Home > Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(5)

Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic #1)(5)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Just in case, I leaned down to the top of my knee-high boot and pulled out a small, balanced knife tipped in silver. Silver makes vampires itch just a little, but it would drop a werewolf pretty much instantly. I put my hands in my jacket pockets so I had the knife in my right and the Taser in my left. Then I made my way up the cobblestones.

There were two doors on the front of the building. One of them had clearly been retrofitted fairly recently, and was secured with several padlocks. The other door, which looked like the original wood, was closed but not quite latched. I gave it a light push, and the door swung inward.

There wasn’t actually an ominous creak, but it was definitely implied.

I peered into the entryway. “Molly?” I called, keeping my voice soft. There was no reaction. I took a breath to try again, louder—and the smell hit my nose.

Nulls don’t have heightened senses, but even I could recognize the odor of blood and evacuated bowels when it was that overpowering. “Oh, shit,” I muttered. I pulled my hands from my pockets and closed my eyes, beginning to extend my radius. Then I thought better of it. I had a feeling no one in this building was going to appreciate having humanity foisted on them. I fumbled at the wall until my fingers found a switch.

Light flooded my eyes, forcing me to blink as my eyes adjusted. I was in a small, empty foyer, flanked by open doorways on either side. Straight in front of me was a new-looking wall decorated with framed photos. Before the building was renovated into upper and lower apartments, the wall had probably been the entrance to a staircase. I took a quick glance at the pictures. They showed young women in groups of four or five, striking friendly poses in front of the house, on campus, and in a living room. As far as I could tell, Molly was in every nighttime shot.

It was so disconcerting that I couldn’t help but stare for a moment. The last time I’d seen her, she’d had a blonde bob and a casual, pricey wardrobe. Now her hair was long, black with bright streaks of blue, and she sported a nose ring and a miniskirt—not quite Goth, but maybe one of Goth’s descendants. Punk-adjacent.

I automatically stepped closer so I could see the largest photo, an eight-by-ten forming a centerpiece in the display. All of the girls—thirteen total—were in the center of campus, grouped right in front of the Tommy Trojan statue. They were trying to do a cheerleader-style pyramid on the bricks, but it wasn’t going well, and they were laughing. In the center, a pixie brunette with square glasses was holding up a crooked sign reading “the Ladies of 2310.” Molly was at the bottom right, cracking up as the girl on top of her started to fall off. It struck me how happy she looked.

I stepped back, forcing my eyes away from the smiling young woman. So all thirteen of them lived in this building, in the various bedrooms, like a sort of unofficial sorority. That was kind of shocking. Given the popularity of recording devices in modern society, plus the vampires’ sensitivity to sunlight, it was rare for a vampire to try to “pass” in a human community anymore. They usually lived alone and sought out the company of other vampires when they wanted more than casual contact. How the hell had Molly pulled this off? And why take the risk?

My eyes caught movement in the doorway on my right, low to the ground. I tensed, expecting maybe a mouse, but it was moving liquid: a slow, thick ooze of blood on the hardwood floor. More than a trickle, not quite a river.

Molly, what did you do?

Chapter 3

I stepped toward that doorway, skirting the channel of red. My hand automatically reached for the light switch on the wall, my eyes still glued to the blood trail. Then the light burst into the room and I followed the blood to its source. My stomach, lungs, and throat all contracted at once. One hand flew to my mouth as though it was magnetized.

They were everywhere.

It was a large living room, obviously the social center for the apartments’ residents. Or it had been, before they were all killed. The bodies—all female, probably the other women from the photos—lay crumpled on the sofa, draped across the coffee table, abandoned on the floor. Bloody handprints covered the walls, the hardwood floor, the girls’ clothes, and everything from the lampshades to the magazines that had probably once sat on the coffee table. There must have been an indentation in the floor—thanks, earthquakes—because blood had trickled from each corpse into a large pool at one end of the room. From there, it had made its way into the front hall.

I’d seen a lot of terrible things since I’d begun this job—there had been a nighttime forest massacre that was particularly memorable—but never so many bodies. For just a second the room seemed to lurch sideways, and I felt nearly dizzy with shock. It just didn’t seem real. Then I saw that one of bodies was stretched on the floor near a window, one arm reaching toward the latch. Trying to run. And she was wearing the same Lucky Brand T-shirt that I had in my closet at home. The irony of the brand name felt like a blow, and I had to force my eyes away from her.

I registered a small sting in my palm, and I realized I’d automatically reached for the knife in my pocket, slicing a shallow cut in my skin. The pain actually helped me to focus.

Something was wrong here.

Vampires don’t kill for sport—if they bleed a victim, it’s for food. But no vampire could drink this many people at once. A whole bunch of vampires? No, that didn’t make sense either. In that scenario, there wouldn’t be any blood left, much less an enormous puddle in the middle of the room.

I stepped up to the edge of the pool and crouched down, sniffing the air just above it. Above the reek of blood, urine, and fecal matter, I could make out a familiar sickly smell. Stomach acid. Then I got it. There had been just one vampire and she had gorged herself on blood. When her stomach couldn’t hold anymore, she had vomited it back up. Judging by the size of the puddle, she’d done this a few times. Maybe a lot of times.


It was suddenly all I could do not to puke up the lemonade in my own stomach. I swallowed hard and dug a pair of surgical gloves out of my pocket with my uninjured hand. I snapped them on right over the damn cut, ignoring the sting. Avoiding the blood pool, I moved toward the nearest body, the one draped across the coffee table. I had to push aside the blood-matted mass of blonde hair so I could check for a pulse on her neck. Nothing. But I needed to be certain, so I stepped my way around the room, checking wrists and necks, one by one.

They were all dead.

When I was sure there was nothing I could do for them, I moved toward the opposite doorway, intending to check the rest of the house. I felt a vampire hit my radius before I even hit the light switch.

It was a compact, eat-in kitchen, but I didn’t bother taking in the details. My gaze followed the blood smears to the small figure huddled on the floor behind the kitchen table, out of sight of the doorway I’d come in through. Molly.

Brightly colored makeup had ridden a wave of tears down her face and into her blouse. It hadn’t done much to wash away the red stains at her mouth, as though she’d tried to use blood as shaving cream. Her pale arms and bare legs were stained with so much blood they looked red with patches of white, rather than the other way around. She was hugging her arms around her knees, rocking back and forth, mumbling something in a quiet singsong, like a nursery rhyme. Her eyes were fixed on the floor three feet in front of her.

“Molly?” I whispered again.

Her head jerked up, her blue eyes wide. “Didn’t do it did it did do it,” she blurted, in the same singsongy tone. I took a step toward her, but she shrank away, making herself even smaller. I held still.

“Did you kill them?” I said gently. “By yourself?”

She nodded, her lips still moving, though I could no longer make out any words.

Panic rose up in my throat like a chunk of ice I couldn’t swallow. I had never seen Molly freak out like this. I’d never seen any vampire freak out like this, and now I had no idea what to do. Hell, it had been years since I’d had one dead body, let alone a dozen—

Stop it, Scarlett, I scolded myself. I didn’t have time for self-pity. I had to figure out how the hell we were going to cover this up.

On the rare occasions when I had to get rid of an intact human body, I usually hid it in a refrigerated compartment of my van and then drove to an industrial furnace in the Valley. Dashiell had pressed (and paid) the right people to ensure I could use the facilities freely. But if I went that route, I would have to take these girls in a whole bunch of trips. The risk of getting caught was just too great.

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