Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Neoplastic Press
Date of Publication: July 7, 2012
Number of pages: 302
Word Count: 94,400
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Cover Model: Rose Ballentine
Tagline: When the sun comes up, the girl of his dreams will murder him.
The name is Tepes. Nicolae Tepes. I'm a federal agent with Hex Division.
When the sun comes up, the girl of my dreams is going to kill me.
My partner's a werewolf, but we get along okay. We were investigating this murder when we stumbled across a conspiracy unlike anything we've ever dealt with before. Ghostmortems, Scarevoyants, all kinds of freaks.
It started bad and got worse quick: a psychic on our team had a vision of the future. At sunrise, I'll die at the hands of the woman I love, and then a psychotic death cult will deploy a supernatural weapon of mass destruction.
We've got eight hours to prevent this prophecy from coming true, but the psychics of Hex Division are never wrong...
Hands trembling, the cop chased the tip of his cigarette with a lighter for a couple of seconds. Then he saw me and stuffed it all back into his pocket.
I badged him. "Agent Tepes, Hex Division."
The cop straightened. His hands jerked up, then down. He was trying to figure out if he should salute me.
While waiting for him to make up his mind, I pulled on a flak jacket. Partly, I was trying to stay warm, but mostly, I wanted to hide the dried blood on my arms and neck. The wounds had healed up, but I'd need to clean the blood off eventually.
"Relax," I said. "Where's Agent Tambora?"
"Inside." He looked me up and down, then swallowed. Guy probably heard all kinds of rumors about us. The freaks of nature who get deployed into hellholes around the globe. Force Amplified Entities, the army of cyborg monsters who operate in shadow. The FAE, constructed in billion-dollar labs, fighting terrorism with horror.
His suspicions were grounded in fact. We were all of the above, and then some. My team had captured or neutralized dozens of terrorist leaders, drug lords, and war criminals. Everybody has a job to do; mine just involves fast-roping out of choppers with my fangs out and my eyes glowing red.
Mindful of the yellow crime-scene tape, I headed up the driveway, the cop stumbling along behind me. The tiny house crouched on the edge of a patchy beige lawn. Flashlights cut through the dark as cops searched for footprints, bodily fluids, fibers. Peeping from behind torn and faded curtains, neighbors rehearsed their statements: they'd always had their doubts about the guy next door, and this only confirmed what they'd suspected all along: the guy just wasn't right. Feeling the unholy vibe this scene was giving off, they hovered on their porches but got no closer. Crimes like this were rare in the suburbs of North Raleigh.
The cop cleared his throat and tried to man up; he didn't want to look like a sissy in front of the feds. I didn't care how he looked. One of my people was dead.
"Agent Tepes, do you think there's a connection to terrorists? Like Al-Hazred or something?"
No one knows what we do at Hermetic Extropy; all they know is, after the slaughter at Providence, we took the fight to the enemy. Like everyone else, the cop was hoping to learn a little more about our operation. Too bad.
The front door swung open. A face-masked forensic tech in paper shoes and blue nitrile gloves was explaining something to my teammate, Adam Tambora. The tech nodded, then shuffled back inside. Adam strode towards me.
He'd grown up in the hinterlands, one of those square states that I always pictured like a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, but with pickup trucks and high school football. A muscular blonde guy with a recruitment-poster grin, he always got treated like the team leader, even though he's the lowest-ranking member of my unit. But there's a trade-off for those all-American good looks. When I deploy my FAE augmentations, my eyes turn red and my canine teeth extend about a half-inch. Other than that, I look pretty much the same. Adam, on the other hand, undergoes some truly grotesque changes when his Frankenstitch enhancements kick in. I figured the forensic technician wouldn't be so deferential if he could only see what Adam looks like in monster mode.
My petty train of thought was derailed by Adam's firm handshake. "Glad you're here," he said, clapping me on the shoulder. Then he looked past me and frowned.
A few police officers were waving at us from the driveway. We dodged scurrying forensic techs as we crossed the lawn towards them.
Two cops, a male officer and a female detective, shivered next to the SUV in the driveway. I started to address the detective, but Adam cut me off and started talking to the officer.
"What can we do for you, buddy?"
The officer took a small step back, with an embarrassed look at the detective. He felt bad, but it wasn't his fault; Adam was the one who'd made the assumption.
The detective cleared her throat. "We want to jack up this truck," she said. Her face reddened with irritation. She probably got that a lot: guys assuming that she was a subordinate. "We need to see the underside. Looks like it's been tampered with, and our techs want to get a better look. That okay with you?"
Assuming that he was in charge, she addressed Adam. I gritted my teeth and let it go.
"I can do you one better," Adam said with a grin. He shooed her back. Confused, but sharing his infectious smile, she stepped away.
Adam squatted down by the truck, clutched the frame, and lifted. Mouths open and eyes wide, the cops and techs all backed away. The pickup rocked over on its side, glass shattering as the vehicle's weight crushed the passenger-side mirror.
Stepping back, he wiped his hands on his pants. His perfectly even teeth gleamed in the harsh crime-scene floodlights. The audience broke into spontaneous applause.
"How did you do that?" the detective asked. A second later, she caught herself and laughed. "Sorry, I know. Loyalty Act, classified information."
"Can't tell you anything," Adam said. "Above your pay grade. And mine." They smiled. I managed not to roll my eyes. Adam shook a few hands, then he and I headed for the backyard.
"Nick," he said. "I know you disapprove, but these officers worship us like rock stars or athletes. Giving them a little something to talk about is good for morale."
"We're supposed to stay in the shadows." I tried to keep the irritation out of my voice. Sure, I fell off a castle and landed on an SUV in front of a bunch of slack-jawed civilians, and then I stabbed a monster in the neck. But that was all in the line of duty, not showboating.
About the Author:
Rafael Chandler writes novels (Mask Beneath Her Face, The Astounding Antagonists), video games (SOCOM 4, Rainbow Six: Lockdown), and tabletop role-playing games (Teratic Tome, Lusus Naturae). He's a metalhead, kaijuphile, and gorehound.
Web site: http://www.rafaelchandler.com
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