Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(11)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(11)
Author: Patricia Briggs

No parents, Charles told Anna. Or maybe they were fae as well. Or she could have taken her appearance from a dead girl. Hard to say. But I knew her...not well, but well enough to say that she was not eighteen.

Could the victim have been the real Melissa Snow and the fae took her identity after she died?

Anna was just covering all the bases, but it was a good question. When had he met Melissa? Years tended to blend into one another...I knew her during Prohibition, she was working at a speakeasy in Michigan - Detroit, I think - but long before the eighties.

"She was fae," Anna said. "If she had parents and siblings, I suspect they were also fae. They know how to blend with society, Agent Goldstein. Apparent age has very little to do with reality when you're dealing with the fae."

"The other two?" Goldstein asked, though he didn't sound convinced.

"I'm not an expert on fae," Anna said. "It's just chance that I recognized Melissa. But there are fae among the victims every year from here on out."

Goldstein asked, "Every year?"

That would account for the lack of bodies, Charles told her. Some of the fae just fade away when they die. If the fae lost his glamour, the other fae would make sure the body never came to light.

"That I've seen."

There was a growing tightness in Goldstein's shoulders, and an eagerness in his scent that told Brother Wolf that Goldstein was thinking, adding this to all of the bits and pieces he knew about the killer, trying to see how this changed the big picture.

Charles considered the repercussions of a serial killer who hunted fae. Surely the Gray Lords would have noticed that someone was killing their people? But they were not Bran, who protected and loved his wolves. If a fae who was not powerful and kept his head down for safety died, would the Gray Lords who ruled the fae even notice? And if they did notice, would they do anything?

"Could the killer be a fae?" That was from Pat, the Cantrip agent. "If he's been killing since 1975 and he was human, he'd be using a wheelchair by now."

Agent Fisher frowned. "I know an eighty-year-old man who could take you with one arm tied behind his back, Pat. And if this guy was eighteen at the end of the Vietnam War, he'd be a lot younger than eighty. But most serial killers don't last this long. They devolve or start making mistakes."

"The Green River Killer hunted for over twenty years," offered Pat. "And when they finally found him, he was a churchgoing married man with two kids and a stable job he'd had for over thirty years."

Goldstein hadn't been listening; he'd been staring at Anna without really looking at her. Thinking.

"I don't think he's fae," he said. "Not our original killer. Why else would he have waited until the fae came out to start killing them?"

Not our original killer, thought Charles to himself.

"I don't know all of the fae personally," said Anna dryly. "Maybe they've been fae all along."

Goldstein shook his head, and Charles agreed with him when he said, "No. This is an escalation of the type of prey the killer hunts."

He's on the scent, said Brother Wolf, watching the older FBI agent with interest.

"Hunting the enemy," said Singh unexpectedly. "Say he's a Vietnam vet. He goes home and sees Vietnamese - or Asian, which is close enough for him - on his territory. So he goes hunting, just like he did in the war. He switches to boys. Maybe it's because he likes sex with boys better - but let's say that it is because he finds them tougher, better hunting. And then he finds the fae - and decides they are more worthy opponents. And, like his original victims, in his eyes they are invaders."

"He's good and he's smart if he's killed this many fae," said Anna. "They tend to be harder to kill than humans. Too bad he didn't pick the wrong one; we'd never find the pieces of his body. I wonder how he managed that."

"He's killed werewolves," said Heuter, unexpectedly. Charles had quit paying attention to the Cantrip spokesperson, dismissing him. "Aren't they harder to kill than the fae?"

Anna shrugged. "I don't run around killing fae, myself. But anything as old as some of them are have a few tricks up their sleeves."

"Melissa Snow died before you were born," said Pat. "How did you know she was fae?" It wasn't what he said, but rather the aggression in his voice, that caused Brother Wolf to take notice that the tenor of the meeting had changed.

"Family photos," Anna shot back, curling her lip. "Or maybe I'm older than I look. Does it matter?"

"You are twenty-five," said Heuter. "Got your photo on my phone and sent it to home base. They got a hit about two minutes ago. Anna Latham from Chicago, mother deceased, father's a hotshot lawyer."

"So how does he know?" murmured Singh, ignoring the Cantrip agent's attack on Anna. "How does he know they aren't human? If they'd been out, someone would have noticed he was killing fae."

A werewolf could scent the fae, most of the time.

"Maybe he had some way of watching while his potential victims touched iron. My Scottish grandmother swore that there were herbal salves you could rub on your eyes to see the fairies," continued Singh, who didn't look as though he could possibly have a Scottish grandmother, though Charles could hardly talk because Charles didn't look very Welsh, either.

"Turning your clothes inside out or wearing cold iron is supposed to work, too," said Fisher, who'd been pretty quiet up to this point. Charles rather thought that she was making sure that the Cantrip agents didn't take control of the meeting again, as she'd spoken just as Heuter opened his mouth to say something else.

"You said 'original killer,'" said Anna to Goldstein, and Charles had to fight to hide his smile. He'd thought she'd missed it, but she was just waiting for the right time to spring it on them. "You don't think we're still dealing with the same man?"

"Right," Goldstein agreed, completely ignoring the Cantrip agents and Singh to focus on the murders. "We noticed some differences in the UNSUB's killings starting about 1995 that seemed to indicate he'd acquired a partner. Then in 2000 the killings took place over six weeks. Though we - 2000 is the first year I caught this case - only found five bodies, the timeline indicated that there might be six victims. As there were six the next year, and every year thereafter his killing window has been six weeks instead of four, we're pretty sure that there were six victims in 2000 as well."

"If the MO didn't match, how did you know they were still the Big Game Hunter's victims and not some other killer's?" Singh asked. He was caught up in the hunt for their killer - even though his hunt had started with an entirely different prey: the werewolves. Brother Wolf agreed with Charles's assessment of Singh: smart and distractible if something more interesting than his current prey ran in front of him.

Goldstein reached into his briefcase and pulled out...a bright yellow ear tag. The kind ranchers staple to their livestock. "He tags his kills. In 'seventy-five he used hunting tags for deer, stolen from a hunting supply store. In 'eighty-two, he switched to this. The current batch can be purchased on the Internet in bags of twenty-five for a buck each."

His prey were things to him, thought Charles. Livestock.

Or he was trying to turn them into things, said Anna. "Let's keep going through the victims and see if we notice anything more that we can help you with."

Goldstein continued his slide show. As forensics had developed, the killer's methods of dealing with the bodies changed. Instead of leaving them to be found in some out-of-the-way place, he put them in water. Rivers, lakes, swamps - and here, in Boston, the Atlantic, trusting the water to wash away his sins, which were many.

"There have been several changes besides his choice and number of victims," said Goldstein. "1991 had several. The torture was more ritualized, and he seemed to place more importance on it. The killings also started to move back a month. From 1975 until 1990, all of the murders happened in November. In 1991, he moved to October. And each year after that, he moved back a month until 1995, when he started killing the first of June - where he is now."

"If you'll give me a list - with photos - of the victims," said Anna, when Goldstein was through, "I'll do my best to see if we can't sort the fae out of the rest. I believe that the first werewolf victims were the ones here in Boston, but I'll be able to tell you that for sure after I make a few calls."

Charles was fairly sure the wolves killed this year were the only ones, but it wouldn't hurt to be certain. Besides, with a list of the victims, he could send them out to a couple of fae he knew who might be able to come up with more information on the fae victims, maybe ID a few more.

"All right," agreed Goldstein. "We can do that."

Anna frowned, one hand rubbing lightly on her chin as she stared at the collage of photos of the current year's victims - five so far. The last one was a school photo of a little boy. One more victim to go before the Big Game Hunter moved on until next year.

"I'm not an expert on the fae," Anna said. "But I know wolves. For a normal man, or even a pair of normal men, to take on a werewolf - that's pretty ambitious. Predators usually pick victims that aren't likely to leave them dead."

Heuter frowned. "He didn't seem to have much trouble with these. Three wolves, right? And no one saw a thing. I don't think it's as hard as you say. Otherwise someone would have noticed."

Anna tipped her head back, meeting Charles's eyes. We're here to advise. To give them information. Should we show them?

Charles moved from behind her to the end of the heavy conference table where no one was sitting. He glanced under it to make sure it wasn't anchored to the floor, then lifted it to his chest height while making sure it stayed level so none of Goldstein's expensive electronics fell off. He set it down.

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