Vision in Silver Page 43

A hesitation. Then Vlad said, “Stavros considers it part of his work for the Toland Courtyard to read the human newspaper and listen to the news. There was a report yesterday evening about a woman being stabbed at the Toland train station. Dead at the scene. Police investigating. Name withheld until next of kin are notified. When I spoke with him, he hadn’t listened to the morning news, so I don’t know if they’ve named the woman yet.”

“So the police are investigating a suspicious death.”

Lizzy had been on the early westbound train. Next of kin would have been notified well before the evening news aired. If the dead woman and Elayne were one and the same, then someone had known Elayne was dead . . . and hadn’t called the father of her child.

Hadn’t even noticed Lizzy was missing?

Another, longer hesitation before Vlad said, “Train stations are a good hunting ground.”

Burke sat up straight. “Are you saying one of the Sanguinati killed Elayne Borden?”

“No. I’m saying that the Sanguinati are often at train stations, especially stations in larger cities like Toland because so many trains come in and go out, and there is usually an abundance of prey. But the stations also provide a way to study humans. The Sanguinati observe as well as hunt. They weren’t in that part of the Toland station when it happened, so they didn’t see the attack, and they didn’t see the Lizzy get on a train. They became curious about all the activity once the police arrived—and then they listened.”

Great. Were Sanguinati usually in the crowds around a crime scene, drawn by the commotion and the cluster of humans who would make easy prey? Something to think about. Later. “What did they hear?”

“The restroom where the woman was found had an Out of Order sign on the door. The maintenance staff at the station insisted that the sign had been on the men’s restroom door, not the women’s. It was unclear if the woman moved the sign in an attempt to hide or if her attacker moved it to delay anyone finding her. The woman was wearing a small gold key on a long thin chain hidden under her shirt. It was speculated that the key opened the lock on a jewelry box, but the woman’s suitcase wasn’t opened at the station, so the Sanguinati couldn’t say if the box was found.”

Burke scribbled notes. “Anything else?”

“The woman had two tickets for a commuter train going to Hubb NE. She was found shortly before that train left the station, so police searched for her companion among the passengers boarding it but didn’t locate anyone who knew the woman.”

Burke thought for a moment. Had Elayne purchased a second set of tickets to give herself another escape route? Or had one set been a diversion? If Lizzy had both tickets for Lakeside, that could explain why no one had questioned the absence of an adult. Mommy was in the bathroom. Here was her ticket.

Mommy had been in the bathroom. Just not the bathroom on the train.

“Thank you for the information,” Burke began.

“Captain?” Vlad’s voice, which had been conversational up to that point, suddenly chilled. “Has anyone called you or Lieutenant Montgomery to ask about the child?”

Burke felt his heart thump heavy against his chest. “No,” he said, swallowing a sour taste he recognized as fear. “No one has called to ask about the child.”

“That’s what we thought.” Vlad hung up.

Gods above and below, he thought, noticing how his hand trembled as he returned the receiver to its cradle. It was one thing for him to condemn that disregard for the child’s welfare. It was quite another to wonder how the Sanguinati viewed that disregard.

Considering how the terra indigene had reacted to the deaths of cassandra sangue babies, he didn’t think the Others were going to allow humans to make all the decisions where Montgomery’s little girl was concerned.

Burke slumped in his chair but straightened again a moment later when Louis Gresh tapped on his doorway. Waving the bomb squad commander in, he said, “Come in and close the door.” He studied Louis and added, “Aren’t you off duty today?”

“I was supposed to be, but with Monty being off I thought you could use an extra hand.” Louis shrugged. “Did you hear from the Toland police?”

“Nothing from the police yet, but I did hear from the Sanguinati. I called Vlad last night and asked him to make some inquiries with his Toland kinsmen.” Burke blew out a breath. “A woman was attacked and killed yesterday morning at the train station. I’m guessing it was Elayne Borden.”

“Gods,” Louis breathed. “Does Monty know?”

“Not yet.” Burke sat back and folded his hands over his trim belly. “You have children.”

“A boy and a girl. Both teenagers, may the gods help me.”

“It’s a seven-hour trip from Toland to Lakeside. The attack happened early in the morning. Police are called in, crime scene investigators begin their work, and someone contacts next of kin. If you were informed of the death of a family member, a single mother, what would you say after you got past the initial shock?”

“‘Where’s the child?’” Louis rubbed his chin. “Assuming the girl wasn’t staying with me or her location was already known.”

“Exactly. The woman is dead under suspicious circumstances. Her child is missing, and both the relatives and the police know that well before the train reaches the Lakeside station. And yet no one called Lieutenant Montgomery to ask if Lizzy somehow got on a train to Lakeside. No one called to see if she was with her father, if she was safe. Twenty-four hours have passed, and no one has called looking for the child.”

Louis eased himself into the visitor’s chair. “Monty turned off his mobile phone and he’s not in his own apartment. Someone could have tried to reach him.”

“He’s a cop,” Burke said quietly. “If you call the station and tell anyone that something happened to his daughter and he needs to be found, you can be damn well sure we will find him whether his phone is turned on or not.”

“True enough.” Louis sighed. “But if they haven’t been looking for the girl, what have they been looking for?”

A jewelry box that goes with a small gold key? A fortune in jewels that someone hid inside a stuffed bear?

“I’ve answered a couple of calls on Monty’s office phone this morning,” Louis said. “A man’s voice. Wouldn’t leave his name. Wouldn’t leave a number. Said he needed to make a delivery and wanted to be sure Monty would be home today. When I asked for the name of the store making the delivery, he hung up. The second time he called, he must have recognized my voice as fast as I recognized his because he hung up before making his spiel. Officer Kowalski is here, so I asked him to man Monty’s phone. It could be one of Ms. Borden’s relatives.”

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