“This is Detective Sergeant Tim Pierce.” Sir Ewan waved at the man sitting at the table in the Chapter House meeting room.
Dave looked carefully. The man was in his mid thirties. He wore his brown hair short and very conventionally styled. The casual shirt had been pressed, as had the jeans and the jacket on the back of the chair was clean. His only jewellery was a plain but expensive looking watch. The sensible looking boots had steel toecaps underneath the polished leather. His face was neither one thing or another, instantly forgettable and dull apart from watchful brown eyes. He was checking out his official phone. As Dave smiled and went to shake Tim’s hand he could tell he was dealing with someone hard to shake, someone good on detail and someone with very little imagination. The trouble with those without imagination, Dave thought, was that they were very hard to fool. And those copper’s eyes had just weighed up Dave and judged him to the ounce. A good man to have at your back, Dave thought, but not someone to go drinking with. He was probably loyally married to a dull girl and had two children.
“Please to meet you.” Tim’s handshake was cool and firm but not aggressive. “I’m sorry about Callum.”
“I never met him.” Dave took a seat at the table.
“He was a good man.” Tim pulled out a folder from his bag and opened it. “So, how do you get chosen to be a Paladin? It seems a little unconventional.”
“Absolutely no idea.” Dave said with complete honesty.
“Well, I got chosen to be the liaison for Non Normals in North Yorkshire when I pulled a boggart over for drunk driving.” Tim pulled open a binder. “I had only been in Traffic for two months and it was a shock.” He uncapped his pen. “It was the first time a boggart threw a police car at me. Obviously not the last. Still, they’re not the worst.”
“They’re not?” Dave thought about Mr and Mrs Appuck and the damage that they left behind.
Tim shook his head. “Boggarts will cause all sorts of trouble. You know, nuisance theft, vandalism, drunk and disorderly, breach of the peace, that sort of stuff.” He passed over a second folder. “I’ve photocopied my notes. I keep most of the info either in paper form or in my head.”
“More secure?” Dave asked, opened his binder and flicking through. The notes were neatly written and organised, as he had expected.
“It saves a lot of explanation.” Tim said. “I’ve included a list of those known. There’s only a couple of boggarts in York itself, most of them work around the farms. None of them are that bad. They can be easily led and cause damage, but there’s worse. There’s a pack of werewolves in York, based in Fulford, you met Keiran Latimer, I believe?”
“Yes, there was a rogue pack or something.” Dave didn’t want to remember about his first encounter with werewolves.
“I did a little digging and it’s extremely rare to find non-aligned werewolves forming their own packs.” Tim nodded a thanks as Sir Ewan came back in the room with some bottles of water and sat down with them. “How is Ian Tait doing?”
“He’s doing fine.” Dave said. “Should I be worried?”
“Werewolves without a pack are usually a threat.” Tim ticked off a point. “Keep an eye on him. There’s maybe half a dozen vampires in York and half a dozen more spread over the rest of North Yorkshire. Miss Patience keeps a tight rein on them, and I’ve no reports of irregular feeding. Watch out for any reports of Dragon’s Blood. It’s like meth for vampires and causes a lot of trouble. Lord Ragnar will stamp down hard on anything he finds, but be aware.”
“Dragon’s Blood.” Dave made a note.
There’s not many non normals in North Yorkshire.” Tim said. “There’s a second werewolf pack up by Thirsk, a few goblins out in Fulford, some brownies scattered around but they never seem to cause any trouble, and of course there’s some elfen.” Tim unscrewed the lid of the bottle of water and took a long, thirsty drink. “It’s hard to guess their numbers, even if they co-operate. I’d say there were maybe half a dozen regularly at Lord Ragnar’s court, a few more dropping in and out from near York, and quite a few of them work in the breweries around Tadcaster and Pickering. As far as I can tell, there’s as many as they want there to be. They’re basically nature spirits and the most difficult to police. Then there’s Captain Whitebeard who seems to be some sort of deputy for Lord Ragnar in Whitby. The elfen seem to gravitate to Whitby when there’s a vampire or steampunk festival. The Templars usually attend but Callum always stayed in York.”
“It’s harmless.” Sir Ewan lounged back in his chair. “Elfen feed off emotion and so lots of people having a great time are a feast for them. They sometimes hang out with the sea going non normals, but we haven’t had reports of trouble with those for a long time.”
“Good.” Dave got seasick on a pier. He really didn’t want to find out how bad he could get if he went out in choppy weather.
“I cover a lot of other stuff.” Tim made some more notes. “I don’t just cover non normals. And, to be honest, we don’t get involved too much unless there’s direct police action needed. For example, I know traffic towed a derelict vehicle from outside the White Hart. Whoever made it derelict thoughtfully left the number plates and highlighted the VIN code for us. Turns out it was uninsured, untaxed and had no MOT so we would be perhaps more interested in the owners than in those that shredded it. No one reported it stolen or vandalised and the records turned up a dead end, the vehicle had been written off – allegedly – last year so there was nothing for us to do.” Tim looked hard at Dave. “We respond to reports of crime and dead bodies. If no-one calls it in and no-one is hurt then we don’t go looking. We don’t have the manpower to go looking. But we’re not stupid. We won’t ignore stuff just because it’s weird, either.”
Dave knew that Tim was not stupid. He might be thorough and unimaginative and methodical but he was far from stupid and very hard to fool. “I’ll give you a heads up if there’s anything.”
“Crimes against normals are tried under the law just the same as anyone else.” Tim said. “We’re all just trying to keep the peace.”
Sir Ewan nodded. “Our job is to be there for the times when there’s a supernatural threat to normals. Sir Craig had to go as he’s been called to check out a ghoul hanging round the cemeteries in Canterbury. You can go months without an issue.”
“Then the Appuck brothers turn up.” Tim said, a little grimly. “They’re not like most boggarts. They do loan sharking, protection, some drugs, a lot of violence and a lot of trouble. They can strip down cars to their metal frame in minutes, for example, and they’ve even been known to demolish a house. The bricks were down to a powder. But they won’t cause trouble like most boggarts and we’ve never been able to pin anything on them. Everyone is scared that if they go off the rails then we won’t be able to contain them. So any more visits from Rhodri, Rhys or Geraint Appuck and you let us know. Just in case.”
Fiona was showing Adele around. “The till rolls are here, we’ve got the small bags here and here are the loyalty cards.”
“They look really nice.” Adele picked one up and looked it over. “Did it cost a lot to get it done?”
“I designed them myself.” Fiona felt ridiculously flattered.
“Our Kirsty does design professionally and she would be thrilled to have done something like this.” Adele put the card back neatly on the stack.
“Thanks.” Fiona took a moment to feel smug before going back to showing Adele around. “Gift wrap prices are here and the spare gift wrap is in the back. Cards and tags are here.”
“There’s some really lovely ones here.” Adele flicked through the cards. “And you make them?”
“Some of them.” Fiona sighed. “I haven’t had much time recently. The cards and gift wrap are sort of my thing, they’re why we decided to get a shop.” She ran a hand gently over some expensive handmade paper. “I think everyone should have a patch. You know, something that you can take pride in. I’ve got the gift wrap and cards, Kadogan’s got candles, Ian’s got all the postal stuff plus stores, Louise has the cafe and Mrs Tuesday’s got the herbs.”
“There are a lot of herbs.” Adele said, walking over to the main display.
“Mrs Tuesday has been doing some research. We may be able to offer herbs grown in appropriate ways, you know, sown and harvested at the right time for magical purposes.” Fiona waved a bewildered hand. “I don’t know much about magic. Fortunately Steve does. He’s sort of a partner and does the complicated deliveries and he covers the stuff like athames and pentacles. He understands what’s needed. I’ve persuaded Dave to take on the Tarot Cards.”
“It makes sense.” Adele looked at the large stand of cards.
“Dave doesn’t actually believe in Tarot cards, or at least, he doesn’t believe he can read the cards. He can read people, though, and he’s starting to get repeat business.” Fiona straightened a Rider Waite Deck. “He gets stressed about it sometimes, but his heart’s in the right place.”
“Some of these look weird.” Adele said bluntly. “I mean, some look serious but some just look like gimmicks.”
“You’ll see it at the till.” Fiona stepped back and looked over the Tarot display. “We got stock from everywhere. We got the good stuff from independent workers and we got, well, tat from the warehouses. There are two main types of clients. Those who know about non normals or who are non normals and they understand real magic and want the good stuff. And there are those who sort of like the idea and sniff around the edges but get distracted. So on one hand we have bulk deals on things like wormwood and on the other hand we have flower fairies. They don’t often overlap.”
Adele picked up a Tarot deck. “If I wanted to learn, could you recommend a pack?”
“No.” Fiona said flatly. “I know less about Tarot than I do about nuclear physics. You could ask Steve when he’s in next.”
“I might. I mean, if I’m non normal, or part non normal then I should know about this stuff, shouldn’t I?”
“Umm.” Fiona was stuck. Until Steve sat down and did some serious magic then all bets were off. Adele had agreed that if she was found to be non normal then she would owe loyalty to Lord Ragnar who would owe Steve a favour for finding it out. However Steve had been frantically busy with some last minute orders in the run up to Beltane and hadn’t had time to check his phone let alone do the scrying needed. She wasn’t sure about Adele being non normal. She seemed so wonderfully ordinary.
Kadogan frowned and looked up from his candles a few moments before the door opened. “Hello, Freydis,” he said unenthusiastically.
“Hello, sweetie.” Freydis lounged over to the café and leaned on the newly polished counter. “I’ll have a latte.” She placed the coins casually next to the till.
Louise, tight lipped and slightly pale, made a lot of fuss about making the perfect latte before disappearing to the back.
“I don’t know why she doesn’t like me.” Freydis sprawled on one of the hardback chairs. “I would have thought she would have been grateful. And who is this?”
Fiona instinctively stepped between Adele and Freydis. “This is Adele who has started working here. Adele, this is Freydis.”
“I used to be married to the Lord here, but now he’s divorcing me and my heart is broken.” Freydis gently wiped a tear away from the glamour of her flawless complexion.
“You don’t have a heart to break.” Kadogan said bluntly.
“How you would you know?” Freydis trailed an immaculately manicured fingernail along the edge of the table. “You don’t seem to have any sort of warm emotion at all.”
“Don’t start on Kadogan.” Fiona snapped.
“But he has never had a love life.” Freydis said, her voice reasonable. “I mean, he sort of meets up with Suzuki, but they don’t have anything like a love affair. They’re perfectly pleasant to each other. That’s no way to run a romance.”
“It suits us.” Kadogan said coldly. “What do you want, Freydis?”
“I suppose all sorts of people just drop in, just to meet like minded friends away from the bustle of the court.” Freydis added sugar with a generous hand. “I thought I would see what was going on.”
“We’re due a coach party in half an hour.” Fiona said. “We’re getting ready for that.”
“Normals or non normals?” Freydis asked with interest.
“Why do you need to know?” Kadogan snapped.
“So defensive,” Freydis sighed, “But there’s no need. I’m just making conversation.”
“It’s non normals.” Fiona said. “They’ve booked for a Fairy Tea. Mrs Tuesday is in the back getting things set up.”
“That was inspirational.” Freydis said. “But don’t you worry that they’ll get clues?”
“No.” Kadogan said. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m busy.”
“Darling Kadogan.” Before Kadogan could react Freydis had managed to lean against him with a plaintive hand on his arm. “You know so much and are so influential these days. I don’t suppose you know where my beloved Rey is?”
Kadogan jumped away from Freydis and shuddered as if he had been tasered. “I have not heard anything about Mr Baxter.”
“Poor Rey. I mean, I know he has been unwise when it came to dealing with the boggarts, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have been so harshly punished if he hadn’t been so sweet to me.” Freydis stepped towards Kadogan who backed away.
“I have no idea whether Mr Baxter has been caught.” Kadogan found himself pinned against a counter and started to sidle towards the store rooms.
“He must feel so vulnerable out there.” Freydis cooed. “I know it would have weight if you spoke up for him, far more than anything I could say now, as I have been discarded.”
“You are getting divorced because you slept with someone else.” Kadogan was nearly at the door to the store room.
“But it didn’t mean anything.” Freydis sighed. “I feel so responsible. If Rey hadn’t been buying me those adorable trinkets then he perhaps wouldn’t have extorted and blackmailed so much. Now he is at the mercy of a mob of boggarts.” Freydis literally fluttered her eyelashes at Kadogan. “And you are such a warrior.”
“So are you.” Kadogan said bluntly. “I haven’t forgotten how you slaughtered those pirates when they tried to get up river when the legions were here and you were angered that they had disturbed your feast. You spread their blood for miles.” He frowned. “You could outfight any boggart that tried anything. All you would have to do was make sure that Mr Baxter was with you.”
“I have some business to attend.” Freydis said loftily.
“And you don’t actually care about Mr Baxter but you feel mildly obliged.” Kadogan’s eyes narrowed. “Why did you have sex with him?”
“Well at least he was paying attention to me.” Freydis snapped.
“What do you mean? You had half the court hanging on your every word.” Kadogan stopped. “I can’t believe it. You wanted to make Lord Ragnar jealous.”
“He didn’t care about me at all.” Freydis said bitterly.
“But it’s not like you care about him either.” Kadogan sounded like he was trying to be reasonable. “Lord Ragnar became Prince after ripping the head off Ulfric Beartooth, supported by your father after your marriage.” Kadogan smiled at the memory. “It was a wonderful wedding. They built a pyre of your enemies and hung the limbs of the dead on ash trees for the crows.” He sighed. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to a better one.”
Fiona exchanged a started look with Adele and started backing away to the till. Freydis went back to her latte.
“It was all show,” she said quietly. “|It was nothing but show. Lord Ragnar never showed jealousy.”
“Well, he couldn’t really, could he?” Kadogan pointed out. “He had only got to marry you because he ripped the head off Ulfric Beartooth. Everyone knew how desperate he was to woo you and you never gave him a hint.”
“What do you mean?” Freydis stood up and seemed to be a little taller.
“Well, everyone knew that your father was going to marry you to Ulfric Beartooth. That’s why Lord Ragnar challenged him.”
“Then why didn’t he say anything to me?” Freydis demanded.
“Didn’t he?” Kadogan looked bemused and then a wicked grin spread over his face. “You actually love Lord Ragnar. All this time you’ve been trying to make him jealous and all this time you’ve driven him away. You had your desire in your cupped hands and it slipped through your fingers like stream water.”
“That’s not what I said.” Freydis said quickly.
“Lord Ragnar risked everything to challenge Ulfric Beartooth for you. He loved you beyond reason and now, well, I don’t suppose he does any more.” Kadogan sighed in satisfaction. “But your love remains unabated. When did it start? Before or after the marriage?”
Freydis stared at him, white faced and furious. To Fiona’s appalled surprise she stamped her foot and screamed. Every pink fairy ornament in the shop shattered and Freydis disappeared.
Fiona looked around. Pink and purple resin was everywhere, None of the crystals were touched and all the other figures were whole and fine. Fiona stepped carefully towards the bookshelves. The slim section of cute fairy books was shredded and small fragments of paper were still drifting towards the floor. As she looked around, stunned, everything that looked pink and fairylike was in very small pieces.
“I’ll get a brush.” Adele said as she carefully pulled the wreckage of an expensive, handmade card out of the display. “Does this sort of thing happen often?”