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Max Jolley

Captured: Book Two of the Kansas City Warlock Weekly

Captured: Book Two of the Kansas City Warlock Weekly

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Even when I’m not chasing kidnappers, I don’t keep normal hours. I’m a journalist; late nights, burnt coffee, and energy potions come with the territory. When I get lost in a story or deep in pre-publication crunch time, I can’t quit just because the sun’s been down for eight hours.

So when my best friend called me well after midnight to say she was being followed, I was already halfway out the door before the call could be hexed.

I wasn’t fast enough. By the time I arrived she was gone; vanished from within an impenetrable magical ward.

Now I’m running out of time to discover who took her and why. There’s no time for sleep: The clock is ticking, my leads are thin, and the few confidants I’ve got aren’t playing straight with me. The monsters and thugs scurrying around the city won’t make clue gathering any easier.

At the start, I was afraid that if I didn’t find her fast, she’d wind up dead. Now I know that if I don’t get her back in time, her death will just be the start.


Length: 216 pages, 55,000 words

This work contains depictions of violence and mortal peril, police violence, PTSD, and kidnapping. Reader discretion is advised.


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Chapter One

December 7th, Just Past Midnight

“Levi. Cottonmouth. I’m in trouble.” 

I blinked a couple times, my sluggish brain catching up with Lydia’s words. The night had gotten away from me. “Hognose. Where are you?” I closed my laptop and got to my feet. 

Her breath came in quick gasps, like she’d been running. “In my car, driving. I’ve got a tail, a big SUV. Don’t call the council.”

“I wouldn’t.” I smacked my palm to the side of my head, trying to shake my brain into working. I couldn’t find my keys, and my thoughts were still foggy from exhaustion. “Okay. Stay calm. Did you call Garret?” 

“He’s on his way to—shit!” 

Tires squealed at a migraine-inducing pitch and I winced away from my phone until the sound died away. “Are you okay?”

“Nearly went into a ditch,” Lydia said. “But I lost them getting off the highway. You know the Western Auto building?” 

“Hard not to,” I replied, dropping to my knees to look for my left shoe. “Is that where you’re going?”

“Next apartment building down. You can’t miss it, I’ll—”

The call dropped. 

“Shit.” My phone still had a signal. Her end had been the one to die. 

It didn’t even ring when I called back, going directly to voicemail. 

I shoved the phone into my back pocket and reached under the couch, grabbing my other shoe. I still needed my keys. 

Up until the last few minutes, the night had been a good one. I’d caught the writing bug around seven, or maybe it’d caught me. Rather than sleep, I’d mowed my way through articles. I’d finished two days’ worth of work in about six hours. The hyperfocus left my body a little stiff, but the buzz that came from diving so intensely into a project made physical concerns a non-issue. 

That was until I suddenly needed to rush to aid a friend. Adrenaline had to fight through fatigued limbs and mind fog, and I just couldn’t find my goddamn keys.

Frowning, I patted my pocket. My keys jingled.

Oh. Right.

I almost assembled my work bag, but I had no time. Lydia needed my help. What kind of help she needed was beyond me—if it came to a physical confrontation, I’d be almost useless, and if it came to a magical one, I’d be an outright burden. I typically served as more of a ‘hitting the books, doing research’ kind of assistant, but Lydia needed me and I wouldn’t abandon her. 

Grabbing my helmet, I took the stairs three at a time and flew out of my apartment building into the cool night air. I jumped on my motorcycle, slammed the keys into its ignition and gunned it.

Only a mile lay between my apartment and the Western Auto building and traffic was dead past midnight on a Monday, even in the Crossroads. Stoplights were the biggest hassle, blocking my way for an infuriating amount of time given the complete lack of crossing cars.

I quickly lost patience, adopting a not-technically-illegal strategy where I weaved through the Crossroads, taking right turns and cutting through cross streets that had only stop signs. There was an enemy on the road somewhere, and I watched keenly for them. Only a handful of cars crossed my path and none were SUVs. 

An iconic piece of the Kansas City skyline, the huge neon sign atop the Western Auto building served as a beacon while I rode. Pulling up beneath the flashing yellow-and-red arrow, I scanned the street for Lydia’s car.

She’d parked her hatchback haphazardly by the sidewalk half a block up. Dropping the kickstand, I got off my bike and removed my helmet.

“Lydia!” I called. My voice echoed slightly in the chasm between buildings.

At least I wouldn’t be completely defenseless. I unzipped the leather pouch on the back of my bike and took out a canister of pepper spray, as well as a green crystal the size of a baseball. One for physical threats, one for magical, both defensive tools that’d buy me enough time to flee. 

I hoped. 

The door on Lydia’s vehicle opened without resistance. I reached in to turn on the dome light, but when I pushed the switch, it stayed off.

I frowned, then tried the button to lock the door. It was similarly ineffective, though I could still move the switch on the handle to lock the door manually. 

A few more quick tests produced the same results. The headlights, the odometer display, even the horn did nothing at all. This car was utterly dead. I could rub a couple balloons together and generate more of a charge. 

That didn’t come about naturally, and given my line of work, the conclusion was obvious. The car’d been cursed.

While I pondered how I could find Lydia, the squeal of tires caught my attention. I spun, going for the pepper spray in my pocket. 

No need. The sound came from Garret’s truck, peeling down the street. He blew through a red light, braked hard enough to make his tires screech, and parked in the closest available space. 

Jumping out of the vehicle, keys in hand, he shouted, “Did you find her?” 

“No,” I jogged towards him. “Her car’s here, but it’s been fried. If it means anything, it doesn’t look like there was a struggle.”

Garret blew right past me, sprinting to a door across from Lydia’s car. It led to a five-over-one ‘luxury’ apartment with a coffee shop on the ground level, the kind of lodging that had grown up like mushrooms in the city in the past decade. 

Shoving his key into the lock, Garret didn’t wait for me, and I nearly got locked out. I got my foot in the door and ran after him, catching up while he pounded on the elevator call button. 

“Do you have an apartment here?” I asked. 



“Panic room.” He didn’t explain further, and I decided to ask my questions after we found Lydia. 

The elevator dinged, and we got in, riding up to the third floor. 

This time I had prepared for his burst of speed and kept up, following him down the hall and to the right. Skidding to a stop at the end apartment, he raised his key to the deadbolt, but the key didn’t go in. 

I guessed that someone had jammed glue or gum into the lock, but Garret let out a breath of relief. “Okay, she’s okay.” 

I frowned and stepped closer. The magic sizzled off the door like the buzz of power from high current electricity lines, so strong even I could detect it. “What is that?” 

“Panic room,” he said again, as though those two words explained everything. Noting my raised eyebrows and readiness to ask follow-up questions, he clarified. “It’s a force field, and it can only be raised from the inside. You pop an emergency latch and the ward goes up. Lydia made it inside before they got to her.” 

I sighed, glad she was safe. “She called me about fifteen minutes ago,” I said. “She used our snake code, said that there were men following her, and then the call died.” 

Out of paranoia over someone hexing our calls, we’d put together a code phrase: If we didn’t mention a type of snake at all, our words couldn’t be trusted. ‘Cottonmouth’ was the password for ‘Code red’. 

“She called me too. It didn’t drop, though, she told me what was going on and hung up.” He took a pair of rune-etched rings from his pocket, then slipped one onto his thumb and the other on his pinkie. Garret raised his hand to his head as though miming a phonecall and said, “Lydia, are you alright?” 

No response.

“Lydia,” Garret repeated. He adjusted one of the rings and tried again. “Lydia, can you hear me?” 

Still nothing. 

“How does that communicator work?” I asked. “Could someone be jamming it?” 

“Maybe,” Garret said. Taking out his cell phone, he punched in a number. “We’ve got a backup landline.”

The phone rang loud and clear on the other side of the ward, a chiptune version of the Major General’s song. 

It went to the answering machine. Lydia’s voice floated through the door, modulated by a cheap speaker. “I’m afraid I can’t come to the phone right now, but you know the drill! Leave a message after the whatsit.” 


Garret hung up. 

“Some kind of EMP curse knocked out her car,” I said. “Maybe it took out her phone, too.” 

“Then it wouldn’t ring.” 

I bit my tongue, annoyed that I’d missed something so obvious. “Maybe she fell asleep.”

“In a few minutes? And slept through the phone ringing?” 

Another bad idea from me; I was on a roll. “Is there any way she could leave without lowering the ward?” 

“No,” he said. “If anyone could leave, they could enter. Everything’s controlled internally. The ward stays up until she drops it or until sunrise.” 

“So…” I said.

Garret swallowed. “So, she’s hurt. Unconscious, and unable to answer the phone or call out.”

He didn’t mention the possibility that she’d been killed, and I didn’t point it out. I may have been sleepy and my brain didn’t feel up to speed, but I wasn’t totally devoid of tact. 

“You said the wall stays up until sunrise?” I asked, checking my phone. It was a little past one. Sunrise wouldn’t come for a good five hours. 

“Yeah,” he confirmed, balling his fists. “We’ll need to get her to the hospital as soon as the ward drops.” 

I frowned and put my hand in my pocket. “I’ve got a cleansing crystal. Would that disrupt the ward?” 

“This ward could take a javelin missile and it’d stand,” Garret said. “All you’d accomplish is breaking the crystal.” 

I was out of ideas. Someone had come after Lydia, followed her all the way to this building, fried her car, and somehow…knocked her out.

If Garret won’t acknowledge the other option, I won’t either. 

At any rate, she’d locked the doors and wasn’t responding. 

“She’s okay,” I said, in a flimsy attempt to be reassuring. 

“For now,” Garret said. “Levi, think about this. If they’re comfortable coming after Lydia once, then they’ll be comfortable doing it again.”

He had a point, but for once, I had a decent response. “Then we’ll just have to find out who did this and stop them. Trust me, Lydia will be safe.”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t a decent response, given what had really gone down that night, but it sounded good at the time.