Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)(5)

Jenson’s head shot up. “Don’t you think we’ve considered that, Craft? Something is off about this case. I should alert the FIB, but no one wants the case hijacked over speculation. And besides, we don’t need any more bad press in this city.”

It took me a second to realize the “we” Jenson referred to was the fae, not the police. And he was right. The fae, or really any of the magical community, definitely didn’t need another mysterious case laid at their feet, which was exactly what would happen if the media caught wind of the FIB—the Fae Investigation Bureau—taking over a murder case.

In the last several months Nekros had seen the mysterious death of a governor, grisly ritual murders, rips directly into the Aetheric plane, disembodied body parts, ghouls, and a series of murders disguised as suicides. The city was teetering on a precipice. One more blow and the whole city might topple into chaos. Well, maybe at this point, it would be better to say further chaos.

“So if her shade indicates the fae are involved . . . ?” I started.

Jenson met my gaze. “I’m duty-bound to alert the FIB, but let’s hope that’s not the case.” He looked tired, but earnest. If this was anything other than what he’d indicated, I’d seen no hint of deception from him. “Now what do you want in exchange for raising the shade?”

“I have a standard fee if you want to hire me.” I’d even be willing to do it at the rate I charged the Nekros City Police Department, which was less than a ritual for private clients, but I didn’t add that. Not yet.

At my words, Jenson’s eyes widened ever so slightly in surprise, and for the briefest moment he cocked his head to the side as if he was the one looking for a catch. Then his features went carefully blank—the expression of someone who thought he was cheating the other out of a good deal. Digging his wallet out of his back pocket, he pulled out several large bills.

I didn’t cross the room. Not immediately at least. Something here doesn’t add up. In folklore, fae would sometimes pass glamoured leaves or rocks off as money. At sunset or dawn the glamour would vanish. That practice was, of course, illegal, but Jenson was acting rather suspicious. I had to check.

Cracking my shields, I let my gaze travel through planes of reality. I’d recently discovered that I could pierce glamour when my shields were down. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet learned how to discriminate which levels of reality I peered into, so as my shields opened, colorful tendrils of magic from the Aetheric plane popped into view and the room around me appeared to decay as my psyche touched the land of the dead.

I glanced at the money Jenson still held toward me. It withered in my gravesight, but it didn’t change into anything else, so it was real. Slamming my shields shut, I pushed the other layers of reality away. The momentary touch made the room dimmer, but that might have been more a reaction to the loss of Aetheric color than damage. Or at least I hoped so. Stepping gingerly across the room, I accepted the money.

Jenson studied me as I folded the bills and shoved them in my back pocket. He still looked like he’d just dodged a bullet by paying me in cash—what did he expect I’d want? Of course, the currency of Faerie was largely debts and power, so maybe he’d expected me to ask for a boon. But I lived in mortal reality.

And I planned to keep it that way.

“There is still paperwork to sign.”

Jenson scowled. “We don’t have time to waste discussing all the reasons that is a bad idea.”

As this was an active police case, my raising the shade could be seen as interference. Without either police or family authorization, it was my ass on the line if we were caught. There was no way I was going any further without paperwork.

My expression clearly spoke for me, because after a moment Jenson let out a breath and said, “I’ll sign something acknowledging I hired you. After the ritual. My word. Nothing official or specific, mind you, but something that will cover you legally. Now can we get moving?”

As a fae’s word was fairly well unbreakable, I accepted with a nod, but then Jenson looked uncertain as he glanced first at the gurney in front of him and then around the room. He’d seen me raise shades before, but only once or twice. Like I said, John was my typical contact with the police. Or Tamara, if I had family authorization to see a body in the morgue.

“The center of the room would be best,” I said, nodding in that direction as I dug through my purse for a tube of waxy chalk.

Jenson pushed the gurney to the spot I’d indicated. “There might be a second one,” he said, stepping back.

“A second what? Body?” I asked as I duckwalked, dragging the chalk along the linoleum floor to form the physical outline of my circle. “Another shade will cost more.”

“Fine, we’ll sort that out if it comes to it. Can you do that any faster?”

I didn’t bother answering that question. “Are you going to set up the camera?”

“I don’t want any record of this. Things get out sometimes.”

I cringed. Yeah, I knew that firsthand. I’d become infamous a couple of months back because of a leaked recording made right here in the morgue.

I finished the circle and stood. “Well, then, I’ll get started.” I tapped into the energy stored in the obsidian ring I wore, intending to activate my circle, but as I began channeling magic into the circle I stopped and looked around. “Detective, mind your toes.”

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