Eye for the Prize
(#contemporary #MM #gayromance #mystery #paranormal #detective)
Detective Larke Ava doesn’t believe in magic or the paranormal. And he joined the Seattle PD in order to uncover and expose the unscrupulous, those like his mother and his brothers. Larke has few cherished memories of growing up on Vashon Island, except for the time he spent with his best friend, Roan Dwellen. But Roan, the adventurer, with a belief in the magical running deep in his veins, left the island when he was eighteen on a mission for his family—his Roma tribe—leaving Larke behind.
Now a part of Seattle’s newly-organized precinct, Larke has been assigned to discover the secrets behind a recovered stolen artifact named the Eye of Anu. Little does Larke realize the unique artifact is about to change his life. Not only will it reunite him with the boyhood friend he has never forgotten, but it also draws the attention of dangerous foes, including his own family, who will stop at nothing to acquire it.
Soon, caught between the family he’s always tried to love but couldn’t, and the best friend he could not stop loving but doesn’t necessarily trust, and all the while tempered by his duty to the city he serves, Larke’s next move could mean live or death—especially his own.
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“The damned thing won’t bite you, Ava.”
Larke glanced at his sergeant. Keep an open mind, Ava. “No, I don’t expect it will,” he responded. Gingerly, he reached for the object, and suddenly the oyster shell popped opened to reveal a fucking reptilian eyeball inside. Larke jerked his arm back. Spring latch of some sort? Must be. Some kind of motion sensor built into it? Possibly.
“And that is why this case has been shipped down here,” Sergeant Carver said.
Larke had seen this object before. Not physically, but it was reminiscent of a picture he’d seen when he was a kid. Like the domino effect, one memory toppled into another, faster and faster, all the walls tumbling down around that particular memory.
“You say you found it on a homeless guy?” Larke ask his sergeant as he stared at the gleaming yellow eyeball in the oyster shell casing. The steady, fixed gaze of the eye locked on Larke, like the bead of a sniper’s rifle. The sergeant reached forward and snapped the case shut, cutting off the eerie sensation that had gripped Larke by the throat. He blinked and turned his attention to the sergeant.
“And you called me in here why?” Larke asked. He didn’t want this case. Something about the thing set him on edge. He glanced at the luminescent shell, closed now, looking more like some fancy jewel case. Nothing scary on the surface. But he still didn’t want the assignment.
“Your case now, Ava,” the sergeant said as though he could read Larke’s mind. Larke probably shouldn’t have been surprised. The 0-13 was that sort of precinct. They got all the odd ones, that’s why it had been formed. A specialized unit. And in Seattle there were a fucking lot of odd, unexplainable cases. And it was only guys like Larke who got assigned to them.
Handpicked by some government hack in the chief’s office. An array of oddballs, the ones who didn’t like following the rules, didn’t really fit anywhere else. With an array of backgrounds that make them uniquely qualified to man the “oddball unit,” as they were lovingly referred to by the other precincts.
Larke guessed you could say that description fit him pretty well. And his background hadn’t helped either. Gypsy blood. The type of guy who supposedly understood what couldn’t be seen. Hell, he grew up with that sort of thing in the house out on Maury Island where his mom read tarot for some of the most influential men in Seattle, and hand built an illicit empire through information she gleaned from her elite clientele to quietly amass a fortune. Living circumspectly on an island that was a step back in time suited her quite well.
But it wasn’t in his own boyhood home Larke saw the picture. It was something Roan had brought to their summer fort project when they were kids. A drawing really. Roan had sneaked it out of his grandfather’s chest in the basement of his family’s farmhouse. Larke had brought the Snickers bars, and Roan had brought the treasure for them to examine. He’d called it a prize because he’d managed to sneak it out of his house without getting caught. Larke had been a bit disappointed. He’d hoped Roan was bringing one of his uncle’s smuggled Cuban cigars.
“This,” Roan said as he had pointed to the weird looking object, like an oyster shell and an eyeball smack in the center, “is what I’m going to hunt for when I get older. It’s my mission, Uncle Apollo says so. He says I have an eye for the prize. He says I’m a natural. A talented finder of lost treasures.”
“Nah, you’re not,” Larke had said. “It ain’t real. You’ve just been lucky at finding things.” Even back then Larke hadn’t allowed himself to believe in all the supernatural crap his mother had touted. He’d known then where his talent would lie. And it wasn’t tracking down supernatural artifacts. It was rooted in facts and figures. And his gift had always been in filtering out the bullshit.
Roan had squashed up the paper and stuffed it back into the pocket of his windbreaker. It had begun to rain and water dripped through the slats in the temporary roof of branches and leaves they’d strung together. Larke had handed Roan a prized Snickers. They’d opened the wrappers at the same time and bitten into the bars. Now those were prizes worth hunting for.
“Gotta go,” Larke had said, once he’d finished his candy bar. He hadn’t liked believing in all that magic stuff. He stuffed the wrapper in his pocket. They never left garbage hanging around.
“You’re wrong about this,” Roan said as he tapped his jacket pocket.
Larke had stood. “Whatever,” he said. He had stared out at the water, yearning for a sight of the city. He spent a lot of time down on the West Seattle ferry docks just staring off at the outline of Seattle. But not that particular day. It had been too foggy that day to see much of anything beyond a hand in front of your face. But it hadn’t mattered because that’s where he was going one day. Feet firmly planted to the ground, focused on facts, on ferreting out the truth.
In some ways he and Roan had been the same, but in a lot of ways they were very different. He wasn’t going to work on the ferries, like his father had done, and his grandfather before him. Larke wasn’t going do like his dad had done, get so drunk he’d lost his footing and fell overboard when he’d been out fishing with Larke’s uncle, and drowned. That wasn’t going to be him. He didn’t drink like that, or do really stupid stuff, and he sure as hell didn’t believe in no magic crap that would save the day.
Larke forced himself back to the present. He’d told the captain that very thing back when he was advised about his reassignment to the newly established 0-13th.
“Don’t matter,” the captain had said. “It’s either that, or find a new profession. Orders from above. I hear they’re looking for security guards up at the Needle though, if you have a preference for that.” No choice. So here he fucking stayed. He guessed one could say he’d landed pretty much where he started. Right back in the lap of magic. He fucking hated it.
Sergeant Carver leaned back in his chair.
“I want this handled quietly. That homeless John Doe is in the psych ward over at Northwest for evaluation. Involuntary detention. Everything’s in the file. He’s talking gibberish. Can’t even figure what language he’s talking. It all seemed too weird to the investigating officer so he made the call to take the guy into protective custody. Now we have to find the owner of this thing and figure out if our John Doe stole it, or if it was someone else. Let alone figure out who the fuck he is. And you’re next up on the roster. So this baby is yours.”
Larke stared down at the closed shell. Fuck. Larke didn’t have a clue where to begin. “Fine. I’ll get on it,” he said.
“Ava, for someone with your background, you should be putting more muscle into this. I know damned well you’ve got connections. This should be a piece of cake for you.”
Larke expected it should have, but since he tended to keep his family contact to a minimum, for damned good reason, whatever connections he used to have weren’t all that great. Larke hated what he was going to have to do next. But if he wanted to keep his job Larke was going to have to suck it up on this one.
He gingerly scooped up the oyster shell and stuffed it into the small blue velvet pouch that had been lying next to it on the sergeant’s desk. “I’ll get this down to evidence, then I’ll follow-up. You got the file?”
The sergeant slid a folder across the desk. “All yours, Ava. Fingerprints have already been run on your John Doe, nothing’s come up in the system, no criminal record. No DNA matches, nothing. He’s a zero out there. “
Fucking great. Larke exited the sergeant’s office with the file and the oyster shell.
Because of the nature of the investigations at the 0-13th, the whole unit was housed in a brick building down near the waterfront, in the heart of where the majority of cases had sprung up in recent years. Having housed a bank at one time, the vault in the basement was a perfect place to keep odd and curious evidence. Paranormal crap has to be locked away for the good of the city, whether it was real or not. The last organization that the building had housed was an investment firm, but that had gone belly-up during the last economic meltdown. So the evidence locker was downstairs in the vault, and empty safe deposit boxes now served as evidence lock-ups. Larke signed the oyster shell in and then went back to his desk to review the file.
Nothing too odd. An old homeless man walking the dock down by Pike’s Market early in the A.M. acting crazy, saying he had to ride the carousel, and banging on the glass causing a couple of early-arriving workers to call for assistance. The object was recognized as one of the “oddball shit,” better handled by the 0-13th when it snapped open and the officer got a gander at the eyeball inside. Most of these type cases turned out to be just normal stuff, nothing charmed about it except in the eye of the guy who snatched it. But sometimes, like maybe now, there might be something to it. Something eerie, something strange, although Larke wasn’t ready to admit that just yet.
Larke had taken a picture of the thing with his phone, and he turned to the computer terminal on his desk. He spent the next few hours searching for something—for anything. And it took a while, but he was a man of patience if not unusual tenaciousness when it came to getting the job done. He stared at the image on the screen. Checked the photo. Yup, that was it.
Apparently it was called Anu’s Eye. Anu being a powerful sky god of Babylonian mythology. Anu and his first consort, Antu, supposedly produced the demon gods of the underworld. In the wrong hands the Eye could wreak havoc on unsuspecting humans. The wrong hands being anyone of common birth, or not of a descendent of the tribe of Anu, so to speak. In the right hands it was an instrument of great knowledge and could give the possessor a glimpse into the past and into the future, offering the chance at untold wealth…and wisdom of the ages. Larke peered closer at the photo on the website. His heart did a little jiggle. It couldn’t be.
He zoomed in. It surely was. Last known owner of Anu’s Eye was Roan Dwellen. Roan, Larke’s boyhood friend, his first crush, who’d left Vashon Island when he was eighteen to set out on his adventure, to pursue his so-called destiny. A man Larke hadn’t seen in fifteen years. If the Eye was here, did that mean Roan was as well? Or had he sold it to someone else?
Larke turned away from the computer screen and pocketed his cell phone. His stomach churned. This was going to lead him down a very uncomfortable memory road. Memories were something he tried not to contend with on even a good day. He kept himself always looking ahead, not behind. And memories of Roan, particularly raw, had been locked away from the moment Larke’s best friend stepped foot on that Port Defiance ferry and never looked back.
An eye for the prize.
Apparently, Roan had found exactly what he’d set out to find. This was not something Larke wanted to revisit. But he knew he wasn’t going to get a choice.
Don’t for get to check out, Run To Ground, and learn more about the history of Anu and how the myth forged a shapeshifting tribe.