Brookline; a charming Boston suburb. More upscale than most, this was the home of business VPs and other upper-middle-class professionals. The spacious houses with immaculate lawns and two-car garages. The Mercedes, Audis, and Cadillacs in each driveway. Just cruising down a street like this made people feel inadequate.
But not me.
I pulled my Ferrari to the curb behind Detective Ross’ unmarked Impala and turned off the engine. The officers in the yard stared at my shiny new 458 Italia, a top-of-the-line sports car. In red, of course. When I do something, I do it right.
The house before me stood out from the others. As big and beautiful as any in the neighborhood, the two police cruisers parked in the street before it drew attention. All the neighbors stared at the place with undisguised contempt. Rich people. Always ready to turn on their neighbor at the slightest indiscretion.
A fine mist of rain greeted me as I walked up the driveway. Despite the weather, I left my jacket unzipped to provide access to my gun, just in case.
“If it isn’t our friend, Simon Kane.” The asinine words came from Officer Pope. He had been with the Brookline PD for twenty years and was still a street cop. With a wit like that, I was surprised he hadn’t made captain.
I continued my stroll up the driveway. It would bring me past Pope, but I wasn’t getting my shoes wet on the rain-soaked lawn.
“Hey,” Pope’s expression promised another insightful witticism. “You think the suspect’s a vampire? No, wait! A werewolf! You believe in them, right?”
Yup. Pure genius.
“Failed the detective test again, I see.” Grabbing his wrist, I shoved a hundred-dollar bill into his sweaty palm. “Go buy yourself some Cliff Notes.” Without a second glance, I continued past him to the door. Guffaws from the other cops followed, and his eyes burned on my back, but I didn’t care. He would be a good boy and leave me alone. The cop at the door said nothing as I passed him and entered the house.
The place was clean and comfortable with classy décor. They had some taste for middle-class. The sound of Ross’ voice led me through a doorway off to the left, and I found myself in an equally well-decorated living room. A large, flat screen TV dominated one wall, with the couch and other chairs positioned toward it. Photographs and nick-nacks lined the mantelpiece above the fireplace. The room felt warm and homey. A playpen sat by the bay window, and a baby held itself up on tiptoes, gripping the railing for support. A woman stood in front of the sofa near the center of the room. She crossed her arms nervously over her chest, her face a wreck from crying. Detective Joseph Ross hovered between her and the crib. He wore a beleaguered expression as he watched the woman. My entrance got his attention, and he showed relief when he saw me—a rare thing.
My brow wrinkled in consternation as I scanned the room. There were no bodies. No stench of death. And no occult symbols or artifacts anywhere. Only Ross, a few cops, and a distraught housewife.
“Simon,” the detective said, taking a professional tone and waving me over.
In three long strides, I stood beside him. “Why am I here? I don’t do domestic disputes.”
Ross ignored my greeting and turned to the woman. “Mrs. Mann, this is Simon Kane. He’s a private investigator but is well suited to help sort this out.”
Mrs. Mann stared past me at the baby with undisguised hatred. Odd. Wasn’t she the child’s mother?
“Simon,” he said, undaunted. “I’d like you to give this woman your professional opinion about her son—”
“He’s not my son!” the woman shrieked, tearing her gaze from the child to scowl at the detective.
“Ross, I’m not an expert on babies, you know that.” Domestic disputes were number one on my list of reasons not to be a cop.
“You are an expert on the supernatural, aren’t you?” He said that loudly, as much for the woman’s benefit as for mine.
“Yes, that’s why I consult for you. What does that have to do with the baby?”
“Mrs. Mann believes little Jacob over there is not hers.”
“It isn’t Jacob!” the woman sobbed. That explained the look she gave the child.
“But you think it is?” I said to Ross.
The detective nodded. “A photo comparison matches.”
For the first time, I turned to face Mrs. Mann. She gazed at me with teary eyes as I examined her. She was pretty for a woman in her mid-thirties. Though she had that soccer mom look that turns me off. She held a wild, hysterical expression that made her appear desperate, but she wasn’t a nut-job who wouldn’t recognize her own child. Okay, I was curious.
I affected my best professional tone as I addressed Mrs. Mann. “Why do you think the baby isn’t yours?”
She gazed at me for a moment. “You have to be a mother to understand. That—that thing is not my son!”
“Hmm.” Not really an answer, but there was one thing going for it: sincerity. The woman believed what she said. The time had come to interview the kid.
Crossing over to the crib I knelt and examined the thing that stood inside, holding onto the railing. I say thing because it was no kid—I could tell that much. Oh, the creature looked like a baby to everyone else. To me—well, let’s just say I have a nose for the supernatural—or an eye, in this case.
It’s one of my unique talents. You see, I’m not entirely human. Somehow, my DNA got mixed with something paranormal. I have no idea what I am or how I got to be this way. Whatever the case, I’ve found I have certain abilities, one of which is seeing supernatural beings for what they are. This is why I’m a PI. To learn more about these beings, and exactly where I fit in.
Identifying a supernatural being—or supey, as I like to call them—is hard to do. This is, in part, because I was raised like a human, and had to figure it all out myself. Some supies look different to me than they do to ordinary people. Those are easier to identify. But some are tricky. This one had the body of an infant, but something was off about Little Baby Jacob. The expression with which the baby’s face considered me was too adult to be real.
“What are you?” I whispered. The fake Jacob stuck its tongue out at me. Nice.
“Fuck you,” the baby said, so quietly only I heard. But instead of the surprise and revulsion the faux infant expected, I smiled. Yeah, I knew what it was.
As casually as I could manage, I turned and walked a few steps away. The timing was important. I didn’t want to tip my hand, or things could get nasty. In one fluid motion, I drew as I turned, flicking off the safety as I aimed. My handgun was always cocked, so the thing only managed to gape at me, its blue eyes bulging in surprise as I squeezed the trigger.
I always forget how loud a gun is. The report filled the enclosed space of the room in a deafening roar, leaving my ears ringing. Cops ran into the room from outside, their guns trained on me within seconds.
“What the hell!” Ross was beside me in an instant and pulled the gun from my hand. I let him take it.
Ignoring Brookline’s finest—and their weapons, I turned to the grieving mother. “You were absolutely right, Mrs. Mann. That was not your son.”
“Sir!” Officer Pope said to the detective. “Look!”
All eyes turned to the crib. Where the bloody body of a baby should have been, instead lay the bloodless empty skin of a child. There were no bones, no meat, no organs. It was a baby suit, like the skin of a snake after it molted.
Ross whirled on me, his face twisted in disgust and confusion. “What the hell was that thing?”
I shrugged. “A changeling, of course.”