Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(9)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(9)
Author: Lisa Shearin

That was about as clear as mud.

Sagadraco perched on the edge of her desk. “The letter was unsigned, but the envelope had a wax seal—stamped with a scarab.”

I looked up from the letter. “Like the dead man in Ollie’s office.”

“Exactly.”

That made no sense. “But wouldn’t that mean that the dead guy worked for whoever wrote the letter? Who claims to be in control of the monsters?”

“It temporarily confuses matters,” Sagadraco admitted, “but I suspect there was a reason. Dr. Evans has theorized that the derisive reference to humans and the mention of ‘their own literature’ indicates that our adversary either isn’t human, or believes him- or herself to be vastly superior, holding all others in contempt. Or both.”

“Dr. Evans?” I asked.

“Our staff criminal psychologist,” Sagadraco replied. “He believes that this individual will communicate again with us very soon; the megalomania evident in the letter will not allow them to remain silent for long.” Her eyes glittered. “We will not wait for the next communication; and we will do everything in our power to prevent these monsters from killing again. I have our researchers compiling a list of creatures featured in literature capable of tearing off a man’s head and limbs. And our contacts in the city medical examiner’s office will let us know if anything was found with tonight’s victim that may assist us.”

I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t had a clear look at the scarab tattoo. I’d had to move something out of the way first—something I’d stuck in my coat pocket.

I jumped up and almost ran across the office to the coat-rack. “I think I can help. That is, if the police didn’t take it when they searched me.” I fumbled around in my right pocket until I found the wadded up Kleenex with the hair. Now that I knew what it probably belonged to, I extracted it with two fingers, not really wanting to touch it at all. If the police had come across it, they’d left it right where they found it. I didn’t blame them in the least.

“I don’t think you want to handle this,” I told the boss, “or have it on your desk. Do you have a piece of paper I could put it on?”

Vivienne Sagadraco pulled a sheet of paper out of the printer behind her desk. I quickly put the hair and Kleenex on top, glad to get rid of it.

Ian came over as the boss took a pencil and peeled back the tissue, exposing the hair.

“It looks like a big dreadlock,” Ian said, “made of wire.”

“It’s softer than it looks,” I told him, “though not by much.”

“Where did you find this?” Sagadraco asked me.

“Clutched in the hand of the man killed in Ollie’s office. The hair was wrapped around two of his fingers. I was thinking he might have pulled it out of the monster during the struggle.” I paused uneasily. “Or what there was of it. I had to move it to get a good look at the tattoo.”

Ian scowled. “After I’d told you not to touch anything.”

I flashed him a smile. “Nope, I did it before. And with the cops barging in seconds later, it’s a good thing I did.”

“This time.”

Sagadraco leaned in closer to study the hair, close enough that the snout of her dragon aura hovered directly above it. When it came to sensitive schnozes, dragons ranked right up there with werewolves. She sniffed almost delicately, taking in its scent, then her human face twisted in disgust.

“I’ll send the sample down to the lab for analysis,” she said, “but I think we can safely deduce that it came from the creature that attacked our John Doe. Its scent is . . . most potent and distinctive.”

Ian put the letter back on Sagadraco’s desk. “Kanil was killed last night. John Doe tonight. From the contents of that letter, he—or she—has something extra special planned for New Year’s Eve.”

“Do you remember the siren infestation during Fleet Week two years ago, Agent Byrne?”

Ian went back to his chair and sat. “Yes, ma’am. That was a tough one to cover up. Though it helped that a lot of those sailors were drunk.”

“Yes. It did. Unfortunately, three days from now, the television cameras and the world’s communication technology will be intensely focused on this city.”

New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Oh hell.

In less than forty-eight hours, New York would play host to the world’s largest and loudest party. A million people there and billions more watching. I’d moved to New York in November of last year. I’d made a couple of friends by New Year’s, and they said that everyone should do the Times Square New Year’s Eve thing at least once. So I’d gone, and had subsequently filed the experience under “never do that again.” I liked people, but I didn’t like being in the middle of that many people. I couldn’t imagine a pair of ten-foot monsters rampaging through that crowd. What the monsters didn’t kill, the resulting panic and stampede could.

It would be the perfect coming-out party for a pair of monsters—and the undisputed end of hiding the supernatural from the world’s population.

“Ma’am, I know this probably goes against agency policy,” I ventured, “but shouldn’t we notify someone? Like the army, navy, air force, and marines?”

“And tell them what? That a pair of literary monsters have been loosed on the city and will slaughter dozens, possibly hundreds packed together the way they will be in Times Square, during the night when the world’s eyes are upon us? Which authority do you think will believe such a scenario, Agent Fraser?”

My silence was her answer.

“Precisely. Even if they believed that there was a threat, they aren’t qualified to locate these creatures—or to deal with the one who released them. We are qualified and we will deal with those responsible. Whoever is behind this is probably providing another type of concealment for them. A veil of some kind would be most likely. A person who is powerful enough to control such creatures has more than enough talent in the magical arts to conceal them from the view of our agents.”

Monsters concealed from view. It sounded like I was about to be drafted. It made me question just how important a 401k was to me. I didn’t have a choice though.

“But first, I require your and Agent Byrne’s assistance in an even more pressing matter. We must discover the mastermind’s identity and location with the utmost speed. At the moment our only link to this person is the man who was killed in Oliver Barrington-Smythe’s office—a person who had a photo of you that had been taken in a supposedly secure location. That detail does not make me happy. This man had your photo and was in that office for a reason. I want to know what that reason was, and I want to know if Mr. Barrington-Smythe has any connection to the murder of one of my people.” Her eyes narrowed. “He is your source, Agent Fraser. Find him. If we know that there is a connection between the two of you, so does our adversary. You must find Barrington-Smythe first and discover what he knows. And if you cannot obtain that information from him”—she smiled in a baring of teeth—“bring him to me. Dismissed.”

4

A hot shower and an even hotter cup of coffee didn’t change how I felt about having to find two monsters capable of tearing a man to pieces. I was only marginally less enthused about having to hunt Ollie to the ends of the earth—or at least the five boroughs.

I got dressed, wolfed down a stale doughnut in the break room, snagged another doughnut and cup of coffee to take with me, and met Ian in the bull pen.

It was a little before six in the morning according to the clock labeled “New York” on the bull pen wall. We had clocks for every other major city and time zone around the world. If you were tracking a monster that got up when the sun went down, I could see why it’d be a good idea to know exactly what time it was. Here in headquarters, it was time for the shift change; yet there was no shifting or changing going on. No one was going anywhere. I had a feeling the next few days were going to be all hands on deck.

Ian and Yasha Kazakov were intent on a bank of computer screens in the corner of the room.

Yasha was one of SPI’s drivers and trackers. In a city where at any given time there were more supernatural baddies than available parking spaces, having a reliable drop-off and pick-up guy was a necessity. Even better was one who had no problem with turning a rampaging monster into a hood ornament. And should a simple collar turn into a cluster, Yasha was always more than happy to take the fight beyond the driver’s seat—especially during the full moon.

Yasha Kazakov was a werewolf.

Even if a person was using a spell to mask their true identity, my seer vision gave me a sneak peek of what they had going on supernaturalwise. In Yasha’s case, it was like a large, furry, red-haired aura. I had seen a few werewolves before coming to New York, so it wasn’t that much of a shock. The majority of werewolves had more control than people gave them credit for. At ninety-six years old, Yasha had had plenty of time to practice. There were two werewolf packs: one in Manhattan and another in the outer boroughs. Yasha wasn’t a member of either one. He considered SPI his pack.

Older werewolves could change when they wanted to, but all werewolves, regardless of age, changed on the night of the full moon. Werewolves at SPI automatically got three days a month off: the day before, the day of, and the day after a full moon. Though some missions went better and got resolved faster when you had an irate werewolf on your team. Most supernatural baddies surrendered on the spot to keep from having a full-moon–crazed werewolf, who could do zero to sixty in six strides, turned loose on them.

But on those occasions when the moon was full, a werewolf agent was needed, and chances were high that the public might accidentally get a glimpse, SPI’s Research and Development department had come up with a disguise for “that time of the month.” Mood swings, cravings, anger, and irritability—trust me, you ain’t seen cranky until you’ve seen a werewolf trying to force down their natural inclinations during a full moon.

   
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