Home > Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(15)

Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(15)
Author: Helen Harper

‘We don’t know that yet.’

‘They’ll get away with it. The supes get away with murder whenever they want. They’re ungodly! Tony Brown is a bastard, but even he doesn’t deserve this!’ His voice was rising with every word.

I resisted the temptation to grab him by the shoulders and shake him as hard as I could. And then his words filtered through.

I might have only been in Supe Squad since the previous day, but I already knew how it worked. Everyone had told me the same thing. Fred’s words echoed in my head. If the supes were involved, then this was their case; if they weren’t, it would belong to CID. Either way, the investigation would be taken away from me.

I’d been killed and now something had happened to Tony. The two things had to be related. If I called the police now, my own death would be out of my hands. I’d have no control over anything.

I wasn’t normally reckless. Procedures were there for a reason and, fast track or not, I was still only a trainee detective. But yesterday I’d died, and I wasn’t the same person I’d been twenty-four hours earlier. Nobody would have known Tony was in trouble if I hadn’t come here. Questions would be asked about my own involvement, and I wouldn’t have any answers. If I was to remain in control of my own narrative – and my own fate – I had to tread very carefully.

I thought quickly. I couldn’t guarantee that calling the police now would help Tony. But if I remained free to investigate on my own, I still might be able to save him. My hands trembled. I’d be crazy if I did this; I’d be crazy if I didn’t.

‘I’ll call the police,’ I said. My voice sounded like it was coming from a great distance. ‘I’ll deal with this from here.’

Will stared at me. I was pretty certain that I didn’t imagine the relief that flashed across his face. Even though he had Tony’s spare key, he had no desire to get involved with the old detective’s shenanigans, especially when vampires and werewolves and other beasties might be involved.

‘I don’t know,’ he said slowly. ‘They’ll want to talk to me, won’t they?’

‘I’m sure they will, but the priority will be to locate Tony. It might take a couple of days before they question you.’

He twisted the ring on his finger. ‘Whoever did this got into the building without anyone noticing. What if they come back? What if they target other residents?’

It wasn’t his fellow neighbours that he was worried about; Will’s concern was purely for himself. He also wanted me to convince him that I could take care of things so he could remain uninvolved – and his anxiety about his own well-being gave me the avenue I needed.

‘You’re right.’ I nodded vigorously. ‘If your name is attached to Tony’s in any way, the people who did this might see you as a threat and come after you. It’s how these bastards work. I’m his niece, so the police will expect me to be involved. There’s no need for you to put yourself at risk. Perhaps it’s best if we keep your name out of it for now, at least until the police have found who’s responsible and Tony comes back.’

I wasn’t going to mention that it was possible Tony might never return. To say it aloud would be to give it credence.

‘I … I … I barely know him,’ Will said. ‘He’s a passing acquaintance. We exchange greetings in the hall, that’s all. I don’t have anything to do with supes.’

I clicked my tongue in sympathy. ‘That’s why it’s best if you don’t get mixed up in this.’

His head drooped. ‘I knew moving here was a mistake. It’s too close to those heathens.’

Yeah, yeah. I stayed silent. I’d said enough to persuade him, but he had to take the final step. If I pushed him too far, he’d push back.

‘Here.’ He pressed Tony’s key into my hand. ‘You have this. It’s logical that Tony’s niece would have a spare instead of some neighbour he barely knows.’ He looked at me anxiously. He didn’t seem to be aware that he’d just suggested I lie to the police. Omission was one thing, deliberate deceit was entirely different – at least to my mind, anyway.

‘Go to your flat. I’ll call the police now.’ And then, because I knew he’d be keeping an eye out, ‘It might take them a while to get here. Even if they do show up quickly, they might do it on the sly so that anyone watching this building doesn’t realise that we’re onto them. A big show of force could put Tony in more danger.’

I was talking out of my arse. If I reported that a detective’s flat had been trashed and the occupant was now missing, half of the police in London would descend. But Will didn’t know that; he simply looked more terrified.

‘You’re right. Yes.’

‘Go into your flat, turn up your music and act like you don’t know about any of this. I’ll take care of everything from here. I promise.’ As far as that part was concerned, I wasn’t lying.

Will grasped my hands, squeezing them tight. ‘Be careful.’

‘I will be,’ I told him. ‘Have no fear on that score. And I’m sure Tony will reappear soon.’

Chapter Eleven

As soon as Will disappeared, I got to work. The faster I worked, the faster I’d discover Tony’s whereabouts, and that might make all the difference to him. I was damned if my need to stay in control of my own investigation was going to risk his well-being. I already felt guilty enough for suspecting that he’d been my killer.

My first port of call was the kitchen. I found a pair of luminous pink rubber gloves by the sink and pulled them on. Then I went to the fridge. Its door was hanging open and its contents had been strewn across the kitchen floor: brie, grapes, milk, spilled orange juice – even a few healthy-looking vegetables. Tony wasn’t quite the straightforward carnivore he’d made himself out to be.

There was also a half-wrapped sandwich that seemed to have been thrown at the wall by the burglar in a fit of pique. I peeled it away from the linoleum to take a closer look. A cheese sandwich, my cheese sandwich, judging by the sticker. That meant Tony had returned here after he’d stormed off yesterday. In terms of time frames, that helped considerably. It didn’t answer the question of whether he’d texted me last night, or whether someone had taken his phone to message me and make it seem as if the text had come from Tony. It was, however, a start.

Abandoning the fridge and the kitchen, I started searching for Tony’s mobile. If he’d left in a hurry, or it had been dropped during the burglary, maybe it was still here. Unfortunately, there was no sign of it, although I spotted a landline telephone on the floor in the living room. I left it alone and continued my search of the rest of the flat.

I couldn’t work out what, if anything, had been stolen. And I couldn’t find so much as a scrap of paper that gave me a clue about Tony’s whereabouts. I could have been looking for a white cat in a snowstorm for all the good this search was doing me.

Eventually, I returned to the living room and stared at the phone. I picked it up and dialled 1471. The disembodied voice of the computer chanted at me: ‘You were called today at 3.24pm by 020 7946 0800. If you wish to return the call, press—’

I hung up. That had been Liza calling from the office. If I’d known then what I knew now, I’d never have asked her to call. I grimaced then reluctantly dialled another number.

‘Good evening. This is Dean at the morgue in Fitzwilliam Manor Hospital. How may I help you?’

‘Hi Dean,’ I said. ‘Is Laura still there? Dr Hawes, I mean. This is Emma. I’m—’

I didn’t get the chance to finish my sentence.

‘Emma!’ Laura interrupted. ‘I was hoping you’d call! I stayed late at work just in case, and I’ve been hovering over poor Dean and bothering him all day. Are you alright? Have there been any strange side effects? Have you found any clues about what happened to you?’

I wasn’t sure which question to answer first. ‘I’m okay, Laura. No side effects – not physical ones, anyway. As to what happened to me, that’s why I’m calling. I have a question that I’m hoping you can help me answer.’

‘Go on.’ She sounded desperately eager. That made one of us.

I didn’t want to ask my question but I didn’t have much choice. ‘One of my colleagues is missing. I need to know whether he’s shown up at your morgue or one of others in the city.’

For a long moment, Laura didn’t answer. ‘Oh, Emma. I’m so sorry.’

The sympathy in her tone almost finished me and a mist of tears descended. I clenched my jaw and held back the tide. Just. ‘He’s in his late fifties. Caucasian, grey hair, clean shaven but with pock-marked skin. Average height and weight. His name is Anthony Brown.’

‘No one of that name has come in here, and we have no John Does of that description. Wait a minute – I’ll check the computer. It’ll tell me if he’s shown up elsewhere.’

‘Thank you.’ I clutched the phone through the kitchen gloves. It felt reassuringly substantial, as if it were the only thing in the world I had to cling on to. Seconds that felt like minutes ticked by. Then I hear Laura’s voice again.

‘He’s not been taken to any of the morgues in the city.’

I closed my eyes. There was still hope. ‘Good.’ I breathed out. ‘That’s good.’

‘It sounds like you’re in over your head.’ Laura sounded worried. ‘Maybe it’s time you reported what’s happened, Emma. I’ve delayed your post-mortem for another forty-eight hours but, if both you and your colleague are in danger, that might not be a good thing.’

I fixed my gaze on a hairline crack in the ceiling. ‘If I’m no further forward by then, I’ll come clean to whoever I need to. Right now, I need some time. I know you’re taking a risk but—’

‘Pah! Risk-shmisk. I’ve not had this much excitement for years. The dead aren’t as interesting as most people think. I’ll follow your lead, Emma. Just remember that what happened to you might not have been a one-off. You cheated death once. That doesn’t mean you’ll cheat it again.’

   
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