Chapter 1 – It Starts
Anita hated abandoned buildings like the refinery, they always seemed like they should be haunted. More often than not, all the machinery and other bits and pieces would be left behind making it seem like there should be people there still working, even when it’s been abandoned for years.
Seeing the crowd of cops up ahead, she did her best to put on her game face, it wouldn’t do for the people she worked with to think she was going soft. It was hard enough being a woman in a mans profession, if they started to think you couldn’t take it, then they’d really start dishing it out just to see how far you’ll go to reclaim your “tough guy” rep. She liked to think she was beyond that now, but she didn’t want to put that theory to the test if she didn’t have to, just in case she was wrong. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen on occasion. As she drew closer she saw Zerbrowski at the edge of the scene most likely waiting for her, she would never admit it, but is was nice seeing a friendly face. Even one wearing such an ugly tie.
“What the hell are you wearing Zerbrowski?” The thing looked like one of those old piano ties that someone had tried to destroy by dipping in paint thinner.
“What? You don’t like it, it’s the latest and greatest.” His shit eating grin firmly in place.
“Yeah I’m sure it is, does your wife know you’re wearing that eye sore in public. You know where other people can actually see you?” She loved his wife Katie, almost as much as he did.
“Yeah, but it was a gift from a relative so I get a pass to wear it just this once without her saying anything.” She didn’t say it out loud but she wondered if that relative might be losing their mind, just a little bit.
“So, what is so important that I had to drag my ass all the way down here from my day job?”
“Oh, don’t you worry your pretty little head Blake, this one is right in your wheel house.” With that final salvo, he turned and began to stride towards what she assumed was the crime scene. Leaving her to trail behind with her much shorter gait, pulling on her white gloves looking like a trainee. From the set of his shoulders she just knew he did it on purpose.
When she finally got a look at the poor bastard she was called in to see, all thoughts of inter-personal shenanigans fled her mind. She could only see half of him, sticking out of the huge pile of unprocessed salt in the center of the floor, but what she could see was skinned. Now she knew why they’d called her.
“Can I approach?”
“Yeah, tech guys are all done, he’s all yours.” She mumbled her thanks as she stepped closer, taking in all the subtle things she’d missed from further back.
“Blake, what have you got for me?” Normally she would have taken offense at the demanding tone that Dolf had taken to using with her lately, but the horror of what she was seeing pushed it back.
“He was a shifter.”
“How can you tell that from that?” Zerbrowski asked, he looked genuinely puzzled by her declaration. She could understand that, if someone else had said it after looking at what was essentially so much meat she would have been just as skeptical. Unfortunately she had solid proof to back her up, it was just proof she wished she didn’t have.
“Because, even with the salt doing its damage, you can see places where he had already started healing, or at least he tried to. That plus all the blood tells me that he was skinned and then most likely his face was held down in the salt until he suffocated.” Salt covering a body that was basically an open wound, not a good way to die.
“Ouch.” Glancing up at Zerbrowski she saw the same truth reflected in his eyes. Whoever had done this, was one sick bastard.
While Zerbrowski and Dolf slogged through the missing persons database, looking for someone who could be their victim, she went somewhere more likely to have their answer. The coalition was more likely to know about any recently missing shifters, most weren’t reported to the police for fear that their lycanthropy would be outed. That left most things handled in house, so to speak. Usually they wouldn’t talk to anyone about what was going on, but thankfully she had an in.
“Anita, what brings you by?” She couldn’t keep the grin off her face as she gazed into the preternatural eyes of her lover, well one of them anyway. He always did make her smile, the only one above him in the make her goofy category was Nathaniel.
“Good afternoon Micha, sorry to say this isn’t a social call.”
“I thought as much.” She stayed silent as she waited for the sting of his words to subside. It shouldn’t make her angry, he had a point after all, she never came here voluntarily. The only times she stepped foot through those doors since she finished helping to set it up, was when it was unavoidable for one reason or another. Normally, a bad reason. Still, it made her feel like she wasn’t doing enough, like maybe she wasn’t involved enough it his day to day life. That is what made her anger bubble up towards the surface.
Doing her best to swallow it back she decided that the best way to go would be to get down to business.
“We found a shifter today, I need to know if anyone’s missing.” She would push through with what she had to do, and hopefully everything else would sort itself out.
It took most of the day but they had identified the most likely shifter, and the M.E. now had a sample of his DNA to test against what they’d found. They wouldn’t know anything until the morning, so everyone was sent home for the night until they could pick it all back up again tomorrow.
She hated this part, scratch that, she hated this whole fucked up day. As she began to drag her overly tired ass home, she just knew that Nathaniel would be there waiting to coddle her after a hard days work. Some days she didn’t mind so much, but on nights like tonight, she was just too tired to give in gracefully. She just knew that she was going to end up snapping at him about something simple, which will make her feel like a complete ass, then she’ll spend the majority of the day tomorrow trying to come up with a good way to apologize to him. In short tonight was going to ruin the rest of her week, she just knew it.
Before she could get to her front door though, he phone began to ring. She thought about just letting it go to voicemail, she had done enough for everyone that day after all. The only person she hadn’t done anything for yet, was waiting for her behind that door probably holding a cup of coffee and waiting to ambush her with hugs and smother her with understanding. It wasn’t until she saw the name on her called I.D. that she reluctantly decided to pick up. Marianne hadn’t done anything to deserve her cold shoulder, and as one of her few friends she tried not to alienate her if at all possible.
“Marianne, what a surprise. What has you calling so late?” She tried to sound cheerful, or at least happy to hear from her, but as late as it was and as tired as she was non-hostile was about as much as she could manage. Oh well, as her sometimes friend, Marianne knew the score, she wouldn’t take it personally she knew.
“Anita!” She sounded breathless, almost frightened. “It’s so much bigger than it seems Anita, so much worse.”
“What is? Come on talk to me.” When a witch who could see the future sounded this afraid, especially one as calm and collected as Marianne, you sit up and pay attention.
“That shifter you found today, he’s just one piece Anita. Just one piece of a bigger puzzle. I’ve seen it Anita, I’ve seen what’s coming, you have to stop it. You have to save us from her wrath.”