THE MEDUSA FILES: CASE 4

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CASE #4
Carved From Stone

Even clearing her name might not keep her from prison.

After chasing down a Kin fugitive, Morgan Jacobs must face the truth: she’s dangerous. And the only way to protect herself and those around her is to gain control over her powers. But a madman, Ander, is toying with her, torturing her physically and psychologically, and in the end he plans to murder her.

She’d love to lock herself away, hide from the threat and get her powers under control, but Rika — the team’s computer specialist — is accused of hacking a Kin leader’s server and stealing all the secrets on it, and that leader is threatening to charge the entire team with the crime. Now the team needs to clear Rika’s name, figure out who hacked the server, and return the stolen secrets — before they’re all locked up alongside the fugitive they just apprehended.

CHAPTER 1

The florescent light in the hall flickered out, leaving the beam of Kate’s flashlight the only illumination in the storage locker at Smart Storage. It shone on a picture of Morgan’s college graduation. Her silver curls were a wild tuft crammed under her cap and her gray eyes stared off in the distance. Her normal eyes. The way they’d been before her gorgon powers had been awakened. They were still a dark gray — not blue or pale brown — but the monster who now stared back at her when she looked in the mirror wasn’t there.

“This being creepy is an understatement,” Kate said, her tone all business. The storage locker filled with photos and newspaper clippings about Morgan’s private life wasn’t even close to the scariest thing they’d faced together in their partnership as U. S. marshals, but it wasn’t roses and kittens, either.

The light in the hall flickered back on, illuminating the entire storage room with its surveillance photos. The note attached to the key to the locker had said “answers.” It had been mailed to her apartment, the one she’d had before her life had changed forever and she’d moved into Gage’s mansion.

“I thought the key and message was from my biological mother, but—”

“But no mother is this stalkerish,” Kate said. “I would have expected a certain amount of surveillance given that she needed to ensure you didn’t… you know.”

“Suddenly go all medusa and kill someone?”

“Yeah.” Kate pointed her flashlight to the picture of Morgan in her underwear taken through her bedroom window. “But no mother takes pictures like that.”

“So who took them and—” Morgan scanned a newspaper article half covered by pictures of her in high school. It was about her winning the state final cross country race she’d run in grade eleven. “And who gave me the key to this locker? I doubt they’re the same person.”

Kate peered at the board beside her. “Yeah, this collection feels private. Whoever made it probably didn’t intend to share it.”

“And certainly not with me. So the question is, do we pretend we haven’t found it and hope whoever it belongs to returns so we can talk to them? Or do we clear it out and study it?” It was a tricky call either way. If whoever owned this surveillance thought his or her secret was safe then Morgan could set up her own surveillance and maybe get eyes on him or her. But if he — for the sake of simplicity she was going to call whoever it was he — if he knew his storage locker was compromised, he could abandon it and they might never know who it belonged to.

“The note with the key said answers,” Kate said.

“Yeah, but answers to what? Who I am? Or who killed my mother?”

“Or a question you don’t even know to ask yet. If you could trust your FBI hotties, I’d say bring them in on this. It’s their world, they’d know what to look for if there’s anything… magical in this.” Kate swallowed hard, as if saying magic hurt.

“Just say Kin. You don’t really have to wrap your mind around magic and everything with it. You can pretend we’re all just one extended family or something.” In a way they were one big family. If family was defined very loosely. They weren’t even all the same race, but they were all magical. The Kin were the monsters and gods of myth and fairy tale. They were the creatures who went bump in the night. And Morgan was now one of them… or rather half one of them, although lately it felt as if her human side was being overwhelmed by her gorgon side.

“Okay,” Kate said. “Kin. If you could trust Special Agent Gage, he’d definitely be the man to bring in on this.”

“Except I still haven’t figured out what he’s hiding. I finally got him to give me a name on the man who murdered my mother.”

“Oh, who?”

“Ander.”

Kate pursed her lips. The light in the hall flickered again but managed to stay lit. “That’s it?”

“Pretty much. Ander, the last unbound djinn.”

“I suppose that’s something. How many unbound djinns named Ander could there be?”

“That still doesn’t clear up that Gage lied to me, and I know he hasn’t told me the whole truth about my mother… about anything.” Yes, she now knew she was the last of the gorgons, and only a gorgon could stop Ander — which is why he’d tried to eradicate her kind — but it didn’t explain why it seemed Ander was trying to send Gage a message or what was really going on. That, and she still knew next to nothing about Special Agent Alexander Gage. She had no idea what kind of Kin he was, or why he’d been put in charge of the Kin’s FBI unit, the Special Investigations task force — and there had to be a reason. Regardless that she didn’t know the details, everyone else on the team was there because of some kind of bad behavior toward the Kin authorities. It was unlikely Gage was an exception.

“Hopefully my FBI-ex will get more on Gage,” Kate said. “In the meantime, what do we do with this? Take it or leave it?”

“For all we know the Kin who set up this locker already knows we’re here. We could have tripped a silent alarm or something.” Which would ruin any hope of surveillance. Crap.

“So we take it and use it to figure out who it belongs to.”

“Yeah.” It burned to think they could be missing an opportunity to catch whoever it was, but Morgan had to remember that with Kin, setting a trap was more difficult than setting one for a human. Without knowing what kind of magic the Kin possessed, he could easily slip through the trap, or worse, it could backfire. Double crap. “Let’s get this someplace discreet.”

Morgan’s phone rang. She pulled it from her pocket and checked the call display. “It’s Gage.”

“What are you going to tell him?”

“Well, I’m certainly not going to tell him about this. Not until I know I can trust him.”

Kate hooked a lock of shoulder-length blonde hair that had fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear. “What if this is his locker and he knows you’re here.”

The phone rang again.

“I guess we’ll find out.” Morgan hit the call button. “Jacobs.”

“Where are you?” Gage asked, his voice tense.

“With Kate.” Not a lie, just not all of the truth.

“You need to get back to the house. Are you at Kate’s?”

“No, we’re out.”

“Good.” Relief.

This didn’t sound good. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. Rika got ambushed and taken. If they’re coming after the team you need to get away from Kate and tell her to go home. Then get back to the mansion.”

Morgan glanced at Kate. Her eyes widened at Morgan’s expression — she hated that her friend could read her so easily, but that’s what happened with a good partnership.

“I’m ten minutes out.” She hung up and switched on her phone’s camera.

“What?” Kate asked, her tone back to business again. She was, after all, a U.S. marshal with Fugitive Operations. Whatever surprise or worry she might have had over Morgan’s expression, it was trumped by training and experience.

“Someone has taken Rika.” Morgan took pictures of the five closest documents. If the locker was empty when she returned hopefully something here would help.

“Rika? Your tech support girl? The one who helped us capture Boyson last night?”

“Yeah. They could be after the team.” And Gage had sounded genuinely worried. She pocketed her phone.

“It could be a ploy to keep you close.”

“Yep, but I can’t risk it.” Especially if it put Kate in danger — all right, more danger than she’d already been in. “We’ll come back later. Come on.”

“But whoever it belongs to could clean it out.”

“If I have to pick between answers and keeping my friends safe, I pick my friends.”

“How sweet.” Kate grabbed a pile of papers from the table beside her and shoved the remaining papers over the hole. “And now you have a bit more of both.”

“Just don’t keep it at home. There could be magic on it that let’s whoever owns it track it.”

They rushed down the hall of the old warehouse-turned storage facility, past the rows of locked gray garage doors, and back to the facility’s cracked and stained foyer.

“You honestly think whoever it belongs to could track it to my house?”

“I’m learning with Kin if I can imagine it, it can probably happen.”

“Smoke demons and frost giants…” Kate shuddered then pressed her arm to the ribs she’d cracked last night and winced. “You’re probably right. I’ll find a safe place for it.”

Sunlight streamed through the grungy window in the narrow front door. Morgan slid her sunglasses down. When Gage had first said the tinted plastic lenses could help keep back her ability to turn someone to stone, she hadn’t believed him, and she still wasn’t sure if she did, but she’d take every bit of help she could with it. She never wanted to kill another person like that again.

A piece of paper, smaller than the others in Kate’s pile, fluttered free, flying behind her into the dimly lit corridor with the lockers. She rushed back to get it as Morgan pushed opened the front door.

Half a dozen people, four men and two women, in identical crisp black suits stood guard around her borrowed SUV. If it wasn’t for the small, feathery wings protruding from the back of one of the men, she would have assumed they were federal agents of some kind, or rather federal agents who’d gotten a strange dress-the-same memo.

She froze in the doorway, keeping the door tight to her shoulder to block the view inside and holding her hand behind her, palm flat in a ‘stop’ sign to Kate.

“Morgan Jacobs,” the winged man said. He was an average looking guy: medium build, slightly rounded face, brown hair, and brown eyes.

A hint of fire, a sign of her unwanted powers, licked around her eyes. If she kept her emotions in check her powers would stay within her control. She opened her mouth to respond, but the woman beside the winged-man — a plain woman with straight mousy-blonde hair, muddy brown eyes, and sallow skin — snorted.

“Don’t bother denying it. You’ve the worst glamour I’ve seen. I thought gorgons were supposed to be powerful.” Light flared around her and the magical glamour hiding her Kin features flickered. She went from plain to blindingly beautiful in a heartbeat: shimmering blonde hair, flecks of gold in her eyes, and sun-kissed skin.

Well, if it hadn’t been clear before that they were Kin, it was now.

“I wasn’t going to deny my identity. I was going to ask what you wanted. Now I’m not sure I even want to bother with that.”

“You need to come with us,” Winged-man said.

The woman rolled her eyes. “Tell her to get in the car, Julian. Lorelei will be pissed if she waits too long.”

“That doesn’t really answer my question.” Six to one were terrible odds, particularly since she had no idea what kind of Kin she was up against — not that knowing was guaranteed to help. She’d only read through a few books in the enormous encyclopedia on Kin and only knew a fraction of which Kin were capable of what.

“Just get into the car.” The woman — back to being plain — pointed to a black sedan with tinted windows sitting by the curb in front of Kate’s Jeep.

“I’d rather know what this is about.” There was no way she was just going to get into a car with them because they said so.

“You can’t fight us all,” the woman growled. Something ugly slid across her suddenly-beautiful gaze then vanished, her glamour clicking into place again.

Morgan tipped her sunglasses down and raised an eyebrow. The fire in her eyes flickered again, stronger, hotter, but still within her control. “I’m willing to give it a try.”

The woman stiffened and the others inched back.

“Who wants to be first?” The fire snapped across Morgan’s cheeks. Now it was barely controlled. This was a game of chicken she didn’t want to play. Sure, last night was the first time she’d managed to control her powers. She’d semi-petrified and then unpetrified a frost giant, but she didn’t want to bet anyone’s life that she could do that again, not without a lot more practice on things like flowers.

“Please, Miss Jacobs,” Winged-man, Julian, said. He squared his shoulders, holding his ground, but his wings trembled giving away his fear. “All will be explained. Naomi hasn’t lied, our… employer isn’t patient.”

“That’s nice. I’d still like an explanation first.” Really she just wanted them to go away, but she was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen.

Julian raised his hands. “I don’t have one. We were just sent to fetch you.”

“All six of you.” The fire flared again, threatening to break her hold on it. She fought to relax without looking like she was relaxing or fighting with herself.

Julian glanced at the rest of his team. “I confess, a whole security team might not have been the most diplomatic choice.”

“You think?”

“Please.” He gestured to the car.

“I don’t think so.” Her phone chirped.

“You may want to answer that,” the woman said.

Morgan slid the phone from her pocket and glanced at the screen. It was Gage. “Jacobs.”

“Someone from the House of Ardor will be coming to get you.” He didn’t sound happy.

“You don’t say.”

“They’re there already, aren’t they?”

“Unhun.”

“Don’t kill them.” Now he just sounded tired. “Go along with them.” The ‘for now’ was clear in his tone.

She wanted to ask what was going on, but he hung up. Just great.

“So, are you coming?” the woman, Naomi, asked.

“It would seem so.”

That ugly look slid across Naomi’s eyes again. Great. Just great.

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