Winter (The Manhattan Exiles)

BOOK: Winter (The Manhattan Exiles)
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Praise for

 

Winter

 

Indie Reader
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s
WINTER
:
 

 

". . .
 
an intriguing and suspenseful page-turner, with complex characters, political manipulation, magic, and a wry sense of humor . . . a fine urban fantasy, well worth a read."

 

 

The Portland Book Review
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WINTE
R
five stars and says:

 

 
"
Sarah Remy’s 
Winter
 is the captivating opening chapter to a new young adult fantasy series called 
The Manhattan Exiles 
. . . Remy’s descriptions are as unique as her prickly characters
 . . . 
the startling non-conclusion will leave you checking book stores for the next installment.
"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Katherine, my Sweet Pea

 

 

 

I believe in everything until it's disproved.  So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.  It all exists, even if it's in your mind.  Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?

~John Lenno
n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madison Place Press

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resembla
nces to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Winte
r
©
2013 by Sarah Remy

 

 

ISBN:
978-0-615-87514-9

 

Cover Art by Candescent Press

 

Credit to Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744) for his wonderful poem
Argus

 

 

 

 

The Manhattan Exiles

 

- Volume One -

 

Winter

 

Sarah Remy

 

 

 

Winter

 

A famous songwriter once said that the words of the prophets are written on subway walls.

He was right.

Not that I’m a big music buff anymore. Although sometimes I imagine I can still hear violins in
the night, and the thump of drums through the ground will always make my fists clench. Because some things are hard to forget.

But I do know more than most people about prophets, and I spend good part of the D
.C. nights in the Metro, looking for their signs, whether they’re scrawled on the sides of trains, or scraped into the walls of tunnels. Or splattered across the ground in bloody streaks and prints.

Problem is, prophets aren’t the most coherent of souls even on the best of days, and you can trust me when I say those touched by the Sight have more bad days than good. Reading their intent is a bit like trying to make poetry out of Spaghetti Os.

Lucky for me, I love Spaghetti Os.


Okay, Winter
.” Spotlights made the big man’s shadow fall over the floor and across my hands. His words were knives in my head, made sharp by anger or frustration.

Considering the circumstances, I suspected it was his anger I felt. Brutal murder tends to rile even the most hardened of Capitol detectives.

“What’ve you got?”

I took the hot dog he passed me. The bun was warm. The sausage smelled of sweet mustard and onions. My mouth began to water. I peeled the paper away from one end, and indulged in a healthy bite.

“Two people,” I replied once my mouth was clear.  “One dead.”

The detective’s name was Bran and he was mortal. He’d been sent from Brooklyn to help me, although he probably thought it was the other way around. He
worked for my mother, and he kept me in hot dogs and murder. Together we’d solved more than a few usual cases and one or two not so ordinary crimes.


Forensics gets paid to tell me that much
.” He glowered at me under heavy brows. He had the ruggedly handsome sort of face women swoon over, and he knew how to work it to his advantage. He didn’t waste a smile on me. “
What do you see?”

I took another bite of hot dog, scanning the crime scene. The east and west entrances of the platform were cordoned off with yellow cop tape. The aforementioned forensics team had finished snapping pictures, and were waving blue lights around. The coroner waited against the sloping tunnel wall, body bag at his feet.

“He'd do better with a grocery sack.”


Winter
.” This time the knives were sharp enough to make my eyes water. I didn’t need to turn my head to know Bran was scowling in my direction.


Sorry.” I was. “But it seems a waste. You know. An entire corpse bag. For a skull.”


You’ve finished the dog
,” Bran pointed out, ice and daggers.
“Pay up.”

I licked my fingers. I sighed.

“Like I said, two. The vic was killed here. The perp was large, strong, calculating. Not much on emotion. Separated her head from her body easily. Maybe in a single blow. Looks like a really long knife, maybe a rapier. Not a traditional sword. Thin blade. Old, thin blade. Got the video?” Ever since 9/11 the underground railways were consistently on camera.

Bran didn’t question my weapons analysis. He knew better.

“Transit’s working on it. She?”
he asked.

We both looked at the skull
. It gleamed white in the light. Clean of flesh and muscle, the skull was an ivory island in a sea of congealing blood.

I shrugged, and stuck my hands into the pockets of my Levis.
“Yeah. She.”

Even if I wanted to, which I didn’t, I couldn’t have explained how I knew. Maybe it was the slowing drip of blood onto the rails, and in the blood, the repeating perfume of feminine sorrow.

 


Human, then?”
He’d softened a little.

“Looks like.”


How do you explain the stripped bones? The lack of a body?”


Even humans occasionally dabble in blood magic.”


What about these?”

We squatted side by side, considering the footprints. They zagged in an unsteady trail along the platform, crossing the white warning line, and then zigging back again before they disappeared under the west string of tape. There they faded into the shadows beyond.

Small foot prints. Child-sized, I thought. And barefoot.


Again, human,” I said, although I couldn’t be sure of much else. The blood belonged to the skull, and the footprints themselves were mute.


You said two people, Winter. Perp strong enough to behead a vic with a rapier doesn’t wear size four shoes. Children wear size four shoes.”


Or no shoes at all, as the case may be. Perp went that way.” I jerked a thumb over my shoulder, west. “Up the stairs and out.” I knew that because I’d seen forensics marking the streaks and smears. Normal streaks and smears, nothing so perfectly delicate and clear as the trail leading in the opposite direction.


That makes three people.”

I shook my head, and then irritab
ly pushed hair out of my eyes. I’d meant to have it cut before the leaves began to change. But fall had come late this year, and I’d forgotten.


I can only scent two.”

Bran lifted his chin and stared off down the tunnel. He didn’t insult me by asking if I was sure. Behind us the coroner loaded the skull into the body bag, and started to
tote it away. A cop in uniform began putting little white numbers down along the trail of blood.

I stood up, crumpling the hot dog wrapper in one hand, and followed the numbers. Whoever belonge
d to the footprints had a child-sized stride to go with the child-sized prints.


How far do they go?” I peered across the tape and into the tunnel.

It was never really dark in the Metrorail underground. Utility lights kept the train tracks illuminated for safety’s sake. But the cops had turned their square of murder into a fluorescent blaze, and my eyes were having trouble adjusting to the curving shadows beyond the crime scene.

“They don’t,
” replied Bran.
“They stop just there.”

I squinted past the tape and saw that he was right. The platform east of the tape was littered with a small collection of dirt and trash. Ten feet of scuffed mud and dropped gum wrappers and Starbucks napkins, and then the walkway ended and there was nothing but tunnel.

“What do your magic blue lights say?”

The officer who’d been laying out numbers glanced my way, mouth tight. They didn’t like me, Bran’s cops. But most of them are used to my occasional appearances.

“What I said. No blood past the tape. No spatter, no prints.”
He shifted a little, putting himself between me and Numbers Man, blocking the line of sight. Bran was fit for his age, corded with lean muscle. “
So either we sat down and took time to wipe our feet clean before doubling back or we went down between the tracks.”

I glanced around his muscle at the blood on the floor. There was a lot of it. I looked at the small foot prints, and tried to think like a child. It wasn’t difficult.

“If I were you,” I said, “I’d send forensics farther down the tunnel.”

 

Bran sent one of his detectives out into the night for another hot dog and a soda. I would have preferred coffee to Coke but the meal was free so I didn’t complain. I ate my second dinner leaning against the tiled subway wall, watching as three of D.C.’s finest went over the edge of the platform and into the tunnel.

I knew someone had certainly sent out an order to kill the live tracks. Still, the three cops walked carefully, lights steady. They avoided the rails. I thought that was a very good plan.

Numbers Man somehow ended up in my space, slouched against my wall. He seemed perfectly engrossed in the small computer he held in one palm. He didn’t fool me. No one gets reception in the tunnels. Plus, all the tile and concrete made the Metro colder than Alaska in January, and the guy was sweating.

He was afraid of me. I could smell the sour nerves in the drop of perspiration under his collar. I’m not the sort who usually inspires that kind of unease, which meant he knew or guessed what I was.

Or, like the prophets whose graffiti dirtied the walls, he saw a little more of the world than made him comfortable, and couldn’t stop looking, no matter how much it scared him.

I twisted the cap off my Coke and took a swig. Across the tunnel I could see my ref
lection in a glassed-off billboard: a nondescript silhouette with a sharp nose, a boyish chin, and too much hair.


Hey, kid.”
Numbers Man sounded like fog in my head, bleak and insubstantial. “
Don’t your parents care you spend nights hanging around police business?”


I’m eighteen.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but would be in less than a month.


You don’t belong here.”

I swallowed more Coke, and didn’t answer. He was right, in more ways than one, and I wasn’t about to argue. He was afraid of me, and he had a gun in a holster beneath his cheap leather coat. I could sneeze in his direction, and he’d have it out before he even realized what he was doing, and if he accidentally pulled the trigger then there’d be more blood on the floor.

I moved carefully away until I found Bran at the edge of the platform. The men with the blue lights had climbed up out of the muck, and were packing their wands away.


Nothing,”
Bran reported. “
No blood, no prints at all, and it’s not exactly a clean floor down there. Even the rat turds leave prints. So unless our size four shoe flew -”

I shook my head.
“No sorcery, I told you. I’d know.”

The detective shrugged.

No sorcery, then.”
He glanced back at the drying gore. “
But plenty of blood magic. Still your problem, Winter.”
He was less sharp as he transitioned into work mode. The headache I’d been trying to ignore eased some.


Yeah. I’ll look into it. Coffee Monday?” That gave me two days to stick my nose into the mess. Two days to come up with a solution that would satisfy the Capitol Police, the Feds, and the Lady. It’s what I do and why I’m still alive. “You’re buying.”


Monday,”
Bran said and walked away.

 

I don’t listen to music anymore, but I do own an iPod. These days, who doesn’t? I keep mine plugged into my ears whenever I’m on the move. Because the white noise I pipe through the machine mostly blocks out the buzz I don’t want in my head, and because no one bothers a kid wearing headphones.

It’s almost as a
ffective as a Glamour.

I had the ear
-buds firmly in place as I ducked under the police tape and emerged into the night, so whatever the Transit Officer guarding the top of the escalator shouted in my direction went unheard.

I slipped through a small crowd of gawkers made up mostly of street people looking for something to take their mind off the cold. Overhead the moon was a chewed fingernail in a sky filling with clouds. The air smelled of rain or snow.

I tossed my empty Coke can into a recycling barrel, and hunched my shoulders against the chill, walking fast, heading east toward L’Enfant Plaza. I didn’t have the night vision common in the first of my kind, but I could scent better than your average flop-eared bloodhound, and I had some hope that I might pick up traces of our murder victim’s blood on the breeze.

I didn’t have any luck. Which was okay, because I didn’t really expect to. Still, I’m always hoping for a break.

I cut across the street in front L’Enfant Hotel. Lamplight made the red brick cobbles slick. Beyond the Plaza the Washington Monument pierced the sky, brighter than the moon. The Washington Monument is my favorite piece of the Capitol. The obelisk is a spear in the heart of God, and if I lean against it I can feel the stones breathing in and out.

I took the old steps down into the Plaza Metro Station. If you’ve never been underground at L’Enfant, you’ve missed out. The vaulted ceilings are a miracle of engineering, and the reek of humanity is beyond anything you’ve experienced before. The huge station smells like piss and sushi and cheap perfume and warm cookies and train oil and grief and earth and damp stone and expensive
dye and secrets.

Most importantly to me, it smells like home.

L’Enfant wasn’t yet closed for the night, but it was mostly empty. Late commuters slouched on benches, most of them too tired or drunk to pay much mind to a skinny boy in jeans and an old leather jacket.

I whistled my way along the platf
orm, then ducked behind a three-sided advertisement for McDonald’s. When I hopped off the tile and onto the Green Line nobody raised a peep.

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