Industrial Magic - By Kelley Armstrong


“GOT ANOTHER CSI QUESTION FOR YOU,” GLORIA SAID AS Simon walked into the communication hub with an armload of papers. “If you’re not busy.”

“Perfect timing,” Simon said. “I’m just about to start my coffee break.” He started pulling a chair to Gloria’s workstation, then hesitated. “Can I get you something?”

Gloria smiled and shook her head. Simon moved the chair beside hers, being careful not to block her view of the digital-display city map on the side wall. That’s what Gloria loved about shamans, they were so damned considerate. You want a nice guy, you get a shaman. You want a self-centered jerk, you get a half-demon.

Her shift partner, Erin, hated it when Gloria said that. Racial discrimination, she called it. Of course Gloria didn’t really believe every half-demon was a jerk—she was a half-demon herself—but that didn’t keep her from saying so to Erin. Night shift in the communication hub could get deathly dull, and there was nothing like a good political correctness debate to liven things up.

Gloria pushed her chair back, one eye still on her monitor. “Okay, so I’m watching CSI last week, and they trick this guy into giving them DNA. Then, like five minutes later, they tell him it’s a match. Can you really analyze DNA that fast?”

“Can they? Or can we?” Simon said. “For a municipal crime lab, it’s damn near impossible. With our lab, though, there’s no political wrangling about overtime and budgets and case precedence. We can’t analyze a DNA specimen in five minutes, but—”

Gloria’s headset beeped twice: an incoming call on the emergency line. She lifted a finger to Simon, then swung around. Even before the call connected, data began flashing on her computer screen as the call tracer went to work. She glanced over her shoulder to see the map of Miami replaced by another city: Atlanta.

Gloria reached for the button to page Erin back from lunch, but Simon beat her to it, simultaneously grabbing Erin’s headset to put it on.

The line clicked.

“Cortez emergency services,” Gloria said.

A female voice came on, shrill and garbled with panic. “—help—park—man—”

Gloria soothed the caller with reassurances that help was on its way. She could barely make out a word the caller said, but it didn’t matter. The computers had already pinpointed the location, a pay phone in an Atlanta park. The Cabal had an office in Atlanta, which meant they had an emergency crew there, and the computer automatically dispatched them the moment it located the call’s origin. Gloria’s only job was to keep the caller calm until the team arrived.

“Can you tell me your name, honey?”

“D—na M—ur.”

Sobs punctuated the words, rendering them unintelligible. Gloria glanced at her monitor. The computer was analyzing the voice, trying to match what it heard against the roster of Cabal employees and employee families. A list of several dozen names appeared. Then the computer factored in gender, an age estimate, and the call location. It came back with a list of five names. Gloria focused on the top one, the computer’s best guess.

“Dana?” she said. “Are you Dana MacArthur, honey?”

A muffled “Yes.”

“Okay, now, I want you to find someplace—”

The line went dead.

“Damn!” Gloria said.

“The Atlanta team just phoned in,” Simon said. “Ten-minute ETA. Who is it?”

Gloria waved a hand at her screen. Simon leaned over to look at the photo. A teenage girl grinned back.

“Ah, shit,” he said. “Not another one.”

The driver swung the SUV into the park and dowsed the lights. Dennis Malone stared out the window into the overcast night. He turned to tell Simon they’d need good lighting, and saw that the crime-scene tech was already fiddling with his flashlight, replacing the batteries. Dennis nodded, stifled a yawn, and rolled down the window for some air. On the jet, he’d loaded up on caffeine, but it wasn’t kicking in. He was getting too old for this. Even as the thought flitted past, he dismissed it with a smile. The day he retired without a fight would be the day they found him cold and stiff in his bed.

He had the best damned job a cop could want. Head of the finest investigative unit in the country, with the kind of resources and funding his old buddies in the FBI could only dream about. And he didn’t just get to solve crimes, he got to plan them. When the Cortezes needed to get rid of someone, they came to Dennis and, together with his team, he’d devise the perfect crime, one that would stump the authorities. That was