Chapter 1

I was working my way through one of the many case files on my desk when the pressure in the air changed. It was subtle at first; like walking outside just before a storm, but the pressure continued to build. Something was filling the air with magic. Strong magic.
I looked towards the entrance, thinking someone with heavy magic abilities had turned up at the office, but there was no one there. A quick look around the office confirmed that some of the others could feel it too. They were looking around for the source.
The sound of the doors opening made everyone look towards the entrance.
A beautiful woman entered – and a flood wave of magic followed her. With an unbelievable strength, it swept through the office.
The air became so dense that I was struggling to breathe, and I was fighting back the urge to run to the nearest window for some fresh air.
The woman took a quick look around and seemed to realise that her power was affecting us all because a moment later it vanished.
The sudden change made me dizzy, and I had to close my eyes for a second. When I opened them again, the woman was confidently striding towards the reception desk. Whoever she was, she was packing a lot of magic.
Intrigued, I pushed a stack of case files out of the way, so I could see her better.
Her golden hair was elegantly braided in an intricate bun at the base of her neck, and her petite frame was covered with a brown feather cloak. I would have pegged her for a stiletto-wearing woman, but her feet were sporting a pair of sturdy brown leather boots. She seemed to have an eternal youthfulness to her; her face smooth and pale. Her skin also appeared to glow slightly, but with all the power she was obviously packing, I wasn’t surprised. She was probably wearing a heavy glamour to hide a billion wrinkles.
Most of my male colleagues were staring at her with appreciation.
Poor Carol seemed to struggle under the woman’s stare, though. The woman gave her a brilliant smile and then said something which made Carol look even more uncomfortable. The reception desk was too far away for me to listen in on their conversation, but Carol seemed to mumble something before quickly making her way to Tom’s office at the back.
The woman watched Carol flee her presence, and a frown appeared on her perfect face. Pursing her lips, she pulled out a small mirror from somewhere inside the cloak and studied her complexion.
The long feather cloak seemed to billow in an invisible breeze around her, but the woman didn’t appear to notice. She might have been able to rein in most of her power, but it was clearly still swirling around her.
All of a sudden she turned her head, and her piercing green eyes caught my gaze.
I stared back at her for a moment before turning my attention back to the case file in front of me. I could feel her stare, though; it was almost a physical thing. This lady really did pack some serious power.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Tom approach the reception desk. The feel of the woman’s stare disappeared, and I looked up in time to see Tom shake her hand before leading her into his office.
A groan made me look towards the desk next to mine. Casey was sitting there with a mess of case files in front of her. How she ever managed to find anything on that desk was a true mystery to me. “You okay?”
She looked over; an unhappy expression on her bruised face. “Yeah, thanks. I can’t wait for the weekend to start, though. The notes for this case file is killing me.”
“The Chinese Suicide Killer Ghost case?”
“Yep, the fight with that ghost was less taxing than these notes.” She frowned at the paper in front of her. “Hey, how do you spell ghost in Mandarin?” She started moving the paper around until she unearthed a pen.
“G.U.I.”
“Thanks.” She looked over at my desk and noticed the case file I was reading. “Working on anything interesting?”
I looked down at the small stack of neatly written notes. “Not really. Just proofreading the notes from my last case.”
“Sounds boring.”
I shrugged. “It could be worse.”
Casey nodded. “True. We only have to survive the next two hours and then we’re free! At least until Monday.” She looked towards Carol, who was heading our way.
Casey’s blue eyes widened. “I’m busy! Whatever it is, I’m insanely busy!” She waved her hands over her desk to indicate all the case files.
Carol smiled. “Relax, Casey. It’s Ying I need to speak to.”
A relieved smile spread across Casey’s face. “Thank God!”
I smiled and shook my head. Casey was funny, slightly bonkers, but funny. “What’s up, Carol?”
Carol’s smile faded a bit. “Uhm, there’s a potential client in Tom’s office. She’s looking for an expert in Norse mythology. Tom wants to know if you’ve got a moment?”
Interesting. It looked like I was going to meet the mysterious woman. “Sure.” I closed the folder on my desk and got up. “Did he say what the case was about?”
Carol shook her head. “No, I’m afraid not.”
“Okay, no worries.” I grabbed my notebook and made my way to Tom’s small office. The closer I got, the more magically charged the air became. My nerve endings were sizzling by the time I knocked on the door. A muffled ‘come in’ could be heard from inside.
Tom got up from behind his desk when I stepped into the office. “Ah, Ying. Thank you for joining us. Please take a seat.” He indicated the free chair next to the woman. I couldn’t help but notice that she was looking me up and down.
A beautiful frown appeared on her perfect face. Clearly confused, she turned to Tom. “This is your Norse expert?” She spoke with a familiar accent, but I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it before.
Tom sat down and gave her a big smile. “Yes, Ying is our expert in Norse mythology. She even has a PhD to prove it.”
The woman gave me another look, clearly readjusting her views of me. “Very well. Let’s continue then.”
Tom nodded once. “Of course.” He looked at me. “Mrs Vanadia would like your help to retrieve an item that was stolen from her.”
“Okay. What’s the Norse mythology link?”
Tom looked back at the beautiful woman. “Excellent question. Please enlighten us, Mrs Vanadia.”
She hesitated, clearly considering how much to tell us. “I need an expert in Norse mythology because the stolen item is hidden in a unique place.” She looked at me. “The path to the item is blocked with riddles that only someone with Norse knowledge can solve.”
I looked at her with what I hoped was a polite expression on my face. “So you don’t know exactly where the stolen item is?”
She shrugged. “More or less. I know where you would start the quest. The item is close by, but I can’t get through the riddles.”
“Okay. So I need to solve some riddles which will lead me to the item. That’s it?”
Again she hesitated. There was something not quite right about this task. “Can you wield a weapon?”
“Why?”
She wet her lips; the nervous movement clearly wasn’t meant to look sexy, but it did. This woman exuded sexuality, and her tension made it even stronger. I could feel it, and I wasn’t even into women. I glanced at Tom, but he seemed to be holding up alright. He had his business face on.
“There may be someone guarding the item or the place could be… booby-trapped.”
Tom folded his hands on the desk. “Mrs Vanadia, I think you’ve come to the wrong place. SPI is a private investigations company. It sounds like you need the mercenaries to solve this case.”
Mrs Vanadia jumped up from her site, and the power in the room spiked. “I need a Norse mythology expert! Do you know how many Norse mythology experts there are in the world? Almost none! I’ll never be able to find a mercenary who can get through all the riddles!” Her anger was a tangible thing; the air had become hard to breathe again.
With a pro poker face, Tom calmly looked at her. “I understand your difficulty, but I am not willing to risk my employees for money.” He was only slightly breathless when he said it.
Her anger seemed to evaporate, and a golden sheen filled her eyes. “Please, I beg you. I need this item. I’ll pay you anything. Anything you want.”
Tom looked at her with a compassionate face. “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.”
The woman fell back in the chair and hid her face in her hands.
Tom got up and opened the window behind him. Cool winter air seeped in and it became a bit easier to breathe.
“Are you sure the place is booby-trapped?”
Tom and Mrs Vanadia looked at me.
I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but the case had piqued my interest. It wasn’t every day I got to use my vast knowledge of Norse mythology, and I hadn’t had an exciting case in ages. My fighting skills were getting rusty and my mind was bored.
“No, it might not be.” Hope had replaced the desperate expression on her face. “It might just be the riddles.” She seemed to think hard about something for a moment. “It would not be like him to cause harm if he could outsmart someone instead.”
“Him?”
“The thief.”
“You know him?”
She clearly knew more than she was telling us, which was pretty annoying. If I was going to risk my health and wellbeing for this, I wanted all the facts.
“Yes, it’s difficult to explain. He’s…” She seemed to struggle for a fitting word. “An annoying acquaintance. Yes, let’s call him that. He likes to play tricks on people.”
Tom looked at her. “You call this guy an acquaintance? Even though he has presumably stolen something that belongs to you and hidden it behind riddles and possible booby-traps?”
Mrs Vanadia pursed her lips, clearly annoyed. “What do you mean ‘presumably stolen’?”
Tom sat down behind his desk again. “Well, so far we don’t have any proof that the item belongs to you. Ying could be stealing something which is someone else’s property in the belief that she was getting your item back. And if Ying is risking her life to help you, we really need to know what the item is.”
Mrs Vanadia pulled out a small purse from one of the folds in the cloak. From the depths of the red silk interior, she produced a piece of paper and gave it to Tom.  “The item is a lighter, and I bought it at an auction. This document proves that I’m the rightful owner. The auction house is highly regarded and can vouch for me. The item was stolen from their possession shortly after I was meant to collect it.”
“I’m looking for a lighter?” Maybe it was just me, but I was struggling to understand why I was potentially going to risk my life for a lighter.
Mrs Vanadia nodded. “Yes, a magic lighter.”
“A magic lighter?”
“Yes, I need it to find someone.”
“Okay.” Whatever. I didn’t really need to know how a lighter was going to help her find someone.
Tom looked up from the document. “It looks legit.”
Mrs Vanadia looked at me. “I will pay you 1 million up front and two when I have the lighter, but I need the job done tomorrow evening.”
I looked at Tom. I’d never had a case worth that much.
“It’s up to you, Ying. Because it’s an unusual case where you would potentially be risking your life, I’ll waive the normal terms and let you keep 99% of the fee. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth that much.”
I looked closely at Mrs Vanadia and decided that she could not be trusted. Shrugging, I looked back at Tom. “Why not. I don’t have any plans this weekend anyway.”

Read chapter 2 here!