A werewolf, a witch, and a vampire walk into a murder scene . . .
Sgt. Marilyn Jaye of Supernatural Oversight (the investigative unit for all things which bump a bit too much in the night) is having a frustrating day. What should have been a simple case of a murdered ghoul has spun entirely out of control. It’s bad enough that she’s getting distracted from her investigations by her unreasonable attraction to Henry, a young werewolf with a terrible case of PTSD (Post-Turn Stress Disorder), especially since every Tom, Fang, and Hairy (previously known as her sensible friends) tells her she’s destined to be with him. Worse, her distraction allows a second murder victim to turn up, one of the gentlemanly Victorian vampires who lives in Highgate Cemetery. If that isn’t enough, the vicious werewolf who attacked and turned Henry is still on the loose. London’s creatures of the night seem to be in trouble, and it’s her job to protect them.
Marilyn is determined to find the killer and the rogue wolf, but she’ll need a lot of help. That will include her friends, Hanover (Henry’s handsome Alpha and Marilyn’s ex-lover) and Julius Beer (a vampire who watches over his distressed comrades in Highgate from his ornate mausoleum). Also alternately helping or annoying her are the other members of the S.O., including her powerful sorcerer boss, the eternal spirit of Romantic poet William Blake, her ex-NYPD partner, a pool (yes, an actual pool) of secretarial sirens, and an imp who’s in love with a cat. Even Henry has to tag along. And they better solve the case soon, because the killer has made it clear that she’s the next target.
This humorous, cross-genre paranormal mystery/urban fantasy/paranormal romance will make you fall in love with all of London’s quirky supernatural residents.
On a Katherine Gilbert wackiness scale of 1-to-10 sarcastic talking cats*, this one is a 7.
*Warning: Not all stories contain talking cats. Wackiness may take other forms.
The More in Heaven and Earth series is all set in the same magical universe filled with angels, witches, werewolves, demons, vampires, ghosts, and many other supernatural creatures. They can be read in any order or as stand-alones and will introduce you to a variety of fascinating characters, as they take you to various parts of this unusual earth.
Targeted Age Group:: 13+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My inspiration came from a few different things.
First, there was a dream I had with three detectives trying to solve the murder of a paranormal in an old railway hotel in London.
Second, quite some time ago, I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the old and overgrown Victorian cemetery, Highgate, in London, and I remembered the tour guide's tales of the many underground stories of Julius Beer's mausoleum and the old urban legends that there were vampires in Highgate.
These combined into the seed of this novel.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It's really more that my characters came up with themselves. I just discovered who they were and what they were up to as I started writing. (When I first started writing, I didn't even realize that there was a love story involved in it. Then Henry the newly-made werewolf showed up and cast his sad gaze at Marilyn, and I saw that the story clearly had its own plans.)
The werewolf down the hall was rhumbaing again.
This indecency never failed to make her crazy. She wasn't certain what it was–his occasional yips of delight, the general lack of decorum, or simply the insidious beat–but it was an irritation she could never quite ignore. All too often, she had had to go pound on his door and demand, if nothing else, that he turn the music down a little.
Edwina wanted to do so again but knew it never helped. Besides, having to look at those Arthur Murray-like paw prints on the floor, now worn down beyond belief, only increased her irritation.
"In my day," she muttered to no one in particular–the neighborhood ghost had decided to keep to herself after the last chewing-out–"the lupine population were a bit more dignified."
True, they also were more likely to rip a lone woman's throat out, if caught at the wrong time of the month, but that was how it should be. Besides, one truth was all too obvious.
Wolves. Shouldn't. Dance.
She let out a little huff of annoyance and went to tend to the kettle–but even this simple action irritated her. The local procurement store just wasn't getting the sort of blood substitute it used to, and the most-recent kettle she'd bought–despite all its fancy advertising–was not being anything like successful in providing a decent 98.6 degree cuppa. It was always either too hot–as though the person it was from had been in the sun far too long–or much too cold–more around vampire temperatures. They just never got it right.
This was one of the many difficulties about being a modern-day ghoul, though–was all just part of the "progress" she'd been forced to put up with. She still remembered the days when she could make off with the occasional child or two every month from the wrong side of town, and no one much would notice, beyond maybe its parents–and who listened to them?
She settled into her living room chair with the decidedly tepid, not-at-all-blood and sighed. No–no one in authority was doing anything right anymore, all that talk about "the living this" and "the living that."
It made her sick to think about it. She was living, and who cared about her? She sniffed the non-blood and tried to force herself to drink it.
No one, that's who.
"Progress," she snorted bitterly.
She was just trying to settle into her beverage when there was another yip from down the hall, making her spill a bit of her meal onto her robe. She sniffed in disgust. It might not be blood, but it sure stained like it. Putting it down, she glared in the direction of the wolf's apartment.
That boy down there didn't even have the courtesy to stay in one form or another when he danced–always preferring that in-between half-man/half-wolf nonsense. No proper werewolf did that for more than a moment or two. She sniffed again.
"Progress, my foot."
Nothing was the way it should be. The government–well, the part of it which knew about her sort–had been so snippy about everything lately, the werewolves and everyone else. You'd think they were proper people or something! Now, you had to pretend to give them rights just because they "weren't responsible for their condition." Huh! Like she was! You eat one little family or two during a famine, and everyone treated you like a monster. It almost wasn't worth living a few hundred extra years for anymore.
She had already had a couple of centuries on top of what she'd been supposed to, but it wasn't really her fault. It wasn't as though human bodies came with warning labels: "Consume me, and live till you're old enough to see all of decent society collapse around you."
And what about the lupines? She heard another yip, as the beat grew louder, and snorted. Some person who was out somewhere they shouldn't be at some time they should be home in bed got "attacked" and everyone was supposed to feel sorry for him? Or that banshee down the other end–had she ever told her to get born to some Irish lowlife?
It was like no one had any respect for decent people these days.
Look at the problems I had just getting moved here.
She'd been forced to give up her nice little home in the Peak District, had had to fill out the form for the building three different times–as though moving here were even her idea–and then sign a contract swearing not to "prey" on any of the locals. Her! And that little pipsqueak of a vampire the building owner had running the place couldn't be over a hundred, if he were a day.
No respect for your elders–that was what it was. And all for a spot in this broken-down old hovel in the middle of the freak show that was "modern day" London. All because someone had the temerity to question her recent eating habits.
By this point, the yips were starting to become unbearable. The silly creature seemed to be in yip overload.
She got to her feet, too annoyed to let it go. True, he would probably just pretend to apologize, as always, like he noticed what anyone else thought, but he might at least turn down the music. It had nearly gotten her tapping along–and that was her absolute limit.
It took a few minutes to make her way down the hall; she didn't move as quickly as she used to. A 400th birthday approaching would do that.
As she went, she muttered to herself about the new lot of residents the building encompassed. Aside from that darn, peeping ghost on one side, there was the vampire on the other who refused to even make eye contact with her–as though he were too good for her kind.
Like they were any different. She just had the sense not to leave any leftovers.
And across the hall was that silly girl who wouldn't come out, even to the tenants' meetings. Edwina didn't even know what she was and was afraid to find out. The next thing you knew, they'd be letting witches in the building! Civilization was doomed.
All these bleak thoughts made her bang on the door rather more loudly than she had intended. She was a respectable woman, after all, not like the rest of this lot. Give a polite, firm request in the coolest manner possible–that was the way to do it. It had always worked with the little wolf before.
This was her usual, nearly full-moon duty–to police the darn lupine before he annoyed the entire city. It fell to her, since no one else would bother. So much for neighborliness.
It was just as the door was opening very slowly, on about the fifth knock, that she realized something was wrong. Not only did the stupid man usually answer long before that, but the yipping seemed far too consistent, almost recorded. And hadn't the full moon been several days ago?
That was the last chance she got to bring order to her little neighborhood. The very large axe quickly saw to that.
It was about an hour later when the detectives arrived to find one very-upset werewolf. "Look, I understand what it looks like, but I swear I didn't do it. I only got back in a few minutes ago. And now this . . ."
He trailed off, gazing down at the body, paling considerably. "Um, is there any way we could do this somewhere else?"
The detective sighed, pushing a lock of her short, honey-blonde hair out of her face. It was just getting long enough to be annoying. She had seen many sights in her day, but a queasy werewolf hadn't been among them. There were times she felt all of her 82 years, whether they showed on her face or not.
"You feeling okay, Mr. Howler?"
The man's gaze was now fixed firmly on the ceiling, and she wasn't certain whether his air of resigned horror was at the sight before him, the fact that he might be seen as a suspect, or his own name. If it were the latter, he was definitely a new turn. The new ones were all renamed by their local Alpha, with results which ranged anywhere from comical to morbid–depending on the Alpha's bent. She had already confirmed which pack had taken him in. The current Sloane Square Alpha liked teasing the turns who came his way. She suspected he saw it as a test of fortitude.
"I've been better," he confirmed, gaze still on the ceiling. There was a pause. "Um . . . Detective . . .?"
"Jaye. Marilyn Jaye. And it's sergeant, actually." She only now realized she'd been too busy confirming who the tenant was to introduce herself. She nearly forgot to introduce her partner, as well, nodding toward him. "This is Detective Erick Lawrence."
Erick gave him his best "I've seen a lot of scumbags, and I haven't ruled out that you're a bigger one" stare. He had his whole ex-NYPD thing going on today, his dark brown hair and his suit just rumpled enough to not appear to care about his looks, although she knew he secretly did. His chocolate eyes were piercing, and he was using his height to intimidate.
The werewolf seemed properly unnerved, but it appeared to be more at the presence of his dead neighbor than Erick's gallows stare. "Can I go inside, please, Sgt. Jaye? Seeing her like this . . ."
"Did you know her well, Mr. Howler?"
He shrugged a little.
"Did you like her?"
He shook his head, still not focusing on either Marilyn or the body. "She was an ornery old cat, actually, but I've known worse."
"Ghouls?" They didn't usually associate with the wolf community.
That nearly got him to look at her, his gaze wavering slightly, but he seemed to find the tile above him fascinating. "People."
It was an intriguing enough answer that she finally let him off the hook. "Go inside, Mr. Howler. I'll be in in a minute."
His "thank you" was fervent enough to let her know he meant it.
If he were the killer, he was pretty darn squeamish about his own work. If not, neighbors with severed heads were probably not a daily sight for him, especially if he were young.
She stared after him for a moment, very much doubting his guilt, but she had more immediate matters to attend to. Bending down, she checked the medical alert-type bracelet on the old woman's arm, which only confirmed what she had guessed; her Extranormal I.D. read "Multiple Allergies." Marilyn suspected non-human meat would be one of them.
She rose, sighing, kind of hating the ironies of this job. "Like we heard. She's a ghoul. You'll need to alert the local community."
Her partner, who was much too human for his own good, looked a little confused. "You think they're in danger?"
She just gave him a look.
It took a second, but he got it. He might have been relatively new to this field of detecting, but he'd been a New York City cop long enough before it to see a few things he clearly wished he hadn't. "You think they want to know when dinner is."
Erick might be a newbie, but he was catching on quickly.
"Tell them only once we're through." She sighed, muttering under her breath. "Otherwise, they'll be here with knives and forks out before we've even finished asking questions."
He nodded, his brown eyes nearly amused. Sometimes, she wished she had the heart to be the same.
She left him to it, then, allowing him to find what he could the human way. That was a trait she sort of envied too.
She had to step over the deceased to get into Howler's apartment. She had already noticed the way he had done the same–like a cat which had stepped in something unpleasant. He wasn't particularly wolflike yet, which only spoke to how recent his turn must be.
"How long have you been living here?" she asked, as she joined him.
He was sunk on the couch, his head forward, hands clasped. He didn't look much like a wolf, really; it was just the general abundance of his long brown hair and the definite shadow of his beard which argued otherwise. His eyes were only slightly golden, but they were probably the most wolflike part of him–soulful and deep, like his wilder brothers. Contrary to most folk beliefs, werewolves were one of the most truly artistic of all the extranormals. She suspected it had something to do with the sorrow of their making–but she'd never been crass enough to ask.
He looked up at her, and she could see the gold warring with the original green of his eyes. Before his turn, he had probably been quite the heartthrob. He was still a head-turner now, even with a slightly unfashionable amount of chest hair showing through the collar of his polo shirt. His moon phase must be fairly close. "You mean, how long since I was turned?"
She nodded. Evidently, he didn't need the hand-holding of her euphemisms.
He looked away again, and she reconsidered. "About six months. I've been here for about three."
She knew he could undoubtedly give a far more exact account, if she asked him to. She had never known a werewolf who didn't remember the exact moment of the attack which had turned him. All the time since then would be measured by the moon, as well; he wasn't likely to forget any of it. But he was clearly new to this, still clinging to human habits.
She didn't rob him of the comfort, but she did press. "And your relationship with your neighbor?"
He sighed. "I tend to dance, when the change is close. Therapy," he shrugged.
She nodded. It was one of many paths she'd heard of, and she was aware of his pack's predilections. "Did you put the paw prints on the floor?" Not very subtle–but the building wasn't exactly a normal one, and no one who fit that description was likely to get close enough to notice.
He seemed to squirm just slightly. "My Alpha did."
She smiled. That was sort of what she'd expect–well, for that Alpha, anyway. "And your neighbor objected?"
"She didn't like the music or the fact that I tend to get into it a bit. I yip," he blushed, and she tried her best not to think that was kind of adorable. He might be a man, but he was still a pup.
Their eyes met for half a second, and she couldn't help but notice that the blush deepened, as he looked away. "She always came by to ask me to turn it down."
He nodded. "I never thought it was that loud, but maybe I was just lost to it." His gaze met hers, that soulful quality so obvious. "I really didn't dislike her, even if I don't think she'd return the sentiment." His smile held more sadness than anything else. "She couldn't even remember my moon phase properly. She seemed to believe every wolf's was full moon."
There was a moment when he had been looking at her almost as though she were a friend he was reminiscing with. As he winced, it passed, leaving him shaking his head. His eyes wandered–or he forced them to. She wasn't sure which. He still looked honest, didn't have any of the air of deceptions she had seen so often. It was almost as though there were something about her which was too hard to focus on.
He didn't notice her judgments, though–or maybe they were why he had turned away, his words continuing. "She just seemed like a lonely old woman to me. Kind of stereotypical, a little judgmental, and hard to make happy, but not evil."
Marilyn nearly laughed. That was by far the kindest assessment of ghouls she had ever heard–including from other ghouls. If their thoughts about anyone else were harsh–and they usually were–it was nothing to what they thought of each other. It was why there didn't tend to be any baby ghouls. None of them could stand each other long enough to breed.
This was undoubtedly a positive fact. The ghouls had been one of the hardest groups to control, even after the Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Extranormals–and that had been signed a couple of hundred years ago. To this day, there were still occasional news stories about cannibals, which did nothing for the supernatural world. They survived by being unseen–and having a ghoul chow down on your neighbor was anything but invisible.
Her gaze drifted over to the door, where the body of Edwina Mortmain still lay. If this building hadn't had a strict no-mortals policy, they would have been tripping over reporters and the curious by now. Supernaturals tended to be more wary, especially when it came to the possibility of being blamed for random dead bodies.
In this case, there was at least one ghoul they couldn't pin this murder on, unless chopping your own head off and then disapparating the weapon were tricks she'd never heard of–and she was pretty sure she knew them all. After fifty years on the force, she'd better. She would never have lived past forty, otherwise.
She sighed, her eyes returning to the man in front of her. When he blushed again at her stare, she was reminded that her years did not show on her face–one of the perks of a less-than-normal life, she supposed.
Her gaze took him in more deeply. Other than the general hirsuteness and sheepishness–the new turns were much like Omega wolves, whimpering around the back of the pack–there was little to show what he was.
Her sigh deepened. She had never been into lycanthropes–well, not for a long time, anyway–which was a shame. He was a darn cute one. Her gaze alone made him blush, and she had to tamp down the urge to pet him. The ones with the pain in their eyes always drew her to them. Her last boyfriend of any duration had been a mummy with a couple of thousand years' worth of suffering–but he had been a bit too emo for her in the end. She didn't know what it was about such men. Maybe they just triggered her own issues too well.
Howler turned his head further away, the blush continuing, and she decided to go easy on him. Point out what you would–the shyness, his illness at the sight of blood, or just a lack of any obvious psychic markers to tie him to the scene, at least any that her spells could manage to detect–but she absolutely couldn't imagine his guilt. He tucked a bit of his long, brown hair behind his ear–a nervous gesture she found disturbingly adorable–and she began to wonder more about him.
"What's your first name, Mr. Howler?" She could get it from the manager–she would have to with everyone in the building, short of a sudden confession–but it was more fun this way.
He looked up, almost startled at her breaking the brief silence. "Now?" he asked and then winced, head snapping away–and she knew that he was still reacting to his three months of training as a new turn. The Sloane Square Alpha would have given him a good bite as a reminder for that–but it was only for his own safety. He couldn't get away with such an answer in mortal company without raising the wrong kind of suspicions.
She nearly thought his half-gold eyes were glistening, when he answered. "Henry."
Oh, Heavenly Light–Henry Howler. He really had gotten the short end of the naming stick.
"Did you piss off your Alpha?"
He seemed surprised by her humor, his gaze returning to her, but it brought on the ghost of a smile. "I don't think so."
Her silence, and undiverted eyes, prompted him on, and he gave in, even as he looked away. "He said I looked like a Hank." There was a shrug, his voice dropping. "I didn't have the courage to ask him what he meant."
Marilyn thought she knew. Despite his sadness and shyness, there was a sort of solid reliability about him, something that said that he could easily uphold any duties the pack gave him, should he be forced to. She looked down. Of course, that said nothing of his artistic hands, which were still clamped hard together–the E.I.D. bracelet jingling slightly. She knew it would read, "Moonlight Allergy." It was the sort of thing she hoped mortals never saw, as intentionally vaguely worded as it was.
Her mind returned to her assessment of his new name, which his Alpha had chosen well. If Henry had done something artistic previously, it would be better to downplay it. There was no need to remind him, any more than every day which passed would, of all he had once been.
She did need to know one more thing, though–telling herself it was purely for the investigation. "Your queasiness back there is unusual for a werewolf."
He blanched, head turning till she couldn't see his eyes, and she could tell how painful all this was for him. It wasn't a new turn thing.
She pushed on quietly. "Most are pretty resigned to blood."
There was a grimace for a moment or two, before she saw him repress it. When he did speak, it was a whisper. "I was a vegan before . . ."
He didn't finish, didn't have to. That he had even mentioned his life before explained his reluctance. As a new turn, he wasn't supposed to speak about it for at least a year, except with someone he was intimate with.
She was going to assure him that she would explain to his Alpha–if need be–but he continued. "I never liked the idea of killing to live."
She nodded, her eyes sad, but didn't press him further. There was a lot she wanted to know–who he had been, had he had family, what exactly had happened–but she wasn't rude enough to ask. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the investigation. Besides, it would be tantamount to going up to a total stranger and asking them about the intimate details of being raped. The sigh returned. For many reasons, werewolves tended to be the saddest of all the supernaturals.
She didn't really want to leave him here like this but didn't have a lot of choice. She was working, and he was still grieving his previous life. Besides, she never got involved with witnesses–and, even if he hadn't technically been one, his apartment had. Hers weren't particularly professional inclinations, however they were looked at.
She stood up, noticing that he seemed to be trying to avoid her eyes.
He'd clearly had a hard day. Being questioned by the S.O. was the last thing he'd been expecting.
Still, there was something else. "One last question, Mr. Howler. Where were you earlier?"
That won his attention, if only in confusion.
"You weren't here when . . .?" She let the thought trail off, trying to go easy on him.
He just looked at her, though. "Do you know when it happened?" He shrugged, rather sheepishly. "I just know none of this had started, when I left this morning."
It was a good question to ask if you were innocent–or trying to hide something; she was pleased to be so certain that it was the former, with him. She didn't really want to think into those feelings.
"We think about an hour or so ago, maybe around 4:30."
He sighed, and she clarified.
He nodded, and she saw him close his eyes; he looked so sad. "At work." She was about to ask, but he clearly forced himself on, his gaze on a distant corner of the apartment. "I'm a carpenter n–."
She had heard the beginning of the "now," saw his lips paling a little, as he forced back the word.
"I'm a carpenter."
She was going to let him go on this, not seeing any good reason to prolong her stay, but one fact worried her–other than his general air of depression. "I'm going to call your Alpha."
The look of betrayal and fear lay deep in his eyes, and she mourned for having earned it, hurrying on. "Someone was in your apartment earlier, Mr. Howler." He hadn't asked to be called anything else by her, as much as some part of her seemed to be claiming the right to use his first name. "That someone could come back. You need protection."
There was a moment when he pondered this, but his eyes grew darker. He even drew himself up a little, and she wondered whether she were seeing some ghost of the man he had been. "You don't think being a creature of claw and fang is enough?"
The answer seemed too obvious, as much as she ached for him. "Do you?"
He looked away, giving in. If he had blanched at a dead body, he wasn't likely to want to help create one.
She let that knowledge sink in, was about to leave. Hopefully, his Alpha hadn't been too hard on him. She had never heard of him being so, even with most of the really hard-headed new turns, but she supposed there was a first time for everything. Still, there was no avoiding the necessity.
His voice stopped her–so softly it barely carried. "Do you think this was about me?"
Her sigh was terse. "I don't know anything yet, Mr. Howler, but it's better that there be someone here to keep you safe."
She didn't suggest the more obvious answer–having him return to the pack. This building was here solely for extranormals who were either suspected of being threat-level or who were having a very hard time with either what they were or blending in with the human world. It appeared, to mortal eyes, to be a run-down and abandoned hotel from the days when train travel meant something. It wasn't even interesting enough to be historic. Then again, nothing built after 1800 was, in any part of Britain. Something built for efficiency in the early part of the 20th century could only ever be considered an eyesore. There were probably many who wondered why it wasn't torn down. They would never know the real reason.
Of course, these same mundanes would never see inside the building, either. While not ornate or shining, it was not as decrepit as one might imagine from the "Ignore Me" glamour cast on its exterior. The hallways were lined in hardwoods, the moldings kept fresh. If its wallpaper were a bit Victorian in the fact that it was so busy with flowers that it was impossible to see the underlying color, it was still rather comfortable. It even had one definite advantage most older buildings didn't. Any ghosts who still lingered were simply given their own space and made an active part of the development.
Her gaze moved into the handsome wolfman near her, although it wasn't difficult to imagine how he had ended up here–the "having a hard time" option most likely with him. His Alpha wouldn't have sent him here if he hadn't thought both the solitude from the pack and the community of other extranormals could help. The poor man seemed very much like just one more difficulty might end him. There needed to be someplace of his own where he could try to restart his life.
She did leave then, closing the door, now that Edwina Mortmain's body had been seen to. The sprites had made no fuss about that, never did–and they were darned handy to have around. That they could be as annoying as a million mosquitos was a small price to pay for discretion.
Erick's raised eyebrow pulled her quickly from this thought.
"What?" she challenged.
"Fond of the little pup, aren't you?"
She just pressed her lips together, moving past him, but he didn't let it go.
"I half-expected you to start holding his hand."
"Give him a break. He's barely been turned half a year."
She heard the snort behind her and looked back.
"You try giving up everything you ever were and being forced to start over."
She heard him stop and tried not to curse out loud, his next words obvious. "I have."
She knew, had been the one to pull the demon off of him. Still, leaving his old life behind had been somewhat more his choice, although she did sympathize with the landslide of his old world view which had caused the change.
She glanced back, her eyes answering for her, and he rolled his. "I guess mine involved less body hair, though."
There was a small chuckle, as she moved on. "You have all the sentimentality of a turnip, Lawrence."
She could feel his smile. Contrary creature that he was, he seemed to like it when she called him by only his last name. Maybe it took him back to his NYPD roots.
She didn't discuss this, just led the way, and already knew she had him stumped. His own training said that they should be knocking on all the neighbors' doors by now. He never quite seemed to adjust to the fact that most of the tenants here were much better to talk to later at night. It was November, so it got dark early, but it was still only about 5:30. Some creatures were stirring, but more would be after full dark fell in an hour or so.
"Where we going, boss?"
She didn't answer, rounded one more corner, tilting her head to get him closer, before drawing a right-side-up pentagram in the air of the hall. It hung there clearly in her eyes, but she had never quite established whether Erick could see them. It was a simpler form of protection spell, but it would ensure that most people couldn't overhear. "What did you find on the body?"
He looked somewhere in the direction of the symbol and then back where they had come from. "You afraid you'll freak out the little wolf, if he hears us?"
She sighed, refusing to answer–mostly, because he was absolutely right. Still, she took it as a good sign that he hadn't assumed she was trying to hide the details from Henry to test him later. That meant Erick didn't think he was guilty, either. She refused to ponder why that made her happy.
"The body?" she prompted.
Erick grinned, a lecherous sight. "You're an old softy, boss, no matter what they say."
She motioned for him to get on with it but couldn't stop his chuckle.
He eventually stopped enough to continue. "It looked like some sort of large blade, maybe an axe, a clean swipe, too." He suddenly looked up at her, a little nervously. "Is the grim reaper real?"
There were times she nearly felt sorry for him. Ever since his unfortunate encounter with the underworld–the one with fire and brimstone, not the one with unibrows and machine guns–Erick had had to question everything. Now, he tended to wonder whether everything was real: from unicorns to the Easter bunny. He was only right in one of those cases.
Fortunately, he wasn't now. "As far as every report I've ever heard goes, no. We die; we go to one of the twelve, known afterworlds; we get on with eternal life or a reincarnated one–but no giant skeletons lead the way."
He seemed relieved. She couldn't blame him. There would have been a whole lot more beheadings, if that were the case.
He nodded, glancing down. "Only one other possibility occurs to me, then." His gaze was knowing. "Why would something supernatural do that? It doesn't fit any of their natures."
Sadly, he was right. It had been one of the facts which bothered her the most, too. A vampire would have used his fangs. True, he would have had to suck out the ghoul's very last cc–and he probably would have gagged on the first one, if the tales she'd heard were right. A werewolf could have just torn the woman to shreds. So long as he had eaten the heart and ripped off the head, it should have worked.
She thought for a moment about Hank and was thankful that wasn't possible with him–as far as she knew. Her detective senses pushed her back on track. Ghosts, other ghouls, sirens, banshees–every one of them had natural defenses which could be used as offense, if they desired. As far as she could think, big blades just didn't have much to do with the supernatural world.
She was staring off toward the stairs, hating the conclusion–as obvious as it was. "You think it was human?" She always called any hidden murderers "it." Too many years on the force had taught her the danger of thinking of them in any other way.
Erick shrugged, but even he looked uncomfortable. "It makes sense, doesn't it? They're the only ones who would really need a weapon."
This made her smile, despite herself. Her assistant was starting to talk of his own kind as "they." Before too long, she was probably going to find him shacking up with some nice, quiet phoenix. Or, given that constantly-lecherous look, maybe a cat person, assuming he could survive one. Or . . .
He clearly caught her speculative look, and she sighed, turning away–wiping away the spell for silence, as she went. "Come on. We need to talk to the building owner."
He seemed confused. "He'll be awake? It's only 5:30."
Ah–he was learning. Sadly, she knew the answer to this one all too well.
"He'll be here." The next words were only barely under her breath. "That bastard's always awake."
She led the way, while Lawrence looked back down the hall, clearly confused. They had talked to the vampire downstairs, when they had gotten there–although they had needed to go through a ghost interpreter. They were the only ones who could tap through dreams into the thoughts of the older ones, and this one was at least 600, if he were a day. Older vampires pretty much defined "sleeping like the dead," although if you found one under 100 or so, they might well be able to be awake and active at only dusk. She would have to see if there were any who fit that description here.
"That's just the manager." Her look grew grim, as she climbed the stairs. "The owner . . ."
She let this hang behind her, knew Erick was following, and not only because he seemed incapable of doing anything quietly. There was a general air of reliability about him–one she had noted the first time they had met. He had thought her insane then but had still wanted to help. He hadn't realized yet that it was his own world view which was mad.
For a human, he had managed to adjust pretty quickly, then, but she supposed he needed to. They weren't really long-lived enough to get too stuck in their delusions. Not that that seemed to stop many of them.
Her assistant followed her to the door of a penthouse which seemed to take up the entire top floor. Odd noises were already coming from behind it.
Erick raised an eyebrow, as she turned to him seriously. "It's going to go against your entire nature, I know, but I need you not to comment on anything you see here."
His mouth opened to object, but she shook her head.
"Yeah, yeah, I know you think you've seen it all, but you haven't. Not yet."
She turned to knock, leaving him looking irritated, and then thought better of it, opening the door. For far too many reasons, there was no need to wait for an invitation.
Erick's reaction was exactly the one she had suspected. She tried to stop his look of shock with her own hard stare, but he was, sadly, a bit too bug-eyed to notice. She couldn't really blame him. It probably wasn't every day that mortals walked in on a full-on orgy.
This was one of the better ones, too, she supposed. No one here was shy or uncertain, no one left out. There were at least 35 people in the room, all convulsing and cavorting in one rolling sea of naked flesh. The sounds of their orgasmic moans were nearly deafening.
Marilyn didn't share her partner's amusement or interest, however–and none of the participants' apparent joy. She stood with her arms crossed, foot tapping, as a small man in a robe dashed up to her.
He had to be new. He looked at Erick speculatively and at her a bit worriedly, wondering. "Um, did you wish to join?"
She bit back the growl. "Just get him here."
The little man's look became beatific. "You wish to see our Master?"
Not really–but there was no avoiding it. Still, she couldn't say it. "I know he's here. Just get him."
She was already mouthing the man's response, as it began. "Oh, our Master is always with us!"
"I didn't ask for a sermon, just a summons," she growled. When her badge materialized, it glowed a sort of electric blue. She really was annoyed. "I'm a sergeant with Supernatural Oversight."
The sound of her foot tapping nearly outdid the nearby moans. The fact that she didn't give her name even caught Erick's attention, which was hard to do, given their current distractions.
She disapparated the badge and crossed her arms more fully. This little man seemed far too interested in her cleavage.
"Just get the bastard."
That surprised him. "Oh, but . . ."
She didn't let him finish, using a very old trick to make her voice fill the room. She didn't have quite the range of her mother's magical abilities, but she hadn't gone to a witch school for nothing. "NOW!"
She was pissed–it echoed.
Still, it got her what she wanted, a feathery light descending into the shape of a robust, older man. His steel gray hair had not a strand out of place, his deep blue eyes twinkling on seeing her, smiling at her angelically. "Now, Marilyn, didn't I teach you not to interrupt anyone's pleasure?"
She tried not to grind her teeth, ignoring the old barb.
Better to just get on with this. If he thought she'd already interrupted, he'd seen nothing yet.
"Hi, Dad. There's been a murder . . ."
The mood in the room contained at least a little shock–although neither the cavorting orgy participants nor Marilyn and her father were part of it. For most people, this declaration wouldn't have been an expected opening, but Marilyn had never been most people, or even, technically, a person–at least, not a human one.
It was this man she had to thank for this fact, as well–for her whole, ruddy existence. She never failed to let him know how ticked off this made her. As settled as she was in her life, it was not an experience for the faint of heart–and she let her father understand that, every time they met.
He was used to her ways, then, simply raised a half-ethereal eyebrow at her, waiting for the rest–but she suddenly found herself much too annoyed to give it.
She had gone to some lengths to keep contact with him to a minimum for the last three decades–had definitely done everything she could to keep him away from the career she had poured heart and soul into–and now, here he was, the owner of a building with a bloody murder in it.
Did he have to go around buying old railway hotels and refurbishing them for the recuperating or suspect extranormal crowd? Couldn't it at least be some nice, normal human who had been done in–someone she could let the more prosaic police deal with?
No–of course not. It had to be a ghoul, and it had to be in his territory. That meant the S.O. And now it meant her.
She was tapping her foot like a metronome on uppers, completely ignoring the orgasmic moans which surrounded her. Even her little outburst wouldn't disrupt that–especially not with her father here.
It didn't help her mood any that the way she had crossed her arms over herself so thoroughly only emphasized her formidable bosom–which seemed to be the only thing her father's majordomo was really noticing. The metronome sped up, her eyes glowering–but her discomfort only made her father grin, questioning her at last.
"Do you plan to tell me about it, or would you rather I scanned the building for details?"
Oh, that was just what they needed. Such a "scan" would make everyone in the building unbearably horny. Since, for the vampire residents, especially, this would bring on a different kind of hunger altogether, the damage was terrifying to imagine–and that said nothing of the handsome, lonely werewolf downstairs.
She realized that last notion had been only too clear to her father–from whom it was impossible to hide a desirous thought–and she tried to tug her mental barriers into place more fully, for all the good that would do her. Sadly, blood told . . . everything, if she let it. She was just lucky he hadn't pressed further, knew what he was capable of if he wanted.
She held up her hand, her foot nearly a blur, though she couldn't help her terseness. "A ghoul, third floor, one of your residents. Apparently, she bothered one of the werewolves fairly frequently."
This brought on his grin, which made her damn herself for blushing. "Ah, our resident rhumbaer."
The tapping grew louder–as did some of the nearby groans. A few of his guests were definitely screamers.
He looked at her more closely, and she could feel how paper-thin her defenses really were to him. "Do you think he did it?"
Damn him–he had said it purely to annoy her, she knew.
"No. He didn't seem to be home."
He merely raised an eyebrow, and her agitation only grew, knowing how weak that sounded, knowing he would take it as her defending the wolf. Taptaptaptaptap.
"I'm going to see his Alpha soon." That it had nothing to do with Henry being a suspect wasn't his business at all.
This appeared to be news to Erick, his look of surprise telling her everything. Clearly, he didn't see Howler as a real suspect, either.
At least it had finally gotten him to stop gawping at the surrounding orgy–when he hadn't been staring back and forth between her and her father. Marilyn had never exactly discussed her origins with him, had just let him know that she wasn't entirely human. He hadn't asked further, apparently deciding that was better manners with your superior, and she hadn't convinced him otherwise. Her father was a subject unto himself.
The moaning was starting to give her a headache. It always did. Apparently, her father's influence could bring on multi-hour orgasms in his disciples, which only made them ridiculously loud.
She glared over at one particular knot of cavorting forms. "Do you mind?" she asked him.
He shrugged, and the pairs in question did a series of acrobatic rolls, placing them a little farther away. It would have helped, if the moans hadn't risen to shrieks–which, she suspected, was the only reason he had given in. It really hadn't been particularly useful, then–especially as her partner was thoroughly distracted again.
Lawrence's eyes were wide. "I didn't know that position was possible."
She glanced at whatever had him fascinated and mirrored her father's shrug. "Wood nymphs. They're weirdly flexible."
She blushed again–remembering her father's "initiation" for her with a particularly nibble-worthy male wood nymph. She was still annoyed at that, even if she hadn't at all minded the experience. At least he had been decent enough not to interfere mentally, once things had gotten started. Having your father watching you schtupping was just too disturbing for words.
All of these memories only made her own sounds increase: TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP!
Her father's eyebrow rose again, as he stared at the floor. "Do you mind, Marilyn? You're going to leave a dent."
She couldn't argue but made herself stop, trying to control her anger. The man really could have been much creepier, but there was still much she didn't forgive him for. She moved on with the investigation, instead–trying to remember why they had come here.
"Were there any disturbances earlier we should know about?"
Her partner was staring at her, but she wouldn't explain to him here.
"Anyone in the building who shouldn't have been?"
He shrugged. "Aside from a tryst or two on floors four, nine, and eight, the only mental disturbance I picked up was that banshee on three wailing. Apparently, she lost yet another Words With Friends round."
They both knew that was par-for-the-course with her species. There was only so far you could fight genetics.
Still, Marilyn shook her head. "And nothing from the murder?"
He returned the gesture. "It wasn't lust-related, at least." As though, having involved a ghoul, that hadn't been fairly obvious.
She just sighed, forcing herself to pull away. They still had most of the building to canvas, and it would be dark soon. They had to catch the residents, before they went out. "Let me know, if you pick up anything else."
She could feel his smile behind her, damn him. "I don't have your number."
It wasn't like he couldn't just make a mental command–but they had agreed half a century ago that, if he did that for anything but the most extreme emergencies, she would wash her hands of him for good. Thus, he had agreed to call her. There was no doubt he would have the latest model of cellphone. He had always found human inventions–like humans themselves–so amusing.
She sighed, walking away. "Mom has the number." Her mother, he would contact in whatever ways he pleased. While the woman claimed to be annoyed, Marilyn secretly suspected that she missed him. She supposed there was something to be said for five-hour orgasms.
She let all this go, was just about to step out the door, when her father's voice stopped her. He always had to have the last word. "Be careful, Marilyn. You always ignore the danger for the uncoupled."
Some version of this had been repeated at her since she had been about nine, with very little success at changing her. It didn't again now.
She just crooked her finger at Erick, waved a half-hearted goodbye to her father over her shoulder, and walked out the door. There were some things you simply couldn't argue with an incubus–the joys of single life very much among them.
She didn't look at her partner, just held up a hand to stop the million questions she was certain he had, and retreated down a flight of steps. Again, she set up a silence spell to dissuade eavesdroppers and turned to him, her arms crossed, and waited. He was a man with far too much curiosity to keep his questions to himself for long.
This was what made him a good investigator, of course–anyone who just accepted life as it came not cut out for their line of work. She only had to wait long enough for him to take in a deep breath, although it was difficult to make out very much.
"What the hell? What was that guy? You're his daughter? Why are all those people there doing . . . that–and how are they going to be able to walk after . . .?"
Those, at least, were the parts she made out. It had sounded more like a several-page-long typing mistake.
She held up her hand, explaining what she had to. She was actually rather proud of him for not losing it before.
"First, he's an incubus–or, rather, he's THE incubus, the first one."
Erick had started to open his mouth again, so she explained.
"An incubus is a male spirit–could be a demon, angel, or something else–which goes around having sex with many, many human beings and usually stealing their lives, as he does so."
Her hand had to go up again to keep Erick in check.
"My father found a way around that last part by not actually physically taking part in sex, just encouraging it in others. Then, he feeds off the vibrations of their excitement and fulfillment."
Erick seemed less likely to overflow with words now, but his questions had by no means been answered. "So, you're the result of some orgy like that one? You mean all those people . . .?" He looked up, probably horrified at the thought of the sudden population boom.
Marilyn shook her head but had to look away; she kind of hated this part. "No, he made an exception for my mother. She's a witch." Her fingers tapped along her arm. "He's kind of a natural birth control for them," her eyes rolled up at the penthouse, "but, when he's actually physically involved . . ."
He was still confused. She could feel it, even if she couldn't bring herself to actually meet his eyes. "So you have lots of brothers and sisters?"
She sighed. "I'm an only child, Lawrence. I've told you that." Of course, given the fact of what she hadn't told him–of all that he had learned today–she could see why he would question her now.
He was silent for a second, his gaze probing. "And, when he's physically involved, he steals his lover's life?"
She looked away, not wanting to be examined by his occasionally soulful–and always insightful–brown eyes.
His own sigh emerged. "Then, your mother is dead? I thought she . . ."
She let out a groan of annoyance, stamping her foot. It was the sort of day which made her want to put a hole in the floor with her heel.
She glared back at the wall. "She's alive." Her breath shook. "He made a deal with another demon, and . . ."
Her lips pressed together till there was almost no color left. "Look, I've got a screwed-up family, okay?"
She gazed back to him at last, and, to her surprise, he looked utterly saddened and sympathetic. Erick never looked like that. Resigned to the world's evils was the closest he could get; she had always considered it the New York cop's facial uniform. But now, his eyes were deep; his hand reached out for her, cupping her cheek. She nearly allowed it, till she came back to her senses, shaking him off–her arms crossed over herself hard, her gaze on the floor.
"That's just the proximity to him talking, Erick."
He looked a little hurt, but she ignored it, knowing her father's influence–intentional or not. God only knew which one this was.
"If you don't watch out, you'll have one-night stands you'll regret for at least the next two weeks."
That sadness lasted another few, long moments, but eventually melted into his usual sardonic smile. He had the sense to ignore her last comment. "So, the daughter of an incubus, huh?" He grinned. Lascivious as it was, she couldn't blame it on her father; Erick had been born with that one. "Does that mean . . .?"
She sighed; there had been many reasons she hadn't wanted to tell him. She stomped her heel into the floor one more time, wishing for damage. "It means that I have to keep myself from schtupping everybody in sight." The heel again. "And it's annoying as all get out."
He laughed at her, but it was more comfortably familiar than his previous tenderness. "And here I always figured your hotness was just the result of those colorful pantsuits."
Today's little number was plum. Marilyn liked them, because they were professional and covered just about everything but her ankles and cleavage–which was difficult to control. The girls had ideas of their own, no matter how repressed she tried to make them. She rolled her eyes.
He turned away, continuing his observations. "I guess I was right about where that attitude comes from, as well." The spell was no longer covering him, as he was halfway down the stairs–damn him. "I warned you what sexual frustration will do."
It would have been nice to counter this, except that it was far too close to the truth. She considered tossing a plum-colored pump at the back of his head but decided against it. Death by footwear would be embarrassing to fill out the forms for.
She let out a sigh, wiping away the spell, and decided on another method of punishment–sticking Erick with the canvassing all on his own. Barreling down the stairs, she reminded him to watch out for who was having the relationships or affairs on the fourth, eighth, and ninth floors–as little as they would probably have to do with the murder, but it was better to know everything–and then headed out of the building.
She had told her father that she would talk to Hank's Alpha, and she would be as good as her word–if not for the reasons she had said. Besides, if she stuck around here, she was likely to go back to the young wolf's apartment and offer him some very personal cheering up–and she hated thinking that she was anything like her father's child.
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