Archangel's Prophecy (Page 27)
“So he may have been in a drug haze when he was murdered?”
“Non. We believe Acosta was in a drug dream when he was bound,” Janvier replied. “The killing came later.”
“Pathologist found evidence of rope burns around his wrists and a nasty gag around his mouth.” Ashwini reached over to tuck in the tag sticking out from the back of Janvier’s dark green T-shirt. “Nothing obvious on his ankles, but we figure he must’ve been bound there as well.”
Arms folded, Dmitri leaned back against his desk. “It would seem your killer wanted the victim to know what was being done to him.”
“Yep,” Ashwini said. “Amputations came first, the throat-slitting the coup de grâce.”
Janvier said a string of words in his native tongue that sounded like a tease. Ashwini showed him a blade star in return. Janvier’s grin was wickedly playful.
Catching the byplay out of the corners of her eyes, Elena chewed on the information the couple had shared. “How could a single person have gotten the drop on two vampires? Could we be talking more than one assailant?” She was thinking about Ash’s earlier mention of vampire gangs.
“We considered that, but everything points to one scarily organized murderer.” Ashwini pressed a boot up against the wall. “Indications are that Blakely was secured first, while Acosta was spaced out and pretty much useless. A yeti could’ve walked past him and he’d have said ‘groovy suit, dude.’”
True enough. Honey feed highs didn’t last long, but crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, or ketamine, the short period was intensely euphoric for users. A habitual user like Acosta had probably been used to hallucinations, even craved them as the sign of a good hit.
“Also, Blakely was . . .” Janvier’s moss-green gaze went to Ash. “What is the quaint saying, cher?”
“Caught with his pants down,” she supplied. “In flagrante frickin’ delicto.”
That certainly explained how one perpetrator had gotten the better of two vampires. “Blakely’s sexual partner?”
“In the wind.” Ashwini’s earrings moved gently as she spoke. “All we found of her were her panties. Could’ve been a small man who likes frilly panties—I’m not one to judge—but word on the street is Blakely was strictly into women, so I’ll go with female.”
Elena thought of Harrison’s panic about Beth and Maggie. “Escaped or was let go?”
“She would’ve been as naked as the victim, and, as the pros I talked to were happy to share, Blakely liked to be on top. No way she could’ve put up a fight.”
“That tells us something, does it not?” White fire continued to dance on Raphael’s wings as he walked to the plate glass window behind Dmitri’s desk. “Our killer isn’t indiscriminate.”
Elena bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, unable to forget Harrison’s sheer fear. “Yet from Harrison’s reaction, this unknown threatened Beth and Maggie.”
“Your sister is married to Harrison, and Maggie is his daughter,” Raphael pointed out. “The woman in the Quarter was apt to be no one important to the dead vampire. She wasn’t on the killer’s target list.”
Jesus, that made too much sense.
“Which amputation goes with which victim?” Dmitri asked into the grim silence.
“Our friend in the bed had the family jewels hacked off—while he was very much alive and gushing blood. Assailant then stuffed said jewels into his mouth.” Ashwini glanced quickly at an incoming message on her phone before putting it back into her pocket. “And, yeah, I’m not finding that a coincidence, either. Same informants who told me about his sexual habits say the vic was a bit of a Don Juan.”
“A different jeune fille every night.” Janvier’s shoulders brushed Ash’s, the two of them having shifted subtly during the course of the conversation. “Such men leave a trail of anger in their wake—and often tread where they shouldn’t.”
“Chance the killer is a woman?” Elena asked, slipping her knife back into an arm sheath.
Ashwini shook her head. “Can’t say either way right now. One other thing—second mutilation was also done while the victim was alive.”
“He slit Harrison’s mouth,” Elena murmured. “A different kind of mutilation, but mutilation all the same. Also done while he was alive and trying to hold his throat together.”
“Agreed.” Dmitri was nothing but business right then, all hard angles and violent vampiric power under total control. Not a man who would ever be led by blood hunger, ever be made a slave to the need to feed; no, Dmitri had fought that battle and won it long ago.
“All else aside,” he said, “it’s the intelligence involved that makes this killer dangerous. They might enjoy torturing their victims, enjoy watching the victims’ panic and pain, but they haven’t been careless.”
“He also had the willpower to cut his losses when necessary.” Janvier’s eyes, the rich green color reminiscent of the bayou, held Elena’s. “He ran rather than attack your father and ‘tite Eve, likely because he had no idea of the threat he’d be facing. He’s a planner and he’s patient.”
Elena felt cold seep into her bones at the thought that Eve and Jeffrey could’ve easily ended up sprawled bloody and lifeless on the carpet.
Two more lives lost.
Two more graves dug.
Two more ghosts to haunt the living.
One more sister gone forever.
Shifting from the window, Raphael held her gaze with the crushed sapphire of his. You did not lose another sister, Guild Hunter, he said in a voice chill with the ever-growing power that scared her so for what it might mean for them. And that sister was armed and ready. Eve will not be caught unawares like your elder siblings.
Elena remembered Eve’s fierce concentration, the gleam of her long blade, thought of the way Jeffrey had given Eve her coat and Elena a scarf. He would’ve fought bitterly for his daughter’s life. She let herself believe the two would’ve won against a murderous assailant, because the alternative was a crushing blackness that suffocated.
I needed that, Archangel. More than his words, she’d needed to know he remained her Raphael even while power burned hot and blue in his eyes.
“Harrison might have answers for us,” she said aloud, “but he’s been put into a coma.” Beth’s husband had lost so much blood prior to Jason’s donation that his young vampiric body was in a state of violent shock.
“We’ll have to work with what we have until he wakes.” Ashwini straightened. “Janvier and I’ll continue to dig into the Quarter killings while you come in from the Harrison angle. We’ll pool information.”
Elena nodded; Ash and Janvier now had far deeper connections in the gray underground of the city, of which the Quarter was ground zero. “You said you cleared a suspect?”
“A junkie who got into an altercation with Acosta earlier in the week,” Ashwini clarified.
“He was naked in the glass display mezzanine at Club Masque during the time of death and for hours on either side.” Janvier’s liquid voice held a shrug. “The man, he has endurance.”
Ashwini parted her lips, paused, finally said, “Do you think Beth knows anything?”