Storytelling Time: Death Shifts Gears – Chapter 2 Part I
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
Book: Death Shifts Gears
Queen Elizabeth II said those words 20 years ago in support of those grieving the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
In this next episode of Death Shifts Gears, Abbie is experiencing a similar sense of grief in this scene, that feeling of unexpected, inexplicable, deep loss of those she loved. And so, it seems, is the Supra.
Genre: Urban Fantasy Mystery
(c) Shereen Vedam
Chapter 2, Part I
Nothing explained the body’s current condition. The plants surrounding Layla had not been damaged and little blood spilled. All that suggested the killing occurred elsewhere and the body dumped here. Why? As a message to Yousef? What was his involvement? Or was he the culprit? Unlikely. From Bran’s description, Yousef had been fond of his sister, enough to purchase her this expensive car.
The sirens were closer now, the lights swerving across nearby rooftops. Abbie was out of time.
“Hang tight,” Abbie said to the Supra. “You’ll likely be impounded. I’ll let Yousef know where to find you.”
A melody played, haunting and sweet. Then the car grew quiet and the window rolled up.
Abbie straightened as a yellow and blue checked police vehicle drove in, followed by an ambulance.
Once the forensic unit arrived, they took over investigating the crime scene.
Bran offered to take the children to Abbie’s home and promised to stay with them until she returned from giving her statement to the police. He also whispered that he’d have a one-to-one with Nica, but Abbie didn’t hold out much hope on that front. If Robert, whom the little girl adored, couldn’t get her to confide in him, Bran was unlikely to succeed, either.
In short order, Abbie was hustled into a police unit. Robert chose to stay, joining her. The constable didn’t bat an eye. He mustn’t have noticed Robert’s ghostly presence. Abbie, however, appreciated his company.
Stepping back into the Chipstead nick gave Abbie an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. As if she remembered coming here like this before. Except, the last time she stepped foot in this room, it had been midnight, and she, Judith, and the children had been alone, brought here to report on the children’s mother’s murder.
Surely, this visit would end better than her last. Abbie shivered, as that awful memory washed over her, raising goosebumps. She shook off the spooky sensations and told herself whatever this premonition warned her about, she was better prepared to deal with it now than last summer. This time, she had two powerful Grimm artifacts – her pen-ring and her golden cord – on her person with which she could defend herself or attack if need be.
The police station was crowded today and the sun, low on the autumnal horizon, bathed the officers, their desks, and paperwork in shades of ginger. A sepia print from a retrospective detective magazine.
Scents and sounds of people at work for long hours saturated this closed room. Abbie wrinkled her nose as she crossed a large open space arranged with pairs of desks facing each other separated by wide aisles. The change from calming bird song and hum of passing cars outside to the rustle of paper and noisy conversational chatter inside settled into her psyche like an unwanted visitor.
DCI Radford stood in the open doorway of his glass-walled office, arms folded, his gaze trained on Abbie. He didn’t look pleased. She ignored him and approached Constable Judith Chan’s desk. The constable acknowledged Abbie with a nod, sending her pointed black elfin-bob haircut swinging by her round cheeks. She pulled up a metal chair from nearby and placed it beside her desk.
Her partner, Constable Denby, was absent. Could he still be in Chevening? Robert scanned the messy paperwork scattered over Denby’s desktop with a look of disapproval. That desk was a stark contrast to Judith’s clean tabletop, with files arranged in one corner, military-style, with not an edge out of place.
A lone occupant sat across the aisle at another pair of desks. Constable Talin Higgins. Like Judith, he, too, was a supe. In his case, he was a uniquely talented electromagnetic wizard and another founding member of Abbie’s secret club of supernatural investigators. His desk, too, was spotless but for a framed photograph. The dark-skinned woman smiling from the frame must be Talin’s aunt, his father’s sister, who had brought him up after Talin’s parents died.
Callum Radford, Talin’s Caucasian uncle, was Talin’s mother’s younger brother. He had sponsored Talin into the police force to keep the easily distracted young man out of trouble.
Talin appeared focused on his tablet. Since his magical fingers weren’t touching his keyboard, he was no doubt pretending to work for his uncle’s benefit.
The two men were only five years apart in age but their relationship could have been one of father and son. Callum was fond and protective of Talin, but Abbie was fairly certain he was unaware of his nephew’s extraordinary magical panache. Had Talin’s parents known of their son’s ability? Did his aunt know? She made a mental note to ask Talin that.
She wouldn’t be surprised if they were oblivious, though. Most norms, even family members, were unaware of all that took place outside the circle of their mundane life experiences. To keep that divide intact, magic was a topic rarely discussed by her SB crew away from their clubhouse, Abbie’s home. It made their gatherings there even more special because of their freedom to speak openly about what made them all different.
An officer approached with two sets of steaming cups and set one by Talin. His gaze was on Abbie, so she doubted he noticed how a metal coaster slid beneath the cup before the cup touched the desk, all without Talin having moved a finger. The officer took his seat opposite his partner and across the aisle from Judith.
Abbie inhaled the coffee’s delish scent as a welcome distraction and her mouth watered. It had been a long time since her last cup.
“This is the second suspicious death that’s occurred in Chipstead this year,” Judith said to Abbie and opened her laptop. “What are the chances you’d be a witness at both?”
“Extraordinarily lucky ones?” Abbie quipped. She glanced across at Callum, who was within hearing distance of this conversation. Since he didn’t break into a smile, she added, “I happened to stumble across the body.”
“That’s what you said last time,” Judith said, chewing on the topic like a dog gifted with a juicy bone.
Abbie had assumed they’d grown closer over the summer but this incident appeared to have set their relationship back to square one. “A coincidence.”
“Shall we spin that tale to the family courts at your next hearing?” Callum interjected.
“I had been in Chevening applying for funds to hold a course on the weekends,” Abbie said. “If I’m successful, that could potentially be my third job so the hours add up to full employment per the court’s injunction.”
If the grocers hired her. Note to self, check on that application status on the way home.
His face softened at her impassioned speech. “Come see me when you’ve finished here. We need to talk.”
That sounded ominous. What could she and Callum possibly have to talk about except the kids? They were fine, weren’t they? Abbie’s tension, which had been lowering, now spiked. Callum returned to his office and shut the door before she could probe for details.
She tilted her head at Robert who nodded and followed Callum into his office, fading through the closed door. Once inside, she could see him through the glass as he casually strolled about, leaning on his cane while scanning the DCI’s spotless desk with a raised aristocratic eyebrow, before he scrutinized a large whiteboard half turned away from Abbie’s viewpoint. He then disappeared into a tall filing cabinet.
She turned back and her gaze met Judith’s, who had also been following Robert’s limping movements. The witch-constable appeared as irate as Callum had a few moments ago but she didn’t say a cross word, simply resumed typing.
Talin glanced over and then winked at Abbie. She absorbed the warmth of his greeting with acute pleasure. She still had at least one friend here.
“Who was with you when you found the body?” Judith asked, her fingers poised over her keyboard.
“Bran and the kids.” She left out Robert’s name. Testifying was problematic.
“The kids were with you?” Talin whispered glancing at her and then at his uncle’s closed door in trepidation. “That must have been hard on them.”
“The kids stayed inside the car while we looked around.”
Abbie noticed the sudden silence. Glancing around surreptitiously, she noticed how every officer and clerk present had paused as if to listen to their conversation.
Murder wasn’t an everyday occurrence in Chipstead. At least, not when she grew up here. It hadn’t been a regular occurrence in her life at all, until B-day. The day the double-decker bus blew up her co-workers in London this past spring. She shut her eyes and remembered that moment when she hurried to where her ambulance was parked beside the bus, only to be flung backward by the force of that explosion.
“What?” she said. Her hands were shaking and she clenched her fists to steady them. She’d lost all of her friends in that one loud deadly moment. Was that why she felt so protective of her family, new friends, and her kids? Why she refused to allow Nica to ride without a seatbelt? Why Callum helping her fight to keep the kids meant so very much?
She met Judith’s concerned gaze. Before the constable could ask her what was wrong in front of this whole department of avid listeners, Abbie said, “Bran was giving us a lift from school since my car’s at his shop for repairs.”
“Why didn’t he come in here to give his statement?” Judith’s eyes narrowed.
Abbie willed herself to inhale and exhale, realizing she’d been holding her breath. Her face and fingers warmed as blood returned to extremities. “I asked him to take the kids to my cottage. They have bad memories of this police station.”
They had been as traumatized then as Abbie currently felt remembering what had happened in London. Their trauma was what prompted Abbie to initiate the Standard Bearers’ club, as a way to distract the two kids from their grief and give them a purpose to focus on. It had worked as well on her. Until now.
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