Invaders From Another Space and Time

Genre stretch story for the month… Alien Invasion!  It was fun getting this to fit with the rest of the story.  Actually, the story is now complete.  I might end up using the rest of the genre stretch challenges to fill in the story a bit… or I might use them to start something entirely new.

**

He could hardly believe his luck.  Things were going so much better than he could have ever anticipated.  Not only did the chief of the peacekeepers believe that Pemberton was responsible for the murders, the werewolf was being implicated.  By the time he was through, both of them would be off the force.  Without work to keep him there, the werewolf would return to where he’d come from.  Perhaps the other interloper would leave as well.  Alternatively, he might be arrested and his powers bound.

Yes, all in all, things were going well.  He settled back to plan his next move, even as he awaited news that the two fugitives had been apprehended.  A loud crash sounded through the warehouse and he moved to his feet.  A part of him was screaming at him to leave.  However, he couldn’t help but wonder: just what could that possibly be?

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A Tall Tale

So… he’s my answer to the genre challenge for last month.  The challenge was to write a tall tale.  So, here’s Ezra’s somewhat exaggerated version of how things went down between them and the person behind all of the mess they’ve faced so far.  There’s a spoiler, since this is the second to last chapter of the story.

**

The chief looked from one man to the other and scowled.  “So,” he said, crossing his arms across his back, “I want you to tell me exactly what happened.”

Lachlan and Ezra exchanged a look.  Lachlan shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.  “I’m no good at telling stories,” he said, smirking.  “I’ll leave such things to yourself, partner.”

A broad smile spread across Ezra’s face and he leaned back in the chair.  “Well, let me tell you what happened, sir,” he said.

Lachlan couldn’t help but smile at his partner.  He looked like a storyteller preparing to spin the most fantastic yarn for a group of eager onlookers.  The chief must have gotten the same impression, for he sighed and rested his chin on a balled fist, frowning darkly.

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Stars of the Sea

This little vignette was inspired by a photo prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  I don’t know if starfish live in France… right now, I also don’t care.

**

d5d5ee08481f1b8acc4d8546d399533eEzra was glad for the break that the weekend allowed. It was also glad that things were so much closer in Europe than they were back in the States. It meant that, when he wanted to, he could take his daughter to the continent, even to places in the south of France where it was far warmer than in England.

He sat on the beach and watched her swim the shallows with other children that were near her own age. He couldn’t help but smile when she came bounding up the sand to him.

“Daddy,” she said, dropping to her knees beside his chair. “Do we have a camera that can go in the water?”

Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t believe so, darling. Why do you ask?”

He laughed when she caught his hand and tried to pull him out of the chair. As he let her drag him back the way she’d come, she said, “You’ve got see it, Daddy! There are stars in the water!” She released him to bound towards the waves again. “They live on the bottom!”

“Starfish,” Ezra said, nodding in agreement. He could tell her more about them than she’d probably understand. However, at the moment, he was content to simply let her tell him all that she’d seen in her first encounter with such creatures.

Like a snake…

This little scene was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (Like a disappearing snake)…

**

When they reached the original crime scene, Lachlan kept well back from what the two wizards were doing.  The last thing he wanted was to be anywhere near the basil that he knew was still in the area.  On top of that, he didn’t want to be in the way when they worked magic.  No, it was better for all of them if he stayed back and simply kept watch.  He was thankful of his decision when he saw where Eileen found the trace of the first magic: in the center of the wild basil.

“Ah,” she said, her expression brightening.  She grinned at Ezra and nodded.  “Here it is, Officer Metternich.  Someone hid here and fouled your shields.”

“When I used the spell to detect what magic was used on O’Neill,” Ezra said, his voice faint, “my own magical signature overprinted the one left by the person who had killed him.”

Nodding, Eileen set about documenting the scene.  She glanced over at Lachlan and added, “He concealed himself both magically and by using the wild basil for cover.  Then, he slipped away in the underbrush, like a snake.”

“An apt analogy, if ever I’ve heard one,” Lachlan groused.  He heaved a sigh and then looked over at Ezra.  “Think we can get anywhere near the more recent scene?”

“I expect it’s under guard, but we can try,” Ezra said, grimacing.  He chewed at his lip and then shrugged.  “It’ll depend on who they’ve sent to guard it.  I might be able to keep them from arresting me with a bit of fast talking.”

“Do you want to chance it?” Lachlan asked.

Ezra nodded.  “It might be the only chance we’ve got,” he said.  Then he beckoned to Eileen and the trio made their way through the forest to the lake.  They moved around the margins of the lake until they reached the spot where they’d found Nowell earlier that day.

Lachlan tensed when he spotted the shadowy figures by the edge of the water.  “Company,” he breathed.  He glanced at Ezra and shrugged.  “I’ll guard the girl.  You ready to employ that glib tongue of yours?”

Nodding, Ezra moved forward.  He raised his hands when the two peace officers spun around, wands ready.  “Stay your hands, gentlemen.  It’s just us,” he said.  He stepped closer and then shrugged.  “Master Lupin is here to do some spell detection near the crime scene.  Then we’ll be on our way.”

“The chief’s been trying to get hold of you two since the body was carted off, Metternich,” one of them said, scowling.  “You’re not doing yourself any favors by hiding.”

“Who’s hiding?” Ezra said, grinning.  “I’m right here, in front of you, and I fully intend to report back to headquarters, as does my partner.  We simply wanted to bring in a material witness: a charms master of the highest skill to verify what you’ve, no doubt, already found.”

“Your magical signature is everywhere, Metternich,” the other man said.

“He was attempting to ascertain the spell used to kill Nowell,” Lachlan pointed out.

The peace officer shot him a glare.  “His shields would have kept that from overprinting the caster’s magical signature,” he snapped.

“His shields were fouled,” Eileen said, from further up the bank.  She waved at Lachlan and grinned.  “Downwind of you, aren’t I?”

Lachlan grimaced and nodded.  “Less so now that you would have been in the morning, with the wind blowing in from the water,” he said, his voice soft.

The two peacekeepers exchanged a glance and then one of them went up the bank to where Eileen stood.  After a moment, he nodded.  “She’s right, Tom,” he said.  “Someone cast an anti-shielding charm from here five hours ago: exactly when Metternich would have been here.”

“Then, just like a disappearing snake, he vanished into the underbrush,” Eileen said, grinning a bit viciously.  Then, she looked over at Ezra.  “We’ve got his magical signature now, though.  If he’s done any dark magic in the past, we’ll have him.”

Ezra heaved a sigh of relief.  “Thank you,” he said, giving her a weak smile.  He looked at the two peace officers.  “We will report back to headquarters, but there’s something we need to do first.”

Tom nodded.  “Pete was our friend too, Ezra,” he said, his tone somber.  “You catch this guy – catch him for Pete.”

“And for Lachlan,” Ezra said, glancing over at his partner.  When Lachlan flushed, he added, “After all, it was you they were trying to get thrown off the force.”

“You too,” Lachlan said, his voice soft.  “We’ve got a host of reasons to stop this man, not the least of which is the two deaths he has to answer for.  Both Nowell’s family and O’Neill’s family will rest better knowing he’s been captured.”

“Right,” Eileen said.  “So, let’s go already.”

Implications of Guilt

Here is the latest part of my continuing story featuring Lachlan McClelland and Ezra Metternich.  Ezra’s now a suspect in the murders, because his magical signature was found at the crime scenes (it’s a set up – he’s being framed).  Ezra was ordered to return to the car.  They’re probably expected to report in now…

Eileen Lupin, who appears in this section, is a fan character that my sister and I created – daughter of Remus Lupin from Harry Potter.  Obviously, I don’t own her father and I’m not making any money on this story.  She’s sort of an homage to my favorite Harry Potter characters.

**

By the time Lachlan reached the car, Ezra had calmed down.  He’d been able to push aside his hurt and anger and look at the situation impartially.  He met his partner’s gaze steadily.  “The person you’d scented on me,” he said, his voice soft.  “You said he’d been at your apartment and, for his scent to be on me, he must have been near Nowell.”

“He’s the killer,” Lachlan said, nodding firmly.  His brows furrowed.  “I’m thinking that this is the work of those bent on keeping my kind out of the peacekeepers, Ezra.  They’re building distrust of you to play on my loyalty to you.”

“Guilt by association,” Ezra said, nodding.  It made sense.  Lachlan was an unknown.  It was clear that they couldn’t make anyone suspicious of him by simple virtue of his nature.  If they could have done that, he wouldn’t have been allowed on the force to begin with.  So, they were using Ezra’s less than sterling reputation and Lachlan’s unswerving loyalty instead.

“By making it seem you are the murderer,” Lachlan said, his voice soft, “they cast you as a dark wizard and, being a dark creature, of course I should be loyal to you.  Aye?  ‘Tis proof that they cannae trust my kind as peacekeepers.”

Ezra bit his lip and nodded.  “How are they doing it?” Ezra said, shaking his head.  “I just don’t understand how they’d be detecting my magic on the victims.  I’m following procedure perfectly.  You know how careful I am about such things.”

He took a shaky breath and shook his head.  “The only way they’d be detecting my magic would be if I were the killer,” he said.

“And you’re not,” Lachlan interjected.

Ezra nodded once and continued, “or if I wasn’t shielding properly before using the detection spells and I am!”

“What if…” Lachlan started.  Then, he bit his lip and ducked his head.  “I don’t know much about magic, I’ll admit, but… could they somehow link your magic to the victims when you’re doing the shielding itself?”

For a moment, Ezra just stared at Lachlan.  Then, slowly, he nodded.  “They would have to be in the area when I’m performing the shielding, Lachlan,” he said, his voice soft.  “You – you’d know.”

“The first crime scene the wild basil ruined my nose, Ezra,” Lachlan said, shaking his head.  His brows furrowed.  “The killer could have stood just behind me, looming over my shoulder and I wouldn’t have had his scent.”

“And this time?”

Lachlan scowled.  “The water,” he said, snapping his fingers.  He pointed at Ezra and nodded.  “That’s why the killer lure Nowell out to the lake!  The scent won’t carry over water, Ezra.”

“I know that water would wash the scent away,” Ezra said, shaking his head, “but… if he were near the scene…”

“The wind came in to shore off the water, Ezra,” Lachlan said, shaking his head.  He grinned and nodded when Ezra’s eyes widened.  “All he needed to do was stand further up the bank.  I’d have not been able to catch his scent.”

“He would have been… downwind of you,” Ezra said.  When Lachlan nodded, Ezra heaved a sigh.  “How do we prove any of this?  Right now, I’m a suspect and they won’t believe you either!”

For a moment, Lachlan chewed his lip thoughtfully.  “We’ll need to find someone else, then,” he said, his voice soft.  “We’ll need to find someone that will believe us long enough to hear us out, but who our superiors will feel is above reproach.”

Ezra bit his lip and then nodded slowly.  The question was: who?  After a moment, his eyes widened.  “I think I know just the person,” he said, as a smile touched his lips.  Meeting Lachlan’s gaze, he said, “Fancy going back to school, my friend?”

“Fancy I do, aye,” Lachlan said, nodding.  He hurried over to the passenger side of the car and got inside.  Once Ezra was in the driver’s seat and they were both buckled in, they headed out onto the main road.  There was probably only one person who would hear them out now.  He was the same man who had trained both of them when they’d first joined the force.  He was also the same person who had suggested Ezra as Lachlan’s partner: Alistair Brody.

As they headed towards the Academy, Ezra could only pray that whomever the killer was, they wouldn’t realize what Ezra and Lachlan were planning.  Otherwise, the former peacekeeper might be in grave danger.  Chewing at his lip, Ezra pressed harder on the gas pedal.  It wouldn’t hurt to hurry, just in case.

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A darker journey

The genre for Genre Stretch for May was Imaginary Voyage which is a kind of narrative in which utopian or satirical representation (or some popular science content) is put into a fictional frame of travel account.  I’m not sure how successful I was, but here’s the next part of my continuing story.

This is set directly after “Mischief on the Lake” and before “The Empty Boat”.

**

Lachlan stared out at the field with the lone tree, in which they’d found O’Neill’s truck.  Behind him, Ezra was working some spell that would keep the basil from affecting him, provided that it worked.  He glanced around and then turned to face the trees.

The area was actually quite beautiful.  The trees were beginning to change color.  There were golds and oranges mixed in with the greens of the scattered pines.  Somewhere, Lachlan could hear the lapping of water.  There was a lake somewhere beyond the trees that he could see from the edge of the field.

“All set,” Ezra said, nodding.

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Under Bright Leaves

Here is the scene set directly after the one with the empty boat.  This scene was also inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

Lachlan frowned as he made his way around the edge of the water. Ezra wasn’t far behind him, but he was far more comfortable in the outdoors than the wizard was.

A familiar scent caught Lachlan’s attention and he froze, muscles tensing. “Got something,” he said, glancing over one shoulder at Ezra. Then, he hurried forward. He stopped again when he reached the edge of the water.

Ezra gasped as he stumbled to a stop behind Lachlan. “God,” he breathed. Then, he hurried forward. He took a steadying breath and made a circular motion with his wand. “Killed with a dark spell, same one as O’Neill.”

Lachlan grimaced. He moved closer to his partner and heaved a sigh. “I think we can guess what happened,” he said. “He was out in that boat, probably killed by the other person witnesses saw in it.”

Ezra heaved a sigh and shook his head.”The question is… why?” he said, his voice strained. “What’s the connection between Nowell and O’Neill?”

Heaving a sigh, Lachlan looked up at the leaves. He could just see the hills beyond the lake through them. It was strange, how peaceful it was. The fact that there was a dead body not ten feet away from them felt entirely wrong.34-5420c9350c

Shaking the thoughts away, he looked down at Ezra. His partner was kneeling beside the body, looking stunned. “All right, Ezra?” he asked, his voice soft. Nowell was Ezra’s friend. Technically, he shouldn’t be working the case, now that Nowell was involved. However, Lachlan wasn’t about to tell his partner that. It was up to Ezra and, possibly, their superiors.

Ezra stood and turned to Lachlan. Nodding briskly, he said, “Call it in, Lachlan. I’ll secure the body myself.”

Lachlan nodded once and then moved back from his partner. He was careful to keep Ezra in sight, but he knew that the man might like a moment alone with his friend. “Complications,” Lachlan breathed, as he pulled out the communications device. Finding a peace keeper murdered by dark magic would almost certain make things difficult for all involved, particularly Ezra. Would they suspect him as being involved in this as well? Lachlan prayed that they wouldn’t.

Mischief at the Lake

This little scene was inspired by a picture prompt from the Wriye DreamWidth.  It takes place before Lachlan and Ezra find the empty boat…

**

30-3bf45807c8It was a strange place to meet, that was certain. Although, he could see the wisdom behind it. They could be certain that no one would overhear the conversation. Also, no one could come up on them without them knowing it.

He frowned at the water. The surface was like glass. He’d heard such things said, but this was the first time he’d seen it for himself. The water reflected the sky perfectly. It was so peaceful that he could almost forget why they were out in the boat.

“Our superiors wanted you to know that your efforts were appreciated,” his companion said, as he stopped rowing. “However, you are no longer… necessary.”

He felt his entire body tense. “No longer…” he never had a chance to finished the thought. Whatever he might have said was lost as red light struck him. A moment later, he had tumbled into the water. His companion vanished with a snap of his fingers.

It’s All a Bit Absurd

The next part in my continuing Genre Stretch story.  For April, the challenge was to write something absurdist.  It was a real stretch for me, but I made the attempt, at least.

**

When Lachlan had first joined the department, he’d assumed that all the strange looks he got were because of the kilt.  He’d worn a kilt for as long as he could remember, so it was comfortable for him.  It didn’t take him long to realize that it was because he was a werewolf.

He couldn’t figure out if his co-workers expected him to turn violent any moment or if they were just surprised at how quiet he actually was.  The only person who treated him halfway normal was his partner.

Ezra was the sort that took a while to warm up to you no matter who you were.  He called everyone “Officer This” and “Mr. That.”  He kept a neat desk that had none of the personal touches that most people normally kept.  There were no photographs with family members smiling and waving at him.  There was no candy jar.  There wasn’t even a pen holder.  He kept his pens tucked in the top desk drawer, along with the paper clips and other odds and ends that littered desks everywhere.

Lachlan was the exact opposite in that regard.  He had all the things that Ezra didn’t.  Not only that, he had a growing collection of stuffed ducks.  He didn’t know who had brought him the first.  He’d simply found it on his desk one morning.  Since that day, five more had been added.

He gave Ezra a wry smile when his partner strode over to the desk and set a small yellow duck in the center of his blotter.  “My daughter made it,” he said, shrugging.

Lachlan lifted the little desk into his hand and smiled.  “Tis a cute wee thing,” he said, as he set it on top of his pen holder.

Ezra nodded and then began checking through his messages.  “Have you gotten word from Esther recently?” he asked as he set one of the papers on his desk.

“She called during breakfast,” Lachlan said, nodding.  “She’s settled back in with the pack all right, but she’s missing me something fierce.”  Truth be told, he missed her terribly as well.  However, he’d rather she was safe than close.

“What’s on the agenda for tonight?” Ezra said, as he finished sorting through his messages.  He tossed a handful of them into the trash.  The rest went on his desk, so he could follow up with them later.

“Chief wants us to go back to the crime scene and see if we can find anything we might have missed,” Lachlan said.  He grimaced.  “Can you do anything about the basal?  That stuff will ruin me for the night, and no mistake.”

“There’s a spell that I can try,” Ezra said.  He stood and grabbed his cloak.  “Ready to go, then?”

Lachlan nodded and moved to his feet.  He froze and then stepped closer to Ezra.  He sniffed lightly at his partner’s cloak.  “Who’ve you been near?” he asked, his voice faint.

“Peter Nowell,” Ezra said, blinking.  “We worked together when I lived in the States.  He moved to England a few years before me.  Why?”  His brows furrowed.  “You know his scent from somewhere?”

Shaking his head, Lachlan said, “Not his.  He was near someone and… they were at my apartment.”

“When it was firebombed?” Ezra said, his eyes widening.  When Lachlan nodded, his brows furrowed.  Lachlan could tell that they were thinking the same thing.

“It doesn’t mean that he was involved,” Lachlan said, shaking his head.  “It just means he was there long enough for me to still find his scent.”

“Right,” Ezra agreed.  He smoothed the folds of his cloak and said, “Let’s get over to the crime scene, then.”

As they headed out of the office, Lachlan noticed that people would stop speaking as they passed their desks.  At first, he thought it was because they were reacting to him being a werewolf.  Then he realized that his partner was getting tenser by the moment.  They were reacting to him?

“Want to talk about it?” Lachlan asked.  Ezra looked sharply at him and he smiled.  “I’ve gotten that nervous, suspicious glance enough times to recognize it, Ezra.  Thing is, now you’re the one as is getting it and that makes no sense to me.”

Ezra gave him a tight smile.  “I never mentioned why I left the States,” he said.  He fidgeted with his cloak as they started down the steps towards the main floor.  “There was an incident… Dark magic was detected at a crime scene and, somehow, it was traced to me.”

Lachlan’s brows furrowed.  “Let me guess: the boys that came to take care of the body detected your magic signature on O’Neill’s body?” he said.  He wasn’t surprised when Ezra nodded.

He chewed at his lip.  “I know you weren’t involved,” he said, his voice soft.  “You didn’t know O’Neill from Adam.  You’d have had no reason to kill him, using dark magic or otherwise.”

Ezra heaved a sigh and gave him a weak smile.  Lachlan blinked.  Ezra was seldom anything other than business-like when they were working.  The fact that he was looking for encouragement from Lachlan told him more clearly than words that the situation was bothering him.

“Are you a suspect, then?” he asked.

Shaking his head, Ezra said, “They’re going to re-run the tests.  The thinking at this point is that they were somehow contaminated.”

“Meaning that you did something wrong when you were trying to detect the sort of magic used,” Lachlan said.  It would be a problem, but far less of one than if he was actually suspected of murdering someone with dark magic.

“It just… It feels like, no matter what I do,” Ezra said, “nothing changes.”  Then they were outside and approaching their vehicle.  He stepped over to the passenger side of the car.  “No matter where I go, I end up making everyone suspicious of me, even when I don’t do anything.”

Lachlan didn’t quite no how to answer that.  Finally, he said, “I know exactly what you mean.  It’s all just a bit absurd, isn’t it?”  Ezra nodded and he smiled.  “I trust you and… you trust me, yeah?”

“With my life,” Ezra said, smiling.

The Empty Boat

I’m working on my “backlog” – the picture prompts from the WriYe DreamWidth that I never got around to using when they were first posted.  This one features Ezra and Lachlan.  I think I’m going to connect it with their larger story…

**

5-8220a562cdLachlan frowned at the boat that bobbed on the water.  It was, much like the truck they’d in the tree, an odd thing to see.  However, where the treed truck was simply odd, this held a hint of… foreboding.

“Chances that it simply drifted away from its mooring are…”

“Perishingly small,” Ezra said, his voice faint.  He pointed towards a pair of fishermen standing on the dock and said, “They saw two men get into it just at sunset last night.”

Lachlan grimaced and glanced around at the water that stretched out from the shore and towards the horizon.  It was not a small lake.  “Are we dredging for one body or two, then?” he asked, glancing over at his partner.

“Two,” Ezra said, shrugging.  He shook his head and said, “Until we learn otherwise, we’ve been told to assume that both men fell out of the boat at some point during their ill-advised journey.”

Nodding, Lachlan turned to follow Ezra towards the fishermen.  Presumably, they’d offered to get the two officers out to the boat.  The questions were many already.  Had the men fallen out?  Were either or both of them dead?  Was it an accident or something far worse?  Who were the two men?  There wouldn’t be any answers gained from standing on the shore and staring out at the gently rocking boat.

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