Max felt his lips curve up in a humorless smile. At least you could never accuse Brecht of not cutting to the heart of the matter. “Exactly.” He folded his arms over the crisp white shirt he’d put on in preparation for a court appearance. “Why would you want an inconvenience running an investigation into a Psy situation?” Psy were insular to the nth degree. They kept their secrets even as they stole those of others without pause or conscience. It pissed Max off, but all he could do was keep on doing his job. Sometimes, he won in spite of their interference—and that made it all worth it.
“You have a natural mental shield.” Commander Brecht’s tone was straightforward. “The fact that you’re immune to Psy mental interference may have been a stumbling block when it comes to your career—”
Max snorted. Fact was, with his solve rate and aptitude tests, he should’ve made lieutenant by now. But he knew he never would—Psy controlled Enforcement, and his ability to withstand their attempts at coercion, to run his cases as he saw fit, made him an unacceptable risk in any position of power.
“As I was saying,” the commander continued, his hair solid gilt under the streak of light coming in through the tiny window to his left. “While it may have been an obstacle in your path to a higher position within Enforcement, it is also an advantage.”
“I’m not going to argue with that.” Unlike so many humans, Max had never had to worry about whether he’d closed a case or looked the other way as a result of subtle mental pressure—many a good cop had broken because of that simmering kernel of doubt, that niggling concern that he’d been led to a particular conclusion. He said as much to Brecht. “I would’ve gone into private investigation if I didn’t have the shield—staying here to get mind-fucked wouldn’t have been at the top of my list.”
The commander walked over to his desk. “It’s beneficial for New York Enforcement that you decided to stay—you have the best solve-rate in the city. And you’re also, as the humans would say, mule stubborn.”
Max had been called a rottweiler once in a while. He took it as a compliment. “Still doesn’t answer the question of why you’d want me on a Psy case.” Command always assigned those to Psy detectives.
Max didn’t have a problem with that—so long as it was only Psy who were involved. But it angered the hell out of him when humans and changelings got shortchanged because a member of the cold psychic race was part of the equation. “The Bonner situation—”
“Is currently at an impasse according to the report you turned in last night. You’re going to wait him out, correct?”
Unfolding his arms, Max shoved a hand through his hair. “I still need to be able to respond quickly if he does decide to talk—I know this case like no one else.” And though he’d run the Butcher to ground, his task wasn’t yet over—wouldn’t be over until he’d brought each and every girl home, giving their grieving families the peace of being able to bury their babies in proper graves.
To this day, he could feel the slight weight of Carissa White’s mother as she collapsed into his arms—it had been a snowy winter’s night when he’d gone to their pristine little villa, a villa Carissa had decorated with twinkling Christmas lights two weeks earlier. Mrs. White had opened the door with a laugh. Later, she’d gripped his jacket and begged him to tell her that it wasn’t true, that Carissa was still alive.
And then she’d made him promise. Find him. Find the monster who did this.
He’d fulfilled that promise. But he’d made other promises to other parents.
No one should have to spend eternity in the cold dark.
“That shouldn’t be a problem.” Brecht’s words crashed through the echo of another Psy voice—through the memory of a haunting statement so at odds with her glacial presence that Max hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her.
“The case I want you to work is high priority, but with room for flexibility should you need to fly back to consult on the Bonner case.” Brecht slid into the chair behind his desk. “If you’d take a seat, Detective.” A pause when Max didn’t immediately obey. “Your obsession with Bonner ended with the capture of a sociopath who would undoubtedly have continued to take lives if you hadn’t stopped his killing spree. However, if you let that obsession control you now, you’ll wind up dead of stress while he grows fat behind bars.”
Max raised an eyebrow. “Been talking to the Enforcement shrink?”
“I may be Psy, but I was also a detective.”
And because Max had seen Brecht’s case files, because he knew the man had been one hell of a smart cop, he took a seat.
“What I’m about to tell you can’t leave this room, whether or not you decide to accept the task.” Brecht’s eyes were a pale color between gray and blue, shards of ice encased in steel. “Do I have your word on that?”
“If it’s an Enforcement matter, it’s an Enforcement matter.” Irrespective of anything else, he still believed in the badge, in the good that they did.
Brecht gave a nod of acknowledgment. “Over the past three months, Councilor Nikita Duncan—”
Yeah, that got Max’s attention.
“—has lost three of her advisors by three very different methods. One was a heart attack, the second an automobile accident, the third an apparent suicide.”
Max’s gut went tight as cop instinct took over. “Could be coincidence.”