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It All Spirals to Broken

by Drake about a month ago in Mystery
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Chapter One

There weren’t always dragons in the Valley. If you trace the records back far enough, it was once a human settlement. But that was a long time ago, before the great split and our worlds fractured. Now the Valley belongs to the dragons, and humans can only be found in the remaining architecture.

- Prof. Eathe, Historian

“Elves don’t have ears like that. Their ears are a good five inches longer,” is the first thing out of Stella’s mouth five minutes into our movie.

I close my eyes and pray for patience. I doubt it will help. Stella loves talking through movies, and I’ve never had the heart to talk her out of it. But still … “I know that.” I send her a half-hearted glare. She sends me a grin, unrepentant.

Most of the time, it isn’t bad having Stella as a roommate. She respects my privacy, is fine with cuddles, and always makes sure to leave on the full moons before things get hairy. Besides, watching her get into an argument with the stray cat that claims a home near the back of our building is always entertaining. She is a good cook, too, a plus when the extent of my own cooking abilities reaches microwavable foods and nothing above. I can live with the occasional smell of wet dog and her insistence of talking through movies.

She is already on another tangent too. Her hands cut swaths in the air. Her eyes glow and a grin parts her lips. I snort at her excitement and turn my attention back to the movie. By now, I am used to filtering out the background noise.

The sound of the downstairs doorbell is something I am not used to interrupting our movie nights. It shatters through The Hobbit like cracking glass. Stella freezes. I can feel the stiffness in every point of contact, shoulder to shoulder and arm to arm.

“You did remember to flip the sign, right?” I take an unconcerned crunch of my popcorn while she answers.

“Yeah, I did.” She frowns, her eyes flicking back to the apartment door. “The hours are clear on the sign. Whoever it is can come back later.”

The doorbell rings again, loud, desperate. It reminds me of a screaming child. Stella had once told me that she used that type of doorbell because it instilled a sense of urgency in her.

I swallow my popcorn and raise my eyebrow. “I doubt they will. If they rung even with the sign, then they’ll just keep on ringing it.” My hand reaches out to fumble for the remote, hit pause.

For a moment, there is blissful silence as Stella considers, then the doorbell screams again. She bares her teeth, white and strong and far too sharp, in annoyance. “You’re right.” With a growl, she pushes herself to her feet. I guess she can count it lucky that she hasn’t changed into pajamas yet. “I’ll be back soon. Hopefully I can scare them away, so they’ll come back at a proper hour.”

“Don’t take too long. I might eat all the popcorn without you.” To prove my point, I chomp down on another handful.

She turns those bared teeth at me, but the sound she utters is playful. “Better not.” And with that, she is gone. I barely notice her move; she is so fast. Werewolves play on an entirely different level than pathetic humans like me.

I stare at the TV screen, chewing popcorn absentmindedly. The seconds pass, a minute, two. By the time five minutes hit, my appetite dims. She should be back by now. Stella is brisk about her hours. She is open till ten - she has to be open some time after dark for any vampire customers she might get - but the time after ten is reserved for us and sleep. It is odd for her to take so long kicking someone out. She has a bleeding heart, but she’s sensible.

My phone buzzes, and I reach for it automatically. Letters light up the screen.

Come downstairs. And bring the pad and pen.

That’s weird. I stand and tuck the phone into the waistband of my pajamas. I don’t pull of professional as well as Stella does, but when I tuck my shirt in, I look more artsy than ready to head to bed. It will have to do. I grab the notepad and pen.

It must be a client at the door. Not odd, Stella is a fairly good private eye, and asking for me to fetch the pen and pad isn’t odd either. Technically, I don’t work for her. But as a human I can get to places and information she can’t. What is weird is the fact she’s decided to take the case instead of telling whoever it was to come back later.

I understand why as soon as I clear the stairs and hear the sound of sobbing.

It’s not a pretty sound. I’ve heard it multiple times before from the lower level, enough times to be able to distinguish the types. This isn’t the quiet sniffles we sometimes get from people used to hiding their tears or faking them. They’re loud and broken. I can already imagine whoever it is shaking with the force of them. This person is desperate, and desperation brings the wolf out of Stella.

The sight of the office is the same one I expect to see when I clear the door. The lights are just lit, Stella’s desk cluttered with scraps of papers that flap with the draft from the cracked open door. The closed sign is wedged between the door and the doorframe. I step around the corners of the room quietly, past the cluttered bookshelves that line the walls, to close it properly. Rain splashes against the square window, leaves trails against the glass and iron filigree. The greeting mat is damp.

Stella hovers kneels on the ground before the chair, arms wrapped around a small form. It has to be our client. She’s not what I’m expecting. Young. Younger than most of our clients by a decade at least, although it’s always hard to tell with supernaturals. Her limbs are thin. The hair slicked against her skull and neck makes her look smaller. She shakes, from both the cold and crying. Her shoulders jut from her shirt like the wings of a baby bird, up and down with her sobs as if to mimic desperate flight.

No wonder she clings to Stella so.

As if she knows my thoughts flitted to her, Stella looks up. There’s a crease in her brows that I can’t read, her eyes shadowed. They drop again to the girl in her arms. The message is clear. I set the pad and pencil on the desk, then go fetch a blanket and some tea.

By the time I come back, blanket tossed over my shoulder and tray balanced in my hands, Stella has managed to calm the girl down. The chair practically swallows her up she looks so small. Legs pulled tight to her chest and arms wrapped around them, chin pressed against her knees. Her face is puffy and red from the tears, her eyes a watery blue. Stella still sits by her side, hand pressed against the girl’s arm.

Those gold eyes flick to me when I enter. “Thank you.” She murmurs.

“Not a problem.” I murmur back. It feels wrong to talk loud with someone in such grief right there.

She sends me a tight little smile, then turns to the girl. Her other hand reaches out to smooth back some tangled strands of hair. “Clarise, this is Lore. They’re my assistant.”

Clarise makes some noise in the back of her throat. Her eyes peer at me. “You are?”

I nod and set the tray down on the desk. “Stella is the brains of the operation,” I say, “but I do the grunt work.” I pull the blanket off my shoulder, walk over, and drape it over her. It’s a good blanket, thick and warm. Her fingers brush mine as she pulls it to her chin.

The electric spark that shoots through my skin is unmistakable. The flash of green in the depths of her eyes is the only confirmation I need. She’s a witch, not old enough to be in a coven yet, but she does have power.

It is obvious from the widening of her eyes that she knows what I am too. “Human.”

I am glad I am not smiling. It would have fallen if I were. I pull back, take a step towards the desk. “The one and only. Tea?”

She opens her mouth, brows furrowed. Stella speaks first. “Tea would be good, Lore. Clarise, would you like sugar or milk?”

The answer comes swift. No milk, two sugars. I nod and get started on the tea. It doesn’t take long. I don’t doctor mine, and Stella likes as much milk as the cup can hold. Soon enough I’m turning around, passing their teas to them. Clarise takes hers in a trembling grip. Stella holds hers one handed, the other still placed against Clarise’s shoulder. I take my seat on the desk, pad against my lap and pencil in my hand. We wait for a few moments for Clarise to sip her tea, for her shaking to ease and her tight posture to uncurl. Finally, it’s time to begin.

Stella speaks first, pitching her voice low. “Do you need a bit more time, Clarise? Or are you ready to tell us what is wrong.”

Clarise swallows hard, her fingers tightening around her cup. Her gaze flicks from Stella, to me. Finally, it settles on Stella. The known figure. The comforting one. She bites her bottom lip, then nods.

Stella’s hand flexes momentarily on her shoulder. A comforting gesture. Her voice stays just as soft as it had been. “Alright. Can I get your full name please? It will make our job easier.”

The answer is slow, but it comes. “Clarise Henderson.”

I write the name down, pencil scratching softly against the paper.

“Thank you, Clarise.” Stella sits down. Her hand moves to Clarise’s arm, her cup of tea set carefully on the floor. “Now, can you please tell us why you came here tonight?”

It’s like a flip is switched somewhere in Clarise. Her chin jerks up. Her fingers squeeze tight against the cup till her knuckles shine white. Pressed together, her lips tremble. Her voice comes out wobbly. “It’s my brother. He’s gone missing.” It rings through the air like it’s a grave pronouncement, heavy with his own importance.

Stella’s eyes flick to me. I meet them and raise an eyebrow. With a purse of her lips, she ducks her head. I scribble down two words on the notepad then wait as Stella turns once more to Clarise. What she doesn’t say is written in the stiff way she sits. A dozen children go missing every month here. The city is large, there are plenty of predators, and not all witch families can keep their homes guarded from a hungry fae on the wrong side of the law.

Stella’s voice stays steady and low. “Can you tell us more details, Clarise? Name, when he disappeared, where. All of these will help us find him.”

Unlikely as it may be.

One hand flips up to wipe at the wetness beneath Clarise’s eyes. “His name is James. James Henderson. He disappeared tonight. I was supposed to put him to bed. But he doesn’t like storms, and normally he’d be in bed already because of them, and I was busy playing a game and I didn’t check -” Her voice breaks into sob. Stella’s hands rub her arm.

I take the chance to steal a sip of my tea while Clarise collects herself and keeps on talking. “When I did check, he wasn’t there. He wasn’t there and his window was open and the floor was wet and I checked the whole house and he wasn’t there!”

Stella croons, reaching out to pull her close. My pen scratches along the paper, joined by the girl’s renewed sobbing. I glance at Stella, mouth ‘Parents?’ She shrugs, Clarise pressed against her chest and wrapped in her arms. I scribble the question down and drink my tea, listen to the patter of rain and the sobs that mingle with it.

Eventually they fade again. Clarise pulls back, shoulders hitching. Stella continues to rub her shoulder. “Did you tell your parents, Clarise?”

She shook her head. “My – my parents aren’t home right now. On a trip.”

Stella’s lips purse. She’s stiff, for a moment, hand stalling. “I see.” Two words. Cold voice, just tinged with a growl.

“What about the police?” The words come out tripped and rushed, pushed out too soon before Stella’s anger can truly register with Clarise. “Have you told them?”

She stares at me. “No. I saw the sign while I was running to the station. I had to try.”

We stare back at her. “Phone?” There’s a bit less anger in Stella’s voice and a bit more confusion.

“Mom doesn’t like them.” Clarise murmurs into the fabric of her jeans. “Dad and her are always arguing about it, but Mom’s old fashioned.”

I strangle down an eyeroll, but write the words down anyway. Stella continues to rub Clarise’s shoulder. “This is a case best left for the force.” She murmurs, voice low and soft again. “We’ll do what we can to look into it, but that’s not much. Alright?” She glances to me, one eyebrow raised. My nod is all she needs. “Lore will escort you to the station, alright? I’ll head to your house and see if I can track where he went. But you’ll have to give me your address.”

I don’t get the chance to change before walking Clarise down to the station. What I do get to do is grab a rain jacket and an umbrella before we leave. Clarise splashes beside me, body engulfed in Stella’s own parka, the shiny yellow attempting it’s best to make the rain less dreary. Or cold.

I hate cold rain. The way it makes my hair cling to the back of my neck and face. The droplets of water that always manage to soak through clothing and slip into any gap. The only good thing about cold rain is that it gives me the excuse to drink hot tea when I come inside. But as much as I want to, I don’t complain.

Neither does Clarise. She slumps beside me with her hands thrust in her pockets and her head tucked between her shoulders. Her chin juts out slightly. Her lips are bloodless. For all Stella’s assurances that we will do what we can, she doesn’t seem assured. I can’t really blame her. Brother missing, parents out … god, I want to tug her into a hug. Stella’s rubbing off on me, I swear.

Eventually, I can’t take the silence anymore. “Stella will find something. You’ll see.”

She stiffens a bit, as if my speaking has startled her. Sullen blue eyes pear up from the shadow of that yellow hood. “You can’t promise that.” Her voice wobbles. It’s nearly drowned out by the rain against the umbrella and the splashes of our feet.

“I can’t promise she’ll find your brother. But she will find something. I can promise you that.”

She doesn’t answer. The sound of the rain closes in again. In the distance, thunder rumbles. I tighten my grip on the umbrella, feel the ridges of the handle press against my palm. The wind is picking up. Its howl covers whatever speech we might have attempted if I weren’t human, and her brother wasn’t missing.

By the time we get to the police station, it feels like a hurricane. The doors refuse to open, the wind pushing at our backs and tugging at our clothes. The force of it wrenches the umbrella from my grip. We’re soaked immediately. Clarise hides under what little shelter my body gives as I attempt to yank the door open. Finally, someone takes pity on us. The promise of warmth and light and safety no longer looks out from behind glass as we spill in.

Our savior stands to the side. When he lets go of the door, the wind slams it shut so hard the frame rattles. An eyebrow rises over red eyes. Vampire. “This is certainly a night for a woman and a child to be out. Enjoy getting drenched?”

My lips twist, and I don’t bother to try hide the reaction. Alex is not worth the effort. No matter how many times I’ve corrected this ass, he never calls me by my preferred pronouns. I am not a woman. I am not a girl. And every time he calls me such I want to scream. But I can’t right now. Clarise and her brother are more important than how much I want to deck this man.

Instead of giving into the urge, I make a show of brushing the rain off of my jacket before I acknowledge him. “Wouldn’t you like to know.” It comes with out more snap than I want, and I clench my teeth. Professional. I have to be professional. I can complain about the damn vampire to Stella later.

He crosses his arms and smirks. “I would, but I can hazard a guess.” His eyes flick down to Clarise. She crowds against me, fingers tightening in the folds of the jacket. It seems she’s decided I’m more trustworthy than the vampire. Or at least she can throw me in front if he attacks.

He won’t attack. For all that he’s an ass, Alex is professional.

He crouches, all the amusement at my soggy predicament wiped away behind a softer smile. One where his fangs are tucked away so Clarise can pretend they’re not there. “Hello there,” he murmurs, and it’s all smooth layers. Vampire’s mesmer put to good use instead of luring in prey. “I’m Alex. You are?”

Clarise relaxes against my side. The tug on my jacket lessens. “Clarise.”

“Last name?”

“Henderson.”

“Alright, Clarise. Can you tell me what happened?” Alex continues. There’s a lilt in his voice like a song and Clarise relaxes further. I’m not relaxing. I want to snap at him more for using the mesmer on a kid.

“My brother disappeared.” The shake in her voice is back. I reach down and squeeze her shoulder, pair it with a glare that Alex ignores.

“I see.” He gives her a small smile, the type that is supposed to be reassuring. “I’ll need to ask a few questions, but I am certain we’ll be able to help. Will you come with me, Clarise? Just to somewhere more comfortable so we can talk.”

Even through the mesmer, she freezes. Those blue eyes flick to me. I cross my arms and stare him down. “I’m afraid that I’ll have to come along with her, Alex. Clarise came to Stella and me first. Stella’s already accepted the case. She goes nowhere without one of us.”

For a moment, the professional façade breaks. There’s a sneer on his lips. It’s clear what he thinks of Clarise staying with a packless werewolf and a human. Still, he won’t kick up a fuss, not in front of Clarise. I’m expecting a long-winded argument later, though. One in which I will be happy to vent my own frustration.

Alex turns to Clarise once more, that gentle smile back on his lips. “Shall we go to my office? I’ll send a secretary for a drink or two while you answer my questions.”

Clarise nods. “I’d like a drink.”

Alex’s office is infuriatingly well put together compared to Stella’s own. The picture frames – all boring landscapes from foreign, non-city places – are aligned straight on the walls, not a crooked one to be seen. Everything on the bookshelves is placed with the same neat precision. He even has a picture frame on his desk, a small one in the exact place one would expect someone to have a picture of their family. I hate that little picture frame more than anything else in this office. If only for the fact that vampires can’t take pictures and Alex is far too old to have a picture of someone living on his desk.

I am almost certain that Alex isn’t his real name.

But the sight of this neat, professional office seems to relax Clarise, which I suppose is all that matters. The drink the secretary brings for her, another warm cup of tea, does more. By the time he gets around to asking his questions, Clarise no longer looks like she will bolt at the first opportunity. I listen with half an ear. Most of the questions he asks are familiar ones, and I jot down the few erroneous details that Clarise hadn’t told Stella. James’ bedroom is on the second floor. He didn’t like climbing since he broke his leg. Their parents were often away on coven business. The dad’s phone number. I only look up from my notebook when Alex asks a question that doesn’t match the rest.

“Did you hear music before you checked up on James?”

Clarise freezes. Her fingers flex on the sides of her cup. “Yes, but the neighbors are always playing loud music.”

“What type?”

“Rock. It has a lot of bad words in it.”

“Clarise,” I ask, “what type of music was playing last night?”

She starts, as if she’s forgotten I’m here even if I’m sitting right beside her. Her eyes flick between me and Alex’s face, then she looks down. Her fingers smooth out a wrinkle in her soaked jeans. Finally, her voice pipes up, words coming slow. “It wasn’t rock. It was light. Pretty. Like windchimes. I remember thinking that it was odd that I could hear it over the thunder.”

I don’t think any of us speaks for a long time. The sound of the clock fills the air between our breaths. Rain pounds against the roof in a low drumroll. Slowly, I write the words down. The sound of my pen against the paper is too loud. It stirs Alex. His chest inflates like he’s just remembered to imitate life.

“I see.” He says. “Clarise, could you give us a moment? Lore and I need to talk.”

She hesitates, glances to me. It’s petty that it feels like a victory, but it does.

“Who will watch her?” I ask.

Alex’s eyes flick to me, and his lips twist. “Bethany. She’s a wolf. She’ll keep her safe.”

I hesitate a moment myself. I may not like Alex, but another wolf is a different story. Pack instincts run high when children are involved. So, in the end, I nod. “It will be alright. I’ll be out soon as I can.”

“Okay.” It’s a small sound. We watch her slip out of the chair and walk out of the room. She pauses once at the door, fingers gripping the handle, to look back at us. I attempt a smile. I don’t think it works, but it seems to be enough. She slips out. The door closes behind her. The dull thud rolls over every noise in the room.

“You do know what this means?” Alex says as soon as the reverberations end. He’s dropped the professional calm talk. The words are just short of nasty.

I grit my teeth. My fingers flex against my notebook. The clip on my pen presses hard into my palm. “Yes, I do. It can’t have been a siren, we’re too far from the cost for that. It must have been a spell.”

“And that means James was kidnapped.” He finishes the thought before I can.

It also means Stella won’t catch his scent. Someone with the power to mimic a siren’s song and catch only one person in the notes would be skilled enough to hide their tracks. And since it’s doubtful that Clarise’s parents hadn’t made a barrier field of some sort, it meant that James had been targeted for a reason. This hadn’t been some spontaneous thing. This had been a plot.

I unlock my jaw from where it’s locked into place. “Someone targeted him.”

“That is what the evidence suggests.” Alex mutters. He lets out a harsh sigh, links his fingers together.

He’s hiding something from me. I scowl. “What is it?”

An eyebrow ticks up in response. “What is what?”

“You know something.”

“I do.”

“So, tell me.”

His jaw clenches at that. I lean forwards. The paper bends in my palm, the grooves of my pen bite into my skin. Yet still, Alex stays stubbornly silent. I’m tempted to hit him for more then just the respect problem now. He’s hiding something from me, which means he’s hiding something from Stella. She could be in danger, and that thought brings a lump clogging my throat.

“Stella’s already taken the case.” I push.

And Alex breaks. He lets out a faint hiss. His fingers tighten around each other until the knuckles glow white. “James isn’t the first child to have gone missing to a siren’s song in the past five months. There’s been three others. Two girls, another boy. All three of them belonged to a witch family. Like Clarise and James, their parents weren’t home. They were never first born either, always second or third children. There are probably more that we don’t know of.”

The news knocks the breath from me. I sink back in my seat, staring at him. The way he doesn’t quite look at me, eyes focused on his hands. The twist in his lips. My hand reaches automatically for my phone. This is too big news for me. And Stella is out, right now, searching for James and unaware what she could be going up against. The phone hits the desk. I’m already dialing her number, hitting speaker.

She answers on the first ring. “What is it?”

“It’s me, Stella. I’m with Alex. He has information about James.”

For a moment, there’s nothing but the crackle of the rain. Then Stella speaks. “Alright. Spill.”

And Alex repeats it all. Somehow, it’s worse hearing it a second time. I can imagine Stella, out alone in the storm somewhere, desperately searching for this boy’s scent without knowing that her search is doomed. The particular frozen quality to her face as Alex finishes his spill. The snarl she’s holding down. How her eyes have brightened to gold, teeth sharper then they had been before. I want to reach through the phone and smooth that look away, tell her we’ll figure it out.

“Hire us.” Stella’s voice comes out rough.

I was expecting this. Alex wasn’t. He starts, eyes widening. “Excuse me?”

“Hire us. Lore is right there; they can take the job now. Clarise came to us. I’m at her house now. Lore and I are already a part of this case, and if there are more missing kids out there, you can bet I’m hunting them down too. Make this easier on everyone and hire us.”

Silence again. Alex looks shocked. I cross my arms and watch him. Stella is right. As much as I hate Alex, it would be easier to work with the police instead of against. They have their way of doing things and we have ours, but this way we won’t be stepping on any professional toes - just personal ones. We can cover each other’s blind spots.

He must realize it too because he groans. “Fine, fine. I’ll send a unit out to the house to meet you and take a statement. Is there anything else you have to say to me?”

“No. Lore, are you still there?”

“I have nowhere else to be.”

“Take care of Clarise for me, will you?”

“I will. Just please, be careful.”

“Of course.”

There’s a click when she hangs up. I reach over to slip the phone into my pocket once more. The clock ticks. The rain drums. My breath fills the air. Alex has stopped pretending to breathe. He stares at the desk, furrow between his brows. Finally, he looks up. “I’m assuming you two will want to be paid?”

“Good guess.” I place my notebook down, lay my pen on top of it. “Will you be able to work with Stella and I without clawing your hair out?”

“Only if you can do the same.”

“I wouldn’t have to if you would just -”

Alex stands, and the scrape of his chair against the floor cuts my words short. “I’ll go get the papers to fill out. Do try not to burn down my office in the meantime.”

“No promises,” I grit out.

He walks out. I watch him from the corner of my eye, listen to the thud of his footsteps against the floorboards. The door closes behind him. It’s only now that my hands unclench. I swallow hard and smooth out the imprint of my fingernails. Outside, the rain drums, thunder rumbles, more distant than it had been before. It’s moving on. I want to move on with it.

Mystery

About the author

Drake

Nothing will change if you don't take that first step forwards. So take it. What could go wrong?

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (11)

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  • Kyle Edwin Salveson24 days ago

    This made me very nostalgic for the fantastical mystery thrillers of my youth. I would read this cover to cover in one sitting. With some superficial editing, I would send this to print! Great job, very fun to read.

  • Jenna Wintersabout a month ago

    This truly reads like a YA fiction novel. The way you wove world building, character personalities, descriptions, dialog, etc. was done seamlessly. You have hooked me into wanting to uncover the many story lines you have laid down, not only with Clarise's brother, but the characters themselves, like Stella being packless, and Lore's backstory. It was a very memorable and intriguing story. Fantastic work!

  • Amanda Terraneabout a month ago

    This story is so much fun! The world is rich and deep and the plot is intriguing. I also love that you have a non-binary character, you did a good job of introducing them in the story.

  • BTabout a month ago

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Great work!

  • Jorden Darrettabout a month ago

    Very good story, possibly the best I've read on here so far

  • Cassandra Campbell about a month ago

    That was fun! I would love to read more.

  • Peters Poisonabout a month ago

    I need more!!

  • Never stop caring for your imagination. This is proof you already know how. ;)

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Donna Foxabout a month ago

    This is really well written. I love your original plot and how driven to detail you are! Keep up the great work!

  • April Denise Stuartabout a month ago

    This is a great prologue. If you can, please check out my writing. Thank you.

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