No Such Thing As Witches by Stella Marie Alden

 

Chapter 1

Samantha AKA Sam

 

“Bye everyone.” My stomach growls, I wave to the ladies, and slide into my husband’s Patten Securities jacket.

When I open the door, the wind catches my hair and I pull it back with an elastic tie. Then, I stroll past the neighborhood shops and stop to grin at the hardware store.

For years, old Mr. McCreary has encouraged grade school artists to paint his windows. This October, a toothy jack-o’-lantern grins between two black cats and the silhouette of a witch rides in front of an enormous, yellow moon.

This street used to my favorite trick-or-treating spot because the local businesses gave away the best candy. Suddenly, thunder grumbles, the sky darkens, and trash rolls along the gutters. I can either stop reminiscing or get wet.

At the next busy intersection, I press the ‘walk’ button and glance up at the clouds. A black sedan with shaded windows pulls to the curb, the door opens, and I step back.

“Special Agent Kessler?” I haven’t seen him since the day I got fired; the day I met my partner; both the best and the worst day of my life.

My old boss steps out and extends his arms toward the backseat. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear he was pulling a chair out in a five star restaurant.

“Ah… No thank you.” I do not want a tête-à-tête with this man. That train has come and gone. Leave the past in the past, etcetera, etcetera.

“I must insist.” Smirking, he hands me an envelope and crosses his arms.

My fingers slide across the notarized seal and as I read the fine print in the enclosed letter, a chill runs down my spine. “I need to vet this with my lawyer.”

“Sure. Later. Right now, get in the car.” He grips my upper arm, sure to leave a bruise.

Holy crap. I hear Suds’ voice in my head. “Sugar, you’re a walkin’, talkin’ danger magnet.”

But again, this is not my fault. Bad shit keeps happening to me. “Do you really intend to kidnap me?”

The Feds have chosen their pick up place carefully. The closest security camera is behind me, over the doorway to my aunt’s hair salon.

Leaning over, I glance in the back seat where a former co-worker, whose name I can’t remember, lowers his sunglasses. “It’s by presidential order, Ms. Russo. Get in.”

“Sutcliff. My last name is Sutcliff and my husband is going to be furi-”

“He already knows.” Not-So-Special Agent Kessler pushes me toward the car while I consider kneeing his balls, screaming fire, and running.

Instead, I try to reason with them. “My cat? I need to feed her.”

“We’ll see to it someone-” He strong arms me to the door and I pull mace from my holster and point it at his face.

“No pet, no cooperation.” A woman has to draw the line somewhere.

“Fine. Get in and we’ll stop on the way.” I do what he says, yet keep my weapon pointed as the town car inches forward in heavy Brooklyn traffic. Multitasking, I read the document signed by the president. He wants non-partisan contractors to research a possible Halloween terrorist event.

“Is this for real?” I picture little kids getting hurt and shudder.

“Someone thinks so.” The agent to my left shrugs and grins.

Well, this is just weird. The driver pulls in front of my loft-slash-office where the second floor window declares Suds and Sam’s Private Investigators in bold black lettering.

“I’ll be right back.” I figure I’ll call my dad, my Uncle Vinny, and if needed, my hitman friend, Frankie. I don’t trust these guys, even if they are FBI.

They fired me, for God’s sake. There is no way they would want me working for them. Not only that, I worked in the DC office. The terrorist threat is here, in New York City. Nothing makes sense.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s probably trouble.

“Your phone?” Wearing a smug smile, Agent What’s-His-Name follows me out of the vehicle and holds out his hand.

“Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure.” I dig into my huge purse and when I finger my revolver, not for the first time today, I consider shooting both of them.

“Move it.” Kessler, sitting on the back seat, waves the asshole forward, virtually pushing him on the back.

“Ah… My cat doesn’t like strangers.” It’s the only warning I’m giving them.

“Go. I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

Your funeral dude. I guess he never read the report on how Catrina clawed a serial killer and saved my life. She’s an excellent judge of character.

I wave at the barista in the downstairs café to the left of my front door. After, I climb the narrow flight of stairs to my apartment. My oak door was recently fitted with top notch locks which I open with my key card. Eventually, Suds will know my last known location.

Dumbass follows me into the old dentist’s lobby which is supposed to become living space, if we ever save up enough money.

“You might want to wait here.” Now, where the hell did I store her carrier?

“Unless your pet is a tiger or a jaguar, I’m coming in with you.” He shadows me into the small area between a wall of appliances and my conference room table.

“Here kitty, kitty.” I click my tongue, search under the couch, then climb the iron spiral staircase, rattling a bag of treats. “Cattie? Catrina? C’mere.”

I find her under a pile of clothes and hold out a favorite crunchy nugget in my palm.

“Here ya go, sweetheart.” Fisting the scruff of her neck, I cup her behind and everything is fine until she spies the stranger who followed me into my bedroom loft.

Her eyes go wide, she struggles out of my grasp, and with an arched back, hisses at Agent Dumbass.

Cringing, I wait for blood. “Back up real slow. I mean it. Do it now.”

He squats, hands outstretched, no doubt thinking he’s smarter than me… and Cat. Faster than a rattlesnake, she clamps down on his hand.

Good girl. I collect four paws in my right hand and stick a finger in the side of her mouth with the other. “Let go.”

“Meurph.” She eyes me and her bloody prey, unconvinced.

“Now!”

When she loosens her jaw, I kick free her carrier from a pile of boxes under the back window.

“You should have that thing put down.” The jerk inspects the bite and glares at my pet who eyes him back, struggling to resume her attack.

“Meeeooouuuuu.”

“It’s okay, sweetheart, the mean man is going downstairs to the medicine cabinet.” I cuddle my baby and nod toward the stairs.

As he descends, I add, “You might need a tetanus shot, too.”

“Are you kidding me?” He stops on the metal steps, turns, and pulls his gun.

“Can’t you take a joke?”

“Move, now.” Face red, he waves his pistol. I’m pretty sure threatening me is illegal but now is probably not the time for an in depth discussion on FBI ethics.

“I need to change my clothes.” I’m still in salon-wear which consists of black jeans and a white blouse.

“You want me to shoot you?”

“Dumbass.” I mutter this under my breath as we make our way down the stairs.

Poor Catrina, who hasn’t been outside since Frankie brought her over as a kitten squirms. It takes all my strength to calm her down and get her into the back seat.

“What the fuck is wrong with that animal?” Special Agent Kessler shoves over while I straddle the middle, and the other guy squishes me so he can slam the door.

“She’s scared.” So am I but don’t say so. “She’s never been kidnapped, rather catnapped before.”

“Just hold onto her until we get to the office. We’ve set you up in a nice room. It even has a pullout couch.

“Wait. You’re expecting to me to stay overnight?” I’m so shocked I let go of Catrina who scrambles around the back seat, making long gaping claw marks in the lush brown leather.

By the time I get hold of her, we’re downtown, and almost everyone needs stitches.

On the way up to my office, I cover her eyes and state for the record. “I need to call my husband.”

“This mission is top secret.”

My eyes narrow. “Wait a minute, I thought you said Suds knew all about this.”

“Don’t worry. We got it covered.” Kessler glowers as he leads me into a room resembling a cell and points. “Computer is there, change your password. If you need to leave the building, one of us will escort you at all times.”

While I have mad skills, there are plenty of other investigators in the FBI as good or better. “Why me?”

Kessler chuckles. “All in good time.”