Better Off Undead

By: Cynthia Eden

Chapter One


Monsters were real, and she was the one who had to deal with their drama on a daily basis. Detective Mary Jane “Just Jane—Only Jane” Hart was well and truly tired of their paranormal bullshit.

Hunting human killers was hard enough. But hunting paranormal murderers? That was a whole new level of dangerous.

Jane eased out a long breath as she stared down at the victim before her. Another night, another body. She was starting to think this unfortunate trend was the new story of her life. Carefully, not wanting to contaminate the scene but needing to get closer, Jane crept toward the body.

A male, fit, looked to be in his early twenties. Handsome, at least, he had been. Before some thing with very sharp claws had gotten hold of the guy. Now the poor vic had deep slash marks all over his face and body. The left side of his face showed four long, bloody slashes. The right was a mirror image. The fellow’s throat had been ripped open and his body was bloody—his clothes torn. More slashes.

This hadn’t been some easy death. The victim had been tortured before he’d finally been put out of his misery.

Someone had been playing with his prey.

“A cemetery,” the nervous mutter came from behind her. “Poor guy was m-murdered out here?”

Jane schooled her features before she glanced back at the uniformed cop who was practically shaking in his standard issue shoes. Mason Mitchell was a good cop. Sure, he was still green on the job, and that was just one of the many reasons he appeared to be on the verge of either vomiting or passing out, but he was solid. He did the right thing, and the fellow genuinely wanted to help others.

Too bad he was playing way out of his league with this particular murder.

Mason had been the one to find the body. The one to put in the call to the station. The one to get Jane out there. Because certain cases were always referred to her these nights…any case that so much as hinted at being the work of a monster.

No way a human left those slash marks on the victim. Too deep. Too long. Too much like the marks that would be made from claws.

Her gaze darted to the ground. She didn’t see any footprints, but it was damn dark. She’d need a crime scene team out there, ASAP. She would also need to get the medical examiner, Dr. Bob Heider, on the case immediately. Like her, Dr. Bob knew the score and he would—

“Jane…”

The whisper of her name was so low that, for a moment, she thought that she’d imagined it. But—

“Jane…” Low, but definitely real. She spun around, her gaze trekking over the cemetery. It was night, too freaking dark out there, and the heavy stone crypts and mausoleums seemed to surround her.

In New Orleans, people weren’t buried in the ground. The dead were put in the above-ground crypts and mausoleums for protection, and well—now the tourists sure loved to come to the “Cities of the Dead” to walk around and hunt for ghosts.

And vampires.

Be careful what you look for…you just might find what you seek.

“Detective Hart?” Mason called nervously. “Is everything all right?”

Her hand had dropped to her holster. She wasn’t packing normal bullets in her gun, not these days. After her last big case, when she’d learned the truth about monsters, Jane had made it a point to always be prepared. A smart woman keeps silver bullets and a stake at the ready. “Did you hear someone calling me?”

“Um, yeah, I was calling—”

“Jane…Hart…” That rasping voice said her name again, only it was louder this time.

Mason shut up.

Jane tensed. Okay, so someone was hiding in the dark, calling her name, and watching as she stood over a dead body. Not suspicious at all.

Right.

Jane yanked out her weapon. “Stay with the body,” she ordered Mason. Because a body disappearing in this town? Oh, yeah, that happened. Far too often for her liking.

She rushed forward, heading into the deeper shadows of the cemetery. That voice had sounded as if it came from up ahead, to the right. If the killer was hanging out up there, thinking he could jerk her around, then the guy needed to think the hell again. Her right hand gripped the gun while her left held a small flash light, a light that she positioned directly over her weapon.

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