Broods Excerpt

Broods of Fenrir – Chapter 1

Brand walked along the yellow crime scene tape that cordoned off the dilapidated building. His gaze wandered over the stained brick wall and broken windows. He remembered when the building was new, how modern it had seemed rising out of the barren landscape. The abandoned industrial complex south of downtown had deteriorated from a Denver landmark into a crumbling eyesore over the last several decades. Glare from the bright, early winter sun prevented him from seeing inside the dim structure.

The patrolman guarding the perimeter passed a long, appraising look over him. Brand nodded to the man and handed over his identification. The uniformed officer glanced at the badge. He gave Brand another once-over and frowned. “Private security? You’re not authorized to be in this area.”

Between his height and the presence of the wolf inside him, most humans found Brand intimidating. They would never be able to define exactly what bothered them, only a vague sense of strangeness. The more sensitive they were to the energies of the natural world, the harder he had to try to put them at ease. If the man in front of Brand had been a wolf, his hackles would have been raised.

Brand pulled off his sunglasses and smiled without showing his overlong canine teeth. “Detective Grant asked me to stop by.” He kept his voice light, trying to convey that he was just another guy, there to do his job when he’d rather be anywhere else.

With a pensive creasing of his forehead, the officer seemed to come to the conclusion that Brand was no threat, and his expression eased. He turned to speak into the radio at his shoulder. “Tell Grant a guy named Brandon Geirson from Sword Security is here to see him.”

For Brand, dealing with humans was easier than interacting with his own kind. Aggression was counterproductive, rather than required. He appreciated that humans responded better to courtesy than intimidation, something that would never work in the brutal subculture into which he’d been born. The constant battle for rank among the Broods of Fenrir brought out unwelcome feral tendencies.

The crackling that answered was all but incomprehensible. The patrolman handed back Brand’s identification. “He’ll be here shortly.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.” Brand slid his sunglasses back into place.

“Sure thing.” The officer nodded and resumed his scan of the area.

Grant emerged from the building a few minutes later and jogged over to the edge of the cordoned-off area. He made a beckoning gesture with one thick-fingered hand.

Brand ducked under the yellow tape. “What’s going on, Grant?” They’d never met under what could be called pleasant circumstances, so Brand wasn’t surprised Grant seemed perturbed.

Grant led the way toward one of the oversized loading doors that had been propped open. Police personnel wandered in and out of the building. Snatches of conversation drifted over to them.

Grant paused several feet short of the entry. “We got a call about a body inside. Your company is the security outfit for this place?”

Brand swiped a hand down his face. He hoped some kid hadn’t thought to have an adventure exploring the empty derelict and instead had fallen down an open elevator shaft. It had happened before, and the guilt gnawed at him. “They don’t pay for anything but one guard doing occasional walks of the outside.”

Grant made a note, then fixed his astute eyes on Brand. “Must be frustrating for you.”

Brand sighed. “It is. I’ve tried to talk to the owners about it, but they aren’t interested in spending money to keep out trespassers.”

“Well, in this case, it’s not some adrenaline junkie looking for a new high.” Grant shook his head. “Wish it was. Lady in there is all slashed up.”

Brand froze in the act of scratching his jaw. “She was murdered?”

Grant looked over his notes and gestured toward the page with one finger. “The coroner’s hemming and hawing about bites that look canine, but there’s no animal I know of would do that kind of damage.”

Dread slithered up Brand’s back, raising the hairs on his neck. “Canine?”

Grant flipped a few pages in his notebook. “Maybe some coyotes came in after the guy was done with her and had a snack, who knows?” He shrugged. “All I know is, there’s no dog-like thing on Earth that would slice her up that way.”

Brand knew firsthand that wasn’t true. Bloody images bubbled up from the deep place he’d buried them. His stomach turned while he battled the painful memories. “Why’d you ask me to come here?”

“I need to know about anything unusual going on in the vicinity.”

He met Grant’s cool stare. “Kids come to get their kicks exploring the empty building. It’s been happening since they closed the factory down years ago.”

Grant scribbled some more notes. He pushed a few buttons on his phone and held it up for Brand to see. “You know her?”

Bruises and cuts covered the woman’s swollen face. Brand swallowed to alleviate the sudden tightening of his throat.

At the bottom of the frame, bloody gashes in her clothing made the pain she had endured before her death obvious. Teeth marks were visible along one side of her neck. Not canine, not at all, though Brand understood why someone who didn’t know about the existence of his kind might assume that. He closed his eyes briefly and searched for calm. His temper flared, but he regained control. “No, I’ve never seen her before.”

Grant harrumphed. “That’s all I’ve got for you right now. I’ll call your office when we clear out of here.”

“Thanks.” Brand offered his hand, and Grant shook it with a short nod.

While walking back to his motorcycle, Brand mulled over what do to next. Leaving the investigation up to the police was out of the question. Even if they could figure out who’d done it, they were ill-equipped to deal with one of the brood. The responsibility of seeking justice for the woman’s death fell to him.

The leader of the brood in the Denver area was a long-time friend and one of his biggest clients. In all likelihood, a member of Erik’s brood had murdered that woman. That placed Brand in a dangerous position since he wanted to put the wild animal down.

Copyright© 2011 by Coral Moore All rights reserved.

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