Brian seemed to be slipping. He’d called up to tell Maxim of the interviewee’s arrival only about twenty seconds before the elevator had dinged, which barely gave Maxim the time to refresh his memory in regard to her name.
Heath had left a file on his desk titled Interviews, and Maxim had complained at the sheer lack of imagination that was obvious in that title. Heath had used magic marker to write it, though, and Maxim had wondered, out loud, if Heath had missed the developmental stage crayons were clearly meant for. Upon which Heath had broken into verbiage that came odorously dripping from the verbiage gutter. Heath had informed him that he, Maxim, best not pull any of this bodily refuse with the artsy people. They were, after all, artsy people and not likely to enjoy such shenanigans, at least if Heath’s soliloquy was to be believed. It was a shame the creativity he had displayed in his colorful speech had not translated into the simplistic title of the file that had sparked it.
“Robyn with a y,” Maxim mumbled to himself as he walked toward the elevators. “Y, y, y… Why would whiskey-vending witches want vigor with their witchy wits?” He pushed a strand of his hair back behind his shoulder and put on a smile. He could smell the interviewee even before he saw her, some perfume he didn’t know, light and floral, forgettable as Valentine’s Days spent alone. The scent underneath that was sunshine-warmed skin, a slight note of crushed cardamom pods. A shame to hide that with such perfume.
When Maxim laid eyes on the interviewee, he could feel his pupils spill black, and he immediately understood why Brian had taken so long to pick up the phone. Robyn with a y Somerton was gorgeous, though very much on the skinny side, always something that made Maxim’s memories of hunger float back to the surface of his mind, no matter how long ago that had been. Her hair was dark and wonderful, lush ebony, and her gray eyes and pale skin made her deep purple dress look even better on her. But damn it, he had promised Heath.
“Miss Somerton, thanks for coming in for the interview. My name is Maxim Vallois. I believe you talked to my assistant over the phone?” Now, there’s some perfect manners for you right there, Heath. If only that dhampire brat were here to see it.
The shock on her face at seeing Maxim and realizing what he was would have been amusing, should have been amusing, but for the first time in decades, Maxim felt futile fury at the reaction rise inside of him. She did go a shade paler, though, which was pretty.
“Y-yes. About the curator position?” she said, catching herself rather quickly and reining her expression back into normal. Maxim liked her voice. It was calm, not shrill. Heath sometimes brought home shrill, and that was usually headache inducing, rhetorically speaking. Maxim did not actually get headaches.
“Certainly. Please, come in.” Part of him wondered whether she would run. She was wearing terrible heels for that, and because he cared and paid attention, Maxim was pretty sure she was already headed for at least one blister on her left heel. Maxim had never understood heels, nor foot binding. He had understood what it said about having power over women, but he’d loathed that, loathed that society made it necessary for women to give that power.
Not the time to wax philosophical, Maxim reminded himself. Heath, if he were here and not away doing something that had to do with banks and money, would have been seething in the acid of his own glaring stares already. Stares glare glistening staffs of seeping solace. Not my best one, Maxim thought.
Robyn with a y came forward. Clearly she had decided running would be stupid. Mmh, Heath. Did you get me a final girl? Maxim filed that as a nice line for later. When he would tell Heath he wanted Robyn with a y. He wasn’t even sure why. It sure as bodily refuse wasn’t the cheap perfume, and it wasn’t the mildly scrawny look that Maxim found mildly headache inducing. Perhaps it was that stare of not quite fear but close enough to fear. Or lust at first sight? Who knows. Whatever the why, Maxim wanted her.
Of course Maxim couldn’t just spring this on Y Robyn. It would sound as if he were planning to make her a plaything, something Maxim knew good and well vampires did. He could go off on a whole other tangent about that nasty habit. He had to at least give Y Robyn the impression she had won the job, and of course he needed to be able to tell Heath as well, so he led her to the cluttered table he had lovingly prepared for the magic marker interview.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Y Robyn said when he shook her hand. “You know how fickle the subway can be.”
“I don’t, actually. But it’s no trouble. This way.” He made a mental note of checking out the subway. It might be fun, ethnologically speaking.
When Y Robyn saw his table, she summed it up wonderfully concisely. “Wow,” she said, and Maxim glanced at her saucer wide eyes and at the appealing slackness of her drooping jaw.
“You got a broadsword,” Gordon said when he came back from taking the ashes out of the oven. The dead vamp offender had burned up nicely.
“And you smell of ash,” Maxim said.
They had been playing Dragon Labyrinth for just a little under two hours, and Maxim was already frightfully good at it. If only speed and acute reactions came with vampirism automatically. All special talents Gordon had noticed in himself was that no matter what color he dyed his hair and how often he changed it, it would stay healthy and free of split ends. Not that I’m complaining about that. Healthy hair is great. Currently, he was a dark eggplant purple with black-blue highlights.
“Well, I’m sorry if --”
Someone knocked on Gordon’s still-open office door and cleared his throat. Gordon turned, and when he saw Orrin standing there, all thoughts that had been ordered in his head became a mishmash of confusion. Confusion, embarrassment, and fear, to be exact.
“I hope you don’t mind, Gordon, I asked Detective Orrin to drop by here with some information he considered important. You two have met, haven’t you?”
Gordon managed a nod.
“We have,” Orrin said. His voice sounded even, not angry, and Gordon wasn’t sure whether he would have preferred angry.
“So what was that thing about a hate crime that you were going on about, Orrin?” Maxim said.
Orrin walked into the room and closed the door behind him. “Yes. Jack the Ripper. That guy who murdered humans and Fae and tossed London into a panic around the 1890s. That ring a bell?”
Maxim paused his game and turned. “Oh, it certainly does. The Fae murders. I wasn’t in London at the time, but I followed the case. I take it you have someone emulating that killer, whoever he may have been?”
Orrin pulled something up on his phone, handed the device to Maxim. “Crime scene photos. You tell me.”
Maxim scanned through the photos slowly as if he were committing all the details to memory. Then he handed the device to Gordon. “Your opinion, Doctor?”
“Uhm,” Gordon said. “I’m not really familiar with Jack the Ripper, other than where pop culture is concerned.”
Maxim shrugged. “There’s a corpse. Don’t be shy. Have a look.”
Orrin crossed his arms. “And we’ll all just pretend I asked for you to consult.”
“Oh, silly Orrin,” Maxim said. “It’s a possible hate crime against supernaturals, which means I get informed, and through the power my position invests in me, I get to consult all the nerdy medical experts I want. And Gordon here happens to be the best, nerdy or otherwise.”
Nerdy. Yes, I guess I am that. Which made Gordon tense. He hadn’t even thought about it, but his office was, well, every collector’s wet dream, and it was really just a small slice of his entire collection, and really, Orrin could probably smell the weed cookies in the Lord Helmet cookie jar. What was he going to think about Gordon now? When Gordon had already messed up before and hadn’t even taken the time or effort or courage to set things straight. Well, fuck.
He tried to focus on the pictures, which had all the many shades of red and darkness, blended and combined to fill a canvas of a dark mind’s imagination. “Strong attacker, right-handed. I could give you a height range if I were there, but not from photographs alone. I see no obvious indicator the victim was anything other than human.”
Maxim beamed. “See? Gordon and his corpses.”
Orrin grunted. “I can get you to consult on the autopsy, but I can’t have the victim brought here. And if you wanted to, I mean, you have other things to do, but I would appreciate another set of eyes on the crime scene.” After a pause he added, “You too, Maxim. Should have a look, I mean.”
Maxim made a moue. “And here I was, just getting fond of the old broadsword and hoping that those dragon knights would bite their thumbs so I could offer them challenge.”
Gordon sighed. “I don’t think you really get video games, Maxim.”
The blond vampire snorted. “You talking about not getting things is a right hilarity, Doctor. Now, let’s go have a look at a corpse, shall we?”
Amazon gift card,
ebook of A Taste of Magic (Fairview Chronicles #1)
ebook of The Hunter's Bride (Dusk & Dawn #1)
ebook of Holiday Magic (Elvenswood Tales #1)
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