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Emma L Adams

Witch on Trial: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 5 (Paperback)

Witch on Trial: A Blair Wilkes Mystery Book 5 (Paperback)

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Book 5 of 15: A Blair Wilkes Mystery

Blair's life is starting to look up. Life is back to normal, she's found a clue about her family history, and her relationship with Nathan might finally be getting somewhere.

Naturally, that's when a dead body shows up in her boss's office.

With the paranormal hunters in town, one mistake might lead to catastrophe. And what's she to do when the person she suspects of committing the murder is already behind bars?

Can Blair get to the truth, or will she be the one to end up on trial?

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Of all the things I’d expected to be doing on a first date, climbing under a waterfall in search of pixie dust definitely wasn’t one of them.

I’d had my fair share of abnormal experiences ever since I’d moved to the paranormal town of Fairy Falls a few months ago, but my quest for the elf king might be the weirdest yet. And the last week had involved a tussle with my best friend on the back of a broomstick and finding the witch who owned the town napping in a coffin, among other things. Nathan and I looked up at the curtain of water splashing into the deep pool below. The elf king had asked me to bring him a rare plant which supposedly grew under the Fairy Falls, but I couldn’t see anything except rocks and water sprinkled with a hint of glitter.

“I’m sure it’s here somewhere.” I crouched down beside the curtain of water, resisting the impulse to dunk my head underneath it as I’d done once before. Nathan took my arm to stop me from falling in, probably a wise move. I hardly believed he’d actually come with me after my immense stupidity of late had almost wrecked our potential relationship before it even got off the ground. Admittedly, he’d also helped arrest my dad in his days as a paranormal hunter working as a prison security guard. And I’d deceived him about being a fairy for the first few weeks we’d known one another, thinking that he’d see me as a freak. I’d turned out to be wrong. Not only was he willing to forgive me, and I him, he’d come with me on my ridiculous quest to find a long-extinct plant that was rumoured to grow somewhere… hang on a moment.

I leaned forward and squinted up at the jagged rock face behind the falls. “I think there’s something growing up there.” 

The plant called pixie dust might be listed as extinct, but I’d looked it up in two different textbooks and I had the image memorised. A faint shimmer on the leaves growing from the rock face confirmed my suspicions. Problem: it was way out of reach.

Nathan tilted his head back to look up at the falls. “Can those boots of yours reach it?”

“I think so,” I said, looking down at my Seven Millimetre Boots. They had their limitations, but because they could travel in any direction, I could use them to fly as well as walking quicker than usual. I stood on tip-toe, feeling the spray of water from the falls. “But flying is easier.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I can wait here, but if you go under the falls, I won’t be able to catch you.”

“I won’t fall in if I de-glamour.” I snapped the fingers of my right hand and wings unfurled behind my shoulders. In fairy mode, my skin was glittery and my ears pointed, but aside from that, I supposedly looked the same as before. Being half fairy and half witch had been a bumpy ride so far, but what mattered was that Nathan didn’t mind. That was enough for me.

“Be careful.” He briefly touched my arm, making my heart jump in my chest, and then I beat my wings and left the bank.

The curtain of water crashed down inches away from me as I flew closer to the plant growing at the back. It did match the illustration. The elf king hadn’t tried to trick me after all. Taking a quest from an elf was generally unwise, but in exchange for the pixie dust, the elf king had promised to tell me why my father had come to the forest a few years ago. The father I’d never met. While my foster parents loved me unconditionally, the fact that my magical birth family were still out there and hadn’t got in touch had been bothering me ever since I’d moved here. If I got hold of the glitter-tinted plant growing behind the falls, I’d get at least one answer about my past.

I beat my fairy wings and hovered awkwardly in front of the falls, getting drenched in the process. Taking a breath, I flew to the side of the falls, reaching higher to get into a position to pull the leaves out of the rock. Grabbing them firmly in hand, I pulled hard. The leaves didn’t move. I pulled again, putting all the strength I had into it, but the leaves clung fast.

“I can help.” Nathan leaned off the bank, reaching out with both hands. “I’ll hold onto you, while you pull.”

I let go of the leaves and flew back so he could reach me. Then I extended my arm and gripped the leaves again. “Okay, sure.”

He grabbed my waist and pulled. The leaves came free, and I fell backwards into him, pulling both of us off the bank and into the water.

A roaring torrent crashed over my head, and I kicked to the surface, spitting out a mouthful of water. Nathan emerged a moment later.

“Ah.” I pushed my sodden hair from my face, treading water. “Sorry about that.”

“Did you get them?” he asked, grabbing the side of the bank with one hand.

“Yes.” I spotted the leaves floating a few feet away and plucked them out of the water. 

Nathan pulled himself out, his hair plastered to his face. 

“Sorry.” I swam to the bank, clutching the leaves in one hand. “I can’t keep my balance even with wings.”

He laughed and reached out a hand to help me out of the water. I took it, awkwardly climbed up the bank and would have fallen onto my face if he hadn’t caught my arm and kissed me.

Oh. Now that was worth waiting for.

He pushed my soaking hair out of my eyes. “Should I not have done that?” 

“No, I’ve been waiting for a while.” I grinned stupidly for a minute. My clothes were soaked. So were my wings, though I’d forgotten I was in fairy mode at all. Nathan moved back to give me some space to squeeze the water from my hair. His soaking wet clothes clung to him in a way that made me almost forget the leaves I’d dropped on the bank. I picked them up, shedding glitter. Oh no. I looked back at Nathan, who was similarly decorated. The glitter had even ended up in his hair.

“I know a drying spell.” I reached for my wand, which had luckily stayed in my pocket. With one wave, my clothes were dry. A moment later, so were Nathan’s. 

“Nice job.” He looked down at his newly dried clothes. “I haven’t seen that one before.”

“Alissa taught it to me. It’s supposed to be a hair-drying spell, but it works for anything.” I put my wand away. “You don’t mind walking back to town like that? We shouldn’t run into any hunters at least, but you should know you have pink glitter in your hair.”

He tilted his head. “I think I’ll survive it. You got what you needed, right?”

“Yeah. I’ll hand it over to the elf king first thing tomorrow.”

“You’re back at work tomorrow?”

I nodded. “Assuming Veronica comes back to town in time. I know they found her, but I’m not sure she took a broomstick like Alissa.” 

My boss had been hit with a spell which caused her to impulsively run off in search of her shifter ex-husband, the same spell that had turned my best friend into a broomstick-riding daredevil. The spell was off now, and the person who’d accidentally caused it—Rebecca, the younger sister of my ex-co-worker Blythe—would be starting magical training as soon as possible to ensure it didn’t happen again. Meanwhile, their manipulative mother was in jail for trying to force her daughter to use her powers to help her take over the town council and dismantle the covens. Thanks to the chaos they’d caused, it’d taken me until the day before the elf king’s deadline to track down the pixie dust. But now all I had it, I’d finally be able to find out some of my birth family’s history.

I was one step closer to the truth. 

* * *

The following morning, I woke bright and early to a claw poking my leg.

“Miaow,” said Sky, the little cat I’d adopted. Or who’d adopted me, depending on who you asked. Black with one white front paw, he had one blue eye and one grey, and it’d taken far too long to figure out he was a fairy cat and not a witch’s familiar.

Another jab to my knee. “Miaow.”

“What?” I looked up blearily. There was an elf outside my window, his little pointed face pressed against the glass.

I jumped out of bed. “He might have given me chance to bring it in person. It’s dawn.” Admittedly, I was cutting it close to the elf king’s deadline, but I’d spent the week saving the town. Grabbing a dressing gown and slippers, I picked up the leaves as well as my keys before running out into the garden.

Between rows of flowering plants stood the elf who’d taken me into the elven kingdom last time. He was about four feet tall and wore bark-coloured clothes. His pointed ears were not unlike my own when I was in fairy mode, but I was firmly in sleepy human mode at the moment. 

“Blair Wilkes,” he said. “Today is your deadline to bring what the elf king desires.”

“I was going to bring it later, but I have what he wanted.” I held out the clump of leaves.

The elf snatched the pixie dust from my hand. “I will take it to him,” he said. “And if he wishes to speak to you, he will.”

“But we had a deal,” I protested. “He was supposed to tell me what happened when he saw my dad—”

“Come with me to the king when he asks, not before.” With a swift bow, he was gone, disappearing into the bushes.

“Excuse me?” I stared after him. “I should have known he’d go back on his word.” Elves were known for being tricky, but I’d risked life and limb to get those leaves. Okay, I’d got close to Nathan in the process, but come on.

A flash of glitter made my head snap up. A pixie had appeared, fluttering around my head. “Too late. He’s gone.”

The pixie dropped a piece of paper on my head. I jumped, causing the paper to fall to the ground, and dove to retrieve the note.

It was from my dad, though he never signed his correspondence.

I’m glad to hear you’re safe. It’s too risky to say much on paper in case this letter falls into the wrong hands, but I want you to know I never meant to abandon you in the normal world. Your mother and I had very good reason for leaving you behind, and your own safety was paramount. I’d like to keep in touch and see you the next time I’m able to.

I blinked tears from my eyes. My safety. I’d spent years coming up with reasonable explanations as to why my birth parents hadn’t kept in touch with me, ranging from them being superheroes to them having moved abroad and forgotten about me. But in my hand was definitive proof that my dad had wanted to see me and had been prevented from doing so by forces beyond his control.

But how he wound up in jail? I understood why he’d thought it was too risky to put that information in a letter, but I wished I knew more.

I looked up at the pixie. “Can you please ask the elf king to invite me to come and see him today? We had an arrangement and he promised me information.” He might know nothing at all, and besides, the elves didn’t seem to like the pixie much. No, it was more likely that I’d have to wait until whenever the king felt it was convenient to speak to me. Which might be never.

When the pixie vanished, I left the garden and returned to the house. It was the nicest place I’d ever lived in, a pretty impressive manor-sized establishment that belonged to Madame Grey, the witch who owned the whole town. Alissa and I rented one ground-floor flat, but it was more than enough for two people and two demanding cats.

Alissa was in the kitchen making coffee when I came in. “I thought you were going to elf land,” she said.

“Nope. The elf took the leaves and ran off, and apparently the king’s going to call me back… whenever. Not sure they have a phone signal deep in the woods.”

“That seems unfair. You did complete his quest. At least you got—wait, what’s that note?” She indicated the paper clutched in my hand.

“A letter. From my dad.” I took a seat on the sofa, where Sky promptly joined me, much to the annoyance of Roald, Alissa’s cat. I didn’t know if Sky was more demanding because he was a fairy cat or if it was just his personality, but whenever he was in the room, Roald would get a swipe if he went too close to me. “He didn’t say much. Just that he apparently had good reason not to get in touch with me, but he can’t tell me what it is.”

“I don’t blame him for wanting to be cautious about sharing information in a letter,” said Alissa. “Especially if it might fall into someone else’s hands. I mean, I’m guessing the people at the jail don’t know he’s passing on messages to you via the pixie.”

“Not just me,” I said. “He was in touch with Lord Goddard too—he must have been, there’s no other way for him to have known Peter the wizard was after me. I think he and the pixie must be friends, but it’s not like we can speak the same language.”

Peter the crazy wizard was locked up where he belonged, but he was a recent threat. My parents had left me in the normal world, with no clue I was paranormal, when I was mere days old. Now I knew my dad was locked in the region’s most secure paranormal prison, it made a little more sense that he’d given me up for adoption. And I had nothing to complain about as far as my foster family were concerned. They were loving, caring… and entirely normal.

“Maybe you can figure out how to talk to the pixie,” Alissa said, setting two mugs down on the table. Specially enhanced mood-boosting witch tea, judging by the fruity smell. “Don’t forget you have the book.”

“Oh, yeah.” I moved to the bookshelf and retrieved the thick volume titled, The General Guide to Fairies and Other Species, skipping to the section on ‘pixies’.

Apparently, pixie dialect wasn’t comprehensible to anyone except their own species. Fairies also had their own language, though like Elvish, it was spoken only in their small communities and since they’d mingled with humans more than elves had, it was on its way to extinction.

I put the book down and took a sip of warm, berry-flavoured tea. “You know, fairies are probably much more common in other paranormal communities. I just happened to wind up in one where I’m the novelty.”

I’d begun to grow used to the stares, though admittedly I’d had much more important things on my mind in the last week. But the town was steeped in fairy history that seemed to be lost from records. Even the Fairy Falls themselves. Legend told that fairies had once lived there, but not a single one had surfaced in so long that even the town’s oldest resident, a seven-hundred-year-old vampire, had no recollection. 

I picked up a pen and tore a piece of paper loose from my work notepad. “Hmm… what do I ask my dad this time? If he can’t share anything that might fall into the wrong hands, then that shuts down a lot of conversation topics. I obviously can’t ask why he gave me up for adoption, or why he was jailed.”

“Ask if any of your other family members are still alive,” Alissa suggested. “Just a yes or no would do, he wouldn’t have to go into details.”

“Yeah, but that wouldn’t give me much to go by.” I slumped back, chewing on my pen. “How do you even begin to connect with a family member you’ve never actually met? I don’t know him. And you know, he is in jail for some crime he won’t tell me about.”

“He helped you find out Peter the wizard’s plan,” Alissa reminded me. “I’d say he cares for you and he’s looking out for you.”

“Yeah.” That should be enough. And yet a sliver of doubt remained, fed by the words Blythe’s mother had said in front of the entire witch council.

Your parents were common thieves. 

I didn’t believe her—didn’t want to believe her—but she’d believed she told the truth. And my lie-sensing power hadn’t picked up on any deception.

I still wasn’t sure whether my lie-sensing power was a witch one or a fairy one. The stories said fairies couldn’t lie, which suggested that power belonged to my fairy side, but to make things confusing, the witch side of my family boasted some pretty strong mind powers. My mother, Tanith Wildflower, had been a powerful witch. Unlike my dad, she’d grown up in Fairy Falls, though she’d left a couple of years before I was born, and nobody had seen either of them since.

Until now. The piece of paper in my hand was a fragile connection to my history. I was an anomaly, but I’d finally begun to accept I wasn’t just a freak. 

* * *

I arrived at work in a decent mood despite my lingering annoyance at the elf king for not even acknowledging that I’d held up my end of the bargain. I’d sent the pixie off with the reply to my dad’s note, so now it was time to fix the mess the boss’s disappearance had caused over the last week. Dritch & Co was a paranormal recruitment agency, so we dealt with finding suitable employees for our vampire, witch and wizard clients. Three of the staff had been hit by Blythe’s sister’s personality-altering spell—unluckily, at the precise moment when we’d been told to find new people to train to be part of the town’s security force. These days, security was more important than ever.

The blond receptionist gave me a strained smile when I walked in.

“Hey, Callie,” I said. “Glad to see you’re back.”

“I’m so sorry, Blair!” she said. “I can’t believe I shifted when the paranormal hunters were on the phone. I hope that won’t make trouble for you.”

“We drove them out of town,” I said. “They won’t come back without Madame Grey’s say-so. Besides, you weren’t to know you were under a spell.”

“I should have,” she said. “It’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened. My dad isn’t happy.”

He never is. Chief Donovan was wildly overprotective of his daughter and his werewolf pack as a whole, and the shifters were the most likely to kick up a fuss if the paranormal hunters came within sniffing distance of the town. Luckily for all of us, the three hunters who Blythe’s mother had picked to help her out weren’t the brightest bulbs and had disappeared the instant Nathan got the police involved. But thanks to someone putting them on our call list—not to mention Callie’s shifting and growling at them down the phone—our town was officially on the hunters’ radar.

I went into the main office through the wooden door on the left of the reception. Lizzie, the tall, dark-skinned computer expert of the office was fiddling with the printer, while Bethan, the boss’s daughter, was in the middle of moving half a ton of papers onto my desk. Spotting me, she gave me an apologetic look and began shifting them back to her own. Her thick dark hair swept over her shoulder, and the shadows under her eyes stood out against her pale skin. She’d probably been up all night looking for Veronica.

“Your mum’s not back yet?” I asked. There was no sign of Lena, the fourth member of our team, but she’d found our work environment chaotic and alarming even before the spell had hit her, which was a fair assessment. From wrangling unicorn handlers to dealing with cantankerous wand-makers, there was never a dull moment at the appropriately-named Eldritch & Co.

“She’ll be here in a bit,” said Bethan. “She got back in the early hours of the morning, so she’s had to check in at home first. She’d flown halfway to Scotland when they caught up to her.”

“So she did take a broomstick? What about Lena?”

“I don’t know if she’ll want to come back, to be honest,” said Bethan. “We did track her down, but I think she’s written the town off as a hazard.”

“So we’re back to just three of us again.” Lizzie took a seat at her desk. “I hope the boss is at the top of her game, because this mess isn’t going to sort itself out.”

“Veronica’s back to normal, for what it’s worth,” Bethan responded, shuffling papers. “Oh, she’s here.” 

From the lobby came a familiar voice. Then the office door opened and Veronica Eldritch strode in. The boss was tall and lean like her daughter, but with white hair instead of black. Her arms were full of papers and her dark skirt and white shirt were more wrinkled than usual, but it was a huge relief to see her.

“Oh, good, you’re all here,” she said. “I have to apologise for leaving you in the lurch. Were you able to complete this paperwork?”

There was an awkward silence.

“Not exactly,” said Bethan. “Half the phone numbers didn’t work. I tried to call a witch in Bolton and got a troll in Reykjavik instead.”

“And the number for the esteemed Yorkshire Wizard ended up being the number for a satyr-owned dry-cleaning company in Essex,” Lizzie put in.

Veronica’s brows rose as we explained the chaotic week we’d had. Not only had she disappeared, none of her instructions had made any sense and nearly all the client details were wrong. Normally, Veronica was efficient enough to be mildly terrifying, with a literal paranormal ability to keep track of countless details at once. The rest of us had been left floundering in her absence.

Veronica picked up the topmost paper on the stack from Bethan’s desk. “Oh, this is an easy fix. We’ll be back to normal by Monday.”

I suspected we’d be working overtime for a while, but it was better than having no boss at all.

“The more up to date files are in my office,” Veronica said. “I’ll be back in a second.”

She darted out of the office, and a current of air blew in, prompting me and Bethan to move to stop the papers from toppling off the desk.

There was the sound of a door opening, a soft gasp, then silence.

Bethan steadied the papers and got to her feet. “Er, are you okay, Mum?”

No response. Shooting me a look of alarm, Bethan ran to the half-open door and out into the reception area. When she gasped, too, I ran to join her.

Veronica stood in front of her partially open office door. A man lay across her path, not moving, like he’d just fallen out of the office. “Well,” said Veronica. “That wasn’t there when I left.”

No kidding. The man was dead.

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