Credible Threats by Daniel Meyer
Series: Sam Adams
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Intended Age Group: YA to Adult
Published: November 15, 2022
Publisher: Self Published
Sam Adams, sixteen-year-old wizard, has zero interest in saving the world—but staying out of the line of fire isn’t an option for wizards.
When a new designer drug hits the streets, giving ordinary humans magical powers and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake, it threatens to turn his city of Williamsport’s long-simmering conflict between the haves and the have-nots into a full-scale war.
The only one with the skills to protect the city, Sam finds himself thrust into a conspiracy far darker and more dangerous than he ever imagined, with tentacles stretching into the criminal underworld and the wealthy elite—and into the spirit world. Fighting for his life, surrounded by enemies, Sam has to dig deeper than ever before to keep Williamsport from going up in flames.
But even magic has its limits.
Author Bio & Information
Daniel Meyer tried his hand at a few careers, but fearing they were too realistic and achievable, he became a fantasy writer instead. Now he spends his days writing stories about magic and explosions. He is a lover of Eighties rock, an occasional kilt-wearer, and a supporter of raccoons. He lives in Missouri, where, as ever, he’s working on his next novel.
I came around slowly; there was a strange aroma still faint in my nostrils, making the tiny part of my brain that still functioned wonder if I’d been chloroformed or something. Whatever it was, my head was foggy, and it took ages to clear.
My eyes adjusted slowly, finally revealing that I was in a run-down room that might once have been an office, pale light coming from a ceiling fan. My wrists and ankles were tied to a chair and stubbornly refused to budge.
My eyes found two blurry shapes on the other side of the room that coalesced into middle-aged men.
You know what really sucks the terror out of kidnapping? Hearing a portly, balding guy stammering “—my God oh my God what are we supposed to do now?” His gaze fell on me, and he visibly gagged. “Mitch! He’s awake!”
Mitch turned to look, his eyes going wide but doing a little better job at keeping a lid on his panic. He held up a placating hand to his buddy. “Stan. Stan. It’s fine. Calm down. We’re gonna—”
“He’s not wearing the hood!”
“What do you mean?”
“You took off his hood! He can see our faces now! We were gonna leave his hood on so he couldn’t recognize us!”
Mitch looked abashed. “Um… I was just making sure he was breathing okay.”
Stan began massaging his temples, pacing back and forth. “And you just told him my name. And I told him your name. Oh my God, oh my God, this is bad. They’re gonna want us to KILL HIM now!”
“Whoa, whoa, Stan, nobody’s gonna kill the kid. Nobody ever said—”
Stan was near collapse and his voice was a shriek. “That’s how it happens in EVERY GODDAMN MOVIE! When the guy sees the kidnappers’ faces, they KILL him!”
Despite his outward calm, I could see Mitch was getting antsy too. “Stan, come on, you don’t have to talk like that.”
Stan halted his pacing and swept a hand through what was left of his hair. I wondered if he’d had all of it when he’d started out. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to swear, it’s just… I have kids! I have to make a toast at a wedding next week! I can’t get involved in a murder.”
I fought past the dryness in my throat, a lightbulb coming on. “I know you.”
They froze in terror, the room going still.
And I did recognize Stan, although I drew a blank on the other guy. The memories fell haphazardly into place. “Stan Powell. I bought some of your wife’s brownies at a bake sale last year. You said they didn’t have walnuts, but they did. What if I’d been allergic?”
He gesticulated wildly. “I made a mistake.”
“You’re on the school board, you son of a bitch. You can’t kidnap a kid.”
Mitch swatted him in the ribs, causing him to yelp. He crossed the room to stand in front of me, giving me what I’m sure was his most intimidating look. “Look, kid. We just want to talk to you about what you know, that’s all. What did Alexandra tell you?”
“I don’t know any Alexandra.”
“Don’t lie to me.” He waved a fist.
“Okay, okay. But this has to stay between us, all right?”
He watched me suspiciously and I hesitated, drew a breath, and continued. “Allie-Bear and I are in love.” Mitch groaned. “We’re running away together. Leaving on the midnight train for Kansas City, the Missouri side. We’re gonna lie about our ages so we can get married. She’s gonna get a job as a manicurist. I’m gonna work for my cousin, selling scrap metal. We may have to live in our car for a while, but at least we’ll be together.” I gave them a pensive look. “She wants to have kids right away, but I don’t know. Do you think I’d be a good father?”
Mitch actually screamed, storming back across the room toward Stan. He pulled Stan closer, lowering his voice, severely underestimating my eavesdropping skills. There was real fear in his voice. “Stan, we gotta do something. Rick’s gonna be here soon and… and if that kid doesn’t give us some answers, I’m afraid maybe you’re right. I’m afraid Rick might really hurt him.”
That killed my amusement stone dead. The only Rick I knew in this town was Alexandra’s stepfather, and he was no one I felt the need to converse with.
I closed my eyes, trying to draw power into me. To my surprise, it worked. I had feared they’d found some way to dampen my power, keep me from frying them, but… It clicked, and I had to fight to keep from laughing. They don’t know I’m a wizard.
I glanced around the room but couldn’t see what I was looking for. “Guys?” They turned, eyes anxious. “What did you do with my jacket?” They stared at me in bewilderment. “That’s my favorite jacket. You better not have lost it.”
Stan glared. “What do you want with your jacket?”
“I’ll talk. I don’t want to get killed. There’s some stuff in my jacket that’ll explain everything. Evidence Alexandra gave me.”
They looked at each other.
Stan motioned to the left, toward a dusty old table in one corner. I spotted it then, my denim jacket crumpled in a heap. “It’s over there. Had to take it off him to get the cuffs to fit right.”
Mitch gave me one last suspicious look. Then he headed across the room, scooping it up.
I braced myself, feeling my body tingle with power. Surprise, Mitch.
The door screeched open and all three of us flinched. The magic left me, spells dissipating before I could cast them.
Rick blustered in, closing the door behind them. Stan and Mitch wavered.
He cast a glance at me. “Good. You got him.”
“Yeah, yeah, we got him,” Mitch said.
Stan pulled himself up to his full height. “Rick, you can’t hurt him. He’s just a kid.”
“Shut up, Stan. Has he told you anything?”
“He said there’s something in his jacket,” Mitch said. “Information of some kind.”
“Let me see.”
Stan tossed him the jacket, and he rifled through it, coming up with some lint, an old Taco Bell receipt, and Zack’s hat, the knife safe and sound in its hiding place in the lining. I held my breath, frantically pulling in power, fearing he would recognize the hat. Luckily for me, he wasn’t a very involved stepfather, and he dropped it to the floor, uncomprehending.
Rick whirled on me. “I’m done playing these games,” he shouted. “Tell me the truth, or you’re not gonna live to get your driver’s license.”
It wasn’t the greatest threat, but I knew he was serious. Rick was a very different breed than Stan and Mitch, and it was time to go.
I began directing magic toward my restraints, delicately, hoping I could get them loose before they realized what was happening. Stall. “The truth, Rick,” I said, “is that your stepdaughter is never gonna sleep with you.”
His face twisted, and his eyes went dark. Then he reached behind him and somehow, I knew he was reaching for a gun.
“Rick, don’t, stop,” Stan gabbled.
My blood turned to ice, and as Rick pulled his gun free, I forgot all about my restraints, lashing out blindly with magic, Rick’s feet kicking as he was lifted through the air.
The gun went off, blowing a hole in the wall, the sound massive in the confines of the room, and Mitch screamed and dropped to the floor, probably convinced he’d been shot. Rick went surging across the room and into a window. I was hoping he would dramatically crash through it to the street below; that didn’t happen, but he slammed into it hard, shattering it into a million pieces and sending him flopping to the floor. The gun detonated again before he lost his grip, and it went skittering into the shadows.
For an instant the pulverizing sound of the gunshots drove all thought from my mind.
I sent another wave of magic toward Stan and Mitch, and they both went skidding back before they could make a move. I directed the magic back down towards my restraints again, shattering them and the chair and sending me crashing to the floor ass-first into the debris.
I hauled myself up and headed for the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Stan make his way unsteadily back to his feet. I briefly considered standing and fighting. I suspected I could quite literally tear these guys apart if I tried. Regular humans don’t tend to fare too well against magic. But I’d never used magic to kill anyone before, though I knew it was time to get used to the idea, and besides, three magically dead bodies would cause more problems than they would solve. So instead, I vaulted across the room, grabbed up my jacket and the cap, tore the door open, and threw myself into the dingy, murkily lit hallway beyond.
I ran at full speed, still having no idea where I was, looking frantically for an exit.
I tore to the end of the hall, skidding to a nervous stop. There was a window in front of me, and I realized I was two or three stories off the ground.
I cast about for the stairs, hearing footsteps behind me. I halfturned, and without seeing which of the Three Stooges it was, I sent out a jolt of power, yanking a huge chunk of lights, tile, and other debris out of the ceiling into their path. They were obscured from view for a moment, and my eyes finally lit upon a door.
I flew through it and began pounding frantically down the stairs, around and around.
What the hell was I supposed to do now? Even if I made it out of this dump in one piece, I would have the entire town after my head. One problem at a time.
I broke the land-speed record storming down the stairs, bashed through another door and into what was left of a lobby. I paused for a second to catch my breath, then made another dash for freedom. I had only gone a few steps when I froze, fast enough I nearly fell. Three more guys were coming through the glass door at the other end of the room.
They saw me. I whirled back around and dived through the door I’d come through. Behind me, there was a sharp bang, and something cracked into the wall next to me, spraying me with tiny pieces of plaster.
Desperate now, instinctively drawing in magic, I at least had the presence of mind to slip onto the next floor up, rather than return all the way to where I’d started.
I was in an identical hallway, this one entirely dark, trying various doors, which were, of course, locked. I finally found one that wasn’t, pushing through into another decrepit office. I spotted another window on the wall. Bingo.
I turned at a sound, and my mouth dropped open to see Stan charging me, faster than I would ever have imagined he was capable of. Before I could move, he bowled into me, and we both went crashing deeper into the room, landing on the floor with a painful crash.
We wrestled around for a moment, but I wasn’t interested in a brawl: with a grunt and a little magic, I sent him flying across the room.
I leaped up and he had made it to one knee when I felt a strange flicker. Stan’s fist was clenched, and I traced the source: it was magic. Coming from him. He was trying to cast a spell at me.
I stared, so thunderstruck the fight for my life was momentarily forgotten.
I shook myself back to reality, lashed out with levitation once again. Stan’s skill level wasn’t all that high, it seemed, and his magic fled as he flew into the air to thump against the ceiling. He hung there, his face contorted with bewildered fright. “Rick was gonna kill me,” I grumbled. “Thanks for sticking up for me.”
I gave the magic a twist that sent him sailing out the door with a squeak, then far down the hallway, before I released it. It would have sent him to the ground with a thud, but not much worse.
I crossed the room and peered out the window at a dark street I didn’t recognize. There was an awning a few feet below. It would be tricky, and in no way resembled a good idea, but I thought I could make it. I began wrestling with the window latch, when I heard shouts behind me, followed by footsteps. I still couldn’t get the damn thing open.
Panicking, I dispensed with subtlety, and sent enough magic tearing through the wall to smash not only the window, but an eight-foot-wide section of wall around it and send it shattering out to the street below. Before the debris had even finished landing, I threw myself through the opening after it, haphazardly thudding onto the awning, causing it to screech and rock back and forth precariously. I couldn’t keep my feet, rolling toward the edge, managing to hang on for all of two seconds, before I tumbled over.
I landed on the ground with a bone-shaking crash. Laying in a brutalized heap, I found myself looking up toward the sky, wondering where I had gone wrong in life that these things happened to me. I was deep in contemplation when I saw a silhouette at the window with a gun in its hand.
The pain miraculously ceased, and, owing more to coincidence than skill, I hurled myself to my feet and began limping towards some vague notion of safety, taking refuge in a nearby, invitingly dark alley.
I ran, trying to keep the pain at bay, when someone rounded the corner on the far side. It was dark, but I recognized him: Rick. He was winded and his right arm was bloody almost all the way to his shoulder from the glass I’d tossed him into, but he still held his gun. He aimed it at me.
I seized hold of magic and sent a dumpster tumbling end over end towards him, all manner of trash flying, sending his shot far wide, into a brick wall over my head, blowing off a chunk. He and I both fled backwards in opposite directions, and he narrowly managed to flatten himself against a wall, out of the dumpster’s path.
I reached for more magic, and it responded, but slower, feebler than before. The fall was catching up to me, and I had thrown around too much magic, too fast, while my power was still shaky from last night.
I tried to spin it into a spell again, but couldn’t get control of it fast enough, my thoughts sluggish, the magic trying to squirm away.
Yards away, Rick was back on his feet. He wavered, but he aimed again.
My mind went bizarrely blank.
Then something seized me by the arm, hauling me backwards, unnaturally fast, before I realized what was happening.
Four shots boomed from the other side of the alley, muzzle flashes illuminating scattered trash and weathered brick, the bullets whizzing away into the darkness.
Back on the street, a dark form shoved me through an open car door before I could speak. I caught a flash of long hair that tugged at my memory, just before we roared away, the speed limit a polite suggestion.