The next new Oriceran series from TR Cameron, Witch Warrior, releases this week on May 25 with Witch With a Badge. Check out this sneak peek below then preorder your copy!
Compared to Cait’s previous experience at the US Marshals’ office in Columbus, Ohio, the scene as she entered Boston’s John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse on Monday morning was one of barely controlled chaos. People moved in all directions through the lobby after passing through the metal, magic, and explosive detectors at the door and having their bags searched. She’d shown her ID and temporarily surrendered the cardboard box of personal and professional items she carried in both arms for inspection on the way in.
In one corner, a guide addressed a group of tourists, detailing the building’s notable architectural features. It was an environment that tempered utility with beauty, from the interior artworks to the sweeping glass-front curved exterior. Cait shook her head. Not the most secure location on the planet, that’s for sure, but the guards and inspectors look competent, and the place has managed for quite a long time before Caitriona Eloise Keane ever set foot inside. It probably isn’t about to succumb to some random unpleasantness on my first visit, I hope.
Cait stepped into the elevator with a dozen others, riding up to the top level. Those around her wore suits or dresses, everyone on their best behavior for a day in court as defendant, lawyer, jury, or maybe judge. She wore the same outfit she’d worn to her first day on the job in Columbus, a black business suit over a deep red blouse and stylish boots that climbed to her calves underneath her pants. Her right wrist bore her only jewelry other than the small silver studs in her earlobes, a bracelet of twined metal and wood with a turquoise stone set into it. People often noticed it, and she accepted their compliments with the explanation that it was a family heirloom.
That was accurate as far as it went but was also a lie by omission. The wooden parts had indeed belonged to her great-grandmother. Cait had used her power to reshape her ancestor’s wand into something she could wear around her wrist. It allowed her to bring the magic that was her heritage as a witch into play without digging for a casting implement. Which is handy in my rather active line of work.
The doors opened on the top level, and she strode out, making a left to head to her new office. She’d liked Columbus and would have been happy to stay, but when the opportunity to jump to the much bigger city had appeared, she’d accepted it without hesitation. And without much transition time since my last day there was Friday. She stepped through the outer glass door with a professional smile and was surprised to see several people striding toward her. That’s quite the welcome wagon for a new employee. One of them, an older man in a trim business suit with an unruly bundle of white hair said, “Keane. Welcome in.”
She nodded guardedly. “Thanks, Chief Levitt.”
His lined face rearranged itself as he smiled. “Call me Simon.” He gestured in turn at the two men next to him. “This is Clement Austin, and this is Garrett Bradley.” The former was tan and healthy-looking, held himself ramrod straight, and seemed simultaneously muscular and lanky. He had collar-length blond hair with the sides slicked back.
The latter was bald, with dark black skin reflecting the lights above. His body strained a little at his suit, like he’d let himself go a little. His brilliant smile lit up the room. Levitt’s head tipped toward the corner of the room. “Over there is Sabrina Morin.” The woman he indicated seemed reserved, and the most notable thing about her was the darkness of her hair against the paleness of her skin. “Everyone, this is our new deputy marshal, Cait Keane.” He turned back to her. “Good. Introductions are over. Grab your gear. We’ve got a situation.”
Twenty minutes later, Cait was in the rear seat of a dark SUV with tinted windows, sealing the last Velcro strap on her bulletproof vest. Good thing I wore a long-sleeve blouse. Her suit jacket was too well-tailored to go over the body armor, and showing off her abundant tattoos on day one probably wouldn’t be a great choice, even though the USMS didn’t prohibit them.
Garrett was behind the wheel, and Clement rode shotgun. She presumed Chief Levitt was in his own vehicle, but she’d lost track of him as they hustled toward the garage beside the courthouse. A quick check confirmed that her pistol was properly seated in her shoulder holster, and her vest hadn’t dislodged it. Dressing in the car is an art form I haven’t had to practice for a while. Welcome to Boston, Cait.
Clement turned to face her and nodded. “Good. You’re ready. Add these to your loadout.” That phrasing plus a couple of other things he’d said, and his general demeanor, told her that he was ex-military. She’d trained with people like him at Glynco and served with several as part of her work with the Marshals’ Special Operations Group. She accepted the two small boxes and clipped the first onto her belt behind her hip, pulling on it to ensure it was secure. It was a communication base station, a model she was well familiar with.
The other case held a pair of large glasses with temples that hooked over the ears, and she slipped them on. The lenses darkened slightly in response to the sunlight coming through the windshield, and data appeared around the periphery of her visual field as the eyewear went through its diagnostic process. She said, “Radio check,” when prompted by the glasses.
A woman’s voice replied, “I can hear you.”
Clement asked, “Morin, what do we know?”
Sabrina, who was apparently their coordinator with the home office while they were in the field, answered, “I’ve got him on traffic cameras. Drone inbound, ETA seventy seconds. He’s gone into an old apartment building. Six floors, four units on each floor. Target has no obvious connection to anyone inside.”
It was the first real operational details Cait had received and restraining herself from seeking them had been getting increasingly difficult. Before she could ask for clarification, Clement said, “Our target is Mitchell Walsman. He’s a federal fugitive who woke up, decided today would be a great day to do something stupid, and stopped by to visit a former girlfriend.”
She replied, “True love?”
Sabrina laughed, a throaty sound with a sarcastic edge. “Hardly. He tried to break into her apartment while screaming loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear that he was going to kill her. Fortunately, she installed a heavy door after he went inside when she cut ties. We’ve kept an eye on her place, along with the known associates of any federal fugitive with connections to Boston. The computers gave us the heads-up when he showed.”
Cait replied, “Impressive.”
Chief Levitt’s voice joined the conversation. “One of the great things about being in a big town is that we have the money for nice toys and local brainpower to help create them.” From behind the wheel, Garrett lifted his hand, opening and closing his fingertips to mimic flapping gums. She grinned as Levitt finished, “Austin has tactical command. Morin is your liaison. I’ll be listening in and coordinating with local PD.”
Clement said dryly, “Best if the boys in blue don’t get in the way.”
The chief barked a laugh. “I’m aware of your opinion on the local constabulary, Austin. They’ll maintain their distance until they’re needed. So, try not to make them needed.”
“Roger that.” Clement’s voice held a touch of a southern accent, and she imagined he could probably turn the good old boy charm on and off at will. “We’ll rely on the drone to take care of the roof and go in together on the ground floor.”
He opened the glove compartment and extended a pistol magazine to her. “Our target is part elf or something. You might need this.” She accepted it and looked inside, finding the telltale blue glow of anti-magic ammunition at the tip of the rounds.
Cait wasn’t sure whether the chief had shared the knowledge that she was a magical with the rest of the team. In her previous job, her boss had preferred she keep it quiet for reasons he’d never chosen to explain. Which is one of the things that pushed me out of Columbus. Like my mother is fond of saying, I’ve gotta be me. She inwardly laughed as she slipped the magazine into a loop on her vest.
With no hint of warning, Garrett yelled, “Bail! Bail! Bail!” Her body reacted before her mind fully processed the words. She slammed open the door to her left, hit the release on her seatbelt, and hurled herself out of the rapidly decelerating vehicle as she exerted her magic to cover herself in a force shield.
She hit the pavement a moment before a fireball slammed into the SUV, flipping it onto its hood and sending it skidding forward several feet. Sparks flew as it scraped along the road. She saw the initial impact in flashes as she tumbled but had stopped moving as it landed, ablaze from the magical attack.
Clement snapped, “Check in.”
She half-growled, half-groaned, “Keane, undamaged.”
Garrett confirmed his well-being with a snarled, “Bradley, seriously pissed off.”
Clement was already running toward the building, and she moved into a jog to follow him to the cover it offered. “I’d say he knows we’re here.”
He laughed. “Yeah. Just once, I’d like to reach a place by stealth.”
Garrett countered sarcastically, “That’s for the weasels in the Paranormal Defense Agency and government Special Ops. We’re the Marshals. Our targets should quake in fear.”
Clement replied, “Okay. Focus up. Here we go.”
Preorder Witch With A Badge today! It releases May 25!