This snippet is from my second Muddy River Mystery, a paranormal cozy mystery, Mixing It Up With Mortals. Hester Wand, the witch who leads the coven in Muddy River, and Raven Black, Muddy River’s fire demon enforcer, have moved in together, and Raven tries to surprise Hester with a lake cabin getaway:
Raven led us to the last cabin in the group and scowled at its open door. “I didn’t leave this unlocked.”
My stomach knotted. I wasn’t sure I wanted to look inside, but Raven pushed the door wider and we both stared at a man and a woman lying on the floor, their skin stretched tight over their skeletal bones. Every ounce of blood or life force had been sucked out of them.
“Why?” Raven raked his hand through his black hair in frustration. “Why did this have to happen here? On our property? These are mortals. I can’t just set them on fire and turn them to ashes. I have to report them to a human authority.”
I frowned. I’d lived among mortals when my family had left Europe and settled in Salem. That hadn’t gone well. When I’d lost all of them to the noose, that’s when I’d gone in search of a new home, a place where humans couldn’t reach me. “Have you worked with mortals before?”
“Occasionally, I have to. I can’t in good conscience just make these two disappear. Some mother or father is probably worried about them. They might have children waiting at a grandmother’s house. Whoever loved them deserves to know they’re gone.”
I bit my bottom lip, worried. “When anyone sees these bodies, he’s going to know something unnatural happened to them.”
“I know. I’ve worked with an officer in this area before, though. We have an understanding. He needed me once when a shifter was picking off victims in a big city, hoping their disappearance would go unnoticed or unsolved. One of the mortals who shops at Drago’s market recommended me to him.”
Drago was one of Raven’s old demon friends. His supernatural community was across the Ohio River in Kentucky. They offered a farmer’s market that was open to anyone, mortals included.
“Why you? Why not Drago?” I asked.
“Everyone who knows my friend knows he doesn’t much care about humans, other than their money. If a few disappear, and it doesn’t affect him, he doesn’t bother with it.”
I’d met Drago when Raven and I had searched for someone who sold wood betony to a young witch in Muddy River. Drago was more interested in bedding beautiful partners and eliminating supernatural law breakers than helping someone who didn’t live in his area.
Raven pulled his cellphone from his pocket and punched in a name. I was too restless to stay to listen to the conversation, so Claws and I went to peek inside the other small cabins. They were all laid out the same. Four bunkbeds with a heater, a small table and chairs, and a tiny bathroom in the back.
When I returned to Raven, he was just returning his phone to his pocket. He crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Brown will meet us here in an hour. Let’s go back to our place and fix some lunch. He’ll join us there. It might take a while to sort things out, and I don’t want to work on an empty stomach.”
We plodded back to the big cabin, our euphoria deflated.