Today's teaser is from an old favorite, Baby Steps. This one's a bit special because It's set in my hometown, Cleveland - although I'm sad to say I never met sexy vampires like Joseph...
When I entered the Academy to become a Special Enforcer, I was subjected, like every new candidate, to a battery of tests that assessed my physical fitness, mental state and eventual psychic abilities. On that last front, I was a little taken aback when I was told I had minimal seer traits. Not enough to actually predict the future, they said, but enough that I should trust my instincts as much as possible.
For the past week, my instincts have been screaming more and more loudly that something is coming. Something that could potentially be very bad. It started with a knot in the pit of my stomach, and it has only been getting worse since, to the point that I’ve been throwing up for the past three days. I’ve tried meditating as I was taught to see if I could pinpoint the source of this coming threat, but every time I do, all I see is Joseph’s eyes. I just know they’re his. I’ve never known anyone else with such clear blue eyes.
For a while, I thought I needed to force him out of my mind to reach whatever lay beyond his image, but in the end I got it. As much as I wish otherwise, he is the threat I’m sensing.
“I need something of his,” Theo reminds me as he spreads out his collection of map books on his desk.
I asked him this morning if he would help me localize Joseph. I may have a bit of a seer inside me, but I am useless where magic is concerned. Paul and I can only do basic disinvite spells, so Theo is the one who performs magic at the agency.
“Something of Joseph’s.” The knot in my belly tightens a little more. “Just…give me a sec. I’ll be right back.”
If he replies, I don’t hear it. I’m too busy rushing to the bathroom in the back of the agency and vomiting the salad I had for lunch. Quiet steps enter behind me, and after a few seconds Paul offers me a glass of water and a cool washcloth. Still kneeling in front of the toilet, I rinse my mouth and press the washcloth to my face, grateful.
“You really think you’re sick because he’s planning something bad?” he asks, worry tinting his voice.
“I don’t know.” I struggle to get up, and rinse my mouth again at the sink. “I just know something big is coming, and I think it’s related to him.”
He rests his hand on my shoulder as we return to Theo’s desk. Theo raises a questioning eyebrow at me. I nod.
“Something that belonged to him,” he reminds me.
My desk is next to Theo’s. I tug the large cardboard box from under it and place it over the files that haphazardly cover the top of the desk. I pull the top open and look in, wondering what to give Theo. He joins me and peers in.
“Is that his stuff? Where did you get it?”
I shrug, uncomfortable. “From his landlord. I went there a few days ago to see if he had heard from him, and he gave me this stuff. I think he was glad to get rid of it.”
What I don’t say is that I didn’t manage to open the box until now. I’m not too sure why. From what I gather, the night I told him to leave, he did so without going back to his apartment first. All that he left behind is in this box. I feel a bit queasy again.
Theo reaches in and pulls out a bunched up bit of fabric. I recognize it instantly. A muscle ticks in my cheek. I can imagine the feel of the dried blood that stiffens the fabric. The blood flakes on Theo’s hands. His eyes widen a little as he looks at the torn piece of shirt and he glances at Paul quickly before turning his eyes to me.
“Is that his blood?” he asks.
“Mine,” I say in a strangled voice. “When I was bitten.” Of its own accord, my hand rises to touch the scars on my neck. I can’t begin to fathom why Joseph would have kept this. “That would affect the spell, wouldn’t it?”
Theo drops the fabric back inside the box and grimaces. “Yeah, it would. Why did that creep keep this anyway?”
I don’t respond. I don’t know how to respond. After a second or two, he looks inside the box again.
This time, he grabs a small, bright red booklet. I’ve never seen it before, but I know what it is as soon as Theo opens it, revealing the small headshot picture inside.
“His passport?” I say. “Will that work?”
He returns to his preparations and I follow. Paul and I watch from opposite ends of the desk as Theo mixes some herbs and recites an incantation over the passport. A ball of light comes into existence and hovers above the maps that cover the table. Then suddenly, Theo falls silent and the light touches a map of California on the far left of the table. All three of us bend over it, and Theo reads the name of the town where the light settled. He sounds relieved.
“Haventown. It doesn’t look like he’s going to set fire to the river quite yet.”
I stare at the glowing light until it has faded. Haventown… The friendliest place for vampires on this continent. I was so sure my bad feeling was linked to Joseph…
“Alex?” Paul says very gently, drawing my attention back to him. “You’re pale as a sheet. Are you all right?”
“I don’t know,” I murmur, unable to resist glancing at the map yet again. Theo is already packing up his supplies. “Could you…could you do the spell again, in a few days? Just to make sure he’s not coming back?”
The look he gives me is full of pity, and far too understanding. “Anything you want, honey. But I don’t think he is.”
I wish his words wouldn’t make my stomach lurch yet again.
I wish they didn’t hurt so much.