The precinct is bustling with activity when they enter. Calypso is nibbling on a cherry filled donut. Unlike vampires, succubi can digest human food. While not their main source of sustenance, Valerian knows Calypso enjoys a variety of dishes. Unfortunately, with energy being their main diet, she’s explained it’s easy for her to put on pounds, not having the metabolism to burn it off. Melissa, on the other hand, is starting on her sixth donut.
Valerian takes a sip from the bottle he’s carrying, wrinkling his nose. The blood was warm when they picked it up, having made a stop at a local blood bank run by a Minotaur of all things. One thing he hates about not feeding live: the blood cools a lot quicker. And it tastes sour due to the chemicals used to keep it from coagulating. Guess that makes two things.
The captain’s door opens and she slithers out, her scales making a rough dragging sound against the tile floor. She stops in front of them and holds out a hand. Melissa doesn’t hesitate in handing her a donut.
She takes a bite, chews, and swallows. “Good work. I got Pisinoe to call the human captain and convince him to call off his detectives.”
“Oh, that’s just cruel,” Calypso says.
Valerian agrees. He doesn’t know the full extent of a siren’s voice, but he knows the one time he heard it, Pisinoe practically had him drooling at her feet. Her influence lasted for days, even though it was an accident. She was trying to influence Devan. If not for his exceptional hearing he would never have been in that position.
At least she didn’t make him do anything more embarrassing than being nice, he’s grateful for that. Though, even with his enhanced healing, his cheeks still hurt for hours afterward from all the smiling she forced him to do. Maybe next time she’ll just get up and get her own cup of coffee.
“Cruel or not, that should keep the humans out of our way, which is what I want.” Captain Euryale holds out her hand again, Melissa giving her another donut. “I’ve got Devan working on the laptop.”
She sweeps out her empty hand towards their desks, boxes stacked on Valerian’s and Calypso’s, along with a few on the floor. “I’ve left the court cases to you three. Once Hestor finishes with the autopsies we might have more info. In the meantime, get digging.” She twists around, slithering back to her office.
Melissa groans. “Hestor creeps me out. I don’t have to pick up the report, do I?”
Calypso clicks her tongue, wagging a finger at the werecat. “Now, now, Melissa, that’s not very nice. I know he can be a little awkward, but we should respect our coworkers.”
Melissa’s pout fails, her cheeks stuffed with a donut. “But zombies freak me out.”
“He’s not a zombie, he’s a ghoul.” Valerian doesn’t wait for a response, making for his desk. He glares at Cadence, the mutt seated next to Calypso’s desk. He has an open box by his feet and a file in his lap.
Cadence doesn’t look up from what he’s reading through to address Valerian. “Can it, Batman. The captain told me to help.”
“Bat jokes, how original.” Valerian kicks the back of the chair when he passes. The werewolf yelps, teetering and flailing his arms while fumbling for the file.
Calypso and Melissa join them. The werecat plops down in a chair next to Cadence, setting the donuts on Valerian’s desk in front of her. Cadence helps himself to the sweets.
The succubus slips in between Valerian and his chair, almost making him walk right into her. He jerks to a stop, glaring, but she only chuckles, dragging her hand across his chest. What is with everyone stroking him today?
She grabs a pen laying on his desk and waves it under his nose as if saying that’s what she came for, before heading for her own desk. He’s not even going to mention the cup full of pens sitting beside her laptop. She’ll probably tell him none of them work, anyway.
Valerian jerks out his chair with more force than necessary and seats himself. He glances at the labeled boxes stacked around them. This is going to be tedious. Now that Calypso has stolen his pen, he has to dig through his drawers for another one. No way in Hell is he taking one from her; all of them are either neon green, hot pink, or bright purple.
They had been sitting at the desks going through file after file for over an hour, finding nothing that sheds any light on their culprit, before Calypso spoke.
“Have you decided to call that cute detective?”
Valerian raises his head, his glare falling short because Calypso still has her head buried in her own file, turning another page.
Cadence, like the mutt he is, latches onto the question like it’s a bone. “You got someone’s number? ‘Bout damn time. You gonna lose your V card yet?”
Valerian directs his glare to Cadence. “I’m not a virgin. Not even close.”
The mutt huffs. “You haven’t been laid in like centuries. That’s practically the same thing.”
“You aren’t even a century old; how would you know?” He’s very tempted to kick the dog this time instead of his chair.
“Not a hundred percent positive—” Cadence drops his file on the floor, grabbing another, “—but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you scare off anyone even remotely interested.”
Melissa snickers, bumping her shoulder against Cadence’s. “I noticed that, too.”
Valerian smacks a folder against her chest, and she jumps. She gets the hint, her ears flattening, and she pouts, taking the folder. With her head down, she opens it.
“They why didn’t it work with that sheep.” He’s not going to mention to them he enthralled the human. Calypso and Cadence would never let him live it down. He snags the edge of an unopened box with his boot, dragging it closer.
Cadence sighs, sounding exasperated. “You seriously tried, didn’t you.” He makes it sound like he’s physically pained by Valerian refusing the cattle’s advances. “Ya know, you probably wouldn’t be so grouchy if you got laid.”
Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks? As soon as the statement leaves the mutt’s lips he’s standing and dragging his chair out of Valerian’s reach. As if it’s any of the poodle’s business.
“I wouldn’t be in such a bad mood it you kept your mouth shut,” Valerian retorts.
Calypso sets down her file, resting her elbows on her desk and entwining her fingers together underneath her chin. “You could go out for coffee? I know you can’t eat, but a cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt.”
“Forget the date,” Cadence interjects. “Just chew on her, that shows interest.”
Valerian stares, waiting for the punchline.
Melissa swats Cadence’s arm. “You are such a dog. You can’t jump straight to chewing, you have to play with him first.”
“Oh, it’s a dude?” Cadence says.
“Am I dating him or hunting him?!”
The two were-animals turn their gazes to Valerian and stare. “What’s the difference?” Cadence asks.
Calypso sighs, shaking her head. “This is why you don’t take dating advice from animals.” She crosses her arms atop her desk. “Let’s just stick with coffee for now.”
“Should I be taking dating advice from you? If it were up to you, we would be dropping our pants before we even ordered our coffee.” He replaces the lid on the box he was going through; obviously, they’re done with this for now. He’ll head down to the morgue, see if Hestor has anything.
“True, true.” Calypso taps her chin. “But I also know it’s not for everyone. Long lasting relationships can’t hinge on sex alone.”
Valerian pauses halfway to standing from his chair and eyes her. “What makes you think we have anything in common that would make this a long-lasting relationship?” He finishes pushing himself up. “Or that I’m even interested?”
Calypso tilts her head, her eyes calculating, studying him. “I can pick up sexual desire and attraction, you know this.” At his confused nod she continues, “And you were enticed.” She holds up an index finger before he even gets a protest formed. “Not a lot, it was minuscule and gone almost as fast as it appeared, but the attraction was there.
“That was also the first time I’ve ever felt you allured by anyone, even remotely.” She clasps her hands together under her chin, her lips pulling up into a wicked smile. “That deserves some investigation, don’t you think?”
Cadence and Melissa are silent, watching the exchange with wide eyes.
Valerian sighs. There’s no point in arguing with her, even if she’s wrong. “I’m going to check on Hestor, see if he’s found anything.”
Calypso waggles the fingers of a hand at him in the semblance of a wave, her sinister smile still present.
Abanoub slipping into the space behind Melissa where he wasn’t a second before has Valerian pausing mid-step. Melissa straightens in her seat, her ears erect and her eyes wide, as the mummy reaches around her to grab the empty donut box.
Cadence leans away, eyeing him. Abanoub drops the box into a trash bag he’s holding. He pulls a Lysol wipe from beneath his wraps, reaching around Melissa again to wipe down Valerian’s desk where the box sat. The wipe goes in the bag, and he shuffles away.
Melissa sags in her chair, letting out a sigh.
“Dude,” Cadence comments, his eyes tracking the mummy, “he like, bleeds from the shadows.”
Khalid holds out a thermos as Abanoub gets close, and the mummy takes it, depositing it into his bag before moving on.
Calypso hums, watching the two older zelan. “Must be an ancient thing.”
“What, like they’re old so they’re weird?” Cadence answers.
“Khalid can probably hear you,” Valerian states, immediately cutting off Melissa’s snickering.
She turns a wary gaze to Khalid who’s flipping through a file, and he waves over his shoulder. Melissa ducks her head, her ears flattening.
“Relax, Lissa,” Cadence tells her, leaning back in his chair and putting on a cocky air. “Khalid’s all bark and no bite.”
Calypso snorts, trying to smother a laugh. “Until he bites you!”
Khalid raises his voice just loud enough to be heard. “Werewolves make me nauseous.”
Melissa sits up straight in her seat, her ears flicking. Her voice is full of incredulity. “You didn’t!”
Valerian takes a deep breath, letting it out with a soft growl from his throat. He knows Khalid is messing with her. Cadence looks like he believes the ancient as well, but Calypso looks amused. He leaves his coworkers and heads for a door at the back of the room, tuning out their conversation about how passive or aggressive Khalid is.
Michael opens his door to a dark, empty apartment. Home alone again. Maybe he should get a dog, but then he’ll have to get a dog sitter. Maybe a cat or a guinea pig would be better. He removes his coat, hanging it on a rack by the door. The warmth of his apartment seeps through his clothing, comfortable and cozy after the long day.
He slips off his shoes and enters the kitchen, the chill of the tile in contrast to the warm air of the room. He drops Willoby’s file onto the counter and opens the fridge. Three beers left; he’ll have to make a store run tomorrow. Or find a better coping mechanism… He’ll put beer on his list.
He grabs one, the bottle cool in his palm, reminding him of that detective from the crime scene, Valerian. When Val grabbed his arm, it was like ice wrapping around his bicep, even through his jacket. Why does he keep going back to that guy? He’s never fixated on someone like this before. Yet, it seems like every time he turns around, he’s thinking about Valerian.
Michael slams the fridge door close, a scowl darkening his features. They had to have done something to him, just like they did Rick. No matter how many times he goes over it in his head, he honestly can’t pinpoint when. It would make more sense to have him less interested, though. But he already is, isn’t he? The case feels like a secondary objective now, with Valerian being first.
Maybe Valerian was the distraction, and they just didn’t consider he’d use the murders to get closer. As much as he desires not to, Valerian needs to be pushed aside. He has to find out what’s going on, what they did to he and Rick, and how to fix it.
He knows it has something to do with the murders. So, find Kevin Willoby’s murderer and he might find something on their cult—detective agency. Michael sighs, snapping off the lid to the beer and tossing it on the island. Easier said than done.
He snatches the file before heading for the living room and drops down in his recliner, setting his feet upon his coffee table. After taking a few swallows of the beer, he wedges it between his thigh and the armrest before opening Willoby’s file, flipping through it. Still no new information and he’s hit a dead end. Besides some psycho using a wild animal they’ve tamed as a weapon, what else could have mauled the Willoby family? Samantha’s and Kaitlyn’s deaths were too clean for it to have been a random animal mauling.
His cell rings just as he’s taking a drink, bringing his focus away from the investigation. He glances at the clock on his cable box, swallowing the beer. It’s almost nine, who could be calling this late? Can’t be Sullivan calling him back in because he doesn’t recognize the number.
Valerian? His heart lurches at just the thought, and he scowls at his body’s response. Even if the guy is calling, he needs to stay cautious and stay focused. Especially now that he suspects they did something to him. Though he doesn’t think it’s Val; the guy didn’t seem too keen on his flirting. Then again, he was coming on heavy and aggressive.
Besides, the kid barely looks twenty. He’s at least seven years older—that’s another reason to not get involved. He swipes a thumb across the answer key before he can miss the call and places the phone against his ear. “Detective Pierson speaking.”
“Good evening, Detective.”
He doesn’t recognize the smooth, sultry tone on the other end, though it does sound familiar.
“You probably don’t remember me, but I was one of the other detectives at the scene today.” Someone else snickers on the other end, sounds feminine.
One of the other detectives... Oh yeah, “You were the really flirty one, right?” How did she get his number? Must have been from his card. So, did Valerian give it to her or did she snatch it? Why does he get the feeling it’s the latter?
The woman coos. “You do remember me! Here I thought you were too busy ogling my partner to even give me a second glance.” Her tone is flirtatious, but he can’t figure out if she’s calling to ask him out or not. He’s getting mixed signals. “And you want to talk about a flirt, you practically had Val pinned to a wall.”
Michael drags a hand through his hair before ruffling the locks, feeling his face grow warm. “Yeah, about that…” He really doesn’t have an excuse.
“He did what?!” a man questions before bursting into raucous laughter.
Another woman chastises him, but Michael can’t make out her words over the guy’s laughter.
“Oh God,” the man wheezes. “I wish I was there to see Vally’s face!” His laughter continues until he yelps, and there’s the sound of something being thrown or falling over?
“Cadence shut up!” the woman he’s been speaking to snaps. Her voice sounds distant. “Ignore him,” she says, sounding closer to the phone.
That’s easy to do. Michaels wants to cut this conversation shirt. He’s kinda wary of phones after what happened to Rick. “What can I do for you, miss?”
“Please, you can call me Calypso.”
Does everybody in that precinct have weird names?
“I was calling to see if you were interested in a date.”
Did Valerian give her his card? While that stings, it’s not the worst way he’s been turned down. He still can’t tell if she’s asking him out. Though, he assumed she knew his preference; she did point it out.
He’ll just cut to the chase before this goes further. “Look, miss Calypso, you’re a very stunning woman and I’m flattered, but you’re not exactly my type.” Laughter erupts on the other end, and he sits up in his seat, dropping his feet to the carpet. He wasn’t expecting that response.
“Men,” she breathes, like chastising a child. He doesn’t think the comment was meant for a response. “Oh, I know it; thought I made that obvious? I wasn’t talking about me; I was referring to Valerian.”
Michael’s heart skips before resuming, pounding twice as heard. Why is he getting so worked up? If they want him off the case, why set him up with her partner? What’s going on? “You called me to ask me out for your partner?” The beer bottle starts to tilt, and he grabs it before it can spill. He completely forgot it was there.
“You see, Val’s really shy. He would never have called you himself. Sometimes he just needs a little push.” The same man from before snickers until Calypso shushes him. Whatever she did earlier has him growing silent immediately.
Something in her tone makes him think that’s not entirely true. It also makes him think her partner has no idea she’s calling. Just to clarify, he asks, “Does Valerian know you called?”
She huffs out a laugh. “As if. So, are you free Thursday?”
She didn’t even try to pretend. Maybe she is just trying to set them up. While Val did seem uncomfortable with his flirting, he didn’t come off as repulsed, more like out of his depth. He can be free Thursday. “Yeah, I’m free.”
“No, go watch the door,” Calypso says, her voice sounding distant like she held the phone away when she spoke. Oh boy, this screams disaster. “How about coffee, around 6:30?”
He has to consider if this setup is worth it; he’s pretty sure Val will be none too pleased. Hopefully, she doesn’t mean 6:30 in the morning. He likes to sleep in on his days off. “PM?”
Calypso makes an affirmative sound.
Late evening coffee shouldn’t be a surprise, they are weird. Still, this way he knows he’ll be available unless there’s another murder or something equally pressing that needs his time. He sighs, might as well go with it. “Sounds good.”
Calypso hums. “You sound less than pleased.”
Michael leans back in his recliner. He doesn’t trust them. “Just thinking of all the ways your partner might skin us for this.”
Calypso giggles on the other end. “I know how to disappear when need be and Val’s sweet on you.”
If that’s the case, he’d hate to see what Val does when he doesn’t like someone.
“Usually, when men get that close without his permission, he punches them.”
Michael raises an eyebrow. “And you think that means he likes me. Because I wasn’t assaulted?”
“He certainly liked something?”
Michael shifts the phone to his other ear. “Maybe he was just being professional.”
“Oh, please,” Calypso retorts. “He’s hit people at crime scenes.”
Michael’s eyebrows lift. “Seriously?”
“Now, there’s this quaint little coffee shop off of Birch Avenue.”
“All right, change the subject,” Michael teases, and Calypso giggles. He knows the place she’s talking about. “Run by the Italian couple?”
“Perfect, you’re already familiar! 6:30, then. You can look forward to seeing Valerian on Thursday! Good night, Detective. Sweet dreams.”
“Wait!” he blurts out. There’s only silence on the other end, he must not have caught her in time. Damn, there’s something he wanted to ask. He could always call back.
“Yes, was there something else?”
“Yeah, there’s—I… just had a question,” he stutters out before his brain has a chance to catch up. He wasn’t expecting her to answer.
“Yes?” The flirtatious tone Calypso’s had during their entire conversation is gone, replaced with curiosity.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what, dear?”
Michael leans forward, resting the elbow of his free hand atop his knee. “Trying to set up Valerian and me.”
Calypso doesn’t reply immediately. There is movement, heels clicking against a floor. “No, wait here.” When the background noise dies down, she speaks, her voice somber and tinted with sorrow. “Because I think it will do Valerian good. You seem to like him. I’m hoping it with turn into caring for him, he needs that. I can tell you’re a good man, Michael, even though you carry heartache from your past.”
Michael frowns. She picked up on that just from their brief encounter? She’s exceptional at reading people. What did she pick up from Val?
“And if it doesn’t last, I know you will at least treat him well while the two of you are together. That would also do him some good. Just don’t tell him I told any of this to you.” A door opens, and movement and voices bleed through the phone again.
Michael leans back in his chair, his forehead pinched into a frown. “Did something happen to him?’
Calypso hums but doesn’t elaborate.
Michael sighs. He’s all too familiar with bad relationships. Might be why Valerian is so harsh, to keep people distant. Whoever it was must have hurt Val severely.
“At least try!” another woman says. She sounds close but not like she’s holding the phone. Her voice is familiar, too. She was at the scene, the detective he joked with, but he can’t remember her name. “Boss was in a better mood after being with you!”
That brings a smile to Michael’s face and warmth to his chest.
“He was, wasn’t he?” Calypso replies, sounding pleased.
Michael chuckles. “I’ll be there.”
“On another note, Michael: if you break Valerian’s heart, I will rip off your dick. Good night, Detective,” Calypso says.
“Good night, Mike!” the other woman adds. Melissa! That was her name!’
“Night, ladies.” The line goes dead and Michael pulls the phone away from his ear. He has no question that Calypso would maim him.
Michael sighs and reaches for his neglected beer, taking a few swallows before setting it back down. He reclines in his chair, crossing his arms and leans his head back. So, Val was in a better mood, huh? Geez, now he feels giddy. And accomplished, though he doesn’t understand the second one.
Well, he’ll show up, see what happens. Maybe he’ll be able to keep a clear head and get a reading from the guy. Their last encounter was kind of a blur. He remembers everything but it’s like his focus was lost, or he was too focused on a single thing to notice details he normally would.
He’s skilled at reading body language and picking up on cues, but he can’t remember if there was anything noteworthy that would reveal something substantial from his encounter with Valerian. Except for Val’s scent, like honey; or the way Val felt against his fingers, muscles jumping beneath his touch; the sound of his voice, smooth and strong. He had a slight accent, too. Those details are vivid. Shit. He forgot he didn’t want to get involved.
Looks like he’s not getting anything else done tonight, as if he was making progress by staring at the file, anyway. A shower, a change of clothes, another beer, and some TV. He’s too antsy for sleep, now.