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  • Home > Chloe Neill > Chicagoland Vampires Series > Phantom Kiss (Chapter 22)     
  • Phantom Kiss(Chicagoland Vampires #12.5)(22) by Chloe Neill
  • He’d raised a serial killer.


    The Great Fire decimated Chicago in 1871. But like a wildflower in a scorched prairie, the city rose from the ashes into the Gilded Age. Railroads and stock yards boomed, and architecture became grand and modern. Opportunity drew workers into Chicago, into industry—and into the company towns the industrialists built for their new employees.

    It also drew a murderer.

    “Albert Padgett,” Ethan said as we reviewed a photograph of the thin-faced and dour-looking man who’d been dragged back into our world and had terrorized our House.

    “He murdered fourteen people in one of the railroad towns,” Ethan said. “Men, women, and one child, during the summer of 1883. He killed indiscriminately until he was hunted down and shot by police.” He glanced at me. “It took several weeks before they realized the deaths were related, and by that time, the city had begun to panic. We were very aware the city was looking for a killer, and kept a very low profile.”

    “I don’t get it,” Mallory said. “Why is Riley’s number on Padgett’s plot? Padgett died first and would have been in the ground longer.”

    It only took a call to Mallory’s and Catcher’s new forensics friends to explain that. They hadn’t recognized the remains, and hadn’t found the alternate entry. But once Catcher pointed it out, they’d understood the reason for the discrepancy.

    “Albert Padgett was buried in Almshouse Cemetery in 1883,” Catcher said when he’d finished his call. “He was buried in the plot in which we found him, under his own name. When Riley was killed in ’29, they put Riley’s name on Padgett’s grave.” Catcher looked at Ethan. “Any guesses why?”

    “None,” Ethan said, obviously baffled.

    “I’ll give you a hint: the Hudson Institute for Spiritualism.”

    I didn’t recognize the name, but understanding widened Ethan’s eyes. “Oh.”

    Mallory pursed her lips. “That sounds familiar. Why does that sound familiar?”

    “Spiritualists believe they can communicate with those beyond the grave,” Ethan said. “Even though they don’t actually have magic. The movement was popular in the US in the nineteenth century. And there was a resurrection—excuse the pun—after World War I.”

    “People wanted to talk to their loved ones,” I quietly said.

    Catcher nodded. “That’s when the Hudson Institute was founded. You ever visit?” Catcher asked Ethan, who shook his head.

    “They had no magic,” Ethan said simply. “They wanted to believe, certainly, but that was worthless without magic.”

    “Or a darknet,” I threw in, and Catcher nodded.

    “You think the spiritualists wanted to raise Padgett,” Mallory said. “And that’s why Cook County hid the location of his grave after he’d already been dead.”

    “The spiritualists wanted to learn about heaven and hell,” Ethan said. “They believed summoning ghosts was the way to do it. It makes sense they’d want to talk to Padgett.”

    “So Cook County took steps,” I said. “Riley was a low-level thug, so they figured it was fine to put his name in the records because no one would bother looking for him.”

    “Oh, the irony,” Mallory said. “The county put Riley’s name on Padgett’s grave to keep mock witches from disturbing Padgett’s remains. Instead, someone used real magic to disturb Riley’s remains and ended up raising Padgett. Where’s Riley now?” she asked.

    “The forensics folks don’t know,” Catcher said. “They’ll have to do a full audit of the cemetery, which they’ll be starting very soon. Burial records aren’t treated nearly so casually now as they were then, and this won’t sit well with the press.”

    There was a knock at the threshold. Kelley stood in the doorway, her straight dark hair a waterfall across her shoulders and a striking contrast to her pale skin.

    “They’re back,” she said, a glimmer in her wide dark eyes.

    “They?” Ethan asked.

    “The ghosthunters. There are two of them. They say they’re missing a bag, think it might still be in Tunnel Three.”

    “Did we find a bag?”

    Kelley smiled indulgently. “Per your request, we locked the doors and haven’t been back inside.” She glanced at me. “Did you see anything?”

    I frowned, trying to remember. “Not that I recall, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a bag down there. We left it in a hurry and a mess. You?” I asked Catcher.

    “No, for the same reason,” Catcher said.

    “As I’ve learned through our esteemed guard captain,” Ethan said, “their equipment is pricey, and Robin was concerned about money. They wouldn’t want to lose something expensive.”

    “Or they just want another look,” Mallory said.

    Ethan rose, nodded. “Let’s see what they have to say.”

    • • •

    Matt and Roz stood in the foyer, once again in CPAN shirts. They’d brought back some equipment, but not nearly the bulk they’d carried in earlier.

    Matt’s expression was blank. Roz’s features were pulled into angry lines, as if she’d eaten something sour.

    “Ms. Leary,” Ethan said pleasantly. “Mr. Birdsong. I understand you left something here.”

    “A gray backpack,” Roz said. “It’s our property, and we’d like it back.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire