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Detective Grace Dobson's new case opens doors locked long ago.

The sweet and bitter scents mixed together to create the soothing atmosphere that was only available in such establishments. Two young women wearing t-shirts of a rich chocolate color covered by purple aprons darted from the cash register to the machines behind the counter. A large crowd of men and women, dressed in an array of fashions, congregated in front of the counter. Men in suits with ties carrying briefcases waited impatiently as they barked into their phones. Women with hair pulled back into ponytails laughed with children sitting in strollers. A group of teenagers with piercings and dark band shirts chatted lively together. Groups discussing the latest news or loners hiding behind their laptops filled the little cafe's array of eclectic seating.

A woman with long, dark brown hair wrapped her long-fingered pale hand around the square black handle of the door and pushed it open. Standing to the side after opening the door, she allowed a dark-skinned woman with tight, black curls to exit the shop first. The brunette took a sip from her cup as she followed her friend out. The wind whipped the door shut as soon as the woman released it. She buttoned her leather jacket to ward off the wind as her companion followed suit by tying her purple, cloth, trench coat.

“God, this shit is good,” the woman in the leather jacket sighed as she took another sip from her cup. Her friend nodded. “It hits the spot too. Burns the insides and fights the cold outside.”

“We could have always drunk it inside Goldman's, and that would have fought the cold too, Grace.” Her friend smirked. Grace's eyes narrowed as she shook her head.

“There was no place to sit, Lottie,” Grace reminded in a low tone.

“We could have gone to the other one,” Lottie suggested. “It's bound to have seats.”

“No way,” Grace snapped. “Our fathers used to go to Goldman's before work, and so did their fathers before them, and their fathers before them. I am not going to break a hundred year tradition.”

She emphasized her point by spinning her cup and revealing the logo to her friend. Within a purple circle was a deep chocolate coffee cup. Above the cup, in the same chocolate lettering, was the word Goldman's, and below that, Established 1912. She sipped it through her smirk as Lottie shook her head. Pulling the cup back down, Grace continued, “I did enough of that when I was in college. I came back for Blackmoor's traditions, and I plan on keeping them.”

“And I thought you came back because you missed me and Dean,” Lottie laughed. Grace shook her head as she smiled. She bit her lip as she listened to her friend's laugh. Lottie stopped, looking back at Grace. The two women stood in silence, simply staring at each other. Grace searched her friend's face for something. Lottie wore a look of confusion. Tired of the silence she dared, “Grace, are you okay?”

Grace shook her head, “Yeah, it's just, you do that a lot.”

“Do what?” Lottie asked, cautiously.

Grace exhaled a sharp breath, “I don't know. When you start talking about the past...When we talk about the incident... Something always feels missing. Like you want to add something, but you choose not to.” Grace shook her head and started walking again, “Never mind. It's weird.”

Lottie kept back as Grace continued to walk. She hung her head, her eyes slowly closed and a soft, sad smile tugged at her lips. Head still hanging, she looked at Grace's retreating form through her lashes. “If you only knew.”

Grace stopped and turned around. Lottie was still hanging back down the street. Grace called, “Anholts, you were the one complaining about how cold it was. Come on.”

Lottie stuck her tongue out at the mockery in her friend's voice before picking up her speed to catch up with Grace. Lottie reached Grace just as the Law & Order theme song echoed from Grace's pocket. She reached in and grabbed her black phone. The image of a younger, redheaded man was on the screen. Grace pressed the green button and held the phone to her ear. Cheerily, she greeted, “Hey Ferris, what's happening partner?”

Her smile slipped from her face as she handed her cup to Lottie, pressed the phone in between her shoulder and ear, and took out a small notebook from her other pocket. She flipped it open, used her teeth to pull the cap off of her pen, and scribbled onto the blank sheet. Skillfully, she put the pen back together and put the writing instruments back in her pocket. Her expression was stony, her eyes filled with rage and determination. Righting her head, she ended the call, “Alright, we'll meet you over there. See you in five.”

Lottie handed Grace her cup back, asking, “What do we have?”

“Kid,” Grace shook her head. She jerked her thumb behind her back as she snapped, “Back alley of Maple and Third, fucking vamp probably, we've got irregular marks, but it's the day after the full. A wolf would have left a mess last night. Ghouls are too stupid to frame, and a goblin will have left other marks in their attempt to knock the victim down. Won't rule it out, but I'm thinking it's a vamp.”

She continued her walk down the street, curses flowing freely as she did. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a set of keys. Knocking the rest of her morning caffeine drink back, she tossed the white cup into a nearby trash can and stepped around a blue coupe. Lottie followed suit and hopped into the passenger seat. Lottie hurried to put her seat belt on as the engine roared to life. Stepping down on the clutch, she threw the gears into reverse, put her hand on the back of Lottie's seat, and sped out of her parking spot. Straight in the street, she moved the gears around and raced through town. Lottie held onto the handle above her door as Grace maneuvered her vehicle.

A group of men, women, and children were huddled around a stretch of yellow police tape blocking off a small alley way. Two officers in blue were trying to keep the congregation back. Another was standing with the redheaded man that had appeared on Grace's phone earlier. Office buildings, tall for Blackmoor, towered over the scene. Grace pulled between a black-and-white and a tan, beat up sedan. Another black-and-white separated the first from a van scrawled with the words Blackmoor Coroner. Lottie walked to the young woman standing beside the van. After sharing a hasty conversation, Lottie took a black kit from the woman. The pair walked to the huddle, stepped under the police tape, and continued into the alley. Grace moved to where Ferris was standing. Looking at the officer in blue she asked, “What do you know?"

Ferris answered, “Victim's Holly Mann.”

Grace twisted her head from side-to-side, before snapping, “Shit, really?”

Ferris nodded. Grace exhaled sharply, “It better be a fucking goblin that tried to frame a vamp. With everything that Daniel does for those little fuckers. Damn it, they took his daughter?”

“I know,” Ferris sighed. “Holly Mann was Daniel Mann's eldest child and only daughter. He has one other child, a son, Daniel Mann Junior. Holly is the first successful, hybrid child of a vampire and a human ever known to be born. Created after Mann Institutes, Daniel Mann's company perfected the technology that warms the cold seed, allowing it to be used as its purpose would be if the vampire were still alive.”

“Thank you for the history and science lesson,” Grace snapped.

Ferris shrugged, “Ready to check out the scene, Dobson?”

“As ready as anyone can be to see a sixteen-year-old lying dead,” Grace answered.

Both detectives closed their eyes as they allowed a moment of silence for the victim. The moment passing, the detectives walked under the police tape and moved to the back of the alley. Grace was already starting to formulate questions. Why was a sixteen-year-old rich kid walking down an alley at night?

Lottie was crouched around the victim, checking for irregularities she'd need to mark at the scene. She looked up when she heard the footsteps of the detectives and shook her head. Grace frowned, “Definitely a vamp?”

“Only thing else would be a wolf, and like you said, they were all tied up last night.” Ferris and Dobson shared a look at Lottie's pun. “Goblins must have been too busy with the mischief of the holiday to worry about framing the murder of the Mann heiress. Only a vampire could have caused marks like this in the last thirteen, fourteen hours. We found this,” Lottie said, pulling a red and black bag to her side. Blackmoor High School was scrawled in white across the side of the athletic duffel bag.

Grace smiled sadly, “Wasn't there a game at the high school last night?”

“Dean and the little ones shifted last night. I took Mattie trick-or-treating to get her out of the house,” Lottie answered, “I don't know.”

“Yeah,” Ferris answered instead. Grace looked at him. “Girls played at six, boys at eight. Holly was on fire.”

“Damn small towns,” Grace cursed. “When one family losses someone...”

Lottie and Ferris looked at the body of the girl they'd all known somewhat. She was a tall, thin girl with bright blond hair as yellow as the sun and a cool, unblemished complexion. Ferris pursed his lips together. Grace looked at him with a raised brow. Ferris mumbled so that Lottie couldn't hear, “I always wondered what would happen when a hybrid passed.”

Grace covered her mouth to hide the response she inadvertently gave to his comment. Pulling her hand away she nodded, “Yeah, I wondered if they were immortal as well.”

“Poor Daniel,” Lottie sighed, “to have already lost your parents and your siblings. To know you would lose your spouse, and now, to have to lose your children. He must have wondered the same. Would they, having his blood, be able to perish? I hate when we lose children in this town.”

“Ma'am,” the young woman standing beside Lottie called. Lottie looked up at her. “I can take her to the station if you'd like to go see your pups?”

Lottie laughed, “Thank you Jordan, that's sweet, but not necessary. I'll see them tonight, and Dean and I will both hold our babies close and make sure they know how much we love them. I think I'll bake Alice a pie.”

“You've got it all under control here, Lots?” Grace called to her friend. Lottie looked up at her with glassy eyes, and nodded after she'd shaken herself from her thoughts. Grace smiled softly, “Damn small towns.”

“Yes,” Lottie nodded. “Damn small towns.”

“I've got another stop I have to make,” Grace told Ferris when they'd walked out of the alley. He nodded before getting into his car.

Grace had been determined to get to the scene quickly after getting Ferris' call. Her drive to the edge of the town was much slower. Driving down the four-lane main road, Grace followed the rules of the road. She passed office buildings and apartment buildings, Goldman's, its single rival, and a collection of restaurants interlaced between bookstores, clothing shops, and more. Citizens of the town knew the local businesses well, but they were unrecognizable to guests in the town for their first time. Passing under the fifth and final stoplight, Grace pulled into a cemetery on the outskirts of town. She drove for another few minutes before pulling up to the edge of the road. She walked down the rows of gravestones before coming to a raised granite plaque. Carved into the gray stone were two names and three dates.

Sucking in a breath she smiled weakly. “Morning, Mommy. Hi, Daddy. Ferris and I got a bad case today. I've got an assignment for you Detective Dobson. Watch over this victim for me, alright? Her daddy’s not going to be able to.” She shrugged, “Daniel Mann finally figured out how to do it, but you already knew that. I remember when Mom told you, you laughed so hard that morning. 'Vampires having babies, what's this world coming to? Well, good for them. Alice always had a way with kids, didn't she sweetheart?' Yeah, Daddy, my babysitter was always good with kids. She watched over me. Now it is your turn to watch over Holly.”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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