Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(4)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(4)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

My mind was churning, questions ping-ponging around the inside of my head. What on earth would have done what I’d seen in the clearing? In five years doing crime scenes, I’d never encountered that kind of brutality. With modern technology and modern cautiousness, it’s rare that I even get a complete dead human body anymore. That’s the thing about LA: it might be the second-biggest city in the country, but in the Old World, it has about the prominence of Tucson. This town is a pretty undesirable place for the supernatural to live: there’s not enough space for the wolves, who can’t afford to be stuck in traffic on full moon nights, and the city is too young and too spacey for the vampires. There are probably more witches than anything else, but so many of them are a joke, and most of the rest don’t play with the really dangerous magics. Sometimes one of the werewolves will lose a limb in a fight, or the witches will hex something wrong like that poor dove, but neither faction has many actual casualties anymore. Even the vampires, who regularly feed on humans, have had centuries to learn how to feed without crossing that line to where the victim will die. I’m occasionally called in when the new vamps accidentally kill, but even then, it’s all very obvious. Hungry vampire equals dead human.

But what the hell would have done what I’d just seen? Thinking about the scene in the clearing, I realized that I’d never really had a chance: even if the cops had taken a little longer to get there, there was no way in hell I would have been able to clean up that...mess. It would have taken one person hours just to collect all the body parts. What could I have done?

When thirty minutes had passed, I scooted up into my seat and stepped out to get my logo magnet. Then I tossed my baseball cap on the passenger seat and carefully steered the van farther into the subdivision. It took me a while to find my way back to a major street, but I finally pulled onto Pico and followed it west. When I was sure I knew my way home, I took a deep breath and called Dashiell.

“What happened?” he demanded, before I’d said hello.

“It was too late. There was a cop on scene before I could do much. He saw one of the wolves, Dashiell.”

“He what?” I explained about the werewolf in the clearing. “Who is this cop?” he barked angrily, as though I had personally invited the guy along as my date.

“Uh...I didn’t get a name.”

As a rule, vampires do not sigh in seething annoyance, but Dashiell made a special exception for me. “This would not have happened if you had simply arrived on time, Scarlett.”

“I know it’s bad. I just couldn’t make it there.” I bit down on any further excuses, not bothering to point out that I wouldn’t have had the time to clean up that mess anyway. I’d known Dashiell long enough to know that he was not a big fan of apologies. Apologizing is weak, and weakness tends to make vampires think of prey.

“Scarlett, now is not a good time,” he said. I automatically glanced at the clock on the dashboard. I keep track of the dawn, for obvious reasons, and it was only twenty minutes away. That was going to hurt us: if I can’t get to a crime scene for some reason, Dashiell has to throw his weight and money around to get things buried, and now he wouldn’t be able to do so until after sunset. Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier? “You will come to the estate tonight at eleven thirty to discuss this further.”

I chewed on my lip, deciding what to say. Screw it. “Dashiell, could you please just tell me if you’re gonna try to kill me?”

He actually laughed, but it was a dry, grave chuckle that made me shiver. “Scarlett, I am very displeased. But if I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t invite you politely. And there would be no trying.” The line went dead.

I tossed the phone into the baseball cap on the seat next to me. This was very bad. I’d skated by for eight months with only a handful of incidents each week. Of course it figured that the one time I got two scenes in one night, it would be the most gruesome murder I’d ever seen. That kind of killing was going to get a lot of attention—enough that I suspected even Dashiell wouldn’t be able to keep a lid on it. He would be furious with me, and that was not good for either my professional reputation or my personal safety. He might not be able to bite me, but despite our ability to extinguish magic, nulls like me aren’t invulnerable. We’re just as fragile as any other human being, and all Dashiell really had to do was buy a gun or have one of his personal goons beat me to death. I heard myself chortle, an edge of hysteria escaping my throat. Who would they get, I thought, to clean up my body?

It was ten minutes to dawn when I dragged myself through the back door of the compact West Hollywood house that I share with my housemate and landlady, Molly. Who, I should mention, is also a vampire.

“You’re home!” she squealed, rushing toward me at much-faster-than-human speed. She had on designer sweatpants and a Paul Frank T-shirt with a picture of an angry-looking kitten biting a dog. Molly looks about twenty, with shoulder-length hair (currently red) and the body of a high school tennis star, but she’s really a hundred and twenty-something years old, born in Wales the same summer that Jack the Ripper was terrorizing the East End of London. She was turned into a vampire at the age of seventeen. I’ve never heard the full story on how it happened, but I get the impression that it wasn’t accidental—that was right around the time when skirmishes between the vampires and the witches led to the vampires becoming much more thoughtful about who they let into their undead club. They went after a lot of poor, pretty girls, like Molly had been.

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