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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 6. High Rock Street
Three nights passed without any summoning, death threats, or magic nonsense. Her new puppy hadn’t glowed again and for all intents and purposes, looked just like a normal dog. Sam was half-convinced the entire Nocturnal thing had been a hallucination or a dream, a figment of her imagination born out of the sadness she felt that night.
It wasn’t until she entered the kitchen on a Sunday morning that reality crashed back into her. In the form of Lilith, who was sat happily at the kitchen island, enjoying a cup of coffee.
“What the hell!” Samantha exclaimed, lowering her handgun. “What are you doing here?”
Lilith looked up, not bothered in the slightest. “I told you I’d summon you. You’re summoned.”
“And you couldn’t send an email?”
“No,” she replied, sounding so matter-of-factly, Sam felt almost stupid for suggesting it.
She holstered her gun, rolling her eyes. “You can’t just break into someone’s home. I could’ve shot you.”
“You could’ve tried,” Lilith replied. “And I didn’t break in. Your home was open.”
“What? No, it wasn’t. I’m sure the doors were locked, I checked them last night,” Sam countered.
The other woman chuckled. “Oh, cute. Human locks only mean something to insurance companies. What I meant is, you have no protective circles, no clan markings, no ward spells. Anyone can just walk into your home.”
“Yes, but it’s common courtesy not to,” Sam grumbled, pulling the cup of coffee from Lilith’s hand.
“Hey, I wasn’t done with that,” she protested.
“Yes, you were,” Sam growled. “If you want to summon me for whatever, that’s fine. But this is my house, my food, my coffee. Understood?”
Lilith snorted as she rose from the barstool and brushed her dress down. “Ooh, touchy. Fine, fine. I won’t drink your coffee again. Now let’s go.”
“You’ll see.” Without waiting for Sam, she waltzed out of the kitchen and through the hall as if she owned the place. It was a good thing Melissa left earlier for work, because if she found Lilith sitting in the kitchen like she belonged, a real fight would’ve broken out.
Grateful, Sam followed the slender woman outside and locked the front door demonstratively. She waved the key in front of Lilith’s face, as to prove a point. “See. Locked. Did you hear me? Locked.”
“Hmmm-hmmm,” Lilith hummed, not in the least impressed. “Less talking, more walking. Chop-chop.”
“Don’t boss me around,” Sam argued, just for argue’s sake. She didn’t actually have trouble following instructions, she just felt like she should put up some protest since this woman had practically roped her into a world she didn’t want to be part of.
The two walked into town, using small roads and crossings that Sam had never once taken in the five years she lived here. They passed strange houses and odd people, all of whom seemed to know Lilith and waved at her.
“You’re popular,” Sam remarked.
“No,” Lilith corrected her. “I’m well-known.”
The dark-haired woman clicked her tongue. “That implies they like me.”
“They don’t?” Sam asked, but she got no reply. Maybe that was for the best. All the talking was messing with her breath and she didn’t want to seem too out of shape in front of the younger woman.
She’d never admit it, but Sam had to put effort into keeping up with her, which was insulting since only one of them had put on sensible footwear and it wasn’t Lilith.
In silence, the two women walked until they reached the heart of the city centre. From experience, Sam thought she knew the town well. After all, she’d responded to a couple of emergencies when she was in training and solved two murder cases and a kidnapping. By all means, the city shouldn’t have held secrets for her anymore, and yet…
Lilith brought her through winding streets and small paths, along building blocks and flats that she’d had never seen, let alone been inside.
It made sense, Sam thought. From what she understood, this Nocturnal world lived as separate from humanity as they could. They probably didn’t want police sniffing into their business, in fear of being found out. Which begged the question… Why did Lilith need her help?
Sam shelved that question as the other woman halted in front of a row house. With metal gates out in front and dusty windows up top, it looked like any other standard, brick house. She tried to read the name taped on the mailbox, but the weather had taken it off and just left an ink stain and some shrivelled paper.
Desperate for clues, she made as many mental notes as she could about her surroundings. The small spruce bushes in the garden, the green front door, and the rounded windows that sat in the house like eyes. Small things, but added together, they painted a vivid picture that Sam would be able to recreate and remember long after the fact. When she had the room to process it all. For now, she just had to use her eyes and store as much information as she could.
The metal gate shrieked as Lilith pushed through it and Sam followed in tow. She didn’t know what to expect but if there was anything she learned from her job, it was to be cautious and always be prepared for the unexpected.
Dust greeted the two women and forced them into a coughing fit, one that disturbed more dormant dust and made it only worse.
Annoyed, Sam waved as much of it away while she glared as angrily at Lilith as she could. “So why am I here again?”
“I told you, I have a job for you. A mystery, if you will.”
“A mystery?” Sam echoed. “You mean, a case?”
“If that’s what you want to call it,” Lilith chuckled.
“No, that’s not what I want to call it, that’s what it’s called.” Sam glared at her, but the other woman didn’t react to it. Sadly. She’d have to use her words. “So, why do you need me?”
“You tell me.”
“Wait, you’re making me figure out what I’m supposed to be figuring out?”
If Lilith wanted to play games, Sam would play along. She didn’t really have much choice and whether she wanted to admit it or not, this was a challenge and she liked those.
Sam walked through the room, inspecting everything with a careful eye. Everything was coated in a grey layer of fluffy dust, indicating that the place had been vacant for quite a while. There were shoe marks at the entrance, multiples and judging from the size, both male and female. Surely, that had to mean something.
She counted the number of chairs around the table, three, and studied the wear on the tabletop, mostly on the left side. From a rummage through the cupboards, she found a couple of cans of refried beans and almost no cleaning supplies. There were even a couple of dirty dishes left next to the sink, gathering mould and cobwebs. The resident didn’t like cleaning then.
After the kitchen, she studied the bedroom, which was set up to be functional instead of cosy, and the bathroom where she found a single toothbrush and a toilet with the lid still up.
Lilith followed her in, leaning against the doorframe with a challenging smile locked on her lips. “Well?”
Sam stared at the other woman, puzzled that with one glance, she could make her feel like a girl on her first day of school. “I’m not done yet.”
“Okay.” She tweaked an eyebrow. “If you say so.”
“I do say so.”
“There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know.”
“I do know what’s going on.” Sam pulled a face, not sure when was the last time someone argued with her like this. She was a grown woman, turning thirty-six that year. People didn’t talk to her like that anymore.
Lilith whistled through her teeth, her smirk plastered on thick. “If you say so.”
“I do say so!” Sam countered, her annoyance flaring up. She glared at Lilith to figure out how she could make her feel this way. She never got worked up, not by anyone. Not her boss passing her over for promotions because she was a woman, not by suspects trying to intimidate her, not by younger interns testing her. But this woman…
The two took the stairs back down towards the living room, passing frames with sepia pictures. That answered everything Sam needed to know.
She turned to Lilith, steadying her voice so she came across confident. “Dust suggests that the resident hasn’t been here for a while. From the amount of it, I’d guess… Easily a couple of months. From the pictures on the wall here, the resident is this man. The guy with the stubble. I assume you want me to find him.”
“Interesting,” Lilith said.
“I’m not done yet. There’s golf equipment in the closet, which is well-used, but old and dusty beyond what’s on the dresser. Coupled with the set of crutches, I’d say an injury put an end to that particular hobby,” Sam said, reading Lilith’s face. “To top it all off, from the facial features and what you said about Nocturnals, I’m quite confident that he’s your cousin.”
“Impressive. Very impressive.” She nodded. “He’s been missing for three months, he dislocated his knee three years ago, and he’s indeed related to me.”
“Knew it.” Sam fist-pumped.
“But he’s not my cousin. He’s my uncle.”
“Alright, your uncle. I get that you’re looking for him, but why me? I didn’t know anything about this world and I’d have happily kept it that way.”
Lilith pulled a picture from her purse. “You see this guy? That’s Tomas, Uncle Ian’s best friend, but we haven’t been able to locate him either. He is known to have ties with the Vampire family and we suspect that’s where both of them are hiding.”
“Vampires?” Sam exclaimed. “They’re real?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t they be?”
Sam shrugged, baffled by how normal Lilith thought all this was. “Of course, why wouldn’t they be. So? Why don’t you go over there?”
“Law of Six. Trespassing onto their land will start a war, which we’re all trying to avoid. We can’t investigate ourselves, but you… You’re human. You can go wherever you want.”
Sam frowned. “I thought you said that was dangerous for me, you know, as an unclaimed hellhound owner?”
“Well,” Lilith ran a hand through her sleek hair, shaken for just a moment before she caught herself. “There’s a grace period. One week for you to decide to become a Warden and choose your alliance.”
“Choose my alliance? To what?”
“To a family,” she replied. “To my family.”
A moment passed where Sam just stared at the other woman, blinking slowly as she processed the new information. She hadn’t mentioned anything like that before and she was displaying the telltale signs of someone caught in a lie, no matter how good she was at covering it up.
She glared at Lilith, wishing she had the guts to confront her. It just seemed better not to do that while she was still gathering information and finding her own bearings.
She swallowed the confrontation, finding comfort in the avoidance. “So… Where to next?”
“Wherever the clues lead us.”
“That’s cryptic. I need an actual answer,” Sam grumbled. This woman was doing her head in.
Lilith sighed. “High Rock Street, Tomas’ last known place of residence.”
“High Rock Street, it is.”
NEXT CHAPTER COMING SOON
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