Banshee Charmer

From the Files of the Otherworlder Enforcement Agency - Book One - by Tiffany Allee

When she’s sent to a crime scene and finds her second dead woman in as many weeks, half-banshee detective Kiera “Mac” McLoughlin is convinced a serial killer is on the loose. Incubi are extinct, her boss insists. But what else can kill a woman in the throes of pleasure? When her partner is murdered after using witchcraft to locate the killer and Mac is thrown off the case, her frustration turns to desperation.

Certain the killer is an incubus, Mac works behind her department’s back to chase down slim, sometimes perilous leads. While the killer eludes her, she does discover handsome Aidan Byrne, an investigative counterpart from the enigmatic Otherworlder Enforcement Agency. Mac typically runs her investigations fast and hard, but with Aidan at her side, she’s running this one “hot” as well. But Aidan knows more than he’s letting on—something that could shatter their blazing romance and add Mac to the killer’s growing body count…

 

Information:

Title: Banshee Charmer (From the Files of the Otherworlder Enforcement Agency, #1)
Author: Tiffany Allee
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 159 pages
Release Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-1-937044-99-2
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Excerpt:

© 2012 Tiffany Allee

Chapter One

 

“What do we got, Aggie?”

The detective pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped at the sweat beaded on the top of his bald head. Some people might have assumed his reaction was nerves, but I knew it had to be hot in the house he’d just walked out of. Detective Joe Agrusa had been on the job for nearly twenty-five years, and only Mrs. Agrusa could make him nervous enough to sweat.

“What we got is a body. A weird one,” he said.

“No shit? Here I was thinking you called me out because you’re so damned fond of me.”

He grinned, revealing a set of crooked but stain-free teeth. “You wish, freak hunter.”

Aggie was human, shorter than me but at least twice my weight. I was usually the shortest woman in the room, which made the detective pretty damned short for a man.  I looked down at him and snorted. “Fill me in.”

He raised an eyebrow at my tone.

I kept my face straight, just barely. “Don’t make me scream it out of you.”

“Shit, Mac. All the years my wife’s been nagging me and you think I’m not immune to a banshee? A half-assed one at that?”

The laugh bubbled out of my chest, and I choked it down. Only Aggie, of all the normals I worked with, would joke about my half-banshee status so easily. He realized what most cops didn’t—that it didn’t make me a whole helluva lot more dangerous than them. Oh, I could stun with a scream. Kill even, if given a lot of time or a weakened person. But I wasn’t much more dangerous than a perp with a gun. Most of the normal cops just saw a freak. The thought smothered my lingering urge to laugh.

“Don’t got any info for you, Mac. Not a crazed lycanthrope or goblin or anything like that. This one’s downright creepy. You’re gonna have to see for yourself.”

I stifled a sigh. Aggie wasn’t on the “freak squad,” the affectionate term the normal cops gave the paranormal unit, but he’d been around long enough to know when to hand off a case to us. The fact that he was at a loss on this one didn’t bode well. There wasn’t much the old cop hadn’t seen.

I glanced at a red Camry parked across the street. “Looks like Amanda beat me here.”

“Yeah, she’s inside already. Better get your ass movin’.”

I muttered an expletive and trudged up to the front door. It stood ajar, held open with a cinderblock. A couple of uniforms stood in a corner chatting. One pointed down the hall when he saw me, but otherwise the rest ignored me. Some cops did their best to pretend the freak squad didn’t exist, figuring the paranormal unit cops freaks by association.

Then again, most of us were freaks—and not by association.

A dark-haired Amazon stood over the bed, blocking the body from view. Amanda Franklin took three things very seriously: her job, her witchcraft, and her bodybuilding. All of which made her a great partner. We shared our hair color and penchant to exercise, but that’s where our resemblance ended. My hair was wavy and generally pulled back out of my face, and Amanda towered over my five foot three inch frame.

The crime scene was in a standard master bedroom, nicely decorated if you didn’t mind all surfaces covered in some sort of flora or fauna, both actual plants and plants printed on every available fabric in the room. Everything looked to be in its place and nothing indicated a struggle. Only a slight scent of something off touched the air. Not dead long, then.

I sidestepped to avoid a young guy carrying an evidence bag in one hand and a hard, metal specimen collection case in the other. A woman, mid-to-late twenties, lay spread-eagle on the bed, hands above her head, naked and wide-eyed. Her wrists were covered in purple and brown bruises, and her long, red hair fanned the pillow under her head. Other than the bruising, there were no obvious injuries.

“Vampire?” I asked. The bite marks from a vampire could be hidden, from a casual examiner anyway. The bite might be between her legs, behind a knee, on the back of her neck, or otherwise concealed under her body.

Amanda shook her head and tapped the file folder in her hand against her palm. “Medical Examiner just left.” She pointed at the woman’s legs. “Bruising on her thighs, mostly hidden by how she’s lying, and on the wrists. No other marks visible. We’ll know for sure when they get her back to the morgue, but I looked after the ME left and didn’t see anything.”

I frowned. If Amanda didn’t find anything, there wasn’t anything to find. “Are you thinking rape?”

“Well, it looks like she had sex before she died. Rape’s a strong possibility considering the bruising. But the dead part—no clear explanation on that.”

“Could be natural. Maybe a stroke or something. Her guy—if he was still here when it happened—took off because he was scared.”

Amanda handed me the folder. “I’d agree with you, if this was the first one.”

I flipped open the file. A woman’s photo had been paper-clipped in front of the police report. She was brown-haired with glasses, and rather plain-looking by her picture, at least compared to the striking redhead on the bed.

“Why didn’t we hear about this?”

“Normals called it death by natural causes. They didn’t have any reason not to. Just like this, no marks, no blood. Less bruising on that one too, so they didn’t see a reason to call us in. ME says both show signs of sex shortly before death.”

“Hmm.” I flipped through the first few pages of the file and skimmed. Claire Simons, twenty-six years old, single, no kids. Found dead of apparent natural causes, nude with minor bruising on her legs. No mention of bruising on her wrists.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Not sure. The sex thing makes me think succubus, but I haven’t heard of one killing her victims, and I’ve never heard of a succubus going for a woman—let alone two. Maybe an incubus, but incubi have been extinct since…”

“1850 or so.”

“Sounds right. Vampire, we’d see some sort of marking.” I sighed and looked back at the victim. Her lips were turned up slightly, like she was smiling. Creepy indeed. “You already call in for a sensitive?”

“Yeah, but we’re looking at a couple of days.” She grimaced. “Budget cuts.”

“What about Holmes?”

Amanda shrugged. “Out of town.”

It figured that the only sensitive on the squad would be unavailable. Sensitives could sense trace magic left behind when otherworlders used their powers. They were rare, and hiring one outside of the police department cost a pretty penny.

“Anything you can do?” I fanned myself with the file. No wonder Aggie had been sweating.

“Maybe, but forensics isn’t going to let me muck up the scene with spell ingredients and a circle.” Amanda pulled a small pair of scissors and a tiny plastic evidence baggy from her pocket. I turned to face the door and scanned the hall to make sure we were still alone, giving her a discreet thumbs-up behind my back.

A witch testing a victim’s hair wasn’t illegal or against regulations, even for an amateur witch, but with paperwork and procedures it could take upward of a week for approvals to be processed. Amateur witches like Amanda tested for licenses that allowed them to perform certain lower-tier spells. Unlike the rare Covenant witches, they weren’t allowed to work for profit. Regulations didn’t specifically prohibit Amanda from using magic to gain leads, but anything she did find would have to be duplicated by a contracted Covenant witch for it to be admissible in court.

After hearing a quick snip, I turned around. The evidence bag and scissors had disappeared back into Amanda’s pocket. The victim was now short a few strands of hair, a small enough amount that no one was likely to notice.

A week was a long time to wait when hunting a potential serial killer.

“Maybe the women weren’t murdered. Could just be an unfortunate coincidence,” I said.

“Hah,” Amanda replied without humor. “What’s the first thing I told you when you made detective and were assigned as my partner?”

I opened the victim’s file and looked at her picture. “There’s no such thing as coincidences.”

“Exactly.”

“What’re you thinking?”

“I agree it sounds like a succubus, but I want to see what the ME finds with the autopsy. Succubus wouldn’t really fit if she had sex with a man right before she died.”

“Unless the sex isn’t connected with the death.”

“Doubtful, but not impossible.” Amanda stared at the woman as if the answers might materialize if she only looked hard enough.

“Divide and conquer?”

Amanda frowned. “Probably best. You talk to the Medical Examiner in the morning so I can work my mojo without Lieutenant Vasquez butting in.”

The lieutenant didn’t approve of Amanda using witchcraft for cases—then again, he didn’t approve of much that wasn’t strictly human in nature. And there were some definite stirrings in local governments as the Covenant pushed for making amateur witches use of magic in solving police cases illegal. Publicly, the Covenant questioned the expertise of amateur witches, but I suspected protecting their witches’ pocketbooks was their real motivation. Their services cost police departments around the country significant cash.

“What, too sleepy to do it tonight?” A grin crept onto my face despite my best efforts to keep my expression blank.

Amanda raised an eyebrow at me. “I need my beauty sleep. You think shit this gorgeous comes without sacrifice?”

I barked out a quick laugh.

“Shops are closed. Unless you have some wormwood in your bra, we’re SOL until morning,” Amanda said.

“Sorry, left all my magical herbs in my other bra.”

A smile flashed across Amanda’s face, and she walked to the front of the house. I gave the victim one last glance and followed.

The two uniforms chatted in the corner. About their latest conquest or size of their guns, no doubt. Their conversation faded as we approached and the younger officer took in Amanda’s fit body with barely concealed interest while the other kept his expression carefully neutral—a sure sign of a man trying not to sneer at the freaks. Amanda never failed to gain the attention of the younger generation. Those men weren’t so bogged down by prejudice that a witch wasn’t fair game. Their glances rarely shifted my direction. Having banshee powers—even stunted ones like mine—just wasn’t sexy, despite my decent figure. Sure I didn’t look any different from the average normal. But, my human appearance, as nicely packaged as it was, wasn’t enough to counteract the fact that I was a half-banshee. And my banshee nature was well-known, especially among my fellow officers. Banshees had a reputation for being scary creatures—not sexy ones.

The crisp air licked my skin as we made our way to Amanda’s car. Safely out of hearing range of our fellow officers, Amanda pulled a pack of cigarettes from her inner pocket and tapped one out. The fire from her lighter flashed and I blinked.

“Don’t give me that look.”

“I’m not looking at you,” I grumbled, continuing to glare at her cigarette. Amanda only smoked when a case really got to her. Her one vice lingered despite her best efforts to control her life with a stranglehold grip. Considering the stress of the job, smoking was pretty damn harmless compared to what she could be doing to cope. It bugged me enough to give her a dirty look, but I wasn’t about to criticize her aloud for a single weakness.

Not with everything she’d done for me.

I shook my head to clear my thoughts, and for the first time noticed her eyeliner and fading lipstick. “So how’d the date go?”

She crinkled her nose. “He canceled. I canceled the last one. I don’t think a doctor and a cop are capable of dating. If my schedule isn’t screwed, his is. Been over a month since we’ve met for a cup of coffee.”

“Want a hug?” I opened my arms wide and grinned at her.

“Shit.” She chuckled and tapped her cigarette lightly, releasing ash into the breeze.

I put my arms down and returned her smile. A van emblazoned with Lake County Coroner on the side pulled up and two youngish-looking men jumped out and headed for the back of the van. Damn, we were farther north than I’d realized. Those guys weren’t going to be happy this body was headed to the city. One of the charms of working the paranormal unit was covering the entire Chicagoland area. Given our expertise, and most local cops’ unwillingness to work OW cases, that area tended to cover Wisconsin to Iowa and far enough south of the city to see corn growing.

“You’ve come a long way, you know.”

Unsure of how to respond, I stared at the ember tipping the end of her cigarette.

“You didn’t even throw up.”

“I haven’t puked since my first case!” My face burned, hot against the coolness of the night air. “Besides, this vic was in one piece.”

Amanda leaned against her car and smiled. “A heck of a first case. Nothing makes a mess quite like a lycanthrope catching her husband cheating.”

Damn straight. They’d probably had to burn that house down.

The second I walked into my house, the hair stood on the back of my neck. Nothing seemed disturbed at first glance. My door was locked, and the small table next to the door still held the decorative box where I threw my keys every night. A print of Monet’s Garden Path hung straight on the wall across from the front door. But something was wrong. A smell in the air maybe, or an imperfect silence that was usually perfect. Whatever the subtle clue, my subconscious translated it to a bad feeling in my gut. Not for the first time in my career as a cop, I wished I possessed the abilities of a sensitive.

I pulled my 9mm from its shoulder holster and crept into my living room. Light glowed from the dining room. Pretty certain I hadn’t left a light on, I eased forward. I took a deep breath and held the air in my lungs, in case whatever waited for me couldn’t be hurt with bullets.

I swung my gun up then rounded the corner into my dining room. A man—or something that looked like one anyway—sat at the oak table. He was reading a book. A cup of coffee rested on a coaster in front of him and he’d propped sock-covered feet on my table. Settled in, right at home.

I gaped, unsure of what to say. My face grew hot when I saw the cover of the book in his hand. A beautiful woman held in the arms of a tall, too-handsome hero with abs of steel graced the cover of the romance novel. I barely resisted the urge to shoot him. Who says I don’t have fan-freaking-tastic self-control?

“Who are you?” I finally spluttered out.

He set the book down and smiled at me. It was one heck of a smile on one heck of a face. A strong jaw covered in five o’clock shadow, dark eyes, and a head of messy black hair set on a very fit, long body.

“Ah, Kiera McLoughlin, I presume?” I thought I detected a slight Irish lilt to his voice, but if he had an accent, it was subtle. He took his feet off the table, moving slowly.

“Presume away. Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”

His smiled turned into a full-on flirtatious grin. “Why don’t you put your gun away so we can talk? About your interesting taste in books, perhaps.”

I glared at him, face burning. Handsome or not, I was in charge in my own house. “No way, cupcake. Tell me who you are and I might consider putting my gun away.”

He sighed, his chest pressing against his tight T-shirt. I glared harder.

“All right. My name is Aidan Byrne. I’m here to talk to you about the murders you’re investigating.”

I lowered my gun a few inches, more because of the weight than any level of trust I felt toward the stranger. “You a witness or something, Aidan? There’re safer ways to report your info than breaking into a cop’s house.”

“Not a witness. I’m a cop, too. OWEA. I think we’re looking for the same killer.”

I raised my eyebrows. The Otherworlder Enforcement Agency was similar to the FBI in that they were selective in what they investigated. Generally, they took on paranormal-related crimes that crossed state lines or OW cases that needed resources outside of what a standard police department could pull together.

“So this perp has killed in other jurisdictions?”

“We think so.”

“Show me some ID.” I lowered my gun a few more inches and approached him carefully. “Please,” I added, belatedly remembering that being polite to the jerk who broke into my house wouldn’t kill me—but pissing off the OWEA might be the death of my career.

Raising one empty hand in the air, he leaned forward, reached into his back pocket with the other hand, and pulled out a leather badge and ID holder. He flipped it open and turned it so I could see.

I took the wallet from his hands and scanned its contents. The dark badge glinted in the low light, and beneath it, nestled in a reflective piece of plastic, was an ID badge. The man’s face grinned at me from behind the plastic, his dark hair and startling eyes clearly visible, even in the crappy ID photo. I shoved my gun into its holster and handed the wallet back to him. Fighting embarrassment, I grabbed the steamy romance novel he’d taken from the stack on the table, and shoved it onto the pile where it belonged.

“Okay, Agent Byrne, why did you think you needed to break into my house to talk to me about this case? OWEA running on hard times? Can’t afford to supply agents with cell phones anymore?”

He put his badge away. “I wanted to talk to you tonight. We’re strictly looking at this one on an unofficial basis.” His easy smile disappeared and he shifted on the chair. “In fact, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention the agency’s involvement to anyone just yet.”

I gave him my best cop stare. “Why come to me? Amanda’s the senior investigator on this.”

His grin returned. “She wasn’t home yet.”

Nothing like being the second-best choice. “You’ve got my attention. What are we looking for?”

“Wish I knew. What we do know is that it has been killing women all over the country for the last two years, at least.”

I started. How many people had this sicko murdered? “Only women?” I pulled out my notepad and pen and sat down.

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“Twelve that we know of.”

I whistled under my breath. “Jesus. All…human?”

“No. Not all.”

A chill ran down my spine and I looked up from my notepad. “It’s killing otherworlders, too? What kinds?”

“A selkie and…”

“And?”

“A psychic. Not exactly an otherworlder, but close enough. One we’d consulted as a part of our investigation.”

I set my pen down and leaned across the corner of the table separating us. “You think she was targeted because you talked to her?”

“Could be the killer thought she knew something. Maybe.”

“Just the selkie and the psychic?” I picked my pen back up and struggled not to chew on it. A killer targeting otherworlders got under my skin. Not all of us were as powerful as vampires or Covenant witches, but most of us could take care of ourselves pretty well. A killer powerful enough to target OWs wasn’t good.

“That we know of.”

“Do you have the files?”

“I can’t share those with you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry. Look. I would if I could, but I’ll have to get an okay from my boss before I can do that.”

His smooth, placating tone rubbed me the wrong way, but I didn’t know him well enough to argue with him, even if he was lying. Besides, the OWEA had more bureaucracy in place than the city police.

“Well, get your permissions quickly. Jurisdictional bull isn’t going to help us bring down this killer before it finds another victim.” I thought about what Agent Byrne had said while a minute or two ticked by on the clock that hung from my dining room wall. Surprisingly he didn’t interrupt.

“So a killer who targets humans and otherworlders who are as weak as humans. I’d like to see the fucker go after someone who can actually defend herself,” I said, finally.

“Like a banshee?” His face hardened. “It’s not a good idea to wish for things like that, Kiera.”

I took a quick breath. So what if he knew about my half-banshee status? It might not be common knowledge, but it was hardly a secret. “Everyone calls me Mac.”

“I prefer Kiera.” He stared at me until I felt uncomfortable, and looked down. “We don’t even know if they were targeted on purpose. The selkie, anyway. Neither was open about what they were.”

“Not even the selkie?”

“She was trying to mainstream. A college student.” He leaned forward and I resisted the urge to move in toward him. “Look. This guy is bad news. At the very least we have a serial killer. One who can kill without leaving a mark. You’re not going to find any poison in your new victim, no other indicators beyond what you saw at the crime scene.”

“This guy? Do you know something I don’t?”

He shrugged. “Just going with the odds.”

I raised an eyebrow. He was probably right. I considered telling him that Amanda was working her mojo on the victim’s hair, but dismissed the idea. No way was I going to share every detail of my investigation with him while he kept his files to himself. “So no marks, no poison. Almost certainly some kind of freak.”

He grimaced at the normally derogatory term for otherworlders and I realized that he was probably a freak himself. Most OWEA agents were. It gave them a better chance of survival, and normals tended to congregate toward the FBI or other less OW-centric organizations.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” he said.

“Were they all raped?”

“We couldn’t confirm rape, but they all had sex shortly before they died.”

“Confirmation enough for me.”

I parked in the only free space left adjoining the Medical Examiner’s building. I pulled my jacket tighter, and walked to the front door. Aidan leaned against the gray building. Dark glasses adorned his face, despite the overcast skies. At my approach, he pushed off the wall and flashed me a grin.

I almost tripped.

I recovered my footing, and then frowned at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Helping you investigate, of course. Agencies working together.” He waved his hand around. “All that jazz.”

“Fine. But you’ll let me do the talking.”

He gave a mocking bow and gestured for me to go ahead of him into the building.

The stark decor in Dr. Martinson’s office fit his profession. Gray floors and white walls combined with an old metal desk and black chairs to create an ambiance appropriate for visiting the Medical Examiner. It suited my mood after the embarrassing evening I’d had. There had been no way to recover after Aidan found my romance novel collection. His slight grin reminded me until he left, as if mocking my tough-cop disguise. But it wasn’t a persona, dammit. I’d show him I was more than capable.

“Doc, surprised to find you in your office,” I said.

In his mid-fifties, handsome and silver-haired, he looked every bit the distinguished doctor he was and not at all like what most would expect from a man whose job required him to examine the dead.

He gestured to the chairs in front of his desk and we sat. I pushed down the temptation to glance at Aidan. Something about the man drew my gaze and made me very aware of how much time had passed since my last date.

Dr. Martinson looked up from the folder he’d been reading and said, “I’m afraid my job is more paperwork than actual work these days. Who’s your friend?”

“He’s with me. Tagging along.” Not exactly a lie.

The doctor gave Aidan a quick nod and turned his attention back to me. “What can I do for you, Detective?”

“Woman brought in last night, Rebecca Anderson. No obvious marks on the body other than bruising.”

“Coffee?” He gestured toward his door. I’d seen the coffee pot on our way in. It sat on a table in the hallway between the Medical Examiner’s office and the morgue.

I shook my head. Morgue coffee? No thanks.

He grabbed a file from the top of his desk and flipped it open. “Anderson. Twenty-three years old. No immediate indicators of cause of death. Initial exam shows sexual activity shortly before she died, bruising on her thighs and wrists.”

“When’s the autopsy?”

“Probably get to her tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.”

I wanted to grumble, but managed to control myself. Pissing off the Medical Examiner, especially in front of an audience, wasn’t a good idea considering how often I had to deal with him. He could make my job a lot harder than it needed to be. I glanced at Aidan, half expecting him to comment. His eyes were on me, intense and focused. My breath caught in my throat. I swallowed and looked down at my hands.

“Had another death, couple of weeks back. Lot of similarities. Got anything on that one?” I asked, relieved to have a distraction from the intensity of Aidan’s gaze.

“Name?”

“Claire Simons.”

Dr. Martinson pushed his rolling office chair back from his desk and slid over to a filing cabinet. “A couple of weeks, you said?”

I flipped out my notepad. “Yeah, on the twelfth.”

“Should still have her paperwork then.” He flipped through the cabinet and then pulled out a file.

I frowned at the size. I risked a quick glance at Aidan, but his attention was focused on the doctor.

Dr. Martinson slid back to his desk and opened her folder. He slipped on a pair of reading glasses, and never lifted his eyes from the file. “Got the blood work on her. An autopsy was conducted.”

“Who was the main on the case?”

“Joe Agrusa.”

I snorted. No wonder he’d called us in on the new case. He’d seen it before. “Okay, any highlights?”

“Twenty-six. Some bruising. Sexual intercourse not long before her death, but no fluids present—he used a condom. No indication of force. Tox reports showed only a small amount of alcohol in her system, no other drugs.”

“Cause of death?”

“Unknown.”

“That’s it? Unknown?”

“That’s it. We didn’t find anything that indicated cause of death.”

I sighed. “Great. How about oh-dubs? Any odd energies on the body?”

“OW procedures weren’t run,” he said, carefully pronouncing each letter of the acronym for otherworlder measures as if the words left a bad taste on his tongue. “There were no indicators of an otherworlder being involved. Her parents said she was fully human and had no involvement with any…OWs.”

Freaks. Why not say what you mean, doctor? “Okay so there’s no clear COD, but why wouldn’t you run OW procedures?” I copied the doctor’s precise pronunciation, unable to keep the irritation I felt out of my tone. I shot Aidan a glance, but he remained silent, his face as close to expressionless as I’d seen it. A lot of help he was.

“We don’t run them if we don’t have a reason to. Psychics, sensitives, witches…they’re expensive. Nothing about this body indicated a reason.”

“Except for the fact she was dead! And not even thirty years old! Jesus, Doc.” I drew up my arm, but managed to stop myself from slamming my fist down on his desk.

Dr. Martinson whipped the file closed. “I don’t make the rules, Detective. I just follow them.”

“I’m going to need a copy of that report.”

Dr. Martinson nodded curtly. He frowned at me and left the office, presumably to find someone to make a copy. So much for not pissing him off.

As soon as the door clicked shut behind the doctor I turned to Aidan. “What the hell? When did you turn into the strong, silent type?”

“Didn’t you tell me to let you do the talking?” White teeth flashed as his grin returned. “You seemed to be doing fine on your own. Besides, we learned what we needed.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“That your killer has the same M.O. as mine.” He leaned forward in his chair and swiped a tuft of lint from my jacket.

I drew in a quick breath and searched my mind for something clever to say. Failing that, I pulled my cell phone from my jacket pocket. Then I tapped my foot. Finally, after the forth ring, Amanda’s voice mail picked up.

“Hey it’s me.” I glanced at Aidan. “Did you find that thing you needed?” I considered mentioning the OWEA, but decided against it. Some things were better discussed in person, and preferably not in front of Aidan. “Meet me for lunch? Normal spot, noon. Call me if you can’t make it.”

The doctor returned with the file, a sour expression on his face as he passed it to me. Without looking at the paperwork, I got up from the chair and then nodded at the doctor. Aidan and I stepped out of his dreary office. Halfway down the hall, a woman faced away from us toward the morgue. Great, just what I needed. Given Amanda’s opinion that a succubus could be involved, this woman was almost definitely there for me.

I looked back at Aidan. His eyes were locked on the woman as well. I started to tell him to close his damned mouth, and then decided against it. Guys couldn’t help staring at this particular woman.

“I’ll see you later. Errands to run,” Aidan said, surprising me. I’d half expected him to ask about the woman his eyes were still glued to.

“Whatever,” I murmured to his back. Pivoting, I headed for the morgue.

I would have recognized the frame of the succubus leaning against the wall anywhere. Marisol Whitfield was nearly as tall as Amanda, maybe five feet nine, and closer to six feet in her conservatively heeled shoes. Despite their similar heights, her well-endowed chest and curvy frame distinguished her from the rest of the police officers on the freak squad, especially Amanda. Where Amanda was hard, Marisol was soft.

I frowned at her, and she gave me a smug grin.

“Here to see the doc?” I asked.

“Nope. Here to see you.” She flipped a long blond lock behind her shoulder with practiced ease and fluttered her sparkling blue eyes at me. She couldn’t help the succubus sex appeal that always draped her, but it irritated me anyway. “Well, here to see a body with you, to be more precise.”

“Want to get some coffee to go?” I waved at the pot sitting near us in the hallway that led to the morgue.

Marisol blanched, and the horrified look that briefly crossed her face made me realize I wasn’t the only one who considered morgue coffee to be the most disgusting idea ever. Her expression almost made an errand that was probably a waste of my time worthwhile.

“Vasquez sent you?”

She gave me a short nod and her superior grin faded. “I’m to accompany you to the morgue to look at the body. Guess he thinks I can offer a unique point of view.”

I grimaced, covering my expression with a wave of the folder the doctor had given me with the copies I’d requested. Leave it to Lieutenant Vasquez to send someone to consult just because she happened to be a member of a species who could pull off the murder. Somehow, even after years of working in the paranormal unit, Vasquez couldn’t get the idea out of his head that all of us freaks knew each other. He also seemed convinced we had some sort of extra preternatural sense that allowed us to solve a murder without normal necessities, like evidence.

We reached the morgue and I wondered if Amanda had filled in the lieutenant. It almost certainly hadn’t been Aggie. He talked to the paranormal cops more than the average normal detective, but that didn’t mean he went out of his way to do it. Did Lieutenant Vasquez know everything? Probably, except for the spell Amanda intended to cast using the victim’s hair. Amanda was pretty conscious of keeping every i dotted and t crossed, and that included keeping her boss in the loop.

Claire Simons’s body had been released to her family, but Rebecca Anderson still rested in the morgue. A somber-faced young man wearing light blue scrubs met us at the entryway. “She’s ready for you. Set up straight through there.”

I glanced at Marisol, a look she pointedly ignored, and followed her into the room. Rebecca appeared a little worse than she had the night before, even with most of her body covered by a sheet. Her pale skin seemed grayer, and the fluorescent lights dimmed her bright red hair.

“Guess this is where you use your succubus super sense to figure out if it was one of your kind who did this, huh?”

The laugh that bubbled out of her chest seemed to surprise her more than it did me, and she went silent after only a few seconds. Her plump, brightly colored lips turned up. A bit less smugness remained than she usually wore when she glanced at me before turning her attention back to Rebecca.

“Vasquez wants me to look, so that’s what I’m going to do.” She shrugged and placed her hands on the table, and then bent down to examine Rebecca’s face. She tugged the fabric away and moved her eyes across the body, gaze slowing over the bruises on Rebecca’s wrists.

I felt a momentary pang for Marisol. Vasquez’s lack of knowledge about otherworlders astounded me, considering the fact that he ran the unit responsible for investigating OW-related crimes in the entire Chicago area. Succubi weren’t sensitives and Marisol couldn’t sense anything different than a normal cop examining the victim would, even if a succubus had killed the woman. Succubi, to my knowledge, had two powers. They exuded a sexual vibe—some more subtly than others—and they could pull power from a person they were having sex with. Enough to kill someone, perhaps. Someone like our victims. But they were as sensitive to psychic energy as I was—meaning not at all.

Her lack of concern over touching the body with her manicured nails surprised me. I crossed my arms and examined the succubus as she examined the victim. I shouldn’t have expected her to be queasy around the dead—she was a cop, after all. The succubus was a detective who had been at the rank longer than I had, though she couldn’t be more than a year or two my senior.

Marisol threw the sheet back over the body with a speed that made me start. When she turned to face me, all the friendliness had disappeared from her expression. A small amount of perspiration touched her brow.

“All right,” she said. “I’ve seen enough.”

“And?”

“And what? You don’t honestly think I can just look at her and know how she died, do you?”

“No, but—”

She waved her hand at me, cutting off my argument. Then she turned on her heel and left the room, slamming the door behind her.

I followed her, leaving the flustered technician in our wake. I finally caught up in the hallway outside of the morgue. “Hey,” I called, and she slowed before stopping and turning to face me.

“Sorry I was rude,” she said. “I don’t like dead bodies. I wanted to get out of there.” Her expression appeared open again. She didn’t smile exactly, but her eyes were wide and filled with emotion, as if the hardness I’d glimpsed before had never crossed her face.

I frowned at her, unconvinced. The body hadn’t seemed to bother her when we’d first gone into the room. Maybe she’d just hid it? Not all cops handled dead bodies and blood and gore as well as others. It was possible she couldn’t deal with that kind of thing, or at least preferred to deal with it as little as she could manage in her job.

“Sure, no problem.” The added paleness of her skin and sweating certainly supported her assertion, but it was the fact that her reaction fit my impression of her that convinced me. First impressions weren’t always right, but I was good at reading people. For now, I’d have to trust my gut.

I glanced at my watch. “Look, I have to get to a lunch appointment. I know you can’t say for sure, but do you think the killer could be a succubus?”

“Succubi don’t kill their prey; it’s unheard of.” She flattened some invisible wrinkles on her jacket with her palms. “I’ll let the lieutenant know.” She turned and headed for the door.

I reached the parking lot before I realized she hadn’t actually answered my question.

As I unlocked my car, my cell phone rang. I frowned at the unfamiliar number, and then flipped it open.

“McLoughlin.”

“Hello, Kiera.” The smooth voice on the other end of the line was unmistakable.

“Did you forget something, Agent Byrne?” I tried, and failed, to keep the snippiness out of my tone.

“Just checking in. Did you get a look at the body?”

“No, I thought I’d take a quick trip to Hawaii instead. I have an appointment to get to. I’ll call you later.”

He chuckled and I snapped the phone shut. The man thought he was so damn charming.