Sins And Shadows By Lyn Benedict

Sins And Shadows By Lyn Benedict
contemplative eye, trying to decide if she should dump the carafe and pack the machine now, or
keep the caffeine until the very last moment. Maybe she could just leave it behind, along with
everything else: her obligations, her pride, her pain. Just walk away from it and pretend it
wouldn’t follow.
A shadow crossed over her floor, fed in through the rippled glass of the front door, blocking the
Florida sunlight and the gilded letters that reflected her sign on the floor: SHADOWS
INQUIRIES. Sylvie automatically turned her eyes toward a marble bowl containing a walnutsized
bell on the recently cleared main desk. The warning bell stayed silent, meaning it wasn’t a
boogeyman at the door, but when Sylvie heard the jangling of keys, she almost wished for the
monster. She’d hoped to be gone before Alex got back.
Alex swore as the keyhole refused to surrender the key, and finally yanked it away. “Syl, we
havegot to get that fix—” She gaped at the front office filled with cardboard boxes, her usual
complaint derailed.
“What’s going on?” she asked. The circles under her eyes darkened. Such anxiety used to look
out of place amidst the pierced brow, the blond-and-black spiky hair, but of late, it had become
all too common. Sylvie noticed with a pang that Alex wasn’t even wearing her tricolor eye
shadow anymore. This was all for the best.
“And you call yourself a detective,” Sylvie said, keeping her tone brisk. “I’m closing up shop. As
of this moment, Shadows Inquiries is out of business.”
“What?” Alex said. Her voice cracked. “Just like that? You can’t, Sylvie. I’m a part of this
business, too.”
“Yes,” Sylvie said. She continued taping a half-full box shut with a ruthless hand, sealing away
files that could probably be left behind, as most of them were merely constructs of code and
falsehood. Still, better safe than sorry was Sylvie’s new motto. “The employee part. Whereas I
am the boss.”
“Don’t I get a say?” Alex said. Anger lit Alex’s face, chasing away some of the ground-in grief.
She snatched the tape gun from Sylvie’s hand, forcing her attention.
“No,” Sylvie said. “See above, me boss, you employee. And, Alex—you’re fired. I’ll send your
last check in the mail.” Sylvie refused to wince at the hurt in her friend’s open face. Alex was too
loyal for her own good, that was the trouble. If Sylvie just laid it out, that she expected to be
embroiled in a losing battle, Alex would refuse to leave her side. She had to be driven away.
Better to lose a friend to temper and hurt than to another bullet.
“Bullshit, you can’t just fire me,” Alex said. “I’ve been with you from the beginning. Youneed
me, Sylvie.”
Agree or disagree, Sylvie ignored the comment as irrelevant. “I’m closing the shop,” Sylvie
repeated. “I’ll need your key back.”
Alex dropped onto the cracked leather couch; a box slid to the floor with a thump and the chime
of breaking glass. “You’re serious?”
“Yes,” Sylvie said.
“You’re trying to protect me,” Alex said. “That’s not your job. You can’t protect everyone.”
“Get your stuff and get out,” Sylvie said, finding real temper for the first time. Can’t protect
everyone? Didn’t need to tell her that. Not now. Her gun hand twitched; the little dark voice that
lived inside her head roused, and laced her tone with fury.“Get out.” She throttled back the rage.
Alex, despite Sylvie’s current pretense, was her friend. The dark voice had no friends at all, and
why should it? It existed only to survive, had woken during Sylvie’s first brush with theMagicus
Mundi . Sylvie wasn’t sure what it was; a microsplit in her personality, the echo of ancient
genetics, or something else entirely. Her witch friend, Val, when consulted, argued for option A
or B, said it was too bitchy not to be pure Sylvie. But hers or not, she couldn’t argue with its
priority: to keep her alive.

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