Home > Deadtown (Deadtown #1)(15)

Deadtown (Deadtown #1)(15)
Author: Nancy Holzner

“Just peachy, Clyde. Would you mind giving Kane a call? Tell him to meet me at Goon Squad headquarters ASAP.”

“Very good, Miss Vaughn.” He reached for the phone.

“Goddamn monster with a goddamn lawyer,” Norden grumbled. “And the lawyer’s a monster, too. What next?”

The big zombie growled, and the human half turned in his direction. “Shut up, Sykes.”

Sykes gave his partner a look that would reduce most norms to a quaking puddle of fear. The two stared at each other, tense, fists clenched on both sides. Then Sykes pulled up his hood, put on his sunglasses, and shambled out the door, sorting his fingers into gloves.

Norden watched him go, his lip curled in pure hatred. Odd. Most norm cops joined the Goon Squad because they thought hanging out with the monsters made them tough. This one seemed to be here because he hated us. Wasn’t I lucky the lucky one, drawing him as my dance partner.

Poor Norden, though. It just wasn’t his day. I wasn’t playing nice, his partner was snarling at him, and he couldn’t even have the fun of dragging me into headquarters in handcuffs. The guy was mad, and he was looking for someone to take it out on. He picked me, shoving me hard toward the door.

“Mr. Kane is out of the office, Miss Vaughn,” Clyde said, putting the phone down. Damn, I’d forgotten about the press conference. “But I left an urgent message.”

“Thanks, Clyde. And could you send someone up to fix my front door? The Goons kicked it in. The lock’s busted, and Juliet’s asleep in her coffin.”

Clyde picked up the phone again as Norden hustled me out the door. Good old Clyde. He’d have the door fixed before Juliet woke up. Good thing, too, I thought, looking at Norden. In this neighborhood, you couldn’t be too careful.


THE GOON SQUAD WAS HEADQUARTERED IN THE BASEMENT of a rundown building in the New Combat Zone, down one flight of rickety stairs. Sykes gripped my arm as we marched down a featureless hallway with gray metal doors lining each side. The sound of our footsteps ricocheted off the anonymous walls, and I tried not to wonder what lurked behind the doors. Offices, probably, but the place had an eerie sense of despair, as though people were trapped and forgotten behind those blank doors. We stopped in front of one, seemingly at random. Norden rapped once, then turned the knob and went inside. Sykes propelled me in behind him.

“Here’s your freak,” Norden said. He spun around, shot me one of his piggy-eyed frowns, then pushed past me and out the door. “C’mon, Sykes,” he said from the hallway.

Sykes regarded me over the top of his sunglasses, looking like he wanted to say something. Instead of tender farewells, though, he settled for a nod. Then he shambled into the hallway, closing the door behind him.

The room was small, with scuffed, white, windowless walls. Two people sat at a banged-up metal table—a woman directly across from me, and a man to my left. There was no third chair, no place for me to sit down.

I glared at the woman, who cringed, then I turned my evil eye on the man. At least, I tried to. It’s hard to glare into a pair of astonishingly blue eyes with a hint of a smile crinkling the edges. I blinked and took in the rest of the view: a headful of curly blond hair—half an inch too long for a cop—high cheekbones, and a strong jaw. He wore a suit, not a uniform, so I must have been looking at a detective. I didn’t know they made detectives that good-looking. The guy should’ve been modeling Armani suits instead of having me hauled in by the Goon Squad. I looked him over again. Nah, he wasn’t pretty enough to be a model. More like the kind of actor who makes a gazillion bucks playing tough-but-sensitive action heroes. Whatever. He still looked damn good.

He stood and picked up his chair, carrying it around to my side of the table. “Here, why don’t you sit down?” he asked. “I’ll find us another seat.”

I sat, and he actually held the chair for me as I did. Wow. A gentleman. Under other circumstances, I’d enjoy meeting this guy. Circumstances that didn’t involve my being pulled out of my bed and dragged here in my pj’s by the Goon Squad.

Suddenly I realized I hadn’t even had time to comb my hair. I must look like a total mess. Thank God the interrogation room, or whatever it was, didn’t have one of those one-way mirrors. I didn’t want to see.

The detective disappeared through the door, which shut with a bang but no click. Was it unlocked? Norden hadn’t used a key to get in. I thought of reaching over to try the knob and glanced at the female detective. She sat across from me, silent, blinking like a startled owl. She was on the far side of forty, with frizzy hair, scanty eyebrows, and saucer-sized dark circles under her eyes. Her jacket, green plaid with linebacker shoulder pads, could’ve been an exhibit in a 1980s museum. She swallowed, looking terrified. I thought about how easy it would be to walk out of there—stand up, open the unlocked door, waltz down that hallway and up the rickety stairs. She’d be too paralyzed to stop me.

But they’d just send the Goon Squad again to haul me right back.

The door opened, and the good-looking detective wrestled a metal folding chair into the room. He hefted it over my head to place it at the end of the table, then sat and gave me a dazzling smile.

Suddenly, everything about him annoyed me: the good manners, the even better looks, the two-hundred-watt smile. Who the hell was he to look so attractive and friendly and . . . attractive? This was the guy who’d sicced the Goons on me.

He opened his mouth to say something, but I beat him to it.

“I have no clue why you dragged me out of bed and brought me here against my will. But you’d better know right now that I’m not saying a word until my lawyer arrives.”

The two detectives exchanged a look, increasing my annoyance factor. “My attorney, by the way, is Alexander Kane. Ever heard of him?”

“I—” the good-looking detective began.

“Kane will be most interested in the civil rights aspect of my treatment today. I’m a demi-human, you know.” You’d think that would give me half the rights of a human, but it didn’t work that way. Shapeshifters were either active, like me, or inactive, like my sister, Gwen, a suburban wife and mom. Inactive demi-humans had the same rights as humans; we active ones had no rights at all. Kane had several civil rights cases grinding their way through the courts, trying to get such issues in front of the Supreme Court. He wouldn’t rest until all the monsters had rights.

“But—” the detective tried again.

“But nothing. That’s what you’ll get from me without my attorney present—nothing. Do you understand that? Not a word.” I sat back in the chair and folded my arms across my chest. Hah. That told them.

The female detective looked suitably bludgeoned by my words. I glanced at her partner. He was biting his lip, trying to suppress a smile.

“Something amusing you, Detective?” His smile broadened to a grin. “What the hell is so damn funny?”

“It’s just that, well, for someone determined not to say anything, you haven’t let me get a word in edgewise.”

Heat rose in my cheeks as I realized he was right. He gave me a look that might have included a wink—it was too fast to know for sure—then angled his chair toward me.

“Listen,” he said, leaning forward, “I promise we won’t ask you any questions until you feel comfortable answering them. We’ll certainly wait for your attorney. In the meantime, do you mind if my colleague and I introduce ourselves?”

I sat there staring at the scuffed tabletop, feeling—and probably looking—like a sulking child.

He laughed and held up both hands in a gesture of surrender. “Sorry, sorry. That was a question.” He shrugged and sat back.

“Go ahead,” I said, trying to sound like I was doing them some huge favor. “Introduce away.”

“Great. I’m Daniel Costello, Boston PD,” he said. “And this is Detective Stephanie Hagopian. She works in Concord.” He nodded toward the frizzy-haired woman, who blinked again.

“I thought you both were from out of town,” I said.

Costello shook his head. “Concord requested our assistance.”


“Because they believe the case has paranormal elements.”

“You’re on the Goon Squad?” He sure didn’t look like one of the goons. And why hadn’t he come to pick me up? I almost wouldn’t have minded waking up to find him in my bedroom. Almost.

He shook his head. “I’m in Homicide.”

Homicide? Now we were getting down to it. I leaned forward to hear what this was all about.

But Costello chose that moment to stop talking. He sat back, gazed somewhere over Hagopian’s head, and drummed his fingers on the table.

My mind started putting the pieces together. Costello was a Homicide detective. Hagopian was from Concord. I’d been in Concord last night. My God. As soon as the thought struck me, I blurted it out. “Is it George? George Funderburk—you’re not saying he’s dead?”

He shrugged. “I’m not saying anything yet, Ms. Vaughn. I think we’d better wait for Mr. Kane before we proceed,” he said. He checked his watch. “Would you like to call and see what’s delaying him?” He unclipped a cell phone from his belt and slid it toward me.

I stared at the phone, not really seeing it while my mind whirred at two hundred miles a minute. It couldn’t be true. George had been fine when I left. But Concord, homicide—it had to be. Oh, God. What if Tina had caused more damage to his dreamscape than I’d realized? But that was ridiculous—no one ever died from a damaged dreamscape. Or did they? Just because I’d never heard of it didn’t mean it was impossible.

But then maybe it wasn’t George. I’d left the guy snoozing happily just a few hours ago. Everything had been normal, routine. Everything except—A chill swept over me as I remembered. Everything except that weird feeling, that sense of evil, that had passed through the room. God, I wished Kane was here—maybe he could help me make sense of this. Fingers trembling, I reached for Costello’s phone.

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