A little snippet from the next-year TINSEL RAIN.

Because I need to get out of the black mood I’m in.

Leonidas Pickney was a foreigner, if it wasn’t obvious from the name. One of our more exotic ones; he was straight from what the maps call the ‘Midwest.’ Usually the refugees from the crap going on there move east, not south, then west. You had to wonder why.

Maybe it was because the east kind of didn’t want him; the best you could say about Pickney was he’d be bad at being a villain. Or a henchman. Or even a decent mook. He was tall, kind of gangly, and had a face set in a perpetual snivel. They had pulled him in at 3 AM, so he was also wearing a set of striped pajamas which almost seemed embarrassed to be seen with him. It was hard to match this guy up with an evil artifact that was ripping its way through the ranks of the ATSE and Syndicate, but here we were.

“Why am I here?” Pickney was looking around, trying to find somebody sympathetic to his plight. Since his only two options were Joe Gannon and Lt. Foster, he wasn’t succeeding. Me, I was tucked away in an observation room, looking through a one-way magical glass that had been ‘salvaged’ from somewhere. This was cop business, and I ain’t one. I was barely allowed in here, in fact. Being one of the new ambassador’s objects of scrutiny was making people jumpy.

“Look,” Pickney said, “I don’t get it. It’s okay to do magic here, right? I thought it was safe.”

“We don’t have mages in New California,” Foster said, flatly.

Pickney blinked at that. “Sure, you do. They’re all over the place…”

Foster interrupted him. “I said, we don’t have mages in New California.”

You’d think the guy would have taken the hint, but no. “But I’m telling you-” and then he shut up, because Foster’s blade was at his throat.

“One last time, idiota,” she hissed. “We don’t have mages in New California. Now, repeat what I just said.”

And that got through, hallelujah. Pickney thought about swallowing nervously, visibly decided the blade was too close to risk it, and repeated, “You don’t have mages in New California.”

Foster resheathed her sword as quickly as she drew it. “Good. Don’t tell that lie again.”