Nighttime in the city made me feel at home no matter where I was. The sun goes down, and the city changes, becomes its own dark twin, rich with mystery and surprise. The interplay of light and shadow, the garish and the mundane, produced stark contrasts that changed my perspective of the world. Details stood out in the pooled light of streetlamps that were lost clutter in the daytime. Faces became cloaked with meaning or menace. Mysteries deepened, too, the unnoticed receding into the unseen.
Maybe that was my way of romanticizing the Weird, the decrepit Boston neighborhood I called home. It looked abandoned during the day, the tired dumping ground for the shunned feythe fairy folk from Ireland and Germany. At night it came alive, filled with humans and fey folk hustling for one thing or another, partying too hard, staying too long, and pushing themselves to the limit. At night it came alive, which means that sometimes someone ended up dead.
That's what Convergence brought to the world. When Faerie merged with modern reality a century ago, it brought not only fey people but all of their hopes and hatreds. Danann fairies ruled from Tara in Ireland and looked down at all the rest of the Celtic fey. Teutonic elves occupied significant parts of old Germany and threatened war at every turn. Caught between them were the refugees from the old waysthe solitary fey that didn't fit in with the mainstream. They spread across Europe and the Atlantic, hoping for a better life than they had known. Instead, they ended up in places like the Weird while the usual power players moved into the upper echelons of human society.
I had spent my professional career seeking justice for the fey. Connor Grey was the go-to guy for crimes involving fairies and elves or any other fey species. I was one of the bestmaybe the bestinvestigators the Fey Guild ever had. The Guild was the administrative arm for High Queen Maeve at Tara and leader of the Celtic fey. When I lost my druid abilities in a fight with an elven terrorist, I got kicked to the curb. That's when I learned the Guild cared only about the Guild, the rich, and the powerful, and I had been a pawn in its political schemes without realizing it. I spent a year moping, watching my friends, my home, and my money disappear. For another year, I helped the Boston police department solve crimes that the Guild could not care less aboutcrimes against the weak and the powerless rungs of fey society. I didn't help the Guild or the police anymore, not really. Now I did favors. That was a kind way of saying no one wanted to give me official sanction. I had screwed up a lot of plans for a lot of powerful people in the last year. Now, I helped people I trusted and hoped that my trust wasn't misplaced.
Eorla Kruge Elvendottir was one of those people. She had tried to find a way to unify the Celtic and Teutonic fey and failed. She defied her cousin, the Elven King, and broke away from his rule. With her own court in the Weird, she vowed to take care of anyone who needed it and leave ancient rivalries behind. When she received reports that people were going missing and a strange blue light marked their disappearance, she asked me to look into it.
I had spent the evening chasing rumors, loud noises, and flashes of light. The light came from essence, the energy that bound everything in the world together. As a druid, I sensed the nuances of essence and could recognize things by their unique signatures. Except hunting essence in the Weird was an exercise in frustration. With so many fey living here, sorting out trails was a painstaking process. I was good at it, but tonight wasn't successful. Whatever was causing the disappearances was as elusive as my reputation.
I was on my way home when I spotted a Boston police car parked beside a pile of broken concrete. The Tangle lay beyond, the section of the waterfront that made the rest of the Weird safe and secure by comparison. This end of the neighborhood was a burned-out husk, the epicenter of a night of fire and riot a few months earlier. Little remained of the businesses that had managed to survive. Where the Tangle was a nest of intrigue and danger, the area next to it had become a wasteland of nothing. Even electricity was spottya few streetlights remained standing, but the buildings were clothed in darkness without even a hint of a squatter's candle. The hard white light of an arc lamp made finding the crime scene easy.
A building had once been where I stood but had collapsed into a heap of rubble from the heat of fire. An unsecured strip of crime-scene tape fluttered in the wind. I climbed over the first pile of soot-stained bricks and brittle mortar. Light shone from behind the next pile, dark shadows cutting through the beam of the arc light as people passed in front of the lamp. I threaded along a narrow wedge of space too filled with debris to be called a vacant lot.
"Something about not crossing a police line not apply to you, Grey?"
The dark shape of a uniformed police officer stepped into view from the side of the pit. Officer Gerard Murdock directed his flashlight at me, forcing me to turn away. "Hey, Gerry."
He moved closer. "I asked you a question."
I tried to squint past the beam of light. I knew GerryI knew all the Murdocksthrough their brother Leo, a homicide detective with the Boston police force. Gerry's tone didn't sound like he was joking. "Eorla asked me to check things out, Gerry. What's going on?"
He had his hand on his holstered gun. At least, I thought it was holstered. "I don't care what some trumped-up elf queen wants. Get out of here before I get clumsy."
To be kind, Gerry had what might be described as an anger-management problem. His fatherwho had been police commissionerwas murdered under odd circumstances, and Gerry wasn't happy the case had not been resolved yet. "I'm just doing my job, Gerry."
"Do it someplace else," he said.
I held my hand up to block the flashlight beam. "I'm sorry about your father, Gerry, but I didn't kill him. You know everything that happened that night. I know you read the report."
He inched closer. "Yeah, well, of the people who were there, two are dead, one's in a coma, and you used to sleep with the other. Excuse me if I'm having a hard time with your credibility."
For months now, I had been letting his attitude slide. His father was dead. I wasn't lying when I said I didn't do it, but I did have an unwitting role in the events that led to it. It made me feel guilty, so between that and respecting his grief, I took the taunts and accusations. "Gerry, I told the truth. When Manus ap Eagan wakes up from his coma, he'll confirm it."
He sneered. "Really? He's going to confess to murder? That I'd like to see."
Except for their father, I liked the Murdocks. I was getting tired of tiptoeing around Gerry's temper and tired of him. "Yeah, well, I don't see you so quick to confess to murder."
Gerry dropped his flashlight and grabbed me by the front of my jacket. He bent me back, keeping me off-balance. "You listen to me, you punk bastard. I don't give a damn about you. You want a bullet in the head, you keep talking."
I smirked. "You wouldn't be the first Murdock to shoot me."
I read his body language wrong and didn't see the arm moving. He punched me in the face, his fist sliding off my cheekbone. I pushed him off me, and we stumbled away from each other. He pulled his gun.
"I miss something important, Gerry?"
Detective Lieutenant Leonard Murdock stood on the pile of bricks I had come down. If it wasn't for Leo, I would have...