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Emma L Adams

Witch in a Crisis: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 10 (Paperback)

Witch in a Crisis: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 10 (Paperback)

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Book 10 of 15: A Blair Wilkes Mystery

It's time for Blair Wilkes to face her biggest challenge yet.

Now the Inquisitor for the paranormal hunters has given her an ultimatum, Blair finds herself in a bind. When information about her jailed father's trial comes to light, Blair is determined to prove he was imprisoned unlawfully.

The problem is, nobody in town knows the truth about what really happened all those years ago… or about the Inquisitor himself. Blair's unique magic allows her to see through lies, but can she expose the truth for everyone to see before it's too late?

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I looked at the scrap of paper in my hand, rereading the words for what felt like the millionth time.

Blair Wilkes. I heard about your involvement in recent events in your home of Fairy Falls. Have you rethought your decision to turn down my offer of employment? 

The Inquisitor.

Two weeks on, and the words were still burned into my brain. The fact that the leader of the paranormal hunters wanted to hire the likes of me—a fairy witch who happened to be the daughter of two convicted criminals—felt more of a threat than a job offer. Even so, I hardly believed the Inquisitor still thought I’d accept his offer after everything he’d done to the people I cared about. My parents, I was convinced, had been set up by the very person who’d written this note, which had ended with my mother dead and my father jailed for life.

Alissa, my flatmate, walked into the living room and eyed the note in my hand. “Why do you still have that thing?”

I gave a shrug. “I hoped if I looked at it long enough, I’d stop being scared of him.”

“Miaow,” said Sky, my familiar, hopping onto the sofa next to me. The little black cat blinked one blue eye and one grey one, and batted the note out of my hand with his single white paw.

“There, see?” said Alissa. “He knows.”

I scooped up the note and put it down on the arm of the sofa. “I don’t know if he expects me to reply. It’s not like I have the Inquisitor’s private address, and I’m not letting that poor pixie near him again.”

“He has some nerve even trying to get to you,” she responded. “He must know you’re aware of what he is now.”

“I think he is,” I said. “I also think he’s testing me.”

The Inquisitor was a fairy, and while I hadn’t known it the first time we’d met, there was absolutely no way he didn’t know I’d figured it out by now. He’d pretty much placed the evidence in front of me, though he was using a permanent glamour to fool everyone around him into thinking he was human, utterly ordinary and non-magical. Even my ability to sense what type of paranormal someone was hadn’t managed to see through his act, and it’d taken months for me to put the pieces together. I still didn’t know if the rest of the hunters were aware of his true nature, but considering he was in a position of authority among a group of people with a notorious disdain for paranormals, it seemed highly unlikely they knew what he was. 

“Don’t let him play head games with you,” said Alissa. “He left you that note to get a reaction from you, that’s all. Listen to my grandmother.”

I smiled. “Yeah, that’s always wise advice.”

Alissa was the granddaughter of the town’s coven leader, and Madame Grey was one of the smartest and toughest witches I knew. Yet despite all that, the Inquisitor wasn’t to be trifled with, and against my better judgement, I was planning on doing exactly that.

The winged form of the pixie flew around my head, and Sky swatted at him. I gave my familiar a stern look. “Stop that.”

“Miaow,” he grumbled, as displeased by the little fairy’s presence as ever. The pixie had moved in here after narrowly escaping whoever had sent him with the Inquisitor’s message, and I’d promised to keep him safe from harm. At this rate, my cat would be more of a danger to him than the hunters would, though. The pixie was about eight inches tall with blond tufty hair and pointed ears and spent most of his time hiding, yet my cat was not impressed by the fact that our entire flat was now covered in glitter. In fairness, I found it a little annoying, too, but half the glitter probably came from my own habit of switching between human and fairy forms, so I couldn’t blame it all on the pixie.

“I know I should get rid of the note.” I crumpled the scrap of paper in my hand. “I’m just worried about Nathan.”

“I don’t blame you, but he knows what he’s doing,” Alissa said in soothing tones. “Besides, he’s visiting family, not storming the Lancashire Prison for Paranormals.”

I checked my phone. “Yeah, but he was supposed to be back any minute now—”

The doorbell rang. I was on my feet an instant later. Nathan, my boyfriend, happened to be an ex-paranormal hunter himself, and he’d been running a particularly risky mission for me over the weekend. He was the only person in my life who might have been able to help me get hold of the means to contact my dad in the hunters’ jail, and I’d been on tenterhooks waiting to find out if he’d succeeded without being jailed himself.

Relief flooded me when I opened the door and found Nathan standing on the doorstep, looking tired. His dark hair had grown a little longer in the last few weeks, while his jacket was stained with mud and so were his hiking trousers. He gave me a smile and greeted me with a kiss.

“You’re all right?” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “I’m not late, am I?”

“Only by about five minutes.” I stepped back to let him into the flat. Normally, I wouldn’t have worried about a short delay, but he’d been on more than just a visit to his family’s home. After all, most of his family were active or retired paranormal hunters when the leader of said hunters was trying to blackmail me at this very moment. Nathan had taken a major risk in going back to his dad’s house to look for the Pixie-Glass, and judging from the fact that he’d returned empty-handed, he hadn’t been able to find it. 

Should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. A Pixie-Glass—a magical item of which there was a grand total of one present in the region—was the only way to communicate with someone incarcerated in the hunters’ most secure jail. Since the Pixie-Glass in question was in the possession of no other than Nathan’s father, who had no liking for me whatsoever, we’d been forced into a corner.

We went into the living room, where Alissa stood in the kitchen area brewing tea for all three of us. The pixie flew out of sight when Nathan walked in, still nervous around strangers. Alissa’s familiar, Roald, mewed a greeting from the corner, while Sky hopped onto the sofa in the spot where I’d been sitting.

“I have good news and bad news,” said Nathan. “The bad news is that I didn’t manage to find the Pixie-Glass.”

I exhaled in a sigh. I couldn’t say I’d expected it would be that easy. “And the good news?”

He held up a thick wad of paper in answer, bound in a cardboard folder.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The documents from your father’s trial,” he said. “I managed to grab it without being suspected.”

“You did?” My heart gave a lurch, then began to beat faster. “Are you sure you’re allowed to have that?”

“Relax, Blair,” he said. “My dad won’t know it’s gone. I doubt he would ever suspect we’re planning to contact the LPFP.”

No, it was the Inquisitor whose eyes I felt watching me from a distance. Nathan’s dad had been the last person to speak to my mother alive and had been disdainful towards me from the moment we’d met, but compared to the Inquisitor, he posed no threat to me. 

Besides, Nathan and his father couldn’t be more different. When I’d told him my suspicions about the Inquisitor, he’d believed me without question, but even being an ex-hunter didn’t put him in a position to challenge the guy in charge. I was grateful beyond words for his choice to help me find out what had really happened to my dad.

I doubted the hunters had arrested my dad on genuine charges, so it was time to find out what crime he’d been accused of. Something serious enough to warrant him being locked up in one of the most secure paranormal prisons in the country, yet not something they’d made available as public information. With the file in my hands, I’d be better equipped to figure out how to expose the truth and get my dad freed. Without getting arrested myself. No pressure, Blair.

I sat down on the sofa, and Sky hopped into my lap and curled up. “All right, tell me the worst.” 

Nathan cleared his throat. “The document states that your father was found to have stolen a priceless artefact which belonged to the regional witch council of the northwest. He was jailed for life after a trial in front of the hunters.”

My mouth parted. “He stole from the witches?”

“Apparently,” he said. “Not any coven in Fairy Falls, but the regional council and their headquarters up in Carlisle. I’m not clear on what exactly a Seeing Stone is, but it’s valuable enough to warrant a lifelong jail sentence.”

Alissa turned around, the kettle in her hand. “That sounds dodgy to me. Nothing the regional council owns ought to be worth that level of punishment.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Did the files mention my mother at all?”

“No,” said Nathan. “I’m sorry, Blair.”

A lump grew in my throat. My mother was dead, killed by the same people who’d pursued my father, and it’d taken me a while to accept that the hunters and the fairies were one and the same. But the witches? I’d never have guessed that they might have been involved in the sentence passed on my dad. They must know he was innocent. He’d have no reason to steal from the region’s witch council, right?

“What’s a Seeing Stone?” I asked. “I’ve never heard of one before.”

“Haven’t a clue,” Alissa said. “Madame Grey will know.” 

I didn’t doubt that, but my old fears came back at the thought of everyone I cared about potentially being dragged into this mess. I’d come far too close to losing everything at the hands of the hunters on more than one occasion, and every time, it had been Inquisitor Hare who’d been pulling the strings. How had he talked the witch council into condemning a man to a lifetime in the most secure prison in the region for stealing something he probably couldn’t even use? I mean, he wasn’t a witch, and my mum had been dead by that point.

“She will.” Nathan gave Sky a stroke as the little cat padded over to him, meowing in such a way that meant, Thanks for not getting arrested. Or possibly, Blair was worried about you, and now you have to pay for it by giving me attention all evening. Being Sky, it was anyone’s guess.

Alissa walked over with three mugs of tea, which she distributed among us. “We can ask her. She’ll be able to speak to the regional witch council herself; she meets with them all the time.”

“Yeah.” I put my mug down on the coffee table. “To be honest, it reminds me of the sceptre incident all over again. Except I’m sure Aveline Hollyhock would have told everyone in town if she knew my dad had been arrested for stealing from the witches.”

My mum had temporarily stolen the sceptre belonging to the local Head Witch in order to protect me, but as far as I knew, my dad hadn’t been involved in that particular theft. Not that I knew for sure, since I had no way to contact him directly.

“We’ll talk to her,” Nathan said. “I’m sure she’ll be willing to help. She already offered to do everything she could to prepare for the Inquisitor’s arrival, right?”

“She will.” I picked up my tea and sipped, noting that Alissa had put in a pinch of calming tonic. “I just hope the other witches will be as cooperative when it comes down to it. At least some of the council must have agreed with the hunters’ verdict, otherwise they’d never have been able to get away with it.”

“Not necessarily,” Nathan said. “You can borrow the files to read if you like, but I’ll have to return them to my father’s house soon before he realises they’re missing.”

“We can always make a copy.” I put down my mug. “Using a spell. I haven’t got to that stage in my lessons yet, but it’s do-able, right?”

Alissa nodded, pulling out her wand. “I can do that.” 

She waved her wand, and an identical copy of the cardboard file appeared next to me on the sofa. I handed the original file back to Nathan and picked up the copy. The name on the cover read, ‘Braden Eventide’. A jolt of emotion hit me.

“That’s his name,” I murmured to myself. “Braden Eventide.” 

“Huh?” said Alissa.

I raised my head. “I didn’t know my dad’s name. Remember when I tried to talk to those fairies about him and they didn’t know who he was? He never signed his notes, but…”

“That’s the name he gave,” said Nathan, slipping the other file into his coat.

“Braden Eventide.” I tried out the name. “So I guess I could have been Blair Eventide, or Blair Wildflower.”

Nathan put a hand on my arm. “You can read the file later. Then we can decide our next move.”

“Thanks for getting it for me.” I drank the rest of my tea and waved my wand to levitate the mug over to the sink. “I appreciate you taking the risk.”

“My dad was hardly going to have me locked up for paying him a visit,” he said. “Want to go to the Troll’s Tavern? We can talk about our next move while we’re there.”

“That sounds perfect.”

I went to get ready for our date to our favourite pub in town, feeling bolstered despite the lingering worries over my dad’s arrest. Nathan had done his best for me even with his family being set against us from the start. Regardless of all the obstacles the universe had thrown into our paths, the two of us had been able to build a relationship together. If we could do that, we could save my dad, right?

Okay, not all his family hated me. His sister, Erin, had become one of my close friends, though she’d quit the hunters and now lived in Fairy Falls with her fiancé, Buck, who was also half-fairy like me. Both of us had been glamoured by our fairy parents before we’d entered the magical world—in my case, my parents, before they’d put me into foster care in the normal world to keep me safe. Buck, on the other hand, had been recruited to join the hunters directly. He’d only quit when his fiancée had chosen to do so, and while he remained on the reserve team, both he and Erin had offered to stand beside me along with Nathan. Against their own family, if necessary. 

No wonder Nathan’s dad wasn’t a fan of me. I figured Erin would have left the hunters anyway, but I’d likely expedited her decision. At the time, I hadn’t known that Nathan’s dad owned the only Pixie-Glass in the area except for the one which belonged to Blythe’s mother. Since Mrs Dailey had taken hers with her to the same jail my dad was incarcerated in, we were unlikely to be able to use it, which meant I had to figure out where Nathan’s dad had hidden his own.

Yet unless we figured out how to prove my dad’s innocence, it probably wasn’t worth the risk of incurring the wrath of the local hunters’ branch by stealing the glass from them. Instead, I’d read through the notes on the trial later tonight, and then I’d go to speak to Madame Grey tomorrow, and she’d help me figure out how to get in touch with the northwest’s regional witch council.

It all sounded easy enough on paper, but a flicker of worry stirred inside me at the thought of any of the witches being involved in his capture. Not just the hunters or even the fairies, but the witches, the group of people who’d welcomed me into the magical world from the start. The people I’d come to trust. How could I believe they’d been involved in jailing my dad and exiling me from the magical community at large? 

Admittedly, Blythe and her mother were also witches and they’d hated me from the get-go, but they hadn’t been popular among their fellow witches even before Mrs Dailey had wound up jailed for scheming against Madame Grey. They were also my distant relations, not that they thought of themselves as such. To be fair, Blythe hadn’t been unfriendly the last time we’d spoken to one another. In fact, she’d implied she supported my desire to free my dad from jail. I doubted she’d lay her life on the line for me, though. She didn’t believe it was possible to outwit the hunters, and who knew, maybe it wasn’t. Yet Nathan had my back, and my friends did, too. They’d promised to help me rescue my dad, and I was closer to that goal than ever before.

My gaze caught on a photo on the bedside table, and I studied the image of my mother which I’d taken from Blythe’s house. Tanith Wildflower had long dark curly hair, pale skin, a smile that mirrored my own. She’d died to protect me, and my dad… he’d paid the price for both of us.

If I didn’t find a way to prove my dad’s innocence, the hunters would do to him what they’d done to countless other people and leave him in jail for the rest of his life. I would never let that happen. Never.

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