I looked at the clock, my eyes frozen to the small ticking hand, anything to keep from looking at the nightmare that lay just beyond my peripheral vision. I took a deep breath, always a big mistake in my current situation, and had to fight back the bile that rose in my throat.
"Keep it together, O'Bryan. Don't give them a reason to doubt you."
The voice was a comforting one, that of Detective John Malcolm, a man who had coached me through becoming the division's lead supernatural specialist. They needed me on this case, because I was the only one to go against the power of the High Court Fae. But then again, I was the only immortal in uniform. We were technically in their district, but that didn't scare me.
I finally turned around, still avoiding the corner of the room, and smiled at John. I didn't know why I was so dead set against seeing the crime scene this time. It wasn't anything I hadn't already seen before, nothing that didn't happen on a daily basis on the marble floors of the Great Hall. It wasn't as bad as what my dear sister, the Queen of the Fae, had already done, some of it even to me. I needed to get a grip, maybe I'd just been working too hard. I looked up to see John smiling that crooked grin of his. He wasn't an overly handsome man. His skin was beginning to wrinkle and his dark hair was peppered with grey, cut in the same mafia style he'd had since I met him.
"Go home to your wife and daughter, John. You're getting too old for this life." My sudden harsh words gave me the courage to finally look to my left, that section of the room I'd been avoiding for way too long already.
Blood was splattered against the wall, smeared down by the slumped body in the corner. She'd been killed while standing, her body dragging blood down with her. Rigor mortis had not yet sunk in, and the body was limp and doll-like. What a fucked up doll that would be, I thought with a smirk.
I covered my hands with gloves, and knelt down next to the body. I was wearing an old pair of work pants, thick and durable. But I could still feel the blood squish up through them; the carpet was so oversaturated with blood. When the blood was drained from a body, one wouldn't believe how much of it we actually held. The body looked torn to shreds, but I had to look past that and search for signs of who killed her and how. I hoped it was not the Fae. I hoped I would find some evidence that it was a regular person. Something not supernatural. Then the case would move on to someone else. I prayed for it, knowing it was a slim chance. If it was my case, I was taking a long vacation after this was through.
I pulled up a flap of meat and skin, and saw part of a tattoo. I pulled up the other flap to meet it and came up with an old Celtic design used to ward off the Fae. I dropped the skin immediately. My hands had become hot; the ward was active and reacted strongly to my Fae blood. My skin began to glow, and I had to use glamour to make it subside. John had already seen however, and he came over to investigate.
"What did you find?" he asked, stopping a few feet from where I stood, at the edge of the blood stains. John was wearing expensive Italian loafers; I didn't blame him for not getting closer.
I closed my eyes against the nausea in my stomach. "John, did you have a witch come through here?" He nodded vigorously hen I cracked open an eye to look at him. "This body has an active ward on it. Why wasn't it deactivated?"
"I was told it was done. The witch told me so herself. Let me go find her."
I stood back up, backing away from the body. I removed my gloves and rubbed my hands together, a nervous habit of mine. An active ward against the Fae wasn't something I was expecting. It was a dangerous addition and almost guaranteed my search to be a long one. There were a ton of people who hated the Fae and many who knew wards against them. This one was certainly powerful, one of the strongest I'd come across. This made me wonder just what the witch had been doing.
I looked up from my hands at the sound of clicking heels to see a lanky redhead walking beside John. She had on a top that barely covered and tight leather pants. When she got closer, I could see her pentagram necklace was cheap and fake, and her makeup was heavily overdone. I reached out with my magic and rage came to the surface when I felt no answering call or acknowledgement. She was a hoax and I tried to contain my grin at the thought of ratting her out. She made all of us "others" look bad. Others was a term that the humans had coined upon discovery of our existence. It was a broad terminology to encompass anyone that was not strictly human. For a while, it was used as a slur against us, but we had embraced the term, taking away any power it might have had.
"Yes Kathryn?" she smirked. Great, she was cocky as well.
"Detective O'Bryan, if you would be so kind. Can you tell me why the ward around this body wasn't deactivated?"
"There isn't one, Detective."
"Oh, but there is." I placed my hand close to the body and asked John to hold the flaps of skin together. When the sign was complete, my body began to glow and a wispy smoke rose from the body. I pulled my hand away, battling the nausea, its cause a mix of cindered flesh and the ward. "I think you might want to reconsider your career, because you aren't going to have one with us after today."
I walked away from the body, needing space, but also needing to make a quick phone call. I personally could not disarm the ward; it was set against my brand of magic. So I had to call someone to do it for me. I knew just the person and I trusted him inexplicably.
Twenty minutes later, Cormac Leon, Mac for short, stepped through the front door. He was a witch by birth and a shape shifter by an ex-girlfriend's mistake. Most importantly to me, he was my boyfriend. Few people knew about the wolf part of him, it wasn't something he readily volunteered. Werewolves were not required to register themselves as such yet, unlike witches and the Fae. He still had the marks where the girl had shifted on him, during his first and only sexual encounter. She had been a new wolf, unable to keep her beast in control when she climaxed. Mac had since become adverse to very much physical contact, and it kept us from having the relationship I wanted. As he stepped beside me, I touched his arm. It was an experiment I was conducting to see if he could become accustomed to my touch. He tightened his bicep, but he did not pull away from me. I pulled him into a quick hug, whispering in his ear, "Relax, I'm not going to hurt you."
"Kat, I want to believe you, but it's hard for me. I'm sorry sweetheart." He backed away from me until our bodies were a couple of inches apart. "Now, what's the issue here?"
I looked at him, trying to keep the hurt off my face and out of my expressions. I knew he didn't mean it as an insult. His beautiful, sea foam green eyes were wide with a hint of fear and I cursed the bitch that gave the man of my dreams this horrible phobia. "There's a ward against the Fae on the body and I cannot deactivate it."
He knelt beside the body, careful to keep his knees from touching the blood soaked carpet. He found the ward immediately and went to work. His wavy dark hair fell over his shoulders and I pulled it back to keep it from getting in the bloody mess.
"Kat, I appreciate it, but I will just go home and take a shower afterwards. I can't concentrate with you touching me."
I frowned at his back and took a hair tie from my pocket, offering it to him silently. He accepted it with a forced smile in my direction. He was in an odd mood today and I was afraid it was my fault for pushing the hug.
He finished up his task a few minutes later and stood up gracefully. "All done here. Come on home after you're finished and we will go grab something to eat." I saw him hesitate for a second and then he tentatively placed a hand on mine.
I smiled broadly at his effort. Maybe I was right in pushing the hug. I reminded myself to ask him about it over dinner. I turned my wrist squeezing his hand, and he gave me a slightly awkward half-hug before leaving.
I let out a small breath, easing my mind back into working mode. I turned back to the body, slipping on a new pair of gloves. Now that Mac had taken care of the ward, I was free to examine the body properly. I had taken my sketch pad and notebook out to my car during my phone call, so I called an officer over to write everything down for me. The crowd at the scene had thinned greatly, but there were a few deputies standing around with nothing to do. Officer Jameson, one of the few women on the squad, came over to help.
"What do we know about this?" my voice sounded clear even as I cried out inside my head at the view in front of me.
"Her neighbor heard screaming and called 911 about three hours ago. She saw a man run out of the house and get into a dark sedan, driving away quickly." Jameson was looking at her notes frowning. "She's become hysterical and wouldn't talk to any of us further. Paramedics took her to the hospital for a panic attack. She's there for overnight surveillance."
"Of course she is. I'll talk to her tomorrow then." I suppressed a frustrated sigh and looked at the wall, seeing a blood splattered picture of two women. "One of these our victim?"
"The blonde's the neighbor, the redhead is our girl." They were both smiling, the setting some sort of Christmas party. The victim looked to be in her early twenties, young.
I went back to the body, not seeing anything unusual in the picture. I picked up pieces of skin, and noticed the edges had a ragged edge. "I think our culprit is a shifter of some sort. These cuts aren't clean and don't follow a pattern." Just peachy, I thought to myself. I had mixed feelings about the registration of others. Part of me thought it was bad idea, letting the humans register us like cattle. It meant they knew who were all were and visions of a second holocaust filled my brain. The cop part of me however, thought that it was a great idea. It would be much harder for me to track down the perp if he or she was a shifter. With no database to pull from, it could be almost anyone. I couldn't even rule out witches, as I had firsthand experience that they could be one and the same.
I noticed what looked like a grey hair on the patch of skin I was holding. The victim was a redhead and far too young for grey hair. I asked for an evidence bag and put the hair inside, carefully zipping it back up. Maybe it would give me some sort of a lead. I took my flashlight and a tongue depressor out of my coveralls pocket, and reached into her mouth with a gloved finger. I was trying to see if any damage had been made inside her mouth, maybe a clue to a spell or charm that might narrow down my search. I pulled her tongue to the front, holding it down with the tongue depressor. As I shined the flashlight into her throat, I saw a glimmer of metal. I got out my tongs and fished out a silver chain.
"What the hell?" Jameson asked, surprise in her voice.
I bagged the chain as I thought, my brain unable to find any sort of explanation. "I don't know, maybe the hair will give us a starting point."
I didn't find anything else strange or out of place during my examination, but on my way out I told John to have someone check for rape and that I wanted to be present for the autopsy. I threw my gloves into the trash and quickly changed out of my bloody pants.
I walked out of the house in a bit of a daze, happy to breathe in air not tainted with the scent of blood. When I was growing up, the Court always smelled of blood, seeing as how my older sister was on the crazy side of sadistic. I would sneak out into the neighboring village at night, just to smell clean air. I shook my head, trying not to dwell on my childhood. I was done for the day and could take my mind off of unpleasantness for a while.
I pulled out a cigarette and lit it as I walked to my car. I was immortal and immune to pesky human illnesses like cancer and emphysema. I got into my old Chevy truck, dirty and beat up from crime scenes and God knows what else. But it was a reliable vehicle and had 4-wheel drive. I sat down in the driver's seat, taking a deep drag from my cigarette. Feeling better, I called Mac while I finished up. I told him I'd be at the house in thirty minutes or so. I smiled to myself, remembering the brief touch we'd shared. My plan was working. I suddenly had renewed hope of having a real relationship with him. I was pretty confident now that he could learn to like being touched again.
I arrived at our house a few minutes early, traffic had been light. The house was on two acres of land, set far back into the woods, so that Mac could roam whenever he felt the need to take wolf form. I'd even had the woods stocked with game for him to hunt, even though I myself was a vegetarian.
As I pulled up behind his Jeep, he opened the front door and stepped out. His hair was down and blowing in the slight breeze. He wasn't wearing a shirt, just a pair of jeans and the Celtic protection pendant I had given to him. He looked amazing. I took a deep breath, knowing he wouldn't let me act upon this – let me touch him the way I wanted to. It was so very unfair of him.
I got out of the truck and he met me halfway. I knew the look on my face was that of pure shock when he pulled me into a hug.
"Glad you're home." I was dying to say something, but I didn't want to question such a big breakthrough. I was afraid talking about it would set us backwards again. I followed Mac inside, admiring the view, the way he walked, his muscles, everything about him. I wondered how long it would be before I got to know his body the way I wanted to. From the looks of things, it was going to be sooner than I had anticipated, which was originally never.
When we walked into the dining room, there were candles and incense lit and the table was set with crystal china. My heart began to beat faster, for this was new too. What was going on? Our one year anniversary wasn't for another month or so.
"I met you three years ago this day. You have never once hurt me. You even go out of your way to make sure I'm comfortable." He reached for my hand and when he grasped it; my own hand began to tingle from the contact. "I know you've been getting impatient with me and I've been thinking about this for a while. I want us to start having more physical contact, try and move this relationship to the next level."
My jaw dropped at this, and I was unable to move from the shock. For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for thoughts, much less words. Then he leaned in to kiss me. His lips touched mine and I reveled in the experience. It was only our third kiss, and by far the most passionate. He parted my lips with his tongue, my heart racing uncontrollably. We pulled apart, and I could feel his heart beating, rushing to escape.
The meal passed in silence, with me thinking about what had just happened and what it meant for our future. Mac caught my eye and grinned, his looking almost boyish. It was the most real smile I had encountered from him in a long time. I was day dreaming about what all of this meant for our sex life, or lack thereof, when Mac touched my shoulder. I jumped; surprised that he wasn't still sitting across from me.
"You'd think that you were the one with a personal space issue." Mac said with a grin. It showed he'd grown a lot if he could make fun of himself like that. "I'm going upstairs. Would you like to join me?"
I smiled at the thought; we'd been sleeping in separate rooms since Mac had moved in two months ago. We went to my bedroom, Mac shutting the door. We crawled into bed together, content for now with just holding each other. I loved the contact and didn't push for more. If I pushed him too fast, he'd take it all away. So I fell asleep with Mac holding me, a small smile of contentment on my face.