What we were supposed to do next was take this kind of lead to the Chief of Police, or, at least Spenser.
Spenser was mad at me. I was supposed to be off this case. Valentine was a suspect and I was kind of, sort of on the run from Thing One and Thing Two, the Internal Affairs agents. The only people who seemed to be on my side weren't people at all, but a motorcycle gang of werewolves.
And maybe Nana Spider.
Even Valentine had stopped talking to me. But, the reason he'd left was because I'd made a choice. He'd wanted me to forget my human heritage and be dragonkin, or whatever I was supposed to be. I'd told him my job was important to me. I liked solving cases.
So, with a glance at Gennieve, I picked up the heavy receiver of the ancient landline and dialed the number to the main Precinct 13 office. There were two rings before I heard Jack's crisp, British accent. "Hello, Bob's Pizzeria! Will this be takeout or delivery?"
"It's me," I said, and then, because it occurred to me he might not recognize my voice, I added "Alex. Alex Conner."
"Alex, what are you doing calling from this number? What even is this number?"
I smiled. My predecessor must have never interacted with Precinct 13 at all and that was why Jack was pretending to be a pizza place. "I'm calling from the Coroner's main office. Your magpies still have my cell still, I think."
"Oh, right," he said in that profoundly British deadpan way. "Hey, speaking of all that, I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk to you. Aren't you a jailbird?"
"I am, but can I tell you a theory? I'm still working the case."
"The one Spenser threw you off of?"
"Yes, that one," I said. "Do you want to hear what Gennieve and I discovered or what?"
"I'm all ears," he said and somehow I could hear his warm smile through the receiver.
"Right, so get this..." I started, and then proceeded to lay out everything we'd discovered. There was pattern of hate crimes involving various different groups: hippies, gays, homeless people. No one had much paid attention to them because it had always seemed like suicide. The deaths always centered around the clock tower and... the Fourth of July.
"It's some kind of American Revolution thing? An act of 'hate' patriotism?" Jack asked, sounding confused. "Because what does the Fourth have to do with any of this? I mean, I'm not a huge fan of all the flag waving and whatnot, but isn't America supposed to be the land of opportunity and all that?"
"Yeah, that part is weird," I admitted.
Gennieve had scooted her chair up so she could lean in and listen to my recitation of our theory. I could smell her expensive perfume. She twirled a bit of her hair around her carefully manicured finger. "Did it start in the Sixties?" she wondered. "I mean, people were arguing about what America was supposed to be back then, right?"
I wasn't sure about her line of thinking, but I shrugged. "Can you check? Also when was the clock tower even built?"
She rolled her chair over to the other desk and the computer there. As, she started to look, I thought maybe I should try to mend fences back at the office. I gave the phone's receiver a hard look and then took in a deep breath: "So, um, your bird and her gang helped me escape. Does that mean you don't think I'm a bad guy?"
"Oh, well, Sarah Jane has her own ideas about things, you know, but I'm not very hung up on all this Natural versus Unnatural stuff, myself," Jack said. "I mean, I guess I'm a little shocked that Spenser had a dragon trap in the basement. Seems... paranoid." His voice dropped a little bit and he added, "It makes me wonder what he's got up his sleeve for me, you know, should I go rogue."
I tried to imagine Jack 'going rogue.' To be honest, I never entirely understood the extent of his powers. I knew he was a Techno-Mage, but I wasn't always sure what that meant. Still, he had a point I hadn't really considered. "Yeah, when do you suppose he had that put in?"
"And who did he pay off to get all that gold?" Jack asked. "I didn't think fairy got a long with trolls."
I had to laugh. "I didn't know there were trolls."
"You've never talked to Francine in accounting?"
Right, because she was a troll. "You do mean like troll-trolls, right? Not Internet trolls."
"Well, Francine is kind of both," Jack said.
I was about to say something sentimental, like how I missed out banter, when Gennieve made a happy little choking sound and jumped up. I turned to look at her. She pointed at the computer screen, her mouth still working excitedly but not making any coherent sounds. I told Jack to hang on and set the receiver down to look at what was giving her apoplexy. It was a grainy picture from the County Historical Society. I recognized the diner in the picture, but where the clock tower should be was some kind of office building. I couldn't quite see what this was so exciting at first, but then my eye honed in on the stone figurine at the top. It was a kind of a gargoyle, except it was a giant American eagle, fierce and proud, looking judgmentally down on the street below.
I was pretty sure we were looking at our suspect.
I ran back to the phone and asked Jack, "How does a stone statue come to life? I mean, is it possible?"
"Of course it's possible. Have you never heard of Pygmalion?"
I thought maybe I knew the story from my Greek mythology class in 6th Grade, something about a statue coming to life? It didn't really matter, so long as it was a possibility. "Can you talk to Spenser? Maybe make him not hate me? I think I'm starting to put this together and, you know, I'm not an investigator." Jack was silent for a long moment, so long, in fact, that I started to worry he'd hung up on me and I'd missed it somehow, "Jack?"
Then he let out a sigh. "I think maybe we're on our own," he said. "The Internal Affairs demons aren't very... that is, I think if he gets involved, they will, too."
We didn't want that. Plus, I wasn't sure Gennieve could really handle meeting two demons. "Are you coming, at least?"
"Oh." He sounded startled to be asked. "Oh, yes, of course. I'm on my way."
YOU ARE READING
Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...