Detective Vaile Wolfe stuck his pen into the little pile of ashes he was crouched over and stirred. The burned remains, picked up by the slight breeze from the mouth of the alleyway, got stuck in his nostrils, forcing a low growl out from between his lips.
What a goddamn fucking mess. The wolf that shared his body shifted uneasily, the scent of the blood awakening his baser instincts. He could feel his lupine form move under his skin—under his ribs—stirring to life restlessly. He’d denied the Change for nearly two weeks, sending the flashing red light of warning off in his head. He was putting the cops he worked with in danger with every day that passed. He muttered a few words under his breath to calm the beast and stood up, unable to avoid looking at the huge puddles of blood at his feet. He’d be seeing red for a fucking week.
“Did you find anything?” he asked the officer that had been assigned to him just that morning. He’d chewed through a dozen rookies in the last six months and he had a feeling that this guy wasn’t going to make it much past sundown. Vaile had a rep for being a sonofabitch to work with and that was just the way he liked it.
This new kid was all WASP. His pale eyes were wide as he took in the carnage around him. Vaile had caught him puking in the dumpster next to the crime scene. As soon as he’d seen the blood, he’d gone as white as a sheet and ran. He could still smell the stuff on his breath.
“No, sir. Nothing yet,” he replied perfunctorily. Vaile’s lips flexed into a parody of a smile. At least this kid knew who was Top Dog, not like the last cocky bastard he’d had working for him. “We’re just waiting for forensics to show up, sir.” The kid turned back to look at the puddles. “Sir, where’s the body?”
“There ain’t no body, kid. It’s obvious that this was the kill site. The body’s been dumped someplace else.” What the WASP didn’t know was that two members of his pack had taken the stiff a few hours before they’d even got the call from a sanitation worker reporting a lot of blood down an alleyway that morning. The cops weren’t ever going to find the body either because by now it would be nothing but ash. The other thing they didn’t know was that a vampire had been given its Final Death in that alleyway, but they would never recognize the signs. Humans only saw what they wanted to see. To them, the ashes that littered the ground in that goddamned frozen, filthy alleyway were the remnants from a hobo barrel fire, not the last resting place of a blood-sucking parasite.
The kid swallowed convulsively, his throat working over a lump, his skin turning a pale shade of green. “You going to puke again?” Vaile barked.
“No, sir,” he replied in a shaky breath. His fear was coming off his body in waves, causing a sneer to pull at Vaile’s top lip. Vaile got up in his face, taking him by the collar of his shirt and pulling the guy in close to his massive body. Intimidation factor? He would have said around a ten.
“Because if you are, you’re not working with me. You can just go back to the station now and get desk-raped,” he growled.
Vaile hadn’t thought it was possible, but the kid swallowed the green and blanched out even further than his already pasty skin. “I’m fine,” he replied with a quavering voice.
What a fucking lightweight. Vaile gave him a hard look and pushed him away, causing him to stumble into the dumpster. Vaile walked back to a beat cop waiting just inside the yellow police tape. Beyond him—at the mouth of the alleyway—were rubberneckers wanting to see a glimpse of the carnage. Although another officer was placed there, arms outstretched and desperately trying to stop the click-click of camera phones, they still managed to get an uninterrupted view. Sometimes Vaile thought humans were more bloodthirsty than the wolf that shared his body. Looking away from them in disgust, he asked, “What did you see when you got here last night, Mack?”
Mack was a shifter, too. Werewolves made good cops. It was as simple as that. His pale green eyes flecked with brown met Vaile’s for a split second before dropping down to look at Vaile’s chin. “A human male drained of blood. That was all.”
Vaile grunted. “Were you told anything else other than to get your ass down here?”
“Just that there was a body. But judging by the smell, and—” he kicked his toe into the ashes at his feet, “I’d say a vampire got four-twentied here, too.”
Vaile grunted again. He didn’t know who had given the vamp the cure for life, but he was goddamn elated that they had. He was a damn good cop and an even better detective, but the stench of the vampire was cancelling out the scent of any humans that may have been involved at the scene of the crime. To his sensitive nose, all he could smell was burning, rotten garbage topped off with a healthy dollop of cow shit.
“So who was the guy we picked up last night?” Vaile turned and spat on the ground; the nasty taste of the blood-sucker had coated the back of his tongue. After he wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, Vaile turned back to Mack. He didn’t need to worry about the police cataloguing the sample because the whole damn report was going to mysteriously disappear in the very near future.
Mack shrugged. “No wallet on the body, but he was dressed too nice, which is unusual for this area. Maybe he was a Renfield and the vamp lured him here. Maybe he was just unlucky.”
Renfields. Weren’t they a treat? They were humans who believed vampires were real, and who regularly donated their blood to other humans pretending to be vampires. Ignorant fuckers. And they wondered why HIV was spreading through the human population like wildfire.
Vaile drew in a deep breath and coughed. “Goddamn vampires. I hate their fucking stench.”
“Tell me about it,” Mack replied in a drawl.
Just then, the forensic crew arrived in their signature white van, parking outside the alleyway’s only entrance and exit. The Uniformed began pushing people out of the way again, trying to make room for them to get out of the van. Time to get the fuck out of there.
“Hey kid!” Vaile called out to his “partner”. When he couldn’t see his blond hair, Vaile marched over to the closest dumpster and peered over the other side. The kid had curled himself up into a ball in a pool of his own vomit. “Ah, fuck.” He looked over at the other shifter. “Mack? Come give me a hand, will ya?”
Vaile drove him and the WASP back to the station after he and Mack had got him into the back of his unmarked. Sure, Vaile could have lifted the kid no problem, but hauling a grown man around on your shoulder like he weighed nothing drew too much unwanted attention.
There was a groan as the car humped into the car park behind the station. Vaile looked into his rear view mirror to see the rookie coming around. The smell of vomit had permeated the interior thanks to the kid, and no amount of Febreeze was going to get that shit out.
“Get out and get reassigned,” Vaile barked, slamming his car door behind him. He navigated his way to the back of the building without a backwards glance to see if the kid had gotten out or not. When he reached the solid metal door, Vaile heard the distinct sound of a car opening and closing.
And another one bites the dust.
Hauling open the heavy steel, Vaile walked into central command.
People were everywhere. Vaile passed through the security check point, disarming himself and producing his badge. When he was finally through, he slipped his holster back on again as he walked up the stairs. At the top, he hung a left.
His office had about twenty people in there, each sitting behind a computer with three soft walls. It was partition heaven. Parking it behind his desk, he turned on his computer and clicked into his emails. He’d been working the Buxton rapist case, and the latest medical report was front and center. He opened up the email and scrolled through the three-page report, skimming it for anything that was useful. So far nothing viable had been collected from the women or the scenes. The sick fucker was getting more violent with them, too. He’d started just by threatening the girls, but now he was following through on the threat. The last girl had a broken jaw and a fractured cheek bone thanks to the bastard.
Kicking out of his chair, he went to the kitchenette they had in the back corner of the office to make himself a cup of instant. It tasted terrible, but at least it got rid of the taste of vampire that was still sticking to the back of his tongue. He took another sip and from over the lip of his coffee cup, he saw his boss walking towards him.
“Wolfe. My office. Now.”
“You got it,” he replied, walking casually back to the desk to dump his still-full coffee cup.
“Sit down,” his boss said as soon as Vaile had shut the door to his office behind him. His boss’s name was D’Angelo. His dark hair had started going gray around the sides, but his dark eyes were still sharp. “I’ve just spoken to Hauptmann. He says he wants off your service.”
“Don’t give me that fucking tone Wolfe. Jesus!” He ran a hand through the gray. “You only had him for…fuck, like two hours.”
“He’s not cut out for the work. He’s a beat cop at best. And besides, I’ve already told you I prefer working alone.”
D’Angelo’s blood pressure went up a few clicks. “You know what? If you weren’t my best detective, I would get your ass transferred someplace else where I don’t have to see you every single damn day.”
“But I am your best detective,” Vaile reminded him. “And I’m sure you’d miss me.”
D’Angelo opened his mouth to argue again, but a knock on the door saved him. “Come in!” he yelled. The door pushed open and the scent of roses wafted in. Vaile’s head swiveled around to see a female officer standing in the doorway. He’d never seen her around the station before, but then again he’d never really looked at human women. What was the point? Love couldn’t transcend species. Lust? Fuck yeah, but love? Not a chance.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” she asked, breaking Vaile’s fixation on her. He turned back around in his seat, uncomfortably aware of her.
“Grey, come in.”
She shut the door behind her and sat in the chair next to Vaile. The scent of roses grew stronger, but it wasn’t her perfume. It was something else. Maybe it was her soap or shampoo or some shit. “You expressed interest in working with Detective Wolfe. Does your interest still stand?” his boss said.
Vaile looked over at her and wondered why in the hell she would volunteer to spend time with him.
D’Angelo nodded perfunctorily. “Congratulations. You’ve been reassigned. Now get your asses over to Buxton Gen. There’s another girl been brought in overnight—rape suspect. Get a statement. See if we can’t finally nail this guy’s ass to the wall.”Vaile stood up, Grey shadowing him. “You got it.”