Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)(3)

“Well, I hope he recovers quickly. And you too,” I said, my frown deepening. Rianna was all but leaning on the barghest. The large doglike fae stared at her, concern clear in his red-rimmed eyes. “Do you have any rituals scheduled today?”

She shook her head, swaying slightly with the movement.

“Good. Maybe you should keep it that way.”

She gave me a half nod, as if completing the movement would have taken too much energy. “I think I’ll go sit down.”

“Do you need a healer? Or a doctor?”

“No, I just . . .” She trailed off as she turned, swaying a moment before taking a breath and putting one foot very purposefully in front of the other. “This’ll pass in a minute. It’s happened a couple of times in the last week. Let me rest a moment.”

I walked around my desk and helped her into one of the client chairs. She collapsed gratefully, but I didn’t get a chance to question her because my cell phone buzzed on my desk and I had to rush back around to grab it.

The displayed number wasn’t one of my saved contacts, but I recognized the Central Precinct extension, so I guessed the caller. It had been a while since I’d heard from my favorite homicide detective, and our last few encounters hadn’t gone all that well, so I was relieved he was finally calling.

“Hey, John,” I said, tucking the phone between my shoulder and ear and heading back to Rianna.

“Craft?” a gruff male voice asked from the other side of the phone.

It wasn’t John.

I stopped in my tracks and briefly considered playing it off as a wrong number. If this was a client, professionalism was way past gone. But there was something familiar about the voice, I just couldn’t put a name to it. After an uncomfortably long pause, I confirmed he’d reached the right number.

“This is Detective Jenson. I need you at the morgue in an hour.”

He disconnected as soon as the last word escaped his mouth, leaving me no time to accept or deny his request. I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it like it might morph into something venomous. Because of my—largely unexplained—involvement in several major cases, John and I had suffered a falling-out. But his partner Jenson? We’d never been close. And since my fae heritage had manifested, he’d been downright hateful toward me. Well, most of the time at least. It had been made clear to me that the police department wouldn’t be hiring me for a case anytime soon, so why did Jenson want me at the morgue?

“Alex?” Rianna made my name a question, concern mixing with curiosity in her voice.

I shook my head as I redialed the number Jenson had called from. The line rang four times before going to voice mail. Frowning, I ended the call without leaving a message.

“Well,” I said, shoving the phone in my back pocket. “I either have a job . . . or I’m about to walk into a trap.”

Chapter 2

I arrived at Nekros City Central Precinct fifty-five minutes later. Fall had finally realized it was running late and overcompensated with a cold front that knocked the temperature from the mid-eighties to the mid-forties overnight. Half the city seemed to have raided their stash of winter clothing, so for once no one gave me a second look when I pulled a jacket from the passenger side of my car before heading into the building. I might not have been particularly cold now, but once I embraced the grave—assuming that was why I’d been called—I’d have a chill it would take me hours to shake.

Central Precinct was an austere multipurpose building holding most of the city’s important law enforcement entities, from the crime lab and DA’s offices on the upper floors, to the main police station on the ground floor and the morgue in the basement. I passed through security without issue, which despite the fact I’d done so a hundred times since I first started working on retainer for the police, was a relief. I’d half expected to be stopped in the front lobby. While nothing had officially ended my retainer status with the NCPD, I’d been told in no uncertain terms that my services wouldn’t be requested unless the brass decided it was absolutely necessary. Add to that the fact that John had always been my first contact, and I wasn’t sure what I might be walking into. I just hoped this sudden call from Jenson was the start of something good.

I took the elevator down to the basement. Fluorescents lit the long hall leading to the morgue, flooding it with a harsh light that simultaneously washed out color while making everything still seem cast in shadows. The thud of my boots on the linoleum bounced along the walls as I walked, making the area feel hollow and abandoned. I’d never liked the ambiance of this hallway, and as on edge as I was now, if zombies had shambled out of the large morgue doors, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Though zombies weren’t likely. What I was really afraid of were faeries.

Oh, I know, who is afraid of Tinker Bell, right?

Me, that’s who.

Okay, so I wasn’t afraid of all fae, but ever since I’d learned I was fae and I’d gained the attention of the Faerie courts, life had gotten a lot more complicated. I was currently unaligned, something that just didn’t happen in Faerie, and the courts didn’t like it. I was also a planeweaver, which meant I could not only see and interact with multiple planes of existence, but I could tie those planes together. I was the first since the age of legends, and every court wanted to add me to their numbers. Personally, I was more interested in maintaining my freedom, so I reserved a healthy amount of caution when it came to fae and Faerie.

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