Anita had only been asleep for a little over an hour when her phone started to ring, she hated her life. It used to be that when her phone would ring so soon after her head hit that pillow she would swear that someone had better be dead, but these days that was such a real possibility it wasn’t even worth mentioning anymore.
“Blake, we got another scene we need you to take a look at.”
“Where?” Oh, how she missed the days when she could ask for more details than that, and actually get an answer or two. Those were the days.
Was this related to the body from the day before? Had another shifter been skinned? That’s the one thing she hated about being called in by the police, to keep from creating bias on the part of an expert they were always light on the details, they preferred for someone to see it for themselves and form their own opinion first. Good for collaboration, bad for her peace of mind.
“The middle of fucking nowhere. Here I’ll give you the landmarks on the way in so you can find the right patch of trees.” The more he spoke the heavier her dread became. They were on pack lands, near the Lupinar. Was the victim a werewolf? Was it one of Richards? Was it someone she knew? Someone she liked?
Knowing that sitting there silently craving answers would do nothing, she slammed the phone back down on its cradle and raced out of her office towards the patch of trees that she knew so well.
Pulling up to one of the only places that the werewolves viewed as nearly sacred, their haven, and seeing it swarming with yellow crime scene tape and cops was just wrong. On so many levels. When the car finally rolled to a stop, she jumped out and barely kept herself from running forward, if the cops thought she couldn’t be objective they would block her from even seeing what was on the other side of that damned yellow tape.
So instead she walked briskly preying with every step that it was something else, someone else.
Looking down at the victims, plural, she wanted more than anything to take those prayers back. There surrounded by nature in the place she knew so well lay five girls; none old enough to legally drink, covered in their own blood, their eyes frozen open in pain and fear. They had seen it coming, she knew that much already, they had seen it coming and had been unable to do anything to stop it. To save themselves.
“What do you got for me Blake?” She knew now why Dolf was being extra cranky with her. It was always harder when the victims were kids, and make no mistake they were kids, even to her.
“All five died at around the same time, I won’t know for sure but I’m guessing that the circle they’re lying in was drawn with their own blood. I recognize it as a ritual circle of some kind but I don’t know exactly what this particular one is used for. I don’t recognize the language or the symbols all around it. You might want to get a witch to look at them maybe they’ll have better luck.” At her words Zebrowski stepped up beside Dolf. His messy shirt and skewed tie already speaking volumes about how his day had been so far.
“We already had Tammy take a look, no luck. We’ve sent a copy of it to some of our other experts on retainer the ones who didn’t faint said they’d never seen it either. So what are we looking at Anita something new?”
“Or something old, very old.” As soon as the words left her mouth she knew, deep in her bones, she knew she was right. This, whatever this was, wasn’t unrecognizable because it was new but because it predated their knowledge.
“Look Anita you know I gotta ask. Is there any chance this is connected to that skinned shifter from before? I mean we find him one day and then the next day there’s this. Anything pointing towards a connect?”
“Not that I can see from here, but I wouldn’t rule it out.” In fact she would almost put money on them being related. There wasn’t anything she could point to exactly, the scene just seemed to have the same feel to it that the one before did. A sort of malevolent glee. Whoever did this, enjoyed it.
“Is there any signs that maybe the wolves had a hand it this? Maybe a revenge thing?” Closing her eyes she tried not to let her temper get the better of her, he was right he did have to ask. Thankfully she knew there was no chance that anyone furry had a hand in this.
“You got some evidence to back that up or is it just a feeling?” Dolf’s snide response shouldn’t be such a surprise to her, but it always was.
“The throats were cut with one swift motion left to right, one single cut, and depth puts it as a blade rather than claws. Add to that, that it looks like magic was done here, and it couldn’t have been a shifter. While Were’s can do some pack magic and some can even do some elemental stuff, the big leagues is pretty much beyond them. Magic doesn’t react well to being handled by those of us with fur.” There, all the evidence he needed to back down and start moving in the right direction on this.
“So they didn’t do the killing or the magic, doesn’t mean they didn’t have a hand in it. This is their land after all.” That had to be one of the most ignorant asinine things she’d ever heard come out of Dolf’s mouth.
“So what if someone kills a guy in your backyard then you automatically had a hand in it because it happened on your property? Is that how the law works now Dolf?” Her anger was simmering just beneath the surface, and looking in the eyes of her one time friend she saw his right there as well.
“That’s not what I said.”
“Yeah it is! They didn’t have a hand in the killing or the magic so what exactly is it you think they did? Stood there and watched? Just because it happened on their land doesn’t make them responsible Dolf. Their land stretches for miles in every direction, it’s isolated and secluded the perfect place for a killing like this and you know it. That doesn’t mean they had anything to do with it.” They had begun to draw some attention their way, like they almost always seemed to do these days.
“Alright Blake, throttle back, it was just an observation.” She knew what he was doing, trying to save face after such an epically public act of idiocy. Taking a step back she turned away and decided to let him.
“Send me the photos and I’ll see if I can’t scare up something from some of my sources. Until then, I have a few raisings to prepare for.”
Marching back towards her car she couldn’t shake the feeling that this, whatever this was, was only the beginning of something that would jump up and bite them all in the ass before it was over and done.
Jean-Claude sat behind his desk at Guilty Pleasures and tried to understand exactly what was happening in his city. First a shifter was killed, not that it really upset the status quo for one shifter to die, but not knowing exactly what happened made him look weak. If he couldn’t find out anything through his extensive network of contacts, it made his hold over his territory look unstable. Then many others are killed at the Lupinar under the wolves noses, and no one has a clue as to what’s happening. The fact that the wolf is his animal to call, made him look even more of a fool for being so far in the dark.
The only saving grace in the entire situation is that he was not the only one in the darkness. No one had so much as plausible theory about what was falling down around them all, all they knew for certain was that a bigger game was in play and for once they were not the players, but the pawns.
He did not enjoy the feeling, he remembered it well, and would be happy to never have to feel it again.
Ma petite was on her way now with questions, now he only hoped either he or one of his would have some answers for her. Answers they all needed desperately.
Anita tried to keep her frustration in check, she knew it wouldn’t help the situation for her to lose her temper. Anger would not make the answers magically appear, all it would do is make everyone else’s tempers flare along side hers.
She looked around the table at the leaders of every major group of their, both their allies and the ones she wasn’t so sure about, but for the moment their interests were aligned. Richard, the other side of their power base, as resentful as ever for having been dragged into another mess that he saw as Jean-Claudes problem. Rafael the leader of the Rodere, one of the more level headed of them all, the only one more evened out would likely be Micah. Finally Narcissus the leader of the Hyena’s, the one most in it only for himself and his own safety.
Asher, Jean-Claudes second and Micha, arguably her second were also included. Between them all, both ancient and wise, at least one of them should have at least some idea about the markings found at the Lupinar. Wrong! No one had so much as a clue. There was only really one other font of information left untapped, and he was already on his way. If he was as much of a bust as the rest of them, then they were all beyond screwed.
Damian did not understand why he was being summoned before St. Louis’s very own war council, but it was not likely to be anything he liked. Of course, ever since he had become Anita’s vampire servant there had not been much of anything happening to him that he had liked. He would do now, what he had been doing for some months now, he would simply take it one move at a time until he understood what was desired of him.
Anita was never one to truly speak her mind, no matter how much she claimed to value honesty she did not give it often, even when asked for. He had expressed his need to know what it was she wanted from him time and time again, only to be brushed off by platitudes and non answers. So now he was reduced to guessing games, luckily he was adept at such things from long practice.
“You called for me?” He resisted the desire to bow before them. He would not lower himself so before the shifters present.
“Yes, we have need of your mind. Ma petite has come across some unusual markings during the investigation of the killings at the Lupinar and it appears to predate both the police and ourselves. We were hoping that you would be able to provide some illumination with your long history.”
He simply nodded his head, because it was understood that his agreement was never in question, so he did not feel it was necessary to waste his time with words.
“Good, show him.”
Damian took the photos handed to him, expecting to find something benign that had simply fallen from memory and written record. It happened often, most of what was forgotten was simply inconsequential and over looked, but this… this was so much more. This was so much worse.
“Do you recognize it?” He let the demand wash over him, uncaring at the moment about what they wanted. Right now he needed more information, he needed to know.
“I do. Tell me the bodies found with these symbols, what was done to them?” He could feel their impatience building at the delay, but he would not answer until he was sure.
“Their throats were cut and their hearts were removed.”
“Five of them?”
“Before them, have their been any animals found skinned, shifter or otherwise.” The looks he received were answer enough, it was true. Someone was actually suicidal enough to attempt to recreate this madness.
“Yes, one that we know of.”
“There will be more. Five in total like the women. Most likely spread out, crossing state lines so that no one would see the pattern unless they went looking for it.”
“Damian! What is this?”
“It is a summoning.”