Dark Hunger


Page 37



“He gave you orders not to show it to me, didn’t he?” She didn’t wait for a reply, but held out her hand. “I know you’re immune to l’attrait, but I’m still a lot stronger and faster than you. Come on, hand it over.”


“You will tell your lord that I did not do so willingly?” he asked as he gave her the file.


“Sure. I’ll even give you a black eye, if you want.” She opened the folder to a horrific image of human body parts. The next was another angle of the same scene, as were the other pictures. She looked up. “Where’s the rest of the body?”


“That is all our people were able to recover, my lady.”


She sat down as she studied the photos. “If a dead body stays outside long enough, it attracts the usual scavengers.” She noticed some black mounds of feathers around the body parts. “Are these buzzards?”


“Yes, my lady.”


She went to the next photo, which showed a close-up of one of the birds. “They look dead.”


“They are, my lady. The police also recovered some other dead animals near the body.”


“Even if the victim had been poisoned, it would have taken a couple of hours to do the same to anything that fed on the remains. These birds look like they dropped as soon as they touched it.” She looked up. “Is that what happened?”


“We’re not certain yet, my lady.” He looked miserable. “One of the policemen on the scene observed some rats crawling near the body. They died a few moments after coming in contact with the remains.” He paused, and then added, “So did one of the forensic technicians working at the scene. Evidently one of his gloves tore during the removal process.”


She dropped the pictures in her lap. “Are you telling me this dead body is so toxic that no one can even touch it?”


“It would seem so, my lady.” He took out a handkerchief and blotted the sweat from his forehead.


She thought of the photos she had seen of Bradford Lawson’s other victims. He had dismembered some of them, but not as badly as had been done to this body. “Do we know who the victim was?”


“He was a Georgia state trooper.” Kendrick stood. “We have sent tissue samples over to England for Lady Alexandra to analyze. Please, my lady, you should leave this unpleasant business to Suzerain Lucan and the other Kyn lords.”


“Why?” she demanded. When he didn’t answer, she said, “Kendrick, I’m the only real cop on the premises. I have to know what the hell is going on.”


“We were able to recover the video from the trooper’s vehicle dashboard camera,” he said slowly. “The final images on the tape show him stopping the SUV Bradford Lawson stole from GenHance. It also shows Lawson attacking him.”


“Lawson killed this man.”


The tresora looked uneasy. “We believe the killer has to be a Darkyn using Lawson’s mortal identity. A human could not do what he did to this man.”


She curled her scarred hand into a fist as she remembered the bizarre, repulsive smell Lawson had been radiating when he had killed Ted Evans, and the sense of wrongness about it. “What did he do?”


“From the teeth marks on the remains,” Kendrick said unhappily, “it would seem that he not only killed this man, but he ate parts of him.”


Matthias met Jessa in the library as he had promised, and placed a short stack of books on his desk.


“These you should be able to read,” he told her, and showed her how he had marked the passages in each with a piece of cord. “Rowan translated the ones written in French for me, but she cannot read German or Spanish.”


That surprised her. “Rowan speaks French?”


“She taught herself to read it from books, for cooking.” He placed a writing tablet and pen beside the books. “Will you translate into English what you read?”


“I can.” She glanced up at him. “I thought you read all these yourself.”


“Those in Latin and English I can read myself,” he said. “The stories in the other languages were read to me by a translator, but I did not write then.”


She didn’t understand what he meant. “You didn’t know how to write in English?”


“Ten years ago I did not know how to read or write,” he admitted. “Rowan has been teaching me, but I am a poor scholar.”


She felt appalled now. “It’s wonderful that you’re trying. Weren’t you able to go to school when you were young?”


“Yes, but not for reading or writing.” He started to say something else, and then seemed to change his mind. “I will leave you now.”


After he had gone Jessa took the first book and skimmed through it. Written in modern Spanish, the text detailed a number of religious trials that were held in Madrid in the late fourteenth century. The author of the book, a noted historian, had translated some of the medieval documents he had found while researching the legal proceedings. Jessa found one startling passage about the conviction of a Templar knight who had escaped persecution in France only to be apprehended in Spain.


The fugitive refused to give his name to the court, or identify his accomplices, or speak at all, even under the duress of torture. The chief interrogator noted that although he could tolerate neither food nor drink, he remained unnaturally strong and impervious to pain for some months. This was first attributed to the evil that had seized his soul and through it taken control of his mortal form, until a special investigator was sent by Rome to question the prisoner. The Italian priest used copper implements, which proved to be the only metal that could penetrate the knight’s skin, and holy water, which caused it to burn. Before a confession could be taken, the prisoner took his own life by thrusting one of the investigator’s copper daggers into his heart. His last words were reported to be: “Death could not hold me in my grave, nor will you keep me to rot here.”


Jessa read over the translation she had written and then slowly closed the book. The text was compelling, and certainly fit in with Matthias’s theory, but the historian had likely made some broad interpretations of the medieval records. She was tempted to keep reading and see what was in the other books, but that would waste the time she needed to search the library.


She began with the desk, which she found unlocked, but the contents of each drawer proved to be ordinary: a collection of pens and pencils, blank paper, and some newspaper clippings stuffed into a folder. She went through the articles, which were all stories about people in America and Europe who had gone missing. The last clipping was the front-page story about her being wanted for killing Bradford Lawson, the same article Matthias had shown her. None of the other people in the articles had been accused of murder, but the one common denominator was that they had all vanished abruptly and without leaving any clues as to their whereabouts—exactly, she thought, as she had.


Were these the other Kyndred Matthias had spoken of? Had he abducted all of these people before her? She counted the articles; there were more than twenty of them.


She got up from the desk and slowly walked around the room, inspecting each bookcase and looking behind the books. Other than some dust and a few spiderwebs, she found nothing.


She stopped in front of the fireplace and looked up at the old bronze blade mounted in the glass case. The dark stains on it still repelled her, but there was something about the way it reflected the light that made her reach up and touch the glass.


“It’s hermetically sealed,” Rowan said from behind her, making her jump and spin around. The girl gave her a chilly smile. “The only way you can get it out is to break the glass. For which you’ll need a sledgehammer.”


“I was just curious.” Jessa kept her expression bland. “I’ve never seen such an old sword.”


“They were all the rage around two thousand years ago.” Rowan set a steaming mug on the desk. “Matt thought you might like some tea.”


She was a little thirsty. “Thank you, that was very kind.”


The girl ignored her and picked up the notebook with her translation. “Lovely handwriting. You dot all your Is and cross all your Ts. Do you starch your underwear, too?”


She decided to counter Rowan’s sarcasm by giving her a compliment. “Matthias said you’ve been teaching him to read and write. I think that’s really nice of you.”


The girl scowled as if Jessa had insulted her. “He’s not dumb, you know. It’s not his fault he never had the chance to learn.”


“I don’t think he’s stupid at all,” Jessa said. “But he must be from a very poor country.”


“Stop fishing, Queenie, and drink your tea.” Rowan sauntered out.


Jessa returned to the desk and picked up the notebook, turning it over in her hands as she gazed around the room, and then stared at the fireplace. The brick mantel surrounding the hearth stood out a good foot from the wall, and appeared to have been built in different sections. She got up and went over, checking both sides, and then noticed something about the brick.


As a child she had walked hundreds of paths through the city squares, and most of them had been made from bricks formed by slaves who used clay from the river. The distinctive, old-blood color of the bricks had been unique, a color referred to ever after as Savannah grey.


The fireplace had been built with the same kinds of bricks. Jessa sat down on the floor and touched the warm, rough surface of the hearth. The archaic bricks, so coveted by builders and restoration experts, were very rare, and almost never seen outside the city. Either she was back in Savannah or close to it.


Tears stung her eyes. She’d sworn never to return to her childhood home; it would have been too dangerous. She’d bitterly regretted everything she’d had to sacrifice in order to create a new identity for herself, but after waking up in the intensive care unit and discovering that the fatal gunshot wound in her chest had completely healed in less than twelve hours, she’d panicked and run. And had been running ever since.



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