This fairy is being a huge pain in my ass.
I know she killed our victim. She knows I know. I can feel the waves of guilt rolling off of her with my intuition, a power that has fostered a lot of success in my career as a supernatural detective. Yet—we've been at this for three hours and she will not budge. I cross my arms and feel my mouth set in a hard line as her eyes fill with tears for what must be the twentieth time since I started my interrogation.
"I don't know why you won't listen to me," she sobs, dropping her head into her hands. Her long honey hair falls forward, a curtain to separate us. I take the seat across from her and let out a deep sigh.
"I'd like to believe you Layla," I say in the most comforting voice I can manage, "but things just aren't adding up. You say that you haven't heard from your boyfriend in a week, but we have his phone. We've seen the texts he sent you calling things off."
She sits up quickly, shaking her head. "That's a misunderstanding! I called him and we worked things out, but that was the last time we spoke. I thought he was ghosting me. I never would have guessed…" Her voice trails off, leading into more tears. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from rolling my eyes.
"Layla, I wanted to give you the chance to come clean. I thought that if some small part of you regretted what you did then maybe we could come to some sort of arrangement—but you've given me no choice. We're taking you to trial with the evidence we've found. You're going to be found guilty, and you're going to face life in prison, or worse, because you didn't have the guts to own up to what you did."
I stand and slowly make my way to the door. Layla's tears stop when I'm about four steps away. Two steps left, and she calls out.
I let myself smile briefly before hardening my mouth and turning to face her. "Oh, did I forget to mention? When we combed the crime scene we found a few strands of long, blonde hair in the blood."
Layla's face tells me about at much as a blank sheet of paper. "You can't know that it's mine. Even if it is, I've been to his apartment dozens of times. My hair is bound to be floating around."
I nod in agreement. "Sure, yeah, you're right. Thing is, we also found just the tiniest bit of a shoe print in the blood. So small that I bet whoever killed him didn't think they got any on them."
Layla's face twitches, but she quickly regains her composure. I continue, "We have a warrant for your home, Layla. We're going to find a shoe with your boyfriend's blood on it. Somehow I doubt you'll be able to explain that away."
I reach out with my intuition and can feel her resolve slipping. I can smell the sharp tang of guilt and feel the panic rising within her. It's so overwhelming that I have to fight to keep from laughing with excitement.
One more push is all she needs. I can feel it.
I slam my hand down onto the table, causing her to jump. "Damn it, Layla, let me help you!"
Her face twists and she covers her mouth in an attempt to hide her emotions. I lean down so we're eye level.
"I know why you did it. It's exhausting to be a supernatural and have to keep that from someone you love, to never be able to show them how special you are. When he threw you away like you were nothing, that was the last straw. All that anger you'd been carrying for years weighed on your shoulders like the worlds heaviest back pack, and it felt so good to finally slip it off, didn't it?"
Another sob, but this one feels genuine. "It wasn't like that!" Layla cries out.
I drop back down into my seat and softly prompt, "Then what was it like?"
I wait for an excruciating few moments as Layla tries to stop her crying. Finally, her voice raw and wavering, she answers me.
"You're right about one thing. It sucks to have to hide who I am from people. That's why, when he broke up with me, I decided to tell him the truth. I thought that if he saw who I really was then he would want to be with me. It's stupid, but it was my last hope. So, I went to his apartment and sat him down. I told him what I am and he said I was crazy. I took off my glamour and showed him what I am, and he said I was a monster."
She rubs at her eyes as she continues. "Um, he called me a freak and told me to get out. I wasn't angry. It didn't happen like that. I was just so hurt and I didn't want him to hate me so I reached out for him, to try to touch him. I thought I could use my magic to make him love me again… I know it's wrong but I didn't care, so I tried to grab him but he stepped back. He tripped and fell and hit his head on the coffee table…"
It's as far as she can go before she melts back into a puddle of tears. I tentatively reach out with my intuition again to make sure that she's told me the whole story. Everything she was feeling before is now taken over by one feeling—relief. I push forward the pen and paper in front of her.
"Write it all down, Layla."
I leave her with two uniformed officers to write her confession, the sweet feeling of success buzzing through me. One of the officers stops me on my way out. "The captain wants to see you in his office," he says.
Raised in the country by my grandmother, an incredibly talented but humble witch, I learned about the CSPD only in passing as she told stories about the agency that fought in secret to keep supernatural life both hidden and safe. I knew from a very young age that all I wanted in life was to join this agency. She was always begging me not to join, terrified for my safety, but when she died at the ripe age of five hundred and thirty four years-old, there was no longer a reason not to do it.
When I first joined the CSPD seven years ago I was a meek, self-conscious girl with little knowledge about Chicago's supernatural population. I knew only that there was a side of myself that I needed to attend to, and Jack—our captain— helped me do just that. Jack himself was a warlock, so he took me under his wing. He helped me fine tune my abilities and grow into a half-decent witch and detective.
I stop by my desk to drop off my notes from the interrogation. On my way back out I pause, as I always do, and place a light finger on the picture frame that holds the last picture ever taken of my parents and me. It was a cold winter day, so we're all bundled up in thick coats and scarves. Back then, at seven years old, I looked exactly like my mother, with a face full of freckles and wild corkscrews of red hair. The older I've gotten, though, my nose has grown longer and slightly crooked, just like my dad's.
When I get to Jack's office the door is cracked open, so I knock lightly as I push it open further. He's sitting at his desk, his head bent over a scattering of paperwork. I smile at the new artwork he has framed on the wall behind him—a beautiful interpretation of a house with a sun and clouds, no doubt drawn by his great great grandson.
As I enter his head shoots up. "Rebecca," he greets, pushing the papers aside. "Congratulations on cracking that fairy. I was starting to worry, but I don't know why. Doubting you never seems to do me any good."
I smile with pride at his comment. Jack and I have butted heads a few times as I've been working to find my place at the department, but ultimately I've earned his trust. He stands and motions to the door, shoving the paperwork into his bag.
"Let's go to Len's," he says, referring to our usual bar. I nod in agreement and follow him out. It's well into fall, which means that it's cold as hell outside. I zip up my puffy coat as we step out onto the street, but it does little against the biting wind.
"It's a damn good thing Len's is only a block away," I grumble, earning a laugh from Jack. Jack's best skill is fire, and as a result he's able to warm himself with little trouble. I feel a wave of heat as he extends his magic to me.
"Thank you," I sigh in relief.
I hate being out at night, not just because of the cold, but because I have to keep my intuition of guard for any dangers at night more so than during the light of day. Despite this, it isn't lost on me how beautiful the city is at night. Shrubs and trees line the sidewalk, and most of them are covered in sparkling lights in advance anticipation for the holidays to come. Over my shoulder I can see Willis tower, tall and proud, lighting up the skyline.
When we reach Len's I'm glad to see that it's namesake is nowhere to be found. The owner of the bar runs a tight ship, but when he's gone our favorite bartenders sometimes give us special deals for being easy customers. The bar itself is nothing to write home about—it's simplistic in style and and menu, but there are rarely many other customers which means that for the most part we can speak freely about our work. Tonight the small bar is practically empty. We slide into our favorite booth, the one with the least torn seats, just as a leggy brunette comes up to greet us.
"Hey there you two," she says, grinning down at me. Shit. Bailey. I was supposed to call her after our date last week. I try to give her a genuine smile, but I'm worried that it comes across as more of a grimace. I'm not good at awkward situations, or at hiding my true emotions.
Jack and I both order the same beer, as tall as we can get them. When Bailey walks away, Jack glares at me. "I see the tension, kid. Don't you dare ruin this bar for me."
I wave him off. "It's not a big deal, I'll call her later." Jack rolls his eyes but doesn't push me further. We talk about the fairy case for a while until Bailey brings us our beer. She hovers for a moment, but when she realizes that I'm not going to explain myself—at least, not in front of Jack—she finally leaves.
"Here's the thing, Rebecca," Jack says after a long drink. "I didn't just ask you here because you did a good job today, although you did."
I raise my eyebrow at him. "There's another case, and I'd like you to take charge on this one."
Color me interested. "Go on," I prompt, taking a drink from my own beer.
"There was a vampire attack in Logan Square last week," he explains. "My contact at the CPD told me about it. Everyone over there thinks the victim is crazy. They want to have her committed."
I shake my head in disapproval and wait for him to continue.
"Then, lo and behold, one of our rookies catches the perp in the act last night. We've got the sucker in a holding cell. There have been several disappearances in the area, so now we're starting to wonder if there's a connection. If there is, we need to follow it and find the missing people."
"You had me at vampire," I say darkly. Jack knows my thoughts about vampires, as well as the reasoning, which I'm sure is why he's chosen me for the case. He knows I'll do just about anything to take down a bad vampire. The only catch—my intuition doesn't work on creatures of the living dead. Vampires, ghosts, etc. elude me. I can sense their presence, but nothing about their intentions.
"That's my girl," Jack says, holding out his glass. I touch mine to his and we both take a long drink. "Aaron, the rookie, is the one who came across the vampire on a patrol. Maybe talk to him, and of course interview the vampire."
I press my lips together. I don't love the idea of being in such close quarters with a vampire, but I've done it before. In fact, the last time I checked I had the highest number of vampire arrests at the precinct. Not that I discriminate—I've never arrested one who didn't wholly deserve it. My ranking is purely due to the fact that I'm one of the only ones in our department who has the guts to face off to a vampire in the first place.
Jack and I finish our beers and order another round as we discuss other things. I talk about a concert I went to see a few days ago, and Jack tells me about his great great grandson's first spell casting. Family is important to Jack, especially as he's getting older. At three-hundred and sixty-two years old he only has about another century and a half left in him.
I'm the first to leave, citing Mike, my dog, as an excuse. I do have to get home to feed him, but I'm also ready to crawl into bed and process everything that's gone on today. Jack gives me the stack of papers he was reading when I got to his office. They're all articles about the disappearances. I take them eagerly and leave the bar. I barely make it a few hundred feet outside before I hear Bailey calling my name.
I stop, curse to myself, and turn around. Great, she's chasing after me. I was really hoping she would just give up so we wouldn't have to have this conversation. The smile on her face makes my chest constrict.
"You didn't even say goodbye," she says, shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat. She looks adorable, her nose just starting to turn pink from the cool air.
"Yeah, sorry, it's just been a long day."
"Is that why you haven't called me?" she asks. "Lots of long days?"
I sigh and shift on my feet. "Look, Bailey, I'm sorry I didn't call you but I'm just not good at this, okay? I'm not good at relationships. I should have told you that sooner."
Her smile starts to fade. "Oh," is all she says.
"You're amazing," I assure her. "It's nothing to do with you. I just have a lot going on and I should have known better than to start something I couldn't follow through on."
Bailey's face pinches, like she's holding back whatever emotion really wants to show through her features. "Yeah, you should have," she says before turning to walk back to Len's. I think about calling out to her, but I don't. What's the use? Instead I turn the opposite way and start back off toward my apartment.
Before I can even fully open the door to the one-bedroom where I live, Mike shoves his nose through the opening and pushes it the rest of the way. He jumps up, hovering on his hind legs in greeting. I smatter him with scratches, kisses, and sweet names before pushing past him to enter the living room.
My apartment isn't fancy, but the fact that I'm able to even afford anything in a safe neighborhood on my CSPD salary is nothing short of a miracle. It took a lot of research, negotiation, and meditating with my green aventurine gemstones. The small place is filled with plush furniture, house plants, and various gemstones and crystals that I keep in strategic places for different uses.
I microwave leftovers, because I don't have the same affinity for heat that Jack does, and settle in the floor in front of my coffee table to dig into the food as well as the stack of papers that Jack gave me.
The articles are all similar. Since crime isn't at all unusual in Chicago, the first article details three people—two women, one man—missing from the area. If gives the basic run down of who they are and why they were in the area, and goes on to pose theories about what could have happened. They propose that maybe this is the product of gang initiation, or that maybe the disappearances are drug related. As the count rises, however, the articles gradually steer toward the conclusion that this is a case of serial kidnapping.
The disappearances span over only three months, making them hard to ignore. The Chicago Police Department—the vanilla one—has continually insisted that they cannot make any statements at this time without putting the case in jeopardy. That's code for they don't have shit. They only advise that people be cautious, travel in groups, and don't spend time in the area if they don't have to.
The kidnappings only take place at night. Of course they do, because vampires are burned by sunlight. It's one of the classic myths about them that actually turns out to be true. They can eat all the garlic they wish, but one step into the daylight and that's it.
I take a too-big bite of an egg roll before standing and going to my book shelf. I run my index finger across the many spines until I land on a book that Jack gave me when I was still in training. Vampyrica: A History of the Living Dead.
I sit on my couch with my back against an arm and open the book as Mike jumps up and settles in at my feet. I thumb through the various chapters, looking for anything that might give me an idea of how the vampires are managing the kidnappings. Vampires don't age, vampires do breathe, vampires do not turn into bats…
Certain vampires, though few in number, have the ability to compel their victims into following their commands. These vampires are often high leaders, as their ability makes it easier for them to feed and become stronger.
I dog ear this page and slip the book into my work bag, planning to question our vampire about his coven's leader and their abilities. Not that I can be sure he'll share much.
It's not that I've never partnered with double-crossers. In fact, I'd done so fairly recently when we were tracking a werewolf pack in the suburbs. It's that I have a deep-rooted distrust toward vampires that's been fermenting for nineteen years.
I'm the one who found my parents afterward. I knew something was wrong, but was too young to realize how exactly I knew. Looking back, I recognize that my intuition began at an early age. One serious downfall of my power is that I can't sense the intentions of the living dead—vampires, ghosts, etc—but I can always feel their presence. That night I felt wrong, and I wanted my parents' comfort, so I went looking for them. They were in the kitchen. Their bodies were sprawled across the floor.
I called out to them. They didn't answer. I approached them, and I'll never stop wishing I hadn't. I screamed before running upstairs to my room. I hid for what must have been hours, then remembered what they had told me to do if they were ever hurt or if someone broke into the house. It took a while to build up the courage, but eventually I sprinted to the wall phone in the hallway and called 9-1-1.
I lived with my grandmother after that. Before, I hadn't gotten to see her much. I know now that it's because my father wanted to keep me sheltered from our heritage. He himself was not a warlock, because in our family it's only women who have the gift. He knew enough, however, that he and my mother had decided before I was born that they didn't want my grandmother's influence around me. I can't imagine the life I would have lived if they hadn't died.
I open my eyes and groan, frustrated that I can't seem to clear my negative thoughts. Mike lifts his head and gives me a concerned expression. I lean over to give him a reassuring pat, then force myself off the couch to clear up my mess.
In the kitchen I brew a sleeping potion, knowing that I'll need quality sleep to prepare for the day ahead. As I'm chopping valerian root I let my mind wander to the case, only to be brought back with the sharp sting of my knife slicing my finger.
"Fuck," I mumble, bringing my finger to my lips to try and stop the bleeding. Every witch has their strengths, but they have their weaknesses too. Unfortunately healing isn't something I've ever excelled at, so I make my way into the bathroom to find a band-aid, hoping like hell that this isn't a omen.