Home > The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(11)

The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(11)
Author: Lisa Shearin

Gotham Bank & Trust would want their most valued customers to feel the love while waiting for their personal banker to bring their protected preciouses out to them. There were four small offices on either side of the posh sitting area—with doors that locked from the inside, where clients could commune with their valuables in private.

The inside of the vault was pristine. The ghouls had removed the five boxes that they’d wanted to rob, lined them up on a small, steel table bolted to the floor in the center of the vault, opened them, and scooped out the contents.

Ian and I weren’t the first SPI agents on-site. Two mages from SPI’s evidence collection department were intent on the five empty boxes. Well, a mage and his top apprentice. Kirby was a nice kid and absurdly talented. He glanced up and gave me a quick nod instead of the big grin and high five I was greeted with in the halls at headquarters. Orson Rogerson was our top forensic mage and was notorious for not breaking a smile and expecting the same from his apprentices. Orson was the best, and he was tough but fair.

Ian and I remained just outside the vault. Orson didn’t have to say a word; we knew better than to step one foot onto his crime scene. And yes, until Orson declared it otherwise, it was his.

The vault had been sealed, five safe deposit boxes lined up on the steel table in the center, standing open, contents gone. I glanced at the boxes again, then squatted just outside the vault door so I could see them at table level. Not just neat, perfectly aligned, like they wanted us to give them Brownie points for being tidy robbers. That or they were totally OCD.

The last time we’d come across a locked door, there had been a dead body inside and we’d ended up dealing with high-ranking demons and a portal to Hell. Yeah, capital “H,” home to fire, brimstone, and torment. This time I smelled no brimstone, which meant no direct connection to Hell, though I was sure the bank guard during his final minutes would have disagreed.

Dead was bad enough. Dead because he’d been eaten alive was as bad as it got.

I jerked my mind away from that image and firmly back to solving this case and finding the things that’d done the killing. “So I’m confused,” I said to Ian.

“How so?”

“They got in and out without setting off any alarms, stole what they’d come for, but left the boxes sitting out. They weren’t rushed, so they could just as easily have put the boxes back. Until one of the owners came to check on their stuff, they wouldn’t even know they’d been robbed. Instead they went out of their way to be obvious.”

“We have the latest in security technology as well as level 12 wards,” said a voice from behind us.

A man wearing what I’d learned from being around Rake was a very expensive suit stood by the vault door regarding us with barely disguised animosity. Whether it was aimed at the apparently worthless level 12 wards or at me for pointing out that they were worthless, I didn’t know.

“No one,” he continued, “mage or mundane, should have been able to gain unauthorized access to this building, let alone this vault. I’m Richard Carlton Winthrop, vice president of customer relations.” He made no move to shake either my or Ian’s hand, instead giving us both a quick glance, up and down, and not appearing to be particularly impressed with what he saw. “I’d been informed by Lieutenant Vane that they would be bringing in special consultants.”

He looked as though he’d steeled himself for an inquisition, though that might have been more from having a robbery and murder happen on his watch. If he wasn’t just being paranoid, it was a good thing we were talking to him before he wasn’t vice president anymore. Considering that many of the bank’s clients were long-lived supernaturals who had accumulated their wealth over many human lifetimes, the man might have more to worry about than just being fired.

“We are,” Ian told him. “I’m Special Agent Byrne, and this is Special Agent Fraser.” Ian didn’t make any move to shake Winthrop’s hand, either. So there.

We wore our badges at our belts, and they looked almost exactly like the ones the FBI carried. Ian hadn’t claimed that we were FBI; however, we were agents, and my mom had always told me I was special. No lies, therefore no foul.

I didn’t feel like being nice, but I could be professional. “I understand, Mr. Winthrop. I didn’t mean to imply that the bank hadn’t taken every precaution to protect their clients’ valuables. Could the contents of more boxes be missing?”

In response—and without looking at me—Winthrop flipped a switch by the vault door. A thin, pale blue glow outlined each of the boxes, except for the five outlined in bright red.

“The wards are intact on all of the others,” he explained.

“I can see that. Nice work.”

Winthrop frowned in profound disapproval at the red outlines. “We certainly paid enough for it.”

It sounded like the mages who built those wards were going to be getting a highly irate call from their customer, namely one Richard Carlton Winthrop. Though if he didn’t change his attitude, Winthrop could find himself in worse shape than his wards. You watched your words around mages with enough power under the hood to construct level 12s.

“Who owns those boxes?” Ian asked him.

“I cannot divulge the names of the boxes’ owners, or the contents of the boxes themselves. The latter because we do not know what our clients keep in their boxes. It is a private matter.”

The contents of the safe deposit boxes weren’t safe from thieves, but the names of the owners and what they’d kept in those boxes were safe from us. That made all kinds of sense.

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