Alex stood in front of the sergeant’s desk near the entrance of the Charlotte Police Department’s headquarters. She looked through the window in the door behind him, hoping to see Detective Alderman.
“Can I help you, miss?” the desk sergeant asked.
“I’m looking for Detective Alderman.”
“I’m sorry. She is no longer with the department. Can I direct you to someone else?”
“Hm. She had a partner. Tall, black man.”
“Robles. Derek Robles.”
“That’s it. Can I speak to him?”
“I believe he’s at his desk. Let me call him.”
A moment later, Robles strode through the door. “Alex?” The inside parts of his eyebrows turned up in a mountain of disbelief. “Alex McDaniels?”
“Yes,” she replied, walking toward him around the desk.
“Let her back. Come on, quickly.” As she came near him, he put an arm around her shoulder, trying to get her to hurry without telling her to do so. “Captain,”Robles said, poking his head into his supervisor’s office. “Can I use your office?”
“Sure. Can I ask what for?”
“I’d rather you wait to ask, if that’s okay, Cap.”
“Okay. Business or personal?”
“A little bit of both, to be honest.” Robles looked at Alex and nodded his head towards inside. Alex took the hint and entered.
“Alright,” Captain Bryant sighed as he gathered up some papers from his desktop, straightened them, shoved them in a manila folder and dropped in the filing cabinet behind his desk. “Don’t take too long. I have a conference call in about 45 minutes.”
“Thanks, Cap.” Robles shut the door behind him and rotated the wand on the blinds to close them. “Go ahead and have a seat, Alex.” She sat down, holding a drawstring gym bag in her lap. He didn’t even bother sitting in a chair, choosing instead to lean up against the front of his captain’s desk. “Okay, first, do your parents know where you are?”
“No. I don’t think so. Have you talked to them?”
“Yes. They are not real big fans of your boyfriend, Stew. Are they?”
“They were convinced that he’d done something to you.”
“They would think that.”
“So… what did happen to you?”
“Zachary kidnapped me.”
“We know that much. Where did he take you? Why did he let you go?”
“Well, that’s where it gets complicated and more than a little unbelievable.”
“I already know there’s some freaky… stuff going on, so… just lay it on me.”
“I can get out of any loony bin you stick me in so here goes. He burned me at the stake. When he did, I disappeared. I went to another dimension I can only describe as… paradise. While I was there, I was given lessons on magic by this high-level immortal whose name I don’t even know. My last test was to find my way back home. And… here I am.”
“Wait. So you’re immortal now, too?”
“Yes. And I can do stuff.”
“That’s all above my paygrade. Listen. Zachary is still after you guys. Everyone else is hiding out in New Bergen. I have some things to finish up here.” Robles pulled a business card out of his breast pocket, turned it over and began to write on it. “Have you called Stew yet?”
“No. A loved one returning from the dead is news I think I’d rather get in person..”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Here’s the address of the bed and breakfast in New Bergen they just moved to.” Derek handed her the card. “Do you have a cellphone?”
“I did but I imagine it’s in the Norwegian woods somewhere right now.”
“Heh. Beatles joke.”
“Take my personal cell, just in case something happens or you see someone.”
“Thanks. How far away is New Bergen?”
“It’s about a four hour… Hold on. You driving by yourself is not the best idea at this moment. There’s no telling where Di Corvo has eyes and ears. Do you have everything you need with you? Clothes, whatever else?”
“Yeah. I stopped by my apartment really quick and packed a small bag. It was just easier than trying to remember everything to get it through magical means.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Anyway, there’s a coffeeshop next door. No donuts but plenty of cops. Meet me there in 45 minutes. Okay?”
Zachary and Jade strode confidently down the sidewalk in Uptown Charlotte toward the Police Department. Di Corvo was dressed entirely in black, as usual—slick, black suit, black shirt and blood-red tie tie. He was all style, while Jade was all business in a conservative, white blouse, black skirt that stopped just above her knees and two-inch, black heels.
“Now… what are you going to say?” Zachary asked as they neared the front door.
“That I’m from the District Attorney’s office,” Jade recited, “and we need a copy of the paperwork for Mr. Kasey’s location, in case we need to subpoena him or anyone else in his group.”
“Excellent. I’ll wait out here,” Zachary said as he got behind two people in the line coming out the door of Grounds For Debate Coffeeshop while Jade went inside the police headquarters.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am,” the desk sergeant told Jade. “I have orders from the State Bureau of Investigation not to give that information to anyone under any circumstances.”
“Really?” Jade said, shifting her face to appear serious and unfazed rather than disappointed. “I guess someone should have told the DA. I’ll have him call the SBI. Thank you.” Jade turned around as calmly as she could and made every effort, as she walked back out the door, to hide the paranoia that she had just raised a huge, bright, red flag.
Zachary stood up against the wall outside the Police Department holding two cups of coffee, drinking one of them. He turned his head and saw Alex exiting the building. Not knowing whether or not Jade was successful, he saw an opportunity and he took it.
As Alex walked past, she fumbled through her bag for the little bit of cash she was able to find in her apartment, not even realizing who she was near. Zachary stepped forward and bumped her. Startled, the bag fell off her shoulder and hit the ground, emptying most of the contests on the sidewalk.
“Awesome,” Alex said, fairly underwhelmed as she stooped down to pick up underwear, socks, lipstick and several other items.
Zachary tossed the cups of coffee in a nearby trashcan and bent down beside Alex. “Let me help you.”
“Thanks,” Alex said without looking up. “I’m a klutz.”
“I’m sure you’re not that bad,” Zachary said. He smiled as he saw the business card amongst the jumbled mess. He picked it up and shook off the hair tie that was dangling on the corner. At the top was Detective Robles’ name. He turned it over and found what he was looking for. “Here you go, Ms. McDaniels,” he said, holding out the card. “I think you dropped this as well.”
“Zachary…” she said, finally looking up. She snatched the card out of his hand and quickly rose to her feet. “What do you want? You’ve killed me once already.”
“What I want, I have now. I need nothing more from you.”
“Detective Robles…,” Alex said, looking at the large, bald, black man approaching from behind Di Corvo, a triumphant smile stretching across her face. “What took you so long? Have you met Zachary Di Corvo?”
Jade huffed as she pushed on the heavy, glass door and left the front lobby of the Charlotte Police Department. Once outside, she looked for Zachary and found him standing beside two people, one of which, she recognized as the girl who stole Stew from her. A blink of an eye later and Zachary was gone. Not knowing why, she turned and headed in the opposite direction. Up ahead, she saw a diner and made a b-line for it.
As she sped toward the restaurant, she heard a whisper in her ear, “Slow down. You’re fine. They aren’t looking for you. I’m going to find us a hotel in New Bergen. You can start heading there yourself. I’ll call you with a room number when I get there.”
“My butt is still numb from the seven hour ride from Baltimore,” Jade whispered back, her eyes darting back and forth to see if anyone could see her talking to herself and then back down the street toward the Police Department, which stood between her and her car.
“It’s only five hours more. Four if you hurry. Once the others get there, I’ll take you out to a really nice dinner. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said as she looked at her watch. “It’s nine right now. I’ll be there by three or so.”
“Loop around the block to the right to get back to the car.”
“You didn’t give him anything, did you?” Robles asked.
“Well… not intentionally,” Alex surrendered.
“What did you—“
“I didn’t mean to. I was digging in my bag… He bumped me and it slid of my shoulder. Just about everything fell out. I was picking it all up and he offered to help. I didn’t even look at him. I didn’t realize who he was until it was too late.”
“Crap,” Robles said as he pulled his phone off his belt and dialed. “Straight to voicemail.” He dialed again. “It’s ringing. Agh! Voicemail again. Marie… It’s Derek. Make sure everyone stays inside and is accounted for. No exceptions. Zachary is ten-seventeen. I’m not sure how quickly. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Robles flipped his phone closed and sighed. “Let’s go. I’ll call New Bergen PD on the way. We’re going lights on. Sirens, too, if we have to.”
Zachary stood behind a red cedar tree and stared at a house across the street. “Bridgepointe Hotel. 109 Howell Road. New Bergen. Room 213. No. Right now, I’m outside the Queen Anne’s Revival Bed and—“ The front door opened and Zachary immediately became a single raven. He cawed and flew to the roof of the house whose yard he had been standing in. Becca paid it no attention and continued a conversation on her cellphone.
Could it really be this easy? Zachary thought. It’s almost seems unfair. But who am I to worry about fairness when this may be the only opportunity I have? He flew down to just a few feet behind her on the sidewalk.
Becca felt the bird’s presence. “Go away, stupid crow,” she said, waving her hand at it with her phone still up to her ear and her back turned to him.
Taking his human form, Zachary reached around her head, covered her mouth with one hand and took the phone with the other. “I’m not going to hurt you as long as you do as I say. Do not make a sound unless I tell you to. Do you know who I am?” She nodded. “If you try to get help in any way, the mortal members of your family will not live to see the morning. Do you understand?” She nodded again. “When you turn around, you will not see me. That does not mean that I am not here. What you saw was a raven. An American Crow is the size of a pigeon where the Common Raven is the size of a hawk. But that’s just trivia. Okay, let’s take a walk. I shall direct you where to go. Turn around and walk toward the waterfront.”
Trembling, Becca turned and no longer felt his hand on her mouth. She looked beside her, behind her and did not see him.
“I am still here, as I said.” The voice came from directly in front of her. “Go ahead. Walk.”
She walked until they came to Front Street.
“Turn left,” Zachary said.
“Where are we going?” Becca asked.
“Make no sound unless I tell you to. If you need to know something, I will tell you. When you come to Pollock Street, take a left, but not until you cross, so you will be on the right side of the road.”
After two miles of walking in silence, Zachary made sure no one was looking and materialized. “Stop.” He pulled his cellphone out of his right jacket pocket and dialed. “Jade. Slight change of plans. Meet us at John Chadwick House Restaurant on Pollock Street in New Bergen. I have the package. The package I didn’t expect to have just yet. An hour? That’s fine.” He closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. “Are you hungry? I’m in the mood for some shellfish.”
“Where’s Sam?” Marie asked, standing in the center of the living room.
“I’m right here,” the copper-skinned satyr replied, entering from the kitchen, holding a sandwich.
“Ok. James and Carolyn,” Marie continued around the room. “Tófa and Brandr. Stew, Wiz, Marc. Goose. Who am I missing?”
“Where’s Bec?” Stew asked.
“What’s going on?” Debbie asked, coming down the stairs.
“Sam, Becca wasn’t in the kitchen?”
“She was but then she said something about stepping outside for some air.”
“Damn,” Carolyn said, moving quickly toward the door. As soon as she got to the door, she grabbed the doorknob, intending to yank it open. Wiz was instantly at her side with his hand on top of hers. “What--”
“Let me go out there. You never know. This could be a trap.” Carolyn bit her lip as he face turned red, inches away from Wiz’s.
Carolyn relaxed enough to let Wiz get in front of her. She backed away as he opened the door. “Rebecca!” he yelled out into the dark.