The entire Shadow of the Moon series in one complete package!
Detective Maria Selena's nights were just like her days, long and boring. That is, until she answers a midnight call about a suspicious person and meets a mysterious stranger with yellow eyes. His alluring gaze and sensual bite lead her down a path of seduction and lust that threatens to engulf both halves of her life, the light and the dark.
I was a pretty average police detective until he claimed me as his own. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I should hate or love him for that. It doesn’t matter now. It’s done and I have to live with it.
My story starts on the night of my big change. I worked in a large city of a couple million. We had our usual skyscrapers in the financial district, the industrial with its black smoke, and the wrong side of the tracks with its gang violence. The whole place was ringed by suburbia for those who could afford the commute, and apartments in the older neighborhoods for those who couldn’t. I couldn’t, so my place was uptown in an old apartment building built before my grandparents were born.
At that moment I wished I was back in that dreary place. Instead I sat in my parked police car. At my side was a grande coffee, cold and lacking in taste, but not the precious caffeine I needed to keep myself awake.
“Maria, you read me?”
a male voice called over my car’s intercom.
I rolled my eyes and picked up the receiver. “That’s Detective Marie Selena, Randy,” I reminded him.
“And that’s Officer Randy to you, but why are we being formal at this hour? Nobody’s listening,” he pointed out.
He was probably right. The hour was near midnight, and the night was a Tuesday. Nothing ever happened on Tuesdays, even in a big city like this one. The criminals almost had an unwritten rule that Tuesdays were the days to lay their feet back and enjoy their ill-gotten loot and plan their next law breaking scheme.
As a detective I should have had a cushioned desk job in the department where I worked a nine-to-five shift, but the precinct was short on cash at that time. Well, it was always short on cash. That meant I had to do double-duty as a street cop.
I rolled my eyes. “Because somebody might be, now what do you have for me?”
“Nothing much. Got a call in a minute ago about some suspicious behavior around one of the clubs in your area.”
“The Wolf’s Den.”
I snorted. “Sounds like something from a bad horror movie. Is it a strip club?”
“Nope, that’s the funny thing. It’s one of those hush-hush places where the place is always crowded but most of the people don’t come in through the front door. The clientele’s pretty rich, too, or so my sources tell me,” he informed me.
“Did your source tell you how I can get into this place without alerting these suspicious guys?” I asked him.
“Nope. He knows a lot, but not even he can figure that out. As for the call, they were in the alley behind the place. Got dropped off by a black car that sped away.”
“This the club owners reporting it?”
“Nope. A passerby on the street waiting in line to get inside noticed it and called us. Said he thought we ought to know.”
I sighed and started the engine. “I guess I’ll go check it out. You got that address?”
“Yep, 11 Lupine Street,” he told me.
“Got it. Don’t leave the lights on for me,” I quipped.
He chuckled. “I won’t. Good luck.”
“Over and out.”
I hung up the receiver and pulled out of the parking spot. Lupine street was two blocks down in the red-light district of the city. People went there for a smoke of something more than tobacco and stayed for the illegal commercial moonshine. Both sides of the long, colorful street were lined with ads touting beautiful women, drinks, and oftentimes both. The doors to the establishments were wide open, and some of the wares called down from the second story windows to the prospective patrons below. Music drifted from one building to the next and mixed into something not even dub-step could create. The streets were crowded with pedestrians and cars. People shouted at each other and the single-finger salute flew high above some of the less patient taxi drivers.
I drove down the road I spotted my objective at the far end of the street on the left side. It was a three-floor building with the usual blackened windows. The front doors were shut, but the lights were on over them and in some of the upper floor rooms. An alley separated its right side from the neighboring establishment, a classy place that forked out boos to anyone willing to drink their gut-rot.
I couldn’t tell what kind of a place was this Wolf’s Den. No music blared past the windows and the doors opened only long enough to let the sleek, beautiful patrons slip through. A long line stood outside the building, but it didn’t look like it was moving very fast.
I turned around at the end of the street and parked my car block down from the place. If there was trouble, I didn’t want my car’s body paint to warn the troublemakers.
I walked past the line and to the double doors at the front. A goon the size of a bus stood on one side of the doors. He wore a white wife-beater shirt with matching pants. In his large, fat-fingered hands was a clipboard and a thick pen. He sneered at a teenage couple who stood in front of him.
“Scram, kids. This isn’t for you,” he told them.
“Oh, come on!” the boy whined. “We’ve been waiting months to get into this place!”
“And you’ll have to wait months longer because you’re not getting in.” He tapped his pen against the clipboard. “No name, no invite, no dough, no getting in. Got it?”
“Will this get me in?” I spoke up. I held up my badge to him.
The goon leaned in close and squinted. A sneer slid onto his lips. “Yer gonna have to show more than that, lady. Where’s the warrant?”
I pocketed my badge into my inner coat pocket and glanced past him at the closed doors. “I left it in my squad car, but I didn’t come here to have a nice chat with you. We got a call there was some suspicious people wandering around the place. You seem ‘em?”
“I ain’t seen nobody but who I’m supposed to see,” he quipped.
“Shame. I’m just going to have to look around the place. Is there a back door?” I asked him.
He snarled. “Why won’t you just get? There’s no trouble around here, so why don’t you take your badge and-”
The sound of a gunshot echoed down the street. People screamed and threw themselves onto the ground. The goon rushed inside and slammed the door behind himself. I heard him draw a large bolt over the door.
I drew my gun and looked for the perp. It wasn’t easy discerning panicked, running people from a prospective shooter. Cars drove past at illegal speeds and people scurried out of the other businesses to see what all the fuss was about. The situation needed another twenty cops to get this wild place under control.
“Stay down and stay back!” I shouted at the gaping onlookers.
“The sound came from there!” one of the people at the rear of the line yelled. They lay on the ground, but pointed a finger down the alley that ran along the side of the Wolf’s Den.
I rushed down the line and hit the corner of the Wolf’s Den. I peeked around the edge and saw nothing but the usual dark, suspicious alley. There were garbage cans, bins, cardboard boxes, and the typical clapboard fence at the far end. The alley ran for thirty yards before it hit the fence and separated, going left and right. The only light came from a single bulb over the side door of the opposite building.
I slipped into the alley with my gun against my chest and my heart beating a tune a heavy-metal band would appreciate. The screaming and panic behind me receded into the background. My eyes swept over the multitude of shadows. Nothing moved. My feet crunched softly on the loose gravel and dirt.
I reached the point where the alley separated. Darkness reigned over both paths and the ten-foot tall fence loomed in front of me. I decided on the left and leaned my back against the wall of the Wolf’s Den. I chanced a glimpse around the corner. That way was a dead end that stopped at an outcropping of the Wolf’s Den building. The rear of the place was shaped like an L and made a small little square. The back door stood ten feet from me and had a single flickering bulb over it.
The back door wasn’t what had my attention, though. My eyes fell on a form on the ground. The person wasn’t moving, and they didn’t have any clothes on.
I rushed over to the person. They lay face-down, and there was a gun beside them. It wasn’t a typical gun. This one had an ivory handle with a long barrel like a magnum. I rolled the person onto their back. It was a man of about forty with short brown hair. His lifeless eyes stared at me. There was a gunshot in his chest over his heart. Blood still oozed out.
I stepped over him and touched the barrel of the gun. Still warm. I had the weapon, but I couldn’t tell if this was murder or suicide. I turned around and studied the dead man. There was just a faint hint of gunpowder on the chest, meaning the range of the gun was farther than his arm. That pointed to murder.