Read a sample from CURSED MOON by Jaye Wells
The Wire with wizards – in a world where illegal magic is as dangerous and addictive as hard drugs, Police Detective Kate Prospero is cleaning up the streets. Cursed Moon is the thrilling sequel to Dirty Magic.
If you want to know your future, the last person to ask is a fortune-teller. Most of them don’t have an Adept bone in their body, much less a sixth sense or whatever bullshit Mundanes called the ability to know the unknowable.
“Come closer, lady,” said a three-pack‑a‑day voice. “For ten bucks I’ll tell you your fate.”
I paused by the carnival stall and glared at the gypsy who had the misfortune to choose me as her mark. She sat behind a card table covered with a cheap crushed-velvet scarf. A red kerchief covered her gray hair, and dozens of gold bangles clinked together on her weathered arms. Her eyebrows were drawn in too thick and black, and her teeth too crooked and yellow, like a sepia image of a rickety fence. I couldn’t tell if she was 50 or 150, but the twinkle in her eyes told me she was a natural-born bullshitter.
“No need,” I said, my smile like a pink worm on a hook. “I already know my future.” In my five years as a cop, I’d seen too many desperate people hand their last nickels to charlatans like this not to fuck with her a little.
Her eyebrows shot up. “Oh?”
I pointed to the watch on my right wrist. “Lunch.”
My partner, Drew Morales, chuckled beside me. His muscled forearms were crossed, and his expression was the amused smirk of a cop watching a crook hang herself with her own rope.
The fortune-teller narrowed her kohl-smudged eyes. “I see secrets on you, girl,” she said in a low, knowing tone that pinned my stomach to my spine.
My smile dissolved. I reminded myself that psychics were frauds. She didn’t know my secrets. “And I see you haven’t posted a permit to perform Arcane acts in public,” I said, hoping the shame in my gut didn’t seep into my words. “You want to talk about that?”
She aimed her left forefinger and pinkie out like horns. “Devil.”
I forced a dismissive laugh, like the curse hadn’t hit me directly in the conscience. “Lady, you have no idea.”
“It’s not worth it, Kate. Let’s go.” Morales plucked my sleeve. A few stalls later I sidestepped a rug rat in a SpongeBob SquarePants costume and pretended not to notice my partner’s speculative glance.
“What’s eating you today?”
“I thought once I’d made detective I’d be able to put the bunions of patrol work behind me.” I glanced around the square at the kids in costumes running from stall to stall collecting candy.
“At least now that you’re on the task force, you can wear jeans instead of being stuck in a uniform.” He nodded toward a pair of BPD officers in their blues standing by one of the ticket booths. “Besides, the covens have been quiet lately. If we weren’t out here, we’d just be stuck behind desks with our thumbs up our asses while the BPD got to have all the fun wrangling the moonies.”
I looked at him like he might be one of the lunatics in question. “You might want to look up ‘fun’ in the dictionary.”
He ignored my sarcasm and took a deep breath. “Least we’re getting some fresh air.”
I took an experimental sniff and sneezed from the hay they’d brought in for the Halloween Festival. Normally the city held the event closer to the actual holiday, which was in two weeks, but with the Blue Moon bearing down on Babylon, the city council moved it up so kids could trick‑or‑treat safely. Pioneer Square had been filled with what seemed like a million jack‑o’-lanterns, and local businesses—both Arcane and Mundane—had set up booths to pass out candy for the kids and sales pitches to the adults.
Before I could respond to my partner’s uncharacteristic glass-half-full comment, flute music filled the square. A shirtless man wearing goat horns and woolly pants with fake hooves wove his way through a crowd on the steps of City Hall. Like many of the people at the festival, he wore a black mask that obscured the upper half of his face.
“What’s this guy’s costume?” Morales asked.
“He’s a satyr.”
He shot me a look like I’d spoken in tongues.
“What?” I said. “I know shit.”
Morales and I paused on the edge of the group to watch. I crossed my arms and scowled at the performer. He had a thick beard, and tattoos covered every inch of his arms and much of his chest. The families around us bopped along with the melody, but their smiles were forced from hours of wrangling rug rats buzzing off high-fructose corn syrup.
I started to tell Morales we should move on, but the goat dude danced our way.
He river-danced around us a couple of times. I could feel his gaze groping my ass. When he came back around, I shot him a keep-away scowl. He paused in his flute playing to blow me a kiss before skipping away to bother someone else.
I turned to Morales. “Guess I should enjoy the boredom,” I said, nodding toward the retreating satyr. “The closer we get to the second full moon, the crazier these assholes are going to get.”
We started walking again before he answered. Despite our casual conversation, our eyes were scanning the square for any signs of trouble. “C’mon, it won’t be that bad.”
“Just you wait,” I said.
“I was in LA once during a Blue Moon,” he said. “Except I was undercover, so I got to help raise hell instead of keeping it under control. How many times have you worked a beat during moon madness?”
I glanced toward the rusted statue of a steel factory worker in the center of the square. “Enough to wish I had vacation saved up to get out of town.”
Another crowd had gathered near the statue, but I couldn’t see what attracted them there. Still, something kept my gaze locked on the spot. I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. Call it cop intuition. Call it woman’s intuition. Something was—
“Something’s wrong.” Morales went on alert like a hunting dog.
Danger sounds different. It has a distinctive pitch. Sound crystallizes, air tightens. The herd gets spooked, and an invisible wave of metallic energy permeates the air.
We pushed through a crowd of clueless parents and their agitated children. It took a full minute to make our way to the statue. Two uniformed cops with hawthorn defensive wands beat us there.
I assumed they’d take care of the threat. But in the next instant a halo of energy flashed through the square. My nostrils flared at the acrid scent of ozone.
My protective instincts tightened my muscles for action. Someone was hexing the crowd with dirty magic.
Morales and I burst into the clearing. The first thing I saw was one of the cops humping the statue like a stripper on a pole. The other officer’s chest was bare and he was just a zipper away from flashing his little wand to the crowd. A woman undulated around the circle, her hands raised high above her head as if in surrender. A couple writhed on the ground. Hands groping. Mouths hungry. Pelvises grinding.
And standing over them all, holding a black plastic cauldron, was a motherfucking leprechaun.
His costume—too short for his five-foot-and-spare-change frame—was a green double-breasted blazer, matching tights, and two black shoes with shiny silver buckles. A bowler hat on his head tipped jauntily forward over greasy brown hair. And on each cheek, he’d painted a jagged black lightning bolt.
He turned to face us, and a small plume of glittery golden powder spilled from the cauldron’s wide mouth.
I had my weapon in my hand before you could say Erin go Bragh. “Stand down!” I shouted in my best or‑I’ll‑shoot tone.
A single black brow disappeared under the brim of the hat. His gaze went to the salt flare gun in my hand. Every criminal in the Cauldron knew that the rock salt’s purpose was as much about inflicting pain as it was neutralizing magic.
Beside me, Morales aimed his Glock at the guy. “Put down the cauldron!”
As it turned out, fake leprechauns are surprisingly fast runners. One second he was staring down the barrels of our guns, and the next the bastard took off. The tails of his jacket flapped in the breeze, and it was a miracle of physics that he managed to keep his hat attached to his head. Morales and I exchanged shocked looks and took after the little shit.
“We need EMS at Pioneer Square,” I yelled into my phone. “Two officers down and several civilians hexed.”
“Ten-four, Detective Prospero,” the dispatcher replied. “On their way.”
“Stay with him,” Morales snapped. “I’ll cut through the alley and head him off at the intersection.”
He veered off to the left. I dug in and ignored the burning in my thighs. My gaze locked in on the sequined clover mocking me from the back of the leprechaun’s coat.
A high-pitched, potion-mad giggle taunted me. “Ye can’t catch the Leprechaun Man!”
I considered shooting the asshole in his pot of gold.
Franklin Street curved around and for a split second I lost sight of my green prey. When I came around the bend, I got an eyeful of my six-foot-tall, muscle-bound partner squatting as if to catch a runaway toddler. The next instant Morales was flat on his ass with a green blur retreating in the distance.
“Come on!” I yelled and kept running.
Ten seconds after I passed him, Morales caught up. He didn’t look as winded as I felt, but judging from his expression he was definitely just as pissed off. “What kind of potion is this guy on?”
Instead of answering, I grabbed my salt flare again. “I’ll spray, you slay.”
After his quick nod, I stop running. Exhaled. Pulled the trigger.
A starburst of salt rocks exploded from the gun. Half the crystals hit the pinged off cars parked along the street. The other half shredded the leprechaun’s coat and tights, streaking the green fabric red with blood.
He stumbled, a hand sweeping toward the pavement for balance. But before he could regain his stride, Morales tackled.
The pair rolled through the streets. Morales’s deep grunt playing off the squeaky protests of our short, belligerent friend.
The fall didn’t faze Morales, who quickly got two fistfuls of green coat and pegged his prize to the brick wall.
“Put me down!” the perp yelled with a fake Irish accent.
“Or what, tough guy?” Morales said. He was barely winded. Not surprising. I’d seen glimpses of the illicit muscles he was smuggling under his shirt.
The leprechaun jutted his face forward. “Or I’ll hex ye!”
“How you going to manage that?” I asked. “You lost your pot of gold.”
He struggled in Morales’s hold. “Feisigh do thoin fein!”
I exchanged a WTF look with my partner. “You catch that?”
“What’s your name, Lucky Charms?” Morales asked.
“Sean Patrick Finnegan‑O’Lachlan.”
I blinked. “That’s a mouthful.”
“Aye, lass.” He motioned toward his crotch. “I’ll give ye a mouthful.”
Morales dropped the guy on his ass. “Watch your manners.”
O’Lachlan scrambled up quickly and tried to take off again. I caught him by the collar. “Not so fast.” Grabbing his left hand, I wrenched it behind his back. A tattoo on his arm depicted a cup and, underneath, the words IN VINO VERITAS.
“In wine, the truth,” I translated.
“Odd,” Morales said. “I thought leprechauns loved beer.”
“That’s racist as shit,” he said, dropping the Irish accent.
I pushed him toward the ground. Once his ass hit the concrete, I said, “Stay.”
“Please,” my partner said. “Irish isn’t a race. It’s a nationality.”
O’Lachlan scraped Morales with a bitter glare. “Whatever, Cheech.”
I sucked in my cheeks and glanced at Morales. He stared down at the guy like he was an ant in need of a boot heel.
“Hey, asshole,” he said in a surprisingly even tone. “I prefer wetback.”
“Gentlemen,” I said, “can we get down to business?” I waited until both shot me grudging looks to continue. “What’s in the potion?”
The perp spat at my feet. “I ain’t tellin’ you shit, lassie!” The guy pressed his lips together, twisted a finger in front of them, and mimed tossing away the key.
“I’ll call a squad car.” I turned away from the pair to call it in. Since we’d run several blocks during the pursuit, I glanced around to get my bearings. Back when I was still in uniform my beat had been the Cauldron, across the Bessemer Bridge from the downtown square where the Halloween Festival was held. The muted bite of sirens in the distance didn’t give me a lot of hope we’d get a car. But I tried anyway because I didn’t want to get stuck pushing this turd through booking at the precinct.
“Wear you out, did I?” O’Lachlan said to Morales behind me. “You should cut back on the donuts.”
I snorted and looked back over my shoulder. The leprechaun slouched on the ground with a torn jacket and one missing shoe. Thanks to the tussle with Morales, one of his lightning bolts was smeared across his cheek like shit.
My partner on the other hand loomed over the small man like some sort of vengeful Aztec god. “Cops eat donuts.” He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and flipped it open. “I’m MEA. We prefer a nice Danish.”
“Magic Enforcement Agency?” O’Lachlan’s eyes widened. “Thought you guys went after the big wizes.”
“Apparently, we also go after little assholes.” Morales used his left hand to rub his eyes. The scars webbing across the knuckles were from a fire that had killed his Adept father and little sister when he was a kid. After that trauma, he’d chosen to leave the Lefty world behind and present himself as a Mundane. Usually he did everything with his right hand—until he got stressed orovertired. Then he forgot he wasn’t naturally a Righty.
Dispatch came on, so I turned back around and gave her our approximate location. “We need a squad car to pick up the perp from the Pioneer Square attack.”
“Hold on a sec,” she said, “I need to see if I can find a free car.”
“Can’t you reroute one from the festival?”
“After your perp hexed those cops, a riot broke out. It’s under control, but every available car in the area is there for all the arrests.”
“Amen, sister. Gonna get worse the closer we get to Halloween, too. My advice?” she said.
“Take him in yourself. Gonna be an hour, two maybe, before we can get someone to you.”
I hung up and turned back to Morales. “We’re gonna have to take him in. This fucking Blue Moon is a pain in my ass.”
O’Lachlan crossed his arms and grumbled something like, “Ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“You want to hang here while I go get the car?”
Morales shook his head. “I’ll get it.”
“Understood.” I jerked my head back toward the square. “See you in a few.”
An adrenaline-spiked cop plus a shit-talking perp made a dangerous enough combination. But when you added a hefty dose of full-moon-batshit energy to the mix, you had yourself a recipe for a real shit sandwich. As a lapsed Adept, Morales was more susceptible to the erratic energies of double full moons than other Lefties. Better for me to babysit O’Lachlan than to put my partner in the position of facing a battery charge because he kicked the wannabe leprechaun in the shamrocks.
After Morales jogged off, I grabbed O’Lachlan off the ground. “Why did you hex all those people?” I spun him around and pressed him against the wall for a frisk.
“You owe me two hundred bucks.”
I tilted my head. “Like hell I do.”
“Your fuckin’ partner tore my jacket when he tackled me. I’ll never get my deposit back now.”
“Oh yeah?” His tights had large holes and runners from the asphalt. “Maybe you should be more worried about coming up with bail than paying the costume shop.” I made quick work of patting down his undercarriage.
“Don’t be shy, lassie,” he said, falling back into his unconvincing brogue. “That clover’s lucky, if ya know what I mean.”
I didn’t rise to the bait. “You didn’t just decide to hex cops at a carnival for shits and giggles. It took some planning.”
In his right jacket pocket, I found a lump. Sticking my hand inside, I grabbed the item and pulled it out. “Well, lookie here.” I turned him around and held up an ampoule of glittery golden powder so he could see. “Who sold it to you?” Since he was right-handed and high off a potion when we first saw him, I already knew he wasn’t an Adept. Mundanes couldn’t cook real magic, and from the spectacle I’d witnessed in the square, this magic wasn’t just real—it was real dirty.
“Would tellin’ ye help my case?”
“Maybe I’ll put a good word in if I think you’re honest.”
He lips made a sound like a fart. “Bullshit you will.”
“Try me.” I raised a brow.
His expression tightened into something approximating wounded pride. “I’m no snitch.”
“Maybe some time in the can will help you tune your singing voice.” I pushed him back to the ground. “Stay.”
I looked at the powder. An overwhelming, forbidden urge rushed through me to skip the red tape altogether and read the potion. Not all Adepts could read energy signatures, but it was one of my gifts—or curses depending on your perspective. Still, evidence gained through Arcane processes wasn’t admissible in court. Besides, when it came to magic, I was supposed to be firmly on the wagon.
But it would be so easy to just open that bag. So easy to read the potion’s secrets. So easy to target the guilty coven.
Despite the chill in the air, my left palm was slick and trembling. Something in my gut opened, like a black hole that wanted filling.
A throat cleared next to me. “You all right, lass? You’re looking kind of . . . off.”
I jerked my head up, realizing too late I’d been about to take a running leap off the wagon.
The sound of an engine signaled Morales’s impending arrival.
Time to remind myself that magic might be easy, but it was never simple.
My pulse did a little soft-shoe in my chest. I stuck the ampoule in my pocket and swallowed to cleanse the tarnish of guilt from my tongue. I grabbed O’Lachlan’s arm and pulled up and toward the curb. “C’mon.”
Since his hands were bound I had to hoist him up into the SUV. He wriggled across the seat, and I followed him. Morales glanced back over the seat. “Everything okay?” He was frowning like his instincts were telling him otherwise.
I wiped my damp palm on my jeans. “Yep. Why?”
“You’re all flushed.”
I tilted my head and prepared to verbally punt. “Morales, I just spent the last fifteen minutes chasing down a leprechaun. Sorry I’m not looking spring fresh.”
I worried I’d overplayed my sarcasm. But he blew out a breath. “All right then.” He turned back toward the steering wheel. “Settle in, Mr. O’Lachlan, we’ll have you at the Hoosegow Hilton in no time.”
The perp spat on the floor. “May the devil cut the head off ye and make a day’s work of your neck.”
“First of all, don’t spit in the car. It’s disgusting,” I said. “And second, the devil can do his worst so long as he buys me dinner first.”
O’Lachlan looked me directly in my eyes. His own had lost the fevered glow from the potion he’d taken earlier, but, even sober, his irises retained the icy-blue hue of a dirty magic addict. “Once the Blue Moon gets here, you’ll all be praying for the devil, bitch.”