I bring my hand to my face, covering my nose, and look around. Blood stains the walls, dripping from the rafters and pooling on the floor. I take in a breath through my mouth, but the putrid smell of festering blood is unavoidable.
Pulling a flashlight from my utility belt, I carefully step over a significant puddle of blood and shine the light on the wall. It’s dank and dark in this basement, and it being the middle of the night doesn’t help the situation. CSU needs to get their asses here and set up.
“There’s something written in black ink under the blood,” I say over my shoulder to another police officer. “I can’t make it out, but make sure it’s photographed properly.”
Taking another look around the room, I do my best not to gag from the scent of not only old blood but also cat urine and the water-rotten floorboards above me. The blood splatter analyst hasn’t yet arrived, but I already know what he’ll say.
The blood was put up in layers.
It doesn’t make sense, but things that don’t make sense are my specialty. Though even for me, none of this adds up. The blood…the cryptic writing behind it…the knife I found lying in the middle of the floor that’s tip is in perfect condition and obviously hadn’t been used to murder anyone…it’s all so obvious.
As if someone was trying to get my attention.
Well, they have it, but it doesn’t make me any less annoyed. Thankful for the plastic coveralls I have on over my clothes, I go over to a storage closet door and shine my light around it.
Sometime after the first layer of blood was thrown around the room, someone opened the door and smeared it. It’s long been dried, stained into the cement floor, forever soaked into the old wooden frame. They were careful to get enough new blood over the door to try and cover it up, which leads me to believe someone of importance was once in the closet.
Suddenly, the air around me shifts, and my head buzzes with thoughts that aren’t quite my own. I blink, shaking my head rapidly to get rid of them. What the fuck was that? I could hear the voices but couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Taking a steadying breath, I cast a sideways look at the officer behind me and reach for the door. The knob sticks when I turn it. I tuck my flashlight under my arm and twist the knob with both hands.
The door slowly creaks open. I grab my light and rest my free hand on my gun, standing back just in case something with fangs and claws jumps out at me. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Cold, musky air billows out, along with the rancid smell of a rotting body. I turn my head, but the alternative isn’t much better. The whole place needs to be burned to the ground it smells so bad.
Eyes watering from the scent of death, I flick the light around the little closet.
“If this is the body you called me in for, I’m going to be pissed,” I only half joke, raising an eyebrow. The officer comes over, face pale, and looks at the dead cat.
“We take every life seriously here at the Philadelphia Police Department,” he deadpans, and for a split second I think he’s serious. Then he tips his head, looking at the cat. “I didn’t know that was in there.”
“While I’m glad I wasn’t pulled out of bed for a cat murder, I still don’t get why I’m here,” I say, and turn around, facing the young officer who responded to the initial call.
He looks at me like I’m crazy and don’t realize I’m standing in a room dripping with blood.
“I’m a homicide detective,” I go on, trying to be patient. I wasn’t just called out of my bed at three a.m. for this. I was called out of my bed, forcing me to leave Thomas and Gilbert, who were both still naked after we had sex. I was so comfortable wrapped in Gil’s arms while Thomas rubbed my back. My time with the guys is limited to the night, and the sun rises early in the summer. “I know it looks like there’s enough blood here to say there’s been a murder, but without a body, we can’t make assumptions. This could be pig blood for all we know.”
“Right, I’m aware.” He shifts his weight nervously. “This seemed like your area of expertise.”
Keeping my face neutral, I hold my gaze and wait for him to go on. Over the years of taking on some of the weirder cases that pass through the homicide department, I’ve gotten the reputation of being Philly’s very own Fox Mulder.
“She asked for you.”
“Mary Green. The woman who reported the blood. She said only Detective Bisset could help.”
After solving the “vampire murders” that terrorized the city only months ago, a few articles circulated around social media about me, hailing me a hero and all that. The situation still makes me feel uneasy.
The murderer really was a vampire, not a human acting as one, like the city believes. The only human involved in the situation was more or less framed for multiple murders he didn’t commit, though he definitely aided in the deaths.
I feel guilty and relieved at the same time.
The officer’s brow furrows. “She said the voices told her to find you.”
“Voices?” I swallow hard. “Where is she?”
“In a squad car out front.”
I dismiss him with a nod and leave the basement, gulping in fresh air as soon as I’m outside. I remove the coveralls and go around the house to find this lady who’s hearing voices.
There was a time when I wouldn’t have given her the slightest benefit of the doubt. If you hear voices you’re batshit crazy and should be on medication. But then I walked into an old house and lifted a thousand-year-old spell.
“Mrs. Green?” I ask when I open the car door. She has a blanket around her shoulders and looks as stricken as someone should when they discover the basement of their rental property could be the backdrop for the prom scene of Carrie. “I’m Detective Bisset.”
Mrs. Green blinks and pulls the blanket tighter around her shoulders. Slowly, she turns her head. “They know,” she whispers.
She shifts her gaze around, wincing as if someone just slapped her hard on the face. I’m starting to lean toward my she’s-batshit-crazy theory right now.
“The Dark Ones.” The words come out hoarse and strangled, and she looks me dead in the eye. “They know about you.”
As hard as I try, I can’t stop a chill from running down my spine.
“And what did they tell you?”
She closes her eyes. “They want the night. They say it’s theirs and they want it back.”
I exhale, head feeling fuzzy again. “Make sure you give a statement to the responding officer,” I mutter, and step away. I go around the squad car, watching flashing lights from the CSU van come down the road.
There’s no need to put any stock into this lady. If I were a betting woman, I’d put a hundred bucks on her being off her rocker, and another fifty on her being the one who staged the blood bath in the basement. And probably twenty-five on her being a compulsive cat hoarder who’s going to get arrested for animal neglect on top of her other charges.
Tipping my head up to the dark sky, I think of Thomas’s and Gilbert’s handsome faces. Of Hasan’s rippling muscles, and Jacques’s deep, sad eyes.
Keep it together, Ace.
Shaking myself, I go back to work, wrapping things up quickly since there’s not technically a body. I pull out my phone and send a text to Jac, telling him I’ll be headed home soon.
He replies right away, telling me to be careful, and adds a bunch of emojis at the end of his text. I laugh, shaking my head. I never should have shown him that, though I’m sure he would have figured it out on his own. Jacques is quite smart, and I know he’s enjoyed learning about new inventions way more than he’d ever let on.
Taking one last look at the squad car that holds Mrs. Green, I pocket my phone and take a few steps in the direction of my Charger. Something feels off, and it’s not the over-the-top crime scene in the basement.
I can’t put it into words, because it’s quite literally just a feeling. I’ve had them before, and as a cop, I know how important it is to listen to your gut. And right now, my gut is telling me to go down that dark alley two doors down from the blood house. It’s my weekend off, dammit, and I want to spend every minute of it with my guys.
But as I get closer to the alley, my head gets all muddled again, and it’s like a million people are talking all at once on a frequency only I can hear. At first it’s just a quiet whisper, like a mouth right up to my ear, breath warm on my flesh. I whirl around, fists clenched, ready to fight.
Of course, there’s no one there.
A tumult of whispers weigh down on me, and I bring my hands over my ears to drown them out. I can’t tell what they’re saying, and the bombardment is making me go on the defense. The tips of my fingers start to feel warm.
Dammit. Not now.
I bring my hands back down, balling them into fists as I try to quell the magical fire I seem to only be able to conjure up when I’m faced with certain danger. Forcing myself to take a deep breath and find my fucking zen, I shake out my hands and mentally tell the voices to go screw themselves.
I turn to go back to my car, and a flash of light catches my attention at the last moment. It came from the alley. Pulling my gun from its holster, I sprint over, gravel crunching under my boots. I come to a grinding halt, eyes wide and nostrils flaring.
“Motherfucker,” I curse, and reach for my radio. Looks like this is my crime scene after all. Before I can get a word in, something moves behind me. Gun raised, I turn on my heel.
Standing before me is a man, pale, gray, and the spitting image of the dead body lying on the ground feet from me.