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
He let out the breath he must have been holding for the last twenty seconds and muttered something noncommittal before the line clicked dead. I went to make another pot of coffee. I wasn’t worried about Aggie coming through. He was a good man and a damn fine cop. And he owed me.
Two hours and three-quarters of a pot of coffee later, my doorbell rang. I trotted to the door, and then checked the peephole before opening it.
“Here,” Aggie said, thrusting a thick file into my face. “It’s what I could get. I’ll let you know if I hear anything else.” He paused, and an odd look flashed on his face, like he’d smelled something bad. “How are you?”
“Good.” He cleared his throat and shifted on his feet. “Well then.” With those charming words of support, he turned on his heel and walked down the sidewalk, heading back to his car.
I shut the door behind him, flinching as it slammed, nose already in the copy of the file he’d brought me. They’d worked fast. An initial summary of her activities for the last few days had already been compiled, though there were a lot of blanks. Credit card activity for the last thirty days had been pulled. Aggie had even managed to snag the initial scene notes from the lead detective on the case.
The name made me grimace. Corey Williams. Like Vasquez, Williams was a normal on the freak squad because he’d pissed someone off. He took it personally, and didn’t like associating with freaks.
The oak chair creaked faintly as I sat down at the table. I steeled myself to look through the file. Blinking back tears, I checked the initial Medical Examiner’s report. I took a deep breath and swallowed a lump in my throat as I read through the sparse information. She’d been reduced to a victim: female, thirty-five years old, five feet eleven inches tall, single, no children. As a cop I had to keep my distance from victims. If I pondered the fact that the victims I examined with cold detachment were real people with lives that had come to an abrupt halt, it would make me crazy. But Amanda was real to me. Keeping my distance in this case was not an option.
A loud knock sounded from the door and I started. Had Aggie forgotten to give me something? I trotted back to the door and swung it open without checking the peephole. Aidan stood on my step, a tight smile touching his lips.
Before I could open my mouth to tell him to go away, he said, “I’m here to help.”
I swallowed hard and nodded.
He followed me to the dining room and glanced at the small stacks of papers that held the documents from Amanda’s file. “So what do we have so far?”
I ignored the small skip my heart gave at his choice of words and said, “Not sure yet, I was just getting ready to go through her credit card and bank statements.”
I pulled out the stack of credit-card bills, and passed half to Aidan. The Visa’s last activity was two weeks prior to Amanda’s death, at Nordstrom. The Discover card hadn’t been used at all in the last month. Her bank statements were tucked in between her Visa and Discover lists. The last purchase was on the day of her death, for twelve dollars at The Grill House.
I cursed under my breath. “Got something,” I said to Aidan.
How soon after I’d bantered back and forth with Aidan had she arrived? Hours? Less? If I’d lingered a few minutes longer, could I have saved her?
Aidan followed me to The G
rill House, an
d we went into the restaurant together. A new aura seemed to emanate from the diner. Normally welcoming, it felt faintly off to me as I walked through the front door. Nothing was actually different in the air—not being a sensitive I wouldn’t have known it if there was. But it seemed off, knowing this was the last place Amanda showed up on the grid. According to her bank statement, she’d eaten an early dinner here, only four hours after my inadvertent lunch date with Aidan Byrne. The day she stood me up with the briefest of explanations.
I fought the urge to look at Aidan, but finally lost. His eyes were serious, but he offered me a small smile. My heart jumped, and I found myself smiling back.
“Table for two?” a voice asked.
“Lisa here?” I asked the hostess, pulling my gaze from Aidan. She’d gone from auburn hair to an almost white-colored bleached blonde. Between that and her pale skin, she looked like she’d disappear in a good snowstorm.
“Yeah, one sec.”
She reappeared with Lisa in tow less than a minute later. Lisa’s hair was still blue and spiky, but by next week I was betting it would be red or orange. Maybe green.
“Hi, Mac,” she said, with a big customer-service smile plastered on her face. “And hello to you, too,” she practically purred at Aidan, and I barely resisted the urge to smack them both.
“Lisa.” I pulled her toward the entrance, away from the hostess who was leaning in to hear our conversation. “Can we talk?”
“Um…okay, I guess.”
I headed outside, and Lisa shuffled behind me. Aidan held the door for us. He didn’t seem to notice Lisa’s longing gaze, but I did. Who did she think she was, anyway?
Not that I had any claim on him.
I took a deep breath and cleared my thoughts. As the door swung shut, the cool afternoon air touched my bare arms. Fall was definitely here. Lisa dragged her gaze from Aidan and looked at me, waiting for me to speak.
“Has anyone been here to talk to you?” Seeing her confused expression I added, “From the police?”
I took a deep breath. “Amanda’s dead, Lisa.”
“Amanda? Your partner?”
I nodded. Then looked away from the pity that flashed on her face.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mac.” She gave me a quick, awkward hug. Her expression was now tinged with sadness, but the uncertainty was still there.
“Do you remember when I was here last Monday for lunch?”
“Oh, sure I do.” She smiled and glanced at Aidan.
Of course she’d remember me coming in on Monday, since Aidan had joined me for lunch. I suppressed the glare I wanted to give her. I needed information and scaring her wasn’t likely to help her memory.
“Did you see Amanda come in that night?”
“Yeah, I remember. She came in super late for your lunch date. I told her you’d been in earlier and it seemed like she didn’t remember that she was supposed to meet you. She seemed…”
“Confused, I guess. But happy, like, really happy. Ready to jump on a table and dance happy.”
I frowned. Amanda was solid, and rarely showed her emotions. That kind of display wasn’t like her. “Was she alone?”
“Yeah, but she was dressed up in a clubbing outfit. I asked her if she had a hot date and she said yes. Guess she was meeting him at Sylvester’s.” Lisa’s eyes widened. “Do you think her date killed her? Oh my God!”
I ground my teeth together and forced out what I hoped was an encouraging smile. From the look on Lisa’s face, I wasn’t entirely successful but it was the best I could do.
“We don’t know anything for sure yet. Can you think of anything else she might have said or done?” Aidan asked.
She shook her head. “No, sorry. I wish I did. She was a nice lady.”
After quizzing Lisa for the next hour, making her walk me through Amanda’s visit to the restaurant twice from start to finish, I decided she probably didn’t know anything other than what she’d told me initially. Amanda had stopped in for a quick bite to eat on her way to a club to meet a man, she was elated—giddy even—and had seemed disoriented.
“Thanks for your help, Lisa,” I said, already lost in thought. I gave her a quick wave, ignoring her questions, and stalked back to my Toyota. Annoyingly, Aidan lingered. Probably to smooth things over with the waitress, but I wasn’t in any mood to be charitable about his intentions.
“Are you coming?” I called over my shoulder to Aidan. Without waiting for his reply, I opened my door and jumped in.
Aidan followed me as I drove to Sylvester’s. Anger built in my chest. When had Amanda fallen under the incubus’s thrall? It had to have been after I’d seen her at the crime scene, and after we played phone tag. I would have noticed if she’d been off her game. Wouldn’t I? I shook my head in an attempt to rid myself of the small bit of doubt nagging me. Doubts were useless now. I had to concentrate on finding the asshole who had killed her.
It had to be an incubus—maybe a succubus. Everything fit. Succubi thralled their victims, pulling them into a dreamlike state that lasted for hours, even days, which made their prey more pliable and easily influenced. Incubi could likely do the same thing. Records indicated their powers had been nearly identical to that of their succubi cousins. Marisol had confirmed that research, with what was as close to firsthand experience as I was going to get. Lisa hadn’t seen the killer, but between her and Jason’s statements, I was almost certain it was a man.
But why would the incubus let her out of his sight after he thralled her? Giving her a chance to break free and get help didn’t make any sense. It gave others the opportunity to notice something was wrong. Why risk it? The answer hit me, and my breath flew from my chest like I’d been struck with a sudden weight.
It was part of his game.
The risk, the thrill of making her come back to him, the possession of another’s will. That’s why he did it. Sick bastard. As I pulled into Sylvester’s parking lot, I gripped the steering wheel tighter. The freak was going to pay.
Only one car sat in Sylvester’s parking lot—
not surprising, since it was just nearing lunchtime, and they weren’t known for their food. The club probably wouldn’t be in full swing and fully staffed until ten o’clock. I debated coming back later when we’d have a better chance of catching people with information, but I didn’t have the patience. I slammed the car door, and then walked up to Aidan.
He stepped out of the Jeep and shut the door behind him. His hair was tousled from the constant Chicago breeze, and I wondered if that’s how he looked when he rolled out of bed in the morning. Five o’clock shadow added to the image, and I had the sudden urge to run my hand through his hair to smooth it.
I took a deep breath and forced my thoughts back to the case. What the hell was I doing? Every time I looked at the man I struggled not to touch him. I was a damn nymphomaniac lately.
I tromped up to the bar door and knocked—banging the side of my fist against the rough wood.
A tall, wide man answered the knock. He looked like he could probably toss a patron out of the bar with very little effort. He carried some extra weight around his middle, but appeared solid rather than obese. Sweat beaded on his bald head, forming droplets that ran down the side of his face. He held a broom in one hand and propped the door open with the other to look at me.
“We’re not open ‘til one,” he said, gesturing toward the faded metal sign hanging next to the door.
I pulled my badge out and flashed it at him. “We need to ask you a few questions.”
He frowned then stepped back so we could enter.
“I’m Jay Lawson, and I manage the club. What’s this about?” he asked, as we walked into the small area that served as a restaurant until the bar really got going. The decor looked like it was updated in the late 70s, and the dark hardwood floors and old cash register sitting on the corner of the counter made me think townie bar—not happening club.
I pulled Amanda’s picture from my pocket. “Have you seen this woman? She would have been in here Monday night…probably not alone.”
He glanced at the picture. “I wasn’t in Monday; you’ll have to talk to my daughter.”
“Is she here?”
“Not ‘til three or so.”
“We’re going to need you to call her and ask her to come in early,” Aidan said from behind me.
The bar owner snorted. “That girl don’t come in early for no reason.”
I took a step toward him and looked at his face, giving him my best cop stare: hard eyes and a no-nonsense line set on my mouth. “She’ll make an exception today.” Or I would go knock on her door and haul her here.
“Fine,” he said. “Don’t mind dragging her out of bed early anyhow.”
Aidan turned to me as the bar owner went to call the girl. “I’m going to go, check with my sources. Call me if you need anything. Otherwise I’ll track you down later.”
“Fine by me.”
He gripped my shoulders and I started. He leaned in and I stopped breathing. But he bypassed my mouth, his rough cheek touching mine as he moved. Lips a hairbreadth from my ear, he whispered, “You will call me, right? If you get a lead, don’t go after this guy alone.”
I nodded, unable to think of a suitable reply. After one final squeeze of my arms, he left.
Nearly an hour ticked by before the manager’s daughter showed up. A long hour where I was left with nothing to do but remember the pressure of Aidan’s hands on my arms, and the roughness of his cheeks sliding against mine. By then I was ready to strangle the girl, but willing to overlook her attitude if she had information for me. She was shorter than me, which was an accomplishment all its own. A pretty thing, she had blond hair that dangled nearly to her waist with bangs that hung into her eyes. I couldn’t begin to describe the ways such a haircut would annoy me.
“I’m Kimmy,” she said. Her pert nose stuck up in the air, like she thought she was doing me a favor by deigning to talk to me.
I handed her the picture of Amanda. “Do you remember seeing her here on Monday night?”
She stared at the picture for a few seconds, and her eyes widened. “Oh yes, I remember her. She was here with the hottie.” She smirked. “Guy was quite a catch, but he sure had straying on his mind, if you know what I mean.”
I mentally congratulated my gut. The killer was a man—so almost definitely an incubus. “Explain it to me.”
“Well she was all over him, hanging on his every word, you know? But every time she’d go to the bathroom, he was all over me. Talking to me, flirting with me, looking at me with those eyes.” Kimmy sighed, a smile turning up the corners of her mouth.
“Can you describe him?”
“Oh, he was hot. Dark hair, dark blue eyes. The bluest eyes you’ve ever seen,” she said, with a dreamy look.
“He was pretty tall, maybe six feet.”
My stomach tensed and my thoughts turned to Aidan. Dark blue eyes, tall? But, no. He was OWEA.
But he wouldn’t be the first cop in history to turn bad.
“Scars or tattoos? Any other features you can remember?” I said, keeping my voice as even as I could manage.
“No scars or tats that I could see…though I wouldn’t have minded a closer look, if you know what I mean.” She grinned. “Normally, I don’t dig long hair on a guy, but he pulled it off.”
“His hair was long?”
“Maybe as long as mine, pulled back in a ponytail against his neck.”
I remembered to breathe. That didn’t match Aidan. His hair was long around his face, but nothing like the hair she’d described on Amanda’s date. He might have worn a wig, but he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who’d be caught dead in one. The eyes matched, but he wasn’t the only guy in the world with nice eyes.
“Have you ever seen him in here before?” I kept my voice steady. Goody for me.
“Oh yeah, one other time. He had a different date then, not as flashy as the one on Monday. A player, that guy is, but I’d play with him any day of the week.” The dreamy expression was back. The incubus was good, I’d give him that.
Kimmy followed me to my Toyota, where I showed her a picture of the first victim.
“Could be her, I guess.” She shrugged. “Honestly she was such a wallflower I don’t remember.”
I quizzed Kimmy for the better part of the next hour, and then let her get to work with instructions to call me immediately if the man showed his face in the bar again. She promised to call, but only after I told her that the women in the pictures were dead, and the handsome stranger may have killed them.
I drove to Amanda’s house next, telling myself I
should take a quick look around the scene to make sure the investigators hadn’t missed anything. I parked a street over from hers and walked to the house, sneaking into the backyard. Feeling a bit of déjà vu, I slid my driver’s license between her doorknob and frame and let myself in.
Her kitchen was in a worse state than she’d left it. The police had dusted for prints and searched for evidence, leaving a mess of fingerprint powder and rifled cupboards in their wake. Amanda would be pissed to see her home this way.
Keeping my breathing steady, I walked through her house and tried to picture what had happened to her. We’d found the incubus’s second victim on Sunday night, and Amanda was killed Monday night. The murderer liked to play with his victims for a period of time before actually killing them, but Amanda didn’t act like she was under anyone’s influence but her own only a night before her death. And she’d sounded tired in the voice mail she left me, not thralled.
I frowned and walked into her bedroom. The comforter was still indented where her body had waited to be discovered for over twelve hours after her death. Touching the comforter where her neck had lain, her head hanging over to stare at the bedroom door, I wished there was someone else I could talk to about the case. But I had no friends to speak of, outside of Amanda and my other coworkers, and my father and stepmother didn’t like to hear anything about my work. They had made that abundantly clear over the years.
I replayed in my mind the last time I’d seen Amanda, searching for a clue that would suggest she was already under the incubus’s influence. But she didn’t have any of the signs. No dreamy expression, no distracted mannerisms, no talk of a beautiful man and his dark blue eyes. She handled the crime scene with her normal efficiency and solidity, even thinking quickly enough to snag the bit of hair from the victim to run a spell tracer on. Could I have missed a subtle hint?