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Demon Codex Book 1: Soul Bottles

 

Professor Derrick Watson was hoping for an open and shut case when he drove out to the boonies, what he found was the beginning of a wild ride to track down dangerous magic.


 

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The Federal Arcane Bureau knew better than to contact him for anything routine, which made that day’s cryptic message especially compelling. Rather than phone him at the university, they’d magically pinged him with a reverse Aoede spell that was like someone whispering an address, a name, and the word “urgent” in his ear. Professor Derrick Watson had paused only long enough to invite his graduate assistant to join him. Regardless of why the FAB had summoned him, it would surely provide good experience.

The overcast autumn sky made for a perfect afternoon drive beyond the border of Philadelphia. Watson drummed on the leather wheel of his vintage Jeep Wrangler, enjoying the colorful fields of green and brown and gold on display on either side of the road. He’d been to his destination before, but habit had led him to punch the address into the Jeep’s GPS system all the same, despite the irony of using electronics to reach a farm on the edge of Amish country.

A respected professor of Demonic Languages and Linguistics at Alexander University, Watson was in his early forties. His piercing gaze and graying temples suggested a distinguished scholar rather than a man entering middle age. At least, that was what his barber kept telling him, and the professor trusted her. Binh wouldn’t lie to him.

Watson stood just shy of six feet tall. His height distracted the eye from the beginning of a belly—the inevitable result of too much takeout food and too little exercise. He had dressed for the road trip the same way he did for the classroom, in navy slacks and a conservative button-down shirt with no tie. His standard-issue tweed jacket hung from a hook behind him in the Jeep, and his well-worn penny loafers managed the pedals.

His graduate assistant Alberto “Albert” Hernandez Alcaldo occupied the passenger seat in a pair of fashionably ripped jeans and a flannel shirt any hipster would be proud to own. His raven-black hair was pulled up in a man-bun that Watson worked very hard not to ridicule. Maybe it was a generational thing, but Watson believed that if you had to add the word “man” to something, you were signaling that it wasn’t manly. Albert never seemed to notice his mentor’s rolling eyes. At that moment, the grad student’s handsome face turned away as he basked in the calm of the rural surroundings. Like Watson, Albert rarely left the university, let alone went outside the city. It might have been a pleasant holiday if not for the source of Watson’s summoning.

The flashes of police lights in the distance banished the illusion of an enjoyable afternoon. Watson stopped the Jeep at the turnoff to the farm by what looked to be a hastily erected blockade. A uniformed Lancaster police officer approached at a glacial pace, his expression suggesting he had already decided to send the pair of civilians on their way, and he wasn’t going to be rushed. Watson sighed. Assisting law enforcement was one of the more rewarding parts of his work, but it was not one of his favorites. He’d done quite a bit of it years earlier, counting it as fieldwork and building his reputation as a premiere magical polyglot, but that was before he had gotten tenure and the freedom to focus on obscure research topics. He’d pulled back since then, and the FAB only asked for his assistance in their more difficult and interesting cases now. He didn’t begrudge them. It was good to get out of the classroom and office now and again.

Not far away and to either side of the long drive leading to the farm’s main buildings, a group of news trucks sat parked with their antennae raised. A gaggle of camera operators and reporters jostled for the best spot to do their live remotes, setting up their equipment and attempting to radiate an air of importance. Another police officer, this one looking more harassed than bored, stood between the news crews and the property on the far side of the entrance drive.

The farm appeared ordinary. Simple. It consisted of a renovated barn, a small house, and wide-open fields surrounding the two structures that sat about a hundred yards back from the main road at the end of a packed-gravel drive.

To the right, adjacent to the road, a large sign read PUPPIES OF HEALING in dramatic letters, bright white on a background of forest green. Beneath that, in much smaller print, it said Danielle Leroux, M.D., Ph.D., Wrangler. And finally, in script so small as to suggest an almost-resisted afterthought, it read Made Possible by the Derrick Watson Foundation.

Past that sign, any pretense of normalcy ended.

Gyrating in the field directly beyond the sign was a small gathering of Elvis Presley impersonators. As Watson and Albert waited for the police officer, the cavorting Elvi chased each other in circles in their sequined jumpsuits, laughing and grinning like a bunch of kids.

Watson took a deep breath and glanced beyond the Kings. Additional incarnations of Elvis milled and gyrated about the property. A pair of older Elvi lounged on the front steps of the updated farmhouse, their garish outfits bright against the gray-painted timber framing. Then, before his eyes, the house changed.

To be clear, the Elvi on the steps didn’t move. The building shimmered and flowed, and for an instant, the whole thing looked to be made of pale golden light. It pulsed once, and its lines reformed into a new shape. Then the light faded, and in its place stood a small, neon-lit Vegas-style casino. Albert nudged the professor’s shoulder, directing his gaze toward where the barn had been. A scaled-down replica of the Eiffel Tower stood there now. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

The policeman finally arrived at Watson’s door and motioned for him to lower his window.

“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t be here. This is an active crime scene.”

“I’m here at the request of the FAB,” Watson replied. “I imagine someone called ahead about me.”

Officer Molasses frowned. “May I see some identification, sir?”

“Of course,” Watson fished his wallet out of the Jeep’s center console. Digging into it, he presented the license that identified him as a senior consultant to the Federal Arcane Bureau—the obscure agency that Hollywood had popularized as “mage cops.” The officer accepted the card and stepped away to speak into his radio. He came back a moment later and deferentially returned Watson’s identification. “Thank you, Dr. Watson. My apologies. You’re cleared to enter. Please park your car here and walk into the site.”

Watson complied, turning his Jeep around to make it easier to leave in case an emergency departure became advisable. As a consultant to the FAB, he’d learned it was always a good idea to be able to leave in a hurry if the situation required it. You only needed to live through one incident involving a budding elementalist and a fireworks factory to appreciate the lesson.

He stepped out onto the gravel and glanced back into the Jeep. “You should come,” he told Albert. “The FAB gives me a lot of discretion when I help out. Nice as it was, I didn’t invite you along just for the scenic drive.” Albert opened his door and turned to the back of the Jeep, where a small golden hamster stood on top of a toolbox, its hands and face plastered against the rear window of the hard-top shell.

“Stay here,” Albert told the hamster. As an afterthought, he added, “And behave. Don’t let anyone see you, especially any of the reporters.”

Albert rounded the vehicle and joined Watson just as the professor finished shrugging into his tweed jacket. Its rumples and elbow patches completed the look of an ivory tower elite, making Watson appear out of place as they began the short trek to the transformed farmhouse beyond the media vans and a small fleet of police cars. As they passed the sign, Albert furrowed his brow and addressed his professor. “You have a foundation?” he asked as they made their way along the gravel drive.

“I do. Not on purpose. It was several years ago. A politician’s son got himself in a bit of a pickle. Apparently, he’d been trying to impress his date but had made pronunciation errors while attempting some fancy sex magic. No, that’s not the right word. There was nothing fancy about it. It was straight-up freaky.” Watson shook his head as if to clear the memory, or at least the more distracting bits of it. “At any rate, I was called in as a private consultant in the middle of the night. The short version is I saved his butt and his other parts, and the resulting compensation was embarrassingly generous. I set up the foundation to put the money to work doing some good.”

Albert nodded but couldn’t let it go. “Well, okay, that explains the how, but not the why. I mean, puppies?”

“Dani was a doctoral student of mine, not unlike you. She went on to work in palliative care.”

“That’s providing help for people with terminal medical problems, right?” Albert inquired.

“Not solely, no. The term applies to any kind of life-limiting illness. Something she, ironically, has come to understand firsthand.”

“How’s that?”

Watson chewed his lip a moment before answering. “She has an inoperable brain tumor.”

Albert said nothing for several steps but finally broke the silence by asking, “But puppies?”

“It turns out, spending time with puppies is incredibly effective for relieving physical and mental stress. Dani did the research and showed me her findings. I provided the funding, and she built this place. She runs it, hires the staff, brings in puppies from shelters all over the state, and works with the patients.”

Albert glanced around. “Okay, but I’m not getting the whole Elvis Presley thing.”

“Yeah, that’s…new.”


 

 

The quote “the cavorting Elvi chased each other in circles in their sequined jumpsuits, laughing and grinning like a bunch of kids” painted a great picture, I can't wait to read what is causing this hilarious scene. Demon Codex Book 1: Soul Bottles is out for release on April 26, 2022. Don't wait to head over to Amazon and pre-order today.

 

Soul Bottles e-book cover