Valerian wakes to a shrill sound going off by his bed. The bed sheets are tangled and constricted around him, one of the reasons he stopped sleeping in a coffin. He's a very restless sleeper. When he was younger and a coffin was not optional, it was a lot more annoying. He was constantly waking up by banging his elbow or hitting his knee or smashing his head. Once a hole is smashed into one, coffins tend to lose their effectiveness. He was always having to get a new one made at least every few days.
By the time he gets the sheets untangled the ringing has stopped, and he misses the call. He tosses the sheets aside, the linen making a soft thwap when they land at the foot of the bed. A minuscule amount of sunlight manages to peek underneath his thick curtains, allowing a few rays to dance upon his carpet. That would explain why his limbs feel heavy.
He leans over to snatch his phone from the nightstand. Checking the log reveals the call to have come from Calypso. 4:30 pm glares at him from the corner of his phone. Why must he be up so early? He hits redial, listening to it ring. With his enhanced hearing he doesn't have to hold it up to his ear, and he allows his head to fall back to the pillow, pressing his cheek into the soft material.
She answers after the third ring, her smooth accent pouring from the speaker. “Afternoon, sleeping beauty.”
“Why are you calling me so early?” His voice is muffled by his pillow.
“Just be glad it was me and not the captain.” Her tone holds a hint of annoyance.
“Small mercies, I suppose.” He sits up, twisting around to seat himself on the edge of the bed.
“With the way she was shouting, I thought everyone would be stone by the time I got to the precinct. Even her hair was hissing.”
Valerian sighs, dragging his fingers through his dark hair. Gorgons.
Calypso giggles. “We’ve got one hell of a case. Three murders, definitely supernatural. The bad part is we’re late.”
“Late?” he cuts her off, standing from his bed. As he heads for his closet to get dressed she fills him in.
“Yup, human law enforcement already on scene. And on top of that, we have to take the rookie with us.”
Valerian holds the phone between his ear and shoulder, slipping on a pair of jeans. “The hyperactive werecat?”
There’s some shuffling through the phone. “Melissa, and she’s a jaguar. She’s also really excited about this. It’s her first case as a detective, so don’t be harsh. From what I’ve read of her file, she’s relatively skilled at dissecting crime scenes.”
“I’ll be there in thirty.”
“I’ll let the captain know.”
The line goes dead, and Valerian pockets his phone. He throws on a long sleeve navy blue button-up over his t-shirt. Humans, he hates working with humans. Mortals always means hiding. He grabs a beanie, slipping it on to conceal the point of his ears. It’s close enough to winter he can get away with it. He’s just grateful he’s not a succubus. Calypso has to wear contacts to hide her eye color.
That does remind him to conceal his own. He wills the enchantment into place, his sight blurring. Blinking a couple of times, everything comes back into focus, though he can't see as well as he normally could. He laces up his boots, grabs some sunglasses, his wallet and leaves his house, locking the door.
The sun is shining with little cloud cover. Great. While the sun won’t make him spontaneously combust, he’s too old for that now, it does irritate his skin if exposed too long, and it makes him physically exhausted. Luckily it’s late, so the sun will be setting soon.
He opts for running, despising getting stuck in five o’clock traffic, and keeps a good pace that doesn’t look suspicious. He makes a straight shot for the precinct, cutting through yards until reaching a more industrial part of the city, using alleys and backways, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. The precinct is located in a run-down part of the city-owned by The Council to avoid suspicion. Technically, they don’t exist.
He hops up the steps to the precinct, a derelict looking building set back in the dilapidated part of town full of boarded up and “foreclosed” houses. Valerian knows most are occupied by zelan, a term used to label their society in place of the humans’ term ‘monster’, who don’t want to “blend” with humans. Sure, he doesn’t particularly like them beyond food either, but the housing is better and more comfortable. And nothing beats running water. He doesn’t understand why The Council hasn’t fixed up the buildings yet.
The inside of the precinct has been repaired and is well-tended. It’s up to date with central air and heat, electricity, and the tile floors are polished to a gleam. Abanoub, their ancient mummy janitor, is always cleaning. The few times Valerian has spoken with him, their conversations always managed to somehow keep slipping back to his ‘eternal conflict with filth’. Valerian can only stand so many metaphors about waging war against dirt.
As soon as he enters the detectives’ station Captain Euryale is in his face, her body coiled to strike, making her tower over him. He leans back, hoping he doesn’t look as startled as he feels. The snakes that make up her hair are writhing and hissing, flicking tongues and baring fangs. Calypso was right. His eyes do a quick scan of the room, finding no stone statues before giving the captain his full attention to avoid becoming a garden ornament himself.
“About damn time you got here!” she hisses. “I haven’t figured out who the hell called this in, and to humans, no less.” With a flick of her wrist, she tells him to follow. He trails after her, glaring at the snakes that snap at him as she slithers along the floor, leading him to his desk.
“An anonymous tip. Considering the only person present for the murders was the murderer, I’d like to know what the hell is going on. Why involve humans?” She drops a file on his desk, and he sits down, skimming through it.
“Someone trying to out us?”
Valerian glances over his shoulder at the speaker. A tall man, muscular with blonde hair, blue eyes, and smooth honey skin. Cadence, the resident werewolf, or lycan to be specific. Being bitten by an alpha gave him control over his change. As usual, he’s hogging the coffee machine.
He smirks at Valerian, flexing his bicep. “See something you like?” When it comes to his looks the mutt has an ego as big as the Chief’s temper.
Valerian turns back to his desk. “No, I was just wondering why it smells like a wet dog.” He can hear Calypso cackle in the distance. Her voice came from his left, so she must be in the evidence room.
“Better a wet dog than a moldy crypt,” Cadence retorts, a smug quality in his tone.
Valerian doesn’t spare him a glance. “Considering you act like a wild animal, I wouldn’t be so sure. I do remember you getting drunk and trying to hump my leg. And Calypso’s. At the same time.”
“Last year’s Christmas party!” He can hear the smile in the mutt’s voice. “Huh.” Cadence’s clothes rub together like he’s shifting around. “I still don’t remember that.”
“Fun times!” Calypso yells, her voice distant.
“Speak for yourself,” Valerian grumbles. He actually had nightmares from that. Valerian scowls, feeling the mutt’s eyes on him.
“It’s weird, though, ‘cause I’m not into dudes. But at the right angle, you do kinda look like a girl. Must be a vampire thing, all of you are unnaturally pretty.”
That’s it, he’s throwing something at the Chihuahua. Where’s his stapler?
“‘Tis how we attract prey.”
Cadence jerks into Valerian’s peripheral, and he turns to the new voice. Khalid, a much older vampire, stands beside the wolf, hands clasped behind his back. He moves so silently even Valerian doesn’t hear him. He must have startled the dog. Cadence glares at him.
Valerian doesn’t really think that’s true. Why would it be when they are so much stronger and faster than humans? But he has no evidence to disprove it. Hey, there’s his stapler!
“All right, you’ve gone off track long enough, and it’s not entertaining me anymore!” the captain barks. “I don’t care who did it or why. Get familiar with the case and get over to the scene!” She twists around, heading into her office. It takes a few moments of her coiling up before her entire length is inside, and she can slam the door.
Melissa, the were-jaguar, comes skipping up to Valerian. Her skin is covered in orange fur, black rosettes making an unseen pattern, lightly tanned skin visible in some places like her face and the inside of her arms. Her tail swishes behind her, her ears twitching on top of her head.
She grins, displaying her fangs. “Evening, Boss!” She places a styrofoam cup down in front of him, steam rising from it in lazy trails. “I managed to snag a cup for you before Cadence could drink it all. I know you didn’t get a chance to get something before being dragged in.”
Valerian eyes the cup. He’s pretty sure everyone knows he can’t digest human food. Liquid is doable in small quantities and only done if he’s trying to blend. Why give him coffee?
Melissa nudges the cup in his direction. “Don’t worry, I watered it down with blood. A positive, right?”
The scent of blood must be overpowered by the coffee, he can’t even smell it. Usually, he has a chance to eat before having to be present for work. While packaged blood isn’t the best, it gets the job done. He’s never mixed it with coffee, though. “I don’t have a preference.”
Melissa’s smile falls away. “You don’t?” Her voice drops to a grumble, “I coulda sworn it was A positive.”
Cadence shifts, Valerian picking up the movement from his peripheral. “I told ya, sweetheart: the older vampires don’t have a preference to blood types. Back in Vally’s day, they didn’t have ways to distinguish blood types, so they ate whatever was available.”
“Yeah, but you’re always playing pranks on people, so I don’t listen to you,” Melissa replies.
“What, seriously?” The dog sounds indignant. “You even said ‘Thanks, Cadence’!”
Melissa grins at him.
Valerian takes a sip, not bad. He glances up to see Melissa watching him, her yellow eyes expectant. He sighs. “It’s not bad.”
She grins, seeming pleased.
Calypso stops in front of her desk. Her desk is across from Valerian’s with the front of the desks shoved together. She drops a stack of files with a sigh before falling into her seat. Her ears are pointed like his own but longer than a vampire’s. She’s pale, a light purple tint to her skin, her eyes a few shades darker. Long black tresses fall down her back.
She gestures to the folder resting in his hands. “Have you read through it?”
“Looks like a bloodbath.” He flicks the file close. “Who took the photos?”
Being a banshee, Selena could dissolve her body into mist, allowing her to get places without being seen. If her camera fits, she can slip through it.
“We should hurry. If the mortals are already present then they could confiscate all evidence before we even have a chance to look.”
Calypso sighs, hanging her head. Without looking, she pulls a small plastic case from the purse dangling off her chair. “Let me put in my contacts.”
They have equipment for this—special amulets fueled by magick that disguise their forms. Unfortunately, it works for each race differently. It usually conceals more important aspects like skin, making Calypso and Melissa both look human, but it neglects Calypso’s eyes yet changes Melissa’s while leaving her tail.
For him it just rounds his ears and changes his skin tone, making him look less like a corpse. But it also dulls all of his senses, making him feel deaf and blind. He can’t even smell anything. He can usually get away without using one, so he avoids it as often as possible. Considering it’s new technology, it’s quite effective. The coven of witches that invented it is still working out a few kinks but have assured them it will be solved.
Valerian grabs his badge from the top drawer of his desk, flipping open the leather casing. One side holds a gold plaque with their emblem and the precinct number, the other side a photo ID with some additional information about him and the precinct. He slips it into his front pocket, making sure the badge is visible. His pistol sits next to his badge in the drawer, and he grabs it, ejecting the magazine to check the ammo: silver bullets, standard issue. While it won’t kill a lot of things, it incapacitates many.
By the time he dons a belt and straps his holster to it Melissa is standing next to him, rocking on the balls of her feet and swinging her arms, her own gun strapped to her waist. Her amulet is activated, and she looks entirely human.
Her blonde hair is still cut short and hanging to her chin, framing her face, but her cat ears are missing, most likely replaced by two human ones hidden under her hair. Her eyes are a sky blue. If not for her scent he would have no idea.
He frowns. Or her tail. “Keep that tucked out of sight.”
She purses her lips, her tail slipping under her skirt. “Sorry, Boss. I forget when I’m excited.”
“I understand, but try to remember.”
Melissa gives a short, solid nod. “Yessir!”
“Ready?” he asks her.
She beams, offering a thumbs up. “You betcha, boss!”
He checks on Calypso who’s rapidly blinking, probably trying to get the contacts in place. When she finally looks at him her eyes are a turquoise green. She slips a hand down the front of her shirt.
“Well don’t tease!” Cadence calls. “Give us the whole show!”
Valerian’s ears pick up a tiny click and Calypso’s body shimmers before her ears round out and the purple bleeds from her skin. She shoves her badge between her breasts and straps her holster to her thigh, her skirt falling to conceal it. A thin blazer is slipped on that matches her outfit. Unlike himself and Melissa, she doesn’t have fur or a natural tolerance for the cold. “Let’s go, I’m driving. I’ve got tinted windows.”
“I call shotgun!” Melissa yells, skipping after her.
“Fine, let’s me nap in the back,” Valerian replies. He grabs the coffee Melissa brought to him and chugs it in a few swallows. It is diluted with blood but not quite enough, only abating his hunger slightly. He leaves the cup on his desk and jogs after the two women.
Copyright Jan 03, 2020, by Rowen Aether