“I take it blizzard conditions don’t bother you,” Mariella Cruz complained as she clutched her scarf tight to her throat and waited for her partner, Niles Gule, to open the door to the Bangor police station.
Niles considered the frigid Maine evening. Flurries battered his cheeks, striking like icy arrows. The wind tried without success to ruffle his neatly shorn blonde locks. Cold, yes. Blizzard conditions, hardly.
“I’m a vampire,” he commented. “Born in Boston no less. Winters don’t bother me.”
Cruz touched his cheek with the back of her hand. Her fingers burned compared to his cold skin. He closed his eyes, savoring that soft brush of warmth before she jerked her hand away. Niles sighed and willed his wayward heart to stop thumping. Such heat is not for you, he reminded himself.
Cruz seemed as startled by their brief touch as he. She gathered her wits quickly, however, and charged forward in full Cruz style. “I’m Mexican. The only snow we have in the home country will get you arrested.”
Niles swallowed the pain in his chest and pretended to smile. He allowed her to lead the way.
An efficient hum hung over the station. Someone was talking quietly on the phone taking down particulars about packages being stolen from mailboxes. An older man complained that his car had been stolen, only to be told he really needed to lock it up next time. A woman was hanging a notice on the bulletin board describing the latest Most Wanted. For murder. In California. Niles suspected Bangor didn’t need to worry about the LA Strangler coming their way.
He rested his arm on a filing cabinet. An American wood duck, stuffed but amazingly lifelike, stared at him with beady eyes.
Cruz waved a large envelope at the first uniformed woman she encountered. “Detectives Cruz and Gule from Baltimore here to pick up evidence.”
The woman smiled. “Yes. We’ve been expecting you. Hold on. Let me find TC… Sergeant Cotton. He’s handing the problem.”
Niles lifted a brow as he glanced at Cruz. “Problem?”
TC appeared, a formidable silver-haired man, looking relieved. He extended his hand and shook Cruz’s. Niles kept his hands in his pockets. Upsetting one human with his cold skin was enough for the night.
“Welcome to Bangor,” TC said. “You came a long way.”
Cruz nodded. “All in a day’s work.” She glanced around the small station that was the epitome of what Baltimore’s precinct was not, clean, quiet and orderly. Baltimore dreamed of a world like this.
She and Niles had been sent north to pick up evidence related to a murder in the city. A deal over stolen property had gone bad, leaving two men dead and another in prison awaiting trial. The deal had been some convoluted affair between the three men in Baltimore and someone in Maine who remained unidentified. The two detectives had been tasked with retrieving the contested property.
“I’m glad you finally came,” TC commented. “It’s been a pain dealing with this.”
Cruz had only briefly scanned the paperwork before setting out on the journey north. “I’m not sure why. It’s just diamonds.”
TC gave her a hard look. “Diamonds,” he repeated. He sounded dubious.
“It is diamonds, right?” Niles asked. He didn’t like the vibe he was receiving from TC or the lady officer. They were shooting looks at each other.
TC grabbed a parka embroidered with the Bangor Police Department logo on it. “Yeah, it’s diamonds.” As he passed the desk, Niles’ sensitive hearing caught what he muttered to the woman. “Southerners.” The woman rolled her eyes.
Cruz and Niles were forced to follow when TC headed for the door.
“Haven’t you been keeping them in the evidence locker?” Cruz demanded as the trio plunged into the frigid night.
“Nope. Wouldn’t fit.”
Through the dark and flurries, Niles tried to catch Cruz’s eye. He had a bad feeling about this.
TC led them to a patrol car and opened the door. “Get in. It’s a bit of a drive.”
Now Cruz did stare hard at Niles. As he slid his tall, thin form into the vehicle he gave her an encouraging look. He was, after all, a vampire and she was armed. He had no doubt the two of them could take down the seemingly honest looking Mainer if they needed to.
TC settled into the driver’s seat and drove off at a pace so sedate it had Cruz gripping the seat in frustration. Niles, who’d suffered eight hours of Cruz’s maniacal driving north, breathed a sigh of relief.
“Certainly is a different world up here,” he commented.
TC nodded. “Yep. Relatively peaceful and quiet. The way we like it.”
After almost twenty minutes they’d passed out of the small city and were moving through dark countryside. To Cruz it appeared as impenetrable black, but Niles was able to watch as small New England cottages and picturesque farmettes passed in the dark. The car rocked when they turned onto an unpaved lane. Ahead of them lights gleamed from a farm house and barn.
TC pulled up and climbed out.
Niles uncoiled himself and rose, then offered his hand to Cruz. She hesitated, then took it and got out of the car.
TC strolled to a fence and waved. “Diamonds.”
Cruz stopped cold.
“Please tell me your night vision is better than mine and I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing.”
Niles leaned against the fence. “Ok. My night vision is better than yours and I’m not sure what it is you think you’re seeing.”
“Please tell me that’s not a reindeer!”
Niles tilted his head as he considered the giant animal dozing in the middle of the paddock. It was the size of a horse but it had huge antlers on its head. “Ok. It’s not a reindeer.”
“The paperwork said diamonds!” Cruz complained.
TC nodded. “And that, folks, is Diamonds the racing reindeer. He’s pretty famous. A champion.” He eyed them curiously. “What do you expect to find in Maine?”
“I expected diamonds,” Cruz moaned. “Our stolen property is a reindeer?”
“Yep,” TC commented. “I take it you didn’t read your paperwork.”
Cruz sighed. “Didn’t look past the word diamonds.”
“Sucks to be you,” TC said.
Niles slapped Cruz on the shoulder. “You can handle the reindeer. I’ve got to make some calls.”
Cruz scowled. “Why do I have to handle the reindeer?”
Niles couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “Isn’t it true, diamonds are a girl’s best friend?”
Cruz tried to punch him but Niles danced out of the way.
He extended his arms. “Never let it be said I didn’t give you diamonds, Cruz!”
Her hand went to her weapon. “Ok, now that deserves a response!”
Niles laughed and started flipping websites on his cell phone.
“What are you looking for?” Cruz demanded.
Niles chuckled. “Rental companies. To paraphrase a famous movie. We’re gonna need a bigger car.”
© 2017 Newmin
Niles comments: The Bangor Police Department has the best Facebook page I’ve ever read. Warm, funny, yet providing important information to the people they serve. The department is a credit to the profession and a heck of a lot better at this social media thing than a certain vampire will ever be. Follow them and the great conversations with people from all over the US.