More of my AB/HP crossover..
The day didn't seem to get any better. We had just gotten into the car when my pager went off. Dolph. I cursed and got back out of the car. This week was just getting better and better and it was nearly over. So much for my day off.
I walked back to the Circus and was let in by Graham. I walked to Jean Claude's office to make the call. What I thought was quick had apparently kept Dolph waiting. I didn't want to think of what else could have made him as grumpy as he sounded. It couldn't be good.
"Anita." He said, sure it was me.
"Dolph, what's up?" I asked.
"There's been a murder." I nodded, knowing he couldn't see it. There was always a murder. Working with Dolph never ceased bringing these little surprises.
"What does it look like?" I asked, pretty sure that he wasn't going to tell me a thing.
"You'll have to come down. It's not human, I'm positive of that." He said.
"Am I teaching you that fast?" I asked. My wit, as usual was lost on him. I continued. "I was in the car when you rang, and have nothing planned for the day, where are you at?"
"Jefferson County. The Wickes Railroad Bridge. Hurry, Anita. There's a freighter here that has to get through and we can't do anything until you get here."
"I'll be there as fast as I can." I said, hanging up the phone before Dolph could. No point in saying good-bye to someone who made it a habit not to. I let myself back out and got in the car.
A murder scene is not the ideal place to spend a weekend. Especially one as nice as the day was shaping up to be. Early October was always my favorite time of year, and it always rolled past without my noticing. Animating was popular this time of the year, murders in the stats not far behind.
I told Micah and Nathaniel where we were headed and offered to stop at home if they didn't want to come. Neither did, so we were set to go. Micah had someone else covering for him, assuming that I was going to have the day off, as did Nathaniel. So there was going to be an outing anyway. Just not the hiking in the woods one that we had planned.
The Wilkes Bridge was an old one. It was a historical marker, and the age in it showed. Not in a run down sort of way, but you could tell it was made in a time where things were made to last a long time.
Parking was difficult due to the amount of cars already there. I spotted Zebrowski's new car at the front of the line. His wife had finally managed to convince him to part with his former piece of junk. Not that this one had a fighting chance.
The grass leading to the bridge was a crisp yellow, whispering as we approached the roped off area. Police tape that was meant to keep prying eyes away, but there was no one here. Protocol. I followed the yellow tape road until I saw Dolph. Micah and Nathaniel waited for me in the car.
"Where is it?" I asked Dolph. I looked over his shoulder and could see the bridge looming in the distance. It was a really nice bridge. I spied Zebrowski behind Dolph and nodded.
"On the bridge." Dolph said in a short voice. I spared him a suspicious look.
Glancing at the bridge again, I realized what had struck me as funny. "But there's no room to walk on there." I said. The Wilkes Bridge was as narrow as they come, simply a set of railroad tracks over a river.
Dolph nodded. He was normally the silent type when I arrived, wanting me to point out what came to my mind as I looked at the scene, not influencing me in any way. That was fine with me. I walked back to the car and pulled out a pair of black overalls I kept in the back. I was in jeans, but there was no telling where I would have to go in the course of the day, and I didn't want to be covered in railroad ash. Or worse things.
Properly covered, I made my way to the scene, careful not to disturb anything. There was a lot of soot before the ground dropped off to the bank of the river, and here and there were little flags that indicated something had disturbed the ground. On the other end of the bridge I could see the train that was waiting to cross. Halfway across I could see a lump of clothing. I assumed it was what I was here to see.
A Jefferson County Sherif was waiting at the slope of the bank. He tipped his hat to me as I approached and I nodded. "Miss Blake. Nice of you to show up." He said. I rolled my eyes, the sarcasm in his voice was as clear as a bell.
"That's Marshall Blake, thank you." I said, sorely refusing to let him goad me. Pissing contests were not what I needed today. Hell, I didn't know what was on the bridge, and from Dolph's tone and Zebrowski's lack thereof, I knew I didn't want to start in with another Sherif with a chip on his shoulder.
He explained where I could and couldn't step to get to the railroad ties and offered his hand to help me. I ignored it and started walking along the ties to get to the body. I didn't look down as I walked. There was nothing solid under the wood ties, and all that was between me and the water was a lot of nothing. It took longer than I thought it would, but finally, the body was in front of me.
There was nothing at first glance that would have told me anything. I crouched down lower and had to angle myself to see the face. From the bank Dolph yelled, "It's fine to move it, we've gotten everything."
I nodded, rolling the head to get a better view of the face. She was middle aged, blonde. Blue eyes, maybe something lighter than blue. I looked closer. There was something about the eyes that I couldn't place. I looked away and looked back. They were open, staring at the sky behind me with that normal blankness that comes with death, but again, something wasn't right.
I moved on to other things. She was clothed, but in attire that I hadn't seen before. It looked like a bathrobe, but different. I thought about the robe I had worn when I graduated. It was more along those lines. A pointed hat rested on the tie where her head had been and I picked it up and looked at it. Halloween was coming up, and this wouldn't be the first time someone had been murdered in their festive garb. But something seemed again out of place. These clothes looked worn in, not like the pristine way a Halloween costume looks when it comes out of the package. I shrugged it off and moved on. She was laying on her back, her head was rolled to the side. I shifted the collar of her robe to look at her neck. Nothing there. I shifted her arms and looked there. Nothing. Her legs. Nothing. What the hell had Dolph called me here for?
Stumped, I looked around the area for any idea of what had happened to the woman. There was a bag next to her, and peeking inside I nearly fell of that damned bridge at what I saw.
An eye rolled around in there. It had to be a human eye, judging by the size of it. It was electric blue. It had moved, I could swear it did. But that wasn't possible, unless it was some sort of voodoo thing I hadn't encountered yet. I knew that I was going to have to get in touch with John Burke about it. What did that eye have to do with this woman? And why was she carrying it?
I gave the woman another once over, making sure that there was nothing I missed. I pulled her clothes back to the way I had found them and started back along the rails.
Once I had reached the other side, Dolph swarmed me. "Well?" He asked. There were all sorts of tones with Dolph, even though he was mono-sibyllic, you knew what mood he was in just by the way he said a word.
"Nothing." I said.
"Nothing?" Zebrowski asked from behind him.
"Yes, nothing." I snapped.
"Nothing?" Dolph repeated.
I gave him a blank look. "Well, she has no visible marks, ruling out a vampire physically attacking her. No signs of trauma, ruling out a shapeshifter. No signs of defense. What makes you think this was something other than a natural death?" I asked. Natural death was when the body died. And didn't rise again.
"You said a vampire hadn't physically attacked her." Dolph stated.
"Yeah, there were no marks." I said.
"But could a vampire have mentally dome something to her?" He asked. I thought for a moment. Could a vampire have rolled someone so well that they willed them just to die? I mean, a vampire could roll someone into loving them, roll them into lust, roll them into hate, why not death? I had never heard of it, but I could ask.
"I suppose, it may be possible. I'd have to ask around. You ignored my question though." I said. Dolph sighed.
"There were just a lot of things that seemed out of place this time around." He said.
"The clothes?" I asked. "The eye?"
"Do you know what that eye is?" Dolph said, coming as close to a shiver as I had ever seen him.
"Not a clue. Something voodoo, maybe." I said. "I'd have to ask around on that as well." I thought for a moment. "What else was out of place?"
Dolph started walking away from the bridge, nodding to the people standing around. They shifted into work mode and a small team had started to the bridge to get the body.
"The victim herself is out of place." He said.
"What do you mean?"
"She's from London as far as we can gather. There was a bulletin put out directed from the Prime Minister himself. Said there was a tipoff that she would be coming here."
"And we got lucky and found her." Zebrowski said.
"The Prime Minister? How were you able to get the case? Isn't that a job for the International Preternatural Investigation Team?" Pronounced 'IPIT'. "I mean, if it has to do with the preternatural at all?"
"It should have been, but with the squads out here just starting to take shape as a serious investigation team, we're still operating as a regional team, simply reporting to an International Board. These things take a lot of time to get regulated." Dolph paused. "You keep insisting that this may not be a preternatural crime."
I stopped. I wasn't insisting, I was, well, maybe I was insisting. "Dolph, there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary other than that eye. And that may just be a case of the vic not knowing what she had. Met with the wrong people, met with the wrong end.."
Dolph shook his head. "This is different. When the body was found, it was covered in frost."
"So? It's October. About time we saw the end of the Indian summer we've been having."
"No, it had been in the sun for hours. And that's another thing. Normally there's a light fog, but as the morning passes, the sun clears it up. Or it travels with the river, the wind blows it off. But there was a fog over the bridge. And it stayed there."
"Ok, frost and fog. Two things that are pretty common this time of year." I said. "What's the big deal?"
Dolph kept walking and I kept following. "There was a witness."
"Why didn't you tell me that?" I asked. Dolph was quiet, but not this quiet about the facts.
"He won't give a statement. No testimony. I'll let him talk to you. Says he heard screaming on the road and saw a light so he came to investigate."
I followed Dolph farther down the road until we came to a beat up truck at the end of the nearest driveway. There was a man in overalls and a flannel shirt sitting sideways on the front seat, looking out of the drivers door at the gravel of the road. He looked up as we got closer.
"Mr. Davies?" Dolph asked softly. Softly for him, that is.
The man seemed startled. "I answered everything I could." He said.
"I know." Dolph said. "I just need you to go over it one more time. Anita won't laugh, I promise." Dolph pulled me aside so the man couldn't hear what he was saying.
"He's slow, Anita. A mental disability of some kind. The rookie that questioned him laughed at what he said, said he got spooked. Just hear him out." Dolph advised. I hated to think of the words that Dolph probably had with the rookie.
"Fine." I said, walking back to the truck. "Mr. Davies?" I asked, tentatively.
He nodded, looking back at the gravel.
"Mr. Davies, I just need you to tell me what happened. Just one more time. I'm the last one here, you just have to tell me again."
"Can I go home after that?" He asked. "My momma's in bed and I have to get back to her, She needs to eat her meals."
"Sure, you can go home after this." I said, getting a nod of approval from Dolph. "Just tell me what happened."
He gave a sigh and started talking. "I was just wakin up to feel the hens. We have hens here. Don't need 'em so much for the eggs, momma gets her checks now, but we keep 'em aroun." I nodded encouragingly. "So it was jus' before the sun come up, and I see a light come running down the road, jus for a minute. Then it was gone and I heard a hollerin coming from the road. I figured it was a lady, and I jus couldn't sit and not do nothin. So I went to the truck and came down the drive. I left it here, at the mailbox and started to walk. The sun was just coming up and everything was all dark still, but I saw her. She was runnin, just as fast as she could, but there wasn't nothing there. She was yellin something fierce. So I started runnin right after her. She yelled for me to go away, or maybe at whatever she was runnin from. I dunno. But right then, well.."
He trailed off and I waited for him to finish. When he started to look back to the gravel, I nodded again. "You're doing great, Mr. Davies. What happened after that?" He looked past me to Dolph. Dolph gave him a nod and almost a smile. I figured it was his good cop face.
"I dunno. I dunno what happened. One minute I was lookin at her, runnin, chasin her, and the next minute I was lyin on the floor cryin. I never felt so miserable in my life. My momma was gone, my house was gone, and I was alone. In the dark and cryin."
He sat for a minute, not saying anything else. I waited for a while and when he saw I wasn't going to laugh, he started again. "I never felt nothin like that in my life. Just felt like somethin was hoverin above me, suckin the happy right away from me. Never bin so scared in my life. I didn't know what happened next cause some smoky thing came right up over me and I felt better. Momma says the Lord is watchin me, and he musta been right then." The man shivered again, and I sympathized.
"When I woke up, the sun was out, and she was lyin on the middle of that bridge. Just lyin there. And I knew that whatever it was that come after me musta passed me by and got her." The tears had started again, and he looked back down at the street.
"Thank you, Mr. Davies. Thank you." I said, not sure of how to comfort him. It was rare that I was privy to witnesses, and this one wasn't a typical witness. Dolph moved past me and let the man get into the truck properly. He said something to Davies and he pulled himself together and started the truck. The loud backfire that erupted startled some of the nearest investigators, and a few of them looked at me. I raised my hands and gave a cold stare. I wasn't that gun-happy.
"Well?" Dolph asked.
I thought for a long time. "That helped. I suppose." I said. "I still don't know what we could be looking for, but I have a lot of leads." I concluded. "I'm going to want to have a better look at that eye, I'll be bringing John Burke over to have a look at it also."
Dolph nodded. "Fine. And you'll ask about the vampire ties?"
"Yes. If there's a vampire that can do a thing like that, I'll be able to dig it up." Bad pun, I know.
I stopped walking back to the row of cars and looked at Dolph. "Yes, Dolph?"
"I know you think this is something insignificant. But I have a gut feeling that it isn't. Nothing adds up, and the amount of odd variables is too many to be a coincidence. We have to report back to the Prime Minister, and I need something conclusive to give them. Don't make me look like an ass internationally." A speech for Dolph and the rare curse. It was a big day indeed.
"What's her name?" I asked, casually. She was from London, and it was far from a coincidence that I had been getting calls from the same place. Dolph didn't need to know that though.
"Why do you need to know? Everything on this case is a need to know basis."
"I need to know because I plan to have my own investigator look into it as well." Ronnie was going to have her hands full. I was going to owe her.
Dolph seemed to struggle for a moment. I knew he would. But I was calling in John Burke, Jean Claude and God knew who else, I had to know everything about what I was dealing with.
"Narcissa Malfoy. Surname was Black."
I nodded and walked back to the car. I was going to have to invest in a little notebook soon.