A Wish Too Far
Be careful what you wish for . . .
There’s a new drug on the streets called Wishes: little pink pills that bring you your heart’s desire—but in a way that’ll rival your worst nightmare. Lars Thornsson of the Paranormal Enforcement Agency isn’t pleased to have to work the case with two of his most hated and incompetent colleagues. He’s even less happy to come home one night to find that his sexy succubus lover Rael has summoned another demon.
Rael thinks he knows who’s supplying the drugs: an old friend of his with a penchant for cross-dressing. The one thing Rael doesn’t understand is why a sweet demon like Shax would be so malicious. He’s determined to get to Shax first and find out the truth, even if it means falling foul of the law—and his lover.
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Rosary swinging from her wrist, Detective Chelle Rochelle leveled her gun at the drug dealer and his trembling customer. The dealer tensed, blood-red irises scanning the dingy alleyway for a way out.
Lars stepped out of the shadows. The demon’s gaze darted to him, those crimson eyes widening, then the guy’s shoulders slumped in his ill-fitting jacket. Lars schooled his features, making sure his stern façade wasn’t undermined by any outward expression of the satisfaction he felt. There were advantages to being six foot four with a build like Odin’s warhorse (although thankfully, fewer legs), and being able to win a fight without swinging a blow was definitely one of them.
“Thornsson, you gonna get your ass over there and cuff that creep?” Rochelle snarled.
“I’m on it.” Lars didn’t move for a moment, eyes narrowing as he turned to the customer. A well-padded woman in her mid-twenties, she seemed to be clutching something small in one heavily be-ringed hand. “Ma’am, you’d better not even think about popping that pill,” he told her grimly before moving in on the guy who’d sold it to her and snapping the silver cuffs into place.
Rochelle lowered her gun. “Well spotted, Thornsson. C’mon, sister, hand it over.”
The woman sagged, and dropped the pill into Rochelle’s outstretched hand. “I didn’t know it was illegal. All I wanted was to lose a hundred pounds. Is it such a crime to want to lose weight?” A plump tear rolled down one rounded cheek, finding the initial gradient tough going but gathering speed as it crested the curve. “You skinny girls don’t know what it’s like. This was my last hope. The man swore it would work.”
Rochelle snorted. “Oh, it’d work all right. If you’d taken that shit, yeah, you’d have lost weight—but it’d have cost you an arm and a leg.” She cocked her head on one side, considering. “Well, maybe just the leg.”
It got her a blank look. Rochelle rolled her eyes.
“Last guy who took Wishes? Know what he wished for? He wanted to get a new place. Somewhere he could grow flowers, with a real nice view.” She laughed cynically. “He got that, all right. Guy’s currently pushing up daisies at the Hilltop Cemetery.”
# # #
Back at the Tartarus Street Precinct, Rochelle’s chair gave a feeble squeak of protest as she slammed her butt onto it. “Those losers never learn.”
Lars smiled. Nobody wore out desk chairs like Rochelle, although he was damned if he knew how she did it. She might have weighed a hundred pounds, tops. “Hell, C, you never wanted anything that bad?”
“Oh, I’ve wanted plenty, but I’m not so dumb I think I can get it by popping a frickin’ pill.” She tossed back the dregs of her takeout coffee, grimaced, and dropped the paper cup into the trash can where it landed with a pissed-off thunk. “Locker room gossip is all about the latest case—they’re writing it up now. Short-sighted kid with real bad acne who couldn’t wait for the over-the-counter charms to work. I guess she musta wished all the unsightly lumps on her face would disappear.”
“Well, on the plus side, the spots have gone. On the other hand, she’s stuck with a pair of spectacles and no damn nose to hang ’em on.”
Lars winced. “Nasty.”
“You said it, but damn, I’m exhausted playing nursemaid to those idiots who think there’s an easy way out of everything.”
“People are always looking for an easy way out, C. This Wishes stuff is just the latest quick fix. Anyhow, at least we caught onto it while it’s still at the kitchen sink stage.”
“Yeah, but whose kitchen sink?” Rochelle leaned back, her chair whining feebly. “That loser we picked up ain’t the brains of the operation, that’s for sure.”
“No, my guess is he’s simply a small-time pusher trying to get in on the action.” Lars nodded to himself. “There’s got to be some complicated magic involved in these Wishes—I can’t see our dealer casting spells that advanced.”
“So, you figure we got a witch with a chip on her shoulder mixing this stuff up? Got blamed once too often when the neighbor’s cat barfed on the carpet?”
Lars tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the desk. “I hate to say it, but I think it’s probably another demon.” He pushed down an irrational feeling of disloyalty to his lover, Rael. Just because Lars’s own personal sex demon wouldn’t hurt a fly, that didn’t mean all demons were as scrupulous. Rael himself would be the first to admit it, especially after the terrifying confrontation they’d had with his envy-demon ex a few months back. “Witches tend to prefer the personal touch, and there’s no way for this guy to know who’s on the receiving end of what he’s dishing out.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Witches like to mess with your head.” Her face took on a far-away look. “Hell, that’s half the fun of it, watching the bastards squirm, not knowing what you’ve done to them or even whether you’ve done it yet.”
“Uh, C?” Lars frowned. “You wouldn’t have any, uh, personal experience of handing out that kind of vengeance, would you?”
Rochelle flashed him her most insincere smile. “Who, me? You wouldn’t catch me, say, telling a cheatin’ boyfriend I’d hit him with an impotence curse that’d kick in any time he tried sticking his dick where it didn’t belong, then watching him torture himself with good old-fashioned performance anxiety . . .” She coughed. “Anyhow, time we were downstairs. I think that creep’s stewed long enough.”
Lars nodded. “Yeah, I figure we’ve given him enough time to consider his options. Let’s get down there and see if he’s feeling talkative.”
# # #
Cuffed to the rowan wood chair in the Paranormal Enforcement Agency’s specially warded interrogation room, the dealer glared at them. His narrowed eyes did a poor job of hiding his fear; the sweat stains around his armpits told their own pungent story.
“You ready to talk?” Rochelle demanded, thumping the table.
The demon jerked back, red eyes now wide as the gates to Hell. “I don’t know nothin’. I was just sellin’ the stuff.”
“So, where did you get it from?” Lars sat down opposite the guy and rested his forearms on the table, his Valkyrie genes giving him a head start on working the intimidating look.
“Yeah, asshole,” Rochelle snarled. “Shit like that don’t just drop down the chimney. Not unless you’re a real bad boy. And I don’t think you are, are you? Way I figure it, you’re nothing but a small-time punk who got in over his head, am I right?” Rochelle put her hands on the table and leaned right over to glare at the dealer from point-blank range. Just as he started to tremble, her expression softened, and her voice went from its normal belligerent rasp to an almost coaxing tone. Lars hadn’t known she could do that. “Way I see it, you don’t owe those guys a thing. You tell us who supplied you, maybe we’ll forget we ever saw your scrawny ass.”
The weedy little dealer squinted at Rochelle like he didn’t trust her as far as he could curse her. Lars upped his estimation of the guy’s intelligence a notch.
“I tell you what I know, you let me go?” he whined. “You don’t banish me or nothin’? ’Cause I got some serious shit waitin’ for me in warmer climes, you know what I’m sayin’? You send me back to Hell, you might as well get a priest chanting prayers for my soul, you know what I’m sayin’?”
“Yeah, creep, we know what you’re saying.” Rochelle’s eyes were flinty again. “So start saying it already, and you better hope we like what we hear. You can kick off by telling us what name you go by.”
The demon licked his lips nervously, his forked tongue reminding Lars with a pang of Rael waiting back at home. Damn, the things Rael could do with that forked tongue of his . . . Lars forced himself to focus.
“Zen. I go by Zen.”
“Zen, huh?” Rochelle laughed. “Looking a little inappropriate at the moment.”
“Hey, it ain’t easy working the spiritual calm thing with all the anti-magic shit you got going on in here,” the demon told her sullenly. “Not to mention all the threatening vibes I’m catching.”
“Okay, Zen,” Lars interrupted before Rochelle pissed the guy off so much he decided he wouldn’t spill after all, “why don’t you tell us where you got the Wishes from?”
That carmine gaze suddenly got real interested in the far corners of the interrogation room. “I don’t know his name, okay? I was in this bar down on Warren Street, having a quiet beer, minding my own business—”
“Dealing a little on the side?” Rochelle cut in cynically, parking her butt on the corner of the table.
“Hey, I gotta eat, don’t I? It ain’t easy for guys like me to get a regular job.”
“Sure, we understand.” Lars flashed Rochelle a warning glare. “So, what happened next?”
“Well, this dude I know, uh, professionally, you know what I’m sayin’? He turns up and says he’s heard there’s a new player in town who wants guys to sell his shit.”
“The supplier wasn’t there himself?”
Zen snickered. “He wouldn’t exactly fit in at a bar like that.”
“Meaning?” Lars asked sharply.
“Hey, this was Mack’s on Warren Street. They don’t got much of a dress code, but what they got, he don’t exactly follow, you know what I’m sayin’?” Zen snickered again. Lars frowned, but before he could press the guy for more, Zen continued. “Anyhow, this guy I was tellin’ you about, he tells me to go down to Al’s Bar on Baring-Gould Boulevard if I want a piece of the action.”
“So you went, huh? What happened when you met the supplier?” Lars urged.
Zen shrugged. “He gave me a half-dozen Wishes—and I’m thinkin’, I ain’t exactly gonna be able to retire on this—but he says, whatever I sell them for, I get to keep, and there’ll be more next week, so I figure, hell, it ain’t like I’ve got a hot date or nuthin’.”
“Now that I do believe.” Rochelle gave him a hard stare. “And it didn’t strike you as weird that the guy was giving his shit away?”
“What, like I’m going to look a gift salamander in the mouth? I figured he’s some kind of philanthropist, you know what I’m sayin’?” He slouched down in the chair. “So anyhow, I go out on the street, and next thing I know you guys are halfway up my ass before I can even close a deal.”
“Must be your lucky day,” Rochelle sneered. “Sure you didn’t pop one of those pills yourself?”
“Tell us more about the supplier, Zen.” Lars frowned at his partner. “Is he human? Demon? Some other type of being?” Maybe that’s what Zen had meant about the guy not fitting in at Mack’s bar.
Zen shrugged. “Looked human enough. Coulda been a demon. How would I know? It ain’t like your frickin’ gaydar.” He turned to Rochelle. “I mean, you see a pretty girl, you can tell straight off if she’s another dyke, right?”
Rochelle’s lips tightened. “I’m straight, asshole.”
Zen gave her a sidelong look. “Yeah? You sure about that? See, I got a sister who’s in the, uh, entertainment business, you know what I’m sayin’? And I was figuring, you scratch my back, she’ll scratch yours? Or, you know, whatever needs scratching.” He turned to Lars hopefully. “Either or both of you, she ain’t picky.”
Lars grimaced. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Damn.” Zen slumped even further. “You sure you ain’t interested?”
Rochelle sent him a look of pure loathing. “No way, creep, you’re out of luck. Anyhow, I don’t do demons, and Thornsson here’s got all the tail he can handle. So you’d better keep talking about this supplier, and hope you can give us something to go on, or I will personally hit you with a banishing charm so hard you’ll be swimming in Satan’s toilet.”
Zen swallowed. “Right, the supplier. Uh, he likes people to call him Mizz Wish, but I heard a couple of the guys calling him Jeanie. Only not when he could hear them, you know what I’m sayin’?”
“Mizz Wish? Jeanie? What the hell’s all that about?”
The demon shrugged. “Guy’s a pansy. Likes to wear dresses. And pantyhose, would you believe it?”
Rochelle snorted. “I sure as hell wouldn’t. You got any idea how frickin’ uncomfortable that shit is?”
# # #
Rochelle thumped the wall as she stomped back upstairs. Lars kind of knew how she felt. They’d spent another frustrating half hour questioning the demon and gotten nothing more out of him—not even much of a description, apart from “He looked like a dude in a dress, you know what I’m sayin’?” Which, even in his most optimistic moments, Lars couldn’t see them putting out as an APB. Not unless they wanted to get sued by the transvestite community.
Rochelle scowled. “So, we got us a drug-dealing cross-dresser. Jeez, Thornsson, we get all the breaks, don’t we?”
“I don’t really see what his choice of clothes has to do with anything,” Lars told her mildly.
“No? Any guy who chooses to wear women’s clothing has got to be one seriously fucked-up dude. I mean, hell, Thornsson, you ever try to run in stilettos? Or walk, even?”
Lars laughed. “Well, not lately. Listen, C, you want to come over for dinner tonight? Rael always makes way too much food, and I know Kitty would love to see you.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. My eyebrows only just grew back from the last time I tried petting that frickin’ incendiary device you call Kitty. Nah, I gotta go to my brother’s. Damn fool’s having another kid, so I have to go pretend to coo over booties with the girls.”
“Which one?” Rochelle had six brothers, all married, all with an unfeasible amount of children. Lars didn’t like to think about the decibel levels when they all got together for Thanksgiving. He figured it’d make Yule in Valhalla seem like a slow day at the morgue.
“Angel. They got five already, you’d think they’d have figured out how to use contraception by now.”
“Maybe they like babies?”
Rochelle’s face screwed up like she was about to spit. “Babies! All they do is eat, sleep, and shit. And puke up on your clothes. That’s when they’re not busting your eardrums to feed their damn milk addiction.”
Lars grinned. “Careful, Rochelle, people will think you’re protesting too much.”
“Yeah, right,” Rochelle muttered, not looking at him.
Lars gave her a thoughtful glance, but it was none of his business, and he had a hot little sex demon to get home to.