Major Feeding - A Piper & Payne Supernatural Thriller
The Netherworld Paranormal Police Department (PPD) was still recovering from the riots brought on by the fae, but we were down so many officers at this point that it’d take months to get back to one hundred percent.
Reaper was a few minutes late getting to his desk. Not that there was really a specific timeframe we had to work our shifts, but he was a creature of habit. Precision was his modus operandi.
“You’re late,” I chirped, doing my best to antagonize him. It rarely worked. “Going to get written up if you’re not careful.”
“Seriously?” he asked, his glowing eyes somehow registering concern.
“No,” I laughed in response. “You’re too easy, Reap.”
He sat down and took off his hat, revealing that he had a nice head of thick dark hair underneath. I had never quite understood why he wore the hat, but I had to admit that it did give him a “detective” look when he did. Without it, he had more of a Sears catalog underwear model thing going on…if they had glowing red eyes, anyway.
“I was dropping Agnes off with Pecker,” he said, flipping on his computer. “She asked to visit and Pecker has been talking about working with her on a few projects.”
It was an odd pairing, Agnes being a red-eared slider turtle and Pecker being a goblin, but the two had hit it off pretty well. They were both problem solvers who were into technology. How a turtle could be into technology was beyond me. Regardless, she seemed pretty damn good at it, or at least good with brainstorming ideas. Pecker was our resident tech guy. Almost every piece of technology we used was either invented by him or had been modified by him.
“I shudder to think what they could be developing,” I said.
Reaper grinned slightly before turning back to his screen.
“I wasn’t told. I’m just pleased Agnes has another friend.” He tapped on his keyboard for a moment. “It always saddens me to leave her alone in her aquarium. This way she gets to have time out and about.”
“Right,” I replied, rolling my eyes at the back of his head. “Anyway, I’ve been scanning the feeds and had a quick chat with the chief. Seems like we’re going to be shorthanded for a while.”
“Yes,” Reaper sighed. “It will be a challenging few months.”
“Let’s just hope that nothing happens until we get our—”
Have you ever had a situation where you opened your mouth to say something only to find that you should have kept your mouth shut? I wasn’t a superstitious person or anything, but it was almost uncanny that whenever I was in the middle of bringing up a worst-case scenario situation, that damn scenario fired off.
What had stopped me mid-sentence was the sound of gunfire.
“What was that?” Reaper asked, as bodies began standing up at their cubicles.
“I’d say gunshots,” I replied.
Next to us sat our two newest partners, Brazen and Kix. Technically, they were more junior Retrievers, who were assigned to me, but I did my best to treat them like I would any partner I had: poorly.
“We’ve got a shooter in the building,” Brazen announced.
Brazen was a werebear. Big, strong, disheveled, and quite an asshole. He was also a damn fine officer who was willing to take a bullet in order to save lives. So, while I found that he rubbed me the wrong way, I couldn’t argue the fact that he was an asset to my team.
Kix was housed in the cubicle in front of Reaper. He was a djinn. Tattoos ran up and down all exposed parts of his person. While he wasn’t a bad cop, he also wasn’t the toughest guy around. Oh, he’d fight, sure, but he was better at working the sleuthing side of things.
As a case in point, Kix was busily crawling under his desk.
“What are you doing?” I asked as I pulled out my gun and checked to make sure I had a full pack of Death Nails loaded.
“They say the best place to hide from an office shooter is under your desk,” Kix replied.
“You’re a cop, Kix,” I stated, frowning at him.
“Yeah, pal,” Brazen agreed with me, which didn’t happen often. “Get your ass out of there and load up.”
“It may just have been an accident,” Reaper chimed in. He pointed at his screen. “I’m not seeing anything from the internal feeds.”
More gunfire ensued.
Reaper stood up, not bothering to finish his sentence.
“Everyone, listen up,” Chief Carter commanded through our connectors, a little device implanted in our brains to allow us to communicate with each other, “we’re being invaded. They’re on the lower level and working their way up. We’re going to need all personnel down on level two in order to hold them off until we have more officers come in from the field.”
“Who is it, Chief?” asked a voice I didn’t recognize.
“After everything that’s been happening over the last couple of months, kid,” the chief replied, “I’d bet a fist full of gold coins that we’re dealing with Keller’s big push.”
For Keller, that is.
He’d been working on breaking down our ranks for a while now. Killing Retrievers, starting riots, and just generally being a pain in the ass. It was essentially a case of history repeating itself.
Keller, a dickhead of a mage who’d gone on a crime spree in the late eighties, killed a lot of people and did his best to take over the Netherworld PPD as well.
He had failed, obviously, but not before doing a shitload of damage.
One thing he had succeeded at during his reign of terror was to kill my parents.
He’d nearly gotten me as well, but something went wacky and I ended up becoming an immortal instead.
The reason Keller had targeted my parents and me was because we had the ability to see supernaturals. This was not a common trait among normals, but there were a few of us around. Now, when I say we could “see” them, I mean see who they really are. Any normal could spot and converse with a werewolf who was in human form; they’d just assume it was a human. But my family was able to look at the person and see beyond, recognizing their true nature.
Unfortunately, my parents were witnesses to crimes committed by Keller, so on the night he had escaped, he targeted us.
They died and I was taken to the Netherworld, healed, and then raised there. With my parents being killed by an evil mage and me surviving the attack, I got the joy of being called names like “Harry Piper” and “Piper Potter.”
So, I had a very strong desire to kill Keller, should the opportunity arise.
It seemed that my time had come.
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Deathly Temperance - A Piper & Payne Supernatural Thriller
It’d been a few weeks since we last heard from Keller, the dickhead of a mage who had been causing a lot of stir lately in the precinct. While I found it hard to believe he was letting the Retrievers catch our breath from the rout he’d given us, he was being eerily quiet.
But life in the Netherworld Paranormal Police Department, or PPD, went on.
There were runners, lawbreakers, and people who had just forgotten to check in. Usually the last bunch were dealt with via a buzz on their tattoo. Sometimes, though, the “I’ll get to it later” mentality landed us on their doorstep.
That wasn’t the case right now.
My partner, Reaper Payne, an actual reaper who had done something naughty enough to get him sentenced to live one hundred years in our world, and I were assigned to bring back a werewolf living in the Australian Outback. She was purportedly eighty-one years old, hunched over, and not much of a threat. Unfortunately, families of the locals that she’d been feeding on over the last couple of months begged to differ. To them, she was a vicious wolf.
Had it just been Reaper and me dealing with this, all would have been swell. But ever since Keller’s goons wiped out a good number of Retrievers, we’d been forced to take on rookies for training in the field.
As Chief Carter had put it: “Piper, you’re one of the best Retrievers we’ve got, and so I’m assigning you to train new rookies.” Technically, that was bullshit, because all Retriever units were being assigned fresh cops.
But he was right. I was the best Retriever. I wasn’t saying that because I was arrogant. I just knew that I was good at what I do, and numbers didn’t lie. I’d had more retrievals in my short tenure than some cops had had in their entire careers. A lot of this came from the fact that I was immortal. When you had no fear of dying, you were far more willing to take risks. Shit still hurt, though, so I was usually careful.
Reaper was still pretty new to the job, but he’d seen a lot in his years while ferrying people from the world to the Vortex. He wasn’t a worry to me anymore. He’d proven himself a number of times already.
The two I still found to be a chore were the officers known as Brazen and Kix.
Brazen was a werebear who also happened to be an asshole. He was big, out of shape, had a perpetually messed-up beard, and his clothes were rarely clean. Kix, on the other hand, was a young djinn who was covered in tattoos and always wore a shit-eating grin.
Now, you’d probably bet that I’d be more excited about serving with a guy like Kix than I would be serving with someone like Brazen.
You’d lose that bet.
I disliked serving with them equally.
Now, don’t get me wrong. They had demonstrated themselves to be more than competent during our last couple of missions, but they were still green.
That made me responsible for them.
I didn’t like being a chaperone.
But those were the breaks, and if you griped too much at Chief Carter, he could make your life a living hell. Besides, I owed the chief more than I could ever hope to pay back. If it weren’t for him, I’d either be strung out on some crazy drugs, in jail, or both.
“What have we got?” I asked Reaper, knowing he was able to spot people in the area using his internal tracking ability. Some people may have thought that was due to his glowing eyes, but it wasn’t. He just had that reaper skill. “Is she on your radar, Reap?”
“There is something…” He trailed off and pointed.
As if on cue, an elderly woman stepped out into the open.
Brazen and Kix went for their guns, no doubt itchy to try out those Death Nails I’d made them practice with. But I held out my hand and gave them a look. They put their weapons away with a sigh.
“Mrs. Donaldson?” I called out, taking my badge from my pocket and showing it to her. I slowly approached. “My name is Piper Shaw and I’m from the Netherworld Retrievers unit.”
“What’s that?” she called back, holding a hand to her ear. “Could you speak up?”
“My name is Piper Shaw,” I yelled back. “I’m an officer in the Netherworld Paranormal Police Department. This is my partner, Reaper Payne, and these are a couple of officers-in-training.” I didn’t bother to give their names. Mrs. Donaldson didn’t seem to mind, but Brazen and Kix were frowning at me. “We’d like to ask you a few questions, ma’am.”
At first she looked taken aback, but then she slowly nodded and waved us to follow her.
“I was about to go home and put on some tea,” she said, “if you’d care to join me.”
“Hmmm?” I replied, not expecting that response. “Oh, right. Sure, we’d love to.”
“Damn it,” hissed Brazen.
He wasn’t one who enjoyed socializing and pleasantries.
“Heads up, Piper,” Chief Carter said through our internal comms as we slowly followed after Mrs. Donaldson, “we have a situation going on down here and I need Officers Brazen and Kix back immediately.”
“Oh, darn,” I replied as relief washed over me. “How will we ever manage without them?”
Brazen looked quite pleased with being called back.
“Gee,” he said aloud, all smiles, “I’m sure I speak for Kix as well when I say that we absolutely hate to have to leave this riveting catch-the-old-woman caper, but duty calls.”
Kix grinned as well, though he seemed less enthusiastic about leaving. Unlike Brazen, Kix was fine with doing the mundane and simpler aspects of the job. I’d wager he was incredibly chuffed to be labeled as a Retriever no matter what his actual duties entailed.
“Toodles,” Brazen said before pressing his tattoo and disappearing.
“Good luck, guys,” Kix said with a shrug before he disappeared.
Reaper and I looked at each other and resumed following the old woman.
Bane's Edge - A Piper & Payne Supernatural Thriller
Prison breaks were usually contained to the Netherworld, but now and then the convicts made it topside. That had happened just a couple weeks back with Gallien Cross, but he was just an isolated incident. This time we had an entire contingency of djinn on the run in Vegas.
Fortunately, there were a number of Retrievers helping to collect the escapees. Unfortunately, Reaper and I were among them.
“He’s straight ahead, Reap,” I said through the connector while pointing at the far edge of the parking lot. The connector was a device implanted in every Paranormal Police Department agent’s brain. Well, everyone but Reaper. His was connected to his specialized tattoo. “You take the inside wall and I’ll go wide.”
“Got it,” he replied, stopping to peer over his sunglasses at me. “Piper, try not to kill him. My rent is due.”
Two things: First was that Reaper wore sunglasses at night, not because he was a fan of that song from the eighties, but because his eyes glowed like a couple of lanterns in a dark cave. It had something to do with him being a reaper…and, yes, I mean one of those guys who ferries the dead to the great vortex in the sky or whatever it was. Secondly, we got paid a base salary plus commissions. Our salaries sucked, so commissions were where we made the majority of our income. A dead perp only gave us a twenty-five-percent commission, but we got the full bounty on any runners we brought back alive.
“That’s up to our inked pal over there,” I replied noncommittally.
Our mark was on the upper-level parking lot at the Palm’s Hotel and Casino. This level of the lot was pretty barren, which was good since I didn’t like having to deal with normals in a firefight.
I moved slowly, wishing there were a few cars I could hide behind. Sneaking around with nothing to cover you wasn’t easy.
The only real thing we had going for us was that these escaped djinn were some of the most arrogant pricks I’d run into in quite some time. In fact, I’d already killed three of them tonight due to their inflated egos.
I glanced over at Reaper.
Okay, so maybe I was a little trigger-happy now and then, but better the bad guy get killed than me, right?
No, that wasn’t fair. The fact was that I couldn’t be killed. I was immortal, and so was Reaper. Different reasons, obviously. I wasn’t a reaper. My immortality stemmed from an event that happened during my childhood. But I couldn’t think about that at the moment. I had to keep focused on the task at hand. Immortal or not, getting shot sucked.
We closed in on the guy, who seemed to be digging through a lonely white pickup truck near the industrial fans.
“He’s not paying attention, Reap,” I said. “I’m going to move in behind the truck. You loop around the other side.”
He didn’t reply, but I saw him pick up his pace.
With any luck, we’d have this guy wrapped up and sent down in the next minute or two. That all depended on how cooperative he’d be. I had to admit that it would be nice to get a full commission on him.
“Is he trying to steal the truck?” asked Reaper.
“I thought so at first,” I replied as I closed in, “but now I’m not so sure. He’s digging around in the back and…” I paused as realization hit me. “Oh shit,” I groaned, taking off in a full run right at the djinn. “He’s got weapons in there!”
I was still twenty feet away when he pulled out a big fucking gun and leveled it at me.
“Eat lead, bitch!” he yelled out.
I dived to the ground as a massive bang sounded. Whatever the hell he was using punched some major power.
“I know,” Reaper interrupted, casting a fireball at the djinn. He missed by a good ten feet. “I’m trying to stop him.”
“We really need to get you some target practice.”
Too bad for Reaper, his attempt at launching that fireball had given the djinn a new target to take out. He spun and shot, hitting Reaper square in the chest, throwing him back against the concrete containment wall.
So much for that full commission.
I jumped up and fired my gun repeatedly, striking the djinn in the torso twice with Death Nails. He screamed and hit the ground as I ran around the truck to put a few more Nails in his head. This was wholly unnecessary since one Nail was sufficient to kill your average djinn, but I was pissed.
“You okay, Reap?” I called aloud, running over toward where he lay.
Those eyes glowed bright enough to power your standard Vegas neon sign. His shirt was ripped up pretty good and he was definitely going to need a new trench coat. I picked up his sunglasses and hat and handed them to him.
“I’ve been better,” he groaned. “That was quite a weapon.” Like I said, we may be immortal, but getting shot sucked. “I’m assuming we’re not getting a full bounty for him?”
“Under the circumstances,” he said while pushing himself back up, “it’s understandable.”
After sending the djinn down to the Netherworld morgue and giving Reaper a minute to recover, we started walking back toward the ramp.
“I’m tracking another djinn in the lower level of this complex,” Reaper announced. “There seem to be a couple of PPD officers nearby as well.”
“No,” he replied with a shake of his head. “They’re just turning up as standard PPD.”
I nodded and sighed. “Well, hopefully they don’t kill the guy before we get to him.”
“Agreed.” Reaper then glanced at me. “And it’d be nice if we didn’t kill the guy either.”
“I know, I know.”
“Seriously, Piper, I need the money right now.” He adjusted his hat. “Promise me you’ll at least try not to kill this one.”
“I tried not to kill the last one, Reap.”
The Merging - An Ian Dex Supernatural Thriller
There are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas on any given night, but chasing a rogue vampire through town doesn’t show up on any of the pamphlets. At least none that I’ve seen.
“Ian,” said Rachel Cress, my partner since joining the Las Vegas Paranormal Police Department, better known as the Las Vegas PPD, “tell me he’s at least done something truly nefarious.”
Her sapphire eyes glistened against her pale skin. Today’s hairstyle was blond with braids here and there. The look was perfect on the backdrop of her brown leather outfit. When she got her hands glowing with magical energy, it was all I could do to keep my libido in check. But I had to control myself. There was a time where Rachel and I were peers in the force. We were allowed to play with each other back then. Well, technically we weren’t, but we did anyway. Actually, pretty much everyone on the squad did because we were the only ones who truly understood what it was like being in the PPD. Five years ago, though, I was promoted to chief. When that happened, I swore off having relations with anyone on my crew because, well, it just wouldn’t be right. I still said inappropriate things… a lot, but everyone understood that was due to my genetic make up and so they let it slide. I was a horndog, plain and simple. Of course, so was everyone in the PPD. It was a side-effect of our genetic engineering.
“He bit a normal,” I replied while taking a turn toward the Bellagio.
“Any other normals witness it?”
“Nothing reported,” I answered.
“So he’ll get a couple years at the most,” Rachel said with a grunt.
I pulled over to the side of the road and took a look around.
There were plenty of normals walking about, laughing and generally having a good time. We lived among them, worked among them, and even vacationed among them. But whenever one of our kind flipped into full vampire or werewolf mode, the normals filtered it out. That filter was easily demolished by magical battles or a direct attack, much like the one done by the vampire we were hunting, but most of the time normals were oblivious.
Fortunately, we had a public relations firm built specifically to handle situations where supernaturals intruded. They were called The Spin, and their job was to make normals believe that these mystical situations were all part of the Vegas experience. Unfortunately, the regional owner of The Spin was one Paula Rose, an ex-girlfriend. What can I say? I have a thing for normals. Not that I don’t have a thing for supernaturals, but there’s something about normals that really got my engines revving. Rachel suggested it had something to do with their being less of a challenge. I found quite the opposite to be true.
I spotted Mr. Vampire seated on the ledge by the water feature, looking sated. Guilty, but satisfied.
“Cleared to move, Lydia?” I asked through the connector, a device all PPD officers had implanted to allow communication between home base and other officers.
“All set, baby,” she replied in her sweet, ultra-perfect voice.
“Thank you, love,” I replied, giving a wink to Rachel at the same time.
“You’re sick, you know that?”
I loved pressing Rachel’s buttons. “What?”
“What?” she mocked while strapping a knife to the outside of her boot. Rachel was the only mage I knew who resorted to weaponry if the magic failed. It made complete sense to me to have a backup, but most mages are a bit snobbish about things like that. “The rest of us get the pedantic drone of Lydia’s artificial intelligence. You get a phone-sex operator.”
I shook my head and snapped up a fresh magazine for my gun, making sure the contents were infused with wood fragments.
Some myths were true, after all.
Wood for the vampires and silver for the werewolves.
The bullets I had were called breakers. They’d been developed specifically for use by members of the PPD. Dastardly things, too. They exploded on impact, driving shards of your favorite monster-killing materials throughout your target in the process.
“Jealous much?” I said before opening the door.
She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’m jealous of a computer. When was the last time you got laid by something non-mechanical?”
“Is that what you said during it?” Then she pulled the handle and exited the car. I laughed and batted my eyelashes at her. “What’s the plan?”
I’m sure we both hoped the perpetrator would decide to fight. It’d been a while since we’d seen any real action.
It all depended on the kind of drunk we were dealing with. When a vampire breaks down and bites into a normal, they either get power-mad or they get laid back. It was a dice roll to know which one you’d get. Being that we were in Vegas, dice rolls were apropos.
“I’ll take left,” I said, jogging to the other side of the street so that Rachel and I could flank him.
The light was waning but I could see in near blackness. It was one of the many traits of an amalgamite.
Our vampire was seated in the little alcove near the center of the Bellagio’s water feature.
When vampires drank blood, it was like they’d downed quite a few shots of whiskey. They got plastered, and that meant they were either lovey, sulky, or power-hungry and violent. From the looks of our perp, I would have guessed he was a calm drunk. Or at least not a violent one. A single kill was rare for those seeking a power rush, after all. This guy appeared to be sulking.
“I’m clear,” I said through the connector, crossing the street a ways down and then cutting back, keeping my gun out but tucked by my side.
“Moving in,” Rachel replied through the connector.
The way she moved reminded me of a lioness. Lithe, smooth, and deadly.
Her hands glowed, signaling she was prepping for a light show.
Between her magic and my bullets, this poor vampire was a goner, assuming he didn’t surrender.
He only had two exits: bolt straight ahead or cut through the fountains.
Whatever his move, we’d catch him eventually.
We always did.
There was a time early on when the job had been a challenge, but Rachel and I had gotten so good that taking down your standard vampire or werewolf was almost mundane. A gang of them could be fun, but singles were just too damn easy.
“Don’t blow up everything,” I warned Rachel as I thought about how The Spin was already going to have to explain how this vampire sank his teeth into a normal. “The last thing I need is Paula on my ass about having to handle public relations on account of a magical battle outside of the Bellagio.”
“Says the guy who wants to start using a fifty-caliber Desert Eagle,” Rachel replied.
I grinned at the thought. “But I’m not using one, am I?”
Our vampire pal had clearly taken notice of us. He stood and began fidgeting.
“Get your hands up,” I called out before he made any decisions. He paused, giving me the opportunity to try the moderately-nice-cop routine. “Look, pal,” I said gently, “I don’t want to have to shoot you, but I will. And if I miss, that mage over there will wreak all sorts of havoc on your flesh in order to give me time to try again.”
He looked at Rachel, whose hands were bouncing little bolts of lightning back and forth between them. Then he turned back at me.
“Doesn’t have to go bad, buddy,” I said, keeping the gun pointed at his chest while continuing to close in. “You’re already in a world of hurt. Don’t bring any more normals into this and you’ll be out in no time.” I motioned with the gun. “Just put your hands up and I won’t unleash a bath of wood fragments throughout your body.”
His hands slowly went up as he gulped.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” he said desperately. “I just…”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” I replied, having heard the excuse a hundred times. “Chomping into a normal’s neck just happens sometimes. We’ve all been there.”
“You’ve done it, too?” he said, looking downright pathetic.
“Well, no,” I replied, relaxing slightly. “I’m not a vampire. I just meant that we’ve all screwed up at some point.”
“Idiot,” Rachel said.
I shot her a look, frowned, and said, “Get down on your knees.”
“Excuse me?” she replied, her head tilting my way.
“No, I meant for him to…” I coughed and then repeated my command directly at Mr. Vampire.
He slowly lowered himself down.
“Dammit,” Rachel hissed, clearly displeased over the fact that there’d be no firefight.
We were within a few feet of him when we noticed a look of instant terror on his face.
His eyes opened wide milliseconds before I heard a growl and felt a blow crush against my right shoulder.
The pain ripped through my body as I landed a good ten feet away.
My head buzzed and my vision was blurred. Whatever the hell just clobbered me had some major power.
Screams and growls filled the area as my mental cobwebs began to clear.
I pushed myself up, shaking my head while reaching out to grab my gun.
When I looked over, I saw a werewolf tearing our vampire pal to bits. It wasn’t your standard werewolf either. This one was easily a full head taller than any naughty doggie I’d seen before, and it was much thicker. Besides, he was ripping through a vampire like it was nothing. That’s not an easy thing to do.
My brain was having difficulty processing the entire scene.
It just made no sense.
The power of the werewolf was incredible, as was its ferocity.
I’d been on the force for seven years and I thought I’d seen everything.
This was something new.
It solidified my desire to pick up that Desert Eagle the next time I was selecting weaponry.
That’s when I realized that Rachel had gone quiet.
I scanned the area.
She was lying limp on the ground off to the beast’s right.
“Rachel,” I called out, taking a wobbly step toward her.
The werewolf spun and looked at me like a jackal does a fallen antelope. His red eyes glowed as blood dripped from his teeth and claws. A rumbling growl radiated from him, signaling he had no desire to be friends.
“Not good,” I said, pulling up my gun and firing it repeatedly.
Wood-imbued breakers wouldn’t do much to kill the damned thing, but I had no time to load silvers. I just hoped they’d hurt enough to make him run.
He ran like hell.
Unfortunately, he was running directly at me.
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