I hit the bell and then rapped on the door. After a few seconds I sounded the bell again, and it opened to reveal a bleary-eyed Marisol.
“What’s going on, Mac? Something wrong? I didn’t get a call.” She stepped back from the door and glanced down at the cell phone she held in her hand. Her short, silky nightgown and matching robe fit her. And I was irritated to see that while she wore no makeup, she didn’t seem any less attractive.
I stepped into the house and she looked up from her phone, frowning.
“What’s this about?” Marisol asked.
“Mari? Is everything all right?” A young woman who looked like she was in her early twenties stood at the top of the stairs. She wore a T-shirt and cotton shorts, and her resemblance to her sister was unmistakable.
“It’s fine. Go back to bed. It’s a work thing,” Marisol said.
I opened my mouth to argue but Marisol shot me a glare. Her sister nodded and disappeared back down the hallway.
“Why are you here, Mac?” she hissed.
“I’m here to find out why you lied to me.”
“Lied to you? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that you not only knew Rebecca could have been killed by a succubus, but you knew of a succubus who has killed before and kept it from me.”
“Keep your voice down.” She shot a glance upstairs. “Let’s talk in the other room.”
I followed Marisol to the kitchen, and she waved me to a seat at a small breakfast table. She started a kettle of water on the stove.
“I’m sorry,” she said, sitting down at the table while the water heated. “I probably should have said something, but I didn’t want her dragged into this. How much do you know?”
“Elaine was charged with mystical manslaughter when she was sixteen years old. The charges were dropped and the records were sealed because of her age.” Mystical manslaughter carried a sentence closer to that of second-degree murder than it did regular voluntary manslaughter. It was a double standard, but otherworlders with lethal powers were held to a higher standard. Fear and politics kept the law on the books—in most states, anyway.
Marisol let out a long breath. “Okay, I see why you might jump to conclusions. But you had no right to come here.” Her eyes narrowed. “How did you find out? Unless you got a promotion or two since yesterday, there’s no way you could have accessed those records.”
“How I got the records isn’t important.”
“Oh, it’s important. Was it Vasquez? That ass—”
Marisol’s eyes widened. The teapot whistled and, when Marisol made no move to retrieve it, I got up and pulled the ceramic pot from the burner. I shut off the stove and turned to face her.
I didn’t want to see her sympathy, her sadness. But Marisol either wasn’t as adept as most cops at keeping her emotions from her face, or she didn’t bother employing that skill. Her eyes filled with unshed tears, and she wrapped her arms around herself.
“Was it the serial killer you’re hunting?”
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak, and then turned and started opening cupboards at random. I found the tea first and the cups two doors later. I poured tea, setting one cup in front of Marisol before sitting back down.
She didn’t seem to see the tea. “I’ll tell you what happened with my sister so you can take her off the list.”
“Okay,” I said, voice rough. I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried again. “What happened?”
“Elaine was attacked by an older kid at school when she was sixteen. He was eighteen. They’d gone out a couple of times. She didn’t know he’d found out she was a succubus until it was too late. When he did, he figured a succubus should always be willing to put out. Pissed off she wouldn’t sleep with him, he raped her.”
I closed my eyes. “I’m so sorry, Marisol.”
“Do you know how succubi powers work?”
I opened my eyes and blinked a couple of times to clear them. “Not really. I mean, I know you can drain the life force from people.”
Marisol nodded slowly. “But when we use our powers, it’s kind of a sharing process. We can get bits of emotion from the other person. How they’re feeling. It builds a connection. The more drained, the closer a connection is built.”
“Wouldn’t that make it hard? To date, I mean?”
She gave me a tight smile. “We don’t have to drain people. We aren’t vampires. Succubi are sustained just fine with the five food groups. Draining can give power, but most succubi don’t use their powers until they’re in a long-term relationship. Married, usually. It can make the couple closer. The connection works both ways, you know? The succubus gains energy and a connection, and her lover gains pieces of her, too.”
“Does the effect…fade?”
Marisol took a sip of her tea, and then shook her head. “Elaine lost control. She was so scared. She thought he was going to kill her. And he may very well have, but she drained him first. I’m not even certain she knew what she was doing. She just wanted him to stop.”
I grimaced and tried to push out of my head the fear the poor child had probably felt. I had to stay focused. “So will the connection—”
“She’ll always have part of him in her head. Always feel him. His anger, his lust, his hatred of her.” She wiped at the tears that had started to trail down her cheeks, and then took a deep breath. “But it’ll get better. She’s already improved. A couple more years…maybe she’ll be ready to think about building a life for herself. A real life.”
An image of Marisol taking care of her pretty young sister, a shut-in with God knew what kind of emotional problems, flashed in my mind.
And I had thought her shallow.
“Marisol, I—” I choked on the words.
She shook her head and reached across the table to take my hand. “Hush, Mac. What’s done is done. What you need to worry about now is finding Amanda’s killer.”
I took a few deep breaths, and when I was sure I could speak without the threat of tears, I said, “Vasquez has taken me off the case. Says I’m too close.”
“I’m sure he’s right.” She grinned, face still damp from her tears. “I’m also sure that won’t stop you. How can I help?”
“Do you think this is a succubus or an incubus?”
She nodded. “Could be either. I know incubi are commonly thought of as extinct, but after reading the files and looking at the body, I think that’s what the killer has to be. Sure, it could be a succubus, but that’s a reach.”
“And an extinct species isn’t?” I swallowed another mouthful of tea, wishing it were coffee.
She laughed. “Well, there have been rumors that incubi aren’t extinct, just very rare.”
“And you’ve heard these rumors where?”
“They’re our cousins, almost the same species, really. I’ve heard it around from other succubi.”
“Jesus Christ,” I said. “Don’t tell Vasquez that. It’ll confirm his fucking conspiracy theories.”
I finished my tea and then Marisol showed me out. As she shut her door firmly behind me, my cell phone rang. The number flashing on the screen made me sigh, but I flipped it open.
“Is that the kind of tone you use for someone who just helped you get sealed information?” Aidan asked.
I rubbed my temple with my free hand. “That’s the kind of tone I use for someone who thinks he needs to check up on me all the damn time.”
He laughed. “Did you find anything on the succubus?”
“So what are you going to do now?”
That was a damn good question.
After leaving Marisol’s house I returned home to plan. I knew what I needed, but I wasn’t sure who to call. Marisol would do what she could for me. Claude probably would, too. But they both reported to Vasquez, and helping me would put their careers at risk. That wasn’t something I was willing to do. Luckily, I knew one person who might be able to come to my aid. And he wasn’t under Vasquez’s jurisdiction.
Gathering favors seemed to be the only political skill I’d acquired in my time as a cop. Any ability to kiss ass or even not rub people the wrong way proved beyond me. As such, I was fairly certain I’d never rise above my current position as a detective and that was A-OK with me. The idea of being stuck in an office all day every day was my own personal version of hell.
“Agrusa,” said a deep voice on the other end of the phone line.
“Aggie. It’s Mac.”
“Mac, to what do I owe this pleasure?” he said, carefully.
“I need a favor.” I tapped a pen on my kitchen table then realized he might hear it and stopped. I didn’t want him to think I was nervous. One moment of weakness and he’d know he could get out of this.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with a certain investigation you’re no longer part of, does it?”
Crap. Word was already out. Ignoring his question, I said, “I need you to get me a copy of a file.”
“What file?” he asked. I figured the question was rhetorical, or at the very least, pointless, but I answered it anyway.
Aggie cursed under his breath. “It’s a cop’s file, Mac. It’s going to be damned difficult to gain access to it, let alone get a copy out of the building.”
“I know that, but she was my partner, Aggie. I need the fucking file.”
“I’m not even on the freak squad. Why don’t you call one of your coworkers?”
“I know you can do it, Aggie, and you don’t report to Vasquez.” The lieutenant would be hard-pressed to make him pay in any kind of significant way, even if he did find out Aggie passed the file along to me. Most people on the squad who weren’t closet or openly otherworlders landed there because they’d screwed up or pissed off someone important. When weird shit went down we were called in, and left to it, but no one was happy to see us otherwise. Aggie’s boss wouldn’t give him shit if Vasquez made a stink about him helping me, and Aggie knew it.