Vasquez didn’t agree or disagree with my gut, or with my analysis of the freaks capable of the murders. Instead he said, “So what’re we looking at if it is an incubus?”
“Database seems to indicate they have pretty much the same powers as a succubus. They exude sex appeal, probably varies how much from incubus to incubus, just like with succubi. They can drain energy from their victims, which probably gives them additional power.” I shrugged. “But one hopped up on the energy of so many victims? Hell, who knows what kind of power that could give him? There are stories of powerful incubi being able to control their victims with their power, but it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when the latest info is over one hundred years old.”
He held out his hand and I passed him the paperwork on the first victim, Claire Simons. While he perused the file, I nursed my second cup of coffee. The caffeine was finally kicking in against my headache. It wasn’t winning yet but I had hope.
“All right,” he said a few minutes later. Flipping the file closed, he passed it back to me over the table. “Let me know what else you find out. We need to nab this guy. And don’t screw this up, Mac. If the killer really is an incubus then this case will make the news every-damn-where. We don’t want to be the department that botches the takedown. We’ll have to look into a contracted witch in a few days if you and Amanda don’t make any headway. And while you’re at it, tell her to call me. I haven’t heard from her since her initial report after you guys left Rebecca Anderson’s.”
Dread swirled in my stomach, making me suddenly nauseous. It wasn’t like Amanda to go this long without talking to me. Then again, it wasn’t entirely unlike her either. But if Vasquez wanted me to pull her in, she hadn’t been reporting to him either. Chances were she was fine, just doing a little undercover witchcraft that wasn’t fully sanctioned, and rightfully laying low. I told that to my stomach, but it ignored me.
“You’ve got a suspect to question,” he said. I got up from my chair. I raised an eyebrow and he added, “Desmarais will fill you in.”
“Claude? Why’s he involved?”
“It’s a vamp lead.”
“What the hell? There’s no indication that these are vamp kills.” I leaned toward him and lowered my voice. “Seriously, Vasquez. I don’t have time to follow a wild goose chase just because you don’t like vamps.”
Vasquez pushed away from his desk and leaned toward me. Redness crawled up his neck and his face tightened. “Don’t push me, Mac. You’ll follow up on this lead, or you’ll find your ass behind a desk before you can say bloodsucker.”
Claude Desmarais stood in front of Interview Room Two with a folder tucked under one arm and a Styrofoam coffee cup in the opposite hand. At just over six feet tall, with light brown hair long enough to tuck behind his ears, the man looked more like a surfer or snowboarder than a dead man. Even with Claude’s slightly pale skin, most would never guess he was a vampire. He didn’t exude the aura of fear that rolled off most vamps.
He handed me the coffee when I approached and I nodded in thanks, placing the Styrofoam cup into the now-empty one I held in my hand. Vampires were the only type of undead who were classified as people, which meant they couldn’t be discriminated against at work—though I’d never seen one working as a doctor or elementary school teacher. But laws were laws, so Vasquez had no choice but to keep Claude on the squad. Despite old lore to the contrary, banshees weren’t undead, just people with an extra powerful set of lungs. I’d worked with Claude before and he was pretty decent, for a man who ate blood to stay alive.
“I’m perfectly capable of questioning a vampire on my own. Why is Vasquez insisting on your involvement?” I asked, shooting Claude a small smile to take the edge off my tone. I was still pissed at Vasquez, but that didn’t mean I had to take it out on Claude. I concentrated on calming down and repeated my mantra in my head. You’re a fucking professional. You’re a professional.
“Because the suspect Vasquez has invited to join us is a Chevalier.”
“There’s a member of the Chevalier family in our interview room?” I gestured to the door next to him, trying to keep my voice even.
He barked out a laugh. “I’m afraid Monsieur Chevalier has declined our invitation to speak with us at the station. We are going to him.” A slight French accent touched his lips when he spoke the French word and name, but otherwise he sounded like he’d been born and raised in the Midwest.
“And why are we interviewing a member of the Magister’s family?”
“His son, Nicolas, worked with your first victim.” He pulled the folder out from under his arm and flipped it open. “Claire Simons. Vasquez believes we need to interview him.” Claude’s tone left little doubt about his feelings on the subject.
“I take it you think we’re wasting our time?”
“Were your victims missing a significant amount of blood? Did you find any bite marks?”
It wasn’t a question, not really. He’d read the reports. “And you’re stuck on this wild-goose chase because?” I asked.
“The Chevalier family has requested my presence.”
Of course they had. Despite laws protecting them, vampires had suffered more than most species since all otherworlders had been forced to come out into the public eye, because of all the new scientific advances—particularly in forensics. They were dead, after all, and powerful. Both of those traits scared people. Oh, they’d concealed how powerful they really were when they revealed themselves to humanity, and continued to do so, I suspected. It was understandable that the Chevaliers would want a vampire police officer present during any questioning. And Claude was the highest-ranking vampire on the force.
“All right, then. Let’s get this done.” I downed the rest of the coffee, happy to find it had cooled a bit during our discussion. The dark liquid had the perfect amount of sugar. Trust Claude to remember such a small detail.
I followed him, shrugging away his offer to give me a ride in his shiny new hot rod. I didn’t want to linger at the Chevalier house or end up stuck with another to-do from the lieutenant when we got back to the station. I had my own priorities. Ones that didn’t involve catering to Vasquez’s pet prejudices.
I followed Claude to an estate tucked into a close suburb. It was near the forest preserve and mostly out of sight behind vegetation cleverly planted to hide a tall fence running the full length of the property. The gloomy morning fit the place, or maybe it only seemed to because of the occupants. I’d been to the Magister’s home only once before, although I hadn’t met the Magister himself. Amanda and I had accompanied Claude and his partner—the unit’s sensitive, Astrid—to arrest a young vampire for murder. The Magister himself informed the police, and his people held the murderer until we arrived.
But that murderer hadn’t been a member of Lucas Chevalier’s family.
The heavy smell of unshed rain and the sound of cicadas filled the air as we walked up to the large double doors in the front of what could only be called a mansion. Large block stonework formed imposing walls to create a building that looked hundreds of years older than it could have been. Columns—some architectural features, others standing firm to hold large eaves—lined the structure. The columns and building were a light grayish color, with just a hint of cream to the tone. Tall windows were sectioned off by pieces of metal that formed geometric designs with the glass. Standing proudly on balconies and at the dark gray rooftop were small statues of indiscernible people in flowing robes. It was so grand and unfamiliar, it had to be a style Chevalier had brought with him from France.
Claude walked up to me and opened his mouth to speak, but he stopped when a Jeep rolled down the driveway behind us.
My stomach dropped. I recognized that Jeep.
Aidan parked next to my Rav4 and stepped out of his car. His dark hair and jacket matched the gloomy setting. And for that matter, my mood.
“Did you follow us here?” I asked, pushing down my sudden urge to smile at him like an idiot. I was not happy to see him, dammit.
“I’m helping, remember? And I was coming to the station to talk to you and saw you head out. I decided to follow.” He held his hand to Claude and the vampire shook it.
“This is Aidan from the OWEA,” I explained. “He’s investigating the murders too, but it’s kind of off the radar.”
“Agent.” Claude nodded to Aidan. “Give us a sec, will you?”
Claude tugged on my arm and I followed him across the parking lot. Aidan scowled at us, but didn’t follow. “Listen to me, Mac. If anything happens in there…” He shot the building a quick glance. “I need you to stick close to me. Vampires can be…testy when challenged. And territorial.”
I frowned. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t know, even if it wasn’t first hand knowledge.
Claude returned my frown with a serious look, not an expression I was used to seeing on the vampire’s face. “If anything happens, if anyone crosses a line, you need to stick by me. I’ll get you out safely.”
“Why are you telling me this? Making promises that could get your ass in trouble?”
“You’ve defended me and mine more than once to Vasquez and those like him,” he replied airily, his usual slightly arrogant grin back on his face. “Besides, I’ve grown rather fond of you the last couple of years.”
I didn’t know what to say to that so I just turned on my heel and walked up to the door, leaving Claude and Aidan to follow.
The doors opened before we got close enough to knock, and an honest-to-goodness butler—an aged man complete with suit—admitted us with a nod to Claude. We followed the butler to a small office not far from the front entrance. I tried not to gape at the tall built-in bookcases, impressive mahogany furniture, and antique lamps while we waited for our host.