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Max Jolley

Accused: Book One of the Kansas City Warlock Weekly

Accused: Book One of the Kansas City Warlock Weekly

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My name is Levi and I swear I didn’t kill her.

Sure, I was the only person found at the scene of the crime, and maybe her blood was literally on my hands, but I can explain all that. I’m a journalist writing for Kansas City’s magical community - it’s not that I’m nosey; digging around in other people’s business is my job. So when I suspected that a woman had been cursed, it’s only natural that I went to learn more.

I couldn’t have known she’d be dead before I arrived. Seriously, I write headlines about bridge trolls and solstice events, not murder.

The Wizard’s Council thinks I did it, and I’m going to have a hard time convincing them otherwise. Who are they going to believe, an autistic journalist with a smart mouth and a rap sheet, or the mountain of evidence I left behind when I fled the scene of the crime?

I have to solve the murder. The killer is still out there, ready to strike again so long as they aren’t caught. To crack the case with the Council on my tail, I’ll have to move fast, stay low, and find a way to cover my tracks.

If I can’t, the real killer will go free, and I’ll take the fall. I’ve been to the Council’s prison once, and if I go back, I know I’ll never make it out alive.


Length: 250 pages, 65,000 words

This work contains depictions of violence, mortal peril, death, police violence, and psychological distress. Reader discretion is advised.


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Chapter 1

Saturday. Noon. 

“Alright, Levi. Let’s take this again from the top.” 

The burly counsellor loomed over me, so close I could smell what he ate for breakfast. His face looked like it had been chiseled out of stone by an amateur mason, and his rippling muscles were visible even beneath the dense white robes of his uniform. 

He was a professional loomer. 

The wizard cop could have picked me up with one arm, and he made sure that I knew it. Even pretending that I wasn’t cuffed to a metal table and ignoring that he was wearing a tactical vest decked out with a Glock 22, pepper spray, and a trio of brass wands, there was no question which of us would win if it came to blows. 

He could do whatever he wanted to me, and not a soul in the world could stop him. Nobody knew where I was, except myself, my thuggish companion, and his partner. 

And there was a rock in my shoe. 

I wanted to give the man my full attention. I really did. Though, that was mostly just because I didn’t want him to think that he wasn’t being intimidating enough. If he thought that, he might try to up the ante with actual violence. I’d gone through more than my fair share of roughhousing in the past twenty-four hours, and I hadn’t much enjoyed the experience. But, as much as I wanted to appease him, it was hot, and humid, and that little rock was driving me up the wall. 

“From the top?” I asked, wiggling my foot to try and move it around.

“There’s a few things I’m not clear on,” the huge man said, his palms planted on the table. He leaned in, showing teeth. The expression wasn’t a smile, though, it was more of a grimace. “So let’s go through the story one more time.” 

Under normal circumstances I could have taken off my shoe and removed the hard lump, but my hands were cuffed down and I didn’t have the range of motion I’d need. “Yeah, uh, whatever you want. How far back do you want me to go?” 

He moved in closer, and I heard his knuckles pop. “Why do I feel like you’re not taking this very seriously?” 

Oops. He noticed. 

I leaned back, trying to put enough space between us so that I wouldn’t be able to smell the cheap coffee he’d been drinking all morning. “I’m taking this seriously,” I said, trying to placate him. “It’s just hot.” 

Apparently, he didn’t want to be placated. Eyes narrowing, he put his face even closer to mine. He was just inches away. I expected to feel body heat, but instead, I got a little waft of cool air. “Do you have any idea how much shit you’re in?” 

I stared back, eyes focusing at a point on his forehead. “Why are you cold?” 

He blinked. I’d asked a question that he hadn’t anticipated, and the gears in his head ground to a stop as he tried to catch up with my train of thought. 

If he’d had a little more time, he probably would have decided that being aggressive was the appropriate response, but he was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. 

“Davis.” The voice was soft, calming. His partner had been leaning in the corner, watching from a few paces back. I guess, after all the intimidation, she must have decided it was finally time to intervene. She was as tall as Davis, and as athletic, though she was built for endurance more than raw strength. Even their haircuts matched, both trimmed to a short, practical length that wouldn’t get in the way. “Let’s take a little break.” 

The space around us fell deathly silent, save for a slight scratching noise as the notepad on the table transcribed our conversation automatically. After a half second, that too fell silent

“He’s about to confess, Murray,” Davis finally said, speaking through gritted teeth. “I just need—”

His partner’s voice wasn’t harsh, but it was solid. “We’ve got time. We’ll take a break.” 

I wasn’t totally clear if Murray was in charge, or if Davis just didn’t want to argue with her. Either way, he leaned back, and the cold air around him was replaced with the stifling, still heat. “Fine. But we’re not done here.” 

“Of course not.” Looking at me, Murray said, “Our robes are set up with a climate control charm. It’s easy to forget how hot it is when you’re not in one of these. Do you want some lemonade?” 

I wanted a cold shower and a nap, but lemonade would have to do. “That’d be nice.” 

She checked her pocket, pursed her lips, and gave a small shrug to her partner. “Do you have any cash?” 

He searched around in his robes and came out with a few old dollar bills, passing them over. 

Murray counted the money. “Thanks. I’ll be right back.” 

Turning, she walked away from the park gazebo, skirting around a kid playing hopscotch and strolling casually towards the lemonade stand set up on the other side of the swing set. 

Illusions were wild. 

I’d been there for a couple hours, cuffed to a table while two counsellors interrogated me, and not a soul in Dietrich Park had noticed. I guess, when you have access to that sort of magic, you don’t need black site interrogation chambers. Any old table will do. 

The illusion cut down on sound from outside the gazebo, and blurred the outside world ever so slightly, but I could still get a good sense of the rest of the park. The kid finished skipping over the chalk boxes and looked my way. Giving him a half smile, I lifted a hand as far as the cuffs would allow and waved, doing my best to appear friendly. 

He smiled, waved back, and started skipping backwards the way he’d come. 

“Don’t bother calling for help,” Davis grumbled. 

I raised my eyebrows, trying to express surprise. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. I’ve seen your whole illusion schtick. What would they hear if I started shouting, anyways?” 

“Depends on the straight. Whatever their brain decides ‘normal’ seems like, really.” He looked out the park, gaze lingering on a family singing ‘Happy birthday’ around a picnic table some ten paces away. “Why’d you get mixed up in this?” 

I leaned back, trying to project casualness. “I didn’t do it. That’s what I’ve been telling—”

“Don’t give me that shit. I’m not talking about the body. Before Kat gets back, I just want to know why you got your project started to begin with. It’s clearly not for the money.” Davis looked back at me. For just a moment, it seemed like he wasn’t trying to terrify me. As best as I could tell, he genuinely wanted an honest answer. 

That was more unsettling than the intimidation. 

I sidestepped. “Kat?” 

“Katherine’s her first name,” Davis explained, standing back a few paces. “Call her that on the job, though, she’ll hex you six ways to Sunday. Counsellor Murray, if you like your teeth.” 

“I can’t confess without teeth,” I pointed out. 

He eyed me. “You’re gonna confess, then.” 

“No, just making a point.” I pursed my lips, thinking about it. “Unless you’ve got a spell that’ll let me talk without teeth, then I’d still be in trouble.” 

It was the wrong thing to say. I pieced this together by reading Davis’s body language. Though I’m not an expert on reading people, I could infer, by seeing his hands ball up into fists the size of Cornish hens and his face turn bright red, that he was probably upset. 

Reaching to the side, he tapped a finger on the magical notepad that had been transcribing our conversation. The pen fell still. 

“You think this is a joke?” He demanded, stepping closer to me. 

“Not at all.” I raised my hands, palms facing him, in a placating gesture. It made the handcuffs rattle. 

It didn’t do any good. “Well, I’ve got a newsflash for you, reporter. This isn’t one of your little stories.” 

I snorted. It was the wrong thing to do. 

He slugged me. 

Before that point, I’d had a theoretical understanding that Davis knew how to throw a punch.  Theory and practice were two very different things. Goddamn did he know how to throw a punch. His fist hit so hard that I would have been thrown backwards off the bench if my hands hadn’t been chained to a metal table. 

In fact, if the table wasn’t bolted to the ground, I might have brought it down with me. My body was knocked to the side, with enough momentum and force that it broke the skin on my wrists when I jerked against the cuffs and fell out of my seat. I ended up hanging from the table, flopped halfway off the bench, blood trickling down my arms.

“A woman is dead!” Davis roared, stepping up to me. I think he wanted to kick me, but given that I’d fallen onto the other side of the bench and underneath the table, he couldn’t get a good angle of attack. 

I pushed up so I could wipe my mouth on the shoulder of my shirt. The fabric came away bloody. “Yeah, well. I didn’t kill her.” 

The kid playing hopscotch was staring at me. Idly, I waved again. He smiled and waved back. 

I wonder what he’s seeing? 

Before I had a chance to ponder that question, a massive fist seized the collar of my shirt, dragging me up into a heavy backhand that felt like it was going to leave a bruise, if there was enough of my face intact to bruise by the time Davis was done with me.

“Tell me why you did it!” he shouted, spittle getting on my face, forcing me to blink and wince away. 

“I didn’t—” I started, but he shook me so hard I had to stop. 

I thought he was going to hit me again, but before he could, there was a ripple in the air and Murray stepped back into the gazebo, juggling three plastic cups of hazy lemonade. She looked from me to her partner, sighing with her shoulders. “Put him down, Ainsworth.” 

Ainsworth? I’d heard that name before. 

“Piece of shit,” Davis started, presumably referring to me. “He’s trying to con us.” 

“Let’s make sure we’ve got the story straight, first,” she said, setting down the drinks and sliding one onto the space in front of me. “If you’re still not satisfied, then you can bounce him off the table.” 

Davis let go of my collar and I slumped down onto the bench, watching him as he walked around to the other side of the table. The rock in my shoe hadn’t moved. 

“Here’s your change,” Murray said, passing him a few quarters. 

He nodded, dropping them into a pocket. “Did you get a receipt?” 

She stared at him for a moment, but didn’t bother with an answer. Slipping onto the park bench across the table, she crossed her arms and waited. After a second of frowning, Davis parted his lips in a little silent, ‘Oh’, grunted, and sat down next to her. 

She waited until her partner got settled before saying anything, and when she did, her smile was broad, with crinkles around her eyes. It was an attempt to look sincere. I knew that she wasn’t. “I’m sorry about that. Maybe we can just clear some things—” 

“No you’re not.” I wasn’t in the mood for being lied to. 

She blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“No, you’re not,” I repeated. “You knew he’d do that. Do you think I’ve never seen a detective show before? I know how ‘good cop, bad cop’ works.”  

The two counsellors shared a glance and looked back at me. Murray looked like she was about to respond, but I beat her to it. 

“Wait, no. You’re counsellors, you probably call it something else. ‘Subtle cop and quick to anger cop’?” That got me blank stares, so I clarified, “Tolkien? Is that too on the nose?” 

Davis began to growl. 

A little part of me questioned the wisdom of antagonizing the woman who’d just saved me from a beating, not to mention the man who was still more than willing to deliver that same beating. My mouth kept running while my brain considered whether it was a good idea. 

“Point is, I know the game you’re playing, and it’s—” 

I made a noise like, ‘glurk’, and stopped talking as my throat started to fill with fluids. It was as though I’d tried to talk in the middle of a drink, but when I coughed, I found only more liquid pooling around my windpipe. I was being drowned with my own spit. 

It couldn’t have helped to clutch at my throat, but I tried to anyway, pulling against the handcuffs. Davis’s expression only hardened, and while Murray glanced between him and me with concern, she didn’t stop him. I gaped, doing an impression of a fish, mouth opening and closing as I tried and failed to get in any air. 

“Ainsworth,” Murray said, touching her hand to his arm. “That’s enough.” 

I agreed, but he wasn’t convinced. “You hear how he talks? He’s rubbing our noses in it.”

“If he passes out—” 

“His face isn’t even purple yet.” 

“But if—” 

“If he does, I’ll wake him up. I’m better than you at field magic.” 

Davis kept his eyes locked on me. His stare was probably necessary to maintain the spell.

Murray pursed her lips, but she didn’t argue the point. I continued to choke. 

Spots started to appear in my vision. 

Those spots turned into a dark haze, creeping in from my peripherals, until...


Gasping, I sucked in the sweet, humid summer air, filling up my lungs and watching as my vision returned to normal. 

“Are you ready to start talking?” 

I’ve been talking, you just haven’t liked what I’ve said.

For once, possibly because I was still gasping for oxygen, I managed to stop the words before they could travel from my brain to my mouth. I just nodded. 

“Alright. Then talk.” 

I panted, but I was able to speak again. “What do you want me to say?” 

Murray cut in before her partner could bluntly demand a confession again. “Let’s start with the victim, Andrea Hills. When did you first meet her?” 

I tapped my fingers on the table, thinking about it. “Meet her, or hear from her?” 

“Whichever came first.” Murray tapped the notepad, and with a sparkle of magic, it started writing down our conversation once again. “I want you to start from the beginning.” 

That, I could do. It would stall for time, and if I played my cards right, it could even get some information. I already knew most of the story, but there was one piece that was still bugging me.

One of the counsellors sitting across from me had murdered Andrea Hills. I just had to figure out which one.