Nathan gave him his name for greeting, then asked, "Who found him?"

"Fellow named Jeffrey Bates. Lives over yonder." The patroller nodded at a small cluster of houses set back from the road about half a mile. "Says he likes to run early, before traffic's a problem. He's in my car."

"How long since Bates found him?"

"Maybe fifteen minutes. He had a cell phone with him. I was over on 1788, so I responded quickly."

"You touch anything?"

"No, sir. Uh... I held a mirror in front of the victim's mouth, checking to see if he was breathing. Just to be sure, you know?"

Nathan nodded. He'd suspected those were Raines's footprints next to the body; they were clear, obviously left after the rain had stopped.

Checking for life would have been instinctive for the young patroller, but Nathan knew the look and smell of death. Even without touching the corpse he could estimate how long this one had been dead: no more than six hours, no less than four.

He moved closer without stepping into the muddy, trampled grass directly around the body. Off in the distance he heard the wail of an ambulance. Wouldn't be long before company arrived, and there were things he preferred to do unobserved. He crouched for a closer inspection.

The body lay on its back, one arm flung wide, the other at its side. No noticeable rigor yet, but it had been a cold night. He'd been young... well, they all seemed young to Nathan, but this boy had been in his early twenties. African American, though the blood loss left his skin an odd, ashy color. He wore jeans, a T-shirt, and a denim jacket, all of them soaked through from last night's rain. Tony Lama boots, Nathan noted. Pricey and fairly new.

The jeans had been pulled down. His penis, flaccid and bloodless, hung out of the opening in his shorts. Two visible wounds: one in his neck, another near the groin, over the femoral artery. The wounds were unnaturally neat, with no blood or tearing  -  a circle of punctures about the size of a human mouth opened wide, but nothing a human mouth could make.


He'd seen something like them once. Another time, another place... when? Where?

Memory didn't return an immediate answer, so he focused on what he saw now. No blood  -  not in the corpse, not around it. Maybe the killer was exceptionally tidy. Or maybe it had killed and drained this boy somewhere else.

Nathan looked at the arms and hands again. No defensive wounds. He checked the ground around the victim another time. "You pass any parked cars on the way here?"

"I  -  Yeah, I did. Why?"

"How far away?"

"What does it matter?" Raines's sandy mustache didn't hide the thrust of his lower lip, which made him look like a sulky two-year-old.

Nathan's head came up. He didn't say anything. Just looked at the boy.

"Sorry, sir. I... uh, there's a Mustang parked a couple miles west of here, near the turnoff."

"Run the plates. It's probably his."

Raines stood as stiff as the corpse would be soon. "Yes, sir. I'll have to go back there. I didn't memorize the plates."

"Do it." Nathan looked back at the body, not minded to explain his reasoning, but added, "The sheriff will be here soon. Be nice if we could give him a possible ID without disturbing the scene, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

As soon as the other car pulled away, Nathan stretched out a hand and touched the skin near the wound on the neck, confirming his guess about the time of death. He concentrated briefly, then brought his hand back to his nose, sniffed  -  and froze, his eyes widening in surprise. Not at what he smelled. At what he didn't.

Surprise unlocked memory. Time, place, and cause tumbled out, making his stomach tighten. Now he knew when he'd seen bite marks like that and what had made them. "Well, shit."

Chapter 5

Sheriff Randy Browning reminded Nathan of a mastiff. He had the heavy frame, the droopy eyes, and the temperament. Patient and unflappable, he was a guardian by nature as well as profession. He didn't like magic, didn't trust it, but he was a practical man. He'd use whatever was necessary to protect his people.

Nathan respected that. He respected the man, too  -  enough to work with him and allow Browning to consider himself in charge. In some things, he was.

"You want to tell me why you expected Shaw's car to be nearby?" Browning asked.

Jimmy Shaw, age twenty-five. He'd had a DUI six years ago, a couple of speeding tickets since, but was otherwise clean. The address on record was on the west side in a decent, working-class neighborhood that was mostly white and Mexican with a sprinkling of darker faces. He'd bought his 2003 Mustang new, and his body was being loaded into the ambulance now.

Kai didn't know Jimmie Shaw. Nathan had checked.

Nathan's relief about that made it easier to be amused by Browning now. The sheriff was hoping Nathan wouldn't tell him anything too weird. "Tire tracks," he said, nodding at the imprints in the shoulder he'd noticed immediately. They were blurred  -  made after storm muddied the ground, but before the rain ended.

"I know about the damned tire tracks. Someone pulled up, dumped the body, and drove away. What made you think the car was nearby? It would have made more sense for the killer to keep going."

"It probably doesn't know how to drive."

A muscle in Browning's jaw twitched. "It."

"It may look human, but it isn't."

Browning gave Nathan a disgusted look. The man wasn't happy about the new shape reality had taken since the Turning. Nathan didn't blame him. The sheriff had spent a lifetime learning how to preserve order under the old rules. It would take time to learn new ones, and while he and others figured out what worked and what didn't, some of those in their charge would be harmed.

But he was basically a fair man. Lips tight, he checked out the busy scene around them, then jerked his head at the road. "We'll take a little walk."

The sky was dull steel overhead with threads of rose and saffron in the east, where a hard ball of sun worked to warm the day. Nathan fell into step beside the other man.

Once they were out of earshot the sheriff spoke gruffly. "All right. Why do you think the killer isn't human?"

"It doesn't smell human."

"I'm not going to the DA with that. I'm sure as hell not telling Chief Roberts the killer doesn't smell right."

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