Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(17)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(17)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Okay. I need to explain what I do for a living,” I began.

As I talked, his face got more and more stormy. When I finished, Cruz was quiet for a long moment, digesting. “Let me see if I understand this,” he said at last. “You destroy evidence for a living.”

“That’s one way to see it, I guess.”

“But don’t you know how much damage you’re doing?” he protested, sounding heated. “These people belong in jail. You’re not only destroying any chance for the justice system to work, you’re actively incriminating yourself.”

“Keep your voice down,” I warned, and he took a breath, looking around. “We sort of have our own justice system. And in that system, everyone can tell if you’re lying, and smell where you’ve been, or do a spell that recreates the whole scene. Physical evidence just isn’t important. For that, the only thing that matters is getting rid of it before it draws attention in your world.”

He rolled his eyes. “Do you hear yourself? ‘My world’ and ‘your world’? What is that? You’re a human, too.”

I shrugged. “Not exactly. Besides, think about the practicalities. How is the modern justice system going to contain someone who turns furry for three days a month? Or who needs blood to survive? Where’s the prison cell that can hold a powerful witch? If regular humans decided to try to police the Old World...A lot of people would die.” I didn’t mention that I’d also be out of a job.

He thought about that for a long moment. “They still have to come out,” he decided. “That’s the only way to make sure everyone is held accountable for their actions. There will be a panic for a while, but then the government will change, and the laws, and the system will adapt.”

The first time I’d been taken to meet Dashiell, I’d been too young and stupid to be properly afraid of him, and we’d had practically this same conversation. Confident in the soundness of my argument, and with all the wisdom of my eighteen years, I had told the cardinal vampire of the city that surely the vampires’ exposure had to be inevitable as technology advanced; cell phone cameras, CCTV, ATM videos, and so on had to make it tough to stay under the radar. Wouldn’t it be easier to just come out, get in front of the story?

He’d allowed me to blather on about it for a while, then held up a patient hand. “Miss Bernard,” he’d asked calmly, “have you ever heard of the lions of Tsavo?”

“Uh, no.”

“In 1898, the British Empire was trying to build a simple railway bridge over a river in Kenya,” he began. “But in March, two lions began attacking the camp, eating the workers. They’d developed a taste for human flesh, you see, and for nine months, those two lions terrorized the region. There is some disagreement on the numbers, but they killed and ate at least forty, and possibly closer to a hundred and fifty people in that time.”

“So?” I’d said, not carefully enough.

“Lions don’t usually hunt humans. This was very strange behavior, and they were very strange lions. But the humans didn’t abandon the area. They didn’t move the bridge, or send in a bunch of scientists to capture and study the two lions. They hunted them down and killed them. For being predators. For simply following their natures.”

“That was a long time ago, Dashiell. Times have changed.”

He shook his head. “In many ways, yes, but not in the way that humans react instinctively to a threat. They hunt it down and kill it. Look at the Americans and terrorists.” He had said Americans as though we weren’t sitting in beautiful Southern California at that very instant. “The witches can mostly pass for human, but the wolves and the vampires have very distinct weaknesses—the full moon and the daylight. We can be hunted so easily.” His eyes had met mine then, and glittered with meaning.

“You’re trying to tell me something,” I’d said, not getting it.

He leaned back in his chair, spreading his hands expansively. “Nulls appeared when the balance between magic and the natural world had shifted toward magic. But when the balance swung back, when the population of magical creatures began to drop, and then to drop further and further, nulls continued to be born. Why do you suppose that is?”

I’d shrugged. “Maybe evolution is phasing magic out entirely.”

“That is one theory,” he’d allowed. “But there’s another.”

“What is that?”

“That nulls will help us hide from human detection. That your kind will protect us.”

And the way that he’d looked at me, in that exact moment...Well, it taught me to be afraid of him.

“You’re thinking like a cop,” I told Jesse, emerging from my reverie and taking a sip of my soda. “All law and order, but that’s not how the Old World works. Self-preservation is everything to these people. If they were discovered, they would either try to take control of humans or be hunted to extinction. Probably both.”

“So they should just get away with killing people?” he protested.

“No, just...Look, right now, the only thing that unites the entire Old World is the fear of being exposed. It kind of works as its own justice system right there.”

Cruz thought that over for a moment, but then shook his head. “Okay, look, I need to think about that a little more. I’m still not sure that I shouldn’t just arrest you right now.”

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