Archangel's Prophecy (Page 73)
“Okay, Harrison. Many brownie points for you.”
The rest was exactly what Harrison had described. The other men arriving. Conversation. Photos taken. Harrison leaving early.
On-screen, an unknown man bought Lucy a drink in fast-forward and she drifted away with him. Her flirting was . . . aggressive. Frantic in a way. It made Elena sad. Archer’s beloved daughter was searching for a way to exorcise her grief, but she was doing it in all the wrong places and with the wrong people.
Had it been a man like Hiraz Weir whom she’d run into that night . . . but this was the past. Not the future, subject to change.
Nishant Kumar eventually went over and lured Lucy back from her admirer. From that point on, she stayed with him, Acosta, Lee, and Blakely until all five walked out of the bar—with Lucy snuggled up against Kumar. She looked sober and conscious of her decision, her face set in deliberate lines. Elena slowed down the footage but saw no indication of coercion or drug use. Steady gait, sharp eyes, active in conversation with the men.
A message popped up on-screen: I ran facial recognition on the rest of the footage for you. These five never come back.
Shutting it down, Elena stared out at the city. It was all so pointless. Lucy had been grieving and going off the rails, even courting her hunter father’s disapproval by trying to hook up with vampires, but she shouldn’t have had to pay for that with her life.
A shadow against the wall, swinging so softly.
A single cherry red high-heel lying sideways on checkerboard tile.
A beloved life lost to grief.
Swallowing back the deluge of memory, Elena called Santiago, who managed to conference-call Sara so the three of them could talk at once. The detective had spent the time since Sara’s initial call gathering his files. He had plenty for them, but the gist of it was that the body found in Archer’s car had been too badly burned to offer viable DNA. However, it had been of the right height and ethnicity—as per the forensic anthropologist.
“Guild paid for the bone doc,” Santiago added. “Her report made me feel better about closing the case despite the weird things I’d noticed.”
“What?” Sara asked.
“It was a crash, no doubt about it,” the detective said. “Car wrapped around the center of the gas station like a tin can. Limited skid marks, but there was a ton of rain that night, and it was possible the hunter skidded across the road and his brakes couldn’t get enough traction.”
Rasping sounds as he no doubt rubbed at his bristled jaw. “But here’s the thing—that car went up like a tinderbox, rain or no rain. I had the fire guys look at it, and they said with the gas station going boom, there wasn’t much they could do to find other accelerants if they’d been present. We did manage to discover that the vic was carrying burnables—possibly clothes in bags. Like he was going to donate them.”
“Convenient,” Elena murmured.
“Yeah,” Santiago continued. “But, while suicide was an option because of the s**t luck in his personal life, I had no reason to think ‘body substitution.’”
Elena caught something in his voice. “You know what body.”
“When Sara told me maybe Archer’d come back from the dead, I spent a coupla minutes looking up this odd case I remembered from back then. Two of the guys telling ghost stories in the squad room about how bodies had started to get up and walk away from the morgue and how maybe a sleep-deprived doctor had accidentally ruled a vampire dead.”
“A body was lost from the morgue?” Sara swore under her breath.
“When I looked it up, what do you know—same ethnicity as Archer, same height, around the same weight even. Could’ve been the body in the car, but no way for us to know that. Your guy had no metal in his bones, and neither did this missing stiff—and here’s the kicker, the morgue body was never recovered.”
Elena had no uncertainties any longer when it came to the name of the assailant. Everything fit. And the wait for the right type of corpse would explain the delay between Lucy’s death and the start of Archer’s vengeful spree. The problem was they didn’t know enough about Lucy’s time on the streets to guess who he might go after next—and Beth and Maggie remained in his crosshairs. All a man of his training needed was a single slip in their protection, a single opportunity.
She, Sara, and Santiago hung up after deciding to activate their separate intelligence networks to be on alert for Archer’s name and face. Elena told Jean-Baptiste and Beth who to watch for, and she warned Jenessa. In the grip of a fever of revenge, Archer might decide that she’d led his daughter into life as a prostitute. The young woman was in a hairdressing salon with her mentor, and Elena got that mentor to lock the door and close the salon by promising to cover her lost profits for the day.
Thankfully for Jenessa’s dreams, her mentor appeared more excited at the intrigue than put out. Especially when she heard that her student lived with a senior Tower vampire and that he’d be by to pick her up.
Flaring out her increasingly heavy wings afterward, Elena decided to take flight. She didn’t know where she was going, Archer a phantom who’d left no trail that Vivek could find, but she ached to fly. According to a message Dmitri had sent her during the call with Sara and Santiago, Raphael was on his way back. Maybe she’d fly toward him as far as she could, and then she’d wait.
For one last flight with her archangel before her wings failed.
It wasn’t to be.
The phone rang in her pocket. “Ellie?” Ashwini said on the other end. “We’ve got two more bodies.”
So many owls surrounded her that Elena had to push through them to get to the dead, the birds’ bodies soft and warm against her. She wondered if Cassandra was trying to help her cheat destiny. Is this it? The broken blade? The mourner?
No answer, but the owls didn’t move. Elena continued on, her skin flushing hot then cold. Should she back off? Would that throw a spanner into the mechanics of destiny? Or would it alter the future in the worst way, leading to Beth’s and Maggie’s murders at Archer’s hand?
No, she had to finish this, eliminate the threat. And it wasn’t as if she was alone. Her three Legion shadows were waiting on the roof—even Archer couldn’t take on four trained fighters at once. And while her wing muscles might be sluggish in responding to her commands, warning of imminent failure, she had plenty of feathers left. Nowhere close to losing her last one.
She reached the first of the dead.
The small, pudgy vampire had been killed in his combined convenience/pawn shop in a seedy corner of the Quarter and his body found behind the counter by a regular customer. It was a miracle the customer hadn’t decided to rob the place. The corpse was so fresh that the blood was tacky rather than dry and encrusted.
“Spine bisected at the neck, hands cut off.” Janvier rose from his crouch beside the dead vampire. “And we’ve got a connection to Lucy.”
“She pawned her jewelry here,” Ashwini explained. “Was easy to check the records after you gave us her legal name.” She pointed at a small laptop that sat open behind the grill that should’ve protected the shopkeeper from harm. “He demanded official IDs and recorded every transaction. Gave a fair price, far as I can tell.”
The same records had probably led Archer to his door. “When did she pawn her things?”