I paid for the pizza, and my suddenly growling stomach prompted me to grab one of my host’s blue-and-white ceramic plates from the yellowed cupboards and plop down on the faux leather couch with my dinner. A couple of slices later, my back pain had receded and my energy was up. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to pass out on my new mattress now, I sucked the pizza grease off my fingers and grabbed my laptop so I could continue investigating the rash of disappearances that Tom had come out here to investigate.
According to the letter sent to him by Devon Randall, one of the captains at the Salem PD precinct, kids were going missing from the orphanage that Tom had grown up in, which was why he’d come back. His close ties to the place pulled at his heartstring, and he’d wanted to help. The fact that he’d wound up dead just a week after couldn’t be a coincidence, and I was sure whoever was responsible for the kidnappings was also responsible for Tom’s death.
The problem was, the only article I could find about the kidnappings was the one I’d found when hacking into Tom’s email address, and it didn’t say a lot.
Sighing, I pulled up the piece, which had been shoved into a tiny corner on the Boston Herald’s website, and read it again. Featured at the top of the article was a photo of two Asian boys, brothers that had been left at the New Advent Home for Children, Boston’s orphanage, when they were only two years old. A statement from the Haven had said the two boys had been put to bed with the rest of the children, and the next day they were gone. There was absolutely no trace of them, and no clues as where they might have ended up since their parentage was unknown.
Scowling, I chewed my bottom lip and tried for the billionth time to figure out how that made any sense. Children didn’t just up and disappear—either someone had crept into the orphanage and stolen them, or someone from the inside had done it. Tom must have questioned the orphanage staff, because that was the logical place to start. I would have to do the same, once Captain Randall handed over the case file to me.
God, I wished Tom would have given me more details about the kidnappings. But the few times I’d spoken to him on the phone, he hadn’t wanted to talk about it. I’d found that strange—we were partners and discussed cases all the time—but I’d let him have his space. After all, I figured he’d be home soon.
If only I’d pushed harder, demanded some details, I’d have been able to help him somehow. Hell, I should have just hopped on a plane and flown out here the moment I felt something was off.
Pulling out my cell phone, I dialed my own voicemail, then sorted through the messages until I found the one from Tom. Taking a breath, I ordered the voicemail to play, then waited for my heart to break all over again.
“Hey baby.” His voice was hushed and full of strain, as if he was in dangerous environment and didn’t want to be overheard. “I know you’re sleeping now, but I just wanted to call you and tell you that I’m sorry. I know I fucked up, but I was just trying to do what I needed to. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I hang up this phone, but I love you. I love you so much, and I know you love me, too. But whatever you do, don’t come looking for me. It’s not safe.”
The clip ended, and tears slipped down my cheeks as a cool female voice asked me if I wanted to replay the message again. I jabbed the END button on my cellphone with an angry finger, then tossed it back onto the bed as rage burned in my chest.
Just what, exactly, had he meant? Whatever was going on here, it was way bigger than a case of a couple missing kids. Especially if Tom was telling me it wasn’t safe here. For fuck’s sake, we lived in vampire-infested Chicago. For Tom to tell me a small town like Salem wasn’t safe meant that something big was going on here.
And damned if I wasn’t going to find out what.
The next day started off well enough. I woke up bright and early, made myself an onion and mushroom omelet, and had enough time after that to put some work into my appearance, which was important since this was my first day on the job. I didn’t really know what was considered business casual in Salem, but I dressed as if I was heading into work at Chicago PD on my first day as a detective—sensible black flats, crisp grey slacks, a black turtleneck, and one of three special blazers that I never left for work without.
I loaded my 1911 with the wooden vampire bullets I brought along, then tucked it into the concealed carry pocket built into the left side of my blazer. Since I couldn’t officially carry a non-police issue firearm while on the job, and there was no way I could explain firing wooden bullets anyway, I had to take extra measures to keep myself armed and dangerous against vampires, but it was worth it. No way was I going out, even in broad daylight, without my gun. Not after that vision I’d seen when touching Shelley’s ring.
I wonder if she made it back to town, and if she’s coming by with those cookies, I thought as I trotted down the stairs and headed out into the early morning sunshine. There were definitely secrets lurking behind those shadowed eyes of hers, and if she was tangled up with vampires in any kind of way, I was sure she was going to need my help eventually.
I just hoped that when she came knocking on my door, she wouldn’t be bringing a horde of the undead with her.
Since the station was only a ten-minute walk from my apartment, I hoofed it so I could get a feel for the town. The chill wind ruffled my loose curls as I traversed the sidewalks, passing by colonial-style houses and brick storefronts. There were plenty of people out and about, rushing their kids off to school or heading for work themselves, and I exchanged smiles and nods with them as I passed. Salem was definitely a small town compared to Chicago, but it wasn’t so small that a newcomer would stand out.
The station was a two-story brick building off Margin Street, and I had to say it looked a hell of a lot smaller than my precinct back in Chicago. Hell, I didn’t think it could fit more than our homicide detective division. But then again, there was only about one homicide a year in this small town, so it wasn’t like they needed a lot of cops.
I let myself in through the front door, then glanced around at the white walls, reddish brown floor tile, and boring black carpet. To my left were the bathrooms and some waiting chairs, and in front of me and to the right were greeting stations that were walled off and protected by bullet proof glass. Most of the different department windows had their shades drawn, but the one in front of me was open, and someone was sitting behind it, tapping away at their keyboard.