Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 20

Maybe it actually was time to leave. I’d pulled too many people in, hurt too many people. I walked out into the street.

It was dark. There was a raven on the streetlight.

“What should I do?” I called up to him.


Yeah, a useful response, as ever, but then the bird dropped to land on my shoulder, a weight…his claws digging in through my shirt.

“Is it time for me to leave?”

“No. You need to be here.”

“Can you help Mike?”

“Not without changing the world forever.”

I nodded. “And possibly triggering Ragnarok. I get it. But can we at least keep him out of jail?”

No response.

“You don’t know yet. Got it.” Fate was still tangled. Too many possibilities. I understood that instinctively. “What about beating up Tyz’vel?”

“Not yet.”

I nodded. “Well, I tried to set some angels on him.”

Not yet? What more did he need to do? Then I realized he was reading it as me beating up Tyz’vel and saying I couldn’t take him. Yet.

“Good move. Don’t trust them, but…”

“I don’t. They give me the creeps.”

“Their leash is very tight.”

I kept walking. “Okay.”

“I have more free will than they are allowed to exercise. They seem to respond to that by being self righteous.”

I laughed. “Good one…whichever one you are.”


“Sorry. I…haven’t worked out how to tell you apart yet.”

“We are from the same nest.”

Good point. They were both big black birds that gave off a similar magical feel. Of course they were brothers. “I’ll get it.”

“No. You’ll remember it.”

“Soon.” the raven promised, then dug in his claws once more as he lifted off into the sky. I watched him go.

So, he figured I’d eventually get powerful enough to deal with Tyz’vel myself. But I wasn’t sure how. Demons liked fire, after all.

Or maybe he wouldn’t like my fire so much…

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 19

“So, Fitz is de-influenced?”

I nodded to Thruor. “William gave him holy water and Clara’s making him an anti-demon amulet. He didn’t actually faint.”

Thruor grinned. “We win another one.”

“I don’t know if we won anything.”

“Every time somebody opens their eyes to reality, we win a little. In one battle.”

I nodded. “I suppose, but the problem is, if he drops the case they’ll just hire somebody else. Somebody we don’t have protected. I think we’re back to making Mike disappear.”

Mike, stepping out of the bathroom shook his head. “No. I’m not disappearing unless they convict me of something.”

I nodded. Thruor could probably break Mike out of jail if she needed to. If not, my father certainly could.

Heck, I probably could. Fire and illusion. I was an extension of my father?

No. He was associated with fire. He didn’t call it. The illusion, though, that was definitely his. And useful.

“What can we do? We can’t prove you weren’t there.”

“Well. We might be able to. I wasn’t with anyone I know, but I was in public. We could find somebody who saw me. Would add enough confusion.” Mike’s lips quirk. “Beyond reasonable doubt.”

They’d still fire him, I knew. But…it could keep him out of jail. “If anyone did, bets Tyz’vel’s leaning on them?”

“Not taking that. It wouldn’t take much. A bit of a bribe, maybe. Wouldn’t even need magic.” Mike sighed and sat down. “I probably won’t be able to stay in DC. I’m willing to sign that document for you.”

I shook my head. “I…can’t make a life commitment on false premises. I need to know for sure it’s the right thing for both of us. We’ll manage.”

“She said the same thing.”

If she’d asked me to, if she’d begged me, I knew I would cave.

“You could try getting her some work with the agency.”

“I tried that. They…don’t have much work for black girls. Designers ask for one or two. Catalogue people, same.”

Mike shuddered. “Should have figured.”

“Should always figure racism into the equation, I suppose. But she can’t get enough. She’s stuck until we go to college.”

“You’re going with the design idea.”

I nodded. “Fashion and design. I seem to be good at it.”
Good at appearances. My father’s daughter. But…it worked while I was here. And I remembered that was the other reason I didn’t want to swear any oaths.

I might, I knew, have to leave.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 18

His office was extremely comfortable…surprisingly not intimidating. He sat down not behind the desk but on a couch in the corner. “It’s all real.”

“You’ve seen stuff before.”

“Yeah, but…”

I glanced at Will, then sat down. “Alright. This demon is…stalking me. He…”

“…had a spell on you to make you vulnerable to any suggestion he made.” William also sat down.

“Great. So I have to…”

“He didn’t actually touch your soul,” William added. “But if you’re a religious man, I’d suggest spending some time in church.”

Fitz nodded slowly, then turned to me. “What are you?”

“I can’t tell you that yet. I’m not a demon, and I’m not your enemy…except in trying to get Mike out of this mess.”

“Unfortunately, we can’t exactly have you shapeshift in court to show how it’s done. Can we?”

I shook my head. “Half of the jury, at least, wouldn’t even see it. They’d deny the reality. They’d think I’d looked like that all along or something. I mean, people are fooled by it, but actually doing it…besides, I don’t shapeshift.”

William glanced at me.

Fitz stared at me. “You’re a freaking fairy, aren’t you. Like, the scary kind.”

I was tempted to let him believe that. “Fairies aren’t the only beings good at glamors.” I let out a breath. “Reality is that I don’t want you involved in this, but you are. So I’ll arrange you some protection.”

“And if I drop the case…”

I pursed my lips. “They’ll just hire somebody else. Somebody who doesn’t have protection.”

He nodded, thoughtfully. “I…wouldn’t have believed you if I hadn’t seen that, but…I believe you. I just don’t know what to do.”

“Trust me, it’ll work out somehow.” I glanced at William. “Any word your end…”

“Stuff’s moving. But I don’t know what.”

I’d have to be content with that. “I’m going to call a witch about a protection spell.”

“And I’m going to give you this.” William offered Fitz a bottle. “Yes, it’s what you probably think it is.”

The lawyer laughed a sharp, nervous laugh, but took the bottle.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 17

Communicating with him, though, with Fitz right there…
“Is this man giving you any trouble, Jane?”

“No. We were just talking.” The truth, really, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to break off the conversation.

Will slipped his arm around me in a platonic matter and whispered, “Not possessed,” in my ear.

That was helpful. I wondered if he could do something about what had happened.

“Is this man…”

“He’s a friend,” I turned back to Fitz. “He thought I needed rescuing, ya know.”

Fitz shook his head. “The only person you need rescuing from…”

I lifted my hand. “It’s more complicated than you think. Mike was set up by somebody who…who he got into trouble in the past.”

“You’re saying the cop who shot that kid…”

“…wasn’t even a cop. I think it was an actor.” I let out a breath. “You know, desperate unemployed actor, offered a ton of money.”

Fitz shook his head. “You want me to believe this, you’ll need…”

“You were approached to take the case not by the family, but by a handsome younger man with black hair.” It was a guess, and a desperate one.

His eyes widened. “Uh…”

I continued the lie smoothly, “Mike put his father away for a long time. He’s after vengeance.”

Finally, Fitz frowned. “No. He’s…”

I glanced at William. He was murmuring very quietly under his breath in Latin.

“Manipulating you, like I said.” I hated having to lie, but I was fairly sure if I told him the truth his mind would go into defense mode and he wouldn’t remember any of it. That was how it worked, after all.

“And you are too.” He glanced at William, then blinked. “The truth. I want the truth.”

I studied him. “Alright. It’s a demon.”

“…” He fell silent. Then he looked at William again, his eyes focused firmly on the man’s collar.

“A demon that’s trying to ruin our lives, because he’s pissed with me. He shot the kid – disguised as Mike.”


I took a deep breath and focused hard on shifting my appearance. “Like this.”

“You’re a demon.”

“No…or I wouldn’t be able to hug William here.” I grinned at him. “No…I’m one of the good guys. Mostly.”

“I…need to sit down.”

I could imagine that he did, but William moved to support him and guide him back into his office.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 16

I knew that I couldn’t do this for some convenience. If I did it, I was committing to stay with her for the rest of her life.

I couldn’t do it just to solve a problem we were having – and it only solved our part of the problem.

Discrediting Fitz wouldn’t help if it had actually been a shapeshifted Tyz’vel, but I found myself heading to their office after school anyway. I stood opposite it, my hands in my pockets. Kanesha had gone home to talk to Mike.

Might be our last chance. Either he would be in jail or Thruor would make him disappear. And then we might not see her again either.

I felt as if everything was coming to an end, crashing down around me. None of it could be salvaged or saved.

He wanted me to hate him. I was trying my best not to, because that was letting him win.
Except he already had. This round. Not the war, but this battle. An attack I hadn’t expected.

How did I fortify myself against the next one? Short of breaking off with Kanesha and isolating myself – which would only, I thought, make me more vulnerable.

I still thought I wanted to discredit Fitz. And there he was, coming out of the office. I focused on not being noticed.

It didn’t work. Tyz’vel’s influence, perhaps, or maybe I was not concentrating properly. Odin knew I had good reason for that.

Our eyes met. He crossed the street towards me. “Ms…Rudi, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry about your situation, but you know it can’t stand.”

I studied him. “You ever spent any time in a DC group home?”

“Better than living with a murderer. Especially for your…do you consider her a sister?”

I shook my head. “Absolutely not. But he’s not one.”

“We have multiple witnesses to say otherwise.”

“You and they are being fooled.” I studied the man. Sharp features. There was intelligence in those eyes. Would he believe or would he be one of those who freaked out?

Could I take the risk with Tyz’vel’s influence like a net over him? Then I heard footsteps. Familiar footsteps. I turned slightly, not wanting to take my eyes off of Fitz.

Father William. A sight for sore eyes.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 15

“She suggested what?”

Kanesha sounded as intimidated as I felt.

“That if we were married then…well…it would keep you out of the group home. I…I don’t know.”

She reached to rest her hand on mine. “I’d thought about it, but…I was thinking about it for, you know. After college.”

“So was I. Give us lots of time to make sure we aren’t going to be at each other’s throats. I’m worried if we do this we’ll end up splitting up.”

“Yeah…on the other hand, I want to stay with you. More than anything. And I couldn’t be more of a target for…”

No, I thought, she couldn’t. It might even temporarily get Surtur to back off – to leave me alone as long as Kanesha was in the picture. I got the impression fire giants had at least some honor. Demons, by definition, had none.

“I just…the idea scares me.”

“What idea?” Thruor had her head poked around the door.

“The lawyer working on my emancipation paperwork had an…uh…interesting idea for getting Kanesha out of CPS.”

Thruor blinked. Then she laughed. “Well…uh…it would work.”

“Yeah, but I’m worried we’ll explode all over each other.” If we tried to live together without Mike as a buffer, likely in a small apartment. Yeah. I worried.

“Look, I’ve known couples to stay together for twenty, thirty years then do just that.” Thruor grinned a bit. “The two of you are quite capable of working it out.”

She didn’t voice that for me it would be temporary anyway. I saw that in her eyes as she glanced towards me.

“I’m going to…look…uh…”

Kanesha squeezed my hand. “We can sleep on it, but we need to act tomorrow if we’re going to, ’cause can you imagine some social worker signing the paperwork for us?”

“Heck no. They’ll probably send us as far apart as possible in the hope we’ll get over our unnatural attraction.”

Unless we were lucky and got a sympathetic one. Or one who saw the practicalities of getting both of us out of the system to make room for other unfortunate kids.

I supposed we could hope. But I knew Mike would agree to this. And there was the other factor – that once we had the license, it wouldn’t expire or be withdrawn…if things settled down, we could always wait.

If things settled down.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 14

Before doing anything else, though, I swung by my new lawyer. She was a nice lady, middle aged, and had a photo of herself with another woman at an angle on her desk where most wouldn’t notice it.

“I suggest waiting on filing until the case is determined.”

I frowned. “They’re going to put me in a group home.”

“I know, but if you file now, you’re saying he’s guilty.”

I let out a breath. I hadn’t thought of that. “I just…”

“I looked at your friend’s case. It’s the income levels that are the problem.”

“Even if she moves in with me?”

“There’s…she’s not just your friend, right?”

I blushed a little bit and stole another look at that photo.

“And right now, Mike Carson is still your guardian. There’s…there’s one option.”


“I…hesitate to suggest it, but it might work.”

“…you don’t mean.”

“You’re both seventeen. It’s legal in DC. All you need is…consent of your guardian.”

“You’re crazy.” She was. It wasn’t as if I’d not thought about it. But CPS would get in the way.

Unless Mike signed a marriage license application for us right now. We’d need an officiant, but Bruce could do it – he was high priest of his coven and legally clergy. Gods…it was crazy.

It was the craziest thought ever. It would work, but I knew…I knew in my heart of hearts we weren’t ready. Or rather, we might not be. We might end up splitting up in a blaze of glory.

I loved her. I knew that. And I had no idea what Mike would think about this. No, I knew. He’d think what he’d been told. “I was told our relationship might jeopardize his case.”

“Nobody needs to know. It usually takes a couple of weeks to get a civil wedding set up…they’re booked and all. And again, nobody needs to know.”
Just the two of us and witnesses and sneaking out the back door. Eloping. That’s what it would be. “I don’t know.”

“If you don’t go that route…I’ll keep working on it. I know she doesn’t want to get more work hours and I know why.”

I knew too. “Worst case scenario, she gets out when she goes to college.”


I’d also…no. I couldn’t do this. I was absolutely terrified by the very idea.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 13

“So, you think…”

“I think if it was a real cop that just looked like Mike, Hargrove would have found him.” We were at Thruor’s apartment.

She swore. “I should have thought of that. Unfortunately…”

“…we have multiple witnesses. We have a case that will stand up if people don’t pull the cop card and turn into racist assholes. A lawyer who’s being controlled.”

“If all else fails, I can get Mike out of town.”

I nodded. “It would look like guilt, though. And I have enough income to go for emancipation. Kanesha’s going to be back in a group home.”

Thruor pursed her lips. “I’ll see what I can work on, but I think keeping Mike out of jail…”

She was right, of course. “We do need to do that. But without him being…eh. Everyone’s going to think he’s a racist scumbag.”

“And using Kanesha as camouflage or something.”

I let my head fall into my hands. “I hate him.”

“Tyz’vel? He’s probably hoping for that. Demons know more than anyone how close together hate and love really are.”

“I’d pick Surtur first. He’s at least a gentleman about trying to get in my pants.”

Thruor laughed. “Yeah. It would be a disaster, but he is at least somewhat polite and respectful.”

I lifted my head. “Maybe we need to just make Mike disappear. Or…I haven’t seen my dad.”

“I have. He’s working on something.”

That made me feel somewhat better. If anyone could think up a way out of this situation, it was a trickster. And he would have thought of the shapeshifting trick if only because it’s what he would have done himself.

If he couldn’t get the person to actually commit the crime themselves, somehow. I was sure that hadn’t happened, though.

No. Tyz’vel was good at looking like somebody else. “The only hope I have is to corner that lawyer and try an exorcism. Father William’s working on it.”

“And Kanesha wasn’t able to convince the family?”

“I don’t think they care who goes down as long as somebody does and it’s a white cop. They told her several times she was better off without him.”

They’d also, apparently, told her she was a traitor to date a white girl, but I left that out of it. It wasn’t really relevant. I couldn’t really blame them for hating white people, especially right now.

“Okay. I’m going to make plans to make Mike vanish if need be. You…”

“I’ll keep working on the lawyer. I think the family’s a lost cause.”
And I could not be angry with them for it.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 12

Kanesha had finally tracked down the family. We compared notes over lunch.

“They think he did it based off of some eye witness reports. And it does sound like him.”

“Hargrove’s already checking out…” I tailed off. Then I used some words that weren’t very nice.


“I’ve been stupid. What’s Tyz’vel very good at?”
“Shape…oh no.”

“We can’t prove it wasn’t Mike because to everyone’s senses it was. It was Tyz’vel who killed that kid.” I closed my eyes. What the heck did I do now? Proving Mike was somewhere else hadn’t happened yet.

There was nothing I could do to help him except hope they’d close ranks and he’d get off with just losing his badge.

And us. The climate was such, though…

Rage. The rage rose up within me. I wanted Tyz’vel in a cage, in a cage from which he would never escape. I knew he couldn’t die. I remembered him promising to teach me the trick.

So, a cage. With spikes in it. In a very cold place, because demons liked heat.

I stood up. “I need to take a walk.”


“We can’t. It was Tyz’vel. That’s why Hargrove can’t find the other cop. Because there wasn’t one.”

Because there wasn’t one, and I couldn’t do a dang thing.

“Tell Hargrove?”

“I’ll try. I’m not sure he’s ready for shapeshifters yet.” I’d taken precautions to keep him from tricking us that way…

And, of course, he had his influence on the lawyer to make sure he never got suspicious.

I found my feet taking me towards the office of Fitz and Lawson. Opposite the building, I stopped and stared at it. Why was Tyz’vel mind controlling the guy?

Probably wanted a nice, tasty lawyer-soul to munch on as a bonus. I hoped he hadn’t touched the little girl’s soul.

I wanted that, at least, to be safe. Maybe I could…no, not if he already had her. I couldn’t see a way to make this go away, not now.

Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? I thought, wryly, because so many cops were assholes and it was easy to believe one would do something like this. I wished it wasn’t, but it was.

There had already been too many. I closed my eyes for a moment, then steeled myself.

I had to talk to Thruor.

Episode Fifteen: Legalities: Scene 11

We didn’t have much time, though. CPS called and basically told us to pack. I’d already found a lawyer – not Fitz or Lawson – to start going through the emancipation progress, but what about Kanesha?

She was stuck wherever they put her until she graduated unless she got a better job, and we both thought it was more important that she actually studied.

We probably had a week. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew Hargrove was working on it, I knew he was good at his job.

I had absolutely no clue how you investigated a murder. Holding a seance became even more tempting.

Holding a seance. I didn’t quite know how to do that either, but I was sure I could find somebody who did. For some reason Zaid came to mind. I called him. “Hey…I may need some help.”

“What do you need?”

“I’m investigating a murder.”

“Oh dear. That’s not fun – and not really my expertise.”

“I just have a feeling you might be able to help. One thought I had was…was to try and talk to the victim.”

“That’s dangerous. But not as dangerous as if it was somebody who died naturally.”

I guessed my hunch was accurate. “Do you have a better idea?”


“Are identifying the wrong man.”

“Ah. And you know for sure this wrong man has an alibi.”

“Yes, but not a great one.” If it was better, the nightmare would already be over. “Or…”

“Got it. You know he wasn’t there but can’t quite prove it. Let’s meet up.”

We arranged to meet at a Starbucks, of all the mundane places. Zaid looked much more like a girl today – he’d grown his hair out some.

Maybe he was one of those people who changed gender identity the way most of us changed clothes. No, it was more than the hair. He was wearing makeup…and applying it better than I usually did.

Mental note: Ask him for tips. “Okay, so…”

“So. Twelve-year-old girl. Killed by a cop who’d removed his badge. Different cop is being blamed.”

Zaid nods. “And you want to make sure the right man goes down.”

I elected not to mention my personal connection to it, per se. “I don’t want somebody I consider an ally to go down for something he didn’t do.”

Another nod, short and sharp. “So…presumably the two men look at least somewhat alike.”

“Maybe. There’s a demonic influence involved.”

“He pissed off a demon?”

I shook my head. “No. I did.”