Home > Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(14)

Shadowed Steel (Heirs of Chicagoland #3)(14)
Author: Chloe Neill

Vampires liked bladed weapons, I thought. “Where was he killed?” I asked.

“Inside the Brass & Copper building.”

It was one of the city’s famous landmarks—a skyscraper of stone striped with brass and copper that stood on Michigan Avenue just south of the river. It had been built by an industrial magnate—Brass & Copper Amalgamated, natch—during the city’s Gilded Age.

“In the shade, I assume, so the sun wouldn’t disappear him.” I looked up at her. “Someone wanted him to be found.”

“You?”

“I didn’t kill him, and I don’t know why anyone would want him dead.”

“He accused you of breaking AAM rules,” Gwen said.

“The Bureau made the accusation; he’s one of many. And I say there’s an exception; the AAM disagrees.”

“He and the others attacked you,” Gwen said. “They want you in, what did they call it, seclusion.”

“And I declined. Blake, as far as I can tell, was just the messenger. Clive is the one in charge.”

Gwen ignored that. “Where were you last night?”

“The Grove, as you know. After that, NAC headquarters. We helped prepare a catering order, and there were at least two dozen shifters, including the Apex, who’d be happy to verify that. After that, we went home. It was nearly dawn when I went to bed.”

“Alone?”

I looked up at Robinson, my eyes flat. “Yes. My bed empty, my apartment empty. Lulu was . . . gone.” Presumably at Mateo’s, but I hadn’t even had time to ask her before they’d escorted me out.

“So you don’t have an alibi for the time of the murder?”

Sneaky question. “I don’t know when the murder occurred, so I don’t know where I was.”

“Six ten in the morning,” Theo said.

I thought back. “I’d have been in bed and unconscious. The sun is so bad for the skin,” I added dryly, then frowned as I began to think logically again. “That’s, like, ten minutes before sunrise, and it’s at least a twenty-minute drive from Brass & Copper to the loft, depending on traffic.”

I paused, let them do the math. “You found me in the loft just after dawn. I had to be in the loft before the sun came up, or I’d have been burned.” I pulled up my sleeves, showed the unmarred skin. “I wasn’t.”

“Armored car?” Gwen asked.

“I don’t have a car, much less a sun-shielded one. Regardless, I was at the loft. The building has a security camera on the door. Lulu wanted to be sure she was in a secure building.”

Gwen looked up at the window, nodded at someone on the other side, who, I guessed, was now in charge of obtaining a copy of the video.

She looked at me again. “So you ordered someone to do it.”

I met her gaze, steadily. “Your first theory was that I killed a man I barely know in a building I’ve never been in for no apparent reason. That didn’t pan out, so you think I have assassins on call, and I’d have them do my dirty work for me. I’m not sure which is more insulting,” I said and heard the temper in my voice. Didn’t mind it.

“If a vampire killed him,” I continued, “he’d either have stayed in the building or had a sun-shielded car of his own. If it was a human, he could have walked away. Is the building secured?”

“Not the area where Blake was found,” Gwen said. “There are public restaurants and shops in the lobby. He was found on that floor, albeit in a low-traffic area. You’d need a badge for the elevators to go up to the business floors.”

“Residences?”

“No.”

They might have pulled me in for questioning, but if they’d really believed I’d done it, they wouldn’t be giving me so many details. So while I let myself relax, I didn’t let my guard fully down.

“Why was Blake in the Brass & Copper building right before dawn?” I asked. “If there aren’t any residences, there’s nowhere to bed down if he misses the timing and the sun comes up. That’s dangerous.”

“Coffee,” Theo said. “There’s a coffee shop in the lobby, and it opens early. We have a surveillance shot of him buying a drink shortly before he was killed.”

“Alone?”

“Alone,” Theo said. “Doesn’t mean he was alone when he went into the building or afterward.”

“Perhaps you glamoured him,” Gwen said. “Convinced him to do something risky. Maybe you hoped the sun would do the work for you.”

Instinctively, I touched the spot on my thigh that still bore a pale scar, earned in Minnesota when a magic-crazed shifter had tried to rip the protective shielding off a window in the middle of the day. He’d managed only to damage it, but the thin bead of sunlight hurt worse than a blade. Had hurt badly enough to wake me from daytime unconsciousness.

“Glamour doesn’t change minds,” I said. “It lowers inhibitions. It’s persuasive, but sunlight kills. You’d need something more than glamour to convince a vampire to risk it.”

Coffee addiction or not—and I knew from coffee addiction—was a vampire going to risk death by scorching just to get a fix? “You’ll need to check how he arrived—and how he intended to get out again. It’s very risky behavior, especially for someone who isn’t from Chicago and doesn’t know their way around.”

Gwen didn’t look thrilled that I was giving her investigatory advice. Which I suppose seemed pretty cocky. “What do you have against the AAM?” she asked.

I understood that presumed motive was a fundamental part of her investigation. But it was becoming harder not to take the questions personally. “I have nothing against the AAM. As I said, we disagree about interpretation of the rules.”

“And you’re angry at them?”

“I’m angry that the organization gives so little value to the life of a human. Especially when that human was nearly killed in a supernatural feud that had nothing to do with her.”

“Blake came to your home. Threatened you.”

“He came to my home with two other vampires on behalf of the AAM. He didn’t threaten me. He asked me to meet the Bureau in Grant Park.”

“And you suggested the Grove.” She looked up. “Why?”

“It’s outside the city. Less populated, so there’d be less risk of human injury if things went awry. Which they did.”

Her brows lifted. “You were expecting violence.”

I knew she knew all this. Some she’d heard from me at the Grove; some she’d heard from Theo. But I kept playing along.

“The Bureau came to Chicago,” I said with monumental patience, “to accuse me of breaking their rules by saving a human life. That doesn’t scream ‘reasonable’ to me. So I expected more unreasonable behavior to follow. I was right.”

“They claimed you drew first blood.”

She had done her homework, so I nodded. “They claimed it, but they caused it. One of their vampires threw a knife at Alexei Breckenridge. He threw one back. Theirs missed; his didn’t. They started the fight, but we technically drew first blood.”

“You own a sword,” Theo said.

I shifted my gaze to him. “I do. You’ve trained with it.” We’d done a few rounds in the OMB gym.

“I know,” he said, and there was regret and guilt in the words.

“Where is it?” Gwen asked, and added notes to her file.

“At the loft.”

“Will you turn it over for forensic analysis?”

There were limits to everything. Including my cooperation.

“No,” I said, and she stopped taking notes, looked up at me.

“You refuse?”

“If you have a duly executed warrant, you’re welcome to take it. But since I didn’t hurt Blake, I don’t think you’ll be able to get one. It’s possible there’s a trace of his blood on it; I don’t know. The fight at the Grove was intense, and I’m not sure who the blade touched. But I didn’t kill him.” I looked at Theo. “I suggest you talk to Clive, find out who the Compliance Bureau has pissed off recently.”

“Other than you?”

“Pissed off,” I repeated, “and is willing to use murder as a tool of revenge. Because I’m not. Nor, for the record, are any of my friends.”

“Killing Blake might slow down the AAM’s prosecution of you,” Theo said. “Divert their attention.”

And killing Clive would have done that faster, I thought, but managed not to say that out loud. “I don’t want to divert their attention,” I said instead. “I want them to leave me alone. That’s not going to happen now. Instead, they’re probably going to draw the same conclusion you did. They’re going to think I did it.”

And they were going to come after me even harder.

* * *

* * *

Three more times. We went through it three more times, enough to have my temper flare and fall again. By the time we were done, it was midnight, and I was exhausted.

I hadn’t killed Blake. But I didn’t like the coincidence that he’d been killed here, during a trip to Chicago to investigate me, to confront me. And why Blake particularly?

“Theo,” Gwen said, and the word snapped me out of my thoughts. “Would you give me and Ms. Sullivan a minute?”

Brows lifted, he looked between us, nodded. “I’ll be right outside,” he said and rose.

“And clear out the observation room,” she said.

Another look of surprise, but after checking my face, he nodded at that, too, and left us alone.

I had no idea what to expect, or what she didn’t think she could say in front of Theo. So I watched her. When the door closed with a decisive click, she rose, flicked a switch on the wall. The mirror went transparent, revealing the observation room on the other side. Empty and nearly as grim as this one was.

   
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