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Dark embers urban witch.., p.1

Dark Embers: Urban Witch Series - Book 3, page 1


Dark Embers: Urban Witch Series - Book 3

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Dark Embers: Urban Witch Series - Book 3

  Dark Embers

  R.L. Giddings
























  There was only one prisoner.

  Millie had been expecting two.

  When the van arrived in the underground car-park, Millie was waiting. She was surrounded by security officers dressed in riot-gear and armed with a variety of weapons, both lethal and non-lethal. The man to her right held a long metal pole with a loop at one end. The sort of thing you’d use when dealing with dangerous dogs.

  The van had entered the underground car park from the southern end to arrive directly under Rochester House. The building was operated by The Bear Garden as a site to house non-magical clerical workers. What none of them knew was that on one of the upper floors was a sound-proofed interrogation suite. Two men approached the rear of the van, one of them wielding a specially adapted rifle attached to a back pack. He readied himself while his partner stepped up to the doors.

  After a brief count-down, the man threw the doors wide, taking several loping steps backwards. Inside, stood a sealed interior unit. The gunman swept his sights from one corner to the next, checking the integrity of the seal.

  When he was satisfied, he stepped back allowing his partner to return. He also checked the seal before turning his attention to the key pad located in the centre of the unit. He made as if to operate it but then hesitated. He turned to look behind him.

  It took a beat for Millie to realise that he was looking at her.

  Since Bronte had taken herself off to Scotland, Kinsella had given Millie a wider operating brief. Along with the greater responsibility came the higher stress levels. Her heart was hammering so loudly it was a wonder that no one else could hear it.

  She nodded and the man returned to his task, entering a ten-digit code.

  Nothing happened initially and Millie had to concentrate to hear the low, keening sound coming from inside the van. There were four spouts, one on each corner, and water started pouring out of the one nearest to her, gushing out onto the concrete. A second stream began gouting out of the spout on the left hand side followed by the two others at the front. Millie stepped back to keep her shoes from getting soaked. The security personnel stood their ground, as though it were a point of honour.

  It took several minutes for the water to disperse, draining away down a series of large open grids. The car park had been built with this sort of procedure in mind though it was only the second time that it had been used.

  Millie approached the rear of the van, doing her best not to get her shoes wet. There was a large metal lever situated to one side of the interior. She checked that the guy with the loop was behind her before grasping it.

  This was the most dangerous part of the operation and it was important that things happened in the correct sequence. If she got this wrong – she might not live to regret it.

  “Three,” she gripped the handle.

  It was filmed with moisture.


  She pulled the handle back just as they’d practiced: coming out in an arc rather than forcing it down. The mechanism worked perfectly.


  The handle clicked home with a hiss. The whole panel began to hinge open.

  The people behind her quickly spread out, apparently surprised by how quickly things were moving. Millie watched as the panel opened completely, residual water sluicing out onto the floor. It smelled like the inside of a sea cave.

  Then she remembered: this was salt water.

  Her shoes were going to be completely ruined now.

  From where she was standing, it was difficult to look directly inside, a number of internal struts obscuring her view. The guy with the pole appeared to have no such problems, however. He fed the looped end between the struts in one fluid movement. It twitched once before his thumb depressed a button on the handle.

  When he pulled, the pole held firm.

  He started walking backwards bringing the pole right along with him. A second later, they saw what was on the other end of it.

  A well-built male in his early 30s dressed in a brown leather vest and leggings. The loop had him around the neck, pulling him forward. The man holding the pole, manoeuvred him until he was standing over the van’s rear bumper. It was only then, when he was finally able to stand upright, that Millie realised just how big he was. He regarded them coolly, showing no inclination to step down from the van.

  After what felt like an age, the pole handler became impatient and drove the end of it into the man’s throat. The prisoner stepped sideways, mis-judged his footing, and pitched forward onto the tarmac. He lay there for several moments, the water swilling all around him.

  “Come on,” Millie said. “Let’s help him up.”

  Three heavily armed individuals stepped forward taking great pains to keep their weapons out of reach while they lifted him. As soon as the man had regained his feet they scurried back.

  “Is this how you negotiate?” the man asked.


  Millie stood facing the observation window. In the room beyond, she could see her prisoner sitting at the desk, the steam rising from his leather vest.

  His wrists were shackled and attached to two fixed points on either side of the desk. The shackles were made of iron and, although new, were already showing signs of rust. The desk had been specially strengthened. It was so heavy that they’d needed a fork-lift truck just to get it into position.

  He’ll do well to shift that, Millie thought.

  There was a guard in there too, over by the door. He looked uneasy. He wasn’t there to stop the prisoner getting away. He was on suicide watch.

  The only other precaution they’d taken was the sprinkler system. They’d rigged it with salt water, just in case.

  Millie felt uncomfortable watching him through a two-way mirror. She had nothing to hide. She would have much preferred to be inside the room but Kinsella had forbidden it. He was currently processing the other two prisoners over in the Bear Garden. This was going to be a long night.

  The prisoner was tanned, rugged looking with a short cropped beard. The Sidhe were known for their physical attractiveness, of course, Millie knew that. But the difference between knowing that and then being confronted with it in the flesh were two very different things indeed.

  Attractive or not, she couldn’t afford to let her guard down. This man was here for one reason, and one reason only: he planned to kill people. And, if she forgot that, even for a moment, she might well join his list of victims.

  She’d have been happier having Kinsella alongside her but he had been adamant. He didn’t want the prisoners all in the same building - they posed too much of a risk.

  “I’d like a glass of water, please.”

  Although the mirror was sound-proofed, the microphone in the next room picked up every word. When the man spoke, he looked directly at the mirror, as though he could see Millie skulking in the shadows.

  The guard said, “Perhaps later …”

“I’m not talking to you.” He inclined his head, as if studying her. “The salt leaves a bad taste. Is it too much to ask for a drink?”

  He sounded so reasonable. She hadn’t expected him to say anything at all. Wasn’t even sure whether he spoke English or not. There was no obvious accent though some of his intonation was odd, as if he’d learnt English from a book.

  She leaned across and pressed the intercom. “You’ll have to wait.”

  Her voice sounded over-loud in the next room. The prisoner sat back in his chair, a look of satisfaction on his face.

  Her phone rang. It was Kinsella.

  “How’s it going?”

  Millie went out into the hall, afraid of being over-heard. She nodded to the security team members and kept on walking.

  “He’s asked for some water.”

  “Anything else?”

  “No. I’ve not actually spoken with him. I’ve been waiting for you.”

  “Good. Because now I’m going to need your help.”

  Trust, she thought. This all comes down to trust.

  “Is there a problem?”

  “There might be. You have the main guy. We need to keep him isolated. I’ve got the other two here, we’re currently holding them downstairs.”

  “But that’s good isn’t it?”

  She went across to the window. London looked calm, even peaceful from where she was standing.

  “Normally, yes but the Sidhe are – different.”

  The Sidhe, sometimes known as the Fae, tended to operate in teams of five. They were predictable in that way. It was one of the things that Kinsella had in his favour.

  “Which means there’s two more out there.”

  Not good. The Sidhe were formidable opponents: stupidly strong and frighteningly quick. They also had some magical ability but no one was clear on how much of a threat that posed. All that was know was that their magic was neutralised by salt water. They were still something of an enigma in that regard.

  Millie studied the skyline. Got her bearings from the London Eye and then tracked across until she could see the Bear Garden itself. She imagined that when they finally caught up with the other two Kinsella would want to keep them in Borehamwood, the facility where Melissa Stahl had been detained. It had needed a complete re-fit after everything that had happened previously but was now considered one of the best holding centres in the world.

  The problem was that they had to catch them first.

  She said, “You’re worried that they’re going to try and spring the others.”

  “The thought had crossed my mind.”

  “So, what’s the plan? Do we use our three as bait? Try and reel them in that way?”

  Kinsella laughed.

  “You’re getting good at this, Millie. But no, not this time. We have to be smarter than that.”

  “What happened with the other two? I assume we had them under surveillance?”

  “All five of them. But then, just as we started closing the net, those two disappeared.”

  Millie spread her palm on the cool glass, trying to anticipate where Kinsella was going with this.

  “Are you hoping to get one of our lot to talk?”

  “Normally, I’d say no. It would take too long to break them down. But in this case, I think we just might have an advantage.”

  It was clear that he was willing her to make the connection but – for the life of her – she couldn’t think what it might be.

  Kinsella continued, “We had addresses for all five of them. We knew where they were staying.”

  Finally, Millie understood.

  “So, if we can fool our lot into thinking that the others have already been arrested…”

  “Then they’ll assume that their whole mission has failed. They might just let something slip.”

  “I’ll get him talking,” Millie said. “I’m sure of it.”

  She wanted a crack at this.

  Kinsella was silent for a few moments.

  “I don’t know. He’s the leader. I doubt you’ll get much out of him.”

  “Have either of yours said anything yet? Anything at all?”

  It was a direct challenge. Kinsella was thirty minutes away and they were already running out of time. He’d either let her talk to him or he wouldn’t.

  Millie listened to the sounds of Kinsella moving around.

  Eventually, he said, “Okay. I’m going to let you take a shot at it. Two hours to get whatever you can. After that, he’s mine. Deal?”

  Two hours was no time at all in terms of a proper interrogation. But it was better than nothing.


  “Good. You’d better get on with it, then. In the meantime, I’m going to beef up security just in case the others do try to break them out. Any ideas how you’re going to approach this?”

  “Simple. I’m going to be nice to him.”


  Millie went back down the corridor to where the guards were waiting. The two men standing by the door were weapons ready. The third man was sitting at a desk. His desk layout consisted of a phone, note-book, two police batons and a shotgun. He looked up as Millie approached.

  “That was Kinsella on the phone,” she said. “He’s authorised me to talk to the prisoner.”

  The seated man said, “We were told that no one was to speak with him until Mr Kinsella arrived.”

  His name-plate read DENNIS, C.

  I don’t need to justify myself to you, she thought.

  She had to work to keep her feelings in check.

  Try to get him on-side.

  “Things have changed. The time line’s been moved up. There’s a possibility that someone might try and break him out.”

  “Not on our watch.”

  He looked at the others for support.

  “That’s good to hear. Now, I need to borrow your notebook.”

  He leaned across and gave it to her.

  “Thanks,” she said. “Oh, and do you have a pen?”

  He didn’t but one of the others did.

  She took the pen and rapped it on the top of the note-book.

  “Just one more thing.”

  She took her glasses out of her handbag and put them on. Then she placed her bag on the table.

  “Okay. I think I’m ready to go.”

  “Well, I suppose it’s not my job to get in your way.”

  No, it’s not.

  “Then we’re agreed. Good.”

  “Can I just check: have you questioned a member of the Sidhe before?”

  “No, but I know the rules.”

  To illustrate the point she took the salt water spray out of her pocket. With iron shackles on, that could make all the difference.

  Dennis, C. stood up. He towered over her. “I’ll buzz you in then.”

  Millie held up a hand. “One more thing. I’m going to need you to get me a glass of water.”

  “Okay,” he looked to one of the other guards. “Did you hear that? A cup of water.”

  “No. Let’s be clear: I want a glass, not a cup.”

  Dennis, C. sighed. “That’s against all kinds of regs. What if the prisoner were to get hold of it? He could smash it. Use it as a weapon.”

  “It’s for the prisoner.”


  Once through the outside door she walked down a short corridor and waited to be buzzed into the room.

  The guard looked surprised to see her but said nothing.

  The prisoner watched as she went and sat opposite him.

  “My name is Millie Goodwin,” she opened the note-book and took out her pen. “I’m with the Detainee Welfare Group. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.”

  The prisoner sat back, regarding her. As he did so, he dropped his arm down by his side. Because of the way that he was manacled, in order to achieve this, he had to raise his other hand and rest it on his knee. The sound of the chain rattling through the retort was unnerving in such enclosed space.

  “I’m saying noth
ing until I’ve had a drink.”

  Millie nodded then settled down to wait. His features were so perfectly symmetrical as to be distracting. The more she looked at him the more perplexing she found it. There were no flaws in his face, no disparities. Everything was perfectly balanced. It didn’t seem natural.

  When the door buzzed open she didn’t turn around. The guard came and stood next to her holding a glass of water.

  “Put it on the table.”

  “Oh! Are you sure?”

  “On the table, please.”

  He went over and placed the glass on the edge of the table, as far from the prisoner as it was possible to get. Then he went back to his position.

  The prisoner was obliged to pull one hand back in order to give himself enough play in the chain to stretch across the table.

  He picked up the glass and held it up to the light. Only then did he take a sip.

  “You may call me Florian.”

  Could that be Prince Florian by any chance?

  “Nice to meet you, Florian. Just a few details then. Could you confirm for me that you are a member of the Sidhe race?”

  “I take it then that you’re not the one responsible for my arrest.”

  Millie threw up her hands in mock confusion. “No. That’s not me. He’ll be along shortly. I just have to run you through a couple of preliminary questions. Florian – is that your full name?”

  He stifled a smile. “You’d need a whole new alphabet for my full name.”

  “Okay, so we’ll just go with Florian for the time being,” she wrote that down. “And could I just check whether you have any special dietary requirements?”


  “I need to know if you have any special dietary requirements. Do you have any allergies?””

  A fresh realisation came over him then. Part amusement, part disdain.

  “I tend to stay away from juniper berries. Too acidic.”

  “But other than that?”

  “No. Nothing. Why do you ask?”

  “Just something we have to check. My team is responsible for your welfare while you’re in our care.”

  “That sounds a little intimidating,” he didn’t seem at all intimidated. “As if you’re intending to keep me here for some time.”

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