Iona: Coeds

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Iona: Coeds
By Julie O

Edited  By Robert Arnold

This story features characters from Turbulence, Fresh Start; Change of Course; The Protector series; Ambition and Purpose, Revenge of the Goddesses: Athena’s Assassin; and Corruption. Jennifer Stevens appears courtesy of Bob Arnold

(There’s a list of characters at the end of the story)

Chapter 1

    It felt good to be back in San Diego after spending the past three weeks jetting around the country. While I have always loved travelling, this trip hadn’t been a vacation as I had been meeting a group a very interesting young women; who like me had undergone a gender change.

    While we had all undergone a variety of transformations, ranging from medical to magical, we all shared a common trait; a feeling that our change was tied to some greater purpose.

    Aunt Kayla was waiting for me at the luggage carousel. It was so good to see her and as we hugged. Even though I had been living with her for several years I still couldn’t bring myself to call her anything else but Aunt Kayla, even though she had told me it was perfectly acceptable to just call her by her first name. I guess part of the reason I couldn’t do this was out of respect, and because she had helped me adjust to my new life. I mean, it was difficult enough to adjust to becoming a woman, but toss in the fact that I had magical powers and well, you can see how comforting it was to have a mentor like Aunt Kayla.

    “Thanks for being here,” I said as we waited for my bags to appear.

    “It was my pleasure, Iona,” she replied.

    Even though I was now both engaged and a part-time college student, I still lived with Aunt Kayla at her home in the Sunset Cliffs neighborhood of San Diego. My fiancé Bill Somers was currently out of town for a six month exchange course with the Boston DA’s office.

    “Did you get a chance to see Bill?” asked Aunt Kayla.

    I nodded. “We got to spend a weekend together, we had a wonderful time. He’s also learning a lot from Fiona. They seem to be getting along famously.”

    Bill was an assistant DA in San Diego, and part of his normal duties was to work cases that involved human-magical interaction. Pure magical crimes were handled by a separate judicial system, but those cases that crossed boundaries required special attention. Bill was currently working with my mother, Fiona Beddau to better understand the complexities of these sorts of cases.

    Fiona and I had a complicated relationship to put it mildly as I really wasn’t her daughter. The original Iona had swapped bodies with me and then had been killed in my male body in a car accident. I knew that Fiona loved me, but she never quite accepted me as her daughter. In many ways, Aunt Kayla was my mother now.

    “I’m glad to hear that, my sister can be a bit impatient at times,” said Aunt Kayla.

    “With a human?” I whispered

    Aunt Kayla shook her head. “No, with everyone, especially when it comes to her work.”

    I laughed. “Well, Bill is a fast learner and he really enjoys the law.”

    My bags arrived and we headed home.

Chapter 2

    When we got to the house, I was mobbed by the cats Salem, Tully, and even Bran. Salem gave me the most enthusiastic greeting, but that is to be expected as she is my familiar.

    I had a lot to talk about with Aunt Kayla so I didn’t bother unpacking my bags. I just grabbed my notebook and headed out to the garden.

    I was immediately greeted by the aroma of freshly brewed tea.

    “Hmm, what’s that? It smells wonderful,” I stated as I sat down. Salem, jumped up into my lap and quickly settled in.

    “It’s called Vanilla Monsoon and I picked it up at Extraordinary Desserts last week,” replied Kayla as she referred to a wonderfully decadent dessert café located near Balboa Park. “It’s a blend of Ceylon tea and vanilla bean.”

    I took a sip of the tea and nodded. “It tastes as good as it smells.”

    She nodded.

    I took one more sip before setting my mug down so I could open up my notebook. Thankfully the other cats were content to lie around my feet. I doubt there was room for three cats and me in the chair.

    “It was a very interesting trip,” I remarked as I flipped through the pages.

    “Please tell me all about it,” she replied.

    “Well, you know that Beth and I go way back…back to when we were both men,” I replied. “She’s still working part-time as an agent as she works her way through Penn.”

    Beth Williams was originally Ben Carlson and we had served together in the Navy. Beth also knew Bill and it was a source of constant amusement for her to know that he was now my future husband. I didn’t mind as Beth had agreed to be my maid of honor and I planned to pick out a practically hideous dress for her to wear to get back at her…just kidding.

    “When we finalize this, I can put her in contact with a few others at the Agency who are like us,” said Aunt Kayla.

    That wasn’t a surprise as many of us with magical powers worked side-by-side with regular people.

    “I’ve also told you about Celeste Farnsworth,” I continued. “Her foundation for TG teens continues to grow and she’s looking into expanding to another facility.”

    Aunt Kayla nodded. “She’s quite a remarkable woman. It’s nice to see someone blessed with wealth that is willing to do some good with it.”

    I flipped to the next page of my notebook.

    “Jennifer Stevens is extraordinary…the press reports about her don’t even start to give her proper justice. Her media ties will be very useful,” I stated. “Because she is so well known, she recommends that she stay in the background so that the others don’t get an unwanted spotlight.”

    “I agree,” said Aunt Kayla.

    “I really like her,” I continued. “She’s so much more intelligent than she’s given credit for…she also has a great sense of humor.”

    “To survive everything she has had to she would need one,” added Aunt Kayla.

    I looked at my notes. “Dr. Hallie Pappadimos is equally brilliant…and I also like her partner Kim. They have the cutest daughter too.”

    “I’ve read some of her work on the discoveries in Crete,” said Aunt Kayla.

    “Well, that doesn’t even scratch the surface,” I replied. I then gave her a summery of Hallie’s life and her discoveries, including the evidence of Minoan artifacts in New Mexico.

    “I’m not surprised as we’ve long known that Minoans had interaction with the early Celts and Druid cultures. We suspected for several decades that they spread out to the new world. When this current crisis is resolved I would like to have one of our historians talk with her.”

    “I’m sure she would be interested,” I replied. I looked down at my notebook again. “Tessa Phoenix Barnard is the most mysterious of the group and definitely the most dangerous.”

    I told her about the ex-Navy Seal who had been murdered and resurrected by the Goddess Athena.

    “Please don’t get me wrong, she’s a very nice person…but she reminds me a lot of a large jungle cat. I pity those who get on her bad side,” I explained.

    “From what you told me she sounds like she’s in control of her fury. With the type of people there are in the world today, Tessa sounds like the type of person you might need on your side,” said Aunt Kayla. “I’m not promoting violence, but as you well know there are some very bad people out there.’

    I nodded. “Oh, I like her a lot. She’s married to a reporter and she also has a daughter. They live in Boston and were very nice to me.”

    “Still, you seem troubled,” said Aunt Kayla.

    “It’s not really about her. She told me how close she came to losing it and how she found love with her husband…and a drive to live. It’s just that I sometimes have a hard time accepting all the things that I’ve been exposed to. I mean, knowing that Athena is real is so incredible.”

    Aunt Kayla nodded. “I sometimes forget that you weren’t born into this life.”

    “Is Athena really a goddess?”

    “Who is to say? I mean, she may have started like us and just reached a higher plane of existence. Our kind was once human and over time we branched out and changed. The thing to remember is that we have a common past.”

    I sighed and drank the last of my tea. I got up and refilled my mug from the teapot.

    “That makes as much sense as anything,” I said as I looked into my notebook again.

    “The last person I made contact with is Jirra Reid,” I said. I then told Aunt Kayla about her. “In some ways, I feel a closer bond to her than most of the others. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s still adjusting to her new life and the fact that she’s worried about someone discovering the truth about her.”

    Aunt Kayla nodded.

    “On the positive side she has a very protective group of friends,” I said.

    “That can make a huge difference.”  

    I hesitated for a moment before saying what was on my mind. “I was wondering, would be it possible to give her a complete transformation…I mean concerning her identity?”

    Aunt Kayla shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. It can be dangerous to mix different types of magic; we know so little about the process that transformed her in the first place. She was transformed by a combination of ancient spells and raw nature, both of which are very powerful forces. An identity spell might have an adverse affect on her and those around her. I can have Amelia look into it, but I’m not optimistic about it. Did you talk to her about the possibility of such a spell?”

    Amelia was a close friend, distant relative, and also our family doctor. Like us, she had powers and was one of the top experts in the world on identity spells.

    “No, but from what Beth and the others told me about Jirra, I thought it might be worth a try. They know the stress she’s under and they’re worried about her,” I said. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t try it myself.”

    An identity spell was a very complicated enchantment and well beyond my current skills. I had seen the damage done by improper use of magic and there was no way that I would ever try the spell on my own. While I had made great strides in the control of my own powers, they were still developing. I was very good at casting protection spells, which in the past had saved my butt several times. I had also developed some powers that could be used offensively. I didn’t like the idea of constantly being on the defensive. I had also discovered that I was capable of limited ESP, although it, like the rest of my magic skills, was still a work in progress. I still had trouble focusing on the targeted person and my range needed improvement. I also had trouble filtering out other people.

    “I know that my dear,” said Aunt Kayla. “So, do you think that they will help us?”

    “I’m positive they will help us,” I replied.

    “I’ll run it past Fiona and see if she can obtain permission,” said Kayla.

    “I don’t see any other option,” I replied. “I mean, their investigators have been one step behind, if we’re going to catch who is doing this we need to detect them before it happens again.”

    Aunt Kayla nodded.

Chapter 3

    Twenty minutes later I was talking to Fiona after Aunt Kayla laid the groundwork.

    Fiona listened to my arguments without comment. It took me almost an hour to explain my position.

    “I have to admit that I’m impressed. You’ve obviously spent some time working on this idea,” she replied.

    “There’s a lot of time to think while waiting at airports, I used to do it a lot in my previous life,” I replied.

    “That’s true,” she replied.

    “So does that mean you approve of it?”

    I could almost picture the look on her face as she contemplated her response.

    “I don’t mind you using your friends to be on the lookout for …our suspect or suspects…but I’m not sure I like the idea of you being the one who actually tries to apprehend them,” she replied.

    “This isn’t my first time,” I replied.

    “I know…that’s what bothers me,” she replied.

    “What do you mean? I’ve done pretty well in the few cases I’ve been involved with,” I said.

    “Yes, you helped break several cases, but you’ve also put yourself in great danger.”

    I couldn’t argue with her reply. “I’ve improved a lot since then.”

    There was another hesitation. “It’s not that, Iona, it’s just that I would prefer that you focus on your studies. You have a sharp mind and I have no doubt you will be an excellent lawyer.”

    It was now my turn to be silent as I tried to think of the right words.

    “What are you afraid of?” I asked.

    “I don’t want to see you get hurt. While we may not have the perfect mother-daughter relationship…you still mean the world to me,” she said.

    “Thank you…I appreciate hearing that from you,” I replied. “However, there’s something else…I can sense it in your voice.”

    “Very observant, Iona. I’m worried about the path your life is taking you. You like the thrill of the hunt…the satisfaction of the capture,” she continued.

    “Um, is it that obvious?” I replied. I heard her sigh clearly over the telephone.

    “I suppose it is pointless to stand in your way. Would you like to become a fulltime investigator?” she asked.

    “You mean for handling magic violations?” I asked.

    “Not exactly. We have plenty of agents who handle pure magically cases…no we’ve been looking at expanding our department that handles cases that involve humans and the misuse of magic,” she replied. “Your rather unique background gives you insight that would be very useful in these sorts of cases.”

    “So my theory about this case is right?” I asked. To be honest I really didn’t want to be a lawyer. There was something very satisfying about going after the bad guys.

    “Yes, we’re convinced that whoever has been misusing these spells is human. That’s why we’ve had so much trouble in finding them,” she said.

    “And you don’t think that this is a good career for me?”

    “No, it’s the exact opposite, I think you’d be wonderful at the job…it’s just that I don’t think you’re ready.”

    “Why not? My skills have been improving, you can ask Aunt Kayla,” I replied.

    “I have no doubt that you can handle a human,” she said flatly.

    “Then what are you worried about? It’s not another succubus is it?”   

    There was another stretch of silence.

    “Mom…what are you holding back?” I asked.

    I heard another sigh. “Not everyone with powers abides by our laws and policy of coexistence with humans. There’s a small group of militants who believe that any human who misuses magic should be immediately and severely punished,” she explained. “Our agents have had more than a few run-ins with them.”

    “And you think they’re also hunting the suspects?”

    “We know that they are…we have contacts in their group. The only good thing is that they haven’t been any more successful than we have been,” she replied.

    “So it sounds like I’m the perfect person for this case,” I said.

    “Dear, these militants will let nothing stand in their way. They won’t hesitate even for a second to hurt you,” she said.

    “Oh,” I replied.

    “There is one way this could work…it would be very dangerous,” she said.

    “Sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of thinking too,” I said.

    I almost thought I heard her laugh slightly.

    “If you do this…you will be on your own. If we make you an official investigator it might tip them off. I think the best chance for your success is for you to have minimal assistance from us.”

    “Does that mean that your organization has been compromised?” I asked.

    “I have no proof, but I think so,” she replied. “I can help you…as no one would see our conversations as being out of the ordinary.”

    “I’ll do it,” I replied.

    “You don’t want to think about it?” she asked.

    “I think you know the answer. Fiona…Mom….ever since I became Iona I’ve been looking for some meaning in my life. I mean, I love my life, but there’s been something missing…until now.”

    “Okay, it’s obvious that this is your destiny,” she said.

    “So, how do I report to you? Do I just call you up?”

    “Yes, I will provide you with a special cell phone that will ensure that our conversations stay secure,” she replied.

    “A magical phone?” I asked.

    She laughed. “What? No, it’s just a secure cell phone. Not everything is magical!”

Chapter 4

    I got the phone a few days later, just before I caught a flight to Columbus, Ohio to meet with the others.

    Holding the meeting in the capital of Ohio made a lot of sense. Hallie taught at Ohio State and Jirra’s girl friend also had ties to the state. As for the others, they made up creditable excuses to be there.

    The other cool thing about being in Ohio was that I could meet with my sister from my previous life. While I no longer looked upon Columbus as my hometown, it was always great to visit.

    Everyone was able to come to the meeting in person with the exception of Jennifer Stevens; however she was able attend via the Internet.

    Hallie and her partner were gracious to host the event in their new house, which was located a few blocks away from the campus of Ohio State.

    To be honest I wasn’t completely sure that they would all agree to help. I had only told them that I needed some assistance and I hadn’t told them the true nature of my request.

    We gathered in Hallie and Kim’s living room. If I wasn’t so nervous about what I was about to tell them I would have taken the opportunity to study the collection of artifacts that the two archeologists had displayed in their home. I was also impressed with the artwork that covered their walls. I noticed several signed movie posters that had been produced or directed by Hallie’s father Richard Thorn.

    Hallie hung up the phone. “Sorry, but I just wanted to check with Carla and Alex. They’ve agreed to watch Annie this weekend.”

    I recognized the names of Carla and Alex Pappadimos from some archeology books that I had once read. Hallie had had also told me that they had been the ones who had actually raised her. Annie was Hallie and Kim’s daughter.

    “No need to apologize,” said Tessa. “I just called Richard to make sure that our little girl is okay.”

    I noticed that Jirra’s partner Alexis gave her a slight nudge. I suspected that it was due to all the talk about children. Hallie had told me that Jirra had urges to have a child.

    To be honest I was slightly shocked that Tessa was a mother. Even If I didn’t know her past life as Navy SEAL, I would have suspected from her demeanor that she was a warrior. Yet, Hallie told me that Tessa was a wonderful mother who was totally devoted to her daughter.

    “Well it looks like everyone is here,” said Beth as she took a seat next to Celeste Farnsworth.

    “Let’s get the party started,” said Jen Stevens through the speakers of the computer. 

    I looked around the room and took in a deep breath.

    “I want to thank you all for coming here. I wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t extremely important,” I stated. I took a sip of my soda. “I need your help.”

    “What do you need, Iona?” asked Beth.

    “As I told you, I have powers. I’m not alone, in fact that there many of us living along side you. Our abilities are something we are born with…or inherited in my case. We live by a set of rules and laws that govern the use of our gifts. We even have a legal system that enforces the proper use of our powers,” I stated before taking another drink. “There are powers that one is born with and then there are spells. To put it in simple terms, one is born with powers, but anyone can learn a spell.”

    “Does that include people like us?” asked Celeste.

    I nodded. “However, there’s more to it than just saying some words or mixing up some compounds. It’s a very exact and unforgiving science. In most cases, if a spell is botched nothing happens. However, there are those times when a spell is improperly cast it can do great harm.”

    I looked around the room and they were all looking at me intently.

    “I’m looking for one…possibly two people…humans who have discovered a spell and they have used it for their own pleasure,” I continued.

    “What does it do?” asked Tessa.

    “In the simplest terms it’s a spell used to greatly enhance sexual pleasure,” I replied. “It allows two people to share and feel each other’s emotions.”

    “That doesn’t sound too bad,” said Kim.

    “It isn’t,” I replied. “Unfortunately it also allows the person who casts the spell to mold their partner to serve their desires.”

    “So, if the person wants something…how do I put this…wants something very kinky the other person will do it?” asked Tessa.

    I nodded. “That’s not all. It also allows the person to physically change their partner.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Hallie.

    “I’m not just talking about common fantasies like larger breasts or things like that…if the person casting the spell wants to make love to say…a mermaid… then the other person transforms to fit that form,” I said. “They also stay in that form for the rest of their life.”

    There was total silence in the room.

    “How is the spell cast?” asked Jen.

    “It’s a liquid and it’s odorless and tasteless,” I replied. “The good thing is that it’s very difficult to create. Also the ingredients are rather rare and expensive.”

    “So how can we help?” asked Beth.

    “I need you to act as my eyes and ears. If you hear of anything strange let me know,” I said. “I will also give you a list of the ingredients. If you hear anything related to this, call me immediately. Under no circumstances are you to intervene.”

    “Okay, I’ll ask, why not?” asked Tessa.

    I told them about the group that Fiona had told me about.

    “I can defend myself against them… you won’t be able to,” I stated. “I don’t want to see any of you get hurt.”

    “That makes sense,” replied Tessa. “Who else can we tell about this?”

    I hesitated for a moment. “Anyone you trust with your life. I know from talking to you that you have all faced danger and have dealt with the supernatural. I know that some of your friends and family might be able to help. However, I need to emphasize that all I need is for you to gather information.”

    “So you think that there are only one or two people doing this?” asked Tessa.

    “It’s either a couple… or one person who is changing gender at will,” I replied.

    “And how many people have been affected by this person or persons?” asked Beth.

    “Thirty-seven that we know of,” I replied.

    “Do you have case files on these victims?” asked Beth.

    I nodded. “I’ll brief you on some of them and I will also give you each a flash-drive with pertinent info on the cases. However, the drives have a protection spell on them. If any unauthorized person looks at the file they will see nothing related to the cases.”

Chapter 5

    “We’re really not sure how many victims there are,” I said. “It’s very possible the person or persons using it didn’t initially realize the power of the spell.”

    “So it would have been used as an aphrodisiac, and they might have used it on many people…until they discovered the real power of it,” stated Kim.

    “That’s right,” I replied. “Judging by the number of known victims we know that whoever is using it knows what they are doing.”

    “Can the spell change the appearance of the person who…cast it?” asked Jen.

    “Yes…that’s why we’re not sure if there are one or two people. The victims’ memories are hazy, but they have all said that they were with only one person. The spell is designed to affect the memories of the victims and so the physical description of the person varies greatly…race, gender, size…you name it.”

    “How do you know that it’s not a whole gang of people?” asked Alexis.

    “Without getting too technical, the spell leaves a very distinctive signature,” I replied.

    “And from analyzing this signature you can tell that there are only one or two people using it?” asked Tessa.

    I nodded. “It’s either one person who is changing gender or a brother and sister.”

    “I hope it’s just one person,” said Jirra.

    “Me too,” I replied.

    Tessa was studying a page of the report that listed the last known ten victims.

    “It appears that they all belong to one of three main groups,” she noted. “College students, expensive upper-class society, and show business.”

    “Luckily we have all three groups covered here,” said Beth.

    I nodded as I passed around some files on some of the more recent cases.

    “This is the one that first caught our attention,” I stated.

    The victim was a male, although you would never know from the photo. Twenty-two-year-old Jimmy Kellor had been a second string linebacker for Nebraska. Now he could pass as Paris Hilton’s twin. The reason I called Jimmy male was that he still had his male sex organs and still saw himself as male.

    “We were lucky to have someone working at the university,” I said. “They whisked Jimmy away before anyone saw his new form.”

    “How big was Jimmy before the transformation?” asked Tessa as she studied the photo.

    “He was listed in the press guide as six-six, and weighing two hundred and sixty pounds,” I replied as I reviewed my notes.

    “Where is he now?” asked Celeste.

    “We have him in a safe house. Without knowing the exact formula for the original spell we can’t change him back to his original physical appearance,” I said.

    “So he’s stuck like this?” asked Beth.

    “For now. There’s an alternative but he doesn’t want it,” I replied.

    “You mean total transformation into a woman?” asked Hallie.

    I nodded. “His identity would also be changed…but he doesn’t want that. He’s holding out for the hope we catch the person who changed him.”

    “Oh my god!” exclaimed Jirra as she looked at one of the other files. She held up a photo to show the others. It showed a beautiful female centaur with long blonde hair.

    “I know her!” exclaimed Alexis as she took the photo from Jirra.

    “It’s quite possible,” I replied. “She’s an actress…nothing big, but she worked on a lot of TV shows. Her name is Lara Irons.”

    Alexis nodded. “She had a part in my first show. Where is she now?”

    “We’ve moved her to a special ranch in Colorado,” I replied. “We have several other of the half-human half animal-victims there.”

    “Like what?” asked Hallie.

    “Two other female centaurs and one male centaur,” I replied. “We also have a fox girl, a pig man and a snake girl with a human head and torso. She has six arms and from the waist down she has a thirty-foot long snake body. Then there are the two female and one male merpeople we’re supporting at a facility in California. At least they’re still their original genders.”

    “And all of these were done by the same spell?” asked Kim.

    I nodded.

    “I know you just asked us to be on the lookout for strange things…but I want to do more than that,” said Tessa. “Whoever is doing this needs to be caught. This is one sick bastard.”

    “I agree with Tessa,” added Beth.

    I shook my head. “I wish it was that simple.”

    I reminded them about the others who were hunting the person who was committing these violations.

    “And they wouldn’t like us getting involved?” asked Jirra.

    “They wouldn’t see problem with killing any of you. They don’t have a high regard for non-magical people interfering in what they see as a strictly magical problem.”

    “No offense, but we’re hardly normal humans,” said Tessa with a sly smile on her face.

    “None taken, Tessa, but I doubt it would matter to them. Granted some of you have been touch by supernatural powers, but that might not be enough to keep you out of harm’s way. For all I know they might not even approve of me…if they knew the truth about me that is. Very few people know what happened to the original Iona and they are all very close to me. In fact the main reason I’m on this case is because I’m not part of the authorities. Officially I’m not part of the investigation and that’s why I need your help. The others may have compromised the magical authorities and I can only call on them to help once I’ve either identified or captured the person…or persons doing this.”

    “I see,” she replied.

    “I may be new to the magical world, but I have pretty strong defensive powers. I’ve also been acquiring some spells that will allow me to be more proactive,” I replied.

    “What do you mean?” she asked.

    “Well, I have several very effective protective powers. One sends the spell back at the person who cast it,” I said.

    Tessa nodded. “That would be very effective, still it would be nice to have someone covering your back…I learned that the hard way.”

    “I agree with Tessa,” said Beth. “You may be attacked from two sides.”

    “I don’t plan on being alone. I have someone in mind to cover my back,” I replied.

    “Anyone I know?” asked Beth.

    I smiled back. “Not that I’m aware of…but anything is possible.”

    “So what do you want us to do?” asked Hallie. 

    “Call me if you hear of anything strange…no matter how bizarre,” I replied.

    “I work in Hollywood, any way to narrow down the term bizarre?” asked Jen.

    I couldn’t help smiling at her question. “Well for a start, anything related to exclusive parties would be a good start. Many of the victims recall something about being at a party.”

    “I’ll see what I can do,” she replied.

    “What else?” asked Jirra.

    “Any strange disappearances,” I continued. “If the person has undergone a transformation they will want to go into hiding.”

    “So you’ll need to catch the person who is doing this in one piece in order to change the victims back to normal,” stated Beth.

    “That’s the preferred method,” I replied. “There’s a very good chance that the spell’s power will be broken upon the death of the person casting it.”

    “So if the people you have in the safe house suddenly change back to normal that means the others got to the spell caster first,” said Tessa.

    I nodded. “However, the others as you call them, could care less about the victims…they just want to preserve the so called purity of magic,” I replied.

    Kim looked at me. “I know this sounds like a stupid question…but just how common is magic….does that make sense?”

     I nodded. “I wouldn’t be able to ask it any clearer, Kim. To be honest we’re not sure. Yes, we know many of the people who have powers and we also know about more mystical beings.”

    “Like elves and werewolves and things like that?” asked Celeste.

    I nodded. “Just to name a few. According to my aunt all sorts of mystical and magical beings used to live side by side with ordinary humans. Over time they learned to blend in and hide their powers and differences. They even helped create the mythology and tales about themselves. Over the eons, mankind accepted the stories and forgot the truth. A few races stayed closer to the mystical roots…like the Minoans and the Anasazi.”

    “That makes sense,” said Hallie.

    “As I said earlier, some spells can be learned and over time some humans have done just that. There are also objects that have been changed so that can store and transmit certain spells. For example, all those stories about magical rings and medallions….they’re all aren’t fairy tales.”

    “This is pretty cool,” said Alexis. “Also pretty terrifying too.”

    I laughed slightly. “Trust me, Alexis; I know exactly what you mean. I don’t mind my eyes being opened to this world…but it does take some getting used to.”

    “So what will happen to the person when you catch them?” asked Beth.

    “They will get a trial. This isn’t a one time mistake. Whoever is doing this knows what they are doing,” I replied.

    “Um, when you say a trail…you mean a real trial?” asked Celeste.

    I nodded again. “Yes and they’ll even have a lawyer.”

    “Magical lawyers….now that’s scary,” said Jen.

    The group broke out in laughter.

    “The best defense lawyers are vampires and werewolves,” I said.

    They all looked at me to see if I was serious.

    “Just kidding,” I replied.

    “I don’t know…this might explain some of the corporate lawyers I’ve met in dealing with the studios,” said Jen.

    “Actually weres and vampires have too strong of an ethical side to be lawyers,” I replied. “At least that’s what my mom told me.”

Chapter 6

    Hallie and the others looked over the list of ingredients for the spell.

    “A lot of these things can be picked up at any health food store,” said Kim.

    I nodded as I pointed to the list. “These are a bit rarer.”

    “Dried jellyfish power?” asked Jirra as she read over my shoulder.

    I shrugged my shoulders. “I have no idea who makes it, but there are stores that sell it. In fact there’s one not far from here.”

    “Where is it?” asked Kim.

    “It’s called the Ye Olde Magik Shoppe,” I replied.

    “I know where it is; it’s just north of Lane Avenue on High Street. I always thought the place was a joke,” said Kim.

    I shook my head. “The woman who runs it is a family friend. Her name is Rowena and she can be trusted…she’s helped out some people here on campus who have magical spells cast on them. If you want I’ll give her your names.”

    Kim nodded.

    “So she’s probably been alerted to keep an eye out for someone buying these ingredients,” said Hallie.

    “That’s right, but there are other places...non-magical shops that might have the components too,” I said.

    “For example?” asked Alexis.

    “How about any decent Asian market,” said Tessa.

    I nodded. “That’s true, but there’s not as much quality control, remember there’s no room for error in mixing the spell.”

    “Do you have a list of possible stores…I mean magical ones?” asked Beth.

    I nodded. “I can send them to you for your areas. Now, if no one else minds, I would really like to get something to eat”

    Beth looked at her watch. “Wow, I lost all track of time,”

    “Do you want to go out? We have a great Chinese place within walking distance,” said Hallie.

    “Sure…ignore the woman in the computer,” said Jen with a laugh.

    “I’ll treat you to dinner the next time you’re in San Diego,” I said.

    “Deal!” she replied. “And I may have some resources to help those transformed partially into animals if they can’t be changed back so let me know how that all works out. The entertainment world has its own kind of ‘magic’ and maybe some of it can be used to make their lives easier and give them a purpose.”

Chapter 7

    We agreed not to talk about the case over dinner and it was nice to relax with people who knew my secret. I hated not being honest, but let’s face it; most people aren’t ready to know that magic really exists.

    We also agreed to order different meals and then share them which always makes going out for Chinese more fun.

    “So how long will you be in Columbus, Iona?” asked Kim.

    “I’m staying a few days with my sister, she has an art gallery in the Short North,” I replied as I scooped some Kung Pao chicken onto my plate.

    “So you’re originally from here?” asked Hallie.

    “In another lifetime,” I replied with a grin.

    “And was your sense of humor as bad?” asked Jirra.

    I nodded. “Pretty much.”

    “So your sister knows all about you?” asked Kim as she reached for the pot of tea.

    “She’s the only one in my old family who does. It’s nice to have a connection to my past,” I replied.

    “I know how that feels,” said Beth.

    I noted the sadness in her voice and remembered that she had told me her grandmother had terminal cancer. 

    “How’s she doing?” I asked.

    “She’s at peace with it. I mean she’s in her nineties and has done some incredible things in her life. The doctors are impressed with her status considering she has refused surgery.”

    “Does she know everything about you, Beth?” asked Kim.

    Beth nodded.

    “Including what you do for a living?” asked Hallie.

    Beth smiled. “Oh yes, she’s happy to see that I’m in the family business.”

    “Why don’t you tell us about her, Beth,” suggested Tessa.

    “I don’t want to bore you with old stories,” said Beth.

    “Tell us the one about her escape from a POW camp in Germany,” I suggested.

    The others agreed and Beth began to tell us the story. I could tell that it cheered her up a lot.

Chapter 8

    We met one last time the next morning. I had checked my email and realized that there were no new cases of abuse reported.

    After the meeting I headed to my sister Jenny’s gallery. Ever since she had learned the truth of our family heritage her artwork had really taken off.

    The actual gallery section of her business was small. She used the back of the building as her workshop. The second floor was her home.

    I walked inside the gallery and the bell above the door announced my entrance.

    Jenny stepped out from the back and smiled at me.

    “Well, it’s good to see you,” she said.

    “It’s good to see you too,” I said as we hugged.

    “Any trouble finding the place?” she asked.

    I shook my head.

    “Well, let me show you around,” she said.

    Currently she was doing a lot of sculpture and was starting to experiment with glass.

    “These are incredible,” I said. “When did you start glass blowing?”

    “Last year. I finally got good enough to put some of the items out for sale. I can barely keep them on the shelf,” she said.

    While Jenny didn’t have powers like mine, she was very in tune with her artistic side. Aunt Kayla said that many artistic people had magical powers, although many were unaware of it.

    “How are your lessons coming along?” I asked as we sat down on a couch near the back of the gallery.

    “Not bad. Amelia says that I’m doing quite well considering I never knew I had powers until after you changed,” she said. “I have learned one spell”

    “What is it?” I asked.

    “I can boil water just by touching the outside of the mug. It makes getting my morning tea a lot more simple,” she replied with a smile.

    I laughed. “I use a variation of that spell when I’m taking a bath. When the water gets too cool I just warm it a little. It’s not that different from the spell you’re using,” I said.

    “Oooh that sounds very useful. I’ll have to ask Amelia to show me that one the next time she’s in town,” said Jenny. “So how did your meeting go?”

    I gave her the details without giving out names.

    “You definitely have some interesting friends,” she said.

    “They’re good people. I feel at ease around them,” I replied.

    “So how’re things going with Bill?” she asked.

    “We’re getting along fine. We still haven’t set a date yet for the wedding, but neither of us are in a rush.”

    “Well, I definitely want to be there…just to see you in a wedding gown,” she said.

    I laughed. “Oh, you’ll be there…in the most hideous bridesmaid gown I can pick out.”

    We both started laughing.

    “I never though we’d be having conversations like this,” said Jenny.

    “That makes two of us,” I replied. “I’m so happy to have you in my life.”

    Jenny smiled back.

    “How’s the family?” I asked.

    “Mom’s still not over Dad’s passing,” she said. “But she is thinking of selling the house and moving into something smaller.”

    “That would be nice,” I said. “Um, does she still blame… Iona for Roger’s death…I still have trouble referring to myself like this…”

    “Unfortunately she does,” said Jenny. “I didn’t tell her that you were coming to town…it wasn’t worth the arguments.”

    “I wish I could tell her…but I know that’s impossible,” I said sadly.

    Jenny nodded. “I doubt she would be pleased to hear that I have magical powers too.”

    We talked a little more about the family before ordering lunch.

    There was a small café a block down the street and they delivered.

    “I haven’t bothered hiring a staff so I eat most of my meals here,” said Jenny as she handed me a menu.

    “Are you dating?” I asked.

    “Nosey little witch aren’t you?”

    “I’m not a witch….I’m a sorceress,” I replied as I stuck my tongue out at her.

    Jenny laughed. “I starting seeing someone a few months ago…nothing serious, but we have dinner a couple of times a week.”

    “And that’s it?” I asked. “Tell me more.”

    Jenny sighed. “Her name is Robin.”

    “Cool,” I replied.

    “So you’re not shocked that I’m dating a woman?” she asked.

    I just laughed. “Considering what I’ve gone through that’s tame.”

    “Point taken,” replied Jenny.

    I nodded. “Do I get to meet her?”

    Jenny shook her head. “Not yet. I want to see how it goes before I share my deeper secrets with her.”

    “That’s fair. What does she do?”

    Robin was the owner of the café up the street. She was a few years older than Jenny and had been out since she had graduated high school.

    “So Mom doesn’t know you’re dating another woman?”

    Jenny rolled her eyes.

    “Say no more,” I replied.

    “I plan on telling her if it gets more serious. Oh, she’s met Robin, but she doesn’t know that we’re a couple.”

    “Are you happy?” I asked.

    Jenny smiled. “Extremely.”

    “That’s all that matters,” I replied.

Chapter 9

    It was later that afternoon that I got a call from Fiona.

    “We have a new one,” she said.

    “How did you find out?” I asked.

    I had to admit that I was more than a little bit curious about how our people were finding the victims of these crimes.

    She signed slightly. “It’s a bit complicated.”

    I laughed. “Isn’t it always?”

    I almost thought I heard her let out a slight laugh.

    “We have agents…who are exceptionally attuned to the scent of spells. They can usually pinpoint the location of the victim within ten to twenty hours after the spell has been cast,” she said.

    “I know that some spells give off odors…but I wasn’t aware that any of us could smell them over a long distance,” I replied.

    “That’s correct. Kayla has been doing an excellent job in teaching you,” she replied.

    “Um, so when you say agents you aren’t referring to people…like us, right?” I asked.

    “That’s also correct,” she replied.

    I had only met a few supernatural creatures, but I always was hoping to meet more, but I knew this wasn’t the time or place.

    “Do the others have…agents like this too?” I asked.

    “They might,” she replied.   

    “Okay…so what do you want me to do?” I asked.

    “I’d like you to talk to the victim. She’s in a safe house just outside Philadelphia,” said Fiona.

    “She…has she always been a woman?” I asked.

    “No,” replied Fiona. “I’m still working on the file. It will be waiting for you in Philadelphia.”

    “Okay…so where do I go?” I asked.

    Fiona gave me an address for a house just outside of a town called Phoenixville.

    “Why is the name of that town familiar?” I asked. 

    “They filmed part of the movie ‘The Blob’ there,” replied Fiona. “They now have an annual event there every year called Blobfest.”

    I snapped my fingers. “That’s right. I didn’t know you liked old horror movies.”

    “I don’t…I had a big time crush on Steve McQueen,” she said.

    “Really?” I asked.

    “Is it that surprising?” she asked. There was a tone of slight disappoint in her voice as if I thought she was incapable of such emotions. 

    “Well, to be honest it sort of is. I guess there’s a lot I don’t know about you,” I replied. “Maybe when this is all over we can spend some time together.”

    “I’d like that. I know that we haven’t always gotten along. We may never have a real mother-daughter relationship…but I would like to be friends with you.”

    “I’d like that too,” I replied.

    “Bill is also very nice. I’m pleased that you have someone like him in your life,” she added.

    “I’m glad you like him…I mean that,” I said. I was being really truthful as deep down I wanted her approval of the man that I was due to marry.

    “Well, we can talk more later. I checked the flights out of Columbus and you can catch one tomorrow morning at 7.”

    “I’ll be on it,” I said.

    “Be careful dear,” she said.

    “Um, thanks Mom,” I replied. I then laughed.

    “What’s so funny?” she asked.

    “I just can’t see you having a crush on a mortal like Steve McQueen,” I said.

    “Who said he was mortal?” she said then she hung up before I could ask her if she was kidding or not.

Chapter 10

    I had dinner with Jenny that night and I talked to her about Fiona.

    “I hope that you two can have some sort of relationship together,” said Jenny.  “I know you have your friends and there’s also Kayla, but you need family too.”

    “I call her mom sometimes, but she doesn’t really feel like my mom. Maybe it’s because I still see our mom as mine. Does that make sense?” I asked.

    We were having dinner at one of our dad’s favorite places. It was a German restaurant called Schmidt’s Sausage Haus & Restaurant and it was located in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus.

    “It makes as much sense as anything you say,” she replied with a wink.

    “I suppose that my feelings for Fiona may be in part due to lingering memories of the original Iona.”

    “Iona, can I ask you a question…just how much of her do you remember?” asked Jenny.

    “If I press those memories hard enough I can remember everything…it feels strange…sort of like I’m trespassing,” I replied. “She and Fiona weren’t getting along much…even before she was abused by that bastard Keir. I try not to do it too often.”

    “It must be very difficult,” she replied.

    “It is,” I replied. I looked around the restaurant and smiled. “This is the first time I’ve been here since…the accident. It looks exactly the same.”

    “We had Dad’s memorial service here,” said Jenny.

    “That seems fitting,” I replied. “I wish I could stay here a while longer.”

    “Well, when you get done with this why don’t you come back for a longer visit?”

    I nodded. “I’d like that.”

    “Just promise me to be careful with this case,” said Jenny.

    “I will,” I replied.

    The waitress arrived with our dinner. Jenny had ordered the sauerbraten and I was having the Alpine Chicken Spatzel.

    “I was almost temped to get Dad’s favorite,” I said as at the chick breast and German spatzel noodles.

    Jenny laughed. “They should have named it after him as he had it every time we came here.”

    “Somehow I doubt they would rename the meatloaf after him,” I replied.

    “Oh, one more thing…try to keep your clothes on this time,” she said as she took a bite of her beef.

    In some of my adventures as Iona I had ended up either partly or completely naked.

    “No promises,” I replied with a grin.

Chapter 11

    I talked to Bill the next morning as I waited to board my flight.

    “I hope we can get together soon,” I said.

    “That makes two of us, Iona,” he replied. “I guess you really don’t know how much someone means to you until you’re separated.”

    I sighed as his words really touched my emotions. When it came to romance and love I was completely a woman and I was so deeply in love with Bill. I was also happy that Bill now accepted me as a woman.

    “Maybe I can head up your way,” I said hopefully.

    “I’d like that,” he replied.

    I heard then making the initial boarding announcement for my flight. “I have to go. I love you Bill.”

    “I love you too, Iona.”

    I never get tired hearing him say that.

Chapter 12

    There was someone waiting for me when I arrived in the baggage claim area of Philadelphia International Airport. A young woman with short hair was holding a sign with my name of it. She was dressed in a rather cute looking all black chauffer’s uniform. She was wearing a tight jacket, a black skirt and knee high black leather boots. On her head was a black leather chauffer’s cap.

    While I didn’t recognize the face of the young brunette woman I immediately knew who it was thanks to my ability to detect people I had previously met. In fact, the sensation was so strong that I picked it up as soon as I left the secure area and headed down the long hallway to the baggage area.

    I walked over to the woman and read her name tag that was on her jacket. 

    “I’m Iona Beddau…Michaela,” I said as I pointed to the sign.

    “Very good, Ms. Beddau, do you have any bags besides the one you’re carrying?” she asked.

    “Yes, but I doubt you will be able to lift them...you’re rather short,” I replied. “Unless you plan on making yourself larger.”

    Michaela smiled back. “Ahh so you know who I am…”

    I rolled my eyes. “I picked you up long before I set sights on you…and nice name, I would never have guessed it was an alias.”

    Michaela smiled back. “I suppose the name is rather obvious. I also can’t do a damn thing about your radar.”

    “It’s good to see you again,” I said.

Chapter 13

    As we drove out of the parking lot, Michaela handed me a sealed envelope.

    “Your friends asked me to give this to you once we left the airport,” said Michaela.

    I took the envelope and started to open it.

    “So do you always take chauffer jobs, Mick?” I asked.

    “Only for people I like,” she replied.  “By the way, you were right about trying life as a woman. I’ve been having a blast.”

    Michaela, AKA Mick was a mystical being who called himself…or in this case herself a traveler. I had first met Mick when I had gone undercover as a high school girl and our paths had crossed a few times since.

    “I’m glad to hear that…I’m also pleased that you’re here. I do okay by myself, but it’s nice to have backup,” I said.

    “I’m not sure how good of a backup I am…if I remember correctly you saved me the last time,” she said.

    “That’s true, but you distracted that creature long enough for me to break its spell,” I replied, referring to the succubus that we had encountered.

    “Your mother told me about the case and the possibility of other magical folk being against us,” she continued.

    “Hopefully we can catch the human who is misusing the spell first and avoid any trouble,” I said as I began to read the file.

    “Avoiding trouble doesn’t sound like your style, Iona,” she said.

    I would have laughed at Mick’s comment but I was too shocked by the contents of the file.

    “Whoever is doing this is getting more and more depraved,” I said.

    “It happens,” she replied. “The problem with pleasure spells is that they cause the user to seek out more intense experiences.”

    I continued to read the file. “Mick…I mean Michaela…you’re an expert on sensual pleasures right?”

    “I guess you could put it that way,” she replied.

    “Do you think we’re chasing one person or two?”

    “One,” she replied without hesitation.

    “Why?” I asked without looking up.

    “From what Fiona told me this could only be the work of one person. Why use it on strangers if you have a partner?” she asked.

    I nodded. “And what gender do you think this person is?”

    “Both,” she replied. “If Fiona is right about the number of times the spell has been used, this person sees themself as both male and female…depending on how the spirit moves them.”

    I let out a sigh.

    “You have come to the same conclusion, right lass?” asked Michaela.

    I looked up at her and nodded.

Chapter 14

    The victim was, at one time, twenty-six-year-old Bob Mannix. According to the information he was a lawyer from a large Philadelphia firm. I looked at the photo of him and he looked as if he could also play football for the Eagles. His dimensions were listed at six-six, two hundred and twenty pounds.

    I stared at the photo taken of Bob and couldn’t believe it was the same person as he…make that she now looked to be in her early teens. According to the medical staff she had undergone several age transformations, in addition to the gender change.

    Bob said that “she” had met a woman at a party on the Mainline and they had driven out to the man’s apartment. It was there that the woman transformed into a large muscular man and Bob became female. Our agents found Bob wandering the streets just outside of Phoenixville almost a day later. According to the report, Bob had no idea how he had gotten there.

    Bob refused to talk any further to the investigators about what had been done to her.

    I picked up my phone and called Fiona.

    “What is it, dear?” she asked.

    “Um, Mom, if…Bob doesn’t want to talk…what good am I doing here?”

    “Amelia did the initial physical exam and she explained that someone who had undergone similar experiences was available to handle the investigation, Bob agreed to talk to you…and you only.”

    “Oh…okay,” I replied. “One more thing, thanks for tracking down Mick for me.”

    “You’re welcome,” she replied.

Chapter 15

    We pulled up to a rather nondescript house. It was on the end of a suburban street called Evergreen Drive. To be honest, it didn’t look any different than the other homes.

    “Here’s my cell phone number, call me when you’re ready,” said Michaela. “I doubt the victim will want anyone else there but you.”

    “Okay,” I replied as I slipped the card into my purse. I was nervous and trying not to show it.

    “Just be yourself, Iona and you’ll do fine,” she said.

    “Thanks,” I replied as I walked up the sidewalk to the front door.

    Amelia met me at the door and we hugged.

    “I’m glad to see you,” I said. “Are you the only one here…besides Bob?”

    She nodded. “There are others, but they aren’t in the house.

    I nodded. “It’s strange, but I didn’t pick up on your presence.”

    “We have a masking spell over the property,” she replied. “We need to make sure the others don’t know what’s going on here.”

    “Okay, so where is…Bob?” I asked.

    “Upstairs,” she replied 

    “And do I call him…or her Bob?” I asked.

    “Bob is fine and he doesn’t accept that he’s physically female…or ten,” she added.

    “Ten? In the file he looked to be in his teens,” I stated.

    Amelia nodded. “Whoever cast the spell did a very sloppy job and we’ve seen several age changes in last twenty-four hours. It looks like Bob has settled in to be an eleven-year-old girl physically and is slowly changing mentally. I would say that unless the spell is reversed in the next week that the effects will be permanent.”

    “And does Bob know this?” I asked.

    Amelia nodded again. “I see no reason to lie to him.”

    “Okay…so do we go up together or do I go up myself?” I asked.

    “I’ll introduce you,” she said.

Chapter 16

    Bob was sitting on a bed with his arms wrapped around his knees. He was dressed in a t-shirt and sweatpants. He looked as if he had been crying a lot.

    “Bob, this is my friend Iona I was telling you about,” said Amelia as we stepped into the room.

    Bob looked at me without saying a word.

    If I hadn’t known the truth I would have never suspected that the petit strawberry blonde haired girl sitting on the bed had ever been a male.

    “Hi,” I said. “May I sit down?”

    Bob shrugged his shoulders. At least it wasn’t a no.

    “I’ll be downstairs,” said Amelia.

    I sat down on the edge of the bed.

    “I understand a little what you’re going through,” I said. “I was once a man too.”

    Bob stared at me with disbelief.

    “No way,” he said. His voice matched his body and he sounded like a young girl.

    I nodded. “My change was a little different, but the end result was the same.”

    “I can’t believe this has happened,” said Bob.

    “I know what you mean…it took me time to accept my change,” I replied.

    “They told me that unless they find the…person who did this to me…I will live out my life as a woman,” said Bob.

    “That’s true,” I replied.

    “That woman… Amelia said that I will change and become a girl…in my mind too.”

    “She’s usually right,” I said. “She helped me adjust to my change.”

    “Do you think you can find who did this to me?”

    “I’m working on it,” I replied.

    Bob smiled slightly. “I notice you didn’t say yes.”

    “I wouldn’t lie to you just to make you feel better,” I said.

    “Thanks,” replied Bob. “What will happen to me if you fail? I mean, I know that I’ll be a girl…”

    “You won’t be on your own, there will be people who will take care of you,” I replied.

    “So like a family?”

    “Yes, but just because they aren’t related to you by blood doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be important to you. I don’t think that I could have gotten through this without the people who took me in and treated me like family.”

    “So your real family doesn’t know what happened to you?” asked Bob.

    I nodded. “My change occurred due to a body swap,” I said. I then told Bob what happened to Roger.

    “Wow,” replied Bob.

    “To make matters worse, my some of my original family hate me and blame me for my own death.”

    Bob stared at me in silence for what seemed like minutes.

    “I had no idea that these sorts of things happened,” said Bob. “Thanks for telling me your story.”

    “You’re welcome,” I replied with a smile.

    To my relief Bob smiled back.

    “So I suppose you want to ask me what happened,” said Bob.

    “If you’re ready,” I said. “Are you hungry?”

    Bob nodded. “Starving!”

    I laughed. “Let’s go down and see what they have in the kitchen and then we can talk okay?”

    “I’d like that, Iona,” said Bob.

    We started to go downstairs when Bob stopped and stared at me.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    Bob began to cry. “I’m so scared Iona!”

    I wrapped my arms around him. “Let it out, Bob, it’s okay to cry.”

Chapter 17

    Bob washed his face before we headed down to the kitchen.

    “Did you cry after your change?” he asked.

    “Many times,” I replied honestly.

    “Did it make you feel better?” he asked.

    “In some ways it did,” I replied.

    Bob dried off his face. “Okay, let’s go.”

    The kitchen was well stocked with food.

    “What do you feel like eating?” I asked as I looked in the cupboards.

    “How about pancakes?” asked Bob, who was sitting at the kitchen table.

    “Okay,” I replied as I reached for a box of pancake mix.

Chapter 18

    “Thank you for the pancakes,” said Bob. “You’re a pretty good cook.”

    “Thanks,” I replied.

    “Um, did you know how to cook before you became a girl?” he asked.

    I nodded as I took a sip of my tea. “Cooking isn’t just for women. What did you do?”

    Bob fidgeted in his seat. “I pretty much ate out all the time.”

    “What about when you lived with your parents?

    Bob shook his head. “We had a cook. I grew up in a very rich family.”

    “Well, it’s not that hard,” I replied. “I’m no chef, but I do okay.”

    “I guess that makes sense,” he replied.

    “Did you ever do the dishes?” I asked.

    Bob laughed. “We had a maid too.”

    “Well, there’s no maid here, so why don’t you give me hand, okay?”

    To my surprise, he nodded and jumped out of his seat. “Sure…another first.”

    After we finished cleaning up we moved to the living room and sat down on the couch.

    “I suppose you want me to tell you what happened,” he said.

    “Only if you want to…but remember that I’m trying to help you,” I replied.

    Bob’s head dropped down. “I don’t deserve any help…this is my punishment.”

    “What to do you mean by that?” I asked softly.

    Bob looked up and wiped away the tears that had formed in his eyes. “I was a real jerk as a guy…I did some bad things and I don’t deserve to be helped.”

    I moved slightly closer. “What have you done that was that bad?”

    Bob sniffed and wiped away another tear. I looked around the room and spotted a box of tissue. I reached over and grabbed it; I then hand Bob a tissue.

    Bob took it without a word and blew his nose.

“Well?” I asked.

“I took advantage of women,” he replied.

“In what sort of way?” I asked cautiously.

Sensing my uneasiness, Bob shook his head. “I didn’t rape anyone or anything like that…I just recorded what we did.”

“How?” I asked.

“There are two cameras hidden in my condo; one is in the bedroom and the other is in the living room,” he replied sheepishly.

“So you recorded yourself having sex?” I asked.

Bob nodded.

“And did you tell your partners?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“And did you show the tapes to anyone else?”

Bob shook his head no. “I did it for myself. It doesn’t really matter…I’m such a pervert.”

“I wouldn’t put it like that…it’s a bit twisted, but I’ve seen worse, much worse,” I replied.

“This is my punishment for doing it,” he said sadly.

I reached over and put my hand on his shoulder. “You made some stupid decisions but you didn’t deserve to have your life taken away from you. Bob, did you record the night this happened to you?”

Bob nodded.

“Tell me about it,” I asked.

Chapter 19

“I think you should leave this to the authorities, Iona,” said Amelia.

“Bob trusted me with the info. I’ll slip in and grab the cameras and tapes and come right back,” I replied. “Whoever did this to him is long gone.”

Amelia stared back. “I’m not worried about that person.”

    “I know that this is a risk, but it’s worth it. I doubt they would try anything out in the open and I will have Michaela with me.”

    “Okay, but if you’re not back in a reasonable amount of time I’m calling Fiona,” she said.

    I leaned over and hugged her. “Thanks for trusting me.”

    Bob gave me directions to his place and told me where he kept a spare key hidden outside. I also had the location of the hidden cameras.

    We arrived back in Philadelphia ninety minutes later.

    I stepped out of the car and looked at Michaela.

    “I’ll be out in a few minutes, keep an eye out for anything unusual.”

    She nodded.

    The key was right where Bob had said it would be and I had no trouble getting into his home.

    The living room was ransacked and I suspected that it hadn’t been done by Bob and his lover…or Fiona’s officers. Thankfully the cameras were right where Bob had said they would be and both were in perfect condition. I checked to see if the tapes were still in them and I also confirmed that they both showed Bob’s transformation. I slipped both cameras in my bag and slipped out.

    A minute later I was back in the car, it had all been so easy, or so I thought.

    “We’re being followed,” said Michaela as we drove away. “Don’t turn around; they think that we don’t know they’re there. They’re driving a silver BMW…not a very inconspicuous car.” 

    “How many are in the car?” I asked.

    “Two, a man and a woman,” she replied. “What do you want to do?”

    I thought about it for a minute. “Drive out of the city; I doubt they’ll try anything with people around.”

    Michaela nodded. “And then?”

    “We’ll see,” I said. I knew that I would have to confront them as I didn’t want to lead them back to the safe house.

Chapter 20

“How about there?” asked Michaela as she pointed to a sign.

I nodded. “Why not?”

The BMW followed us as we pulled into Valley Forge National Park.

We drove for twenty minutes before pulling into a parking area near the statue of General von Steuben

“Now what?” asked Michaela.

“Stay in the car, but be ready to come out if you think I’m in trouble. I’m hoping they just want to talk,” I replied. “If you can, take some photos of them.

“I’ll be ready,” she said as she pulled the camera out of its bag.

I stepped out and walked towards the statue of the Revolutionary War hero. I stopped and turned to watch the couple get out of the BMW. They were both tall and very thin. Both had short, nearly white colored hair. Both the man and the woman were dressed in all gray outfits.

I also noticed that they were both very pale in complexion and they also had deep cobalt colored blue eyes.

I watched them approach and when they were ten feet away I addressed them.

“Well, what do you want or are you students of the American Revolutionary War too?” I asked.

The woman glared at me. “We’ve been hunting you for a while…I’m sort of surprised that we caught you so easily. It was very stupid to go back to the scene of your crime…but humans aren’t that smart.” 

“You must pay for your crimes,” added the man. “We don’t care that you’re hurting other humans, but you cannot continue to abuse spells.”

“You have no right to misuse that which you are not born with,” continued the woman with bitterness. “We are so sick and tired of seeing your kind steal from us. Thieves must be punished.”

Their reply caught me off guard. The fact that they thought I was the person abusing the spell made me laugh.

“You won’t think it’s so funny when we disembowel you,” said the man with annoyance.

“I’m laughing because you have the wrong person,” I replied.

The woman shook her head. “No, we have who we’re looking for. Now, you’re going to come with us and you will beg for death by the time we finish punishing you.”

“You must be kidding!” I replied. “Who writes your lines, you sound like characters from a bad movie.”

“Enough of this!” growled the man as she turned to the woman. “Bind her and let’s get out of here. I’ll kill the driver.”

Good luck with that I thought.

“You only play with magic…we will show you what real powers are,” said the woman as she glared at me.

    The fact that they thought I was human and without powers gave me more than enough time to cast a protection spell. When the woman tried to use a paralysis spell on me, but my counter spell threw it right back at them. While they were frozen in place, I knew that they could still see and hear me.

    I walked slowly over towards them, my boots clicking on the ground. 

    “I bet you didn’t expect that to happen,” I said as I reached into the man’s back pocket. I pulled out his wallet and read his name.

    “Davin Freiberg,” I said as I looked at his ID. “Pleased to meet you.”

    I also noticed that he was carrying a throwing knife in a leather shoulder harness. I took the knife and examined it. It was a very beautiful weapon, with a very sharp blade.

    “You better be careful playing with toys like this, someone could get hurt,” I said as I tossed the knife on the ground. It clanked loudly on the pavement.

    Next I then reached into the woman’s bag and pulled out her wallet. “And you are Aila Freiberg. Husband and wife? No, you look took much like each other; you must be brother and sister, right?”

    I memorized the info on their driver licenses and other forms of ID. As I did I could sense fear coming from Davin and rage from Aila.

    I put their wallets back.

    “Now, I know who you are and you still have no idea who I am…except that I’m not the person you were hunting. You do know that I’m not someone to be underestimated. I know more than protection spells and if our paths cross again I promise that I won’t be so nice. Now, I could leave you here and let the spell wear off…but that could take hours and someone might wonder what you’re doing. No I’ll be kind and I’ll release you when I leave...but if you come after me you’ll regret it.”

    I noticed that Michaela was walking back from the BMW and that she was smiling.

Chapter 21

    As we pulled away I could see that the spell had been released and they were slowly regaining use of their bodies.

    “I got some nice photos of them,” she said.

    “Cool. But what did you do to their car?”

    She turned and smiled at me. “I let the air out their tires. No real damage, but it will keep them busy for a while.”

    “I got their names and addresses,” I replied. “They thought I was the person who transformed Bob.”

    “They know that was a mistake,” she replied. “They can’t be very happy about that.”

    “No, the woman, Aila, was pretty pissed off,” I said.

    “Aila?” asked Michaela.

    I nodded. “Does it mean anything to you?”

    “What was the man’s name?”

    “Davin Freiberg,” I replied. I mentioned that they were most likely brother and sister

    She nodded. “I though they looked Nordic. They’ll be back.”

    “How do you know that?”

    “They’re probably a hit team. They were assigned to kill the person who is misusing magic. They can’t quit, if they do their reputation is toast,” she explained.

    “A magic hit team?”

    Michaela nodded. “Why not? Do you think that humans are the only ones who make a living out of professional murder?”

    “And what about me?”

    “They have their rules and you’re not part of the contract…but they don’t care who gets in their way. The good thing is that most of the people who go into this sort of work have weak powers. Oh, they have enough to take out humans, but they can’t take out someone like you.”

    “Are you sure?” I asked. “I don’t have that much experience with my powers, especially when going up against others who had powers their whole life.”

    “I watched you back there, you were in full control. Have faith and confidence in your powers lass and you’ll do fine.”

    I nodded. “I hope Amelia has something stronger than tea in the house.”

    Michaela smiled. “If she doesn’t I can help in that department too.” She reached around and handed me a silver flask. “It’s good Irish whiskey…nothing but the best.”

    I took the flask and took a sip. The warm liquid felt wonderful as it slipped down my throat.

Chapter 22

    When we got out of the car I did a double take.

    “Wasn’t this car white when we left Valley Forge?” I asked.

    It was now a dark blue.

    Michaela nodded. “The license plate is also different. If the Freibergs try to trace us they will be chasing a mirage. Our kind have learned the skills to help us blend in.”

    I smiled back at her. “Some day I would love to learn more about your race.”

    She smiled and winked back at me. “Oh lass, I can teach you all kinds of things!”

    I showed her my engagement ring.

    Michaela shrugged. “Well it was worth a try.”

    Amelia met us at the door.

    “Where’s Bob?” I asked as we stepped inside.

    “Asleep,” she replied. “It’s not uncommon for someone to sleep twenty hours a day the first few days after the transformation.”

    “How is he?” I asked.

    “Slightly younger…she looks like she is around eight or nine now,” said Amelia. “The good thing is that she won’t get any younger and should age now at a normal rate. The bad news is that unless we reverse the spell soon she will live out her life as a woman.”

    “Well, I have a lot to tell you,” I said.

Chapter 23

    We watched the video without waiting for Bob to wake up. The woman who entered with the adult male version of Bob was extremely beautiful and she was dressed in a low cut, tight leather dress.

    They sat, talked and drank for a while. The audio on the tape was very garbled and it was difficult to hear what they were saying.

    “I’ll turn this over to our lab and they should be able to clean it up,” said Amelia.

    “Do you think that she…or he uses the same appearance all the time?” I asked.

    “It’s very likely,” replied Amelia. “She…or he, might change slightly, but their basic look will stay the same. For example, the color of the hair might change and the hair style might be different.

    Bob and the woman began to kiss. This quickly became a very frenzied session of foreplay and soon both of them were naked.

    “What’s that on her upper right arm?” I asked as I pointed at the screen.

    Amelia paused the tape.

    “It looks like a tattoo,” I said.

    Amelia slowly advanced the tape so we could get a better look.

    “It looks like a dragon,” I said.

    Michaela nodded. “I agree…it’s very unique.”

    The dragon’s tail was curled completely around the woman’s arm.

    “That should be easy to identify…assuming it’s still there after she become a man,” I said.

    Amelia agreed and she hit play again.

    The woman was straddling Bob when the transformations started. As she held Bob down, a rather large, fully erect penis appeared where her vagina had once been. Bob struggled to get free, but it was in vain as the woman was now obviously stronger. She forced Bob to suck her cock and as he did he slowly transformed into a young sexy woman.

    “It looks like she is becoming male at the same rate that Bob is becoming female,” noted Amelia.

    The man forced the now feminized Bob to continue to suck his cock all the way to climax.

    “Look, notice that the man still has the tattoo,” said Amelia. She paused the tape for a few seconds so we could get another look at it.

    It was true. This may have been the break we were looking for.

    I also noticed that the man’s sexual drive didn’t slow down and he began to have sex with Bob. While Bob was under the effects of the spell and was obviously sexually aroused, it was also obvious that the sex was not consensual.

    “He’s raping Bob,” I said softly.

    “There’s no other way to describe it,” said Amelia.

    The couple changed form several times and at one point both appeared to be in their teens. The one thing that stayed constant was that Bob was female throughout the experience.

    The other thing we noticed was the tattoo was visible throughout the episode.

    The last thing we saw, before the tape ran out was the man transform into an adult, while Bob was a preteen.

    “Um, do you think that this guy raped Bob again…I mean look at Bob…he’s just a kid now…”

    “When we found her there was no sign of sexual assault. If the man raped Bob…the young girl version, there would have been physical evidence,” she explained.

    “Good,” I replied. “I’m really looking forward to catching this person now. What kind of punishment will the courts give him…or her?”

    “With the number of victims, it will be severe,” said Amelia.

    “Good,” I replied.

    “Wouldn’t it just save everyone some a lot of time and effort if you just let the others get this person?” asked Michaela.

    I shook my head. “No, the law exists for a reason…and besides those two look like the type who would enjoy hurting the perpetrator too much.” 

    Michaela shrugged her shoulders. “I guess we still have a lot to learn about each other. My race doesn’t view the law quite in the same terms…our legal rules are a bit more simplistic. If you break a law…you are punished…it’s quite effective.”

    I just shook my head.

    “Well, I’ll send this tape off to Fiona,” said Amelia.

    “Can she supply me with a picture of the tattoo?” I asked.

    “I’d like one too,” said Michaela. “I know a few tattoo artists and they might be able to identify the artist.”

    “That shouldn’t be a problem. Now, tell me about the couple,” said Amelia.

Chapter 24

    “From what you’ve told me, I would say that they’re most likely from Finland,” said Amelia.

    We were in the kitchen having some hot tea.

    “Why Finland?”  I asked.

    “There’s a branch of our people from that part of the world. They’ve stayed away from merging with non-magical society for the last thousand years. For the most part they are now peaceful and just want to be left alone, but there are those who are more…active in their distaste for the non-magical,” said Amelia.

    “When you say that they are now peaceful, does that mean that they have changed?” I asked.

    “According to the texts, they were once very violent towards mortals,” said Amelia.

    “And so what does that make these two that I ran into? They threatened to disembowel me, that’s not very peaceful,” I said.

    “There are those from this clan that are used to track down and eliminate those mortals that, in their eyes, abuse magical powers,” she said.

    “So are they a hit-team?” I asked.

    “That’s one way of describing them,” she replied. “I’m surprised that they were so sloppy, they’re normally stealthier in their actions.”

    “Their skills didn’t impress me that much,” I said.

    “No, but since they work in teams, they can combine to overpower you…if you are not expecting them,” said Amelia. “Remember that if you cross paths again.”

    “Well, now that I know who they are, they won’t be able to sneak up on me…especially the woman, Alia. Her rage for me was strong and I think I can now pick her up a mile away,” I said. “I just hope that they are the only ones hunting the person who changed Bob.”

    “They’re probably working alone, but if they don’t find this person they might ask for help, and as Michaela pointed out they would lose a lot of face for doing that,” said Amelia.

    I took a sip of my tea. “Do you think that they’re angrier at me…or will they go back to their original mission?”

    “I doubt they would risk an all out war by attacking you. If they seek revenge against you they will face the wrath of our clan and the law, but they won’t hesitate to hurt or kill you if it means completing their quest,” said Amelia. She then rubbed her chin and stared at me. “It’s strange that they didn’t sense you were magical.”

 I had learned from Aunt Kayla that those born magical could usually sense other magical people. I was still learning this ability and it didn’t come naturally. I usually had to concentrate on the person to pick this up.

    “You know, Iona, you don’t give off a normal magical aura,” noted Michaela. “You fooled me back in San Diego when we first met.”

    Amelia nodded. “I have to agree with Michaela, your aura is different due to your origins.”

    I took another sip of my tea. “Do you think that they might still think I’m still the one they’ve been hunting?”

    Both Amelia and Michaela looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

    “They might also think that if I stole one spell then I stole others,” I continued.

    “If that’s so then they will be hunting you,” said Amelia. “They obvious have no idea of what the person looks like.”

“So, does this mean that I’m pulled off the case?” I asked.

    Amelia shook her head. “No, in fact this could be used to our advantage as it will keep them preoccupied. However, Fiona might insist on additional security.”

    “Wouldn’t that give me away? I mean they’ll probably detect any bodyguards. Why would a human who stole spells have magical security guards?” I asked. I then turned to Michaela. “Can they detect you?”

    She shook her head. “We’ve learned to mask our aura…although you can detect me that has nothing to do with my race.”

    “So they wouldn’t know that you have powers either?” I asked.

    She nodded and then she grinned. “I like the way you think lass!”

    I ignored the lass comment and looked at Amelia. “I think it’s time to call my mom.”

Chapter 25

    To my total surprise Fiona agreed with me.

    “You’ve done very well my dear. You have broken this case wide open,” she said.

    I couldn’t help but notice the sense of pride in the tone of her words.

    “Thank you, Mom,” I replied. I also noticed that calling her Mom seemed more natural. “What about Davin and Alia?”

    “We don’t have a record of them, but it’s not uncommon for their clan to use brother and sister teams,” she replied. “In the meantime I’ll have our agents start a search for our suspect.”

    “I’ll send my friends copies of the photo of the tattoo. Also Michaela will check her sources,” I said.

    “Tell them just to look,” warned Fiona.

    “I will, Mom,” I replied.

    “How is …Bob doing?” she asked.

    “As good as can be expected,” I replied.

    “Well, he’s in good hands,” she said.

    “I know, Amelia is the best,” I replied.

    “I was also referring to you,” she said.

Chapter 26

     Bob woke up an hour later. As we talked I noticed that his demeanor was changing and he was becoming more like a little girl and less like an adult. He was also accepting the fact that he was now female.

    “Iona, I think I need a new name…Bob really isn’t a girl’s name is it?” he asked as we ate dinner.

    “Do you see yourself as a girl now?” I asked.

    Bob nodded. “It’s weird…but every time I go to sleep…I wake up and this doesn’t feel so bad. I’m happy that I won’t get any younger too.”

    Bob looked like an eight-year-old girl, with long hair that Amelia had braided in a long single strand.

    “Do you have a new name in mind?” asked Amelia.

    “I don’t know…I was hoping you could help me with that,” said Bob as she looked at me.

    “Well, why don’t we do it together,” I suggested.

    “How?” asked Bob.

    “We can go online and do a search,” I continued.

    Bob smiled. “I like that idea. Thanks, Iona!”

Chapter 27

    Bob and I sat together in front of Amelia’s computer. I quickly found a baby name website and we began to search.

    “I don’t want a name that starts with B,” said Bob.

    “Okay,” I said as I searched the site. “Here’s a list of the most popular names of the last ten years.”

    Bob scanned the list and appeared to be making a mental list of names.

    She paused and stared at one of the names.

    “What is it, have you picked out your new name?” I asked.

    Bob shook her head. “No…that name…that was the name the…lady used who…who changed me. It just came to me!”

    I looked at were she was pointing.

    “Chloe?” I asked.

    Bob nodded. “It’s strange, but I couldn’t remember that until I saw it here. Can I see the boy’s list?”

    I clicked over to the list of the most popular boy’s names of the last ten years.

    Bob scanned the list for a few minutes before eagerly pointing at a name.

    “That’s it!” she squealed excitedly.

    “Colton?” I asked.

    “Yes, yes…I remember his name now! Does this help?”

    I nodded. “Yes, it does. You did well.”

    Bob’s face broke out in a big smile and she hugged me. “That makes me so happy, Iona. Can I see the girl’s list again?”

    I clicked over and Bob began to search for her new name.

    After a few minutes, she pointed to a name. “I like this one…what do you think?” she asked.

    I looked at the name and nodded.

    “It’s very nice,” I said.

    Bob nodded. “That’s my new name.”

    “Let’s go tell the others, Sarah,” I replied.

Chapter 28

    An hour later, Sarah was once again sound asleep.  I looked at her cuddled up in her bed, clutching a teddy bear. For all the world she looked like a normal little girl.

    I then called Fiona and told her the names that Sarah had remembered.

    “Do you think that the person will continue to use the same names?” I asked.

    “It’s very likely,” replied Fiona. “People become very attached to names.”

    “What will happen to Sarah?” I asked. “I mean, should she stay a girl.”

    “I’ve been working on that. We can place her with a family if she doesn’t change back.”

    “A family with powers?” I asked.

    “Yes,” she replied. “Sarah will maintain her memories of being transformed and it is best for her to be around people she can be open with.”

    “That’s good,” I replied.

    “You like her, don’t you?” asked Fiona.

    “I do. I can relate to what she is going through and she’s handling this pretty well…all things considered,” I replied.

    “Yes, I see how you relate to her,” said Fiona. “But there’s something more to it, isn’t there?”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “So you do have maternal urges?”

    I thought about it. “I suppose so…this is the first time that it has really hit me.”

    “I’m glad to hear that, Iona. I was worried that you’d always be caught between genders.”

    I laughed at her answer. “Having gender issues is the least of my worries.”

    “It must be very difficult dealing with gender and magical issues,” she said. “You’ve handled it better than I could have imagined. I’m very proud of you.”

    Her words deeply touched me.

    “Thanks Mom.”

    “Well, I better get back to work. Let me know if you uncover anything new, okay?”

    “I will,” I replied. “Mom…I love you.”

    There was a long pause. “Iona, I love you too.”

Chapter 29

    I sent my friends copies of the photos of Chloe and Colton, along with a photo of the tattoo. I also emphasized that they were to contact me immediately should they find out anything.

    Michaela also sent out photos to her connections.

    We were now sitting in the living room sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir.

    “The work on this ink is very detailed. I’m sure someone out there will recognize the artist,” she said.

    “So now all we can do is wait,” I said. “Do you think that the person will stay in the Philly area?”

    “There does seem to be a pattern of activity. We see three to four victims in a spot before they move on. Bob, now Sarah, was the first around here,” said Amelia.

    I set down my wine glass. “I know that the spell can be traced to where it was cast, but is there anyway to boost up this up and detect the spell before it is cast? We know that the spell must be made prior to contact with the victim and we also know from past history that the person seems to like colleges, and upper class areas.”

    Amelia thought about it. “I suppose we could try and create a detection spell since we’re looking for a very specific spell. I’ve never done one like that, but I can contact some people who can.”

    “How would it work?” I asked.

    “It would be a tracking crystal. The color of the crystal would become more intense as you got closer to the container holding the spell,” she said.

    “What sort of range would it have?” asked Michaela.

    Amelia shrugged her shoulders. “I would guess anywhere from a few hundred feet to half a mile…maybe further depending on the wind.”

    “Not good for out here in the suburbs, but very useful in a city,” said Michaela. “I have some kin here who could serve as trackers. They won’t get directly involved, but they would let us know if they picked up a hit.”

    “And I could use my friends at Penn too,” I replied.

    “I’ll make a phone call,” said Amelia.

Chapter 30

    The spell was possible, but it would take a while to produce.

    I talked to Fiona about our plan.

    “We tried this once, but with your connections you might be more successful,” she said.

    “Do you think that the Freibergs are using something like this?” I asked.

    “It’s obvious that they have a way of tracking down the sites were the spell was cast, but I don’t know if they have a way of tracking the spell itself,” she said.

    “So we need to get to the person before they use it again,” I said.

    “We also have to worry about the Freibergs being tipped off. We still haven’t found the mole in our office,” she said.

    “Are you sure that there is one?” I asked.

    “Yes. In fact we just got a confirmation,” she said.

    “What’s that?” I asked.

    “My office was handed an anonymous tip concerning the description of the perp,” she said.

    “Oh?” I asked.

    “Yes, it described two young women…one with long curly red hair,” said Fiona.

    “Michaela and me?” I asked.

    “Yes,” she replied. “It also included a description of the car and a license plate.”

    I laughed at hearing this. “Good luck on tracking that down.”

    “Oh, I have another piece of news for you. I’m sending someone down to drop off some files for you and Amelia.”

    “Haven’t you heard of FedEx?” I asked.

    “I think you’ll appreciate the person delivering it,” she replied.

    “Bill?” I asked anxiously.

    “Yes, he needs to head back to San Diego, but I figured you’d like to see him first,” she said.

    I broke out in a big smile and felt a wave of warmth sweep through my body. I felt all tingly too.

    “Really, Iona, you need to control your emotions,” said Fiona.

    I began to blush. “Um…you sensed that?”

    It was Fiona’s turn to laugh. “I heard it…there was just a massive wave of static. Don’t worry, dear, I’m happy to know you are so much in love.”

    “Thanks, Mom.”

Chapter 31

    Bill was due to arrive the next day and was able to find a nearby Bed & Breakfast.

    “So is Bill your boyfriend?” asked Sarah as we ate breakfast.

    “Hopefully soon he will my husband,” I replied. I showed her my engagement ring. “We just haven’t picked a date for our wedding.”

    “Wow, that’s so pretty Iona,” she replied.

    “Thank you. I like it too,” I said as I admired it.

    “Um, Iona…if I don’t change back…will we still be friends?” she asked.

    I smiled at her. “Of course, Sarah.”

    “I’m starting think that this won’t be so bad…no matter what happens. If I change back…I know I’ll be a better person…and if I don’t…well being a girl isn’t so bad.”

    I nodded. “I know what you mean.”

    “So how did you meet Bill?” she asked.

    I told her the condensed version.

    “So you knew him when you were a man?” she asked.

    I nodded. “Of course I only saw him as a friend then. But after I changed, I found that I liked men.”

    “And he knows your secret?” asked Sarah as she leaned over and whispered to me.

    I laughed. “Yes, he knows everything…including about my powers.”

    “So are you and Amelia witches?”

    I shook my head. “We consider ourselves sorceresses. Wiccans have different beliefs.”

    “I wish I had powers,” she replied as she ate.

    “Well, you never know,” I replied. “Mine didn’t come out immediately.”

    I then told her my original family had a magical branch and that affected both my sister and I.

    “How will I know?” asked Sarah.

    “I can examine you, Sarah,” said Amelia who was refilling her coffee cup. “But there’s a possibility that your powers won’t become detectible until you start puberty.”

    Sarah nodded. “Oh, I just thought of something…what’s my birthday?”

    I looked at Amelia.

    “Well, you can use the same one you had as a man…or we can give you a new one. How about the day we found you?” asked Amelia.

    “I like that…I don’t want it to be the day I changed,” she said.

    Amelia sat down next to Sarah.

    “I have a question for you. If you don’t change back, how would you like to live with me?” asked Amelia.

    Sarah’s eyes opened up wide. “You mean that?”

    Amelia nodded.

    “I’d like that Amelia,” said Sarah.

    I don’t know who was more surprised by Amelia’s question, Sarah or me.

    “I’ve wanted to start a family for a while and these feelings grew when Iona lived with me for a while,” said Amelia.

    Sarah turned to me. “You lived with Amelia?”

    I nodded. “It’s a long story and I’ll tell you it in detail another time. There’s another cool thing about living with Amelia…we’d be cousins.”

    Sarah hugged both of us as she cried, this time from joy.

    “I think that’s a yes,” said Amelia.

    “I really want to do this. Amelia, do I have to change back?” asked Sarah as she wiped a tear away.

    “No, but this is a major decision…you would be cutting yourself off from your past life,” she replied.

    “It’s no big deal…my parents were never home…I was raised by the servants,” she said. “Now I can have a real family.”

    Maybe some good was coming out of this mess after all.

Chapter 32

    “What about the others?” I asked Amelia.

    Sarah was asleep. She was still sleeping a lot, but gradually she was adopting a more normal sleep cycle. 

    “They can still be changed back, probably the half-animal transformations too once we break the hold of the spell caster. I’m seeing a pattern with this spell, each time it is cast the transformation becomes stronger and more difficult to reverse. I’m not surprised that Sarah wants to stay a girl and it also solves a big problem.”

    “What’s that?” I asked.

    “Her transformation is now permanent,” she replied. “I don’t know what I would have told her if she had stated that she wanted to be Bob again.”

    I nodded. “When did you find out?”

    “During my most recent examination of her,” replied Amelia. “I ran the test twice to make sure.”

    “I’m sure you did everything you could,” I said.

    “However, this has nothing to do with my offer. I’ve really wanted to adopt a child for a while and this works out perfect for both of us. She’s really a sweet little girl.”

    “I like her too,” I said.

    “I’m also happy that she’ll have you in her life. She really looks up to you,” said Amelia.

    “So will you raise her in Bernardo Valley?”

    Amelia nodded. “I still own the house there and they have an excellent school.”

    “I’m happy for both of you,” I said.

    “Thank you,” she replied.

    “I’m also glad my time as your teenage niece didn’t make you swear off kids,” I replied.

    Amelia began to giggle and so did I.

Chapter 33

    Bill arrived that afternoon and we kissed as soon as he walked through the door.

    “I take it you missed me,” he said as he held me.

    “Not particularly,” I replied and I kissed him again.

    We walked into the kitchen and found Sarah playing gin rummy with Michaela.

    I introduced Bill to Sarah. I was very happy with the way he greeted her.

    “You’re right Iona…he is nice,” she said.

    I couldn’t help but laugh.

    Michaela stood up and gave him a hug.

    “This is a new look for you,” he said. “The last time I saw you, you were Japanese.”

    “You have a good memory. Do you like the way I look now?” she asked as she batted her eyes playfully at him.

    “Hey, no flirting with my man!” I said with a smile. “Go back to playing cards.”

    “I’m beating her too,” piped in Sarah.

    “I’m letting her win,” said Michaela.

    “No you’re not. I’m beating you fair and square!” stated Sarah.

    “We’re one big happy family here,” I injected.

    Bill laughed. “So I can see.”

    Amelia walked into the kitchen and greeted Bill with a hug.

    “It’s good to see you again, Amelia,” said Bill.

    “So, did Fiona work you too hard?” she asked.

    “I learned so many new things about the magical aspect of the law,” he replied.

    “That’s great to hear. Oh, I made a reservation for you two for dinner at a great little café in downtown Phoenixville. It’s called The Black Lab Bistro. You will need to bring your own bottle of wine. I also took the liberty of picking out one for you,” she said. “Oh, and don’t worry about the bill, I’ve already taken care of it.”

    “Amelia that is very nice, but you didn’t have to that,” I said.

    “Nonsense, it’s the least I can do for you,” she replied. “The reservation is for eight.”

    “Thank you, Amelia,” said Bill.

    We talked for an hour before leaving for the Bed and Breakfast.

    “See you all in a couple of days,” I said as we left.

Chapter 34

    I could barely wait to get to our room and Bill seemed to be reading my mind. As soon as Bill locked the door behind us, we began to kiss.

    Thanks to the tattoos that I had inherited from the original Iona I still had an elevated sexual drive, but I had learned to control it. The great thing was that when I let down my guard it made having sex incredible. I had also discovered that I could transfer some of this lust to my partner during sexual contract. Needless to say, our lovemaking was intense.

    The tattoos also gave me additional protection in that I couldn’t get pregnant…unless I wanted to. They also protected me from any sexual disease, which I didn’t have to worry about with Bill.

    Bill and I cuddled after our first round of lovemaking…slowly coming down from our initial sexual high.

    “I hope that the other guests are deaf,” said Bill as he ran his fingers across my breasts.

    I had a tendency to get slightly loud during sex.

    “I doubt it…I cast a muffling spell when we entered the room,” I replied.

    “And where did you learn that one?” he asked.

    “From a book Aunt Kayla gave me…The Joy of Magical Sex,” I replied.

    Bill sat up and looked me in the eye. “Are you kidding?”

    I shook my head. “It has some very interesting spells in it.”

    Bill cocked his head. “Like what?”

    I whispered in his ear and his eyes lit up.

    “And you can do that?”

    I nodded with a sly grin on my face. “You want to try it?”

    “Here?” he asked.

    I looked up. “Why not…the ceiling is high enough. But I think we should close the curtains first…just in case someone looks inside.”

    Bill immediately got out of bed and pulled the drapes closed.

    He turned and came back to the edge of the bed.

    “So what happens now?” he asked.

    “Make love to me and you’ll find out,” I replied.

Chapter 35

    Two hours later we were having dinner at The Black Lab Bistro. He was having the pork loin medallions, which was char-grilled and covered with a peach jalapeno glaze, while I ordered the house steak, which was covered in a thyme shallot butter sauce.

    Bill broke out in a silly grin and shook his head in disbelief.

    “Are you still thinking about this afternoon?” I asked.

    “We’ve levitated before, but only for a few moments. That was the first time that we floated the whole time,” he replied in a low voice.

    “It was pretty cool,” I replied as I took a bite of steak. “The only side effect that it makes me famished.”

    “I was wondered why you ordered the steak, especially after you had two appetizers,” he replied as he ate some of the black bean cake that came with his meal.

    “It does take a lot out of me, but it was worth it. You had the hard part…satisfying me,” I replied with a wink.

    He laughed. “It was my pleasure.”

    “Mine too,” I replied with a grin.

    It would have been a perfect night, but then I felt them. I immediately tensed up.

    Bill noticed the change in my demeanor and leaned over towards me. “What’s wrong?”

    “Alia and Davin are nearby,” I whispered.

    “How far away?” he asked.

    I closed my eyes and concentrated. “Half a mile…maybe further.”

    “Are they getting closer?” he asked.

    I shook my head. “No. They must be in a car because they are gone now. But they appear to be heading towards the safe house.”

    “What do you want to do?” he asked.

    “I’d better call Amelia and let her know,” I said as I pulled out my secure cell phone. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

    I talked to Amelia and told her what I had sensed.

    “I’ll alert our security and I’ll also tell Michaela,” she replied.

    “I’ll call Fiona and let her know too,” I said. “Do you want me to come back?”

    “No, it would be best if you stay away. We have more than enough here to handle them if they try to come in,” said Amelia.

    Knowing how Amelia now felt about Sarah, I almost pitied the two Finns.

    “Okay, I’ll let you know if I sense anything else,” I replied.

    “Thank you, Iona. Enjoy your dinner,” she said.

    “We will,” I replied. “Thank you again.”

Chapter 36

    Okay, I lied; I couldn’t really enjoy dinner knowing that the Finnish sibs were out and about. Still, I did my best, and to his credit Bill played along.

    “They’ll be fine, Iona,” he said.

    “I know that…but how did those two know that Sarah’s out here? They obviously don’t know the exact location, but someone must have tipped them off,” I said as I ate my dessert. It was blueberry crème brulee with lemon curd and it was excellent, in fact it was so good that it was putting me off my bad mood.

    “Obviously the mole has access to only a certain level of information. This might help Fiona in tracking them down,” he said,

    I nodded as I took another bite of the dessert.

    “And you know that if those two try to take Sarah that just Amelia and Michaela are more than a match for them. There are also three other security agents nearby and they are all trained in counter-magic protection.”

    I had to smile. “And to think that I was once worried that you wouldn’t want your current job.”

    Bill smiled and leaned over and kissed me.

    “You taste like blueberry,” he remarked.

    “I bet you say that to all the girls,” I replied.

Chapter 37

    I didn’t sense the Finns again and we arrived back at our room without incident.

    I called Amelia and she said that everything was fine back at the house, but to play it safe they had cast an additional security spell. It would give them immediate notification of anyone with magical powers coming within two blocks of the safe house.

    Content that Amelia and the others were safe I could turn my attention back to Bill.

    I had packed a very special outfit for him and I slipped into the bathroom to put it on. It was a black lacey number that I knew would drive him wild.

    When I came out, I was pleased to see that Bill had an open bottle of champagne on ice.

    “Hmm, I’m glad that I didn’t buy the cheap stuff,” he said as he ran his eyes over me. He then handed me a glass.

    We made a toast to the future.

    “You’re right, this is very good,” I commented as I savored the first sip.

    We sat down on the bed and cuddled as we sipped the champagne.

    “I have something I want to ask you,” he said in between kisses.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    “We’ve been engaged for a while…what do think about setting a date for our marriage?” he asked.

    “You mean that?” I asked.

    Bill nodded. “I’m not talking about running off to Vegas; I want to have a big wedding…if you’re game,”

    I took a sip of my wine. “I’d love that…when do you want to do it?”

    “Well, it’s fall, how about an early summer wedding?”

    I nodded. “Can I ask you why you brought this up?”

    “I guess I want to make what we have legal and binding. I also want to have a family someday and well…I would prefer to be married,” he said.

    I laughed. “I have to agree with you on that…are you serious about the family thing?”

    He nodded. “How do you feel about the idea of having a baby?”

    “I like the idea…I don’t mean that I want to get pregnant tonight, but being around Sarah sort of awoke some feelings in me.”

    “You know, I bet you’ll cute with a big belly,” he whispered.

    “Who says that I have to be the one who gets pregnant?” I replied.

    Bill laughed. “Not that I don’t think you could pull it off, but I think I’ll leave that to you.”

    “Good idea,” I replied.

    “So, what do you say to practicing?” he asked.

    “Why not…practice makes perfect,” I replied

Chapter 38

    Bill and I had one day together before he had to head back to San Diego. The only good thing about saying goodbye was that it meant that we would have a joyful reunion soon.

    Not much happened the next couple of days. The other girls were alerted to the description of Chloe/ Colton, along with the tattoo.  So far we hadn’t gotten any hits.

    Michaela found an artist who felt that she might be able to locate the tattoo artist. According to Michaela, the artist said that whoever did the tattoo had a very distinctive style. The artist also said that the detail was also beyond the ability of most artists.

    There wasn’t much to do except wait and hope that something turned up.

Chapter 39

    Two days later I got a call from Jirra.

    “I saw the woman in the photo,” she said.

    “Where?” I asked.

    “It was at a gym near campus,” she said. “They were giving out free trial memberships and Celeste and I went there to check it out. We saw the woman using one of the pieces of equipment.”

    “Did you see the tattoo?” I asked.

    “Yes, it was a dragon, just like the one in the photo,” she replied.

    “Great job, Jirra!  Do you know if Beth is home? I would like to talk to her,” I asked.

    “She should be home right now, I saw her coming in with Spirit when Celeste and I got home,” she said.

    “Okay, thanks. I’ll give her a call,” I said.

    I dialed Beth’s number, but all I got was her answering machine so I called Celeste’s number.

    “Hi Celeste, this is Iona, I hate to bother you, but do you know where Beth is?” I asked.

    “She just left,” said Celeste.

    I immediately noticed that Celeste seemed distraught.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    “Beth had to leave for DC…there’s a family emergency,” replied Celeste.

    It sounded like Celeste had been crying.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    Celeste sniffed. “A close family friend of Beth was badly wounded in the line of duty…they don’t know if she’ll make it.”

    I felt a feeling of deep dread sweep through my body. “Was it Ally Burns?”

    “Yes,” replied Celeste. “That wicked bitch Margo Simon stabbed her.”

    “Margo Simon…wasn’t she the one who…abducted you?”

    “That’s right. Iona, Ally helped save me…in many ways,” she said as she began to cry again.

    “Celeste, I’ll be there shortly,” I said.

    “You don’t have to do that,” said Celeste.

    “Yes I do,” I replied. “I’ll call Jirra to be with you in the mean time. See you soon.”

Chapter 40

    Michaela insisted on driving me into the city and I wasn’t in the mood to argue. I had only met Ally Burns once, but she made a big impression on me. I also knew how much she meant to both Beth and Celeste.

    We made good time getting into Philadelphia.

    “What do you want me to do?” asked Michaela.

    “You might as well come up with me. I don’t think they’ll mind.”

    Jirra met us at the door and let us into Celeste’s apartment.

    There was a round of hugs and introductions.

    “Have you heard anything?” I asked.

    “The story made CNN, but the details are sketchy,” said Celeste, who sat on the couch. Spirit the dog was immediately along side her. “Apparently, Margo Simon had escaped during a hospital visit. She was tracked to a parking garage and that’s where Ally was wounded.”

    “You said that she was stabbed?” I asked.

    “Yes and that she’s currently undergoing surgery,” said Celeste.

    “What about Margo?” I asked.

    “The latest report said that Ally shot her,” said Jirra.

    “It’s coming on again,” said Michaela.

    We all turned to watch the TV.

    “We just received an update in the wounding of a federal agent in our nation’s capital. Margo Simon, escaped federal prisoner, was killed by the agent she had stabbed. Details are still coming in, but apparently the agent had trapped Margo Simon on the top floor of parking garage. Before backup could arrive, Margo Simon attacked the agent and severely injured the agent. In the attack the agent was able to shoot back. Reports state that Margo Simon was struck several times at close range and then fell off the roof,” said the reporter.

    “Well, that should kill her,” said Michaela.

    “Good,” declared Celeste without emotion.

    “As for the wounded agent, the Agency has not released the name. However we have been told that the agent is currently in surgery in critical condition,” continued the reporter.

    I was suddenly thrown back to time when my friend Karen had been shot. I knew what Beth and Celeste were going through. All I could do was comfort and support Celeste. My powers were good, but they couldn’t reach all the way to DC.

    “Does anyone want something to drink?” asked Jirra.

    “I’d like some tea please,” said Celeste.

    “Iona?”

    “Tea would be great,” I replied.

    “I’ll give you a hand, Jirra,” said Michaela.

    I sat across from Celeste.

    “I should have gone with Beth,” said Celeste who pulled her knees up close to her chest.

    “She didn’t drive did she?” I asked.

    Celeste shook her head. “She took the train.”

    “She’ll be fine,” I replied. “Beth has always been a strong person.”

    “Is there anything you can do?” whispered Celeste.

    “I’m doing what I can now,” I replied. “I’m sorry, but my powers are limited.”

    Celeste nodded. “Of course. I really appreciate that you came here.”

    “That’s what friends are for,” I said.

Chapter 41

    Beth called the next morning with the news that Ally would make it.

    “They had to do some major work on her shoulder…said Beth, her voice tailing off.

    “It’s okay Beth,” I said.

    “They had to replace her shoulder joint…they had to do that to save the arm,” said Beth.

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.

    “But the good news is that she will make it,” said Beth. “Iona, thank you so much for coming over to be with Celeste.”

    “Jirra was here all night too,” I said.

    “I already thanked her,” said Beth. “How’s Celeste?”

    “She’s doing fine…she’s pretty strong,” I said.

    “I guess the only good thing that came out of this is that Margo Simon is dead. I hope she enjoys hell,” said Beth.

    “I was watching the news this morning and from what Celeste was telling me Margo sounded like pure evil,” I said.

    “That’s a good description of her,” said Beth. “Can you stay with Celeste a few days?”

    “Sure,” I replied.

    “I know you have your own case to work on, but it would mean a lot to me,” said Beth.

    “Beth, we go back a long way, you don’t have to explain,” I said.

    “I still like saying it,” said Beth. “You mean a lot to me too.”

    “Thanks,” I replied.

    “I’ll be down here a few days. I just want to make sure that Ally is out of the woods before I catch the train back to Philly,” she said.

    “Take all the time you need,” I said.

Chapter 42

    I sent Michaela over to the health club to see what she could turn up on Chloe.

    “Who is your friend?” asked Celeste.

    “Yes, she seems…unique,” added Jirra.

    “She is,” I replied. “I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you anything else. Feel free to ask her anything you want.”

    “So she is like you,” stated Jirra.

    “Same neighborhood,” I replied.

    Two hours later Michaela returned.

    “What did you find out?”

    “She registered under the name Chloe Johnston,” said Michaela as she pet Spirit. “What a fine animal.”

    “Any address?” I asked hopefully

    Michaela shook her head, but she pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to me. “I did get a phone number.”

    I looked at it. I was surprised to see that it was a local number.

    “What do you want to do with it?” asked Michaela.

    “I’ll run it through the Internet and see if anything comes up,” I said.

    The Internet was a bust and we figured it was probably a cell phone.

    “What now?” asked Jirra.

    I pulled out my phone and called Tessa.

Chapter 43

    “I can provide you with the means to track the cell phone,” said Tessa.

    “How close can you get?” I asked.

    “With the equipment I’ll be using…I can put give you an exact location,” said Tessa. “The problem will be is that the person has to be using the phone. If they turn it off or hang up then I’ll lose them. So you’ll have to pick the time you want to try this.”

    “I’m pretty sure that our target is getting close to hunting another victim,” I said. “Jirra has given me the names of several clubs that are near the spa where we spotted Chloe. There are also several hotels in the same area.”

    “So you’re gambling that Chloe will strike in the area, right?” asked Tessa.

    “Yes,” I replied.

    “How big of an area are we talking about?”

    “Five, maybe six blocks,” I replied.

    “That’s a large area, even with this equipment. If you catch her in between locations, you’ll never find her,” said Tessa.

    “Well, I should have another sort of tracking device by then,” I replied.

    Amelia had called me that morning and told me that the spell detector crystal would be ready in the next day.

    “What do you mean?” she asked.

    “It’s PFM,” I replied, using an old naval term.

    Tessa laughed. “I keep forgetting that you also served.”

    “When will you be ready?” I asked.

    “I can be there tomorrow,” said Tessa.

    “Good,” I replied. “I’ll have Jirra give you the directions.”

    I handed the phone to Jirra.

    “What did you mean by PFM?” asked Celeste. “I’m not familiar with that term.”

    “It’s an old term used to describe how something works when you don’t have a clue how it works. It stands for pure f’ing magic,” I explained. “Come to think of it, this is a pretty good description of what we’ll be using.”

    I then told her about the crystals.

    “So who will be using them?” asked Jirra who had hung up her phone.

    “Michaela and me,” I replied.

    “Wouldn’t it be better if you had more people out there?” asked Jirra. “We could spread out and locate the spell a lot faster.”

    I nodded. “That’s true, but it will be just me and Michaela.”

    “We can help,” said Celeste.

    “Celeste is right, we can help you,” said Jirra.

    I shook my head. “I appreciate the offer, but it’s too dangerous. Michaela and I have powers and can we can protect ourselves.”

    Jirra looked at Celeste. “Who else are you worried about?”

    I told them about the two Finnish siblings.

    “The crystals are very powerful…unfortunately; anyone with magical powers will be able to detect their use once they are activated. If the Finns sense them they will know what’s going on. They won’t hesitate to hurt anyone in their way,” I explained.

    “So the trick will be to catch Chloe or Colton before the Finns arrive?” asked Jirra.

    “And hope that nothing goes wrong, just like in regular life, the best plans can get really complicated, especially when magic is involved. It’s doubtful that Chloe knows many spells, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t armed with a gun or a knife. I also have to worry about the Finns.”

    “But you said that they won’t risk hurting another magical person,” said Celeste.

    “They think I’m the one who has been misusing the magic,” I explained. “Once we have Chloe in custody I will explain the truth to them.”

    “Assuming they don’t try to take her away from you,” said Celeste. 

    “They can try,” I said.

    “So what do you want us to do?” asked Jirra.

    “Help Tessa when she gets here. In the meantime, Michaela will keep staking out the gym. Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch her there,” I said.

    “Or him,” corrected Jirra.

    I nodded. I hoped that it would be Chloe we faced. It would be easier.

Chapter 44

    There was no sign of Chloe or Colton at the gym, There was the possibility that she or he had taken a different form, but I doubted this.

    Tessa arrived with the tracker. I didn’t ask her where it came from or how she had gotten it, some things are best left as a mystery.

    “I’ll call the phone number and pretend to be from the gym,” said Tessa. “I have verified that this is a valid number and that it is still active. It’s unregistered, but it has been assigned to the same person for the last three months,” she explained.

    I looked at my watch. “It’s almost five. I would like to wait until it gets darker.”

    Tessa nodded. “When you grab her you don’t want a lot of prying eyes.”

    “Exactly. We have agents just outside the city. They can be here is less than an hour, maybe sooner. I can’t risk having them work with us as it might tip off the Finns,” I explained.

    “So you and Michaela are going out on the street and will wait for me to tell you that I got a hit?” asked Tessa.

    “That’s the plan,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that Chloe is near by. I got a hit on my crystal this afternoon. It was for just a moment, so it tells me that she was inside somewhere.”

    “And you’re sure that you can’t use some backup?” asked Tessa.

    I shook my head.

    “What’s wrong, Iona?” asked Jirra. “You look worried.”

    “When I was out testing the crystal, I detected the Finns. They were close, maybe a half a mile away,” I said. I then explained my detection powers.

    “Can you always pick up on someone from so far away?” asked Jirra.

    I shook my head. “Only those people who express very strong emotions about me. Davin is worried about me…and Alia hates me. I just hope she still thinks that I’m mortal.”

    “It’s good when your adversary underestimates you,” said Tessa.

    “I don’t plan on making that mistake myself. I have to be ready for them trying to team up on me,” I said.

    “Look, since you may have you hands full, why don’t we call your magical backup as soon as you locate Chloe?” suggested Celeste.

    “That’s not a bad idea,” said Michaela.

    “Okay,” I said. I called Amelia and told her what we planned to do. I then gave Celeste Amelia’s number.

    Three hours later, Michaela and I hit the streets.

Chapter 45

    The night was clear with only a slight breeze. This would aid in tracking the spell.

    Michaela and I stationed ourselves a few blocks apart. We were using secure phones that looked like normal Bluetooths.

    I looked at the small GPS tracker that Tessa had given me and confirmed that I was in the location I wanted to be. Tessa was also going to text message me the position of the cell phone, in addition to telling me over the phone.

    “Okay, Tessa, call her,” I said. I crossed my fingers for luck. We would activate the crystals to confirm if the spell was being used.

    I could hear Tessa call Chloe. The phone rang four times and I was worried that we had a dead end, when a woman answered.

    “Yes?” she asked. “Who is this?”

    Her voice was breathless as if she had been working out…or having sex. I hope we weren’t too late.

    “This is the Billy Penn Health Club. We’re hoping that you liked your free trial period and would be interested in a membership,” said Tessa.

    “I…I’m a little busy right now,” said Chloe.

    I looked at the GPS screen and location popped up. It was three blocks away. I immediately headed towards the position.

    “Michaela, you see it?” I asked.

    “I’ll meet you there,” she replied.

    I then heard Tessa’s voice. “She hung up, but I have an address for you.”

    It was the third floor of an apartment building.

    “I’ve checked the building and it’s an apartment. Chloe is located in apartment 3 C,” said Tessa.

    I activated my crystal as I approached the address. My worse fears were confirmed when the crystal began to glow brightly; Chloe had another victim.

    “I’ll be there in a few minutes,” I said.

    “So will I,” said Michaela.

    I then felt Davin and Alia. There were probably a mile away, but they were heading in the same direction.

    “Tessa, we’re going to have company; tell Amelia to send in the backup,” I said. “Tell them to hurry.”

Chapter 46

    Michaela met me outside the apartment.

    “It’s a secure building,” I noted as I looked at the front door. There was a security pad to allow access. “I doubt that we can just call Chloe to let us in.”

    Michaela laughed. “The difference between you and I is that you have scruples.”

    She walked up and began to punch the numbers on the keypad. There was a buzz and the door opened.

    “How did you do that?” I asked.

    “My kind are sort of experts on picking locks and breaking into secure places. It’s our natural curiosity, if a door is locked we want to know why,” she explained.

    “Then breaking into Apartment 3C won’t be a problem for you,” I said.

    Michaela laughed.

    “I’ll take that as a no,” I said.

    We took the stairs up the third floor. Apartment 3C was at the end of the hallway.  Our crystals were glowing brightly, confirming the presence of the spell. I took a deep breath, cast a protection spell and gave Michaela a nod. The spell would protect us from magic and at the same time shield the apartment as the last thing I wanted was nosey neighbors.

    She pulled out a small metal pin from her coat and attacked the lock. In a moment the door swung open.

    “Do you always carry a picklock with you?” I whispered.

    “Among other things,” she replied.

    We stepped in and listened. The living room was empty, but there was noise coming from the bedroom.

    I motioned for Michaela to follow me. My plan was to immediately cast an immobilization spell on whoever was in the room and then sort out who was who later. I didn’t want to risk the chance that Chloe might have learned some other spells. I also knew that I had to hurry as I could sense that Alia and Davin were getting closer.

    I threw open the door and was momentarily stunned to see what looked like two half-human-half panther beings having sex.

    Both of them were covered in black fur and had long tails. Their faces were very feline in appearance.

    The female cat person snarled at me, showing off a mouth filled with large sharp teeth. In addition to her fangs, she had what looked like razor-sharp claws on the end of her hands. She let out a bloodcurdling growl and appeared ready to pounce on us.

    I immediately cast the immobilization spell and they both froze in place.

    “Nice kitty,” I said.

    “Which one is Chloe?” asked Michaela.

    I couldn’t see the tattoo thanks to the black fur.

    “I don’t know,” I said.

    Michaela moved closer to them. “It’s the one who tried to attack you. I can see the tattoo.”

    What happened next probably occurred in just a few seconds, but to make sense of it I’ll have to slow it down.

    Without a word, Michaela sprang in front of me and snatched a knife out of the air that was flying towards me. I didn’t know that a person could move that quickly. 

    Davin and Alia stepped into the bedroom.

    Without a word, Alia cast an attack spell in Michaela and my direction. My own protection spell dispersed the energy of their attack. I turned and looked at Michaela and she confirmed that she was okay by winking at me.     

    “Can I throw this back at them?” asked Michaela as she balanced the knife in her hand. “Unlike Davin, I won’t miss.”

    “No, they’re mine, Michaela,” I stated.

We were then struck by another blast of the attack spell and again the energy of the enchantment was immediately dispersed.

    “Is that all you got?” I asked slightly annoyed with them.

    “How did you do that?” screamed Alia.

    Davin’s skills must have been weaker than Alia’s, as he was reaching for a second knife.

    “The same way I can do this!” I replied as I thrust out my right arm. The spell I cast struck Davin; he was thrown backward and slammed into the wall. Obviously he was unprepared for my attack and the spell knocked him to the ground, temporarily stunning him.

    Alia looked at him and the glared at me with rage. “You’ll pay for this. It’s bad enough you’ve stolen the sexual spell…but to misuse these other ones is heresy of the highest order. “

    “Chill Alia,” I really don’t want to hurt you, but I can if I want to. And for you information I am not misusing any spell,” I said. 

    “Don’t add lies to your crimes mortal,” she exclaimed.

 “I am Iona of the Clan Beddau and my use of magical powers is my birthright,” I stated firmly.

    I rarely used my formal family designation, but I figured it would impress these two.

    A stunned look appeared on her face. “You lie again…you steal powers and now pretend to be someone else! We would know if someone of the Clan Beddau was present. I am standing close to you and I can’t detect an aura of the truly magical. I will take great pleasure in killing you,” she growled. She cast the attack spell once again.

    It was stronger this time, but my protection spell again dispersed it.

    “Jeez, don’t you know any other spells? Okay, it’s my turn!”

    I used a stronger version of the immobilization spell on her. She was again frozen in place. I saw that Davin was back on his feet and so I also froze him.

    “I caught you with the same spell twice, you really need to study more, this was almost too easy,” I said as I shook my head. Okay, I was being a bit of a smartass, but I always loved the Dirty Harry and Die Hard movies.  “Now, you will tell me what I want to know.”

    I then heard Michaela cry out a warning to me.

    I turned around just in time to see that Chloe was free of the spell and that she had transformed completely into a panther, a very large and extremely angry panther. She roared and leapt at me before I could react; I was saved by Michaela who struck her down with what looked like a rapier. The blade of the weapon was surrounded with a soft white light.

Chapter 47

    “She’s dead,” I said as I crouched down next to Chloe. Actually I had no idea what to call the body as it was a combination of male, female, and also panther. I could make out the tattoo that told me we had gotten who we were looking for. I only wished that we had her alive.

    “Better her than you. Your protection spell was down and there was no time to recast it,” said Michaela as she stood above Chloe. “She would have ripped your throat out.”

    “Where did you get the sword?” I asked.

    She looked at the weapon and with a flick of her wrist the blade retracted into small rod, which she slipped into her coat pocket. “Since that run in with the succubus I always carry it with me. If I had had it with me that night I would have bested her.”

    I nodded and looked over on the bed. There was an unconscious naked man sprawled out on sheets. I was relived to see that he was breathing and that he had returned to his human form.

    “I suspect he’ll be out for a while,” said Michaela.

    I nodded again and turned to Davin and Alia. I walked right up to them. I could sense that they were trying to free themselves.

    “Don’t bother, only I can release you. The spell also blocks you from using your powers so stop struggling. I know you have been receiving information from a spy. You aren’t smart enough to track me down on your own. I want that name. I will give you the power to speak, But just so you know the authorities are on the way,” I stated. “If you tell me the name and it checks out I will see that you aren’t charged with any crimes. Who wants to speak first?”

    “Curse you,” she exclaimed. “I admit that we mistook you for the mortal criminal, and I don’t know how you have shielded your aura…but we will not give up our contact. Now, listen to me, unless you let us go we will hurt you. Our revenge will be great.”

    “Do you really think you can hurt me?” I asked. “I’ve bested you twice and I barely broke a sweat.”

    Michaela smiled at my use of her type of language.

 Alia let out an evil sounding laugh. “No, we won’t come after you, but we do know about you and your clan. It is true that we didn’t know you would be here, but we do have a whole file on Fiona Beddau’s family from our contact. And with that knowledge we will hurt you. I think we’re start with your human lover…imagine what we can do to him. I will make sure that he suffers an agonizing death that will be exceeded only by your pain when you realize that he’s dead and you realize that you caused it.”

    I felt an immediate rage grow in me and it was all I could do to hold it in. “If you even attempt to hurt him I will use the all my powers to strike you down. This wasn’t personal before, but if you want a war then you will have it. Now imagine what I can do to you if I was angry. I will destroy you!”

    “Oooh, you do have the temper your clan is famous for. But Iona, if you strike me down out of revenge, you would be arrested for violating your precious laws,” she said with a laugh. “Your powers would be stripped and then you would be at our mercy.”

    “That may be, but you wouldn’t know about it as you would already be dead,” I stated coldly.

    “It might not be me who casts the spell,” she said with an evil grin on her face. “You can’t hold me responsible for everyone in my clan.”

    “Yes I can. I will hold you completely accountable and I will come after you. There will be no place on earth you will be able to hide. I will also kill your brother,” I vowed as I cast a glance in his direction. “Do not take this as an idle threat.”

    “I could strike her right now,” said Michaela softly. She walked up along side me. “Iona, you know that I am not encumbered by the same sense of morality as you are. I would feel no guilt over taking their lives.”

    I turned to see that the blade was once again in her hand. The blade was now glowing bright red.

    “I could kill them both right now…it would very easy,” continued Michaela as she moved menacingly closer to the siblings.

    “No,” I replied as I gained control of my emotions. “I need them alive.”

    “As you wish,” said Michaela. The blade again retracted. She then turned to Alia. “You are fortunate frost witch that Iona is here to protect you or you would be dead as would your brother. But remember my words, if you strike against Iona, her lover, her family or any of her friends I will hear of it and you will curse the day that you acted so imprudently. It will mean that you are declaring war on my people too. Alia, if you know your clan’s history then you know that the last time our people fought we almost wiped your clan out.”

    I could see confusion appear in Alia’s eyes. I cold also sense fear in Davin.

    “That’s….that’s just a myth… a story told to scare the young ones,” stammered Davin.

    “Oh, it’s no myth and my people are very real,” said Michaela as she walked slowly around them. “Judging by your actions we apparently made a mistake the last time when we let some of you live. If we go to war again, your kind will cease to exist. Your clan will be a …myth.”

    Davin whispered a word to Alia in a language that I didn’t know. Alia gasped in dread.

    An icy smile appeared on Michaela’s face. “I see you know what I am. And that means you know that my race doesn’t make idle threats, we don’t bluff, and we know how to kill your kind.”

    She then leaned closer and spoke to them in a tongue that completely foreign to me.  It was a beautiful and ancient sounding language; it was almost as Michaela was singing. I have no idea what she said but the effect on Alia and Davin was amazing. They were both petrified with terror.

    Alia looked at me with dread in her eyes. “Iona of the Clan Beddau, I will tell you what you want. I also swear on my clan’s sacred honor that neither I nor any of my people will seek revenge against you. Please, don’t let…THEM attack us. We cannot…do not want another war.”

    I nodded. “Tell me the name of the spy.”

    Alia immediately began to talk, the whole time she kept an eye on Michaela, who seemed be thoroughly enjoying herself.

Chapter 48

    I immediately called Fiona and told her what had happened.

    “We will take Alia and Davin into custody until we confirm their information,” she said.

    “I’m sorry that Chloe was killed, but there was no choice,” I said sadly.

    “I believe you, Iona,” she said. “The agents will be there shortly and clean up the mess.”

    I told her the condition of the corpse.

    “I’m not surprised. The misuse of magic can do that to a person. It will very difficult to indentify the person, but we will try. We will also try and discover where this person acquired the spell in the first place.”

    “Can you change the others back?” I asked hopefully.

    “We should be able to do that…if they want to be changed back,” she said.

    “I think Sarah will stay a girl,” I said.

    “From what Amelia has told me, I agree with you,” said Fiona.

    “What do you want me to do?” I asked.

    “As soon as the agents arrive, you and Michaela can go,” she said. “Thank her for me.”

    “Okay, Mom, I’ll talk to you later,” I said.

    “Good night, dear, you did well tonight. I’ve extremely proud of you,” she said.

    I was very pleased to hear her say that.

Chapter 49

    An hour later, Michaela and I walked back towards Celeste’s home.

    “Thank you for saving my life,” I said.

    “Well, you saved mine too, dear lass,” she replied.

    I just smiled. I had grown to like her comments.

    “So, will you tell me what happened back there with Alia and Davin?” I asked.

    “My kind has always had a soft spot for the mortals of this world; they remind us of what we once were. When they are threatened by magical folk we step in…we always provide protection. Around fifteen hundred years ago the clan that Alia and Davin belong to declared war on the humans who lived near them. The humans were brave, but they were no match for the magic waged against them. We stepped in to protect the humans.”

    “Why did Alia’s clan attack the humans?” I asked.

    Michaela shrugged. “There was no good reason. The humans in those lands were no threat to magical folk. Some of my clan were living with the humans; we found their ways fascinating. When the first attacks occurred we tried to stop the fighting.”

    “So what happened?” I asked.

    “To use a phrase from your time they ‘blew us off.’ So we sided with the humans in combat and drove their clan away. We could have wiped them out, but we stopped when they agreed to our demands,” said Michaela.

    I absorbed her words.

    “They then moved further north to their present territory,” she continued.

    “Um, the people your kind helped…are you talking about the Vikings?” I asked.

    Michaela nodded. “Their descendents would become the people known as the Vikings or the Norse. Now, I wish I could have seen the days of the Vikings. The Norse were a fine people from what I was told…they could really throw a party.”

    “And your people fought along side them?”

    Michaela nodded. “Yes, they took up arms and fought side by side with them.”

    “And your kind can die right?” I asked. “I mean, I know you have long lives…”

    Michaela smiled. “Everyone dies, Iona.”

    “That explains a lot behind the Norse mythology…why their gods actually could die,” I said.

    Michaela smiled at me. “You are a bright one. Yes, even though we tried to tell them otherwise, the Norse saw us as gods.”

    “I always thought there was some basis of truth behind those stories.”

    “Many of those sagas have references to my kind. In fact, a relative of mine is famous to this day,” said Michaela proudly. “You may have heard of him.”

    “What’s his name?” I asked.

    “Beowulf,” she replied.

    The look in her eyes told me that she serious and not pulling my leg.

    “You must be very proud to have such a great warrior in your clan,” I said.

    “I am,” she replied.

    “And does that mean that Grendel was one of them?” 

    “Yes, they thought the form would frighten and demoralize the mortals,” she replied in disgust. “Still, it makes for a pretty good story don’t you think?”

    “One more question, what was that word that Davin said to Alia? It seemed to terrify her,” I asked.

    Michaela hesitated. “There is no direct English translation. The closest I can give you is that it means ‘unrelenting nightmare’. I know that sounds awful, but Alia’s people called us monsters for siding with the humans. However, our kind doesn’t start wars, but we do finish them. The word has sort of become a catchall term to describe all terrors. We’re the ones that their clan’s parents tell their children about so they don’t misbehave. Considering the source, it’s actually a backhanded compliment.”

    “So you’re their boogieman?”

    Michaela smiled back. “Correction, tonight I was their bogeywoman.”

Chapter 50

    “How did it go?” asked Jirra.

    “It’s over,” I replied as we stepped inside. I reached down to pet Spirit who was eagerly greeting us.

    “Do you want something to drink?” asked Celeste.

    “Something strong,” I replied.

    “Make it two,” added Michaela.

    Celeste nodded and reached into a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Sandeman Port.

    “That should be good,” I replied.

    “I’ll open it,” said Tessa.

    We sat around the living room drinking the strong Portuguese liquor, which really hit the spot as we told them what had happened.

    I was taken aback when Michaela told them who she was.

    “I am a good judge of character and you three appear to be trustworthy,” said Michaela. “Besides, all of you have undergone a transformation and know how it is to keep a secret.”

    Michaela enthralled us with her tales as we slowly emptied the bottle of Port and two of its siblings.

    The last thing I did before going to bed was to call Bill and talk to him for an hour.

Chapter 51

    “Do you really have to go?” asked Jirra the next morning.

    “We finished what we came to do,” I said.

    I had spent the morning calling the rest of my friends to tell them that the case had been solved. I also thanked them all for their help.

    “At least stay until Beth arrives, I know she would love to see you,” said Celeste.

    I looked at Michaela who nodded.

    “It would be nice to see her before we leave,” I said.

    Beth returned to Philly around noon on the train. We picked her up and said goodbye to Tessa at the same time. I thanked Tessa for her help.

    “It was fun, call me anytime you need help,” she said.

    “I will, Tessa,” I replied and we hugged.

    Beth looked exhausted, but she was also happy to be home in Philly.

    “How’s Ally?” asked Celeste as we walked to the car.

    “She’s doing much better, but Dad says that the injury might end her career…at least as a field agent,” said Beth. “But he also said that The Director will make sure that Ally gets a good job.”

    “How are you doing?” I asked.

    “I’m doing better too. I was really worried that she might die,” said Beth. “Ally is very special to me.”

    “Well, I’m glad that she’s recovering,” I said.

    “So, tell me, what happened here? Celeste said that you wrapped up the case,” said Beth.

    I told her what had happened. Michaela added her part of the story.

    “I’m glad that it all worked out, but I’m sorry that Chloe, or whoever she was died. It seems such a waste,” said Beth.

    I nodded. “For someone without powers to master such a complicated spell they had to have been very intelligent. It’s too bad that she didn’t use this knowledge for something more worthwhile.”

    “While I don’t agree with Alia’s actions, I do agree that most mortals should be kept away from magic,” said Michaela. “It can become very intoxicating to suddenly have powers without knowing the responsibility that goes with it.”

    “Actually that’s true of any power,” said Beth.

    “Okay, changing the subject, Bill and I have agreed to finally get married,” I announced. “We haven’t set a date yet, but it will early summer in San Diego.”

    “It’s about time,” said Beth with a large smile on her face. It was great to see her smile again. “You two have been engaged for what seems like forever.”

    “Well, brace yourself Beth, I want you to be my maid of honor,” I said. “And I want the rest of you to be my bridesmaids.”

    “Me too?” asked Michaela.

    “Not if you show up as Mick, but if you’re still female, yes I would,” I replied.

    “That will be a first,” she said.

    “I would love to do it,” said Beth as we hugged. “But what about your sister?”

    “With the way my mom feels about me, it would be hard to explain. Jenny asked me not to make her part of my wedding party, but she will attend,” I said.

    “Are you sure that you want me?” asked Jirra. “I mean, we barely know each other.”

    “Time doesn’t matter, we’re close friends now, and we share a bond that others will never know. The same applies to you Celeste,” I said.

    “Thank you, Iona,” said Celeste.

    “I would love to do it too,” added Iona.

    “Thank you. There will be a few others, including Hallie. I also promise that the dresses won’t be too hideous.”

Chapter 52

    Michaela and I drove back to Phoenixville to see Amelia and Sarah.

    “You really want me in your wedding party?” asked Michaela.

    “Yes”, I replied. “If you would rather be Mick, I’ll have you fitted for a tux.”

    “I think I’ll stay Michaela for a while. I’ve never been to a wedding as a woman,” she replied. “Does Bill have any good looking friends?”

    “Hmm, it sounds like you like being a woman,” I said.

    “There are definite benefits,” she replied. “The sex isn’t bad either.”

    “I know what you mean,” I replied.

    When we arrived at the safe house, we found Amelia and Sarah packing to leave.

    Sarah was dressed in jeans and a red sweatshirt that said “Phillies 2008 NL Champs” on it. Her hair was styled in a long ponytail. She looked like a little tom-boy, but she also looked very feminine.

    Sarah ran up and hugged both of us when we walk into the house.

    “Hi, Iona, hi Michaela,” she squealed. “Do you like my sweatshirt?”

    “It’s nice,” I said.

    “Mommy bought it for me…she also told me that a girl can like sports too.”

    “She’s right about that. So how’re you doing Sarah?” I asked.

    “I’m really happy Iona. Mommy and I are moving to San Diego and she said that once we get there I can have a kitten!” stated Sarah excitedly.

    “That’s great,” I said.

    “Sarah, you want to help me with our bags?” asked Michaela.

    “Okay,” replied Sarah who followed Michaela outside.

    I looked at Amelia. “Mommy?”

    “It works for both of us,” replied Amelia with a smile as we hugged. “Fiona called and told me what happened. It sounds like you two make a great team.”

    “We kicked butt,” I replied with a smile.

    “Michaela has formed a strong bond with you,” she said. “That’s a bit unusual as her people usually avoid our kind, as they prefer the company of humans.”

    “I know, she told me a bit more about her race.”

    Amelia nodded. “She’s a great ally to have.”

    “And a great friend,” I added. “So what about Sarah, does she know what happened?”

    Amelia nodded. “I told her everything. She also accepts that she’s now a little girl.”

    “How did she react when you told her that she could not return to her old life?”

    “Surprisingly well. She has told me that her old life wasn’t that good, she described it as hollow. I think she’s happy to have a family now…and I’m happy about it too. She realized that part of her acceptance of being a girl is due to the spell, but she doesn’t care.”

    “That’s cool,” I replied. “She’s a pretty special person and I’m really happy for both of you. What about the others that had been changed?”

    “We have teams with them now to work with them. Some of the animal-human hybrids will be hard to transform back to their original forms. The centaurs and mer-people tell us that having sex in their new forms is incredible and might decide to stay as they are. We’re looking into alternatives for their care if they do. The centaurs could stay at the ranch and help out there. The mer-folks are considering how to use their new under-water abilities to help explore the oceans and protect the environment.”

I looked in amazement at Amelia. “They had sex?”

“Well, there wasn’t a lot of things for them to do was there?” Amelia shrugged. “If they do decide to return to human form they may have to start their lives over as another person,” said Amelia. “We will give them a fresh start and a new identity.”

    “It beats being a centaur,” I replied. “Have they had any luck identifying who Chloe really was?”

    Amelia shook her head. “I doubt they ever will.”

    “What about the initial source of the spell?”

    “That’s up to Fiona’s people,” said Amelia. “There are many places that Chloe could have found the spell. There are plenty of texts floating around and then there’s the internet. The good thing is that no one else is going to be hurt by her.”

    “What about the spy?” I asked.

    “The Freiberg’s information was correct. The spy is in custody and per your deal the Freibergs have been set free and deported.”

    “That’s good to hear,” I said. “Anyone we know?”

    Amelia shook her head. “I suppose that’s a good thing.”

    Sarah and Michaela walked back inside carrying the bags. They set them down and we all sat down in the living room.

    “So you’re going to be growing up in San Diego?” I asked Sarah.

    She smiled back. “Isn’t that great?”

    “It is. I won’t be that far away so we can go out and do things,” I said. “You can think of me as your big sister if you like.”

    “Thank you, Iona,” she replied.

    I then told them about the wedding.

    “So you’re finally doing it, how did you talk Bill into it?” asked Amelia.

    “Actually it was his idea,” I replied.

    “You’re picked out a day?” asked Sarah. “Can we come to the wedding?”

    I nodded. “Of course you’ll both be invited, in fact, Sarah, how would you like to be the flower girl?”

    Sarah laughed. “I never thought I would do that!”

    “You’re about to learn a lot of firsts,” I replied. “Just so you know, you can always call me if you need anything…even if it’s just to talk.”

    “I’d like that, Iona,” she replied.

    “So, when are you heading back to San Diego?” asked Amelia.

    “I have a flight tomorrow,” I replied.

    “And what about you Michaela?” asked Amelia.

    “I’m going to hang around the city a little longer. It’s been a while since I was last here,” she said.

    “When was that?” asked Amelia.

    “1796,” she replied without skipping a beat. She then looked at me. “I told you that I knew Ben Franklin.”

    “Oh, I have to hear this story,” said Amelia.

    “You knew Ben Franklin?” asked Sarah.

    Michaela nodded. “The stories I could tell you!”

    “Just remember that Sarah is child, so keep it clean,” I said.

    Sarah stuck her tongue out at me. I debated calling her a brat, but instead I returned the favor and we both starting laughing.

    “Do you want to hear this story or not?” asked Michaela.

    “We do,” I replied. “Let’s just get something to drink first.”

Chapter 53

    The next day Michaela drove me to the airport.

    “I’ll miss you,” I said.

    “Oh, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other,” she replied. “We’re friends now, right?”

    I nodded. “I still have a few questions.” 

    “Sure, go ahead,” she replied.

    “You once told me that your people were wary of humans and now you told me that they went to war to protect humans,” I said.

    “You have an excellent memory. The truth is that we have better relations with people who are more into earth religions, not to knock the others beliefs, but pagans and their sort are more accepting of the magical world.”

    “Like the Norse when they believed in Odin and Valhalla?” I asked.

    She nodded.

    “But you will step in to protect mortals when they are threatened by magic?” I asked.

    “That’s correct,” she replied.

    “But why did you let Kelly hurt all those students at Bernardo Valley?” I asked referring to the succubus that we had once fought. “You told me that you knew what she was.”

    Michaela sighed. “I’m not proud of what I did there and I’ve grown up a little since then. I told you that I’m still young…at least when it comes to my race. You have taught me that there are fights worth fighting. I have to admit that I liked the sense of satisfaction of helping you.”

    “That’s good to hear,” I said.

    “Now my turn for a question. So when are you going to tell your mother and the others that you are going to become a fulltime runner?” she asked.

    Runner was the slang term for a special type of detective, someone who tracked down criminals that worked both magical and human worlds.

    “How do you know that’s what I want to do? I am studying to be a lawyer,” I said. “Can you read my mind?”

Michaela laughed. “I don’t need to read your mind to see that you truly enjoyed this assignment. You are good at it, Iona. I think that someone should do what they enjoy doing.”

“Even if it’s dangerous?” I asked.

“What’s life without some danger?” she replied.

I looked out the window and nodded. “I do enjoy it.”

“I would be glad to be your partner…we do make a good team,” she said.

I turned and looked at her. “I’ll think about it. I need to talk to Bill first.”

“Of course,” she replied. “I suspect that he will approve.”

I wasn’t so sure.

“You have surrounded yourself with good people, Iona. I really liked those friends of yours back in the city. I hope that I can meet the others,” continued Michaela.

“I suppose that can be arranged,” I replied. “I suspect that they would like to meet you too.”

Chapter 54

Bill met me at Lindbergh Airport and we immediately kissed.

“I’ve missed you so much,” I said.

“The feeling is mutual,” he replied. “Oh, I forget to ask you the other night, did you manage to keep your clothes on this time?”

I playfully punched him in the arm. “I decided that I would let you undress me this time.”

He leaned over and kissed me.

    We made a quick stop at Aunt Kayla’s to say hi and drop off my bags. We then went over to his place for dinner.

    “Fiona said that you did a great job tracking down Chloe and also the way you handled the Freibergs,” he said as he opened a bottle of wine.

    “That’s good to hear,” I said. “I think that we’re starting to have a better relationship.”

    “That’s good, considering she’s about to become my mother-in-law,” he said as he handed me a glass of wine. “To having you home again.”

    “I was going to say the same thing about you,” I said as we touched glasses.

    He sat down on the couch next to me. “So what’s on your mind?”

    I laughed. “Is it that obvious?”

    “I’m getting better at reading you,” he said.

    I hold him about wanting to become a runner.

    “I know it’s dangerous, but I’m good at it. I also have insight that many of the magical runners don’t,” I said.

    He laughed. “Iona, you don’t have to convince me. I could tell that your heart wasn’t into becoming a lawyer.”

    “What do you think Mom will say?” I asked.

    “You said Mom and not Fiona,” said Bill. “I think she will give you a dozen reasons not to do it and then in the end she will give you her blessing. She just wants you to be happy.”

    “I hope so,” I replied. “I know I’m not really her daughter, but part of me wants her love and approval.”

    “So what do you want from me?” he asked.

    “I want to wake up next to you tomorrow morning,” I said as we kissed.

    “I think I can grant that wish,” he said

The End
(For Now)

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Julieverse Characters in Iona-Coeds

Tessa Phoenix Barnard- was once a retired US Navy SEAL named Jason Blackthorn. Jason was killed and resurrected as a woman by the goddess Athena to seek revenge against the killers. She is currently married to writer Jonathan Barnard. (Revenge of the Goddess: Athena’s Assassin.)

Iona Beddau- Originally a man called Roger Lyons; after a short tour in the navy, Roger began a defense contractor. It was on a flight back to San Diego that Roger met Iona, a young sorceress who swapped bodies with him. The switch became permanent when an accident killed “Roger”. Now forced to live out her life as Iona, she also discovered that she had magical powers. Iona currently lives in San Diego with her Aunt Kayla and is currently engaged to a mortal man named Bill Somers. Her mother is Fiona Beddau, who works as a prosecutor for those who violate magical law. Iona also maintains contact with her sister, Jenny Lyons. Jenny is an artist who works in Columbus Ohio and has also discovered that she has magical powers. She is the only member of Iona’s original family who knows the truth about Roger. (Turbulence Series)

Ally Burns – Federal agent and head of The Agency’s Internet crime department, recruited to The Agency by Carol Martin. Ally has recently undergone SRS and lives with Carol and their cat in the Washington DC area. (The Protector Series, Combined Forces)

Alexis Eden – Onetime college student and currently movie and TV star. She is the star of the Erin Flynn series being filmed in Boston. While on vacation in New Mexico, she fell in love with Jirra. They are currently engaged. (Fresh Start & Coeds series)

Celeste Farnsworth – Originally Jeremy Green; was abducted and feminized by Margo Simon. Celeste was then sold to Sherman Farnsworth, a self-made millionaire.  Instead of using her as a sex slave, Celeste became his wife. Sherman dies of a heart attack and Celeste used his wealth to create a foundation for abused transgendered teens. She currently attends Penn and lives with Beth Williams and Spirit, her dog. (Combined Forces, Celestial Awakenings, Coeds)

Mick/Michaela- A magical being that refers to themselves as a traveler. They have magical powers, but rely on guile and secrecy to live along side humans, who they find fascinating. (Turbulence)

Professor Hallie Thorn Pappadimos – Born Harry Thorn, he was transformed into a young woman by an ancient Minoan object. She is now living with her lover Kim and their daughter. Hallie spends half the year in Crete working on the Minoan archeological site that is connected to her own transformation. Her father is Richard Thorn the movie producer.  (Purpose, Ambition, Revenge of The Goddess; Athena’s Assassin)

Jirra Reid – Born Josh Reid and was transformed into a girl at age eighteen in a freak accident at a spa in New Mexico.  Josh was taking a hot mud bath in a large copper caldron; a lightning strike transferred him physically into a female.  Jirra is still trying to find balance as she adapts to being female.  Her nickname is Roo, a take off on her new name which means kangaroo. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Beth Williams- While serving in the navy, LT Ben Carlson was transformed into a teenage girl by Dr. Martz, through a DNA process. Beth was adopted by two federal agents, Maggie and Steve Williams. Beth has also served as an agent, although she is now currently a fulltime student.  Beth is currently dating a fellow Penn student named Jim Buchwalter. (Change of Course I-IV, Combined Forces, The Protector Series, Coeds)

Jennifer “Jen” Stevens – Born Robert Stevens. Transformed by a lightning strike over a period of about three weeks while unconscious in the hospital. Her transformation was leaked to the public during her hospital stay. Jen left her old job and became a successful TV and movie star and is now producing movies. Substitute hosts the “Around Midnight” talk show. A friend and mentor to Jirra Reid after meeting her a few months after her transformation. Long time friend of Alexis Eden after meeting her while Jen was hosting the talk show. Jen Stevens adventures are chronicled in Bob Arnold’s Zapped! series and she is used here with his permission.

Margo Simon – Once a therapist who worked for the government, she was arrested for running a sex slave ring. She was arrested in an operation led by Ally Burns. Celeste Farnsworth was one of her victims. Beth Williams was also abducted by her. (The Protector Series)

Amelia Taylor- Sorceress and medical doctor, who is trained in both human and magical medicine. Related to Iona Beddau. (Turbulence Series & Personal Foul)



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Great addition to the series

Nothing satisfies quite like a mainline JulieO story. Imaginative danger, three dimensional and likable characters, and though there is adversity, justice triumphs in the end. Just fantastic.

Wowzers!

A new Julie O tale is always a pleasure! This was very cool linking all these characters together and I really liked the detective story. We still never did find just who Chloe really was. I suspect there might be another story there after Iona will want to make sure no one else figures out how to make that stuff! Great story Julie!!!!

hugs!

grover

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Iona

I have been reading Turbulance. I had a feeling that you would have a new story soon. I really enjoy reading your stories. Thank you.

Beckyrnm

Happy Dancing for Iona!

Great job, Julie! I actually got all giddy when I found out there was a new Iona adventure, and this didn't disappoint. Learning more about Mick was a real treat, and of course seeing the growing relationships between all these great characters is wonderful. Thanks for a great escape!

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

A fine romp, Julie_O

It's been a few years but the *flavor* was spot on Julie. This fits well with the previous Iona stories. Her mischievous lust for her new life was apparent – levitation sex, waaa-hooo!_-- as was her desire to do good with her powers and her knack for finding trouble and fixing it. She and the Traveler made a great team as did the assistance of Tessa, Jirra and others. It was both good and sad to see she can access the original Iona’s memories to the point she feels almost like the original Iona. This seems behind her sudden and welcome warming relations to the birth mom. Her relation to Roger’s sister is still close but I was saddened when she asked not to be in the wedding party for fear of hurting their mom. That is a wound that needs healing. I worry she will not come to the wedding even thought she said she would should mom hear and object. Mom needs to know her son is not dead but in a different body, She may be stubborn but I can’t believe their mom is like Celeste’s who refuses to see her.

As Roger, Iona was a weapons systems expert, a troubleshooter for the manufacturer and the Navy. In away she has found a path back to what Roger did but in a broader perspective among the gray area between humans and the magically gifted..

Several interesting things came up. One, Amelia wants to be a mother at what 280 years old – mid thirties biologically. Will Kayla succumb to the Iona effect too, there is the handsome magic abuse investigator Conner from Turbulence? Nice to see Kathy the waitress Iona saved in Turbulence is still a friend though that was told indirectly as was the reference to the magic supplies woman from Personal Foul.

So the identity spell might or might not work for Jirra? Hum, though Iona joked but Bill agreed it was possible for HIM to be the pregnant partner could Iona or Amelia help Alexis and Jirra to have the other’s baby. We know Alexis can’t have children but is she absolutely sterile? She and Jirra deserve to have at least one child. that is both theirs if it is possible.

Sarah is an interesting addition, maybe she will prove to have magic as she matures at a minimum as Amelia’s daughter she could be like Bill a human who straddles the boundaries between magic and mundane helping keep the peace.

Curious, where in the timeline of the various stories are we? Summer of 2006 or 2007 or am I totally off in the deep end?

Funny, serious, nice mystery and some sadness., a great mix.

John in Wauwatosa

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine)

Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine) Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

Timeline

As Iona is leaving and saying goodbye to Amelia and Sarah, Iona noticed that Sarah had on a Philles World Series Champ 2008. I hope that solves answers your question John.

Bluberyblond

Late October 2008, excellent

Thanks for spotting the Phillies 2008 t-shirt.

Does that mean Coeds 3 Anasazi summer was summer 2008 or was it 2007? I was pretty sure it was 2007. I’ll figure it out eventually, maybe. The next Jirra/Alexis story will likely cover that gap or there is always a Hallie/Kim/Tessa story lurking, The Protector or who knows. Plus Jen Stevens hinted in Coeds3 she might play the role of the man transformed into another’s Perfect Lover for Hallie’s dad, the blockbuster film director. That would bring in the real ex-pirate 400 and something year old man and his wife. Fun to speculate where she might go next as Julie_O has so many toys to play with now with the many interconnecting stories.

Terrific story. The more I think back on it the better it gets. What may contribute to the fun of reading these stories is that no matter how powerful the people are in Julie_O's stories or in the connecting stories of Bob Arnold's and Itinerants is they are still people warts and all. They also change and evolve and yet even the most competent, Amelia and Fiona for example, have limits, for one thing despite their powers they don't always foresee things that cause harm to friends and loved ones.

Fiona's conflict with her daughter contributed to not seeing Iona was under the power of a malicious spell and lost her daughter as a result. Despite the network of magically gifted and non gifted detectives at her disposal Fiona could not find the magic abuser until Roger as Iona and her friends came on board. The Finn twins proved inept assassins and identified wrongly Iona as the non gifted magic abuser. Iona got distracted and that wasn’t good for someone… Hey that was a potential plot spoiler so….

I find the idea of picking up the peaces and making a sucess of ones life a recuring theme, Susan being the latest example and the suddenly warming relations of Fiona and Iona is another.

John in Wauwatosa

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine)

Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine) Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

timeline & The Julieverse

I don't try to always connect directly the events in the stories to the real world. This gives me freedom in my writing.

Yes there are overlaps, world events, and also many of the places that I mention in the story are real (The Black Lab Bistro has great food and there really is a Blobfest! New Hope is a fun place to visit, many great place sto eat and shop...it's also a very friendly LGBT community. Unfortunately there is no Drunken Squirrel or Golden Hill...but we can always wish they were real).

However, I don't strive to keep everything exact as the world in which the Juliverse characters live has things that don't exist in this world like The Agency. (It might exist!).

The overlap in this story is starts at the end of the last Coeds and obviously the injury of Ally Burns and the long overdue death of Margo Simon from the last Protector. I needed to work this into the story and this seemed like the best place to do it.

While I'm on a ramble, there will be more Iona stories as I love writing about her. Second, Mick/Michaela will be back. He/She is too cool of a character to set aside and as others have pointed out, there is much to his/her life that is a mystery.

Next, Iona deserves to have her wedding and the associated complications that will go along with it. (Also facing some issues in her life, some of which have been pointed out here)

As for the other Julieverse characters, there is still much to write about and many loose ends to tie. However, I don't see a new Coeds story coming out for a little while (most likely sometime in the spring, maybe sooner if the muse hits me)

I have some other stories that I have been working on and some that are in my head but haven't yet escaped onto Word. So I'll be writing for a while.

Thanks again for all the comments, I do read them all and appreciate all of them.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Solstice, and just to cover all other bases Happy Holidays. Also Happy New Year!
Love
Julie O.

Thank you for more Iona

Hi Julie,

Great story! SLOWLY slowly we are learning a little more about Mick/Miko/Michaela and just as we get used to the idea of this life form you throw another one at us - these albino Finns, sheesh.

If it isn't too much to ask; I would very much like to see another Jirra/Alexis story.

Thanks again.

with love,

Hope

Like they said

This is a really neat addition to the more than pocket sized :) Julie O Universe.

I cannot add much to the analysees provided by other posters. However, I can vaguely predict what might be a seed for follow on plots. My plot suggestion would revolve around Roger Lyon's biological mother whom I believe was mention in the Turbulence series to have had a magical heritage, thus Iona was able to utilize her new body's abilities.

Now, what has not been explored is how long Roger's mother could deny her heritage - pretend she is not touching that magical realm. How far can she take that denial ?

Circumstances ( beyond Roger's mother's control of course ) could lead to an inability for her to suppress the expression of her magical heritage and of course then Iona ( and Roger's sister ) could come into play somehow.

It would provide some interesting psychological byplay to say the least.

My 2 farthings worth :)

Kim

Wonderful

Julie, it's so wonderful to see all my favorites characters again in this exciting story! It had me captivated from the start. I especially enjoyed the developing friendship between Iona and Mick/Michaela and the way they are using their powers to help others. Iona's decision about her future career should provide plenty of opportunities for new stories.

Thank you for providing such marvelous, entertaining tales.

Pleione.

Coeds 4 Iona

Julie,

Well, after the waiting and wondering, it was definitely worth the wait and the read. Like your other readers here, I totally agree with them; the way you brought everyone together from your other stories was wonderful. I especially liked the way you brought Jirra into the story along with Tessa.

Again, I just have an enormous amount of respect for your writing. I am surprised that you haven't considered a novel with all of these characters!

Awaiting your next Coeds story.

Barry

I'm loving it!

I think I have read all of the Julieverse stories(not certain about that), and I love them! This latest installment has been a pleasure to read, and I refuse to even speculate where the author might go with future stories.

I just want to be surprised by the twists and turns of the interactions between various characters.

Thanks for a pleasurable read!