Authors: Gayla Drummond
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Mystery, #werewolves, #urban fantasy, #Shifters, #Vampires, #Magic, #Paranormal, #psychic
My mother could hit an emotional bull's eye without trying. I nodded. "He told me something."
"He said he made her tell me those things."
Instant understanding dampened her eyes. "Oh, Cordi. But you didn't know that. It's not your fault."
"Doesn't make anything better."
Mom blinked. "He may have lied. You did say he managed to break into your mind."
"Yeah, he could've lied, but I won't ever know."
"Of course you will. You're having a problem with a vampire, so ask another one for help." Mom's smile was bright. "Derrick's nice. After all, how many vampires would think to bring someone flowers to wish them well? I'm sure he'd be willing to help."
Crap. I'd thought the same thing, but had hoped to avoid taking that route. No clue what it might involve. Derrick dipping into my mind seemed likely, and I wasn't ready to go that far with our relatively new friendship. Wow, I had a vampire friend. Two, even. "You really think that's what I should do?"
"It makes sense. He's an expert on vampires." She reached across the table to pat my hand. "Call him. It won't hurt to ask. At the least, he may be able to suggest something else."
"Okay. I will." My reluctance was apparent, because Mom raised her eyebrow. "I promise."
She leveled her patented Mom stare at me before saying, "Today."
Ugh. "Yes, today."
It wasn't until I watched her leaving the parking lot that I realized she hadn't asked if I were seeing Merriven while we had lunch. Damn it, I'd probably dredged up things she hadn't wanted to think about. All of the relief I felt over finally talking to someone drained away. "I'm the worst daughter in the history of bad daughters."
"She'll dream of me tonight," Merriven said. "You're both wrong. That sniveling boy can't help you. No one can."
I ignored him, and left to meet Dane at the museum.
anto Trueno only had one acknowledged museum, and I'd gone there a few times as a child, on school field trips. The building wasn't much to look at, a two-story slab of taupe in a T-shape, the long part hidden by the bar, which faced the parking lot. A couple of school buses waited, and there were a few other vehicles. I parked next to Dane's blue truck. My partner was waiting inside, checking out the gift shop offerings.
I was fifteen minutes late. "Sorry."
"No problem. How was lunch?"
"Healthy. You wouldn't have liked it, Lord of Pizza."
His grin surfaced. "Wheat germ and tofu?"
"I have an abiding dislike of tofu."
Dane put his hand on his chest and widened his eyes. "A food exists that you don't like? Call the media."
"Shut up. You're going to give me a complex." I'd been eating way too much comfort food lately.
"A complex about what? Tofu?"
He dropped his hand, wrinkling his nose. "Humans are so weird about food. Always worried about getting fat."
His comment struck a nerve. It wasn't as though I'd have my youthful metabolism forever. I'd also been given a hard time back in my younger school days, because I liked to eat. "Dude, quit."
"It's weird. Do you know we used to envy fat people, before the Melding? Even shifters can starve to death. Fat meant prosperous, and prosperous people lived through winters." Watching my face, Dane quickly added, "Not that I think you're fat. I didn't say I think you're fat. Just saying it's not a big deal to us."
"Yeah, okay, time to change the topic." And get serious about a workout routine. I didn't need extra weight slowing me down. Not in my line of work. I should start jogging. The dogs would like that. I wouldn't, but oh well.
"New topic. What's our first step here?"
"Find out who's in charge." Which is exactly what we did, by asking the elderly lady behind the gift shop's register.
his is where the mirror was." Tanisha Wills, the museum employee we'd been handed off to, after verifying who we were to the museum director, pointed to the corner of the room.
"Just propped there, or what?"
She shook her head. "No, it's a full-length mirror, with a carved frame and stand. No wheels, and let me tell you, it's a heavy sucker."
"So more than one person needed," I said.
Tanisha smiled, her teeth movie-star white. She was a striking, dark-skinned woman with close-cropped, natural hair. Amazing bone structure, and she was taller than me, too. "It took two elves to carry it in. Humans? Four of us to move it to the corner, and believe you me, we struggled doing it."
"Why the corner?" Dane looked up from the table he was perusing.
"The mirror is a perverted son of a bitch. He kept making sexual remarks. We moved him to the corner, and I threw a dust cloth over him."
"Did that work?"
"Well enough," she replied. "His owner needs to rethink letting him watch premium channels."
I looked around. "Nothing else was taken?"
"Just the mirror."
Huh. There were several more portable items lying on the three tables, as well as on the built-in shelving on each wall. Plenty of pretty, shiny stuff that looked more interesting than an old mirror housing a social miscreant. In fact... "Are those Cinderella's glass slippers?"
"Not glass. Crystal, and yes. Well, not exactly hers, but some elf lady's." Tanisha drew up her top lip a bit. "Trust me, even the Grimm versions were nicer than the true stories."
"I believe you. Who discovered the mirror was missing?"
"I did. I'm heading the team preparing the exhibit. It was there the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and gone when I unlocked the doors this morning."
Which meant Lady Celadine hadn't wasted any time hiring us. Interesting.
"Ooh, a locked door mystery." Dane left the table that had held his attention. "Be more interesting to solve if it weren't for magic."
"Yeah. Where's the dust cloth?" There wasn't anything in the room for me to try psychometry on. I checked the ceiling. "And is there a security camera in here?"
Tanisha chuckled. "There is, and guess what?"
"It went on the fritz."
"That's what they said, when I had the guys check. I can show you to the security room, if you want to see the video?"
"Yes, please." Maybe we'd notice something useful. "And if you have photos of the mirror, those would be really useful."
"Sure, I'll get you copies, and find the dust cloth for you."
he two daytime security guards on duty watching the cameras were in their sixties. I wondered if they ever had to run after art thieves or vandals as one offered me his chair. "Have a seat, miss."
"Thank you." I sat while the other guard clicked around on a monitor to pull up the video we wanted to see. My cell phone rang, playing the first notes of "Hotel California", and I popped out of my chair. "Have to take this call. I'll be right back."
I answered while hurrying out of the room, and walked down the hallway to make sure I would have some privacy. "Hi, sorry to have bothered you."
"You haven't," Derrick replied. "I have an obligation this evening. Would seven tomorrow evening be convenient for you?"
"That would be great." I'd called from my car earlier, and hadn't expected such a quick meeting. "I mean, if you're sure it's not..."
"It's no trouble, and if you like, you're welcome to join us for dinner." He paused. "Stone, that is."
"Ah, sure. Thank you."
"We'll see you at seven then."
"Thanks, bye." I ended the call and hoped I wasn't making a big mistake. Trusting a vampire had never been on any of my To Do lists. Of course, Lord Derrick and his son, Stone, weren't just any vampires. Stone wasn't even a vampire, or at least not the type that died and rose from the dead. He was a dhampyr, and alive. They'd both given their all to help find my mom, when Merriven had kidnapped her. Upon my return to the security office, I found Dane and the guards already watching the video. "Anything?"
"Not yet." My partner rested his hands on the back of the chair as I sat down." Ernie says it was between two and two-thirty."
"Weirdest thing," the guard said, tapping the mouse. "Here we go."
The camera was in the corner opposite the one Tanisha had said the mirror was in. The video moved as the camera slowly swept side to side. Dane pointed. "There's the mirror."
"This next sweep, look at the bottom of the door," Ernie said. "We didn't notice the first few times through, because we were fast-forwarding."
I had to squint, because the video quality wasn't the best. Something dark curled under the door. There hadn't been any fire damage, and I couldn't remember smelling smoke. "What is that? Smoke?"
"Beats me," Ernie said. "None of the alarms went off."
Several minutes passed; the dark stuff filled the room. Once the camera was picking up nothing but grainy black, the screen flashed white static lines, and then cleared. The room reappeared, and the mirror was simply gone, the dust cloth left crumpled on the floor. Ernie tapped, stopping the video. "See? Weird."
"Yeah. Can we get a copy of it?"
"Sure. It'll take me a few minutes to go grab a disc, oh." He took the USB drive Dane held out. "Handy."
I twisted around to look at my partner. He grinned. "Easier to carry."
"Cool. Did you smell anything in that room?"
"Magic, but it is full of elven artifacts."
Damn, but then again, he'd have mentioned it if he had smelled smoke or something else. I'd learned the only thing that could side-track Dane was a particular brand of ale, and maybe pizza. "We'll take it back to the office. Maybe the boss has seen something like it before."
"Good plan," he agreed.
r. Whitehaven wasn't in the office.
"He was called away," Tabitha said. We'd interrupted her while she was texting, and she kept checking her screen, so it must be a serious conversation keeping her so distracted. "He said he wouldn't be back today."
"Anything I can help with?"
I resisted the urge to grin. It'd taken her long enough to reach the point of trying to get involved in a case. Mr. Whitehaven didn't hire useless people. "I don't know. We have some video you're welcome to take a look at. Maybe you can figure out what it is."