Alice slid into the booth across from her twin brother. Travis had beat her to the Dunkin’ Donuts, but that was no surprise. Alice had take a detour, breaking into a crime scene to investigate a murder on her way here. She was lucky he was still waiting for her. There was a to-go cup waiting for her. His coffee was halfway empty, and there were two pieces of the tissue paper they hand the donuts over in sitting on the table. Powdered sugar crusted them both, and there was a sprinkling of it on Travis’s chest to match.
She had stopped at the outbuilding by the lake, and while the police had already removed the body, she had looked through for anything that might be of use. Night had fallen, and the place had been under surveillance by a couple of officers in a squad car parked outside, so she was limited to what she could see with her infrared goggles. It had run the battery down pretty quickly. Under the best of circumstances, she could only get around 20 minutes out of a single charge. Before they had converted it to run off the lithium ion batteries, it would only go for about 10, and the recharge took forever.
Investigating a mostly cold scene with equipment designed to look for heat signatures wasn’t going to get her any accolades for being a brilliant detective, but it had worked out this time, or it probably had. That remained to be seen.
In IR, most things that are the same temperature look the same, but it almost always shows a distinct edge to objects, where one ends and another begins comes up bright as day. And what would have been a black film canister against a dark floor in a shadow had come across outlined brightly enough that Alice had found it under a stack of kayaks in the building.
It looked like it had probably rolled underneath. It was an old film canister, the sort that people used for their cameras before the ubiquity of cell phones and digital photography. It had a black cap, and had a roll of film inside that had been fully exposed. There was no way of knowing what was on it until she could have it developed. It could just be some tourist’s vacation photos, dropped a decade or so ago. Or, in the best case scenario, it belonged to the killer.
Alice looked at the coffee Travis had for her, and had his open cup, neither of them steaming any more. Travis was smiling at her when he spoke. “I was starting to worry you weren’t coming.” Then he added, “I’m glad you made it.”
Alice thought about what to say. She could tell him she had, within a day of arriving in the city, failed to meet her new boss in time to stop her from getting herself arrested, then assaulted her boss’s doorman, or whatever Bruce was, broken into a crime scene, and stolen and contaminated evidence that could have been used to track down the murderer.
Travis was a cop now. he didn’t have anything to do with the guild anymore. he wouldn’t care about her scuffle with another member or how it was affecting her relationship with Esther. But breaking into a crime scene was something she should probably not share with him. He might have to turn her in. He wouldn’t be glad she told him, she was sure of that.
On the other hand, she was embarassed that she had lost her temper and clocked Bruce, even if he deserved it. There was no need to tell him why she might need a place to stay. And he was her brother, he would probably just say yes and not make her give him a reason.
Creases formed in Alice’s brow as she thought this over. She wasn’t entirely sure she would need a place to stay for long. She probably could patch things up with Bruce now that he knew not to fuck with her. And she could repair the damage with Esther once she met her. This wouldn’t be a good first impression, but that ship had already set sail when she sucker punched Bruce.
Travis put his hand over Alice’s on the table, interrupting her thoughts. “Alice. What’s going on? Why did you call?”
Alice pulled her hand back instinctively. She paused, then decided on her question. “What’s going on with Esther?”
A look of disappointment crossed Travis’s face briefly before he returned to a smile that, this time, didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Nothing. Detective Hoyle is dropping the charges. Word is her lawyer has some connection with the Chief. She getting released in the morning.”
That was good news. Alice needed to connect with Esther. She nodded. “Okay. Thanks.” She looked at the coffee again. Then, after a moment’s thought, she picked it up and took a sip.
The door opened, and a young man in his early twenties, about their age, walked in. He was underdressed for the weather, jeans and a light jacket over a fleece. No hat. He went to the counter.
Alice turned back from watching the young man and looked at Travis. “I need a favor. Two favors.” Travis nodded, the smile fading the rest of the way from his face. She continued, “What do you know about Janice Stiles?”
Travis sighed. “Well, we know Esther didn’t do it. Beyond that…” he trailed off and shrugged.
“Bullshit. You know more that that. Hell, I know more than that. I know she was connected to Esther Lucas. I know she was drained of blood and somebody cut out her heart and lungs. I know whoever did it was either doing it as a part of some ritual, or was trying to make it look like one. What do you know?”
Travis leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I know what you know. I know that nobody around here believes in monsters. When I started on the force and they asked me what I could specialize in, I told them supernatural threats, and they laughed me into directing traffic for two months. Nobody here believes in monsters. Nobody on the force believes in monsters, and it’s taken me the past three years to get the credibility to be in a car. I’ve got a family to take care of, and I can’t do that if I’m a laughing stock for proposing that Janice Stiles was murdered by a vampire.
“We don’t know anything yet. We’ve got no leads. The autopsy’s not done. Esther Lucas has an alibi, and she didn’t give us anything useful during questioning. She probably knows something, but you know how this works.”
Alice did know how it works. Anybody in the “supernatural community” such as it was, wouldn’t cooperate with the mortal authorities. First, for every good and honest cop who got into the job to help people, there were two more who were cats-paws to some fang who had dirt on them or put them there. Worse, the higher up the food chain you went, the more likely the person you were dealing with reported to a leach who had pulled strings to get him into that position. Crimes involving supernatural perpetrators wouldn’t get solved.
Telling any of the good guys who weren’t already in some fiend’s pocket would usually just be met with skepticism. But then anyone who did believe you would become a target themselves. The vampires liked to stay hidden, and they weren’t afraid to kill if it meant preserving that status. On top of that, there was the fact that supernaturals were also a bit like the mob. They thought of themselves as above the law. Different rules apply, and crimes and vengeance were dealt with on their own. If Esther was going to do anything about this, she would take care of it herself. Alice would have a much better shot of getting information out of her than any number of cops.
Alice looked at Travis. “When is the autopsy report going to be done?”
Travis blanched. “No. Alice, no. You can’t get into this. I can’t get into this.”
“I’m just asking.”
“I know, but after I tell you you’re going to ask me to get you a copy. And because I know that you’re going to go after this guy whether you get it or not, and you’re going to need all of the information you can get, I’m going to say yes.”
Alice smiled. “So when can you get it for me?”
Travis frowned. “I don’t know when it will be done. I’ll… I’ll look into it for you. You’re really messing me up here, you know.”
Alice’s smile faded. “I know. Sorry. But I need another favor.”