High Voltage

Page 6

The shadowy shape recoiled again, vanishing on a sudden gust of wind then resolidifying in the same spot. More breezed over to join it, settling on either side, until I stood glaring at a nearly solid wall of blackness fifty feet wide.

I gestured threateningly with my left hand. “I’ll destroy you. You picked the wrong woman to mess with on the wrong bloody night. I was already in a bad enough mood!” I snarled. I paused and did that thing I used to do when I was young, when I was still killing with hate in my heart, enough to Kevlar all the Garda in Dublin. I embraced my rage at the injustice and hypocrisy of the world, welcomed it, let it fill my body, shape my limbs, backlight my eyes. I knew what I looked like when I let it happen—Ryodan on his worst day.

There was steel in my spine and death in my eyes when I swaggered toward the menacing wall. “You have two choices,” I said in a terrible voice, my left hand raised high. “Leave. Or die.”

The wall vanished.

I blinked, murmuring, “Well,” mildly surprised and majorly skeptical. I knew I could be intimidating, but I was a single person and there were hundreds of them.

I stood for several long moments, scanning the cemetery, unwilling to act rashly, from a misguided belief they were gone. The monsters that stalk our world are devious, patient, and sly. So are a lot of the humans.

While I waited I evened out my breath. It was a constant reminder of how I lived: Bold, Ruthless, Energy, Action, Tenacity, Hunger; B-R-E-A-T-H. I wanted to kick up into the slipstream and rush to the nearest pool of light but I don’t run from the things I fear anymore. They chase you, gaining substance and power the longer you run.

When several minutes passed without any of the shadows reappearing, I shoved the cellphone back in my pocket and turned to walk through the cemetery, eyes peeled for clues. I stumbled smack into a gravestone, tripped over it, rolled, sprang up and stood motionless, running a rapid internal assessment. I felt oddly shaky, weak as if my legs might go out from under me if I moved suddenly. Brushes with death usually invigorate me but this one had rattled me more than I’d realized. On the off chance I was simply hungry—a far more palatable conclusion to both tongue and ego—I crammed a protein bar in my mouth and resumed walking, taking careful mental notes about the locations from which the unknown entities had come, their shapes and sizes, their actions, and filed it all neatly away in my mental vaults.

I’d wanted a distraction.

I’d certainly gotten one. A mystery wrapped in an enigma, topped with a bow of suspense and danger.

I was whistling a cheery tune by the time Shazam bounded out of the night to join me, blood on his furry muzzle, delight in his violet eyes. We moved together and I rested my hand on his shaggy head as we padded into the night.

Still, I made a mental note to be a bit more careful about the things I asked the universe for in the future.


All men have limits.

They learn what they are and learn not to exceed them.

I ignore mine.


Great spirits have long suffered violent opposition from mediocre minds.


What they said.


The roads are fragile food for city crooks on a starry night



“ANOTHER THREE OF THEM, Dani?” Rainey Lane exclaimed as she threw open the door of the townhouse.

The light from the cozily furnished home spilled into the night, glistening on cobblestones damp from a recent rain. Backlit, the fifty-four-year-old woman looked like the radiant, matronly angel of mercy she’d proven to be since I’d brought the first of the orphans to her.

“Four,” I corrected, motioning to the eldest of the children huddled behind me. Her name was Sara Brady, she’d told me grudgingly, and she was eleven years old. Her brother, Thomas, was seven, the girl holding his hand was five, and the baby a mere ten months.

As I reached behind Sara to unfasten the satchel that held her sleeping sister, she tensed, rising to the balls of her feet, and knocked my arm away, thin shoulders trembling. Poised to run, her eyes darted nervously as she considered her odds: the chilly, dangerous night or the warm, inviting light.

“You agreed to come here with me,” I reminded. “You’ll be safe and well cared for.”

“How long have they been on their own?” Rainey asked quietly.

“Nearly two months. Like most, they’ve no idea what happened to their parents.”

“I do. The Faerie took them,” the boy blurted. “I saw it, I did, with my own—”

Sara’s mouth thinned to a line as she kicked him sharply in the shins. “Hush Thomas, you’re not to be speaking of that!”

The boy began to cry, tears trickling down grimy cheeks. He rubbed his eyes with his fists then shook one at her. “But it’s true! I saw it! It was one of the Faerie! You know it’s true, Sara! You—”

When she kicked him again, harder, I moved between them and drew one to each side, resting my hands on their thin, knobby shoulders. “You’ll be safe here. This is Rainey Lane. She helps run the foster center.”

“Where they’ll split us up!” Sara hissed, pulling away from me.

Rainey spoke swiftly. “We never separate siblings. If we’re unable to find a good home for the four of you, you may stay in the center as long as you like.”

That was one of the things I’d been counting on when I’d brought Rainey the first of the abandoned children I’d discovered, half dead in the streets. Her adopted daughters were biological sisters: Alina and MacKayla Lane. Family was everything to her. Still, it wouldn’t be long before the recently formed center became too full to continue offering such an alternative.

Sara Brady squinted up at Rainey through damp, tangled hair, hostility blazing in her eyes. Silently, I applauded her bravado. The terrified eleven-year-old had managed to take care of her infant sister and her young siblings for nearly two months, without the many sidhe-seer gifts I’d had at her age. She was a fighter. But she was an eighty-pound-dripping-wet fighter, and Dublin, AWC, was no city for lightweights.

“You know who I am and what I do,” I said to Sara softly. “Have you heard such terrible things about me, then? Or the foster center?”

“I’ve not heard of your ‘foster center’ at all,” she said stiffly. “But kids on the telly always get split up.” And dreadful things happen to them, the shadows in her eyes said.

“What about me?” I said.

“What about you?” Sara said, with a dismissive sniff.

I smiled faintly. She knew who I was. I was a legend. My talents coupled with the infrequent appearance of Shazam had seen to that.

“You’re some kind of superhero!” the boy exclaimed. “And your sword,” he gestured to it where it was sheathed across my back, “crashes like lightning when you fight. And you have a great, fat cat with superpowers!”

I winked at Thomas. “Never call him fat. It makes him grumpy. Nor is he…quite a cat.” Well, he was a Hel-Cat, but that was an entirely different thing.

“There’s no such thing as superheroes,” Sara scoffed. “And if you are one, why didn’t you stop the Faerie—” She clamped her mouth shut.

These weren’t the first children I’d found who believed the Fae had stolen their parents. It made no sense. Fae didn’t abduct adults, they lured them off with glamour, illusion, and lies. “Where else will you sleep tonight? They firebombed your squat and burned you out,” I reminded.

For no reason. In a moment of boredom, a diversion for the three bullies who’d done it. They’d laughed as the children fled the blazing shell, screaming. Sent three half-starved kids and a helpless baby out into the deadly night. I’d been torn between going after the kids or the bastards who’d tossed the bombs. I’d gone for the kids.


Sara fisted her hands at her sides. “It wasn’t fair! I found that house. No one else was living there. I watched it for five days before we took it! And they burned it. A perfectly good place to live. They didn’t even want it! Why would anyone do that?”

A house with running water and electricity; a thing she’d needed desperately to keep her family alive. But possession was nine-tenths of the law only if one was strong enough to enforce that law, and her ragged troop wasn’t.

During the day, Dublin, AWC, was a normal, bustling, safe city, if there was such a thing with the walls down between Fae and Mortals, two-thirds of the world population gone, fragments of Faery drifting free, Light Court Fae living openly in town, establishing cultlike settlements around the country, and gangs warring to control supply and demand.

At night all bets were off. The predators came out to play, and if you weren’t one of them, you were meat. There were only three types of beings that dared trespass beyond the protected Temple Bar District after dark: the very powerful; the very foolish; or the helpless, driven there by one threat or another.

“Just stay here with me for the night,” Rainey said gently. “See how you feel in the morning. No one will force you to remain with us. May I see the baby, Sara?” She extended her arms. “I believe we’ve a diaper that needs changing.”

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