Home > The Brimstone Deception (SPI Files #3)(11)

The Brimstone Deception (SPI Files #3)(11)
Author: Lisa Shearin

Bert sure wasn’t creepy and neither was questioning the victim of a violent crime. But when said victim hadn’t survived the perpetration of said violent crime . . . if that didn’t say creepy loud and clear, I didn’t know what did.

One heaping helping of nightmare fodder, coming up.

I’d seen Bert communicate with the soul of a newly dead person once before—one that hadn’t been murdered. A silvery mist had risen from the body and stopped to hover directly above it. The form was vaguely the size and shape of the body it’d arisen from. There was no face, no features, and of course, nothing that could be used to speak. The investigating agent asked the questions; Bert spoke for the dead person.

Anyone who didn’t know Bert or was unfamiliar with how a necromancer worked would consider this an arrangement ripe for fraud. Though I’d like to hear their explanation for the body-sized and -shaped mist, and the details that only the victim would have known that came from Bert’s mouth.

Not only was Bert legit, he was considered one of the best at his craft, period.

The process itself was quite simple and relied solely on the power of Bert’s necromantic magic, which was considerable.

“Sar Gedeon.”

The boom of Bert’s deep and resonate voice filled the morgue’s tiled walls and then some. I jumped in spite of myself. His voice and the power behind it didn’t ask the dead elf to come and talk to us, it commanded him.

Nothing happened.

At least that was the way it looked. How it felt was like I’d been turned into one of those long, skinny balloons that clowns used at kids’ birthday parties, and Bert’s magic was hell-bent on twisting me into a poodle. Ian and Fred looked equally uncomfortable.

I swear I heard my joints pop. I sure as hell felt it. You didn’t have to be a sensitive to feel magic on the level of Bert’s.

I sucked in as much air as my lungs could pull in. I knew I was going to need it. Not that I minded not breathing in a room dedicated to cutting open and examining dead people who, like Sar Gedeon here, had met their ends in less than peaceful circumstances. However, there was only so long living people could stay that way without air. Mouth breathing was preferred, but morgue air had a taste, too.

Or maybe it was just me.

In the interest of being able to eat at some point today—and keep it down—I kept my breathing shallow.

Tiny drops of sweat beaded on Bert’s forehead and upper lip. He could chat with the dead in his sleep—and he had. It wasn’t hot in here. SPI’s medical team kept it cold for obvious reasons.

The necromancer was having a problem.

I hoped it was the necromagic equivalent of technical difficulties and not a certain elf corpse fighting back.

But when Bert’s brow creased in a scowl, I knew it wasn’t heat or overactive sweat glands.

Neither Ian nor I said a word or even moved. Heck, I already was barely breathing.

“Damn,” he said simply.

The pressure in the room, and on my body, immediately vanished.

“No luck?” I asked. Way to go, Captain Obvious.

Bert shook his head. “No soul.”

Ian made his own four-letter contribution. “We waited too long.”

“The soul didn’t leave,” Bert told us.

“But you said—”

“It was torn out.”

Ouch.

“A drug lord with no heart or soul,” Fred drawled. “Anyone else love the irony?”

Stereotypically speaking, I knew that demons had a thing for souls, but I thought they tasted sweeter or something when the owner signed it over voluntarily. Delayed gratification and all that.

“How do you even do that?” I asked.

Bert drew a breath. “Well, first the—”

I waved my hands. “No, no, that was rhetorical. I’m sure that’s one of those things I’m better off not hearing about.”

I’d discovered there were a lot of those in our line of work. Too often I’d been told details that’d ended up with a supporting role in my nightmares. In our profession, I had plenty of those, too.

Ian looked likewise reluctant to receive enlightenment. Considering what my partner’s past careers were, that said a lot.

“I can explain without offending,” Bert assured us.

“Will it help us find the demons that did this?” Fred asked.

“No, but—”

The detective held up a hand. “Then I’m ignorant, too, and happy about it.”

“Expanding one’s knowledge is good.”

“So is me being able to eat lunch,” I said. “Fill us with knowledge when we’re not standing over the visual aid.”

“Where’s your curiosity?”

“Hiding behind the remains of my appetite.”

“Very well.” Bert stepped forward so that his ample belly was right against the side of the stainless steel table. “If you don’t want to hear how Mr. Gedeon’s soul was removed, you certainly will not like remaining in the room for what I’ll need to do now, since there’s no soul to communicate with.”

My stomach dropped. Being a science type, Bert had never been one for exaggeration.

“If you say we’re not gonna like this, I’m thinking I should leave right now. We’re here because we need to hear his testimony. We have tape recorders for that kind of thing, right?”

Bert nodded. “There is a video and audio record of every interaction.”

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