TR Cameron is collaborating with Michael and myself on a new series in the Oriceran Universe, Federal Agents of Magic.
Check out chapter one below!
FBI agent Diana Sheen ducked under the yellow tape securing the perimeter of the incident scene. A bounce in her step betrayed her excitement for whatever task lay ahead. One thing I can always count on, the job is never the same two days in a row. She’d caught her share of strange cases in the past, but this promised to be something special. Magic is the ultimate wild card.
When the blue-clad patrol officer motioned toward her, she held up her ID and kept walking. She was often mistaken for a civilian as her youthful looks and only slightly-below-average height caused others to chronically underestimate her. The leather jacket and boots she wore instead of the customary FBI outfit might have contributed to the problem. Hey. I’ve gotta be me.
Her target was about thirty feet ahead, near a V formed by two police cars, where a gaggle of concerned people in suits peered at what looked like large sheets of paper spread out on the car hoods. Bystanders were asking questions, and uniformed officers yelled back answers in the crisp autumn breeze. The annoying autumn breeze that wouldn’t stop blowing her long black hair into her face.
She’d been a mile away when the call came in, wrapping up a freelance consultation with the University police. Even though her main job occupied most of her time, side gigs kept her knowledge of related fields fresh. She looked up at the darkly gorgeous gothic building looming ahead, illuminated with replicas of nineteenth-century oil lamps dotting its facade. A trip to the Antiquities Museum had been in her plans for months, but this wasn’t quite how she’d pictured it. An afternoon outing, maybe a nice dinner after with someone interesting. But definitely not this.
Diana adjusted her path to intercept a tall man in an off-the-rack suit, the twilight sun still powerful enough to show the wrinkles in its unremarkable grey fabric. His tie was purple, his shirt crisp and white, and his whole ensemble screamed official.
She greeted him with a grin and a raised fist. “Rodriguez, fancy meeting you here.”
He tapped her fist with his and returned the smile. “Sheen, what are the odds?”
“I was at the U. You?”
“Physical therapy at the University med center.” He gestured vaguely, pointing back over his shoulder toward the tall institutional office building that marked one corner of the campus.
She grimaced. The life of a Washington, DC FBI agent was full of potential for injury, and she couldn’t remember a time when the whole office was simultaneously healthy. “Know anything more?”
He shook his head, making his barely regulation length brown hair flop to the side. “Just what they said over the radio. Hostage situation, vicinity response, special circumstances.” Special circumstances was the radio code for situations involving magic.
Diana nodded and resumed her trek to the command post, and he fell into step beside her. They stopped across a car hood from the woman who looked like she ranked the rest by virtue of her sharp suit and gold rank badge, and Diana tried avoid inhaling the acrid fumes from the running motors. They identified themselves and got a brusque “Thompson” in return. The woman’s voice was husky, reminding her of Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. “Professor and his class were inside examining the museum’s special collection. At least two suspects entered, ejected the security guards, and locked down the building.”
“Any demands?” Diana’s flat tone betrayed none of the energy building within her.
“None. Only crazy talk about how we’ve stolen things that don’t belong to us, how he’ll take them back, and if we mess with him, how they’ll kill the class.”
Diana frowned. “We? Who is we?”
“No idea. Like I said. Crazy.” She twirled a finger in the air next to her ear and exhaled a foggy breath into the chill of the October evening.
Rodriguez bent to examine the blueprints on the hood. “Other people in the museum?”
The husky voice had a note of tiredness in it, too. “Nope. It was closed for the day, only guards and custodial staff. The professor teaches here every Monday.”
Diana put her hands on her hips and frowned. “Unlikely to be a coincidence.”
Thompson’s ponytail bobbed as she nodded. “I thought so too.”
“HRT?” Rodriguez had his finger on the front door access point and was fluttering his other hand over the blueprint as if he could convince a better entry to materialize.
The officer grunted. “More than thirty minutes away. Apparently the backup team is training out of town, and the primary was called to an incident on the other side of the city.” She raised dark eyes to look at Diana. “Before you say it, no, that doesn’t sound like a coincidence either.”
Diana dropped her hands to the car hood with a muted thump and bent to peer at the blueprint. “SWAT?”
“Wouldn’t you know, two separate calls, our people at one, yours at the other.”
Diana shook her head. “This is bad.” She wasn’t sure if the comment originated from the situation, the access points, or both. It’s all bad.
There was a match to her pre-action excitement in Rodriguez’s voice as he pointed at the blueprint. “Back door looks like the best way in. But you said there are two of them, so if they’re smart, they’ll have eyes on it.”
Thompson corrected him. “I said at least two. There could be more.”
Diana had heard enough. “Can we borrow windbreakers?” The woman nodded and a young patrol officer at her side darted away, returning shortly with a pair of black coats, “Police” in large white letters on the back. He also had an older man in tow.
“This gentleman wanted a word. Says he works inside.” They all turned toward the stranger. Diana slipped out of her blazer, deposited it on the car, and pulled on the thin jacket. Rodriguez did the same.
Thompson asked “What do you know, Mister….”
His gruff voice matched his pocked complexion and stubbly face. “Beale. Stan Beale. Figured you might need to get inside. Thought I should tell you ‘bout the tunnel.”
Rodriguez and Diana replied in unison. “Tunnel?”