Flight from mayhem, p.7
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       Flight from Mayhem, p.7

           Yasmine Galenorn

  By found, I assumed they meant body. I turned to the detective. “Dead?”

  “I’m afraid so. Homicide. And this is the tip of a much bigger problem.” He motioned to Alex. “I need to discuss something in private with you and your team. When you’re ready . . .” Alex locked the door and turned the CLOSED sign around. Wordlessly, Bette looked up at him and he moved to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and kissing the top of her head gently. The gesture made me want to cry—she looked so bereft.

  Chase cleared his throat, and Alex helped Bette stand. “We’ll meet in the lunchroom. Shimmer, will you escort the detective there? Bette and I’ll be along in a moment.”

  Ralph followed me, with Chase following him. I led them into the lunch room, where I motioned to the coffeepot. “Would you like a cup of coffee, Detective?”

  He nodded. “I can fix it myself, thank you.”

  I glanced down the hall. Alex was talking to Bette and I could sense the connection between them. It went back years, and I was glad he was here for her. I let them be. “Detective Johnson—”

  “Please, call me Chase.” He nodded, not smiling, and the lines on his forehead told me he had seen far too much over the years. “You’re . . . Shimmer, right?”

  I nodded. Then, because I wasn’t sure how much he knew, but I knew he was tight with the D’Artigos, I added, “You probably should know that I’m a dragon, Chase.”

  He nodded, a faint smile creeping around the corners of his lips. “I already knew that, Shimmer. I keep close tabs on the Supe community. But thank you for making certain that I was informed.”

  “How bad is it?” I nodded toward the door. “Marlene?”

  The smile vanished. “Bad, I’m afraid. It’s pretty ugly.” He added cream and sugar to his coffee, then sat down to wait. A moment later, Bette and Alex joined us. Bette had dried her tears and now she slumped down in a chair beside me.

  “So, let’s hear it. I’m ready.” Bette stared at Chase, a resolute look on her face. “I’m older than you think. Older than Shimmer here. So don’t worry about shocking me. I just . . . didn’t expect her to be dead.”

  Chase toyed with his cup, then leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “We have a problem. I think we have a serial killer on the loose.”

  Bette’s eyes grew wide. Alex let out a grunt.

  “Your friend Marlene is the latest in a series of murders that all follow the same MO. We found her car on the side of the road, and . . . what was left of her was in the trunk.” He grimaced.

  “What . . . was left of her?” Ralph blanched.

  Chase sucked in a deep breath. “Her eyes were missing, along with her tongue. We’ve had three other murders like this—all elderly Fae. All have been killed away from home, and all have been found in the trunks of their own cars, missing their eyes and tongues. Their bank accounts have been wiped out, and any jewelry and small, expensive items have been missing from their houses. In Marlene’s case, when you contacted us earlier this morning, we discovered that she should have had close to thirty thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry in her house—and we can’t find any of it. We checked her bank accounts and they were cleared out this morning, early when the bank opened. She had over one hundred thousand dollars in her savings.”

  “Do you know who emptied them? You can’t just take that much money out of an ATM.” Alex frowned, sitting back and crossing his arms.

  “That’s the thing—the bank camera? The film shows Marlene entering the lobby and conducting the transaction. She asked for her funds in a cashier’s check two days ago, and they had it ready for her this morning. The film from the first transaction places her there, too, so we know it was her. But the kicker is, the coroner placed her death to be sometime during the night.”

  “So it couldn’t be her at the bank, unless she has a twin.” I frowned. “You said there were several other murders?”

  “Yes, and in every case, we have the murder victim clearing out their account, when they were unquestionably . . . already dead.” Chase swallowed, hard. “We’re at a loss. I’ve worked with Supes for years now. Hell, I’m even a small part elf myself—I found that out not long ago. But this has us stumped. And we can find nobody who has a connection to all four of the murders.”

  “You mean that none of the victims have any friends in common?” Ralph frowned. “That seems unlikely.”

  “Oh, they have friends in common, but everybody has an alibi. We even thought maybe that some necromancer animated the bodies, but a reanimated corpse wouldn’t be able to pass for normal at the bank—not if they were zombies or ghouls.” Chase let out a long sigh. “I wondered, since you personally know one of the victims, if you might know anything else about what was going on in her life. Detectives—and those who work for them—often make better witnesses than civilians.”

  Bette nodded, lighting up a cigarette. “She was talking a lot about a new boyfriend. A boy toy. Douglas Smith. I told your men about him and they put out an APB on him.”

  “Right. We haven’t been able to trace him anywhere. And the name doesn’t ring a bell with any of the other victims’ families. However . . .” Chase paused. “We do have a potential connection. All of the other victims had recently become romantically involved with new liaisons. We have a list of names to check out. We’re thinking maybe there’s a ring of thieves—well, murderers now—targeting specific wealthy, elderly Fae.” He pulled out a little notebook from his suit jacket and opened it. “I was wondering if any of these names ring a bell.”

  “Let’s hear them.” Bette leaned forward, and Alex reached out to pat her gently on the shoulder.

  “Mary Little.”

  “Mary? A woman?”

  “Yes, as far as we know, she had recently become involved with an elderly forest Fae gentleman named Victor Goldwater. He lived out near Mount Rainier and was found in the trunk of his car, on Aurora Boulevard. Again, his eyes and tongue were missing. He was worth over two hundred thousand dollars.” Chase slapped the notebook on the table. “Damn it. This just makes me fucking sick.”

  “There are some pretty sick people out there.” Alex glanced over at me, giving me a soft smile. “Shimmer, you doing okay?”

  “I’ve seen some rough stuff in my life, too. Yeah, I’m all right.”

  Bette shook her head. “Don’t recognize the name, not at all. But Victor . . . I knew him, or rather, I was acquainted with him. What about the other two?”

  “Wisteria te Verisa, from Otherworld. Had at least a couple hundred thousand in gold jewelry—all gone. Her neighbor said she had recently become involved with a man named Ralph Savage.”

  Again, Bette shook her head. “No . . . no bells on Savage, but Wisteria, yes.”

  “Lissel Hansburg, Earthside Fae from Norway. Older woman, recently dating a man named Kort Vanderberg. Worth one hundred and fifty thousand.”

  “Lissel, yes. Kort, nothing.” Bette’s lips were tight, pale. “All four of the victims frequented the Supe Community Action Council. I met them all there.”

  I pulled out my notepad. “So, we have four victims, all killed in the same manner, and with the same mutilations. All four were elderly Fae recently involved with a younger person—none of them the same person. Are we sure that the names weren’t changed?”

  “But there were two women, and two men,” Bette asked, then stopped. “Though good makeup and dresses can do wonders for some guys, I guess.”

  “I think . . . we’ve got descriptions from Lissel and Wisteria’s friends. The guy doesn’t sound remotely the same in the looks department. No, I think we’re dealing with a ring, with four different partners who have found a lucrative, albeit deadly, avocation.” Chase let out a sigh. “Did you see this Douglas, by chance? Marlene doesn’t seem to have had many friends and we have no description of him.”

  Bette shook her head. “Sadly, no.
I wish I had taken her up on her invitation to go to dinner with them, now.” She paused. “But that doesn’t explain how the four victims showed up at their banks to clear out their accounts after they were killed.”

  “No, it doesn’t. Will you keep your ear to the door?” Chase sucked down the rest of his coffee. “I really don’t know what to do. We have dusted every one of their houses for prints and damn if we haven’t found a thing out of place. Everything checks out—well, we’re still working the prints from Marlene’s house.”

  “How long of a time frame has this been going on? Are they all like a blitz attack?” Alex was looking perturbed. “Something’s not tracking at all for me, and I can’t put my finger on it.”

  “That’s the curious thing. No. These murders have taken place over the past six weeks. First was Wisteria. Then Victor, then Lissel, and now Marlene.” Chase shrugged.

  “And where did they live? Ralph, can you pull up a map and let’s chart their houses.”

  Ralph nodded. “Let’s go into the conference room so I can do it on the Holo.”

  I frowned. I’d seen his baby, the Holo, in action a couple of times and I still found it fascinating. Ralph was a genius, and he had created a number of gadgets that had patents pending on them. We made full use of them. Most of them were too sophisticated for the agency’s needs, but now and then something struck just the right chord.

  We followed him into the conference room, where he moved to a lectern at the back of the room and within minutes, a full-size map of the area appeared in brilliant topographical imagery on the clear plastic screen at the front of the room. We could draw on the screen with dry-erase markers, or Ralph could use a stylus and a touch screen to do so.

  Chase let out an appreciative whistle. “Whoa . . . I want one of these.”

  Ralph let out a laugh. “Glad you like it.”

  “I’m serious. This is dynamite. What can you do with it?”

  “Let’s show you. Give me the addresses of the victims.” Ralph tapped away on a keyboard as Chase read him off the four addresses. Within a few seconds, four sections on the map began to glow with a gentle red light. Ralph zoomed out so that all four residences were in view, but we were also seeing a close-up view of them on the sides of the map. “Let me triangulate their coordinates to see if we have any sort of a pattern.”

  A moment later, a series of lines connected the houses, but there wasn’t any sort of pattern that seemed to show itself. The mileage between them flashed on the upper left hand of the screen, but that didn’t seem to show any correlation, either. None of them were in the same city proper. Marlene was in Seattle, Wisteria had been up in Belles-Faire, Victor had been out by Mount Rainier, and Lissel lived in Renton.

  “I’ve got nothing.” Ralph stared at the screen, then went back to tapping the keys. “Nothing in terms of numerological connections—the addresses themselves don’t follow a pattern. What about their races? They all seem to be different types of Fae.”

  “Right.” Chase frowned. “That’s one link. So far, all of them have been Fae, but three were Earthside. Wisteria was an Otherworld citizen who had moved here to be near her granddaughter who came over here last year. No Weres, so far. No vamps. No other Supes. Nothing but Fae.”

  “I wonder if that’s chance, or deliberate.” I played with my pen, staring at the map. “So we have nothing to connect the murders, except the victims were all elderly Fae, and they had money. We have four suspects, none of whom you can find—”

  “It’s not just that we can’t find these people. It’s that they don’t exist. Oh, there are a lot of Doug Smiths, don’t get me wrong, but trying to put a finger on anybody who has heard of them since the murders, or has seen any sign of them? Nada.” Chase pushed himself to his feet. “I have my hands full with another situation, which just seems to be getting worse and worse, and frankly, my men are spread thin. Which is why I wanted to ask you if you’d be willing to look into this. The department can’t afford to outsource much, but we’ll do what we can to turn business your way—unofficially—if you can help us figure out what the hell is going on.”

  I knew this wasn’t standard procedure, but I also had figured out that—with the Fae coming out of the closet, along with the other Supes—SOP had gone by the wayside on a number of things. This wasn’t old-school law enforcement.

  Alex cocked his head to the side, staring at the detective, then gave him a short nod. “Will do. We’ll help out pro bono and if you happen to find a few cases that you can send our way, we’d be much obliged. Bette and Marlene were friends. This is the least we can do.”

  Chase cleared his throat. “I’ll have some documents delivered to you. Confidentially, of course.”

  “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Alex said, standing. His eyes twinkled as he held out his hand. “I think we can help each other, and maybe catch us a pack of killers in the process. We’ll use utmost discretion.”

  And with that, he walked Chase to the door, leaving the three of us sitting there.

  I reached across the table and took Bette’s hands. “You okay, lady?”

  She shook her head. “Somehow, I don’t think I’m going to be okay for a long time.”

  Ralph let out a soft sound, then looked back up at the map. “I’ll do my best to think of any other correlations that we might be able to make. I’ll also run the four Fae through the Werewyx search engine. We know they were all members of the Supe Community Action Council, thanks to Bette. I wonder . . .” He paused.

  “What? You have an idea?” Alex reentered the room.

  “It’s just . . . I wonder if the vamps have had any members go missing? When a vampire is killed, then they turn into dust. There would be nothing for the police to find.”

  “That’s a good catch. I’ll check it out right now.” Alex rubbed his chin. “Chai’s here. Shimmer, you come with me. We’ll head over to the Seattle Vampire Nexus and talk to Roman. Ralph, check out the records of the Supe Community Action Council and see if there’s any info Chase’s men might have missed. Bette, will you fill Chai in on the Wagner issue—the salamander? We need to track the creature down before it unleashes holy hell on Seattle, because you know that’s what’s going to happen. See if you can find any sign of it. Call us on our cell phones if you catch anything.” He motioned to me. “Get your jacket and let’s go.”

  And with that, we were off. As Alex and I headed out to his bike, he tossed me my helmet.

  “Do you think we can find these freaks before they take out another victim?” I settled the helmet onto my head, strapping it under the chin. It was the same midnight blue of the bike.

  Alex straddled the bike, waiting for me to get on. As I swung on behind him and he started it up, he said, “I don’t know, Shimmer. But we’re sure as hell going to try.” And off we sped, into the Seattle night.

  * * *

  The Seattle Vampire Nexus was in an old mansion that had once belonged to some vampire socialite. The two-acre estate was the hub of vampire happenings. The Seattle Vampire Nexus was an umbrella organization that housed a number of concerns for the Vampire Nation. I knew that Roman, Lord of the Vampire Nation and heir to the throne, basically held court here. Alex had resisted getting involved at first, but when he found out that Roman was trying to create some order that would put humans at ease—as much as they could be around vamps—Alex had gritted his teeth and joined. The SVN was now, essentially, the vampire chamber of commerce.

  Vamps had very few rights compared to the other Supes, and killing a vamp was still legal—not even considered manslaughter. Legislative activists were trying to change that, but until they did, vamps were sitting ducks for anybody with a grudge against their kind. If they fought back, they could be hunted down without recrimination.

  We pulled up to the front, where valets waited. I swung off the bike and Alex followed suit. As we took off our helmets, a v
alet—who was a vampire, by the look of him—held out a ticket and Alex gave him the keys.

  “Not a scratch. You understand?” He glared at the youngster, who looked like he had been turned before he reached eighteen. That didn’t mean much, actually—he could easily be a thousand years old—but he looked barely old enough to vote.

  “Got it.” The youth swung onto the cycle and eased her around into the parking area.

  We dashed up the steps to the door, and Alex pushed through. The building was a bustle of activity, and the main desk—a semicircular affair in black granite—was busy. There were three people in front of us, and Alex grumbled as we took our place in line.

  I glanced around. I had been here with him once before, but this was the first time I’d had a chance to really look around. A painting of the royal trio—Lord Roman and his wives, Lady Menolly and Lady Nerissa, who I knew were married to each other as well—graced one wall. It was new and had a warning sign in front of it that the paint was still drying—DON’T TOUCH. A number of vampires were mingling around, which would have made me nervous if I weren’t a dragon. Granted, I couldn’t change shape right here and squash the place, but I could do one hell of a lot of damage if I wanted to. I was tough, and while I wasn’t trained in martial arts, the fact was I had learned to watch out for myself in the Dragon Reaches. There had been no other choice.

  “What are you doing after work?” Alex’s question took me by surprise. My mind had been wandering in a different direction.

  “I dunno. Probably going to hang out with Bette. She seems pretty upset. Why?”

  “I was thinking we could go out by the water, watch the late-night stars before they fade. We haven’t had much time to be alone together during the past few days.” It wasn’t a complaint, that much I could tell. But his voice was almost wistful, and he sounded lonely.

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