Author: Caitlin Ricci
Series: In the Shadows
Release Date: April 24, 2017
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Word Count: 95500*
Sex Content: N/A
The Little Crow
Caitlin Ricci © 2016
All Rights Reserved
Detective Jamison Landry crept quietly through the ransacked house on Lightwood Terrace. The smell of incense was thick in the air, and he had to consciously hold his breath to keep from choking on the sweet stench. Behind him he heard the other members of his team coughing as they struggled with it as well. They’d been sitting on the house for weeks and finally had the search warrant to go in and seize what Jamison was sure would be a large cache of illegal drugs hidden somewhere in the nineteen fifties ranch-style house.
The dirty linoleum creaked under his boots as he and the team moved into the kitchen. Surveillance had told him the upper portion of the house was hardly ever used and that the people taking up residence in what had at one time been a nice home spent much of their time in the basement. He hated basements, hated that feeling of being exposed and bottlenecked as he went down the stairs to invade people in their holes. But when no one had come to the door after he’d banged, yelling that they had a search warrant and would be coming in, he had gotten a sick feeling that their search would lead to this.
His gaze caught on an occult symbol in front of the closed basement door, nothing that he was familiar with, but the dark rust-colored stain was something he was more than acquainted with, and not by choice. “Make sure to get a sample of this blood,” he whispered to the gathered team around him, pointing down. The blood was old, the stain clear on the floor even after he’d scuffed it with his boot. Around him the team seemed anxious, some even bouncing on the balls of their feet as he slowly pulled the door open.
He shouted that he was entering the basement a second before he and his team rushed down the stairs, guns up and ready to fire at anyone who happened to get in their way. What he met in the brightly lit cement room though was far different than anything he had expected as the acrid smell of sulfur assaulted his nose and tightened his throat. He’d raided meth labs, crack houses, and people growing pot in their bathtubs, and he’d never once expected to find the large circle of people dressed in bright-red robes, sitting cross-legged on the floor as they held hands and chanted in low voices. In front of them was a row of white candles, all lit, and in front of that line of dancing flames stood large object covered in black cloth.
Jamison couldn’t tell what it was, wasn’t even sure he wanted to know as he stood dumbfounded with the rest of his team, his gaze fixed on the circle of people who seemed to be in a trance.
Then one of them looked up, his eyes slowly focusing on the small group of intruders with their guns drawn on them. The man shouted and broke apart as he tried to make a run for it. His actions spurred Jamison out of his own startled daze, and he tackled the man rushing at him. With practiced movements that he could do in his sleep, the man was quickly put on his back, his hands cuffed behind him, and then sat up against the concrete wall. Jamison wasn’t as gentle as he could have been, but the safety of his team mattered more to him than the robed man’s comfort. As awareness dawned on the group, they began breaking apart. Some ran; some stood still, too in shock to do much else. Within minutes they were all handcuffed and placed against the wall, joining the idiot who had tried to rush past him to get to the only exit.
Jamison gave each of them a critical once-over. There were men, women, and some teenagers, all different ages and races. None of them seemed to have anything in common except for that they each had the same occult symbol marked in what appeared to be candle wax on their foreheads.
He wanted to ask them about the location of the drugs, but he doubted anyone would be honest about it. In his experience no one ever was, but he believed in giving people first chances to hang themselves with their own words. So few people ever asked for lawyers, even after hearing that their words could be used against them. He had just begun to ask his first question when a noise came from behind him.
He turned to the source of the soft shuffling sound, leaving his team facing the robed people. The black blanketed object was moving. He approached it cautiously. Nothing good ever seemed to be hidden under sheets, and his mind even drifted to some of his favorite horror movies as he stepped closer. The toe of his boot knocked over one of the candles, and he gingerly picked it up even as the murmuring began behind him. He was careful as he walked. Part of him knew there was nothing to be afraid of under the sheet. The other part of him, the one loudly screaming in his mind about ghosts and zombies, said nothing was ever so certain.
“No! Don’t touch him!” one of the men said, drawing Jamison’s attention.
“Him?” Jamison snarled as he turned to face the suddenly quiet man. Could the red-faced, obviously angry person sitting across the room from him be serious? Did they really have a man under the sheet? And if so, why wasn’t he getting up?
“You mustn’t go closer! He’s dangerous!” a woman screeched.
Jamison had to cough against the thick smell, so much like rotten eggs, that it had to be sulfur.