COLE suspected every morgue in the world carried a chill to it.
As a sidhe, he wasn’t susceptible to temperatures the way humans were, but the subtle changes in climate were something he remained aware of regardless. It was currently February, and outside in the bleak darkness, New York City was currently facing a maelstrom of winter snow. The heavy clouds churning with white flakes had blanketed half the country, spreading out as far south as Texas and the Gulf Coast.
Cole had walked out in it alongside his partner and superior, Inspector Joss Vallimun, as the two had been called down to the morgue to inspect another body. It hadn’t bothered him to walk outside while the flakes continued to pelt the ground. Joss had been shivering the whole time, but Cole was perfectly comfortable. Then they had entered the hospital morgue, and for the first time that day, Cole had shuddered involuntarily.
His left hand was twitching now. It always responded when there were a number of dead bodies in the area. His Hand of Power, the Hand of Cold Death, could summon anything cold and dead up to obey his every command. It had been called a weak, shameful power in the land of Faerie, but here amongst mortals, where he now worked as a special detective, the Hand had its uses.
The morgue, of course, reeked with the stench of formaldehyde. The smell of it was making Cole’s nose itch as Joss spoke with the coroner. The man didn’t look as though he was particularly happy to see him, and Cole suspected he knew why. They had been to this morgue before and each time had needed a moment to themselves in order to “examine” the body. That was the official story, at least. In reality, Cole didn’t enjoy being gawked at while he questioned the deceased. It made him uncomfortable, a rare thing among his kind. Plus, the screaming and pointing from other humans in the room got old after a while.
Cole waited while Joss sorted things out with the head of the department, making sure all the paperwork had been filed and whatnot so they could carry on with their investigation. Meanwhile, the coroner’s assistant, a young woman with olive skin and dark hair, kept shooting glances his way every few seconds. She had pretended to be busy sorting files, but when several fell out of her hands, the facade was pretty much blown. Cole waited while she picked them up, then caught her attention for a second. As Joss came over to fetch him, Cole gave the woman a wink and smiled as she blushed.
“Having fun?” Joss’s voice carried a thread of jealousy far beneath the mirth on the surface. “We can go inside now. They’ve got the body already laid out for you.”
“Right.” Cole said nothing more, following after Joss as he led them across the room into another area, one filled with drawer after drawer of dead hosts. One was already pulled out and waiting for them. Cole felt his left hand twitch with nerves as they entered, begging for the power inside it to be released.
“Name?” he asked, as the coroner lingered.
“Aaron Hoover,” the coroner replied. “The body was found in an alley. Someone had called their landlord about a bad smell coming through their window.”
The body in question was of a young boy around the age of ten with dark hair and blue eyes, having a light-colored skin. Cole knew this because he’d read the report. Had he not, there would have been no way of figuring that out, going by sight alone. The body had been burned to a crisp. The whole surface was burned from head to toe, except in places where it looked like chunks of flesh had been torn away.
“What about the wounds?” Cole asked, looking the body over. “It looks like they were caused by teeth.”
“Official report says the same thing,” said the coroner. “It looks like the body was burned first and then torn up afterward. There’s also evidence that he was held prisoner in a very cramped space before dying.”
“Just like the other two,” Joss commented, keeping his voice even and neutral.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” the coroner said, walking away now. “Just knock when you’re finished doing… whatever.”
Cole waited until the door shut before speaking. “There may be more,” he reminded Joss. “The first one we spoke to said that he’d been held prisoner in a dark place and that he’d heard other children talking.”
“The report said that the body had been held in a cramped space before dying,” Joss mused quietly to himself. “That corroborates with what the first one said, and the second one talked briefly about being in a cage.”
“The first one said that he’d been held in a cage,” Cole reminded. “The second one mentioned a tiny space before it got really hot.”
“It fits with the killer’s MO.” Joss nodded, keeping his face relaxed. “Good thing you told me to ask the coroner to check and see if the bodies showed signs of being imprisoned before they died.”
“It was just a hunch. Shall we get on with it, then?” Cole stretched his left arm out over the corpse and let the power burst out of his hand. “It was Aaron Hoover, wasn’t it?”
Cole released enough power to summon three or four bodies at once. It was needed, however, to shift the dead body back to something resembling a human form. There was no way the deceased could speak with a body charred so badly. The Hand of Cold Death could temporarily fix a damaged body with no life in it, but this required a little extra effort. Cole took several deep breaths as the form recovered some of its former youthful beauty and blinked up at them.
“Aaron Hoover,” Cole said slowly. “I want you to listen very carefully to me.”
The corpse blinked again. “Where’s my mom?” it croaked. “I want to see my mom.”
“Aaron,” Cole said sharply. “You are already dead.”
Joss gave Cole a look, but Cole ignored him. “You’ve been dead for a few days now,” Cole explained. “I have awakened your body so that we can ask you some questions about how you died. Once we are done here, you will be laid to rest again, and your spirit can finally move on.”
The boy didn’t stop looking terrified by this news, but with each word Cole spoke, the tension in his body seemed to lessen.
“Good,” Cole said, smiling now. “Now, do you remember where it was you were being held prisoner?”
The body of Aaron Hoover tried to swallow and found that it couldn’t. “It was dark,” it whispered hoarsely. “I couldn’t see anything.”
Joss looked across the slab at him. “Just like the others,” he said softly.
“Do you remember who kidnapped you?” Cole asked.
The body shook its head slowly. “I don’t remember being kidnapped. I was walking home from the bus stop. The next thing I knew, someone had put me in a cage, and I could smell something baking in an oven.”
“Baking,” Cole repeated, looking back at Joss. “Didn’t the others mention they smelt something?”
“Maybe,” he said with a nod.
“What did it smell like?” Cole went on. “Was it a bad smell?”
“It smelled good,” the boy who had once been Aaron Hoover replied. “It reminded me of when we used to visit Grandma’s house. It almost smelled like cookies, but better. I could smell it the whole time.”
Cole took a deep breath. “Here we go,” he warned Joss. “Aaron, do you remember how you died?”
The corpse didn’t answer at first. Cole wondered perhaps if it hadn’t heard him when the body suddenly shook. It almost rocked itself off the slab and onto the floor, but Cole forced it still by pushing his will into it through his Hand.
“They came for me,” the body cried out now, panicking. “I could feel them grabbing me with their sticky hands. They were taking me somewhere, and it was small and tight. I couldn’t breathe!”
Aaron Hoover’s corpse gasped, his breath rattling like a clanging bell in his lungs. “It was too small. I couldn’t get out, and it was getting so hot!”
Cole tried to will the body to stay calm, but it was reacting like the others before had. The more Cole tried to force the panic back down, the more it fought.
“It’s not supposed to react like this,” he growled, steadying his power and feeding more of it into the body. “Aaron Hoover, I command you to be at peace!”
The body went still at once, but the corpse began screaming. “I want my momma!” it shouted, the voice echoing off the metal drawers surrounding them. “I want my momma! Momma, help me!”
“Cole, turn it off before the whole department hears him,” Joss ordered.
Cole made a fist, shutting his power down at once. The corpse rattled for a bit as the air was expelled from the lungs, making a loud whistle. Stepping farther back, Cole waited as the deceased form went back to being a lifeless burned shell.
“Just like the others,” he commented. “They all died horribly, and under such traumatic circumstances that raising them for questioning is nearly impossible.”
“Held in a cage,” Joss said, thinking the words over carefully. “Then put inside a cramped space where it got hotter.”
“A furnace,” Cole said, feeling certain of his answer. “Or an old-fashioned stove.”
Joss nodded. “A kiln could have the same effect. I’ve seen some of the bigger ones up close. You could stuff a dead body his size in there no problem. As hot as they get, it’s a wonder there wasn’t just bone left.”
“The sweet smell, though,” Cole pointed out. “They all smelled something, and this one said that it smelled like his grandmother’s house. That’s why I think it was an oven.”
Cole was silent for a moment. “Should I try again and ask if it remembers seeing her?”
Joss shook his head. “We tried that last time and the poor kid kept right on screaming. I don’t think this is her handiwork.”
“Me neither,” Cole admitted, turning away. “But it was worth a shot.”
None of the people in the main area would look at them as they left. Everyone, including the coroner, was entranced by the floor or their own shoes. Cole ignored this and marched out the front door, timing his steps to where they fell in alongside Joss’s.
“I think the sound of dead bodies screaming is beginning to affect them,” he remarked once they were safely outside the hospital.
“You think?” Joss asked, cocking an eyebrow at him.
“It’s just a theory at this point.”
Both men climbed into Joss’s car and got comfortable. The snow had let up for a few minutes, but Cole could sense it was just a temporary reprieve. Soon, something much bigger would be slamming against the city with full force. It was lucky he had the very best that money couldn’t buy in central heating. Otherwise, he might have wound up freezing his ass off like so many who lived here.
“Come over to my place tonight,” Cole asked as Joss pulled out of the hospital parking lot into traffic. “It’s warm, and you can take a hot shower for as long as you like.”
“Sounds good,” Joss replied. “I could use one after today. They’ve had us running all over this fucking town looking for leads on this killer.”
“While we’re supposed to be out looking for clues to where Naryssa is hiding,” Cole pointed out. “How did this case get dumped into our laps again? Shouldn’t it have been something for homicide to deal with instead?”
“I guess the department thought it was weird enough,” Joss said, shrugging. “I really don’t know, but my guess is they’re swamped too. Budget cuts were not kind to those people.”
“They haven’t exactly been the Spring Faerie Falls for us, either. Speaking of which, has there been any word about getting some more people transferred to our division?”
Cole and Joss both worked in the same department, a clandestine undercover group called Section Thirteen. It had originally been started back in the fifties by a group of mortal cops who specialized in occult crimes and the supernatural. The city had disbanded them sometime during the seventies after too many of their reports read like acid-rock poetry. One month ago, roughly, the city agreed to bring the Section back into business after a mad half-sidhe hag by the name of Naryssa had gone on a murdering spree and kidnapped a number of half-fey children. Cole had gotten dragged into the mix and was now working with the police as an officer of the law to bring her in.
Cole often found himself repeating that statement to himself. Even now, it sounded too weird.
The Section had started off with the two of them and one other homicide cop, a man who had been Cole’s contact when he worked as a police consultant. These days, he and James Corhagen didn’t speak with each other much. It was just as well, especially considering Cole had moved on in his life, away from James and his problems.
Working in the Section had given him a whole new set of problems, and those were more than enough. When Cole had first signed on, Joss had brought in several members of the city’s vice squad to help out. Two weeks later, following an incident in the sewers, where they had been chasing after a large gelatin cube, every member of vice had pleaded with the brass to be taken back to their old assignments.
Dealing with the supernatural underside of New York was not something for the weak of stomach.
So it ended up that the Section was stuck with the three core members and no one else. No one else wanted to come close to them, and no matter how much Cole claimed he didn’t care, they were only three men. The Section had jurisdiction across the whole city, meaning they got called out several times a day to examine a crime scene just to clarify that it had been caused by something mundane and not a rampaging orc.
“I want to take my car home first,” Joss said, breaking up his thoughts. “Since there’s no place to park outside your place.”
“Let me have your cell phone, then,” Cole said, holding his hand out. “I’ll go ahead and call a cab for us so it can be waiting when we arrive.”
Joss fished his phone out of the back pocket of his pants and tossed it to him. “We really need to get you one of those. It’s difficult enough getting hold of you when you’re not on duty.”
“That’s the whole point,” Cole replied, punching in the number. “Hey, Crystal,” he said into the phone. “Yeah, it’s me again. Can you have a cab waiting for us at the usual place? Right, we’re a good fifteen or so minutes away, maybe more now that traffic has picked up again. Just tell your man to park outside the apartment, if you wouldn’t mind. Thanks!”
Joss shook his head. “I think she’s starting to wonder.”
Cole handed the phone back to him and stretched comfortably, gazing out the passenger window. “I love it when it snows here,” he said softly. “It reminds me of home.”
“I hate it,” Joss grumbled. “Give me spring any day. Before long, summer will be here and it’ll be too hot to breathe.”
Cole kept his thoughts to himself and allowed Joss the silence he needed to make it home quickly and efficiently. Soon, they were pulling up into the driveway of the inspector’s apartment, a shabby but neat building that Cole had been a guest at several times since he had joined the police force. The cab he had called for was waiting for them with the motor, and probably the meter, running. Joss parked his car; then they both rushed out to jump in the back of the waiting vehicle. The driver didn’t so much as comment, pulling out into the street without a backward glance at them.
They reached Bowling Green Park a little bit later. Cole already had his money out and passed it up to the driver before hopping out.
“Keep the change,” he said, slamming the door shut behind him.
“I’m surprised you can afford to keep doing this,” Joss remarked as they wandered through the entrance together.
“I just have to pay for food,” Cole reminded him. “The sithen provides me with everything else.”
Cole laughed as they came up to the fountain. The jets had been turned off due to the weather, yet the water inside the basin had yet to freeze. People surely found this strange but were too busy with their own lives to investigate the cause. Cole snapped his fingers, then waited as the entrance to the world below rose up in front of them. As the doorway formed from the water’s surface, Cole brought his arms around the inspector’s waist and squeezed.
“Whenever you are ready,” he whispered into the mortal’s ear.
The first time they had gone through this door together, there had been an uneven flight of stairs leading down into a dark corridor. The sithen had been under Naryssa’s control back then, but after Cole had defeated her with Joss’s help, he’d taken up living in it. Naryssa had escaped, and now her home was his to do with as he pleased. Cole had gotten rid of those blasted steps first.
There was only a step or two down now. Joss went through first and removed his shoes at the landing. Cole came in next and waited as the door slid shut, sealing them off from the mortal world.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
“Fine,” Joss replied nonchalantly. “No strange visions or unusual colors. I had worse side effects from walking into my roommate’s dorm in college.”
“I simply wanted to be sure.” Cole had brought Joss here several times already, and each time, they’d stopped before going too far in to check and make sure the sithen wasn’t playing tricks with Joss’s mind. Legends spoke of the Faerie mounds giving mortals the odd turn now and again.
The ceiling was high, held in place ostensibly by a long row of columns that had tree roots wrapped around them. Halfway down the stone path was a stone fountain, the water of which splashed merrily, welcoming them home. Cole could hear laughter coming from it and waved at the pixies playing there as he walked past. They had once lived in a storm drain in Central Park, but after he had moved into the sithen, Cole had invited them along.
Above the fountain were two ghostly figures. The bean sidhe who guarded the entrance had taken to avoiding their posts whenever Cole brought Joss home. Cole suspected they were jealous and knew what he would do to them if they tried anything on Joss.
“Welcome home, Master Colewyn,” a voice said.
Cole looked to the source as a short man with a balding head materialized. “That way,” Mal, the ghost and operator of the sithen, said, gesturing. “Right through the door. I’ve already gotten your bed ready, and the bathroom water is nice and hot.”
“Thanks, Mal,” Joss said as they entered the double doors he’d been pointing to. “He’s really taken to this whole ‘butler’ role, hasn’t he?”
“I think he finds the role amusing,” Cole replied. The sithen had already changed itself around, as per Mal’s instructions, to take them directly to Cole’s private chamber. It was just down the smaller hallway now and to the left.
“That makes me worry,” said Joss in a grave voice as they entered the expansive room. “If what you told me is true, why would the ghost of a former sorcerer condemned for practicing black magic find being a butler amusing?”
“He was trapped in a book for centuries,” Cole pointed out, directing them both to the bathroom. “Mal is probably relieved to be out and doing anything now.”
The sithen, with Mal’s help, had constructed a spacious room for Cole that was decorated in brown paneling with cobblestone floors covered by thick rugs. The bed was by far the largest piece of furniture in the room, but the cabinets, shelves, and desk were all massive and varnished a deep brown color to match the walls. It was the sort of room he’d always dreamed of having.
Off to the side was the bathroom. Cole entered first and began shucking his clothes as Joss came up behind him and did the same. As usual, Cole had worn all black while on patrol. His leather pants and long vest were far from regulation, but since Joss had insisted that Section Thirteen be a plainclothes operation, there was very little the higher-ups could do. Plus, as Cole himself had pointed out, a uniform would do very little to help him blend in.
Joss, unlike him, had dressed for freezing weather. His knee-length coat was the first thing to go, followed by the cream-colored button-down shirt. Cole was already naked now and stood there enjoying the view. Joss took a moment to slowly draw the undershirt over his head, knowing how much Cole liked to watch. His abs and chest came into view, covered in a natural rug of curly hair. Cole sighed, feeling a low moan rising up from his throat. He loved running his fingers through that carpet and did so at every chance. When Joss dropped his pants, the underwear came with them, and his shaft stood upright and rigid.
It was as big as a baby’s arm.
The head was leaking precum now, causing Cole’s mouth to water. Once Joss had stepped out of his clothes, Cole wasted no time in dragging both of them into the shower. The water kicked on immediately, and true to Mal’s word, it was at just the right temperature. Joss groaned as the three showerheads above them sent jets of steaming liquid onto his back, pounding the stress of the day out of him. Each head was shaped like a theater mask: one frowning, one grinning, and one trapped in between.
Cole seized Joss by his thick mane of wet blond hair and pulled him in close for a kiss that ended with their tongues dancing around one another. His own cock was stretched as far as it would go, almost to the point of pain, as their arms encircled each other. Cole could feel Joss’s hands all over him, and he moaned his pleasure down the mortal man’s throat.
Cole began kneading the knots out of Joss’s back as he nuzzled the man’s ear. “That feels so good,” Joss breathed, kissing Cole lightly on his shoulder. “Don’t stop, please.”
“Never,” Cole cooed. “Let go. I’ve got both of us now.”
Joss went silent for a moment as Cole continued to massage his back in time with the water. “That boy,” said Joss softly as Cole worked lower. “He couldn’t have been, what? Ten years old? Somebody baked him alive.”
“We’ll find them,” Cole assured him, not letting up. “And when we find them, we put a stop to it.”
“You make it sound simple,” Joss groaned, running his own hands up the slicked surface of Cole’s back. “It’s never that simple. Being a cop is anything but simple.”
“I’m not really a cop,” Cole reminded him. Seizing the man by the hair, he gently pulled until Joss’s eyes were facing his. “I am a sidhe warrior. You brought me into the NYPD, but at heart, I will always be who I was raised to be. No amount of paperwork or procedure will change that.”
“I shouldn’t let you say things like that,” Joss mumbled. Their foreheads pressed together under the jet stream. “We’re supposed to catch the bad guys, not execute them. But after what I heard those kids say….”
“One thing at a time,” Cole said, shushing him. “For now….”
Joss looked at Cole when he didn’t finish.
“I’m going to fuck you silly,” Cole whispered into his ear before spinning Joss around.
Joss brought his arms up to brace himself against the slippery wall of the shower as Cole reached his hand out. The sithen was always quick to respond, and this time was no exception. Before Cole’s hand could touch the wall to the right of Joss, it opened up a hidden compartment to reveal a small bottle of golden liquid.
“Last time, it was under the frowning shower head,” Cole noted, pouring some of the fey lubricant onto his fingers.
Joss merely grunted and steeled himself as two of Cole’s fingers were inserted into his ass. Cole quickly flexed and wiggled the tips as he felt them brush across Joss’s love nut. Joss’s cock jumped at the stimulation and began drooling. The rough and rugged male grunted as another finger joined the others. His asshole was opened slightly, but it was still tight and snug as Cole began to gently fuck his digits back and forth.
At the same time, he managed to dribble a little bit of the oil onto his other hand by tilting it slightly. It wasn’t easy, and he wound up with more than was needed, but the glass bottle didn’t slip out of his fingers once. Cole placed it back into the slot in the wall, snapped the cap back into place, and watched as it disappeared once more. Satisfied, he used the oil smeared all over his left hand to slick his cock up as Joss began moaning with pleasure.
“Here it comes,” he warned, pushing the head of his dick up against Joss’s entrance.
“Umph!” Joss grunted as the head popped past his sphincter. “Ohhh, yeah!”
“Get ready.” Cole braced himself, getting a nice grip on Joss’s hips as he drew back slightly, then drove himself forward hard. The head of his cock plowed into Joss’s innards, tearing a path that made the rough-and-tumble man moan.
“Fuck, yeah,” Joss breathed as the steam built up around them. “Fuck me, lover.”
“You want that?” Cole began to pick up speed as he slapped his hand across Joss’s ass cheek. “Your ass is as tight as I’ve had in a long time. It’s hotter inside of you than in this shower. I’m going to enjoy fucking the shit out of you.”
“Just shut up and fuck me!” Joss replied.
Cole was a sidhe warrior, and despite his svelte frame, he had the strength of ten muscled men on crack. It was very important for him not to forget how delicate Joss was by comparison. The mortal would not have liked hearing that, but of the two of them, Cole was actually the more durable. Yet the two had been on the move for days, tracking a killer who seemed even more elusive than the one they’d come up against a month ago. In that time, they’d barely had the chance to share a private conversation that didn’t involve the more unpleasant aspects of their work. As such, Cole found himself throwing aside some of his restrictions now. As Joss’s moans filled the steamy air surrounding them, Cole’s hips picked up speed, and he began to really pound into his man.
Joss tossed his head back and howled as his canal was savaged. Water from the showerhead splashed down into his face and mouth. Even then, he didn’t stop yelling for Cole to fuck him harder.
Cole was happy to oblige. As he kicked it into high gear, Cole felt his balls begin to draw up. Cum churned inside them, ready to unload down the dark tunnel of Joss’s ass any second. Joss’s own balls were already swollen and ready to burst. Cole grunted right along in time with his lover and steeled himself. Both of his arms snaked around Joss just below his hairy chest. As Cole was getting ready to bust, a voice rang out in his ears.
Cole gasped and leaped backward, drawing his dick out of Joss’s asshole as the air around them swam unexpectedly. Joss glanced back in confusion, still pulling at his dick as Cole leaped out of the shower in a panic.
“What happened?” he moaned. “Why did you stop?”
“Never mind that! Turn the water off and get your clothes!”
The sithen was already two steps ahead of him. The shower heads shut off immediately, and Cole suddenly found their clothes much closer than where they’d left them. Amidst the pile were their weapons, which to him was much more important. Cole could already feel the spell beginning to take hold of him.
“Hold on,” he ordered, snatching their things up off the floor and jumping back in with Joss. Joss, however, had gotten the wrong idea and seized his cock, jerking it back and forth.
“I didn’t mean that!”
Cole turned sideways next to Joss and felt his cock jerk hard as his balls were drained of their essence. Joss’s own cock was already exploding in the same direction. Something was pulling both men upward through what felt like a wet rubber tube as they shot their loads into clear space. A sense of displacement followed, and Detective Corhagen was abruptly standing in front of them with two separate loads dripping down his face.
Joss still had a few good shots left in him, it turned out. A whole rope of cum landed on Corhagen’s long coat, and another from Cole splattered across his tie. Corhagen’s eyes went wide from shock to disbelief as he took in the sight of both Cole and Inspector Vallimun standing together naked inside the summoning circle he’d drawn.
“Well,” said Cole, dripping wet. “This is a new twist.”
THEY were standing in what looked like an open-ended alley. The circle used to summon him and, by extension, Joss, was smoldering now around their feet. Cole didn’t recognize the place, but he assumed Corhagen knew where they were.
Corhagen was wiping the remains of both money shots off his jacket and tie with a clean handkerchief while Cole attempted to dry both him and Joss off with his sacred weapon, Aed Deigh. The double-headed bladed weapon had been tucked away inside his bundle of clothes along with Bandersnatch and Jabberwock, his specially made twin guns. One end of the hilt contained a blade endowed with the icy touch of coldest winter. However, it was the other side that interested Cole at the moment. It held a blade that constantly glowed red hot.
The blade was intended for use as a powerful weapon, but Cole was applying it in a much more practical fashion at the moment, using it to heat the air surrounding their bodies. The moisture that lingered on their skins from the shower quickly vanished, leaving Joss dry but shivering.
“Quick,” Cole ordered, handing Joss his clothes. “Put them on before you catch a cold.”
Joss was quick to comply. Cole pulled the glowing red blade back into the hilt with but an effort of his will, then made to dress himself. He was far more comfortable being nude, but the mortals living in New York had made their feelings on the matter clear long ago. Besides that, Cole suspected Corhagen hadn’t dragged them out of their nice hot shower just to say hello.
He rarely spoke to Cole these days.
“You missed a spot,” Cole said, pointing to a place on Corhagen’s tie.
Corhagen looked down and saw it. Cole received a nasty glare for his trouble as Corhagen began furiously scrubbing at it. Corhagen’s effort nearly saw him strangled for it, as he was so intent on rubbing the jizz off that he yanked too hard on his tie. The tan-colored noose pulled tight around his neck, causing him to gasp. Cole sighed and reached over to help his comrade in arms out, still shirtless, but Corhagen jumped away from him.
“Whatever,” Cole said, leaving Corhagen to choke to death. “Do you have any idea why he brought us here?” he asked Joss, who was finishing up. “I’m under the impression that this wasn’t a social call, but until he’s done wrestling with his tie, we’ll never know.”
“There’s been a murder,” Corhagen choked out, yanking his tie loose.
“That’s not new,” Cole replied casually. “This is New York. Hundreds of people get gunned down every day. Nobody cares about it unless one of the numbers in that statistic is important.”
“It’s our job to care,” Joss reminded him.
“The man was a schoolteacher,” Corhagen went on, his voice still slightly rough. “He taught at one of the private schools here on Staten.”
“Staten?” Cole interrupted. “You brought us all the way out to Staten Island?”
Corhagen pretended not to have heard him. “The victim’s name was Melvin Jagger. He was in his midfifties and taught economics at a local private school. Unmarried, but had several relationships over the years with a number of coworkers, and he was in no way related to the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.”
“Well, that’s good to hear,” Joss said.
Corhagen seemed to acknowledge that the inspector had spoken but was avoiding any eye contact for the moment. “The chief sent me out here while you guys were working the serial killer angle,” he said, clearing his throat. “I don’t know why, but it looks like this guy was important. The chief made it clear I was to drop whatever I was doing and haul my ass out here.”
“Maybe the victim really was related to Mick Jagger?” Joss offered.
“Why was the chief so convinced this man’s death concerned us?”
Once again, Corhagen didn’t acknowledge that Cole had spoken. “The natives here have held the crime scene open for us. CSI has already gathered forensics, so there’s nothing left but for us to go in and have a look-see.”
“You didn’t answer his question,” Joss said pointedly.
“Don’t worry,” Cole replied, stepping forward. “I do not require the assistance of anyone to make myself heard.”
Cole stood right in front of Corhagen and stared him down. At one time, a long time ago, they had been friends. Corhagen had been running from his attraction to Cole and ended up married to an already pregnant wife whose third child was on its way. Cole suspected Corhagen had guessed the nature of his new relationship with Joss Vallimun. It had been Corhagen who introduced them.
“James,” Cole said in a very level, even tone. “I asked you a question before. Why would the chief believe a deceased teacher from Staten Island concerned us?”
Corhagen looked as though he was going to fight Cole but backed down suddenly at the last second. “I don’t know,” he said in what nearly sounded like a sullen tone. “The chief just called and ordered me out here. I don’t know if the man’s death had anything to do with the supernatural community or Naryssa. I haven’t gone over to the crime scene yet.”
“Why?” Joss wondered.
Corhagen’s mouth twisted upward in a frustrated smirk. “They weren’t very happy to see me. I told them I was here on orders of the chief of police, but none of them were willing to share much information.”
“They never are,” Cole said, sighing.
“Let’s find out what’s going on,” Joss said, motioning for them to fall in line behind him. “I want to know what was so special about an economics teacher from a private school.”
Cole was already listing some possibilities. “Maybe the private school was the police chief’s alma mater?”
“Don’t know,” said Joss. “But we’ll find out soon enough.”
The crime scene was easy to spot. There was still police tape sectioning the area off, along with several lingering cars that still had their strobes on. Cole, Joss, and Corhagen all ducked under the tape and headed toward the spot where Cole smelled blood. Almost immediately, someone jumped up to stop them, spilling coffee onto the freshly fallen snow in the process.
All three of them had their badges out before the officer reached them. “Section Thirteen,” Joss announced in an authoritative voice. “The chief of police sent us.”
“Oh,” the young man replied, shaking the hot coffee off his hand. “Right. Go on then, I guess. The body is that way.”
Cole could have led them without directions, but Joss nodded his thanks anyway. A moment later, they were staring down at what had once been a human being. Something had gotten hold of the victim in a bad way, to the point that it looked like his whole body had been carved up by dull knives.
“It looks like something with claws mauled him,” Corhagen noted.
“Obviously,” Cole replied.
“They’ll probably run a match to see if the claw marks match anything in the police system’s database,” Joss pointed out. “My gut tells me this wasn’t an ordinary animal, though.”
“Not unless a tiger from Prospect Park got loose and decided to take a tour of the island for some local color,” Corhagen joked.
“This wasn’t a tiger,” Cole stated. “Look at how deep the wounds are. And look at the incision. The length is all wrong too. I suspect that’s because at least some of the damage was done by fangs. Something with shorter claws but much more adept at using teeth than a tiger attacked this man. Also, going by the position of some of the wounds, it looks like whatever did this was taking its time.”
Both Corhagen and Joss looked at him.
“What makes you say that?” Joss asked, interested.
“There are more than enough wounds on the body for the victim to have bled to death,” Cole explained, pointing at one in particular running vertically on the lower abdomen. “This man’s abdominal aorta was cut open. That should have been enough, but it looks like the attacker kept going. A human will bleed to death from a severed abdominal aorta in a matter of minutes.”
“His throat is slashed too,” Corhagen said quickly, pointing. “On both sides, no less. That had to open the jugular.”
“The arms, the legs, the ribs….” Cole pointed to each one. “This man was sliced up, but if whatever did this was quick enough to go for his vulnerable regions, why not stop there?”
“What does that say to you?” Joss asked.
“That whatever did this knew the man,” Cole replied. “And probably hated him.”
“This was a hate crime?” Corhagen looked confused now, even as he resisted looking at Cole directly. “It doesn’t look like the guy belonged to a minority.”
“I said that the perpetrator was probably someone that hated him,” Cole explained. “That doesn’t mean that whoever did it hated him because of his ethnicity or nationality.”
“As if we didn’t have enough on our hands already with the serial killer case,” Joss groaned, marching around the body in a circle. “Now the chief wants us to find out why this poor bastard got fucked up.”
Nobody said anything for a moment. “Can you talk to him?” Joss asked Cole after a moment. “Raise him to get some answers for us?”
“Sorry,” Cole replied without looking up. “Even in this weather, the body is still too warm. It just isn’t dead enough.” Cole tilted his head to the side as he observed the deceased further. “Ironically.”
“How long?” Joss pressed.
“Tomorrow,” Cole assured him, backing away from the corpse and the smell of spilled blood. “Or the day after. We’ll get some answers then. In the meantime, I don’t see any point in hanging around here longer. There doesn’t seem to be….”
Cole froze and felt the skin on the back of his neck crawl. Sniffing the air, he whirled, kicking up snow and slush all around him as his nostrils flared.
“What?” Corhagen wondered.
“I smell something,” said Cole, on full alert now. “It smells like….”
Cole breathed in deeply, cycling through each scent brought to him by his nose, searching for the brief glimmer he’d picked up on before. At first, it almost slipped through his grasp, but Cole hadn’t been one of Titania’s Wolves for nothing. Opening his eyes, he grinned long and hard before pointing further down the street.
“That way?” Joss asked, looking. “You sure?”
“I can smell them,” Cole insisted. “The trail is faint. It was hard to pick up at first because of the blood and smell of other people running around all over the crime scene. I can’t be sure, but it almost smells fey.”
“Fey?” Corhagen groaned. “That’s just great.”
“Almost,” Cole reminded him before giving his attention to Joss. “I think I can track it.”
Joss looked down at the snow-covered ground all around them. “There aren’t any tracks,” he noted.
“Some fey know how to move through snow without leaving tracks,” Cole explained, already taking off his vest and shirt. “No matter how hard they try to disguise their scent, though, I will find them.”
“Go,” said Joss, reaching for Cole’s clothes. “We’ll borrow a police car and catch up to you later.”
“You’re going to let him strip right here in the middle of the street?” Corhagen interrupted. “While it’s snowing?”
As if in answer, one of the officers standing by the car let out a whistle. “They should be paying me to see this,” said Cole. “If any of them see something they don’t like, it isn’t my fault.”
Joss snatched Cole’s leather pants out of the air as Cole placed the leather holsters for his guns and Aed Deigh back on his body. The officers farther back were watching now with incredulous looks, no doubt wondering why a member of the Section had stripped down in below-zero weather.
“Hurry,” Joss said. “The scent will fade if you wait too long.”
“Don’t worry,” Cole swore. “I’m not about to lose my prey now. Let the hunt begin!”
The catcalls abruptly fell silent as Cole loped off in the direction of the trail. There was about half a second as the change took hold where his hands were pressed down into the snow as he prepared to leap. Then the change came and Cole was in his wolf form, a massive solid-white wolf with the same three-ringed eyes of gold, copper, and topaz he had been born with. Everything shifted with him to a new perspective, but Cole had long since gotten used to that and was ready to trace the scent back to its source.
Snow flew behind him as he raced off after his intended prey.
The snow had done its job of concealing the trail, but Cole had been born partly of the winter court, and he knew intimately how to read between the layers of ice. Deeper still lay secrets most would never think to look for, and his nose was able to separate them out. Like a blind man sweeping his hand across a Braille page, Cole tracked the elusive scent through the streets and over rooftops. The longer he gave chase, the more convinced he became that the elusive scent belonged to one of the fey. Though Cole was having trouble working out which one, he knew he would soon have the answer.
The straps hanging across his back and sides were chafing, but Cole endured it. Years ago, he’d had the leather belt custom made to hold his weapons while he shape-shifted so he would never be without them. Crossing a stretch of rooftops, Cole began to suspect he would need them shortly. The trail seemed to end just up ahead at what looked like a private boarding school. It was harder to tell in this form, but that turned out to be a moderate concern.
Something leaped out of the shadows at him while he was still several feet in the air. Cole had smelled his assailant coming, though, and quickly turned in midair to grasp the other wolf by the scruff of the neck with his jaws. One quick toss of his head and the smaller wolf went flying. Cole landed, shape-shifted back to his sidhe form in the process, and looked forward at a sign, bolted to a length of iron fence, that immediately caused his skin to crawl.
“Sir Frances North Academy,” he read aloud as several more wolves began gathering around him in a circle.
“You are trespassing,” a voice growled at him. “Leave now.”
“I am looking for someone,” he declared, raising himself up to his full height. “This is my hunt. What purpose do you have here?”
“That is not your concern,” replied the alpha of the pack, sniffing Cole disdainfully from several feet away. “Fallen sidhe. Why did one who was cast aside by Oberon come here?”
In answer, Cole drew out Aed Deigh and brandished the frost-covered blade. Swinging it forward, he crouched down to where he was eye level with the alpha and at the same time got a good whiff of who he was dealing with. In the process, Cole received two shocks. One was that he recognized the scent of the creatures surrounding him. The second was that a wave of icicles as big as his forearm went flying out from the blade. The fey wolves jumped out of the way in time, causing his unintentional attack to slam into the iron fence behind them.
“That was a surprise,” he said, glancing around as they moved in closer. “You’re Cu Sith, aren’t you?”
Some of the wolves hesitated.
“Why are you guarding this school?” he pressed, keeping both eyes peeled for an attack. “What is so special about it?”
Cole was ready for the attack and struck out with his foot, sending the Cu Sith wolf back the way he’d come. Two more came at him from behind, forcing him to dodge out of the way in a roll and come up with the red-hot end of his weapon at the ready. The heat coming off it was intense, forcing some of the snow around him to melt slightly. Cole could have ended this with a few shots and one or two strokes. It wasn’t as though the Cu Sith posed a severe threat to him. He wanted answers more than anything. Keeping the Cu Sith alive for the moment was more important. Of course, that didn’t mean they felt the same way about him.
And at any rate, he was reluctant to harness the full power of Aed Deigh, since it was behaving so strangely all of a sudden.
Without warning, something landed softly behind him. Cole stiffened, as much in shock as anything. He hadn’t sensed anyone nearby save for the wolves. There weren’t many who could boast of sneaking up on him in such a way.
The wind shifted, and Cole knew at once who was behind him by their scent. Looking back, he saw a figure wrapped in an old cloak that smelled like it was made out of burlap. The figure was tall, though a head shorter than him at least, and a pair of athletically trim legs poked out from the lower half of the cloak.
Surprisingly, the Cu Sith seemed more perturbed by this new presence than his. Several leaped into the air, intending to attack his prey and catch her off guard. Cole rolled forward out of the way, which turned out to be a wise call. No sooner had he moved than the figure flipped over onto her shoulders and spun around like a break dancer. Her body was a cyclone of feet, fists, and claws as blows exploded across the bodies of the fey wolves, sending them flying.
Cole caught a glimpse of two perky breasts as she slowed down. The girl was indeed naked under her cloak and didn’t look very old. Her hair was clipped short and spiked outward away from her head. It was also colored an unnatural shade of green. Unnatural, at least, for a human.
Cole could see the claws coming out of her hand. With the cloak’s hood pulled back now, the girl’s pointed ears stood out prominently. Her feet looked to be padded like a cat’s. Her eyes were slanted like a cat’s as well, save that they had turned a deep purple.
The girl was a changeling.
She was also the suspect he had tailed here.
The girl turned at the same time he did, hearing the sound of approaching sirens. Giving Cole one last glimpse of her face, she leaped up into the air as the Cu Sith charged for her. Cole raised his blade and charged it, hoping to cut them off and stop her at the same time, but a police car roared up from around the corner at the last second and blocked his line of sight. The Cu Sith weren’t hampered by its presence and leaped right over.
The changeling girl was long gone.
“What was that all about?” Joss wondered, looking off in the direction where the wolves had gone.
“I don’t know,” Corhagen mumbled, staggering out of the car with both hands over his eyes. “I had my eyes covered the whole time. Let me know when he’s less nude, okay?”
Joss ignored Corhagen and came forward with Cole’s clothes. Since Corhagen had his eyes covered, Cole greeted his lover with a kiss before taking the pants from him.
“What did we miss?” Joss asked.
“A lot,” he replied. “This new case that the chief of police dropped into our laps?”
Cole gave him a look before pulling his shirt over his head. “It just got really interesting.”