Yuletude Spirits: Dreams of Winter (1/4)

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

I

A line from Longfellow comes to me as I stare at the pale, lifeless child at my feet. ‘The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark.’ The Dark, capital ‘D’, if you don’t mind, has been of particularly nagging interest to me of late. As for mournful rustlings, well I’ve been knee-deep in those too. And it’s starting to piss me off.

            Surrounded by the girl’s belongings, it’s not hard to fathom how Megan Gamble’s mind worked. There’s a poster of a shirtless Alexander Skarsgard on the back of her door. Bookshelves overflow with Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris urban fantasies, a well-read copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight rests on the nightstand. Evanescence, Pretty Reckless, and Nightwish CDs are scattered on the floor beside an old school jam-box. The clothes in her closet? All black and lots of lace and frills, plunging necklines and short skirts.

            I crack a window, light a cigarette, and watch the snow fall. Dreams of winter, I muse. No more dreams for her. I’ve got the itch for a drink, but I let the nicotine placate my self-destructive tendencies for now. I do my best to ignore the sounds of the cops behind me, grumbling about their business and their distaste for my presence. The feeling’s mutual. Grim thoughts give way to grim tidings and I’m on the verge of giving myself over to them, but there’s work to get to. Dark work.

            I flick the spent cowboy killer into the night air and ask the crime scene unit to give me a few minutes alone with the corpse. They look to the homicide detective at the door, my old pal Ellis DeTripp, and grouse at his nod of approval. They file past the hulk of a man — DeTripp stands an easy  six feet-four inches and tips the scales at more than twenty-two stone — and he closes the door behind them.

            “You too, Ellis,” I say, removing my coat and hat and laying them on the girl’s bed.

            “In your dreams, Connors. No freaking way I’m leaving you in here unsupervised.”

            “What’s the matter, Detective,” I scowl, “afraid I’ll lift something?”

            “Nah.” He kneels down awkwardly beside the girl’s body. “We already searched the room for drugs.”

            “She’s got the latest Dresden Files.”

            “Cute, but I know you don’t read that shit.” DeTripp casually traces the outline of the girl’s jawline with his fat forefinger, lingering near the gaping but bloodless wound at her throat. “You live it.”

            “What? You never climb inside a Michael Connelly novel?” I join him on the floor, just as awkwardly, my ruined knee groaning in protest. Without the support of my cane, an heirloom from late father’s collection, I’d be all but worthless in situations like these. Dead bodies require an up close and personal touch.

            “That’s different. Harry Bosch is the real deal.”

            I brush the big man’s hand away from the girl and examine the throat wound more closely. “And Harry Dresden isn’t?” I frown at the lack of blood, on the body or anywhere in the  room for that matter.

            “You know I don’t cater to all that magic mumbo-jumbo crap.”

            “And yet,” I say as I allow my hand to hover above the victim’s head, the telltale glow of magical energy sparking between my fingertips, “here I am.”

            “Again — different.”

            “Do tell?”

            “Meh,” he barks, groaning as he rises up from the floor, “just give me your goddamn theory so I can catch whoever did this before my ass is in a sling.”

            “Well, she was definitely killed here.”

            “Bull shit. No blood.”

            “Of course not.” I struggle to my feet, leaning heavily on father’s cane. “The killer took it with him.”

            “Landon Connors, I swear on my mother’s grave…”

            “Your mother’s alive. I had dinner with her last week.”

            “Just don’t freaking say what I know damn good and well you’re going to say.”

            “Fine.”

            We stare at each other uncomfortably long — he with a scowl, me with bemused acceptance. I know what’s coming next. I light a cigarette and wait for him to break.

            “Alright,” he barks, “…alright. Go ahead and say it.”

            “If you insist.” I exhale slowly. “Detective DeTripp, your killer is, without a doubt, a bloodsucking creature of the night.”

            “God damn it, I knew you were going to pull that shit on me.”

            The detective turns toward the door and throws it open in a huff, storming into the hall and past the awaiting crime scene investigators.

            “Would you have preferred that I used the word vampire?” I yell after him.

            He is not amused.

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