Vampire Detective Midnight #3
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Nick swore he’d never bite her. He swore he’d never make her addicted to his blood.
An explosion rocks a famous building in Manhattan, blowing out whole floors, panicking the city. It looks like a robbery gone wrong, but no one knows what they tried to steal, or if they went there to commit murder.
Nick has no leads––just a dead human, and the dead human’s partner, the city’s star designer and architect, an eccentric vampire named Straven.
He’s also got Malek, a prescient seer who paints the future, and who desperately wants to warn Nick about this case. Unfortunately, Mal is strange as hell, cryptic to the point of maddening, and doesn’t understand his own painting well enough to explain it to Nick.
None of that bothers Nick as much as Wynter, though, who he misses to the point of physical pain. After everything that happened with the kid and Archangel, Nick forced himself to break things off with the woman he loves. He did it to keep her safe and out of prison, or enslaved by Archangel technologies. Most of all, he did it to keep her safe from him, and the fact that seers become addicted to vampire venom.
When Wynter shows up at a hip vampire club where Nick’s interviewing suspects, he about loses his mind. Not only is it hard as hell to see her, but Wynter doesn’t walk in alone.
She’s there on a date, with her new vampire boyfriend.
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The lanky human with the blond and brown-streaked hair grinned, yanking down on the old-fashioned, L-shaped handle after his hand-held, semi-organic computer lit up.
The smooth motion confirmed the meaning of the loud click he’d heard when the electronic combination clicked into place.
The lock was disengaged.
Yanking open the safe’s thick door, he glanced back at the woman who knelt on the floor behind him. He watched her eyes narrow in concentration as she stared down at the face of a man sprawled on the carpet, his body motionless apart from the flicker of lights coming off his hyper-modern virtually-enhanced suit.
In contrast to the man’s dead-eyed stare up at the ceiling, his suit swam with distracting and disjointed flashes, images and lights that morphed and changed every instant, glowing and sparking in the dim space of the corner office on the eighty-eighth floor.
“You got it?” he asked her.
He aimed his eyes back towards the contents of the safe as he spoke.
“Working on it,” she muttered, without looking up.
She held a second organic machine over the face of the man on the floor.
Her metallic silver dreads were pulled out of her face in a long ponytail, making her features appear even more severe than usual. He couldn’t help smiling at the intensity in her dark brown eyes as she stared down at the body below her.
She was beautiful.
His fierce, feral, smart as fuck, utterly badass goddess.
He got off on watching her work, but he didn’t have time for much of that tonight, not in more than glances and brief looks.
He watched her run the scanner over the dead man’s face, then the length of his torso.
“Don’t forget the blood sample,” he reminded her. “Or the fingerprints.”
She gave him a flat look, one that made him grin.
“Really, husband?” she said.
When he chuckled, she jerked her chin towards the safe.
“Look for the damned thing, will you?” she said. “We need to get the hell out of here.”
“We’re good, baby… we’re good,” he assured her, checking his timepiece. “Four and a half minutes ahead of schedule.”
“We’re not past the anti-terrorism measures on the ground floor,” she reminded him. “Those damned things will be switched on by now––”
“Don’t worry, baby. Don’t worry,” he assured her.
He’d turned back to the safe, and began pulling out the contents.
The sheer variety was something.
Paper documents from before the war.
Schematics that looked more recent, probably only put down in hard copy to keep them off the network prior to patent.
What looked like machine part prototypes.
The safe held over a dozen of those, but none matched the image he’d been provided by the client. He held each one up to the light to be sure, only eliminating them after he’d snapped an image with his headset and run the object-rec program to assess them formally.
None met the specs for what he’d been tasked to find.
Just to be on the safe side, he stuffed most of those that fit the rough dimensions of the tasked object into his pockets anyway.
He whistled a little under his breath when he saw the names on some of the original stocks and deeds making up the stacks of dead-tree papers shoved against three of the safe’s walls. He even saw a small stack of Archangel stock, which was probably worth more than this whole damned building, all on its own.
“Well?” she said, still focused down on the man’s body. “What are you grinning about?”
“The jackpot, honey––”
“The client’s jackpot?” she clarified sourly. “Because we need to start there, Tig.”
“A jackpot for us,” he said, winking at her. “Can’t I multi-task?”
“Sure,” she said sarcastically. “Multi-task away. But do the fucking job first, Tig,” she said, emphasizing the word tartly. “They won’t pay us the rest, if we don’t get what we came for. I’m doing my half. We need yours to get the full payout. Their contact made it pretty clear we wouldn’t get shit if we didn’t bring them both.”
“Don’t worry, baby,” he said, pulling out a black box that sat in the back of the safe cavity, under all the papers. “It’s here. It has to be.”
He brought the locked box over to the modern, semi-organic desk.
Like the man’s suit, the desk flickered with internal life, sparking up and down its legs and the enormous, flat, living monitor that made up its dining table-sized surface. The whole thing was a translucent, pale green with thread-like veins, almost like it was part plant.
He wondered if it ran off photosynthesis, like a tree.
It would explain all the windows in here.
Placing the box carefully on top of the massive desk, he began examining it.
Unlike the table, it was matte black, featureless apart from a flat silver disk on one side. The perfect, rectangular shape looked almost like it was made of some dense stone.
Tig tried touching the silver pad, swiping it with his fingers, tapping it, pressing on it, running his scanner over it, hitting it with a jolt of electricity.
As far as he could tell, nothing had any effect.
After examining it for a few seconds more, he picked it up, bringing it over to his partner, and the body she crouched beside.
“I think we’ll need his fingerprints to open this thing,” he said when she looked up. “See if any of them work on the pad.”
Glancing up at him, she frowned delicately, then nodded, stopping her scanning long enough to take the box from his gloved hands.
Going back and forth on which hand to use, she glanced up at him.
He knew her well enough to know what she was asking him.
“Is this one right-handed?” he said.
“Left,” she said, prompt. “They said left for this one, right?”
“I think so.” Tig checked the job specs in his headset. “Yes. Left.”
Getting up from the carpet, she walked around to the other side of the body and knelt by the dead man’s left hand.
He followed her, crouching down beside her.
Looking at the mirrored, silver plate on one side of the box, she touched it with her fingers, tentatively at first, trying to elicit a reaction, just like he had. When it did nothing, she looked between the dead man’s hand and the box.
He watched her try to decide which finger to use.
He understood her caution, and appreciated it.
Some of these lock-boxes had built-in defense mechanisms.
Get the wrong finger, and they shut down altogether.
Then you needed specialized equipment to pry them open––equipment he and his lady hadn’t brought with them for the job. Not bringing that equipment hadn’t been an oversight. They discussed it, then decided they didn’t want the extra weight in case they had to leave down the outside of the building.
That equipment was too expensive to buy for just one job.
It was definitely too expensive to ditch due to a bad exit.
For the same reasons, they didn’t have it back at the garage, either.
They’d have to hope the client had it.
They’d have to hope they’d be willing to pay for it, if they didn’t.
They’d have to hope they wouldn’t be a dick about it, in either case.
“What if we try the thumb?” his wife suggested. “The pad looks too big to be for one of the other fingers. I say thumb or heel of the hand.”
He nodded, agreeing with her.
“Thumb,” he said, after peering again at the silver mirror. “It’s too small for the heel. He’s got big hands.”
Her lips pursed as she looked at the man’s thick, muscular hand.
Then she nodded.
“Okay. Agreed. Let’s do it.”
Tig slid closer, so he could maneuver the hand while she held the box.
Picking up the human’s dead fingers, he positioned the thumb over the slight indentation in the silver disk, sliding closer to her on the carpet, and closer to the organic-metal box she held now in both hands.
Double-checking that he had everything lined up right, Tig hesitated, glancing at his partner, who was watching everything he did minutely.
“Look right to you?” he said.
She nodded. “Looks good.”
“Well,” he said, exhaling. “Here goes nothing.”
He pressed the thumb onto the silver disc.
Previously invisible veins in the matte black material lit up, pale greens and blue that grew brighter as the pad continued to scan the dead man’s thumb.
The thief grinned, glancing at his wife holding the box.
“It’s working!” he said gleefully. “They don’t do shit when you have the wrong finger––”
“Wait!” she said, holding up one hand. “What’s it doing now?”
The lights on the box changed.
They began flashing erratically…
Right before colors shifted.
They went from that softer green and blue to yellow… then to orange.
Then to red.
“What the fuck?” he said, frowning down at it. “Could it know he’s dead?”
He glanced at the woman’s dark brown eyes, those beautiful brown eyes he could get lost in, even in the middle of a job…
But she never got a chance to answer.
* * *
The cop left the lights on top of his black and white flashing as he got out of the car.
He saw the revolving glass door at the front of the office building in front of him spin open, ejecting a security guard out the front of the building.
An older, stocky Latino man, the guard huffed a little as he made his way quickly across the decorative garden separating the street from the office park and the three main buildings making up the complex.
He looked like he’d gained weight since he’d gotten the job. The buttons across the front of the uniform were working overtime, pulling at the fabric.
“Hey!” the cop called out. “You get a breach alarm?”
“That was us,” the guard confirmed, still a little out of breath. “The eighty-eighth floor. Building 1. The executive suites––”
“Okay, we’ve got backup coming,” the cop said, sending a signal through his headset. “Is anyone up there? Anyone working this late?”
The guard nodded. “Mr. Silverton is here. He’s up in his office––”
“Silverton?” The cop’s eyebrows went up. “Abe Silverton?”
The guard nodded. “He always works late nights before a big product launch.”
The cop nodded, but transmitted the information through his headset even as he spoke to the other man.
“You tried to reach him up there?” the cop said. “To get him out?”
The guard nodded.
His expression bordered on impatient now.
“Of course. I called him first. He didn’t pick up. That’s when I hit the alarm, and notified building security.” His voice grew a touch sharper. “That was fifteen minutes ago.”
Hearing the reproach there, the cop chose to ignore it.
“All right,” he said. “Show me the surveillance you’ve got on––”
Before he could finish, a loud, crashing BOOM erupted overhead.
The cop dropped in reflex, bending his knees.
He looked up in time to see an explosion burst out windows on the nearest side of the building, high up above the sidewalk. Fire plumed out the opening in a shocking burst, bright against the night sky.
Despite the height of the flames, the force shook the ground under his feet.
When the explosion continued, building as it went, he and the security guard dropped lower, staring up from where they crouched on the walkway.
The way the other man moved, despite his age and relative lack of physical fitness, the cop couldn’t help thinking the guard had probably seen combat at one point, too, just like he had. The old man dropped fast, despite the weight he’d gained in the time since, and how bad his breathing sounded.
When another big explosion ignited above, both of them moved again in pure reflex, knees bending as they covered their heads, the cop gripping his uniform’s headset and protective headgear as he looked up, staring in the direction of the sound.
The security guard stared up with him.
They watched the expanding mushroom cloud of fire light up the night sky.
The explosion didn’t seem to want to stop.
As the cop watched, it continued to erupt in smaller booms, blowing out windows all along the side of the building.
The cop could only watch it happen, half-frozen in shock.
Glass blew out in a third, then a fourth larger explosion, only that time, it also blew out bigger pieces of debris. Both rained down the side of the steel structure, coming seemingly from the very top floor of the ninety-story building.
Then the cop realized where it was falling, the angle of the arc of glass.
It was coming down, straight for them.
His heart leapt to his throat.
“MOVE!” he shouted, waving a hand towards the building as he raised his voice over the deafening sound. “GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
He and the guard pulled themselves ungracefully to their feet.
They ran for the eaves of the building.
Glass rained down around them as they ran, nicking the cop’s face and the back of his neck, hitting his head, uniform, helmet, making him curse even as he flinched from louder booms going off overhead. The noise grew deafening as debris and office equipment rained down around them, smashing into the cement behind them and to either side.
The cop couldn’t help noticing the other man moved a hell of a lot faster going towards the building than he had jogging out of it. They got under the protection of the building’s eaves as even more glass, metal and equipment rained down.
By then the cop heard sirens, even behind the crash of falling debris.
From nearer, he also heard the buzz of media and military drones.
Crouching in an alcove of reinforced organic beams and transparent panes, he gaped up, seeing the reflection of the still-pluming fire in the windows of the adjacent tower. Despite being in relative shelter, he still gripped his uniform helmet in his hand as he stared up, flinching at smaller, subsequent explosions that followed the first.
They were damned lucky to be alive.
Both of them.
The ground trembled under him, but he barely noticed now.
The building trembled even more, behind his back and where his hands gripped the smooth beam between windows.
He stared up, lost in disbelief as the whole floor seemed to be engulfed in flames.
That sideways column of fire continued to pour out of the opening the explosion created in the wall, along with a massive cloud of black smoke.
Chatter exploded in his headset, but for a long-feeling few seconds, the cop couldn’t make himself focus on it, or make sense of the words.
He could only stare at that giant rosette of flames, watching them punch a hole in the night sky, illuminating everything in their path.
It felt like being back in the war.
It felt like someone had just declared war.