"Missy, did you know your arm feels like Matt's?"Brenna finished her breakfast taco and wiped her mouth and hands. As the young brunette washed down a pill with a bottle of water, the door to Missy's office opened up. A still sleepy Krista shuffled out on to the sales floor. She rubbed her eyes. "Morning. What smells so good?"
"Gracie will make me walk on towels."
"I do not need more practice!"
"However, magic? That is power."
Missy held up the last taco. "Breakfast. Want one?"
"Please. Hi, Bren. How did we get here?"
"Missy brought us here last night."
Krista unwrapped her breakfast taco. "I trust we didn't do any dancing on tables last night?"
"None," Missy said. "However, you have footprints on my car."
"No!" Krista looked scandalized.
"I'm not cleaning them off myself."
"I don't remember anything like that," Brenna said.
Missy walked towards the office. "Kris, you just kept going."
Krista ran to the window and looked for her friend's car. "Where? I don't see any."
Brenna joined her friend in searching. "Me, neither."
"Got you both!" Missy called. Brenna covered her mouth, trying not to let Krista see her laugh. She heard a trill from the office. Missy called, "Bren, your cell phone's ringing!"
Brenna ran into the office and grabbed her cell phone. "Hello?" she answered without looking at the caller's number.
"Good morning, Ms Halliday. It's Detective McCoy. I hope I didn't wake you up."
"No, Detective. I was just finishing breakfast. What's up?"
"There's been another murder. I have some photos for you to look at to help us confirm who we're looking for. Can I bring them to you?"
Brenna looked over at Missy as the taller woman left the office. "I'm not at home right now. It might be easier if I go to you."
McCoy went silent for a moment. "Okay, I'll meet you outside the crime scene." He gave Brenna the address. "I'll let the officers in the lobby know to expect you."
"Thanks. I'll be right there." Brenna hung up, then left the office.
Missy looked up from the counter. "Something up, Bren?"
"The police found another body. They have a photo to show me." Brenna started to walk to the store's main door. "Damn, right, you drove us here, Missy. My van's still at home."
Krista wolfed down the rest of her breakfast taco. Between swallows, she said, "Missy, give me your keys. I can drive Bren there, then take her home."
"I suppose." Missy fished her keys from her pocket. She tossed them to Krista. "If you think of it, can you pick up a change of clothes for me from home? I'm going to get weird looks from the regulars for wearing a dress to work."
"Sure thing." Krista walked over to join Brenna. "Ready?"
Tricia slowed her car down several blocks from her home. A warning buzzed in the back of her head. Something felt wrong, out of place, on her street. She let the magic within her gather. The woman didn't need as much as she used in the forest on the trees; this time, she just needed enough to send out ahead of her. Tricia released the energy, keeping a hold on it as it spread out in front of the car.
The probe passed through the cars parked along the curb, through mailboxes and lampposts, covered lawns. Tricia took in the details her wave of magic returned to her. Most of the cars were empty but a few weren't. All of those were within sight of her house.
Tricia pulled the magic back inside her. She eased the Lexus back up to the speed limit and turned off her street the first chance she had. The woman couldn't believe it; the police had found her. Keeping the instinct to run in check, Tricia drove out of her neighborhood. She was prepared; she knew she couldn't keep the cops off her trail forever. Tricia kept one of her investment properties set up in case she couldn't return home, a house on the other side of the city registered under a numbered company. It didn't have all the luxuries, but the promise of a hot bath was enough to keep Tricia going now.
Brenna closed her eyes as the lights from the police cruisers on the street strobed. Krista parked Missy's ageing Volvo a block away from the address, the closest she could get with all the emergency vehicles in front of the building. Brenna jumped out as soon as the engine was off. She threaded her way through the gathering crowd of office workers. Spotting one of the officers, the young brunette made her way through, barely aware of her friend following her.
"Excuse me," Brenna called to the officer. "Hi!"
The officer looked down at the newcomer. "Sorry, no entry. No exceptions."
"No, no, it's not like that. I was asked to come down." Brenna felt the Blade's urges fighting for attention. She tried to ignore both it and the officer's looks. "Detective McCoy wanted me to come down. He said you'd be expecting me. Brenna Halliday."
The dubious officer radioed the details. After a minute, a squawk answered him. He turned his attention back to Brenna. "I'll get someone to escort you inside." The cop turned to one of his co-workers. "Henderson, can you take this woman inside? One of the detectives wants to talk to her."
"Coming," Henderson called back.
Brenna felt a grip on her elbow. "Bren, are you okay?" Krista asked. "You're looking a little flushed."
"I'm good." Brenna wiped perspiration off her brow. "The pill hasn't quite taken effect."
"I'm here if you need me."
Henderson joined his partner. "Halliday, right? Come with me." He started to walk towards the building. Brenna and Krista followed the officer inside the office tower.
Detective McCoy came out from the security office. "Good morning," he greeted. I don't believe I've met your friend, Ms Halliday."
Krista offered her hand. "Krista Long. Hi."
McCoy shook Krista's hand. "Ms Long. I need to borrow Brenna for a bit. Wait here with Officer Henderson. Henderson, please keep Ms Long entertained." The detective led Brenna into building's security office. Detective Kirk sat in a chair, talking on the phone. McCoy directed Brenna to a desk. "I have the photos I want you to look at. Take a good look at them and tell me if you recognize any of them. Understand?"
McCoy set four black and white photographs on the desk so Brenna could look at them. The young woman picked each one up, studying the photos in turn. All were of women in their early to mid forties, all with dark hair. One stood out for Brenna, though. She examined the photo closer. "This one," she said. "I think this is the woman who attacked me."
"Are you sure, Ms Halliday? Take another look."
Brenna examined the photo again and remembered back on the attack on her. "I'm sure, Detective. This is the woman."
"Thank you." McCoy collected the photos. "You've been a great help." He started to show Brenna back out.
"Is that it?"
"Did I just identify your dead person?"
"No. You've confirmed who our prime suspect is." McCoy led Brenna back to the lobby. "You've been a help, really, Ms Halliday. But, now, please let us law enforcement types do our work and keep you safe." Once in the lobby, the detective signalled for Henderson. "This officer will stay with you for the rest of the day."
Brenna tried to resist being moved. "But, Detective, why would she come after me?"
"You've identified her and escaped her once. She's responsible now for eight murders here. If she thinks she has a demon's power, why wouldn't she look for you first? Maybe there's something in your books that will say what she needs to do next."
Henderson arrived. "Yes, sir?"
"Please take Ms Halliday back home. Arrange for protection for her and her family the next twenty-four hours."
McCoy searched for Krista. He found her talking to the security chief, a press pass clipped to her purse. "More surprises. I'll deal with Ms Long. Ms Halliday, you never told me your friend there was a reporter."
"Technically, she isn't," Brenna said as she cringed. "Krista's more of a fact checker. But she's not working for a local paper, if that helps any."
"Not really. Henderson?" McCoy nodded at Brenna, then stalked off after Krista.
"Please come with me, Ms Halliday." Henderson herded Brenna back outside.
Once out of the office tower and through the crowds, Brenna stopped. "Can I say goodbye to my friend so she doesn't think I've been arrested for the murder?" She looked up at the officer. "Please?"
Henderson sighed. "If you feel it's necessary, ma'am."
"Thanks." From the crowds, Brenna heard Krista calling for her. The young brunette waved her arm. "Over here!"
Krista forced her way through the throngs of bystanders. "What's going on?"
"I'm being taken home for my protection," Brenna explained. "Let Missy know I'm okay?"
"Sure. Call me, Bren."
"I will." Brenna let Henderson put her in a patrol cruiser. She settled back in the front passenger's seat as her minder got in on the driver's side. "Look," she said, "I don't need protection. Really. I doubt she even knows who I am."
"I'm just following the detective's orders, ma'am," Henderson said as he started the cruiser's engine. "What is your address?"
Brenna gave the police officer her home address. "I appreciate the ride and all, but I don't need the help. Really."
"Ma'am, there is a killer out there that made an attempt on your life once. I am going to be at your home to make sure there isn't a second try."
"And nothing I say is going to change your mind?" Brenna slumped down in her seat and folder her arms across her chest.
The ride to Brenna's home took a silent twenty minutes. She spent the time staring out her window. Henderson didn't seem to mind or even care that his charge had gone quiet. The cruiser stopped behind Brenna's van. The young brunette waited for the clunk indicating her door was unlocked before she tried opening the door. She stepped out and walked to the door, Henderson keeping several paces behind her.
Grace opened the front door before Brenna reached the porch steps. "Oh, great, Bren. First you're out all night and now you're being brought home by the cops." Grace stepped outside in her bare feet. "What did she do, Officer?"
"Grace, it's not whatever it is you're thinking."
"The lady is under police protection, ma'am," Henderson said. "There was another murder."
"You're not about to track blood into the house, are you?" Grace asked.
"I. Didn't. Do. It." Brenna snapped each word. "Grace, the nice policeman is here to keep me safe from the killer." She stepped to the side. "Officer Henderson, meet my sister Grace. Grace, Officer Henderson, who will be with me all day apparently."
Grace wiped her hands on the dish towel tucked in her belt. "Hi." She shook Henderson's hand. "So, Brenna isn't in trouble, correct?"
"That is correct, ma'am."
"Bren, go get the guest room ready. Aunt Dawn's coming in late tonight. Do you still have your tent?"
Brenna hooked a thumb at her Savana. "Yeah, in there."
"Good. Go get it so it can be set up in the back yard tonight. Rae might prefer to be away from the rest of us."
"They're staying here?"
"Duh, Brenna." Grace rolled her eyes. "The hotels are all booked up. Besides, we have space."
Brenna turned to Henderson. "We better go in. There's going to be yelling soon."
Henderson shrugged, then followed the Halliday sisters inside. He kept his shoes on despite Grace's demands that he remove them before going any further into the house. The stalemate ended when Brenna offered to do the vacuuming in the dining room after the need for a police presence ended. The three sat down at the dining table.
"Where do you have everyone sleeping?" Brenna asked.
"Dad's sleeping in the guest room, giving up his bed for Aunt Dawn and Uncle Keith. Summer and Rory can use your bed while Rae has the choice of sleeping with me in my bed or in the tent."
"Just where am I sleeping?"
"You've got the bed in your van."
Brenna shook her head. "This isn't going to work. First, I am not getting kicked out of the house and especially my own bed. Second, Aura has always bunked with me. There's not enough space for two people in the van if I've got the bunk down."
"The police department frowns on people sleeping in their cars," Henderson added.
Grace threw her hands in the air. "What do you suggest, then?"
"Aura and I share my bed," Brenna suggested. "Summer can sleep with you in yours and Rae can take the couch or the tent."
"Not going to work, Bren. Rory's driving Summer down later. Summer couldn't get off work earlier than eight tonight."
"Then put Summer on the couch and let Rae sleep in your bed."
"Do you remember the last time she slept with me?"
"Rae is sixteen now, Grace. I honestly doubt she's going to wet the bed at her age."
"Fine, fine." Grace grabbed the notepad and a pen from beside the cordless phone's base. "So, Dad in the guest room, Aunt Dawn and Uncle Keith in Dad's room, you and Rory in your room, Rae with me in my room, and Summer on the couch." The blond Halliday sister wrote the details down on the pad of paper. "You do realize that Rory's coming in late? Three or four in the morning late?"
"I can stay up for them, Gracie. Don't worry about me."
Grace stood up. "Then go get started on the guest room."
"But . . . two guys? At once?"
"I am stuck at home with a crazy sister."
"Just stop cleaning before I borrow the nice officer's stun gun."
"That's her! That's who attacked me!"