VAMPIRE KILLER STALKS CITY
Henry glared at the headline as he walked out of his building.
Damn reporters and their sensationalism. And damn the sheep that are so easily swayed.
Despite his frustration, a finger of conscience poked at him for snarling at Greg. He'd overreacted and he knew it. The doorman had only been making small talk. It was just so exasperating. This was the twenty-first century. People weren't even supposed to believe in that kind of thing anymore.
Even if vampires did walk among them.
His fingers tightened on the paper, twisting it into a ball before tossing it in the nearest trash can.
Humans did enough violence to one another, why did they always have to look to the supernatural first when they encountered evidence of evil?
Still, two unrelated victims rumored to be completely drained of blood. If there was a possibility that another vampire had invaded his territory without him noticing, Henry was going to have deal with it sooner rather than later. He might as well start looking, now.
By the time he found the neighborhood where the second attack had happened, Henry had calmed down again. He really did owe the doorman an apology when he got back. Maybe he'd pick up some bagels on the way home as a peace offering. The smell of blood wrapped around him, pulled him inexorably toward the side street. Other scents thickened in the air when he drew closer. Burnt matches. Spoiled food. It made him want to gag, even as the scent of blood had him fighting against letting his teeth descend.
A few rust-brown drops littering the sidewalk were all that marked the spot where the body had been found. A scant amount considering the gruesome murder. Henry wondered if there was more to the reporter's wild speculations than he'd wanted to believe.
A dark shadow on the wall drew him closer and he felt a chill when the seemingly random lines resolved into a deliberate design.
He touched the sigil with shaking fingers, wanting to deny it. Wanting it to be different. But it was the same. The precise, stylized pentagram.
Over a century had passed, yet the memories wrapped him up in a haze of fear and revulsion.
O'Mara's pompous voice intoning an evil incantation. Hands holding him, pinning him, twisting painfully in his hair as he fought to stop them. The dank, musty smell of the gloomy basement. The scent of excitement from the idle nobility playing at Gothic games. The smell of sulfur choking him.
Sulfur. Burnt matches… It couldn't be.
Instead of letting himself think about that night, or the possibility that it could happen again, Henry followed the scent of blood further down the block, to a little alcove hidden in the shadows.
The shout tugged him out of his thoughts and he turned. The man's suit was off-the-rack and his shoes were well-worn. The rumpled clothes and hard-edged posture screamed cop to Henry's well-honed instincts and the glint of a metallic badge on his belt confirmed it. But handsome face and tired curiosity made Henry hesitate a second too long when he could have disappeared behind the van rumbled down the street between them.
Instead, he stood his ground and waited for the man to make his way across the street.
The closer the cop got, the better looking he got. Sandy hair. Blue eyes that roamed the area like a predator, no doubt catching much more than the average human. Square jaw and just the hint of dimples. Tall, broad shouldered and tough.
It had been a while since the warrior-type had attracted Henry, but maybe it was time try to something different.
Then the cop opened his mouth and ruined it.
"What are you doing at my crime scene, kid?"
Forcing himself not to bristle at the condescending tone, Henry straightened his shoulders and let the vampire surface. His vision took on the bright-edge view that meant others would see nothing but blackness in his eyes. When he spoke, his words were deep and dripping with the persuasive power of his kind.
"You didn't see me. No one was here."
For a second, the cop stared at him. Then the corner of his mouth quirked up and the promised dimples deepened.
"Nice try, kid. But that trick only ever works in Star Wars movies."
For a second, Henry could only blink in surprise. It had been a long, long time since he'd met anyone strong willed enough to ignore the Voice.
This shouldn't be intriguing. It was downright dangerous. This man was investigating something that hit a little too close to home and he couldn't be controlled. It should be terrifying. It shouldn't cause thrilling little jolts to rocket through Henry or make him want to move closer.
He should walk away.
Instead he smiled, tilted his head up and gave his best challenging smirk.
Mike couldn't help smiling at the kid's audaciousness, but he tried hard to keep the threatening laugh contained to a half-smile.
He looked down at the teenager, whose unwavering look of daring made Mike want to push the boundaries. Instead, he forced himself to shift backwards and put a little more space between them.
The kid was cute and quick and way too young for Mike. He might be legal. Barely. Even if his pale blue eyes did hold that jaded, weary look of someone who'd seen too much. Mike might have mistaken him for a street rat, but the jeans were definitely designer and the wool pea coat probably cost more than Mike's last paycheck. He forced himself to ignore the compact, lithe body underneath the expensive threads and focused on the situation.
He didn't have the time or patience for some entitled adolescent whose idea of a good time was slumming it at a crime scene.
With narrowed eyes and a thin lipped smile, Mike held out his hand, palm up. "Let's try this again. Show me some identification, kid."
The guy really didn't like to be referred to that way. His face went flat and anger sparked around the edges of his frown, but he dug out a wallet and slapped the plastic rectangle into Mike's hand.
He gave it a cursory look, memorizing the name and address out of habit. His eyes slid over the birth date and stopped. He did the math in his head. Twice.
Then he lifted the card a little closer, checking for all the tell-tale signs. Either it was the best fake he'd ever seen, or it was legitimate.
"Twenty-three?" He couldn't keep the surprise or the doubt out of his voice. "Really?"
The kid… Henry… Fitzroy met his incredulous stare with a smirk.
"I get that a lot. I've always looked younger than I am. Comes from clean living. I eat right. Don't smoke. Avoid too much sun."
The soft amusement was enticing, like Henry was inviting him to share some private joke.
Instead, Mike pulled back his shoulders and straightened, doing his best to tower and look intimidating.
"You still haven't told me why you're here."
Fitzroy didn't seem fazed by Mike's posturing at all. He just rolled one shoulder in a careless shrug.
"I heard it was a crime scene. Thought I'd come check it out."
The casualness of coming to a murder site like it was a tourist attraction made Mike's blood run cold. He was going to have to run this kid when he got back to the station.
Before he could say anything, though, Fitzroy rolled his eyes and shook his head, curls falling into his eyes with the exasperated gesture.
"I'm an artist. Graphic novels. It's grim, I know, but this kind of realism is what I'm known for. Nothing sinister."
"The scenes already been gone over by our forensic team and cleaned up. There's nothing left to see, here. What are you hoping to get out of it?"
The question came out more curious and interested than the sarcasm he'd intended. Mike was really going to have to be careful. Now that he knew Fitzroy wasn't quite jailbait, the urge to flirt was even stronger.
Fitzroy leaned in and Mike held his breath until he realized the 'artist' was staring past his shoulder.
Tucking his hands into his pockets to keep from reaching across the few inches that separated them, Mike slowly let his breath out. "What kind of details?"
"Oh, you know. The way the light casts shadows. The way the wind scatters the dirt. The way the blood dries brown in the cracks of the brick."
It was almost a whisper in his ear, and the glimpse of the gruesome scene through the eyes of an artist was almost poetic. Still dark and disturbing, but poetic. Then the meaning of the words caught up to him and Mike jerked around.
"Wait. What blood? Where?"
Fitzroy blinked, like he'd been caught up in the moment, as well. Then he stepped to the side and pointed to a small crack in the brick of the alcove where a few scattered drops of what could be blood shadowed the paint.
"God damn it."
Mike growled, then dug out an evidence bag and his pocket knife to scrape out some of the rust-colored trace.
Fitzroy chuckled and leaned against the edge of the alcove. "Don't tell me your forensic team missed that?"
They had. And the fact that Fitzroy found it without any difficulty grated. Both because his team had dropped the ball and because it meant Mike had dropped his guard a little too quickly.
"Don't laugh, kid. Finding this when they missed it means you just bought yourself a ticket down to the station to answer a few more questions."
The laughter stopped abruptly and a dark glare replaced it. Which made Mike give a chuckle of his own. For the first time since he'd crossed the street, he finally felt like he was on stable ground.
Mike's head was throbbing by the time they walked into the station. The kid had prattled and poked and prodded at him the entire trip there. He didn't quiet down until they walked into processing. Fitzroy studied the hookers and thieves and gangbangers getting fingerprinted or standing for the mug shot or just handcuffed to chairs, waiting their turn. His expression turned serious and thoughtful when they passed through the area.
Good, maybe it was finally getting through to him that this was a serious situation.
As soon as they stepped into the empty hallway and the door closed behind them on the chaos of intake, though, Fitzroy's amused snort grated on Mike's nerves.
"I'm surprised you didn't put handcuffs on me. You look like the control freak type."
Mike twisted to glare down at the kid strolling behind him. The challenging smile highlighted the sharp cheekbones and sparking blue eyes and Mike bit hard on the inside of his lip to remind himself that it wasn't a good idea to notice.
Fitzroy just shrugged off Mike’s scowl, raised an eyebrow and held out his arms. "I have to say, though, I do look good in handcuffs, Constable."
Mike couldn't stop himself from glancing down at the fine-boned hands. Imagined heavy polished metal trapping the delicate wrists. Seeing the long, artistic fingers clench and flex in captivity…
Mike growled and sharpened his glare, spitting out the first thing he thought of to distract them both. "It's detective. Detective Celluci. And you're not a suspect. Yet. But keep it up, and I'll find something to charge you with."
He turned on his heel and pushed through the door to the detective's bullpen before Fitzroy had a chance to make another smart-ass comment.
Thankfully, the kid followed him silently to his desk, but Mike could practically feel the smirk directed at his back.
"Hey, Mike, got a minute?" Dave Graham called him from across the room, waving a file to get his attention.
He waved an acknowledgment then turned and pointed at the chair next to his desk. "Sit there. Don't move."
Fitzroy's smile tightened into a grimace but he dropped into the chair with a graceful sprawl of limbs.
Mike absolutely did not swallow hard or lick his lips when he turned away. At least, not where anyone could see his unwanted and unexpected reaction to the kid.
"What's up, Dave?" He asked when he got closer to where his partner stood.
"Coreen Fennel is here to see you again."
Mike groaned and pressed his hand to his throbbing head. He'd already spent an hour with the girl. He did feel bad for her. Losing a loved one is never easy. Losing her boyfriend, Ian, like that… he couldn't even imagine. Watching Vicki walk away by her own choice had ripped out his heart, but at least he knew she was alive and safe in Kingston. No matter how many times he worked a homicide, he couldn't comprehend how the families managed to deal with the brutal finality.
"Where is she?"
"I put her in the conference room."
"She still talking about…"
"Great." Mike pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded toward Fitzroy. "Keep an eye on him. Don't let him go anywhere until I talk to him."
"You don't think he's our guy?" Dave glanced over with a frown and Mike chuckled.
"Not unless he's shrunk four inches and lost forty pounds in the past twenty-four hours. Witnesses described a much bigger guy." He pulled the evidence bag out his pocket. "He did point this out at the crime scene, though. I think he knows more than he's letting on."
Mike handed the bag over to Dave. "Get that down to the lab. And run a check on him. His identification looked legit, but I want to be sure."
Dave nodded then moved toward his desk, already focused on the task at hand. Mike took a deep breath and held it for a second, before letting it out slowly.
Through the open blinds of the conference room he could see Coreen Fennel picking at the edge of one black lace glove. The powder white makeup she wore did nothing to hide the shadows of strain on her young face and the blood red lipstick only accented the trembling frown.
Now he had to go in and tell her he had no news for her. Try not to sound condescending when he disregarded her theory of vampires and creatures of the night.
After that, he still had to deal with a smart-ass artist who may or may not know more than he was letting on. One who really shouldn't look as hot as he did leaning back in the chair with one ankle resting on the opposite knee and his hands tucked behind his head.
Yeah. There wasn't enough aspirin in the world to deal with the headache Mike was going to have before the night was over.
Coreen stood up her feet the second the door open.
"Detective Celluci. Did you find anything? Have you—?"
Through the open door, she caught sight of the guy sprawled in the chair next to the detective's desk and her intuition thrummed. There was something about him. Something…
"Is that him?" she whispered, looking back at the detective. "Is he the one who killed Ian?"
"He's just a potential witness," Detective Celluci said and pushed the door part-way closed to block her view. "Coreen, I told you I'd call you when I had something I could share with you. It's only been twelve hours. I don't have anything new to tell you."
A frustrated huff escaped her and she stepped closer. "That's because you're looking in the wrong places. Ian was killed by a walker of the night."
The sympathetic hand on her shoulder and the compassionate softness in Celluci's eyes made her want to scream before he even opened his mouth.
"I understand, Coreen. This kind of thing is hard to accept. Sudden tragedy makes us look for explanations—"
"Don't patronize me." She jerked away from his attempt to comfort her. "They're real. Out there. Walking the night. Looking to slake their unquenchable thirst."
The detective pinched his lips together, and she knew he was trying hard not to smile at her theatrics. But she had to get through to him. There was too much at stake.
So she took a moment and glanced out the conference room window to gather herself for her next argument. The guy at Celluci's desk was no longer sprawled nonchalantly. He was leaning forward, shoulder's stiff as he stared straight at her. She held his gaze for a second, trying to figure the man out, before she turned back to pin the detective with a defiant glare.
"You won't find the killer if you're not looking for what really killed him."
"Coreen, I promise. I will follow every lead, no matter how bizarre. You have to let me do my job."
She bit her lip. She knew he meant it, but couldn't help worrying that he wasn't taking her seriously enough. That he'd get hurt, too, if he disregarded the supernatural possibilities.
Unfortunately, she couldn't force him to see the truth.
"Fine. But promise you'll be careful, too."
This time, he didn't try to hide his smile, just made a sign of crossing his heart.
As soon as they stepped out of the conference room, his partner called him away and she waved him off.
On her way to the door, Coreen made sure her path took her by the guy once again relaxing in the metal chair and stopped in front of him.
He just arched one perfectly groomed eyebrow at her until she crossed her arms and darkened her glare.
"You believe in inhuman things that walk the night, don't you?"
His lips stretched into an expression that could have been a smile or a grimace and tilted his head.
"'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…'" he quoted and shrugged, without answering her question.
Coreen's frowned deepened and she glanced over at the detective. "He doesn't believe. It could get him killed. Just like Ian. He needs someone to watch out for him."
With a sigh, she turned and headed out the door, praying the nightwalker would be stopped before it could harm any other loved ones.
A shiver worked its way down Henry's spine while he watched the black-clad Goth walk away. Her concern had had a ring of certainty to it that made him wonder if she was one of those mortals blessed and cursed with second sight.
Whether she was or not, she was right about the danger to the detective. There was definitely something unnatural stalking the night in Toronto. And Detective Michael Celluci had no idea what kind of danger he was in by trying to track this killer.
Henry might be the only one in the city who knew what they were up against. Or how to stop it.
He glanced over at the detectives, quietly discussing the background check Graham had performed at his partner's request. Celluci's dimples nearly disappeared in the creases of his frustrated frown. Henry wondered how much deeper those lines would get if he realized the 'kid' at his desk could hear every word he was saying.
Eventually, Celluci pressed his knuckles against his eyes, then stalked across the bullpen toward Henry. He slapped the folder down on the desk and dropped into his chair with a tired sigh.
Henry leaned forward and gave his best innocent smile. "Are you satisfied I am who I say I am?"
"For now," Celluci growled back.
"Then can I go home?"
The detective slumped a little in his chair before leaning forward to tap a command on the keyboard of his computer. The fight and frustration left him and he hunched a little more.
"In a few minutes. I just have some routine questions. Where were you last night between ten pm and one am?"
"At home. In bed."
Henry let the lascivious smile bloom across his mouth and licked his lips. "Oh, no. Definitely not alone."
He didn't elaborate, just tucked his hands behind his head and stretched his legs out.
Celluci rolled his eyes and kept his voice flat. "Her name?"
"Well, now, isn't that presumptuous? We live in a progressive city in enlightened times."
That actually got Henry a flash of… something across the detectives face but it was gone too quickly for him to be sure whether it was interest or disgust.
"Okay, his name?"
"Actually, last night it was a her. Most definitely a her."
They progressed through a half dozen routine questions and Henry watched the detective's every move though it wasn't as much fun to tease when Celluci no longer seemed to have the energy to rise to the bait.
The electric blue eyes had faded and the shadows of stress and exhaustion darkened the lines and hollows of his face. When the detective pushed his fingertips into his temples, Henry realized it he'd seen Celluci make a similar gesture at least a handful of times since they'd entered the bullpen. The hint of pain in his eyes, and the heaviness in his voice was obvious now that Henry was looking for it.
"All right. That's all I need. If you leave town, though, let me know." Celluci's voice was scratchy when he brought the interview to a close, his eyes already looking down at the folder in front of him and making notes.
Henry should leave. He still needed to feed before dawn chased him home. But the detective's free hand was pressing against the back of his neck and the pain was obviously getting worse.
So, instead of walking out, Henry leaned forward in his chair and propped his elbows on Celluci's desk, palms up.
"Give me your hands."
Startled blue eyes widened under impossibly long lashes and Celluci straightened up in his seat. "Excuse me?"
"You're hurting. You have a headache."
"So?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"So, I know some acupressure that will help with the pain."
Henry sighed and glanced around the nearly empty bullpen. The couple of people still at their desks were hunched over their keyboards or files with single-minded focus.
"Look, no one is around to even notice. A big, strong cop like you can handle me if I try anything funny. If it doesn't work, you're out five minutes. If it does work, you can finish your reports without feeling like someone's driving railroad spikes through your eyes."
Celluci stared at him so long, Henry was ready to shrug and walk away. He had no reason for the sinking barb of disappointment that swept through him. Then the detective sighed and put his hands out tentatively, and Henry fought not to show the ridiculous relief that washed away the disappointment.
Carefully, he pinched the web of skin and muscle between Celluci's thumb and forefinger. As soon as he found the right pressure and the right spot the other man's posture completely changed. His shoulders slid down, his eyes slipped close and his head tilted back. A soft sound escaped him, something between a groan and sigh, that made Henry bite his lip.
Celluci's hands were strong and calloused and the vampire could imagine them on him. And that decadent sound slipping out from the tightly controlled cop’s mouth sent a shiver of pleasure straight through Henry, making his own body respond. This wasn't the time or the place to think about seducing Detective Mike Celluci, though.
Soon, very soon, he would have to find that opportunity.
After a minute of constant pressure, he began to stroke tight, precise circles over the pressure point. Another huff a breath from the detective made Henry smile. With Celluci distracted by relief, Henry took the opportunity to peruse the notes on the desk in front of him, doing his best to decipher the upside-down handwriting and find out as much as he could about the murders.
The sound of shouting from the hall had them both jumping, Celluci jerking his hands back and tensing almost immediately. After a second, the noise faded back toward processing, but the moment of harmony was over.
Before the detective could say a word, Henry stood up and smirked.
"Happy to be of service, Constable. I'll let you know if I decide to go on vacation in Tahiti."
He turned and headed for the door, but behind him he could hear Celluci grumbling. "It's detective, damn it."