DEFENCELESS

Later that day, Leah turned from her computer to see Dorian and Magnus enter the station together. Their eyes were now the brown, soft seal eyes she had grown accustomed to, as though the previous day had never happened. They seemed a trifle embarrassed, as though Leah having seen them in that state was tantamount to having seen them in a compromising position. They did not speak of the event, but there was something different about Magnus, as if the world had begun to fit him again.

 

“Welcome back,” she said.

 

Magnus bowed, and went to the kitchen for tea.

 

“Don't you leave, Dorian Grey,” she commanded, and Dorian stood still, “You abandoned me out there, and I only had help from a vampire to take down the most vicious criminal in Fae history. Do you want to explain yourself?”

 

Dorian's dour expression was unchanged.

 

“The curse of being magical is magic itself," he said, "The curse of being a story is how the story must be told. Every powerful creature has a weakness, and every creature that seems weak has untold power. We are slaves to the story, Leah Bishop, and as I have told you, the seal-folk are both blessed and cursed. There are times when we save you, and there are times when you save us. There was a good reason you were recruited, and it was good that you and Desdemona were there.”

 

Leah mulled this over for a moment.

 

“You abandoned me,” she repeated.

 

“And for that I am sorry,” said Dorian, softening around the edges, “It will forever be a thorn in my side. It was unintentional, but it will sometimes be unavoidable – much like, in some situations, you will be unable to help me.”

 

Leah shook her head. Dorian sat down beside her.

 

“I understand you are angry with me, Leah,” he said, “and you have every right to be. You are stronger than you know, and more useful than you think. You are necessary to this force. You are the strongest human I know, and I am proud to have you as my partner.”

 

Leah looked at him, and smiled a bit.

 

“We Fae are often trapped by our own power,” he said, “and in the selkie cantrip, we are held in its thrall. Now that Sebastian has been caught, the cantrip has released us all. If you hadn't been there, we would have torn him limb from limb.”

 

Leah started. Dorian held her gaze.

 

“It has been long since I was a killer,” he said, “and since the selk raised their hand in anger against anyone. I thank you for defusing a situation I was helpless to control.

You were never worthless., Miss Bishop.”

 

Leah grinned at her partner.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” she said, and he laughed, “I do hope that you invite me to afternoon tea, sir.”

 

“You are always welcome at my table,” he said, with a bow.

 

She looked at him in his trim tailcoat.

 

“What happens if we need to apprehend a suspect?” she asked, “Are you going to wear your gloves? Do we have any weapons?”

 

Dorian looked at her curiously.

 

“Didn't you read the manual?” he asked.

 

Her eyebrows shot up.

 

“There's a manual?” she asked.

 

“Yes,” he said, “It gets sent out with all the hiring documents. Didn't you receive it?”

 

Leah thought back to the sad day when the handsome man had come to her door.

 

“Now that you mention it,” she said, “I did receive a packet. From a very handsome man, I might add.”

 

“That would be one of the trooping Faeries,” he said, “or elves, if you like.”

 

“Oh,” she said, sad that she hadn't recognised a Faerie from the start. Right now, she thought she'd know one anywhere.

 

Later that night, she dug through her things and found the ripped packet. She shook everything out onto the floor. And there it was. She must have been too depressed, and drowning; looking for anything to haul herself out of the water, to have noticed anything but the job invitation.

 

CALEDONIA INTERPOL

Welcome

Please read with caution

as pages are liable to burst into flame

 

Leah started at this last piece of advice, and gingerly opened page one.

 

Welcome, distinguished creature, to your new life at Caledonia Interpol. Here, you will find an environment that celebrates diversity. We do not discriminate based on race, religion, creed, gender or multiple genders or nongenders thereof, sexuality, number of appendages, or species of monster. We strive to be the thin red line between the dangers humans still face. If you are devoted to the cause, you will find a home here at Caledonia.

 

In these pages, you will find instructions about what will be required of you, and the things you will need to work with us. Pay goes to our people first, and we will change headquarters frequently in order to stay secret. You are kindly asked to refrain from magic use, and to learn to blend in with humans. Attempt to cultivate a love for tea; if you do not already have this, it is a useful ruse. Humans are much more confident and assured when they have had tea. Coffee is a secondary choice, but also useful, especially if you are eventually transferred to the Americas. Some humans enjoy shouting incoherent things at you in the street. This is a normal pastime for many occupants of Glasgow; pay it no mind. It is entirely possible they can see your true form, but do not let this disturb you. Most humans would not believe them anyway.

 

Leah laughed. She flipped through the pages, saw some chapter headings: What is a Trouser Press? and Queue Jumping: the New Horror.

 

Then she discovered what she was looking for. Weapons.

 

She opened the page.

 

It was blank.

 

It was there, and it was blank.

 

She turned the page. A new chapter entitled Christmas Crackers and other Terrifying Cultural Phenomena. She looked back. And in tiny letters at the top of the page, she saw: fill in the blank

 

“Great,” she said to herself, “monsters are their own weapons. I suppose they never thought to provide for a human recruit.”

 

She pushed the doors open at the station, and found Dorian contemplating the wall while drinking out of a tiny cup.

 

“What is this supposed to mean?” she asked, pointing at the page in the manual that said fill in the blank.

 

Dorian set his cup down in a tiny saucer.

 

“Very good, that,” he said, indicating the cup, “Pixies collect it from bees, honeycomb tea.”

 

Leah stared at him.

 

“Why don't you just go buy honey at the supermarket?” she asked.

 

“Why should I do that when I can have honeycomb tea harvested by pixies?” he replied, not moving a muscle.

 

Leah thought about this.

 

“You have a point,” she said, “but don't change the subject! What does it mean?”

 

“Exactly what it says,” said Dorian, “generally, at Caledonia, we don't have weapons issued to us. We write down the weapons we have at our disposal, and then Chief Ben figures out a way to neutralise them if necessary.”

 

Leah sat down in a chair across from him.

 

“Neutralise them?” she asked, “Why?”

 

“Some of us have powers that aren't exactly safe,” he said, “you've seen what the selkies are capable of – and that was incredibly controlled, as Magnus and I work together. It is a kind of ballet, to ensure the power does not get out of hand. Since the police force was created to help humanity, it is important that officers are unable to use any of their natural weaponry for evil – given that we formed a police force in order to prevent just such an occurrence.”

 

“Well, what about me?” she asked, “I'm human! I'm defenceless.”

 

Dorian lifted the tiny cup again and sipped from it.

 

“Are you?” he asked.