Fae’s Torment by Atlas Rose
They say all power corrupts…and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But what they don’t tell you is that absolute power doesn’t just corrupt. It steals. It infects and destroys, and keeps on destroying long after you’re gone. No one is safe from power. not the rich, or the poor, or those pathetic souls who fight for justice with a fire in their belly. That fire eventually weakens.
That fire eventually dies.
All while power waits in the shadows as you crawl around in the filth and the muck, pleading for just one more chance, just one more hit…just one more taste.
No one is safe from power when it is wielded by beasts who have no regard for human life.
I looked over my shoulder to where the river carved through the belly of this city, dividing the monsters from the mortals.
Beasts like them.
The ones who lived across the river.
The ones I wanted to hunt, and kill.
I clenched my fist around the hilt of the dagger and dragged it from underneath my shirt. One glance over my shoulder, and I took a step toward the stranger as he stumbled into the mouth of the alley. But I'd found that the trick with not letting the fire of justice die is to fight when you can…to strike while that inferno is still roaring inside you. Find the source of that absolute power…and stab it to death.
“You…are…insignificant,” said a pathetic male as he slumped against the bricks at the entrance of the alley. “Get the fuck away from me.”
“Says the asshole who’s dying.” I slowly leaned against the wall beside him. “Tell me what I need to know and I’ll help you.”
“Dying?” He tried to push up, stumbling sideways instead. “I’m not dying. I have Unseeliepower…”
He stiffened as moonlight spilled into the alley, the faint silver hue bouncing off the bricks to shine against one side of his face. But the other half was claimed by the darkness. An unusual darkness, the kind of gloom that, once it touches you, it fills you with dread.
Just as it filled me now.
Shadows shifted around him, coming alive to rise and swell. The same shadows that’d been following him since he'd stumbled from the bar where I worked. Midnight tendrils lashed against his arms, winding around the flesh like vines, making him stiffen and moan. He looked down as they trailed murky fingers along his arm, heading for the object in his clenched fist. Green spilled from the cracks between his fingers, a green I’d seen before.
“How did you find them?” I took a step closer, dragging my blade a little higher. “How did you get into their world? Tell me.”
He spun, shrugging off the murky vines wrapped around his arms. Didn’t he realize how dangerous that power was? How fast it could turn on you? How that high he was feeling would turn out to be the kiss of death?
No, he didn’t realize…but he would.
Power danced over him and the shadows shifted and rolled, moving closer, then pulling away, entranced by the power he held in his hand. Power he'd paid for with money…and would pay for again with his life.
“How did you find them? How did you get into their world?”
“Find them?” He took a step closer to me, then shifted his focus toward the rush of darkness as gloom swept into the alley around me.
I stiffened at the brush of death. “Tell me,” I insisted, my pulse stuttering. “Tell me what I need to know.”
Tendrils of gloom wrapped around his face with creepy fingers and plunged into his nostrils. The guy's eyes widened with the invasion, the whites showing neon in the dark.
“Tell me,” I urged, desperate to step closer but unable to move.
“He…he found me…”
Shadows spilled over him, spindly fingers driving deeper into his nose and prying open his lips. He cried out at the contact, and that was all they needed. They drove him backwards, pushing against his body until he had nowhere to go, but the ground.
He lifted his panicked gaze to mine as his knees buckled and he went down.
Hate rolled through me. Hate and fear and terror.
In an instant, I was back there again, in an alley just like this one. One outside Harrison’s Diner, where I was sure my screams still lived.
“Tell me how to get to them.”I forced my words through clenched teeth.
My hand trembled, my ice-cold fingers wrapped around the hilt of the knife, the only blade that could save him now. The warmth from my blood was choked by cold, savage rage. “Tell me!”
The sound didn’t bounce against the walls but was swallowed by the unnatural darkness as it wrapped itself around him like a cocoon. But then that Unseelie power reared upwards, pulling free from his body, giving him a moment of chilling clarity.
He knew the kind of power he played with now.
Knew the kind of fool he’d been to think that any man could play with the beasts.
But the Unseelie shadows were done. The silence was chilling, even more than a scream. He opened his hand as the gloom descended, plunging like a tsunami, invading, brutalizing, taking and taking…and taking.
From his unfurling fingers came something black…something that gave a ting as it hit the asphalt and rolled toward me, something that glowed green in an inscription, before the power untouched by his hand died away.
I looked down at the ring when it came to rest against my boot as the asshole bucked and howled, consuming the power he'd so desperately wanted, whether he liked it or not.
And as his screams ricocheted off the walls, I bent down and reached with the dagger in my hand, the tip of the blade hitting the ring with a clang. But the Unseelie power didn’t come alive, not even as I lifted it from the ground and it slid down the honed edges and came to rest against the hilt.
“HELP ME!” the asshole screamed.
“I tried to do that, remember?” I said as I took a step backwards.
I had…I'd tried…
He just didn’t believe me.
Now it was far too late.
* * *
“You again?” The desk sergeant didn’t even lift her head, just glanced at my black t-shirt and beaten leather jacket with the studs torn from the pockets without meeting my gaze.
“Detective Dion Schol.” I fought the snarl in my tone.
She just gave a sigh, splayed her hands hard against the counter, and lifted her gaze. “Your brother’s case has been reassigned.”
“Again?” I snapped, then glanced at the doors behind her, where the beat cops sat on the corners of desks, laughing and joking with their comrades. My mind drifted to the stairs at the end of the hall behind them, ones that’d take me one floor higher to the Homicide Detectives, where no one laughed. Instead, they stared at you like you were nothing more than an inconvenience, then the stairs continued to the floor above, to Narcotics, where I'd only gone once, and never wanted to go again. I swallowed a shiver and settled my gaze on hers. “Who to this time?”
She just gave a shrug, then turned her attention to the monitor in front of her, her fingers hovering over the keyboard. “Name?”
“What do you mean, name? You just told me—“
“Luca. Luca DeLeon. Five, thirteen, nineteen ninety-five.”
She knew the name, just like she knew his date of birth and the fact he was my brother, who'd died in a filthy fucking alley outside Gracie’s, where I once worked. She knew…and yet she made me jump through the same damn hoops everygoddamn time. I knew why. It was the same fucking reason why we were the ones pulled over by the cops. The same reason why assholes like the desk sergeant looked down her goddamn nose at us.
It was the color of my skin and my eyes. It was because, in her world, we were just another ‘gang family’, another statistic she didn’t want to acknowledge. Just another fucking Hispanic piece of shit who was murdered on the streets, so who the hell cared, right?
“Hernandez,” she answered. “You need an escort?”
“No,” I muttered. “I can find it.”
A nod of her head and she shifted her gaze to the constable standing outside the internal door. He just glared at me, then moved to the side and pressed the button for the lock. Luca’s case had been shoved aside again…
That burn of anger rose. So much for ‘we're going to throw our best detectives on this’. Fat lot of good that did.
Five goddamn months.
That’s how long it’d been.
Still my brother’s murderers walked the goddamn streets.
At first, it had been all outrage that came from the cops at the top, ready to hand Luca’s case over to the FBI, to the one asshole who seemed to have a hard-on for the Immortals. Some guy called Harlan Beneford, who was spluttering about taking down the damn Wolves. But that didn’t last long…
I shoved my hands into my pockets, walked along the hallway, and pushed open the door at the end of the hall. The loud drone of men's voices dominated the space. I glanced around the room, finding a female face amongst the crowd of testosterone before the female officer looked away. I kept on walking past the beat cops, who watched me with growing interest.
A wolf whistle cut through the air as I strode through the group of men. I didn’t react, didn’t even feel the burn in my cheeks anymore. I felt nothing, nothing but determination as I reached the door at the end of the floor and pushed it open, climbing the stairs instead.
The ring bounced against my chest with the movement of me taking two stairs at a time to reach the next floor. Voices spilled through the cracked open door to the detectives' floor. I opened it carefully and was met with a hostile glare as one of the female detectives settled her gaze on me.
“You know where to find me, Cassidy,” she muttered, her lip curling as she turned back toward me. “Excuse me.” She pushed past, barging hard against my shoulder, making me stumble backwards as she left.
I stepped into the detectives' room and headed for the receptionist, who turned and hurried away from me. “Detective Hernandez?”
She glanced over her shoulder with a confused look on her face. “Who?”
“Detective Hernandez. He has my brother’s case.”
“Never heard of him.”
What was she, fucking new?
“Hey, Jolly!” she called across the floor.
From a cubicle, an older guy with gray hair and his sleeves rolled up, pushed back on a wheeled chair. “What’s up?”
“This one is looking for Hernandez?”
“Hernandez?” he glanced my way, confused.
“Yes,” I said dryly. “Hernandez.”
“Dunno why you’re looking for him, but you’ll find H in the basement.”
“Wow, the basement,” the receptionist muttered, then glanced at me. “There you go, hon.”
She took another damn step before I growled, “Ah, you want to point me in the direction?”
“Elevator,” she replied, jerking her head toward the far end of the floor. “Take it all the way to the bottom, after that, you’re on your own. I’ve never been there. Don’t know many who have.”
Great. Just fucking great.
“Thanks for nothing,” I grumbled under my breath, heading for the ancient damn elevator at the end of the floor.
The old guy just stared at me until I broke his stare. Great, Luca’s case had been shuffled again, passed from hand to damn hand like an Uno card. But no one wanted the file, no one cared about the war between us and the damn beasts anymore.
Where was the outrage?
Where was the war?
I stabbed the button for the elevator and waited for the light to disappear and the doors to open. The thing smelled like piss and Lysol, making me wince and cover my nose as I stepped inside and pressed the button for the basement.
But there was no war, not on the savage Wolves or the dangerous midnight hunters, the Vampires.
There was nothing but silence, especially from the FBI. Harlan Beneford had turned out to be just another goddamn disappointment. I lifted my gaze, catching my warped reflection in the dented wall of the elevator. But I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t stop coming, wouldn’t give up the battle.
I wouldn’t forget revenge.
The ring sat heavy, nestled between my breasts. I didn’t want to wear it, but neither did I want to leave it behind. I wanted it with me as a reminder, or an opportunity. I shifted my gaze as the elevator's doors opened and the musty stench of the forgotten spilled in.
It was a just place for a case no one wanted.
A detective who lived in the bowels of the Crown City PD.
A sister most ignored.
I stepped out and scanned the gloom, swallowing a shiver. You’d think after hunting the streets at midnight for the past five months, I’d be used to the darkness, that I’d find some kind of solace from the night. But I didn’t. I hated it just as much as I did the night those bastards took my brother from me. Maybe after all I’d seen, I hated it a little more.
But I’d never get used to it.
Never take comfort in the darkness.
Never enjoy the silence.
Never find a moment’s peace.
Not until this was done.
The clackety-clack of an old-fashioned typewriter told me all I needed to know. I followed the sound all the way to the end of the hallway to the door with the name Hernandez on a sign hanging sideways from one corner, and knocked carefully. “Detective Hernandez? My name is Izzy, and I wanted to talk to you about my brother.”
He lifted his head…
One look and I knew it was hopeless.
A glance at the box in front of him and the Happy Retirement card, and my stomach dropped.
They hadn’t handed him my brother’s case to solve…they'd just left it down here to pass the time until they could forget about it altogether. I lifted my gaze to the decrepit detective who could barely rise from his seat, let alone bring a brood of dangerous Immortals to justice, then turned and walked out.