When I arrived at work, there was a printer, furniture catalogue and a pile of textbooks on my desk. In front of the furniture catalogue was a note from Grandfather, ‘pick something nice and get studying’. Below the sentence was a schedule for classes that didn’t start until July. They had pressed the restart button on the life I’d barely begun. Two months until I could start at the university. I hoped they didn’t expect me to sit here like a good little boy until then.
I sat down at the computer and turned it on. The last account signed in to the computer was now ccorvin. Cory had set up the printer. I logged into the computer and opened my email. The email from Cory was comprised of a single wink emoji and several attached forms relevant to writing a report about the exorcism of Nora Rowe. Forms that had to be handwritten. The directions document clarified that only printed forms filled with the worker's own hand would be accepted. Beside my mouse was a fresh packet of pens.
I threw the furniture catalogue in the bin. The last thing I needed right now was my colleagues seeing me getting new furniture.
I was halfway through the forms and almost ready to get lunch when there was a knock at the door. “Come in.” I looked up. I had expected Cory, Grandfather or maybe Mason. The person who walked into my office was Detective Dominguez. She’d interviewed me after Nox and Dark Matter had stolen those books.
Why was she still interested in me?
My head spun.
The reason a member of the Dominguez family had murdered Gran’s Grandfather was because they were part of a magical law enforcement branch aggressively against ‘Forbidden Magicks’ like Death & Life Magic along with a host of others. I forced myself to keep a straight face. I couldn’t let her know I had anything to fear. The old families never changed; ancient history like Jonah had called it wasn’t a thing. Here the status quo was very slow to change, especially with magic. Gran had no reason to assume the Dominguez family had changed its stripes. She had to be investigating the murders committed by that demon.
Maybe this Andrea Dominguez was one of the people Cory had noticed following me.
She placed an open file on the table between us. “I’d like you to work with me. I believe that you are a smart but inexperienced man with friends in prominent places. You have a bright future if you move past the criminal element that you have found yourself embroiled with.”
“Criminal element?” I had to force myself not to hiss the words. Gran wasn’t a criminal element; she just wanted to live a peaceful life practising magic on her own terms. Surely they couldn’t honestly expect me to be Nox.
“We know you’ve been illegally trained in Death Magic. You should tell us who opened that portal and let the thing that killed those kids into our reality.”
‘We know’? Of course they knew. I wasn’t here for the fun of it. They had caught me out. What was she trying to prove? I grabbed the wrist that was about to open the file and looked into her wide hazel eyes. “I have no idea who opened that portal. It was like that when I got there.”
She made a tsk sound and yanked herself away from my grip. “You have balls, I’ll give you that. You might just survive your future career if you choose the right path. The only reason we are giving you a chance is because you can’t be expected to know any better. You’ve been lead astray by people you were expected to trust.”
‘You have balls, I’ll give you that’. Her voice was just as mocking as Cory’s only the humour had been replaced with hostility. “There’s one thing I need you to look into as a woman of the law. Have I ever shown a propensity to do the crime you’re accusing me of? It’s not a crime to know something I shouldn’t. That’s why I was offered this job. You can’t prove I aided in or committed any crime regarding that house because I didn’t. I was a victim, the same as those kids. In the wrong place at the wrong time. Only I had a number I could call for help. Why would I stick around and not just flee if I knew who opened that door?”
“The sharks are circling, and you need an out.” Dominquez slowly glanced around the room. “The lame-duck act won’t work with me, I’ve dealt with people worse than you, kid.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you sound like a TV stereotype?” I said.
“What’s more stereotypical than a black-clad, masked Death Mage named Nox?”
These people honestly ran around in masks, like discount supervillains from the Comics Code era? If I weren’t being accused of multiple accounts of murder, I’d laugh. If it hadn’t resulted in the shit being bashed out of Eli, it would be funny.
“Nothing to say?”
I heard a chain jingle as she ran a hand along the handcuffs attached to her belt. She’d adjusted her unbuttoned tan blazer so I could see them. As I looked away from her hand, she met my gaze.
“There’s nothing I could say to you.”
“Why did you leave the clinic without being formally discharged? Did you know I was coming to question you?” Dominquez asked.
“I felt suffocated and alone. Ask anyone, I run away when things get stressful.” I said. It was not the desired personality trait of a master criminal.
“What were you doing in Dunn Town Hall last night?”
I felt sick working with the Templars’, but Cory had been the only person with the power to make all this go away who had listened to me. “I’ve already found the department I’m cooperating with. If you want to know what I was doing last night, ask them.”
“I’ll find out what it was.”
“Go for it,” I said. “Tell Alexander Lowe he’s free to come to my office and speak to me anytime he wants. I forgot to tell the last person I talked to, to pass on the message.”
“It seems many people want to use me for their own gains and I’m not about to play that game. I may not be Nox, but I’m no pushover either, and you and your little buddies better be careful about who you’re messing with. Because I can be one vindictive cunt.”
Dominquez stood, “it is a crime in the magical world to know something that you shouldn’t. We have used knowledge of magic as a justifiable reason to have some unconnected mortals executed. If you refused to work with us, we could have taken you by force. Ask your Grandfather about his deadline.”
“Just knowing about magic is a crime?”
“Yes. If you were an unconnected mortal, the person who told you would be executed, and if your memory couldn’t be wiped, you’d join them. Remember that before you let your traitorous tongue waggle. Tell someone you shouldn’t about magic, and we put you to sleep forever. You’d get a public trial first, but that’s usually just a formality designed to allow everyone to see you for the person you really are.” She left the office without looking back at me.
I threw the pen I was holding across the room. I’d had enough of this bullshit. After giving her plenty of time to leave, I stood up and left the office heading for the rooftop cafeteria.