“I’m sorry, Sydran, but I can’t give you the files if you aren’t on the case.” Bruce shook his head where he sat behind his desk at the station. It was a good thing was here and not on a call or out to lunch.
Xander stood on Sydran’s left, behind the desk chairs where people were meant to sit and chat with Bruce. Except that Sydran’s nerves were too frayed to sit still. The wolf inside him howled at him internally, crying out to be released. “Then put me on the case. I’m a Detective and a good one too.” Sydran crossed his arms with a frown.
Bruce rubbed the side of his head with a deep sigh. “Sydran, you’re too close it.” He gazed at Xander. “You’re his friend—tell him.”
Xander placed a hand on Sydran’s left shoulder. “He’s right. You are close to this.” Before Sydran could yell at him, Xander removed his hand and turned back to Bruce. “But that just means he’ll do whatever it takes to solve this. You need him.”
Sydran met Xander’s gaze and gave him a short nod of thanks. It was the only gratitude he had the strength to show at the moment.
Bruce sucked in a deep breath and nodded slowly, as if he didn’t want to admit defeat. He pointed to a box on top of a cabinet tucked into the back-left corner of the room. “I put everything we have right now here. We have the preliminary results of the—the autopsy back. We won’t get the full one for a few weeks. I’m having our coroner rush it.”
Sydran winced and unshed tears made his eyes burn. His chest throbbed with pain, so he gritted his teeth and shook his head to focus. But his thoughts were in a whirl, making it hard to concentrate.
“Detective Barks?” Bruce asked.
It snapped Sydran out of it. He rushed forward and grabbed the box of files from the corner.
“You can look at it here. I’ll get you two a private room.”
“Thanks, Bruce.” Sydran’s husky tone sounded as tired as he felt. Bruce stood from his chair and led them out of his office, down the hall, to a private, soundproof room so he and Xander could work in peace.
“Can I bring you two anything for lunch?” Bruce asked at the doorway.
Sydran shook his head and turned to the box—which put his back to the door.
Xander cleared his throat. “You should get something to eat, Sydran.”
“I’m fine.” His tone left no room for argument.
“I’ve sent a team over to Jindi’s parents’ house. They’ll bring in the information as soon as it gets here.”
Sydran nodded in thanks.
As soon as the door shut behind Bruce, Sydran dug into the box to retrieve the files, but it wasn’t much about the current case. Most of it was about Jindi’s sister’s murder, so he swallowed deeply and tossed the files onto the table and sat down.
Xander grabbed one of the files and opened it. “You don’t think it was the vamp who killed her sister, do you?”
Sydran shook his head. “No, we caught him and handed him over to my unit. At the time, he worked alone and didn’t have a coven or anything. I researched him quite a bit when I worked on the case.”
Of course, that didn’t mean anything. The vamp could have had others he contacted while in Deadwatch—a prison controlled by his special unit meant to house criminal mystics. What if this vamp had paid another one to finish off Jindi and her family?
Then, there were the werewolf hunters.
“How did the hunters find out my identity?” Sydran muttered.
Xander shook his head. “I don’t think they could have. There was no way they saw our faces up close. And we only got our wounds sewed up, so it was just a few hours until you got home. There’s no way the hunters could have found you out, and learned about Jindi, and murdered her in that short amount of time.”
Sydran nodded and thought about her parents. “Her parents too—they were killed first. So, the vampire is our main lead right now.”
Xander leaned back in his seat and closed the file he had open. “What about the case you were working on? The rogue wolf? Is there a possibility the rogue wolf found out you were working on it, decided to take action on your wife and her family?”
Sydran closed his eyes and fought against the furious pounding of his head. “I don’t know. I didn’t even have any leads on that yet. I was getting ready to talk to the latest victim’s family when you came in and told me about Lacy. I never did get a chance to go talk to them.”
Sydran glared at the preliminary autopsy report enclosed in a file but he couldn’t bring himself to reach for it, let alone open it and read it. The things that he read—even seeing Jindi’s body in the condition it had been—would never leave him. He already struggled to think of her beautiful warm face, calm smile, and doe-brown eyes without seeing how crushed—
No. He couldn’t read about it too.
Tears dripped onto the table beneath him and he glared at them. He was crying, again?
“I can read that, Sydran, if you want me to.” Xander’s voice was low, as if he was afraid of spooking Sydran.
Sydran nodded, tightening his hands together as if in prayer. Maybe he was, maybe deep inside his heart, he was praying—for justice, for some sort of hope in all this grief and pain—for something.
Xander grasped the file and opened it. His eyes flickered back-and-forth while reading and Sydran’s heart raced in his chest the whole time. Waiting was hardest, so he tried to turn his attention to the other files, but his mind couldn’t concentrate on the words. What was he even reading? Every few seconds, his gaze slid up to Xander, whose frowned deepened every second.
Then, at last, Xander sat the file down on the table and closed it again. “Do you want me to talk about it?”
Sydran nodded, shifting in his seat. His hands tightened and the pounding in his head increased. His shoulder stung, so he focused on that rather than the agony tightening his chest and stomach.
Xander cleared his throat. “They’ve already ruled out suicide—there was no note and the defensive wounds on her body, combined with the disarray of the house implies foul play.” Xander paused and blew out a breath of air.
Every word felt like a knife to Sydran’s heart but he glared at the table, trying not to see the images that stormed into his mind but they came there nonetheless—images of Jindi fighting off intruder, trying to punch and kick them, and the intruder punching her and throwing her around the room in a fight.
Sydran fought back a sob.
“It was only a two-story fall,” Xander continued in a low voice. “So, the fall didn’t kill her. The report says that her head was crushed—someone followed her after she fell and well—” he choked.
Sydran winced and the tears increased. Each tear that fell down his face stung in time with his aching heart. “—and they crushed her head against the concrete,” he finished with a flinch through clenched teeth. Bile formed with the lump in the back of his throat and he rushed out of his chair and over to the trash can. Breathing heavily, Sydran dry-heaved into it.
More unwanted images invaded his mind—cruel hands grabbing Jindi and throwing her off the balcony, and her screams as she fell. Those vicious hands grabbed her head and—
Sydran clenched the trash can and a cry of pain tore from him. “She—she can’t be…she can’t be gone. She can’t be gone.” He repeated the phrase over and over again as the cries and sobs tore from him. His body collapsed from under him and he fell against the wall, trying with all his might to envision her as she once was, only he couldn’t—he couldn’t stop seeing the fight in his mind, though he hadn’t seen it for himself, it was as if he truly could.
“Sydran, I’m—I’m so sorry.” Xander walked over and placed a hand on the back of Sydran’s shoulder, but it did little to comfort him.