Anne stared at the two faces in her monitor. There they were. The two vampires from murder scene were just standing there with bored looks on their faces. After going through hundreds of police photos and hours of video, Anne finally found the pair on a photo taken from a tourist’s cell phone.

“Jason!” she whispered. Her partner came from around their desks to look at the faces. He clapped her on the shoulder in congratulations.

“Send these over to my phone, and I’ll see if the task force has anything on them,” Jason said quietly.

“What the hell are you two so happy about?” asked a gruff voice from behind. Anne worked hard to keep the flash of anger from showing. She took a deep breath before turning around to deal with Detective Harvey Welks. As her blue eyes locked with his brown, Anne decided she needed more than one cleansing breath to deal with Welks.

“You do remember that in many of these cases the perpetrator will observe as the police work the crime scene?” Anne asked, with a hint of condescension in her voice. Welk’s bulldog jowls quivered slightly in anger. “I’ve been looking over photos and video of the crowd. I found a couple of bystanders that don’t look right.”

“Listen Hearst, the lieutenant put you on this case because it’s splashy, and everyone knows the press likes you,” Welks said, with a sneer, “That doesn’t make this anymore than a mugging gone wrong. So do us all a favor and go try to solve one of your own open cases without trying to be a media whore on one of mine.” Jason just barely managed to grab Anne’s shoulders before she leapt at Welks. Anne felt the swirls of wild magic around her. Before she realized what she was doing, a spark of flame erupted on Welks’ cheek. The stout detective yelped and slapped his hand to his face. As he lowered his hand, Anne could see an angry red burn on Welks’ face. Anne just stared at the injury in shock.

“What the hell did you do?” he shouted at her, his eyes wide with fear and rage. Anne was speechless.

“Welks, she was sitting in her chair,” Jason said, “I don’t know what just happened, but she couldn’t have done it.” Welks glared at the pair before snarling and storming off to the break room’s first aid kit.

“Well, that was exciting,” Jason said, finally letting go of Anne. “You need to get that temper of yours under control. Especially now that you seem to be able to sling magic on your own.”

“Jason, I don’t know how I did that,” Anne replied, “Plus, it’s not like he didn’t deserve it.” Jason gave her a flat look.

“That doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Jason said, “In the eyes of the federal government, what you did was no different than if you’d used your taser on Welks.”

“Then why aren’t you arresting me?” Anne asked, hotly.

“Because you didn’t do it on purpose, and as far as my superiors are concerned, you’re still learning,” Jason answered. “That will only go so far. So, get some control.” Anne glared at Jason, but the detective/Homeland Security agent ignored her. Anne hated when he did that, but she hated it more when Jason was right about these kinds of things. It wasn’t Anne’s fault that Welks was an overbearing asshat who held a grudge because she’d managed to upstage him. If his high and mightiness had listened to Anne at the time…

“Anne, go home, and get some rest,” Jason said, “I’m going to be a while talking with the task force on this. See if Veronica can help you with some control.” Anne gritted her teeth, but she stood up from her desk. He gave her a tired smile. “I promise, I will let you know if anything pops on these guys.”

Anne was surprised to see Lady Maritza’s limousine in front of the apartments when she pulled up. In the three months since Anne and the Avalonians started living at the converted hotel, she could count on one hand the number of times Lady Maritza had dropped by. Usually, the Avalonian noble/spymaster/society matron invited the group up to her mansion.

“I’m home,” Anne announced as she walked into the expansive foyer. She could hear Samantha’s, Veronica’s, and Lady Maritza’s voices coming from the common room. They stopped as Anne walked in, and Anne wondered if they were talking about her. Lady Maritza, clad in an elegant blue dress suit that probably cost more than Anne’s car, stood from one of the leather chairs and enveloped Anne in a warm embrace.

“Anne, it’s so good to see you again,” Lady Maritza said. Anne smiled back at the older lady.

“What are you doing here, Lady Maritza?” Anne asked.

“Business, unfortunately,” Lady Maritza answered, and her smile evaporated. Anne saw the look on Lady Maritza’s face and knew that Erik was involved. For some reason, the two despised each other, which made their professional relationship even more contentious than the normal rivalry between the Avalonian Foreign Intelligence Service, to which Lady Maritza belonged, and the Imperial Security Service that the others worked for. It didn’t help that since the three Avalonians were detailed to FIS for the duration of their mission, Lady Maritza was their boss.

“Erik’s missing,” Samantha said in a toneless voice. Her expression was similarly blank of any emotion.

“What?” Anne asked, surprised, “What happened?”

“We’re not exactly sure,” Lady Maritza answered, “We know he went after a pair of what Kurt has identified as vampires. After Kurt told me that, I tried calling him. He picked up and then was cut off.”

“Are you sure he didn’t just hang up on you?” Anne asked, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“No, something happened. His phone went offline just after he picked up,” Lady Maritza answered. “The GPS isn’t even working, so we can’t locate the phone.”

“Something’s happened to him,” Samantha said, an odd tone of conviction in her voice.

“How can you be sure?” Anne asked, “He could just be looking for some alone time.” Her instincts were telling her that Samantha was right, but experience said that Erik may just be avoiding the group.

“No, he would’ve called me back. Even if he was ducking the lady, he would have called me back. Or at least sent a text,” Samantha said. Something in Samantha’s countenance made Anne tread very carefully. Still, the questions had to be asked.

“Are you sure he hasn’t just snuck off to meet with someone? Like a woman he met?” Anne asked. Anne was expecting Samanatha to lash out at her, but instead, Samantha let out a mirthless laugh.

“That man has been my best friend for fifteen years,” Samantha said, “I know what he’s feeling before he does. If he’d met a woman on this side of the gate, I’d know. He isn’t good enough to hide those clues from me. No, something bad has happened to him.” With a burst of fury, Samantha grabbed the lamp next to her and threw it across the room. “Why the hell does he always do this?” Before Anne could answer, her phone’s text alert sounded.

“We might have a lead,” Anne said, reading the text from Jason, “The two vampires from the crime scene flew into the city a week ago. We’ve got where they’re staying. I’m pretty sure they’ll know where Erik is.” Samantha gave Anne a look of malicious delight that chilled the hardened detective to her bones.