Authors: Annie Bellet
“Is Pearl alive?” I asked.
“Yes, your mother is fine. But without magic of our own to stop the killing…” he trailed off, eyes still fixed on the water droplets condensing on his glass.
So, not Samir. I took a deep breath. It wouldn’t, shouldn’t, matter if it were. I wasn’t going to help the people who had declared me dead and cast me out.
“What makes you think I have magic that can help you?” I kept staring at him, hard. When I had left, my powers were barely anything. I could occasionally move things with my mind when I was really upset, but that was about it. It wasn’t until a couple years later, with the help of my new family and some Dungeons and Dragons manuals to act as focuses, that I’d begun to really work magic.
Jasper raised his head. “Because of what you are,” he said. “Because of who your father is.”
My chair hit the floor as I jerked to my feet. This was like a bad parody of Star Wars. “My… father? You were my father.” I made sure, even in my shock, to keep to the past tense. My chest hurt, as though bands were tightening inside my ribs, making it hard to breathe. Alek rose and picked up my chair, gently pushing on my shoulders until I sat again.
“No. Your mother left us for a while, many years ago.” Jasper took a few deep breaths and continued. “After Ruby died, she was unhappy with the People.”
“So she escaped,” I said. I shrugged Alek’s hands off my shoulders. I wished he would leave in the same moment that I was glad he was there. Someone needed to witness the total crazy, I guess.
“Yes,” Jasper said the word like it pained him. “She was pregnant when she came back. With you.”
Came back? Dragged back by Sky Heart and my father was probably more accurate if I had to guess, but there was no point asking.
“So who is my father?”
“I do not know,” Jasper said. He held up a hand to stall my exasperated exclamation. “Your mother says he was a powerful sorcerer. She was sure you inherited his powers. Even as a baby when you were angry we saw things shift and move. Do you not have powers?”
I didn’t know if I was relieved by this news. Not being related to the asshole in front of me was sort of nice, but it left me with more questions. And a horrible fear.
“Did Pearl say what this man looked like? Was he Native American at least?” I prayed Jasper would say yes. Universe please, let him say yes.
“Yes,” he said and the lump in my throat lessened. “She has said that much. You are full blood, if that worried you.” There was bitterness in his tone.
I almost explained. It wasn’t that I cared if I had white or whatever blood in me. It was that Samir wasn’t Native and for a terrible moment I’d feared that I’d been lovers with my own father. It would have made a horrible kind of sense and be just the sort of twisted fucked up shit Samir would pull.
I didn’t owe Jasper any explanations, so I kept quiet about why I asked. Alek’s considering stare told me he had guessed my reasoning behind the question. I figured there were some awkward conversations we’d have to have later. Much, much later. After I got Jasper out of my house.
“Shifters are dying?” Alek asked, turning his piercing gaze on Jasper. “Has the Council sent someone?” The Council of Nine was a guardian and governing body for shifters, though no one really knew much about them not even Alek, who worked for them. The Nine were practically shifter gods, there but not exactly reachable by phone.
“They did, though Sky Heart does not recognize the Nine. A man showed up after the third murder. Our leader had words with him, then the Justice left.”
I watched Alek’s face as he seemed to do some mental math and that sinking bad feeling started up again in my stomach.
“This Justice, was he a white man?” Alek asked.
“No, black. A huge man, I think a bear shifter from how he smelled. Sky Heart was very angry with him.”
Alek moved from the side of the table to loom over Jasper. “When did you see the Justice last?” His tone was intense as he bit off each syllable, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.
“A week ago? No, a little more. It was Friday, I think, so eight or nine days. Why?”
Alek pulled his silver feather talisman that marked him as a Justice out from under his shirt. Jasper’s eyes widened but an excited expression came over him.
“Good, you can help as well. We need both of you. Shifters being murdered is Council business, no? No matter what Sky Heart says.” His eyes flicked between us.
“The Justice who showed up,” Alek said. “His name is Carlos.” He looked at me. “I have to go contact the Council.”
“What about Jasper?” I said. I knew that this might be Justice business, now that Carlos of the not calling in when he usually did was involved, but no way was this man staying in my home a minute longer than necessary.
“He will come with me,” Alek said after a moment. He smiled, his face sympathetic and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to punch him or kiss him. That happens to me a lot with Alek.
“You will consider helping, Jade?” Jasper rose as Alek stepped back, giving him space again.
“No,” I said and pretended that the look of despair on his face didn’t tug any heart strings. “This is Justice business. They can deal with it.”
It was a lie. I knew that if Alek asked me instead of Jasper, I’d go help. Maybe. My wounds weren’t healed even after thirty-three years and I wasn’t sure I wanted to rip off the bandages. My past was better left in the past.
Alek and Jasper moved toward the door.
“I’ll call you or come by tomorrow, yes?” Alek said.
“Okay,” I said, leaning up to give him a kiss. I made sure to put tongue in it, hoping it would make Jasper uncomfortable. Guess I’m petty like that.
“Wait,” I called after them as they were halfway down the stairs. “How many murders?” I asked Jasper.
“Eleven,” he said, his lips pressing into a white line and his expression going flat in a way I remembered from when I was a kid, a flatness that said there was too much emotion beneath for him to handle.
Eleven. When I’d left Three Feathers, there had been about a hundred Crow living there. I closed the door and slid down it to the floor.
Guess it was a good thing I’m a Band-Aid fast kind of girl, because I knew in my heart then, that no matter what Alek found out or what his Council said, I was going back to Three Feathers and the People.
Want to read the rest? Look for Murder of Crows at all major retailers or go here
for links and more information.
The Gryphonpike Chronicles:
Twice Drowned Dragon
A Stone’s Throw
Dead of Knight
The Barrows (Omnibus Vol.1)
A Heart in Sun and Shadow
The Raven King
Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Series:
Short Story Collections:
The Spacer’s Blade and Other Stories
River Daughter and Other Stories
Deep Black Beyond
Till Human Voices Wake Us
Dusk and Shiver
Forgotten Tigers and Other Stories
Annie Bellet lives and writes in the Pacific NW. She is the author of the
series, and her short stories have appeared in over two dozen magazines and anthologies. Follow her on her blog at
“A Little Imagination”