Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 1/7/2018
Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
Earlier I posted about the fabulous Lisa Shearin releasing The Myth Manifestation. This is episode #5 of the SPI series. If you haven’t read #1-4, hop to it. This is not a series to be missed.
As I promised earlier, I asked Ms. Shearin if it would be alright to share with you chapter 1 of The Myth Manifestation. She approved. Woot! Here it is:
I poked at the gelatinous mass.
“It’s not going to attack you,” my partner assured me.
“Are you sure?” I poked it again. “What is it?”
That was a question I’d asked many times in my line of work, but never while in line at a breakfast buffet. Another big difference was that I was doing my poking with a serving fork and not the business end of a …
Who was I kidding? If I’d stumbled on this in a dark alley, I wouldn’t be poking it with any kind of weapon. I’d be getting the heck out of there and calling for backup.
Poking, or its more lethal cousin, killing, wasn’t my job. I’d been hired to find and point out monsters and supernatural bad guys. As much as I wished it otherwise, I wasn’t qualified for takedowns. I left those up to my partner and our commandos.
Most of the time.
I’m like one of those little dogs who chases big trucks. In my case, though, the big trucks are bloodthirsty monsters. Occasionally I catch one, but I’m woefully unqualified to do anything past that point. I should look before I leap, or to be more exact, think before I chase. My adrenaline’s been known to override my good sense.
My name is Makenna Fraser and I work for SPI. That’s Supernatural Protection and Investigations, a worldwide organization, headquartered in New York, that protects people from predatory supernaturals. Basically, we keep people from being eaten while making sure they stay in the dark about what had just tried to turn them into its latest meal. Move along, nothing to see. In addition, we also protect various supernaturals from humans and each other.
SPI is a full-service organization.
The part of SPI where I worked was basically a supernatural police department, albeit one that had worldwide reach, which pretty much made us a supernatural Interpol. The other side of SPI was a combination of the UN and NATO. Until now, I hadn’t had much contact with that side.
That was going to change this week.
For the next three days, select agents from all sections of our New York office would be working at the Regor Regency Hotel in Lower Manhattan.
There have always been supernatural creatures on Earth; some were from our world, some were immigrants or visitors from elsewhere. In the early 1900s, Earth started looking particularly good to races from other worlds and dimensions, mainly as a sanctuary. For the first decade or so the population increase wasn’t a problem, but SPI wanted to take steps to ensure that it didn’t become one in the future. Exactly one hundred years ago this week, an agreement had been drafted to keep the off-world population from exploding and the humans of Earth from finding out about any of it.
The terms of that agreement expired this week.
Diplomats from SPI had been busy for the past year working with their supernatural counterparts around the world to negotiate any desired changes to the existing agreement. Naturally, what many supernaturals desired was everything, including the kitchen sink.
SPI was flexible, but when it came to our own prime directive—ensuring that humans remained convinced that they were still large and in charge of this planet—we wouldn’t budge.
Most of the messy work had been done. Negotiations had been satisfactorily completed, concessions had been agreed upon, fangs had been retracted and claws sheathed, lawyers had been recalled, and delegates from the various races and species would gather here for the official signing of the accords. I’d heard there were still a few holdouts here and there, but that was to be expected. It wasn’t the reason why the law enforcement side of SPI had moved into the Regor Regency.
We were here to keep the living delegates alive and the undead delegates from becoming permanently deceased. Some supernaturals got along with each other.
Most did not.
I had a feeling we were going to have our work cut out for us.
We were about to be overrun by more types and races of supernatural beings and outright aliens than had ever been in one place at one time, at least since the original agreement had been signed. July wasn’t the best time to be in New York, but supernaturals took contracts very seriously—especially those they’d signed in their own blood. And since many of them had extended lifespans, some of the same beings who had signed the original agreement would be back this time.
Most of the supernaturals were here to renegotiate territories and boundaries as well. While they really could’ve done that on their own, the agreement carried more weight if it was done through SPI. A lot of them did it to get an all-expenses-paid trip to New York, though.
The summit would also include a meeting between representatives of both the elf and goblin monarchs and the governors of their colonies here. The elf and goblin home world was under a threat of invasion, and the meeting here would be to arrange for a limited number of refugees to come to our world if that threat became a reality.
For the goblins, the sticking point was that the goblin monarchy had just experienced a violent transfer of power. The older brother in the Mal’Salin dynasty had been assassinated by his chancellor, but before the chancellor could steal the throne, the younger brother was installed in a coup.
The governor of the goblin colony here on Earth had been given that assignment by the older brother.
The younger brother—now king—was cleaning house with a vengeance.
I didn’t see the meeting between the governor and the new king’s representative being a friendly one.
As to the elves, the colonial governor here was a member of a family that was in a heap of political and legal trouble back home. The elf queen was likewise feeling an urge to take a broom to her house.
Fun times ahead on the goblin and elf fronts.
Two races that were not included in the summit were the vampires and werewolves. As the most populous and powerful supernatural beings on our world, they each warranted their own meeting.
As I said, it was SPI’s job to keep any of the summit’s delegates from killing each other, at least while they were in New York. What they did when they got home was their business. What they did while they were here was ours. If the vampires and werewolves had been added to the mix, we would have had more than we could be expected to handle.
I was part of SPI’s security detail for what was being called the Centennial Supernatural Summit.
Both commando teams from SPI New York had moved into the hotel for the week.
I wasn’t one of SPI’s commandos. I was a seer.
A seer could see through any glamour, spell, or ward a supernatural being could use to disguise their true appearance. My talent also included seeing through cloaks and veils, which could render their users invisible. It was kind of hard to apprehend supernatural criminals if you couldn’t see them, or if what you were chasing ran into a crowd and changed their appearance to look like someone else.
SPI valued their seers. Criminals wanted us all to drop dead.
My three predecessors had done just that—with a literal or metaphorical push from someone interested in keeping SPI without seers.
We were rare enough as is. There were only five seers worldwide working for SPI. I was based in the New York office. We had another out in LA. The other three were stationed in our European and Asian offices.
SPI founder and director Vivienne Sagadraco had assigned Ian Byrne to be my partner. As SPI’s top agent, Ian had the most need for a seer on a daily basis. As SPI’s newest seer, I needed SPI’s top agent to keep me alive and working. Ian was teaching me hand-to-hand (or claw, tentacle, etc.) combat, and I was getting better, but as a former special-ops guy and NYPD homicide detective, Ian would always be infinitely better. Bless his heart, he did his best to teach me all that he could.
Ian had the patience of Job and deserved a raise—and a medal.
I stuck the serving fork back into the whatever-it-was and moved down the buffet line to something I could identify as breakfast food, at least what humans considered to be breakfast food.
Now we were talking.
A white-jacketed server hurried to the buffet and with a perfectly proper murmured apology whisked the offending dish away—toward the fancy dining room where the supernatural/alien delegates were taking their meals.
Okay. Now it made sense.
That buffet was offering something for everyone, which amounted to a lot of weirdness. Some seriously funky stuff was being served to the delegates, most of whom definitely qualified for the “not from around here” moniker.
SPI’s security people and staffers had a separate buffet and dining room. We needed to be close enough for fast response, but far enough away to give us a break from what I’d been told could be like babysitting a pack of spoiled toddlers. When we weren’t on duty, we were on call 24/7, so we needed to get in, get fed, and get back to work.
It was six in the morning, and the dining room set aside for SPI agents and staff was getting crowded.
The delegates would be coming from all around our world, other worlds, and several dimensions attached to both. Some were nocturnal, others functioned during the day. Combine that with multiple time zones here on Earth, and everyone’s internal clocks were screwed up. As a result, SPI agents would be working in shifts so we didn’t drop from exhaustion.
I’d learned during my nearly two years at SPI that if you had time to eat or sleep, you took it. You never knew when the crap would hit the fan, making food and rest nothing but a fond memory.
I was piling my plate high because of that. That and because the buffet was ten kinds of awesome.
I sensed my partner’s disapproving eyes on me.
I paused in my hunting and gathering. “What?”
“I would ask if you were going to eat all that,” Ian said. “But we’ve been together long enough that I know you will.”
“Yet still, you do not believe,” I said solemnly.
I could put a hurtin’ on a breakfast buffet. It ain’t bragging if it’s true, and I had the embarrassed-to-eat-with-me friends and family—and partner—to prove it.
Ian Byrne was my partner at work, not my partner in bed. Another coworker of ours had that job covered. Ian was tall, ripped, blue-eyed, and unwholesomely handsome; and I didn’t have to be sleeping with him to know or say that. My eyes and hormones were in perfect working order, and they communicated with each other on a regular basis.
For the duration of the summit, Ian was also in charge of SPI’s security teams.
Even though he had just gotten out of bed, Ian was looking mighty fine in the SPI-sanctioned uniform for the talks, what I called “SWAT lite,” all black with a small SPI logo tastefully placed on the right side of the chest, not the left where the heart was located. It wouldn’t be a good idea for people to walk around with a target over their most vital organ. Though that only applied to most of SPI’s agents. Some had hearts elsewhere in their chest cavity; a few didn’t have hearts at all. In the physical sense, that is. My coworkers were seriously good people.
Ian and I sat next to Sandra Niles and some of her team at one of the long tables. The Jamaican native was the commander of one of SPI New York’s two commando teams. They were coming off night duty, and no doubt having breakfast before turning in for a few hours of sleep before the majority of the delegates arrived this afternoon.
“Everything quiet?” Ian asked.
Sandra speared a link sausage. “Nothing violent, if that’s what you mean.”
I refined my partner’s question. “Everyone behaving?”
Sandra tilted the forked sausage in my direction before taking a bite. “Point to the lady.”
Ian stabbed a couple of tater-tots and snorted. “Who were they and what did they do?”
“Perovians. Jumped off of Rockefeller Center.” She gave us a closed-mouth grin while she finished chewing. “It didn’t happen in the hotel, so it wasn’t our problem. The Chicago team had to deal with it. They brought our wayward guests home an hour ago. I just e-mailed you the report.”
There were entirely too many names of species, races, worlds, and dimensions being thrown around for me to follow.
I turned to Ian. “Okay, tell me again who the—”
“Perovians. Small world, breathable air, two portal jumps from here. They look like gargoyles.”
“And they like to jump off tall things,” Sandra added. “Unfortunately, New York is full of tall things. Fortunately, only two of them took the plunge before our Chicago team put a stop to their fun. The delegates claim they weren’t seen, and there weren’t any reports from Rockefeller Center of suicidal gargoyles, so we’re all good.”
Our boss, Vivienne Sagadraco, had called in commando units from three of SPI’s larger metropolitan offices. One each from Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Their job would be to cover for our two New York teams who were running security for the duration of the summit. The boss was hosting this shindig, and she wanted security folks whom she knew by name. She had handpicked each and every one of them when SPI first hired them. When you were sitting on a powder keg like this summit, you wanted people you knew and trusted to keep the fuse from being lit.
Or who you knew were qualified to clean up the mess if it went boom.
“We’re encouraging delegates to remain in the hotel for the duration,” Sandra told me. “Unless it’s on a tour we’ve organized. If they do go out on their own, they have to play by our rules.”
I knew what those rules were, even if our Perovian guests had conveniently forgotten.
When out among New York’s human population, magical veils or glamours were to be worn at all times, meaning you either had to be invisible or look human. If a delegate lacked the magical talent to veil or glamour, we issued an amulet to them when they left the hotel, to be returned when they got back. The amulets had been designed by SPI’s R&D department along with Kenji Hayashi, SPI’s Chief Technology Officer and ultimate tech guru. In addition to keeping the public from being freaked out by seeing a gargoyle bungee jumping off Rockefeller Center without a bungee, it allowed the free-roaming delegate to be tracked by SPI’s security people at the base they’d set up here in the hotel.
“One of the Perovian nobles lives in New York, and they met for dinner at the Rainbow Room,” Sandra was saying. “They were supposed to come directly back here afterward. One of our security people was charged with tracking them for the evening. He told us the instant they made a little detour to the observation deck after dessert. I notified HQ, who dispatched the Chicago team.”
I started in on my bacon and eggs. “The flyboys are grounded, I take it?”
“For the duration of the summit.”
I nodded in approval. The Perovians were guests here, as were the rest of the delegates. I was Southern, and being Southern meant you behaved yourself when under someone else’s roof. Acting any other way just wasn’t done.
“Is the dwarf delegation back yet?” Ian asked.
Sandra swallowed a sip of coffee. “Calvin reported in that they’ve extended their outing by two hours. They’ll be back by nine. The ambassador’s cousin is hosting a breakfast for the delegation.”
I glanced back and forth between the two of them. “Where’d they go?”
“The part of Manhattan that dwarves would want to see, and feel right at home exploring,” Ian said.
I smiled. “The abandoned subway tunnels.” It’d been long enough since we’d hunted grendels under Times Square that the worst of the memories were no longer nightmare fodder, at least not often. I was merely glad the dwarves had found something fun and touristy to do. Though my smile would’ve faded real quick if I’d been asked to be the tour guide.
The dwarves had been picked up yesterday afternoon from SPI’s private airfield in Westchester County. Their transportation into the city was a van with tinted windows so that no one could see in, but that also had shades to pull down if the sight of the New York skyline was too overwhelming for the cavern-dwelling dwarves.
The driver had reported that his charges had taken one look at the city and had not only closed every blind, but looked anywhere except through the windshield.
“Who took them on their field trip?” I asked.
“It was arranged by a cousin of the ambassador who works for the MTA,” Sandra said. “I asked Calvin and Liz if they’d do the security honors.”
The dwarf delegation couldn’t have been safer. Calvin had done three tours in Iraq as an army infantryman and field medic. He’s at least a foot taller than I am. Bull neck, bald head, and biceps the size of my thighs in my fat jeans. Liz was a former Marine who would’ve made a fine Ellen Ripley in Alien. That woman could rock a flamethrower. She and Calvin were a monster-hunting dynamic duo.
They knew their way around subterranean New York, and had been a big part of why the grendel infestation of two New Year’s Eves ago hadn’t made it to the surface to turn the million partiers in Times Square into a midnight buffet.
Dozens of grendels in New York’s sewers then, versus fewer than a hundred supernatural diplomats in a five-star hotel now.
It didn’t matter how demanding those diplomats got, we were living the dream this time with our cushy accommodations.
As if on cue, my phone beeped, as did Ian’s and Sandra’s.
Ian and I shared a quick “oh crap” glance.
I grabbed my coffee and chugged down as much as possible. I burned the bejesus out of my tongue, but better burnt than under-caffeinated for whatever had just happened.
I shoved some bacon in a biscuit, wrapped both in a napkin, and tucked it in my jacket pocket.
Time to go to work.
Don’t forget. The Myth Manifestation. Releases January 16, 2018.
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