A poor repairman found a body two days later. The air conditioning unit on a nightclub’s roof was leaking, and he went to fix it. Babet was snuggled against Prosper’s warm back when the call came in the early morning. Her mate had only gotten home a few hours ago. He’d been called to a private residence at three a.m. when two vampires had gotten into a fight over a blood slave. It had taken a while to get things settled.
“Babet might want to come with you.” Hatchet, as liaison between supernaturals and mortals for their detective unit, was always the first person notified for a case. “I’ve called Damek, too. You’ll want to see this.” He paused. “Well, not the body, but the clue.”
They both got dressed and pulled on heavy jackets. The sun made the days tolerable, where a sweater would keep you warm, but at night, it was downright chilly. Morgana hated weather like this, but refused to let them leave without her.
“The crime scene’s on a roof,” Prosper told the snake. “You have to climb a metal ladder to reach it.”
Morgana could do that, if she had to. She went with them. Babet called for a strong wind to lift the snake to the flat roof, then she and Prosper climbed the ladder. What met them wasn’t pretty.
A young woman in a short skirt and a T-shirt that ended just under her boobs and said Jazz And Brews sprawled on the tar roof, her face gone, along with most of her torso—melted and eaten away. Long, sticky strings circled her legs.
Babet clamped her hand over her mouth and closed her eyes.
Damek’s voice sounded strangled. “A spider? Really? There are werespiders? She caught her with a web?”
Babet shivered. She hated spiders. She knew most of them benefitted the environment, that she should appreciate them. Most people felt that way about snakes, too, but her familiar was a giant boa, for Hecate’s sake! Snakes, she could deal with. But if a spindly spider dropped in front of her? She still screamed. A giant spider? She hugged her arms around herself.
Hatchet broke into her thoughts. “We think the woman climbed the ladder, then shifted when she reached the roof and waited. When the girl walked past the building, she shot the web and pulled her up here.”
“And the girl didn’t scream?” Prosper wrapped his arms around Babet.
“A web’s jammed in the girl’s throat. No one would have heard her.”
Choked and muffled with a web? Babet was going to be sick, but Prosper rubbed his hands up and down her arms to comfort her. She opened her eyes, but faced the street. She couldn’t look at the girl. Some poor waitress had ended a long shift and was walking home when she’d been trapped. It sucked.
“Is there a pattern?” Damek asked. “Does spider woman have to feed every few days?”
Babet zeroed in again. Something to concentrate on. Clues. Something that would help them catch her.
Hatchet had obviously thought it over. “I think she’s building up strength for something. If she’s like other shifters, she can survive by eating as a mortal. Prosper doesn’t have to shift to bear form to feed.”
So why did she shift? Fear slid over Babet’s skin. Why would the woman need to build up strength?
Prosper rubbed his chin, puzzled. “I don’t get it. What happened to the people who went missing? Why not eat them and leave their bodies like she has the others?”
Unless . . . Babet put out a hand and grabbed Prosper’s arm to brace herself.
He turned and frowned at her with concern. “Are you okay?”
Hennie had told stories about how much Babet’s mother ate when she was pregnant. They laughed about it. “What if she’s eating so much because her spider is pregnant? What if the missing people aren’t for her?”
Prosper’s handsome face drained of color. “You mean . . .”
Damek took a deep breath. “She’s bundling bodies somewhere for her babies to feast on when they’re born.”
Hatchet hit buttons on his phone. “There’s a pattern. All of the people went missing on the west side of town. The two kids were outside of city limits. She wouldn’t want to drag bodies too far.”
“We searched the wood, but she could have carried them farther.” Prosper reached for his cell, too. “I’ll call Prowl. Our pack can pick up scents and cover a big area.”
“The vampires can smell blood. I’ll call Vittorio,” Babet said, “and Damek can call Hennie to get the coven together.”
Fifteen minutes later, with Morgana coiled on the back seat, they were driving to meet with their fellow supernaturals at the wood where the kids had disappeared.
“You’re staying in the car,” Babet told her. “You have no defenses against a spider, and if things go wrong, I won’t be able to defend you.”
The snake slithered closer to the door, unwilling to stay behind.
Prosper gave the final argument. “If you come this time, you’ll endanger us, because neither one of us will be able to let the spider spit poison at you without trying to save you. We’ll rush to help you, even if it means we face the spider alone.”
Morgana slid to the floor where the spider wouldn’t see her and formed a tight coil to wait for their return.