Home > The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(15)

The Ghoul Vendetta (SPI Files #4)(15)
Author: Lisa Shearin

“The mermaid queen.”

Ian shrugged. “Merpeople are a matriarchal society. The females hold all positions of power.”

I nodded in approval. “As it should be. I like Queen Sirene already.”

“If Sirene wasn’t a witness, some of her people must have been, and they would have reported to her everything that happened.”

About ten minutes later, we reached the northernmost tip of Manhattan where the Harlem River emptied into the Hudson. I think the neighborhood was Inwood, which was being touted as New York’s next gentrifying neighborhood. They’d get there a lot faster if they knew a mermaid queen lived offshore.

“I would have expected merfolk to live closer to the open ocean,” I said.

“They winter in the ocean, taking the Gulf Stream south. They summer here.”

I grinned. “Two-legged Northerners do that, too.”

Ian pulled a long chain from under his T-shirt and lifted it over his head. He’d used it before to call a mermaid source for information.

I leaned forward to get a better look at the pendant. It was a silver oval with what looked to have once been intricate engravings, now worn with age. “You say you don’t have any psychic abilities, but you can dip a necklace in the water and telepathically talk to mermaids. I’d call that pretty danged psychic.”

Ian shrugged as if it was no big deal. “My grandad gave it to me. His father gave it to him. He was a fisherman back in Ireland. Grandad said his father told him he could use it to call the merfolk. Grandad didn’t put much stock in fairy tales as he called them, but it’s been in the family at least as far back as four generations, so he wanted me to have it.”

“And when you came to work for SPI, you realized that fairy tales were fairy fact.”

“That’s right.”

“Cool.”

Ian leaned over the edge of the boat and submerged the pendant on the end as I’d seen him do before. It wasn’t dark yet, but it was close enough to make the water look more than a little ominous, especially considering what had happened Friday night. I winced and held my breath, fully expecting a kraken tentacle or a Creature from the Black Lagoon to drag Ian over the side. I didn’t like that Yasha hadn’t been able to come with us, and neither had he. Merpeople were nervous around many supernaturals, including werewolves.

A head broke the surface a few feet from where Ian leaned over the side. Long hair flowed over slender shoulders and down into the water. The features indicated that it was female, and all of the above seemed to be more or less human—except for the green skin.

Or at least it looked green from what I could see.

Her large eyes were solid, dark orbs. Orbs that stared over Ian’s shoulders to where I sat. She looked familiar. More than familiar, she was identical to the mermaid who had come when Ian had called that night on the edge of the East River. I wondered if all mermaids looked alike, or whether even asking that question would be extremely offensive. I opted to keep my mouth shut and let Ian do the talking, telepathy, or whatever.

The mermaid submerged completely.

Seconds later, she surfaced right under where Ian’s hand held the chain and pendant stretched over and into the water. My partner didn’t move as a long-fingered, webbed hand reached up to him. Ian lowered his hand and she closed her definitely green, webbed fingers around his.

She gazed up into his eyes and they stayed like that for a good two minutes. Then she simply released his hand and sank back into the darkening river without leaving even a ripple as a sign she’d ever been there.

Ian removed the pendant from the water and dried it on a towel before putting the chain over his head and tucking the pendant under his T-shirt. He turned toward me with a crooked smile. “The queen will see us now.”

I didn’t necessarily expect a crown of seashells or coral, but I did expect the queen of New York’s merpeople to have differentiated herself from her subjects in some way. Since only her head and shoulders were above the water and it was night by now, I thought maybe her fish-like tail was fancier or sported some kind of aquatic-themed bling. Her features did look more regal than those of the mermaid Ian had initially made contact with, but aside from that, there was no outward indication of rank.

However, four long and sleek forms swam just beneath the surface around our boat and the queen. They were broader of shoulder and carried trident-like spears.

Guards. Male.

Once again there was no speaking, only telepathy between the queen and Ian, and it lasted less than five minutes.

When she’d finished communicating, the queen smoothly sank below the surface and disappeared, her guards along with her.

I leaned forward in my seat. “Well?”

“We have a witness. Dozens, actually.”

“Good. Now we’re getting somewhere.”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, not exactly?”

“They saw what happened to the Persephone, acknowledge the invaders to be a threat, but they don’t have a name for them. Yasha’s black lagoon things, not the kraken. They know what the kraken was. Sirene will try to get more information for us on the black lagoon guys. Her people reported that Bela Báthory was taken farther up the Hudson.”

“They took him up the Hudson past Manhattan?”

“Without a doubt.”

“So much for the swamp creatures being hired fins for one of the other vampire families.”

“I asked Sirene if she had any plans to have her people scout farther up the river. She tried that, but pulled them back. There’s a pair of hydras where the river gets deeper just past Yonkers.”

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