Devil’s Eye (Mirus 1.2)

Mirus Series #1.2

Trouble. That’s what wolf-shifter Mick thinks when a beautiful woman appears in his New Orleans bar with a hurricane at her back. His first impression is confirmed when Sophie starts asking questions about his missing waitress, Liza. Mick will do anything to rescue a member of the pack he’s made for himself, including forming an unlikely alliance with a woman with a badge.

This short novella is available on Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UK, Kobo, All Romance Ebooks, XinXii, iBooks, Scribd, and Barnes and Noble.

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“Hurricane Roy has been upgraded to a category four and continues to bear down on New Orleans. If you haven’t already, batten down the hatches. Police are manning evacuation routes, so be prepared for something of a wait if you’re trying to get out of the city before the storm hits.”

Mick turned the radio down, keenly aware of Sophie’s silent tension in the passenger seat.

“Pull over here,” she directed.

“Lafayette Cemetery?” he asked, peering through the rain-streaked windshield. “Y’all hid it in a crypt?”

“Not exactly.” She slipped Liza’s cell phone and her own into the glove box.

“You’re not taking it? What if the kidnapper calls?”

“Can’t risk it getting wet and shorting out. He’ll know this is going to take time.”

He didn’t think it was raining that hard but it was her call.

Masked by rain and the falling dark, they slipped over the wrought iron fencing and into the cemetery. Crypts and mausoleums reared up around them, grim gray and white sentinels to their breaking and entering. Uneasy, Mick felt the wolf rise closer to the surface as they slogged down the alleys. He hated these cities of the dead. Too quiet. Too closed in. The dead didn’t belong above ground.

As Sophie wove her way through the aisles, back tracking once or twice, Mick mused at how a common enemy made strange bedfellows. His mind inconveniently focused on the bed part, his eyes noting how Sophie’s wet clothes clung to her compact little body before he mentally slapped himself back to attention. As IED, she shouldn’t be trusted any further than he could throw her. Yet as Liza’s sister, they had a common goal. Her reaction back at the apartment hadn’t been faked. This was no sting operation against the Underground.

They passed monument after monument, some dotted with signs of respect and remembrance. Votives now drowned. Flowers, beaten ragged by the rain. Mick stayed silent, senses on alert. Not that he expected muggers or mourners to be out in this weather, but if the kidnapper had known to reach Sophie on Liza’s cell phone, he had to have been watching the apartment. Mick wouldn’t put it past him to be tailing them on this retrieval mission in case Sophie balked or failed.

She came to a stop at a derelict tomb toward the back of the cemetery. This part of the dead city was neglected, older. Vines trailed up the stone, roots sneaking into cracks and taking hold so fiercely that to remove them might mean bringing down the crypt itself. Beneath the natural ropes and foliage, a pair of small gargoyles peered out, mouths agape with fangs worn by time.

Sophie motioned him over to one of them. “Put your hand in its mouth. You should feel a sort of lever.”

Mick eyed the open mouth. They were too small, too stylized to be real gargoyles, so he stepped forward and did as she asked. His fingers brushed rough stone, then a bit of smooth wood carved in a rustic sort of lever. “Found it. Now what?”

Opposite him, Sophie slid her hand into the other gargoyle’s mouth. “On my mark,” she said. “One, two, pull.”

Curling his fingers, Mick shifted the lever toward him.

There was a pop, followed by a wheeze of air, as if the tomb had been air-locked. As a Council hiding space, maybe it was. The door shifted up a couple of inches, then swung inward, leaving an entrance into darkness.

Casting another quick look around, Sophie raised her hand, generating another blue energy field like the one she’d made at the apartment. Using its faint glow to light her way, she stepped carefully over the threshold. Mick was right behind. The ceiling was so low he had to stoop or bump his head.

As he crossed the threshold himself, the door began to swing closed. He sprang toward it, his heart thudding with sudden panic, but Sophie said, “Leave it. I know how to get back out.”

It fell shut with a definitive clang that left him short of breath. “Is that really necessary? Can’t you just grab it and let’s go?”

“It’s not here.” In the faint blue glow cast by her energy field, he could see Sophie looking around.

“What do you mean it’s not here?” Mick could hear the tinge of panic in his voice and fought to level it out. Not locked in, he told himself. The door’s right behind. “Did someone take it?”

“I mean that it’s not here in this tomb. This is just the doorway to the catacombs.”

“There are no catacombs in New Orleans.”

With a rasping noise came a tiny wick of flame that grew as she applied it to a waiting torch. The panic didn’t dim much as the torchlight showed him the confines of the crypt. Sophie moved over to a huge stone slab where a body would usually be laid out. This one was, thankfully, unoccupied.

“Help me shift this.”

Grateful to have something else to focus on, he joined her, heaving the slab aside to reveal a stone staircase spiraling down into darkness.

“Grab the torch,” she said.

He did, bringing it back to illuminate the stairs. And the smooth black water that covered them about five feet down. Now he understood why she’d left the phones. “You didn’t say we’d need scuba gear.”

“We don’t.”

She stretched out her hands. At first nothing happened. Then the surface of the water began to ripple and sink. Mick glanced at her face, snared by the electric blue eyes that flashed with lightning and power. The tomb shuddered as the water receded, frothing and bubbling as she seemed to push it back into the ground, clearing the path below.

“Holy Moses,” he muttered. “What are you?”

“My family tree isn’t exactly a priority right now. Give me the torch.”

Mick handed it over, noting the tension in her back. “You’re still holding all that water back, aren’t you? It’s not gone.”

“Right. So we need to hurry.” She stepped over the ledge and started the descent.

Underground. It had to be underground. The wolf paced restlessly under his skin. Neither part of him liked enclosed spaces. At all. But, resolutely, he followed Sophie down the stairs, stepping carefully to avoid slipping in the still wet stone. To distract himself, he started asking the questions that had been spinning in his brain since the ransom call. “Who else knows about this Devil’s Eye? I mean, I’ve never heard of it.”

“You wouldn’t. It was lost to legend for centuries.”

“How did you find out about it?”

She hesitated a moment. “I was part of the retrieval team. We were following up on some rumors for the Council, trekking through the wilds of—well you don’t need to know where. Let’s just say we were feeding our inner Indiana Jones. And then it turned out that it wasn’t a rumor, wasn’t myth. The artifact was real. We didn’t know what it was when we brought it back. I still don’t know exactly what it does, just that it’s extremely dangerous. After some deliberation, the Council decided it was best hidden again, and a core group of us brought it here.  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it’s still lost.”

“It has to be someone from that core group, doesn’t it? Who’s got Liza, I mean. Those of you who placed it here in the first place. Or at least somebody who knew you were part of that mission.”

“That does seem likely,” she admitted.

They paused at the bottom of the steps to take in the long, dark tunnel stretching before them. Water dripped onto the torch; it hissed and sputtered in protest. The air was dank, reeking of sour mud. Mick felt vaguely sick as he thought of how much earth and stone stretched above them.

Sophie was already moving forward, taking the light with her. Mick noted that the walls were studded with bones. Thousands of them in a filthy, imitation of the catacombs he’d once seen in Paris. Except these were odd shaped. Then he realized that the tunnel was lined with the bones of other Mirus. Cheery.

Picking up the pace to catch up to Sophie and the light, his foot kicked something that made an odd muffled noise. Definitely not the hollow click of bone. He called Sophie over with the torch.

“Flippers,” he said. “And a dive mask. We weren’t the first ones to come down here.” He stood and started walking again. “Could be that kidnapping Liza was a Plan B. You think he targeted you because Liza was easy leverage or because you were the only one who could access it? Obviously somebody didn’t have any luck this way.”

She shot him a glance. “You’re quick, Guidry. Yeah I’m one of the few people who could do this part. I don’t know how he found out about Liza, though. I’m very close-lipped about my family. I’m careful.”

He heard what she didn’t say. That Liza wasn’t. “I never heard her say or do anything to compromise you. I’m not even sure anybody knew she had a sister.”

“Clearly somebody did. If anything happens to her I’ll never forgive myself.”

“We’re gonna get her back, Sophie. How much—” He stopped, cocking his head.

“What is it?”

“I thought I heard something.”

Stretching his senses beyond his own shallow breathing, he listened, hard. There was a strange creak and rattle, then a scuttling noise, like beetles or rats. Lifting his nose, he sniffed, but there was nothing beyond the stench of mud and stale air. Frowning he moved several paces back the way they’d come, out of the circle of torchlight. He heard the scuttling noise again, closer.

“There’s somethin’ down here.”

“Do you think we were follow—” Sophie’s question ended with a scream.

Mick whirled in time to see hands dragging her into the depths of the tunnel before the torch hit the ground and went out.



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