Authors: Tiffany Allee
Tags: #paranormal romance, #demon, #incubus, #succubus, #banshee, #killer, #detective, #stalker, #crime, #tiffany allee, #files from the otherworlder enforcement agency, #urban fantasy, #chicago
I looked back at Aidan. His eyes were locked on the woman as well. I started to tell him to close his damned mouth, and then decided against it. Guys couldn’t help staring at this particular woman.
“I’ll see you later. Errands to run,” Aidan said, surprising me. I’d half expected him to ask about the woman his eyes were still glued to.
“Whatever,” I murmured to his back. Pivoting, I headed for the morgue.
I would have recognized the frame of the succubus leaning against the wall anywhere. Marisol Whitfield was nearly as tall as Amanda, maybe five feet nine, and closer to six feet in her conservatively heeled shoes. Despite their similar heights, her well-endowed chest and curvy frame distinguished her from the rest of the police officers on the freak squad, especially Amanda. Where Amanda was hard, Marisol was soft.
I frowned at her, and she gave me a smug grin.
“Here to see the doc?” I asked.
“Nope. Here to see you.” She flipped a long blond lock behind her shoulder with practiced ease and fluttered her sparkling blue eyes at me. She couldn’t help the succubus sex appeal that always draped her, but it irritated me anyway. “Well, here to see a body with you, to be more precise.”
“Want to get some coffee to go?” I waved at the pot sitting near us in the hallway that led to the morgue.
Marisol blanched, and the horrified look that briefly crossed her face made me realize I wasn’t the only one who considered morgue coffee to be the most disgusting idea ever. Her expression almost made an errand that was probably a waste of my time worthwhile.
“Vasquez sent you?”
She gave me a short nod and her superior grin faded. “I’m to accompany you to the morgue to look at the body. Guess he thinks I can offer a unique point of view.”
I grimaced, covering my expression with a wave of the folder the doctor had given me with the copies I’d requested. Leave it to Lieutenant Vasquez to send someone to consult just because she happened to be a member of a species who could pull off the murder. Somehow, even after years of working in the paranormal unit, Vasquez couldn’t get the idea out of his head that all of us freaks knew each other. He also seemed convinced we had some sort of extra preternatural sense that allowed us to solve a murder without normal necessities, like evidence.
We reached the morgue and I wondered if Amanda had filled in the lieutenant. It almost certainly hadn’t been Aggie. He talked to the paranormal cops more than the average normal detective, but that didn’t mean he went out of his way to do it. Did Lieutenant Vasquez know everything? Probably, except for the spell Amanda intended to cast using the victim’s hair. Amanda was pretty conscious of keeping every
crossed, and that included keeping her boss in the loop.
Claire Simons’s body had been released to her family, but Rebecca Anderson still rested in the morgue. A somber-faced young man wearing light blue scrubs met us at the entryway. “She’s ready for you. Set up straight through there.”
I glanced at Marisol, a look she pointedly ignored, and followed her into the room. Rebecca appeared a little worse than she had the night before, even with most of her body covered by a sheet. Her pale skin seemed grayer, and the fluorescent lights dimmed her bright red hair.
“Guess this is where you use your succubus super sense to figure out if it was one of your kind who did this, huh?”
The laugh that bubbled out of her chest seemed to surprise her more than it did me, and she went silent after only a few seconds. Her plump, brightly colored lips turned up. A bit less smugness remained than she usually wore when she glanced at me before turning her attention back to Rebecca.
“Vasquez wants me to look, so that’s what I’m going to do.” She shrugged and placed her hands on the table, and then bent down to examine Rebecca’s face. She tugged the fabric away and moved her eyes across the body, gaze slowing over the bruises on Rebecca’s wrists.
I felt a momentary pang for Marisol. Vasquez’s lack of knowledge about otherworlders astounded me, considering the fact that he ran the unit responsible for investigating OW-related crimes in the entire Chicago area. Succubi weren’t sensitives and Marisol couldn’t sense anything different than a normal cop examining the victim would, even if a succubus had killed the woman. Succubi, to my knowledge, had two powers. They exuded a sexual vibe—some more subtly than others—and they could pull power from a person they were having sex with. Enough to kill someone, perhaps. Someone like our victims. But they were as sensitive to psychic energy as I was—meaning not at all.
Her lack of concern over touching the body with her manicured nails surprised me. I crossed my arms and examined the succubus as she examined the victim. I shouldn’t have expected her to be queasy around the dead—she was a cop, after all. The succubus was a detective who had been at the rank longer than I had, though she couldn’t be more than a year or two my senior.
Marisol threw the sheet back over the body with a speed that made me start. When she turned to face me, all the friendliness had disappeared from her expression. A small amount of perspiration touched her brow.
“All right,” she said. “I’ve seen enough.”
“And what? You don’t honestly think I can just look at her and know how she died, do you?”
She waved her hand at me, cutting off my argument. Then she turned on her heel and left the room, slamming the door behind her.
I followed her, leaving the flustered technician in our wake. I finally caught up in the hallway outside of the morgue. “Hey,” I called, and she slowed before stopping and turning to face me.
“Sorry I was rude,” she said. “I don’t like dead bodies. I wanted to get out of there.” Her expression appeared open again. She didn’t smile exactly, but her eyes were wide and filled with emotion, as if the hardness I’d glimpsed before had never crossed her face.
I frowned at her, unconvinced. The body hadn’t seemed to bother her when we’d first gone into the room. Maybe she’d just hid it? Not all cops handled dead bodies and blood and gore as well as others. It was possible she couldn’t deal with that kind of thing, or at least preferred to deal with it as little as she could manage in her job.
“Sure, no problem.” The added paleness of her skin and sweating certainly supported her assertion, but it was the fact that her reaction fit my impression of her that convinced me. First impressions weren’t always right, but I was good at reading people. For now, I’d have to trust my gut.
I glanced at my watch. “Look, I have to get to a lunch appointment. I know you can’t say for sure, but do you think the killer could be a succubus?”
“Succubi don’t kill their prey; it’s unheard of.” She flattened some invisible wrinkles on her jacket with her palms. “I’ll let the lieutenant know.” She turned and headed for the door.
I reached the parking lot before I realized she hadn’t actually answered my question.
As I unlocked my car, my cell phone rang. I frowned at the unfamiliar number, and then flipped it open.
“Hello, Kiera.” The smooth voice on the other end of the line was unmistakable.
“Did you forget something, Agent Byrne?” I tried, and failed, to keep the snippiness out of my tone.
“Just checking in. Did you get a look at the body?”
“No, I thought I’d take a quick trip to Hawaii instead. I have an appointment to get to. I’ll call you later.”
He chuckled and I snapped the phone shut. The man thought he was so damn charming.
The Grill House w
as packed for
lunch. They were always busy, but they were quick, good, and cheap. They were also close to the precinct so a lot of cops ate there. Lisa, our normal waitress, waved me in and I helped myself to a booth.
“Meeting someone?” she asked, pulling a pen out from behind her ear. She managed to pull off short, spiky blue hair without looking like a punk.
“Cool. Haven’t seen her yet. Wanna order or wait?”
I went through my mental to-do list. “Cheeseburger and fries. Coke. Hold the onions on the burger, extra pickles.”
She made a quick note on her order pad. “Got it,” she said, and then disappeared into the crowd.
I chewed on the end of my pen and glanced through my notepad while I waited for Amanda and my food. No obvious cause of death, no markings. No poison or other oddities in the blood work. How else could you kill a person? Drain them of their life force. And how did the perp get the victims back to their homes? I’d have a lot more to go on if Aidan would hurry up with the other victims’ files. Damn home invader. Why on earth would he snoop through my books? Could the man be as handsome as I remembered? No, I was under the influence of little sleep on top of no dates in…sheesh, nearly a year.
“Mind if I join you?” The masculine voice pulled me from my thoughts. It took me a moment to focus on the man in front of me. Taking my silence as assent, Aidan sat down across from me in the booth.
My cheeks heated. They were probably already red.
, I told myself.
There’s no way he could know what you were thinking.
“I’m expecting someone.”
“What’re you doing, following me?” I glared at him, irritated that he was more attractive every time I saw him.
“I didn’t need to follow you. You’re terribly predictable. The second you said ‘normal spot’ to Amanda’s voice mail I had your restaurant pegged.” He gave me a sexy grin.
I opened my mouth but no words came out.
“You look like a fish when you do that.”
I snapped my jaw shut. “Why are you here?” My voice came out sounding shrill.
“Came to see what you dug up. Where’s your partner?” He looked around me as if searching for her in the back of the restaurant.
I pushed down a twinge of jealousy. Why wouldn’t he be interested in Amanda? Most guys were. And not many noticed a girl with banshee blood, except to make sure they gave her a wide berth. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. What was I doing? He was just a jerky cop. A good-looking jerky cop, but still. I made a mental note to get myself a date as soon as we solved this case. Obviously, my lack of a sex life was finally getting to me. I turned my attention back to Aidan.
He had on a bemused expression, like he knew what I was thinking.
I scowled. “Amanda isn’t here yet.”
“Well? Did you find out anything from looking at the body?”
“Probably nothing that will surprise you.”
“Nothing other than what the coroner said. No obvious cause of death on the first victim or the second. They both had sex before they died. No DNA left from her attacker. No identifiable poisons in her system. No drugs, only a small amount of alcohol. Looking at the body didn’t tell me anything new.” As Lisa approached with my Coke, I straightened my posture, embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed I’d leaned toward Aidan as I spoke.
“Hi there,” she said, giving Aidan a smile. “What can I get for you?” She bent over, putting her hand on the table, her back to me. More specifically with the way she rested, her backside.
I frowned. She made the simple question sound like an invitation. What was it with this guy anyway? I cocked my head to the side and raised an eyebrow at Aidan.
“Iced tea, please. No lemon.”
“Sure thing.” I couldn’t see the expression she wore when she sashayed away, but it was probably pretty damn welcoming.
“Anyway,” I said, more loudly than I needed to. Aidan was staring, not at the waitress, but at me. The annoying grin stuck to his face. “As I was saying. We haven’t found anything that you probably didn’t already know.”
“What about oh-dubs?” He flashed a quick smile at Lisa as she dropped off his drink but didn’t move his eyes from my face. Looking miffed, Lisa sauntered away. Probably to spit on my cheeseburger.
“They didn’t run any OW measures on the first vic. They’ll run them on the second, or I’ll be kicking someone’s ass.”
He grunted and took a long drink of his tea.
Lisa showed up with my cheeseburger and fries. She gave Aidan a long look as she walked away, nearly running over another waitress. I checked my watch. Twelve thirty.
“Guess your partner isn’t coming.” He stared at me with his dark blue eyes and a shiver ran down my spine.
Get a grip, Mac
. I looked at my burger, removing the top bun. It appeared saliva-free.
“I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“I’ll bet you are,” I muttered and then took a big bite of my burger.
He coughed and covered his mouth with a fist. It sounded suspiciously like a muffled laugh. He set a white business card next to my plate. It was blank, save for his name and a phone number. “So you can contact me.” He sipped his iced tea.
The number was from out of state, but I didn’t recognize the area code. This seemed like as good a time as any to ask what kind of otherworlder he was. The question was rude, but I needed to know who—what—I was dealing with. Warming him up with small talk seemed best, so I took a stab at it. “This your first time in Chicago?” I took another bite of my juicy burger, catching a bit of the grease with my tongue as it tried to dribble down my chin.
“Nope,” he said.
My cell phone began vibrating, and I glared at Aidan while I reached for it. The caller ID listed Amanda’s number. About time. I flipped the phone open a second too late, so I hit the send button to call her back. I muttered another expletive when her automated message blared in my ear, and then pressed the end button without leaving a message.
“Yep,” I said.
My cell beeped and an icon flashed on the screen. Great, she was leaving me a message as I was calling her. I hit the button to listen to my voice mail and put the phone to my ear.
“Hey Mac, it’s me.” Amanda sounded tired. No doubt from a night of witchery. “Won’t be able to meet you today. Following up on that sample. Can you go interview the vic’s boyfriend?” She rattled off the guy’s information. “I’ll be in touch.”
I snapped the phone shut and cursed under my breath. Could she have been any more vague?
“Going to see a man about a girl.” I took a long drink from my straw. “Latest vic’s boyfriend. Want to come?”
The apartment complex wasn’t in the
nicest part of town, but it didn’t scream projects either. The door didn’t require buzzing, so we walked in without a hitch. An old man sat on a bench reading a newspaper in what passed for the lobby. The dingy room seemed like an odd place to hang out and read, particularly with the moldy scent in the air, but to each his own.
The elevator had an
Out of Order
sign taped to it, handwritten in red marker on a sheet of white paper that looked like it had typing on the back. Someone took their recycling seriously. Suppressing a sigh and telling myself exercise did the body good, I waved at Aidan to follow me and trudged up the stairs to the fourth floor.
I rapped on the door to apartment 404. I heard a shuffling from inside, and the
of a security chain. The door popped open, revealing a man in his early twenties. Tall, blond, and lean. Definitely a pretty boy, even wearing only a T-shirt and basketball shorts, his prettiness was obvious. He and the redhead must have turned more than a few heads together.
“Yeah?” His bleary eyes peered out at me, as if hoping to see someone else. A faint smell of alcohol flowed from his breath. His hair looked like it hadn’t been combed yet today and he definitely needed a shave.
“I’m Detective Kiera McLoughlin. You spoke to my partner on the phone?”
“Oh yeah, sorry.” He backed away from the door and motioned for us to enter. “It’s just. You know, not every day you find out…” He took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said, walking through the doorway that led directly into the living room. A small kitchen sat off to the side, and in such an enclosed space it reminded me of a cave. There was no dining table—or enough space for one really—and a loveseat and coffee table seemed to round out his furnishings. I couldn’t see into the bedroom, but I would bet his mattress sat directly on the floor.
“Sorry for the mess.” He tossed some clothes off the couch to make room for us to sit.
“No problem. We just have a few questions for you. Shouldn’t take too much of your time.”
Not that you look like you’re going somewhere anytime soon.
“I want to help.”
I sat down on one side of the short couch, and he sat on the other end. Aidan remained in the entryway between the hall and living room. He leaned against the wall and watched us, his expression neutral.
As I pulled out my notebook and flipped it to a blank page, I studied Jason Hill. He didn’t look like an otherworlder, but you couldn’t always tell by a person’s appearance. He didn’t feel like one either. My gut told me he was a plain human. I wished again for the powers of a sensitive.
“When was the last time you saw Rebecca?”
“Few days ago. I stayed at her place…most nights.”
“Why didn’t you stay last night?”
Or see her the few nights before?
“I was supposed to, but she called me last week and said she was doing something for work out of town. Then she called me yesterday afternoon. Said something had come up. She was…” He stared down at his hands.
“She was different. She said…she’d found somebody else.” He finished in a rush. “But that wasn’t like her. Someone made her say it. I know—”
“It’s okay.” I patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. I hated this part. “Take your time.”
Jason pulled in a ragged breath. “We’ve been together nearly two years. She wouldn’t drop me over the phone. She sounded…off.”
“Rebecca was a calm person. People who didn’t know her well thought she was cold. She wasn’t! She just wasn’t one to share how she felt with the whole world.” He looked up at me and tears welled in his eyes. “She was elated, almost…crazy in her excitement over this new guy.”
I frowned. Either she was a real bitch to dump her boyfriend over the phone or she’d been under some sort of influence. Unless Jason here did something to really piss her off, I would be willing to bet on the former.
“This might sound like an odd question, but did she specifically say she’d met a new guy?” Aidan asked.
Jason jerked out of his reverie. “I—” He stared into space for a few moments. “I guess not. She said she had someone new in her life. I didn’t think to ask…I mean she wasn’t into chicks, you know?”
Jason started sobbing into his hands. I patted him on the shoulder again and told him to cry it out.
I glanced over my shoulder as the man shook against me. Sorrow laced Aidan’s features. His eyes met mine and he stiffened. Then his face relaxed into its normal expression. A slight grin, and eyes that revealed nothing.
By the time we left Jason Hill’s house,
the material of my blouse clung to my shoulder, soaked with the man’s tears. It would dry stiff and odd-looking. And now most of the afternoon was gone. Mentally drained, all I wanted to do was go home and knock back enough beers to make this day disappear for a while.
Aidan said something about double-checking one of the crime scenes and then disappeared into his rented Jeep. I tried Amanda’s cell again and left her a less-than-civil message. I wasn’t her keeper or her boss; she didn’t have to report in to me, but it was still irritating.
I downed a beer when I got home, and then nursed the second one. This case was a mystery, and unlike most people I didn’t like a good mystery until I had it solved. I flipped open my laptop, waiting a moment for the screen to brighten. My cell phone rang, and I answered it without looking at the number.
“Mac, Astrid here.” Her voice was gruffer than normal, like she was angry about something. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d heard her angry. Hell, I was pretty sure I’d never seen the woman’s temper well enough to know for sure she had one.
“Shit, you back in town already?” I couldn’t keep the happiness out of my voice. Our department had access to exactly one sensitive, and I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t thrilled to hear from her.
“Look Mac, I can’t really chat right now.” Oh yeah, definite irritation dripped from the normally placid woman’s tone. “I got a look at one of your vics, Rebecca Anderson.”
“And?” I asked, losing all interest in what could have irritated our mousy little sensitive enough to make her angry.
“And she’s been drained of nearly all of her psychic energy. Her life force. Tentatively, I’d say that’s your COD.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Doesn’t the body naturally lose energy after death?”
“Yes, but that process takes weeks, not days. I couldn’t get a feel for what kind of OW might have done it. There wasn’t enough psychic energy left in her for any magic to cling to.” A loud crash sounded and yelling followed it. “Look Mac, I gotta go. That’s all I know. Good luck.”
The line went dead before I could spit out any more questions. I gave the phone a final glare and then turned my attention to the laptop.
I typed in my password and then clicked the icon for the Otherworlder Information Database. The OWID held data on general otherworlder statistics, not information on specific criminals. Facts like when certain species were seen last and where, their abilities and danger levels, and how to subdue them.
I searched for “psychic draining” and watched the ticker bar fill on my screen. I downed the rest of beer number two, and seriously considered standing up to get another before the page drove me mad with its slowly loading bar.