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Excerpt from Redcap

 

I ran through White Point Gardens as fast as I could. Behind me, teeth snapped and feet crunched on gravel. The redcap was gaining on me. I turned and caught a glimpse of the creature that was hunting me, and let loose with a blast of cold white force from the athame in my right hand.

The energy bolt sizzled through the air, but the redcap was gone. They’re devilishly hard to hit.

Mocking laughter came from the shadows. The redcap was enjoying his game. He was toying with me, letting me get ahead of him, saving his speed for the kill. Legend says it’s impossible to outrun a redcap. I had hoped to draw him off, away from the homes that bordered on the garden, where there were fewer prying eyes and a lesser chance of collateral damage. I’d offered myself as bait to draw the redcap toward the waterfront. Now, I dodged around the statues and war memorial cannons, trying to out outwit a bloodthirsty pixie with a taste for human flesh.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the strangest way I had ever spent a Friday night.

The redcap was chattering in excitement, stoked about getting a good feast—me. I was predictably less enthusiastic about the possibility, and determined to make sure he stayed hungry. The back corner of the park was coming up, where it was a darker thanks to a burned-out street lamp. Just a few more feet.

The redcap gave a feral cry and sprang at me, snapping his sharp teeth on my jeans and barely missing my skin. I wheeled and gave him a good kick in the face, knocking him a few feet away. The redcap howled in anger and jumped to his feet, eyes fixed on me as he sized up his prey.

A larger shape moved fast enough to blur, and in the next instant, Sorren tackled the redcap. Sorren hung on, using his own immortal strength to restrain the redcap, who despite being two feet tall and built like a stringy old man was as tough as a tiger.

“Now!” Sorren cried out.

Teag darted from behind a monument. I heard the redcap scream as Teag pulled the creature’s head back and swung his blade, neatly severing the vicious pixie’s head. The redcap’s body went limp in Sorren’s grip, but the mouth kept snapping even as the head fell to the ground, and its beady dark eyes glared at us balefully until the light finally left them.

Sorren dropped the headless body and stood up, wiping the worst of the pixie’s blood from his shirt. Teag pulled a garbage bag from his backpack and scooped up the head and body to dispose of elsewhere.

“Third damn redcap in a week,” Sorren muttered.

Just another weekend here in the Holy City.

I’m Cassidy Kincaide, and I own Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, South Carolina. Obviously, we’re not the average second-hand shop. I’m a psychometric, meaning I can read the history, magic, and emotional resonance of objects by touch. Teag Logan is my assistant store manager. He’s got Weaver magic, which lets him weave spells into cloth or weave electronic threads of data into information—making him a wicked-good hacker. Sorren is my business partner, and he’s also a nearly six hundred year-old vampire who founded Trifles and Folly back in the 1600s. We work for the Alliance, a secret coalition of mortals and immortals who keep the world safe from dangerous magical or supernatural objects. When we succeed, no one notices. When we fail, lots of people die.

The redcap wasn’t the worst monster we had fought, not by a long shot. But redcaps were still dangerous, as the sudden jump in the number of missing people in Charleston attested. The murderous pixie we had battled tonight had friends out there, and they would kill again unless we did something to stop them.

Just in case someone noticed us running around, we left the park quickly and met up back at the store, gathering in the small break room. Teag handed off the bag with the dead redcap to Sorren. “You’ll take care of this one, like the others?” he asked.

Sorren nodded. “I’ll handle it.” Sorren’s blond hair was cut short, playing up his high cheekbones. He looks like he’s in his mid-twenties, although he’s centuries older.

“Where are all the redcaps coming from?” Teag asked as he checked my calf to make sure the pixie hadn’t broken the skin. Lucky for me, I had been just fast enough to escape those razor-sharp teeth. I poured us both a glass of sweet tea, and we toasted the success of tonight’s hunt.

“I don’t know, but I’m never going to look at Santa’s elves with their little red hats the same way again,” I said, collapsing into a chair. Now that the danger was over, I felt a little weak in the knees.

It was a week until Christmas, and Charleston was beset with ugly little evil pixies. There was nothing jolly about it. “I thought redcaps were only in England and Scotland,” I said, and took a sip of my tea. There are few things in life—even counting murderous elves—that can’t be made a little better with a good glass of sweet tea.

Sorren raised an eyebrow. “Next you’ll be telling me that vampires are only in Transylvania.” Before he was turned, Sorren was the best jewel thief in Belgium.

“Plenty of people who settled in Charleston came from the British Isles,” Teag replied. “As we’ve seen, when people relocate, they bring their gods, ghosts, and monsters with them.”

Sorren frowned. “Maybe,” he said. “But creatures like redcaps can also be summoned, if magic is strong enough.”

“You don’t think the redcaps are working by themselves?”

“Unlikely, since they haven’t historically made Charleston their home. They prefer abandoned castles,” Sorren replied. “After all these years, I doubt they suddenly decided to relocate. Supernatural beings tend to be creatures of habit.”

“What would someone get out of bringing redcaps here?” I asked, and took another gulp of the sweet, strong tea. “There doesn’t appear to be any connection among the people who’ve gone missing.” The police might still be looking for missing people, but I was certain they wouldn’t be found. Redcaps ate their prey.

“The only reasons I can think of are to sow fear, or get revenge,” Teag replied. “As far as the police are concerned, the disappearances are random.” Teag’s magic makes him one hell of a hacker, and that includes an ability to get past protections on law enforcement sites. Since the police wouldn’t believe us if we tried to tell them what was really going on, we couldn’t count on cooperation, so we handled problems ourselves.

“I agree,” Sorren said. “And unfortunately, that casts a wide net.”

“And your sources haven’t heard anything?” I set my empty glass aside. Sorren is well-connected in the supernatural community in Charleston and around the world. He has contacts everywhere, and they feed each other information like a paranormal intelligence network.

He shook his head. “Nothing, at least not that I’ve heard. I’ll make some more inquiries.” He hefted the bag with the dead redcap. “I’d better get this taken care of. Keep me updated on what you find. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the worst of this yet.”