A failed assassination. A hidden connection of magic and sorcery. One lost werewolf amidst the growing strangeness of her new life.
Gwen Rogers finds herself in the midst of the paranormal as an assassin intrudes on the keep of the Indigo Towers. Fox and she travel to a high-profile party to learn the true identity of the cloaked killer, but things don't go as planned. Gwen finds a new friend and some old ones as her loyalty to herself and to the enigmatic Fox are tested. The wrong path will lead to a fate worse than death.
I was a werewolf, and during the day a nocturnal beast such as myself needed her beauty sleep. I didn’t get that that day.
An alarm screamed at me to wake up. My eyes shot open and I tried to sit up. My body caught in my sheets and I tumbled, bounced off the platform on which the bed sat, and collapsed in a heap on the hard, cold stone floor. I peeked out of my cloth prison and glared at the ceiling. The alarm continued to blare, unaware of my bleary eyes and sensitive ears. I crawled out of the mess of bed sheets and clapped my hands over my ears.
I strode over to the door and flung it open to take a peek into the hall. A commotion to the left turned my head in that direction, and I saw Emery rush down the hall.
“Where’s the fire?” I asked him.
He paused at my door and pressed his glasses against the bridge of his nose. “There appears to be an intruder in the castle in one of the lower rooms. You may be of assistance in this matter.”
“Oh sure, get the werewolf to be a guard dog,” I quipped.
Emery didn’t hear my smart-aleck response as he ran down the passage. I hurried after him.
I heard a phone ring, and Emery pulled out his machine and pressed it against his ear. “Yes, sir?” There was a pause. “Very well, sir. We will meet you there.”
He stuffed the phone back in his pocket and we aimed our steps downstairs to the front hall. It was a large foyer with an open-beam ceiling that ended in a point at its highest tip. Large doors on either side led to the wings of the castle, and a grand staircase led to some of the higher floors at the rear of the castle. There were passages on either side of the staircase that led to the gymnasium and, I recently learned, the kitchen. Large, ancient tapestries covered the stone walls, and small tables with vases filled with fragrant flowers were positioned along the walls.
We rushed out of the east-wing doors and Emery stopped us near the foot of the staircase. At the top of the staircase was a pair of thick wooden doors that led to the center of the castle. The doors flew open and a black-clad ninja stepped into the doorway. All but their eyes and the tips of their fingers was covered in a thin black cloth. Their fingers sported long nails and ruby-red nail polish, and there was a distinct scent of cream around them. A single-strap bag was slung over one shoulder, and I saw there was a soft bulge in the cloth.
Fox made his appearance from the west wing armed not with his usual tranquilizer, but with a real black pistol. He pointed the gun at the intruder.
“I must ask you to set the bag down and put up your hands,” Fox requested.
The ninja crouched and jumped into the air. They sailed over our heads and landed neatly and silently on the floor between the front doors and us. We spun around and the ninja waved their hand at us. Their fingers emitted a dense, charcoal-scented fog that swept over us. My eyes burned and I choked on the smoke. Fox moved to stand in front of me with his hand covering his mouth. The ninja leapt out of the smoke and swiped at Fox. Their long nails sliced his shirt, but he stumbled backward out of her reach and stopped at my side.
I growled and leapt at the intruder. The ninja jumped back into the smoke and I caught air. A whirring noise interrupted my next attack. The smoke blew towards the walls and was sucked into the air vents. The air cleared to reveal that our intruder was gone. Emery stood near a hidden panel situated behind one of the stones in the wall. He pressed a button that shut off the ventilation system.
Fox straightened and showed off five long, clean claw marks in his suit shirt. He glared at the front door.
Emery came up to stand just behind and to his side. “I’m sorry, sir. They seem to have escaped.”
Fox nodded. “So it seems. Have we confirmed what was stolen?”
Emery turned to the staircase and the open doors. He adjusted his glasses and pursed his lips. “I would venture to guess our intruder stole the Cornerstone.”
The usually stoic businessman clenched his teeth. “Damn it. . .”
I looked from one of them to the other. “They broke in here to swipe a hunk of rock?”
“If you will excuse me,” Fox replied. He stalked off to the west wing and shut the door hard behind him.
I turned to Emery and jerked my thumb at the shut door. “Mind explaining that?”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Emery told me.
I folded my arms and glared at him. “Why not?”
“Again, I’m not at liberty to say,” he insisted.
I rolled my eyes and dropped my arms. “Then I’m not at liberty to stay awake any longer. Ring the alarm if you need me.”
I shuffled off to bed and slept soundly until evening. A knock on the door awoke me. I peeked my head out of the covers and sighed. “Come in.”
The door opened and Emery stepped inside, but stayed by the door. “Mr. Fox would like to speak with you.”
I crawled out of the covers, sat on the end of the bed, and stretched my arms above my head. “He knows where I sleep.”
“The matter would be better discussed in his office,” Emery returned.
I froze in place with my arms stuck in stretch and my mouth open in a yawn. My jaw snapped shut. “His office?” I repeated.
“Yes. If you would follow me please,” he requested as he gestured to the doorway.
I stood and walked into the hall. Emery shut the door behind us and led me downstairs to the entrance hall. He opened the west wing doors and revealed not a room but an elevator. The walls were bare silver a panel that contained only six buttons. We stepped inside, and I looked around the tiny space and frowned.
“I was expecting this part of the house to be a little bigger,” I commented.
“The west wing is the mechanical shop and essentially detached from the rest of the castle. Mr. Fox’s office is located in the Towers below the castle,” Emery explained. He pressed the button on the panel marked ‘O’ and the elevator traveled downward.
“So why does he want to see me in such official surroundings?” I asked him.
“That would be better explained by Mr. Fox,” Emery told me.
I frowned, but didn’t ask any other questions. When Emery was stubborn it was like talking with a broken record, or a brick wall. The elevator stopped at the appointed floor and we stepped out onto carpeted flooring and a long, wide hallway. The decor was basic gray with a few modern paintings to finish off the Post-Modern feel of the place. Doors stood on either side of the hall, and at the end of the passage was a pair of black doors. I didn’t need three guesses to know who those belonged to.
Emery guided me down the hall and opened the doors for me. I stepped inside and looked around. The office was enveloped in a dark, flat paneling. A large inserted TV screen sat in the left wall near the back of the room. In the center rear was a long, wide black desk. Behind the desk was a high-backed leather office chair with the back turned towards me, and behind that was a rear wall covered entirely in glass. The glass gave an unbroken view of the lit city beneath us. The room was draped in low-lit lights that didn’t hurt my eyes.
I jumped when Emery shut the door behind me without coming in. The chair swiveled around to reveal Fox.
“Good evening,” he greeted me. He gestured to a simple chair in front of the desk. “Might I offer you a seat?”
“You can offer me an explanation,” I quipped as I walked over and plopped myself in the chair.
“I’m sure you’ve already guessed this conversation is about the item stolen from me this afternoon,” he returned.
“You mean the Cornerstone?” I surmised.
He nodded. “Yes. The Cornerstone is the cornerstone of my collection, if you’ll pardon the pun. It is the only intact stone that remains of King Arthur’s castle.”
I raised an eyebrow and leaned forward. “You mean the castle?”
“The same,” he replied.
“Where’d you find that?” I inquired.
“England,” he replied.
I folded my arms and glared at him. “All right, how did you find it?”
“I was fortunate to acquire a set of ancient scrolls that led me to the find,” he explained.
I snorted and shrugged. “Why not? I’m a werewolf, I’ve ridden a unicorn, why not Camelot?” I waved my hand at him. “I get why you’d want a hunk of rock from Arthur, but why would anyone else want it?”
Fox leaned back in his chair and twined his fingers together in front of himself. “As I said, the Cornerstone was the only intact stone that remained of Arthur’s castle. It is rumored that the castle itself was built by Merlin, and each stone held immense magical entities, but only if the stone was intact. Thus the rumor goes that the Cornerstone holds a powerful magic that, if combined with the right incantations, could grant the wielder great powers.”
“Uh-huh. Magic. Of course. So any idea who would want this Cornerstone besides every Dungeons and Dragons player in the world?” I wondered.
“There are a great many collectors who would sell their souls for even a piece of the stone’s magic, but I believe I’ve narrowed the list down to a few suspects,” he told me. “And by some coincidence one of them happens to be holding a dinner party tonight to celebrate her Medieval relics collection.”
“And let me guess, you’re invited,” I commented.
“No, we’re invited,” he returned. Fox pulled open one of the drawers in his desk and pulled out two cards. He tossed them to me and they slid to a stop at the edge of the desk.
I scooted my chair closer and looked over the cards. They were slick velvet invitation cards for a dinner party hosted by-
“Fay Morgan?” I read aloud.
“Are you familiar with the name?” he asked me.
I leaned back in my chair and shrugged. “I heard about her from Dakota. She’s into fashion designing and women’s lipstick. Has some big lines and stuff. I think it’s called ‘A Touch of Magic.’ You think she’s the thief?”
“Dakota?” Fox wondered.
I pursed my lips. “A. . .an old friend.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I see. As for your question, that is a possibility, but we can’t be sure until we find proof to connect her to the theft. We may find it at her estate.”
“What’s this ‘we’ stuff about? Why do you need me?”
A smile curled onto his lips. “For the pleasure of your company, of course.”
I snorted. “And my nose, and strength, and my big, bad wolf eyes. I don’t-” There came a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Fox called.
Emery stepped inside. In one raised hand was a hanger, and attached to that hook was a white sleeveless gown with a leather bodice. A pair of white leather gloves were draped over the hanger.
I glanced back to Fox. “No way am I wearing that.”
“I’m afraid this isn’t under discussion,” he returned.
“Maybe I don’t want to go to a party hosted by one of your non-business partners,” I threatened.
“Very well.” Fox stood and walked around the desk over to Emery. He took the dress in hand and turned to me. “You can remain with Emery and assist him in feeding the dragon.”
I felt the color in my face drain. “It’s not dead?”
He smiled. “No, and it’s very hungry.”
I frowned, but stood and marched over to him. I swiped the hanger from his hand and glared at him. “You’re an ass, you know that?”
“I have been told that many times, but the clock is ticking,” he reminded me.
“What makes you think a lipstick millionaire stole your stone, anyway?” I countered. “Maybe she just wants to marry you for your billions.”
Fox stepped aside and bowed his head. “If you will excuse me, I have some business to finish before the dinner. Emery will lead you back to your room.”
I frowned and pressed the dress against my chest. “This conversation isn’t over. I want a rundown of this woman’s history before I get into a mess.”
I marched off with Emery in the lead.