“Hey Dory!” I called out, wondering what was taking so long. I put my sneaker-clad feet up on my messy desk and let out a sigh.
“Coming, Boss!” Dory called back from the adjoining room leading into my small, dimly lit office.
A moment later she came barreling toward my desk with a stack of manilla folders pressed against her chest. Her glittery white skin was mostly covered by jeans and an icy blue sweater, though there was no hiding her long, translucent hair. Fortunately, she didn’t need to. There were far stranger things in the demon underground than Dory.
She plunked the folders down onto my desk, grinning at me all the while.
I narrowed my gaze. “You look like the cat that ate the canary.”
Her grin faltered. “I look like a cat?”
I shook my head, smiling. “Never mind, it’s a human phrase. Sometimes I forget you haven’t spent much time in the human realm.”
I sighed, leaning back against my swiveling chair. I hadn’t spent much time in the human realm lately either, even though I’d been raised there by my mortal mother. I hadn’t even found out my dad was a fire demon until I was sixteen, when I’d randomly started blowing up appliances with my mind.
Dory snapped her sparkly fingers in front of my face. “Earth to Xoe. I have exciting news and you’re ruining my delivery.”
I blinked up at her.
“You have an appointment in thirty minutes,” she said, her grin resumed.
I shook my head, tossing my long, white-blonde hair over my shoulder. “We’re a detective agency, Dory. I have appointments all the time.”
“Not with demons we know,” she eluded, practically jumping up and down with excitement.
I pursed my lips, still wondering what she was talking about, then a knock sounded near the open door.
“Sorry, I’m a little early,” a man’s voice explained.
I whipped my gaze upward, taking in the tall, dark-haired man standing in the doorway, dressed in a casual flannel and jeans. His deep gray eyes were exactly as I remembered them, accentuated by his evenly tanned skin and handsome face. His crooked smile made my heart skip a beat. I hadn’t seen it since the day we’d broken up, ten months ago.
I felt my expression shutting down as he stepped into the room. I had reason to be guarded. He’d gotten into a lot of trouble with his brother, Sam, and had left me high and dry in the process.
I stared at him. “What do you want, Chase?”
He had the grace to look abashed.
Dory watched the scene intently, like her favorite soap opera had just come on.
I glared at her. “Would you excuse us, Dory?”
She pouted. “Aw shucks, Cupcake, you’re no fun.”
I gestured toward the door, and finally she skulked out, shutting it behind her.
Chase took one of the seats across from my desk. “I see Dory hasn’t changed at all.”
I shook my head, fighting the anger welling up inside me. He’d abandoned Dory too. Besides me, he’d been her only friend. As an artificial demon construct, she wasn’t allowed to leave the demon underground with me to meet humans, and other demons tended to steer clear of her.
I shuffled through the folders on my desk, needing something to do lest I used my powers to light Chase on fire. “What do you want?” I asked again, not meeting his waiting gaze.
He sighed. “I suppose we’ll skip the niceties, then. Sam is dead, Xoe, and the Demon Council is trying to blame me for his murder.”
My hands froze, letting the few papers I’d picked up flutter back down to my desk. I finally met his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He shook his head. “He went missing three weeks ago,” his voice hitched. He took a deep, shaky breath, then continued, “Then a few days back, his body was found in a dumpster. It was reported to the Council. They found me, reported his death, then took me in for questioning.”
I shook my head in disbelief. I’d never liked Sam, in fact I’d nearly killed him a few times myself, but he was Chase’s brother. Chase had seen some good in him, which meant he probably didn’t deserve to die.
I stood, walked around the desk, then took the empty seat beside him, putting my hand over his where it rested on his lap. “I’m so sorry, Chase. That must have been an awful experience.”
He nodded, turning his gaze down to my hand on top of his. “I know he and I haven’t always been on the best of terms, but—” he hesitated, “he was the only family I had left.”
I took a deep breath. At one time, Dory and I had considered Chase family, and he’d felt the same way about us. He was one of my last remaining links to my dad, who’d been murdered right before my eyes five years ago. Our breakup had crushed something inside me, something I was a long way off from recovering.
“Why are you here, Chase?” I asked softly.
He turned his gray eyes up to mine. “They think I killed him, Xoe, my own brother. He was stabbed to death, and they linked the wounds to a knife from my apartment. Then when they searched the place, they found remnants of his blood.”
I shook my head. “How is that even possible?”
He shrugged. “I have no clue. He’s been to my place a million times, and he never bled in there. The knife was just a kitchen knife. It was never missing as far as I can recall.”
“How did they track the knife?” I asked.
“A Sanguis Demon,” he explained. “They can smell where blood has been even after an object has been soaked in bleach.”
I nodded. I knew a little bit about demon law enforcement. Sanguis Demons were rare, but whenever one popped up, they were almost immediately recruited to the force. I let out a long breath as the gravity of the situation soaked in. “If you’re convicted, they’ll kill you.”
He nodded. We both knew the Demon Council did not mess around. Death was the penalty more often than not. They had a soft spot for me since my dad had been an upper ranking demon, but that affiliation would only get me so far, and it definitely wouldn’t negate murder charges.
“All I can think is that I’m being framed,” he continued. “I didn’t kill my brother, he just disappeared.” He turned toward me, a pleading expression creasing his face. “You knew Sam, Xoe. He was always involved in nefarious activities. Anyone could have wanted to kill him.”
Everyone wanted to kill him, I thought to myself, removing my hand from his. Sam had unintentionally placed my father in the position that ended his life, and had nearly ended mine. I had no doubt he’d done even worse to many others.
“I know you didn’t like him,” Chase continued, watching the obvious shift in my expression, “but you’re the only person I could think to ask for help.”
I shook my head. “What exactly are you asking me to do, Chase?”
He reached out and took my hand, squeezing it. “I’d like to hire you to find my brother’s real killer. My trial takes place two weeks from tomorrow. If we don’t find the killer by then, I’m dead.”
I counted to ten in my head, fighting the whirlwind of emotions tearing through me. “Okay,” I answered finally. “Consider Minor Magics Detective Agency on the case.”
His shoulders slumped in relief. He let go of my hand, then shifted in his seat to remove his wallet from his back pocket. He unfolded it and removed a white business card, handing it to me. “This is where I can be reached when you’re ready to start on the case . . . which will hopefully be soon.”
I turned the card over in my hand. The front was just a phone number, then on the back was a hastily scrawled address. “You know,” I began hesitantly, “usually only criminals need a business card with only a phone number on it.”
The corner of his lip curled up. “Nothing overly nefarious, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I shook my head. “I better not regret helping you.”
He smiled down at me. “I promise I won’t drag you down with me, no matter what happens.” With that, he turned and made his way to the door. With his hand on the knob, he looked over his shoulder at me. “It’s good to see you again, Xoe.”
I smirked, still fiddling with the business card in my hands. “I wish I could say the same.”
He chuckled. “I see you’ve changed even less than Dory has.” He opened the door and let himself out, shutting it gently behind him.
I flipped the business card over again in my hand, peering down at it as I mulled things over. Chase and I might have had our differences, but there was no way I was going to let him get framed for murder. I set the card on my desk as I stood, then hurried across the space to the adjoining bathroom before Dory could find me and bombard me with questions.
Entering the bathroom, I flipped on the lights and locked the door behind me, then peered into the mirror above the small, dingy sink. My bright green eyes, just like my dad’s, gazed back at me. I wished I could ask my dad what I should do. He always seemed to have all the answers, and the demon connections to implement the solutions. I was just a twenty-two year old half-demon, trying to run a detective agency with little real experience. I’d been in over my head since I started, and now I had a murder case on my hands. It was sink or swim time, except the waters were infested with demons instead of sharks. We might not all have sharp teeth, but we tended to be far more deadly.
Stay tuned for Chapter Two next Sunday! If you'd like to buy me a coffee, please visit my Kofi page. Every little bit helps! :).