Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)
Author: Lisa Shearin

1

MOST people grabbed a coffee on the way to work. I was clinking my way to the liquor store checkout with three bottles of Jack Daniel’s. One bottle would probably get the job done, but I snagged an extra pair for insurance. There was no way in hell I was doing this twice.

The clerk’s eyes went from the bottles to me and back again before scanning them into the register.

“For the morning staff meeting,” I said. “Gets the week off right.”

The man gave me an I-just-work-here grunt. “Need a bag?”

“Got it covered.”

I started loading bottles into the messenger bag slung across my chest, winding an old towel I’d brought with me around and between them, careful to keep the bottles away from the borrowed thermal night vision goggles that were almost as critical as the booze for tonight’s job. I wasn’t far from where I was going, but I was trying to avoid any icy sidewalk accidents on the way there.

It was two days until New Year’s Eve. The temperatures hadn’t risen above freezing the entire week, and since we had gotten an extra half foot of the white stuff last night, it felt at least ten degrees colder than it actually was. Though when you added in a wind that was cold enough to give an icicle frostbite, a couple of degrees one way or another didn’t make a hill of beans worth of difference.

The liquor store was a block from the subway station, and it was only two more blocks from there to Ollie’s, so I walked and slipped and clinked. A man sitting propped against the outside of the liquor store heard that telltale sound and looked at me like he was a Lab and I’d just bounced a tennis ball. He started to get up, staggering as he did so. I pushed back my coat, giving him a good look at my gun. I wasn’t big, but my gun was.

It was also a fake.

I’d learned real quick that there was a big difference between owning, carrying, and shooting guns in the big city and doing the same back home. There were lots of rules that the NYPD got real bent out of shape about if you messed with. As a result, my new employer had yet to deem me qualified for a company-issued gun, so I’d bought myself one of those water pistols that looked exactly like a 9mm. If the sight of it wasn’t enough of a deterrent, I’d loaded it with tequila. Aim for the eyes then run like hell. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

The man looked at me for a second or two, his eyes shadowed under a tattered hat, and apparently decided that while a small blonde sporting a ponytail wasn’t scary, the gun told him the risk probably wouldn’t be worth it. He actually smiled at me through a couple of days’ worth of dark stubble as he sat back down. Good. Strange, but good. I really didn’t want to start my evening by squirting a homeless man.

I’m Makenna Fraser. I’m from a place called Weird Sisters, a small town in the far western point of North Carolina that doesn’t show up on Google Earth, was named in reference to the three witches in Macbeth, and where the first word of the town name perfectly describes most of its citizens. I’ll be the first to admit that includes me. I’m not what most people would call normal, never have been, never will be, and I’m fine with that.

Weird Sisters had been settled by the kind of people that normal people didn’t want to have living next door. Most times, they couldn’t put their reasons into words; it was more of a feeling than anything else. Other folks could put words to what they felt while in town just fine. Heebie-jeebies, the creeps, or just plain spooked. Outsiders passing through town instinctively knew whether they belonged there, or if they ought to just keep going.

Weird Sisters was said to be located on a ley line that supposedly magnified psychic and paranormal energies. I didn’t know if there was anything to that or not, but something attracted people—and non-people—to stop and stay there. Quite a few of our townsfolk didn’t exactly qualify as human. They looked human enough, and sounded like regular folks, but make no mistake—they were something else entirely.

Creatures from myth and legend are real.

Members of my family could see them for what they really were. We were what my Grandma Fraser called seers. We could see through any veil, ward, shield, or spell any supernatural could come up with as a disguise. Some used magic; most didn’t. Veils were a survival mechanism, much like how a chameleon changed its colors to blend in with its surroundings to protect itself from predators. Or how predators looked perfectly harmless until something—or someone—they wanted to eat wandered by.

Down through the years, my family has taken it on themselves to protect the prey from the predators. Since the town’s founding in 1786, there’s been a Fraser as marshal, then sheriff, and now police chief. I chose my own way to expose the truth. Supernaturals didn’t have the market cornered on predatory behavior. As a little girl, I dreamed of becoming an investigative reporter for our local paper.

But with the coming of the New Age movement, our main street became lined with shops, cafés, and tearooms populated with psychics, mediums, crystal healers, tarot and palm readers, clairvoyants, and way too much more. Between that, the influx of tourists from Asheville, and the advent of the Internet, it didn’t take long for our newspaper and its website to become just another way to market the town. And when I came back home with my shiny new degree in journalism, I realized that in a town with more than its fair share of psychics (some of whom were the real thing), unsolved crimes were few and far between.

I decided it was time for me to leave for good.

I came to New York with the dream of running with the big dogs at the New York Times, or even sticking close to my hometown roots and writing for the Weird News section at the Huffington Post. But all I could get was a job at a seedy tabloid called the Informer, where only stories like “Donald Trump Is a Werewolf Love Child” had any hope of making it to the front page. If a story was the truth, great; if not, lies worked just fine. The majority of our gullible readership thought everything we printed was the gospel truth anyway. That particular headline had been an obvious lie—at least it’d been obvious to me. No self-respecting werewolf would have hair like that. But my stories had been the truth and had the dubious distinction of having been on the front page more than once, which had been good for keeping food in the fridge, but bad for my professional pride.

I could write about the weird and the spooky because I could see it. Implying that a mob boss on trial was less than human didn’t make anyone bat an eye. Making the mistake of telling my now ex-editor that said mobster had horns and a tail, and that his lawyer was a literal bloodsucker had made me the darling of his black, profit-loving heart.

As luck would have it, that same story had also put me squarely in my new employer’s sights. By that point, any job that’d let me regain my self-respect was a job that I’d gladly take—even if it took me back into the family business. When SPI recognized me for what I was and made me an offer, I’d literally skipped to my editor’s office to resign.

Now I work for Supernatural Protection & Investigations, also known as SPI. They battle the supernatural bad guys of myth and legend, and those who would unleash them.

My family was thrilled to hear about my new job.

And I realized I couldn’t run away from who and what I was.

Most supernaturals come here wanting the same things as the rest of us: a good job, nice house, 2.5 kids, and a dog. The others? Well, their powers are stronger here, their greed is bigger, and any treaties or bindings that might have made them behave back home don’t mean squat here. They don’t just want their slice of the American Dream; they want the whole pie, and they don’t care what they have to do, who they have to kill, or how many city blocks they have to level to get what they want.

SPI’s mission is twofold: keep the world safe for supernaturals and humans alike, and cover up the truth. Because when it comes to supernaturals, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson: people can’t handle the truth. SPI has offices worldwide, and their agents are recruited from various alphabet agencies, top police forces, and military special ops, and are supported by the sharpest scientific and academic minds.

Then there’s me.

My job as the seer for the New York office is to point out the supernatural bad guys, then step aside so the aforementioned commando-ninja-badass monster fighters can take them into custody—or if necessary, take them out. Doing my part to help keep the world safe is gratifying work, with regular pay, and my job description includes three of the most beautiful words in the English language: full medical coverage. If Bigfoot was on the rampage hurting innocent campers, I’d hunt him with a butterfly net if it meant having a dental plan.

But the bottom line was that I liked my job. Since starting at SPI, New York wasn’t just the place where I lived; now it was home, a home that seemed to have supernaturals around every corner, kinds I’d never seen before, sitting at tables in every sidewalk café, and sharing every subway car with me. You’d be surprised at how many supernaturals lived in New York—then again, maybe you wouldn’t. Perhaps that was why they liked it here; they were just another face in the crowd.

When I’d first arrived in the city, I discovered that New York supernaturals were even better than the ones back home at disguising what they were and fitting in with their human neighbors. But I could see them, and they could see me seeing them. I’d give them a little smile and a nod whenever that happened, to let them know that I was cool with what they were. After an initial moment of surprise, more often than not, they’d smile back.

Yes, I’d traded the scent of mountain laurel for diesel fumes, and a ley line running under the mountains for a subway line running under the city, but New York had an energy all its own. I could see why it was called the city that never sleeps—it didn’t want to miss one thing. And neither did I.

I loved New York.

A blast of wind that must have come straight from the North Pole brought my wandering mind back to where it belonged—keeping me from busting my ass on an icy street in SoHo. We got plenty of snow back home; it was pretty coming down and pretty when it landed. When I’d stand in the woods on the side of the mountain, it was as if the whole world came to a stop to watch in complete and awe-struck silence.

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