Detective Allison Goodnight has a problem. One look at the mutilated victim in her latest case tells her he has been killer by a rogue werewolf. She ought to know; she’s a werewolf, too. Her whole family are … members of an ancient species separate from humans but passing as humans. It is urgent that she close this case without revealing the killer’s nature, before more people die and humans’ racial memory of her kindred awakens. But her new partner is human and watching her with unnerving intensity. If he sees too much, she may have to turn killer herself to protect her people.
The victim had been a young man with thick dark hair and brown eyes, possibly good looking, once well dressed. His death changed all of that. The mauling of his face left just one eye intact, and dislocated his jaw so that it gaped open as though in a last desperate scream. Below it, from neck to groin, his polo shirt, leather blazer, and trousers had been shredded on the way to ripping open his belly. Beneath the blind stare of empty windows he lay in the rubbish, weeds, and charred fragments of beams littering the gutted warehouse…draped with the bloody tatters of cloth, flesh, and half-eaten loops of entrails.
Standing well back from the body to let the Criminal Identification techs examine the area around it, Allison Goodnight eyed the carnage. Sergeant Bob Carillo’s comment when the call came in to Crimes Against Persons–”Hannibal the Cannibal must be in town; we have a chewed up corpse on Lavaca with only human footprints around it.”–warned her what to expect, but seeing it still felt like a kick in the gut and left her both chilled to the bone by the possible repercussions and filled with cold fury for the victim’s suffering.
“A hell of a way to start the day,” Janice Tran said as she photographed coins scattered off to the side of the body. “It’s hard to believe a human could do this.”
Unfortunately, Allison reflected grimly, none probably had…despite the wholly human appearance of the barefoot prints intermittently visible amid the trash and weeds, overlying the victim’s shod tracks. Clearer prints, long and narrow, with long toes, overlaid each other in the sandy soil around the body, but those leading to a rear doorway had been mostly obliterated by the vagrant who came in that way to investigate what he said looked like a pile of clothes. Allison frowned at the hunter’s tracks. Why go barefooted?
“Tall dude, judging by the size and the length of the stride,” Janice said.
Guaranteed to be six feet or over. Allison closed her eyes and drew in a long breath, sorting through the stew of odors around her: Arenosa Bay’s fishy and diesel scents, brine on the sea breeze coming over the barrier island from the Gulf, smoke that still lingered in the blackened bricks around her, the peppery smell of plants that had taken root in the building, the pungent odors of the body’s blood and intestinal contents. Even the Ident techs contributed the odors of their skin, soap, deodorant…the powdered latex of their gloves. So many scents. She opened her eyes, grimacing. Too many scents.
Outside, footsteps scuffed away up the street. The vagrant who found the body leaving, his verbal statement taken down. Allison noted the sound, as she did the cries of the gulls wheeling above the bay, without letting it break her concentration.
Nor did the male voice that snorted, “Not a hell of a lot a help there.” Officer Lindsay, the uniformed officer securing the crime scene perimeter.
But the flat Midwestern vowels that answered him–“At least he reported the crime instead of walking all over the scene and picking the victim clean.”–did break in. Zane Kerr’s voice jarred after so many years of John Garroway’s mellow drawl.
Allison forced her attention back to odors. A deeper and slower second breath proved no more helpful than the first. She needed to be closer to the footprints for any hope of identifying the hunter’s scent.
Lindsay’s voice rattled on. “And speaking of clean, Zane my man…you’re lookin’ fine this mornin’. You wear a suit pretty good for a white boy. I guess I can quit worryin’ that you desertin’ Patrol for Investigations is gonna disgrace Arenosa’s Finest sartorially. But I got to ask whose desk you assed on to get stuck with the Iron Maiden first off.”
She headed for the footprints at the building entrance. Ident had finished with that area.
“There’s nothing like jumping in with both feet and learning homicide investigation from the best.”
In over his head, if he only knew.
Hitching up her slacks, Allison crouched beside a barefoot print not overlying the victim’s.
She touched one edge lightly. The soil felt gritty under her fingers, too loose and sandy to pick
up. Her nose would have to go down to the print.
Red and the light blue of a uniform shirt moving into her peripheral vision made her look up. Lindsay and Kerr stared at her from the sidewalk outside, Kerr all shoulders and flaming hair. With his expression that mixture of curiosity and fascination she caught on his face every time they worked out at the same time in the gym at the Police Training Center, or he served as uniformed assistance at her crime scenes.
Allison swore at herself. The long partnership that blinded John Garroway to her quirks had made her careless. She needed to watch herself…and focus Kerr’s attention elsewhere. She lifted her brows at him. “Haven’t you started canvassing for witnesses yet?”
Only when he turned away and headed for the yellow barrier tape did she return her attention to the footprints.
Lindsay followed Zane under the tape, grinning. “You got your marching orders straight now?”
Much as he liked Lindsay, Zane felt a flash of irritation. “Well, she is the lead investigator and me the detective trainee.”
And of course he should have starting looking for witnesses as soon as Preacher John left.
He wished he could watch Allison work, though, to see how she and Garroway racked up their
astonishing record of solved cases.
He still hardly believed his luck in working with her. Aside from her investigative reputation, she had intrigued him from the first time he saw her in the police gym after joining the department. Even discovering that half the officers in the department came from the same family and shared her build and coloring had not lessened his fascination. A pale blonde sylph over six feet tall would have caught his eye in any case, but a curious sense of recognition and a kind of electricity crackling around her had transfixed him. Even twenty feet away from her, waiting his turn at the climbing wall, the hair on his body prickled. Sweat soaked her cropped hair, but the way she ran effortlessly while male officers on adjoining treadmills strained to keep pace with her, Zane found himself with the crazy notion she sweated from the effort of restraining herself.
After working with other officers in her family, he always wondered about that. In contrast to her, they all seemed such adrenaline junkies…opting for Watch Three or One on steady shifts rather than periodically work days, charging headlong into dark alleys and buildings without drawing their weapons, avid for hard foot chases and other physically demanding effort. T-shirts some wore at the gym epitomized their attitude: If you’re not living on the edge…you’re taking
up too much room.
The first encounter with Allison, however, all that lay in the future and he spent the rest of his workout and drive home searching his memory for a clue why she seemed familiar.
Recognition came in the middle of the night, jerking him upright in bed. Of course. Tall, willow slim, fair, almost-silver eyes…she looked the way he always pictured Tolkien’s Elves in Lord of the Rings.
Now he worked with her. Working, she looked twice as elegant in those grey or ice blue silk slack suits she always wore. But he wished he knew what she expected to see in that footprint. Or was sight the sense she used? As a uniformed officer at a crime scene, he once heard Garroway joke that the way she knew a guilty suspect as soon as she walked up to him, she must be psychic. Maybe very intuitive, Zane reflected. She was left-handed and he remembered his psychology class in college discussing the high correlation between left handedness and pattern recognition. She took notes the way he read Leonardo DaVinci–another left-hander–had, writing backwards and right to left. Or maybe, considering the way she touched that footprint, her talent was–what was the term for sensing details about people through touching things they had…psychometry. It sounded fantastic, of course, but that line from Hamlet echoed in his head: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than you have dreamed in your philosophy. And Mr. Spock said that the universe would always be bigger and stranger than they could imagine.
Lindsay’s grunt recaptured his attention. “She’s a senior investigator, too…been in Crimes Against Persons the ten years I’ve been on the job. But she don’t look any older than you. It’s like she went straight to Investigations from the academy.” His brows arched. “I wonder how.”
The implication sharpened Zane’s irritation. “I’m more concerned with learning what someone dressed like our victim was doing in this neighborhood.”
As Lindsay returned to his post at the barrier tape, Zane crossed the street, eyeing the building facing him. Like many others along this side of the bay, it had probably been a cotton or grain warehouse in the days Arenosa aspired to become a major port. Then whoever took it over when the cotton, grain, and sulphur shipping went north to Galveston subsequently went bust, too, and like so many in the area, now the building sat abandoned.
Abandoned but not empty. All kinds of human driftwood washed up in the West Bay: the jobless and destitute, illegals in search of the promised land, runaways who equated Gulf Coast with an easy life in the sun…and individuals who had just checked out of society, or sunk under the weight of drug and alcohol addiction. Some squatted in this building, he knew. He just needed to find one willing to admit to seeing or hearing anything last night.
A face peered between the boards nailed across a ground floor window. It ducked down almost immediately…not fast enough to avoid being recognized, however.
“Blue! Blue, come here!”
Footsteps pounded away inside. Grinning, Zane sprinted up the street and around the corner to the alley. Sometimes the flight impulse could be useful…certainly preferable to Blue holding up inside, where even a squad of searchers might never find him. Zane ducked into the cover of a chained door under a fire escape. When a scrawny figure in grimy, outsized desert camos dropped off the fire escape, Zane sprang for the shirt collar. “Stick around, bro.”
Blue squealed as Zane’s grip jerked him to a halt, then went instantly into a whine, cringing inside the shirt. “I ain’t done nothin’.”
Zane ticked his tongue. “Easy, partner. Today I don’t care about that crack pipe in your pocket. I just want to know what went down in the street and that building opposite last night.”
“I didn’t see or hear nothin’.” But Blue’s eyes twitched sideways behind the greasy hair falling over them, and he shivered.
Zane prodded him toward the end of the alley. “Tell it to Detective Goodnight.”
Crouched over the tracks again and leaning down within inches of them, Allison drew in a breath. There. Now she had it. After another breath, she pushed to her feet, swearing silently.
Despite the body’s injuries, she had clung to the hope that she might smell a human. But the feet that left these tracks and this scent had branched off the hominid root before Cro-Magnon ever
emerged. A volke was responsible for this atrocity. One of her people.
Or as historical humans and modern mythology called them…werewolves.
To her relief, the scent belonged to no one in the Arenosa clan, and the lack of trace elements from the local environment also ruled out anyone in the surrounding area. Still, little as she wanted someone she knew responsible for this carnage, it would have closed the case blessedly fast. But all she could identify was a lingering trace of sex pheromones that established the hunter as female, in estrus.
But who isn’t? Allison reflected wryly. Full moon coming on Sunday…the clan’s Spring Gathering this week end…four days at the hill country ranch without a human for miles.
She shook off the surge of anticipatory heat. The hunter must be young for the pheromones to linger this long, maybe twenty or twenty-one, in one of her early cycles. That or she had repressed her sex drive for a long period and built up its intensity.
“It is creepy, isn’t it?”
She glanced over at Phil Castenado spooning plaster into one of the hunter’s footprints.
He pointed to the tracks. “Weren’t you looking at those? Only toe prints of the victim’s shoes–he’s running for his life–but the killer’s almost flat footed.”
Just loping along behind him, taking her time…enjoying herself while she terrorized her victim. Who the hell are you, cousin…butchering innocents in my territory and jeopardizing the safety of my clan!
Immediate awareness of the volke might have faded from humans, but they had not been forgotten.
“Humans have racial memory, too,” her grandmother Honora warned her years ago. “Only, where ours prepare our children for what Shifting will be, humans carry fear and hatred of us. Look at their antipathy toward left-handedness. Somewhere deep they remember that we couldn’t be driven to extinction, and although they own the planet because they breed like rabbits, we’re still around.”
The image of Great-grandmother Thérèse flashed in Allison’s head, sole survivor of a clan
slaughtered after a killing like this betrayed their presence to the human villagers. Her jaw
tightened. Damn if she would let that happen here! “How soon before we have access to the body?”
“Any minute now. Call the wagon.”
Returning her cell phone to her jacket pocket after contacting the morgue, she heard Lindsay laugh outside. “Good hunting. I hope you don’t have to put him on the stand, though.”
“I didn’t see nothin’,” another voice whined.
He sounded like a prize. She stepped out onto the sidewalk to see for herself, and sighed. A prize indeed. He stank of unwashed skin, soiled clothing, and rotting teeth. “And this is…?”
Kerr said, “He’s called Blue.”
“Sometimes Tweaker Blue,” Lindsay added.
A crackhead. Probably no use. “Blue, what can you tell us about last night?”
He shrank inside his shirt. “Nothin’!”
A lie. Feral eyes avoided hers and she smelled his anxiety.
Kerr pulled his billfold from a hip pocket and fished out a twenty dollar bill.
Blue came on point.
“There’s a dead man in this building.” Kerr pulled the bill between his fingers, making it crackle. “You didn’t hear him screaming, or see the guy chasing him?”
Blue stared hungrily at the twenty, watching every movement. “Okay…yeah…I heard him. And I seen him. But it wasn’t no dude chasing him.”
Allison forced herself to remain relaxed despite a shot of icy fire through her. “Who was chasing him?” It would be nice to question Blue alone, except doing that might arouse unwelcome curiosity in Kerr and Lindsay.
“Wasn’t a who.” Blue hunched his shoulders. “I thought at first it was one of those fucking monster dogs you run through here at night…but there wasn’t no cop with it and…” He licked his lips. “I seen this movie once about this giant dog running around in England killing people. This was like that…coal black, huge fangs, eyes like fire.” The acid reek of his fear assaulted Allison. His voice dropped to a whisper. “Straight outa fucking Hell.”
Beyond him, Lindsay’s eyes rolled.
Good. She wanted the others in a state of disbelief. “What time was this?”
Blue scowled. “Hell, how do I know. I don’t have no watch. It was dark.”
Lindsay shook his head. Wasting your time, the gesture said.
Kerr, though, eyed Blue thoughtfully. He toyed with the bill. “Did you notice if the police watch had changed?”
Good question to ask, Allison reflected.
Blue’s gaze followed the twenty. “Yeah, it had. Officer Gary-fucking-Golden drove by a while before.”
After eleven, then, since her fellow volke came on duty then, working Watch One. “Was the trolley still running?”
A sneer flickered in the feral eyes. “It don’t never run this side of the bay.”
Not for decades, though the tracks remained from the days it carried passengers to the train depot and deep water piers. Now it just looped down North Bayside Boulevard and up Avenue A. “You can still hear the bells from here.”
The bill crackled between Kerr’s fingers.
Blue almost salivated. “Yeah, okay…I guess I remember hearing them.”
After eleven and before two-thirty, then. The one car operating this time of year made its last run half an hour after the bars closed. If Gary remembered what time he drove down Lavaca, that would narrow the time even more.
Blue’s voice returned to a whine. “That’s all I know. Can I go?”
Kerr glanced at Allison. She tried to think of another time indicator, and remembered the fire sirens she heard around one while running in the park with her family. “Do you remember fire sirens last night?”
Kerr waggled the bill. Blue’s eyes squinted with the effort to think. After a minute he nodded.
“Did you hear them before or after you saw the Hellhound?”
Which probably used up what he knew. She let him leave.
Watching Blue scurry away though the rag-tag group of on-lookers they had begun attracting, Kerr shook his head. “The Hound of the Baskervilles. Not much help.”
Lindsay’s lip curled. “His brain’s fried. And he buys into that monster K9 unit shit, too. I can’t figure where these people come up with it.”
Allison bit back a smile. Where indeed, when so many of Arenosa’s officers had the capacity to do what she had enjoyed…shout, “I’m turning loose the dog!” then Shift and charge in herself.
The morgue wagon nosed through the on-lookers. Lindsay lowered the yellow tape to let them past. As the wagon halted, Dr. Zena Pedicaris, who along with Dr. Neil Hertzel divided her day between their pathology practice and playing medical examiner, climbed out the passenger side. “Morning, Allison. What do you have?”
Allison pointed her the building.
Pedicaris eyed Kerr on the way. “That the new kid on the block?” She gave Allison a wink. “Nice. Don’t I remember that hair from somewhere?”
“You’ve only been seeing it in uniform for the past six years,” Kerr said.
Pedicaris grinned at Allison. “First thing you need to do is break him of the sarcasm.” She headed into the building, with Allison, Kerr, and two stretcher attendants following her. “It’ll be odd having Garroway sitting in the Investigations Lieutenant’s office instead of running around with you. I’m surprised you’re not taking his place as squad sergeant.”
Take on a buttload more paperwork? “Bob Carillo is welcome to the job.” I’d rather eat ground glass, she told Garroway privately after the more polite refusal she gave Captain Estevez when offered the promotion.
Pedicaris stopped short at the body’s feet. “Oh my.” Circling him, she pulled on two pairs of surgical gloves. “He isn’t one you want to stumble over with a full stomach. Not much question about the cause of death anyway. He fought it. Defense wounds.” She started to pick up a savaged hand, but the arm did not move. After feeling her way up the arm, she tried the joints of a leg. “Pretty advanced rigor.”
“He died running for his life,” Allison said.
“Oh, in that case…” Pedicaris shrugged. “Violent exertion depletes ATP in the muscles, brings rigor on faster,” she told one of the stretcher attendants. “Plus he looks in good physical shape…present condition aside. That speeds it up, too.” Muttering under her breath, she continued her examination, poking fingers into the mutilated flesh, peering at loops of gut, inserting a thermometer into the liver to check body temperature. She rolled him over and pulled
the remains of his trousers and undershorts down to his knees then shirt and jacket up to his shoulders for a look at his back and buttocks. Finally she straightened. “Okay…looks like he’s lying where he died. Time of death roughly between eleven and three. His stomach’s still intact so I’ll be able to tell you the what and when of his last meal. Anything else you want to know right now other than my opinion that you should be verrry careful arresting this psycho?”
“Why any more than usual?” Kerr asked.
“Because you might lose body parts. This guy has jaws I don’t believe.” Pedicaris stripped off her gloves. “He bit clear through that right wrist–almost took off the hand–and through some ribs on the right.”
The eyes of the Ident techs and stretcher attendants widened. Kerr smiled wryly at Allison.
“Except for the footprints, that could almost make you believe in Blue’s Hellhound.”
She stared back at him. “Except for the footprints.”
As though the footprints had any relevance to what Blue saw. Shifting involved energy and perception, no actual shape changing, despite how it felt and appeared. Her people had always known that from seeing their footprints, long before the invention of photography proved it. Instead, they changed power output…going supercharged, kicking into a hyper-adrenaline rush accessible on demand and sustained for as long as one wanted. It affected perception because the Shift’s enveloping energy field registered on the brain as: Big Powerful Dangerous Life-form.
Which the mind then interpreted as a shape fitting that criteria for the observer. Although that could be any dangerous predator, from the cultures of the Russian steppes and Europe, Big Powerful Dangerous Life-form had come to North America usually meaning…wolf.
Allison pulled on latex gloves. “We don’t need a Hellhound to explain this. We’ve all witnessed or been on the receiving end of the phenomenal strength of subjects pumped on adrenaline or feeling no pain…psychotics…junkies high on PCP.” Steering their thoughts that way might make the trauma less astonishing. Sitting down on her heels, Allison started through the dead man’s pockets. All right, sir, help me find her. Tell us all you can about yourself.
“Hellhound?” Pedicaris said.
“It’s just what a local crackhead claims to have seen chasing the victim,” Allison said. The attack left the hip pockets intact. Out of one she fished a billfold.
“A giant dog of some kind,” Kerr said. “Coal black with huge fangs and blazing eyes.”
Pedicaris cocked a brow. “But if it turned human in here, surely we’re not talking Hellhound but werewolf.”
It had been inevitable that someone say the word. Allison kept bent over the body. “In either case, we’re talking nonsense.”
“Besides, it wasn’t a full moon last night,” Kerr said.
Allison smiled to herself. Oh, the glorious fallacies of myth. The moon neither compelled nor controlled Shifting. It did intensify the hunting urge, of course–a brighter moon meant better light to hunt by–which helped trigger early Shifts. Her first time had been under a glorious Harvest moon. “Kerr, glove up and help.”
They returned the victim to his back and searched the intact pockets of the leather blazer. Finding keys, a comb, a squirt tube of breath freshener, and a cell phone.
Kerr picked up the billfold and opened it. “At least we have an ID. According to his driver’s license, he’s Alexander Vincent Demry, age thirty-one, of 1432 Dolphin. The physical descriptors match the victim. The photograph…” He peered from it to the body. “…is more problematic.”
While the stretcher attendants zipped Demry’s remains into a body bag and loaded him in the wagon, Kerr carried the billfold outside and spread the contents on the hood of Lindsay’s patrol unit. The keys included one for a BMW, so Allison used the unit’s computer to check for vehicles registered to Demry. The query came back listing a silver BMW Z8. She had Dispatch issue an Attempt To Locate on it.
Kerr shook his head. “A Laguna district address, a hundred grand sports car. Until last night Demry was doing all right in the world. But then…” He flipped out a business card in the billfold. “…sharks usually do.”
It declared Alexander Demry, J.D., a member of the law firm of Caffey, Schroer, Wentz, and Glass.
Lindsay ticked his tongue. “I thought you’d got past the bitterness by now. But…” He cocked a brow at Allison. “…I guess divorce is really hell when your father-in-law is a lawyer and your soon-to-be ex is studying to–”
“I’m sure she’s not interested,” Kerr said.
Lindsay shrugged and went silent. Kerr finished emptying the billfold.
In addition to the driver’s license and business cards, it held seventy dollars in cash; a couple of credit cards and gas cards; a medical plan card; Red Cross blood donor card; a membership card for the Anson-Bauer Health Club; a packaged condom. And a card listing his blood type and the names and phone numbers of his doctor, dentist, and people to call in case of emergency. Those included a John Glass with two local numbers–one matching the law firm number–and Richard and Julia Demry with a Dallas area code.
Kerr frowned at the backs of the driver’s license and Red Cross card. “He has the organ donor box checked and was one unit shy of being an eight-gallon blood donor. A shark with a social conscience.”
“A good Boy Scout, too.” Lindsay pointed at the breath freshener and condom. “He’s prepared.”
The condom and naming a firm partner to be called for emergencies suggested that Demry lacked a significant other. Leaving him vulnerable to sexual enticement, perhaps. Is that how you
lured him here, cousin?
She punched the law office number into her phone. Before making the effort to trace Demry’s movements, she wanted him officially identified.
But the answering voice informed her Mr. Glass had not come in yet. She left her name and phone number, requesting Glass call her as soon as possible.
Lindsay shook his head. “You want his boss to identify him? I don’t think even his mama would know him.”
Kerr tapped the dentist’s name on the phone numbers card. “At least there are dental records to compare to his teeth.”
They needed to contact the dentist for those records. Maybe give that task to Kerr. Allison ran through a mental checklist of other investigative tasks where he might contribute to the case but not interfere with her investigation. For the clan’s sake, she had to find the hunter first. For Kerr’s sake, too. If he found her, he risked becoming another victim.
Eyeing the effects, she saw a better job for him…useful, necessary, and guaranteed to keep him safely occupied for hours. “We need names of acquaintances to contact about where he went last night. He seems to have lost his cell phone in the course of fleeing his attacker, but maybe he has a land line at home and a phone book on it.” She tossed Kerr Demry’s keys. “See if his name is the only one on the water and power bills. Talk to neighbors. If you can verify he lives alone, go in and hunt check for a phone. He’s a lawyer. Maybe he has a Rolodex. If you can’t verify he lives along, write up a warrant and find a judge to sign it. I’ll finish here and catch a ride back to the LEC with Ident, then visit the dentist and bring the lawyer down to the morgue for the identification.”
Kerr nodded and headed for their car.
Pulling away from the crime scene, Zane gave in to the grimace he had been careful not to show Allison. With all that running around to verify Demry lived alone, it might be afternoon before he started searching the victim’s place. He was tempted to just go on in. If Demry had a roommate or significant other, surely they would have been listed on the emergency number card.
On the other hand, being on this side of town already, with the Law Enforcement Center and
courthouse between him and Demry’s neighborhood, he had another, safer shortcut. After all, he did want to make good in Investigations.
Driving toward West Bayside Boulevard, enjoying the fact that while Impalas and Crown Victorias made up Patrol’s fleet, investigators drove Camaros, Zane fished out his cell phone punched in Crimes Against Person’s number.
While the phone rang, he ran down all the windows to increase the air flow into the car. The temperature might be reasonable today, but humidity, as always, boosted the heat index. Not that he had a right to complain when he had chosen to live here…as his mother never failed to remind him when he called home.
“I don’t know why you thought you had to leave Kansas City just because we were angry about you divorcing Susan.”
Angry? They were angry when he quit law school barely a month into his first year and applied for the police academy…”wasting the intelligence and ambition” that let him finish prep school a year early and earn his bachelor’s degree in three years. Walking out on Susan a year later brought something more akin to a nuclear meltdown. Never mind pointing out their incompatibility. She hated his chosen career, his friends, and his taste in books, and was no more interested in having children than his mother had been, let alone the gang of kids he dreamed about.
The move to Arenosa not only put a comfortable distance between him and their outrage but he liked the department better than Kansas City’s…small enough to know everyone but somehow supplied with the cop toys of a large department, even an infrared-equipped helicopter.
At some point his mother always said, “I really don’t understand moving to the Texas coast with your coloring. You’re remembering to wear sun screen and a hat, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Doctor,” he always assured her. His Stetson sat ready on the passenger seat. With physicians for parents, and his father as red-haired as himself, he had been indoctrinated early about the horrors of sunburn and melanoma.
Sergeant Carillo came on the line. “Kerr? What’s up?”
Asking a favor of a new boss might be a bit presumptuous but…they wanted to find this maniac as fast as possible…right? “Allison will be briefing you soon. It’s…ugly. But we have a tentative ID of the victim and keys to his apartment. Allison wants me to check it out for an address book, either paper or electronic, and asked me to inquire if you can put a warrant in the works. I’ll be coming downtown shortly.” After he checked one place for Demry’s car.
“You’ll have your warrant.”
Whatever reason brought Demry over here, if he drove himself, perhaps he parked at Hilst Basin. They lighted their quay and parking lot and monitored it with video cameras…a result of vandalism to shrimp boats owned by Southeast Asians who came here after the war in Vietnam.
The Basin might even have been Demry’s destination. Although it provided mooring and repair services primarily for the shrimp boats and charter fishing boats based here, and even an occasional freighter, the Basin also had slips for a few pleasure craft. Not that Zane could see someone of Demry’s affluence bypassing the amenities of the Coronado Yacht Club or one of the marinas along the north side of the bay for Hilst’s utilitarian facilities, but he might have a friend with a tight budget.
Standing inside the barrier tape, Allison made eye contact with the on-lookers in one sweep. Since the removal of the body, the number had dwindled. “Were any of you in this area last night and see or hear anything?”
No one answered. A few heads shook. Two pairs of eyes skidded away from hers and their owners, both clearly street people, remembered other pressing business.
Allison brought their sneakaway to a halt with a piercing whistle. “Come back here.”
Slowly, as though dragged by the force of her crooking finger, the pair trudged back. She took them aside one at a time, ignoring their reek of soiled clothing and unwashed skin. Both denied witnessing anything last night…even when pressed.
After letting them go, she called Carillo to give him an edited-for-humans report on the situation.
“Kerr wasn’t kidding about this being ugly,” he said.
Allison frowned. “When did you talk to him?”
“A few minutes ago when he called in your request for a warrant to search the victim’s apartment.”
He just went straight for a warrant? Moves like that could put him ahead of her on the hunter’s trail. She better watch him. Something else needed watching, too. “We’ll need a plan for dealing with the media. They’re going to go crazy over this.”
“Shit yes,” Carillo said.
“I suggest the Public Information Office withhold mention of cannibalism and the extent of mutilation. Fortunately, whoever is monitoring the police scanner for the Sentinel didn’t consider
a body in the West Bay worth sending a reporter to cover.”
“Thank God for small favors. I’ll get together with Garroway and see what he thinks.”
After disconnecting, Allison stepped into the building and moved to a far corner out of any earshot for more private calls. Then she punched in the number for her grandmother’s studio at home. As not only household alpha but the Arenosa clan chief, Honora had to be told about the hunter.
“We have a problem, Baba,” she said when Honora picked up.
Honora swore as she explained. “Big problem. That poor man!”
“How many outsider females are in the area?” Newcomers usually hunted up Honora as soon as possible in order to establish contact with the local clan. No one wanted isolation in a sea of humans.
“I’ll have to check. If we’re dealing with a rogue, she may be avoiding us, and if this is a juvenile, the lack of adult supervision and restraint tells me she must somehow be on her own and not know how to make contact locally. But I’ll check my records and spread the word to all the alphas to contact you or me with the names of outsiders they’re aware of.”
Everyone in the clan would understand the danger. With the moon waxing, the hunting drive intensified, and if this hunter let it control her, she could be counted on to go after new victims. More humans would die. And maybe volke, too, as humans remembered their old rivals.
Allison’s head echoed with the imagined shrieks of her great-grandmother’s clan burning to death in their beds.