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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 20)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(20) by Chloe Neill
  • “It’s from the same era as the last one,” Annabelle said. “Twenties and thirties.”

    I nodded, wondered if that signified anything.

    She stopped when we reached a new pile of dirt, a new rectangular hollow beside it. The same type of metal marker, this one bearing 4-CCU78-443. The bones were jumbled in their wooden coffin but didn’t seem to have been moved around, or at least not overly so.

    “I interrupted him,” Annabelle said.

    “Talk about burying the lede,” Jeff said, eyes wide.

    “You interrupted him?” my grandfather prompted.

    “I was concerned the magic would create a spiritual cascade—call back even more spirits than they’d intended. So I was patrolling the grounds again.” She pointed to the east, to the crest of a low hill. “I came over that hill, saw the dirt, realized the grave had already been dug up. When he moved to climb down into it, I called out. I figured he was about to start stealing.”

    My grandfather nodded. “Quite likely. Did you see any accomplices?”

    “I only saw one man, and I didn’t see much of him. It was dark, and he was wearing dark clothes.”

    “You’re sure it was a man?” my grandfather asked.

    Annabelle blinked. “Good point. I assumed it was a man—short hair, dark pants and a jacket, I think. The build seemed masculine, but I didn’t see his or her face.”

    Pretty much the same description CPAN had given.

    “Did you see his vehicle?” I asked. “The white sedan?”

    Annabelle shook her head. “No.”

    “What happened when you called out?” my grandfather asked.

    “He stopped what he was doing—kind of waited for a minute to see who I was—and then he started running.”

    “He doesn’t like confrontation,” Ethan said.

    “No,” my grandfather agreed. “He doesn’t. If he’s got any magical skill, or even physical skill, he might have stood his ground.”

    “Or if he’d wanted it bad enough,” Jeff said. He crouched down to get a better look at the remains.

    “Exactly,” my grandfather said. “He’s not a fighter and likely not especially skilled—or experienced—with magic.” He glanced at Annabelle. “Did you feel magic this time?”

    She frowned, considering. “I was pretty amped-up on adrenaline, but I don’t remember feeling anything. I don’t think he got that far.”

    My grandfather looked at Jeff. “Jeff’s made some headway on the magic the perpetrator might have used.”

    “No kidding?” Annabelle said.

    Jeff nodded, rose from his crouch. “We had to go into the Dark Web to find it, which took some time. I still want to let Mallory and Catcher take a look when they’re back from the ME’s office, but I think we’re close.”

    “Dark Web?” Ethan asked.

    “Long story short,” Jeff said, sticking his hands into his pockets, “the Internet’s dark and filthy alley. Encrypted, unindexed, and nearly impossible to find without the right information and software. We found a market—a darknet—where spells and charms already kindled by magic are available to the highest bidder. And this one was recently sold,” he said, pulling out his phone and pulling up the information.

    He handed it to me, the screen showing what looked like a pretty typical Internet product page. Description, picture, cost. But instead of a book or pair of shoes, the seller was offering a “Spell to Summon a Spirit Using Partial Skeleton.”

    “A lot of alliteration,” I said, reading the description, which talked about unearthing a skull or other body part to pull the deceased’s spirit back into this world. The buyer would receive a prekindled magical object, a candle, and the words necessary to initiate the magic.

    “Pretty damn close to what we’ve got here,” I said, handing the phone to Ethan. “I presume you can’t track it, given where it came from?”

    “Correct,” my grandfather said. “Even if we had a warrant for the buyer’s information, it’s highly unlikely the seller would cooperate, and we won’t be able to find them to enforce it. We’ll be talking to the Order about the market,” my grandfather said, displeasure clear in his voice. “Very firm talking.”

    “If we assume that’s the right spell, it doesn’t say anything about the purpose of raising a spirit. So what’s the point?” I looked down at the grave. “What are they trying to do here? What do they want with a ghost?”

    “Maybe the buyer wanted a ghost butler,” Jeff said. “Or to locate some kind of hidden treasure that only the deceased knows about, or to have a really kick-ass Halloween prop.”

    “Several months early?” Annabelle asked.

    Jeff shrugged, mouth arranged in a quirky grin. “Ghost butler.”

    “Maybe they did it just to prove they could,” my grandfather quietly said, worry in the lines of his face. “Tonight proves he’s still out there, still trying to make magic. Still trying to accomplish something. We just have to find the something.”

    Before the something found us.

    • • •

    We drove back to the House at speeds that weren’t precisely legal. Neither Ethan nor I wanted to leave it for long.

    Mallory and Catcher met us in Ethan’s office in front of a spread of pizza boxes on the conference table.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire