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Copyright © 2019 by Arizona Tape
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The Case Of The Night Mark is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Individuals depicted in the images are models and used solely for illustrative purposes.
Chapter 3. The Drunken Turnip
Flabbergasted, Sam let Lilith usher her out of the cold, circular room and into a different area. From the stale beer smell and the cosy lightning, Sam could’ve guessed where she was with her eyes closed.
She was kept in the back of a bar? What a weird place to keep someone hostage.
“So why am I really here?” she asked, studying Lilith’s face so she could pick up on any hints or signs she was lying.
“I told you. You were marked. Whenever a human gets accidentally marked, you’re summoned.”
“Summoned? To a bar?”
Lilith scoffed. “No, to the head of the family. Unfortunately for you, Boss doesn’t like humans. Fortunately for you, I got to you first. You’re lucky.”
“Why does that make me lucky?” Sam scoffed.
“I like humans.” Lilith shrugged. “I think you’re cute.”
Sam frowned. “Are you hitting on me?”
“No, I meant… I think humans are adorable.”
“Oh.” Despite herself, Sam’s cheeks heated up. That was a silly assumption to make on her part and not what she should be thinking about. Whatever what was making her head dizzy was clearly still affecting her.
She hadn’t decided yet if this magic thing was real or if she was just part of an elaborate scheme. Whichever it was, this was not what she thought she’d be doing just after she was asked for a divorce.
If she was honest with herself, she’d never expected to be in the situation in the first place. She and Melissa didn’t talk nearly as much as they used to. They barely faced each other when they went to bed, but she hadn’t realised things had got this bad.
With a sigh, she sat down on one of the wooden barstools. They were made from high-quality wood, something like walnut or oak. She knew that just from looking at them.
The entire bar was made from expensive materials. Marble bar top, matching the floor she’d woken up on. The exposed walls only added to the luxurious feel of the place, which was surprising since Sam could see cheap liquor labels in the fridges.
“I could use a drink,” she said, desperate for a drop. All this talking about magic was quickly getting to her. Despite her impeccable reasoning skills, she couldn’t make sense of this situation.
Lilith sat down next to her in an elegant way that Sam would never have managed if she’d been wearing the same dress. She gestured to the young man behind the bar. “The usual. And I think…”
With an inquisitive look, she studied Sam so thoroughly she almost felt naked. Lilith nodded. “I think a cider for my guest.”
“A beer,” Sam corrected.
“Ah, almost,” Lilith said, sounding proud of herself. “A beer for my guest.”
The young guy nodded. “Coming right up.”
With the bartender out of earshot, Sam decided she needed to treat this like any case. Gather as much information as she could on her environment, on Lilith, on whatever was going on.
“So you’re saying magic exists, in this world? Paranormals are a thing?” Sam asked, fiddling with a coaster.
“We call ourselves Nocturnals.” Lilith
“Nocturnals,” Sam echoed. “Are you messing with me?”
“No. We’re creatures of the night. Nox for short.”
“What does that mean?”
Lilith shrugged. “It means we prefer the night.”
“Lots of people do.”
“So why do you think that is?”
“Are you saying people that like staying up late are all Nocturnals?”
“No, I’m saying humans are great for sex,” Lilith grinned. “There’s a long history of umm…. You know. Children.”
“Noxies. That’s what we call anyone that’s not a pureblood.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Sam asked, gesturing around her. “Is it because you’re going to kill me?”
“Kill you?” Lilith gasped dramatically, her mouth curling up to reveal two dimples in her cheek. “No, I’m here to help you.”
“Because you’re marked.”
“You’ve said that before. What does it mean?”
Just as Lilith was about to answer, the bartender put two glasses in front of the women. A beer for Sam, a glass of wine, or what she assumed was wine, for Lilith.
Eagerly, Sam pulled the beer towards her. She could use it. Pearling with condensation, foaming to form a white head. A perfect pour.
“Ahhh…” Sam happily took a swig, letting the bitter and sweet notes of malt dance on her palette. “Oh, that’s good. Is that Wisp Hopper?”
“That’s what we make.”
“Make? You make Wisp Hopper?”
“We make plenty of things,” Lilith smiled.
The beautiful woman smiled, her white teeth flickering. “My family. We run a couple of things. Including this bar.”
Sam looked around, making note of her surroundings. If Lilith’s family owned the place, they were probably loaded, which was good to know. Rich people always played by their own rules.
She turned to Lilith, ignoring her sparkling blue eyes. “So… What’s this summon thing about?”
“Well, you’re supposed to appear in front of the Boss and he’ll kill you.”
“What? Why would I go?”
Lilith clicked her tongue. “That blue mark on your arm? You can only see it in the dark, but we can see it all the time. Right now, it’s open. A claim has not been made and with an open mark, you’re fair game to any Nocturnal out there. They’d get a good fee for you.”
It took a moment for her words to sink into Sam. “I’ll be hunted?”
“Wherever you go.”
Panic washed over Sam. She didn’t know much about these new creatures or what they were capable of, but one thing was crystal clear. They were not like her and they had power that she couldn’t defend herself against. Power she had no idea about.
With a sigh, Sam had to admit she had no idea what she was up against. This was only the tip of the iceberg of this new world.
“What can I do?” she asked, staring at Lilith. She didn’t know the woman, but if she was going to kill her, she could’ve done already.
“Well, there are three types of humans that exist in our world. Wardens and Ignos,” Lilith explained.
“What’s the third type?” Sam asked, looking at her empty glass and wishing she had more. The beverage was helping her pretend this was a normal conversation.
Lilith chuckled. “The third type is the type you don’t want to be. Dead.”
“You were exposed to the Nocturnal world, so you can’t be an Igno anymore. So either you claim the hellhound and become a Warden or…”
“Or you walk away—”
“That, I choose that.”
“I wasn’t finished. Or you walk away and you won’t see another sunrise.”
Sam shifted in her seat. “Are you threatening me?”
“No, I’m laying down the facts. If Boss got his hands on you, he wouldn’t give you a choice. I am.”
Sam narrowed her eyes to study the woman opposite of her. “And why would you do that? Don’t tell me it’s because you think humans are adorable. You want something in return.”
“Ah. You’re catching on quick.” The beautiful woman ran a hand through her long hair. “I have a little problem I could use a human for. In exchange, I’ll help you become a Warden and nobody will bother you. I’ll perform the claiming ritual myself, if you’re willing.”
“Willing?” Sam scoffed. “I don’t have much choice, do I?”
“Well,” Lilith said. “Sometimes the easiest choices are the hardest because it seems like you don’t get to choose. Do you want to live?”
She shrugged, her pearl necklace dancing on her collarbone. “Then it’s an easy choice.”
Sam eyed the exit, wondering how many steps it would take her to reach the street. It wasn’t that far away and it seemed decently-busy. If she surprised Lilith, she could make it. Once she was outside, it was all fair game.
A teasing finger tapped on her wrist. “You’ll never make it. Marked for life, remember?”
“Right…” With a sigh, Sam downed the rest of her Wisp Hopper and wiped her mouth. “I guess I don’t have a choice.”
A broad, pearly-white smile appeared on Lilith’s face. “Whatever you say, Detective.”
Sam immediately flooded with dread. “What did you just say?”
“Detective,” Lilith repeated. “Isn’t that what you are?”
“How do you know?”
“You smell like a detective.”
That seemed like a lie, but before Sam could interrogate her further, the woman gestured to the bartender again. “We’ll have the same again, Brendan. And bring the hound.”
The young man nodded. “Coming right up.”
Sam narrowed her eyes as she looked from the bartender to Lilith. How did she know she was a detective? Could she really have figured it out just from looking at her? Others had told her she looked like a cop, but this was different. Something was off… She could feel it in her bad knee, the one that always shrieked when things weren’t sitting right.
“I’m not doing it,” Sam suddenly announced, rising from the wooden stool and aiming herself to the exit. She was getting out of here, kicking and screaming if she had to.
Just as she turned, the bartender returned with a small puppy. Even from behind the bar, Sam could recognise the same helpless dog she found in the cardboard box.
“Here.” Brendan reached across to hand Lilith the creature. “One hellhound. Drinks are coming up.”
“Thank you” The woman cradled the pup, holding her up so Sam could get a good look.
From up close, the dog seemed so normal. Floppy ears, a button nose, a tail made for wagging. Yet the memory of the blue glow was burned firmly in Sam’s mind. The strange patterns weren’t something she’d seen before, but there had to be a better explanation than ‘magic’.
Lilith gave the dog a little kiss on the head. “You’re so cute. It’s a shame you won’t get to grow old.”
That caught Sam’s attention. “Wait, what?”
The woman gave her a fake smile. “If you’re walking out… Well… We can’t have unclaimed hellhounds running around with a Warden.”
Sam put her hands on her hip. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying I’ll have no choice but to put this cutie down.” She pulled a face, but no real emotions reached her eyes. “Look at his little body, so squishy.”
She was right, the puppy was shaking. Cold. Riddled with fleas. Nobody was taking care of her and nobody had for a good while. Poor thing.
She’d seen many helpless creatures and this one needed her help. It needed a home, a good home. Sam wasn’t sure whether she was capable of raising a hellhound, but she knew how to take care of a dog.
“What do you think?” Lilith asked, extending her hand. “Do we have a deal?”
Sam glared at her, weighing the two options against each other. Were they really options? She was a trained detective, she knew how to defend herself, she wouldn’t be so easily taken down, by normal humans. But this was something entirely different, something she had no idea how to deal with or approach. She could take her chances walking away, but would mean leaving the little puppy behind and that was the one thing Sam couldn’t do.
Reluctantly, she took the extended hand. “We have a deal.”
“Great,” Lilith chirped. “You’ll claim the hellhound, become a Warden, and best of all, you won’t die. At least, not today.”
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