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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 4. Clan IF
Sam followed the beautiful but strange woman through the back of the bar. The Drunken Turnip, she called it.
She’d never had heard about this particular bar, but judging from the muffled sounds of the street, she was able to make a decent guess where this bar was. The light outside still correlated with the time of her watch, so unless someone reset that, she couldn’t be too far away from her house. She was probably still in the same city.
She was desperate to get home, even if she wasn’t sure what home was anymore with Melissa wanting a divorce. Still, it had all her things, all her personal belongings. That had to count for something. Maybe when she got back, she could do some research about the Nox.
She wasn’t sure whether she’d find something, but she had no idea where else to look. It was the internet, surely, someone had to have written about their experience with this world of Night creatures?
Yes, that was the first thing Sam would do when she got home. If she got home.
Matching Lilith’s power stride, she hurried after the woman. “So I’m claiming the puppy now? How does that go? Do I have to complete some sort of blood ritual or something?”
Lilith snorted as she put the hellhound down on the desk. “No, we’re civilised beings. It’s like an adoption. You sign a piece of paper.”
“Really?” Sam raised one eyebrow, her scepticism pouring out.
“Yes,” Lilith replied, shooting her a bemused smile.
“That’s it.” The woman conjured a keychain and unlocked a heavy, steel door. “After you.”
Sam gave her companion another sceptical look. Dresses were notoriously pocketless, so she could only make wild guesses about where the keys came from, but it seemed rude to ask. It was none of her business either.
As they stepped into the room, they disturbed the stagnant dust, forcing it into a flutter. A faint ray of light streamed in from a barred window, illuminating racks stacked with scrolls. Endless scrolls, some old, some new, some made from something that looked suspiciously like skin, but Sam decided to store that thought deep in her subconscious.
Lilith clicked on a small lamp and sat down behind the heavy, ornate desk. She grabbed a blank contract from the drawer and scribbled some things down with an expensive dip pen. “There. One contract made out to…”
“What? You need my name?” Sam asked. “You can’t smell it on me?”
She received an annoyed glare from Lilith and a little satisfactory feeling welled up in her. No matter what this woman thought, Sam wasn’t easily intimidated or beaten.
With arms crossed, she leaned against the desk. “I’ll trade you.”
“Trade me for what?”
Sam shrugged. “Whatever you think is worth my name.”
The two women locked eyes in a silent match, trying to decide who was going to give in first. Sam’s jaw clicked, Lilith’s eyes flickered. The tension was palpable as it hung between them, locked in an invisible fight.
Just as Sam was about to give in, the other woman sighed. “Nocturnals run in families. Clans. We all have our own territories, so we don’t piss each other off. My clan, IF, we run this part of town. That’s all I’m telling you.”
“I. F,” Lilith corrected her, emphasising the letters. “I.F.”
“If.” Sam held her triumphant smile back. She still had it. “Samantha Rain. Retired detective.”
“Samantha Rain,” Lilith echoed as she completed the contract. “Good name. Did you say retired?”
“That’s what I said.”
“You’re not nearly old enough to be retired,” Lilith remarked as she handed the sheet of paper to Sam.
“I’m not. It’s a fancy way of saying I was made redundant. Wait, what’s this?” Sam gestured to the drying red ink. “I thought I was adopting a dog. This is a service contract.”
The woman behind the desk sent her a shrewd smile as she stroked the puppy. “Congratulations, you can read.”
“No, no, this is not what we agreed. You said I was adopting the puppy and after that, I’d help you as a favour, not a job.”
Lilith clacked her tongue. “I think you misunderstood. You do this job for me and then I let you adopt the dog.”
“I didn’t misunderstand, you phrased it ambiguously,” she countered. “You tricked me.”
“Did I now? Oops, my bad.” With a sway in her hips, she walked around the desk until she was standing in front of Sam. She tapped the contract, the sunshine reflecting in a distinctive ring around her index finger. “Sign.”
“I—” Sam hesitated. There was a golden rule she followed when it came to contracts and that was to never sign with someone she didn’t trust.
She looked at the mesmerising woman across her, not persuaded or fooled by her shining appearance.
She definitely didn’t trust Lilith.
Besides, who even knew what she said was true. All this huffing and puffing, just to get her to sign a contract. From what Sam knew, with the right lawyer, any contract could be broken. So what was so special about this one? What was the woman not telling her?
Sam threw the sheet on the desk. “You know what, this stinks. I’m not signing anything.”
“Oh, Samantha, Samantha…” Lilith ran her hand across her face to hide the exhausted sigh. “Do I need to remind you what’ll happen if you don’t become a Warden?”
Sam huffed, the denial washing over her. “I’ll take my chances. All this magic stuff, I—I. You know what, I don’t believe in magic.”
“Really?” Lilith held up her hand and conjured a small ball of light. “So how do you explain this?”
“I don’t know, I don’t trust you. You’re tricking me, you’re doing all this hocus pocus to confuse me. I don’t like it, it all reeks to high heaven.” She backed against the wall, missing the door. “I’m not doing it. No way. I just want to go back to my normal life, pretending everyone around me are normal people, and just forget about all this Nocturnal business. You know, I’ve got a divorce I need to focus on.”
“Fine, if that’s what you want…” The other woman sighed dramatically as she picked up the shivering dog. “I guess you don’t care about little Demon Bite.”
“Yes. Little Demon Bite.” She tickled the puppy under the chin. “Isn’t she cute?”
Sam resisted the urge to pull the hound from Lilith’s arms for just a minute, until she couldn’t stop herself. Carefully, she pried the puppy from the other woman. “You’re not calling my dog Demon Bite.”
“Your dog?” Lilith echoed.
“Yes, my dog,” Sam huffed, snatching the pen from Lilith. Angrily, she scribbled her name down on the contract resting on the desk. “There. You got yourself a detective. Now just tell me what I need to do and better start drawing up those adoption papers.”
Lilith clicked her tongue as she examined the signed scroll. “Excellent. You can go now.”
“Huh?” That wasn’t very elegant. “I can go?”
Meticulously, she rolled the piece of paper back into a tight tube and placed it back in the drawer. “I’ll summon you when you’re needed.”
Sam gestured to the pup in her arms. “What about her?”
“I’ll release Demon Bite in your temporary custody, since you’re bound to me by law, both human and Nocturnal.” She ushered Sam out of the dusty room and firmly and demonstratively. “I’ve got other business to attend to. You know you’re way back?”
Sam blinked slowly. There was literally just one hallway and one door they used. “Yes.”
“Great. Help yourself to drinks, food, whatever you want. On the house. Brendan will take care of you.”
“I just want to go home.”
Lilith waved her away. “Whatever you want.”
Wow. Sam hadn’t felt this dismissed since she started working at the bureau, but of course, she wasn’t going to admit that to the other woman. It sounded pathetic and Lilith didn’t seem like the kind of woman who did pathetic.
With the fading sound of Lilith’s clicking heels, Sam transversed through the hallway and back into the main area of the Drunken Turnip. She passed up the free drinks, happy to get away from all the Nocturnal business.
Right now, she just wanted to get home and take a hot bath, talk to her wife, and process everything she was just told. A moment of peace until all hell broke loose, until she was ‘summoned’ again.
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