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By Jackie Jones All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Thriller

Chapter 1

Episode 1: Skins (The Wardens Series Season One)

Erin groaned and sat up straighter. She was really starting to hate Zach's forefinger, as it poked her awake every time she thought he wasn't looking and tried to get a little shuteye. Turned out he was some sort of green-eyed, dark haired human-sized hawk, who didn‘t miss anything, despite the fact that his eyes were supposed to be on the house across the street.

“I've probably got bruising in my ribs from all that,” she said grumpily and grabbed the cup of soda that they'd been sharing. Disgusted, she threw it back on the rental car's dashboard, “And you've drank it all too.” Zach ignored her grumbling and gestured to the two-storey house they'd been observing.

“There's been some movement in the last few minutes, but we're going to have to get closer.” Erin, still annoyed at the lack of soda — one of her favourite types of fuel said,

“You mean I’m going to have to get closer don't you?” Letting her sarcasm fly over his head, Zach handed her an earpiece which she immediately inserted. Their job required them to be in constant contact and this, along with a few other hidden gadgets found in her black jeans, tank top and leather jacket, all worked together to ensure that neither of them got into too much of a bind and could be easily extracted if they did.

“One time around and that's that,” Zach said in warning and Erin nodded. She‘d been known to go off course more often than their employers liked and Zach was usually the one cleaning up the mess.

“I know, I know, leave the hard work to the big boys.” She pulled her dyed curly red hair back with a band and got out of the car, her soft–soled black ankle boots allowing her to stealthily make her way to one side of the house. It was pretty quiet at the moment, not surprising as it was well past two in the morning. Erin peered into one of the windows, the specially made contacts she wore allowing her to see through the darkness. They adjusted to all kinds of light, which made Erin‘s job much easier as she was seldom allowed to use flashlights or anything like them. She was a warden and that meant quiet, quick and most of all, unseen. She and Zach had been partnered up for just over two years and she often liked to say that she did all the hard work, while he got to stay in the van.

“Do you think this was a legit call Zach? Seems pretty good here to me,” Erin whispered when she‘d made a full circle of the house. Her Barbadian accent came through too loud over the wire and Zach adjusted the levels before answering,

“It came straight from head office, so something has to be happening here, they're just not sure what.” Erin stood from her crouched position and looked around the large backyard. The night was still and for a moment she wished she was tucked safely in one of the beds in this neighbourhood. She couldn‘t remember the last time she‘d slept in an actual one. She turned to retrace her steps,

“Heading back to you Zach, maybe we can take a break, get something to eat or…”

“Erin, third window on the left, go now!” The urgency in Zach‘s voice got her moving and Erin ducked down again, making a dash for the other side of the house that Zach had indicated she should check out. Her heart beat faster and she could feel beads of sweat gathering at her temples. This always happened when there was about to be a sighting. “Erin, hurry,” Zach urged, as if she wasn‘t already. She raised herself up slightly when she reached the window and did so until she could see into the room. At first she saw nothing but furniture and scattered toys.

“Have I missed it?” she asked Zach anxiously, not wanting his answer to be yes and face another meeting where their handler Damian, would emphasize how disappointed he was in them. Zach‘s answer came in a hushed tone,

“Look up.” Erin did as she was told and turning her gaze to the ceiling, saw exactly why they‘d been sent to the backwoods of Kentucky. An old woman, naked and emaciated, clutched the wooden ceiling. She was sniffing the air, moving slowly towards the stairs that would lead her to the sleeping occupants. Erin‘s heart thudded in her chest — a soucouyant. They were wicked little creatures that sometimes shed their skin when they were ready to hunt and took the blood of others for their own gain. They did this every few years, a process that allowed them to recapture their youthful beauty, before their true haggard appearance took over once more.

“She’s a mean looking one,” Erin said softly, watching the creature's progression, “Don‘t they have kids in there as well Zach?” Zach issued another warning,

“In and out Erin, that‘s our job. Containment will come deal with her.” Erin tried again,

“But Zach, we can at least scare her off a little and then…”

“No,” he said sharply, ‘In and out now, before she can drink Erin.” She sighed, but agreed. She willed more strength into her being, the dark magic flowing through her making this an easy thing to do. Next she opened the window, hopping in carefully and landing as quietly as she could on the wooden floor. The soucouyant had already made its way along the ceiling to the upstairs rooms and Erin took the time to whisper binding spells that would keep the creature in the house until containment could come and get rid of her. She paused at the stairs.

“Erin,” came a worried call from Zach, “What are you thinking?” She folded her hands into fists, but didn't answer. After all, Zach wouldn't want her to get caught now would he? “Dammit Erin you‘re…” She touched the device in her ear, switching his voice off. He could keep up with her with his GPS system instead.

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