Special Investigative Services agents John Benchley and his lover and partner Evan Garrett from "And Hell Itself Breathes Out" are back with another case from the files of the otherworldly and unexplained.
In "Now I Could Drink Hot Blood", they join forces with a psychic assigned to the FBI, Dr. Gabrielle Dichenz, in order to track a killer. Their latest case finds them with bodies piling up and all the clues defying everyday logic. The victims in their case have had their throats ripped out by something toothy, and all of the bloody samples left behind catch fire in sunlight. Any other investigators would be baffled, but John, Evan and their team are far from normal. Can they solve the case before the death toll sky-rockets?
Meanwhile, their new team member, Dr. Dichenz, has problems of her own in the guise of an abusive lover, a situation that John finds untenable. He insists on doing something about it. Will his efforts help or hinder Gabrielle sort out her personal demons? And can John protect Gabrielle from a psychopath and a monster without losing his lover Evan?
Author: AR Moler
Publisher: Torquere Press
Taylor Vanderbilt was issuing orders. His perfectly pressed suit and aviator style sunglasses were a sharp contrast to John's jeans and Oxford cloth shirt. John intercepted him.
"We're taking lead on this one," John said. His hands were jammed in the pockets of his jeans, but he stood squarely in the way of Vanderbilt's obvious intention to go tromping through the scene.
"Yeah, all right," Vanderbilt consented, which surprised John. He did note the fact that the FBI man definitely looked pissed about it. "But most of the trace will get processed by us. We've got more lab resources," Vanderbilt pointed out.
"Fair enough." John found himself searching the faces of the FBI personnel for Brie. Eventually he saw her, digging gloves and some sampling equipment out of the back of the SUV. She wore a standard issue FBI wind breaker and a pair of dark slacks. He dodged past a couple of agents on security detail to get to her.
"Hey, Gabrielle!" he called. She was wearing her dark sunglasses despite the heavy overcast day. He stopped beside her and laid a hand on her arm. She looked up at him.
"I recognize those glasses. Migraine?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's trying really hard," she answered slowly.
"Give me five minutes." He pulled her against his body and threaded his fingers through her hair, rubbing the back of her neck and the knotted muscles at the base of her skull. Feeling her mind brush across his, there was just a hint of pure pleasure at his touch as her forehead rested on his collarbone.
"Interrogation today?" he asked.
"Yes, better than ninety minutes," she whispered. His cheek rested against the top of her head, and he noticed that they were receiving a couple of pointed stares. He was amused. He spent a couple more minutes holding her, trying to ease her headache.
"Some. Hopefully, it's enough that maybe my eyeballs won't fall out." She pulled away and started putting on her gloves. John grabbed her field kit box and followed her toward the body where Cecelia and Evan were measuring and photographing. Several FBI people were doing similar things.
This was going to lead to arguments over who got what samples, John suspected. As Brie walked the perimeter, John set the box down and watched her. He slowly realized that she was searching for something, something specific. She knelt down and used a swab to sample a sample, placing it in a tube. She stroked her fingers across the spot she had sampled as if she was feeling the texture of whatever it was through her gloves. The sun chose that moment to break through the clouds. She let out a little cry, dropping the tube, which was luckily acrylic, and frantically yanked at the glove on her hand.
"Fuckfuckfuck!" she yelled.
John lunged forward, dropping to his knees, grabbing her wrist, and peeling most of the glove the rest of the way off. There was gummy melted residue on her palm and fingers, and she was grimacing in pain. John looked at her in concern. How badly was she hurt?
"Hey, Cecelia! Get over here!" he shouted. "What happened?" he demanded of Gabrielle.
"Major exothermic reaction."
"It didn't quite burst into flames," said Brie.
Cecelia dropped down beside them.
"Take a look at her hand. Whatever it was melted the glove," John said.
Cecelia took hold of Gabrielle's hand and started flexing her fingers and trying to assess the damage. "I know it hurts, honey. Just bear with me, I'm trying to make sure only the skin is damaged," said Cecelia softly, patting a hand on Brie's shoulder.
"Ow... ow..." muttered Gabrielle as Cecelia peeled bits of melted nitrile from Gabrielle's hand and started hosing the hand down with saline.
John gave Brie an appraising look, thinking about the way she had seemed to be hunting for something very specific before the incident. "Why do I think you aren't all that surprised at what happened? What is that stuff?" he asked.
Brie glanced up at him. "I suspected it might happen. But not that damn fast. Oxidation yes, but maybe over minutes or a couple of hours... ow... ow..." She grimaced at what Cecelia was doing to her fingers.
"I'm nearly done. Just try to hold still, the nitrile is melted onto your skin. Don't watch. It won't hurt quite so bad." Cecelia suggested. She spent a few more minutes rinsing the hand and bandaging it.
"What is it?" asked John.
"Blood. I think."
"Blood that gets so hot it melted the glove." He pondered the sheer strangeness of the idea.
"Um, yes... "Brie appeared a bit tentative at the claim.