Sneak Peek: Depths of Darkness by Laurie Bowler
As part of her monthly feature for October, Laurie is going to share an excerpt from one of her various novels. This week’s special is Depths of Darkness. Enjoy….
Overview from Goodreads:
Patty is a low level worker for The Agency, an organization of witches that controls the world of the supernatural. Patty grew up an orphan with normal human parents, but when her powers as a witch emerged she was drawn to, and joined, The Agency.
When her friend and mentor, the high witch Matace, is murdered, Patty is unsatisfied with the reports of his death and begins her own investigation. With the aid of Luke, her vampire friend, Patty delves deeper into the dangerous circumstances behind Matace’s death and finds more than she bargained for, the truth behind her own past.
As the dangers deepen and the truth behind Patty’s past are revealed, it becomes clear that the fate of the world is at stake and Patty may be the only one that can prevent the world’s destruction, but at what cost.
Outside the cool night air washed over me, reviving me and bringing me back down to earth with a thud; it was nice to smell the cleansing freshness revitalizing my mind. The bad odour of the bar began to fade away as I walked a small distance away from the bar knowing Matace must have walked the same route; it was the only one that led towards the alley where his body had been discovered. According to the reports, one of the more experienced witch psychics had foreseen the event a few weeks prior and had sent a warning through to Matace which had been intercepted. Nobody had any answers who had taken the message or where they were. It seemed more like an inside job rather than someone from the outside, or it could be both either way it wasn’t going to happen like this on my turf around in my neighbourhood.
The next stages of Matace’s walk according to witnesses and the report that was filed by the psychic upon the discovery of his body, were that he’d walked down the street and crossed the small field where the hedges outlined the back of the gardens that belonged to mortals. He headed down the street, in the direction of the alley and watched for the space to appear where the field might be. I have no idea why he’d crossed over to check out the field, maybe he’d headed that way to try and find something or rather someone?
“Come on,” I groaned when the street stretched out for miles ahead of me. “How far down did you walk Matace? What were you looking for and who was it you were supposed to have met?” So many questions now lay unanswered, and above all his death still remained the gigantic mystery it had started out to be.
A few more yards and I recognized the location immediately. The street passed over and divided into a small field with houses on either side; their gardens were protected with small hedges that lined the outside. Their quaintness was touching and such a typical sight for everyday mortal life, the same as I’d grown up with my adoptive parents.
I stood in the centre, the grass squelching beneath my feet, wet and slippery making me feel glad I’d chosen to wear the sensible shoes that I had on. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, not that I knew what was expected to happen, but something had happened along the way either here or directly at the alley where Matace had been discovered.
The discovery had been made a few hours after his murder by a young watcher that had been designated to duties that hadn’t been documented in the records. His name was Yoko Treaman, an usual name but he’d apparently been the brightest out of all who’d come forward in the hope of joining the agency. Only a few managed to get through the door every year; they had to be unique with their own special power or spells, something that made them stand out from all the rest. This watcher had specialized in the skills of the darker magic, conjuring evil spirits and rippers that caused havoc to the intended victim.
I sighed and shuttled onwards back over to the path; the alley was my next stop. My feet began to feel the coldness of the night and I felt the small trickle of fear run down my spine. I ducked into the nearest pathway that led to someone’s house and peeked around the corner to see a shadow move swiftly and then gradually disappear. I knew my senses of perception had been altered so Lilly wouldn’t be able to see where I was going; it was pretty hard for me to fathom who it might have been.
Gradually I calmed my breathing down, and walked a little further. I pulled out my notebook to refresh my memory of the exact location of where Matace’s body had been found and the structure of the scene. Intimate detailing had been reported and I’d copied them word for word into my notepad, not willing to leave any details uncovered.
The alley appeared on my left. As I peeked around the corner, the darkness stretched for miles and made it look creepy or it may have been the fact that a murder had recently been committed here that made it look creepy. Either way I had to go down the alley. According to the scene notes he’d been found around half way down, and if I was lucky enough the marked white lines that had been drawn around his body would still be there to some degree.
Entering the alley and flicking my torch on, shaking and searching either side of me, my breath erupted in short spurts. I felt afraid but I wasn’t sure of what it was that was affecting me so badly. Normally I was very controlled, but today I felt totally out of my depth, but to find out the truth this had to be done.
A scuttling sound on my right made me jump and I stopped to swing the torch in the direction only to find a rat peering at me with dark mysterious eyes. The rubbish that lined either side contained his small morsels of food for the night, squeaking with fright I dropped my torch and found myself in darkness. Bending down and feeling around in the darkness for my torch and hoping I wouldn’t touch a rat or anything as equally disgusting, the scuffling of shoes and the sound of the rustle of clothes brought my attention round.
Creeping backwards against the wall to sit and wait for the intruder to appear, the shuffling came closer, slowly and cautiously but still out of my view. My back was firmly pressed against the wall behind me; suddenly hands that wrenched me out of my hiding place with unnatural strength let me know I was facing an immortal soul, and not one of the nice ones either.
“Put me down!” I said through clenched teeth as my hair was yanked backwards. “Let me go,” my elbow jabbed and caught something the sharp intake of his breath let me know I’d hit a nerve.
“You’ve come here to snoop,” he growled in the unknown voice. “Now you’ll die. This area is protected from the likes of you from the agency, always poking your nose missy.”
“I don’t know who you are,” I muttered my legs swinging beneath me as I was lifted bodily off the floor. “Let me…”
He’d pulled me upwards by my hair and it felt like my roots were detaching from my scalp and soon I would either be dead, or alive and bald. His face was now inches from mine and I had no idea who he was; I’d never seen him before, not in any files that were on the database or heard of in any reports of unknowns in this territory.
“Who are you?” I stammered, my hands reaching to the pain on my scalp and to try and fight his strong grasp.
“Your worst nightmare,” he grinned. “How do you want to die? A bite to the neck,” he hissed tracing his finger down the side of my neck, causing me to shiver. “Or would you prefer it if I shot you then drank your blood?”
The sudden snarl from the entrance of the alley and the force of someone else using unnatural strength slammed against us both. In anger, the unknown dropped me to the floor and turned to face the attacker.
“I told you she’s mine, Tye!” Luke’s voice hissed his warning. “Leave her be!”
The short burst of laughter from the unknown named Tye combined with the angered hissing and snarling, set the stage as bins soared through the air and bodies came clashing in one to one combat. Their own anger was rising with every angered punch or throw of each other’s body.
“Your girlfriend,” Tye teased. “Very pretty; she’d make a delicious meal.”
“I don’t think so,” Luke snarled and appeared again in the dim light spread from the moonlight, holding a gun. “Leave or I’ll shoot,” he warned pointing the gun at Tye.
Tye’s roar of disbelieving anger echoed around us as did his sudden stomp of feet onto my head. He crushed my skull to the ground, the light swam around my eyes became misty as unconsciousness began to set in. In the distance, a loud banging rang through my ears as I tried to sit up in vain.
“You’re safe,” Luke’s voice said above me. “Stay with me,” he urged.
“You lied,” I whispered reaching out my hand to clutch onto him to make sure he was real and I wasn’t dead. “You lied.”
“Plenty of time to discuss that later,” he muttered his eyes creasing with concern, “once you’ve been to hospital.”
Luke picked me up off the floor and held me steadily and tightly in his arms; my fingers curled around his shirt clutching onto him as I slipped in and out of unconsciousness. My eyes drifted closed then uncertainty settled and I opened them to watch him.
“You’re safe,” he said again. “Don’t slip away now.”
“You lied,” I said again my voice fainter than before, “why did you lie?”
“I had to, to keep you alive,” he answered looking straight ahead of us. “We can talk more later.”
I felt the jerking of the car and Lilly’s voice wash over me; I could sense her anxiety and perplexity as to how I was found in the alley where Matace had been murdered. She summoned her best doctors to attend to me as I was driven to the hospital where only agency workers were allowed to receive medical treatment.
Luke carried me out of the car, gently settling me into his arms, my fingers grasped his shirt unwilling to let go as I stared up at him blinking rapidly while my vision constantly blurred. My head pounded and I felt the blood trickle softly down my cheek, wondering how he could stand being in such close proximity of my blood.
“How?” I wanted to know, “how, why, you lied.”
It seemed that was all I was able to say; I was urging him to answer my questions that only I thought made sense. His cold hard eyes looked down at me and he smiled; gradually dimples appeared in the sides of his cheeks and I knew without a doubt where I’d seen this same image before. My dreams had cursed me for some weeks and all this time it had been Luke’s face appearing mysteriously as my lover, summoning heated moments between us.
“You!” I said.
My eyes fluttered as Luke’s mouth opened to reply and finally the darkness enveloped me and grabbed hold of me and I slipped into unconsciousness.
I felt my body being laid gently down onto something soft, and I could hear the faint murmur of voices around me. Concerned and confused voices rising above others, one in particular I could make out with all the cotton wool type feelings happening to my brain.
“How and why was she allowed to get anywhere near that alley?” Lilly demanded. “Luke, you were assigned to keep her safe and so far you’ve failed; today is a prime example of why vampires cannot help witches with watchers or otherwise.”
“I doubt anything I could have done would have kept her safe.” Luke remained calm. “She has a mind of her own and does whatever she wants to do. I followed her but I was slightly too late; Tye had already gotten hold of her,”
“Tye?” I heard her query. “One of yours?”
“Hardly,” Luke defended. “He was banished years ago by Matace, so he should be on the top of the list to be found and questioned for the murder. I have no idea why he was there; I was too preoccupied by the fact that he hold of Patty and wanted to kill her…”
That was all I managed to hear until silence prevailed around me and the darkness pulled me back under its claws; tranquility and peace healed me faster than I anticipated it would. My body used up the powers being set by the spells from those around me; the other witches of our realm would have been called to heal me, to take my body through to the dimensions to a safe zone. They would make sure I was not disturbed and watched from a distance inside a protective bubble while others worked their potions and lotions containing magic into the areas of my body that demanded it the most.
“Ouch,” I wriggled my toes in the bed and the pain that shot straight through me was unexplainable. “Luke…”
“I’m here,” he whispered beside me, “how do you feel?”
“Rough,” I smiled slightly and my eyes blinked open to find the familiar eyes looking back at me, “why?”
“I knew you would ask that the minute you opened your eyes,” he threw his hands up in mock defeat. “I had to keep you safe. It was something Lilly employed me to do; there is someone out there targeting the entire agency, but only the witches.”
“How do you know?” I asked struggling to sit up.
Luke gently placed the pillow to ease my pain a little but remained a certain distance from me. Gone was the care free vampire that I had befriended only to be replaced by this person that I thought I knew.
“I can’t tell you,” he said looking away briefly. “Lilly will be here in a few minutes. She wants answers, you know that don’t you?”
I nodded and kept quiet; there was no way I’d be telling her any details from anything I was told last night. She would find out in due course when I was certain I knew who the murderer was.
The wisps of the breeze as it caught through the room as Lilly made her entrance shook the blinds on the windows and the scent of flowers filled the room, signalling that Lilly had arrived. She traveled through the portal that was only available to the high witch; her scent was the only way to tell she was arriving.
“Lilly,” I breathed into the silence of the room.
Luke had remained beside me, his eyes stony and watching ahead at the whirling wind that appeared in the corner of the room. Lilly’s body slowly transformed into the room until she became a whole person.
“Patty,” she smiled. “You’re awake. I’m glad. How do you feel?”
Her hurried words and her searching gaze made me uncomfortable laying here on the bed with a bandage around my head and a tube exiting my wrist connected to a bag of saline. I wished I was anywhere else but here right now.
“I’m fine,” I answered bravely. “What happened?”
“You don’t remember?” she asked perplexed by my question. “It was Tye. A rather vicious vampire that had been exiled by Matace many years ago. Somehow he has had help to enter back and live on earth against the knowledge of the agency. What were you doing out there on your own? If Luke hadn’t have been following you, who knows what might have happened.”
“I was trying to locate some details,” I defended. “It was nothing much, and I didn’t actually unearth anything other than everything that has already been recorded in the files.”
“You took the files home too,” she shook her head, “against the agency’s rules and beyond the protective spell surrounding all documents such as those. Whatever has possessed you to do such things?”
“I wanted to trace details,” I said. “There’s something not right about the whole thing. To me,” I said, “it seems like the murderer has had a lot of help from someone who has been privy to inside information.”
My words echoed around the room as Lilly fell silent; her head slightly bowed with her hair falling forwards and framing her face obscuring my view of her.
Luke extricated himself and left the room. His steady footsteps and the steady look he gave me told me not to push beyond the boundaries of being so outspoken with the high witch, which would inevitably cause trouble.
“I see,” she said gently. “I can’t allow you to start wandering around on your own; it’s too dangerous especially now.”
“What do you mean ‘especially now’?”
“There’s been another murder,” she answered, “I didn’t want to have to tell you so soon, not until I was sure what it is we’re facing. It seems those close to Matace are being targeted. And so now,” she went quiet and struggled to compose herself, “you will have to be under protection at all times.”
“Who’s been murdered?” I demanded to know, my voice coming out no more than a tiny whisper.
“Clarette,” she answered, “she was Matace’s second in command during his reign over the realm.”
“I know,” I slumped backwards against the pillows in shock, “I can’t believe it.”
I felt crushed by the news, it did seem there was a killing spree happening around us all and it wouldn’t long until it headed my way. I was the one that was closest to Matace, but without actually knowing any details about anything dealing with the way he handled certain affairs within the realm.
“I’ll speak to Luke and have him stay with you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I spluttered, “Luke can’t stay with me all the time.” I placed the emphasis on ‘all’ because that would mean overnight inside my small apartment, or worse whatever living arrangements he had, and I hoped it wasn’t the traditional crypt either but something a little more classy than that.
“I mean all the time Patti,” she said gently but with the sure firmness evident in her tone, “it’s not safe and I have a feeling you’ll be next or the one after. There are only two of you remaining that were close to Matace. Pepsi is under protection as well.”
“Anyone else but Luke,” I groaned into my pillow after she’d left.
I heard the curtly short conversation from outside my room between Luke and Lilly.
“Stay with her and make sure she doesn’t do anything dangerous that might get herself killed, and this time,” Lilly stopped briefly, “do it properly.”
“Properly,” he repeated menacingly softly. “Do you have any idea what it’s been like trying to keep up with her? Once she wants to do something there’s no stopping her.”
“I’m aware of how stubborn she is,” Lilly reprimanded, “remember you’re under my control now, not Matace’s. Until his murderer and the one who is responsible for the murder of Clarette has been caught and brought to be judged for their crimes, then there is no other option but to make sure everyone is kept safe.”
“Right,” he muttered quietly, “and how does Patty feel about me protecting her? I’m assuming you’ve told her that I’ve been her watcher for some time now?”
My watcher? All this time he’d been watching me without my knowledge but since when? Surely Matace would have told me; he wouldn’t have kept such a secret.
“Listen,” Lilly sighed, “you’ve been watching her for a while. I’ve checked and you’ve done well to keep her safe. All I’m asking on behalf of Matace is that you keep her safe for a little while longer.”
“No problem,” he answered with a slight edge to his tone, “it’s like watching a runaway squirrel though.”
The conversation ended and Luke entered my room silently, his face watchful and carefully concealing how he felt.
“I’m not asking you to watch me at all,” I said cautiously as he continued to advance towards me on the bed. “Actually,” I said, “I’ll ask for you to be re-assigned and I’ll get someone else.”
“Now why would you do that?” he grinned suddenly, “who else is going to give me tips on how to handle human women?”
“Well,” I huffed, “I think you can forget anything like that. You lied to me; I want to know why?”
“Patty, Patty, Patty,” he said gently rolling my name off his tongue, “I had too. If I had told you I was your watcher, you would have told me to get lost,” he shrugged. “So I lied instead, my way of keeping close to you without actually telling you who I was or my capacity with the agency,”
“Where’s your office?” I asked, suddenly trembling with a new idea.
If I was right, then his office would be the one directly opposite mine, the one with the mysterious man inside of it who seemed to know exactly what I was thinking which could only mean one thing. It was a vampire because they were the only ones that possessed such a power, and ‘it’ could quite well be Luke.
“Opposite yours,” he said, “I heard you just then,” he answered guiltily.
“You still lied,” I folded my arms and sulked as I stared out of the window, “and you made me believe in some kind of erotic game you played all the time. Was that to amuse yourself?”
“I’m sorry,” he said appearing harmless and the young mess around sort of person I’d met before. “How do you know it was all to amuse myself? Maybe I am serious about that part.”
“You’re what?” I asked startled my voice raised quite a few octaves in the small room, “don’t ever say anything like that again. You know as well I do what will happen if anything like that happens between someone like me and someone like you,” my voice dipped to an urgent whisper. I was painfully aware that anyone could be listening in on this conversation.
“And why not Patty?” he whispered quietly stepping closer until his face was a few inches from my own. “Don’t you think it might be fun to shake things up a little inside the agency? Don’t you think we would be good together?”
“No,” I shifted towards the edge of the bed with my fingers clinging hold of the covers to prevent me from tumbling off the other side, “get away from me. I don’t want to ‘shake things up’ and I don’t want to be with someone that lies.”
“I told you why I did that,” he backed away seeing he wasn’t winning this particular game and was only succeeding in raising my temper. “I had to so I could keep you as safe as possible. Matace gave me strict instructions to make sure nothing happened to you; you have no idea how special you are to him Patty. Every day he called me to ask how you were and what you’d been up to; he wanted to make sure you were happy above anything else that was all that mattered to him.”
“So Matace told you to watch me?”
“Yes,” he said as he sat down beside me and leaned forward with his elbows on his thighs.
“I don’t get it,” I said, “I don’t understand why my safety would mean so much to Matace. Don’t you think that’s weird?”
“A little,” he admitted, “but it’s not something we have to think about, is it?”
“Depends on how you look at it I suppose,” I said. “There must be something in his house, some evidence that was missed that might link something together.”
Luke sat back and watched me, amusement lit his eyes and some other expression that I couldn’t understand. My thoughts rambled aimlessly though my mind, and I knew he could hear them, word for word.
“Don’t even consider it,” he said quietly, “you’re not doing it and neither am I.”