Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(5)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(5)
Author: Lisa Shearin

A scarab? Who the hell would have a scarab tattoo on their palm?

“Don’t touch anything,” Ian said from right behind me.

I jumped and bit back a yelp, instinctively shoving the Kleenex in my pocket.

Ian went back to talking on the phone, so showing him my discovery would have to wait. I picked my way over to the office’s one window. It’d been reduced to a gaping hole in the brick wall. Some of the bricks had even been knocked out.

“So much for what that muffled explosion was,” I murmured.

Whatever had ripped a man to shreds and destroyed a window and half the wall had done it all in less than ten seconds.

Blood covered the pieces of glass on the floor; there were probably more in the alley.

Then I saw it.

A partial handprint wrapped around a section of brick, made by a massive hand that had to have been at least five times the size of Ian’s.

“Police! Freeze!”

Two cops quickly moved into the room, guns drawn, a third guarded the doorway.

I hadn’t heard a thing, and apparently neither had Ian.

“This isn’t what it looks like,” I insisted as the cop twisted my wrist around behind my back and cuffed me. Before he did, I got a glimpse of his ears. He’d look human to everyone else, but I could see his upswept ears clear as day. A lot of elves found their way into the NYPD. For some reason, they had a thing for law and order.

“It never is,” the cop said, cuffing my other wrist.

Though I had to admit it did look bad: two people in an office with something that wasn’t a person anymore, one with two guns and a knife, the other with a rusty sword, and both with NVGs pushed up on their foreheads. If I’d been the cops, I’d have thought we were up to no-good.

“Look at me,” I told the cop. “I only come up to your neck. Do you honestly think I could have done this?” I jerked my head toward Ian. “And him? I mean, he’s all lean and buff, but to do this? Get real.”

“Thanks, Mac,” Ian said.

“Just being helpful.”

“Do you think you can stop being helpful until we get a lawyer?”

My right foot picked that moment to slip on the blood-covered broken glass. I lost my balance and fell against the brick wall, crushing the contents of my messenger bag—and breaking the last bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

As the cop pulled me to my feet, the whiskey ran down my leg and into my boot.

A chittering came from downstairs that could have only been nachtgnome laughter. As the cops took us down the stairs, I saw the gnome dart out the now open door and into the night. Now the damned thing decided to leave.

I hoped the sewer gators won.

2

THE advantage to seeing a police interrogation room on TV rather than in real life was that you didn’t have to deal with the smell. My nose was telling me in no uncertain terms that this particular room had recently held a suspect who had serious personal hygiene issues—and had sat in the chair where I was now sitting. Though with the right leg of my jeans sopping wet with whiskey, I was in no position to cast stones.

The buzz of the double-strip fluorescent light directly over the lone table and two chairs was giving me a headache. It had to be some kind of pre-interrogation softening-up technique. Eventually suspects would probably admit to anything just to get out of here.

Right now, I’d settle for a change of clothes, or at least jeans.

I knew my rights. I didn’t have to answer a single question without a lawyer present. Yet there were only two chairs in the room: one for the suspect, and one for the detective. It was like they wanted you to think, “No chair for a lawyer, so no lawyer for you.”

Ian and I had been separated from the get-go. We’d been brought to the First Precinct in separate cars, and not allowed to talk to each other from the moment we’d been cuffed. Ian had been on the phone with SPI when we’d been arrested. Hopefully, they’d send a lawyer. Ian had been with SPI long enough to warrant legal assistance. I’d been there only a few months. I probably warranted being fired and booted to the nearest curb, seer or no seer.

While no one at SPI had ever specifically told me not to hunt Bavarian nachtgnomes on the side, I knew they’d frown on anything that resulted in one of their agents sitting in a NYPD interrogation room. Getting arrested while doing a little freelance work for a friend risked exposure, and exposure of the supernatural was one of the very things SPI had been established to prevent. What I had done tonight—and by association, Ian—wasn’t the problem. Getting caught was. In SPI’s opinion, the resulting risk of exposure was the same as if we’d being caught running na**d at high noon through Times Square in front of a church tour group from Alabama.

Ian and I had been seen, caught, and brought in for questioning by the mortal authorities in connection to a gory murder that had been perpetrated by something that in no way, shape, or form could have been human.

We hadn’t been charged with murder, but when the police get an anonymous call about a murder, and the officers dispatched to the scene find two armed people in the same room with a shredded third person, questioning was a given. The cops had to have arrived almost while the murder was happening. In my mind, that meant someone knew there was going to be a murder and wanted to make sure that the police all but walked in on it.

In my TV-viewing experience, detectives either stood for the small talk then sat in the chair across from the suspect for the questions they really needed answers to, or stood and walked around behind the suspect the entire time trying to throw them off balance. This guy looked like a sitter, not a pacer. Good. I was in no mood to spend however long I’d be here swiveling my head around like Linda Blair to keep track of the guy.

Detective Burton had introduced himself as soon as he’d come into the room and shut the door behind him. Polite, yet businesslike, he looked more like an accountant than a detective. He was on the short side with practical black-framed glasses, yet his dark eyes were sharp behind those lenses. People probably tended to underestimate him. I was determined not to be one of those people. I couldn’t see a third-string junior detective being assigned to question a suspect (or whatever they thought I was) in a murder where the victim probably had to be shoveled into a body bag. At the moment, he was making a show of reviewing what he apparently wanted me to believe was incriminating paperwork in a manila folder.

While I didn’t have to talk without a lawyer, I wanted to know who had called the police to report a murder that hadn’t happened yet. The trick was to find out if the police knew anything I didn’t while saying as little as possible, thus avoiding having my potentially soon-to-be-unemployed butt being kicked to the aforementioned curb.

Ian and I had been up those stairs within seconds of the slaughter. Two minutes later, the police had arrived. The math didn’t even begin to add up. I would’ve said that I smelled a setup, except no one knew I was going to be in Ollie’s shop except Ollie, Ian, and Sam. Maybe Ollie had gotten talkative to someone else, perhaps to the guy with the bug tattoo. Why bug tat guy had been in Ollie’s office, how he had gotten in, and why a monster had spread him all over the place like strawberry jelly then taken a couple of body parts for souvenirs, were more questions that needed answering.

Detective Burton closed the folder, lightly tossed it onto the table, and leaned back against the wall with the two-way glass, casually crossing his arms over his chest.

“Ms. Fraser, do you honestly expect me to believe that you and Mr. Byrne were in Barrington Galleries attempting to capture a rat?”

A cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. Good. I might get out of here before the buzzing light made me homicidal.

When dealing with small supernatural critters, the go-to answer for New York’s SPI field agents was “big rats.” Agency rule number one was to stick to the truth as much as possible.

“That’s what Ollie told me it was,” I said, sitting back and resisting the temptation to cross my own arms. Keep the body language non-defensive and not guilty. “That’s what we were looking for. Due to someone being murdered upstairs, we didn’t get to catch it. Though hopefully it ran out the front door when your boys left it standing wide open.”

Detective Burton’s sharp eyes narrowed.

Way to go, Mac. You probably just added an extra half hour to your fluorescent buzz torture. What happened to saying as little as possible?

“We have been trying to contact Mr. Barrington-Smythe to corroborate your statement, and to inform him of the crime that occurred on his property. However, we have yet to locate him. You wouldn’t happen to know where he is, would you?”

“No.”

I’d have put up with an entire night of a buzzing light if it meant getting Ollie alone for a very meaningful chat. I didn’t believe he’d known that his office was going to be redecorated with human body parts while I was gnome hunting downstairs. However, I knew that Ollie dealt with some unscrupulous people. Oliver Barrington-Smythe’s double-barreled surname was real enough, at least as real as Humphrey Collington or the five other aliases I knew about. And I’d bet my right to an attorney that Ollie could put a name to the hand with the bug tattoo.

“The officers on the scene reported that you and Mr. Byrne were found wearing state-of-the-art night vision goggles,” Detective Burton said. “And you had three bottles of Jack Daniel’s with you. One bottle was found empty, the other empty and then shattered as if it had been thrown, and the third was broken in the bag which was found on your person. Explain the high-tech gear and the whiskey.”

Ian and I had both been given breathalyzers when we were brought in and hadn’t blown a thing, so the obvious explanation of a whiskey-induced, NVG-enhanced party for two wouldn’t work. I didn’t have to answer, but these were questions I actually had answers for. I wasn’t guilty of anything, and a little cooperation might go a long way—or at least get me out of here faster.

“Part of a bottle was for the rat,” I said. “My grandma told me that rats like the smell of whiskey; must be the grain. The other two were for my New Year’s Eve party Saturday night. And rats don’t like light, hence the goggles.”

   
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