Making Magic

Third Book of the Kindling

Excerpt #1

Making Magic For a moment he thought he actually saw the bullet in midair. It was spinning hot silver sparks as it sped toward him. That was impossible, of course. But Sheriff Jake Moser was well acquainted with the impossible.

It plowed into his stomach, folding him up and dropping him to the ground. His skull bounced off the wood floor and stars flickered before his eyes.

Dammit.

There were frantic screams and what sounded like people pushing over chairs as they scrambled to safety. Someone stepped on his leg. Oddly, the pain was reassuring. At least he could still feel his leg.

“Get him!” one person yelled.

“Stop him!” shouted another.

The noise seemed to recede. With a start, Jake realized he was the one who was fading.

“Jake, Jake, Earthquake. Jake, Jake, Beefcake. Jake, Jake, Cupcake. Jake, Jake, Hotcake.”

Becca?

Why in the hell did he do this? Give up his own dream to walk in his father’s shoes—walk right into a damn bullet. Just like his father.

“Hang in there, Jake.” That was Evan Meade, Chief of Police of Patton Springs.

Nothing to hang on to down here except floor, thanks, Jake thought, still clinging to the echo of his sister’s voice singing that silly rhyme in his head.

The floor dipped beneath him. Perhaps he should have been hanging on to something. It was Evan, checking him over for an exit wound.

“Shit.” Jake hissed. Someone pressed down on the pain, shoving it right up into his head and making those stars flicker again.

“He’s conscious at least,” someone said.

He’d always thought this would happen one day, but not at a town council meeting. Sheriff Jake Moser was destined to get shot answering a domestic violence call or on a drug bust, not at a damn town council meeting.

“But he’s not bleeding that much.” A woman said somewhere above him.

“It’s the internal bleeding we have to worry about.” Evan answered in a quiet voice. Probably thought Jake couldn’t hear him.

Jake heard a siren wail to a stop outside, but it wasn’t the paramedics. They would take longer. He needed to fight his way out of this fog. He needed to stay lucid.

“Is she okay?” Jake asked, or thought he asked. It may have sounded different to Evan.

“Take it easy, Jake.”

“He’s asking about the mayor,” the woman said.

“She’s fine, Jake. We got the shooter,” Evan said. “One of your guys is taking him outside. Just relax.”

“That was her ex-husband, you know,” the woman said to Evan. “The mayor’s.”

He finally recognized the speaker. One of the trio of women who had been sitting at the back of the room before all the fun started. Long ago Jake had labeled them the Patton Springs Triumverate. They were the backseat drivers at every council meeting—trying to drive the town back into the past. Now he imagined all three of them hovering above him, cackling like those crazy witches in Macbeth. Shit.

But this particular witch was right. It had been the mayor’s ex. And her ex had clearly either been on some drug or in desperate need of one. Probably jonesing for hillbilly heroine—oxycodone. He’d seen it on the man’s sallow, sweaty face and wild eyes as he had shambled toward the council. Of course, Jake had been more focused on the huge gun the guy had been waving around, especially since Jake had come to the meeting in civvies. Without his vest.

He had been sitting there listening to the Triumverate’s loudly voiced complaints about the criminal element that the annual music festival brought to town. In their esteemed opinions most of the musicians were deviants or worse. He’d ignored their hushed whispers about how the county sheriff—Jake himself—played in one of the bands they were complaining about. Instead of worrying about the area’s drug problem, which was growing by the week, the Triumverate was more worried about the damn noise level from the music festival, and blamed the annual event for year-round crime issues.

All he had intended to do was answer any questions about law enforcement coverage for the event—street closures, security and so on—and get out of there before the usual gossip fest began. But the mayor’s ex had shown up, apparently upset about his child support payments. A few moments later and Jake was on his back with a hole in his gut.

Funny thing, Jake didn’t feel as bad as he knew he should. Maybe he was dying. Or worse, maybe he wasn’t.

That thought made him open his eyes.

Yep, the Triumvirate was looming over him, along with Evan. What looked like half the populace lurked beyond them.

“Stay with the sheriff while I get these people outta here, will ya, Charlie?” Evan growled. “And keep pressure on this. I’m gonna find out what’s taking the ambulance so damn long.”

“I’m on it,” Charlie said.

Charlie Sloan was his best deputy and the one slated to step in for Jake if he was out of commission. He was definitely out of commission now.

Jake watched Charlie’s face come into view above him, pale and concerned. Oddly, even though Charlie was practically leaning on the wound, the pain had become distant and dull. He heard Evan and another of his men rounding up the gawkers.

“Dammit, Jake. Were you that desperate for a vacation?” Charlie said. The look on his face belied his words.

“Hell no,” Jake croaked. “I’m in this…for the long term…disability.”

“I knew it. You’ve been angling for more time to fiddle around in Donnie’s shop.” Charlie’s smile looked forced. “Get it? Fiddle?”

“You trying to…kill me…with that crap?”

The building had gone silent. The three witches had been corralled outside with the rest and he heard the ambulance siren at last.

“You ain’t gonna die, Moser. Your hide is too thick.”

If the bullet was where he thought it was, he wondered what the EMT guys would make of his thick skin. Shit. “Charlie?”

“Yeah, Jake.”

“Get to my…mom before someone else does. Tell her I’m…okay.”

“I’ll bring her to the hospital myself,” Charlie said. “And I’ll keep an eye on her for you.”

“Thanks.” He knew his voice was a slur. He was so…very…tired.

“Anyone else you want me to call? Eric? The Woodruffs? They’ll wanna know.”

His brother Eric had fled across the continent to get away from all the drama. And this past year had been bad enough for the Woodruffs without adding this kind of trauma.

Some befuddled part of his brain offered up a memory of Thea Woodruff dressed all in black standing in the shadows at her grandfather’s funeral.

“No,” he answered as everything slid away into darkness.

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