She felt sorry for the kid, but the last couple of years had taught her never to blindly assume anything about the Darkyn. If she were wrong and Jamys wasn’t involved, she’d apologize.
Evan Tenderson was just finishing his shift at the morgue when she arrived, and grumbled as he went back to his office to retrieve his preliminary autopsy notes.
“Virginia confirmed the I.D., although the kid’s parents are dead and so are all the other living relatives,” he told her as they walked down the hall. “According to their FAX, the vic was reported missing in sixty-nine and declared dead in seventy-six.”
“Did you find any trace?”
“Not so much as an epithelial or an eyelash,” he said, pressing a square of gum from a foil packet he took from his pocket and popping it in his mouth. “Considering the condition of the body, it was extraordinarily clean,” he said as he chewed. “Makes you wonder if Bundy had a little brother.”
She didn’t like jokes about serial killers, but she could appreciate the reference. Ted Bundy had kept the bodies of many of his victims for some time, amusing himself with them as well as washing and grooming them. “Cause of death?”
“I can’t say by what means yet. I didn’t find any blood or body fluids, so I sent hair, tissue and bone samples for a tox screen.” He opened a drawer of his immaculately tidy desk and took out a steno pad. “No sign of failure or trauma in the internal organs or the brain, and the neck and wrist injuries were post-mortem. Barring anything unusual from the tox, your vic probably died of heart failure. I found a good-size blowout in the aorta. What I’d love to know is why every drop of blood is missing. The heart for damn sure didn’t pump it out.” He tried to blow a bubble with his gum and failed.
“Yeah, that’s a little weird.” Sam kept her voice bland. “What else?”
“Something even weirder,” Tenderson said. “Virginia advised me that Wilson Robert Carcher filed for a name change before leaving the states. Birth certificate reads Wilma Rachel Carcher.”
She would never have guessed, looking at the corpse. “Wilson had a sex-change?”
“Nah. All she changed was her name and wardrobe,” Tenderson told her. “She strapped down her boobs, and kept a dildo in her drawers for appearances, but her body was never altered. Your vic was a female.”
“When did he – did she – die?”
“That’s what I don’t want to put in my report.” Tenderson gave her an uneasy look. “Yesterday.”
“I knew no one would believe me, so I saved a sample.” He went to the small refrigerator beside his desk and took out a vial filled with a thick red substance. “I pulled this out of her sternum and checked it under the scope. From the condition of the marrow, this gal was alive yesterday.”
Sam took the vial and studied it. “Who else have you told about this?”
“Well, I thought about calling Doctor G. up in Orange County,” he said, spitting out his gum into the trash and replacing it with a fresh piece, “but somehow I don’t think she’d want me to upstage her on her cable show.”
“Is this the only sample you have?” When he nodded, Sam pocketed it. Before he could squawk, she placed a hand on his neck and shed enough scent to make his eyes darken. “Evan, I want you to forget about the bone marrow anomaly and the bite marks on the body. Report that the victim died of natural causes. Arrange to have the body released to the county, and send her to be cremated.”
“Forget. Report. Arrange,” he said in a distant monotone.
“Try to give up the gum and have a merry Christmas while you’re at it.” Sam ripped the pages of notes he’d made from the pad and stuffed them into her pocket before she opened the door to the office. “Thanks.”
The fresh air removed the bemusement from the medical examiner’s face. “Yeah, yeah.” He removed the wad of gum from his mouth and pitched it at the trash can. “Happy holidays to you, too.”
Sam went down to headquarters and reported to Garcia’s office, where she briefed him on the case. After relating the details from the autopsy along with the startling fact that the victim had been a woman, she asked, “Is it possible she was killed by a Kyn lord because she was a cross-dresser?”
“Possible, but highly unlikely. She could not have fooled a Kyn lord for long.” Garcia tapped his nose. “They can smell our gender.”
“Okay. Could she have been this Kyn lord’s tresora?”
Garcia, who like the rest of his family had served the Kyn his entire life, frowned. “Also unlikely. Our lords generally do not feed on us unless they have no alternative.” He hesitated, and then added, “Over time a few tresori also serve as kyaran, the mortal companions. As such they provide our lords with blood, sex and affection. But a Kyn lord would not wish to have his kyara dress like a male.”
Sam knew most of the Kyn were remarkably conservative when it came to matters of sexuality. They were still wrestling with the reality of modern alternative lifestyles. “Let’s say he did. Why would he drain the body of blood and then dump it in a public place?”
Garcia made an uncertain gesture. “I cannot say, Samantha. Such intimate relationships between lord and tresora are difficult to sustain, but they do happen, and sometimes result in tragedy. The more often a Kyn lord uses a mortal, the more likely he is to lose control, go into thrall and kill them. But had that been the case, you would have found an unconscious Kyn beside the mortal.”
“Maybe it happened somewhere else.” She waited as Garcia answered his phone, and then took the receiver when he handed it to her. “Brown.”
“My lady, forgive me for disturbing you at your work,” Herbert Burke said, “but I am concerned about Christian. She did not come to the club today, and she does not answer the phone at her flat.”
Sam thought of how upset Chris had been after the confrontation with Jamys. “She’s probably pissed at me, Burke. Let’s give her the day off.”
“Of course.” He cleared his throat. “My lord Lucan also bid me to pass along a request that you return to the stronghold immediately, for your own safety.”
She smothered a chuckle. “I bet he didn’t say it like that.”
“No, my lady,” Burke admitted, “and please don’t ask me to repeat his exact words.”
She needed to track Wilson Carcher’s last movements, and that would take time. “Tell Lucan I’m fine. I have to track down some information about the victim and see if that tells us anything about this Kyn running around our territory. I’ll be home in a couple of hours.”
Burke sighed. “As you wish, my lady.”
Samantha hung up the phone and took out the passport Rafael had found on the victim. “Before she came over her, Wilson Carcher’s last stop in Europe was in the Netherlands. Do we have any friends among the Dutch authorities?”
Garcia smiled. “We have friends everywhere on the planet.” He jotted down a number and handed it to her. “Rafael called while you were at the morgue. He lost Jamys Durand’s trail downtown last night.”
That didn’t bode well for Rafael or Jamys. “We need to find out where this kid is before any more bodies turn up.”
“Rafael has summoned the best trackers in the jardin,” Garcia assured her. “If he is still in Fort Lauderdale, they will locate him.”
She left the captain’s office and went to her desk, where she called their Dutch contact. The senior inspector, who spoke beautifully-accented English, was able to access and e-mail her the passenger manifest for the flight Wilson Carcher had taken from his country to hers.
“There is something else, my lady,” the inspector said. “The flight was bought out by one individual, who paid for all two hundred and seventy-six passengers.”
That sounded like something a Kyn would do. “What’s his name?”
“Her name is listed as Erzsébet Cséjthe of Magyarország,” he said.
Sam didn’t even try to repeat it, but had him spell the name and the place for her. “Is that last bit some place in Belgium?”
“No, my lady. It is the proper name of a country. Let me think . . .” He fell silent for a time. “Ah, yes. Now I remember the English. You call it Hungary.”
“I didn’t know we had Hungarian Kyn,” she said.
“Neither did I, my lady. I will make some calls and see what I can learn.”
Sam thanked him and ended the call. Knowing that Carcher had traveled to the
U.S. on a plane with his seat and all the others paid for by a Hungarian woman didn’t make things less complicated, but at least she had a name now. She pulled up a search engine and put in the name the inspector had given her.
The first link that popped up took her to some sort of online travel journal written by a filmmaker traveling around eastern Europe. She began to read about the English woman’s difficulties in getting across borders and finding decent accommodations, and wondered why people who didn’t like the discomforts of travel were always the first ones to jump on a plane and go to a third-world country where they didn’t even speak the language.
After a few paragraphs of whining about the food, the hotels and the inconvenience and expense of obtaining the travel papers she needed, the filmmaker posted some blurry graphics of herself, a distant pile of ruins, and two books. One had a lurid-looking jacket and the screaming title of Dracula was a Woman while the other bore an enigmatic sunburst and had been titled and subtitled, but she could only make out the header: The Bloody Countess.
The phone rang, dragging her attention away from the screen. “Brown.”
“Detective, this is Carmen Figueroa,” a frantic voice said. “My husband just call me. He say he see Luce down on the strip, but when he go to her she no talk to him. She walk away. When he try to stop her, she push him and he fall.”