Something he wanted. Like hanging around Jake to get close to his wife? I took some notes down and watched Mary Stone expectantly. The woman she described had to be the one we’d seen with Nicolas and the Magister at the casino. How many leather-clad Asian women could Nicolas hang around with on a regular basis?
“And there’s something else…”
“What is it?” Mason asked.
“Jake mentioned…well I don’t think he was going to the Magister just to complain about me. He said that he knew stuff about Nicolas. That he’d worked with Nicolas doing things that the Magister would like to know about. I think he was going to go to the Magister with some real information. Something that could have gotten Nic in serious trouble.”
“Did your husband work with Nicolas? I mean, other than at the law firm?” I asked.
She flinched. “He would help him out. Evenings and weekends. Do errands for him. I think at first it was so Nic could get me alone. But after a while he started to trust Jake enough to have him work on things he didn’t want anyone to know about. Jake started getting secretive about what he was doing for Nicolas.”
“But you don’t know what he did for him?” I pressed.
She shook her head.
“Tell us more about the woman who took Jake.” Mason’s jaw twitched. He didn’t like this one bit, and neither did I.
“Jake seemed nervous around her too, but he couldn’t talk to me without her hearing. She had him go out first, and when she was leaving…” The succubus swallowed hard, and then took a sip of water.
“Yes?” I tried to keep my impatience out of my voice, but we finally had a lead and I was eager to get out of this house and follow it.
“As she was leaving, she turned and said, ‘Nicolas sends his regards.’” She shivered and ran her hands up and down her arms.
“But you didn’t actually see Nicolas? Did he say anything to you at the funeral? Or anything since?” Mason asked.
She shook her head, and her voice was dull when she spoke. “No. He’s been treating me like a stranger. Offering his arm, condolences. Acting the perfect Magister’s son.”
“Anything else you can tell us about the woman who was here?”
She thought about that for a few tense seconds. “Like I said, she was dressed like some kind of biker. And she had this old coin that she played with while she talked. Like constantly.”
Blood rushed through my ears, so loudly I almost missed her next words.
“I half expected her to pull it out from behind my ear like some sort of cheesy magician.”
“We need to get out of here.” I fidgeted next to Mason and blew out a gust of breath that condensed in the chill air surrounding us as we stood on the sidewalk in front of Mary Stone’s house.
He glanced up from his cell. “It’ll be a while before I can get agents out here to take care of her.”
“Call Vasquez. This is a joint investigation. He can get a black and white here in five.”
Mason frowned but made the call. Seven minutes later, a patrol car pulled up and we were free to go. Mason, normally a conscientious driver, peeled out of the widow’s neighborhood and broke every speed law possible on our way to the Magister’s house.
Except house was too common a word for Luc Chevalier’s abode. Something like manor or estate fit it better. I’d been here before, but always with Claude. And without him, it somehow felt more oppressive than normal, even with Mason’s solid presence beside me. Maybe because this world—the vampire’s—was even more foreign to him than it was to me.
We strode to the front door and Mason hit the doorbell, then knocked loudly for good measure. I pulled my coat tighter against my body.
A stiff, balding man in a creased suit answered the door. I recognized him from the other times I’d visited. What had he seen during his years of service to the Chevalier family? I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
I stepped in front of Mason before he could yell at the butler and demand to see Nicolas and Luc immediately—thus guaranteeing us a long wait.
“Hello. We’re sorry for the intrusion, but we need to speak with the Magister at his earliest convenience. Could you tell him that we’re here? It’s very important.” I gave him a tight smile and his nose dropped slightly from its perch high in the air.
“Detective Holmes. If you and your guest will follow me.”
I started at my name. The man must have a great grasp of names to recognize me, especially without Claude at my side. But such a thing would be part of his job. And to work for the Magister, the man would have to be very good at his job.
Instead of leading us to the small office right off the entryway where Luc Chevalier generally met professional guests, the butler led us to an opulent living room. The room was equipped with two large couches and a loveseat along with a couple of oversized puffy chairs, all situated around a coffee table. Rich leather coated most of the furniture. It blended nicely with the dark hardwood floors and intricately woven rugs. Two other chairs sat facing a fireplace, which was in full burn, fire licking at logs piled high. No gas fireplace for the Magister.
The butler disappeared and Mason pushed his hands into his pockets and leaned against a couch instead of sitting. To the casual observer, he might appear relaxed. But I could see the predatory wariness of his gaze, the barely tensed muscles of his body that were ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
And I remembered exactly how that fighter’s body felt under my hands, under my lips. How it felt poised over mine. How my body responded to his.
Our eyes met, and something of my thoughts must have leaked out in my expression, because the tension in his body increased and he looked at me with his hunter’s gaze. My mouth went dry, and I licked my lips. He took a step toward me. My body buzzed in anticipation.
“Agent, Detective,” the Magister’s voice entered the room at the same time he did. “What brings you to my home, today?”
Mason swerved, and instead of pouncing on me, he reached out and shook the Magister’s hand.
I blinked. I’d felt the thrum of power that said the Magister was home when we had pulled up, but I hadn’t noticed his proximity before he entered the room. I shook myself. Mason Sanderson was dangerously attractive if he could distract me—even for an instant—from the approach of a vampire of Luc’s caliber.
“We’re here to ask for your assistance in finding one of your people. A person of interest in a case. And to inform you of our interest in questioning her.” We didn’t have to inform him, strictly speaking, but I was glad Mason had included that little line. I’d insisted during the drive over, but I hadn’t been entirely certain he would actually say it.
Luc’s expression didn’t change. “I will endeavor to help the police however I can. Who are you looking for, and what is your interest?”
“We’re looking for Min, the woman we met when we spoke with you earlier this week. And she is a person of interest in a murder.”
If a pin had dropped somewhere in the room for three seconds after Mason’s statement, I imagined that it was almost quiet enough that I would have heard it. Ridiculous, of course. The dull roar of the fire alone would have overshadowed such a small sound, but the Magister went quiet and still in such a way that only vampires were capable of. In a way, I imagined, that was only possible for dead things.
The beats passed and Luc lit back up with life and polite concern. “Is this related to Jake Stone’s death?”
“Yes,” Mason said simply. We needed the Magister’s help to find Min—we didn’t even know her last name, if she had one, and time was of the essence. And Mason wasn’t going to offer any information that he didn’t strictly have to. But we did need the Magister. There was a small chance that Min wasn’t the one who picked up Jake—but I doubted it, given her close relationship with Nicolas. But if Mary Stone said it wasn’t her, we’d need the Magister’s help to track down the woman who picked up Jake the night he died.
“Gerald?” Luc called. He didn’t raise his voice, but it carried.
The butler—Gerald—reappeared from the way we’d come in. “Sir?”
“Get me Nicolas’s schedule, please.”
Gerald gave the Magister a small bow and disappeared again.
“Why do you believe that Min, of all people, is responsible for this death?”
“That’s need to know information,” Mason said, voice tight.
The Magister stiffened. “Well, I need to know. That is, if you want my help.”
Mason looked like he was on the edge of saying something on the wrong side of the politeness scale, so I cut in before he could speak. “I’m sorry, Magister, but that’s not something we can divulge. Surely you understand. Once the suspect is in custody, we’ll be able to share more.” I wasn’t at all certain of that, but the Magister relaxed a hair at my words.
“Sir. Master Nicolas’s schedule for the week.” The butler moved so quietly, I hadn’t even noticed him reentering the room. But he carried computer printouts. I caught a glimpse as he handed it to the Magister.
Lo and behold, even old vampires used Outlook.
“Fucking vampires,” Mason growled.
I glanced up from where I was looking through a stack of files at Mason’s kitchen table.
“Didn’t go well with Nicolas?”
“Arrogant bastard.” He dropped his keys onto the table and yanked at his jacket.
“Let me guess. He had no idea Min could have been involved in something so terrible, and he has no idea where she might be found?”
After Mason and I found Nicolas, a patrol car took me back to Mason’s house and Mason questioned Nicolas alone. I’d decided not to argue with the lycan. He’d seemed edgy, and was right when he said that a cop currently on administrative leave questioning a Chevalier at OWEA headquarters was a bad idea. I’d considered pointing out that I’d been with him in the field questioning witnesses, but I didn’t want to push my luck. Besides, I got the feeling that Mason mostly just didn’t want me breathing the same air as Nicolas Chevalier.