No Greater Love Chapter 2

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“No Greater Love”


(John 15:13)


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Chapter 2

*John*

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Shadows filled the parking lot outside Celebrations Bar & Grill with an almost liquid quality. The flashing lights from the club mixed with the steady light of the street lamps and mercury lights in the parking lot giving the night and odd arrangement of textures. The sounds of music and laughter danced out into the darkness in short bursts, as the doors to the bar opened and closed. John leaned back relaxing into the leather comfort of the driver’s seat of the van the St. Louis Great Coven had provided. As a Guardian Warlock John and his team preferred to use larger vehicles like the van or an SUV.

“He’s not going to show.”

The bored sounding voice belonged to Ben, “Don’t-call-me-Benjamin” Lavin, John’s new trainee and partner. John didn’t turn his head to look at the youth, choosing to keep his eyes out, scanning the area around the bar.

“Maybe he’ll show, maybe he won’t. That’s the thing about criminals, they’re not exactly reliable.”

John lifted the Styrofoam cup and blew on the hot coffee before taking a sip. The scent of the bitter black liquid reminded John of other times, drinking coffee in the field with other teammates. He’d been younger then, fresh out of high school, and ready to take on any challenge. That was before he’d learned what death looked like, up close, in the real world.

“Leave it.” John said, as Ben reached forward to turn the radio on. “We don’t need the distraction.”

“Awe, come on dude, this shit is boring.”

John reached over and rolled the window down just enough to let a bit of the hot humid air. “All stakeouts are boring, until they aren’t. And I’m not a, “Dude.” I’m your trainer. If you don’t settle down I’ll send you home and you can explain to Sarah how you couldn’t sit still for a simple stakeout.”

John turned his head to look at the skinny kid sitting shotgun. Ben reminded John of a puppy who hadn’t reached his full growth, all ears and paws. For a second Ben glared at John and then looked down, sort of, deflating.

“Fine, I get it. No need to talk to the regional commander. This is just part of the job.” Then added under his breath, “But you don’t have to be a dick about it.”

Rather than acknowledge that he’d heard the comment John looked out scanning the night around them. He touched the Cavanaugh crystal mounted on the end of what looked like a cane. John drew power up through the crystal and then expanded his senses. The front of the club seemed to telescope forward and John could pick out each person standing in line waiting to go in, with perfect clarity. None of them were the target. The sounds of music, cars, and the buzz of conversation from the people standing in line seemed normal. The air drifting into the van through the window smelled like tar from the blacktop parking lot with more than a hint of combustion engine.

“If you’re bored you can practice drawing in your magic. Hold as much as possible and then release it. Your Manna-Well is like any other muscle. You need to exercise it.”

“You sound just like one of my tutors from the Coven. I thought being a Guardian was supposed to be exciting.”

“Kid, you want excitement? Join the Army.” John snapped and then glared, “Think about that girl. The one we visited in the psych ward . . . do you think it helps her, that you’re bored? This rogue is using his power on unsuspecting, mundane, women. He’s draining their life energy and raping them and they’re completely defenseless. That girl is twenty-two but she looks like she’s thirty-five and she’s now completely terrified of the dark and cringes away from any human contact. Now. Shut-the-fuck-up and focus!”

Ben looked back for a second stunned at John’s intensity and then gave a quick nod and looked out the window. A part of John knew he was overreacting and it wasn’t his trainee he was angry with. He couldn’t get the image of the girl out of his mind. She’d been in a padded cell, hair like a wild bird’s nest, cringing away as he tried to talk to her, obviously terrified. That one human being could do this to another infuriated John. What made it worse, was that more and more rogue witches and warlocks seemed to be popping up and they were shorthanded.

The St. Louis Great Coven had honored its alliance with the Society. That meant that they were at war with the Syndicate. Sure, it was a shadow war, one intended to remain hidden from the normal human population, but it drew resources. Most of the St. Louis Guardians had left, since they were the Great Coven’s most capable fighters.

Abruptly, the skin on the back of John’s neck prickled and he looked out scanning the darkness. The air felt different than it had a moment ago. The dark magic announced the presence of the rogue warlock with an un-subtle chill.

“You want excitement? Well, Ben, its show time.”

“What?”

John ignored Ben’s startled question and slid out of the van, pausing to grab the backpack behind his seat and, carrying his cane, he scanned the darkness. “Where are you?” he muttered moving through the parking lot trying to appear unremarkable as he headed toward the line of people waiting to get into the bar.

“John. John, wait up.” Ben scurried after John causing him to cringe. “What do you mean, he’s here?”

“Yeah, can’t you feel the magic?” John paused to look at Ben and took a deep breath, under the lights in the parking lot he looked like he was sixteen instead of twenty-two. “It feels like the night just got several degrees colder, the air tastes stale, sort of . . . lifeless. And I can smell a hint of sulfur. Those are all signs of death magic, magic that steals life, but we don’t know what this guy looks like. Remember your training.”

Ben nodded his eyes as big as saucers. “What’s the plan?”

“Follow me and do what I tell you.”

John turned around to face the club as a spike of magic blasted his ethereal senses. In that instant, a vision took him. Lost for a moment to the world around him, John got the image of a shadowy figure carrying a young girl, her arm draped over his shoulder, as he pushed his way through the crowd toward an emergency exit.

When the image faded, John looked over at Ben, “He just took a girl. He’s around back in the alley.” John grabbed Ben’s arm, “Go up the block and come at it from the other end. We can’t let him escape. Move!” With that John took off running for the alley.

At five foot ten and one sixty John wasn’t the biggest guy around, in fact, Ben at six one towered over him, but John was a fitness fanatic. As he sprinted for the alley behind “Celebrations” he quickly outdistanced his taller companion. John reached for his focus item mounted on the cane and the crystal responded. “Celaverimus.”

John used his Will to shape the magic and the Latin Word to release the spell. The veil sprang up and John seemed to vanish. Using magic openly like this was frowned upon, but John knew that anyone who’d been looking wouldn’t believe what they’d seen. They’d come up with a hundred reasons for a man charging through a parking lot, at night, to have disappeared. As he got to the alley John slowed down. The scent of sulphur was stronger.

“Where are you hiding?”

The shadows were darker here and there was a sense of despair that filled the alley. Misery, pain, sorrow, and regret . . . the emotions hit John like a physical blow before he could strengthen his mental shields. The force of the psychic impact staggered him and he had to reach out and steady himself against the side of the building.

‘Fuck! This is no newbie warlock, not with power like this.’ He thought and pulled more magic into his body until his manna-well was full.

“Integumentum”

John poured energy into his physical, spiritual, and mental shields. Then he reached into the backpack and drew his Beretta 92A and dropped the pack, with a heavy thump to the ground.

“Okay, fucker, you’re not getting away this time.”

The alley behind the bar couldn’t have been more than a block long, yet as John moved forward he couldn’t see the far end. Everything slowly turned into an inky darkness alive with twisted things. Things that John couldn’t see but felt sure were there. They were watching waiting for a chance to wrest him from the mortal world and drag him into one of the lower Realms. For a moment, he thought about pulling out his phone and calling Ben, ordering him not to enter the alley. Except that he couldn’t bring himself to set down either his enchanted cane-battle rod, with his Cavanaugh crystal, or the more mundane 9mm.

The girl’s terrified shriek echoed oddly down the alley as if from a great distance instead of just a dozen feet away. Knowing he was out of time John pushed forward and held up his cane.

“LUMEN!”

The soft blue glow from within the crystal flared into a brilliant blue-white light that burned back the darkness. In the blink of an eye the alley came into view. In its stark relief, John saw a man naked from the waist down kneeling between a girl’s pale thighs. Knowing he should take his time, John ignored his training and fired, with a single hand, unsupported at the warlock. The bark of the Beretta seemed muffled and John saw his round hit the brick wall above and to the right of the Warlock. Between the sudden light and the explosion of brick above his head the Warlock’s spell was broken and he spun around standing up as he moved.

Time seemed to slow down and John felt his mind cataloging every detail even though he knew he was rushing forward as quickly as he could. The warlock’s face was pale, gaunt, as if he hadn’t eaten a proper meal in months. Long stringy dark hair fell forward partly obstructing a face with a long pointed nose and a weak chin. Then his hands were up as if to push John back and fire blossomed from his palms. The twin jets of nearly white hot flame shot at John and in desperation he dropped to his knees skidding to a stop and crossed his wrists in front of him mentally angling his shields up.

The thing about magic is that it’s a form of energy and follows a set of rules that can be learned and used. In this case the Warlock had summoned fire, a very hot fire. The thermal energy once unleashed had to go somewhere. The flame hit John’s shield and he grimaced under the strain, ‘How strong is this guy?’ he wondered. Then the blast was deflected up into the night sky. In a moment it was over and John stumbled to his feet blinking to clear his vision.

“You can’t stop me. I’m stronger than any Coven trained Warlock. I’ve killed more Guardians than I can count, little man.” The voice was confident and held an unnatural malice. “The Syndicate says, hello.”

BANG! BANG! BANG!

From his kneeling position John laid his right hand over his left forearm, still holding his cane in his left hand, and used one knee as a brace while sitting on the ground. This created the support he needed for accuracy. The bullets smashed into a magical shield that flared with a red concentric circle where each round struck. John could tell that the Warlock had either wanted to trade barbs and hadn’t been ready for John’s mundane assault, or he hadn’t considered the energy required to stop a 9mm bullet weighing 117 gr traveling at 1,250 ft/sec. The assault drove the Warlock back away from the girl who had curled up into a tiny ball to one side.

“NOW!”

The Warlock screamed and before John realized what was going on energy flashed at him from his left. The force bolt slammed into his shield lifting him into the air and driving him into the far alley wall.

“What the hell?”

The force bolts came in so fast he didn’t have time to think instead John poured more energy into his shields and tried to move back down the alley except that the new attacker had anticipated his move and was already in position to block his exit. For the first time, he got a look at the new threat and to his surprise he discovered he was facing a Witch. Then another bolt of fire hit John’s shields from behind and he knew the original Warlock had returned to the fight. Caught between a rogue Witch and Warlock he knew he was outgunned. Then he felt his shield begin to break, it would be over in the next few seconds.

‘Ben, where the hell are you?’ John’s gun clicked empty.

For a second he thought about reloading and continuing the fight but this approach wasn’t working. Dropping the gun John reached into a cargo pocket on his khaki pants and pulled out what looked like an ordinary key fob. He pressed the button and shouted, “VENTUS!” and used the last of his magic to draw a stiff breeze down the mouth of the alley toward him.

Back up just inside the mouth of the ally a dozen or so feet behind the witch who’d ambushed John a device with a green LED turned red. Then it exploded. The explosion itself wasn’t much more than a flash-bang commonly used to breach a door during a police raid. The difference here was the enchanted blue powder that filled one end of a metal tube attached to the explosive charge. In an instant, a cloud of enchanted blue smoke boiled up from the backpack and then driven by the wind John had summoned raced down the alley. With a grimace John lifted the small phial from his other cargo pocket and downed the magical antidote.

“What the fuck?”

The witch managed to say before being enveloped in the enchanted cloud and then she crashed to the ground unconscious. Turning to face his original opponent John swept his cane up and pulled more power through his crystal and released an energy bolt. Again, the warlock’s shield saved him and he started backing away, rage suffusing his features.

“Just wait, Guardian, this isn’t over. Soon all of St. Louis will be in flames!”

John folded his arms and grinned as the blue gas surrounded him, “I doubt that.”

For a moment, the enraged Warlock looked confused at John’s confidence and then Ben unleashed a force-blast from behind the Warlock that blew his shield apart. He tried to turn toward Ben but the rookie Guardian was ready and hit him with a second blast that knocked him onto his back and into the blue cloud.

Silence filled the night and Ben looked at the smoke-filled alley knowing better than to walk into it without taking the antidote. Then a figure moved from within the cloud and John stepped out carrying the unconscious and now dressed girl. He moved to Ben and laid her in his arms.

“Take her to the van and call this in. We’re going to need help. We’ve got two Syndicate agents. A witch and a warlock, fully-battle trained, and an innocent girl who’s seen way too much and will be suffering from PTSD.”

“Yes, sir!” Ben accepted the girl into his arms. “What are you going to do?

“Restrain those two, get rid of the gas, and try to keep anyone who saw the lightshow away until help arrives. Now get going,” then as Ben turned away he added, “And don’t forget to veil!”

***

Light from the sun glared directly into John’s eyes forcing him to squint and adjust his Dodge Challenger’s sun visor. It was already after seven and the sunrise was almost blinding. John turned onto the street that led to his house, a four-bedroom ranch where his wife, Elaine, and their two children slept. He’d called Elaine earlier to let her know that he was okay but he’d be working late after a major bust.

Thinking about the arrest caused John to feel a surge of satisfaction. Protecting innocent folk from the monsters of the supernatural world was the reason he was a Guardian. Then he sighed. The Coven had sent a second van but instead of Guardians it had been driven by a pair of Coven healers.

“Ben, get those two to an ensorcelled cell.”

“Yes, sir. Do you want me to come back down after I get them locked up?”

The tone of respect was new. John scowled, “No, start working on the report. Just have someone send a car to pick me up.” Then he looked over at the healers, “I’ll need one of you to help me with the cleanup.”

The Warlock, Graham, looked at his partner, “I’ll stay. Your gift for healing is better than mine. Plus, I don’t think the first thing she’ll want to see when she wakes up is a strange man next to her bed.”

The dumpy looking, middle-aged witch nodded, “Sure. Besides, you know how much I hate doing clean up. I’ll see you at home, dear.” With that she kissed him on the cheek and hurried to the van with the sleeping girl.

“Ready to play Special Agent?” John asked, and when Graham nodded they pulled out FBI credentials and went to work. After using police tape to cordon off the alley Graham went started trying to find anyone who’d seen “anything.” Graham explained to each person that this was just a preliminary interview, nothing to worry about. There were more than half a dozen people who came forward offering to help. The interviews were simply an excuse for Graham to use a subtle spell to blur their memories and help them to forget anything unusual.

Meanwhile, John worked to dispel the gas, pick up his spent brass, and account for, and dig out, each round he’d fired. Then he removed all traces of spell fire and magical residue. The work was time consuming and tiring, but necessary. By the time he was done Graham had finished his last interview. The Coven had sent a young witch, John assumed she was some sort of intern, to pick them up. He piled into the back of the sedan along with Graham and for the first time started to relax.

By the time John made it to the Guardian’s floor of the St. Louis Great Coven Sarah Mag Aoidh was waiting. The Chief of the St. Louis Great Coven Guardians was a tiny woman with long blonde hair tied into a pony tail and the fiercest icy blue eyes John had ever seen. To make matters worse she was sitting in his chair, behind his desk, waiting for him.

“I take it you talked with Ben about our prisoners?”

For a long second Sarah allowed silence to stretch, “Yes, I spoke with Ben. I’ve also had time to talk with the rogues you brought in . . . sleeping gas? Really? You realize if that had hit the crowd fifty feet from that alley we would have had a real problem.”

“I do. And we do.”

Sarah bristled, “Whatever possessed you to take so much risk? You should have waited until Guardian Lavin was in position and then moved in simultaneously.” Then added, “What do you mean we do?”

John turned, slammed the office door closed, and then glared at the Chief of the St. Louise Guardians. “I mean that if we had a proper team of Guardians on the street tonight I wouldn’t have had to use the gas.” Then he leaned in placing both hands on the desk, “If we had more Guardians rogues wouldn’t be popping up all over St. Louis, and don’t give me any of that political correctness crap about the alliance. You know as well as I do that “Guardian” Lavin is just a wet behind the ears rookie! He needs non-stop training and wouldn’t be on the street, if two thirds of our Guardians weren’t, god knows where, doing god knows what!” Then John slapped the desk with his hand, “Ben needs training . . . training I don’t have time to give while I’m trying to save an innocent mundane girl’s life!” John’s voice hadn’t risen in volume but had gained intensity. Little sparks of energy started to flicker and dance over the surface of the crystal on his battle cane.

There was a long moment of silence and then John added in a more controlled tone, “Which, in the balance is far more important to me than accidently gassing a couple of dozen by standers and giving them a magically induced nap! If I’d waited another two minutes that “rogue,” who-really-isn’t a rogue warlock, would have completed the rite. We were just in the nick of time as it was.” The seconds stretched and he matched Sarah’s unflinching gaze. Then John added, “Ma’am,” and looked away. At this Sarah let out a long breath and waved at one of the chairs in John’s office. “Sit. Tell me everything.”

With that John recounted the events of the night, careful to include that Ben had done his job perfectly, preventing the Warlock’s escape. When he got to the part where they claimed to be members of the Syndicate Sarah snorted. “We’ve had several rogues make that claim now. Every time we investigate there is never a credible link. Still, we’ll turn these two over to the Society and let them deal with it.” With that Sarah stood up, “Get that report finished and then go home. You’ve been on duty for what? Forty hours straight.”

Now sitting in his driveway John realized there was something he felt like he was missing. Even though there wasn’t any evidence that these rogues were connected to the Syndicate he had a sense of foreboding. “Well, I won’t solve anything out here.”

John opened the door and winced slightly at the humidity, “Seven thirty and it feels like I’m walking through water!” As he walked toward his front door John could feel the signs of the neighborhood waking up around him. Neighbors collecting newspapers, sprinklers running, and a woman with her dog jogged by on the sidewalk. ‘Just a normal morning in suburban America,’ he thought and pushed his key into the lock on the front door. John whispered the key to the house wards and turned the key hearing a click. ‘Well, almost normal suburbia.’

Stepping into his house John felt the normal ambiances of home. Toys were scattered around the floor, evidence that three-year-old Brittany and two-year-old John Jr. had been playing in the living room before bed. As John moved around the sofa and into the kitchen he heard water running and spotted a brunette in a light green bathrobe. The woman had just filled a coffee pot and now poured it into a drip coffee maker. She moved with the unconscious feminine grace of an experienced dancer. Every gesture was graceful and carried an economy of motion that captivated John. Once the coffee was started Elaine opened the refrigerator and pulled out eggs, ham, and shredded potatoes and went to work making breakfast.

John leaned against the wall enjoying the sight. Elaine had enchanted him from the moment he met her, while learning to control his magic. His mentors had been a husband and wife team, Paul and Sandy, in their sixties. They’d reminded him of a set of kindly Grandparents more than the powerful wielders of magic that they were. As it turned out this impression had been quite wrong but John hadn’t learned that until later.

Then he met their daughter, Elaine. She was five years younger than John and working as a pharmacist during the day and as a witch-healer, with an affinity for earth magic, at night. John’s own affinity was with air magic and the Coven had been excited to find out they had a “Seer” to train. Later, John learned that this was one of Witchcrafts rarest gifts. There were never very many Seers and almost no male Seers. This had made him a bit of a celebrity and then there was the event in Louisville where he and Meka had pretty much fought off a horde of Zombies and ended the existence of a Nazi Necromancer. All of this had elevated him in Elaine’s eyes to, “interesting.”

“You’re home!”

The comment brought him back to the present and John grinned at Elaine. “Yeah, long night, but we got’em. We got’em before they could hurt anyone else.”

“Oh, John.” Elaine wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head on his shoulder. At five ten John was only two inches taller than Elaine and he could feel every inch of her curvaceous body through the terry cloth robe. For now, he held her enjoying the unconditional love and comfort of another human being. Then Elaine looked up and wrinkled her slightly up turned nose, “You smell like gunpowder. Go take a shower and then get to bed. You must be exhausted. I’ve got to get the kids to daycare in an hour and I’m working until 4 pm. Can I assume you’re off? It is Saturday, you know.”

“Yeah, I finished my reports before I came home. I’m free and clear until Sunday.”

“Okay, then shoo. Get cleaned up.”

John moved away from his wife and then hurried down the hall to the master bedroom. He paused at Brittany and then little John’s doors to peak in on his kids. The sight of such innocents, sleeping without a care in the world, brought a lump to his throat. That there were people out there willing to rape and even worse, steal the very essence of life from someone else, in a drive for more power made him sick. ‘This is why I do what I do . . . so that no child has to face what I see.’

Once in the master bedroom John hung his gun from a hook in the walk-in closet and leaned his cane in one corner. With a word, he activated the spell that warded the cane and prevented anyone else from touching it. Then he got the shower in the master bath running and tossed his clothes in the general direction of the clothes hamper. When he looked in to the mirror above the sink for a moment he thought he saw Meka’s image staring back. John blinked, all he could do was stare in shock. The last time he’d seen Meka’s delicate features staring back at him from a mirror he’d been wearing her body. That experience, the body-swap, and the awakening of his magical talent had changed his life, just as getting to know Meka had enriched it.

Steam clouded the mirror and John wiped it back and this time spotted his normal rugged face, the face he’d known for all of his thirty-eight years. The brown hair was still cut short and there was a two-day growth of whiskers now sprinkled with silver, but the laughter still showed up around the blue-gray eyes.

John closed his eyes and tried to focus his Seer’s talent but knew it was probably useless. Most of the time he couldn’t control it and trying to use it by force just gave him a headache. When it did work he just got random visions and sometimes when he slept he’d dream about the future, the present, or even the past. He’d been in contact with a Seer who lived in Seattle but hadn’t had the time to go up and study with her. From the brief conversations with he’d had, John learned that the talent could be trained and controlled to a point. However, even the most talented Seers still couldn’t completely control the gift. It didn’t help that Seers were closed mouthed about the training and the extent of control they’d achieved. The exception to this was a Seer that others spoke of in awed whispers.

Cassandra, the most powerful Seer alive today lived someplace in Alaska. It was said that she had a very refined control of her talent. But she was a recluse who discouraged visitors and hadn’t taken an apprentice in decades.

“I’m sure she’s fine. Meka can take care of herself.” Even as he said it John felt a small degree of doubt. “If there was an issue she’d call or do a sending. And if she couldn’t Victor would know and contact me.”

The warm water felt wonderful along his sore muscles and as John started to lather up the door to the shower slid open. “What?” he started to say only to feel a heat run through him at the sight of his naked wife’s sexy body.

“I think I’ll join you. Breakfast is done and the kids are still sleeping.”

“I make it a policy never to refuse a beautiful lady, particularly, when I’m married to her!”

“I should think not. Now turn around so I can scrub your back.”

John complied and felt Elaine’s soft hands roam over his back stopping to trace one scar after another. She didn’t say anything, but the IED had left its mark on his body. Then he felt her hands snake around his waist, her soft breasts pressed into his back, and her hands drifted down to his cock.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not my back.”

“Mhmm . . . but it’s just so yummy.”

John felt his body respond to his wife’s knowing touch and he moaned as his cock sprang to attention. “Oh, babe, you’ve got a way with words.”

When he turned around John lifted Elaine’s chin and brushed his lips to hers, however Elaine was having none of that. She grabbed either side of his face and pressed her lips in, turning the kiss into a full open mouthed tongue dancing affair.

When Elaine pulled back the lust shone from her eyes, “I want you so bad.”

This was all the encouragement John needed as he lowered his mouth to her breasts. “Your wish is my command.”


***

John bolted upright, feeling a cold clammy sweat drench his body while his heart raced. For several seconds, he didn’t know where he was, the dream had been so vivid. He’d been in London, he was sure of that, and there had been a secure research facility he didn’t recognize. John could tell from the way that his heart was racing and the sense of foreboding that whatever was happening in London it couldn’t be good. He tossed back the covers and stood up stretching trying to dismiss the dream from his mind. If there was something happening in London it didn’t concern him.

John dropped to the floor and did several push-ups followed by a set of sit-ups and then a few seconds of light stretching. The physical activity served the dual purpose of waking him up and working out some of the aches, from yesterday’s fight. Now fully awake John headed to the kitchen and as he left the bedroom glanced at the clock by the bed, 4 pm. “Holy shit, I slept eight hours straight. I must’ve been tired!” Then with a laugh he added, “Or Elaine wore me out.”

Feeling more relaxed than he had since he’d started the hunt for the warlock, responsible for the serial rapes, he headed to the kitchen. On the way, he picked up the remote for the TV and clicked it on. The flat screen in the living room came to life and the sounds of a cable news network filled the room.

The refrigerator was stocked with plenty of left overs but nothing seemed worth microwaving so John grabbed some deli sliced smoked turkey and made a quick sandwich. Then after pouring a tall glass of milk he headed back into the living room to flip through the channels. “Five hundred channels and day time television still sucks.” He muttered flicking aimlessly through the satellite TV’s menu.

Abruptly, John paused, eyes glued to the TV as he spotted a breaking news story scrolled across the bottom of the screen. John just caught part of it and saw that it was some terrorist attack in London. Feeling a sense of dread, he switched to CNN International just in time to catch the footage. There was a news crew, with a pretty blonde reporter, standing in front of an office building with flames shooting out the windows. It was dark there and John saw that firetrucks were still arriving, and for a moment John wondered how a news crew managed to beat the fire department. Then he got a good look at the building and all John could do was stare, his lunch forgotten. He was looking at the same research facility he’d seen in his dream, only this time it was on fire.

“Oh, shit.” John said, and increased the volume on the remote.

“At this point it is too early to know how the fire started here at NWRI, yet witnesses seemed to have heard some kind of explosion. The sense I’m getting from officials here, on the ground, is that they can’t rule out terrorism.”

John stood up the feeling of foreboding he’d had earlier returning with a vengeance. “What the fuck is going on?” He hurried to where he’d left his phone and was surprised when he didn’t have any calls or messages. Using WhatsApp he tried to call Meka, the only person he knew in London, and after six rings hung up. John shook his head, “Time to go old school.”

With that he went to his bedroom and grabbed his cane with the Cavanaugh crystal. Then he headed to the basement. The reason he and Elaine had picked this house, besides the four bedrooms, was that it was a ranch style house with a full basement that ran the length of the house. Descending the stairs John noticed that the temperature was cooler and less humid. The first part of the basement was a combination laundry room-home gym. The gym included free weights, a universal machine, a tread mill, and a heavy bag along with tatami Mats. John ignored all of this and headed to the back half of the basement, this part had been walled off from the rest.

The door was keyed to John and Elaine’s auras a normal safety precaution since there were a pair of inquisitive toddlers in the house. The wards tingled as John punched in the code and spoke the key. When he shouldered open the door and flipped on the lights he paused to look around. The room was large for a personal sanctum. The middle of the room had been left open for a summoning circle that John had cut into the floor. Around the sides John and Elaine had arranged a set of work benches and bookshelves. The wall opposite the entrance held a pair of comfortable leather recliners with a reading lamp between them.

John headed to one of the work benches and picked up a small crystal Meka had given him last year at the annual cook out. The crystal wasn’t anything special to look at. It wasn’t a focus item and hadn’t been prepared by a Sorcerer. It was just an uneven lump of un-worked rock, or half of an uneven lump. The other half was in London in Meka’s apartment. She’d used the crystal to test one of the laws of magic. It was a principle that John had never understood, something about an item divided was never really separate, or some other nonsense. What John knew was that it took very little energy to use this crystal to project a sending to its other half in London. Then Meka, if she was anywhere in the city, would hear it and respond.

The other way to do a sending was just to use his knowledge of Meka’s aura and try to build a connection. That way took a lot of energy and John wasn’t all that good at it. Settling into one of the recliners John checked his watch. 4:30 pm which meant it was 9:30 pm in London. Unless Meka was out on a date, it was a Saturday, then he should be able to talk to her. John laid his cane across his lap holding it loosely with his right hand while focusing on the crystal in his left. Drawing energy through his focus item took only a minor effort and then he concentrated on the crystal.

“Meka, this is John. What’s going on? I saw the news, were you near that building, the one that blew up?”

Deep within the crystal in John’s left hand a purple light blossomed. It wasn’t particularly bright but John knew the crystal in London held a matching glow and his message was being transmitted to Meka. For several seconds John waited, she could be in public and just needed a chance to break away. Then after a few minutes he tried again.

“Meka, can you hear me? I’m worried! I’ve been having dreams about you.” Then knowing how Meka’s mind worked added, “Not “those” kind of dreams. I had a vision about a building that caught on fire and it was connected to you, somehow. Then I just saw the news from London, there was a terrorist attack? Talk to me girl. What’s going on?”

Again, John felt the surge of energy and knew his message had been transmitted to London. This time he felt the crystal in his hand vibrate slightly and there was something, like Meka had tried to respond but hadn’t been able to put any energy into the message.

“Meka, what’s going on? Are you alright? MEKA!”

This time John doubled the energy in the sending doing everything he could to strengthen the bond between the crystals. He could feel the crystal in London and then his vision seemed to go blurry and when it cleared up it was like he was standing in the middle of an apartment. ‘Am I in Meka’s apartment?’ John thought, ‘or flat, rather?’ he added correcting himself. John looked around, he’d never been to Meka’s flat, but he’d Skyped with her and this room looked familiar. It was her living room. The furniture looked like she’d bought most of the pieces second-hand, which was typical Meka, but they were all in good shape and the sofa looked comfy. Then he spotted the bookshelf with Meka’s trade mark encyclopedias, ‘Yep, this is definitely her flat.’ When he turned around he saw there was a small kitchen behind him and an eating area with an expandable table. To his left he saw a hallway and to the right a door. Since the door had a spy hole John assumed it was the entry to the flat.

He turned and moved down the hardwood floor noticing that his dream-self wasn’t actually walking. Down the hallway he found a door on the right and poking his head through it discovered a small bathroom. ‘Cool, nothing like floating through walls!’ John thought, amused. The bathroom wasn’t all that interesting except that John noticed the little feminine touches here and there that screamed Meka. A little further down the hall he saw he’d come to a set of doors one on the left and right. Since the door on the right shared space with the bathroom John assumed it was the second bedroom of the two-bedroom flat.

He pushed into the larger of the two bedrooms and froze. Meka was there, and she wasn’t alone. The squirming figures on the bed half-hidden under the sheets were all John needed to see, to understand why Meka hadn’t responded to his sending. Then he spotted a spiky mop of multicolored hair as the man on top tossed the sheets aside. Sweat glistened on his back and ass as he moved rhythmically . . . thrusting forward and down. Meka had her legs wrapped around his waist and a look of carnal bliss on her face that told John that she wasn’t in trouble; just the opposite.

Slipping out of the room John knew that his face, in astral form, couldn’t actually turn red, but he was sure if it could it’d be glowing! With a minor effort of will he ended the vision and suddenly he was back in his body, in his sanctum.

“Well, whatever’s going on, at least Meka’s okay.” Then he shook his head and laughed. “I’m sure she’ll get back to me later today . . . or maybe tomorrow.”

John stood up and stretched, “I think I need to go for a run.” Feeling better that his concerns about his friend were unfounded John returned the crystal to the shelf where he’d found it and froze. Standing there, where nothing had been a few minutes ago, was an all blue, “My Little Pony” with a rainbow colored mane and tail. John placed the crystal on the shelf and picked up the tiny toy horse. As soon as he did Rainbow Dash’s eyes flew open and sparkled blue, “John, help me!”

Shock raced through John and the toy fell from numb fingers.

“Meka?”

There was no doubt in his mind that it had been Meka’s voice. The anguish and need came through as if she was standing right there next to him. “What the hell? I just saw you. You looked like you were fine.” John picked up Rainbow Dash again and once more the words sounded clearly in his mind, “John, help me!”

For a moment John just stood there trying to reconcile the message delivered in a way that only Meka could. A way that left no doubt it came from her, and that she needed his help. Yet, he’d just seen her and she looked fine. Abruptly, John made up his mind. “I need to get to London.”

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