A Werewolf Walks into an Occult Shop
Sometimes finding humans was too easy.
The werewolf looked across the street into the window of the shop where his quarry was working, squinting past the bright neon signs. Tarot. Psychic. Spells. Its owner had chosen to call it “Other Worlds Emporium,” which made him snort. It was as subtle as a frat bro doused in Axe body spray.
This woman had taken the Council eight years to find? It had only taken Booker and his team a month—but he’d worked his ass off in that span of time. Sure, she was now reading tarot in a New Age shop, like she had been before she disappeared, but she’d managed to stay elusive. She lived off the grid, working for cash, staying a short while in each place, never more than six months—but Booker had figured out her pattern, just in time to catch her here in Ste. Genevieve, Illinois. Another river town, just like all the others.
Most humans were just mobilized patterns, as far as he could see. This one was not an exception.
Josephine Ellen Murphy. Born in St. Louis, raised by her grandparents after her mother’s death, put into the foster system at age 16, finished high school while living in an undisclosed location. Held a few unassuming jobs, then became a practicing Wiccan reading tarot in shops and over the phone. No criminal record, no legal problems.
She would never have ended up on his radar—or the Council’s—if she hadn’t gotten mixed up with the Fenris.
Booker entered Other Worlds Emporium with a feigned nonchalance, but the clerk behind the counter still froze in place when she saw him. It was a hard sell, he knew—werewolves may look human sometimes, but they weren’t, even when they tried to act like it. He couldn’t help but sense the clerk’s unease, as he did any time he affected a human’s emotional state. The scent changed, or at least that’s how he interpreted it.
The clerk took a step backward when he moved toward her, but when he smiled at her, flashing what he knew was a matching set of dimples, she smiled back, the tension easing from her muscles and her scent.
“Hi, there!” she chirped. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yes,” he said, keeping his voice even and friendly. “I came in for a tarot reading. Josephine Murphy is here today, isn't she?”
“She is! She’s with a client, but she’ll be available in fifteen minutes if you don't mind waiting,” she said, seeming delighted with this idea.
This one was harmless, though. He engaged in some mild flirting with the clerk, whose name was Sonja. Before the fifteen minutes were up, she had invited him out for a drink.
“I'd love to,” he said, making sure his voice expressed the right level of disappointment, “but I'm only here for a few hours to visit friends. I heard some great things about your tarot reader and figured I'd stop in before leaving town.”
Before Sonja could answer, a middle-aged blonde human came out from a back room, sniffling and dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She turned around to hug a petite woman with short, black hair in a pixie-style haircut, and every one of his senses zeroed in.
This was her. She’d changed, yes. A little. The hair was shorter and no longer the blood-red color from her pictures. Her face had more lines, but it was prettier in person, arresting in a way that wouldn’t make her stand out in a crowd unless you gave her a closer look. She wore jeans, black Chuck Taylors, and a T-shirt with a grinning cartoon witch giving a thumbs-up.
He tamped down the urge to laugh. She might be the least witchiest witch he’d ever seen, but she was the one he was sent to find.
She smelled like warm lavender and sympathy.
He inhaled her scent as deeply as he could without drawing attention to himself, then cleared his throat on a soft sound that only his team, listening from outside as they covered the building, would recognize. Eyes on the prize.
Booker watched as Josephine Murphy patted the blonde woman on the back and gave her a gentle smile. “Don't worry—everything will work out,” she said, her voice a soothing contralto. He was discovering all kinds of things about his quarry in these endless moments, and both he and his wolf were growing impatient to engage. “I promise.”
The blonde nodded, still sniffling, and shuffled past him on her way out of the store. When the door closed behind the blond woman, Josephine Murphy looked up at him for the first time. Her clear blue eyes held a look of friendly curiosity that darkened within the second. He had to hand it to her—she didn't let it show on her face, but it was the smell, every time. Her sympathy, her focus on helping her client, had turned to fear.
She knew what he was.
So, his quarry was as smart as she was pretty. Booker didn’t linger over those thoughts too much, or worry too much over her fear of him. It didn't matter. The exits were covered, and the Council had given them each a small red-flannel mojo bag that was supposed to prevent anyone in a certain radius from transporting themselves. Some of the supernatural creatures he had dealt with could blip away on a mere thought, so there was every chance that a witch could do the same. It made them a bitch to catch, unless you were prepared.
His team was prepared. She wasn't going anywhere.
Josephine Murphy smiled at the clerk, but stayed rooted to her spot on the floor. Booker kept his eyes on her.
“Sonja, do I have another client?”
Sonja nodded, turning to him. “This is Jo. She’ll be reading for you in the back room.”
Jo. He liked that. It suited her. She smiled at Sonja. “Sweetie, why don’t you go on home? I’ll lock up after we’re done here.”
The witch wanted to get her coworker out of the shop, away from him. He could respect that, but he wasn’t here for the clerk.
Sonja lit up with surprised pleasure. “Thanks, Jo!” She gathered up her purse and sent him a regretful wave. “Nice to meet you. If you’re in town again, come back and see us.”
He gave her a brief tight-lipped smile and a nod, unable to spare her much attention. Not when his quarry was finally right before him.
Once Sonja walked out of the store, Jo Murphy turned back to him with an expression of weary resignation that she tried to mask with a forced smile. Her fear-smell grew with every second, spoiling the scent of lavender, and her heart had begun to race in her chest—he could almost feel it beating. She gave no outward sign of the inner turmoil. She simply said, “Follow me,” and went into the back room.
The store wasn't a large one, so in three strides, he reached the door to the reading room. The small, incense-flavored room held a card table covered with a cheerful blue cloth, two chairs, a large floor-length mirror, and nothing else.
She was gone. He couldn’t even smell her anymore.
He muttered a filthy curse and clicked a button on his radio, asking if Nick or Max had eyes on the witch.
Okay, so maybe this was why the Council had taken so long to find her. He gritted his teeth, casting one last searing gaze around the reading room.
It seemed that Jo Murphy was trickier than they’d thought.
Thank you for reading!
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