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
The list made me frown. Wraiths didn’t explain the sex issue, unless one somehow became corporeal. That didn’t make sense. Wraiths were mindless and had no self-control. We’d be seeing a lot more victims. Baku fed psychically but focused on dreams. They could drive a person insane but they wouldn’t kill them outright. And again, the sex angle made no sense.
Incubi were on the list as well. Although they had been extinct for over a hundred and sixty years, everything else fit. Except for the fact that they weren’t known for draining people to the point of death. Succubi were listed too. The female version of the incubus could only produce female offspring. Like incubi, succubi were averse to killing their food.
I scrolled down the list, and saw too many species to go through. Nothing other than the wraiths, baku, incubi, and succubi were known for being powerful enough to actually kill something through draining. I clicked in the “search within results” box and typed “sex.” The enter key made a loud click in my otherwise silent house. Rather than pull my hair out watching the page load, I went and grabbed another beer. When I got back to the laptop, there were only two species left on the list.
I rubbed my eyes, not surprised, but I’d hoped for some beastie out there I hadn’t heard of that fit the bill. Nothing else even came close. Not a creature anyone knew about, anyway. Every otherworlder species that existed, now or in the past, claimed its share of space in the OWID. As the words “incubus” and “succubus” flashed at me from the screen, I wondered how I was going to convince anyone that a succubus was running around killing women while making it look like her victims had been killed by a man, or that incubi weren’t extinct after all.
A loud knock startled me. I snapped the laptop shut and made my way to the door. The vision through the peephole made me sigh.
“Well hello, beautiful,” Aidan said when I pulled the door open. He held up a six-pack of beer and waved the bottles hypnotically at me. “Can I come in?”
I waved him inside, grabbing a bottle as he passed, and then followed him to the dining room.
“Did you find anything we missed?” I asked, already knowing the answer. The paranormal unit ran a tight ship.
“No, your team was very thorough. What did you find out?” He picked up the bottle opener I’d left on the table, and held his palm out. I gave him my beer and he flipped the lid off, then handed it back to me before opening his own.
“Our local sensitive checked out the most recent vic. She was drained of her life force. Astrid’s calling that COD.” I gestured at the laptop. “I’m seeing a few things that can kill that way, but only a couple fit.”
“Let me guess: succubi and their incubi cousins.”
I took a sip of my beer. “Yup.”
He hesitated. “Look, I know this is a little rude to ask, but…your banshee powers, do they extend to the visions?”
I narrowed my eyes. “No. Why is that relevant?”
“It might come in handy if they did.”
“Do you really think that if I got visions of people dying before it happened that I’d be in this line of work? Hell, if I was a true banshee, do you think I’d be living with humans?”
He shrugged, obviously uncomfortable. “I knew it was a long shot, but I had to ask.”
“Do you know how banshee society operates?”
“Probably not as well as you. I know that they can usually see when someone near them is going to die. And their screams are fatal.”
“That’s true—to a certain extent. Their screams can kill and, unfortunately, most banshees scream when they’re hit with a vision. That’s why they live away from humans.”
“But all banshees are women, right?” He grinned. “How do they, you know, make little banshees?”
“Some journey out to mate with humans. They only produce female children, and only keep the ones who inherit their full range of abilities. The rest are discarded as half-breeds.”
“Oh yes,” I said bitterly. “Literally. Like trash.”
“I’m surprised law enforcement around their reservations allows them to journey into human territories, let alone toss out their young.”
“It’s not legal, but they’re difficult to police. I mean, I wouldn’t want to try to stop a full-blooded banshee. Plus, they look like humans. So unless you catch one crossing the reservation line, they can be hard to ID.” I rested the cold beer against my cheek. What was this? My third? No wonder I was so chatty.
“So what happened with you?” Aidan murmured.
I shrugged. “My dad was in Ireland for the summer. He’d just graduated high school and wanted to see his homeland or some such nonsense before college. He met my mom in a small village. He stayed, and so did she. He doesn’t talk about it much, but I guess they cared for each other. She cared enough to leave me with him after I was born instead of tossing me into the ocean.”
“Well, you seem to have turned out okay without her in your life.” He leaned toward me, forearms resting against the table in front of him. “Gotta be kind of lonely, though. I don’t think I’ve ever met a half-banshee before. I’ve met a couple full-blooded ones. Well, fully powered ones, really. But never what they call half-bloods. I’ve never met anyone quite like you.”
Well, wasn’t I special? I cleared my throat. “Yeah, well, I was raised by a good man.” I had to get the subject off my parentage before I got weepy. Damn, definitely too many beers. “Did you get along with your family?”
Pain flared behind his eyes, gone as quickly as it had appeared. “I never knew my dad. He…wasn’t exactly the marrying kind.”
I opened my mouth to press him for more information, but stopped. An angry Aidan I could push, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with a troubled one.
“Look,” I said, finally. “Let’s get back to the case. The only OWs I can figure for it are succubi and incubi. Have you come across anything else in your investigation that might fit?”
The headache pressing against the back of
my eyes hadn’t improved much with my first cup of coffee, and neither had my mood. I leaned against the wall in front of the office door, holding my second cup in one hand and an open book on succubi in the other, with a file tucked tenuously between my arm and chest. I didn’t have high hopes that a headache would be the worst of my problems today.
The door clicked open and a man who appeared to be in his late twenties stepped out wearing a dark suit, sans tie. The tailored outfit looked too pricey for a cop, and I could have ID’d him from that alone. “Mac,” Detective Claude Desmarais said as he walked past.
“Claude,” I muttered to the detective, and headed into the office he’d just vacated.
“Sit down, Mac.” Lieutenant Vasquez, the Hispanic man behind the desk, was only an inch or two taller than me, but made up for his lack of height with broad shoulders and large biceps, although his rounding midsection revealed that his job now required him to work from a desk every day. A full head of dark hair belied his age—I knew for a fact he was in his mid-fifties. I often wondered if he dyed his hair, but that wasn’t something I was willing to ask him even if I’d had a few beers.
“Lieutenant,” I said, sitting on the chair across from him. I set my coffee and book on the desk, gripping the file in my hands.
After signing the paper he’d been reading, he looked up at me. “Okay, what do you got?”
“I think we’ve got an incubus. Possibly a succubus.” No one would ever call me indirect.
He leaned back in his chair and studied me. I stared right back at him, tempering my usual glare to a solid cop face.
He let out a muttered string of expletives, his voice low enough that I couldn’t make out any word but “freaks.” Then he leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face. “Aren’t incubi supposed to be extinct?”
“They’re supposed to be, yes.”
The muscles in his jaw tensed and he crossed his arms. “Okay, tell me.”
“We’ve got two victims here, and several more who could be connected in other jurisdictions. I’m looking into it. All the vics are women. All dead with no physical cause. All had sex before they died. I’ve got oh-dubs going on the latest vic this week. Oh, and Astrid called last night and confirmed the woman had been drained of her life force and that’s likely what killed her.”
“You think the killer isn’t a succubus because?”
“Did Whitman tell you it was?”
“She denied it, but Amanda said it was a possibility when she called me from the scene.”
I frowned. Could Marisol really say a succubus hadn’t killed her? “Spermicide from a condom was found in our first vic. Once they get around to the autopsy I’m sure they’ll find it in the second, too.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a succubus, or some other kind of copycat freak who’s worked out a way to mimic an incubus’s M.O. Would be a good way to throw us off the trail.”
“Could be. I haven’t ruled anything out—especially not the possibility that it’s a succubus. The only other OWers I’ve found that could psychically drain someone to the point of death are wraiths and baku. But neither fit the sex angle. If we had a wraith on our hands we’d see several victims every night, all clumped together. Baku feed off dreams, slowly driving their victims insane. There wasn’t anything slow about this. A succubus or incubus is the only thing that fits.” I paused, trying to figure out the right wording that wouldn’t make Vasquez laugh his ass off at a cop being so convinced by her feelings. “My gut says incubus,” I said, finally.
Vasquez didn’t agree or disagree with my gut, or with my analysis of the freaks capable of the murders. Instead he said, “So what’re we looking at if it is an incubus?”
“Database seems to indicate they have pretty much the same powers as a succubus. They exude sex appeal, probably varies how much from incubus to incubus, just like with succubi. They can drain energy from their victims, which probably gives them additional power.” I shrugged. “But one hopped up on the energy of so many victims? Hell, who knows what kind of power that could give him? There are stories of powerful incubi being able to control their victims with their power, but it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when the latest info is over one hundred years old.”
He held out his hand and I passed him the paperwork on the first victim, Claire Simons. While he perused the file, I nursed my second cup of coffee. The caffeine was finally kicking in against my headache. It wasn’t winning yet but I had hope.
“All right,” he said a few minutes later. Flipping the file closed, he passed it back to me over the table. “Let me know what else you find out. We need to nab this guy. And don’t screw this up, Mac. If the killer really is an incubus then this case will make the news every-damn-where. We don’t want to be the department that botches the takedown. We’ll have to look into a contracted witch in a few days if you and Amanda don’t make any headway. And while you’re at it, tell her to call me. I haven’t heard from her since her initial report after you guys left Rebecca Anderson’s.”
Dread swirled in my stomach, making me suddenly nauseous. It wasn’t like Amanda to go this long without talking to me. Then again, it wasn’t entirely
her either. But if Vasquez wanted me to pull her in, she hadn’t been reporting to him either. Chances were she was fine, just doing a little undercover witchcraft that wasn’t fully sanctioned, and rightfully laying low. I told that to my stomach, but it ignored me.
“You’ve got a suspect to question,” he said. I got up from my chair. I raised an eyebrow and he added, “Desmarais will fill you in.”
“Claude? Why’s he involved?”
“It’s a vamp lead.”
“What the hell? There’s no indication that these are vamp kills.” I leaned toward him and lowered my voice. “Seriously, Vasquez. I don’t have time to follow a wild goose chase just because you don’t like vamps.”
Vasquez pushed away from his desk and leaned toward me. Redness crawled up his neck and his face tightened. “Don’t push me, Mac. You’ll follow up on this lead, or you’ll find your ass behind a desk before you can say bloodsucker.”
Claude Desmarais stood in front of Interview Room Two with a folder tucked under one arm and a Styrofoam coffee cup in the opposite hand. At just over six feet tall, with light brown hair long enough to tuck behind his ears, the man looked more like a surfer or snowboarder than a dead man. Even with Claude’s slightly pale skin, most would never guess he was a vampire. He didn’t exude the aura of fear that rolled off most vamps.
He handed me the coffee when I approached and I nodded in thanks, placing the Styrofoam cup into the now-empty one I held in my hand. Vampires were the only type of undead who were classified as people, which meant they couldn’t be discriminated against at work—though I’d never seen one working as a doctor or elementary school teacher. But laws were laws, so Vasquez had no choice but to keep Claude on the squad. Despite old lore to the contrary, banshees weren’t undead, just people with an extra powerful set of lungs. I’d worked with Claude before and he was pretty decent, for a man who ate blood to stay alive.
“I’m perfectly capable of questioning a vampire on my own. Why is Vasquez insisting on your involvement?” I asked, shooting Claude a small smile to take the edge off my tone. I was still pissed at Vasquez, but that didn’t mean I had to take it out on Claude. I concentrated on calming down and repeated my mantra in my head.
You’re a fucking professional. You’re a professional.
“Because the suspect Vasquez has invited to join us is a Chevalier.”
“There’s a member of the Chevalier family in our interview room?” I gestured to the door next to him, trying to keep my voice even.
He barked out a laugh. “I’m afraid Monsieur Chevalier has declined our invitation to speak with us at the station. We are going to him.” A slight French accent touched his lips when he spoke the French word and name, but otherwise he sounded like he’d been born and raised in the Midwest.
“And why are we interviewing a member of the Magister’s family?”
“His son, Nicolas, worked with your first victim.” He pulled the folder out from under his arm and flipped it open. “Claire Simons. Vasquez believes we need to interview him.” Claude’s tone left little doubt about his feelings on the subject.
“I take it you think we’re wasting our time?”
“Were your victims missing a significant amount of blood? Did you find any bite marks?”
It wasn’t a question, not really. He’d read the reports. “And you’re stuck on this wild-goose chase because?” I asked.
“The Chevalier family has requested my presence.”
Of course they had. Despite laws protecting them, vampires had suffered more than most species since all otherworlders had been forced to come out into the public eye, because of all the new scientific advances—particularly in forensics. They were dead, after all, and powerful. Both of those traits scared people. Oh, they’d concealed how powerful they really were when they revealed themselves to humanity, and continued to do so, I suspected. It was understandable that the Chevaliers would want a vampire police officer present during any questioning. And Claude was the highest-ranking vampire on the force.
“All right, then. Let’s get this done.” I downed the rest of the coffee, happy to find it had cooled a bit during our discussion. The dark liquid had the perfect amount of sugar. Trust Claude to remember such a small detail.
I followed him, shrugging away his offer to give me a ride in his shiny new hot rod. I didn’t want to linger at the Chevalier house or end up stuck with another to-do from the lieutenant when we got back to the station. I had my own priorities. Ones that didn’t involve catering to Vasquez’s pet prejudices.
ollowed Claude to an estate tucked into a close suburb. It was near the forest preserve and mostly out of sight behind vegetation cleverly planted to hide a tall fence running the full length of the property. The gloomy morning fit the place, or maybe it only seemed to because of the occupants. I’d been to the Magister’s home only once before, although I hadn’t met the Magister himself. Amanda and I had accompanied Claude and his partner—the unit’s sensitive, Astrid—to arrest a young vampire for murder. The Magister himself informed the police, and his people held the murderer until we arrived.
But that murderer hadn’t been a member of Lucas Chevalier’s family.
The heavy smell of unshed rain and the sound of cicadas filled the air as we walked up to the large double doors in the front of what could only be called a mansion. Large block stonework formed imposing walls to create a building that looked hundreds of years older than it could have been. Columns—some architectural features, others standing firm to hold large eaves—lined the structure. The columns and building were a light grayish color, with just a hint of cream to the tone. Tall windows were sectioned off by pieces of metal that formed geometric designs with the glass. Standing proudly on balconies and at the dark gray rooftop were small statues of indiscernible people in flowing robes. It was so grand and unfamiliar, it had to be a style Chevalier had brought with him from France.
Claude walked up to me and opened his mouth to speak, but he stopped when a Jeep rolled down the driveway behind us.
My stomach dropped. I recognized that Jeep.
Aidan parked next to my Rav4 and stepped out of his car. His dark hair and jacket matched the gloomy setting. And for that matter, my mood.
“Did you follow us here?” I asked, pushing down my sudden urge to smile at him like an idiot. I was not happy to see him, dammit.
“I’m helping, remember? And I was coming to the station to talk to you and saw you head out. I decided to follow.” He held his hand to Claude and the vampire shook it.
“This is Aidan from the OWEA,” I explained. “He’s investigating the murders too, but it’s kind of off the radar.”
“Agent.” Claude nodded to Aidan. “Give us a sec, will you?”
Claude tugged on my arm and I followed him across the parking lot. Aidan scowled at us, but didn’t follow. “Listen to me, Mac. If anything happens in there…” He shot the building a quick glance. “I need you to stick close to me. Vampires can be…testy when challenged. And territorial.”
I frowned. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know, even if it wasn’t first hand knowledge.
Claude returned my frown with a serious look, not an expression I was used to seeing on the vampire’s face. “If anything happens, if anyone crosses a line, you need to stick by me. I’ll get you out safely.”
“Why are you telling me this? Making promises that could get your ass in trouble?”
“You’ve defended me and mine more than once to Vasquez and those like him,” he replied airily, his usual slightly arrogant grin back on his face. “Besides, I’ve grown rather fond of you the last couple of years.”
I didn’t know what to say to that so I just turned on my heel and walked up to the door, leaving Claude and Aidan to follow.
The doors opened before we got close enough to knock, and an honest-to-goodness butler—an aged man complete with suit—admitted us with a nod to Claude. We followed the butler to a small office not far from the front entrance. I tried not to gape at the tall built-in bookcases, impressive mahogany furniture, and antique lamps while we waited for our host.
“Do your best to be polite,” Claude said to me, back stiff in the formal chair.
I opened my mouth to tell him I was always polite, thank you very much, but the door behind us unlatched before the words could pass my lips.
The man who strolled in didn’t look like a vampire, let alone one strong enough to hold an entire city the size of Chicago. And the unassuming young-looking man with the dark hair and a slightly too-wide nose especially didn’t look strong enough to control all of the vampires in three states. He wasn’t particularly tall—maybe five feet nine inches. A square jaw and dark brown eyes added to his average appearance. No power rolled off of him, seeking to overwhelm me, no supernatural aura of fear made my heart race around him. If I didn’t know who he was, I would have dismissed him as nothing but a normal young man.
I would have been wrong.
Claude bowed his head to the Magister as he rounded the desk. He walked behind it, looking out of place among the old things surrounding him. After a quick jerk of his head to Claude, his attention moved to Aidan. He nodded to him as well, a contemplative expression on his face, and then he turned to look at me.
“This is Detective McLoughlin. Mac, this is Lucas Chevalier, Magister of the Northern Midwest Territory,” Claude said. “This is Aidan Byrne. He’s assisting with the investigation.”
“Mr. Chevalier,” I said.
“Please, call me Luc.” He smiled at me, and I wiped my palms on my pants, but he didn’t move to shake my hand. Throat suddenly dry, I didn’t offer to shake his either.
I gave him a quick nod when I couldn’t think of the right response and turned my attention to Claude. His eyes never left the other vampire.
“Detective, thank you for agreeing to see my son here rather than at your police station.” Luc sat down, seeming at ease with police in his house.
“Not sure it was much of a choice, but you’re welcome.”
Luc Chevalier laughed, and motioned toward the doorway. A man who bore a striking resemblance to the Magister strode into the room, assessing Claude and me before quickly dismissing us and looking at his father. They could have been brothers, and I wondered if they were actually blood relatives. Such a thing wasn’t unthinkable, but it would mean that Nicolas was nearly as old as Luc. Could he be his actual son? If so, it meant Luc had fathered him before going through the change, as they called it. Vampires were not alive, and therefore couldn’t biologically father children.
“This is my son, Nicolas. He will answer your questions.”
Nicolas leaned against the desk rather than sitting in one of the extra chairs dotted around the room, and crossed his arms. Unlike Claude and Lucas, a clear feeling of something wrong rolled off of this vampire, with a touch of the fear their race was known to cause in humans and otherworlders alike. Like the sex appeal of succubi, it wasn’t something they could control. Not according to common knowledge, anyway. I shot a quick glance at Claude. I’d always assumed that the stronger the vampire, the more aggressive the aura of fear that followed him. Stuck in a room with one of the most powerful vampires in the city—a man who seemed to elicit no fear whatsoever—made me wonder if the opposite was true.
“I understand you worked with Claire Simons?” I asked, pulling out a small notepad and pen from my pocket.
He shrugged. “I guess you could say that. I’m an attorney. She was a paralegal. She didn’t even work on my cases.”
“Did you know her outside of the office?”
“She wasn’t exactly my type.”
“Really? That’s not what I heard.” I’d heard no such thing, but I hoped the rumor that vampires could tell if the living lied was a fairy tale, or at least an exaggeration.
Luc Chevalier’s chin rose slightly, and he stared at his son. I couldn’t see a change in his expression, but the sneer faded from Nicolas’s face and he uncrossed his arms.
“Look, I didn’t associate with her outside of work. I didn’t even really notice her. She just didn’t hit my radar,” he said, tone matter-of-fact.
“Oh really? Why is that? She didn’t look tasty enough for you?”
His lip drew back in a snarl. “I wouldn’t say that. All you humans taste pretty much the same to me.”
“Watch who you’re calling human, Fang.”
Nicolas knelt in front of me, face only inches from mine, in less time than it took me to blink. His wide mouth revealed the very things I’d used to insult him, and he hissed, the sound escaping between his fangs as naturally as it would a snake.
A second later he was back across the room, held against the wall several inches off the floor, secured by Claude’s forearm under his neck. Aidan stood between them and me, his attention focused on Nicolas. His hands were clenched tightly at his sides and he stood in a fighter’s stance, legs wide set.
The hissing Nicolas had started at me continued, but it was now directed at his assailant. Spittle flew from his lips onto Claude’s face and neck and I flinched in disgust. Disgust was easier to deal with than the fear making my heart pound incessantly in my chest.
Luc Chevalier didn’t move from his chair, but when he spoke it was as if the air had left the room. “Nicolas, you will behave yourself or face the consequences. Claude, release him. We will discuss why you feel you can manhandle my family later.” He turned his gaze to me and for a brief moment I felt the power he kept hidden. Only a glimpse, but it was enough to make me vow then and there to stay the hell away from vampires if I could—this vampire especially.
Aidan moved to my side and gripped my shoulder, just for a moment. Something about his steadiness next to me settled my fear. I forced myself to ask a few more pointed questions designed to get another rise out of Nicolas, but he didn’t go for the bait. I couldn’t shake the feeling there was something off about Nicolas Chevalier, but nothing seemed to tie him to this case. I wasn’t going to poke around in a hopeless effort to figure out what it was about him that my subconscious didn’t like. Suicide wasn’t on my to-do list.
A short time later, we were escorted from the office to the front door, and sent on our way. I searched my memory for the exact effect my screams would have on vampires, but couldn’t recall anything specific outside of mild discomfort. I made a mental note to research the effect of banshee screams on the bloodsuckers the second I got home. I was pretty sure they would be even less effective than on humans, but couldn’t hurt to be certain.
“Sorry your time was wasted out here,” Claude said as we reached our cars.
I stopped in my tracks. He was really going to act like nothing unusual had happened in there? Fine. He’d helped me, so I’d pretend if it made him feel better. Besides, I needed to get the hell out of this place. I had to make sure Amanda was okay. She hadn’t checked in with me for too long. I didn’t have time to waste on bullshit like telling Claude Desmarais exactly what I thought of his kind and his Magister. I shrugged. “Not your fault. Vasquez…thought this was a good lead,” I finished lamely.