“And you’re positive this will work?”
Frederick didn’t have to see Vivian’s face to know that she was rolling her eyes at him.
“For the fifth time, yes,” she said.
“Uh-huh,” he hummed, watching her gouge out small slivers of wood from the frame of the hall bathroom’s mirror. “And we’ll be able to get case files, notes, and such this way?”
Vivian pushed an irritated sigh out through her nose, “Yes, Frederick!” She shot a glare at him from over her shoulder.
Hands held up in surrender, Frederick backed away and plopped down on the couch directly behind her. She watched him with narrowed eyes, the bridge of her nose crinkled in agitation. He simply raised a brow at her to which she huffed and faced forward. Frederick grinned, all fang, and settled back into the cushions, letting the gentle energy of her magic wash over him as he watched her work.
He suppressed a purr at the vision she made, bent over the coffee table like that, and rested an ankle over his knee to hide the growing bulge in his jeans. It didn’t help that she was wearing an old academy t-shirt and a pair of basketball shorts of his that she’d found in the spare room closet.
She was beautiful.
Frederick found himself thinking that every time he looked at her, and every time it wasn’t any less true. Ever since their little heart-to-heart a week ago, she’d become more comfortable around him, and had taken to spending time with him in the living room or in his workroom. Most mornings she’d join him in the basement (where he spent his nights) with a cup of sweet-smelling coffee, and they’d talk quietly about anything and nothing as he drew.
He’d learned quite a bit about her in that time. Like that she’d normally spend her evenings snuggled up with Slink, engrossed in a book after a long day at the apothecary. Or that she’d spend hours, sometimes days, researching a new potions project. And despite being a witch, she disliked the color black; she preferred more natural tones like green or brown. She also had an unhealthy obsession with pasta, which he’d had to stock up on as she had made it nearly every night for dinner this past week.
It was all so endearingly domestic that he’d put off trying to find a way to research the case. Until Vivian had asked about it, that is.
She’d been rather perturbed with him all of last night and into this morning after he’d admitted he had no way of getting information on the case, and that he hadn’t exactly been trying to find a way to get any either. The consequence had been her absence from their morning coffee and talk session. Slink had still joined him at least.
“Okay!” Vivian exclaimed, breaking him from his thoughts. “All done!”
Frederick dropped his foot to the floor and sat forward. “It’s ready?”
The little witch carefully moved the mirror from the coffee table to the floor, propping it up on the edge. “Yep! We should test it out first though.” Vivian then knelt in front of the mirror, hands on her knees.
“Uh… Test it how?” he asked, leaning over to try and get a look at her face in the mirror.
Properly chastised, Frederick fell back in against the cushions, grumbling under his breath. There was an odd wheezing sound beside him, and he glanced down to find Slink sitting there staring at him with narrow-eyed amusement. Had, had the weasel just snickered at him? What a rude little beast.
Vivian’s magic surged throughout the room, distracting him and inducing hair-raising goosebumps all along his body. When he looked back at her, he found her on her feet, dancing about in a little circle with a brilliant smile on her face. “It works!” She waved a familiar coffee mug around in the air in front of his face.
“Is that one of my coffee mugs?” Frederick asked, reaching forward to take it from her.
She nodded. “Yep!” He turned the mug over in his hands. “I had to take something from somewhere I was familiar with, and I didn’t want to risk taking anything from my house or shop, so… I took a mug from the cabinet.” Vivian shrugged.
“Wait,” Frederick looked up at her. “How are we going to get the case files then?”
The little witch’s smile turned into a rather disconcerting grin. “We aren’t. You are.”
“Me?” He glanced down at Slink with a bewildered expression. “In case you forgot,” he turned his gaze back to Vivian, “I’m a half-breed, not a witch. I can’t use magic.”
Vivian simply waved him off. “I have ways around that. Come on.” She plopped back down on the floor and patted the space next to her. “Let’s get started.”
Unsure but unwilling to argue, Frederick did as instructed, and sat cross-legged on the floor beside her. In front of the mirror, he couldn’t help but take a moment to admire the image the two of them made.
Where she was bright and full of color, he was dull and dark, cast in shadows. Where she was willowy and lithe, he was all rugged angles and lumbering bulk. The only real similarity they had in looks was their pallid skin tone. Although, hers happened to be broken up by a smattering of freckles across her cheekbones, which were now stained a mouth-watering red.
Frederick purred, the sound rumbling low in his chest, and he glanced up in time to catch the little witch’s eyes darting away from his direction. His purr rose in pitch when he realized she’d been admiring him just as he’d been her. Vivian shifted at the sound, her breath catching in her throat. Encouraged, Frederick leaned closer; close enough that the tip of his nose brushed the silky strands of the hair on her scalp.
He couldn’t help but scent her, and every ounce of blood in his body began to boil with the first breath. Fire scorched down his throat, blazing a trail through his torso before settling low in his gut.
“F-Frederick?” Vivian squeaked out. “Frederick!” The sharp sting of a slap to his thigh jolted him back to a more human state of mind.
Frederick opened his eyes, unaware that he’d closed them, to find a pair of wide, frantic eyes staring up at him. Clearing his throat, he softly apologized, “I’m, uh, I’m sorry, Vivian.” He dropped the hand that had been raised halfway towards her into his lap. “I don’t know what came over me…” That was a lie, but he wasn’t going to admit otherwise.
“I-It’s o-okay,” she stuttered. “We should, uh, focus though. Get back to work.” Vivian turned her eyes to the mirror, and Frederick straightened up, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it.
“Yeah, right. Let’s do that.”
They were silent, a heavy tension stretching out between them, and Frederick could easily hear the rapid beating of her heart. He was positive the pace of it was from fear, not arousal; if that were the case, he’d be able to smell it. And if he so much as caught a whiff of her arousal - well - there’d be no stopping him from claiming her.
The inferno in his gut burned hotter at the thought, and his cock strained in his jeans as his fangs pushed against his gums. Damn it! Get a hold of yourself!
“What do I need to do?” he bit out in an attempt to get himself focused on the task at hand.
“Oh, right, uh…” He felt her shift beside him, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her hand lift in between them, palm up. “Take my hand.” After a brief moment of hesitation, he slotted his fingers in between hers.
He stared down at their intertwined fingers as he asked, “Now what?”
Before he had even finished his question, electricity had begun to dance across his fingertips, slithering over his palm, and then trailed up the inside of his forearm to the crook of his elbow.
“I’ll push my magic through you,” she told him, and he realized what he was feeling was her magic. He’d never felt it in such a raw form before... “While I’m doing that, you’ll think of the places you need to get stuff from,” her magic was now sliding across his chest, caressing his skin in a most distracting way, “and then reach through the mirror to grab it.”
It took him a moment to find his tongue, too focused on the electricity now tickling his right bicep. “Just, uh, just think of the place, and reach through the mirror?” he repeated, his voice embarrassingly breathless. “Sounds, uh,” he cleared his throat, his fingers twitching as her magic pooled into the crook of his elbow. “Sounds easy enough.”
“If you’re sure…” Vivian said slowly. “Let’s give it a go then.”
“Um,” he tore his gaze away from their hands to look up at her face. “Now?”
She flashed him a reserved smile and said, “Yes, now. Unless you want to wait another week.”
“Well,” he paused to flex his unencumbered hand that rested in his lap. Her magic had reached it at this point, wrapping around it like a warm, buzzing glove. “I suppose now is as good a time as any.”
“Go ahead, then,” she said, tugging gently on his hand that she held in hers.
Frederick took a deep breath then let it out. “Right. Okay.” He supposed they should start with Borris’ desk, so he thought of the pristine, dust-free desk his partner loved to hate.
He could see the glossy oak finish of the desktop, and the monochromatic photo of him and his missus on their bonding day situated proudly in the left corner. A twinge of guilt tickled the bottom of Frederick’s stomach as he looked at the ugly but serene smile on Borris’ face. Despite how justified he knew his actions were, he’d still betrayed his partner in the worst of ways. He’d have to make it up to him somehow after all of this was over.
Sighing, he pushed those thoughts and feelings to the side in order to refocus. Now, where did Borris keep all his important files again? Ah! He remembered; bottom right drawer.
With that image in the forefront of his mind, Frederick reached for the mirror, which was no longer showing their reflection but the inside of the bottom right drawer of Borris’ desk. “He normally keeps all active cases at the front,” he told Vivian as he trailed his fingertips over the file tabs.
Amazing… His - yes, his - little witch’s magic was extraordinary. His little witch was extraordinary.
Laughing, Frederick ran his index finger back up the row of files. “This beats the P.I.U. scrying mirrors by a long shot,” he stated matter of factly.
After another noisy pass of his fingers over each file, he tugged out the one that had ‘Blackwood’ scrawled across the tab in his partner’s blocky handwriting. He set the surprisingly thin case file aside as he considered where any other information would be stored. The only other place he could think of was Moore’s desk.
With his lips turned down in distaste, Frederick racked his brain for the few memories he had of the human’s desk. The mirror shimmered and rippled as he jumped from thought to thought until it finally settled on the image of a bleak utilitarian desk. It was devoid of any personal effects, and only had a single drawer on the left side. He barely recalled catching a glimpse of the inside of the drawer, but it was enough for the mirror to reflect its image.
The inside of the drawer had a single plain manila folder resting at the bottom with ‘Blackwood’ stamped on the front. Even without touching it he could tell it was three times as thick as Borris’ folder.
What could Moore possibly have on his little witch that his partner didn’t?
Scowling, Frederick ripped the folder from the drawer and smacked it down on top of the one beside him. “That should be everything,” he told Vivian, his tone a little sharper than he’d meant it to be.
“Okay,” she murmured. “I’ll release our link then.”
Vivian tugged her hand from his grasp, and the comforting blanket of her magic suddenly snapped, leaving him feeling terribly cold and alone despite her warmth at his side. In the mirror, the angry pinch of his face gave way to a crestfallen frown.
Tucking his chin to his chest to hide his face, Frederick said, “You, uh, take Borris’ notes, and I’ll handle Moore’s. That okay?”
“Sure. Whatever you think is best.” She held her hand out for the file, which he quickly handed over before pulling himself up onto the couch with Moore’s file in hand.
Vivian remained on the floor, and that was just fine with him; he needed to focus anyway. As his little witch began to scour the contents of her file, Frederick did the same with his.
The topmost items were what he would expect to be in a case file: crime scene photos, witness and suspect statements, copies of the evidence logs. But what came after those gave him pause. Pages upon pages of handwritten notes, and an old case file that Frederick didn’t recognize. He decided he’d skim over the case file first.
“What the hell?” he muttered, squinting at the grainy crime scene photos that had been copied and printed onto paper.
They looked like pictures of a murder, but it was hard to tell. It honestly just looked like a bunch of vague shadows and shapes to him. Flipping to the next page, he found a photo of - was that? - it was! The photo was of a young Moore, probably around six or seven years old, sitting in the back of an ambulance.
Confused but intrigued, Frederick read through the case a little slower. Well… No wonder Moore was a paranormal hating asshole. It seemed that his mother had been targeted and killed by a witch, which had resulted in a young Moore becoming an orphan. With no leads and practically no evidence to speak of, they’d never caught the witch, and the case had gone cold several years later. But what did this have to do with Vivian?
Setting the cold case to the side, Frederick turned his attention to Moore’s notes. The first several pages looked to be the ramblings of a crazy man. It was just a bunch of hate speech towards any and all things paranormal, especially witches. Moore certainly hated them, and he’d recited in detail of each time he'd managed to lock a witch up. There was never any doubt of their guilt despite their testimony. They were witches, and to Moore, that seemed to mean that they were guilty.
So, what did he have to say about Vivian then? Frederick shuffled the pages around until he found the more recent entries.
“Finally, they’ve brought in another witch. I’ve put in a special request with Chief Carr to be placed as lead human detective on this one. He didn’t even bat an eye at my insistence. He’s always pleased with my swift work, so why should this case prove to be any different? Anything I can do to put these abominations behind bars will be done. Afterall, they’re all guilty of something.”
Anything he can do to put them behind bars? Could that mean…? Frederick quickly moved on to the next entry.
“No matter what this creature says, she is guilty. There is no evidence suggesting otherwise, and her pleas of innocence mean nothing. Not to me. I’ll be sure she’s found guilty one way or another. Just as I promised Mother I would. They will all hang just the same as she did.”
Frederick read that last sentence over and over as horror mounted in his gut. Had Moore planted false evidence on those other cases? Had he on Vivian’s? Moore might be a disgusting slimeball, but he wasn’t an idiot. He couldn’t imagine the human being stupid enough to incriminate himself in such a careless way as writing out his guilt. These entries certainly begged the question though - was Moore crooked?
“Find anything?” Frederick startled and looked down to find Vivian staring up at him.
“Uh…” he glanced at the papers in his hands then back at her. “Possibly. What about you?”
Vivian shrugged, “Nothing I didn’t already know.” She lifted the file from her lap and handed it to him. “Your friend takes thorough notes.”
“Yeah, he always has,” he said, flipping through what Borris had collected.
Vivian was right, it wasn’t anything they didn’t already know except - hang on - he hadn’t known that.
“You’re the only witch that sells to humans?”
“Hmm?” Vivian paused in her stroking of Slink’s head to meet his gaze. “Oh, yeah. Witches won’t normally risk selling to humans, but since my parents are human, I didn’t see an issue with it.”
Frederick didn’t think that sounded right so he asked, “Wait, I thought witch remedies didn’t work for humans. Something about the lack of magic or whatever.”
“That’s true,” Vivian answered. “But I figured out a way to make potions and such work for both paranormal and non-paranormals.”
“Huh…” Smart woman. Or perhaps not so much in this case.
Frederick shuffled through the last few pages of Borris’ file before returning to Moore’s. There was only a brief note in the human detective’s case file that mentioned it, but nothing to suggest he’d known about it beforehand or had used it to his advantage. Which led to the terrifying realization that everything pointed to Vivian being guilty. There was nothing in either file that would suggest her innocence besides her verbal testimony.
By all accounts, Vivian was the perfect suspect. She came from a human family, had a great working knowledge of potions and their ingredients, and she was the only witch that catered to both human and paranormal clientele. On the other hand, if anyone were looking to condemn a witch, Vivian was the perfect target.
With the evidence the P.I.U. had against her, her guilt was unquestionable. It didn’t matter that he knew she didn’t do it, or that she’d told them it wasn’t her.
There were no other suspects, and according to Borris’ notes, no other deaths since she’d been brought in. The only so-called lead Frederick had was a vague hunch that Moore might have planted evidence, but that was so incredibly far-fetched, and with no evidence except hate speech, no one would believe him. Hell! He hardly believed it himself.
Frederick sighed as he closed the files and dropped them to the floor. Leaning forward, he took Vivian’s hands in his.
“I know this looks...bad,” he said quietly, rubbing the pad of his thumb over her knuckles, “but we’ll figure it out.” Frederick lifted his gaze to her eyes, and, keeping her hands in one of his, reached out with the other to cup her cheek. “I promise.”
His little witch gave him a sad, wobbly smile as her eyes misted over. She closed them before any tears could escape, and pressed her warm cheek further into his palm.
Frederick bent his head over hers to bury his nose in her hair, and whispered soothing words against her forehead. “It’s gonna be okay, I promise.”
He just hoped he wouldn’t break that promise…