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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 21)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(21) by Chloe Neill
  • “We have exonerated Mickey Riley!” she pronounced, slice of pepperoni in hand.

    “And managed dinner, apparently,” Ethan said.

    “Malik ordered it,” she said, wiping grease from her fingers. “Decided the team needed a refuel.”

    It wasn’t Saul’s, my favorite Chicago chain that offered my favorite pizza—cream cheese and double bacon—but it was laden with pepperoni and still gleaming with heat and grease. My stomach rumbled with hunger, and my self-healing vampire arteries rejoiced.

    “I’m game,” I said, and pulled out a chair, grabbed a slice, and took a seat. “Tell us about Riley.”

    Ethan sat down beside me, got his own slice. My heart leapt happily when he skipped the plate and fork, opted only for a napkin. I’d rubbed a little of the shine off of him, and that was fine by me.

    “It’s not Riley,” Mallory said. “In the grave, I mean. Very much Riley’s name on the records, very much Riley not in the ground.”

    “Then who the hell is it?” Ethan asked.

    “Not Riley,” Mallory said with a grin, a long string of cheese stretching between the pie and the second slice of pizza she’d lifted from it.

    “Turns out Mickey Riley had a very distinctive feature.” Catcher held up a hand, all the fingers curled down except his little finger. “He was missing the pinkie on his right hand. Butcher in the 19th Ward cut it off during a disagreement about protection money. But the body in the grave had all ten fingers. On the upside, it did have something you’ll find familiar.”

    He pulled up an image on his phone, handed it to me.

    On a background of silver that I suspected was an autopsy table sat a pair of old-fashioned spectacles with small, round lenses.

    “These look like the same glasses worn by the ghost who attacked us in the tunnel.” I looked up at Catcher, handed the phone to Ethan. “So our ghost, whoever he was, was in Mickey Riley’s grave.”

    I was relieved that one of the pieces had fallen into place—if still concerned about the who and the why.

    “If not Riley, did the forensics team know who the remains belong to?” Ethan asked.

    “No,” Catcher said. “There’s no identifying information with the remains and no matches in the DNA archive. They’ve surmised this gentleman is older than Riley based on the condition of the bones, the glasses, the fabric. Have you looked up the marker from tonight’s site?” Catcher asked. “Maybe his and Riley’s records were reversed.”

    I swallowed a mouthful of pizza, adjusted the tablet on the conference table, headed for the cemetery records. “Good idea. Hadn’t gotten there yet.”

    “She was overcome by spicy meats,” Ethan offered.

    “That’s what she said,” Mallory muttered.

    I pulled up the burial ledger, leaving slightly greasy marks on the screen. And got very lucky very quickly; the number was listed on the first page.

    “And Tony Lapham is the owner of grave number two,” I announced.

    But a quick (and equally greasy) image search confirmed he wasn’t the man we’d seen in the tunnel. Lapham was enormous. Over two hundred pounds and, by the look of it, all of it muscle, with a thick neck and ruddy complexion.

    “That name sounds familiar,” Catcher said.

    “It should.” I handed him the tablet. “He was one of Dean O’Banion’s men.”

    “O’Banion?” Mallory said, looking at the screen over Catcher’s shoulder. “Who’s that?”

    “Capone’s rival,” Ethan said. “O’Banion ruled the north side; Capone ruled the south.”

    “So someone unearthed one of Capone’s men—or what they thought was one of Capone’s men—and one of O’Banion’s men.” I lifted my gaze. “Why? Because you want to see sparks fly? You want to start a ghost gang war? What would be the point?”

    “Entertainment,” Catcher said, handing back the tablet. “Sociopathy. An academic interest in gangsters.”

    “Could be any of those,” I said, then frowned. “Wait, so Riley’s name is on the grave of a guy buried—if we take his clothing as evidence—many years before Riley died. How did they manage that without going back in time?”

    I pulled up the rest of the ledger pages, switched the display to the screen above Ethan’s bookshelves. I needed more eyes on this project.

    “Okay,” I said as I walked toward the screen, where I scrolled through the scanned pages. “There’s Riley’s identifier,” I said, pointing to the now-familiar set of numbers and letters. “So who got it wrong?”

    I hadn’t gone farther in the ledger pages than Riley’s number, because I’d figured I’d found the information I needed. This time, I moved to the subsequent page, and we scanned through one after another, looking for some clue about the switch.

    “What’s that?” Mallory asked, squinting at the screen.

    At the bottom of a page, in a smaller and straighter script than the rest of the writing and in a darker ink, was a small set of numbers.

    “Looks like it was added later,” Catcher said. “Clearly not the same handwriting as the others.”

    “Agreed,” I said, and zoomed in closer.

    There, in tidy block print, was the number of Mickey Riley’s grave along with a very different name.

    We stared.

    Our perpetrator hadn’t raised a gangster.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire