The night is no stranger to adventure, and adventure is no stranger to Enid as she finds herself in the middle of a battle of paranormal powers. Her group and she finally get a break on their quest to find out what the Whisperers want with mystics, but it comes with a catch: they have to play bodyguard to a more-than-normal witch. Matters are further complicated when house-mates clash and good info turns deadly for them. Enid wants to know why the Whisperers wanted her so badly, but she wonders if she’ll live long enough to find out.
I never knew what new danger would be lurking downstairs. Would Ian con me into another haunted house job, or would I face a demon that hankered for my soul?
Turns out that fateful night was neither, but something much worse.
I walked downstairs. The house was as quiet as the grave, but that was typical. I found Ian in his usual chair with a warm fire in the hearth. Nothing weird about that. What was strange was the expression on Ian’s face as he gazed into the flames. A note dangled from his left hand and his cigarette burned low in his mouth.
“You look like you just lost your best friend,” I commented as I plopped into my usual spot on the couch.
“Nearly so,” he replied.
I raised an eyebrow. “Is this something you don’t want to talk about?”
He pursed his lips and turned to me. “You remember what Ruthven told us about the witches?”
“Something about how they were helping the Whisperers, right?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Yeah, but one of the witches, a woman named Jenny, decided not to help them. She pulled out, and now they’re after her.”
“They really don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, do they?” I commented.
Ian shook his head. “No, and to make things worse Ruthven thinks she could help us.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why is that worse?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. I’d never seen him do that before. “Jenny’s not your typical witch, even if witches were typical anything. She’s a handful.”
“So this is more trouble than just tracking her down before they do and telling her we’ll help her?” I guessed.
Ian sighed and raised the note so his eyes brushed over the contents. “That’s the easy part. Ruthven knew where she was hiding and I sent a message to her telling her she could live her with us for a while in exchange for what she knew. She replied agreeing to come.”
I blinked at him. “Wait, so what’s the problem here?”
Ian returned his gaze to the fire. “The problem is I haven’t told Cronus about it.”
I snorted. “Is that it?”
“He’s not very fond of witches, particularly this one.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why this one?”
“Like I said, she isn’t your textbook witch,” he told me.
“And that means what?”
“It means pink, and lots of it.”
“Pink?” I slowly repeated.
He didn’t look at me when he nodded. “Pink everything.”
I slumped in the couch and furrowed my brow. “Still, it can’t be that bad, can it? I mean, Jenny doesn’t have to live here forever, does she?”
“What does she mean by that?”
The voice spoke from the doorway, and Ian and I looked to find Cronus standing there. His narrowed eyes were zoomed in on Ian. Ian returned the deadly look with a shaky smile.
“Hey, Cronus, didn’t smell you come in. Is there anything to report-”
“How long is she to stay?” Cronus interrupted him.
Ian winced. “I’m not really sure. Maybe a couple of days? Maybe a couple of months?”
“Then she must be kept elsewhere,” he demanded.
Ian stood and held up his hands in front of him. “Work with me here, Cronus. You know Ruthven’s come up dry. She’s our best lead so far on these Whisperers, and if we don’t have her we don’t have anything.”
Cronus spun on his heels and stalked away.
“Ouch,” I spoke up.
Ian’s shoulders slumped and he ran a hand through his hair. “That could’ve gone better.”
I jerked my head at where Cronus had disappeared. “So is this personal or does he just hate pink?” I asked Ian.
He shrugged. “I don’t really know. She knew him before I knew him because she’s the person who introduced us. Jenny did it as a joke to torture Cronus, but he got back at her by partnering with me.”
“Touche. So when does she come?” I inquired.
He checked his watch. “We pick her up at the park at midnight tonight.”
Ian and I drove to the park a couple of hours later sans Cronus. Ian hadn’t even asked him along for the ride.
“So how powerful are witches, anyway? I mean, what can they do?” I asked him as we passed block after block.
“Those things generally accepted by folklore,” he replied.
I snorted. “So they’re ugly and smell like cat piss?”
He smiled. “Some of them do, but what I meant was they’re all women and can cast spells with their hands or with magic ingredients.”
“They must make a wicked dinner,” I quipped.
“Don’t put them down too much. Their powers are on par with those of a mystic, they just happen to use natural energy over the spiritual,” he explained.
“That must be why the Whisperers need them for the stones,” I guessed.
He nodded. “Probably, and why Jenny is so important to us. We need her to tell us how those things work, and how to break them so guys like that man in white don’t snatch up all the mystics.”
I recalled the strange man and shuddered. I’d hate to be in his grasp.
We arrived at the parking lot and stepped out of the car. The park was deserted, but our attention was on the gazebo. Somebody stood under the round roof, and that somebody wore pink.
“At least she’s punctual,” I commented.
Ian swept his eyes over the area and pursed his lips. “Don’t get too comfortable. Ruthven said she was a target for the Whisperers, and they don’t let their targets go without a fight. Keep your eyes and ears open.”
“Way to kill the mood. . .” I murmured as I followed him to the gazebo.
We came to the steps and I got a good look at the woman. She was a half a head taller than me, about thirty-five, and her hair was brown with pink highlights. Her attire was a pink blouse, pink knee-length skirt, and, unsurprisingly, pink silk stockings with pink shoes. A pink handbag hung over her arm, and she looked at us through narrow, pink-rimmed glasses. On either side of her were two large suitcases, also pink. She wasn’t too bad to look at if you could get past the pink, though that was a big ‘if.’
She had her arms crossed over her ample chest and a cross look on her face as her eyes fell on Ian. When she spoke I wasn’t too surprised to hear a Southern drawl in her accent.
“Honey, you are nearly late,” she scolded Ian as we walked up the steps.
“Good evening, Jenny,” he returned with a smile.
Her ill-temper melted beneath that smile and she gave him one of her own. “I suppose I can forgive you just this once, seeing as how you’re going to help me.”
Ian stopped a yard in front of her and nodded at her attire. “You’d help both of us if you wouldn’t dress like that. The Whisperers could pick you out of a crowd of clowns in that getup.”
“You know I don’t just look this way because I enjoy the color, honey,” she scolded him. She spread out her arms to show off all her powder-puff glory. “This is a matter business. If I can’t get the attention then I can’t get the clients.”
Ian lit a cigarette and tossed it into the brush beyond the gazebo. “If you’re going to make this fun for us then there’s gonna be some payment in advance.”
She frowned. “Like what?”
“Like info. Do you know how the stones work?” he questioned her.
“I do. I even know the spell that’s cast over them to make them work,” she informed us.
“What about the one to shut them down?” he wondered.
Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Now that would be telling all I know, detective, and I’m not quite that stupid.”
“We’ll protect you either way,” he pointed out.
She wagged her finger between them. “You can’t expect a girl to put it all out for you on her first protection night, can you?” She gestured to me. “Besides, you rude man, you haven’t introduced us.”
“Enid,” I spoke up.
She smiled and bowed her head. “A pleasure, Enid. My name is Jenny, and I’m-”
“Get down!” Ian yelled.
He leapt towards us and pushed us to the floorboards of the gazebo. Something black and familiar flew over our heads, and I caught sight of a pair of red eyes.
“Phantom!” I yelped.
“A little late on the observation,” Ian scolded me as he sat up. He winced, and I noticed a few shreds of the back of his overcoat hung over his shoulders.
“It got you?” I asked him.
“Yeah, but not as bad as it would’ve been if it got either of you,” he countered.
“It’s cute to see you two flirt, but could you get off me and get me the hell out of here?” Jenny requested.
I blushed. “We are not flirting!”
“Focus,” Ian reminded me as he pulled a packet of talismans out of his overcoat and handed me half the stack. He stood and readied his stack. “And make these count. I don’t want to have to make any-” Another Phantom swooped from the darkness of night.
Its blood-red eyes glared at us and its claws were outstretched for another attack. Ian threw his talisman like a dagger and stabbed the Phantom between the eyes. It screeched and fell to the ground outside the gazebo.
Jenny grasped her luggage and looked around wildly at the area. “Where are they?”
Ian lifted his nose and frowned. I used my mystic sight and my eyes caught on some Phantoms that hovered just behind a clump of trees ten yards off. I pointed at the spot.
“There!” I cried out.
“Get Jenny to the car. I’ll take care of them,” Ian ordered me. He raced to the edge of the gazebo and leapt over the railing straight for the Phantoms.
“Time to go!” I told her as I helped her up.
“Not without my clothes!” she insisted. She slammed one of the luggage bags into my hands. It weighed only slightly less than a car.
“What the hell do you have in here?” I asked her.
She grabbed my arm and yanked me towards the car. “My life, now move!” she ordered me.
We ducked low and sprinted to the vehicle. Halfway to our destination and we found ourselves in trouble. A woman stepped from the shadows. She had a Cheshire grin on her face and a Phantom by her side. In her hand was a rock that glowed.
“It’s my lucky night. My target and a mystic,” she crowed. Her eyes flickered to her Phantom and she jerked her head towards us. “Kill the witch and get the mystic.”
The Phantom flew at us. Its claws were aimed at Jenny while its eyes targeted me. I fumbled for the talismans and ended up dropping both the pack and the luggage. Jenny stepped in front of me and swept her hand in front of her.
A band of pink light shot from her hand and sliced the Phantom. The creature screeched as its two halves separated in opposite directions and crumbled to dust. The Whisperer woman’s eyes burned almost as brilliantly as those of her lost Phantom.
“You’ll pay for that!” she shrieked as he made to open her pocket.
I could see she had a spare Phantom to send at us, so I hefted the heavy bag over my head and chucked it at her. The woman flung up her arms and screamed. The sound was cut short on impact with the bag, and the woman was knocked to the ground. All that was visible to us was her legs. Her feet twitched a little and stilled.
Jenny and I crept up to the woman and peeked over the top of the bag. I took a breath when I saw the Whisperer still breathed. Jenny whipped her head in my direction and glared at me.
“Don’t throw my bag!” she scolded me.
I shrugged. “I couldn’t exactly use the talismans on her,” I pointed out.
We were again interrupted by Ian. He rushed up to us and swept us, bags and all, into his arms.
“Time to leave!” he told us.
I had a good glimpse over his shoulder and saw what he meant. There were two unconscious Whisperers besides our woman, but five more appeared from the shadows beyond the gazebo. Ian sprinted over to the car, deposited us in the back seat, and jumped into the driver’s seat. He roared out of the parking lot and left the Whisperers in the dust.
And here I thought picking her up was going to be hard.