Excerpt: Dragon’s Lair

Noire inhaled deeply.

You can do this. You can do this.

He was dressed in his smartest navy business suit, buttoned up to the neck with a starched white collar and tie underneath. Sensible oxford shoes adorned his feet and his black, horn-rimmed glasses were perched on his nose, despite the fact that he’d considered taking them off because he’d been told more than once that they made him look like a math teacher—and not the strict, no-nonsense kind. The dowdy kind with chalk marks on his clothes and tacks placed in the seat of his chair. Which wasn’t exactly the look he wanted to give off for his first session with the most notorious kingpin in Los Angeles.

Dragonfly Lawson.

There was a file on Noire’s desk five inches thick and filled with weeks of material to dig through: bomb engineering, chemical weaponry, arson, drug dealing, weapons dealing, murder—the only things he hadn’t seen were sex crimes or anything related to children, which caused him to breathe a sigh of relief as it gave him pause. Apparently, even ‘the Dragon’ had a code. And now, he’d be Noire’s responsibility.

Noire had been assured that Dragon would be securely chained to the table as well as to the floor, but he still felt dread sitting like a stone in the pit of his stomach. He’d been working in prisons for years, but never one as notorious as West Magnolia: an isolated, concrete box in the San Fernando Valley, where it was ten degrees hotter than anywhere else in the city at any given moment. The SuperMax facility was a place filled with monsters, and although they’d offered to bus him in, he’d declined, preferring to take his car instead. He could only imagine how nervous he would be, riding in on a prison bus like he was the criminal. One look at his new patient and he would probably fall to pieces.

He picked up a brush, smoothing his thick black curls into some semblance of a bun at the back of his head, and sighing as coils insisted on springing up around his face. With clear brown skin, a high forehead, and heart-shaped lips with a deep cupid’s bow, he’d always been told he looked young for his age. But for the last five years he’d been working the criminal justice system, and it was starting to show. His eyes were drawn and exhausted, wrinkles showing in between his furrowed brow as he leaned in close to the mirror. He could feel a familiar itch coming over him, and, without thinking, his hand went to his left pocket. Noire felt a mixture of relief and despair when his hand came back empty. There was nothing there.

“I’m only 31 years old,” he said to himself, dragging a hand over his face. But he’d heard it all, counseled victims after some of the most heinous crimes, listened to offenders gloat over maiming and massacring. It was beginning to wear on him. He’d considered quitting, just walking away from it all and starting over. And then this case had fallen into his lap.

Dragonfly Lawson. The Dragonfly Lawson.

Or as most preferred to call him, the Dragon.

He’d become the youngest mob boss in a century when he’d slit the throat of Ed Sewell, patriarch of the notorious Sewell crime syndicate, at the age of 18. He was barely six years older than Noire, yet he’d been ruling the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles with an iron fist since he was a teenager. And now it was up to Noire to gauge whether or not Dragonfly was fit to be released back into society.

He took a deep breath and considered quitting again.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

The alarm on his phone went off, informing him that it was now or never if he wanted to get to the session on time. Squaring his shoulders, he adjusted his glasses and grabbed the file from his desk.

You’re a fucking professional, he said to himself. You can do this.

He backed his old Volkswagen Beetle out of his apartment complex and hit the freeway, making up for time stuck sitting in traffic by listening to an audiobook. When he pulled up to West Magnolia, his nerves were almost completely gone, soothed away by the familiar chapters of his favorite Harry Potter novel.

The prison was a small, yet imposing squat structure, smack dab in the middle of a field. He could see cars zooming down the road in the distance, but here, everything was quiet and still. A barbed wire fence surrounded it, spreading out in all directions, so he rolled down his window and pressed the red button on the intercom box by the gate to be let in. It buzzed and crackled, emitting static before a gruff voice told him visiting hours weren’t until tomorrow.

“My name is Dr. Noire Scarlett!” He said. “I’m a therapist, here for a court-ordered assessment of Dragonfly Lawson.”

The gate slowly opened without another word from the box. This was it. He was actually entering West Magnolia to have his first therapy session with the Dragon himself. His nerves returned in full force. He felt like he was going to throw up.

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