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Nightshades: A Paranormal Thriller by Melissa F. Olson



Nightshades: A Paranormal Thriller by Melissa F. Olson

Author: Melissa F. Olson

Publisher: Tor.com

Genres:

Publish Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN-10: 0765388502

Pages: 208

File Type: epub,mobi,lrf,lit,htmlz,pdb,azw

Language: English

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Book Preface

Heavenly, Illinois, 30 miles outside Chicago

Wednesday night

Out of the corner of his eye, Special Agent Gabriel Ruiz watched his new partner with serious trepidation. Stakeouts were never much fun, but being trapped in a hot sedan with a grown man who kept releasing little-girl sneezes was enough to make Ruiz give serious consideration to fed-on-fed violence.

He and Creadin were parked on a poorly lit dirt road on the outskirts of Heavenly, IL, a useless little town with a cannery, a bar, and a pathetic pharmacy that did triple-duty as the local post office and convenience store. They were situated on Main Street, facing the pharmacy, and as far as Ruiz could tell its main trade was selling cigarettes to teenagers working the cannery during the summer. He had already made a mental note not to buy any canned goods from that label. The store had closed at eight, and anyone left inside had simply wandered next door to the town’s only bar, a dive called Benders.

Creadin unleashed another bout of darling “ah-choos”—there were always three in a row; it was goddamned precious—and shrugged helplessly, scrubbing his face with one palm like he was polishing his cheekbones. “Allergies,” he mumbled. “You gotta napkin or something in here?”

Ruiz shook his head in disgust. It better be allergies, he thought. He was not going to get sick because he got stuck in a car with one of the idiot newbies. “Use your sleeve, kid,” he grumbled, keeping his eyes on the street. Granted, Creadin was in his midthirties, not even a decade younger than Ruiz, but he’d joined the Chicago branch just three weeks earlier. Another fuckup transferring in from Counterterrorism. Between the recent killings and the agents who quit out of fear, half the office was new. Ruiz, on the other hand, had been with the division since the day it opened.

He glared straight ahead, at their targets: a pack of teenagers standing on the sidewalk in front of the bar. The place definitely served beer to underage kids, and now several of them were standing in a loose circle outside the bar, enjoying the cooling night air. The temperature that day had reached ninety-seven, with seventy percent humidity, and the air was only now starting to feel breathable. The kids were chatting and laughing, flirting, stumbling a little, milking any excuse to lean on each other. They’d been doing it for over an hour now, and showed no signs of packing it in. None of them seemed the least bit concerned about the fact that adolescents in the area had recently disappeared into thin air.

Next to him, Creadin reached into the backseat and picked up the case file again, flipping it open and squinting at it in the dim light from the street. They had both been through the damn thing a dozen times already, but Creadin was compulsive about it by now, paging through the file the way some people might jiggle a knee or crack their knuckles. Six teens—that they knew of—had gone missing from three towns in this county, including Heavenly, in the last four months. Their division of the FBI, the newly created Bureau of Preternatural Investigations, had been called in after the third kid was attacked, when the local cops had actually managed to come up with a body: a seventeen-year-old girl named Bobbi Klay, who had bled out at the wrists. That itself wasn’t enough to prove she’d been killed by a shade, but there were other signs: The body had multiple slices over major arteries, for example, and was wiped and moved after death. She’d obviously fought tooth and nail, judging by the defensive wounds on her hands and arms, but weakly, as if she’d lost a lot of blood before it occurred to her to protest. The pathologist who’d conducted the autopsy, Jessica Reyes, had suggested a shade attack.

That was when the BPI first stepped in, and right about when everything started going to hell. Three more kids had gone missing in the weeks after the BPI joined the investigation, and then four different agents suddenly disappeared. It was an enormous blow to the tiny and unproven BPI. Unlike the rest of the Bureau, the supernatural division was organized into small teams of six agents, including a Senior Agent in Charge. There were only two pods on the East Coast and one in Chicago, but there was talk of opening another branch in Los Angeles, if Director Greene could get the funding. Losing four agents from the Chicago pod meant losing a large percentage of the entire BPI division, which made everyone look even worse.

Public perception was a whole other problem: In the months since the BPI’s formation, all three pods had exhibited a nearly pathological lack of progress—hard proof that Greene could wave in front of Congress. Oh, they had discovered a number of alleged shades, both in Washington and here in the Chicago area, but every time the BPI found a trail it abruptly terminated. These people—these things, in Ruiz’s opinion—could just fucking vanish, something that was otherwise impossible in the technological age. It was like playing goddamn Whac-a-Mole with murderers. No one had captured a shade, dead or alive, since Ambrose.

But now, thirty miles south of Chicago, the pattern had finally changed. The shades in question had to know the BPI was onto them, but they’d made no effort to back off. In fact, they’d only pushed harder, taken more kids, which went against every method they’d previously established. The Chicago SAC, Peralty, was so pissed he’d actually come out himself tonight, to run point out of the unmarked van two blocks over. It was a ballsy move, but also rather stupid, in Ruiz’s opinion: The boss rarely made appearances in the field, and as a result everyone was discombobulated tonight.

As if Peralty could sense his disloyal thoughts, Ruiz’s little Bluetooth earpiece beeped.

“Ruiz. Update.” Peralty’s voice was brusque, but Ruiz knew that was just to hide his anxiety. They had to find someone tonight, goddamn it. Too many people had died.

Ruiz lifted the radio. “More of the same, sir. . . . Wait—” As he watched, the kids began to break apart into groups. Finally. “They’re splitting up now. Two couples are heading our way, and there’s a group of three going west.”

“Stay with the couples,” Peralty instructed. “I’ll send Hill and Ozmanski after the group.”

“Yes, sir. Ruiz out.” Ruiz started the sedan, while beside him Creadin let out one more round of cutesy sneezes before he flipped the file closed and fastened his seatbelt. They didn’t speak, both too focused on the teenagers. Heavenly had plenty of streetlights, but unlike major cities, which gave off light from security doors and late-night businesses everywhere, in this Podunk town the street lamps were the only line of defense against the dark. As the kids walked from one pool of light into the next, there was always a quick moment where they were nearly invisible. It set Ruiz’s teeth on edge.


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