“What about oh-dubs?” He flashed a quick smile at Lisa as she dropped off his drink but didn’t move his eyes from my face. Looking miffed, Lisa sauntered away. Probably to spit on my cheeseburger.

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“They didn’t run any OW measures on the first vic. They’ll run them on the second, or I’ll be kicking someone’s ass.”

He grunted and took a long drink of his tea.

Lisa showed up with my cheeseburger and fries. She gave Aidan a long look as she walked away, nearly running over another waitress. I checked my watch. Twelve thirty.

“Guess your partner isn’t coming.” He stared at me with his dark blue eyes and a shiver ran down my spine.

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Get a grip, Mac. I looked at my burger, removing the top bun. It appeared saliva-free.

“I’m looking forward to meeting her.”

“I’ll bet you are,” I muttered and then took a big bite of my burger.

He coughed and covered his mouth with a fist. It sounded suspiciously like a muffled laugh. He set a white business card next to my plate. It was blank, save for his name and a phone number. “So you can contact me.” He sipped his iced tea.

The number was from out of state, but I didn’t recognize the area code. This seemed like as good a time as any to ask what kind of otherworlder he was. The question was rude, but I needed to know who—what—I was dealing with. Warming him up with small talk seemed best, so I took a stab at it. “This your first time in Chicago?” I took another bite of my juicy burger, catching a bit of the grease with my tongue as it tried to dribble down my chin.

“Nope,” he said.

My cell phone began vibrating, and I glared at Aidan while I reached for it. The caller ID listed Amanda’s number. About time. I flipped the phone open a second too late, so I hit the send button to call her back. I muttered another expletive when her automated message blared in my ear, and then pressed the end button without leaving a message.

“Your partner?”

“Yep,” I said.

My cell beeped and an icon flashed on the screen. Great, she was leaving me a message as I was calling her. I hit the button to listen to my voice mail and put the phone to my ear.

“Hey Mac, it’s me.” Amanda sounded tired. No doubt from a night of witchery. “Won’t be able to meet you today. Following up on that sample. Can you go interview the vic’s boyfriend?” She rattled off the guy’s information. “I’ll be in touch.”

I snapped the phone shut and cursed under my breath. Could she have been any more vague?

“Going to see a man about a girl.” I took a long drink from my straw. “Latest vic’s boyfriend. Want to come?”

The apartment complex wasn’t in the nicest part of town, but it didn’t scream projects either. The door didn’t require buzzing, so we walked in without a hitch. An old man sat on a bench reading a newspaper in what passed for the lobby. The dingy room seemed like an odd place to hang out and read, particularly with the moldy scent in the air, but to each his own.

The elevator had an OUT OF ORDER sign taped to it, handwritten in red marker on a sheet of white paper that looked like it had typing on the back. Someone took their recycling seriously. Suppressing a sigh and telling myself exercise did the body good, I waved at Aidan to follow me and trudged up the stairs to the fourth floor.

I rapped on the door to apartment 404. I heard a shuffling from inside, and the shink of a security chain. The door popped open, revealing a man in his early twenties. Tall, blond, and lean. Definitely a pretty boy, even wearing only a T-shirt and basketball shorts, his prettiness was obvious. He and the redhead must have turned more than a few heads together.

“Jason Hill?”

“Yeah?” His bleary eyes peered out at me, as if hoping to see someone else. A faint smell of alcohol flowed from his breath. His hair looked like it hadn’t been combed yet today and he definitely needed a shave.

“I’m Detective Kiera McLoughlin. You spoke to my partner on the phone?”

“Oh yeah, sorry.” He backed away from the door and motioned for us to enter. “It’s just. You know, not every day you find out…” He took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said, walking through the doorway that led directly into the living room. A small kitchen sat off to the side, and in such an enclosed space it reminded me of a cave. There was no dining table—or enough space for one really—and a loveseat and coffee table seemed to round out his furnishings. I couldn’t see into the bedroom, but I would bet his mattress sat directly on the floor.

“Sorry for the mess.” He tossed some clothes off the couch to make room for us to sit.

“No problem. We just have a few questions for you. Shouldn’t take too much of your time.” Not that you look like you’re going somewhere anytime soon.

“I want to help.”

I sat down on one side of the short couch, and he sat on the other end. Aidan remained in the entryway between the hall and living room. He leaned against the wall and watched us, his expression neutral.

As I pulled out my notebook and flipped it to a blank page, I studied Jason Hill. He didn’t look like an otherworlder, but you couldn’t always tell by a person’s appearance. He didn’t feel like one either. My gut told me he was a plain human. I wished again for the powers of a sensitive.

“When was the last time you saw Rebecca?”

“Few days ago. I stayed at her place…most nights.”

“Why didn’t you stay last night?” Or see her the few nights before?

“I was supposed to, but she called me last week and said she was doing something for work out of town. Then she called me yesterday afternoon. Said something had come up. She was…” He stared down at his hands.

“What?”

“She was different. She said…she’d found somebody else.” He finished in a rush. “But that wasn’t like her. Someone made her say it. I know—”

“It’s okay.” I patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. I hated this part. “Take your time.”

Jason pulled in a ragged breath. “We’ve been together nearly two years. She wouldn’t drop me over the phone. She sounded…off.”

“Off?”

“Rebecca was a calm person. People who didn’t know her well thought she was cold. She wasn’t! She just wasn’t one to share how she felt with the whole world.” He looked up at me and tears welled in his eyes. “She was elated, almost…crazy in her excitement over this new guy.”

I frowned. Either she was a real bitch to dump her boyfriend over the phone or she’d been under some sort of influence. Unless Jason here did something to really piss her off, I would be willing to bet on the former.

“This might sound like an odd question, but did she specifically say she’d met a new guy?” Aidan asked.

Jason jerked out of his reverie. “I—” He stared into space for a few moments. “I guess not. She said she had someone new in her life. I didn’t think to ask…I mean she wasn’t into chicks, you know?”

Jason started sobbing into his hands. I patted him on the shoulder again and told him to cry it out.

I glanced over my shoulder as the man shook against me. Sorrow laced Aidan’s features. His eyes met mine and he stiffened. Then his face relaxed into its normal expression. A slight grin, and eyes that revealed nothing.

By the time we left Jason Hill’s house, the material of my blouse clung to my shoulder, soaked with the man’s tears. It would dry stiff and odd-looking. And now most of the afternoon was gone. Mentally drained, all I wanted to do was go home and knock back enough beers to make this day disappear for a while.

Aidan said something about double-checking one of the crime scenes and then disappeared into his rented Jeep. I tried Amanda’s cell again and left her a less-than-civil message. I wasn’t her keeper or her boss; she didn’t have to report in to me, but it was still irritating.

I downed a beer when I got home, and then nursed the second one. This case was a mystery, and unlike most people I didn’t like a good mystery until I had it solved. I flipped open my laptop, waiting a moment for the screen to brighten. My cell phone rang, and I answered it without looking at the number.

“McLoughlin.”

“Mac, Astrid here.” Her voice was gruffer than normal, like she was angry about something. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d heard her angry. Hell, I was pretty sure I’d never seen the woman’s temper well enough to know for sure she had one.

“Shit, you back in town already?” I couldn’t keep the happiness out of my voice. Our department had access to exactly one sensitive, and I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t thrilled to hear from her.

“Look Mac, I can’t really chat right now.” Oh yeah, definite irritation dripped from the normally placid woman’s tone. “I got a look at one of your vics, Rebecca Anderson.”

“And?” I asked, losing all interest in what could have irritated our mousy little sensitive enough to make her angry.

“And she’s been drained of nearly all of her psychic energy. Her life force. Tentatively, I’d say that’s your COD.”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Doesn’t the body naturally lose energy after death?”

“Yes, but that process takes weeks, not days. I couldn’t get a feel for what kind of OW might have done it. There wasn’t enough psychic energy left in her for any magic to cling to.” A loud crash sounded and yelling followed it. “Look Mac, I gotta go. That’s all I know. Good luck.”

The line went dead before I could spit out any more questions. I gave the phone a final glare and then turned my attention to the laptop.

I typed in my password and then clicked the icon for the Otherworlder Information Database. The OWID held data on general otherworlder statistics, not information on specific criminals. Facts like when certain species were seen last and where, their abilities and danger levels, and how to subdue them.

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