Home > After the Bite (Argeneau #35)

After the Bite (Argeneau #35)
Author: Lynsay Sands

 


Prologue

 


“Anything to report?”

Valerian glanced around with surprise at that question, and stared blankly at the man peering in at him through the open driver’s side window of the SUV he’d just put into park. Garrett Mortimer, the head of the North American Enforcers and his boss, raised his eyebrows in question.

Giving his head a shake, Valerian didn’t respond at once, but instead turned to share a “WTF?” glance with his partner, Tybo. He then shut off the engine, hit the button on the rearview mirror to close the garage door behind them, and then both men unsnapped their seat belts and started to get out.

“Nice to see you too, Mortimer,” Valerian finally said as he closed the driver’s door of the SUV. “Slow night, I take it?”

“That or his wife, Sam, is pissed at him and he came out here to avoid her,” Tybo put in as he walked around the vehicle to join them.

“Sam and I are fine,” Mortimer assured them with irritation. “She’s actually at Jo’s right now, helping with some surprise they’re preparing for Alex and Cale’s anniversary.”

“So, you just came out here to greet us because you were bored?” Valerian suggested with amusement.

Mortimer grimaced but didn’t deny the claim. Instead, he said, “Lucian’s coming around this evening and he’ll want an update on any goings-on in the area. So . . .” He raised his eyebrows. “Anything to report?”

“Nothing,” Valerian assured him, heading toward the door between the garage and the rest of the building. The structure was quite large, holding the huge multicar garage, an office, prison cells, and an area where the security dogs were housed. But the office—and the refrigerator there—was where Valerian was eager to get to. “It was quiet as death out there. Again.”

“Good, good. Quiet is good,” Mortimer muttered as he and Tybo followed him into the office.

“Hmm. It’s been quiet since Dr. D. went after Thorne and Stephanie down in farm country four months ago,” Valerian pointed out, walking straight to the refrigerator to retrieve a couple of bags of blood. He tossed one to Tybo, another to Mortimer, and then grabbed a third and popped it onto his fangs as they slid down from his upper jaw.

Valerian almost sighed as the blood was drawn up into his body and his tension began to ease. It had been a long shift and he’d needed this. He, like the other two men now also feeding, was what most mortals would call a vampire. But they preferred the term immortal. Unlike vampires, they weren’t dead or soulless, and didn’t run around preying on their mortal neighbors and friends. Well, not anymore anyway . . . usually. There were members of their population who did, but they were considered rogue, and were hunted and brought in for judgment by rogue hunters, or Enforcers, like himself and Tybo, who were basically vampire cops.

“It’s too quiet,” Mortimer growled irritably as he tossed his now empty bag in the garbage, and when Valerian turned raised eyebrows his way, the man explained, “It feels like the quiet before the storm.” Grimacing, he added, “I’m not looking forward to the storm.”

Valerian considered that as he tossed his own empty bag in the garbage and then asked, “Is there anything in particular you’re worried about?”

“Summer is over. Fall is short and soon winter will be here,” Mortimer pointed out, his gaze dropping to the file in his hand.

Valerian hadn’t noticed what he was carrying, but now glanced at the file with curiosity and read “Angel-Maker” on the tab. He felt his body tense. “You think the Angel-Maker will start up again once winter is on us.”

It wasn’t a question, but Mortimer responded as if it had been. “Yes. I think the bastard will continue his games until we catch him. He won’t stop on his own.”

“The Angel-Maker?” Tybo glanced between them with curiosity as he tossed his own empty bag in the garbage.

“That’s what the newspaper named the rogue who was killing prostitutes last winter,” Mortimer explained, setting the file on the desk and opening it to fan out the photos inside.

There were six pictures in all, each of a different female victim. They crossed a wide range when it came to looks. One was a small, thin blonde, another a chunky brunette, another a tall, voluptuous redhead, and so on. The Angel-Maker apparently didn’t have a type. The only thing that connected the murders was that the women were prostitutes, all left completely bloodless, and found lying on the snowy ground, naked, flat on their backs with their hands clasped to their chests and the outline of wings impressed into the snow around them. From what they could tell, the killer made a snow angel and then posed the dead women in the impression in the snow.

Valerian supposed that was why the newspapers in Toronto were calling him the Angel-Maker. Although the long, rambling letters he’d sent to a reporter at one of the newspapers had probably encouraged it too. In them, the killer had gone on about turning whores into angels to save their souls. Like he was doing the women some kind of favor by killing them, he thought with disgust.

Sighing, Valerian let his gaze sweep over the pictures of the victims one more time.

“I didn’t know the newspapers had a name for him,” Tybo commented, his gaze still fixed on the photos. “When I left to visit my family last winter, you said you were going to send someone to wipe the memories of those deaths from both the police and reporters in the know.”

“I did. Eshe and Mirabeau went to take care of that,” Mortimer told him. “But the reporter had already come up with the Angel-Maker moniker and the article had gone to print before they got to her. There was no sense erasing memories then. Though they did haze the memories a bit with the police and reporters so they wouldn’t pursue it further and search for the killer. We don’t need mortals stomping around getting in our way,” he told them grimly. Closing the file, he added, “Not that it mattered in the end. The Angel-Maker hasn’t killed since the last snowfall we had. That was just before you got back in April, Tybo. It’s the end of September now, so there’s been no new murders in nearly six months. At least, not that we know of,” he added with a frown.

“You think he moved somewhere else?” Tybo asked. “Somewhere farther north, maybe? Where there might be snow for him to play with?”

“No,” Valerian answered. “Mortimer has had me checking that once a month starting back in April when you were still on vacation. There have been no reports of similar deaths anywhere in the world.” He paused briefly and then mentioned his own concern on the matter. “Although he could still be killing women and keeping them in a freezer or something until the snow returns and he can pose them the way he likes.”

When Mortimer glanced at him sharply at that comment, Valerian shrugged and pointed out, “Serial killers don’t usually just stop killing. They pretty much have to be caught to be stopped.”

“Yeah.” Mortimer peered down at the closed file unhappily. “Maybe we should look into whether any prostitutes have gone missing since the last victim.”

“He could have changed his modus operandi for the summer,” Tybo suggested. “Killing them, but not doing the whole wings-in-the-snow thing.” He frowned slightly, and then added, “Or do serial killers not change their MOs?”

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