“You know the routine. You go where they send you,” Gamble grumbled, rubbing the sleep from his face.
“How is your wife doing?” Graham asked.
They kept talking while I scanned the people along the barrier. Most were curious onlookers and press. One man stood out. A white guy in a navy blue hoodie, jeans, and a brand new Yankees cap. He had a cautious expression instead of a curious one.
“Why is Gamble here?” I asked Val. She shrugged and continued writing. I assumed Graham called him, but he didn’t know either.
I walked to the barrier and the officer standing guard. A man in the Yankees cap watched intently. The officer standing guard kept glancing in his direction every few seconds. Yankee’s cap looked like he was about to panic.
“Is there somewhere nearby I can get a decent cup of coffee?” I asked the officer, ignoring the smell of shrimp fried rice and pepper beef coming from nearby. I was glad I was finally outside of the alley, but the smell of food wasn’t appealing at the moment.
“Excuse me?” He said with a little attitude. Letting it slide, I glanced back at the man in the hoodie. He hadn’t moved, although he was shifting like he was about to rabbit.
“I’m not a native New Yorker. I grew up in Nebraska.” Have I been here long enough to have gained the accent?
“Ah. Three blocks west, one south. They close in twenty minutes,” he said, checking his watch.
“No problem, ma’am.”
“You sir. What’s your name?” I smiled.
His eyes went wide, and he stepped back. “Could I trouble you for a coffee run?” I asked before I’d need to chase him down.
“What are you doing?” the officer whispered.
“He looks like a nice guy. Maybe he’d like to buy a girl a coffee.”
The man in the cap seemed to grow a spine and stepped forward, smiling.
“How do you like your coffee?”
“Not plain. Creamy and sweet with real sugar, none of that artificial crap.” He was quiet for a moment, then a soft chuckle escaped. I handed him a ten and watched him vanish around the corner.
“You just lost ten dollars,” he said and laughed.
“I know. Wait and see.”
“Why did you do that? What if he doesn’t come back?”
“I wanted his fingerprints. If he doesn’t come back, then I’ve only lost ten dollars. I’ve also attracted enough attention that the people with the camera phones got his picture.”
“Sneaky.” He sounded impressed.
“Let me know when he returns?” I smiled.
“Sure. Um, what’s your name?”
“April Matthews. You?”
“Good to meet you, Jason Lewis.”
“Are you busy sometime tomorrow? I know a great pizza place over on 56th.”
I handed him my card.
“April,” Val said, and motioned me over. I stepped aside while they rolled Eden to the ambulance.
She leaned in closer and whispered in my ear. “If you let him get away with murder again, I’ll make sure you lose your shield.”
“What are you talking about?” I crossed my arms. I wasn’t happy with where she was taking this conversation.
“Warren Edward did not kill Natalie Maguire, and you know it.”
“Um, no I don’t. I wasn’t involved with her case beyond her kidnapping. Homicide took over after the grounds keeper found her body. I’m not taking the blame for whatever you think I did wrong.”
It would have been easy to get angry at her insinuation that I let Warren get away with Natalie’s murder. He had motive, opportunity, and he even pled guilty. Yet, I agreed with her. Warren was guilty of something, but I had no idea how the entire situation went down.
The entire case was truly bizarre. First, she goes missing, and the entire world hung on the news for every little clue. The hotline phones rang non-stop for weeks.
She was found her early one morning in Central Park where everyone could’ve seen her. She hadn’t been there very long. A groundskeeper was the only one who saw her. He was the prime suspect for a second, not her fiance Owen Griffith. Owen didn’t stay in the suspect pool for long, either. Finally, Warren Edwards, her father’s former partner, hit the top of the list and stayed there. Owen had a valid alibi and was in Brooklyn at the time Natalie was taken. Warren had offered to take her and her father, Ron Maguire, to lunch. Ron declined because he had another lunch meeting and she accepted. Natalie didn’t return to work after lunch.
“I was in city hall the day the FBI took over. Police Chief Karson Cane was sweating bullets when he willingly handed over the case. Kris contacted me with questions about her case a few times, even bought me dinner at O’Malley’s Pub.”
“I know that it’s not completely your fault-” she started.
“Because I couldn’t find her while she was still alive? What do you know, Dr. Stuart?”
“It’s dangerous to be a mage in the city. It has been for centuries. Do you understand me?” she said through clenched teeth, pointing at me. Maybe she’s been hanging around the Italian’s too long.
I let my senses explore her and the surrounding area. She had a familiar type of magic. She was a medium like me, but not near as strong. I didn’t know the full extent of my abilities, though. Long story. I have a love hate relationship with my magic.
“She was a mage,” I said, softly.
“And so are we. You and I are both very rare these days. We have few family left.”
“I grew up in Nebraska. My family is there.”
“That’s beside the point,” she spat. “A certain vampire views us as threats. He has spies all over the city. Trust no one, not even a mage.”
“Why did he kill her?”
“Ask her. I know you can.”
“She’s not here. There was another spirit here. A man in a chocolate three-piece suit, but he didn’t say much.” Which was fine with me because ghosts terrify me.
“Did he give you anything?” asked Val.
“The man who killed her was a vampire. He gave no description, though.”
“He did light a pipe.”
Her eyebrows raised in surprise. She looked at the man with the clipboard, the one who commented about the smell of pipe smoke.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Do you have a problem with that?” The scent of her anger hit me like a bitter-scented gust of wind on a hot day.
“Not one bit.”
“Good. He’s a good man with a wonderful family.” The scent of anger left her. “Who are your parents?” Her magical senses explored mine.
“Brendan Matthews and Carolyn Nolan but I doubt you know them. Is this really a good time to talk about genealogy?”
“You cannot be the daughter of Carolyn Nolan. She has no fire magic at all in her lineage.” How does she know what type of mages my parents are? If she knows my lineage, then why wouldn’t she know Natalie’s and Eden’s as well?
“Excuse me? How do you know I have fire magic?”
“I can see magic. I might not be a strong medium, but I’m damn good with precognition-.” She started, but pulled herself back to the topic at hand. “Brendan is a medium, a Morgan. Your mother has to be a Darby. Carolyn is not a Darby.”
“How do you know that?”
“How do you not know that? Didn’t anyone teach you?”
“Doing magic earned stiff punishments.”
“Carolyn. She caught me lighting candles like Grandma Esther and Aunt Daphne showed me and freaked out. I had to weed the garden every day all summer long.” I hadn’t thought about that day for a long time.
“Her name is Delilah, not Daphne.”
“Delilah? Are you sure?”
She glared at me with a don’t be a fool expression.
“Fine. How are we related?”
“I just told you. We’re Morgan’s.”
“I don’t understand.”
She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “My great-great-grandfather was a wealthy landowner in South Carolina. He had slaves, and he fell in love with my great-great-grandmother Mary. They had several children, but only one child survived.” She sighed. “It would be easier to show you.” She wrote something down on a slip of paper. “Here’s my address. What are you doing tomorrow night?”
“I’m out of the city.”
I let my wolf shine through my eyes. It was easy to do with the full moon so close.”
“How did that happen? You didn’t get bitten intentionally, did you?”
“No. I didn’t ask to be a monster. I was on the menu. They did not survive, I did.”
Val squeezed my arm consolingly.
“April?” Jason tapped my shoulder. He stood beside me with a steaming pumpkin spice latte in his hand. Pumpkin spice was still a thing every fall. Of course, they might mask any drug he added between here and there.
I took a deep sniff, checking for any potential toxins and enjoyed the spices. I found none, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. It was far better than the corpse stink.
“I’ve already taken the fingerprints from it.”
“Beautiful.” I smiled.
“You’re not going to drink coffee from a stranger, are you?”
I laughed, pretended to take a sip, and nodded to Yankees cap. The Yankee’s cap man couldn’t see me as I strolled further into the alley. I poured the contents into a leak-proof specimen cup and placed the cup in an evidence bag. Iceman put the evidence into the plastic tote that all the evidence went into.
I nodded at Jason once he looked back at me. He smiled in return.
“Oliver, did get pictures of the wall behind her?”
“Yes ma’am.” So that’s what Iceman’s name was.
“Good. We’re done here.”
Dr. Stuart and the F squad were efficient. Once they removed the body, they were pretty much done and cleared out. The reporters and the small crowd followed until only Kris and I remained. Doyle sat in the patrol car blocking the alley. Looks like he’s holding the scene for the night. I wondered why.
“Did we get any witnesses?” I asked Kris. He was busy jotting down notes of some sort.
“Officer Lewis and I went through the crowd. Nobody seemed to know anything or willing to talk. I have a list of names and contact info.”
“Let’s call it a night. Are you hungry?” Kris said. I nodded and walked to the car. Kris stood there.
“I need a shower.”
“My place is a few blocks away. It doesn’t matter how bad you smell. I’m just as bad.”
“Not tonight. Thanks. I fished the keys from my pocket.”
“See you tomorrow.”
I decided to do the one thing I swore I’d never do again.
If I can talk with the dead detective in the brown suit without freaking out, then maybe I can talk with Natalie Maguire. Could her spirit still be around? I’ve seen ghosts of British soldiers wearing red coats and Native Americans in traditional clothing. They walked through buildings like they didn’t exist. These buildings didn’t exist when they were alive.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.