Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 31

Common sense would have said to take backup. I wasn’t in the mood for common sense right now. Old Town was warm, too warm, the heat settling onto the brick sidewalks. A lot of dogs.

No, that wasn’t a dog. I was pretty sure the woman opposite was walking a wolf. Our eyes met.

I had backup whether I wanted it or not. I nodded to Freya’s warrior…and to the wolf, who was probably just as smart as she was…then started to head towards the marina.

Heat. It beat down on me, too much of it. I might not feel it as much as most, but the fire inside me wanted to wake up in response.

I beat it down, still unsure of its source. Marina.

In the marina. I was probably looking for a boat. It was a good walk, though, King Street starting to slope downwards. This was the flood zone – people couldn’t get flood insurance here and some of the buildings had high water markers on them. Many of them sold seafood. I stopped, glancing around for warrior and wolf.

They were following me at a good distance. Good. Hopefully they would not be close enough for my opponents to spot them. If they thought I was truly alone, then they would probably do something stupid.

Or I would. I was doing something stupid as it was. I reached the Torpedo Factory and looked out at the marina. It was heavily secured and locked, but I knew exactly which boat my stuff was on. Not an ordinary looking boat, either.

An expensive one, one which glimmered with chrome. And they had my gun.

I was starting to have a very bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling, but I sensed I was committed now.

If I ran it would be weakness. If I attacked, it would be stupidity. So, instead, I moved to the edge of the dock and just watched them intently.

Above, I thought I saw the dark wings of a raven.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 30

Clara came over immediately when I called her. “You tidied up.”

“The cops got all the evidence. Thea thinks the best thing to do is to try and track my sword.”

Clara nods. “A personal weapon can get quite…attached. Your sword or even your gun.”

“Thea doesn’t like guns.” So she wouldn’t think of using it. But the gun might actually be better. I’d certainly been carrying it more – it’s hard to hide a sword.

“So, let’s try the gun.”

“Alright. What do you need from me?”

“Your hand for a moment.” She took it in her own. “What might work the best is your fingerprints on a piece of paper. I don’t want to try using your blood.”

I shook my head. “If we have to we will…”

“It’s likely to…well…supercharge it if I did that. Might cause side effects. We’ll see if this way works.”

We found some ink, and I applied my prints to the paper.

“I’ll burn this afterwards, by the way.”

I grinned. “Yeah. Don’t want some asshole finding it and using it to track me.”

“Or worse. Not that they could do a lot to you, but…”

I nodded a bit, then curled up on my futon while she worked. Witchcraft still fascinated me. I knew better than to attempt it, but it was interesting to watch.

Well, maybe. Magic worked differently for me. Loki’s magic seemed to just be a matter of visualization and will. So did mine.
Clara’s was beauty and ritual. “Found it.”

I nodded. “Let’s hope they didn’t already sell it or ditch it.”

“Let’s hope they didn’t take it to get to you.”

My lips quirked. “They’ll have me soon enough. Where is it?”

“That’s odd.”

“Did they throw it in the river?”

“Yes…no, wait. If they did, they dropped it right in the Old Town marina.”

I laughed. “It’s on a boat.”

“Most likely. But for a moment I did think they dropped it in the river.”

A good way to get rid of a murder weapon that. But no.

“They want me,” I said finally. “They took the things I’d have to go after. I still think the laptop was cover, though.”

“Yeah. Burglars don’t tend to steal guns unless they’re really good ones.”

“Looks like I’m going to Old Town.” I reached for my phone.

“Be careful.”

“Don’t worry. I will. And if I end up in the river, I swim well.”

She started to say something else, but I reached to put my hand on her wrist. “Thanks, Clara.”

All she could do to that was nod.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 29

Once we had the evidence recorded, Mike helped me clean the place up. “It looked like they were hoping to find something else.”

I pondered. “Or just being thorough. I got rid of the fairy necklace.” The horn and the sword were the only things I had, and the sword wasn’t really magical. Just well designed.

Mike nodded. “I’ll get you another gun.”

“Thanks.” I knew that was risky, given DC’s strict gun laws.

“I can do it without getting in trouble far more easily than you can.”

“Or we can just go to Virginia.”

“Still can’t do it yourself.”

He was right. They’d have more sense than to sell a gun to me at this point. I was, after all, a kid. “Thanks.”

I let out a breath. “I should have taken it with me. One less thing for them to steal.”

“Where were you, anyway?”

“Went out with Kanesha, then rescued some idiots from the demon they summoned.” Pizza sauce. “I don’t think I’m going to want pizza for a while.”

“I won’t ask about the pizza.”

I grinned at Mike. “I’ll tell you later.” Whether he wanted to know or not. “In the mean time, I have to find these people.”

One of whom had my sword. I was sure Thea would lend me another one, but it felt like they’d taken something completely vital. Apparently I’d got attached to it without really noticing.

I called Thea while Mike headed back to the station with his new partner. “Thea, I got burgled.”

“They didn’t…”

“They got the horn and my sword.”

“I’ll lend you a spare, but we need to find that horn before Tyr does. He’ll probably smite them.”

I wasn’t sure I cared. They deserved a bit of smiting. “He can smite, but I’d rather he didn’t kill them. Mike needs the arrest stats.”

Thea laughed. “I’ll find you a loaner. They took normal police evidence, right?”

“Right. But I was hoping we could trace the horn.”

“You might have a better chance with the sword. You handled it more.”

I nodded. The next person on my list to call was Clara. I just hoped it wasn’t Tyz’vel.

No, I thought. This wasn’t his style. This was probably, as I’d first thought, artifact collectors.

It was probably even hunters.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 28

All in all, it had been a good day. The snakes had been cute, the demon had barely been a workout, and I owed my dad a brownie.

Well, I’d at least got the mix. Kanesha wasn’t staying the night. We kissed goodbye and I went to my apartment.

To find it trashed.

Whoever had done it had been thorough. My weapons were missing. Worse, the horn was missing, which Tyr wouldn’t be pleased about.

So was the spare cash I’d hidden in a drawer of my desk.

And my laptop, which was probably worst of all. It looked like a burglary, but I knew better. They’d been after either the horn, my sword, or both.

Real burglars wouldn’t have taken the horn. I called Mike. “I got burgled.”

“Crap. They get anything important?”

“My laptop and all my…tools.” I was on my cell, so I kept it oblique.

“That’s bad.”

They hadn’t, somehow, found my ammo case, at least, and in theory the gun was unloaded.

“Or good. They took stuff we can trace. Can you like get some people over here.”

“I’m on my way.”

He showed up with the same young woman he’d been with before.

“What did they take?”

“They took…like I said, my tools, about thirty bucks in cash and my laptop.”

Which, of course, had all my school notes on it. I’d been protactive and got most of my summer homework done…

“Alright. Take pictures of the crime scene, Julie, and I’ll talk to her outside.”

He followed me outside. “Your gun?”

“But not my ammo. And my sword. And the horn. Which…regular burglars wouldn’t have taken.”

“So, not regular burglars. I’d ask who you annoyed lately.”
“The horn’s a rather valuable artifact and could probably be tracked by somebody. I’d bet it was collectors.”

He nodded. “You’re probably right. Did you at least have the laptop backed up?”

“Kanesha made me get a dropbox account. That part’s fine. Just annoying.”

It would cost me a bit of what I’d saved for a new one. I was more embarrassed about the thieves reading stuff. Or…

“Mine’s in the car. Go borrow it and change all of your passwords.”

I nodded. “Thanks, Mike.”

Kanesha would have reminded me to do that. But I had to get the horn back. Tyr could probably trace it.

Or I could myself. I’d had it for long enough and it was sort of resonating to the same things, right?

I hoped so, anyway.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 27

The apartment was a mess. Demon blood filled the kitchen and the pizza was unsalvageable. Kanesha ordered more as we gathered around the living room.

I insisted on rolling up the summoning circle rug.

Zaid was the one talking. “See, here’s the thing with demons. Really experienced magic users can work with them, control them, deal with them. Novices shouldn’t try. You’re lucky that was a small demon and you’re lucky the Lady was here.”

I heard the capital letter and flinched. But there was no chance of them treating me like a normal person anyway. “It was a pretty pathetic demon,” I agreed. “But it would still have killed you guys.”

The one who had jumped through the window was starting to return to what I assumed was his normal color. “It had specific instructions.”

“Yes, and did those specific instructions,” Zaid asked mildly, “include not killing you?”

He went back to pale. “Uh…”

“Demons do exactly what they’re told if you have control over them. But they also do things they aren’t told unless you tell them not to. Also, the church desecration was too much. This stops now.” Zaid said it quite mildly. “The Lady saved you because I was hoping you could be talked out of it. But…”

I smiled a little nastily. Inwardly I wasn’t too happy about being the bad cop, but given at least one of them had just seen me kill a demon without breaking a sweat or showing any sign of regret, I was definitely set up for the role.

Kanesha was the good cop. She was ordering pizza.

“What do you…want?”

“For all six of you to swear off the black magic right now. No more demon summoning until you know what you’re doing. And absolutely no more desecration. Or she…” He indicated me. “Will…”

“No. I’ll do something worse.” I smiled. “I’ll call my father.” I made the smile broader. “You might have heard of him. His name’s Loki.”

They all turned pale.

Zaid grinned at me while they weren’t looking.
They fell over themselves to make their promises. I wished I had the horn to use to verify it, but I had a feeling we wouldn’t be getting any more trouble out of this crowd, any time soon. My dad made a very good threat.

Then the poor pizza delivery boy arrived. He dropped the pizza, grabbed his tip and fled. We slipped out while our victims were enjoying it.

I was hungry, but not that hungry. “Think they’ll keep it?”

“I think they will for a bit.” Zaid sighed. “Let’s go get food?”

“Not pizza,” I declared. “I still have pizza sauce on me.”

“I was thinking of the pub near here that can’t decide whether to be English or Irish,” Zaid said.

Kanesha, shook her head. “You go ahead. I’m going to be late for work.” She then turned to me. “You make a really scary bad cop.”

“So does Thea. I think it goes with the territory.” The size did, anyway. But I knew it wasn’t just about that.

“She doesn’t threaten to set Loki on people. I’ve seen his pranks.”

I laughed and slipped my arm around her for a moment, the one that didn’t have pizza sauce on it. “Watch out. He hasn’t got us with anything in a while.”

“That’s because you bribe him with brownies.”

I thought about it and decided she was right, then reluctantly let her go. She vanished towards her job – and I hoped she wouldn’t be late enough to get fired.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 26

I didn’t need to get the apartment number from Zaid. The heat washed around me, as if I was immune to it. But it was there.

I kicked in the door. One smooth motion. Hinges side.

They hadn’t summoned a particularly big demon, and it looked like they’d known enough to make a proper summoning circle.

They hadn’t known enough to actually seal it properly. The demon was hammering against it, and I could see the weak point. “Run.”

“What, we…”

“…you’ve got a gap in your circle. Run. Now. I’ll deal with it.” I didn’t have my sword, and I probably didn’t exactly look like an avenging angel.
The demon burst from the circle, then went for the nearest of the wannabe witches. I launched myself into the gap between the two, unblocking the doorway so they could run.

One of them decided it was easier to escape by a different route and crashed through the window, the sound of tinkling glass breaking the silence more thoroughly than my voice had.

“This is none of your business,” the demon rasped, a growling voice neither male nor female, but not beautiful as Zaid’s was.

“I have a soft spot for idiots.”

He charged me. No doubt he thought he could take me, unarmed as I was, and I wasn’t about to try and call fire. Instead? I took a leaf from Kanesha’s book and stepped to the side and tried to grab his wrist.

I got it and he went flying into the kitchen. He landed on a kitchen table that was covered with half eaten pizza. Getting up, he dripped sauce and rancor.

Waste of good pizza. The kids were all trying to get through the apartment door at once, giving a distinct keystone cop effect.

I ignored them. “Go back to hell or I’ll send you.”

“Can’t. I have to…” The demon shook more pizza stuff off himself.

I charged into the kitchen. Yes, there was a very sharp knife. I grabbed it, and thrust towards the beast’s throat.

It went home, and demon ichor, hot and black, sprayed from the wound. I twisted, and he crumpled into dust.

“That was too easy,” I said out loud.

The one who had gone out the window was climbing back in. “What did we do wrong?”

“Summoning demons in the first place, but…” I walked over to the circle. It was drawn on a rug. “You had pizza sauce on your circle.”

“Pizza sauce.”

I shook my head. “We’re going to have a little talk about proper use of magic, I think.”

At which point Zaid and Kanesha herded the others back into the apartment. Not that they’d got far. Now I could count that there were six of them.

“What do…”

“If you have any talent at all, you know what I have to do with it.”

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 25

We met Zaid at the gates. While we were relaxing, he’d apparently been buying an awful neon yellow baseball cap. It didn’t suit him.

It probably wouldn’t have suited anyone.

Kanesha made a face. “What’s with the fashion fiasco?”

“You don’t like it?”

“No,” we said in near unison.

He made a pouty face and then took it off and stuck it in a pocket.

“Okay. Do you know where the amateurs are?”

“I did a tracking spell on one of them. Can’t guarantee any of the others will be there, but they’re in one of the apartments by the zoo.”

If I’d stayed here, I thought I’d like to live in one of those apartments. On the zoo side, with the view of the trees and maybe even the occasional animal.

“Alright. So, we’re going to go talk to them?”

He nodded. “And you’re going to be intimidating backup.”

I grinned. “I can manage that.” Kanesha elbowed me. “You’re the intimidating backup with the black belt.”

Zaid laughed. “That works. It’s this building.” The building was brick, and some of the apartments were below street level, but with windows looking out at the creek. That had to be weird. Going upstairs to leave.

We stepped into the lobby. There was a concierge, but she gave us a tired look and didn’t stop us or demand we sign a guest book. “Up or down?” I asked Zaid.


Down to Hell, I thought with some amusement.

“B4,” he added.

B4 was the lowest floor. There were only apartments on the outside. The inner doors, I supposed, led to maintenance and storage areas. “Okay, I thought this was interesting, but I don’t like it down here.”

Kanesha glanced at me. “Is it just the storage stuff or are you…”

I closed my eyes for a moment. “Oh dear. You said they weren’t summoning demons.”

Zaid nodded. “Until now.” He sped up his pace. “Good thing is that probably means we’ll catch them all. Let’s hurry before they succeed and get eaten or something.”

I wasn’t sure I cared about protecting people stupid enough to summon demons, especially after dealing with Tyz’vel. But then I felt a rush of energy and heat. “Too late. We’ve got company.”

Zaid nodded. “Can you deal with it while we get them clear?”

Grimly, I nodded. “I can deal with it.”

I knew what kind of dealing with it he meant.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 24

But I wasn’t in a hurry. “But I promised Kanesha zoo time.”

Zaid grinned. “Then…I’ll meet you back here at, what?”

“2pm okay?” I glanced at Kanesha. She nodded and we headed into the zoo.

“I like him,” she said once he was out of earshot. “Or her. Or…”

“I don’t think it matters. I mean, he can be whatever gender he wants, right?” I glanced at the sky. Our choices made us.
The difference was that my choices actually changed who I was until I changed to who I would always be. I got that now. Kanesha’s didn’t change things as much, but she could always unmake them.

“Maybe. I dunno. I kind of feel sorry for people with weird gender stuff going on.”

“I heard a rumor they have baby snakes,” I said to change the subject, steering towards the reptile house. “Baby tentacled snakes.”

They did, too, and to people who aren’t afraid of snakes, they were utterly adorable. I know a lot of people would disagree. They were little bitty watersnakes with catfish-like tendrils and they were about the size of a pencil.

“They are kind of cute. You wouldn’t think snakes would manage cute.”

“They’re definitely cute. Of course, they aren’t venomous or anything like that, I don’t think.”

“They are venomous, but they don’t produce enough to hurt you,” said a nearby keeper. “Besides, it’s kind of coded to kill fish.”

I glanced at the keeper.

Kanesha had her own question. “Where do they lay eggs if they live in the water?”

“They don’t. They’re ovoviviparous – they keep the eggs in the mother until they hatch, then they just wriggle out through her cloaca.”
That, I thought, had to be a weird feeling for the lady snake. “They’re adorable. It’s the tentacles.”

“You wouldn’t think,” the keeper mused, “That tentacles would make something cuter. But you’re right. And fascinating. They almost never come out of the water.”

I glanced at the snakes again. They were turning themselves into the letter J and wriggling a little. “Thanks,” I told him.

“Always like to see people actually take an interest in reptiles.”

He had a point. People preferred the fuzzy animals. Heck, so did I, most of the time, but I couldn’t resist the siren call of snake babies.

“I want to go watch the tigers,” Kanesha said with a grin. “Talking of fuzzy animals.”

I followed her back out. “DC summer. When you go into the reptile house to cool off.” It actually really did feel warmer outside.
“That’s just because your ancestors are from Scandinavia,” she teased.

I grinned. “That’s probably it, but whewf. It’s hot out here.” I looked like I should be bothered by it.

“Almost as hot as you.”

I mock glared at her and then we headed to visit the tigers. Who, of course, were sunbathing in piles of stripes. Who could blame them?

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 23

At least I did get home without any more encounters. Yeah.

That’s because Tyz’vel waited until the morning. Or maybe he didn’t want to mess with my dad. I scowled at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Did you…”

“Yeah, and you don’t want to mess with it. Odin’s up to stuff.” I was satisfied by the fact that he actually seemed to pale.

Apparently he didn’t want to mess with Odin.


At least I thought Monica would be safe from him. I was pretty sure she wasn’t safe from Loki, though. Maybe I should warn her.

Yes, I should definitely warn her. That way she could make a reasoned decision as to whether to say yes to him or not.

I wasn’t necessarily going to say she should say no. But then Kanesha came rushing up behind me. “Was that?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry. He’s not causing trouble today. For once.”

For once. But I also knew he was going to cause trouble. It was his nature.

“Just means he’s planning trouble.” She shook her head, then changed the subject. “So…we don’t have school and you don’t have a shoot and my job doesn’t start until four.”

“How about we…go to the zoo? Do regular people stuff?”
“Only,” Kanesha noted. “If we start with ice cream. There’s that place across from the entrance.”

Ice cream sounded good. Ice cream sounded very good indeed. We linked hands and headed for the Metro.

“So, what do you think he’ll try next?” she asked once we were chilling outside the ice cream shop with chocolate cones.

“I don’t know. Not messing with Monica. I told him Odin was protecting her.”

“Is he?”

“Yes. Of course, Odin won’t protect her from Loki.”

Kanesha giggled. “Oh dear.”

“He wants a one night stand.”

“Doesn’t he always?”

“As long as…” I tailed off.

“He doesn’t even look at me. Probably knows better.”

I grinned. “He knows I’d push him in the Reflecting Pool if he did. He also knows he’d have to turn into a woman.”

Kanesha grinned. “Yeah, he would.” She slurped at her cone, but I was suddenly looking at a point past her.

“What?” she added.

“Zaid’s here. Can I flag him down?”

“Go ahead.”

I lifted a hand to signal to the Egyptian. He had a troubled look on his face, but moved to sit down.

“Please,” I said. “Don’t tell me Apep is back?”

He shook his head. “No. Wannabes.”

I rolled my eyes. “Demon summoning?”

“Desecrating temples actually.”

“Including churches? ‘Cause somebody set fire to Father William’s altar.”

“Sounds like the same crowd.” He paused, then, “How about we put the fear of the gods into them?”

That was suddenly a quite appealing idea.

Episode Seventeen: Taken: Scene 22

“Figuring some things out?”

“Am I going to make it home today?”

Loki laughed. “Are their brownies?”

“There’s a Kanesha.”

“Who’s still in the library. We have time.”

He had a good point. “Yeah. I’m figuring some things out. And you used even more wrong a word than I thought.”

He shrugged. “It fits at some levels. Not at others.”

“It doesn’t fit at all.”

“She made her choice. She can’t unmake it now.”
“Could I unmake it for her? If it turned out things went really south and I couldn’t protect her any more?”

He didn’t say that wasn’t going to happen. He lifted one shoulder. “Maybe. Not without hurting her.”

“I’d rather break her heart than have her get pulled down with me if something bad happens.” I glanced at him. “I mean…”

“Tyz’vel still giving you trouble?”

“Tyz’vel’s going to give me trouble until he gets bored with giving me trouble, and I think that’s going to take a while.”

Loki laughed. “Maybe, maybe not.”

“I actually promised I’d tell him who was protecting Monica if he’d tell me if he worked it out sooner.”

Loki mmmed. “Monica. I wonder if she’d be interested in a one night stand…”

I hesitated, then, “Maybe. I mean, you have to be better at it than Tyz’vel.”

For all of his arrogance, I suspected Loki took the time… And he was my dad and I shouldn’t think about him like that.

He caught my blush and laughed. “Like you weren’t considering those rooms at that brothel.”

“Like you haven’t used one of them before.”


Didn’t surprise me at all. But I wasn’t even sure what most of the “accoutrements” were for. “Let’s talk about something other than sex.”

“You’re a teenager,” he pointed out.
“And you’re a slut,” I tossed back.

He laughed again. “Alright, alright. How about brownies?”

“Only if we stop at the store. I’m out of mix.” And quite a few other things as well, now I thought about it. Enough that having an extra person would be a good thing.

Yes, I did make the God of Chaos carry my groceries.