“We’ve got another one.”
Danik Kaloshnik barely glanced up from the mess of papers on his desk. “Another what?” He growled, even though he had a pretty good idea. The plight of missing paranormals had been picked up by the papers, and his captain was not happy about it. Which was why he was sitting at his desk combing the paperwork for any clue he might’ve missed.
“Another missing shifter, sir.” The patrolman, who looked as though he only had to shave once a week, was bouncing on his feet. “Nora Perriman was last seen leaving her work at just after eight last night and was reported missing by her boyfriend this morning. She’s a cougar shifter. This must be connected, right? This is another one of the serial killer’s victims?”
“Who’s spreading shit about a serial killer?” Danik swept his arm across his desk, indicating his papers. “Do you know what this mess is? The case files of every single missing paranormal in a hundred-mile radius taken over the past six months. Not one of them has turned up dead.”
The young patrolman peered at Danik’s desk. “That many? Wow. There must be a pile of bodies somewhere waiting for someone to fall over them.”
“And you think that person doing the finding will be you, do you?” Danik surged to his feet. At six foot five inches, he towered over the patrolman. If his broad shoulders, bulging biceps, and sheer meanness on his face didn’t intimidate, the unusual violet hue in his eyes usually did. People were aware there was a shifter behind those eyes, but they could never pick which one. “Is this just a big game to you? Spouting claims about a serial killer, which no one has proved. Where did you get your evidence from, boy? Are you in league with this phantom killer?”
“Me, sir? No, sir.” The patrolman stepped back, his face white. “I couldn’t hurt anyone.”
“Then you’re in the wrong profession because sometimes that’s part of the job.” Leaning over his desk, Danik glared. “Who said this was the work of a serial killer when there’re no dead bodies to back that up? Who?”
“It’s in all the papers, sir, and on social media too.” The patrolman probably wished he hadn’t have got out of bed that morning. “I’m just saying…”
“That shit is speculation, nothing more.” Danik let out a long breath. “Do you know what happens when speculative shit is printed in those papers and on those fancy screens of yours?”
His response was a headshake.
“People start seeing things, leaving anonymous tips about their neighbors who smell funny or who might be doing nothing more than working unusual shifts. They phone in tips on all sorts of crap, certain that someone they don’t like is the so-called killer we’re looking for.”
The patrolman looked confused. “But that’s a good thing, isn’t it, sir? That way, we have more leads to follow.”
“That might be a good thing if we were looking for a killer, yes. But do you know what else happens when people like you start thinking people like this,” Danik picked up a random file, “are dead?”
Another headshake. The patrolman wasn’t going to be winning any communication awards.
“They get forgotten!” Danik slammed the file down on top of the others. “Officers get reassigned to other cases, the media runs after the next sensational thing. These people will just form part of a memorial post on the back page of newspapers a year from now, and they deserve better than that. These files contain information about real people,” he emphasized slowly. “Missing people. There’s no suggestion anywhere that they’re dead.”
“But if they’re not dead…”
“They are waiting to be rescued. They’re waiting for the likes of you and me to find them. They’re praying that they will be found so they can go home and be reunited with their family members and loved ones.”
“Sir, the Crampton Gazette said they had proof all these missing people are dead.”
“Do they really?” Danik took in the officer who was so determined to be right, which showed balls if nothing else. “Then perhaps you’d better grab your pencil and notepad and go and interview the journalist who wrote that damn story. If they’ve got proof, then we want to know about it, and if they aren’t willing to hand over the information, then arrest them for impeding an ongoing police investigation.”
“You mentioned pencil and notepads. I don’t use old fashioned paper products as they are too easy to lose or could get damaged. I use a tablet for─”
“Then take your damn tablet and go and do your job.” Grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair, Danik slung it around his shoulders, almost ripping a seam as his shirt sleeve got stuck. “I’m going out, and when I get back, your report on paper, from the paper, had better be on my desk. In triplicate!”
Danik did have an office of his own. Crampton didn’t have a big enough population to warrant two detectives, but he was glad the patrolman had left his office door open. He was still paying off the last door he had to get fixed when things hadn’t been going well. Striding into the bullpen, heading for the exit, Danik almost missed the patrolman calling him.
“Detective? Detective Kaloshnik!”
“What now?” Danik’s growl was enough to clear a room fast.
“The captain sent me to find you – he says it’s urgent.”
Fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck. Turning on his heel, Danik headed for the captain’s office. The sinking feeling in his stomach let him know his day was about to go downhill fast. As if it isn’t already down enough.
Five minutes later, his fears were confirmed. “Fucking consultants,” Danik muttered under his breath as he left the captain’s office, resisting the urge to slam another door. “La-di-da fucking penpushers who do everything by the book, and he’s bringing one onto my case. I need a fucking drink.”
Ignoring his captain’s other order, which was to get all the paperwork collated and assembled in a reasonable order, because apparently the consultants liked all their boxes ticked and ‘I’s’ dotted, Danik left via the rear exit. He had a crime scene to process, witnesses to interview about poor Nora Perriman, and then a long slow date with a bottle of whiskey to look forward to – unless someone actually had something useful to say about Nora, in which case he’d be following leads into the night. The consultant could take care of the paperwork themselves.