Authors: Kevin Emerson
The Sunlight Slayings
Oliver Nocturne, Book Two
For Jess, who knows what I mean â¦
THE CRIME SCENE PHOTOS
were grim. A boy, lying in a school gymnasium, blood around his neck.â¦
“I suppose they're calling it a stabbing or something,” said Detective Nick Pederson, leaning over his desk.
“The guys upstairs think it's a gang thing,” Detective Sarah Laine replied.
Nick looked up at his former partner. “Really?”
Sarah nodded grimly. “Problem is, nobody can come up with a suspect, even though there were, like, ten witnesses.”
Nick picked up the case report. “âVictim died of blood loss,'” he read. “âHappened right after choir practice â¦ Witnesses described a child assailant.â¦' Well, that's gruesome.”
“Tell me about it.” Sarah nodded. “But â¦”
“What?” Nick peered at her. “Is there something else?”
Sarah sighed. “Here's the thing,” she began, glancing over the wall of Nick's cubicle to make sure there were no curious ears nearby. Nick could have told her that she didn't need to worry. Nobody in the basement offices of the downtown Seattle police station arrived until after sundown. To say that the officers who chose desks down here worked the night shift was all too accurate. Nick was an exception: At the time that he'd chosen a basement desk, his other options had been reassignment to the traffic division or dismissal from the force.
“We found fibers on the victim,” Sarah continued. “Hair. So we ran the DNA.â¦”
“And?” Nick felt his pulse picking up speed. This was like arriving at a giant lake after crawling across a desert for months.
“Well, there was a match, but it's not that simple.” Sarah lowered her voice even further. “You know how we've been running DNA on our cold case archives, right?”
“This is going to be good,” said Nick.
Sarah nodded. “Good if you like
. The hair fibers found on this victim, they match samples from a missing person's case, but not of the kidnapperâof the kidnapping
. He was taken as an infant. The hair fibers were from his stroller.”
“Wow.” Nick sat back. “So a kidnapped kid grew up to be a murdererâ”
“But,” Sarah continued, “the witnesses said a
did this. That kidnapping case was sixty-four years ago. If this really is the same person, he'd be an old man by now, right?”
Nick didn't answer this. He gnawed on the well-chewed cap of his pen. “What about the parents of the missing kid?”
“They were killed at the scene. Christmas Eve, no less.”
“So â¦” Nick scanned the photos again. “Either your DNA results are wrong or your witnesses are wrong. Or â¦” Nick eyed her. “You think there might be another answer. And that's why you brought this to me.”
Sarah looked at him hopefully. “Any ideas you have, Nick â¦ we're running dry upstairs, and this case is way public. It's been huge in the news. The families of the witnesses â¦ they're all over us to find whateverâI mean,
ever did this.”
Nick nodded. “I'll see what I can do. It's good to see you, Sarah.”
“You, too, partner,” Sarah said with her smart smile. Nick had forgotten how much he missed it. She gave him a casual salute, then walked out.
Nick sat back. His face was lit by a tiny trapezoid of February sunlight coming through the only window in the basement, right above his desk. In the years since Nick's demotion to the basement, he'd spent many long hours asleep in this little sliver of sun, feet up on the nearby radiator, thinking about how ironic it was that what he'd been demoted
had everything to do with why the other cops down here worked only at night, why the one desk in the basement that got any sunlight was unoccupied, and why gruesome crimes like this Dean Aunders murder too often went unsolved in this town.
You know what did this
, he thought, running his finger over the photo of red holes in a young neck.
And you know you should just leave it alone. It'll only get you into more trouble that you don't want
But if there was one thing Nick had learned, it was that there wasn't the trouble that you wanted and the trouble you didn't. There was only the trouble you had. And here he was, with this same old trouble, once again.
Nick thumbed through the case file, reading the witness testimonies:
“He looked like our age; Wearing black; There were three other older kids; Really strong; It was like they could jump really far.”
He felt a rush of adrenaline he hadn't felt in too long, except â¦ It was worrisome. This connectionâthe missing child, the young killer, the events both so close to Christmasâit wasn't much to go on, but it did beg the question: Was this
? Could it possibly be?
Nick picked up the phone and dialed. “Hey, it's me,” he said softly. “You won't believe this, but I think I have a lead.â¦ Yeah, he might be the one you've been looking for.”
“WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?”
Oliver froze. He was standing over the round stone sink in the center of the bathroom, running a humming, nano-diamond stiletto file over his teeth, as he always did right before dinner. He glanced nervously across the room, to where his older brother, Bane, was drying his face with a burgundy towel.
“IâIâ” Oliver stammered. What was wrong with him? How about the fact that he'd lost his friends Emalie and Dean? Or that he'd had to spend every night of this miserable last month and a half living a tangle of lies, pretending he was fine around his parents, who were lying right back to him about his future, not to mention his past?
.” Bane scowled. “I don't mean
the things that are wrong with you. I mean there.” He pointed at Oliver's stomach.
Oliver looked down at his thin, shirtless torso. His skin was its normal pale grayish color, and he would've known by the itching if he'd developed a mold rash, but he was shocked to find a purple wound on the left side of his abdomen, near his waist.
“Huh,” said Oliver. It was a short, bright-red cut surrounded by a deep-purple oval. A small spider's web of crimson lines spread away from it.
“Looks like you got stabbed,” Bane mused, “or maybe you lost a fight with a rat.”
“Shut up,” Oliver muttered. He hadn't even noticed the wound before. Vampires were much less sensitive to pain than humans, and of course there were no mirrors in the house, but now that he focused on the spot, he did sense a faint, dull ache. He pulled at the skin, separating the wound. Vampires didn't bleed or get scabs, but now a bit of brown fluid dripped out. Oliver frowned at this. The fluid, the red spider lines â¦ it all spelled infection. If his mother, Phlox, saw that, she'd be calling Dr. Vincent, and Oliver did not want to go back to the doctor.
During his last doctor's visit, back in December, Oliver had learned that his yearly checkups were not just to make sure he was healthy. He was also being prepared, without his knowledge, for a special but very secret purpose. Oliver had later learned in a vision where he met his future demon, Illisius, that he had a special destiny: to open something called the Nexia Gate and free the vampires from Earth, which some thought of as a prison. Oliver had never heard of Nexia, or a Gate.
And it seemed that only Oliver's parents, Dr. Vincent, and perhaps some others at his father's employer, the Half-Light Consortium, knew about this plan. And while none of them had ever talked to him about it, back in December, they'd all been worried about Oliver because of his sleeplessness, his anxieties, and most of all because of his
friends: Emalie and Dean.
Oliver had allegedly killed Dean, and all of that worry had turned to pride. His family had celebrated the occasion, and since then, they'd assumed he was fine and left him alone. He wasn't fine, not even close, but at least since then, everyone wasn't worrying about him all the time. So, the last thing he wanted to do was take this wound to his Dr. Vincent and attract everyone's attention again.
Oliver stuck his finger into the wound. He wiped away a bit of the fluid, and for a moment, glimpsed something dark red and solid-looking. Oliver dug his nail deeperâ
Suddenly a searing, vampire-size pain stabbed through his body, causing his legs to buckle. Oliver toppled to the floor, smacking his head on the sink as he did so.
“Ha!” Bane spat. “Dork. Now you're probably going to go cry to Mommy and get the celebrity treatment again.” Bane imitated Phlox:
“Oh, my precious Oliver, my most favorite baby! We'll drop everything to help you!”
Oliver scrambled to a sitting position, wincing. It had been this way with Bane ever since Dean's death. Bane couldn't stand Oliver's newfound fame, which made Oliver crazy, because Dean's death was Bane's fault! After all, it was Bane who had showed up with his friends at Emalie and Dean's chorus practiceâBane who said he was there to
Oliver, who made him choose a human victim to bite, and who had brought that mysterious staff. Yet Oliver didn't remember what had happened in the moments between when he'd pretended to attack Dean, in order to engineer an escape, and when he'd woken up sometime later in a classroom upstairs. According to Emalie, and Bane, Oliver had killed Dean, and there was no doubt Dean was dead, but Oliver refused to believe he'd done it, even though he hadn't been able to find any proof otherwise.
“I should drop that sink on you,” Bane muttered. “That would really get Mom riled up.” He gave Oliver a disgusted glance. “Enjoy the big fuss with your little injury.” He stalked out.
Oliver watched him go. If someone had asked him back in December, when he was lying awake most days and wondering what was wrong with him, he would have said, for certain, that things could not have gotten any worse. Yet now, at the beginning of February, he was
having trouble sleeping, his brother disliked him even more, and though Dean's death had convinced his parents that he was fine, and had made the other vampire kids friendlier at school, it had also caused him to lose the only two friends he really wanted.
Oliver got to his feet and returned to the sink. He leaned back to let more light on the wound. This time he spread the skin wide, but didn't try to reach inside, and for just a moment, he saw a flash of crimson light, like the reflection from a crystal.
It's a shard
, he guessed,
from the amulet
. The amulet of Ephyra, given to him by Dead DÃ©sirÃ©e. She had claimed that the amulet was
“for his protection,”
but what it had really done was shatter, and deliver Oliver a vision of his past. In that vision he'd learned that, unlike every other vampire child, he had been
. He had been a human baby and was turned into a vampire. Vampire children were normally made from the genes of their parents and grown in a special lab. A child could not be sired, because he or she wouldn't be strong enough to withstand the transformation. Yet according to that portal vision, Oliver
been, and his human parents had been killed by his vampire parents.
The fact that this wound in his side had been caused by the amulet was another reason why he couldn't tell Phlox about it. While it had turned out that his parents
secretly known about his friendship with Emalie and Dean all along, Oliver was pretty sure that they hadn't known about the amulet, nor about the vision it supplied. Oliver wanted to keep it that way until he could find out more about his past.
It all felt complicated, and
was not something that vampires were supposed to have to deal with.
Oliver looked around the bathroom for something that he could use to extract the crystal splinter. The shard didn't look that big, but it was very deep inside the wound. He considered his stiletto for a moment, but it would probably just push the shard deeper again, and that pain had been brutal. He needed long tweezers, or pliers.â¦