Chapter one


Special Agent Magnus Fallows, more commonly known as Magnus, ghost chaser, or FBI guy depending on the person speaking, slammed the door of his office shut, twirled, and leaned his back on it, fists clenched, jaw locked tight. Closing his eyes, his head banged against the solid wooden door, not that he felt any pain. He’d learned to shut that annoying emotion down two years before.

It’s not your case anymore….

It’s been solved…

Leave it, Fallows, it’s not your concern.

For fuck’s sake, Fallows, like I’d let someone like you near traumatized witnesses.

Don’t you understand man? The kidnapping franchise rings are being dismantled as we speak – victims are being found and sent home – you have a dozen other cases…

“A dozen other cases, my ass,” Magnus muttered as he opened his eyes and pushed himself off the door. Stomping around to the working side of his desk, he plonked himself in his chair and flicked his computer mouse to wake his screen. Typing in his password, he clicked the file marked “Current” sneering as it opened.

“Oh, yes, what have we got. Suspected sighting of Bigfoot in a mountain range I can’t even pronounce… A swamp monster terrorizing alligator… a couple claiming they’ve been probed by aliens during a consensual abduction… shit, all I’m missing is the Roswell file.” Magnus clicked the file shut and opened his private email.

There was nothing from Thalassa, the mysterious research geek from the paranormal security firm Magnus lucked into contacting. He remembered having so much hope that day. He’d finally been given a chance to talk to a single victim of the sex slave ring that was capturing people right off the streets to meet specific physical descriptions. Magnus hadn’t cared about the sicko’s who were ordering these people as if off a takeout menu. They were getting caught, and yes, victims were being saved. But Magnus was sure the ring was connected to something higher up – something so much more than could be seen on the surface. The money involved was huge, and that had to be financing something bigger.

No one had believed him except the mysterious guy at the other end of the email – Kelvin Thalassa. Magnus had met two of the brothers – Alexi and Victor Thalassa. He hadn’t been impressed. He didn’t have a clue what species they were, and it was no longer considered PC to ask, but they walked around like they owned the freaking earth, and it was only through sheer luck and a mating bond between one of the brothers and a vampire, that Magnus had been given a chance to speak to the victim, Azim, at all.

And I almost fucked that up from the very first question. Magnus was the first to admit he was a proud man, but he admitted his rare mistakes when he made them. Even thinking about that day, the first question he asked was a clear case of victim shaming. It hadn’t been intentional and Azim’s actions, slamming Magnus against a wall and damn near choking him were understandable. Not to mention impressive for the tiny vampire to do because Magnus was no slouch in the strength department. Being impressed didn’t lessen the humiliation, however.

I didn’t know. Magnus twisted back and forth in his chair, his head back, as he stared at the ceiling. I didn’t know the victims were targeted, ordered by physical traits – black hair, blond hair, chubby, slender, boobs, dick – fuck, did you want fries with that?

Unfortunately, knowing that now didn’t make Elsa’s disappearance any easier to handle. Sitting upright in his chair, Magnus glanced at the tiny picture stuck on the side of his pen holder. He and his sister looked so much alike – dark curly hair, dark eyes with that unusual pale green hue of his animal side, tall but with a swimmer’s build.

Elsa had been swimming the day she’d been taken. Magnus had been on a job in another town. He’d come back exhausted, crawled into the apartment they shared, and immediately knew something was wrong. Calls to her cell phone went unanswered, and none of her friends had heard from her in more than a week. The only lead he had was one of her friends saying they’d planned to meet up after Elsa had gone swimming, but Elsa had never arrived.

Pounding the streets, Magnus eventually found Elsa’s bag and cell phone – being kept by a drunk rough sleeper. All that person could say was that they’d found it in the trash by the local swimming pool. He mentioned a pretty lady, a white van with masked men, and a cloth being put over the pretty lady’s head, making her flop. Then he insisted on a hundred dollars before he’d give the bag and cell phone back to Magnus.

After that, the case went cold. No body, no leads, and so far, no word of who might’ve taken her. Her scents from her bedding and her clothes left hanging in the closet eventually dissipated. Magnus had sealed her bag and a couple of pieces of her dirty washing into an airtight bag, hoping that one day his sister’s scent would be useful, but as time went on…

Fuck, why hasn’t Thalassa contacted me? Magnus checked his emails again, but there was nothing new. He checked his cell phone – sometimes the annoying accountant sent him text messages and occasionally called. I don’t need him to do that today. No, Magnus had to stay focused, and the fact the Thalassa accountant’s voice had him springing wood was going to remain a state fucking secret.

“Hey, ghost chaser.” Eric Scanlon, one of Magnus’s co-workers rapped on the door, opened it, and stuck his head around it, before Magnus had a chance to respond. “The Supervisor wants to see you. I think you’re going Bigfoot hunting. What a hoot. Don’t forget to take a six pack and you can have a beer with him.”

Scanlon wasn’t only a co-worker, he was a giant pain in Magnus’s ass, and not in that fun way. Presenting as an overgrown jock who’d mentally never progressed beyond those years in college when he would’ve been a captain of something. Every shirt he wore was a size too small. His aviator sunglasses never left his face in public, inside or out. His only voice volume was loud, and he made sure everyone around him could share his jokes – which were never funny. Like now.

Sighing, Magnus put his computer back to sleep, grabbed a piece of paper out from his top drawer, and got out of his seat. A summons from his supervisor was never to be ignored but he was prepared this time. “Were you feeling jealous, Scanlon?” he asked slipping past the man who took up most of the doorway. “I can put in a good word for you with the boss if you’re feeling left out. I’ve got plenty of other things I can be doing.”

“Nah, man, this case is made for you.” Scanlon wacked Magnus across the shoulders – another one of those passive bully moves. Fortunately, Magnus was used to it and didn’t even flinch. “Face it, even if you find the big furry nutter, he’s not likely to care if you’re an epic fail at interview skills. He’ll be just glad of the beer.”

Okay, that did make Magnus flinch, but he refused to let it show, the same as he didn’t even acknowledge the laughter following Scanlon’s words from the others in the outer office, which followed him through the huge room and down the short hallway to the reception desk outside of the supervisor’s sanctuary. Rendall, the fae manning the desk buzzed him in straight away, and squaring his shoulders, Magnus ran the fingers of his free hand through his hair and entered on command.

“Special Agent Fallows.” Supervisor Amy Days pursed her lips at him as he stood at parade rest in front of her desk. Only a fool would sit down uninvited. Magnus knew she’d never liked him – he was too abrupt and not prone to ass-kissing – but she couldn’t fire him thanks to his exceptionally high solve rate. That didn’t mean she made life any easier for him.

“I have had three complaints about you from senior staff in the past week, interfering and sticking your nose into cases that do not concern you.” Ms. Days glared over her paperwork. “I realize you believe you are the only person capable of solving cases in this office, but everyone else who works here has had the same training you have and are just as competent.”

They don’t have my case solve rate. Keeping his face expression free, Magnus focused his gaze on the diploma Ms. Days had on the wall behind her desk. His supervisor wasn’t looking for a response.

“It has been suggested, and I agree, that you could do with some time out of the office.” Ms. Days shuffled her papers around. “Ah, yes. I assume you have already read the case notes on the complaint about a possible Bigfoot in the Arkansas area?”

Shifting his weight from one foot to the next and then back again, Magnus said, “There’s no such thing as a Bigfoot ma’am. Despite copious hunts for a creature meeting that designation, in every case in the past fifty years, the sightings have been proven to be a hoax.

“But in response to your question, yes, I have read the case file. There is no evidence of any damage listed in the notes, no one has been hurt by said sightings, and even if the creature did exist which is highly unlikely, said creature has not committed any crimes that the FBI might be concerned with. My respectful suggestion is that the case be handed over to the CIA. Ma’am.”

“Special Agent Fallows!” Clearly not amused, her icy contempt had morphed into sharp anger. “May I remind you we serve the people of this great nation. We protect people – paranormal and human alike. We stay ahead of the threats to our people by staying prepared, which means seeking out all possible threats, no matter what form they take. What if this Bigfoot sighting is a front for a terrorist organization? A new group of paranormal beings we’ve never come across before?”

It wasn’t. Magnus had been sent to find Bigfoot before. It was a standard FBI punishment for anyone who didn’t follow the rules, or who became too persistent in digging up things the organization would rather move on from.

“With all due respect, ma’am, you know, and I know the Bigfoot complaint was lodged by a group of people who likely haven’t seen anyone outside of a family member in the last five decades. It is highly possible they are pickled in moonshine and are simply looking for someone else to inflict their delusions on. That person will not be me.”

“That person will be you, Special Agent. Those people are taxpayers and have a right to see their agencies at work. They laid a complaint with the FBI, and an FBI Special Agent will attend and handle the case in a thorough, respectful, and efficient manner. Do I make myself clear?”

“I apologize that I will not be able to serve the people of Arkansas in this matter, at this time.” Pulling his hands around to his front, Magnus smoothed the piece of paper in his hands and then laid it on her desk. “Unfortunately, as you can see, I will be on paid leave for the next month – extenuating family circumstances, which of course, under FBI policies means I can and will leave immediately.”

Magnus noticed her glancing at the signature. Yes, he had gone over her head and for good reason. “However, as you said, the people of Arkansas deserve to have competent and efficient agents who will take their Bigfoot complaints seriously. I noticed Special Agent Scanlon hanging around the office just before. He hasn’t been on a field trip for a while. I’ll let him and his partner know to come to your office, shall I? After all, the people of Arkansas are taxpayers.”

Ms. Day’s eyes narrowed to the point of slits, reminding Magnus of a weasel. “I’m sure you think you’re being clever, Special Agent Fallows, but I’d suggest you take your leave and spend that time considering how much of a future you might have in this department. Unless you learn to shape up, chasing mythical beings in remote areas will be the least of your problems.”

“So, you don’t want me to call Special Agent Scanlon and his partner in for the Bigfoot case?” Magnus kept his eyes wide and his expression neutral.

“I think that case can wait until you come back, don’t you?” Ms. Days put the file in the top drawer of her desk. “Dismissed.”

I’ve got a month’s grace, Magnus thought as he turned sharply and marched out of his supervisor’s office. As he passed Rendall’s desk, the young-looking fae held out a sheaf of papers including airline tickets and a company credit card. “For the Arkansas job?” Rendall shoved the papers forward again when Magnus didn’t take them.

“Oh, there’s been a change of plans. I’m on paid leave as from now.” Magnus smiled as he kept walking back into the huge agents’ space, and then raised his voice as he called over his shoulder to the bewildered receptionist. “Turns out our Supervisor believes Scanlon and Riggs will be perfect for the Arkansas job, instead of me. They seem to know where the best beers are. I’m sure that’ll be very exciting for them.”

Ignoring Scanlon’s roar of rage, and the pounding of feet as the big jock and his partner went running up to the supervisors’ office, Magnus slipped into his office. It only took five minutes for him to clean out everything he needed from the sparse room and pack his laptop. He could continue what he was doing at home.

Carrying just two bags, Magnus peered into the huge main room before slipping out, locking his office door, and hurrying to a side exit. While listening to Scanlon moan and complain about a case he wasn’t even assigned to would be hugely entertaining, Magnus had better things to do.

I wonder if that Thalassa accountant has any fresh leads for me yet.