by Christi Dionis
Bunch of fucking Gummy Bears. Guardians. With the blatant lack of goddamned discretion, the self-proclaimed protectors of the magic using masses had been exhibiting lately she would’ve assumed this was their first at bat, but no. Instead they were the assholes that, somehow, after centuries devoted to a careful cultivation of power, still couldn’t be bothered to clean up after themselves. What a shame. The magic using human community was a likable bunch. They were downright decent, so it was unfortunate, that the inbred zealot politics of the Founding Families, her own included, made everyone look like dicks.
“Are you listening to me, Officer Donovan?”
“No rook, I was thinking about Wizards. An electrical fire you say?”
Unsurprising given how many Guardians were involved in this marvelous clusterfuck. Electronics and magical energy were a volatile combination on a good day. The walls still dripped with soul fire and older magic, something fearsome and inhuman. That ancient and wild winter presence had curled in the cracks of the city, becoming more and more familiar as the months passed. It felt like Sidhe, but she’d never actually met a Pureblood so it was hard to say for sure. The energy that was left in brutalized remains of the Mina Street Gallery was snapping and electric.
The twelve-year-old firefighter in front of her glanced down at his clipboard for the sixth time in two sentences, as if through some miracle of universal plotting, he was going to get lucky and find a script written on it.
Wrong line of work, puppy.
“There were oxygen tanks supplying pneumatics to one of the sculptures. We think that was what caused the explosion.”
That was tidy.
“Thanks. That all, kid?”
“Oh come on with that kid shit, Penthouse, that there tot is about the same age as you,” her partner interjected. Like hell he was, and Ward knew it too. She easily had a good eighty years on anyone in this room. Hyde sighed and shot Ward a dirty look.
She made a half-hearted attempt to pull out some of the mandatory anger management training she had squirreled away. Sadly, the swinging, blinking track light to her left was aggravating her OCD and the inevitable onset of a vomiting migraine. Her right eye twitched and kept going until she stabbed a knuckle into it to make it stop. Explosions anywhere in her city had a tendency to cause aggravation, what with her being Dorian-Grayed to the thing. Sorcerers mirrored their cities; the cities mirrored their souls. It was a tricky balancing act, that.
“Um, well no. Elkington found a dead body in the alley.”
Ward shook his head. “For future reference, corpses go at the top of the list, kid.”
“Show us,” Hyde said.
The kid bobbed his head a couple of times and pointed toward the crushed, colorfully painted remnants of a giant sculpture.
“Sometime today, rook.”
“There’s a hallway behind the big broken thing.”
Ward snorted, and Hyde had to fight down a smile. “Nah, that was way too low hanging,” she told him under her breath. They got to moving, picking their way through brick and glass strewn around the collapsed beams and weird-ass sculptural shit. The crunch of debris under the thick soles of her steel toes was perversely satisfying. She’d made it to the darkened corridor and stopped because she couldn’t hear Ward’s considerable bulk pacing her.
“Et tu, Brute?” Hyde turned around to find him twenty feet behind her staring at the wall. The big guy’s shoulders slumped.
“Goddamned. I told that big trouble motherfucker I didn’t want to see him anytime soon.”
She backtracked to get a gander at whatever it was that had made playful Bukaki on her partner’s evening.
Jesus, even as a portrait the guy was sexy as hell. Abnormally so. He’d been that way in person too, even if she had gotten an odd vibrational null off him. Sexy. The burnt to shit image was a clothed pale shadow, and it was still compelling.
“Make sure somebody called the M.E.’s, will you?” She walked closer to make sure what she was seeing wasn’t some trick of the nonexistent lighting or a chemical reaction to the heat. He’d been wearing contacts during her first run-in with him. When she’d stared into those eyes, she’d assumed that he wore them because he needed them to see and not because he was Fae.
She should have known better.
Sidhe. He had to be.
Ward’s heavy tread returned, moving up alongside her. “We’re going to want to talk to the artist,” he said.
“Because Vargas had an interesting conversation with the gallery owner, in which, said artist was seen with some random leaving via the murder alley.”
Hyde tore herself away from the painting to look at him. “Was she with our vic?”
“No, the owner didn’t recognize him and before you ask me something stupid like are we sure it was her, our girl’s got electric blue hair so, yeah, we’re sure. No description of the guy she was with, though, just that he was male— average height, weight, build, undetermined hair color. Four of the witnesses may have seen him, none of them remembers anything specific. The usual helpful bullshit. The M.E’s are here, and the lab techs are dusting for prints. Are you done swooning?”
“I’m done. Nothing human walks out that unremarkable. Let’s go find da Vinci so I can figure out what killed our victim. I need to clean this up before anyone else gets to her.”
“What are you thinking?”
A sharp spike of agony hit the back of her right eye and shot through her gray matter. The dull ache gave itself up to brilliant ecstatic misery that caused her to lose the three dollar tamale she’d had for dinner all over the base of the wall. She took a knee. Hyde was clammy and sweating when she came out of it enough to comment.
“I think I hate puking at crime scenes. I think the Sidhe have her. And I think we’re about to have a long, ugly night.”
by Christi Dionis