Fire Water: A Prospero's War Novella


By Jaye Wells

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Rookie cop Kate Prospero only has one more training assignment to pass before she’s officially sworn in to Babylon Police Department. But the veteran cop in charge of the river patrol boat is a salty old guy isn’t happy about playing tour guide to a rookie and seems even less interested in real police work. But while on patrol, they stumble on to what appears to be a floating dirty magic lab. This highly combustible situation might finally be the key to these two unlikely partners finding common ground.


Fire Water

Pretty much any cop can tell you the story of their first arrest. Also the first time they pointed a gun at someone—or had one shoved in their face. The first handcuffing, the first black eye, the first time a perp puked on them—and, for some, the first person they killed.

My first collar wasn’t all that memorable. Just a speeding ticket that led to an arrest for outstanding warrants.

My second was mildly more interesting, but not exactly earth-shattering. Underage girl selling three-dollar blow jobs in an alley off Stark Street. When she’d seen me coming, she hadn’t fought at all. Not surprising since I basically caught her with a mouthful of incriminating evidence.

No, my first two busts weren’t that impressive. Sure, the second got a couple of laughs when told over beers at O’Malley’s near the Cauldron cop shop. But it wasn’t a contender for best war story compared with some of the fucked-up shit the veteran cops on our squad had seen. Working in a magical ghetto didn’t have a lot of advantages—except when it came to outdoing your cronies with fish tales of junkie wizards and potion-peddling homunculi.

However, my third bust was the stuff of Cauldron legend. Ever since it happened, cops in Babylon referred to it in hushed tones and begged me to retell it over beers. But to me, it was more than just my go-to war story.

It was the story of how I became a real cop.

My name is Kate Prospero, and I bust magic junkies for a living. Most girls don’t grow up dreaming of chasing perps through dark alleys and cleaning puke out of their squad cars at the end of an average night of work. I didn’t, either. In fact, when I was eight, I told my fourth-grade teacher I wanted to grow up to be just like my uncle Abe. Miss Cope’s eyes had grown really wide and she backed away like she was afraid to say the wrong thing and risk Abe finding out.

The dream of becoming the next Grand Wizard of the Votary Coven had lasted only until I was seventeen. And then I didn’t have any dreams for a long time because I was too busy trying to survive.

But that was a long time ago. Now I’m on the right side of the law. It pays a lot less than potion cooking, but it beats spending your life with one ear constantly listening for sirens.

So anyway—my third arrest…

It started on a hot August afternoon five years ago. I was still a rookie, and per the Babylon Police Department policy I was making my rounds through each of the major departments shadowing veteran officers. Apparently it hadn’t always been that way. Used to be, rookies were sent straight out to patrol with a badge, a gun, and a walkie-talkie. But after too many newbies ended up potioned in the gutters, someone in the commissioner’s office wised up that maybe the academy wasn’t doing a good enough job training people for the rigors of patrolling a magical ghetto.

Anyway, I’d already made rounds through the vehicular theft department, the murder squad, the sex crimes unit, and even done a few ride-outs with deep night Arcane patrols. I’d seen lots of action, but hadn’t been allowed to get in the middle since I was both an untested cop and an Adept. Mostly those assignments involved lots of coffee runs and hazing. But I’d learned plenty watching cops who’d seen it all do their jobs. The only department I had left to shadow was the river patrol division.

According to the other rookies who’d already completed their time on the boats that patrolled the Steel River, it was by far the most boring assignment. It’s not that there’s no crime on the water surrounding Babylon. The news was always filled with reports of caches of alchemical materials confiscated from freighters out of Canada. The problem was, the Coast Guard always got credit for those busts. Mostly the BPD was in charge of the river and only provided backup to the Coast Guard on the Lake Erie cases.

I knew all this the morning that I pulled my Jeep into the parking lot near the docks. Even in the early-morning sun, the river didn’t glisten or sparkle like most bodies of water might. If you kind of squinted, you could see past all the trash and the thick algal slime that collected along the banks. But nothing could disguise the stench of gasoline, chemicals, and rotten animal carcasses wafting up so strong from the water, you could swear the odor had a vaguely pukey color. Years of serving as the highway for barges bearing slag and asphalt from factories had ensured the water didn’t flow so much as it oozed.

The police boat creaked at the gray dock. The vessel was white with red lettering announcing it as a Babylon Police Department watercraft. There was a covered portion with sirens on top along with a smattering of antennas. This wasn’t one of those fancy Coast Guard vessels, since it mainly patrolled the river and not the Great Lake with its tides and heavy currents. Still, the boat looked watertight and maintained to my uneducated eye. Even though I’d grown up in Babylon, I spent as little time on or near the water as possible. I’d avoided the river for obvious reasons, and the lake because I didn’t trust any water that I couldn’t see through. Which was why I’d resisted the water patrol assignment until the very last week of my training. Well, that and Cap’n’s reputation was well known, even among the recruits.

I grabbed my gear and jumped out of my Jeep, Sybil, with more gusto than I actually felt. Since I was practically right out of the academy, I was still fueled by the enthusiasm of the recently converted. I still bought into the belief that I could make a real difference and that justice would always prevail. I was also young enough to believe that my background on the street combined with my cop training meant I could handle just about anything the world threw at me.

In other words, I was naive as hell. So with an idiot’s zeal, I tossed my holster over my shoulder, gripped my duffel bag in my right hand, and marched down the dock toward the boat.

“Hello?” I called.

The creaking of the boat and the slap of the water against the hull were the only responses. Frowning, I grabbed one of the wooden columns on the dock for balance and stepped into the boat. The instant my second foot hit the deck, a quiet, ominous male voice spoke from inside. “Ask for permission to come aboard.”

I squinted into the darkness of the pilothouse. “Sorry?”

“You sure are,” the gruff voice grumbled. A large silhouette moved forward in the shadows until the light outside caught a head of white hair and a face that looked like it knew its share of gin and smoky bars. “You should always ask before you board a man’s vessel.”

I blinked a couple of times. “Are you Captain Smiley?”

His chin dipped. “I’m still waiting.”

I sighed and adjusted the gear weighing me down. “May I please come aboard?”

“Cap’n,” he offered.

My eye twitched. “May I please come aboard, Cap’n?”

“Well now, that depends.”

“On what?”

“Your business.”

I looked pointedly down at my police uniform that clearly showed my name badge. Surely someone had informed him that I’d be coming. Just in case, I removed the orders from my pocket and waved the white sheet in front of me like a truce flag. “I’m Officer Prospero? I’m supposed to shadow you for the next week.”

His right eye squinted, giving him a decidedly Popeye-esque appearance. “Fucking rookies.”

And with that he confirmed about every rumor I’d heard about the infamous Captain Martin Smiley. Word was he’d gotten stuck on water patrol because he didn’t get along with anyone. Not just other officers, either—anyone, period.

“Keep your paper,” he snapped. “I already told them I wasn’t playing babysitter.”

I pursed my lips to keep from mouthing off to a superior, even if said superior was a grade-A jackhole. “Sir, no offense here but I’m just trying to finish off my hours. I don’t want any problems.”

“Me, either, which is why I think you should get off my boat and go find another asshole to annoy.”

In order to get promoted to patrol, I had to get through this week with high marks on the reference forms or be forced to repeat the exercise until I passed. Most of the other rookies from my graduating class had chosen to do their hours on the more exciting Lake Erie patrol units, but since most of those time slots were at night, I had to skip them. I couldn’t afford a babysitter to watch my brother all night until I was making full-time patrol pay instead of the part-time pay I was earning as an officer-in-training. So the daytime river patrol slot was my only option.

I took a deep breath and called on my training in dealing with difficult suspects. “Captain Smiley, I’m sorry you’re frustrated. Perhaps we could just both calm down and talk about this rationally.”

He waved a hand and continued raveling a long rope onto the deck of the boat.

I gritted my teeth. “Maybe I should call your commanding officer, then,” I called.

A salty cackle was the only response.

I crossed my arms and tried to regroup. If a threat to call his boss didn’t worry him, then it probably wasn’t a great idea. After all, how many captains or lieutenants wanted to get a tattletale phone call from a rookie?

“Can I just ride along? I promise I won’t get in your way.” I figured if I showed up and watched him work it might count as shadowing. I could worry about talking him into signing my forms later.

He threw down the end of the rope and rose to his full height. “You’re a real pain the ass, aren’t ya?”

“Yes, sir.”

He sighed. “All right. But you’re gonna sit your ass still and not talk. One peep and I’ll dump you into the drink.”


  • "A fresh, magical world full of potion junkies and alchemists that promises to break new ground in paranormal thrillers."—Laurell K. Hamilton
  • "Jaye Wells raises the urban fantasy bar with Dirty Magic, a hard-boiled series debut as unique and surprising as the creatures and characters peopling it. Kate Prospero is charged with policing the Cauldron, a magical world so fully realized, and so gritty, it gets under your nails. Wells is known for deftly weaving non-stop action with no-holds barred humor, but the unique and deeply drawn relationships are the real alchemy here. Dirty Magic showcases seasoned pro, Wells, at the top of her game, and establishes newcomer Kate Prospero as the urban fantasy heroine to beat."—New York Times bestselling author Vicki Pettersson on Dirty Magic.
  • "Kate Prospero is my new favorite heroine -- imperfect, haunted, driven, and dangerous."—New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne on Dirty Magic
  • "Hold on tight -- a gritty new heroine has joined the pantheon of shoot-first, ask-questions-later protagonists."—RT Book Reviews on Red-Headed Stepchild
  • "A fast-paced fun book"—New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris on Red-Headed Stepchild
  • "Last year, I wrote that Jaye Wells had the potential to be the next coming of Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison. This year, I'll amend that slightly: Jaye Wells is the next coming of LKH and Kim Harrison."— on Green-Eyed Demon

On Sale
Jan 6, 2015
Page Count
72 pages

Jaye Wells

About the Author

Raised in Texas, USA Today bestselling author Jaye Wells grew up reading everything she could get her hands on. Her penchant for daydreaming was often noted by frustrated teachers. She embarked on a series of random career paths, including stints working for a motivational speaker and at an art museum. Jaye eventually realized that while she loved writing, she found facts boring. So, she left all that behind to indulge her overactive imagination and make stuff up for a living. Besides writing, she enjoys travel, art, history, and researching weird and arcane subjects. She lives in Texas with her saintly husband and devilish son. Find out more about Jaye Wells at

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