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Crime of Passion

HBIA: Case Files 1

A.M. Halford

Copyright © 2017 by A.M. Halford
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

ISBN: 9781370063529

Cover Artist: A.M. Halford

Editor: Avril Stepowski


Thank you DeAnne and Jocelyn, my two lovely beta readers this time around. You two were a tremendous help! And, of course, thank you to my editor, Avril, for all your work.

Chapter One

Dragos pulled back the sheet covering the latest victim, examining her carefully. She fit the same MO as the last three women. He hated to say it, actually he was loathed to even think it, but it seemed they did, in fact, have a serial killer on their hands.

“Her name’s Amber Byrd. Doc says her heart was removed postmortem, just like the last three,” Rozalia, his partner, said as she came to kneel beside him. Her burgundy hair and silver eyes made her stand out, though his flame red hair and gold eyes weren’t any better. “Also, the same symbol was found on them,” she reached under the sheet and withdrew the victim’s left arm. A pentagram was burned into the underside of her wrist.

“So, are the brass officially calling it then?” Dragos asked as he stood and straightened to his full height of six-eight.

Rozalia nodded. “Demonic murders. As of this one, the HBIA are taking over. That means it’s now our case.”

“And thank goodness for that,” a detective of the Paradigm Police Department: Human Division, District 12, said as he walked over to them. His brown suit was rumpled. He’d probably slept in it last night. Brown hair and brown eyes, average build, and a mediocre face didn’t leave much of an impression. “Name’s Jamison. I was the leading detective until the higher powers declared it your business. I’ll have the files dropped off at your office.”

“Thank you. Until then, care to walk us through what you know so far?” Dragos inclined his head toward the dead woman.

“Not much really,” Jamison shrugged. “According to our ME cause of death is not apparent upon initial examination. Her heart was removed after she was killed. Of course, if this is the same sick bastard, then her cause of death will be natural. Our guys say it’s like their lives just left them. Honestly, you guys deal with some strange shit.”

Dragos agreed, but didn’t comment back. The gateway between Earth and Rua, the supernatural world, that appeared at Nemo Point in the Pacific Ocean had been open for nearly five hundred years now, and each side was still adjusting to their new neighbors. Half-bloods like him and Rozalia were employed as part of a special police force that worked on the fringes of both worlds. Whenever one crossed into the other’s territory it became the HBIA’s jurisdiction. And in Paradigm, the hexagonal, manmade, floating island and neutral mega-city built around the gateway, that happened regularly.

“Thank you, detective,” Rozalia smiled warmly. “We’ll call if we have any further questions.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jamison waved as he turned and walked away. “I know the drill.”

He could hear the bitterness in Jamison’s voice. The district PDs hated when they got involved and took one of their cases. Dragos understood the resentment, but it was for their own good. Humans just weren’t equipped to handle this kind of thing, plus they couldn’t be trusted to remain partial. At least, that was the official ruling.

“Think he’ll be of any use?” Rozalia asked as she looked around the scene. Her eyes narrowed and Dragos followed her line of sight to the police line at the mouth of the alleyway. A tall, broad shouldered man was arguing with one of the beat cops. “Your turn to deal with the reporters.”

“Flip you?” Dragos said, providing a quarter from his pocket.

“Oh no,” she shook her head, “I refuse to go up against your luck. I’m not crazy. Go over there and get rid of that pest before he manages to work his way around them.”

“Fine.” Dragos rolled his eyes as he walked over to the arguing pair.

“I’m telling you, I’m not with the press,” the man said, exhaustion in his deep voice. “I was sent here from HBIA HQ. I’m a forensic specialist assigned to this case.”

“Nice try,” the cop drawled. “Those people don’t use scientists.”

“I didn’t say I was a scientist,” he sighed.

“Can I see some ID?” Dragos demanded upon reaching the pair.

Coral green eyes met his own and Dragos got his first good look at the man. He was dressed to impress in a tailored pair of black slacks and a green button up shirt. A strap to a what Dragos had first thought to be a camera box was slung over his shoulder. The only thing that didn’t match his perfect dress were the sturdy black non-slip shoes he was wearing. They were scuffed and obviously well worn.

“Here,” he reached into his back pocket and extracted his wallet. Accepting the black leather, Dragos opened it and felt his stomach drop. The guy was in fact from HQ, and he was a forensic alchemist. “Captain Archer wants me on this case, and I’d like to get started immediately.”

“Let him through,” Dragos instructed, handing Neculai Petron, according to his ID, back the wallet. “The body’s this way.” Keeping his irritation under check, Dragos led the way back to the woman still laying on the filth ridden street. Now that this guy was here they couldn’t move her until he gave the okay. “Rozalia, meet Neculai, our assigned geek.”

“Already? Damn, that was fast,” Rozalia said. “Well, go ahead and do your thing. I need to head out and pick Grace up, meet you back at the office, Dragos.”

“Okay, give her a kiss from me,” Dragos waved his partner away.

“You’re still coming to dinner, right?” Rozalia shouted back to him.

“And miss Jerald’s cooking? Never.” Dragos smiled as Rozalia flipped him off. Jerald couldn’t cook in a kitchen to save his daughters’ lives, but the guy made a mean BBQ steak. With the summer officially beating down on them it was Jerald’s time to shine at the grill, cooking for his family and friends.

“I’m removing this,” Neculai warned, cutting off Dragos’ internal thoughts, before pulling the sheet covering the victim off and folding it neatly to the side.

Half interested in what the man was doing, Dragos propped himself against the brick wall of one of the bordering buildings, ignoring the grime that was no doubt clinging to it, and watched as the forensic expert pulled out a vial from his box. The green liquid inside it reminded Dragos of something one would find in a pond that had been left to sit for months.

Neculai—using a metallic ink pen—wrote a symbol on the vial, popped the cap, and held it beside the woman’s mouth. A blue tendril of smoke rose past her lips and coiled into the murky liquid, changing it from a sickly green to a vibrant amber as the symbol glowed red.

“Definitely traces of magic,” Neculai concluded as if they hadn’t known magic was used to kill this woman. Fully healthy human women didn’t just fall over dead from what seemed to be natural causes without some kind of nudge from the supernatural.

“If that’s all you can tell me then I’ll get more use out of a parrot,” Dragos remarked.

The glare shot at him had Dragos reaching for his weapon unconsciously. “Easy now, Detective Dragos,” Neculai warned standing to his full height. He stood a good three inches taller than Dragos, making him at least six-eleven if not seven foot. The man was towering. “The fact the liquid changed color means magic was used. The color it changed to refers to what branch of magic.”

“Now that,” Dragos smiled, “Is something I can use. So, what species am I looking for?”

“Angel,” Neculai answered. “Though, judging by the fact the liquid didn’t go a pure gold means you’re probably looking for a half angel.”

* * * *

Neculai wasn’t sure what it was about him that made Dragos so prickly, but the detective sure wasn’t helping anything by glaring at him as he finished checking the scene for any more signs of supernatural presence. He found a few traces of residual energy toward the entrance of the alleyway that matched what he’d pulled from the victim, meaning the murderer probably cast his spell while still standing on the street. Of course, Neculai couldn’t draw any firm conclusions until he’d done a thorough investigation of both the body and all the evidence.

Unfortunately, he was coming onto this case late. At least one of the victims had already been released to her family to be cremated. If that was the case, retrieving the information to tie the four cases together would be much harder.

“Are you done yet?” Dragos asked. He’d moved to the police line and had been talking with the human detective, Jamison. No doubt trading information and comparing notes. “We need to get this area secured.”

There was nothing else for him to do here. The human police had already collected all the physical evidence he would need. Placing his tools back into his box, he slung it over his shoulder and nodded. “I’d like to see the other three crime scenes, if possible.”

“Of course,” Dragos conceded without much of a fight as he ducked under the tape and said goodbye to Jamison. “A team should be arriving to secure the alley. Do you mind sticking around until they get here?”

“No problem,” Jamison said. “Nothing waiting for me at home but my TV and a bottle of scotch.”

Neculai winced internally. He never could understand some people’s obsession with alcohol and being alone.

Following Dragos to his unmarked car, he set his box in the back and climbed into the front passenger seat. Glancing at the detective, he wondered why he had the sense that he’d seen him somewhere before. His shoulder length, straight red hair was pulled back in a ponytail showing off his perfectly symmetrical features. He couldn’t recall ever running into the man at HQ—he’d remember such a stunning man if he had—so where?

“Which site do you want to see first?” Dragos asked, starting the engine and pulling out into traffic.

“The first one,” Neculai answered, looking away from the admittedly handsome guy.

As they drove, Neculai wished HQ would have called him or another in earlier to confirm the situation with these cases. Now he had to do extra leg work to confirm what was already known.

If at any point he couldn’t pinpoint supernatural activity in one of the victim’s cases that one would be handed back over to PPD: HD to handle. The HBIA only had jurisdiction when it was a human, supernatural crime or HSC, or when a half-blood was directly involved. Human against human crimes, HHC, had nothing to do with them. Just like supernaturals committing crimes against other supernaturals, SSC, was outside their scope. It made for a narrow field of work, but not surprisingly, it was almost never quiet.

There had only been peace between Rua and Earth for 250 years now, and that was tentative, at best, at times. The first hundred years was soaked in bloodshed. The following hundred was a cold war of sorts. Another fifty was spent in peace talks and signing of treaties. Once that was done people needed to settle into their new realities, and many still didn’t want a melding of the worlds.

That’s where Paradigm came into play. The large island was created using technology from both worlds, with the hope of making it an example of peace for the rest of the world. The mega-city was broken up into twenty districts, and each district seemed to have its own, escalating problems. Some example they were.

Yes, there were plenty of people that hated those that were different, creating more than enough crime between the two worlds. Sadly, ninety percent of the crimes investigated by the HBIA were, what many would call, hate crimes. Hate crimes were so common, that it was a rule at HBIA to investigate all crimes with that mind set.

“Here we are,” Dragos announced as he pulled off the street and parallel parked at the curb in front of the alley in the sixth sector of District 12, where the first victim was found. “Alicia Taylor was found behind a dumpster in this alley one month ago. No apparent cause of death upon initial observation, and her heart was removed postmortem. The same brand was burned into her wrists as well,” he explained as they got out of the car and walked down the dark space.

With how old the scene was Neculai doubted he’d get anything from this location, still, he had to try. Magic used to kill another was powerful stuff. Knowing that, Neculai was hoping that traces still remained.

Pulling out another vial, he turned to Dragos and asked, “Which dumpster?”

“That one,” Dragos pointed to the green, greasy metal box to the left. “Here,” he handed him a photo of the body as it had been found, leaning against the building and the dumpster as if the victim was only asleep. The gaping hole in her chest proved otherwise.

Neculai wasted no time in going over and kneeling down in the exact same spot. Marking the vial, he passed it over the area several times, smiling in triumph when he got a reaction. It was the same. Angel magic had been used here as well, and it was used by a half breed.

“Well?” Dragos asked.

“You definitely have a serial killer,” Neculai said, standing up and showing him the vial. “He’s killed at least two of the victims.”

Chapter Two

Dragos sighed as he sat at his desk. He’d spent the last hour and a half driving Neculai around to the three other crime scenes, all within District 12, though in different sectors. Neculai confirmed that all four women were killed in the same way, though he hadn’t specified exactly what that was yet. Then again, just knowing that a half angel was responsible for the murders was a huge step forward. Unlike when the human police were in charge, they now had something to work with.

Of course, all the credit went to that damned geek. Dragos wasn’t so arrogant as to take credit for someone else’s work. Neculai had provided the tools and knowledge that allowed them to discover where to start looking. Dragos guessed he owed the guy a thank you at the very least.

Looking at the clock on his computer he sighed. He still had a few hours before his shift was over. Might as well figure out where the hell those case files were, seeing as they hadn’t been delivered yet. Reaching for his phone he called PPD: HD in District 12 and was given the run around. When he finally managed to reach Jamison, the guy gave him some half-baked apology about him being over loaded, but he swore the files would be there by tomorrow.

“They had better be,” Dragos warned as he hung up. Maybe he should’ve waited for tomorrow when Rozalia was back? She was better at dealing with this type of thing. His phone rang before he could think of anything else to do, and Dragos quickly answered it. “Detective Iliescu.”

“Hello, it’s Neculai.” Dragos straightened in his chair at the sound of the man’s voice, ignoring the strange tingle he felt upon hearing that whiskey deepness so close to his ear. Sure, the guy was hot, but that reaction was a bit odd. “I was able to get some information from the local ME if you’d like to come down and take a look and compare notes.”

How the hell had he gotten the information so quickly when Dragos had just spent half an hour on the phone just to be put on hold until tomorrow? Did the guy use some fucking charm to get the HD’s ME to fold?

“Be right down,” was all Dragos said before he hung up and stood from his desk. Rozalia wouldn’t be back until tomorrow, so he didn’t bother leaving a message about where to find him.

Going to the elevator, he clicked the button for the fifth floor and leaned against the side of the metal box. He ignored the rather dull music playing through the speakers as it slowly descended two levels, a number lighting up at every floor.

When the 6 lit up and the doors opened, Dragos quickly stepped off the elevator, letting several people on, and made his way down the hall. Glancing at the nameplates he located Neculai Petron and let himself in without announcing himself.

“Over here,” Neculai waved from the back of the room. Dragos carefully picked his way across the space, being extra cautious not to bump into anything in here. Some of the instruments looked like what you would see in any science lab, while others appeared more at home in a wizard’s sanctuary. “I have the autopsy reports on all the victims, as well as photos. The ME also managed to send me a list of items found on their persons.”

Dragos bit back his first retort as he accepted the paperwork handed to him by the forensic expert. Looking at the pictures, he noticed how similar the four women looked. Yes, he knew they all fit the same basic profile: mid-twenties, blonde hair, blue eyes, slim petite figures. But these women almost looked like they could be sisters.

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