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

And Jenson was fae.

Or at least half fae.

I’d assumed Jenson was independent fae, but you know what they say about assumptions. If he was court fae . . . this could end very badly for me.

Alex, you’re freaking yourself out. After all, if one of the courts was going to snatch me away to Faerie, they surely wouldn’t do it in front of dozens of cops at Central Precinct. Besides, as far as I could tell, Jenson hid his heritage even deeper than I did.

With that thought in mind, I took a deep breath and pushed open the morgue door.

Jenson waited in the center of the room with his back toward the door. It was early, so I expected at least one medical examiner and some morgue attendants to be present, but the room was empty aside from the plainclothes police detective.

I stopped, frowning. Tamara Greene, the lead ME and one of my closest friends, wasn’t there, of course—she had the next few days off to prepare for her wedding and then she’d be off on her honeymoon—but I’d expected someone else to be there. After all, people didn’t stop dying just because the ME took time off.

“Jenson,” I said, not trying to hide the suspicion in my voice. At my calf, the enchanted dagger hidden in my boot buzzed lightly, either sensing danger or just responding to my own nervousness. The magic imbued in the fae-wrought weapon made it somewhat aware and reactive to my surroundings, which had saved my neck in the past, but it was also bloodthirsty, so I was never sure if it could warn me of danger or if it just liked to be drawn and would use any excuse it found. I didn’t draw it now, at least, not yet.

Jenson turned. He wore the glamour that made him look human, hiding the oversized jaw and tusks that marked him as part troll. Surprisingly, he looked relieved when he saw me, though all he said was, “Craft,” as he gave me a curt nod and then headed for the cold room where the bodies were kept.

Okay, if he planned to pull out a body, he’d definitely called me here for a ritual, but this was not the way these things worked.

“What’s going on, Jenson?” I asked, but I didn’t move any farther into the large room. “And where is everyone.”

“Mandatory seminar.” He emerged pushing a sheet-topped gurney. “We have only about forty-five minutes, so do your thing fast.”

My thing?

“Uh, back up. One, there is paperwork that needs to be signed before I begin, and two, why do we have to complete the ritual before the seminar is over?” I didn’t add that I hadn’t yet agreed to take the case. “And where is John?”

Jenson’s jaw locked, his lips screwing together in a scowl. I met the expression with my own level stare. Until I knew more about what was going on, I wasn’t raising any shades. I didn’t like the situation. It felt wrong. And the hurried secretiveness worried me.

Our silent stare down lasted only a moment before Jenson growled, a low rumbling that didn’t sound like it should have emerged from anything human-shaped. Then he shook his head and let go of the gurney.

“There is no paperwork, and there can be no witnesses. As you might have guessed, I didn’t invite you down here for a sanctioned ritual.” He sighed. “I walk a fine line here, Craft. And this case . . .” He shook his head.

“You think fae are involved?”

He winced and looked around as if afraid someone might overhear. “Let’s just say I have a bad feeling, but I hope I’m wrong. You going to raise this shade or what?”

I frowned at him. Jenson was not quite asking me for a favor. One that could be dangerous on several levels. Without approval of the family or authorization from the cops, raising a shade at the morgue was illegal. Also, I was attempting to limit myself to one ritual a week for the sake of my eyesight. The previous day’s ritual may have ended up being a short one—the police tended to respond quickly to shots fired—but even a truncated ritual did a number on my eyes. I’d be willing to break that self-imposed—and rather new—rule of one ritual a week to begin mending fences with NCPD, but for an unsanctioned ritual for Jenson . . . ?

“Does John know about this?”

Jenson shook his head. “My fears aren’t a human concern.”

Right. Great. I worried my bottom lip. Jenson could get into as much trouble as I could if we were discovered, so clearly he thought questioning this particular victim was important. And goodness knew the firm could use the money.

“Okay . . .” I trailed off and took a tentative step into the room. Jenson didn’t strike me as a big risk taker, so I had to admit to a certain amount of curiosity. Reaching ever so lightly with my senses, I let that part of me with an affinity for the dead stretch to the corpse on the gurney. It was a female, a couple of years younger than me, but if I wanted to know more about who she’d been or how she’d died, I’d have to raise her shade. Or ask. “Why her? What is it about this case?”

Jenson’s frown deepened. “Things aren’t adding up at the crime scene. No sign of a breakin. Doors and windows locked from the inside. No disturbance or blood outside the apartment, but dozens of bloody tracks inside that don’t lead to any exits.” He stared at the sheet-covered figure, as if she might sit up and explain what had happened. Which, if I performed this ritual, she would. Or at least, her shade, a collection of all the memories from her life given shape by my magic, would.

“The killer could have had a key and locked up after he or she left. Maybe showered before leaving?”

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