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Lin Valmont. Marday, Virgo 27th, 2353 AA. 10:35 PM. Arroyo (AKF Central Precinct).

“So to sum up,” Lin said, finishing her explanation. “I believe a gang in North Arroyo screwed up their ratio when mixing juice, and it has fatal levels of some kind of addictive agent. Possibly Dryad Sap according to Master Plath. Not sure about their supplier, but that’s the only thing I can think of that would explain the pattern of deaths.”

“Makes sense to me,” Flores said.

“Good job,” Harker said. “You clearly put this together faster than any of our detectives.”

Lin beamed. Oh god. This is amazing. I met them and made a good impression. I can’t wait to tell Carroll and Pen. Oh my god, Azmuir will be so jealous! And Athren! The last thought was a touch tender in her head, but she decided it was best to focus on the positive. I’ll tell him when he gets home.

“All we need is a sample of Juice to confirm they’ve been doctored,” Singh said.

“Wait,” Lin said. “You’re taking my case?”

“It seems pretty pressing,” Singh said. “And I’m willing to bet we can lay it to rest quick. If we use the Breath on the drugs, we may be able to find out who the alchemist is.”

They are taking my case, and they are using the Mortal Breath to solve it?

“Did your student tell you where in North Arroyo he found the drugs?”

Lin hung her head.

“He offered to tell me and I brushed him off. I just… I didn’t think it was important. It was stupid of me.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Singh said. “Do you know if any of your other students might be using? If they are, they may be able to gain credit acting as a CI. It’s a relatively low risk assignment.”

Lin shook her head.

“I don’t know anybody else on campus who is using stims.”

Aside from yourself. The lie seemed to sting her throat. I’m meeting my idols and I still can’t admit that I have a crutch. Then again, she was obtaining her drugs through Pensey’s legitimate prescription, and had no notion of where to find illegal drugs.

The room went quiet for a moment. Then the desk Flores was leaning on coughed.

Everybody froze. When Lin turned to look at it properly, she realized that there was something—or rather, someone—beneath it. At first, their presence had been overshadowed by the incredibly powerful wyrds of the SCV, but now Lin realized that the room felt crowded and claustrophobic because it contained a fifth, far weaker human wyrd, whose pressure was leaking out from beneath Officer Flores’ desk.

The person coughed again, twice.

Flores leapt off his desk and aimed his wrist at it. Harker and Singh did the same. Lin reflexively followed suit, but Singh gently lowered her arm and gave her a condescending “We’ll handle this,” smile. Lin wasn’t sure if she was more embarrassed, or more disappointed.

“Come out, slowly. Hands where we can see them,” Harker said.

A beanied head slowly emerged from behind the desk. A tall, scrawny blonde teen about Lin’s age emerged from the desk. His hands were in echo cuffs, chained together in front of him. Isn’t that the kid who was getting booked when I first arrived? I lost track of him when I started to doze off. What the hell is he doing in here?

“Hi,” Singh said. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Hi, yes, hello. My name is Risso Delloruso,” the kid said, waving one of his cuffed hands.

“Why the fuck were you under my partner’s desk, Risso Delloruso?” Harker demanded.

“Um. I am temporarily evading Detective Grant’s Venture. And you know, it’s kind of a long story—I don’t want to bore you with the details but I couldn’t help but overhear your predicament and think I can actually be of assistance… so I just wanted to take the opportunity to, uh, tactfully announce my presence.”

Lin looked at Flores as the boy continued babbling.

“Is this… common?” she asked.

Juel shook his head, arms now folded across his chest.

“Nah, this is a new one.”

“I am very interested in the details,” Sev said, wrist still raised and thrumming with power. “So I recommend you start explaining like your life depended on it, because it very well may.”

“Oh, okay,” Risso said, shrinking back toward the office wall. “Well. Uh. It started with an incident that happened right after I got off work this afternoon…”

— Risso Delloruso. 4:03 PM. Arroyo (Upper Hastings Ranch) —

“Thank you dear,” Mrs. Laster said. “These old bones aren’t what they used to be.”

Risso emanated ‘no problem,’ and placed the bag of rice into the granny’s cupboard. She had a big order—lots of canned fruits and vegetables and other heavy, hard-to-lift shit. He figured it would take her the whole afternoon to lug everything into her house if he just dropped it on her porch. Getting groceries for folks is a shit job, but all the more reason to make a difference when you can.

Most clients were spoiled or stupid people who couldn’t be fucked to do their own shopping. People like Mrs. Laster, a widow in her late sixties or early seventies, genuinely needed the help, though. And you know? It feels good to do some good, to actually help somebody who needs it.

Mrs. Laster opened her wallet and handed Risso a twenty. His eyes bugged at the generous tip, and they nearly rolled out of his head altogether when he saw how much cash she was carrying. She’s got a cartoon stack of bills in there. It’s half an inch thick!

“Whoa. Thanks very much, Mrs. Laster!” Risso said appreciatively.

“Of course, of course! It’s so nice to have some help and a little company. Most of the delivery people have stopped bothering to even ring the doorbell these days. I guess I talk too much, or everyone is just too busy.”

Risso shook his head like it was a fucking shame. And it is! Where’s the personal touch?

“That’s terrible. You don’t have nobody nearby to check up on you? Kids? Nieces or nephews?”

“Oh, my family scattered to the four winds years ago. That’s my husband on the mantel,” she nodded at an urn over the fireplace, then turned to a collection of photographs on the sideboard. “And my oldest grandchild just started at New Amsterdam University.”

“College!” Risso exclaimed. “Man, you must be real proud. I barely made it out of high school.”

Technically, he had been expelled for dealing. But I never said I graduated.

“Oh you better believe it!” Mrs. Laster said, then added conspiratorially. “Pity she’s on the far coast. She’s about your age and a real looker!”

The woman gestured the outline of a voluptuous figure and did a wolf-whistle. Risso laughed and shook his head wistfully.

“Just my luck. Hey, uh, listen: you were actually the last order on my shift. You need help with anything around the house? I’d feel bad if I left you with a leaky faucet or something.”

“That’s very sweet of you, dear, but I’ll be alright. Everything creaks and complains, but I’m still able-bodied.”

Mrs. Laster smiled at him and it nearly broke his heart. It was the sort of smile that told a story. Something to the effect of “I’ve had a good life, so I’m as happy as I have any right to be, even though I’m lonely, bored, and hurting.” You can do better. You deserve better.

“It’s gotta be rough. Empty nest and no one to talk to,” Risso ventured.

She took a deep breath and nodded.

“I like to think God has a reason to wake me every morning, but I have to admit. Sometimes it feels like the sun isn’t shining as bright as it used to.

“What if I told you I have something that would change that? Something to make the sun bright again?” Risso asked.

The question brought her up short at first. Risso could taste her hunger. She was intrigued at the very least, but ultimately waved him off with a chuckle.

“Then you should enjoy it yourself. Make your sun brighter still. Youth is a gift you only get once.”

“I don’t have as much wisdom under my belt as you, and I was never the sharpest bulb in the toolbox to begin with, but I’m not so sure that’s true,” Risso countered. “I think youth is more like a place. A state of mind. You may not be able to stay there forever, but if you have a passport, you can visit every once and a while.”

Again, she gave him due consideration.

“What is this passport?”

Risso hesitated. How to spin this?

“It’s like a supplement. Or more like, a natural remedy for fatigue, pain, and fugue.”

Risso congratulated himself silently. ‘Fugue.’ That’s a fucking college boy word right there! I always been good with vocabulation.

I hope you don’t mean marijuana young man,” The woman chided. “My head’s foggy enough as it is!”

“No, ma’am! This is like, the opposite of marijuana. It’s like medicine.”

“Oh, like essential oils?”

“Similar!” Risso said, nodding. “You ever hear of Dawn Tears?”

The woman shook her head. Risso smiled.

“C’mon. Let’s get you young again.”

— 4:39 PM |Hastings Arroyo (Couloirs D’élite Bowling Alley)—

Thirty minutes later and six hundred dollars richer, Risso was hanging with Mrs. Laster, or “Opal,” as she asked him to call her, in one of the lane suites at Hastings Ranch’s over-priced bowling alley. It was the only one left in the city that he knew of.

After Risso sold her the tears, he waited around to make sure she had a good reaction. You have to be responsible about this shit. And it was honestly beautiful seeing them kick in. She said she felt like she was waking up. The way she moved changed. Her eyes were fuckin’ bright again. Risso asked her what she wanted to do. And she said she wanted to go bowling.

So he drove her there, and she insisted he join her, not knowing you had to buy a whole-ass private room to bowl at this place. But she didn’t bat an eye. In fact, she commented on it being exclusive. On the plus side, the room came with couches, snacks, a minifridge with sodas and booze for sale, and a karaoke set-up, so it wasn’t a total rip-off. And as it turned out, granny could ball when it came to bowling.

“Strike three! You’re out!” She proclaimed, having indeed rolled another strike.

“Go, Opal! Go, Opal!” Risso chanted.

He marveled at her. And himself. I sold Crystal Summer to a grandma. Solves her problems and she can actually afford it. It’s genius. I am a fucking genius. I am the motherfucking arch dealer.

—5:53 PM—

“Waking up before I get to sleep, ‘cause I’ll be rocking this party eight days a week!” Opal roared.

Damn, granny! I’m surprised she knows this one. Even more surprised she picked it. But you know. Good for her! You go, Opal! She had switched to karaoke after kicking his ass for eight straight games, or rounds, or whatever of bowling.

“No! Sleep! Till Brooklyn!” they sang together.

“No! Sleep! Till Brooklyn!” Opal repeated. “No! Sleep… Till….”

Opal’s eyes rolled back into her head. She dropped the mic, and fell heavily to the floor.

“Opal?” Risso hazarded.

No response. He sprang off his seat on the sofa, scrambled to her body, and touched her neck. Okay! Cool. She’s got a pulse. He hesitated. That seems fast. Is that fast? I don’t know what a fast pulse is!

“My… chest feels heavy…” she giggled, then completely passed out.

Oh shit. Oh. Holy. Fuck.

— Sevardin Harker | AKF Central Precinct | 10:42 PM—

“So then I called the mediclave, cause, what else are you going to do? I’m not going let her die. I may be a piece of shit, but I still a fucking human being. Anyway, after I gave my statement to the sophs, Officer Grant’s venture pulled me in for questioning. For doing the right fucking thing. And I don’t know if you know this? But Grant and his people have a reputation for being rough and—”

“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Sevardin said. “That’s a…That was a very moving story, but you’ve been going on for over five minutes, and we are no closer to knowing why you decided to hide in our office.”

“Well, you said you wanted the details, so I—” Risso started.

“You’ve got five seconds to wrap it up,” Jecia said. “Then I stun you so hard you see Jesus.”

Risso gulped in air and started speaking faster than any non-contract enhanced human Sev had ever heard:

“Grant booked me downstairs, but I ran to the elevators when he wasn’t looking. Figured I would take the fire escape down from the roof. But somebody called the elevator on the fourth floor, so I got off on the third. I ducked below the cubicle walls, ended up by your office and locked myself inside. Figured I’d wait a couple hours then go back to my original plan.”

“I’m gonna stun him anyway,” Jecia said.

Risso recoiled and yelped:

“I can help you! I can. I swear to Jesus. God. Gods. Whatever you believe. I swear it.”

“How? Short of getting your scrawny ass out of our office?” Juel asked.

“She said you need a sample of the Rollers’ drugs, right?” Risso asked, nodding at Valmont. “They’re the ones you’re after, by the way. If you need drugs from North Arroyo, they’re the only game in that part of town.”

“Fuck,” Sev muttered.

The rollers had grown more violent since their unlikely “collaboration” dealing with Drigori Demirci Junior, and the members of the unbranded.

“I can buy you the drugs. They know me. They’d never suspect me. I won’t ask for a CI’s wages. Call it a favor.”

“And in return, we’re just supposed to overlook the fact that you sold fae speed to a woman and put her in the hospital?” Juel asked.

Risso swallowed.

“What if she doesn’t press charges?” he asked.

“Um, sorry to interrupt,” Valmont said, raising her hand. “But my friend is actually waiting for me in the car. I should probably go now that you have the information.”

“Right. We’ll take it from here Ms. Valmont,” Sev said. “While the AKF greatly appreciates your assistance—”

“I know, no independent investigations.” Valmont said, smiling. “Just happy to know it’s in good hands. Uh, here’s my card if you have questions later.”

“Damn, never seen a bluebie with a business card before,” Juel observed.

Her cheeks pinkened slightly, but she smiled and bobbed her head. Risso cleared his throat.

“Hey, yo, could I get one of those? I might have some questions later.”

He gave her a wry smile and bounced his eyebrows. Valmont looked at him as if the request was completely baffling, then turned back to the venture, gave an amagiate salute and ducked out of the office without another word.

“You think she’s single?” Risso asked when she was gone.

“No,” the venture said in unison.

He shrugged and gestured ‘it’s a shame,’ then immediately started talking again:

“Anyway, about this CI gig… How does this work? Do I fill out some paperwork first, or… like, do I need to wear a wire? How many drugs do you need?”

The venture stared at him. Juel was on the verge of cracking up. Jecia gave Sev an amused side-eye. I don’t even know where to start with this kid.

“Fuck it,” Jecia said. “Do you know Opal’s condition?”

“They said she needed surgery, and they’re holding her overnight,” Risso said. “Uh, they wouldn’t tell me anything else though, you know, because I’m not family.”

“Here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna write her full name on this paper. Then you’re gonna spend the night in jail.” Risso started to protest, but Jecia shut him up with a sharp gesture and a powerful emanation. “Tomorrow at noon, I’m going to call her. If she doesn’t pick up, or she wants to press charges? You’re fucked. If she is willing to give you a pass, then we’ll talk about the CI question.”

“Jail though?” Risso whined.

Sev blinked slowly. This kid is completely disconnected from reality.

“Yes, jail,” Jecia repeated. “How else do we know you won’t skip town? If Opal presses charges, you’re looking at up to five years in prison, kid. And it’s no skin off our noses. A finer deal does not exist. So either you start showing some gratitude and cooperation, or we give you back to Grant. And you were right: his venture does have a reputation for being rough.”

“Okay, jail sounds pretty good,” Risso conceded.

— North Arroyo | Merday, Virgo 28th | 3:28 PM —

“I cannot believe we are letting this pinhead off,” Juel said.

“I didn’t see five years in prison improving his life outlook much,” Jecia said.

“As long as he gets the sample, I’d say we’re square.” Sev said.

The three of them sat in a surveillance van parked two blocks away. Juel had cast a scrying contract on Risso that gave them an over-the-shoulder view of his perspective. They could also hear what he heard and speak to him telepathically. He was moving down the streets of North Arroyo, hands stuffed in the pockets of his completely unnecessary, long, sleeveless coat.

“You, uh, you still with me?” Risso asked under his breath.

“Yes,” Jecia said telepathically. “Stop talking to yourself.”

“Just checkin’, just checkin’,” he muttered.

“Does he seem nervous to you?” Juel asked.

Sev nodded. Risso’s feet seemed to have grown cold overnight. If anything, I would assume a night in the tank would have renewed his resolve. Hopefully it’s just nerves.

Risso was still outwardly cooperative and made no indication that he was having second thoughts. But as he walked toward Roller territory—the neighborhood he claimed to know like the back of his hand—he frequently looked over his shoulder, and aggressively surveyed the streets as if he expected to get jumped.

As he rounded a corner, they saw a dealer at the far end of the block wearing a black du-rag a Lakers jersey, and a purple wristband above his asfalis licenses. The wristbands were something of a uniform for the rollers, as their colors were purple and black. He was counting out a wad of bills he had received from an emaciated woman. Satisfied, he nodded at her and tilted his head down the block. Looks like they have separate people handling payment and fulfilment.

“It’s like a damn drive-through,” Jecia observed.

There were other rollers present, two teens sitting on a park bench on the opposite side of the street, pointedly watching passersby. One of them took notice of Risso and elbowed his friend. Both of the gangbangers eyed him carefully, and as Risso made his way to the dealer, they both stood up.

“I don’t like that,” Sev said.  

— Risso Delloruso | 3:32 PM —

You’re overthinking it! Risso assured himself. Those ACC dipshits don’t go into Rollers’ territory. It’s my whole business model. I am a streetwise but approachable dealer, eliminating the need for you to face gangsters! And hey, if things go south, you’ve got three witch cops riding on your shoulder. But it’s not gonna go bad. It’s gonna be fine.

Soap did doubletake when he saw Risso approaching.

“Hey Soap,” Risso hazarded. “How’s business?”

Oh shit. He knows. It was clear from Soap’s shit-eating smile.

“Risso Delloruso. I always figured you were one dumb motherfucker, but this is something else.”

“‘Something else?’ I mean, I never claimed to be Homer, but—”

“Bitch, the fuck you talking about Homer and shit? You are blacklisted.”

Think fast! Deflect! Keep moving!

“Since when!? I’m a loyal, paying customer. You know my money’s good, man. I just want to buy some juice and then I’m gone.”

“Juice? Fuck yourself to hell, man! We know about the package. You bought it from us, cut it with bullshit, and resold it with your own name on it.”

“I bought a fucking package, man, but I didn’t flip it! That was personal use only.”

“Let me ask you something, nephew. Do you think you’re the only white boy who buys from us? Or do you think that people don’t complain when they get fucked?”

“Soap, man, I—I honestly have no clue what the fuck you’re talking abou—”

Soap grabbed Risso by his shoulders and slammed him into the metal shuttered storefront next to them.

“A group from ACC came to us for coke. Said some skinny white fuck who called himself ‘The Arch Dealer’ sold them watered down shit at one twenty-five a gram. He talked too much. He wore a stupid fucking beanie,” Soap plucked Risso’s hat off his head, revealing a messy mop of blond hair. “And he wore a stupid fucking sleeveless coat.”

Soap released Risso by his sleeveless coat contemptuously. He stumbled, even though Soap was a good six inches shorter than Risso. Fucker. My coat is awesome. Risso grimaced before looking up. The witch cops are gonna be mad. But you know. I did my best. I put myself at risk. Just be smart about this and you’ll make it out okay. No. You can save this. Don’t be weak.

“Look,” Risso began. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if that guy is selling marked up bullshit, doesn’t that just drive business to you? I mean, shit. Sounds like he did you a favor.”

“Wow! I hadn’t looked at it like that before,” Soap said thoughtfully, and then drove his knee into Risso’s stomach. “A favor? I’ll do you a favor upside your empty fucking head, bitch!”

Fuck! Okay. Fuck. That hurt. Risso couldn’t breathe. He tried to rasp ‘help,’ but got kicked before he could get past the first letter. Shit! I hope the Amagia are coming. They wouldn’t leave me. The blows came faster and harder. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t catch a fucking breath.

— Sevardin | 3:34 PM —

“I told him!” Sev shouted, as he attempted to peel away from the curb in the top-heavy surveillance van. “I told that damn kid we would leave him if he fucked up!”

“Maybe he thought you were joking,” Jecia said.

Sev shot her a reproachful glance as she sat in the passenger seat. She shrugged.

“You smiled when you said it.”

Cars honked and swerved to avoid the van as Sev pitched them into a precarious two-wheeled turn. We didn’t even bring a portable siren because we figured it was a slam dunk.

“Where’s abuela when you need her?” Jecia asked drily from the passenger seat.

Juel said something acidly in Spanish, then closed his eyes, returning to the scry. A couple seconds later, he said:

“They’re dragging him down an alley. Ah shit, somebody’s got a bat.”

Sev leaned his elbow on the horn, but the van’s horn was cartoonishly pathetic. And traffic ahead came to a complete standstill, one block between them where Risso had been. He narrowly managed to avoid smashing into rear flank of the small sedan in front of him.

“How we doing, Juel?” Sev asked.

“He’s alive, but they are going to go get somebody to ‘do the honors.’”

Outside the van, still stuck at the gridlock, onlookers either drew their symphones or took cover at a fairly even split. Jecia started casting a contract, and a second later, a halo of bright red and white light spun over the van, accompanied by the earsplitting siren shriek from Ghostbusters.

A young voice shouted: “Five-oh! Five-oh!”

The traffic finally parted, but the tone of energy within that square block shifted drastically. People now held their symphones as a talisman. They withdrew into their homes. Or they made other preparations for confrontations.

“That was a risky call, love,” Sev said.

“You’re the one who said we should save the idiot.”

 They managed to reach Risso’s initial meeting spot with Soap. Sev looked to Juel:


“First left! Your left!”

Sev nearly tipped the van again as he rounded the corner, where they came upon a tribunal. Risso was surrounded by two rollers on either side, and one in a dapper, if somewhat overstated suit, standing in front of him, leaning on a long, aluminum baseball bat. Sev, Jecia and Juel rushed out, licenses bared:

“AKF! Nobody move!”

The man in the suit started laughing. Oh no. Sev looked to Juel, who clearly had the same thought.

“What the fuck are you laughing for,” Risso said through a fat lip. “You’re fucked now!”

“Jahnz,” Sevardin said addressing the man in the suit.

“In the flesh,” Jahnz said smiling. “Are you really so surprised to find me here? Or does all of North Arroyo look the same to you?”

The Rollers behind him snickered.

“Oh it was… what. About five years ago. Spring. You brought another fool around here to play CI, and as I recall he couldn’t follow simple instructions. On that very same stoop. I honestly figured that was a once in a life time experience but…” he tilted his head to the side. “Color me surprised.”

“I’m sorry our idiot bothered you,” Sevardin said.

“Oh, it’s no trouble. I just wished you would have reached out. As a friend. Or Flores, at the very least. Tell me detectives, what are you really after? Why not knock on my door? Brother to brother?”

The way he said it made the word sound like a slur. You call yourself a cop, yet here you are treating with a criminal. You call yourself Black, but you’re a pretender to that too.

“They just want the juice, man; I swear to god. I don’t even touch the shit, but they nee—”

“Shut up,” Jahnz said with a sharp enough emanation to make Risso flinch.

“It’s the truth,” Jecia said. “We were hoping to score a hit of juice.”

“Just regular old Juice? Or perhaps you’re looking for a certain problem child?”

“One hit of each would be great,” Jecia said.

Jahnz handed the baseball bat to the boy on his right while snapping his fingers at the boy on his left. The boy tilted his head and started to shuffle away languidly. Jahn snapped his wyrd at him. “When I say move, I mean move nephew!”

Those licenses are modded or cracked. Sev observed.

The kid doubled and redoubled his speed, going to get drugs. Sevardin was uncomfortably, and acutely aware that they were surrounded at the moment. He spotted four more Rollers at the far end of the alley, and felt at least half a dozen wyrds on either side of the alley behind them. And one more on the roof. Perfect.

“What’s the catch, Jahnz?” Juel demanded.

“Why would there be a catch? Maybe I simply enjoy being in the Amagium’s debt. We’ll just add this to your tab,” He laughed.

The comment enraged Sev. But I can’t exactly refute it. We have a skeleton in our closet.  Juel looked like he felt sick. Jecia stepped forward and hoisted Risso roughly off the ground with sorcery, catching him by the collar.

“We’ll take the idiot too,” she said curtly.

Jahnz regarded her in full for the first time.

“The Heroine of Arroyo,” Jahnz said. “We are honored to be in your presence. My, my, Sev! You’ve certainly had a come up from Delle Hopkins! You talked to her lately?”

“We had brunch with her and her husband last year,” Jecia said airily.

“No shit? That’s good to hear.”

The boy returned with two corked vials of juice in a rolled plastic bag, bound by rubber-bands.

“First hits are free,” Jahnz said, smiling, and held out the bundle.

Sevardin stepped forward to receive it and Jahnz slowly placed his hand on top of Sev’s, then leaned in close, and spoke in a harsh whisper:

“Find out who fucked with our product,” he said in a sharp whisper. “And we will call this one even.”

“You don’t know your own supplier?” Sev asked, a touch mocking.

“This particular collaborator offered his services through the arcanet. Anonymous a-mail addresses. We’ve used him about three months. No problems with the product since three weeks ago. He hires rideshares to deliver. Never uses the same courier twice. Believe me, we’ve looked into it.”

I’ll bet. Sev’s blood boiled. The Rollers sold the damn drugs. If nothing else, I should be hauling Jahnz and the rest of these clowns into lockup. But they don’t exactly take receipts for drug deals. There’s no way we’d be able to prove they got the drugs here. Our hands are tied.

“I assumed you get your product straight from the Fae. Why turn to an outsider?” Sev asked.

“Times are hard, detective,” Jahnz said evenly. “That’s all Summer has told us. And I’ve told you what I know. Now do us both a favor and find this motherfucker.”

Sev broke away from Jahnz’ grasp, and simultaneously froze him in place with sorcery. Not merely paralysis, but full body immobility, down to his vocal chords. Sev relaxed the sorcery just enough to allow him to make a choking sound, before releasing him. Jahnz faltered for a second but when he regained his balance, he began to laugh, all smiles again.

“You really should pick your CI’s better, Detective Harker. Teach them a few fairy tales. And be sure to warn them of the wolves in the North Arroyo woods.”

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