“Wells does an exceptional job depicting the hard choices and struggles caused by addiction, while also delivering a gritty and exciting procedural thriller. When it comes to crafting outstanding dark urban fantasy, Wells is fast becoming a master!”―RT Book Reviews on Cursed Moon, 4 Stars (Top Pick!)
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If you want to know your future, the last person to ask is a fortuneteller. Most of them don’t have an Adept bone in their body, much less a sixth sense or whatever bullshit Mundanes called the ability to know the unknowable.
“Come closer, lady,” said a three-pack-a-day voice. “For ten bucks I’ll tell you your fate.”
I paused by the carnival stall and glared at the gypsy who had the misfortune to choose me as her mark. She sat behind a card table covered with a cheap crushed velvet scarf. A red kerchief covered her grey hair and dozens of gold bangles clinked together on her weathered arms. Her eyebrows were drawn in too thick and black and her teeth too crooked and yellow, like a sepia image of a rickety fence. I couldn’t tell if she was fifty or a hundred-and-fifty, but the twinkle in her eyes told me she was a natural-born bullshitter.
“No need.” I said, my smile like a pink worm on a hook. “I already know my future.” In my five years as a cop, I’d seen too many desperate people hand their last nickels to charlatans like this not to fuck with her a little.
Her eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”
I pointed to the watch on my right wrist. “Lunch.”
My partner, Drew Morales, chuckled beside me. His muscled forearms were crossed, and his expression was the amused smirk of a cop watching a crook hang herself with her own rope.
The fortuneteller narrowed her kohl-smudged eyes. “I see secrets on you, girl,” she said in a low, knowing tone that pinned my stomach to my spine.
My smile dissolved. I reminded myself that psychics were frauds. She didn’t know my secrets. “And I see you haven’t posted a permit to perform arcane acts in public,” I said, hoping the shame in my gut didn’t seep into my words. “You want to talk about that?”
She aimed her left forefinger and pinkie out like horns. “Devil.”
I forced a dismissive laugh, like the cursed hadn’t hit me directly in the conscience. “Lady, you have no idea.”
“It’s not worth it, Kate. Let’s go.” Morales plucked my sleeve.
A few stalls later, I sidestepped a rug rat in a SpongeBob SquarePants costume and pretended not to notice my partner’s speculative glance.
“What’s eating you today?”
“I thought once I’d made Detective I’d be able to put the bunions of patrol work behind me.”
I glanced around the square at the kids in costumes running from stall to stall collecting candy.
“At least now that you’re on the task force, you can wear jeans instead being stuck in a uniform.” He nodded toward a pair of BPD officers in their blues standing by one of the ticket booths. “Besides, the covens have been so quiet lately we’d just be stuck behind our desks with our thumbs up our asses while the BPD gets to have all the fun wrangling the moonies.”
I looked at him like he might be one of the lunatics in question. “You might want to look up ‘fun’ in the dictionary.”
He ignored my sarcasm and took deep breath. “Least we’re getting some fresh air.”
I took an experimental sniff and sneezed from the hay they’d brought in for the Halloween Festival. Normally the city held the event closer to the actual holiday, which was in two weeks, but with the Blue Moon bearing down on Babylon, the city council moved it up so kids could trick-or-treat safely. Pioneer Square had been filled with what seemed like a million jack-o’-lanterns and local businesses—both Arcane and Mundane—had set up dozens of booths to pass out candy for the kids and sales pitches to the adults.
Before I could respond to my partner’s uncharacteristic glass-half-full comment, flute music filled the square. A shirtless man wearing goat horns and wooly pants with fake hooves wove his way through a crowd on the steps of City Hall. Like many of the people at the festival, he wore a black mask that obscured the upper half of his face.
“What’s this guy’s costume?” Morales asked.
“He’s a satyr.”
He shot me a look like I’d spoken in tongues.
“What?” I said. “I know shit.”
Morales and I paused on the edge of the group to watch. I crossed my arms and scowled at the performer. He had a thick beard and tattoos covered every inch of his arms and much of his chest. The families around us bopped along with the melody, but their smiles were forced from hours of wrangling rugrats buzzing off high fructose corn syrup.
I started to tell Morales we should move on, but the goat dude danced our way.
He riverdanced around us a couple of times. I could feel his gaze groping my ass. When he came back around, I shot him a keep-away scowl. He paused in his flute playing to blow me a kiss before skipping away to bother someone else.
I turned to Morales. “Guess I should enjoy the boredom,” I said, nodding toward the retreating satyr. “The closer we get to the second full moon, the crazier these assholes are going to get.”
We started walking again before he answered. Despite our casual conversation, our eyes were scanning the square for any signs of trouble. “C’mon, it won’t be that bad,”
“Just you wait,” I said.
“I was in L.A. once during a Blue Moon,” he said. “Except I was undercover, so I got to help raise hell instead of keeping it under control. How many times have you worked a beat during moon madness?”
I glanced toward the rusted statue of a steel factory worker in the center of the square. “Enough to wish I had vacation saved up to get out of town.”
Another crowd had gathered near the statue, but I couldn’t see what attracted them there. But something kept my gaze locked on the spot. I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. Call it cop intuition. Call it woman’s intuition. Something was–
“Something’s wrong.” Morales went on alert like a hunting dog.
Danger sounds different. It has a distinctive pitch. Sound crystalizes, air tightens. The herd gets spooked, and an invisible wave of metallic energy permeates the air.
We pushed through a crowd of clueless parents and their agitated children. It took a full minute to make our way to the statue. Two uniformed cops with hawthorn defensive wands beat us there.
I assumed they take care of the threat. But in the next instant, a halo of energy flashed through the square. My nostrils flared at the acrid scent of ozone.
My protective instincts tightened my muscles for action. Someone was hexing the crowd with dirty magic.
Morales and I burst into the clearing. The first thing I saw was a cop humping the statue like a stripper on a pole. The other officer’s chest was bare and he was just a zipper away from flashing his little wand to the crowd. A woman undulated around the circle, her hands raised high above her head as if in surrender. A couple writhed on the ground. Hands groping. Mouths hungry. Pelvises grinding.
And standing over them all, holding a black plastic cauldron, was a mother-fucking leprechaun.