MAGIC CONSULTANT AND SOLUTIONS. This is the slogan on Helena Willow’s business card. But when the mayor of Riverton asks her to find a missing Wicca, it is not much help. For the missing woman not only has a secret lover, an unborn child and a weird coven, but also a dubious past. It almost seems as if no one really wants to find her. With the help of Falk, whose own past includes more than just murder and manslaughter, Helena sets out to find the young woman.
While emotions come to a boil and several groups attempt to instrumentalize this case for their own purposes, Helena and Falk meet resistance every way they turn. It seems to be for the best if the missing woman remains part of a statistic. But once Helena has made up her mind, there is no stopping her. After all, she has an arsenal of tricks. But what she and Falk find, finally, deep in the mountains, turns her blood to ice.
This is a story about gods, humans and monsters, set in a world where magic is part of life and where witches have to pay taxes.
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Sterling’s desk was meant to impress. The walnut surface must have measured nine feet across. It would have been even more impressive if there had been any trace of real work, but the wood had a polished shine and the only visible paper was a post-it note on the surface of the mayor’s tablet computer. The anachronism kind of suited him. I shook my head.
Sterling smiled and had his personal assistant bring us two cups of coffee. The real deal. The woman carrying the cups and a saucer with cookies shot me a dirty glance. Because she had to work today or because of who I was? I did not care. Besides, the office heat made me drowsy. Only three more hours until I could go to bed… and for tonight I had scheduled a banning ceremony. I hoped the coffee was as strong as it was expensive – only the best for our dear mayor.
“Now”, he started the conversation, “what do you know about the case?”
“The official version.” I tilted my head back and tried to concentrate, reciting what I had read in the papers. “Catherine Oakwell, member of the Thirteen Moons, has gone missing. Pregnant. The baby’s father is not known, if I remember correctly. Her parents claim that her coven has abducted her for some sort of sketchy ritual.”
He nodded. The bright light reflected off the top of his balding head. “Well.” He paused.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Let’s see… A friend of mine is a member of her coven.”
“What does that mean for me?”
“She says Catherine meddled in shady affairs before her conversion – which, as it seems, was not that long ago. Her old friends might know more about her disappearance.”
I sipped my coffee. Heavenly – way better than that stuff from the bakery. “What kind of shady affairs?”
“She hung around with thugs and dealers.”
I still did not see my part in this.
Peachy. “Is she one of them?”
“Not as far as we know.”
I exhaled. Shifters were of mixed heritage, with only part human DNA. Many established tribes specialized in international crime – smuggling, drugs, human trafficking, like some kind of supernatural mafia.
“I am not familiar with shifters. Not my field of expertise.”
“I thought you might convince them to talk to you. Find out what’s going on. See if there is anything – well, worth knowing about Catherine.”
When worded like this… “Who’s paying for my time?”
Sterling grinned, and suddenly his face appeared at least ten years younger. “I knew I could count on you. Send the bill to our PR department. Oh, and something else…”
“When meeting with Catherine’s old friends, you might want to take some backup.” He handed me a business card and watched my face as I read it. “I have arranged an appointment for you, tomorrow morning. Ask for Falk.”
That was weird. I knew the address, although I had never been there. What the hell was I supposed to do at the Wandering Graveyard?