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It took every ounce of her willpower to keep from throwing another dart at the picture mocking her from the board. Anya knew it wasn’t very professional to throw darts in the office but since they were technically part of this current job, she felt justified in a way. Besides, it was the same sort of weapon he used so it wasn’t so bad.

Her boss probably wouldn’t agree once he knew that it was going on the third picture of their suspect that she’d put holes into. In fact, he’d probably scold her for the darts she used to pin all the pictures up on her board. However, since this wasn’t her usual job, she figured she could take some creative licenses on how she did things.

Anya created cover stories, created lives from nothing. She provided wardrobes, coached agents in how to sell themselves to dangerous groups and creatures. They weren’t Society members, they weren’t Hunters, and so they didn’t have the resources or the same knowledge. Sometimes they worked with hunters, sometimes not. And so witches like her were recruited to ease the strain left by limited governmental funding to handle their cases and fill gaps in the knowledge of all things that go bump in the night.

The knowledge she had was invaluable, she knew that, but it didn’t mean she enjoyed having the entire case thrown on her when it wasn’t her job.

After sinking her last dart in the forehead of the suspect, she pushed herself up from her chair with a sigh. There was something more about this crime that their human agents couldn’t figure out, even with all the supernatural contacts. They even tried contacting those uppity hunters and had gotten nothing back. All too busy with their own jobs.

Pulling the darts out of the picture, she went over what she knew for the umpteenth time. The suspect was killing both men and women, with no obvious ties to each other. They were all from different social circles, different parts of the country, and different races. Only similarity was the dartboard painted on their face, dart sunk deeply between the eyes, and the contents of their stomachs.

No human could remove the darts either. She’d personally had to go down to remove the dart in the last victim, a poor girl that had gone missing on her way to her brother’s birthday dinner right there in their own backyard.

The fact that normal humans couldn’t remove the dart wasn’t the only clue that something was off about the crime. Each body had spell bags within their stomachs. Bags that had crumbled into dust the moment they were exposed to air. It made identifying the spell they amplified impossible, even for her. That was the most frustrating part for her. She was an expert in magic and should have more to offer but without being able to examine the bags or find another connection, she felt useless.

Anya stared at the pictures of the victims. Smiling faces pinned up next to the dead versions, telling her what these people looked like before they were broken in ways she could only imagine. If dabbling in dark magic hadn’t gotten her in trouble before, necromancy wasn’t the worst option to figure things out. Could call upon the souls of the victims and have a nice chat.

It was only slightly traumatizing for the souls in question but she didn’t think they’d mind if it avenged their deaths. But with her hands tied on that front, it was figure out things the slow way. Or call her parents and ask but she didn’t want to have that conversation with her mother.

Her fingers paused on the picture of the newest girl. She wasn’t the youngest but she was the freshest for Anya. Seeing this one in person had left an impression, and she’d personally taken the photos to add to the board for this one. The girl had unusually regal features for a human, something that could’ve easily pointed to elf or fairy blood far back in her ancestors, but otherwise seemed normal.

This picture was clear though. It wasn’t a copy like the others she had, faded by handling or the subpar copy machines the receptionists used. So the puncture holes in her face were clear and odd.

“Wait,” she murmured, taking the picture from its spot and back to her drawing table. She spent a lot of time designing things so she had tracing paper handy. After transferring all the points of entry to the tracing paper, Anya had a new puzzle to stare at.

Red marked where the dart was left, but the other holes were oddly positioned. They weren’t necessarily positioned for pain, which could be argued for drawing out the experience, but something was bothering her about it. None of the others were clear enough with the entry points for her to repeat the process but she knew who could get the originals.

“Simon!” Anya burst into the tech department after a quick stop to the vending machine and held up a bag of caramel as a peace offering. “I need a favor.”

“Unless it includes apologizing about your rat, I don’t want to hear it.”

“Unless you want Karma to bother you more, I suggest not calling him a rat,” Anya reminded him, dragging an extra chair over to his desk and dropping the bag on his keyboard. “I need the original pictures of each of the earlier victims of that dart serial killer.”

“Why come to m-”

“Because you’re the best at this computer stuff and my magic doesn’t interact with technology.” All of which he knew but Simon just had to be difficult. Anya knew it was in part because he was her familiar’s favorite victim but this was actual work.

Work or not, it took more grumbling and a promise of more caramel before he was pulling up the pictures for him. Simon technically wasn’t supposed to get into files of cases he wasn’t assigned but like her, he was support staff that often got pulled into doing things far outside their normal jobs. That and from what she understood, the agents were awful at keeping their files protected to begin with.

While she used the tracing paper to mark the points right on his screen, despite angry protesting from her coworker, Anya’s brow continued to furrow. Was it just her or was there a pattern here? It wasn’t acupuncture either; she studied that for awhile in college so she knew those points. There were a few demonic summoning rituals she could think of but this didn’t look right. The last one she copied, the first victim, is when it all clicked.

“I think we may have just figured out what our serial killer is doing,” Anya smiled as she shoved over some of his things to spread the papers out. Now that she could see all of them, she could see why the entry points bothered her so much. And why it took till the first victim to figure it out.

“Since I’m not the child of a serial killer, or a witch, I can’t say that I know what you’re talking about.”

“You should be happy that my mother is so thorough in her tutelage,” Anya gave him a dark look before turning back to the picture. “And you should know since you’ve been building this section of our database.”

While she let him think on that, she started tracing out the symbols. Simon had been building a database of known magical symbols and what they can be used for. Recently, they’d been building up the very section of knowledge that she’d been tempted to dive into earlier for this case.

“Are those?”

“Soul marks.” Anya nodded, her smile fading as the gravity of the situation started to sink in. Even if she’d gotten the okay to speak to the dead, it wouldn’t have worked. “He’s ripping their souls from their body. I bet the spell bags keep them compliant, even tricking them into thinking this feels good, and the final dart finishes the mark so that the soul can be sucked out like a vacuum. He’s using increasingly more complicated marks with each victim, which means he’s gearing up for something big.”

“How many people can perform dark magic of this level?”

“Besides my mother? Like three.”

“So that means our suspect should be easy to identify and bring in.”

Anya wanted to laugh, she really did. Simon was as human as they came and sometimes it really showed. Just because there were three others with the power to do this didn’t mean they could bring them in like the other criminals. Writing down the names, she passed it to Simon.

“See if you can find any records of these guys.” They weren’t equipped to handle this in the least. It would mean the loss of many of their agents to do this. “I’m going to take all this up to Boss man but I have to call the Society first. We need to get hunters down here before we do anything.”

“But they weren’t answering before?”

“All I have to say is ‘demon summoning’ and ‘necromancy’ and they’ll have someone here tomorrow. Trust me.”

 


 

Well, Maura asked if I’d write something for her last sentence prompt so he’s my edition of the ‘Was it just her or was there a pattern’ prompt. Hope you all enjoy.

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