The knock early the next day wasn’t necessarily a surprise but he wasn’t not surprised either when he opened the door to find the Grimm fidgeting on his porch. The hair was messy again, the eyes both uncertain and utterly determined, and how was it no one had eaten this man before now?
“Hi,” the Grimm said. “Can I come in?”
Monroe gripped the door tighter. “Just so you know this—this right here—not what Grimm’s are supposed to do.”
“What? Ask to come in?”
“No—well yes, that too.” Grimms, he figured, probably snuck in a window or just kicked the door down. “But that’s not what I—” Annnnd there were those freakin’ puppy dog eyes. Also, he kind of thought the other man was laughing at him. “Okay fine. Why not?”
Not the warmest invitation but the Grimm brightened like Monroe had given him the key to the city and slipped past. “Thanks.”
Shutting the door Monroe put his back to it, watching the Grimm scan the room. “Sooo,” he said awkwardly, “managed to convince yourself what you saw yesterday wasn’t real?”
The Grimm looked at him and sighed a little. “Not entirely.” One corner of his mouth pulled up. “Tried though.”
“Hah. I’ll bet.” The purple smudges under his eyes said as much.
“I need to talk to you about that. The Grimm thing and other things.”
Monroe had a feeling he was going to need more coffee for this. Or alcohol. “What about it?”
“What does it mean?”
Definitely alcohol. “Gonna have to be a little more specific. Not a mind reader.” Or maybe coffee. It was a little early for liquor. Monroe headed for the kitchen, Grimm trailing after. Which, hey, not at all disturbing. Sure he looked all small and innocent but Monroe’s hackles were kicking up like he was being stalked by a frickin' grizzly.
“Yesterday you said that Grimms hunt blutbad and other…wesen? That that is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Hey, I’m not endorsing it!” No sense putting those kinds of ideas in his head.
“Why am I not supporting killing people just because they happen to have slightly different DNA? Hmmm, let me think about that one.” He got down two mugs, slamming the cabinet door a little harder than necessary. “Okay, so maybe some of them deserved it, but on the whole we generally just mind our own business. Go about our lives.”
That got him an eye roll. “You know what I mean. I’ve read Little Red Riding Hood. I get why that wolf was hunted down what with the eating people and all b—”
“Oh, well if you’ve read it….” That totally deserved a sarcastic hand wave. “I don’t do that.” Getting down the beans in their special vacuum sealed container, he added, “Anymore.” Okay, he maybe muttered that part to the cupboard door. “I’m reformed. On the wagon. Doing the whole program.”
“They have a program for that?”
“Sure, there’s a website and everything.” He turned around, coffee in one hand, grinder in the other. “We stopped the support groups though. Bad things tend to happen when blutbads get together.”
“Must make family reunions hell.”
“In a completely different way but, yeah, you have no idea.”
The Grimm laughed weakly. “Yeah, I really wouldn’t. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to imply anything.”
Facing the counter again, Monroe focused on measuring the beans into grinder. Most people didn’t get how important the grinding process was. Too coarse or too fine and the whole pot would be off.
“I’m just trying to figure this out and I don’t have anyone else to ask.”
Oh for the love of—this was why he didn’t let people into his house. “Look from everything I’ve heard Grimms didn’t start out as bogeymen. They were sort of like law enforcement for the wesen world. Special investigators, if you will. Local village had a problem they thought was wesen related they called in a Grimm. You know, ‘be good or the Grimm will come for you’.”
“Except somewhere along the way they went from investigator to judge, jury, and executioner,” the other man said.
Monroe threw a look over his shoulder.
Shoving his hands in back pockets, the Grimm shrugged. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. You talk about Grimms like refugees from Cuba and North Korea talk about the police.”
He’d never thought about it like that but, yeah, that was a pretty accurate analogy. Make a mistake that got you on a Grimm’s radar and your family might never find all the body parts.
“So you’re reformed. But there are others out there who aren’t, right? Do you know who they are?”
Monroe huffed. “Did you miss the part where I said bad things happen? Usually, it’s to other people. Mayhem, death, destruction, the whole nine yards. Anyway it’s not like we have a local newsletter.”
“So,” the Grimm pressed, coming up to the counter next to him, “there are more in the area. You just don’t hang out with them.”
Oh. Sneaky Grimm. Very sneaky
“There are!” the Grimm said triumphantly.
Monroe began, “I’m not saying there aren’t—” And then there was a hand on his arm, warm through his sleeve, and he was looking down at a very excited Grimm right up in his space.
“There’s something I need to show you.”
Somehow he ended up with his jacket in his hand, heading out the door, with a plaintive, “But I was going to make coffee,” trailing behind.
“We’ll hit a Starbuck’s on the way. Come on, we can take my truck.”
No. No way was he going to get in a Grimm’s vehicle and drive God knows where. That was how people ended up disappeared. Although a cinnamon spice mocha did sound really good. “Fine, but we’re going to a real coffee house and you’re buying. And I’m getting a scone.”
Half an hour later, happily burying his nose in the coffee cup vent, Monroe thought to ask, “Where are we going anyway,” around a mouthful of chocolaty scone goodness.
“My house. I have the files there.”
“Are you crazy?” Monroe yelped then paused to considerately wipe the spray of scone crumbs off the dashboard. “You don’t take a blutbad home to meet the family.”
“I’m not crazy!” the Grimm snapped back a little too sharply, knuckles gone bloodless on the steering wheel. “And my name is Nick.” Deep breath, in and out. “Please use it. I can practically hear you calling me ‘the Grimm’ in your head every time you look at me.”
“Okay, okay. You can call me Monroe.” The guy had bought him coffee and a scone after all. “Soooo, Nick. What did they do, put you in a mental institution?”
The Grimm—Nick—gave him a look. “No they did not put me in a mental institution. Jesus.”
“What?” Really it was the only obvious conclusion. “You show up at a time of day when most people are working, two days in a row. You’re on meds. You have a panic attack in my bathroom and you nearly bite my head off over an innocent comment. Of course I’m going to assume that you’ve spent a little time with the headshrinkers.”
“Okay, innocent might not have been the right thing—wait, you didn’t tell anyone what you were seeing, did you?”
The steering wheel creaked as Nick’s grip twisted. “No. But I…I didn’t hide it very well. I was…. I’m with Portland PD. We were investigating Robin Howell’s disappearance when the…. When I started seeing things. My partner thought I was getting obsessed with the case. My boss thought it was stress.” He pried a hand loose to reach for his own coffee sitting ignored in the cup holder. “He put me on medical leave for as long as he could. Then it was suggested that I use some vacation time to decompress.” A wry smile twisted his mouth. “I had a lot of vacation time.”
“Wow. That sucks, man.”
In the middle of sipping his coffee, Nick almost snorted a mouthful. Swallowing hard, he glanced over at Monroe and laughed, bright and sharp. “Yeah, it really did.”
Monroe shifted, trying to find something else to talk about. “So you’re a cop, huh.” It figured. It really did. The clean cut looks, the ultra-polite until you piss me off attitude.
“You got a problem with that?”
“With you being a cop? Eh, maybe later. I’m still kinda freaking out about the whole Grimm thing.”
Nick laughed at him.
The house they stopped in front of was a tidy, two story clapboard in a nice neighborhood. The walk was bare, deicer thoughtfully sprinkled over the concrete steps. The entrance hall smelled of fresh paint and window cleaner. It made him sneeze.
“In here,” Nick said, leading him down the hall to the dining room.
No other heartbeats in the house. No sound of movement except the usual gurgles, and creaks, and soft sounds a house had. There were however pieces of furniture in fabric that no bachelor would ever own and a lingering whiff of female in the corners. Whoever she was, she hadn’t been gone long.
Okaaay. The Grimm turned one whole wall of the room into a murder board (so he liked his CSI, sue him), table shoved off to one side.
Monroe looked at the pictures, sketches, maps, newspaper articles, and various other things taped to the wall with something close to awe. “Oh no, this doesn’t scream obsessed at all. Is that permanent marker?”
“I’m going to re-paint the whole room,” Nick said defensively then added, “uh, before my fiancé gets back from her mom’s place. And I only did this last night.”
“Uh huh.” Monroe took a swallow of coffee and tried not to look too uncomfortable being in Grimm territory with a guy who had turned his wall into America’s Most Wanted. “What did you want to show me?”
“Okay, these are all the people who have gone missing or been murdered within a five mile radius of where Robin Howell disappeared. The first victim was a university student. Sylvie Oster.” Stepping up to the wall, he pointed out a section of copies of photographs and computer printouts. “Went out for a run in the park before classes. Sometime between 7:30am and 8:00am she was torn apart. Looked like a wild animal but we found a boot print at the scene.”
Monroe grimaced at the photos. Blood and guts and shredded bits of red cloth scattered horrifically across the green of the forest. “Is that an arm? That’s just gross.”
“These two here,” Nick tapped the images of a woman in her fifties and a young boy that had been moved away from the main group, “don’t fit the profile. But these three. Robin Howell. Esola Mendoza. Terrie Clark.” Tap, tap, tap. “All female, all under twenty-five, all attacked in or taken near the park. All of them had dark hair. And all wearing red. Four victims in two months.”
“And I thought my neighborhood was safe,” Monroe complained, make a face. “Thanks for shattering my innocence.”
Hands on his hips, Nick looked over his shoulder, still laughing at him dammit. “Granted I’m using a fairytale as my main research guide here but it sounds like the big, bad wolf to me.”
“You may be onto something,” he admitted, reluctantly impressed.
Nick nodded excitedly, all but bouncing on his toes, and shifted over to the map of the park he’d drawn on the wall in marker. “There was a print from a work boot by Sylvie Olster’s body. We found Robin Howell’s backpack here, and there were matching boot prints leading through the park. Another matching partial print was found next to Esola Mendoza. Nothing where Terrie Clark disappeared though.”
It was a tidy map, each house drawn in thick, black lines on the warm, yellow paint, notes from interviews taped to each one. There was a set of tiny shoeprints leading from a red X in the park to the street…. “That’s right next to my house.”
“The tracks ended at the pavement. He must have gotten into a vehicle there.”
“If he doesn’t live nearby.” A single chair from the dining set had been placed where it had a good view of the wall. Monroe sat, wondering how long Nick had spent in the same chair, staring at this wall of dead and presumed dead until he couldn’t keep his eyes open. Bet that made for good dreams.
“Unlikely but I’m not discounting it entirely.” Leaning against the wall, Nick looked directly at him and added, “Profile says male, late thirties to early forties, lives alone, divorced or never married. Sound like anyone from your block?”
“Ha, ha,” Monroe said sourly.
One corner of Nick’s mouth curled up in that irritating grin. “And anyway there’s this.” Another group of pictures sectioned off with the date 2010 written above them in Sharpie. “One year ago, give or take a few weeks, there was another cluster of attacks on the eastern edge of the city. Four female victims all below age twenty-five. All in or near a forested area. All wearing red. Three were written off as animal attacks. The little girl was never found.”
He paused, looking back to see if his audience was following. “Go on,” Monroe encouraged. Watching him lay it all out was fascinating.
“Okay, so a year before that there were three more in this area over here. All deaths. No kidnappings that I could find. All of the victims were reported to be wearing red sweatshirts or jackets shortly before the attacks, but no red articles of clothing were logged into evidence for two of the cases. In the first attack the victim’s red sweater was destroyed.”
“And you think these were all done by the same guy.”
“Yes.” Nick’s eyes were fever bright. “I think there’s a serial killer loose in Portland and something about this particular time of year triggers a spree. And he’s escalating. He started out taking trophies, now he’s taking children.”
“Fall,” Monroe said. “If it is a blutbad—and I’m not saying it is—but if it is then that might be the trigger.”
“Change in the weather for one. Shorter days, colder nights. The mind may know that you can go to the supermarket any time you want, but a thousand years of instincts are telling you to start feeding up for winter.”
Nick glared. “And this guy’s idea of stockpiling groceries is to kidnap children!”
Monroe held up his hands. “Not saying it’s right.” He tapped his own chest. “Reformed.”
Dragging another chair over next to him, Nick sat on it backwards. “So how do you deal with it?” He folded his arms on the back of the chair and propped his chin on them doing that looking thing again.
It was disturbing. Like he was seeing all of Monroe’s past sins in the pattern of his sweater or something.
“Exercise, medication, a strictly structured schedule, raw vegetables instead of raw meat. And driving down to sunny California about that time of year doesn’t hurt. Shocks the body out of its seasonal rhythms.” He couldn’t sit still with the Grimm cataloguing him with his eyes so he walked over to the wall again. There wasn’t a section marked SUSPECTS but it was pretty easy to pick out. All the pictures were male and his own picture was there.
“Oh man, did you get this from the DMV? This is the worst picture ever.” He looked deranged and his hair was sticking up all over the place. “If you don’t think I did it, why were you at my house yesterday?”
Cloth rustled, the chair creaked. Monroe felt the Grimm’s gaze settle on him, disquieting and hot as sunshine on his back. “Sometimes witnesses remember things later. Things that seemed inconsequential at the time. A stranger. A car that looked out of place. Or someone they see every day and don’t think twice about. I’ve been canvasing the whole block.”
“You really don’t understand the meaning of the word vacation, do you?” Something about his tone jiggled at Monroe’s brain. Spinning around, he pointed an accusing finger. “You know who it is, don’t you?”
“I…have a suspect,” Nick admitted. “He checked out clean though. Creepy, but clean. I was pulled off the case before I could dig as deeply as I would have liked. The official investigation focused on a sex offender they tied to a homicide in Utah.”
He looked over the photos again. “Which one is it?” A couple looked vaguely familiar but no one he could put a name to. “’Cause this guy here,” he pointed to a picture on the bottom row, “totally looks like someone you’d expect to see on the evening news.”
“You probably did. That’s his mug shot,” Nick said. “Check out the third from the left.”
Huh. Not who Monroe would have chosen at all. Although there was something about the eyes. “Who is he?”
“Would you believe your mailman?”
Monroe snorted. “Oh, yeah, he’s definitely blutbaden.”
Chair legs scraped against flooring. “What?” Nick was at his side in a second flat. “This guy right here is a blutbad?”
“Yep. He stinks up my mail two days a week.” The other four days it was a woman who wore a rather nice perfume and never bent his letters. Her, he had on his list for Christmas cookies.
Nick yanked the picture down sharply. He had a lot of rather pointed questions.
How long had the guy been working this route? Only since September. Which two days did he work? Tuesday and Wednesday. Had Monroe gotten his mail on time the day of Robin Howell’s disappearance? Two months ago, who remembered that?
“Where does he leave his truck while he’s walking his route?”
Monroe frowned in growing realization because he saw the little blue and white mail truck twice a week parked— "Just down the block from my house. Next to the park.” He might have sort of scent-marked it once. Or more than once. Just to let the other blutbad know he was in someone else’s part of the city. Apparently it hadn’t worked. The bastard had been hunting in his territory.
Nick stuffed the picture in his coat pocket, grabbed a piece of paper off the wall and shoved that in another pocket. “Come on. I’ve got to check something.”
Notes: I’m assuming that since Aunt Marie didn’t show up to disrupt Nick’s plans that evening he did propose to Juliette and of course she said yes because they are going to live happily ever after dammit.