The Light Who Shines – Excerpt

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The Light Who Shines

Bluebell Kildare Series, Book 1.0

by Lilo Abernathy

This excerpt includes chapters 1 – 10 of 69.

Chapter 05: Of Smoke and Shadow

 

01 1.0 The Light Who Shines3Bluebell Kildare

May 27, 2022, Red Ages

I draw back the lilac shower curtain surrounding my claw foot tub and step onto yesterday’s towel. Nuns aren’t exactly big on vanity, so I’m grateful they installed a mirror when renovating the space. I use the corner of the towel I’m wearing to wipe the fog off the gold baroque mirror to brush my teeth. My teeth are smallish and straight, and I like to keep them a nice, bright white. My face is framed with dark brown hair that looks black when damp except for the one-inch wide blue lock that hangs from my forehead. It’s a pale blue, almost like a tinted white. When I was young, I tried to dye it dark brown like the rest of my hair, but the color wouldn’t take. It remained stubbornly blue. Sigh. At least it matches my eyes.

My eyes are vivid blue, the color of bluebells, or so I’ve been told. I always thought that’s why I was named Bluebell, not because I turned blue when I died at birth.

As I assess my reflection, the bathroom light flashes on and off and on again. I hear a roll of thunder and wonder if the apartment will lose power today. A good storm is brewing. I shake off my ruefulness and decide to stick with the original story of my name. I glance at the birthmark on my shoulder in the mirror and release a deep sigh as I turn away. On my way to the bedroom, I peek out at the terrace and see an ominously dark sky dropping sheets of rain. It’s going to be a dreary day.

I enter my bedroom to dress. Calling it a “room” is perhaps giving it grander airs than it deserves. It’s more of a three-walled nook or an alcove for the bed. Sheer curtains do their best to separate it from the living room. It does have a nice, long closet running the length of one wall, which I barely fill with my meager wardrobe. My apartment is small, but it’s decorated nicely in bright jewel tones, and it’s my first real home.

Sitting on the edge of the comforter, I start rubbing a mixture of coconut oil, lavender, and mint on my skin. I rarely wear make-up, so this is the whole of my beauty routine. My phone, which is still sitting on my nightstand, interrupts my calm with an annoying ring. I give it the evil eye, but it ignores me completely and keeps on ringing. I answer it begrudgingly with my oil-free left hand.

“Hello?”

“Blue? This is Jack.” His deep voice washes through me with all the richness of a fine brandy.

“Jack, I know it’s you, on account of the fact that the phone says ‘Jack’ when you call. Plus now that I’ve been working for you for two years, I can finally remember the sound of your voice,” I tease.

How nice of him to use the phone instead of the chimerator at this hour of the morning. Then again, maybe he thinks I look hideous before I’ve readied for work.

“Blue,” Jack growls in warning, his voice becoming impossibly deeper, making my insides thrill at the tone.

“Sorry,” I apologize, trying to suppress the image of his strong body from rising in my mind, “but you called me early. What can I help you with?” I suddenly notice my right hand has begun sensually massaging the oil into my thigh. I shake my hand as if to erase the action. Bad hand! Oil and the sound of Jack’s voice do not mix.

“The M.E. is ready to give his preliminary report,” Jack says.

Suddenly my mood is brighter and I’m able to concentrate. “Great. I’ll head down there first thing. Actually, I’m glad you called. After the forensics team left yesterday, I found a piece of evidence at the scene. It’s an amulet with some sort of magical capabilities. I’ll hand it over to Gambino as soon as I can. The amulet has a piece of dark red thread caught in the clasp matching a thread snagged on the boy’s fingernail. I checked with the bartender at the Cock and Bull Tap, and a guy wearing a cloak of the same color had just left as I entered.”

Jack says, “Really?”

“Really, and that is not all.” I relate to Jack the events that followed after I left the bar, and to say he is unhappy would be a gross understatement. As I finish the tale, Jack’s voice is thunderous.

“Why didn’t you send an alert to me? Why am I only finding out about this now?”

“Jack, you didn’t know any of the details of the case, and Gambino couldn’t have gotten far. He was only gone five minutes.”

Jack orders, “Next time, send an alert. Absolutely no excuses. Your safety is my responsibility, not Gambino’s.”

I give Jack the only response possible. “Yes, Jack.”

Jack is not finished yet. “Let me make this absolutely clear. Anytime, ever, you are shot at, the moment you have cover, if not before, you must push the alert on your chimerator. Is that clear?”

I swallow dryly. I know he’s right. “Yes, Jack,” I repeat.

“Okay,” Jack says gruffly. “See what the M.E. has to say, and we’ll speak when you get into the office.” He hangs up abruptly.

He really should learn how to properly end a call, but this is probably not the time to mention it.

I finish my modest beauty routine, comb my hair, and rifle through my dresser for some fresh underwear. I select a pair of bright fuchsia, French cut panties and a matching push-up bra, both decorated with tiny, black satin bows. I look at myself in the mirror and approve. My body is slim and long with modest curves, but curves enough. Maybe one day someone besides me will appreciate my lingerie. I frown at this thought as I hide my treasures with dark blue, straight leg jeans and a crew neck tee in a gray toned camouflage pattern. My outfit is finished off with boots, a black leather underbust vest, my gray pageboy cap, and, of course, my Glock and holster. My work clothes are dismally boring with the only exciting part remaining my secret.

I grab an umbrella and bolt out the door. My boot heels click down three flights of stairs, reminding me to replace them with rubber soles. As I reach the marble tiled entryway, I’m stalled by a yellow sign blocking the door. “Caution! Wet paint,” it warns. Shoot, I have no time for this. I fly down the hall and out the back alley door.

Not more than a few steps into the alley, I feel a presence behind me. As I whip my head around, I feel an iron clasp on my arm. I’m jerked backwards into the chest of a man. I catch just a glimpse of a black mask with two narrow eyeholes.

I jerk my body forward in protest with my other hand reaching in back for my gun. A man’s voice scornfully laughs “too late” as he tosses my gun on the ground in front of me.

I push violently backwards, then quickly pull forward, trying to break free from his grasp, but the cold edge of a blade at my neck stops me.

“Be very still and very quiet, or I might enjoy myself too much,” a voice hisses in my ear.

I immediately still my body, but my mind is racing. His arm tightens across my chest like an iron band, keeping my arms still at my sides. Rain pours down on us, but I hardly feel it. I glance to the left and see he’s pulled me into a corner so we can’t be seen from the street. To the right is the long alley, blocked on either side by a tall row of brick buildings. That way lies disaster. If I’m to get free, I must go left toward the street.

I quickly assess my options. With my gun lying useless on the ground and my arms restrained, I have only my mind and my gift to aid me.

I push out my sixth sense and physically flinch away as I feel the evilness of his soul, but the sharp prick of the knife slicing into the skin of my neck stops my forward movement. A small stream of blood trickles down my neck, intermingling with the rain. Lightning flashes, followed by the low rumble of thunder. I can sense the man is high with excitement, enjoying his power over me.

I whisper, “You don’t want to do this. I’m a Homicide Inspector with the Supernatural Investigation Bureau. If you harm me, trust me, you will be hunted down.”

I feel for his response, but the fear or surprise I expect to rise in him are woefully missing. He knows exactly who I am. My dread increases. This is no random attack.

He chuckles. “Oh yes, I want to do this very bad, in fact, but you know what they say: business before pleasure.” The sick, seductive tone of his voice makes me cringe. He digs his fingers into my arm and demands, “Yesterday you investigated a crime. Tell me what you found, and then I’ll let you go.”

Those are his words, but the malice I feel from him belies those words. He has no intention of letting me go.

He presses the edge of the knife in a little harder. I feel my heart stutter as visions of his gruesome work on the boy’s body rise in my mind. I know exactly what he’s capable of. I blink to flush away the vision, and out of the corner of my eye I see a flicker of movement in the shadows of the alley. Does he have a cohort? Or is it someone who might help me? Best to keep talking until the hidden is revealed.

I know the man is referring to the amulet, so I avoid giving him this information. I whisper, “We found the body of a boy who had been hit by a car and damaged severely. Was that your handiwork?”

A sneering voice responds, “Yes, you are a genius. So clever . . . ”

I see shifting in the shadows along the buildings closer to me now. Whoever is there is trying to stay hidden, and the overcast sky is helping. If the man gets distracted, I could grab his knife arm and twist it or get out of his grasp and run. I could wrench away and use my umbrella as a weapon. My hands tremble at my sides with the force of my desire to fight. It’s almost unbearable to stand here waiting at the mercy of a man who has none.

I need to discern if the third party in this alley is friend or foe. I push my senses out, trying to penetrate the gloomy alley in the direction of the flitting shadow. I feel a wild, predatory rage coming from that direction. It feels both savage and unflinching. I’m suddenly unsure of an imminent rescue and wonder if something more dangerous comes that way. I could alert my abductor to the danger and perhaps get free, or I could bide my time hoping to escape when the distraction arrives. Beads of sweat form around my hairline, blending with the rain as I war with my options.

The masked man digs his nails cruelly into my arm, and I realize I missed something he said. He repeats himself. “What of the amulet?”

I lie, “I didn’t find an amulet.”

He hisses and jerks me farther back into the corner. “I don’t believe you.”

Just then, I see the shadow separate from the side of the building and shoot into the air right at us. The masked man sees it as well, and his grip on my arms relaxes. I feel the knife blade back away from my neck just a smidge. I lift my left hand to grab on to his forearm, pushing with all my might to further the distance between my skin and the knife blade while swinging my right arm back and ramming the metal point of my umbrella into what I hope is his gut. Letting go of the umbrella, I bring my right arm up to push his knife away. I feel him recoil from the umbrella impact. I twist my body away, gripping his forearm with both hands, then let go and spin out of reach.

Time moves in slow motion, and the creature from the shadows appears suspended in the air. I see long claws and huge, gleaming fangs in a gaping, hungry mouth. The masked man brings the knife up to defend himself against the new threat. I see the glowing green eyes of the creature and hear a vicious snarl as its fangs wrap around the man’s knife arm.

I am all but forgotten, so I run toward my gun on the opposite side of the alley. When it’s safely in my hand, I pivot, turning it on the man–only he seems to have disappeared into thin air, leaving the creature to snap and snarl savagely at the empty space where he had been. Now that the creature has four clawed paws on the ground, I see he is in fact an enormous gray wolf, and blood is seeping from his side.

I can’t believe I was just saved by a wolf. He seems to sense me watching and lifts his keen eyes to me. I curse my stupidity for staying around and aim my Glock at him instead. I back up slowly toward the street, not wanting to shoot, but the wolf starts running toward me at full speed. I should shoot him, really, I should. He just ripped into a man’s arm—but he also saved my life.

My hands, aiming the gun straight ahead at the wolf, shake at the force of my indecision. Before I can make up my mind, the wolf has already reached me. He slows his pace, circling around me, sniffing and yipping quietly. Then he puts his forepaws and head down right in front of me and sticks his rump in the air, wagging his tail as though he wants to play.

Rain still pours down on us, water runs in rivulets through my hair, but I pay no attention. He is huge. And beautiful! When he stands again, I’m amazed that the top of his withers reach my waist. His coat is long and thick, fading from a charcoal color on his back and nose to silver around his flank. He has touches of brown throughout his coat and around his eyes, which have now changed from a glowing green to a pale, icy blue.

I reach out slowly with my left hand. He sniffs at the proffered hand, then puts his head under it like he wants a pet. I comply and slowly scratch him about the ears as I slide my Glock smoothly back into its holster.

The two of us are drenched in rain, standing in the alley, greeting each other. What a strange life I lead. After a moment, when I think he’s used to me, I gently feel deep down in his neck fur for a collar. His fur is so thick I can’t be sure, but I don’t think he has one. He appears to have traveled a long and difficult road and looks too dirty and skinny to be a pet anyway. I squat down to examine the gash on his side, but the blood and rain obscure the wound.

“What am I going to do with you, shadow-walker?”

He looks up at me with questioning eyes and I am lost to them.

I put my hand on my hip and say, “You had better come with me.”

He walks by my side to the car, seemingly oblivious to his wound, and waits patiently while I pop the trunk. I pull out a blanket and arrange it over the back seat. When all is set, I wave the wolf in. He immediately leaps in the back seat of my car like he’s been doing it all of his days. He takes up the entire back seat when he lies down.

I slide into the driver’s seat and wrinkle my nose at the stench of wet, dirty animal. Reaching over, I spring the latch on the glove box pulling out a granola bar to feed him. I think he eats it, though it’s really hard to tell because it disappears so quickly. He certainly didn’t taste it, and there was absolutely no chewing action going on. A bath, medical care, and food are in order. I definitely prefer my wolves well fed.

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    About the Author:

    Lilo Abernathy is a born bibliophile who stormed the Indie scene with her debut novel, The Light Who Shines, in early 2014, making it to Amazon's Top 100 list in the same year with strong support from the Indie community. Since then she's only averaged about five hours of sleep a night and that doesn't seem to be changing soon. She's clearly not an editor as evidenced by her post I Am Not an Editor. If you respond to her Oh My Liberal Bleeding Heart! posts, she asks that you please observe the Rules of Engagement. Check out her epic urban fantasy / paranormal romance novels.