Cut to the Crone
Cut to the Crone
A Spell’s Angels Cozy Mystery Book Four
Amanda M. Lee
Copyright © 2020 by Amanda M. Lee
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Six years ago
The building was dark.
No, it was stark.
I was used to rough buildings in Detroit. The city seemed to be in the grip of a death spiral that simply refused to strike the final blow. This particular building was located on Livernois, very close to West Chicago, and the neighborhood was rough. That sounded odd to say given the fact that it was Detroit, and most people thought all the neighborhoods were rough. This particular neighborhood, however, was the stuff of nightmares.
Not my nightmares of course. I, Scout Randall, was afraid of nothing. When you grow up with nothing to lose, fear isn’t really part of your life. I’d already lost my family at a young age, abandoned in the middle of the night with no memory of who I was or where I came from. I grew up in the system, bouncing from home to home. While it wasn’t a terrible life, I don’t necessarily recommend it either.
Once I graduated, I decided to put my talents to use. From the outside, it probably appeared that I had zero talents. I was a middling student who wielded snark like a sword. There was more to me, though. There was magic ... and it was powerful magic at that. I grew up knowing it was there, but with no one to teach me, I had to learn boundaries and control myself. I was still a work in progress.
It was the magic that led me to my calling. I honestly believed that. It was magic that led me to Spells Angels, a group of monster hunters on motorcycles who tried to rid the world of evil.
To be fair, it was impossible to eradicate all evil. Not all monsters are bad. Free will plays into it. Just like not all humans are born good, not all monsters grow up and want to rip the world apart. When doling out retribution with glowing fingertips, you need to have balance.
I was still learning the balance.
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I whispered to my partner Evan Crawford. He stood next to me, shrouded in darkness beneath an old willow tree, and stared at the building in question.
“That’s what the caller said.” Evan was grim. “It looks bad, doesn’t it?”
That was an understatement. “That building looks like the stuff the Devil would belch up after a three-day bender.”
Evan’s lips quirked. He was darkly handsome and easygoing, and we had a good rapport. There was nothing romantic between us — I happened to believe romance and work didn’t mix, and he was also gay — but we were tight, like siblings. We played jokes on one another, had drinks at the bar after shift, and occasionally spoke about our fears and dreams. Evan had more of both than me.
“Do you think we should check it out?” he asked after a beat. “I mean, we don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“I’m pretty sure that if we get a call, anonymous or not, the rules state we have to check it out,” I said dryly.
“No. Section thirteen, subsection B, states that if we feel the anonymous caller is trying to set us up then we don’t have to answer the call.”
I slid my eyes to him, surprised. “Are you really suggesting we don’t check this out?”
He balked. “I didn’t say that. I just ... it could be a bad idea. That place looks like death. If we go in there, we might start looking like the exterior of that place, and the interior might be even worse.”
He had a point. I reached out with my magic, scanning the building for signs of life ... or death. I came up empty. “I don’t think there’s anything in there.”
He was dubious. “Your powers aren’t infallible. It’s entirely possible that something is in there shielding itself.”
“It would only bother to shield if it knew we were coming,” I pointed out.
Evan extended his hands and shot me a “well, duh” look. “That’s pretty much what I said five minutes ago. There’s every possibility this is a trap of some sort.”
He seemed adamant, ready to turn on his heel and leave. That was unlike him. He was the sort of guy who ran headlong into danger. The fear rolling off him this time was palpable, and I made up my mind on the spot. “Stay here. Keep an eye on the building. If something is inside, I’ll send word and you can call for backup.”
He reached out and grabbed my arm before I could disappear from the safety of the tree. “Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t go in there alone. They dispatched us together.”
I remained calm, although it took effort. “You don’t want to go in there. I’ll feel guilty if I don’t at least check it out. We’re talking five minutes. You don’t have to go with me.” I wasn’t guilting him — no, really — as much as trying to get him to see logic. He knew me well enough to know I couldn’t simply walk away from this. Women were going missing from Detroit streets at an alarming rate. I couldn’t pretend the call hadn’t come in.
That didn’t mean he had to go with