Read The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told Online

Authors: Martin H. Greenberg

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Detective and Mystery Stories; English, #Mystery & Detective, #Parapsychology in Criminal Investigation, #Paranormal, #Paranormal Fiction; American, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy Fiction; American, #Crime, #Short Stories, #Fantasy Fiction; English, #Detective and Mystery Stories; American

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told

BOOK: The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told
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The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told
Martin H. Greenberg

Copyright © 2010 by Tekno Books and Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Skyhorse Publishing, 555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 903, New York, NY 10018.

Skyhorse Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Skyhorse Publishing, 555 Eighth Avenue, Suite 903, New York, NY 10018 or [email protected]

www.skyhorsepublishing.com

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The best paranormal crime stories ever told / edited by Martin H. Greenberg.

p. cm.

9781616081195

1. Detective and mystery stories, American. 2. Parapsychology in criminal investigation--Fiction. 3. Fantasy fiction, American. 4. Detective and mystery stories, English. 5. Fantasy fiction, English. I. Greenberg, Martin Harry.

PS648.D4B48 2010
813'.087208--dc22

2010029698

Printed in Canada

Copyrights

Introduction copyright © 2011 by John Helfers

“Appetite for Murder,” copyright © 2008 by Simon R. Green. First published in
Unusual Suspects
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Star of David,” copyright © 2008 by Patricia Briggs. First published in
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe.
Reprinted by permission of the author and her agent, Linn Prentis, Literary Agent.

“If Vanity Doesn't Kill Me,” copyright © 2009 by Michael Stackpole. First published in
Crime Spells
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Grave-Robbed,” copyright © 2007 by P.N. Elrod. First published in
Many Bloody Returns
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Judgement,” copyright © 2004 by Anne Perry. First published in
Powers of Detection
. Reprinted by permission of the author and her agent, Don Maass, The Don Maass Literary Agency.

“Special Surprise Guest Appearance by . . . ,” copyright © 2004 by Carole Nelson Douglas. First published in
Murder by Magic
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Occupational Hazard: A Harry the Book Story,” copyright © 2007 by Kirinyaga, Inc. First published in
Wizards, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

“She's Not There,” copyright © 2009 by Steve Perry. First published in
Crime Spells
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Hostile Takeover,” copyright © 2007 by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. First published in
Wizards, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Dopplegangster,” copyright © 2004 by Laura Resnick. First published in
Murder by Magic
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Necromancer's Apprentice,” copyright © 2004 by Lillian Stewart Carl. First published in
Murder by Magic
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Night of Their Lives,” copyright © 1995 by Max Allan Collins. First published in
Vampire Detectives
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Road Dogs” copyright © 2008 by Norman Partridge. First published on
www.SubterraneanPress.com
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Ninja Rats on Harleys,” copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth A. Vaughan. First published in
Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Stalked,”copyright © 2007 by Kelley Armstrong. First published in
My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Corpse Vision,” copyright © 2009 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. First published in
Jim Baen's Universe
, December 2009. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“The Unicorn Hunt,” copyright © 2005 by Michelle West. First published in
Maiden, Matron, Crone
. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Introduction

JOHN HELFERS

A lot of paranormal fans think that supernatural creatures have all the fun. Vampires have that immortality thing going on, as well as near-invulnerability to all but a few common household items (and one really big environmental one). Werewolves get that superstrength, speed, and senses, not to mention wicked claws, and a nice, thick fur coat (although there is that problem of what to do with your heap of shredded clothes when you change). Witches and warlocks get to wield phenomenal cosmic power (that almost never backfires on them, usually).

But, as a famous uncle from the comics said long ago, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Specifically, the responsibility
not
to use those amazing powers for evil. Sadly, many of those creatures of the night don't manage to stay on the side of good. Although the temptation is understandable—after all, they're already outsiders in society, so what's to stop them from breaking the rest of humanity's laws? And whether transgressing or being transgressed against, these creatures will find a way to get away with much more than they should . . .

Of course, for those who try to break the law, there are also those who do their best to bring the perpetrators to justice as well. If the officer of the law is a human, they might be biting off more than they can chew, but if they're also a paranormal, then get ready for all hell to break loose.

The fifteen stories collected here represent both sides of supernatural law and disorder. From best-selling author Kelley Armstrong comes a tale of two shapeshifters on their honeymoon in the big bad city, and how their trip is enlivened by another werewolf who's looking for a fight—and gets much more than he expected. Simon R. Green brings us another story set in his inimitable, shadowy world of Nightside, where nothing and no one is who they first seem to be. Veteran crime writer Max Allan Collins serves up a gritty tale of crime and detection during the Great Depression; and when someone starts killing the down-and-out frequenting a soup kitchen, it takes a very special detective to go undercover and find out who's committing murder. And another best-selling author, Patricia Briggs, brings us a story of an estranged father and daughter who come together while protecting a special boy from a very dangerous predator.

From con artists with a touch of the
fae
to—and I'm not making this up—motorcycle-riding rats wielding ninja swords, these stories will take you on several walks into the wild side of supernatural life, with the good, the bad, and in several instances, the ugly. So take a deep breath, and prepare to break a few laws . . . or chase after the lawbreakers . . . in
The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told.

Appetite for Murder

SIMON R. GREEN

I never wanted to be a Detective. But the call went out, and no-one else stood up, so I sold my soul to the company store, for a badge and a gun and a shift that never ends.

The Nightside is London's very own dirty little secret; a hidden realm of gods and monsters, magic and murder, and more sin and temptation than you can shake a wallet at. People come to the Nightside from all over the world, to indulge the pleasures and appetites that might not have a name, but certainly have a price. It's always night in the Nightside, always three o'clock on the morning, the hour that tries men's souls and finds them wanting. The sun has never shone here, probably because it knows it isn't welcome. This is a place to do things that can only be done in the shadows, in the dark.

I'm Sam Warren. I was the first, and for a long time the only, Detective in the Nightside. I worked for the Authorities, those grey and faceless figures who run the Nightside, in as much as anyone does, or can. Even in a place where there is no crime, because everything is permitted, where sin and suffering, death and damnation are just business as usual . . . there are still those who go too far, and have to be taken down hard. And for that, you need a Detective.

We don't get many serial killers in the Nightside. Mostly because amateurs don't tend to last long among so much professional competition. But I was made Detective, more years ago than I care to remember, to hunt down the very first of these human monsters. His name was Shock-Headed Peter. He killed three hundred and forty-seven men, women and children, before I caught him. Though that's just an official estimate; we never found any of his victims' bodies. Just their clothes. Wouldn't surprise me if the real total was closer to a thousand. I caught him and put him away; but the things I saw, and the things I had to do, changed me forever.

Made me the Nightside's Detective, for all my sins, mea culpa.

I'd just finished eating when the call came in. From the H. P. Lovecraft Memorial Library, home to more forbidden tomes under one roof than anywhere else. Browse at your own risk. It appeared the Nightside's latest serial killer had struck again. Only this time he'd been interrupted, and the body was still warm, the blood still wet.

I strode through the Library accompanied by a Mister Pettigrew, a tall stork-like personage with wild eyes and a shock of white hair. He gabbled continuously as we made our way through the tall stacks, wringing his bony hands against his sunken chest. Mister Pettigrew was Chief Librarian, and almost overcome with shame that such a vulgar thing should have happened in his Library.

“It's all such a mess!” he wailed. “And right in the middle of the Anthropology Section. We've only just finished refurbishing!”

“What can you tell me about the victim?” I said patiently.

“Oh, he's dead. Yes. Very dead, in fact. Horribly mutilated, Detective! I don't know how we're going to get the blood out of the carpets.”

“Did you happen to notice if there were any . . . pieces missing, from the body?”

“Pieces? Oh dear,” said Mister Pettigrew. “I can feel one of my heads coming on. I think I'm going to have to go and have a little lie down.”

He took me as far as the Anthropology Section, and then disappeared at speed. It hadn't been twenty minutes since I got the call, but still someone had beaten me to the body. Crouching beside the bloody mess on the floor was the Nightside's very own superheroine, Ms. Fate. She wore a highly polished black leather outfit, complete with full face mask and cape; but somehow on her it never looked like a costume or some fetish thing. It looked like a uniform. Like work clothes. She even had a utility belt around her narrow waist, all golden clasps and bulging little pouches. I thought the high heels on the boots were a bit much, though. I came up on her from behind, making no noise at all, but she still knew I was there.

“Hello, Detective Warren,” she said, in her low smoky voice, not even glancing round. “You got here fast.”

“Happened to be in the neighbourhood,” I said. “What have you found?”

“All kinds of interesting things. Come and have a look.”

Anyone else I would have sent packing, but not her. We'd worked a bunch of cases together, and she knew her stuff. We don't get too many superheroes or vigilantes in the Nightside, mostly because they get killed off so damn quickly. Ms. Fate, that dark avenger of the night, was different. Very focused, very skilled, very professional. Would have made a good detective. She made room for me to crouch down beside her. My knees made loud cracking noises in the Library hush.

“You're looking good, Detective,” Ms. Fate said easily. “Have you started dying your hair?”

“Far too much grey,” I said. “I was starting to look my age, and I couldn't have that.”

“I've questioned the staff,” said Ms. Fate. “Knew you wouldn't mind. Noone saw anything, but then noone ever does, in the Nightside. Only one way in to this Section, and only one way out, and he would have had blood all over him, but . . . ”

“Any camera surveillance?”

“The kind of people who come here, to read the kind of books they keep here, really don't want to be identified. So, no surveillance of any kind, scientific or mystical. There's major security in place to keep any of the books from going walkabout, but that's it.”

“If our killer was interrupted, he may have left some clues behind,” I said. “This is his sixth victim. Maybe he got sloppy.”

Ms. Fate nodded slowly, her expression unreadable behind her dark mask. Her eyes were very blue, very bright. “This has got to stop, Detective. Five previous victims, all horribly mutilated, all with missing organs. Different organs each time. Interestingly enough, the first victim was killed with a blade, but all the others were torn apart, through brute strength. Why change his MO after the first killing? Most serial killers cling to a pattern, a ritual, that means something significant to them.”

“Maybe he decided a blade wasn't personal enough,” I said. “Maybe he felt the need to get his hands dirty.”

We both looked at the body in silence for a while. This one was different. The victim had been a werewolf, and had been caught in mid-change as he died. His face had elongated into a muzzle, his hands had claws, and patches of silver-grey fur showed clearly on his exposed skin. His clothes were ripped and torn and soaked with blood. He'd been gutted, torn raggedly open from chin to crotch, leaving a great crimson wound. There was blood all around him, and more spattered across the spines of books on the shelves.

“It's never easy to kill a werewolf,” Ms. Fate said finally. “But given the state of the wound's edges, he wasn't cut open. That rules out a silver dagger.”

“No sign of a silver bullet either,” I said.

“Then we can probably rule out the Lone Ranger.” She rubbed her bare chin thoughtfully. “You know; the extent of these injuries reminds me a lot of cattle mutilations.”

I looked at her. “Are we talking little Grey aliens?”

She smiled briefly, her scarlet lips standing out against the pale skin under the black mask. “Maybe I should check to see if he's been probed?”

“I think that was the least of his worries,” I said. “This must have been a really bad way to die. Our victim had his organs ripped out while he was still alive.”

Ms. Fate busied herself taking samples from the body and the crime scene, dropping them into sealable plastic bags, and tucking them away in her belt pouches.

“Don't smile,” she said, not looking round. “Forensic science catches more killers than deductive thought.”

“I never said a word,” I said innocently.

“You didn't have to. You only have to look at my utility belt and your mouth starts twitching. I'll have you know the things I store in my belt have saved my life on more than one occasion. Shuriken, smoke bombs, nausea gas capsules, stun grenades . . . A girl has to be prepared for everything.” She stood up and looked down at the body. “It's such a mess I can't even tell which organs were taken; can you?”

“The heart, certainly,” I said, standing up. “Anything else, we'll have to wait for the autopsy.”

“I've already been through the clothing,” said Ms. Fate. “If there was any ID, the killer took it with him. But I did find a Press Pass, tucked away in his shoe. Said he worked for the
Night Times.
But no name on the pass, which is odd. Could be an investigative reporter, I suppose, working undercover.”

“I'll check with the editor,” I said.

“But what was he doing here? Research?”

We both looked around, and Ms. Fate was the first to find a book lying on the floor, just outside the blood pool. She opened the book, and flicked quickly through it.

“Anything interesting?” I said.

“Hard to tell. Some doctoral dissertation, on the cannibal practices of certain South American tribes.”

I gestured for the book, and she handed it over. I skimmed quickly through the opening chapter. “Seems to be about the old cannibal myth, that you are what you eat. You know; eat a brave man's heart to become brave, a runner's leg muscles to become fast . . . ”

We both looked at the torn open body on the floor, with its missing organs.

“Could that be our murderer's motivation?” said Ms. Fate. “He's taking the organs so he can eat them later, and maybe . . . what? Gain new abilities? Run me through the details of the five previous victims, Detective.”

“First was a minor Greek godling,” I said. “Supposedly descended from Hercules, at many removes. Very strong. Died of a single knife wound to the heart. Chest and arm muscles were taken.”

“Just the one blow, to the heart,” said Ms. Fate. “You'd have to get in close for that. Which suggests the victim either knew his killer, or had reason to trust him.”

“If the killer has acquired a godling's strength, he wouldn't need a knife any more,” I said.

“There's more to it than that.” She looked like she might be frowning, behind her mask. “This whole hands-on thing shouts . . . passion. That the killer enjoyed it, or took some satisfaction from it.”

“Second victim was a farseer,” I said. “What they call a remote viewer these days. Her head was smashed in, and her eyes taken. After that; an immortal who lost his testicles, a teleporter for a messenger service who had his brain ripped right out of his skull, and finally a minor radio chat show host, who lost his tongue and vocal chords.”

“Why that last one?” said Ms Fate. “What did the killer hope to gain? The gift of the gab?”

“You'll have to ask him,” I said. “Presumably the killer believed that eating the werewolf's missing organs would give him shapechanging abilities, or at least regeneration.”

“He's trying to eat himself into a more powerful person . . . Hell, just the godling's strength and the werewolf's abilities will make him really hard to take down. Have you come up with any leads yet, from the previous victims?”

“No,” I said. “Nothing.”

“Then I suppose we'd better run through the usual suspects, if only to cross them off. How about Mr. Stab, the legendary uncaught immortal serial killer of Old London Town?”

“No,” I said. “He always uses a knife, or a scalpel. Always has, ever since 1888.”

“All right; how about Arnold Drood, the Bloody Man?”

“His own family tracked him down and killed him, just last year.”

“Good. Shock-Headed Peter?”

“Still in prison, where I put him,” I said. “And there he'll stay, till the day he dies.”

Ms. Fate sniffed. “Don't know why they didn't just execute him.”

“Oh, they tried,” I said. “Several times, in fact. But it didn't take.”

“Wait a minute,” said Ms. Fate. She knelt down again suddenly, and leant right over to study the dead man's elongated muzzle. “Take a look at this, Detective. The nose and mouth tissues are eaten away. Right back to the bone in places. I wonder . . . ” She produced a chemical kit from her belt, and ran some quick tests. “I thought so. Silver. Definite traces of silver dust, in the nose, mouth and throat. Now that was clever . . . Throw a handful of silver dust into the werewolf's face, he breathes it in, unsuspecting, and his tissues would immediately react to the silver. It had to have been horribly painful; certainly enough to distract the victim and interrupt his shape change . . . while leaving him vulnerable to the killer's exceptional strength.”

BOOK: The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told
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