shadow Witch and daughter of the All Mother and I know my place. Here is my offering to you Mama Towai.” I dug the coins out of my pocket and placed them down in front of the candle and felt a strong slap of air surround me. I heard Camille suck in a breath as I raised my head.
Mama Towai stood before me with her arms folded over her chest. She wore a long black dress that bloomed out at the bottom with a deep red headscarf wrapped around her head. The air around her crackled with power as her ghostly form became solid and her translucent skin turned a rich brown. She bent down and picked up the coins I had laid out in front of the candle and tossed them up and down in her hand.
“Hello child,” she spoke, her voice heavy with a Creole accent, “so nice to see you again. I grant you permission. Take care of my children.” Mama Towai waved her hand as she faded away and as she did another female form took her place. Lily Yeoh was a pretty girl. Long black hair framed her angular face and her dark brown eyes stood out against her thick lashes that made it seem as if she wore eyeliner. She wore a black cocktail dress, silver hoops, and black pumps. Nervously, Lily looked around and her gaze settled on me.
“Hi Lily.” I smiled at her to calm her nerves. Spirits could be just as jumpy as wild animals. If you spoke too loud or move too fast they would jump right back over to the Other Side and I would have to start the ritual all over again. Sorrow filled her eyes and she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Do you remember what happened?”
Fat tears trailed down her cheeks and I grit my teeth as she grabbed hold of me. Her icy hand felt like a dagger to my skin as I saw a flash of white. I was now looking through Lily’s eyes as she stared up at the night sky. It quiet and suddenly, there was a high pitched wail and I/Lily turned my/her head and watched as a pale creature hovered over us/her. Paper think white skin stretched over protruding bones and stringy pieces of black hair fell over its face. As it moved closer to the light, I/she could see its eyes that were nothing more than empty sockets and its row of sharp teeth. It opened its mouth and let out a screech that no animal or human could ever make. Its breath smelled of decay and carrion and it screeched one last time as its sharp teeth began to rip into my/her skin. I/She screamed as it ripped through my/her flesh and blood coated its mouth and face. Every tear felt like a hot knife going in and I/Lily couldn’t stop screaming. I/Lily could only watch as it chewed away at my/her organs and my/her screams continued into the night air.
The flash of light faded and I came too as I heard screaming, loud and blood curdling and I recognized it as my own. Nasir grabbed hold my shoulders and the heat from his hands felt like an inferno. He yanked me out of Lily’s grip and we both hit the ground. I shivered in his arms and swallowed mouthfuls of air that only made my lungs burn. I was shivering like I had been out in the freezing cold without a jacket and I looked up at Nasir in a panic.
“What is Jade? What did you see?” He asks me gruffly, his own amber eyes filled with panic.
“Lily was eaten alive. Oh God Nasir she was eaten alive!” I shout, burying my face in his chest as I sobbed.