Calling in the Dogs

Detective Silas Flynn had a firm handshake and an intense, focused gaze that made my intuition do a swing step on my gut. With a toothy grin, he brought my hand to his face, presumably to kiss the back of it. Instead, at the last second, he flipped my forearm over and ran his nose up the inside of my wrist, smelling me. I laughed a little, more from the strangeness than the tickle of his breath.


"It's a pleasure to meet you, Hecate."

"Please, call me Grateful." I never did like being called by the name the supernaturals had for my station. Hecate was the goddess of the dead. I was not her, but as rumor had it, a piece of my soul, the eternal piece, was related to her. You might call me a chip off the old I preferred to think of myself as a witch, although, strictly speaking, normal witches couldn't judge the dead or the damned like I could.

"Only if you call me Silas." His green eyes twinkled from beneath bushy caramel colored eyebrows.

I nodded as we progressed into the alley. Rick had stayed inside to interview the Madam about the incident. Apparently, she was an old friend. I ignored the pang of jealousy that bit of news cost me.

Police tape stretched across the mouth of the alley, and I noticed human faces ogling the scene from the sidewalk. I frowned.

"Don't worry. The Do Not Cross tape has been enchanted. All they're seeing is a typical murder scene, grizzly by the looks on their faces." He chuckled.

"Peachy." A man passing by clutched his stomach and hurried across the street. "So what do you make of Stella's uninvited visitors?"

He gestured with his head for me to follow him over to the body of the pig-faced troll and pointed his pen at the hammy wrist. "See that?

A massive bracelet of white stones was visible through the hair. On further inspection, they weren't stones. "Are those teeth?"

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"Yes. These are the baby teeth of his children. This is an Appalachian mountain troll. They live in tight family units and never venture far from home. In fact, this is the first time I've seen one in the city."

The baby teeth of his children. I immediately felt guilty for slaying the troll, even though logically it would have killed me if I hadn't. "So why was it here?"

"That's a mystery, but a big clue has to do with this guy." He strolled over to the body of the finfolk. "How much do you know about finfolk?"

"Next to nothing."

"Good, then I won't feel bad about regurgitating the basics." He took a deep breath. "I hate to stereotype supers, but finfolk have a penchant for the dark side. They never live peaceably among humans like fae or werewolves." He pressed a hand into his chest when he said werewolves, and I finally had my question answered as to what he was. "They're known for luring humans to the water's edge and forcibly abducting them."

"Count themselves as baddies, do they?" I kicked the crumpled skin of the finfolk with my toe. It had already begun to stiffen to the consistency of beef jerky. When the stranger had shrugged out of his skin, he was, in fact, skinning himself. The flesh beneath where the coat had been was all muscle, fat and tendon. Apparently, a finfolk's skin was a living thing until it was removed.

"Yeah. And we've noticed an increase in vampiric activity here the last couple of weeks, too. Streets have been swarming with them."

"Vampires also have a penchant for the dark side." This I knew from personal experience.

"Exactly. Something is luring them to come here and mix with humans."

"Rick and I found a vampire coven living in Carlton City a couple of months ago. They're organized, led by a vamp named-"

"-Julius?" Silas rubbed his chin.

"Yeah. You've heard of him?"

"Yep. Our department has a long history with Julius and his coven. Seems like he's always on the fringes of the crimes we investigate. Can't pin anything on him though. Slippery."

"The coven was feeding on animals. Had a whole vampire-style butcher shop for blood collection," I said.

"I don't trust him."

"Neither do I, but without any evidence, I can't judge or sentence him. Not unless I want to start a war with his coven."

Silas nodded in agreement. "So, Julius sets up shop in Carlton City, and months later, the streets are swarming with supernaturals who normally wouldn't set foot on pavement." Silas nudged the finfolk body for good measure. "I can't prove it, but I think Julius is behind this."

"He had a demon with him named Padnon. Evil SOB."

Silas narrowed his eyes. "He's gathering allies. What the hell is he after?"

"I wish I knew."

At that moment, Rick and a fae woman I assumed was the madam entered the alley. I'd expected the bordello madam to be an older, less attractive, former working girl, but I was wrong. She was the model of sophistication, grace, and beauty. Tall, lanky, with silky honey-colored hair, her golden skin stretched flawlessly across her high cheekbones. A warm breeze blew off her and chased the winter chill from the alley. Thankfully, Rick seemed unaffected by her beauty, although a surge of unwanted possessiveness came over me anyway. Silas, on the other hand was ogling her, lips parted slightly. Oh for crying out loud.

I stepped over the body and extended my hand. "Hi, I'm Grateful Knight."

Graciously, she slid her manicured fingers into mine. "I am Soleil. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude, Grateful. Stella and Rick told me what happened. Thank you for saving us. Who knows how many fae he would have killed if you hadn't stopped him?"

"Did you know this man?" I used the term 'man' loosely. It didn't seem to confuse her.

"No. We've never had any finfolk come here before. But, as I told Rick, there is a legend among our people that if one of their kind touches one of ours, they are capable of draining our life force and turning us to dust. The dust is said to have magical properties useful in black magic."

The term black magic made my skin itch. As far as I knew, all magic was neutral; it was the spell caster who had either good or evil intentions. But I'd have to ask Rick about it when we got home. Caretaker magic was a different practice with a different source of power than mine. Maybe there was such a thing as black magic.

A hand jutted between us. "Detective Silas Flynn, Soleil. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

My eyes followed Silas's hand to his face, which was flushed bright red. At first, the nurse in me wondered if he was having a heart attack, but then the woman in me recognized the look in his eyes. He was blushing. With a half grin, I took a step back, allowing him to move in closer. He still hadn't released Soleil's hand.

Rick sidled up to me. "Her enchantment is especially effective on werewolves. Her connection is to the sun. It is said that a werewolf in her bed during the full moon won't shift."

"Oh," I said. "That makes sense." Damn. No wonder Silas was pouring it on thick. "Did you find out anything else?"

"Just that there have been an unusual number of supernatural visitors to the Maison the last several weeks."

"Silas said the same thing. Apparently, the city's overrun. He thinks the bread crumbs lead back to Julius."

"I've thought the same thing, mi cielo, but we need proof. There are supernaturals in this city waiting for an excuse to organize against us. Sentencing an innocent vampire could cause an uprising."

"I agree, we need proof, but we don't even know what they're looking for. What is Julius after? A secret weapon? Is he raising an army?"

Rick shrugged.

A flurry of black flapping wings circled our heads and landed on the lip of the dumpster. "Well, I'm sure standing there talking about what we don't know is going to be productive." Poe's beady black eyes rolled in his head.

"Hey, the sarcasm isn't helping, Poe," I said.

Rick grimaced. "Do you know this bird?"

"Rick, this is my new familiar, Poe. Poe, this is my caretaker, Rick."

"You called a familiar? Already?" Rick asked.

"Oh, sure, question my existence. Don't bother thanking me for saving her life or anything. If not for me, her head would be impaled on the end of the mountain troll's club." Poe flapped his glossy black wings.

"Thank you, Poe," I said. I didn't appreciate his attitude but he had a point. He had saved my life.

"You're welcome. Now, tell me I can have some of the Finfolk. I have a taste for fish."

I gagged a little. "You want to eat that?"

"Don't judge."

Silas must have overheard because he made eye contact and nodded his head.

"Guess it's okay, Poe. Enjoy."

Without hesitation, he soared down and attacked the carnage.

"Mi cielo, we should probably go. More to do tonight, and we are behind schedule," Rick prompted.

"Right." I approached Soleil and Silas, extending my hand. "Rick and I need to move on. It's been a pleasure."

Soleil gripped my fingers, her gaze meeting mine in the most intense way. "In gratitude for your help, I grant you one favor, Grateful Knight." Her body glowed, and I shielded my eyes. "Thank you for your service to the Celestial Fae."

The skin of my face felt warm, like I was lying in a tanning bed or on the beach. I released her hand and touched my cheek. "Uh, thanks."

She retreated inside, and Rick ushered me out of the alley.

"You are very fortunate, mi cielo."


"A fae favor is as good as a miracle. Use it wisely." Rick pressed his lips together, his gaze deadly serious.

Why did his explanation sound more like a warning? "What are you trying to say Rick? You know what? Never mind. I'll look it up later in the Book of Light. My brain can't handle any more surprises."

He nodded curtly. Now if only fate would be as agreeable as Rick.

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