After the disappointment of the bridal party, I felt certain we’d get Noah Smith this time. After all, what were the chances that any other groups would be arranging recreational seances? Lugh, Flynn, and I didn’t have as much to set up this time. We’d left my seance props in place the previous night. Once we’d straightened up everything the bachelorette party touched, we had nothing left to do but wait. I didn’t imagine wasting time touring the house with Smith. But if we hadn’t done the cleanup, my anxiety would have had even more time to grow. The idea of fighting Smith didn’t scare me, but I couldn’t help imagining how things would go down and what could go wrong.
The doorbell rang. Flynn and Lugh went to hide. I waited until I heard the butler’s pantry close before answering the door. My stomach flipped when I saw who waited on the other side. Agent Boone stared at me with disappointment evident on his face. For a brief moment, I imagined him killing Peter and Ashley. Then I remembered Noah Smith had to use his own name to make the contract binding. Boone wasn’t here because he’d secretly been killing witches. He’d come to bust me. He didn’t wait for me to invite him in. I stepped backward as he walked inside.
“I hoped I was wrong,” Boone said, closing the door behind himself.
“About what?” I asked.
“Don’t play dumb, Casper,” he said.
“So, you saw my site on the internet and faked a message from our suspect just to mess with me?” I accused, trying to get him on the defensive.
“I did it to protect you. I thought we’d gotten past this. Why did you go behind my back again?” So Smith never messaged me. I’d set this up for nothing.
“It’s not about you,” I deflected.
“What’s it about then?” he asked.
“I need to be the one to stop him,” I said. I couldn’t be honest with him, but that felt close.
“That’s why I brought you on board,” he said.
“No, it isn’t,” I argued. “Working on this investigation was the carrot to make DPI seem merciful. You still had the stick in your back pocket. We both know you brought me on to use my knowledge and power. You’d be out of your depth without people like Sal and me.”
“I took advantage of an opportunity I saw with you. But you weren’t innocent. I caught you red-handed. If I didn’t take a risk on you, my bosses would have made an example of you,” Boone reasoned. I didn’t say anything. I’d suspected that Boone’s decision to hire me caused some controversy. That didn’t mean I couldn’t hate the manipulation. “You could have brought this idea to me.”
“No, I couldn’t,” I disagreed.
“Why not?” he asked. “Why do you feel you have to do this alone?”
“I can’t trust the DPI,” I said, not lying but still holding back.
“What can’t you trust us with? What difference does it make if you catch this guy with or without my help?” he asked. Understanding dawned on his face as soon as he stopped speaking. “You want to kill him.”
“Wouldn’t you?” I asked.
“That’s not justice,” Boone lamented. He looked like he’d lost something important. Was it his ability to trust me?
“We never asked for your world’s justice,” I raged. “The supernatural world always looked after its own.”
“You can really live with that? If the killer showed up tonight instead of me, you’d kill him and just go about your life like nothing happened?” he asked.
“I’d have to. It’s not just about revenge. This guy is too dangerous,” I argued. “He’s summoning demons. I don’t think you understand what that really means.”
“Maybe not, but this isn’t your choice to make,” Boone said. “Think about it, Casper. How many people are trying to use that exact argument about you? If that were a good enough reason, people could justify killing supernaturals. You could kill me with a few words.”
“No, I couldn’t.”
“You wouldn’t,” he corrected. I didn’t have an argument. I didn’t need a killing spell; any number of spells used the wrong way could end a life. I wouldn’t misuse magic because I understood it.
“This is different,” I said.
“No, it’s not. It can’t be. There can’t be exceptions. The world is watching us. We have to set the example,” he argued. “So much rides on us showing that the system can still work.”
“Does it, though? People manipulate the system every day. They use it to punish people for being different. They buy their way out of justice,” I said. “If we do this your way and he gets off, people died for nothing. And he can move on and do it again.”
“I’m not saying it’s perfect. It’s what we have. We have to do our best with it and try to make it better where we can,” he said. I could tell he believed it, too.
“So, what happens now?” I asked, not wanting to argue with him anymore. I could understand his side, even if I couldn’t find the same faith in it he had.
“Now, we try to trust each other. You trust me to help you with this sting, and I trust you to do the right thing when we snap the trap.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Do you need a ride home?” he asked.
“No, I’m good,” I answered.
“All right, we’ll go through the specifics in the morning,” he said. “Good night, Casper.”
“Good night,” I said. Agent Boone left. Flynn and Lugh joined me in the foyer. “Did you both hear all of that?”
“Yeah,” Lugh said. Flynn didn’t need to answer. Werewolf hearing meant he could have heard our conversation in the attic as well as Lugh could from the next room over.
“It looks like I’m doing this by the book,” I said. They looked discouraged. They wanted to help me but couldn’t back me up if I worked with DPI. “I appreciate you guys being here for me.”
“We could still—”
“No,” I interrupted Flynn. “You’re civilians as far as the DPI is concerned. They wouldn’t let you near this without hiring you as consultants.”
“I can’t,” Flynn said. “I mean, I wouldn’t make a decision that big without talking to the pack first.”
“I know. I wouldn’t ask you to,” I conceded.
“We can’t be with you, but that doesn’t me we can’t help,” Lugh disagreed. “You’re going to have to adjust your strategy if you’re trying to take this guy alive. If there are any potions, I can make you say the word.”
“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Let’s get out of here. No point hanging around now.”