.1911 pistol. Check.
I paused at the last one, my fingers curled around the small steel case tucked into my duffel bag full of essentials. Standing at the edge of my crappy motel bed in Buffalo, I lifted the box to the dusty shaft of light filtering in through the window and cracked open the box to peer down at the hand-crafted wooden bullets inside. They were each filed to sharp points, mimicking stakes, and worked just as well as the real thing—provided you were a good enough shot to take out a fast-moving vampire.
I was a good enough shot.
Thank you, Uncle Oscar, I thought, closing the box and tucking it back into my duffel. Shooting wasn’t the only thing he’d taught me; my uncle had also taught me how to make these bullets. And while he wasn’t actually my uncle, he was still the only family I knew. Raised me since the day my parents dumped me on his doorstep at six years old.
Oscar had kept me on a tight leash as far as the supernatural were concerned, refusing to let me anywhere near anything that even hinted at magic. But Chicago was infested with vampires, so rather than trying to fight a losing battle on that front, he’d trained me to protect myself. I was leaving Chicago behind now, true, but I’d been using these bullets all my life. I wouldn’t feel safe without them.
Besides, who was to say the place I was going didn’t have vampires, too? Salem had so much supernatural folklore surrounding it that I couldn’t rule anything out.
I zipped up my duffel, did a quick check around the motel room to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, then grabbed my luggage and headed outside. Between the vampire gun strapped beneath my jacket, the police-issue S&W .40 at my hip, and the detective’s shield hooked through my belt, I felt pretty comfortable about my safety. Even so, I took a good look around the parking lot as I made my way to my Jeep. It didn’t pay to be off-guard, and I was in new territory.
I made a pit-stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, then headed onto the I-90 to finish the last leg of my journey. The Chief of the Salem PD had approved my request to come out there on loan from Chicago PD a week ago, and I’d wasted no time packing my stuff up, getting someone to sublet my apartment, and finding a place to stay in Salem before hitting the road. If not for the fourteen-hour trip, I would have done the whole drive in one shot, but I wanted to arrive at the station to meet my new teammates as alert and fresh as possible.
Unfortunately, the Chief wouldn’t be there herself, as she left town just two days ago due to a family death, but she assured me that the captain of the department handling Tom’s case would roll out the welcome mat for me in her stead.
A pang hit my chest at the idea of having to work without my partner, and I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. Of course, Tom Garrison, had been more than just my partner—he’d also been my fiancé. The love of my life, the first man who’d understood my needs and desires and accepted me for who I was.
Well, at least who he figured I was.
Tom knew about my vampire-staking ways, but he didn’t know about my strange ability. I’d been holding off on telling him because Uncle Oscar had instilled in me from a young age that revealing my talent would put me and those around me in grave danger. I didn’t want to put Tom in danger.
Yeah, and look how that turned out.
Maybe if Tom had known what I could do, he would have taken me with him to Salem when he’d gone back to check into that missing person’s case. If he hadn’t left me behind, then maybe, just maybe, he’d still be alive.
“Stop that,” I muttered, placing my breakfast sandwich on the passenger’s seat so I could swipe at the stray tear trailing down my cheek. My fingers left a greasy streak across my skin as I wiped away the drop of moisture, and I blinked back the rest of my tears. It wouldn’t do to arrive at my new precinct looking as if I’d just finished watching Titanic or something. If I showed up looking like a pitiful damsel in distress, they’d put me on traffic duty, which was not what I wanted.
I wasn’t going to Salem to get away from Chicago or the specter of my dead fiancé. I was going to find out what had happened to him. And why. I’d been told the motel room he’d been staying in had caught fire and that no evidence had survived the blaze, but that wasn’t good enough. I was going to hunt down the truth, and when I found out who killed my fiancé, I would make sure they were brought to justice.
I still didn’t understand how Tom could be gone. My fiancé wasn’t a weakling. He’d gone up against his fair share of vampires, just like me. Whoever killed him had to be at least as strong as a vamp, but possibly even stronger…somehow. The best place to start would be with finding Salem’s supernatural pulse.
Sighing, I took in the world outside my window, hoping its beauty would temporarily relieve me from my dark memories. The early fall hillsides were bursting with color from the turning oak and maple leaves that surrounded me from either side of the highway as well as the rolling hills up ahead. The wind caught at my silver curls, tugging them free from their pins so that the strands whipped around my face.
Hmm. How was my new precinct going to react to that? My mercury-colored hair always drew strange looks, though no-one really ever said anything about it by the time I’d graduated grade school. As a freshman, they’d teased me for having the hair of an old lady and strange lavender-blue eyes, but I’d shown them I wasn’t afraid to sock them in their teeth, and they’d kept their mouths shut after that.
Adults, on the other hand, knew better than to say anything in the first place—at least most of them. But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be subject to their stares, and I would walk around knowing that they were dying to ask me about my unusual coloring.
Strange how, as an adult, I almost missed the forthrightness of the peers from my childhood.
Letting out a contented sigh, I tilted my head, enjoying the nip of winter that kissed my cheeks. I’d been born in Nevada, or so Oscar told me, but after being raised in Chicago, I was a winter girl through and through. I loved the cold weather, and I was looking forward to the snowfall in a more rural area, instead of watching it get stomped to a muddy slush in the big city.
Just as I was passing the sign for Wakefield, I caught sight of a woman kneeling next to a beat-up Crown Victoria, struggling to change a flat tire. It was still daylight, but sunset streaked the sky with brilliant reds and golds, and I didn’t feel right about leaving her alone on the highway when I knew night would fall soon. So I pulled over to the shoulder, parked my car at a respectable distance behind hers, then went over to help.