“Kittredge is a winner.” Jim Butcher
Witch Craft (Nocturne City Series #4)by Caitlin Kittredge
Someone, or something, is setting fire to the homes of the city's most infamous non-humans, racking up a body count that's growing by the day. And strange, otherworldly creatures no one has seen before—selkies trolls and harpies—are causing chaos throughout the city. Racing to stop the carnage, Luna turns to sexy federal agent Will Fagin for/i>
Someone, or something, is setting fire to the homes of the city's most infamous non-humans, racking up a body count that's growing by the day. And strange, otherworldly creatures no one has seen before—selkies trolls and harpies—are causing chaos throughout the city. Racing to stop the carnage, Luna turns to sexy federal agent Will Fagin for help. As they work to uncover the source of the bloodshed, Luna's attraction for Will deepens. But just as she learns Will's darkest secret, Nocturne City is thrust into total chaos—leaving Luna and Will in a path of destruction they may not be able to stop…or survive.
“Kittredge is a winner.” Jim Butcher
Read an Excerpt
A Nocturne City Novel
By Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Caitlin Kittredge
All rights reserved.
Chaos crept up on me like someone had tossed a stone into a pond. I was sitting in a window booth at the Devere Diner, shoving a double bacon cheeseburger into my mouth, while across the expanse of red formica table Detective David Bryson did the same with a grilled chicken club.
"Cholesterol," he explained around a mouthful of lettuce and dead bird. "Doc said I'm going to keel over if I don't cut back on the carbs or calories or what have you. Put me on one of that whatchacallit — Long Beach Diet."
"South Beach," I corrected him, taking a pull at my diet soda. Just because I have a werewolf metabolism doesn't mean I need to abuse it.
"However you call it," Bryson said. "All I know is that in a week, I get to maybe eat a burger once in a while." He regarded his sandwich the way most people regarded a dead pigeon on the sidewalk.
"My sympathies," I said, and signaled the waitress for a slice of pie. Bryson glared at me. The waitress finished writing an order for two uniformed cops at the counter and sashayed over. Bryson checked her out. She checked him out.
I cleared my throat. "I'd like a slice of key lime, when you two are done."
"Krystal," said Bryson, reading the name tag. "You ever get down to my part of the city, cutie?"
"Depends what part we're talking about, honey," she said, batting her heavy fake eyelashes at him.
I kicked Bryson on the ankle. "Pie. Key lime. Essential to my continued good health and temperament."
A fire engine roared down Devere, sirens going full blast, and drowned me out. The waitress cupped her ear. "Huh?"
A pair of patrol cars followed, their lights revolving heartbeat quick, tires laying black rubber streaks as they took the turn onto Hillside Avenue at top speed.
"Say that one more time, honey." The waitress was still smiling at Bryson. She was brassy-skinned from a spray-on tan and had a red bouffant piled on top of her head. She and Bryson, who was a bull-necked man with powerful arms, a greasy pompadour, and small bright blue eyes, would make a cute couple. You know, if you were into that sort of thing.
"Key lime," I said, rubbing the back of my neck. I could still hear the sirens, even though they were long gone into the crisp October air. Were hearing is sensitive. I could hear Bryson's heartbeat, too, how it quickened when Krystal looked at him.
It was five days before Halloween. The leaves were falling and paper pumpkins and ghosts were everywhere. Halloween made everything seem benign. You could almost forget that the real monsters might be sharing a subway car or a cubicle with you.
The patrolmen at the counter jumped as their radios crackled. The dispatcher burbled their call numbers and then squawked out, "Eleven-seventy-one in progress at One-oh-seven Hillside Avenue. Fire and rescue en route. All units respond."
To give the cops credit, they were a well-oiled machine. One dug out a twenty and threw it on the counter while the other grabbed his car keys off the counter and ran out the door to start their prowl car. "Dispatch, Ten-ninety-seven is en route," the second cop bit off into his clip mic, before he followed his partner.
The ripples spread out from the stone fall, and a beat after the door slammed shut after the two uniformed cops, my BlackBerry went off. Bryson's pager followed it a moment later.
I tore it off my belt and looked at the text message. 107 Hillside. ASAP. That had to be Annemarie. Only she would dare ASAP the boss. Bryson looked at me, blinked once. "One-oh-seven Hillside?" he asked. I nodded.
Bryson snapped his fingers at the waitress. "Krystal, doll? We're gonna need that pie to go."
* * *
I smelled the smoke before I saw it — my nose is my best feature, and I'm not just talking about it complementing my pretty face. Weres can smell a lot, which normally is a mixed blessing. Do you have any idea how a hobo smells to a werewolf? You're better off not knowing.
A black cloud stained the faded-denim blue of the sky, boiling up from the crest of the hill. I pushed my foot down on the accelerator of the Ford LTD that I'd gotten from the motor pool a few months previously, and was rewarded with a groan from the transmission and no discernable increase in speed.
I hit the steering wheel. "Piece of crap car." My previous ride, a 1969 Ford Fairlane, had blown up when I drove it into an open chasm with a pissed-off Wendigo spirit clinging to the hood. Both the spirit and the car were crispy now, and I was back to driving the Cop Standard model, stale upholstery, dubious brakes, and all.
"Jesus Christ, that's a big fire," said Bryson. "Somebody's McMansion is McToasted, for sure."
We were in the exclusive section of the Cedar Hill neighborhood now, Victorian stately homes sitting shoulder to shoulder with large modern monstrosities shoved wherever the developers could find a spare greenbelt. They were uniformly hideous. "How much you wanna bet me it's the fucking ELF or PETA or one of those fucking hippie groups that set their armpit hair on fire to save the whales?" Bryson said.
"I think we wouldn't have gotten paged," I murmured as I rolled up on the scene. Three ladder trucks were hosing down a blaze that was giving off enough heat to break a sweat down my spine and curl my hair, even from twenty yards away. A token ambulance and a phalanx of patrol cars had the street blocked off, and neighbors were staring.
We crossed the street to the cordon and I found the fire chief on scene, a barrel-chested man named Charlie Egan. "I'm Lieutenant Wilder," I said, flashing my badge. It was still new enough that the shine hadn't come off the bronze crescent-moon seal.
Egan grunted. "So?"
"With the Supernatural Crimes Squad," I elaborated, and waited for the inevitable wisecrack, sigh, or meltdown that followed with most city personnel.
The big fire chief just grunted again. "We don't need you."
That tone carried so much more than the words would imply. We don't need the freak squad reminding the plain humans that there are things in Nocturne City that will bite their faces off with a smile.
"Someone paged us," I said. "You mind filling me in, since I left a perfectly good lunch for you?"
"No," Egan said. "In case you hadn't noticed, we got a situation here."
A month or two ago I probably would have grabbed him by his polyester tie and made him do what I wanted, but instead I shielded my eyes from the smoke and stepped back. Letting Egan know he was in control, that his manly manliness was secure. "When you've got the fire under control, Chief, you and I will talk again." And when we do, it will be for a royal dressing-down on your part, mister.
He didn't pick up on my nuances. Men are like that.
I recrossed the street to find Bryson scooping the last of my key lime pie out of the box with his fingers. "Dammit, David!" I yelled. "What happened to your diet?"
"Hey, I got job stress." He shrugged. "My therapist said I'm a emotional eater."
I turned my back on him and leaned on the hood of the car, watching the blaze. The house wasn't a McMansion — it was one of the old ones, a timber-frame place with too much scrollwork, now a nightmare of gingerbread and burning shingles that made me cough.
Egan strode around looking important until he realized he wasn't doing any more good than Bryson and me, and stomped over to us. "Guy that lives here is named Howard Corley," he snapped, like he was giving me an order. "Deals in antiques. Works from home."
He paused to let that sink it. I winced as I looked at the smoke and the flames, which had started to recede, barely. "You think he was in there."
"Car's in the garage," said Egan. "Gas tank blew, almost took the scalps off a couple of my men. No reason to think he's not."
I wasn't any closer to understanding why Annemarie had paged me, but I smiled at Egan anyway. "I appreciate it, Chief."
"Yeah, well. Keep your spook squad out of the way if it comes to that."
Then again ... I sighed and kicked at the concrete, forgetting for a moment I was wearing classy Prada flats instead of my usual combat boots. "Shit," I sighed. The wardrobe that went with being lieutenant of the most-hated task force in the Nocturne PD was massively expensive, the headaches even larger.
"I have better things to do than stand around a crime scene that isn't even ours. Or a crime scene, yet," I complained loudly to Bryson, hoping Egan heard me.
"Well, here comes Hotlanta. Why don't you ask her?"
Hotlanta was Bryson's personal nickname for Annemarie Marceaux, a firecracker-redhead who hailed from Louisiana ... one of the northern parts, with some tongue-twister French name. She was tiny and slender and efficient, a near-constant bless her heart smile in place. A new hire in the department, she'd been shunted to the SCS and taken the news pretty well, at least outwardly.
"Sorry I'm late, ma'am," she hollered at me. "Damn traffic cops wouldn't let me through!"
She was also profane, funny, and a hell of a lot nicer than an ex-special victims detective had a right to be. I liked Annemarie. Bryson snorted, low. "Here she is, Scarlett O'Hara."
"Hello there, David," she said brightly. "You're looking slender today."
Bryson turned about eight shades of red, and wiped the sweat away from his forehead. "Hiya, Annie."
"Lieutenant," she said breathlessly. "I'm sorry for the cryptic message, but I was in the area and I saw the blaze start. There's something here for us, believe me."
"Okay," I said. "Spill it." The firefighters had finally gotten the flames under control, and new smells were creeping in: char. Cooked electrical circuits. Burnt meat.
Egan had been right about someone being at home.
"I saw the fire start, ma'am," Annemarie said.
I focused on her, and tried to block out the smell. "You don't say."
"Yes," said Annemarie, stepping out into the street and gesturing at the traffic cameras, a few at the intersection. "I think those picked it up, too. It wasn't like anything I'd ever seen, Lieutenant. It caught all at once, from all points. An inferno."
"And you just happened to be driving by?" I cocked my hip and glared at Annemarie. Her cheeks were flushed from the fire and she seemed almost happy. I don't know too many people who get happy about fire and death, except weirdos, and I had enough of those in my life already.
"Oh, I was visiting a friend who lives on the other side of the hill," she said. "Going to clock in when I saw the fire. I called it in and paged you, ma'am."
"Detective Marceaux, if you don't stop calling me ma'am I'm going to slap you right in the head, got it?"
She nodded, going even redder. "Sorry, ma' — Lieutenant."
"'Luna' would be just fine, Annemarie. Go find out when we can walk the scene, and call the rest of the squad."
After she walked back to her own car, Bryson snorted. "Time was, I only had to put up with you. Now there's another one running around, like some kind of tiny, evil doppelgänger."
"David, did you actually just use the word 'doppelgänger'?"
He spread his hands. "I watch a lot of horror movies. So what?"
I shook my head, hiding a smile. "Never mind."CHAPTER 2
The sun had nearly set by the time the wreckage was cool enough to be examined, but it gave the rest of the Supernatural Crimes Squad time to get to the scene.
Pete Anderson, our resident CSU tech, stood in what had once been the home's foyer, and shook his head. "There's nothing overtly hinky here, Lieutenant Wilder. Even burn patterns, no accelerants used to the naked eye, no smells you wouldn't expect in a burned-out hulk."
"Then how do you explain what Annemarie saw?"
Pete spread his hands. He had an angelic face, chocolatey skin, and close-cropped hair, both flawless even in the ash and the ovenlike heat of the burnt house. Sweaty, sooty, and unkempt as I was, I sort of hated him.
"Maybe Annemarie made a mistake."
I looked over at her petite frame, as she picked carefully through the wreckage with Javier Batista. Next to Sergeant Batista's ex-SWAT bulk, she seemed even slighter. "Has Annemarie ever made a mistake in the time you've known her?"
Pete's mouth crimped. "Nope."
"So walk the scene and see what jumps out at you," I said.
The medical examiner's staff appeared, somber and silent in their blue jumpsuits, and unfolded a body bag in what was once a study. Ash from paper and books drifted around them as they rolled the corpse of Howard Corley into the bag, zipped and tagged it, and carried it between them back to the van. Corley didn't look anything like a man now. He was raw and featureless, just flesh.
Before the morgue attendants got their cargo shut away, a black Mustang roared to a stop behind the cordon, and disgorged a lanky figure in a black suit.
I checked out the car before I checked out the driver. It was glossy, unmarred, so shiny I could have fixed my makeup in it, had I been wearing any. Red leather bucket seats and a matching detail on the steering wheel. Chrome reflecting the dying sun. Maybe a '67 or a '68. The driver cared about the car, to the point of obsession. And he had flashy taste and probably a glove box full of speeding tickets.
The driver argued with the uniform for a minute and then did an abrupt left turn and stopped the morgue attendants, making them set down the body bag and open it. He took out a penlight and bent over Corley.
I held up my finger to Pete. "Excuse me." I covered the distance to the stranger and the corpse in about two seconds flat. Another benefit of the were, to counteract all the hassles it gives me.
"Excuse me!" I said, loudly.
The stranger looked up at me, tilting square black fifties-style sunglasses down his nose. One inky eye regarded me. "Yes?"
"Why are you poking my corpse?"
He stood, brushing at his knees. His black suit was wool, a custom-tailored job, and the shirt was crisp linen the color of virgin snow. A skinny black tie and cuff links completed the look, along with a swath of burnished blond hair swept back from a high forehead. Mid-Century Hipster with overtones of G-Man.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know it belonged to you."
I crossed my arms, wrinkling my suit jacket. It already had soot and sweat on it — a few wrinkles wouldn't hurt. "Cut the smart-ass act and let's see some ID."
He blinked. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
I stared at him, at a loss, which is rare for me. He stared back, one eyebrow cocked, until his jaw twitched and he broke into a grin. "I'm sorry. I'm just messing with you." He stuck out a hand. "Will Fagin, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms."
"Lieutenant Luna Wilder." I took the offered hand, shook, and gripped it hard enough so that he couldn't let go. Bones creaked. Fagin yelped.
I reached into his inside jacket pocket with my opposite hand — brushing a silk lining, no nylon for the G-man — and drew out his ID wallet. Sure enough, he was staring back at me from the corner of his ATF laminate. I heaved a sigh. "What the hell are the feds doing at this crime scene?"
Fagin grinned weakly. "You mind letting go of my hand, She-Ra? It's hard to formulate a witty response when I'm worried about my metacarpals."
I released him. "And I ask again: Why are you here?"
Fagin gestured at the burnt husk. "I'm a silent E."
"What?" Was everyone at ATF crazy, or just this guy?
"ATF also covers explosions and explosives, especially since 9/11. We call ourselves the silent E in 'ATF.' You know, because it's not in the acronym...." He trailed off and shoved a hand through his hair. "And I see the little anecdote that works so well on girls in bars is not working on you, is it?"
"Signs point to 'no.'"
That grin swam up again, dazzling me. "Can I at least have my ID back, Lieutenant Wilder?"
I slapped the wallet against his chest. "Take it. And while you're at it, take yourself back to that penis replacement you call a car and get out of my crime scene. I'm not giving the feds jurisdiction without a good Hexed reason, and your skinny ass isn't it."
I expected the requisite pissing contest to follow, but Fagin just lifted one bony shoulder and nodded, putting his sunglasses back on. "I'll see you around, doll. Watch for me."
"Very intimidating, coming from a guy who's dressed like a reject from Reservoir Dogs."
Excerpted from Witch Craft by Caitlin Kittredge. Copyright © 2009 Caitlin Kittredge. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the Nocturne City and Black London series, as well as several short stories. She started writing novels at age 13, and after a few years writing screenplays, comic books and fan-fiction, she wrote Night Life, her debut novel. She is the proud owner of an English degree, two cats, a morbid imagination, a taste for black clothing, punk rock, and comic books. She's lucky enough to write full time and watches far too many trashy horror movies. She lives in Olympia, Washington.
Caitlin Kittredge is the author of the Nocturne City and Black London series, as well as several short stories. She started writing novels at age 13, and after a few years writing screenplays, comic books and fan-fiction, she wrote Night Life, her debut novel. She is the proud owner of an English degree, two cats, a morbid imagination, a taste for black clothing, punk rock, and comic books. She’s lucky enough to write full time and watches far too many trashy horror movies. She lives in Olympia, Washington.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Luna Wilder has stepped in it again! Now that Luna has been promoted to lieutenant of her very own squad, she is trying to focus on being the boss, while trying to keep her predatory were half under control. Unfortunately for Luna, her usual behavior of running off half-cocked is not going to help protect Nocturne City from the Blood witches, murderous pyromaniacs and very ravenous netherworld creatures that are invading her city. I agree with another reviewer, if you are looking for a police procedural novel, this installment is not it. It's more like Luna flies by the seat of her pants and hopes for the best. I enjoy Luna's interaction with Lucas as oppose to Dmitri's constant quest for total domination over Luna. A couple of things bothered me about this installment. Luna's character has matured just a bit in this installment; however she still is overly sassy and reckless. I'm also pretty disappointed in the way Luna treats her were. She pretty much ignores her were, never really enjoys that part of herself and hardly ever changes to her were to give her some freedom. It's almost as if her were doesn't exist until she needs her. This installment was chock full of excitement, action and mystery. I highly recommend this book and series and I am looking forward to reading the next book Daemon's Mark due out 5/2010.