Wherein Clifford Engram , Paranormal Investigator is asked to account for destruction, lives lost, and other Agency minutia

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I hate inquiries.

I am a covert operative. Due to being poorly informed as to the nature of the problem, mistakes were made. Blame has now been assigned. Alien incursion, check. Capture or kill bad guys. Check. Run off into the sunset with the Nubian goddess. Check.

Nowhere on that list is Explanation: He’s trapped in a mirrored surface. At the bottom of the San Francisco Bay. There’s no light and therefore, no reflection, so he can’t see anyone and they, more importantly, can’t see him.’

Simple enough, right?

Then the embarrassing questions. “Mr. Engram, you caused a Category Five, magical event, resulting in an 7.9 earthquake, and hundreds of witnesses to the formation of an Eye of Chaos, something they weren’t even supposed to know existed?”

Without missing a beat. “Yes. But the alternative was allowing demons to break free of the Eye of Chaos and eating everyone standing on that bridge. It was a judgement call.”

My boss, on the other side of the table, rolled her eyes, face-palmed in disgust. After this, I would be lucky to stay out of prison.

The Council’s faces tightened and one jowly fellow spat at me, “That is not what we hired you for Mr. Engram. Discretion. To resolve the issue without revealing magic to the world at large! This is a violation of our laws.”

Technically, they thought we were filming a movie. It’s what we told them after the fire was put out. People will believe anything. “They believe a Hollywood studio filmed a movie on the bridge with visual effects and hidden cameras. If a band of demons had come through and eaten the locals, there would have been no witnesses. Should I have stood by and cheered my ‘saviors’ as they consumed free-range humans?” I found myself more than a bit heated.

“Order, Clifford Engram. There will be order in this proceeding. Do not force us to restrain you,” said the lead proctor, sitting next to the Magistrate.

Restraint? Too late. “Now that I think about it, there were other ways this could have played out. I could have been too slow find mirror-hiding sorcerer and he could have killed two dozen people rather than the half-a-dozen he did. I could have been too slow to track the werewolf and he could have killed hundreds instead of making a beeline to his target. I put up with these inquiries because you want to understand how what I do affects the overall status quo? In two words: With disgust.”

I raised my voice, “I put my ass on the line for you people, so you don’t have to get your wizardly fingers wet with the blood of innocents. Now if any of you think you can do this job better with less loss of life, fewer incidents going wrong, now is the time to step up. I come here to share, not to be browbeaten like a dog.”

The magistrate and chief wizard on the council stood up and looked me in the eye. He was a formidable man, in terms of stature and magical ability. I found myself wanting to wither under his gaze. But I dared not.

Silent until this point he spoke in a whisper that found its way to my ear:

Nietzsche. Touche. My anger dissipated as he reminded me in a single sentence the real reason operatives like me exist. He reminded me of my nature as one of the Accursed. We are skilled and dangerous. Our decisions affect the lives of millions and as such corruption is always a threat. But when we, if we, go bad we don’t become the threat a powerful wizard might.

The Accursed are disposable. Best I remember that.

I picked up my long coat, with the demonic binding sigils on my arm pulsing and swung into it effortlessly. I picked up my wide brimmed hat and slid it on. “We’re done here. Carol, if you need me…”

She looked at me, her face filled with sadness. “Where will you be?”

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Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in beyond our understanding. Since they insist on constant entertainment and can’t subscribe to cable, Thaddeus writes a variety of forms of speculative fiction to appease their hunger for new entertainment.

Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies: (Australia, 2014), (2014), (2014), (2014), (2013), (UK, 2012), and (2012).

He has written two books: a collection called (2011) and an e-book novella called (2013) featuring Clifford Engram, Paranormal Investigator.

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