Love is the most dangerous shape shifter of all.
My name is Ciara Callaghan. I'm a cop.
These things I believed to be true:
1) I loved my partner, Detective Malcolm Blake. Three years ago he was incinerated. Was it my fault? Everyone thinks so, and so do I.
2) Everyone has secrets. Mine? I'm a shapeshifter.
3) Everyone lies -- especially those who say they love me.
4) Demons exist -- and they can be found where you least expect them.
Those things I believed to be true, but believing something doesn't necessarily make it fact, especially where love is involved.
Welcome to my endless night.
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Endless Night (Protect and Serve)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Mikala Ash
I can relate only too well with poet William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence." In the beginning, when we enter this world kicking and screaming, we do not know if we are meant for his "sweet delight" or the misery of "endless night."
The thought of a predetermined future scares the crap out of me because sweet delight doesn't appear to be on my dance card.
In my experience, quality of life can be measured by the depth of the crap you happen to be standing in. At Mal's funeral I took a step into the Marianas Trench of crap. I detest attending funerals. I've attended far too many. However, in this particular instance, I was grinning mischievously when I knocked three times on the varnished wood of my partner's coffin.
"You owe me big time," I playfully admonished.
Mal didn't answer. One by one I unscrewed the ornate brass bolts, prattling on about how much I hated saying the fake eulogy to a packed congregation of our uniformed colleagues.
"Who, by the way," I chided, "hate my guts for letting my partner get shot. I'm a better actress than I thought. Believe me, it wasn't easy extolling said partner's virtues as the Sheriff's Office's best detective when all the time I know he's safe and sound in his coffin. But you know?" I added. "This would have been so much easier if you hadn't insisted on an open casket."
Mal had wanted everyone to be sure he'd gone to his maker. "It's pivotal to the investigation," he'd told me when he first outlined his plan. "They're on to me, so they have to be totally convinced I'm dead," he said. "Otherwise they'll keep after me until I'm really dead." Mal liked to dazzle me with his brilliancy, and as an awed probationary detective I didn't mind hearing it, but his silence now was beginning to worry me. The drug I'd given him to slow his respiration to practically nothing should have worn off by now.
"What? Too dead to apologize?"
It had been a mad morning. He'd slept in the coffin (oh, how I wished I could have snuggled up and spent that long night with him) while I sat guard from the shadows. Before sunup I'd dosed him up with the drug, supervised the viewing, and watched everyone who solemnly walked past the open coffin to see if any stuck him with a pin like in that old Grant and Hepburn movie. No one did and no one had looked the least bit suspicious as they'd filed past the open lid that exposed his pallid and hauntingly beautiful face.
I'd copped a lot of nasty looks and nasty comments aimed at my back. Everyone thought it had been my negligence that had gotten him shot. Well, if that was the price of keeping Mal alive, so be it. I can live with a few nasty looks.
Once the viewing was over, we'd screwed down the lid and proceeded with the modest ceremony that Mal had stipulated in his "will." Apparently, the funeral service Mal had required was not standard practice, and I'd had to fight the bureaucrats in the department who wanted a big showy PR type of deal. That fight didn't win me any more friends, but I'd eventually prevailed. It's amazing what a flood of tears can achieve. This way Mal avoided the usual guard of honor, etc. that was due fallen law enforcement officers. By minimizing the ceremony, Mal believed we'd have more control over the event.
I didn't think it necessary that he stay inside the box, but he had insisted that he didn't want to run the chance of anyone catching a glimpse of a body -- which should be lying peacefully in a coffin -- walking around.
And now it was all over. I'd said my piece; a moving statement about the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, yada yada, feeling so very self-conscious that the selfless dead I was tearfully eulogizing was still very much alive.
After I'd stepped away from the podium, we'd solemnly watched the coffin slide though the curtains toward its fiery end. Little did the audience know that we'd arranged for the coffin to be switched and taken to a little storage room out back, and in its place an empty box was, at that very moment, being consumed by the flames.
It all seemed to go amazingly well. There had been no incident. Mal would be happy. He could now track down his mysterious suspect unimpeded. His quarry, he'd said, was on to him, so he had to disappear, letting the suspect relax.
I asked Mal a dozen times in a dozen different ways who the bad guy was, but his reply was always that it was safer I didn't know. The bad guy was high up and powerful, otherwise he wouldn't have to resort to such a bizarre method of investigation. Mal said he could trust no one except Anton and me. I had severe reservations, but what can I say? I was besotted with him, and whatever he suggested, I was all for it -- despite my better judgment.
I unscrewed the final bolt, popped the lid and looked inside.
It was empty.
"Son of a bitch!"