Warping Minds & Other Misdemeanors – Annette Marie, Rob Jacobsen

I’m not gonna lie. Being restrained by handcuffs in a room with two powerful, beautiful women has a certain appeal. However, when those two women are cops and the room is a cold, barren box used for interrogations, the allure diminishes dramatically. Captain Blythe dropped a stack of folders on the metal table with a loud smack, rattling the chains that ran from the tabletop to my wrists. She settled into the seat across from me and pushed up the sleeves of her simple white blouse. With wavy blond hair to her shoulders and cheekbones to spare, she had a kind of Cate Blanchett thing going on. Minus the charm. Or the accent. “Kit Morris.” Her blue-eyed stare scraped like icicles. “Tell me everything you know.” “Everything?” Did she mean that literally? I glanced at the second woman in the room for a clue. Agent Lienna Shen. While Blythe had the Men in Black look down, Lienna might’ve wandered into the precinct by accident. Just shy of five and a half feet tall, she’d covered her simple blue-jeans-and-black-jacket outfit in knickknacks—leather bracelets, beads hanging from her ponytail of thick raven hair, silver rings on her slender fingers, chains and necklaces layered over her white t-shirt, and a hemp satchel slung over one shoulder.

When she caught me looking her way, she added a well-honed scowl to her accessories list. Since neither woman was offering an explanation, I shrugged. “That could take a while. I know a lot of things. For example, the brachiosaur sounds in Jurassic Park were made by mixing whale and donkey noises together.” Blythe’s eyes squinched. “What?” “You said you wanted everything. I’m a bit of a movie buff, so I know lots of film trivia.” “Do not screw with me,” she growled—and for a split second, both the table and my chair lifted off the floor. The table and I hovered for a second, then dropped.

My chair hit the linoleum, then my tailbone hit the chair. The impact jarred my teeth, the bang of the table landing ringing in my ears. Oh, fun. Blythe was a telekinetic. And angry. The captain leaned across the table. “Don’t forget where you are. This isn’t a TV show. We aren’t the police. You don’t get a phone call or a lawyer.

This is the MPD, and in this precinct, you are completely, unalterably at my mercy. Do you understand?” I nodded, playing it cool despite the dour voice in my head tallying all the ways in which I was completely screwed. My gaze darted away from her menacing glare and landed on my warped reflection in the one-way mirror behind her. It made me look like a deranged GI Joe doll. To be fair, I hadn’t showered or shaved since my arrest two days prior, and this dull gray jumpsuit wasn’t doing my summer tan any favors—though it sure made my baby blues pop. But considering a very generous barista had once compared me to a young Chris Pine, the hobo-soldier look was depressing. Blythe flipped a folder open. “We’re on our third interview, Mr. Morris, and I have no patience left. It’d be in your best interest to change your attitude before this session is over.

” Was that a threat? I’d liked her initial strategy better: the classic interrogation method where she’d started out considerate and conversational, offered me a hot drink and a snack, then subtly manipulated me into revealing self-incriminating tidbits about my past —or she’d tried. Maybe I should’ve been less obvious about deflecting her questions. Not to say she was bad at her job, but this wasn’t my first interrogation. I slouched back in my chair. “What do you want to know?” “I want answers about your guild, Kirk, Conner & Qasid. Real answers.” She picked up a pen. “How long were you a member of KCQ?” “About a year before shit hit the fan.” “And the same night your guild fell, you attempted to flee the country?” Her tone suggested she didn’t think much of my bid to secure basic, prison-free survival. “I did flee the country,” I corrected.

“And I would’ve fled the continent too, but I didn’t expect MagiPol to send a superstar sorcerer after me.” I gestured to Lienna, chains jangling unpleasantly. She maintained her scowl. Damn, her poker face was good. My previous interrogations had featured Blythe alone, so when Lienna had shown up for this one, I’d hoped for the timeless good cop/bad cop routine, but that didn’t seem to be happening. “What was your role in KCQ?” Blythe asked. “Support for the lawyers at the firm,” I answered promptly. Blythe jotted that down. “What kind of support?” “Emotional.” The captain raised an unimpressed eyebrow.

“Emotional.” “Well, yeah. Literally.” When she continued to stare expectantly, I added, “Me and another guy handled it. The lawyers would tell us what state of mind they needed their client in, and we’d come up with a way to get them there.” “So, by support, you mean manipulation.” I shrugged. “I like to think of it as emotional guidance.” “And how did you ‘emotionally guide’ clients?” “I’m not sure how to describe it.” A phone beeped imperiously, but she ignored it.

“Did you use magic?” “Who said I have magic?” The phone beeped again. Blythe sighed, reached under the table, and lifted a cell phone into view. The screen lit up as she checked her messages. Her mouth tightened, which I took to mean doom and disaster were impending and we should take shelter immediately. Standing, she clipped the phone back to her belt and turned to Lienna. “I need to take care of something. Keep him talking.” “Yes, ma’am.” With a sharp nod, Blythe strode out of the room and graciously slammed the door behind her. “A little intense, isn’t she?” I observed.

Lienna took the vacated seat. “She’s a precinct captain in one of the biggest cities in the country.” Hmm. Despite her neutral tone, her voice had a soft, caressing quality that I found surprisingly pleasant. It was a shame she wasn’t playing good cop. “Every day,” she continued, “Captain Blythe deals with rampant magic, illicit guilds, arrogant guild masters who think they’re above the law, and violent criminals who use their abilities to hurt, cheat, or kill people.” She didn’t add, “Violent criminals just like you.” Her restraint impressed me. “And,” she continued, “all while keeping the existence of magic, guilds, and the MPD hidden from the public. A crucial mandate your guild flouted.

” She cleared her throat. “But you were just an intern, weren’t you, Kit? You were doing what you were told. You don’t need to protect them.” I grinned. “That works better without the throat-clear first. Really obvious tell that you’re about to bullshit me, I’ve gotta say.” She stiffened in her seat. “Oh, and try to relax more. The fake sympathy will be more convincing.” Her glower returned full force, obliterating the remnants of her kind expression.

It’d been a decent attempt at building a rapport with me. She wasn’t experienced at the technique, which seemed like an oversight in her training, but I suspected Lienna’s real role in the agency involved far more skill than mere interrogation. According to the rumors floating through the holding cells—of which I believed maybe five percent—Agent Lienna Shen was an abjuration sorcerer, and abjuration was … antimagic sorcery? That concluded my knowledge on the topic. But I did know the handcuffs around my wrists were an artifact created by a sorcerer for a specific magical purpose: in this case, nullifying the magic of whoever had the unfortunate pleasure of wearing them. When she didn’t respond to my helpful critique, I attempted a charming smile. “You’re pretty young for an agent.” Lienna’s scowl deepened, even though it was a reasonable observation; she looked my age, which seemed like a stretch for full agenthood. “Do you know why you’re here?” she asked coldly. “In this room?” “Because Blythe has a thing for younger guys who can quote the entire courtroom speech from A Few Good Men?” “Because,” she said in that clipped tone people use when they’re silently praying for patience—or imagining what it’d feel like to strangle me, “we’re currently investigating three cases of extortion totaling two million dollars, five cases of embezzlement over five hundred thousand dollars each, and eight reports of blackmail. Your guild was behind them all, and unless you want those charges added to your already extensive list of crimes, you should strongly consider shedding some light on the inner workings of KCQ.

” Despite myself, my mood sobered. This wasn’t my first interrogation, but it was my first time in the custody of the international organization responsible for dispatching magic-wielding criminals. I had no idea what to expect as far as charges and sentencing. “Let’s go back to the beginning,” she suggested. “Your name.” “Kit Morris.” “How old are you?” “Twenty-two.” “What’s your magic class?” “Psychica.” Which she already knew. KCQ had been a guild populated entirely by voodoo-brain psychics with wildly varying abilities—all the wilder once I’d joined the team.

She checked the notes in the folder. “Why aren’t you registered?” “Should I be?” I asked innocently. “Every mythic is legally required to be registered, but we have no record of you. We didn’t know you existed until we took your friend, Quentin, into custody.” I feigned dismay. “He gave me up?” Her expression remained painfully impartial. “Why aren’t you registered?” “I didn’t even know being registered was a thing until last year.” I tilted my head thoughtfully. “No one at KCQ ever mentioned how it’s done.” Nor had they suggested I go ahead and list myself in the mythic database for the MPD to see.

Who was surprised? “Why didn’t your parents register you when your abilities manifested?” “I never knew my parents.” It wasn’t a big deal. Not to me, at least. It was just a fact. The sky is blue, Meryl Streep is the greatest living actor, and Kit Morris is an orphan. Her eyes widened in surprise, then softened—for real this time. She still despised me, but now she felt sorry for me too, which, in my opinion, was worse. I expected her to offer one of those lame non-apologies that people mumble when they find out your life is more tragic than theirs, but all she managed was a quiet, “Oh,” before making a note in the folder. Probably something like, “Bad criminal because orphaned,” with a sad face doodled beside it. She set the pen down and folded her hands together.

“Let’s talk about your magic. When did you learn you were a mythic?” Her question stalled me. Was she asking when I’d first realized I had a supernatural ability, or when I’d first learned “mythic” was the most common term for a magic user and that it applied to me? Since my answer to the first was way less specific than the second, I went with that one. “I always knew I was different, I guess. I realized early on I could do things that scared the people around me.” “What sort of things?” “Like I told your boss, it’s difficult to describe.” “Try.” “Or,” I drawled, giving her a wink, “I could give you a demonstration.” And her glare was back. “Not a chance.

” I’m an overall likable guy—unless you’re a soulless crumpet who loathes pop culture, in which case I’m your worst nightmare—but Lienna and I had gotten off on the wrong foot. Our first flirtatious encounter had involved her tackling me to the floor six steps away from Gate 134 at the Los Angeles airport. If not for her Marshawn Lynch impersonation, I’d be tanning on a tropical beach. Instead, she’d arrested me, marched me onto a plane headed right back to Vancouver, and escorted me straight into Blythe’s coldly welcoming arms. I gloomily jangled my cuffs again. Lienna poised her pen above the folder. “Please describe your magic.” “A demonstration is really the only way. What if I promise to be good?” “You expect me to trust you?” I nodded toward the satchel hanging off her shoulder. “I’m sure you have plenty of fun and exciting toys in that bag to keep me in check if I misbehave.

” “I’m not stupid, Kit,” she snapped, that soft note I liked in her voice vanishing. “Don’t try to play me.” Her tone rubbed me the wrong way. “If you’re so smart, why are you just an agent?” Her brown eyes flashed. “What did you say?” “They talk about you around here.” An angry, mocking note seeped into my words. “I’ve heard all about the hotshot agent who’s supposedly mastered abjuration sorcery—” “Supposedly?” “—so I can’t help but wonder, if you’re so goddamn smart, why are you wasting your time chasing common crooks?” My mocking sneer came out stronger on those last words. Antagonizing her would accomplish nothing, but for some reason, I was seriously pissed off and I wanted to get some kind of reaction out of her. “I am not wasting my time,” she retorted furiously. “I’m keeping the world safe from scumbags and lowlifes like you!” My blood boiled, my temper rising faster than a toddler’s blood sugar in a candy store, and Lienna’s glower burned with answering rage.

I had the sudden violent urge to lunge across the table and— Wait, what? I didn’t hit women—in fact, I didn’t usually hit men either—but brutal fury was building in my chest, making me vibrate. Lienna’s fingers twitched into fists like she was fighting the urge to magically Hulksmash me. We were roughly three words away from an all-out brawl—which I would definitely lose, being handcuffed to a table—but I wanted a fight anyway, and that wasn’t normal. As the realization hit me, I drew in a long breath, searching for control. “This is wrong,” I began, sounding only rudely assertive instead of outright aggressive. Baby steps. “You aren’t actually angry.” “Don’t tell me—” “It isn’t real!” I accidentally shouted, my frustration ramping into blistering fury in an instant. I breathed deep again. “These aren’t our emotions.

They’re—” An ear-splitting alarm erupted through the room. “—Quentin’s,” I finished, the shrill blare drowning me out. Something hit the interrogation room door so hard the bang was audible over the alarm. Lienna leaped out of her chair. I launched up too, but chained to the table, I had nowhere to go. Another thump, more powerful this time. The door shook. Lienna reached inside the hemp satchel she carried over her shoulder. The door exploded and a fireball hurled toward my face.

.

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