August 30, 2016
Originally published by Loose Id, now self published
Kavon and Darren believe they finally have the life they want—a lead on O’Brien, a better understanding of the failures that have plagued the team, and time to nurture the bond between them as shamans and lovers. However they’ve gotten involved in magical politics, and that has consequences that neither of them could foresee. Magic is changing, and Kavon and Darren are in the center of a coming storm.
In the past, Kavon’s only fear was that he might inadvertently damage Darren, and he is painfully aware that he has hurt his lover before. He’s vowed to never make that mistake again, but new forces threaten their relationship and pose a special threat to Darren. With the danger growing more intense, Kavon struggles to find a way to protect the ones he loves and Darren realizes that the magic that gave him his heart’s desire could take everything away just as quickly. Magic is a two-edged sword and the two lovers have to find a way to wield the weapon before it becomes the instrument of their death.
What I really liked here is how the action was used to show the characters learn and grow, as well as to show us aspects of their personalities we may not have noticed yet. In particular, I enjoyed all the interactions between the members of the team. READ MORE
The Novel Approach
This is the last of the three books in the Aberrant Magic series, and it finishes things off strong. The Talent Team is recovering its equilibrium after some serious shake ups in the first and second book, Kavon and Darren are synching their relationship and magic into a strong and cohesive front, and information on Darren’s magic and the hidden history of the ifrit are revealed. READ MORE
It's About the Book
They finally close in on the human trafficking ring they’ve been trying to track down. While in New Mexico, they encounter even more politics in even more places. Darren and Kavon have to make some serious decisions, as a couple, about when it’s okay to walk away from a mess. READ MORE
“How’d it go?” Kavon asked when the three got back to the office.
Darren answered while Gillette and Boyd headed to their desks. “McLean will call the Egyptians and ask for help, but she will make sure that doesn’t include sharing their slightly less than mainstream beliefs.”
“That you’re a Muslim jinn prince,” Boyd said.
Darren looked over in obvious alarm. Kavon wondered if something had happened. He hadn’t felt any particularly strong emotions from Darren, but he didn’t know if their claiming bond would work over long distances. Agent Boyd looked taken aback at Darren’s reaction, focusing on him before looking around at the team.
“I’m Muslim. I know what an ifrit is,” Boyd said. “Muslims aren’t supposed to talk about jinn and ifrit, which is why we always did as kids.”
Kavon hadn’t expected that. “How many Muslims believe Talent comes from jinn?”
Boyd shrugged. “I have no idea. I know my family never did. But that doesn’t mean much. My parents are the pray-once-a-week sort of Muslim, which means we observe the faith in theory more than in practice.”
“If the Egyptians start throwing the word ifrit around, I need to know if it will lead people to making assumptions.”
“Considering how many different definitions there are for ifrit, I’m not sure anyone can assume anything,” Darren said.
That was true enough, but that itch of discomfort lingered. Kavon didn’t want anyone trying to crown him—or Darren, for that matter—as the heir apparent.
Boyd cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind me asking, what does it mean in this context?”
Darren looked to Kavon, but Kavon wasn’t sure how to answer. Luckily, Coretta spoke up. “Boucher’s guide is very old and even less inclined to put up with poor work than he is. How did you do watching Darren in the field?” Coretta’s ability to answer the question and imply that Boyd shouldn’t have asked it at the same time impressed Kavon. He always felt like he had to be blunter to get his ideas across.
Kavon relaxed as his team fell into their familiar patterns. The only annoyance was Rima Dolen’s absence. She had been assiduously avoiding him since Frane’s betrayal had come to light. Coretta had told him the two were close, but Kavon was worried the team might have a problem. He didn’t believe Dolen was another traitor, but if she was uncomfortable with the team, they couldn’t work together. Kavon listened as Boyd described his impressions, which were generally favorable when it came to Darren, but his attention was on the Dolen problem. Coretta’s crystals were useful in the office, but in the field where flexibility and adaptability were more important, Dolen’s spells had saved their asses more than Coretta’s crystals. The crystals required too much precision and time in preparation.
More than that, Kavon disliked the idea that one of his team thought he was too much of a bastard to talk to. While Kavon had no trouble playing the bastard for the rest of the world, he’d always tried to support his team. With Dolen avoiding him, he’d failed at that.
“I wasn’t actually schmoozing at all.” Darren defended himself from one of Les’s barbs. “The most important part of interagency cooperation is cooperating with the other agency. You respect the other side enough to tell them as much as you can, given operational security, and ask them to help you reach your objective. It’s not rocket science.”
“Yeah, and if that doesn’t work, you sic Coretta and Boucher on them like a couple of pit bulls,” Les said with gleeful sadism. Kavon would object to being characterized that way, but it was close to the truth. Darren had pointed Kavon at more than one agent who had forgotten to cooperate back.
“That too,” Darren said with a sigh. “But I do get a lot of work done without them.”
“I just hope no one expects me to be that calm when talking to one of the most powerful women on the East Coast,” Boyd said. “Susan McLean—that’s the deep end of the political pool. She is supposed to meet with the vice president all the time—a sort of women’s-rights, girl-power unity.”
Kavon hadn’t known that, but he wasn’t surprised. McLean and Halverson both wanted power. Halverson was just more aggressive and obnoxious in his pursuit of it. Sadly, Kavon had assumed Cruz was the least power hungry of the three.
“Worry about the politics on your own time. During office hours, everyone is exactly the same,” Kavon said as he stood. “I’m going over to talk to the head of the cyber unit about this trafficking case. Shutting us out is not an option.”
“I’ll go with you,” Darren said, jumping to his feet.
Kavon shook his head. “Go over to the courthouse and figure out what’s keeping Dolen. I know the DA on the Waldron forgery case is new, and if he’s abusing her cooperative nature, feel free to let him know that if he screws with my people, the next visit will be from me.”
Darren nodded. “On it.”
“Go, run, schmooze,” Les said.
Kavon turned on him. “Get back out on the range. Boyd is the first one who’s gotten your scores to improve, and I want to see more improvement.”
Les’s expression crumpled. “On it,” he said in a spiritless voice. It was a mockery of Darren’s enthusiasm, but Les did get his weapon out of his drawer. Kavon walked out before any of them left. Coretta was stuck in the office, monitoring the crystal spell she’d used to track the magic-luring victims, so he couldn’t send her to try to forge a better relationship. It was up to him.
Part of him wished he could send Darren to deal with Agent Finley from Cyber Crime, but the man was a hard-nosed agent who would not listen to someone who held a junior position. Worse, this was going to be an ugly conversation. Coretta had already verbally complained about disrespect and rude comments coming out of the Cyber team. The time for Darren’s diplomacy was over about the time Finley had let his team cross that boundary. So now it was time for Kavon to go in and play the heavy.
Cyber Crime had their offices in an annex attached to the main building. As Kavon walked through the doors to the unit, he passed the Cyber Crime’s most-wanted display wall. These were the most dangerous criminals in the entire Cyber unit. And to a man, they were all white-collar criminals. These people had created computer viruses and accessed networks illegally. They had infiltrated government or business networks and stolen identities. Cyber Crime didn’t usually work with living victims of violent crime, and Kavon had to wonder if that was making them shortsighted on this trafficking case.
So far, they had a little over two hundred victims. Most of them were young people between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, all of them lured by the promise of love from some fictitious lover with plagiarized poetry. Cyber Crime had taken lead because the suspects had targeted victims on the Internet. But instead of focusing there, Finley’s people were busy making snide comments about magic users.
One of the agents stood when Kavon stopped in front of his desk. “Can I help you, Agent Boucher?”
“I’m looking for Agent Finley.”
A flash of panic crossed the man’s face before he managed a watery smile. “I’ll call him for you.” Agent Finley had to have one of the offices that lined the back wall of the main room. This guy could probably shout and get Finley’s attention faster. But Kavon schooled his expression into one of patience and waited. Politics. Everyone else could talk about zombies causing the apocalypse, but as far as Kavon was concerned, politics was a more likely suspect. At least you could shoot a zombie in the head.
One of the office doors opened, and Agent Finley stepped out into the main room. His smile was even less genuine than that of his agent. However, Kavon calmly headed across the room. “Agent Finley,” he said, holding out his hand to shake.
“Agent Boucher. Was there a break on the case?” He gave Kavon a firm handshake and then stepped back.
“If there had been, I would’ve made sure to call you.” Kavon mentally added that he was fairly certain Finley wouldn’t offer the same respect in return. “I thought I would get your impression of the interrogation with the two suspects we have in custody.”
A brief hesitation told Kavon know that this distrust the Cyber unit had for Talent ran deep. Then Finley shrugged. “They deny any knowledge of their travel agency being used to procure any tickets for underage runaways.”
“I’ve never known of a trafficking suspect to brag to police or FBI, so that’s hardly surprising.”
Finley narrowed his eyes, no longer hiding his aggravation. “Except there’s no evidence the travel agency is involved. We’re lucky they’re cooperating with us and will identify any further ticket requests using these accounts.”
“And have there been further requests?” Kavon was sure the answer was no. These guys had tipped off the people in charge of the scheme.
“Agent Boucher, we do know how to do our business.”
“I don’t doubt your expertise in the area of Cyber Crime,” Kavon said. He let the words hang in the air for long, awkward seconds before he added, “How often do you get out in the field?”
“More often than you think,” Finley snapped. “Computers do exist in the real world, and when we arrest people, we generally have to leave our desks.” He gestured at a row of computer desks where some agents worked and others watched the conflict with undisguised interest.
“Then you can imagine how frustrating it is to have someone else shut you out,” Kavon said. “I have a lot of experience with interrogations. When my direct route doesn’t work, Agent Darren Oberton is exceptionally skilled at emotionally manipulating people. And if all else fails, men do tend to get stupid around Agent Rima Dolen. At least heterosexual men do. And yet none of those people were in the interrogation.”
Finley lowered his voice, so maybe he’d noticed they were attracting attention. “We didn’t need more interrogators. We need evidence.”
Kavon could understand that, which was why he hadn’t pushed his way into the interrogation room already. “Okay, give me a location. Give me one place that you think these trafficked teenagers have gone through. Give me one suspect that you can connect to one of these stolen credit cards. I’ll take my team there. These criminals are relying on a magic user. That means they’re leaving a trail that my people can follow and yours can’t.”
“Because it’s magical,” Finley said with a sharp edge of derision in his voice.
“Yes, this case involves magic. If you have a problem with magic or people with Talent, we can take that to Assistant Director White right now and discuss why our two teams are unable to coordinate in the field.” Kavon didn’t want to have to ask for another favor from White, not so soon after he asked the man to intervene with the situation in Canada, but Kavon would not allow his people to get sidelined by a bigot.
Finley stared at him, but Kavon had gone eye-to-eye with far more frightening people. So he stared back without blinking. Finally Finley said, “Let’s take this to my office.”
“Fine,” Kavon said, but Finley was already gone, heading for his door. Kavon followed Finley into a crowded and windowless space. He had three computer monitors all set up on a long desk, and paper files filled nearly every horizontal surface. A variety of sticky notes, printouts, and magazine clippings papered his walls. It was not what Kavon had expected from the head of the Cyber unit.
“Are you looking to have a pissing match?” Finley asked as he closed the door with a solid thud.
“I’m looking to save these kids. We have young men and women being sold into slavery, and you are so busy trying to keep any magical taint out of your case that you are not allowing us to do our jobs.”
“Are you accusing me of prejudice?”
Kavon watched Finley’s indignation gather around him like a mist. One second of shamanic vision, and Kavon would know for sure. Of course, channeling that sort of power made his shamanic marks appear. His eyes would take on a distinctive shine, and the freckles scattered across the upper parts of his cheeks would turn a dull blue color. Finley would know that Kavon had broken regulation. Worse, it would lead other agents to distrust Kavon’s integrity. Since he wouldn’t do that, he was left staring at Finley and considering possible responses. Finally he said, “Should I?”
“I am just as focused on helping these people as you are. So don’t try to pull your martyr act,” Finley said in a low, dangerous voice that then turned mocking. “Poor Talent team. No one respects them because everyone is prejudiced.” He snorted. “Your team is in chaos. One team member was kicked off and charged with assaulting another team member. You had a spy, and may I point out that that spy was actively sabotaging this case?” Finley brought his hand down on a stack of papers.
“And Frane is gone. Agent Nixon helped eliminate all the corrupted programming.”
Finley threw his hands up. “Agent Nixon. Another member of your team. Tell me, do you plan on bringing criminal charges against Nixon? That seems like a pattern on your team.”
Kavon narrowed his eyes, and his bull appeared behind one of the desks. Bennu sat on the bull’s shoulder, silently watching. If any of the mundanes could see spirit guides, they’d be terrified by the hostile looks on both guides’ faces. “She’s a damn good agent and has been for years,” Kavon said while he tried to rein in his temper. He didn’t think Bennu would get involved, but that bird was unpredictable under the best of circumstances.
“How can I trust your judgment? You allowed a traitor on your team.” Finley’s voice had been rising, but now he fell silent and took a deep breath. “My people have put this case at the front of the queue. Every spare moment is spent trying to track these guys.”
Kavon pointed out the obvious. “And because you don’t have a magic user over here, you’ll never make the best use out of the leads you find. My second-in-command has to sit at her desk in the other building so she can monitor the magical interference on your traces.”
“I never said the Talent team shouldn’t be involved at all. Clearly we need to cooperate on this case. I simply maintain that we should have lead, and White agrees.”
Kavon took a step closer, using his size to his advantage since Finley was a good five inches shorter. “I’m not feeling cooperation. I’m feeling obstruction. If you can get us a person of interest or a physical site, you will be amazed at what my team is capable of doing.”
Finley sighed and sat in one of the chairs scattered around the cramped office in a seemingly random pattern. “Agent Boucher, this has been a difficult time for you. And I understand that your time is even more limited because you’ve recently taken a position as a shamanic senator. I will call you when I have a lead that requires magical investigation, but let my people get their jobs done without worrying about you coming over here.”
Shamanic senator. The ass hadn’t even bothered to look up the correct name, but he had the nerve to essentially order Kavon out of his offices. “And that’s it. You’re more worried about me coming over here than you are about this case.”
Now Finley shot back up out of the chair. “How dare you. Don’t come in here with your attitude and think you can intimidate me.”
“This isn’t an intimidation tactic. This is a statement of what I see as observable fact,” Kavon said calmly. “You’re busy attacking my team and our credibility, and meanwhile you are not using the resources you have available. I expect that within the next three to five days, you will find a person, a place, or a lead of any sort that would be appropriate for my team to follow up on.”
“Is that a threat?” Finley demanded. Clearly he had never seen Kavon issue real threats, because his threats tended to be far more intimidating.
“That’s a description of an expectation. I’m going to spend the next three to five days writing a complaint about what I see as a conflict that is causing a case to be assigned fewer resources than are appropriate. I will cite those who have directly witnessed unprofessional behavior from this office. When I have that report completed to my liking, I will forward it to the appropriate personnel.”
Finley paled. Yeah, he knew his people had crossed the line, and now he was suddenly thinking about the political damage this could do to his career. “How many bridges do you think you can burn before people stop working with you?” Finley asked, choosing to make offense his only defense.
Kavon grinned. “Most good agents rebuild those bridges after they figure out that I can help bring the criminals down. If you choose not to, that might say more about you than me.” He turned and walked out of the office without another word. He’d delivered his message, and Finley could either learn to cooperate more, or he could face an internal investigation. Kavon didn’t care which happened as long as he got access to the damn evidence.
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