Turned / Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven


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New York Homicide detective Grace O'Reilly opened the doors to Carnegie Hall and knew right away that it was going to be bad. She had seen the press out of control before, but never anything like this. Reporters were 10 deep, and unusually aggressive.

"Detective!"

They screamed for her repeatedly as she entered, the room filling with flashes.

As Grace and her detectives cut through the lobby, the reporters barely give an inch. At 40, muscular and hardened, with short black and hair and matching eyes, Grace was tough, and used to pushing her way through. But this time, it was not easy. The reporters knew it was a huge story, and they weren't going to give. This was going to make life much harder.

A young, international star murdered at the height of his fame and power. Right in the middle of Carnegie Hall and right in the middle of his American debut. The press had been here regardless, ready to cover the debut. Without even the slightest hiccup, the news of this performance was going to splash across the newspaper pages in every country in the world. If he had merely tripped, or fell, or sprained his ankle, the story would have been bumped up to Page 1.

And now this. Murdered. In the middle of his goddamn performance. Right in the hall where he sang just minutes before. It was just too much. The press had grabbed this one by the throat and they would not let it go.

Several reporters shoved microphones into her face.

"Detective Grant! There are reports that Sergei was killed by a wild animal. Is that true?"

She ignored them as she elbowed her way past.

"Why wasn't there better security inside of Carnegie Hall, detective?" asked another reporter.

Another reporter yelled, "There are reports that this was a serial killer. They're dubbing him the 'Beethoven Butcher.' Do you have any comment?"

As she reached the back of the room, she turned and faced them.

The crowd grew silent.

"Beethoven Butcher?" she repeated. "Can't they do better than that?"

Before they could ask another question, she abruptly exited the room.

Grace wound her way up the back staircase of Carnegie Hall, flanked by her detectives, who kept feeding her information as she went. The truth was, she was barely listening. She was tired. She had just turned 40 last week, and she knew she shouldn't be this tired. But the long, March nights had gotten to her, and she needed some rest. This was the third murder this month, not counting the suicides. She wanted warm weather, some greenery, some soft sand beneath her feet. She wanted a place where no one murdered anyone, where they didn't even think of suicide. She wanted a different life.

She checked her watch as she entered the corridor leading to backstage. 1 A.M.. Without having to look, she could already tell the crime scene was soiled. Why hadn't they called her here earlier?

She should have married, like her mother told her to, at 30. She'd had someone. He wasn't perfect, but he could have done. But she had held onto her career, like her father. It was what she thought her father wanted. Now her father was dead, and she never really found out what he wanted. And she was tired. And alone.

"No witnesses," snapped one of the detectives walking beside her. "Forensics say it happened sometime between 10:15 and 10:28 P.M. Not much signs of a struggle."

Grace didn't like this crime scene. There were way too many people involved, already and too many people had gotten here before her. Every move she made would be on display. And no matter what great investigative work she did, the credit would end up being stolen by someone else. There were just too many departments involved, which meant too much politics.

She finally brushed past the rest of the reporters, and entered the taped off area, reserved for only the elite officers. As she headed down the next hallway, things finally quieted down. She could think again.

The door to his dressing room stood slightly ajar. She reached up, donned a latex glove, and gently nudged it open the rest of the way.

She had seen it all in her 20 years as a cop. She'd seen people murdered in just about every possible way, even ways she could not have come up with in her worst nightmares. But she had never seen anything like this.

Not because it was particularly bloody. Not because some horrific violence had taken place. It was something else. Something surreal. It was too quiet. Everything was in perfect place. Except, of course, for the body. He sat slumped backwards in his chair, his neck exposed. And there, under the light, were two perfect holes, right in his jugular vein.

No blood. No signs of struggle. No torn clothing. Nothing else out of place. It was as if a bat had descended, sucked his blood perfectly clean, then flew away, without touching anything else. It was eerie. And outright terrifying. If his skin hadn't turned completely white, she would have thought he was still alive, just taking a nap. She even felt tempted to go over and feel his pulse. But she knew that would be stupid.

Sergei Rakov. He was young. And from what she'd heard, he'd been an arrogant prick. Could he already have had enemies?

What in hell could have done this? She wondered. An animal? A person? A new sort of weapon? Or had he done it to himself?

"The angle of attack rules out suicide," Detective Ramos said, standing at her side with his notepad and, as always, reading her mind.

"I want everything you have on him," she said. "I want to know who he owed money to. I want to know who his enemies were - I want to know his ex-girlfriends, his future wives. I want it all. He may have pissed the wrong people off."

"Yes, mam," he said, and hurried from the room.

Why would they pick this exact time to murder him? Why intermission? Were they sending some sort of message?

She walked slowly in the heavily carpeted room, circling, looking at him from every possible angle. He had long, black wavy hair, and was strikingly attractive, even in death. What a waste.

At that moment, a sudden noise filled the room. All the officers turned at once. They looked up, and saw that the small TV in the corner had lit up. It played footage of the night's performance. Beethoven's Ninth filled the room.

One of the detectives approached the TV to turn it off.

"Don't," she said.

The detective stopped in mid-stride.

"I want to hear it."

She stood there, staring at Sergei, as his voice filled the room. His voice that had been alive only hours before. It was eerie.

Grace circled the room once more. This time she kneeled.

"We've already been over this room, detective," the FBI agent said, impatient.

She spotted something out of the corner of her eye. She reached down, far beneath one of the slick armchairs. She craned her neck and twisted her arm, and reached all the way under.

She finally found what she was looking for. She stood, red-faced, and held up a small piece of paper.

All of the other detectives stared back.

"A ticket stub," she said, examining it with her gloved hand. "Mezzanine Right, seat 3. From tonight's concert."

She looked up and stared hard at all of her detectives, who stared blankly back.

"You think it belonged to the killer?" one of the masked.

"Well, one thing I know," she said, taking one final look at the dead, Russian opera star. "It didn't belong to him."

*

Kyle walked down the red carpeted hallways, strutting through the thick crowd. He was annoyed, as usual. He hated crowds, and he hated Carnegie Hall. He had been to a concert here once, in the 1890s, and it had not gone well. He did not release a grudge easily.

As he marched down the hall, the high collars of his black tunic covering his neck and framing his face, people made way for him. Officers, security guards, press agents  -  the entire crowd parted ways.

Humans are too easy to control, he thought. The slightest bit of mindbending, and they scurry out of the way like sheep.

A vampire of the Blacktide Coven, Kyle had seen it all in his 3,000 plus years. He had been there when they killed Christ. He had witnessed the French Revolution. He had watched smallpox spread across Europe - and had even helped it spread. There was nothing left that could surprise them.

But this night surprised him. And he did not like to be surprised.

Normally, he would just let his usual, imposing presence speak for itself, and push his way through the crowd. Despite his years, he looked young and handsome, and people usually gave way. But he had no patience for that tonight, especially given the circumstances. He had burning questions left unanswered.

What sort of rogue vampire would be so audacious as to openly kill a human? Would choose to do so in such a public way, leaving no other possibility but for the body to be found? It went against every rule of their race. Whether you were on the good or bad side of that race, it was one line you did not cross. No one wanted that sort of attention drawn to the race. It was a breach of their creed that guaranteed only one punishment: death. A long, torturous death.

Who would be so bold to attempt such a thing? To draw so much unwanted attention from the press, the politicians, the police? And worse, to do so in his coven's territory? It made his coven look bad - worse than bad. It made them look defenseless. The entire vampire race would convene and hold them to account. And if they didn't find this rogue, it could mean an outright war. War at a time when they could not afford to have one, at just the moment they were about to execute their master plan.

Kyle walked past a female police detective, and she bumped him pretty hard. To top it off, she turned and stared at him. He was surprised. No other human in this crowd had the force of will to even take notice of him. She must be stronger than the others. Either that, or he was getting sloppy.

He doubled his mind strength, directing it right at her. She finally she shook her head, turned, and kept walking. He would have to take note of her. He looked down and saw her nameplate. Detective Grace Grant. She might end up being a problem.

Kyle continued down the hall, brushing past more reporters, past the tape, and finally past a new flock of FBI agents. He made his way to the ajar door, and looked inside. The room was filled with several more FBI agents. There was also a man in an expensive suit. From his shifting, ambitious eyes, Kyle guessed he was a politician.

"The Russian Embassy is not pleased," he snapped to the FBI agent in charge. "You realize that this is not just a matter for the New York police, or just for the American government. Sergei was a star among our national vocalists. His murder must be interpreted as an offense upon our country  - "

Kyle held up his palm, and using his force of will, closed the politician's mouth. He hated listening to politicians speak, and he had heard more than enough from this one. He hated Russians, too. He hated most things, actually. But tonight, his hatred rose to a new level. His impatience was getting the best of him.

No one in the room seemed to realize that Kyle closed the politician's mouth, even the politician himself. Or perhaps they were thankful. In any case, Kyle stepped to the side, and used his mind power to suggest that everyone leave the room.

"I say that we all take a coffee break for a few minutes," the FBI agent in charge suddenly said. "Clear our heads a bit."

The crowd nodded in agreement and quickly fled from the room, as if that were the most natural thing to do. As one final step, Kyle had them close the door behind themselves. He hated the sound of human voices, and especially did not want to hear them now.

Kyle breathe deeply. Finally alone, he could let his thoughts settle entirely on this human. He went up close and pulled back Sergei's collar, revealing the bite marks. Kyle reached up and placed two pale, cold fingers over them. He held them up and took note of the distance between them.

A smaller bitespan than he would have guessed. It's a she. The rogue vampire was female. And young. The teeth were not that deep.

He placed his fingers back over the bite and closed his eyes. He tried to feel the nature of the blood, the nature of the vampire that did the biting. Finally, he opened his eyes wide in shock. He withdrew his fingers quickly. He did not like what he felt. He couldn't recognize it. It was definitely a rogue vampire. Not of his clan, or of any Clan he knew. More troubling, he could not detect what breed of vampire she was at all. In his 3,000 years, this had never happened to him before.

He raised his fingers, and tasted them. Her scent overwhelmed him. Usually, that would be enough - he'd know exactly where to find her. But still, he was at a loss. Something was obscuring his vision.

He frowned. They would have no choice in this case. They would have to rely on the human police to find her. His superiors would not be pleased.

Kyle was even more annoyed than before, if possible. He stared at Sergei, and debated what to do with him. In a few hours' time he would awake, another clan-less vampire on the loose. He could kill him right now, for good, and get it over with. He would actually quite enjoy that. The vampire race hardly needed a new addition.

But that would be granting Sergei a great gift. He would not have to suffer immortality, suffer thousands of years of survival and despair. Of endless nights. No, that would be too kind. Instead, why not make Sergei suffer along with him?

He thought about it. An opera singer. Yes. His coven would quite enjoy that. This little, Russian boy could entertain them whenever they felt like it. He would bring him back. Convert him. And have yet another minion at his disposal.

Plus, Sergei could help them find her. Her scent now ran in his blood. He could lead them to her. And then they would make her suffer.


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