It was a bitch of a night; cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey. I wasn’t in the best of moods before I left the precinct and now, what little patience I had, plummeted with my body temperature.
“What crawled up your ass?” Conrad said, kicking a mound of snow with his boot.
I thought up a dozen insults in my head, but since my lungs hurt from the cold I settled on showing him the finger.
“You know, I have a ready solution to thaw out that frosty exterior,” he persisted; clearly he had a death wish.
“Dream on, bug boy,” I said, because he hated the nickname. He was an arachnid-demon, so it was about as insulting as I could get.
“What’s the alternative? If you don’t feed soon, you’ll be even more unbearable than you are right now.”
I wiggled my brows at him because, well that always managed to piss him off too.
“I’m not going to fight you, Mer. We have a job to do.”
He was right, of course. We’d been sent out on a bag and tag a body, or tag and bag – whatever. The job was the same.
“How long have they been out here?” I asked, glaring into the blinding white of our surroundings.
“Not out here,” Conrad said, pointing to the warehouse on our left. “Poor sap’s in there.”
“Human?” I asked, trying to ignore the kick of excitement in my blood. It was all kinds of sick that a corpse could stir what nothing else had in weeks.
“Yeah. You sure you don’t want to use and abuse me before we head inside?”
My hand connected with Conrad’s jaw before he’d finished the sentence.
His head snapped back, but not before I’d seen the glint of red in his eyes.
Oh yes, this was going to be fun.
He lunged at me, his vertebrae popping like, well popcorn, as he fought to control the shift.
“Easy, tiger,” I warned and flipped him so he was on his back.
“Why do you always have to poke the bear,” he spat, finally getting himself under control.
I laughed, relaxing a fraction when he stood and gave me a hand up. “Again with the wishful thinking.”
“The omnivores have nothing on me,” he said and turned towards the building.
Since I’d discovered my partner was wound almost as tightly as I was, I figured we might as well get to it.
My eyes wandered to the warehouse; a sorry looking structure, with broken windows and too many make-overs to cover the ugly truth.
I followed Conrad across the snow covered street and into the mouth of the beast.
It seemed colder inside, or perhaps that was the icy fingers running up my spine. I felt a shudder rise and clamped down on it.
We didn’t have to go looking for the human; he lay at a crooked angle in the middle of the room. He’d been attractive in life and death was having a hard time diminishing his beauty.
I moved forward for a closer look and regretted it immediately. He hadn’t been dead long enough for the smell of his innocence to completely drain away.
It was our job to ensure that innocence wasn’t tainted by the vermin who would take his body apart like a pack of hungry wolves. But it was getting harder to remember what my job was.
As I stood beside the rotting corpse, it suddenly occurred to me that I shouldn’t be there.