THE MEDUSA FILES: CASE 3

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CASE #3
Escaped From Stone

Sometimes the monster in the dark is real.

Still trying to figure out her place in a world where the monsters of myth are real, U.S. Marshal Morgan Jacobs finally has a reprieve from the madness. A murderer has escaped from jail, and while he is Kin—one of the monsters—Morgan at least knows how to handle a fugitive hunt. And with her best friend and fellow Marshal Kate helping out, it feels like nothing has changed. But everything has changed. Chasing a real monster is much more dangerous than chasing a human one and ignoring the truth could be deadly.

CHAPTER 1

Morgan got out of the passenger seat of Gage’s Mustang, the thrill of excitement thrumming through her. Finally, a situation she knew how to handle.

Before her, a correctional facility’s van lay on its side, facing the wrong direction. The right back corner of the roof was crumpled, and the cargo door hung open on one bent hinge.

They had a fugitive on their hands—if the escaped criminal was indeed Kin, a person… creature… monster of myth… whatever. Morgan had no idea how to classify Kin. She was one, and she couldn’t bring herself to think of herself as a monster. But she also couldn’t deny the ones she had come across in the last few weeks had been honest-to-goodness monsters.

The fugitive thing, however, at least was familiar territory, and she was going to focus on that.

Three cars and a small pickup were scattered across the expressway, along with the pieces ripped and shattered from them. Firemen and paramedics were still trying to extract a man from one of the cars, while half a dozen more paramedics were rushing the rest of the victims into ambulances and off to the hospital. The media had already set up shop on the edge of the police line, and a crowd had formed, ignoring the unusually warm mid-afternoon April sun beating down on them.

An SUV pulled up beside the Mustang. Lachlin eased out the driver’s door dressed in black business casual and oozing his bad-boy sex, while Clayton got out the passenger side. He was Lachlin’s opposite, solid, massive, with a shaved head and his tan, loose-fitting shirt and slacks accentuating his dark skin. This was Clayton’s first case back since getting sprayed in the chest with machine-gun fire. Given that Morgan barely knew the man, or rather golem, she had no idea if his slow, precise movements were because he was still recovering or not.

Clayton’s glamour—the magic keeping Kin disguised from the rest of the world—flickered, and for a heartbeat his smooth, dark skin turned to carved ebony, each muscle, hair, and vein shaped with exacting detail.

“So we’re here,” Lachlin said, his glamour down as well. His pale eyes were just a little too large and his face too narrow. His black waist-length hair shortened to shoulder length as she watched, and his ears went from delicate points to normal, blunted human.

For a moment there were two Lachlins superimposed over each other, his true self and what the glamour turned him into. Then the glamour snapped up in full, and her double vision cleared.

She blinked. It always felt as if her eyesight was going bad when the Kin’s glamour kicked in or out. Lachlin flashed her a wicked smile, as if he thought her staring at him meant something else, and she jerked her attention away. Damn, arrogant bad-boy.

“What are the specifics?” he asked.

“Possible runner.” Gage slid his phone from his pocket, hit speed dial, and offered his own smile to Morgan. Today it was warm. Yesterday it had been distant. She still had no idea what to make of him. When she’d gotten the call about the possible fugitive, she’d been sorting through her now-old apartment for things she wanted to keep. Gage had said he’d pick her up, and they’d meet with the rest of the team.

Rest of the team. The words felt good, like she belonged, and yet she couldn’t let herself forget she still knew next to nothing about Gage or the others.

“Goddess of all things knowable,” Rika said over the speaker on Gage’s phone, pulling Morgan’s attention back to the job at hand.

“Specifics on the case, my dear,” Gage said.

“Sent to your phones. Our fugitive is Randal Boyson, eighteen. Note here says he goes by Randy. He was convicted at sixteen of the murder of Howard Cho and sentenced as an adult. Apparently, he beat the man to death with his bare hands. He was being transferred to the prison upstate when the van flipped. Seems he’s not a model prisoner, with half a dozen more assaults while incarcerated.”

“And he’s…” Morgan glanced to ensure no one else was within earshot. “He’s our type of criminal?”

“Not if he’s in the regular penal system,” Lachlin said, his tone clear he thought a call for all team members was a waste of time.

Gage tapped the phone’s screen. A mug shot of a teen with a mess of blond dreadlocks and piercing blue eyes glared at the camera. Gage swiped the image aside and pulled up the rest of the pertinent information. “He’s half Kin on his father’s side.”

Half meaning he was a half-breed. Half human, half Kin. Just like she was. What were the odds Randal Boyson had developed his Kin powers after puberty, like she had?

“Regardless that he hadn’t manifested any abilities by the time he was arrested, we still investigate for any Kin connection,” Gage said. “You know, do our job, Lachlin.”

“But jeez, you didn’t need to march us all out for this one.”

Rika chuckled over the phone. “I’m sure your date for tonight can reschedule.”

“I don’t care about my date. I’m just thinking about Clayton. Wouldn’t want to tire the big guy out.”

“I don’t get tired,” Clayton said.

Lachlin patted his shoulder. “Your magic does. It would be embarrassing if you turned into a statue in the middle of a crime scene. You need to think about these things. At least until you’re fully recovered.”

“Clayton’s fine. Or would you rather memorize the crime scene?” Gage asked.

Lachlin rolled his eyes. “Photos would do. Besides, you and the snake charmer can take care of this.”

A hint of dark power flickered around Gage. “Lachlin, take note of everyone in the area and their emotional states, then interview the police and paramedics. Clayton—”

“Examine the details,” Clayton said. “On it.”

Clayton strode to the other side of the van. Lachlin didn’t move.

Gage glared at Lachlin. “The sooner you get on it, the sooner you get done.”

Lachlin shrugged and sauntered away, defiance in every step—along with a healthy dose of sensuality. The man, or rather Fae, liked to push Gage’s buttons, but when it came down to it, he was there for the team, or at least as far as Morgan had seen. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to figure Lachlin out. Just like Gage. Both were far too hot and far too mysterious for her own good.

Gage turned back to the phone. “Rika, start running background on the Kin side of Boyson’s family. Oh, and get the case transfer paperwork started.”

“Already on it, hot stuff.”

“You are a goddess.”

“Yes, I am.” The line went dead.

Gage slid the phone back into his pocket. “Come on, Jacobs. There are people we need to talk to.”

She followed him around to the other side of the van. An enormous hole had been ripped in the roof. No, not ripped. The metal wasn’t curled in or out. The edges were ragged, but it was as if something had eaten away at it or shattered it.

“What kind of Kin was his father?”

“Frost giant,” Gage said.

“How convenient. I just finished reading about them in the encyclopedia.” And she’d been pretty sure after reading the entry she hadn’t wanted to meet one in a dark alley. Of course, she had that feeling about most of the Kin after reading about them, herself included.

“So what are the details?” he asked.

She tipped her sunglasses down and leveled her gaze on him. He met her stare with his own, showing no fear of her ability to turn him to stone with a glance.

Darkness and power lay within his bottomless brown eyes. And mystery. So much mystery. As always, when he matched her stare, she found herself drowning, losing herself in his internal vortex. The tease of attraction to him had only grown stronger in the last week and a half they’d been living together, and it was a struggle to remember she didn’t know if she could trust him.

It also hadn’t helped, having that encounter with Lachlin’s evil twin and his incredibly powerful charm. It had been four days since he’d ignited every horny nerve in her body, and attraction still burned through her at inappropriate times.

“The details?” Gage asked.

A shiver slid over her, tingling across her skin. God, when would the effects of that charm wear off? “I’m not sure now is the time for a test.”

A muscle in his jaw twitched. Dark stubble dusted his cheeks, sliced by three white scars on his left side. Last week the scars had been bright red. Next week they’d probably be gone thanks to Hannah, their resident magical healer. His short-cropped hair and a hardness around his eyes and jaw gave him a no-nonsense, military look.

“Details.” He crossed his arms. His T-shirt stretched taut across his well-muscled chest and biceps. He was lethal and proficient and far too sexy.

It wasn’t fair he looked so good. It certainly wasn’t fair the weather was warm enough for him to forego a jacket, giving her a better view of his physique.

She unzipped her coat. It was hot for April. “Fine. Frost touch. Probably what happened to the roof. He froze the metal and shattered it.”

“That level of freezing actually requires a great deal of concentration. Randal is young. I suspect he won’t be able to do that again. Frost burns are the most he should be able to manage.”

“Good to know. They also have extraordinary strength—likely how he broke free of his shackles and ripped off the van’s locked door—and are prone to violent, uncontrollable rages.”

“Good.”

Although why Randal didn’t just climb out the roof was beyond her. However, if he’d shattered the roof before the van flipped, he might have been rattled and not thinking clearly when he escaped. “So I’d say he’s definitely Kin, and this is now our case.” “Except things are always a little more complicated than that.”

He didn’t have to say what he meant. Randal Boyson was an escaped criminal, and that was the purview of the U.S. Marshals.

They headed around to the front of the vehicle. Detective Wright—recognizable by his ill-fitting brown suit and bald spot—stood a few feet away, talking with Kate, Morgan’s best friend and partner… ex-partner? Morgan still didn’t know.

Beside Kate stood a tall Asian man wearing a marshal’s jacket. This had to be Kate’s new partner, making the ex more of a certainty.

Morgan’s throat tightened. It made sense. She was still on sick leave and hadn’t been on active duty for five months now. She was still trying to figure out what to do with herself. But that didn’t mean it was easy to face her replacement, particularly since she had no idea how temporary he really was.

Kate glanced over Wright’s shoulder. Her eyes widened for a second then narrowed, but it was enough to catch Wright’s attention, and he turned around.

“Oh, wonderful.” Wright threw his hands into the air. “It isn’t a party until the FBI shows up. What do you want, Special Agent Gage?”

Gage opened his mouth.

“Let me guess. You have a special interest in this particular prisoner.” Wright turned to Morgan. “And you? Is it still Deputy Marshal or is it Special Agent now? This is the world’s longest job interview.”

She bit the inside of her cheek before she said something stupid. If Kate and her new partner weren’t there, she’d have said Deputy Marshal, but that technically wasn’t true, and with Kate there, it would raise questions Morgan had been trying to ignore for weeks. It was bad enough Kate’s new partner would go tell Morgan’s old boss she’d shown up at the scene of a fugitive’s escape.

“Never mind, I don’t care.” Wright tugged on his suit jacket. “Not my problem. This is the marshals’ jurisdiction. Let me know if you need anything, Deputy Marshal Bedell.”

“Of course, Detective,” Kate said.

Wright blew out a noisy breath and stormed off to his brown station wagon, parked on the other side of the chaos.

Gage held out his hand to Kate. “We haven’t been properly introduced. Special Agent Gage.”

She slid her gaze to her new partner, and Morgan could only imagine that Kate was trying to figure out how much to reveal. In all likelihood, this new marshal wouldn’t remember anything said about Kin because of the magical glamour warping what non-Kin saw and heard and remembered. But if Kate mentioned anything, Gage would know she remembered more than she was supposed to from being kidnapped a week and a half ago.

“I don’t think I had the chance to thank you.” Kate took Gage’s hand, and they shook. “This is Deputy Marshal Lin.”

The new guy, Lin, shook Gage’s hand then reached for Morgan, but hesitated before making contact, his expression turning stiff. So he’d heard of her. Word must have spread through the office, a lesson about what happened when good marshals finally snapped. In a few years, she’d become the boogeyman for office newbies. Watch your back or you’ll end up like Jacobs. When she and Kate had first started, it had been Tumlin, a grizzly old marshal who showed up at the office Christmas party and summer ball games. The rumors about him ran from simply retired to snapped and killed his partner in the line of duty.

“Now.” Kate raised her chin and narrowed her eyes. “What are you doing at my manhunt?”

A hint of darkness curled around Gage, but it disappeared between one breath and the next. “We do have a special interest in Randal Boyson.”

“So we’ll let you know when we’ve apprehended him,” Lin said.

Wonderful. The new guy was cocky.

Kate inched a step ahead of him. “Is there something we should know?”

“He ties into an undercover case we’re working on,” Gage said.

“And you don’t want us to blow it.” Kate pursed her lips. That was her trying not to call someone out on a bold-faced lie. Morgan could only hope Gage wouldn’t figure that out.

“The paperwork is in. Supervisory Deputy U. S. Marshal Waters should be calling you soon.” Gage offered a hint of a smile, a peace offering. “But I don’t want us underfoot, which is why I think it’s best if Jacobs works with you as a liaison on the manhunt, and the rest of my team will work our undercover angle.”

Lin’s eyebrows shot up. “She’s not a—”

“Not a problem.” Kate slid Lin a dark look.

Lin snapped his mouth shut, but there was still an argument burning in his eyes.

Kate turned her dark look on Gage. “As long as we’re clear this is the marshals’ collar.”

“Of course,” Gage said.

A phone chirped, and Kate pulled hers out of her pocket.

“Ed?” Morgan asked.

“Yes. Excuse me.” She grabbed Lin’s arm and dragged him a few feet away.

Morgan glanced at Gage from over the top of her sunglasses. “Do you really intend to let the marshals collar Boyson?” It was the polite thing to do, but it didn’t seem like something Gage would agree to. Of course, she barely knew him, so maybe her assessment of him was wrong.

“If the marshals’ investigation leads to his capture, of course.” He twisted the silver ring on his finger. “I don’t care who gets the credit as long as everyone lives. Part of the paperwork Rika’s sent your old boss is to transfer Boyson into FBI custody once apprehended.”

Old boss. The words stung. Sure, she’d been thinking them, but it was different when someone else said them. They sounded final.

She hadn’t really thought about returning to her job, not since meeting Gage. Of course, that was because she barely understood this new world order, and Gage was the only one who could explain it to her.

But after… After what? After she knew how things worked? Would she return to normal life?

Except life was never going to be normal. She’d known that the moment she’d accepted that the monsters of myth were real. People, or rather Kin, would still fear her or hate her or try to kill her because of what she now was. And Gage had invited her to join his team.

Boy, there was just so much uncertainty, and yet two things were clear. This was the new normal, and she wasn’t ready to let go of her old job, even though she might never return to it. Maybe this was Gage being nice, helping her transition from her old world into his by asking her to work as a liaison between the marshals and the FBI. He even seemed happy to give the marshals credit for the capture, if their investigation led to—

“Wait a minute. What do you mean, if the marshals’ investigation leads to Boyson’s capture?”

He shifted and turned his attention to Kate still talking on the phone.

“You thought I wasn’t going to notice that little turn of phrase?”

“Boyson is Kin. The odds are good his escape has a Kin connection, something the marshals aren’t aware of.”

“And can’t be aware of it because the glamour erases it from their minds.”

“Exactly.”

“So Kate is doing busy work, and I’m on babysitting duty?” Here she’d thought Gage believed she’d be useful in this situation.

“Think of it more like protection duty. Your friend and her new partner have no idea what they’re up against.”

“What if they come across a Kin connection?”

“Discourage them.”

“You don’t know Deputy Marshal Bedell very well.” When Kate was on the hunt, nothing stood in her way.

“You know how dangerous this is.”

Kate pocketed her phone and headed their way with Lin at her side.

“I’ll do what I can, but if she gets a lead, you better be ready to back us up.”

“Morgan. Remember, super strength, freezing touch, and uncontrollable rage.”

“Paperwork is in,” Kate said. “Lin will go to the jail and follow up there. Morgan and I will start the family interviews.”

“His mother is in town,” Gage said.

“Good. We’ll start there. Keep in touch, Special Agent.”

Lin and Gage marched off in opposite directions, and Kate leaned closer to Morgan. “So what do I really need to know about this case?”

Too bloody damn much. “Don’t let Boyson get his hands on you.”

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