The air conditioner blasts my sweaty skin as Rex adjusts the dials in our black SUV, murmuring intelligible curses about the heat. It’s a hot and humid day and we abandoned the fresh air for a more favorable temperature. I hadn’t planned to come along, but it’s about time we get to the bottom of this predicament we’re finding ourselves in. If I want the job done right, and to my expectations, I better do it myself. It’s not micromanaging; this whole situation of the unknown is taking far too long for my liking.
Reese sits in the back, a book in hand while munching a red apple. The cover has a woman with fire for hair, and upon squinting in the rear view mirror, the title reads The Opal Blade by Kristy Nicolle. The model’s eyes are sharp, focused, promising vengeance to whomever stands in her way. I roll my eyes. Reese is all about a strong female lead. That’s not a bad thing, but the characters in the books she reads tend to rub off on her. No doubt, I should be expecting a snarky Reese for duration of this trip.
I improve my posture in the driver’s seat, the leather squeaking as I scoot back and straighten my spine. Despite the task at hand, my mind wanders to a recent memory – the pack’s failed attempt to hook us up. I’m not oblivious to the crush Reese has on me. I feel her eyes burning a hole on the back of my neck every chance she has to creep a peek. I wasn’t all for the idea to date one of my wolves. In fact, I immediately shut their secret operation down. I make it a habit not to, because my mate isn’t in my pack. She’s somewhere out in the real world, and chances are, I’ll never find her. But if I do, the last thing I want is to be hooked up with another. I’m not in the game of breaking hearts.
With a careful pinch of her fingers, Reese turns the page and the book teeters in her lap. The full size of the book is shocking and I whistle low. “Jesus, Reese.”
She looks up at me, oblivious to the meaning behind my curse. Her teeth are buried inside the skin of her red apple and juices drip down her chin. She frees her teeth, wide-eyed, and wipes a hand across her cheeks, reckoning she has food stuck somewhere. “What?”
“That book is so huge, it could be used as a weapon.” I scan the road and turn the wheel down a quiet street.
“I like big books.” I glance back in time to see her shoulders fall from a shrug. “What gives?”
Rex smirks. “That’s not the only big thing she likes.” I raise my eyebrows. I always thought the ‘Rex and Reese sex-a-thon’ was a rumor. Apparently, I was mistaken to dismiss it. It’s normal for wolf shifters to get rowdy and scratch an itch.
Bending forward, she sticks her thumb inside the book to hold the page in place, and thumps Rex in the shoulder with the spine.
“Ouch,” Rex utters, his smirk faded as he rubs his shoulder.
“See.” I flick my thumb at Rex with a know-it-all air. “Weapon.” This time, she cracks me with the spine. It is, indeed, a entire tree’s worth of heavy. I can’t help but simper at the tiny woman in the back seat, defending her book’s honor. “Don’t make me pull this car over.”
Reese humphs and sticks her nose back in her book while Rex peers out the front window. “Reese and I could have done this ourselves, you know. You didn’t have to come. You have other shit to do.”
I shrug. “I want to see this for myself.”
“Sure,” Rex mumbles under his breath and rubs his thumb along the length of his forehead.
Reese chomps into her apple and takes a chunk close to the core, filling the car with its delicious aroma. The smell of the fruit compels my stomach to growl. She shoves the food to the pocket of her cheeks and blathers around her mouthful. “Translation: Alpha Man wants to micromanage.”
I scowl. “Ha, ha, ha.”
Pulling into the morge’s parking lot, I ease the car to a halt and shift the car into park. Reese plops her book on the seat next to her, slopes forward, and squints out the windshield. “Is this really the place?”
With a grim pull of my lips, I nod. “You’d think a place that examines the dead would put a little more effort into their outward appearance.”
She shrugs, her left shoulder hitting the side of my seat. “Maybe they don’t like the living. Besides, it’s not the outside that matters – you don’t want everyone wandering in from the streets. Not when the inside is the land of the dead.” She pauses, widening her eyes. A faint smile tilts her lips and she whispers in a wispy voice. “Mortaria.”
Rex and I look at eachother, his brow quirked as far as it’ll go. “Mortaria?”
Her head bobs, acting completely serious. “It’s in one of my books.” When we continue to stare, she rolls her eyes. “Honestly. You two need to pick up a book.”
Rex leans closer, slides an innocent expression across his face, and joins her whispers. “Is this Mortaria a real place?”
“No.” She sniffs. “Don’t be silly.” Failing to hold back the smile, the edge of her lips twitch. “But I wouldn’t mind if Haedes was a real person. Even Lucifer – I like her style.”
I turn my head and view out the window. “Don’t tell your wolf that.” I mumble. “She may go to war with a fictional character.” My own wolf harrumphs inside me, sharing his displeasure.
“Lucifer is a chick?” Rex chuckles.
Reese grinds her teeth. “The idea that Lucifer’s a male is an ancient preposterous hypothesis by old men with nothing better to do than scare their women into submission.”
“You do realize – oh never mind.” Rex grabs his phone off the dash and grasps the handle of his door, clearly done with the chat about fantasy books and mythological places. “Zeus. Hera,” he proclaims with a fake accent, clearly talking to us. “Are we ready to step foot into Mortaria?”
I point at him, jabbing my finger in the air. “Stop it.” He chuckles and slams his door shut, shaking the entire vehicle.
I flip my visor up for a better look at the building, and the grim expression returns to my face. I’ve never been a fan of the dead, and even more so, those who enjoy poking them as a career. Something about their personality gives me the creeps. Autopsy techs know things.
The city’s morgue looks as morose as what transpires inside. Each brick wall is crumbling, and thick, creeping vines appear to hold the whole place together. The green leaves sprawl from the red rock bed surrounding the base of the building. The roof is made of tin shingling, which tells me they’re at least receiving government money . . . or it was replaced after the last tornado had ripped through the area not long ago. Our territory remained unaffected by the twister, but Evo’s woods were flattened. This building isn’t far from the Cloven Pack – it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.
Speaking of Evo . . . I grasp the handle of my door, pull, and nudge it open with my shoulder. A whiff of formaldehyde greets me in the subtle humid breeze and I resist the urge to cover my nose. It’s the smell of death, if you ask me. A train wails in the distance, but other than that, the area is vacant of life.
The side door of the building opens, the hinges groan, and Evo’s head pops out. His gaze wanders the almost empty parking lot until his eyes land on us. Looking back inside first – I’m sure he doesn’t have formal permission to let us enter – he waves us in with a burly, gloved hand.
“This is the body?” Reese asks. Her voice is soft and the horror plastered on her face tells me everything I need to know about the thoughts occurring in her head, even without tapping into our pack connection. She doesn’t like what she’s seeing. I share that concern. For a brief second, her irises flash wolf – a bright green hue.
The head of the body is indeed, blown clean off. The details of the fragmented skin under the white room’s bright lights is enough to have nightmares for a week, and that’s saying something. I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit in my life, but this takes the gold.
“Yeah.” Evo scratches the back of his neck. Pausing mid-itch, he removes his hand with disgust, rips off his glove, and discards it in the nearest trash. “Kenna has the lab tech across the hall.”
“What does she know?” I pull the white sheet over the corpse, removing the body from view. Rex pushes the metal mortuary table back inside the cooler and shuts the door, his face carefully blank. Rex can certainly have a playful air, but when the situation approaches the responsibilities of his title, he tucks it away.
Evo murmurs his thanks to my beta and crosses his arms. “Not much. All we’ve got our of her is the body isn’t human. She’s demanding to further test the samples. She’s adamant that we have no right to keep her from her job.”
I roll my shoulders and stretch my neck. Once a scientist, always a scientist. I have no doubt she’ll find a way to continue her investigation. We just need to convince her to relay that information. “How’s Kenna handling her?”
“I have no doubt my mate has the woman fully under her scowling eye and rotten mouth.” Evo shakes his head but I detect a hint of humor. Their relationship is strange to me, yet a careful balance.
We stride toward the door and my tennis shoes squeak against the white tile. I have every intention of speaking to this woman myself. She could hold the answers to everything we seek and not know it.
“And the police?” Rex inquires, holding the door open for us.
“They’re confused.” Evo steps out into the hall and turns to face us. He observes Reese, who pulls at her fingers and bites her bottom lip. As a doctor, she has to be itching to get to the bottom of this just as much as the tech. “They don’t know what could have caused someone’s head to explode, but so far, they remain unaware of the body’s genetic make. The tech is the only one who knows.”
I nod. “You got here in time then.”
“Yeah,” Evo mumbles. He sighs, stress lining his face, and gestures toward the other door. “Ready?”
Without waiting for our response he barges in, a little louder than intended I’m sure, and my pack mates trail behind.
The room is a dimly lit, small employee’s lounge. A round folding table is right in the center, and a miniature outdated kitchen hugs the far wall. There’s no pictures, and only one compact dirty window above the sink. An old, pungent couch is directly to my right with a pile of science magazines splay across one of the cushions.
Kenna and the tech sit at the table, a disposable cup of coffee in Kenna’s hand while the lab tech glares in our direction. I grin, amused by her annoyance which clogs the room. Kenna lifts her cup without looking at us, and takes a sip with a grimace. Coffee is her lifeline, but if the building’s state is in this poor of condition, I’d bet their coffee grounds are far from gourmet. No matter where I see her though, if there’s a coffee pot, there’s a mug in her hand. Often, she doesn’t wait to be offered before she makes herself at home and brews a pot for herself.
As Evo strolls by, he trails his fingers across her shoulders and props his hip against the kitchenette counter.
The silence stretches on and I scrutinize with satisfaction when the blonde tech starts to squirm. Time to get straight to the point. “Tell me what you know.”
Her glare hardens. “No.”
I expected that answer. Reading her name tag, I pull out a chair and sit heavy in the seat. The plastic complains under my weight and from the corner of my eye, Kenna examines it, a witty retort sparkling in her eyes. I cut her off before she can voice it. “Dr. Wright, is it?” Her folded arms tighten around her chest. “What do you know about the body?”
“I tried that already,” Kenna grumps. “Little Miss Queen of the Dead isn’t talking.”
Dr. Wright shoots flaming daggers at the Alpha female with her eyes. “You really have no idea what goes on here? Do you? You just step right in, without badges or authority of any kind, and demand answers I’m not allowed to give.”
I lean back in my chair and explore a different angle. “Who’s in charge here?”
She directs her anger toward me. “I am.”
“I see.” I purse my lips and make a show of surveying the room. “You don’t seem to be up to code, do you?”
Her shoulders slowly slump and her pinched look relaxes. Before I was Alpha, I worked in construction. I know my way around codes and violations.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she mumbles.
“That window.” I point. “There’s no escape. It’s a fire hazard. That back door has no lock on it. Anyone could enter and leave. And,” I pause and put my elbows on the table. “The crumbling structure of the building tells me you also have a foundation problem.”
Kenna whistles and then slurps obnoxiously from her plastic mug. Having been a private investigator before becoming Alpha female, Kenna knows the angle I’m playing. “Sucks to be you.”
Dr. Wright drops her gaze. “Our budget has been tight. It’s out of my hands.”
“You know,” I lower my voice to a more friendly tone and speak slower. “I’d be willing to make a donation.” She frowns, but makes no effort to meet my gaze. “Enough to help you… and your financial shortcomings.”
“In exchange for answers?” She sucks in her bottoms lip and bites.
I smile, knowing I have successfully persuaded her. Money is always the answer to those desperate enough. “A few small answers, Dr. Wright. Then, we’ll leave. Anything you say will not jeopardize your career. You have my word.”
Dr. Wright doesn’t speak, but instead, continues to chew her bottom lip. The silence stretches on and my pack mates grow restless behind me.
Kenna slaps her free hand on the table and stands to leave. Despite its light weight, the chair manages to scrape against the floor with high-pitched, dramatic vibrations. “Well I suppose I should get ahold of my buddies about your violations then.”
Her head snaps up. “No! Please.” She looks to me with wide, pleading eyes, assuming I’m the leader of this gang. “I’ll be out of a job.”
“Then let us help,” I suggest.
Reese steps forward and squats next to the table, level with Dr. Wright. “What we are doing is trying to save people, Doctor. We have no nefarious plans aside from dealing with the non-human foe who did this to that man. The police are not equipped to deal with this. We are. Let us help.”
“I have your word?” she asks, timid. In incline my head and reluctantly, Dr. Wright nods. “I found an extra chromosome in his DNA,” she whispers. “His blood also has a quality to it – a hormone – in which he could not feel pain.”
“Congenital analgesia?” Reese asks.
She startles. “You have medical experience?”
Reese nods. “I’m a doctor, just like you.”
“Except she deals with live people,” Rex quickly adds.
I turn and quirk a brow at Rex. He shrugs. That tidbit of information really wasn’t necessary. The less this woman knows about us, the better. “What else did you find, Dr. Wright?”
“Nothing,” Dr. promises. “You guys showed up before I could take further tests.” Her face brightens and her spine snaps to attention. “There’s a tattoo on the man’s wrist.”
“Oh?” Kenna questions, sarcastic. “A clue?”
She digs in her lab coat’s pocket and pulls out her cellphone. Quickly swiping her finger across the screen, she fiddles with the flat screen a few more seconds and turns the phone to us. “It looks like a tribal tattoo or something.”
A star, each point a different shade, is etched into the inside of the dead man’s wrist. It seems to be hand drawn, and not by a steady artist. I clear my throat. “What is it?”
Evo marches over to the table and together, we hover over the phone.
“It’s the Onmyōji symbol,” Evo says. We all swivel our heads to his direction. He tugs on his ear, studying the symbol. “Japanese. It means five elements. Sort of like a ancient religion, those who wear the mark are seen as priest, but it’s not practiced much anymore.”
“And why is that?” Dr. Wright inquires.
“They specialized in magic. More so the protection and expulsion against it. No one believes in that stuff anymore. Science has explained it away.” Evo straightens and stretches. He pauses and notices the expressions on our face. Shrugging, he offers an explanation. “You learn things in the FBI.” He breathes deep and exhales loudly. “There’s myth and legends around this group of people. Some said they had extra abilities to fight the supernatural, but there was also talk that they actively hunted evil spirits.”
“You’re in the FBI?” our willing captive shrieks.
“That’s a long story,” Kenna interrupts and sets her mug on the table. She too, doesn’t like how much information we’re leaking about ourselves. Kenna does have her uses, and this is definitely her area of expertise. She gives me a pointed look, as if privy to my thoughts. “The question is, despite extra abilities, shouldn’t he be human? And what spirit was he hunting?”
“I’d say the spirit he was after got the better of him,” Rex rumbles.
My wolf, patiently observing, growls. “Not only is he not human, he’s a threat.” If he’s a hunter of the supernatural, and all things magic, that puts us in danger.. The only question is, what was strong enough to kill him? The spirit? “And if they’re is one hunter, there’s bound to be another.”
We didn’t get any more useful information from Dr. Wright. No one has reported the dead man missing, and he doesn’t match anyone from missing persons. After Kenna bullied her way into Dr. Wright’s mind, she convinced her to keep quiet about everything she’s found, as long as she continued to runs tests.
After handing over a sizable donation to Dr. Wright, we filed out of the small employee’s lounge. In the midst of heading back to our vehicles, I pause, a voice echoing inside my head.
Chloe? What’s wrong? Chloe never sends me telepathy. She’s one of those people who hate all forms of communication unless it’s face-to-face.
She mentally sighs through our connection. It may not be anything. I’m headed to the bar. Any chance you could meet me there? I need to run some things by you.
This day seems to be getting better and better. I growl and yank open my door. I had planned to get some work done on the pack’s budget for the rest of the day, but it doesn’t look that that’s going to happen.
Sure. Be there in ten minutes.
Thanks for reading chapter six of Whispers to Mist. I hope you’re enjoying the series so far. Just a heads up: subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive the next chapters as they release. I plan to write the entire series here. Don’t be afraid to share this post with friends.
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