QSFer Amir Lane has a new FF/queer urban fantasy suspense tale out, book one in the Barrier Witch series: Gift of Shadows. And get two books free!
Why would anyone try to murder a phoenix?
A corpse with no eyes bursts into flames before Toronto’s Special Crimes Detective Fairuz Arshad can investigate. Her superiors are ordering her to close the case before it’s even been opened, and it isn’t the only one. She tracks down a siren and a faerie, both missing organs and brushed off by the police. Fairuz and her dryad partner, Rowan, suspect there’s more to this mystery than it appears. The evidence points to a string of parahuman murders, with all the victims missing organs.
Realizing that the police are covering up the crimes, Fairuz realizes the killer must be one of their own. As Rowan joins the ranks of those keeping secrets from her, she fears there’s no one left to trust in this sea of corruption. More bodies are uncovered, and she fears something far more sinister is at work than a simple serial killer.
With her own team turning against her, can Fairuz catch the killer before he strikes again?
Amir has not one, but two giveaways with this post:
Free book with purchase (Gift of Ashes) https://smarturl.it/bwashesamz
Free with newsletter signup (Gift of Curses)
“Thank you, this is very helpful,” I said when I was done writing. I
handed the notes to Rowan, realizing as he frowned in my periphery that he wouldn’t be able to understand my Arabic scrawl. “Is there somebody we can call to get you?”
“My daughter. She must be wondering where I am by now. We always go for breakfast together on Saturdays.”
Hanna recited her daughter’s phone number, and I flagged down a uniformed officer to call her. I left Hanna with my card before turning to walk back to Rowan and the uniformed officer he was talking to.
Her hand caught my wrist.
“Wait! Miss detective!” she cried in an accented English. “There’s one more thing. There was… something over him.”
I frowned. That was specific. “‘Something?’ What do you mean by ‘something?’”
She hesitated, as if struggling to find her words. “It was like a shadow, like a person’s shadow crouched over him. When I screamed, it disappeared.”
I thanked her for the information, even though I knew it was probably just her imagination. It was still dark, and it would have been even darker before we arrived. There were no streetlights here. More than likely, it was nothing.
“Anything useful?” Rowan asked. “I literally got nothing out of that.”
I shook my head. “Nothing. She was running, and she saw the body.”
There didn’t seem to be much point in mentioning the shadow. Rowan rubbed the back of his neck, squinting up at the sun.
“So I have to ask. Who the fuck takes eyes?”
I let out a long breath. I didn’t even know where to start. Part of me almost wanted Homicide to show up and start yelling at us for ‘stealing’ their case. The autopsy sounded like the reasonable next step once the canvassing was done. Then we would at least know if our victim was human or something else, something that might have special eyes. None of the usual victims — werewolves, dryads, sirens — had anything unique about their eyes. If I remembered right, Old World sirens could see better in the dark, but that didn’t seem special enough. Plus, this victim didn’t seem to have the second set of teeth most siren species had. I would have to get closer to confirm, but sticking my hand in a dead something’s mouth didn’t seem like the brightest idea. I had a mental image of checking for a second row of teeth and having my finger bitten off. I could have used a pen to check like I’d done before, but I decided to leave that to the medical examiner.
“You ever feel like you could have gone your entire life without seeing someone scrape organs off a sidewalk?” Rowan asked with a grimace.
I nodded in silent agreement. That was part of why I’d transferred from Homicide. Things like that never really left a person.
A shrill scream and the reek of burning flesh interrupted my next thought. I threw my arm over my face to protect my eyes from the flames.
Our victim was on fire.
Our victim was on fucking fire.
“Fairuz!” Rowan shouted.
“I’m on it!”
I did the only reasonable thing I could do and ran toward the fire. A focused burn traced out Arabic scrawl across my hip and ran up my spine.
I could feel it, but no one could see it beneath my clothes. Not until it continued through my arms and down to my fingers, and by then, things were happening too fast for anyone to notice something so small. “Get out of the way!” I shouted.
It was an unnecessary command. Most people were already trying to get away from the fire, Rowan included. I was the only one trying to do the opposite. Making sure my body was between his and the flames, I threw my hands up and extended a translucent barrier. The heat against my palms had me grinding my teeth, but I only needed to keep it up until everyone was out of the way. One of the uniformed officers was dragging another out of the flames. Burnt clothes. Melted, bubbling skin. I forced myself to look away, but it was too late. If I didn’t wake up with that image behind my eyelids, I’d be surprised. The sight of it was bad enough, but the smell was worse. It was always the smell.
Sirens wailed in the distance, but this was Toronto. There were almost always sirens going on, and there was no guarantee these were headed in our direction.
The barrier protected me from the worst of the fire, but the heat and the smoke still reached me. I pressed my face to my shoulder, coughing into it and squeezing my eyes shut. The palms of my hands began to blister. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep this up. Arms wrapped around my waist, the fingers extending into long, thin branches for a better grip, and pulled me back as the barrier collapsed.
Fear for my partner’s safety made me irrational for a moment. Fire was dangerous for almost anyone, but especially for dryads. I didn’t want him getting any closer to it than entirely necessary.
“Everyone’s clear,” Rowan shouted over the roar of the flames.
He set me down well out of their reach. The sirens grew in volume. I hoped there was an ambulance in there for the injured officer. My hands would be fine with some aloe. It felt like a bad sunburn. I would live.
We stared at the dying fire. A firetruck pulled up nearby, but by the time they got the hose hooked up to the hydrant, the fire was out, the body was gone, and the organs were an incinerated mess.
“A fucking phoenix,” Rowan muttered. “Can you even murder a phoenix?”
“It doesn’t matter. This is definitely our sort of case.”
Amir Lane writes supernatural and fantasy with LGBT+ characters. From the frigid and mysterious land of Northern Canada, Amir is obsessed with loud music and black magic. They spend most of their writing time in a small home office or doing the circuit of local coffee shops. They live in a world where magic is an every day occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.
When not figuring out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, and watching cat videos.