Anne was letting the wild magic circle around her as she teased them with her thoughts. Veronica kept telling her that the wild magic on this side of the gate was weak compared to Avalon. Like a garden hose compared to river rapids, was the analogy Veronica used when Anne asked about the difference. Veronica looked finally satisfied enough to try a simple spell with Anne. Anne’s cell phone rang. Both women swore as Anne let go of the magic. Anne was even more irritated when she saw the number.

“Damn it Jason, this is my night off!” Anne said.

“Get to the address I’m texting to you right now,” Jason McMurty said, ignoring Anne’s protest. After three months as partners, Anne knew the tone in Jason’s voice was the one he used when dealing with very bad stuff. Before Anne thought about it, she was standing and putting on her sidearm, badge, and coat.

“Is this a special?” Anne asked, using their private code for a homicide that might have been caused by the Dark Towers or a monster on this side of the gate.

“Possibly,” Jason answered, “If not, it’s definitely in your wheelhouse. The lieutenant wants you down here.” Anne and Veronica were walking down to the common area. Samantha joined them. Normally they didn’t escort her to work. Jason was her supposed to be her protective detail while working. All of that went out the window if there was a “special” case.

“We’re on our way,” Anne said and ended the call. She looked down at the address and grimaced. Great, right smack in the middle of Riverside, not more than a dozen blocks from their apartment building. Before the turn of the century, Riverside was called Downriver. Then the previous city administration decided to “revitalize” what they saw as prime real estate. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell the criminals that they were supposed to move out to make way for trendy apartments, restaurants, and art galleries.

Wo ghest du hin?, I mean, where going you to?” Kurt asked stepping through the front door and seeing the trio of women. He must have been exhausted, because normally his English was perfect.

“Special case,” Anne answered.

“Where’s Erik?” Samantha asked. Kurt looked surprised.

“He’s not back? He went to go investigate some people we saw tonight,” Kurt said, “I thought he would have returned by now.”

“I’m sure he’s fine Samantha. It’s not like he’s not perfectly capable of handling himself,” Anne said, “We really need to get moving. Kurt, why don’t you go get some rest? You’ve been working all day.”

Nein,” he said, his reply just a bit too quick and forceful, “I mean, no, I’m fine. I will escort you to the scene.” The three women traded looks, but none of them objected. It was just easier. Anne climbed into her unmarked cruiser, while the others followed in nondescript silver sedan.

Jason met Anne at the edge of the police cordon. Anne focused on the picture of the victim Jason was showing her. White female, mid-20’s, blonde, clothes and makeup said that she was going out. Clothes and jewelry were on the expensive side, but expected for this part of town. Her throat had been savagely torn out leaving a three-inch gap in the front.

“Where’s all the blood?” Anne said, zooming out. “She’s got a lot on her, but there’s not much of a pool around her. Not for that kind of wound.”

“First thing I noticed as well,” Jason said as the pair walked to the murder scene. “Of course, Welks doesn’t think it’s significant.” Anne stopped and glared at Jason.

Welks is lead?” Anne said, barely keeping herself from yelling. Jason nodded and braced himself for the coming tirade. “Oh, hell no. There’s no way I’m helping that bastard with a damn thing! It’s my night off, and I’m going the hell home.”

“Stop,” Jason said, firmly, holding up his hand, “I know you hate him, I know why, and I know you wouldn’t have come down here if you knew he was the lead. That said, we have a dead woman with missing blood. Do you want to find out what did that to her before it starts preying on more victims in the city?” Anne glared at Jason. She hated when he refused to put up with her, and it was worse when he was right.

“Fine. Did you send this pic to the others?” Anne asked. Jason nodded. Anne tapped her head twice. At the signal, Samantha established the now familiar telepathic network between the two detectives and the Avalonians. In addition to giving the team undetectable communications, Anne instantly knew where each of the Avalonians were. Damn, they were good at hiding in a crowd. She didn’t think she would have been able to spot them before the telepathic network illuminated their positions.

“What kills like this?” Anne asked the group.

“Draks have that level of savagery, but they’ve never been seen on this side of the gate,” Samantha said, “Delvers could, but that’s usually not their style.” Anne had heard the Avalonians refer to Dark Towers’ elves as “delvers” before, but she’d never heard of draks. Her confusion must have registered over the telepathic link, because Veronica answered before Anne could ask the question.

“Draks are about the same size as goblins and hobgoblins, but look like little humanoid reptilians. Tend to run in packs of ten or more. Very nasty creatures,” Veronica reported. “If this was draks, I’d expect her to be torn limb from limb and partially eaten.”

“Anything from this side of the gate?” Kurt asked.

“Normally, I’d say vampire, but they’re supposed to be all across the pond for some big shindig in Europe,” Jason answered. Anne’s eyes widened.

“Vampires? Really?” Anne asked, “Are we talking Count Dracula or sparkly?” Anne could feel Jason’s mental groan at the question.

“Closer to Count Dracula, but that’s just their human form,” Jason answered, “Until they have to feed, and then they get monstrous. Think a seven-foot man-bat. Something’s bothering me about this though. According to task force records though, we wouldn’t find even this much blood if this was a vampire attack. Even a young vampire needs a lot of blood to survive.”

“Anything else? More werewolves?” Anne asked.

“I don’t think it’s werewolves. Everything the task force has been hearing says that all other werewolf packs are steering clear of the city. They’re scared of whatever could tear their lycanthropy out of them. I’ll ask one of the research geeks,” Jason said. Anne felt Samantha’s sudden tenseness.

“Jason, what do you know about the stories that vampires can’t have their minds read?” Samantha asked.

“Not much. Why?” he asked.

“Because I have two bystanders busily taking video of the two of you and I can’t hear their thoughts,” Samantha said. Their telepath’s anxiety pulsed through the link.

“Where?” Anne asked.

“Your five o’clock,” Samantha answered. “Kurt, Veronica, home in on me. We’ll take them quietly.”

“Hold Samantha. Kurt do you have any silver ammunition on you?” Jason asked.

“Just the magazine that you gave me,” Kurt answered.

“Don’t engage them,” Jason said, “Because unless you know how to set them on fire without anyone noticing, you’re not going to be able to do anything to them quietly.” Anne felt a blast of fear from Kurt.

“Mein Gott. Those two look like the men that Erik was following,” Kurt said. Anne casually turned, and saw the pair. Two tall men with dark hair and dressed like Euro-tourists. Almost against her will, she locked eyes with the taller of the pair. She felt a cold shiver down her spine. Then the man’s face broke into the most evil grin she’d ever seen. Fear pumped through Anne as she felt her body lock up. She couldn’t even swallow. The tall man gave her a salute by tapping his two forefingers to his head. Then the pair just disappeared. Just vanished like they’d never been standing there.

“Are you okay?” everyone asked Anne when she could finally hear the telepathic network again.

“I think so,” Anne said.

“Yep, vampires,” Jason said, and then vocally, “Damn it all to hell.”