Home > The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(12)

The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(12)
Author: Lisa Shearin

“Okay, let me see if I have this straight, Mr. Winthrop,” Ian began. “There was a robbery, or at least there are five empty safe deposit boxes sitting on a table in a vault that had been locked. You called us to investigate the robbery, but we do not know what was stolen or who the stolen items even belong to because of client confidentiality.”

We found ourselves on the receiving end of an actual smile. “Yes, so good of you to understand.”

“No, I don’t understand. We are here to investigate. We can’t do that.” Ian’s jaw tightened. “Nor can we find who ate your guard—unless we know what was taken. I’m certain that your customers whose valuables were stolen want them returned. We can’t get them back unless we know what we’re looking for. I do understand your customers not wanting their confidential information shared with just anyone. We’re not just anyone. A little cooperation would go a long way right now toward finding who or what butchered your guard.” My partner’s eyes narrowed. “You do care about your own people, don’t you?”

“Of course, but—”

“If it’s ‘of course,’ then there is no ‘but.’ The family of that man needs and deserves closure, your valued clients want their valuables back, and I want to do my job to see that both happen.”

The banker swallowed audibly. “I will see what I can do.”

“I would appreciate that.”

I waited until Winthrop had left and my partner’s shoulders had relaxed before saying anything. “I love the smell of cooperative bureaucrat in the morning,” I quipped to lessen the tension hanging in the air.

Ian sighed, though it sounded more like a pressure release valve. “Judging from his determination to be as uncooperative as possible, I believe the owners of those empty safe deposit boxes are a particularly dangerous and long-lived breed of supernatural.”

“Vampires.”

“Yes.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Gotham Bank & Trust is exclusively for one percent of the one percent. Aside from dragons, only vampires live long enough to amass that kind of wealth. A dragon’s valuables wouldn’t fit in one of those little boxes. They hide their hoards themselves, and provide their own security.”

I looked to where Winthrop had shut himself in his office. Hopefully to get the information we needed. Probably to call his lawyer and make sure his will was up-to-date once his vampire clients found out their goodies were gone.

7

NOW it was my turn to work hard for the money.

With every door locked, five safe deposit boxes empty, and one dead security guard, there had been a portal opened somewhere in the Gotham Bank & Trust Company.

It was my job to find it. Now. The bank wasn’t all that large, at least not in terms of a football field, but it wasn’t exactly a neighborhood branch office, either. Considering that my last encounter with portals had involved a demon lord, a sadistic elf dark mage, and a yellow brick road of brimstone leading to a Hellpit, I should have felt at least marginally better about the one I was looking for now.

I didn’t.

This one had been used by ghouls. Ghouls that were led by the ghoul—or whatever form he was taking now—that had killed and eaten Ian’s NYPD partner, and had tried to do the same to Ian.

Logic said the portal would be near the vault. But if the portal was near the vault, why was the dead body of the guard upstairs?

I knew from experience that a portal could be opened anywhere, even if the other side of the wall was packed dirt or solid rock. Those ghouls hadn’t wanted to escape to whatever was on the other side of the wall where the portal had opened. I knew that stepping through that portal could have put them a block from the bank, hundreds of miles away, or in an entirely different dimension.

I opened my senses to any magic in the building, willing myself to be receptive to anything that gave me the heebie-jeebies.

It didn’t take me long to find it. A bloody handprint on a white wall on the main floor was pretty much impossible to miss.

So was the dead body surrounded by bright lights and a forensic team a few feet away.

“I don’t know whether to be glad for the assist,” I muttered, “or insulted that the head ghoul thought I needed it.”

Ian scowled. “I’ll add it to the list of things I’m going to take out of his hide.”

That sounded disturbingly similar to what the ghoul wanted to do to Ian. I didn’t point it out. Besides, Ian wasn’t the one who’d killed and eaten a guard. That was plenty enough difference for me.

“So you’re sure this is it?” Ian asked.

“Oh yeah. I don’t need a snootful of brimstone for confirmation. The wall’s flat, but it’s like I’m wearing 3-D glasses. That handprint is smack-dab in the middle of a ghoul-sized and indented section of wall.” I blinked rapidly and had to look away. “And all wavy-like and more than a mite quease inducing.”

Even more nauseating was the thought of what we had to do next. The guard’s body—or what was left of it—had not yet been taken away. I recognized the medical examiner who crouched over the body, using tweezers to extract something I thankfully couldn’t see from the ruin of the man’s chest.

Dr. Anika Van Daal was the medical examiner. She was also a vampire and mage who had arrived in the city soon after it had been taken from the Dutch by the British and the name changed from New Amsterdam to New York. That’d been in 1625. At that time, two-thirds of the island had still been wilderness.

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