I want to share with you the first chapter of SPRING’S CALLING, my newest book, which releases in November 2018. Keep in mind this is an unedited version.
MARCH 11, 2017
I fiddled with the squad car radio, finally landing on a late-night radio host preparing to start their show as the clock ticked past 10:30 at night. “Well, my loyal listeners, we are nine days from what some scientists are calling the biggest astrological phenomena in human history. Sure, we’ve all seen a solar eclipse or a meteor shower but never together in the middle of the freaking day!” a deep alto voice said through the car speakers. “According to most reports, those of us on the East Coast, especially here in the Boston area will be in the direct path of the eclipse so get your glasses early and get ready for what everyone is calling a pretty amazing show. The city is reporting that the best place to check this out is down on the Common. So, listeners, let me know will you be there?” she continued.
“It just means that we’re going to be doing crowd control,” my partner, Jacqueline DeWitt muttered.
I turned my attention to her. Caramel-skinned with dark hair held in a tight bun at the nape of her neck, Jacquie kept one hand loosely on the steering wheel as she cranked the heater. She only succeeded in filling the car with harsh, cold air. We’d been partnered only a couple months. While I liked her enough, I didn’t feel like we were friends.
I wanted to agree with her and bemoan the likely detail but I already had plans. When I was a little girl, I’d been told about the prophecy that laid out my destiny. I’d have to face off against some great evil when a solar eclipse and a meteor shower fell on the Vernal Equinox. The Equinox was supposed to be a time when the world came back into balance between light and dark magic, neither one stronger than the other. Not like with the Summer or Winter Solstice when power ebbed and flowed toward good or evil. But this year had been different. The cold clung to the world longer than it should have. It was just that much harder to cast a spell. I’d spent the last decade honing my skills in preparation. But all the prep in the world couldn’t quell the nugget of fear in my chest.
“You okay?” Jacquie’s voice cut through my thoughts, pulling me back to the car and the icy air.
Tiny beads of sweat broke out along the nape of my neck chilling me even more. “Yeah … just thinking. You’re right. Crowd control is going to suck.” Even though I liked my partner, I couldn’t share my burden with her. The magical community survived because of secrecy.
The conversation was cut short by the dispatch radio sitting in the center console between us. “Units needed at the corner of Kneeland Street and Albany Street.”
Jacquie scooped up radio. “Unit fifty-seven responding, we’re two blocks out.”
She flipped on the lights and siren and put the car in drive, pulling out into the traffic surrounding the Common. We sped past at least three Dunkin Donuts—rivaled in number only by the Starbucks on nearly every opposite corner—ignored the stoplights and hung a hard left until we reached Kneeland Street, nestled between Chinatown and the theater district. We pulled up to find an ambulance and the coroner’s van parked on the street blocking traffic. I spotted the Assistant Medical Examiner, Patricia Karo, bent over an Asian man’s body. Climbing from the passenger seat, I pulled my jacket tighter as the frigid air—another sign that the world was out of balance—wound its way through every fiber of my being. A gust of air tugged several strands of auburn hair loose and I brushed them aside.
A pair of uniformed officers cordoned off the area with crime scene tape and shooed a couple of nosy bystanders away so we could get by. Jacquie pulled on latex gloves and went to join Tricia by the body. I kept my distance. Even from where I stood at the periphery of the scene, I could clearly see the man’s chest was unnaturally concave, as if something had crushed him from above. A quick glance around the scene didn’t present any obvious culprits. Something tickled my magical senses, begging me to pay attention but I couldn’t place it. I turned back to the body lying prone on the sidewalk. I’d never worked a homicide before and my palms grew damp as the weight of the responsibility hit me. I glanced over at Jacquie as she methodically moved around the scene. I could only hope to be as good as her.
For an instant the man was gone, replaced by a woman with a blade protruding from her chest. The scent of fresh strawberries bloomed around me and the white-gold pentacle necklace around my neck thrummed warm beneath my jacket as my magic reacted to the memory. I tamped down on my magic as I blinked away tears. The scene returned to the dead man being poked and prodded by Tricia.
I’d earned my Detective’s shield two months ago, just shy of my twenty-fifth birthday. I didn’t flaunt my skills. I did just enough to prove useful to the brass, to get the right amount of attention so they’d remember me when it came time for promotions. Doing anything more would have been dangerous. The wrong people could have taken notice. Like the Order of Samael or the Authority—the so-called benevolent governing body of the magical community.
My decision to join the force wasn’t without ulterior motives. Ten years ago, my mother was murdered. Everyone in the magical community knew it but she’d simply been buried with little fanfare. Despite obvious signs of foul play, there’s been no police report or investigation. The Authority had convinced the outside world that she’d simply died of natural causes. I’d never forgotten the truth, though. Ten years was a long time for her killer to walk free. But now the shield on my belt gave me license to hunt them down and make them pay.
But my mother’s murderer would have to walk free just a little longer. Another man deserved justice now. I watched Jacquie crouch down and pat down the man’s pockets in search of an ID. I stepped away and turned my back to the scene and my uninitiated partner.
Beneath the pentacle I wore a small sandalwood infused charm that helped cleanse my magical palette, allowing me to pick on any signs of magic in the area. Magic like anything in the universe obeyed certain laws. It couldn’t be created or destroyed. Just redirected and reshaped. I pressed my fingers to the smooth glass surface and inhaled. With the metaphorical slate wiped clean, I picked up on the cloying scents of rotten garlic and the loamy smell of wet limestone. For a moment, the combination turned my stomach and fought back my gag reflex. This had been what my senses had been alerting me to. The smells intensified the closer I got to the body and I knew it meant our victim had been killed with magic. A practitioner only gave off one scent which meant whoever had killed the victim had been working as a team. A person’s magical signature was like a fingerprint. But that didn’t mean I could pick it out just walking by them on the street. They needed to be actively using their ability or have used them in the last day.
“You want to join the rest of us, rookie?” Jacquie called, holding up the dead man’s wallet.
Embarrassment warmed my cheeks and I turned back to the matter at hand. I pulled out a pen and notepad from my back pocket and wrote ‘Limestone and garlic. Two killers with magic used in last 24 hours?’. After donning latex gloves of my own, Jacquie passed me the man’s wallet and I pulled out his ID: Edwin Cho. He lived in Chinatown not far from the scene. Given that it was late evening on the weekend he was likely on his way home. I added his name and address to my notepad.
“Do we have any idea what crushed him?” I asked, addressing Tricia.
She was busy taking pictures of the man’s injuries. “Nice to see you Ezri. That shield looks good on you.”
“Thanks.” We’d worked together when I was in uniform and had become friends. Not the stay up late in the night talking about our lives but friendly enough to have drinks or a quick meal on occasion after a long day.
Both of us caught Jacquie’s impatient arched brow and Tricia cleared her throat. “No cause of death yet but I’m guessing it was whatever made these crush injuries. With the right angle and amount of pressure, a grown adult could exert enough force to crush someone’s chest like this. I’ll know more once we get back to the lab. But, this is the second case like this I’ve seen in the last few days.”
“Where was the other victim found?” Jacquie probed.
“I’ll send over the files but it was out by the Esplanade. Same crush injuries.”
I stowed Mr. Cho’s ID back in his wallet and handed it off to one of the uniforms who hung back with an evidence bag at the ready. Limestone clogged up my nose as I got close to Mr. Cho’s chest. Not everyone is sensitive to other’s people’s magic and my skills weren’t infallible. My twenty-four-hour window for identifying magic had come after years of practice. Based on the strength of the smell, Mr. Cho hadn’t been dead very long and his attackers had left the scene recently.
“Do we have a time of death?” I pressed.
Tricia shook her head. “Based on what I’ve seen of the body, I’d say only a few hours. Rigor’s barely set in. I can give you a more definitive time of death after autopsy.”
“It looks like there’s some dust or residue on his jacket. Our killer, if they used their hands, might have left some prints.”
Tricia snapped a few close ups of Mr. Cho’s clothing. Without warning, a new smell hit me: ashy and sulfurous. I tried to repress my gag reflex again but I could taste the bitterness on my tongue. As calmly as I could I stood up and started to walk the perimeter. I stopped short a few paces from Mr. Cho’s body. A pale woman—her eyes hollow and unseeing and mousy brown hair hanging matted around her face—blocked my path. Despite the lifelessness in her gaze, I knew she saw me, knew what I was. The sulfur and ash of her magic bloomed into a fiery corona around her head before she disappearing completely. I blinked a few times until the afterimage faded.
What the hell was she?
“Ezri, you still with us?” Jacquie’s voice drew me back to reality for a second time.
Our gazes met—her intense brown to my green—and heat crept up the nape of my neck. I needed to avoid making zoning out a habit. I made a note of the stranger’s disappearance before capping my pen. “Yeah, I was just thinking that this is a fairly public area. I mean you’ve got Tufts Hospital and the orange line just up the way. Someone had to see something but there’s hardly anyone out. And, there are bound to be security cameras nearby that must have caught what happened.”
Jacquie nodded. “I’ll put in a request when we get back to the precinct.”
Turning back to the body I asked, “I mean, do we know who called this in?”
“I got the call from the paramedics about ten minutes before you two showed up. From what they told me, whoever had called it in didn’t stick around,” Tricia answered, spreading a black body bag out on the sidewalk.
I hadn’t even noticed the ambulance leave the scene but traffic was now flowing slowly through the makeshift blockade of our car and the coroner’s van. With the body now on its way to the morgue and no eye witnesses to speak of, there was little reason to stick around. I peeled off my gloves and made my way back to the car. Jacquie slid in behind the driver seat and looked at me.
“You’re going to lead the notification of next of kin.”
I swallowed back the lump of nerves rising in my throat. “Are you sure?’
“You’ve got to start sometime.”
I buckled my seatbelt and put Mr. Cho’s address into the car’s GPS. As we pulled away from the scene, I glanced back at the spot where the woman had vanished. I’d never seen magic like that before. The fact that the scene was steeped in spells set off alarm bells in my head. I wasn’t sure what evil I was supposed to be facing—no one had ever filled me in on the specifics—but this couldn’t be a coincidence. Mr. Cho’s death was linked to what was coming and I needed to figure out how if I had any chance of successfully meeting my destiny
If you want to read more of Ezri’s story, please go to the Kickstarter campaign page here and pledge to support the book. Your generosity could put us over the edge and make the best version of SPRING’S CALLING possible.